Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

1. Introduction: Survey of Literature

Specialized studies of topics and ancient authors will be noted at their appropriate place. This survey is limited to some of the major studies that are broader in scope.


Comprehensive Surveys

Two older works from Great Britain set the context of discussion in the Englishspeaking world. William Wall, History of Infant Baptism, was first published in 1705 (second edition 1707, third in 1720). It was reissued with supplementary writings in four volumes by Oxford University Press, 1834–1836, and in two volumes in 1862. This large work set forth the viewpoint that was standard among advocates of infant baptism before modern studies began to chip away at details and suggest a different way of putting the evidence together. Darwell Stone, Holy Baptism (London: Longmans, Green, 1917 [after earlier editions]), defended baptismal regeneration, which, to be more precise, should be described as regeneration in baptism.

Some articles in older reference works are still useful: Kirsopp Lake, “Baptism (Early Christian),” and H. G. Wood, “Baptism (Later Christian),” in James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918), Vol. 2, pp. 384–390, 390–398 (up to eighth century); E. Fascher, “Taufe,” in Paulys RealEncyclopadie (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzlersche, 1932), Second Series, Vol. 8, cols. 2501–2518.

Two comprehensive works in French canvass in a wide historical frame the issues that are still discussed. Jules Corblett, Histoire dogmatique, liturgique, et archéologique du sacrement de baptême (Paris, 1881), 2 volumes, organizes the material topically, then treats its development historically with a very complete listing of references from the church fathers on all subjects with an effort to include the evidence of baptisteries and art as well as the literary texts. As an example of the thoroughness attempted, Corblett treats the following figures of baptism: Jewish aspersions, circumcision, the deluge, waters of creation, rivers of paradise, blood and

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