The Origins of Baptism


Thomas F. Torrance, "The Origins of Baptism," Scottish Journal of Theology 11 (1958): 158-171; #1958-136


Torrance, Thomas F. "The Origins of Baptism." Scottish Journal of Theology 11, no. 2 (1958): 158-171; #1958-136

Publication life cycle / General notes

Lecture delivered to the University of Lund, October, 1956. This article is a prequel to "Aspects of Baptism in the New Testament," Theological Zeitschrift (#1958-130). Reprinted in Conflict and Agreement in the Church, vol. 2 (#1960-155d).


It is by no means an easy matter to trace the precise origins of the rite of Christian Baptism, both because there is a vast amount of material relevant to it, and because the New Testament does not seem to offer any one clear line for consideration. It takes all this for granted and speaks of Baptism quite naturally and without any difficulty of communication, and without any need for explanation. The derivation of the rite and the actions involved are everywhere presumed as familiar. That makes it all the more difficult for us, for we have to examine minutely the many allusions, hints and images employed in the New Testament writings, and in particular the references and citations (often very incomplete) from the Old Testament, in order to place ourselves as completely as possible in the position of the New Testament writers, and then from their Sitz im Denken as well as Sitz im Leben, seek to unravel their presuppositions and interpret their meaning.