The οικια Reference in Job 1.10 and Household Baptisms
Posted by John Meade on June 19, 2009
I have been posting quite a bit on baptism issues lately (see posts on Acts 16:34 and 2:41), and I’m not really sure why. I guess I think about the issue while I’m reading the sources and I make a note to come back to certain texts for further reflection. When I was reading Job 1 a couple weeks ago, the reference to Job and his house struck me because I remembered Lee Irons’ post on this matter here. Irons is a more acute theologian than I, but he is convinced by Jeremias’ argument that oikos texts in the Septuagint “refer to the immediate family unit, with particular focus on the under-age children.” Now, one is struck by the impressive list of references, which Irons compiles in his paper; however, what if it can be shown in one clear instance that the oikos formula refers to a household which has no infants in the house? Would not that reference cause someone to pause before concluding (assuming?) there are infants in every household text in the NT? Well, that one reference is Job 1:10. I first commented on this issue on Weedon’s blog, which is another thread worth reviewing, if one is interested in the matter of baptism from a church history perspective.
In Job 1:10 we have a reference to Job and his house. Here is one explicit example of the so called οικος formula where it certainly does not include infants. Job’s sons and daughters are all grown and attending drinking parties at their eldest brother’s house. Now, unless this text refers to infants imbibing the communion wine , one can be sure that Job has no infants in his house. This text did not make Jeremias’ list. Now one might quibble over whether this reference should be included, since the word is οικια not οικος. However, the Hebrew text underlying this translation is the same Hebrew text which underlies the Greek formula everywhere else. Thus the Job translator is simply using a cognate of the usual Greek word employed, but the meaning is the same.
The household baptism texts in the NT have always attempted an argument a silencio. That is they have always relied on the fact that the presence of infants in the house was neither denied nor affirmed. Then the argument concludes something like, “Well, of course there had to be infants in at least one of the households in the NT.” Well, “maybe,” one would respond. The fact is the household texts will never be a proving argument for the paedobaptist view. One must assume the paedobaptist framework first, and then the household texts fit the schema. But until one adopts the covenant of grace or a similar mechanism, no one should be compelled to adopt paedobaptism on the basis of household texts. At least Job 1:10 should cause everyone to think twice about the assumption that there are infants in the house wherever the phrase is used.