Was Polycarp of Smyrna Baptized as an Infant?

Saint Polycarp
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Yesterday, Marc Cortez posted on Polycarp, and it got me to thinking…

Now, as we were entering the stadium, there came to Polycarp a voice from heaven, ‘Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man’. And no one saw the speaker, but the voice was heard by those of our people who were there. Then he was led forward, and great was the uproar of those who heard that Polycarp had been seized. Accordingly, he was led before the Proconsul, who asked him if he were the man himself. And when he confessed the Proconsul tried to persuade him, saying, ‘Have respect to your own age’, and so forth, according to their customary forms; ‘Swear to Caesar’, ‘Repent’, ‘Say, “Away with the atheists!”’ Then Polycarp said, ‘Eighty-six years I have served him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?’

Most believe that he was born around 69 and died around 155, meaning that he was baptized either as an infant or at the very least, as a toddler.


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9 Replies to “Was Polycarp of Smyrna Baptized as an Infant?”

  1. The paedos don’t need to stretch anything they just need to look at Scripture and history. I also think the Credo-Baptists are missing an important point when they go to Scripture as the model for adult baptism “only”, and that is every single person who was baptized in the Bible as an adult was NOT Baptized as an infant or child. There was NO double dunking so to say. So when the Bible teaches that we need to repent and be baptized notice that these were for people who were adults and were not previously baptized nor followers of Jesus.

    “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.” (Acts 8:12-13)

    Now Simon was baptized but he still had much sanctification that need to take place in his life as can be seen in the following verses.

    And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:34-38)

    Both cases adults were baptized who were not formerly believers.

    The first and second century church baptized their babies (see history below), young children, and households (which included whole families and their servant’s families–thinking that with the larger families they had back then that babies were baptized too).

    1. Lydia’s household was baptized: One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (Acts 16:14-15)

    The great 17th century Bible scholar comments on this issue of the household: “She [Lydia] gave up her name to Jesus Christ, and took upon her the profession of his holy religion; She was baptized, and by this solemn rite was admitted a member of the church of Christ; and with her her household also was baptized, those of them that were infants in her right, for if the root be holy so are the branches, and those that were grown up by her influence and authority. She and her household were baptized by the same rule that Abraham and his household were circumcised, because the seal of the covenant belongs to the covenanters and their seed.” -Matthew Henry

    Read also: But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[f] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:28-34)

    The Jailer was not a believer but he was an adult and once he did believe not only was he baptized but his whole family (household) was too. It reads that they (Paul and Silas) “spoke the word of the Lord” (verse 32) to the Jailer’s family and his family believed- verse 34. There is no mention of a baby in this story but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t since the Greek word used is panoikeiv which translated means “with the whole family:–with all his house” (household). This would include servants too and their families. The definition of the 1st century household is: “A biblical household combined the features of a modern family and a modern business. The family members, the employees, and the slaves all lived together in the same house, which functioned both as a home and as a place of business. In the Roman Empire of the first century, slavery was by no means an enviable status. However, slaves were members of the household, and under some circumstances they had inheritance rights (see Luke 20:9-16). The master had a legal obligation to provide them with room and board, which is why people sometimes sold themselves into slavery.”

    Also Peter’s words in Acts 2:38-39: And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”



    Also testimony of a former credo-baptist:


    “I knew that as an honest Baptist, I had to admit that for over 1600 years, since Christ, the church had theology wrong. Their ecclesiology and redemptive theology was simply mistaken, and on key point, the Baptists finally got it right. Yes, not until 1689 (the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith) the Baptists set the record straight though all of the predecessors had their ideas about entrance into the church, and the manner of God in dealing with covenant families was just plain wrong. No one had it right until “we Baptists” came to town. Was that arrogant of me? Yes. And Historically impossible to prove, but it was the logical outcome of my adherence to “credo-baptism”.

  2. The truth is that Polycarp never claimed to have been baptized as an infant–there is no evidence that John ever baptized any infant. Nor did Polycarp claim he was 86 years old when he died. Polycarp only states that he served Jesus for 86 years. Most people know how long they have served Jesus. To claim Polycarp was baptized as an infant from his statement is to, in no uncertain terms, insert ones presupposition on the matter. History also tells a different story.

    An ancient manuscript called the Harris Fragments shows the following with one addition from me in {}:

    Polycarp…He was… {an} old man, being one hundred and f[our] of age. He continued to walk [i]n the canons which he had learned from his youth from John the a[p]ostle.(Weidman, Frederick W. Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to Literary Traditions. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (IL), 1999, pp. 43,44).

    Thus, if Polycarp lived to be 104, then he was baptized at age 18, and therefore was not baptized as an infant. Hence, the Harris Fragments are one other way to help disprove mythological traditions that are simply not biblical.

    The problem with infant baptism is that it avoids the premise of free will. Infant baptism would equate to taking the choice to follow Christ away from the child. At no point in the Scriptures do we see God forcing anyone to follow His ways. The scriptures are consistent in their teaching of one must make the conscious choice to believe, repent, and be baptized.

    Also many who claim that because John baptized the guard and his family, that it infers the guard had at least one infant. Many in the Catholic Church use this scriptural passage as proof positive that infant baptism is sound doctrine. I would agree if we are only infants and then one day we are adults. But this is simply not reality. It is possible the guard only had children who were not infants. He may in fact had teenage daughters or even older daughters who had not been wedded. He may in fact have had sons in their late teens or maybe even younger or older. But we cannot base doctrine on where the scriptures are silent. The scriptures mention nothing of the ages of the children. The scriptures give no account infant baptizing.

    We are not able to interpret scripture. We must use scripture to interpret scripture. When we ourselves interpret scripture, we allow for our presuppositions and assumptions to cloud our conclusions. I other words, we can get it wrong.

    1. Ron, there is no such thing as Scripture interpreting Scripture. We always bring something to the table, even if we pretend that we do not. Scripture itself – canon, manuscript, translation – is our creation.

      Freewill is not wholly a biblical doctrine. Infant baptism has a biblical allowance, however, because it is rooted in the covenantal view of Scripture, something that drenches Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. You say that no one was made to follow God. Baptism does mean that you have to follow God. Further, every child in Israel was forced to be circumcised – contradicting your train of thought here.

      Infant baptism is quite scriptural, and fits well within Jewish and Christian tradition.

    2. also, as a pet peeve, you used the word “mythological” wrong. Scripture is myth. Tradition is myth. Theology is myth. Baptism is participation in myth. You, I assume, intend to say that infant baptism is unbiblical, rather than mythological.

  3. I am a theist, Christian, Protestant, Presbyterian, PCUSA and member of a particular congregation, in that order. I have read a fair amount re infant baptism, and what I find unusual is that I have never heard of Acts 9:25 being used to support infant baptism. My understanding is that because of the faith of their parents, children, including the very young, are counted as belonging to the covenant. In Acts 9:25 we read that because of the healing of one man, all of the people in Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord. While this verse does not mention baptism specifically, it does say the entire population “turned to the Lord”. Those who oppose baptism of infants can claim the possibility that there may not have been infants in the households of Cornelius, Lydia, the Phillipian jailer and Stephanos. I find it difficult to believe, though, in the case of Sharon, which is a plain 50+ miles long and 8 to 14 miles wide running all the way from Joppa to Mt Carmel, and some of the most fertile land in israel, there were no infants present. My point is that infants too young to themselves “turn to the Lord” were in this case counted as having done so because of the faith of their parents.

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