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The Apostolic Tradition was the work of Hippolytus, written somewhere between 215 and 400 AD. Recent scholars seem to take the later date (source). The whole writing can be found here: Apostolic Tradition.

Among the 'oddities' of this Tradition, seems to be that people were baptized 'nude', which I assume means that only deaconesses were overseeing the baptism of woman. Am I reading this correctly, or not?

21 At the hour in which the cock crows, they shall first pray over the water. 2When they come to the water, the water shall be pure and flowing, that is, the water of a spring or a flowing body of water. 3Then they shall take off all their clothes. 4The children shall be baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family. 5After this, the men will be baptized. Finally, the women, after they have unbound their hair, and removed their jewelry. No one shall take any foreign object with themselves down into the water. (Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition)

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think the deaconess assumption is unsound and contradicted:

14He shall then baptize each of them once, laying his hand upon each of their  heads. 15Then he shall ask, "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was  born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose on the third day living from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, the one coming to judge the living and the dead?" 

16When each has answered, "I believe," he shall baptize a second time. 17Then he shall ask, "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?" 18Then each being baptized shall answer, "I believe." And thus let him baptize the third time.

Now, it could just be translation (and a lack of a gender-neutral single pronoun), but that is a lot of "he". It continues in the same tone for quite some time. Note that is also seems to describe all the participants present at once, not individually.

There is nothing improper in this nakedness. It is not associated with any indecent act, humiliation, or lack of basic needs.

Also keep in mind: this is ancient Rome. Their views on nudity could be quite different from yours.

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I see your argument about the language. Are you suspecting that this nude baptism was just the Roman influence on the church in Rome, or were you imagining this to even take place under John the Baptist as well? I have a feeling if we went digging this would be far from what the Hebrews would consider ‘proper’ – they may have viewed nudity even more strictly than western civilization today. You may be right about Rome. I am not sure and have not researched it. I was sort of hoping somebody puts some history to the table to shed some light. –  Mike Jul 15 '12 at 11:55
I have accepted your answer because I could not find definitive proof that there was no naked Baptism by the Hebrews before Christ without equal proof suggesting otherwise. I did find sources that said Hebrews started using some kinds of naked baptism only after Rabbi Akibah changed the Talmud after Christ. Either way with so much obscurity and difficulty in getting a clear answer, it seems that a case for some form of nudity in baptism, at some level, could have existed in both Christian and Hebrews forms so maybe you are right about different view of nudity. Cheers. –  Mike Jul 17 '12 at 12:31
A little later on, however—when baptism was still performed in the nude, but Christians had developed ideas bout chastity and "seemliness" further—I do think deaconesses were used for that purpose. –  John Peyton Aug 11 '13 at 4:26
To be honest, I don't find the naked thing particularly shocking, and it is in keeping with the symbolism of death/rebirth - and of leaving old things behind, and even of being shorn of our riches when passing the 'narrow' gate. –  Benjol Nov 11 '13 at 10:42

This is an old question, but I'll answer anyway. The Orthodox Christian Church baptizes in the nude because most baptisms are performed on very young (less than 1 year old) babies. The children are nude and fully immersed. The service is pretty much exactly as you'd see in Hippolytus. Adults who are baptized are permitted to wear a robe or bathing suit for the sake of modesty.

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Welcome to C.SE! When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. That said, this is a great answer. It addresses the question directly, provides an example, and sources the denomination. Great job! –  Affable Geek Feb 3 '14 at 18:43

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