Early Christian, Latin and Greek Inscriptions — The Incontestable Evidence for the Practice of Infant Baptism (II)

20 January 2021

In this second part I have continued with the rendition of epitaphs translated from Latin and ancient Greek and I have highlighted some monumental inscriptions which decorated baptisteries and contiguous chapels. The construction of catacombs, the works of art found inside them, the inscriptions on tombs all come together as proofs of the simplicity of faith, the purity of the doctrine, the force of sentiment, the changing of life for most of the members of Christ’s church from early centuries. A light had come into the world, the Light of the world- Christ our God and the dark passages of cemeteries were enlightened by it and shined. The epitaphs also reveal the fact that the Holy Anointment was being performed immediately after baptism and that godfathers were also witnesses to it. Thanks to epitaphs we have the certainty that the anointment had taken place immediately after baptism in a special part of the baptistery called consignatorium. We know that the gifts of baptism are numerous. Although many believe that the only gift it offers is the forgiveness of sins, the first Christians baptised children not only for this reason but also in order for them to receive the gifts of holiness and legitimation, so that they could become sons of God and dwellings of the Holy Spirit. If they are not baptised they cannot receive the Holy Communion and therefore their most perfect union with God in this world cannot be achieved. Apart from this, as some Christian historians and theologians underline, the high rate of mortality among new-borns in the ancient world, something that Christian inscriptions painfully illustrate, encouraged the practice of baptism shortly after birth, as an assurance, no matter what the future was holding. The inevitable conclusion that we can draw from these truths is that, since one of the effects of baptising young children is that though it they become members of the Church, in other words parts of the mystical body of Christ, united with Him, their head, and can receive the Holy and Godly Communion, if these benefits are not bestowed upon them, they risk not getting into the kingdom of Heaven. This is the strongest argument according to which young children and new-borns were baptised.