Justin Martyr on Circumcision/Baptism

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Kaalvenist

Puritan Board Sophomore
I was reading Buswell's Systematic Theology on Infant Baptism today, and found him refer to an interesting quote from Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Chapter 43.
And we, who have approached God through Him (Christ), have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism, since we were sinners, by God's mercy; and all men may equally obtain it.
Justin lived from approximately 110 to 165. He was one of the earliest of the Early Church Fathers (which is why this passage appears in Vol. 1 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, p. 216). This demonstrates that the identification of circumcision with baptism is not a later development of Reformed theology, in justification of infant baptism, but dates to the earliest annals of church history and Christian theology.
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Very cool. Thanks for posting that, Sean.

What's even cooler is that the idea goes back even further in history! :lol:

[bible]Colossians 2:11-12[/bible]
 

BlackCalvinist

Puritan Board Senior
Pastor Hyde,

Call me a little lazy (but really I've just been tired and busy recently), but is there a nice list o' scriptures available that present a nice case for assuming infants can exercise saving faith ?

I'll probably be asking my pastor for a few 2morrow as well.

I'd like to compile the 'evidence', so to speak beyond simply John the Baptist and 'let the little children come to me'.

KJG
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
KJG,

Assuming the question was asked in good faith, it assumes a false premise, that faith is necessary to initiation into the visible covenant community.

That such is NOT necessary is proved by the command to initiate infants under the Abrahamic covenant, essentially that same covenant in which we are today.

Faith is necessary to receive the benefits signified and sealed by covenant initiation, but it isn't necessary to receive the sign and seal of covenant initiation.
 

tellville

Puritan Board Junior
Sean,

Sorry, I may just be totally biased in my reading but I don't see Justic Martyr associating Baptism with circumcision in the sense you want it, let alone talking about infant baptism, in that statement.

Justin Martyr said:
And we, who have approached God through Him (Christ), have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism, since we were sinners, by God's mercy; and all men may equally obtain it.

1. He says he received spiritual circumcision, not infant baptism.
2. Enoch was never circumcised, and Justin is equating what he has with Enoch.
3. He then says we have received spiritual circumcision through baptism. This seems to reek of Baptismal regeneration, not infant baptism.
4. That last statement seems to reek of Arminianism :p

Given that BR developed quite early in the Church I'd bet this is what he is getting at. I doubt the context of this passage would suggest he is talking about infant baptism, but I would very well believe the context is talking about salvation.

Anyway, maybe I am totally out to lunch, but I honestly just can't seem to see infant baptism anywhere in this text!
 

Kaalvenist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Sean,

Sorry, I may just be totally biased in my reading but I don't see Justic Martyr associating Baptism with circumcision in the sense you want it, let alone talking about infant baptism, in that statement.



1. He says he received spiritual circumcision, not infant baptism.
2. Enoch was never circumcised, and Justin is equating what he has with Enoch.
3. He then says we have received spiritual circumcision through baptism. This seems to reek of Baptismal regeneration, not infant baptism.
4. That last statement seems to reek of Arminianism :p

Given that BR developed quite early in the Church I'd bet this is what he is getting at. I doubt the context of this passage would suggest he is talking about infant baptism, but I would very well believe the context is talking about salvation.

Anyway, maybe I am totally out to lunch, but I honestly just can't seem to see infant baptism anywhere in this text!
Mark,

1. I never said that there was reference to infant baptism in this passage. But the belief that circumcision has been replaced by baptism is one of the foundations of a Reformed doctrine of paedobaptism.
2. He doesn't say that Enoch was circumcised: his words are, "we...have received...spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed." Check the link I provided, and read the chapter from the beginning; he clearly sees circumcision as having begun with Abraham, and various other (abrogated) rites and ceremonies as having begun with Moses.
3. It is possibly a reference to baptismal regeneration; I won't deny that. Or he is also possibly referring to the more "spiritual" circumcision (i.e., baptism) which we receive. I would tend to go with this latter interpretation; since he is, contextually, speaking of "carnal" circumcision, beginning with the institution of the rite of circumcision with Abraham, as I said above.
4. I have to disagree here, with the assumption that his last statement reeks of Arminianism. It seems, rather, that in contrasting our baptism with the circumcision of the people of God of old, he is emphasizing that this is no longer restricted, by and large, to the literal descendants of Abraham, or to national Israel. It is, instead, extended to all nations, Jews and Gentiles.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
I was reading Buswell's Systematic Theology on Infant Baptism today, and found him refer to an interesting quote from Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Chapter 43
Is it just me or can everybody else connect to the Chapter 43 link? Tried yesterday, then this morning, and I still get the "Cannot find server" page.
 

tellville

Puritan Board Junior
Kaalvenist said:
Mark,

1. I never said that there was reference to infant baptism in this passage. But the belief that circumcision has been replaced by baptism is one of the foundations of a Reformed doctrine of paedobaptism.
2. He doesn't say that Enoch was circumcised: his words are, "we...have received...spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed." Check the link I provided, and read the chapter from the beginning; he clearly sees circumcision as having begun with Abraham, and various other (abrogated) rites and ceremonies as having begun with Moses.
3. It is possibly a reference to baptismal regeneration; I won't deny that. Or he is also possibly referring to the more "spiritual" circumcision (i.e., baptism) which we receive. I would tend to go with this latter interpretation; since he is, contextually, speaking of "carnal" circumcision, beginning with the institution of the rite of circumcision with Abraham, as I said above.
4. I have to disagree here, with the assumption that his last statement reeks of Arminianism. It seems, rather, that in contrasting our baptism with the circumcision of the people of God of old, he is emphasizing that this is no longer restricted, by and large, to the literal descendants of Abraham, or to national Israel. It is, instead, extended to all nations, Jews and Gentiles.

Good points Sean. Also, I didn't say that he isn't teaching that circumcision replaces Baptism, but that I do not think it necessitates the padeo understanding of replacement.

I guess I just wanted to mainly state that I didn't see the passage as a early church proof text for padeobaptism. Or at the very least necessitating such an interpretation.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Good points Sean. Also, I didn't say that he isn't teaching that circumcision replaces Baptism, but that I do not think it necessitates the padeo understanding of replacement.

I guess I just wanted to mainly state that I didn't see the passage as a early church proof text for padeobaptism. Or at the very least necessitating such an interpretation.

Mark,

Again, Sean is primarily demonstrating that the Reformed understanding of baptism being identified as spiritual circumcision, was not novel, but a recovery of earlier teaching (a reformation if you will).

Thus, when Paul says here:
[bible]Colossians 2:11-12[/bible]

Paedobaptists see the most natural reading and interpretation of this as saying that baptism is identified with the circumcision made without hands and is thus identified with circumcision. The squares precisely with with what Justin Martyr is saying above.

Reformed Baptists, on the other hand, interpret away this passage as identifying the circumcision made without hands as regeneration and not identified at all with the Sacrament of Baptism.

Thus, it's not a matter of whether Justin Martyr speaks of infant baptism. He supports the Reformed (read paedobaptist) view of baptism being identified with spiritual circumcision.

Sean: thanks for this passage. I knew Justin Martyr had said this but didn't know where.
 

tellville

Puritan Board Junior
Rich,

I've never really had a problem with saying Baptism is the "new circumcision". I just don't see why the "new circumcision" includes infants (And no, I don't want to debate that in this thread :D ).

Again, I didn't say that he [Justin] isn't teaching that circumcision replaces Baptism, but that I do not think it necessitates the padeo understanding of replacement.

Thank you for your comments btw (Sean and Rich)!
 
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