Evidence for Infant Baptism in the Church Fathers and Inscriptions


The following is intended not as irrefutable evidence, nor as the

first line of an apologetic for infant baptism. It is certainly

neither. The Scriptures themselves, especially the Scriptural

teaching of sin, grace, and faith, form the clear basis for the

practice. However these passages do present the clear practice of

infant baptism in the ancient church of the second through the

fourth centuries.


The Fathers


Irenaeus: For he came to save all by means of himself -- all, I say,

who by him are born again to God -- infants, children, adolescents,

young men, and old men. (Against Heresies II.22.4)


Hippolytus: And they shall baptize the little children first. And if

they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot,

let their parents answer or someone from their family. And next they

shall baptism the grown men; and last the women. (Apostolic

Tradition 21.3-5)


Origen: I take this occasion to discuss something which our brothers

often inquire about. Infants are baptized for the remission of sins.

Of what kinds? Or when did they sin? But since "No one is exempt

from stain," one removes the stain by the mystery of baptism. For

this reason infants are baptized. For "Unless one is born of water

and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." (Homily on

Luke 14:5).


[After quoting Psalm 51:5 and Job 14:4] These verses may be adduced

when it is asked why, since the baptism of the church is given for

the remission of sins, baptism according to the practice of the

church is given even to infants; since indeed if there is in infants

nothing which ought to pertain to forgiveness and mercy, the grace

of baptism would be superfluous. (Homily on Leviticus 8:3).


[After quoting Leviticus 12:8 and Psalm 51:5] For this also the

church had a tradition from the apostles, to give baptism even to

infants. For they to whom the secrets of the divine mysteries were

given knew that there is in all persons the natural stains of sin

which must be washed away by the water and the Spirit. On account of

these stains the body itself is called the body of sin. (Commentary

on Romans 5:9)


Cyprian: In respect of the case of infants, which you say ought not

to be baptized within the second or third day after birth, and that

the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you

think that one who is just born should not be baptized and

sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in

our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken,

no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of

God is not to be refused to any one born of man... Spiritual

circumcision ought not to be hindered by carnal circumcision... we

ought to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born,

has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according

to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its

earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account

to the reception of the forgiveness of sins - that to him are

remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another" (Letter 58 to



Augustine: For from the infant newly born to the old man bent with

age, as there is none shut out from baptism, so there is none who in

baptism does not die to sin. (Enchiridion; ch. 43)


The Inscriptions


Here the words of Everett Ferguson are appropriate: "Early Christian

inscriptions, which in the largest numbers come from the environs of

Rome, furnish some instances of child and infant baptism for the

third century . . . Nearly all the early Christian inscriptions are

epitaphs. A considerable number of these are for the graves of

children. The vast majority give no evidence whether the child was

baptized or not . . . Actually the word "baptism" is seldom used.

The idea is expressed by "received grace," "made a believer" or

"neophyte" (newly planted " used to mean "newly baptized") -- from

Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak: Faith and Life in the

First Three Centuries; Revised Edition (Abilene: ACU Press, 1984) .


To the sacred dead. Florentius made this monument to his worthy son

Appronianus, who lived one year, nine months, and five days. Since

he was dearly loved by his grandmother, and she saw that he was

going to die, she asked from the church that he might depart from

the world a believer. (ILCV I:1343, from the third century; edited

by E. Diehl (second edition; Berlin, 1961))


Postumius Eutenion, a believer, who obtained holy grace the day

before his birthday at a very late hour and died. He lived six years

and was buried on the fifth of Ides of July on the day of Jupiter on

which he was born. His soul is with the saints in peace.

Felicissimus, Eutheria, and Festa his grandmother to their worthy

son Postumius. (ILCV I:1524, from the early fourth century)


Sweet Tyche lived one year, ten months, fifteen days, Received

[grace] on the eighth day before the Kalends. Gave up [her soul] on

the same day. (Inscriptiones latinae christianae veteres, Vol. I

number 1531)


Irene who lived with her parents ten months and six days received

[grace] seven days before the Ides of April and gave up [her soul]

on the Ides of April. (ILCV I:1532)


To Proiecto, neophyte infant, who lived two years seven months.

(ILCV I:1484)