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

A Restoration emphasis on baptism has distinguished the teaching and practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1829 to the present. In contrast to many Christian denominations, the Church does not condone infant baptism sprinkling, nor does it accept baptisms by other Christian groups that do not have the authority restored by John the Baptist to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. A further critical distinction is their insistence that baptismal ordinances are necessary for salvation. Nevertheless, Latter-day Saints are not completely alone in all their views; the Campbellite Churches of Christ also see themselves as a restoration of primitive Christianity, and they share some of the same concerns about the practice and significance of baptism. It should not come as a complete surprise, then, that the first comprehensive analysis of all biblical and early Christian literature relevant to baptism should be written by a scholar coming out of the Campbellite tradition.

This monumental work on early Christian baptism constitutes a worthy capstone for Everett Ferguson’s long career of exemplary research in early Christian sources. Educated at Abilene Christian University and Harvard University, Ferguson taught Greek and Bible courses at Abilene Christian University from 1962 until his recent retirement. While both Bible and theology studies at ACU are clearly focused on preparation for Christian missions and ministry (consistent with a Campbellite belief in the necessity of water baptism), Ferguson maintained a sturdy focus on his scholarly work in early Christian history, grounded principally in literary sources. He has been widely and consistently recognized by New Testament and early Christianity scholars for the quality of his contributions over his long career.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 51:1
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