Augustine Casiday

'The Son of Man is come to seek and save that which is lost' (Luke 19.19): with this description of their Lord's mission, Christians understandably came to regard salvation and sin as master themes for their lives. In fact, these themes are so pervasive that discussions ofthem take on as many forms as Christianity itself does. This near ubiquity makes it exceedingly difficult to appreciate the subject in a way that does justice to evidence from across the Mediterranean basin and Near East; in attempting to navigate through the wealth of information, it is very easy to adopt the categories of regional controversies and subsequently to ascribe universal significance to localised preoccupations. One way forward is to think about how Christians considered baptism (itself a practice that was comparably widespread), which was regarded as a vital step in the process of salvation and indeed as the font of Christian identity. In explaining, preparing for and celebrating this sacrament, Christians of all types were confronted in a powerful way with the dynamics of sin and salvation - and these experiences in turn shaped their habits of reflecting upon salvation.1 Baptism and the events surrounding it provide important evidence for how Christians during our period understood sin and the measures they took to deal with it, as well as how they conceived of salvation.

Records about early Christian views on baptism survive in a variety of forms, such as catechetical lectures, rites (and commentaries on them), pilgrims'journals, hymns and letters. As for the former, the justly famous homilies of Cyril of Jerusalem and Theodore of Mopsuestia are but two series of such lectures. Similar instruction survives from Augustine of Hippo, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom (from his younger days in Antioch), Quodvultdeus of Carthage, Severus of Antioch and Zeno of Verona. Our other sources similarly come from numerous authors and represent an impressive geographic and chronological

1 This is particularly evident in Augustine of Hippo's theological analysis of the baptism of infants, as we shall see below.

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