Polycarp and Infant Baptism

“Martyrdom of Polycarp” from Ceiling of the Church of St. Polycarp, Smyrna (now called Izmir, Turkey)


Do you know that some Catholics actually claim that the ancient 2nd century text known as the Martyrdom of Polycarp proves infant baptism?  Is this true or have inaccurate assumptions been made?

For those unfamiliar with Polycarp, perhaps it should be mentioned that he was a disciple of the Apostle John and was put in charge of the Church of Smyrna. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox revere him as a saint.  We in the Living Church of God trace our early history from Peter, Paul, and John through Polycarp, but we do not endorse infant baptism.

So if Polycarp endorsed infant baptism, then we in the Living Church of God would have a problem.  But did he?

Some Catholics think so.  Notice the following false tradition that supposedly proves infant baptism (I have read similar claims from other Catholic writers.  Note: Any bolding is in the source):

St. Polycarp, who was the disciple of the Apostle John himself (as well as an associate of the Apostle Philip). And, in AD 155, St. Polycarp said this at his execution:

“Polycarp declared, ‘Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me injury. How can I blaspheme my King and Savior?” (Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp 9 c. AD 156)

Now, it is well documented that “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” was written the year after the saint’s execution; and so the quote above is extremely reliable. It is also well documented that Polycarp was 86 years old at the time of his death. Therefore, if the saint claims to have served Jesus for 86 years, it therefore follows that he was Baptized as an infant. And, in another place, we are told that Polycarp was Baptized by none other than the Apostle John! 🙂 Therefore, at least in the case of St. John, we can show conclusively that the Apostles Baptized infants (Bonocore MJ. Infant Baptism.  Apolonio’s Catholic Apologetics. http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/a26.htm viewed 10/06/08 ).

Now while the above may at first sound plausible, 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.

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.  True history supports the positions of the Living Church of God.

No early true Christian advocated, nor practiced, infant baptism.

The Bible is clear that baptism requires repentance and belief of Christ, something that infants simply are not capable of.

Notice what the Apostle Peter taught:

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

The Apostle Paul taught:

And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8).

The original practice in the New Testament was immersion after belief and repentance.

Infant baptism was never the practice of the true church.  There is no incident of infants being baptized in the entire Bible, nor in the early true church.

Several articles of possibly related interest may include:

Baptism and the Early Church Was it by immersion? Did it include infants?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians Did Polycarp refer to all the books in the New Testament? This is Roberts and Donaldson’s translation, corrected by me in one place, where they made a small error in translating Latin by omitting one word.
Polycarp of Smyrna: The Heretic Fighter Polycarp was the successor of the Apostle John and a major leader in Asia Minor. Do you know much about what he taught?  Does the Living Church of God or the Church of Rome more faithfully follow his teachings and practices?

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