Origins and Developments of Christian Baptism (to the year 230 AD)

Harper, Anne (1985) Origins and Developments of Christian Baptism (to the year 230 AD). MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The paper which follows is not an attempt to prove or disprove any particular theories of baptism. It will, rather, try to survey some of the baptismal references to be found in Biblical books and in documents both of the mainstream Church and of the less orthodox (or totally non-orthodox) sects, which were written within the first two hundred years of the Church's history. The existence of washing rites in many religions other than Christianity, and pre-dating Christianity, is indisputable and requires no further proof, therefore, the fact that the Christian Church itself adopted such a practice can hardly be surprising and there is no reason to expect that the origins of this baptismal practice should be found solely in the New Testament. To say that this is so does not in any way devalue the rite of baptism but acknowledges that the Church did not exist in isolation from the world around it - a world in which ritual washings were commonly practised. In the following pages the baptismal references which are discussed are not necessarily those from the most reputable or esteemed sources, nor are some of the views expressed those most widely accepted in modern studies, but they are of some general interest and as such have been included here. Even though, in the end, they might prove to say little or nothing about Christian baptism, that is in itself a comment (indirect and negative perhaps) upon the Christian rite. Because some of the sources used in this work are now out-dated and otherwise long-forgotten; because some of the primary sources are not the most commonly cited; because . the study of sources is not exhaustive, it might be thought that, somewhere between the lines, a case is being made for or against particular attitudes within the Church or academic community. It must, therefore, be stated that this is definitely not the writer's intent. It might be suggested that to begin with Hippolytus and to try to imply any connection between the baptismal rite recorded so fully by him and the modern Roman Catholic rite is to call into question the validity of the Roman Catholic tradition of baptism. This kind of criticism might be levelled at various points in the work regarding different sections of the Church and their practices (baptism or otherwise). In the hope, then, that all that follows will be read in the spirit in which it was written, it should perhaps be pointed out that the comparison between the rite of Hippolytus and that of the modern Roman Catholic Church is drawn by Edward Yarnold SJ in his book "The Awe Inspiring Rites of Initiation" (pp265ff) - a book approved by the Roman Catholic Church. In this work such comparisons are noted as being of interest even if they actually prove nothing, and that may best summarise the trend of this whole paper.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Religious history
Date of Award: 1985
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1985-76553
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 14:10
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 14:10

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