Colossians 2:11-12, The Circumcision/ Baptism Analogy, And Infant Baptism -- By: J.P.T. Hunt

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 41:2 (NA 1990)
Article: Colossians 2:11-12, The Circumcision/ Baptism Analogy, And Infant Baptism
Author: J.P.T. Hunt


Colossians 2:11-12, The Circumcision/ Baptism Analogy, And Infant Baptism1

J.P.T. Hunt

There is a silence in the early patristic references to infant baptism concerning the analogy between circumcision and baptism. It will be shown it was not until the mid-third century that this analogy first occurs as an argument for infant baptism. Furthermore, the citing of Colossians 2:11–12 does not occur in this connection until the mid-fourth century. Can it, therefore, be maintained that the analogy between circumcision and baptism gave rise to the practice of infant baptism?

Those who support the practice of infant baptism on the basis of a covenantal analogy between circumcision and baptism believe that infants were baptized on this basis from the earliest days of the church, Acts 2:39. The passages in the NT which imply a connection between them, especially Colossians 2:11–12 in which they are juxtaposed, are said to support this view, even though make no explicit reference is made to infant baptism. It is maintained that the first Christians, being Jews, would naturally have assumed that the sign of the covenant should be given to children, and that the lack of an explicit prohibition of infant baptism thus supports the view that the early Christians practised infant baptism.2

It is proposed I. to survey selected patristic sources which discuss infant baptism,3 to see when the analogy between

circumcision and baptism first occurs as an argument for infant baptism; II. to consider at what stage in the development of this analogy its use is consistent as an argument for infant baptism; III. to examine the part Colossians 2:11–12 played in the development of this analogy in order to ascertain when these verses were first used in connection with infant baptism; and IV. to exegete this text in the light of Pauline theology.

I. The Use Of The Analogy As An Argument For Infant Baptism

The earliest certain reference to infant baptism is that of Tertullian. There are a number of earlier patristic comments which are often taken to imply the practice. However, even granting that there may be allusions to the practice,4 they do not give any indication that the analogy between circumcision and baptism formed part of the early ra...

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