Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Ethical/On Baptism/I

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Ethical, On Baptism by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
I

II.

On Baptism.

[Translated by the Rev. S. Thelwall.]

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Chapter I.—Introduction. Origin of the Treatise.

Happy is our[1] sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds[2] of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism. Which is quite in accordance with nature; for vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do affect arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our ΙΧΘΥΣ[3] Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water; so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine,[4] knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water!


Footnotes[edit]

  1. i.e. Christian (Oehler).
  2. Rationibus.
  3. This curious allusion it is impossible, perhaps, to render in our language. The word ΙΧΘΥΣ (ikhthus) in Greek means “a fish;” and it was used as a name for our Lord Jesus, because the initials of the words ᾽Ιησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἰὸς Σωτήρ (i.e. Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior), make up that word. Oehler with these remarks, gives abundant references on that point. [Dr. Allix suspects Montanism here, but see Kaye, p. 43, and Lardner, Credib. II. p. 335. We may date it circa a.d. 193.]
  4. As being a woman. See 1 Tim. ii. 11, 12.