Then were there brought unto him little children
It does not appear that they were new born babes; the words used by either of the evangelists do not always signify such, but are sometimes used of such as are capable of going alone; yea, of receiving instructions, of understanding the Scriptures, and even of one of twelve years of age, ( Matthew 18:2 ) ( Mark 5:39 Mark 5:42 ) ( 2 Timothy 3:15 ) nor is it probable that infants just born, or within a month, should be had abroad. Moreover, these were such as Christ called unto him, ( Luke 18:16 ) and were capable of coming to him of themselves, as his words following suppose; nor does their being brought to him, or his taking them in his arms, contradict this; since the same things are said of such as could walk of themselves, ( Matthew 12:22 ) ( 17:16 ) ( Mark 9:36 ) . Nor is it known whose children they were, whether their parents were believers or unbelievers, nor by whom they were brought: but the end for which they were brought is expressed,
that he should put his hands on them, and pray;
not that he should baptize them, nor did he; which may be concluded from the entire silence of all the evangelists; and from an express declaration that Christ baptized none; and from the mention of other ends for which they were brought, as that Christ should "touch" them, ( Mark 10:13 ) ( Luke 18:15 ) as he sometimes used to do persons, when he healed them of diseases; and probably some of those infants, if not all of them, were diseased, and brought to be cured; otherwise, it is not easy to conceive what they should be touched by him for: or as here, that he might put his hands on them, and pray over them, and bless them, as was usual with the Jews to do; see ( Genesis 48:14-16 ) and it was common with them to bring their children to venerable persons, men of note for religion and piety, to have their blessing and prayers F25:
and the disciples rebuked them;
not the children, as the Persic version reads, but those that brought them, Mark observes; either because they came in a rude and disorderly manner, and were very noisy and clamorous; or they might think it would be too troublesome to Christ, to go through such a ceremony with so many of them; or that it was too mean for him, and below him to take notice of them; or for fear he should take fresh occasion, on the sight of these children, to rebuke them again for their pride and ambition. However, from this rebuke and prohibition of the disciples, it looks plainly as if it had never been the practice of the Jews, nor of John the Baptist, nor of Christ and his disciples, to baptize infants; for had this been then in use, they would scarcely have forbid and rebuked those that brought them, since they might have thought they brought them to be baptized; but knowing of no such usage that ever obtained in that nation, neither among those that did, or did not believe in Christ, they forbad them.
F25 Massechet Sopherim, c. 18. sect. 5. see the note on Luke ii. 42.