A few objected to my interpretation of Tertullian’s view on baptism, one claiming that when Tertullian spoke of being inwardly baptized before baptism, that he was speaking figuratively. The following is my response to this idea. I cover the principal behind symbolism and its use in texts like the Bible, and then go about to show that Tertullian believes that the forgiveness of sins occurs prior to baptism. Therefore, it is appropriate to interpret his statements as baptism being seemingly efficacious as symbolic.
Note: This article was written before the author’s conversion to Orthodoxy.
Good to see you still plugging away. God bless. j
I’ve been reading your posts on Tertullian and views on baptism and regeneration. I’ve found it very interesting. What are your comments on this excerpt from Tertullian? I see you’ve mentioned it here but not specifically my questions about it.
“it is, however, at present rather rash to pronounce an opinion on the salvation of the apostles, because a short way to Baptism could have been conferred upon them even by the privilege of their original promotion and their subsequent inseparable association with the Lord, since they, I believe, were following Him who promised salvation to every one that believed” (On Baptism, Souter’s Translation, Ch 12).
I have read several commentaries on this part stating that ” He, of course, denies this possibility and ultimately concludes that it makes no difference whether the apostles were baptized or not. Their close attendance upon the Lord and faith are sufficient assurance of their salvation, but what is normal for the apostles is not normal
for others.” (https://biblicalspirituality.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/tertullian-on-baptism-by-tye-rambo.pdf)
I believe Tertullian’s view was that even if they were not baptized, the baptism of the Spirit in Acts 2 was their initiation and that they subsequently had the ability to baptize and chrismate with the power of the Spirit. THis was something they could not do when Jesus was around (as they were baptizing, but probably not chrismating during this time.)
Interesting. How I read that initially was that it seems scholars/readers take this to mean that the apostles were only saved because special rules applied only to them because they were with Jesus. Everyone else needs baptism for salvation.
The whole section deals with if the apostles were saved because people think they weren’t baptized. It seems Tertullian says here that it doesn’t matter if they were baptized or not because they were with Jesus, but everyone else needs baptism for salvation.
What are some places where you see Tertullian means this towards chrismating and Acts 2 in his writings?
It has been a while since I have read Tertullian’s argument, so sadly I cannot remember. I do remember that he was not resolved to concede that the Apostles were not baptized, but rather if they were that their faithfulness was sufficient. I write about this in detail here: (https://orthodoxchristiantheology.com/2016/05/07/tertullian-baptismal-regeneration-and-the-danger-of-presuppositions/). I do think that the hard-nosed sacramental view of today was a little more squishy in the really-early Church, and I think that Tertullian represents this earlier thought. While I would not go as far as to say this made the early Church anti-sacramental (a conclusion I drew at the time of writing the article I just linked you), I do think that God does not need sacraments. Of course He works through sacraments, but He does that for our sakes, not for His. So, He did not need to baptize the disciples or anyone. I think this is more in line with Tertullian’s thinking of the matter.
It is a very interesting matter, and being that a lot of discussions on this matter are really arguments against modern sacramental practice, we (including myself) often miss the forest from the trees.