The οικια Reference in Job 1.10 and Household Baptisms

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.

The Evidence

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.


4 thoughts on “The οικια Reference in Job 1.10 and Household Baptisms

  1. Doesn’t Jeremias agree that there are instances of the oikos formula that do not involve infants, and wouldn’t this example just be one of those instances? Granted, this admission on the part of Jeremias does undermine the point concerning the formula’s particular focus, or at least that it is always focused upon children.

    My understanding of Jeremias is that when there are infants in the household, the oikos formula can never be used to exclude these infants. Thus, the formula, when used by Luke, could never communicate that adults to the exclusion of infants were baptized.

    So I’m just questioning whether this example actually disproves Jeremias’ point, if Jeremias is not saying that the oikos formula must always involve under-age children.

  2. Chase –

    Thanks for this comment. I have focused on Irons’ summary of Jeremias and not all of Jeremias himself.

    You say, “My understanding of Jeremias is that when there are infants in the household, the oikos formula can never be used to exclude these infants. Thus, the formula, when used by Luke, could never communicate that adults to the exclusion of infants were baptized.” If you are right here, and you may very well be, the presence of the oikos formula in the NT has NO significance, since it is only helpful when the members of the household are ALREADY known. The presence of the formula only guarantees their participation in the act of the father, not the identity of the members of the house. Is this right?

    If so, then no part of the argument has progressed, since, baptists do not exclude the possibility that slaves and children of the household were baptized accompanied by profession. The argument is over infants, and the paedo-baptists must show that there are infants in the house who are baptized. I thought the oikos formula spotlighted their presence in the house, but apparently not. But if Jeremias’ claim was more modest than I initially presented, then the reference in Job is irrelevent to the baptism argument, but then so is the oikos formula in Acts altogether.

    Does this make sense?

  3. You may be right about Job 1:10, but there is still a question nagging me. If baptizing adults (and excluding children) was so important to the early Christians, I would assume that the NT writers would want no one to misunderstand the actions of the apostles. There are specific instances where “oikos” is qualified with additional information when children are excluded (Gen 50:8, 1 Sam 1:21), so why didn’t the NT writers do the same thing? If the NT writers wanted to make clear that only adults were ever baptized, why would they ever use the oikos formula unqualified? They could simply said something like “the adults of the household” or something similar; it would have been a really simple way to make things crystal clear. Yet they didn’t, leaving open the possibility of infants and children being baptized. Therefore, the argument from silence seems a lot more relevant given this consideration.

    Also, if early Christians only baptized adults, why did Origen and other early Church Fathers claim that infant baptism was a tradition handed down to them directly from the apostles? Are we going to seriously attempt the claim that they just blatantly lied?

  4. Alexander,

    My point is that the so called oikos formula in the NT does not prove the presence of the infants in the house nor does it disprove their presence because there are places in the Bible where there are no infants in view. The assumption in your question (“I would assume that the NT writers would want no one to misunderstand the actions of the apostles”) demonstrates my point, since we don’t know who is in the house. The oikos formula does not affirm or deny the presence of infants and thus we are right back where we started. Just because the formula is unqualified does not make the argument silence more relevant. In fact, since now we know nothing about the make up of the house, it makes these references less relevant and the silence all the more poignant. All we know is that whoever believed from these households was baptized.

    The argument from church history is long and cumbersome. The newest study by Everett Furgeson on it is the best. He concludes that paedo-baptists still have to account for infant baptism in the second century in order to establish an unbroken chain back to the apostles. There is no evidence for the practice during this time and most of the evidence of the practice of baptism in this century would contradict the practice (cf. Didache 7, 1 Apology of Justin Martyr).

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