Church Fathers on Tradition, Eucharist, and Baptism


Clement of Rome (Pope during the first century):

“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate.  For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, hey appointed those already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should SUCCEED them in their ministry” (Clement of Rome, Pope, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, 44:1-2 (AD 96) ANF I:17.

“The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ from God.  Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ.  Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God.  Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand.  And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits, having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe.  Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons.  For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, ‘I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith’” (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 42 (c. 92 AD) ANF I:16).

Cyprian (200 AD):

“After such things as these, moreover, they still dare-a false bishop having been appointed for them by heretics-to set sail and bear letters from schismatic and profane persons to the throne of PETER, and to the chief church whence priestly unity takes its source; and not to consider that these were the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the apostle, to whom faithlessness could have no access” (To Pope Cornelius, Epistle 54 (59):14; ANF V:344).

Hyppolytus of Rome (235 AD):

“But we, as being their successors (the Apostles), and as participators in this grace, high-priesthood, and office of teaching, as well as being reputed guardians of the Church (identical to what I have told you Catholic Church’s view is previously), must not be found deficient in vigilance, or disposed to suppress correct doctrine…they have endeavoured to establish their tenets, taking nothing from the holy Scriptures-nor is it from preserving the succession of any saint that they hurried headlong into these opinions (addressing the matter of heretics here)” (Refutation of All Heresies, 1:Preface; ANF V:10).

St. Ignatius of Antioch (110 AD):

“See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God.  Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.  Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.  Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the CATHOLICCHURCH.  It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid” (Epistle to the Smyraens, 8, ANF I:89-90).

Notice that he calls the early Church “the Catholic Church”, far before you claim the Catholic Church begun in 313 AD. 

St. Iraneus (140-202 AD):

“For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and world manifests Him who ordered it.  The Universal (Catholic means Universal) Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the apostles” (Against Heresies, 2, 9:1; ANF I:369).

“It is within the power of all, therefore in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the TRADITION of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up to those who were BY THE APOSTLES INSTITUTED BISHOPS in the Churches, and (to demonstrate) the succession of these men down to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these (heretics) rave about.  For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to ‘the perfect’ apart and privily from the rest, they would DELIVERED them especially to those to whom THEY WERE ALSO COMMITTING THE CHURCHES TTHETHETHEMSELVES” (Ibid., 3,3:1 ANF I:415).

“But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true” (Ibid., 3,3:4 ANF I.416).

This is one of the most telling quotes to me.  Notice that he didn’t say the Apostles passed on their teachings by writing here.  These Fathers actually conversed with the Apostles.  They knew what Scripture meant, because they were able to personally ask and learn from the Apostles, whom knew Christ.  He then says this Tradition was handed down.  While I could go on here, I think you can see that the Church Fathers’ idea of Tradition, succession of the apostles, and doctrinal formation is very Catholic.

The Eucharist

St. Ignatius of Antioch (110 AD):

“Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to te grace of God which has come to us.  They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty.  They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the FLESH of our Savior Jesus Christ, the SAME FLESH which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 6, 2, JF, v. 1, 64; NPNF, v. 1, ch. 7, p.89)

St. Iraneus (140-202):

“The bread over which thanks has been given is the body of their Lord, and the cup His blood…” (Against Heresies, 4, 18, 4, NPNF, v. 1, p. 486).

“But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion.  For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit.  For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity” (Against Heresies, 4, 18, 5, NPNF, v. 1, p. 486)

St. Justin Martyr (110-165 AD):

“This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except on ehwo believes that the things we teach are true, and has received THE WASHING (baptism) for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us.  For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took Flesh and Blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food Consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from Him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the Flesh and Blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology, 66, NPNF, v. 1, p. 185).

There are many other verses by these Fathers and others, but this should suffice.  These are some of the most well respected and most often quoted Fathers of the early Church.  As you can see, they clearly teach the Eucharist, which is a doctrine taught by only one Church.  Clearly they believed that the Scriptural evidence for this case was explicit.  Also note that Justin Martyr saw the “washing” as the initial way to have sins forgiven and to be “reborn”.  So, Jarret’s exegesis over baptism, in his letter to me, is not in line with what the Early Fathers thought.  Let’s see some of what the early Church taught on baptism shall we?


The Shephard of Hermas (140-155 AD)- Is baptism necessary for salvation?

“They had need, to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they COULD NOT otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life (life in Original Sin and personal sin).  These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the kingdom of God.  For, before man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead.  But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life.  The seal, therefore, IS THE WATER.  They go down into the water dead, and come out of it alive” (Par. 9, 16, 2).

St. Justin Martyr (155  AD):

“It is necessary to hasten to learn in what way forgiveness of sins and a hop of the inheritance of the promised good things may be yours.  There is no other way than this:  acknowledge this Christ, be washed in the washing announced by Isaias FOR the forgiveness of sins; and henceforth live sinlessly” (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 44, 10-11).

 If you remember Jarret’s exegesis in his letter to me, that you said you agreed with, he used the word AND to say that Scripture was not saying that the Baptism is TO wash away your sins.  Remember, he said “I get the feeling that you are reading this verse and placing the word “to” in the middle instead of the word “and”.”  Clearly Justin Martyr agrees with me on this one.  He is says that we are to be washed “FOR the forgiveness of sins”.  The early Church did not agree with this relatively new interpretation of Scripture that Jarret has espoused.  Let’s go on.

Tertullian (200-206 AD):

“A treatise on our SACRAMENT of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous...” (Corpus Christianorum, Vol. 1, [1, 1])

“The Spirit who in the beginning hovered over the waters would continue to linger as an influence upon the waters….All waters, therefore, by reason of the original sign at their beginning, are suitable, after God has been invoked, for the sacrament of SANCTIFICATION.  The Spirit immediately comes from heaven upon the waters, and rests upon them, making the holy of Himself; and having been thus sanctified they absorb at the same time the power of sanctifying.  Even so, there is a similitude well-adapted to the simple act; that since we are defiled by sins, as if by dirt, we are washed in water” (Corpus Christianorum, Vol. 1, [4, 1]).

I want to point out here that this is what we talked about last night.  As Scripture says, “but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified” (1 Cor 6:11).  It is through baptism that the sanctification and justification processes start.  Tertullian makes it quite clear he agrees with the Church and Scripture on this when he states, “The Spirit immediately comes from heaven upon the waters, and rests upon them, making the holy of Himself; and having been thus sanctified they absorb at the same time the power of sanctifying.”  Again, there are many other quotes I could put in here, but I have already written so much, I think that these should do the trick.  I will let you draw whatever conclusions you want to about what you believe as opposed to what these fathers did, but I think the message is very clear.


Infant Baptism

For starters here, I think it is important to say that once you see baptism is regenerative, and a necessary part of our salvation, then you would never deny it to anyone (including infants).  It is also important to note that baptism has replaced circumcision as the NT entrance into the covenant. 

St. Hyppolytus of Rome (215 AD):

“At dawn a prayer shall be offered over the water.  Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether as a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available.  Let them remove their clothing.  Baptise first the children; and IF they can speak for themselves, let them do so.  Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition, 21; 822, 835).

Origen (post Ad 244):

“Every sould that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin…And if it should seem necessary to do so, there may be added to the aforementioned considerations the fact that in the Church, Baptism is given for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given EVEN TO INFANTS.  And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of Baptism would seem superfluous” (Homilies on Leviticus, Hom 8, 3).

“The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving Baptism even to INFANTS.  For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentaries on Romans, 5, 9).

St. Cyprian of Carthage (251/252 AD):

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: you said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth.  In our council it seemed to us far otherwise.  No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken.  Rather, we all judged that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letter of Cyprian and of His Colleagues in Council to the Number of Sixty-Six: to Fidus, [64(59), 5]). 

St. Iraneus (180-199 AD):

“He came to save all through Himself,- all, I say, who through Him are reborn in God- infants, and children, and youths and old men.  Therefore He passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age, and at the same time becoming for them an example of piety, of righteousness, and of submission; a young man for youths, becoming an example for youths and sanctifying them for the Lord.  So also He became an old man for old men so that He might be the perfect teacher in all things…” (Against Heresies, [2, 22, 4].

So Dave, as you can see, all the intimate details that I had described to you about baptism are exactly what the early Church taught about it.  No longer do you have to just take my word for it, you can see that the early Christians always believed this, AND they believed it LONG before it was officially defined as doctrine.  They always justified their beliefs through Scripture, they were just using the proper Tradition to read Scripture with.  That is what we should all be doing.  Whose tradition are you viewing Scripture through?