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

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Ethical, On Baptism by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall

Chapter XI.—Answer to the Objection that “The Lord Did Not Baptize.”

“But behold, “say some, “the Lord came, and baptized not; for we read, ‘And yet He used not to baptize, but His disciples!’”[1] As if, in truth, John had preached that He would baptize with His own hands! Of course, his words are not so to be understood, but as simply spoken after an ordinary manner; just as, for instance, we say, “The emperor set forth an edict,” or, “The prefect cudgelled him.”  Pray does the emperor in person set forth, or the prefect in person cudgel? One whose ministers do a thing is always said to do it.[2] So “He will baptize you” will have to be understood as standing for, “Through Him,” or “Into Him,” “you will be baptized.” But let not (the fact) that “He Himself baptized not” trouble any.  For into whom should He baptize?  Into repentance? Of what use, then, do you make His forerunner? Into remission of sins, which He used to give by a word? Into Himself, whom by humility He was concealing? Into the Holy Spirit, who had not yet descended from the Father?  Into the Church, which His apostles had not yet founded? And thus it was with the selfsame “baptism of John” that His disciples used to baptize, as ministers, with which John before had baptized as forerunner. Let none think it was with some other, because no other exists, except that of Christ subsequently; which at that time, of course, could not be given by His disciples, inasmuch as the glory of the Lord had not yet been fully attained,[3] nor the efficacy of the font[4] established through the passion and the resurrection; because neither can our death see dissolution except by the Lord’s passion, nor our life be restored without His resurrection.


  1. John iv. 2.
  2. For instances of this, compare Matt. viii. 5 with Luke vii. 3, 7; and Mark x. 35 with Matt. xx. 20.
  3. Cf. 1 Pet. i. 11, ad fin.
  4. Lavacri.