What Am I Reading this summer? Baptism in the Early ChurchPosted: May 20, 2009 Filed under: What am I Reading Today? 2 Comments
This summer I intend to take a break from most of my studies at PRTS, and read maybe one, two or three books at the most. I intend to relax either hanging with friends and family, doing a little bit of work here and there, and playing some video games like always. About a month ago on Justin Taylor’s (I believe) blogged a post on Everett Ferguson’s newest title published by Eerdmans titled, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries. When first seeing the title, I wanted it as soon as I could, and with Eerdmans Publishing Co. being about 5 blocks from my townhouse, I was going to get it as soon as I could! However, I went to the store and it was $60.00 which is about half of my weekly income. So therefore I started to think of a plan to buy this massive 912 page book. A week later I was in Chicago at the Gospel-Coalition Conference and Eermands happen to be there selling it for only $40.00! However by the end of the conference I was already given 17 books from different publishers, I still had one week of classes then five exams, so I figured it was best to not stick my nose in this yet. During exam week I had heard all seminary students, professors, and pastors got 50% OFF of the retail value on any commentaries or references works (this is still good until May 30th.) With a gift of $30.00 from my grandparents for graduation I walked down to the Eerdmans store and picked it up. Besides the naked picture of Jesus Christ on the front cover, the book is amazing! This great comprehensive work done by Ferguson no matter what view one holds, either infant-baptism or believer’s baptism will influence your thought of the history of baptism in the early church. From dealing with pre-NT Church washings, pagan cultures, biblical teachings, literature of the period and the massive amount of examples of baptismal fonts throughout the early church is a MUST read for the serious student in seminary, pastor or one the is dealing with the issue.
The book is broken down into 7 main parts having 55 chapters dealing with baptism, mainly in the first three centuries of the church and also with the fourth and fifth centuries. It breaks down as followed;
1. Antecedents to Christian Baptism
2. Baptism in the New Testament
3. The Second Century
4. The Third Century to Nicaea (325)
5. The Fourth Century
6. The Fifth Century
At first when hearing about the title and being published by Eerdmans I figured it was Traditional/Confessional Reformed in infant-baptism. Then after talking to the store manger when buying the book he told me, “it was believer baptism” baptist in view. Now after reading the book for the last week I believe it is neither. I may be wrong on this so please do not quote me (I’ll look into Ferguson’s views later, or see them in his writings maybe?) but he seems to have the stance of believer’s baptism yes, but that baptism is what washes the sins away from the individual. Meaning that regeneration happens at baptism, by emersion. No matter what his stance is, one that is looking to study the topic (baptism) this is a must have, and a must read for its historical value in which Ferguson has done for the church today.
As the back of the book says best:
“Everett Ferguson’s work here is a compendium of almost everything that is currently known about the Christian ritual of baptism, with extensive citations to the primary and secondary literature, and as such is destined to be an extremely valuable reference work.”
I bought the book too. Tried Amazon – too much. Got a great price ($39.00) from WTS books. I’ve read bits and pieces. I agree so far with what you’ve said. This is the definitive historical work on Baptism in the early church.
I can’t wait to dive more in depth. Justin Taylor gave a quick review that indicated Ferguson comes to the conclusion that Believer’s Baptism was the most common practice of the early church. I hope I’m quoting him correctly, this is from memory – so please correct if I’m summing up JT’s review incorrectly.
I almost hesitated buying after that review because I was looking for an objective historical look. From everything I’ve read, Ferguson meets that bar.
I’ll be particularly interested to see how paedo-baptists interact with Ferguson’s work. If you come across work in this area I hope you’ll point these reviews out.
Myself, I’m firmly paedo-baptist – but I find it a wonderful challenge and blessing to interact with scripture, church history and theology as I continue to look at baptism.
Does he interact much with Joachim Jeremias’ work on baptism in the first four centuries?