Professor Jewett on Baptism: A Review Article -- By: Herbert S. Bird

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 31:2 (May 1969)
Article: Professor Jewett on Baptism: A Review Article
Author: Herbert S. Bird


Professor Jewett on Baptism:
A Review Article

Herbert S. Bird

One of the more significant contributions to the first of the projected ten volumes of The Encyclopedia of Christianity is the entry “Baptism (Baptist View)” by Professor Paul Jewett.1 Its importance, in the judgment of this reviewer, lies in its forthright acceptance of the so-called “covenant theology” and the analogy of circumcision and baptism, and its arguing of the baptistic case from this position. Dr. Jewett correctly notes that this is something which most Baptists do not do. Indeed, his fellow-Baptist, Professor W. E. Ward, pronounces what appears to be the consensus of that communion when he writes, “[Baptists] believe that the attempt to connect baptism with circumcision is a frantic effort to preserve a baptismal practice that arose later in church history by reading into it a meaning nowhere found in the New Testament.”2

But if a relative rarity in modern times, such an approach as Dr. Jewett’s is by no means an innovation. Some of the great names in the history of Protestant Christianity, John Bunyan and Charles Haddon Spurgeon among them, were its champions. Dr. Jewett is in good company in the position he takes in this well-argued attempt at a synthesis of baptistic individualism and the covenantal view of God’s dealings with men, and those committed to the Reformed Faith, while compelled to take exception to the particular thrust of the article, nevertheless find its general theological position much that is congenial to their own understanding of what the Scriptures teach. They should also welcome, in the interest of the cause of biblical truth, the kind of penetrating criticism to which Dr. Jewett subjects their teaching in the area in which they and he differ. The intent of this review, therefore, is to seek to contribute to the dialogue by an examination

of the central contentions which the author urges in proof of his conclusion that “the Baptists…have not only the advantage of better evidence for their practice, but that practice is also compatible with covenant theology and consistent within itself.”3

The introductory section of Professor Jewett’s article, entitled “Definition,” is a brief but useful survey of the precursors and meaning of Christian baptism. In the interest of completeness, the first paragraph might well have included the datum, by no means irrelevant to the subject in hand, that the Greek word βαπτισμός is used in the New Testament not only to describ...

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