Our Rabbis taught: If at the present time a man desires to become a proselyte, he is to be addressed as follows: ‘What reason have you for desiring to become a proselyte; do you not know that Israel at the present time are persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed and overcome by afflictions’? If he replies, ‘I know and yet am unworthy’, he is accepted, and is given instruction in some of the minor and some of the major commandments. He is informed of the sin of the neglect of the commandments of Gleanings, the Forgotten Sheaf, the Corner and the Poor Man’s Tithe. He is told of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments.

He is addressed: ‘Be it known to you that before you came to this condition, if you had profaned the Sabbath you would not have been punishable with stoning; but now were you to profane the Sabbath you would be punished with stoning’.

As he is informed of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments, he is informed of the reward granted for their fulfillment. ‘Be it known to you that the world to come was made only for the Tzaddakah, and that Israel at the present time are unable to bear either too much prosperity. or too much suffering’.

He is not, however, to be persuaded or dissuaded too much. If he accepted, he is circumcised. Should any shreds which render the circumcision invalid remain, he is to be circumcised a second time. As soon as he is healed arrangements are made for his immediate baptism, when two learned men must stand by his side and acquaint him with some of minor commandments and with some of the major ones. When he comes up after his baptism he is deemed to be an Israelite in all respects.

Two important aspects of this Jewish rule of the Mikvah directly relate to our treatment of infant baptism. The first is that this baptism makes one a member of the Jewish community. Should a person convert and then violate the commandments, his baptism left an indelible mark, as Catholics refer to the idea, and that mark now has consequences. There is one baptism for entry into the community/Daat Israel. There is no rebaptism.

The second is the relationship of baptism and circumcision. St. Paul does away with circumcision, not because he is free to change the laws, but because circumcision makes you Jewish. We are not Jewish; we are Christian. Still, St. Paul also equates baptism & circumcision.

In him dwells/Shekinah/indwelling of the Spirit, the whole fullness of the deity, bodily. You share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. Dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought life to you along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. He also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross; despoiling the principalities & the powers, he made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph by it. Colossians 2:9-15

Notice how this passage begins and ends with principalities and powers. This rhetorical device helps frame the passage. Notice how St. Paul, the Jew, equates Circumcision with baptism. Most Jews are circumcised as infants, not adults, and they are circumcised into community, as Yebamoth in the Babylonian Talmud says. St. Paul writes as a Jew. This is a section of Jewish Kaddish, from the Amidah.

amidaNow Please read this section from Romans 1, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” On the surface, this passage means nothing. It is what scholars call a Hebraism. St. Paul has just referred to God, and now feels compelled to add an elision, “Baruch Le olam, Amen,” “Blessed is he forever.”

Ephesians, written about the same time as Colossians writes, “I, prisoner for Kyrie, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit/ Shekinah through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit/Shekinah, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Kyrie, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father/Abbah/Ha Bah/Ahabbah of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Judaism does have many reasons for baptism. Christians discuss one baptism for admission to Christian Ecclesia, Christian Community. This is the rule for baptismal bathing:

The world’s natural bodies of water, oceans, rivers, wells, and spring-fed lakes are mikvahs/ baptismal pools. They contain waters of divine source and, tradition teaches, the power to purify. A mikvah must be built into the ground or built as an essential part of a building. Portable receptacles, such as bathtubs, whirlpools, or Jacuzzis, can therefore never function as mikvahs. The mikvah must contain a minimum of two hundred gallons of rainwater that was gathered and siphoned into the mikvah pool in accordance with a specific set of regulations.

Notice the importance of being tied to the ground. Torah gives us two reasons for the Ten Commandments. The first, in Exodus, relates to the six days the NAME made the sky and the earth. That is why the NAME has blessed Sabbath and Dedicated it. The second reason is the escape from Egypt, which applies, only to Jews. Baptism teaches both lessons. We are both Adam, from Adamah/Red/Ground, and we are rescued from the Red Blood of Jesus Christ.

It once happened that a man came before R. Judah and told him, ‘I have become a proselyte privately’. ‘Have you witnesses’? R. Judah asked. ‘No’, the man replied. ‘Have you children’? ‘Yes’, the man replied. ‘You are trusted’, the Master told him, ‘as far as your own disqualification is concerned but you cannot be relied upon to disqualify your children.

As to the baptism of children, far from disqualifying infant baptism, and child baptism, children present who are proselyte children confirm the conversion of the adults in the Babylonian Talmud. It seems clear that at least in Jewish tradition, infant baptism was allowed. If we really believe in the principle of Ad Fontes, or back to the original sources, the original source is not only Scripture but the culture from which it sprang. This means understanding 1st Century Jewish culture, and the best source for this is the Talmud.

This source makes clear that infant baptism was allowed. This source also makes clear, however, that the baptismal water must contain at least 100 gallons of water and be tied to the ground. This supports the Anabaptist position, and not the main line church tradition of the Church Fathers, Luther, and Calvin.

In his homily on Matthew 3:13, St. John of Chrysostom writes, “On this very account the Jewish baptism ceases, and ours takes its beginning. What was done with regard to the Passover, the same ensues in the baptism also.

As in that case too, He acting with a view to both, brought the one to an end, but to the other. He gave a beginning: so here, having fulfilled the Jewish baptism, He at the same time opens also the doors of that of the Church; as on one table then..

Tertullian is the theologian who gave us the word, “Trinity,” and the words we translate as persons for the Trinity in his work on the Trinity.

Tertullian writes, “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.

Why is it necessary if (baptism) is not so necessary that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfill their promises,   and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in   those for whom they stood…? Why does the innocent period of life   hasten to the “remission of sins…?” Let them know how to “ask” for   salvation, that you may seem to have given “to him that   asks.” If any understand the weighty   import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay.

Based upon this, Constantine himself put off baptism until the last moments of his life, as McGrath states.  Tertullian, second and third centuries, was a member of the Montanist sect.

St Cyprian, third century writes, “Belief in divine Scripture declares that among all, whether infants or those who are older, there is the same equality of the divine gift. Elisha, beseeching God, so laid himself upon the infant son of the widow, who was lying dead, that his head was applied   to his head…

Nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace, how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant. The infant, 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.

Based upon this, St. Augustine wrote about original Sin. Joseph Martos writes in his book, Doors of the Sacred, that it was Augustine’s doctrine of original sin, stemming from this last quote that provoked caring mothers of the late Roman Empire to baptize their children.

The earliest writers, including the Talmud, Cyprian of Carthage, St. John of Chrysostom, and Augustine all seem to support infant baptism. They all tie baptism to both penance and entry into Christian community. They are all removed four centuries or less from Jesus, and coming from the Mediterranean Sea, only about a thousand miles removed from Jesus. It took Conrad Grebel and the Anabaptists 1500 years and several thousand miles removed from Jesus to figure out the church fathers were all wrong.

The Anabaptists were right on many if not most issues. Until Constantine, being an actor, or in the military was grounds for not being baptized. A recent president might not have liked that. Most conservatives today, including many Baptists, followers of the Anabaptist movement, might not like that. Like the Amish and the Mennonites, they also supported things like the common ownership of property, or at least equal distribution of property. They were correct on insisting that baptism be tied to the ground and relating baptism to bringing us back to the soil. On the point of our discussion, the baptism of infants, we must disagree.

 

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