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Pre-Nicene Eastern Christian Initiation: West and East Syria


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Title: Pre-Nicene Eastern Christian Initiation: West and East Syria

Pre-Nicene Eastern Christian Initiation West and
East Syria
East and West Syria
Didache 7, 9 (50 150 CE)
  • Who baptizer / baptizee / community
  • Did (or refrained from doing) what
  • Explain all these points (ch. 1 6)
  • Fast (baptizer / baptizee / some of community)
  • Immerse/pour // running/still water // cold/hot
  • Spoke in the name of the Father and of the Son
    and of the Holy Spirit ?
  • When no set date/season
  • Where no set place
  • What it meant Entry into eucharistic fellowship
    (cf. Didache 95) and thus community of salvation

Odes of Solomon (c. 100 CE)
  • Ode 11
  • My heart was pruned and its flower appeared, /
    then grace sprang up in it, / and it produced
    fruits for the Lord.
  • For the Most High circumcised me by his Holy
    Spirit, / then he uncovered my inward being
    toward him, / and filled me with his love.
  • And his circumcising became my salvation, / and I
    ran in the Way in his peace, / in the Way of

  • From the beginning until the end / I received his
  • And I was established upon the rock of truth, /
    where he had set me.
  • And speaking waters touched my lips / from the
    spring of the Lord generously.
  • And so I drank and became intoxicated, / from the
    living water that does not die.
  • And my intoxication was not with ignorance, / but
    I abandoned vanity
  • And turned toward the Most High, my God, / and
    was enriched by his favors.

  • And I abandoned the folly cast upon the earth, /
    and stripped it off and cast it from me.
  • And the Lord renewed me with his garment, / and
    possessed me by his light.
  • And from above he gave me immortal rest / and I
    became like the land which blossoms and rejoices
    in its fruits.
  • And the Lord is like the sun / upon the face of
    the land.

  • My eyes were enlightened, / and my face received
    the dew
  • And my breath was refreshed / by the pleasant
    fragrance of the Lord.
  • And he took me to his Paradise, / wherein is the
    wealth of the Lords pleasure.
  • (I contemplated blooming and fruit-bearing trees,
    / and self-grown was their crown.
  • Their branches were flourishing / and their
    fruits were shining / their roots were from an
    immortal land.
  • And a river of gladness was irrigating them, /
    and the region around them in the land of eternal

  • Then I adored the Lord because of his
  • And I said Blessed, O Lord, are they / who are
    planted in your land, / and who have a place in
    your Paradise
  • And who grow in the growth of your trees, / and
    have passed from darkness into light.
  • Behold, all your laborers are fair, / they who
    work good works, / and turn from wickedness to
    your kindness.
  • For they turned away from themselves the
    bitterness of the trees, / when they were planted
    in your land.

  • And everyone was like your remnant / (Blessed are
    the workers of your water!) / and the eternal
    memorial of your faithful servants.
  • Indeed, there is much room in your Paradise. /
    And there is nothing in it which is barren, / but
    everything is filled with fruit.
  • Praise be to you, O God, the delight of Paradise
    for ever.!
  • Hallelujah!

  • Who I your laborers/the workers of your water
    Holy Spirit Most High
  • Did (or refrained from doing) what
  • Circumcision by the Holy Spirit
  • Received knowledge
  • Speaking waters touched lips
  • Stripped off folly / clothed in Lord garment
  • Possessed by Lords light eyes
  • Face received dew
  • Breath refreshed by Lords fragrance
  • Planted in Paradise

  • When no set date / season spring?
  • Where world / Lords Paradise
  • What it meant
  • Circumcising salvation
  • Running in the Way of peace / truth
  • Planted in Paradise passed from darkness into

Melito of Sardis (fl. c. 160 170 CE)
  • Fragment B from lost On Baptism?
  • If you wish to observe the heavenly bodies being
    baptized, make haste now to the Ocean, and there
    I will show you a strange sight outspread sea,
    and boundless main, and infinite deep, and
    immeasurable Ocean, and pure water the suns
    swimming pool, and the stars brightening place,
    and the moons bath. And how they symbolically
    bathe, learn faithfully from me.

  • When the sun has with fiery chariotry fulfilled
    the days course, having in the whirling of his
    course become like fire and flared up like a
    torch, and where he has blazed through his
    courses meridian, (then) as though reluctant, if
    he should appear close by, to burn up the land
    with ten radiant lightning-shafts, he sinks into
    the Ocean. Just as a ball of bronze, full of
    fire within, flashing with much light, is bathed
    in cold water, making a loud noise, and in the
    polishing process stops glowing yet the fire
    within is not quenched, but flares up again when

  • Just so also the sun, inflamed like lightning,
    wholly undying bathes in cold water, but keeps
    his fire unsleeping and when he has bathed in
    symbolic baptism, he exults greatly, taking the
    water as food. Though one and the same, he rises
    for men as a new sun, tempered from the deep,
    purified from the bath he has driven off the
    nocturnal darkness, and has begotten bright day.
    Along his course, both the movement of the stars
    and the appearance of the moon operate. For they
    bathe in the suns swimming pool like good
    disciples for the stars with the moon pursue the
    suns track, soaking up pure brilliance.

  • Now if the sun, with stars and moon, bathes in
    Ocean, why may not Christ bathe in Jordan? King
    of heavens and creations Captain, Sun of
    uprising who appeared both to the dead in Hades
    and to mortals in the world, he also alone arose
    a Sun out of heaven.

  • Who ?
  • Did (or refrained from doing) what Bathing
  • When daily for cosmic lights / once in Jordan
    for Jesus / once for disciples?
  • Where horizon for cosmic lights / Jordan River
    for Jesus / ? For disciples
  • What it meant Sun Jesus, moon and stars

Justin Martyr First Apology 61, 65 (148 CE)
  • Who baptizer / baptizee / community
  • Did (or refrained from doing) what
  • Instruction
  • Pledge
  • Prayer and fasting (along with community)
  • Regenerated in water (called illumination)
  • Invocation / Profession of Father, Son, Holy
  • Move to assembly space
  • Common prayers
  • Kiss

  • Presentation of bread and cup, with wine and
    water mixed
  • Eucharistic Prayer (with community Amen)
  • Communion administered by deacons
  • Deacons bring communion to absentees
  • When no particular date / season
  • Where where there is water / assembly space
  • What it meant
  • Consecrated to God
  • Regenerated through Christ
  • Change from children of necessity and ignorance
  • Obtain forgiveness of past sins
  • Become illuminated
  • Attain eternal salvation

Didascalia Apostolorum 9, 17 (c. 200 CE)
  • Who bishop, male deacon, female deacon,
    baptizee, community
  • Did (or refrained from doing) what
  • Bishop
  • Mediator of Holy Spirit
  • Teacher of the Word
  • Patron connecting baptizee and God
  • Sealer of the baptizee
  • Maker of baptizees into children of the light
  • Imposed hands on baptizees citing Psalm 27

  • Male Deacon
  • Full body anointing of male candidates as they
    come for water rites
  • Female Deacon
  • Full body anointing of female candidates as they
    come for water rites
  • Reception of female neophytes as they come up out
    of the water
  • Teach female neophytes how the seal of baptism is
    to be kept unbroken in purity and holiness
  • Visit Christian women in pagan households, visit
    the Christian sick, bathe those recovering from
  • When no particular date / season
  • Where in a baptismal space separate from the
    assembly hall
  • What it meant cf. bishops activities

Gospel of Philip (c. 200 CE)
  • 60 The Lord did all things by means of a
    mystery baptism, chrism, eucharist, ransom, and
    bridal chamber.
  • 67 We are reborn by the Holy Spirit. And we
    are born by the Anointed Christ through two
    things. We are anointed by the Spirit. When we
    were born we were joined. No one can see himself
    in the water or in a mirror without light. Nor,
    again, can you see by the light without water or
    a mirror. For this reason it is necessary to
    baptize with two things light and water. And
    light means chrism.

  • 79 People who say they will first die and then
    arise are mistaken. If they do not first receive
    resurrection while they are alive, once they have
    died they will receive nothing. Just so it is
    said of baptism Great is baptism! For if one
    receives it, one will live.
  • 80 Philip the apostle said Joseph the
    carpenter planted a paradise, for he needed wood
    for his trade. It is he who made the cross from
    the trees that he had planted, and its seed hung
    from what he had planted the seed was Jesus, and
    the plant was the cross. But the tree of life is
    in the midst of paradise, and from the olive tree
    comes chrism and from the latter comes

  • 83 Chrism has more authority than baptism. For
    because of chrism we are called Christians, not
    because of baptism. And the Anointed Christ
    was named for chrism, for the Father anointed the
    Son and the Son anointed the apostles, and the
    apostles anointed us. Whoever has been anointed
    has everything resurrection, light, cross, holy
    spirit the Father has given it to that person in
    the bridal chamber, and the person has received
    it. The Father existed in the Son, and the Son
    existed in the Father. This is the kingdom of

  • 86 The cup of prayer contains wine and contains
    water, being established as a representation of
    the blood over which thanksgiving is offered.
    And it is full of the holy Spirit, and belongs
    entirely to the perfect human being. Whenever we
    drink it we take unto ourselves the perfect human
  • The living water is a body. It befits us to put
    on the living human being accordingly, when one
    is about to descend into the water, one strips
    naked in order to put that one on.

  • 92 Just as Jesus perfected the water of
    baptism, so too he drew off death. For this
    reason we go down into the water but not into
    death, so that we are not poured out into the
    wind of the world. Whenever the latter blows,
    winter comes whenever the Holy Spirit blows,
    summer comes.
  • 94 Spiritual love is wine and perfume. Those
    who anoint themselves with it all have the use of
    it, as do also those who are outside their
    company so long as the anointed ones stand there.
    When those anointed with ointment leave them and
    depart, the ones who are not anointed but are
    only outside their company still remain within
    their fragrance.

  • 107 The mysteries of that marriage are
    performed in day and light and that day, or
    rather its light, does not set. If someone
    becomes a bridegrooms attendant, that person
    will receive the light. If one does not receive
    it while here, one cannot receive it elsewhere.
  • Whoever receives that light will be invisible and
    cannot be restrained. And nothing can harass
    such a person even while living in the world.
    And, furthermore, when that person leaves this
    world, he or she has already received the truth
    in the form of images, and the world has already
    become the eternal realm.

  • Who ?
  • Did (or refrained from doing) what
  • Baptism
  • Chrism
  • Eucharist
  • Ransom
  • Bridal chamber
  • When no particular date / season
  • Where spaces for each mystery?
  • What did they think it meant
  • Joining a gnostic community
  • Immortality

Acts of Judas Thomas (c. 200 CE)
  • Chapters 25-27 Greek version
  • And they sought after him that they also might
    henceforth receive the seal of the word, saying
    to him Seeing that our souls are at leisure and
    eager toward God, give us the seal for we have
    heard you say that the God whom you preach knows
    his own sheep by his seal.

  • And the Apostle said unto them I also rejoice
    and entreat you to receive this seal, and to
    partake with me in this Eucharist and blessing of
    the Lord, and to be made perfect therein. For
    this is the Lord and God of all, even Jesus
    Christ, whom I preach, and he is the father of
    truth, in whom I have taught you to believe.
    And he commanded them to bring oil, that they
    might receive the seal by the oil. They brought
    the oil therefore, and lighted many lamps for it
    was night.

  • And the Apostle got up and sealed them. And the
    Lord was revealed unto them by a voice, saying
    Peace be to you, brothers. And they heard his
    voice only, but his likeness they did not see,
    for they had not yet received the added sealing
    of the seal. And the Apostle took the oil and
    poured it upon their heads and anointed them and
    chrismated them, and began to say

  • Come, holy Name of the Christ that is above
    every name.
  • Come, power of the Most High, and the compassion
    that is perfect.
  • Come, gift of the Most High.
  • Come, compassionate mother.
  • Come, communion of the male.
  • Come, she who reveals the hidden mysteries.
  • Come, mother of the seven houses, that your rest
    may be in the eighth house.
  • Come, elder of the five members mind, thought,
    reflection, consideration, reason communicate
    with these young men.
  • Come, Holy Spirit, and cleanse their reins and
    their heart, and give them the added seal, in the
    Name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.

  • And when they were sealed, a youth appeared to
    them holding a lighted torch, so that their lamps
    became dim at the approach of that light. And he
    went forth and was no more seen by them. And the
    Apostle said unto the Lord Your light, O Lord,
    is not to be contained by us, and we are not able
    to bear it, for it is too great for our sight.
  • And when dawn came and it was morning, he broke
    bread and made them partakers of the Eucharist of
    the Christ.

  • Chapters 132-133 Greek version
  • And Siphor said I and my wife and daughter
    will dwell henceforth in holiness, and in
    chastity, and in one affection. I beseech you
    that we may receive from you the seal, and become
    worshippers of the true God and numbered among
    his sheep and lambs.

  • And he Judas began to say concerning baptism
  • This baptism is remission of sins.
  • This brings forth again light that is shed about
  • This brings to birth the new man.
  • This mingles the spirit with the body, / raises
    up in threefoldwise a new man, / and makes him
    partaker of the remission of sins.

  • Glory be to you, hidden one, who are communicated
    in baptism.
  • Glory be to you, the unseen power that is in
  • Glory be to you, renewal, whereby are renewed
    those who are baptized and with affection take
    hold upon you.
  • And having thus said, he poured oil over their
    heads, and said

  • Glory be to you, the Love of Compassion.
  • Glory to you, Name of Christ.
  • Glory to you, Power established in Christ.
  • And he commanded a vessel to be brought, and
    baptized them in the Name of the Father and the
    Son and the Holy Spirit.
  • And when they were baptized and clad, he set
    bread on the table, and blessed it.

  • Who Apostle baptizer / Gundaphorus
    companions, a possessed woman, Mygdonia Sifur
    family, Vizan female companions baptizees /
    assistants Narkia, Mygdonia
  • Did (or refrained from doing) what
  • Instruction
  • Request for the seal
  • Stripping
  • Epicletic prayer over oil anointing of heads
  • Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy
  • Clothing
  • Eucharist

  • When no particular date / season
  • Where public bath house / river / private home
  • What it meant cf. the declarative and epicletic
    texts of the Apostle

Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena (c. 250 CE)
  • 13 But she Xanthippe rising up from the
    ground said to him Master, why do you leave me
    desolate? Even now, hasten to seal me, that,
    though death overtake me, I may go to him that is
    merciful and kind.
  • 14. Straightway then Paul took her by the hand,
    led her into the house of Philotheus, and
    baptized her in the Name of the Father and of the
    Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then he took bread
    and gave thanks and gave it to her, saying Let
    this be to you for the remission of sins and the
    renewal of your soul.

  • 21. Probus rose early and went to Paul. He
    found him baptizing many people in the name of
    the life-originating Triad and said If I am
    worthy to receive baptism, my Lord Paul, lo, the
    hour is come. Paul replied See, my son, the
    water is ready for the cleansing of those who
    come to Christ. Straightway, then, eagerly
    stripping off his clothes, Paul holding his hand,
    he leaped into the water, crying Jesus Christ,
    Son of God and God eternal, may all my sin be
    done away in this water. And Paul said We
    baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the
    Son and of the Holy Spirit. And them he made
    him partake of the Eucharist of Christ.

  • Who Apostle baptizer / Xanthippe, Probus
    baptizee / house of Philotheus, many
  • Did (or refrained from doing) what
  • Request for seal / baptism
  • Stripping
  • Declaration in the water
  • Water baptism in the name of the Father and of
    the Son and of the Holy Spirit
  • Eucharist

  • When no particular date / season (but early in
    the day in Probus case)
  • Where house of Philotheus / baptismal pool
  • What it meant
  • Entrance into heaven at death
  • Remission of sins and renewal of soul
  • Cleansing of those who come to Christ
  • Destruction of all sin