Baptism is one of the earliest and most important rituals within Christianity. Have you ever been curious as to how early Christians practiced baptism?
The Didache is one of the earliest Christian documents not found in the New Testament. “Didache” means teaching, and is short for “The Lord’s Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”. It describes early Christian ethics, practices, and order, including how they practiced baptism. It provides instruction as follows:
“And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.”
What I find fascinating about this instruction is its flexibility. There is an obvious preference for full immersion in cool, running water, but if circumstances don’t permit that, no sweat, just use what you have available, the simple act of pouring warm water upon the head is enough. It may not have quite the same symbolic resonance as full immersion but what matters most is the intent. How refreshing. I wish all Christians would take such a gracious attitude.