Apparently, the righteous are able  to choose certain damned souls, who   are then released from eternal punishment and receive baptism (literal  or figurative) that they might be saved  with their counterparts. Buchholz concludes that  this scene “teaches a form of universal salvation,that is, if any who are saved request pardon for any  wicked, . . . the latter will be released from punishment.”106

These same lines are paraphrased in the  Sibylline Oracles, and the doctrine therein is the  same, whereby some of the damned souls are given  salvation at the hands of God through intervention  by righteous people. Interestingly, the later Ethiopic ranslation of the Apocalypse of Peter changes the  wording of these lines so that no second chance  could be interpreted from the text. This was likely  done because “someone had theological objections to it.” 107 Further, the Sibylline Oracles, when paraphrasing  this scene from the Apocalypse of Peter,contains a small interjectory note written by a later  author declaring that the doctrine taught concerning  damned souls was “plainly false: for the fire will  never cease to torment the damned. I indeed could pray that it might be so, who am branded with the  deepest scars of transgressions which stand in need of utmost mercy. But let Origen be ashamed of his  lying words, who saith that there is a term set to  the torments.” 108 The idea that righteous people could intervene on behalf of the condemned and  that their punishment would see an end was apparently held by the authors of these two texts and by  Origen. According to such beliefs, which are related  to other teachings of the era about affecting the  salvation of the dead, baptism on their behalf certainly  seems plausible. Another important area of  research in relation to the doctrine of salvation for  the dead is Christ’s three-day descent into Sheol or  Hades. Early Christians believed that after Christ  died on the cross, he descended into hell to evangelize  the dead. To those who accepted him, he placed  his “name upon their head(s)” and made them
“free.” 109 This rite was called Chrismation, which  would almost always be linked with baptism in later church practice.110 After preaching to the unevangelized  dead, Christ returned to the earth for his  Forty-Day ministry, in which he was continually  “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
A common form of symbolism to express   Christ’s descent is breaking the gates of hell or  unlocking them with his key,111 as discussed in the  “Harrowing of Hell,” the first article in this series.112
Christ’s mention of his descensus to Sheol to preach  the gospel and free the captives there is certainly  linked with the idea that  the dead therefore need  baptism.113 If they need the gospel preached to  them, why not the saving rite of baptism?

The  Epistula Apostolorum, a composition dating  roughly to ad 140–150, describes the purpose for  Christ’s descent. In the text, the Savior speaks of  the resurrection and the ultimate redemption and  judgment of the souls on earth, in which all men  will be judged “in regard of that that they have done, whether it be good or evil.” He then continues  with this important statement:
For to that end went I down unto the place of   Lazarus, and preached unto the righteous and the prophets, that they might come out of the rest which is below and come up into that which  is above; and I poured out upon them with my right hand the water (baptism, Eth.) of life and  forgiveness and salvation from all evil, as I have  done unto you and unto them that believe on
The Savior indicates that his descent and preaching  to the righteous dead and the former prophets are  tied to the resurrection. Further, the righteous dead,the former prophets, and those who are unevangelized,receive the “water of life,” or baptism—the very  thing that brings “salvation from all evil.” Apparently,this was a central reason for his descent into  the underworld—to provide baptism for the righteous  souls there that they might be judged correctly  and “come up into that which is above.”
The gnostic writing the Apocryphon of John   (which is a conversation between the risen Lord and  the apostle John written around ad 150) 115 discusses  further the purpose of Christ’s descent. Within the  text the divine Forethought 116 reveals to John:
I entered the midst of darkness and the bowels  of the underworld,117 turning to my task. The  foundations of chaos shook as though to fall   upon those who dwell in chaos and destroy  them. . . . I hurried back to the root of my light  so they might not be destroyed before their  time. . . . I brightened my face with light from  the consummation of their realm and entered  the midst of their prison, which is the prison of  the body. I said, Let whoever hears arise from  deep sleep.118
The text concludes with Christ meeting a certain  person in the depths, someone who is repentant  and ready to be released. Christ then notes, “I raised  and sealed the person in luminous water with Five  Seals that death might not prevail over the person  from that moment on.” 119 In a number of separate Sethian writings (the gnostic Christian community  or classification to which the Apocryphon of John  is attributed), the Five Seals referred to are thought  to be the “final act of deliverance” or “a baptismal
rite.” 120 Thus the final saving ordinance that instills life and awakens those who are dead from their  “deep sleep” is the rite of baptism.
The theme of the Five Seals is discussed further  in a number of other texts. The Trimorphic Protennoia  (NHC XIII) uses the symbolism in a way that  confirms the interpretation of the Five Seals as  some form of baptismal rite or liturgy.121 Composed  sometime in the early to middle second century  ad—and possibly even included “in a codex that  originally contained the long version of the Apocryphon  of John” and On the Origin of the World 122—it    recounts the three descents of the gnostic savior
called Protennoia (interpreted to be Christ by the  gnostic Christians using the work). During one of  the descents, Protennoia describes cleansing a person  and providing him with certain salvific initiations.
The text recounts:
[I gave to him] from the Water [of Life, which  strips] him of the Chaos [that is in the] uttermost  [darkness] that exists [inside] the entire  [abyss], that is, the thought of [the corporeal]  and the psychic. All these I put on. And I  stripped him of it and I put upon him a shining Light, that is, the knowledge of the Thought of  the Fatherhood. And I delivered him to those who give robes—Yammon, Elasso, Amenai—and they [covered] him with a robe from the robes of the Light; and I delivered him to the Baptists and they baptized him—Micheus, Michar, Mn[e]s[i]nous—and they immersed  him in the spring of the [Water] of Life. . . .

And  I delivered him to those who glorify—Ariom,  Elien, Phariel—and they glorified him with  the glory of the Fatherhood. And those who snatch away snatched away—Kamaliel [ ]anen, Samblo, the servants of <the> great holy Luminaries—and they took him into the light—[place] of his Fatherhood. And [he received]the Five Seals from [the Light] of the Mother,
Protennoia, and it was [granted] him [to] partake  of [the mystery] of knowledge, and [he became a Light] in Light.123
In the text, the Five Seals are taken in conjunction  with other ceremonial practices that together  provide the culminating salvation for the recipient.
Salvation is hence described through “stripping,investing in a garment of light, robing, spring baptism,enthroning, glorifying and rapture, followed  by reception of the five seals from the Light of the  Mother so that (the recipient) partakes of the mystery  of knowledge and becomes a light in light.” 124
Baptism and the Five Seals intertwine with other  saving rituals to provide salvation for those who are  recipients; one is  incomplete without the other. The  ordinances mentioned in the text are reminiscent  of temple themes encountered in apocalyptic  Jewish  texts centered on themes of ascent and ethereal  ritual, where the recipient of such blessings is normally  taken to heaven.125
While introducing the Trimorphic Protennoia,the translator/commentator declares that “the baptismal  rite of the Five Seals is a mystery of celestial  ascent which strips off the psychic and somatic garments  of ignorance, transforming and purifying  Protennoia’s members and clothing them with radiant  light.” 126 Further, “the author’s [of the gnostic  texts in question] reference to the recipients of this  rite in the first-person plural and as ‘brethren’ suggests  a [Sethian] community with a well-established  tradition of water baptism which has been spiritualized  into a mystery of ascent.” 127
These Sethian gnostics appear to elicit an  elaborate liturgy and doctrine by viewing baptism  and celestial ascent as two sides of the same coin.
Indeed, their writings indicate a near obsession with  receiving the saving gnosis and ultimately removing  themselves from this world through liturgical rites.
In these texts, then, the celestial ascent appears  inseparable from baptism and the Five Seals.128 Each  provides a connecting link and an escape from  the shackles of mortality, allowing the recipient to be reborn. Interestingly, they extend this doctrine  to cover the dead as well, as already noted in the  Apocryphon of John. Thus, the dead who receive the  gnostic salvation will be baptized and receive the  accompanying rites and all things surrounding the  Five Seals.
In the Apocryphon of John, immediately prior  to the scene that speaks of the Five Seals and saving  the dead, John poses a question that elicits a curious  response from the risen Lord. John asks, “Lord,how can the soul become younger and return into  its mother’s womb, or into the human?” 129 The commentator  notes, “Returning to the mother’s womb  is also a theme encountered in John 3:4,” in which  a similar inquiry is made by Nicodemus, “How  can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter  the second time into his mother’s womb, and be  born?” In responding to the query of Nicodemus,Christ teaches him, “Except a man be born of water  and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom  of God” (John 3:5). In his response to John in the  gnostic text, the Savior recounts, “You are truly  blessed, for you have understood. This soul will be  made to follow another soul in whom the spirit of  life dwells, and she is saved through that one.” 130


Baptistery of the Orthodox, Ravenna, Italy. Scala / Art Resource, NY.

The Lord’s phrasing appears to suggest vicarious or  proxy salvation in which the living provide those  who are “dead” in some sense with access to saving  grace. The soul, when being reborn, must follow one  who is already living, in whom “life” dwells. To save  those souls who need the opportunity to be reborn,the act must become operative through a living  agent. What could the living do to assist the dead to  gain salvation—taking into account the close parallel  between the question asked by Nicodemus and
the question posed in the gnostic text? Given the  Lord’s answer to Nicodemus (to be born of water  and of the spirit), it seems the answer  would be baptism for the dead.
Another gnostic text, the Pistis  Sophia,131 a discursive writing purporting  to contain the instructions of  the risen Lord to his apostles, hints at  vicarious baptism for those who die  without the ordinance. In one particularly  notable scene, Maria (Mary)  poses the question to Jesus:
My Lord, if a good man has  fulfilled all the mysteries, and he has  a relative, in a word, he has a man  and that man is an impious one who  has committed all the sins which are  worthy of the outer darkness; and  he has not repented; or he has completed  his number of cycles in the  changes of the body, and that man  has done nothing profitable and has  come forth from the body; and we  have known of him certainly that  he has sinned and is worthy of the  outer darkness; what should we do  to him so that we save him from the  punishments of the dragon of the  outer darkness, so that he is returned  to a righteous body which will find
the mysteries of the Kingdom of the  Light, and become good and go to  the height, and inherit the Kingdom
of the Light? 132
Maria is wondering about the status  of condemned souls, or those who  have sinned and also lacked the “mysteries”
that are given to the elect. The  condemned souls are deceased, for to  reach the Kingdom of Light they must  be “returned to a righteous body.” The “mysteries”  to which Maria refers are of great importance in  understanding the Lord’s response. Upon hearing  the question, Christ responds:
If you want to return them from the punishments  of the outer darkness and all the judgments,and return them to a righteous body  which will find the mysteries of the light, and  go to the height and inherit the Kingdom of  Light—perform the one mystery of the Ineffable  which forgives sins at all times. And when you  have finished performing the mystery, say: “The  soul of such and such a man on whom I think  in my heart, when it comes to the place of the  punishments of the chambers of the outer darkness;or when it is in the rest of the punishments  of the chambers of the outer darkness and the  rest of the punishments of the dragon: may it be   returned from them all. And when it finishes  its number of cycles in the changes, may it be  taken to the presence of the Virgin of Light; and  may the Virgin of the Light seal it with the seal  of the Ineffable, and cast it in that very month  into a righteous body which will find the mysteries  of the light in it, and become good, and  go to the height and inherit the Kingdom of the  Light. And furthermore, when it has completed  the cycles of the changes, may that soul be taken  to the presence of the seven virgins of the light  which are in charge of (lit. over) the baptism.
And may they place it (the baptism) upon that  soul, and seal it with the sign of the Kingdom of  the Ineffable, and may they take it to the ranks  of the light.” . . . Truly, I say to you: the soul  for which you shall pray, if indeed it is in the  dragon of the outer darkness, it will withdraw  its tail out of its mouth, and release that soul.133
The gnostic Christ tells Maria  that the soul of an unrepentant man  may reach the Kingdom of Light  and be released from the place of  punishments if certain procedures  are undertaken in his name, mainly  the “mystery of the Ineffable which  forgives sins at all times.” A person  on earth is to perform this mystery  as a proxy for the deceased relative  or friend; the living proxy merely  thinks of that person while performing  the rite and it will serve to release  the person from outer darkness. The significance of this passage is that a  living soul undergoes a certain rite,the mystery of the Ineffable (perhaps  baptism as this rite is connected with
forgiveness of sins), combined with  prayer, which directly influences the  salvation of a deceased soul; it is a  proxy rite of the clearest nature.
The Shepherd of Hermas teaches   that the dead will receive baptism  and hints at proxy work in a manner  similar to the Pistis Sophia. In the  apocalyptic visions, Hermas sees the  apostles preaching to the spirits in  the underworld. The text states, “They  had to rise through water. . . in order  to be made alive. In no other way  could they enter the reign of God,unless they put off the deadliness of  their [first] life. So too, those who  had fallen asleep received the seal  and [entered the reign of God]. Before  bearing the name of [the Son of] God . . . a person  is dead. But upon receiving the seal, the person puts  aside deadliness and takes on life. So the seal is the  water. Into the water they go down dead and come  up alive. The seal was proclaimed to them, and they
profited from it to enter into the reign of God.” 134
In her commentary on this specific verse, Professor  Carolyn Osiek declares that “the association  of passing through water with entering the kingdom  of God (v. 2) and receiving the seal is unmistakably  a reference to baptism; . . . the absolute necessity of  baptism is implicit here [the dead included].” 135However the Shepherd of Hermas is not finished.
Having learned this, he then asks, “Why, sir   . . . did the forty stones rise with them from the  depth already having the seal?” He is answered thus,  These are the apostles and teachers who proclaimed  the name of the Son of God, who,having fallen asleep in power and faith of the Son of God, even proclaimed to those who had previously fallen asleep and gave them the  seal of the proclamation. They descended with  them into the water and came up again, except  that these descended alive and came up alive.
Because of them, these others were enlivened  and came to know the name of the Son of God.
. . . They [those being baptized] fell asleep in  justice and great purity, except they did not  have this seal.136 
The dead are given baptism at the hands of  the apostles and teachers. Yet for some reason, the  dead who are baptized and receive life have some  forty people rise with them who already have the  seal, or baptism. The wording “descended alive  and came up alive” appears to indicate that these  are souls who are already baptized. Could this be  a reference to proxy baptisms? Osiek concludes:
“These verses, without saying so, present a good  argument in favor of baptism in the name of the  dead, apparently already an act of piety in first  century   Corinth. . . . here with the pre-Christian  dead, the problem is . . . they practiced virtue in  their lives, but had not received baptism. Through  the apostles and teachers, this problem is solved.” 137
The text is certainly vague enough to allow for the  interpretation, and it seems interesting that the  Shepherd of Hermas, a widely used text for early  Christians, would contain such language. This is  not conclusive evidence for vicarious baptisms, yet  the texts reviewed indicate that some form of proxy  work is possible and that it is related to the “rebirth”  provided through baptism.
One thing is quite certain, however—nearly all  the texts purporting to contain teachings of Christ   concerning salvation for the dead emphasize that  his teachings were closely guarded, reserved only  for those whom the Lord deemed worthy to hear   them.138 Indeed, of all the major themes presented
in the texts, this one is quite pervasive. Because of  this discretion, much remains unknown regarding  the circulation and general understanding of these  doctrines. Likely, few people had access to the texts  that claim to contain the “hidden” teachings of the  resurrected Lord. Hugh Nibley pointed out that  much of Christ’s recorded teachings on important  doctrinal topics—though only a fraction of what he  taught 139—remain shrouded in mystery, 140 particularly  Christ’s teachings concerning salvation for the
dead.141 Given this point, we should be appreciative  of what evidence still exists.
From the texts mentioned it seems clear that  a belief among some early Christian communities  was that the dead could be saved, perhaps through  vicarious work, and that many of them would  receive baptism. The ultimate question regards  form: Were the baptisms to be performed vicariously  by the living on behalf of the dead, as was  done historically by the groups previously mentioned  (and as hinted at in some texts)? Or do these  texts purport that baptism is received by the dead  only in the afterlife, with no proxy or living agent  involved?
It appears, ultimately, that the Corinthians, or  at least the reference to them in 1 Corinthians 15:29,inspired following generations of Christians to  engage in vicarious ordinance work. In the remaining  section we will set forth evidence showing that  such a practice was performed in ancient Christianity  and was more common than one might suppose.


David L. Paulsen, and Brock M. Mason

David L. Paulsen is a professor of philosophy at BYU. Brock M. Mason is an undergraduate at BYU and is double majoring in philosophy and ancient Near Eastern studies. The authors gratefully thank Laura Rawlins, Shirley Ricks, Aaron Tress, George Scott, and James Siebach for their skillful editing and the College of Humanities and the Maxwell Institute for their generous funding. The authors would also like to thank Judson Burton who was largely responsible for the exegetical section of this paper. Thanks also to at least three unnamed reviewers for their careful critiques of earlier drafts of this paper. The paper is stronger for their inputs.


106. Buchholz, Your Eyes Will Be Opened, 348.
107. Buchholz, Your Eyes Will Be Opened, 348.
108. Montague R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament: Apocryphal  Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses (Oxford: Clarendon,  1924), 524.
109. Odes of Solomon 42:20; see further Paulsen, Cook, and Christensen,“Harrowing of Hell,” 62–65.
110. J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (London: Continuum,2008), 207. Kelly remarks how the rites of Chrismation
became increasingly important and were used more  and more in conjunction with baptism at the beginning of
the third century—although the rite itself existed much earlier.
In Chrismation, the initiate is anointed with sacred oil,known as chrism, while a priest speaks certain words and
performs the sign of the cross. The words repeated indicate  that the initiate will have sealed upon him the gifts of the
Holy Spirit. It is often, though not always, performed with  the rite of baptism. It is still practiced today in orthodox
churches, particularly of the East.
111. See Revelation 1:18; Christ has the “keys of hell and of  death.”
112. Paulsen, Cook, and Christensen, “Harrowing of Hell,” 62–66.
113. Note Odes of Solomon 42:11, 14, 17–20, in which Christ  descends to Sheol and creates a “congregation of living
(people) . . . and (I, Christ) placed My name upon their head.
Because they are free, and they are mine.” Though the odes  are mainly hymns and poetic in nature, they purport to be
the revelations and teachings of the risen Lord to the odist,hence the conversational nature.
114. Taken from Epistle of the Apostles, in Montague R. James,trans., The Apocryphal New Testament: Being the Apocryphal
Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses (Oxford: Oxford University  Press, 1974), 494, parenthetical explanations provided
by the translator.
115. John D. Turner notes, “The Secret Book of John contains what  purport to be secret teachings revealed by Christ in a postresurrection  appearance to the apostle John the son of Zebedee.”
Turner, introduction to the text, in Nag Hammadi Scriptures,ed. Marvin Meyer (New York: HarperOne, 2007), 104.
116. The divine Forethought that descends into darkness in the  extended ending of the Apocryphon of John is generally
understood to refer to Jesus. The corresponding footnote by  Meyer in Nag Hammadi Scriptures, 131 n. 138, reads that the
“hymn of heavenly Forethought, the divine Mother,” depicts her “as Savior.” However, “in the present Christianized version
of the Secret Book of John readers may understand the  Savior to be Jesus.”
117. Michael Waldstein and Frederik Wisse, eds., The Apocryphon  of John: Synopsis of Nag Hammadi Codices II,1; III,1; and
IV,1 With BG 8502,2 (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 171. The translation  appears thus: “I entered into the midst of darkness and
the inside of Hades. . . . And I entered into the midst of their prison which is the prison <of> the body. And I said, ‘He
who hears, let him get up from the deep sleep.” Note the  translators rendering the Coptic word for “underworld” as
“Hades,” signifying this is indeed the resting place of the  dead.
118. Selections from Apocryphon of John—Hymn of the Savior  30,11–31,25, in Meyer, Nag Hammadi Scriptures, 131–32.
Further, Meyer explains that the phrase to “arise from deep sleep” is in fact, “the call to awaken” that “addresses a prototypal
sleeper—any person who may awaken to knowledge and salvation.” In other words, Christ’s descent is a call to
those who are residing in the underworld to receive knowledge  (gnosis) and ultimately salvation—posthumous salvation.
119. Meyer, Nag Hammadi Scriptures, 132: In some sense, the person,after receiving the Savior and the “Five Seals,” receives
new life and awakens from “deep sleep,” or receives salvation.
120. Turner, introduction to the text, in Meyer, Nag Hammadi  Scriptures, 106. He notes, “Several Sethian treatises present
this final act of deliverance as a baptismal rite (the Holy Book  of the Great Invisible Spirit, Three Forms of First Thought,
Melchizedek, the Revelation of Adam, Zostrianos, and perhaps  Marsanes), usually called the Five Seals (Three Forms of
First Thought; the longer versions of the Secret Book of John;   the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit; and the untitled
text of the Bruce Codex).”
121. Alastair H. B. Logan, “The Mystery of the Five Seals: Gnostic  Initiation Reconsidered,” Vigiliae Christianae 51/2 (1997):
188. This article investigates the Five Seals in numerous  texts.
122. This is the contention of Yvonne Janssens in the translation/commentary of the text, contained in La Prôtennoia Trimorphe
(Québec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 1978), 2–5.
123. Charles W. Hedrick, ed., Trimorphic Protennoia 48,5–35,in Nag Hammadi Codices XI, XII, XIII (Leiden: Brill, 1990),
124. Logan, “Mystery of the Five Seals,” 188.
125. Martha Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian  Apocalypses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993),
9–46; this chapter examines the mythic ascent of Enoch in  Enochic literature, his investment with priestly garments,
and his ultimate transfiguration. The entire book focuses on such ascents, where ritualistic notions are accompanied by
transcendent visions into heaven.
126. Nag Hammadi Codices XI, XII, XIII, 379.
127. Nag Hammadi Codices XI, XII, XIII, 379.
128. Nag Hammadi Codices XI, XII, XIII, 379.
129. “The Secret Book of John—On Human Destiny,” 25,16–30,11,in Meyer, Nag Hammadi Scriptures, 129.
130. Some scholars have interpreted this verse as an indication  that the souls of these men will have some form of reincarnation.
Although this is true in one sense, those who are  “saved” through “another soul in whom life dwells” will no
longer receive this reincarnation. Trumbower, in his work Rescue for the Dead, 111–12, mentions that these verses
(and some preceding it) speak of a “reincarnation for some souls.” He cites as a source Michael A. Williams, who likewise
claims this verse is speaking of reincarnation. Michael  A. Williams, Rethinking “Gnosticism”: An Argument for
Dismantling a Dubious Category (Princeton: Princeton University  Press, 1996), 197. Once John poses the question concerning
reentering the womb, a new group (of saved-souls) is  meant. The Lord responds: “This soul will be made to follow
another soul in whom the spirit of life dwells, and she is  saved through that one. Then she will not be thrust into flesh
again.” Thus, reincarnation may only apply to those spirits  who are not saved, according to the gnostic text.
131. The text is roughly dated to ad 250–300 and penned by a  gnostic Christian. It is also likely that each of the four books
that comprise the Pistis Sophia were composed by different  people, given the textual variance found in the different
132. Carl Schmidt, ed., Violet Macdermot, trans., Pistis Sophia—Book III, 128 (Leiden: Brill, 1978), 322–23.
133. Schmidt and Macdermot, Pistis Sophia—Book III, 128, 323–24.
134. Similitude 9:16, 2–4, in Carolyn Osiek, Shepherd of Hermas:A Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 232, brackets
in original.
135. Osiek, Shepherd of Hermas, 238.
136. Similitude 9:16, 5–7, in Osiek, Shepherd of Hermas, 232–33.
137. Osiek, Shepherd of Hermas, 238.
138. The Gospel of Thomas records in the prologue, “These are  the hidden sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Judas
Thomas the Twin recorded.” Likewise, the Apocryphon of  John expresses a similar sentiment in its opening lines: “the
teaching of the Savior, and [the revelation] of the mysteries  [and the things] hidden in silence, things he taught his
disciple John.” Meyer, Nag Hammadi Scriptures, 139, 107.
These sayings were considered highly sacred, and as such  were likely not widely circulated in the ancient world. The
teachings contained therein would have been known only by  a select few.
139. See John 21:25: “There are also many other things which  Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one,
I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the  books that should be written. Amen.” It is interesting that the
apostle John, in composing his own Gospel, notes the scant  amount of information provided concerning the historical
140. Hugh Nibley, “Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times,” in  Mormonism and Early Christianity (Salt Lake City: Deseret
Book and FARMS, 1987), 103–5. Nibley points out the peculiar  dearth of information provided by the apostles for some
of the most important of teachings, such as the “keys of the  kingdom,” which, as he explains, likely refers to salvation for
the dead.
141. Nibley, “Baptism for the Dead,” 103–9. On page 102, Nibley  points to an important discussion allegedly between Clement
and Peter as initial evidence. Clement poses the question, “If  the righteous ones whom he finds will participate and delight
in the kingdom of Christ, then those who have died beforehand  have missed out on his kingdom (referring to those
who die before the advent of Christ).” In response, Peter  assures him that such a scandal could not occur and that
salvation has been made available to them. He also reminds  Clement: these are “hidden matters, Clement. It is not irksome
for me to tell you, as far as I am permitted to reveal.”
Clementine Recognitions 1.52, in F. Stanley Jones, An Ancient  Jewish Christian Source on the History of Christianity:
Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.27–71 (Atlanta: Scholars,1995), 84. It is not clear why these doctrines would require
such secrecy. A number of authors such as Nibley include  this teaching as an esoteric doctrine of Christianity, one
that was principally carried on by word rather than through  scripture and one that was preserved only for the most righteous
of Saints. It seems quite clear that traditions like this  did exist in the early church, and the possibility that proxy  baptism was included among this category is quite plausible.


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