The Emperor Constantine who favored Christianity as early as 312, and convened the Council of Nicæa in 325, postponed baptism till 337. Did he provide any reasons for doing so?

  • 2
    This seems to have been a common practice at the time -- cf. for example chapter 11 of book 1 of Augustine's Confessions. The basic principle was brutally pragmatic: Better to get as much of your life, and thus opportunity for sin, out of the way before baptism. Augustine disapproves of the custom and wonders, in roughly the year 397, why it is still popular. Don't know whether other factors entered into Constantine's decision but I suspect this one played a part.
    – Ben Dunlap
    Jun 12, 2012 at 16:07
  • Similar: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/7877/…
    – user1054
    Jun 12, 2012 at 19:40

2 Answers 2


I do not think anyone knows as there is huge speculation on the subject.

Basically some see it as his cowardice to confess his faith, others see it as a prudent measure to keep his influence of power until the risk of his own execution for becoming a Christian had passed. He himself does not seem to say. I do not even believe we can prove He was a Christian. Maybe he was? God only knows.

It does seem though the God used Him to end so much Christian persecution, and it does seem that in some ways, at least initially, Christ overthrew the Gentile world by turning his heart in favor of His people. Quite soon after his death, Christ's kingdom grew like a mustard seed.

  • Thank you, Mike. Can you, please, tell me what the "Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus" is? It sounds quite interesting.
    – brilliant
    Jun 13, 2012 at 6:07
  • @brlliant, sorry, I do not know but am not curious enough to seek the answer.
    – Mike
    Jun 13, 2012 at 7:29
  • I just found some info on wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_Tradition strange, they say there it might have not been written by Hippolytus
    – brilliant
    Jun 13, 2012 at 8:36
  • @brilliant. Thanks for the link. More interesting than I thought. It makes sense to me that this was written later as it seems 'too catholic'. I have read much of Tertullian who lived at this period (215 AD) and he never srikes me as someone with much catholic tradition behind him. Like the things covered under this 'Tradition'
    – Mike
    Jun 13, 2012 at 9:02
  • @brilliant, After reading it more fully, I did not like the article I referred to so I removed the reference and the quote.
    – Mike
    Jun 15, 2012 at 16:57

The chief reason that people put off Baptism had to do with the Roman tendency to be almost magical in their thinking about religion. Even when they had converted in their hearts, people who had civic duties, which inevitably involved performing some pagan rites, were extremely reluctant to break with tradition. And Roman society in general didn't tolerate such omissions. So, a person could only convert when he could finally be sure he wouldn't have to perform such rites.

That didn't stop many of the famous martyrs, especially soldiers like St. Sebastian and St. Vincent. But as an EMperor Constantine simply could not do what was expected of him. So he hedged his bets, kept doing his imperial thing, and on his deathbed converted.

  • Welcome to C.SE. Good answer! A reference would be helpful, but good answer! Jan 9, 2013 at 5:48

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