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

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

10. The Acts of the Apostles

Because it includes so many accounts of conversion, the book of Acts has the largest number of occurrences of “baptize” and “baptism” of any New Testament writing. My approach will be to examine each passage that speaks of baptism and then take an overview of some problems and offer some conclusions from the accounts of baptism. Luke worked with earlier material that he stamped with his own style. The extent of what was traditional and what was Luke’s contribution is still a matter of discussion.1 As best I can, I shall interpret Luke’s accounts of baptism on his own terms.


Acts 1–2

After the prologue, Acts begins with the resurrected Jesus commanding the apostles to remain in Jerusalem to await the promise of the Father, “For John baptized with water

, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (1:4-5). Thus Jesus picks up the words of John the Baptist recorded in Luke 3:16 but without the addition of “with fire.” Acts 1:5 (and 11:15-16),

1. A comprehensive and detailed treatment is given by Friedrich Avemarie, Die Tauferzählungen der Apostelgeschichte: Theologie und Geschichte (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), whose main concerns are tradition and historicity, which are not mine. My observation would be that Luke was a singularly inept author or editor if he created whole cloth or incorporated only independent traditions of such seemingly incongruous narratives. Hence, I seek interpretations that give some consistency to the whole. Jean Jacques von Allmen, “Notizen zu den Taufberichten in der Apostelgeschichte,” in Hansjörg Auf Der Maur and Bruno Kleinheyer, eds., Zeichen des Glaubens: Studien zu Taufe und Firmung: Balthasar Fischer zum 60. Geburtstag (Freiburg: Herder, 1972), pp. 41–60, has a pastoral emphasis. Gerhard Delling, Die Taufe im Neuen Testament (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1963), pp. 58–74, emphasizes that baptism is inseparable from salvation in Christ (p. 63) and that the normal pattern was for the Spirit to be given with baptism (p. 68).

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