In his book On Baptism, Chapter 18, "Of the Persons to Whom, and the Time When, Baptism is to Be Administered," Tertullian says

According to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children.

Based on the arguments he uses for this, and the way he says it, he is not making a case against paedobaptism the way that credobaptists would now. Nevertheless, he clearly is not in favor of the practice.

People obviously interpret different authors different ways. However, I am wondering: are there any other early church writers who are clearly opposed to paedobaptism? In other words, I'm not looking for writings that could be interpreted as credobaptist, I'm looking for writings where paedobaptism is clearly spoken against, as in Tertullian.

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    One of the primary reasons for people to delay baptism was that there was concern that someone caught in a major sin or who lapsed during persecution would have a harder time being restored to fellowship than an unbaptized person. Dec 18, 2015 at 0:14
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    Have you read this: Anti-paedobaptism (1656)?
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 11, 2016 at 19:41
  • Tertullian probably isn't the best authority to appeal to here. Seven years after he converted from paganism, he went into schism with the Montanists from the orthodox Church, and later founded his own personal schismatic sect. He is not really considered to have been within the Church - certainly not by the Orthodox, nor, I think, by the other churches of apostolic succession. You could call him an early Christian writer, but probably not an early Church writer.
    – guest37
    Apr 14, 2017 at 23:15

1 Answer 1


110-165 AD Martyr

As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, 'Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.' Now, that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers' wombs, is manifest to all... And for this we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe.

(Justin Martyr, "First Apology," Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, pg. 183)


On the fifth day the living creatures which proceed from the waters were produced, through which also is revealed the manifold wisdom of God in these things; for who could count their multitude and various kinds? Moreover, the things proceeding from the waters were blessed by God, that this also might be a sign of men's being destined to receive repentance and remission of sins, through the water and laver of regeneration, as many as come to the truth, and are born again, and receive blessing from God.

(Theophilus, "To Autolycus,", Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2, pg. 101)


But they roll back an objection from that apostle himself, in that he said, 'For Christ sent me not to baptize;' as if by this argument baptism were done away! For if so, why did he baptize Gaius, and Crispus, and the house of Stephanas? However, even if Christ had not sent him to baptize, yet He had given other apostles the precept to baptize. But these words were written to the Corinthians in regard of the circumstances of that particular time; seeing that schisms and dissensions were agitated among them, while one attributes everything to Paul, another to Apollos. For which reason the 'peacemaking' apostle, for fear he should seem to claim all gifts for himself, says that he had been sent 'not to baptize, but to preach.' For preaching is the prior thing, baptizing the posterior. Therefore the preaching came first: but I think baptizing withal was lawful to him to whom preaching was.

(Tertullian, "On Baptism," Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, pg. 676)

181 AD Theophilus of Antioch

Moreover, those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration all who proceed to the truth and are born again and receive a blessing from God

(To Autolycus 12:16).

There are probably a few more.

  • Of course, all of these could be interpreted as merely saying that adults should be baptized only after they have understanding, something that everyone agrees with. Feb 15, 2016 at 21:50
  • @Nathaniel I'm not sure if you read Justin Martyr's quote in full. There is no way it means that. Especially since it mentions us born without knowledge and choice. All of these quotes say that it is necessary to get to know Jesus and what He teaches before making a decision for Him. A person cannot get to know Jesus if they do not have the capability of reason. Infants do not have the capability of reason. Feb 15, 2016 at 22:02
  • Hey thanks for your answer. This isn't exactly what I was looking for though; as I said, I'm not looking for writings that are arguably credobaptist, that are conceivably by extension against paedobaptism; I'm interested to find explicit declamations of paedobaptism. Still, these are interesting quotes so thanks for your time.
    – Kazark
    Feb 16, 2016 at 3:47
  • @jlaverde He's definitely the best example here. Not as strong as Tertullian, since he doesn't explicitly exclude infants, and one could argue that he didn't have the issue in mind because the church at that time would probably still have been more focused on conversions than children of believers... but that quote is probably as good as it gets among the early fathers. Feb 16, 2016 at 3:49
  • The quoted passages seem to address the baptism of converts.
    – user46876
    May 24, 2020 at 4:14

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