Classical Review 15 (1965) p. 362


ERNEST EVANS : Tertullian's Homily on
Baptism
. The text edited with an
introduction, translation and com-
mentary. Pp. xl+122. London
S.P.C.K., 1964. Cloth, 35s. net.

CANON EVANS has established himself as one
of the outstanding authorities on patristic
Latin in the present generation. His editions
one after another of Tertullian's works are
models of what scholarly editions of early
Christian texts should be. Though his in-
terests are mainly in linguistic and textual
problems, he generally has interesting and
judicious things to say about the religious
issues which gave rise to the particular work.
His handling of Tertullian's De Baptismo is
no exception. The same lucid and meticulous
scholarship is apparent, and there is the
same easy flow of translation and grasp of
the problem which Tertullian was debating.
This too will become standard reading,
superseding for English students W. J.
Lupton's still valuable edition (Cambridge,
1908) .

    The author follows much the same arrange-
ment as he has used in his editions of Ter-
tullian's other works. The sketch of
Tertullian's career is well done, and the
influence of Montanism on his thought cor-
rectly brought back to as early as 206. The
contents of the De Baptismo are then briefly
analysed; the text and translation are fol-
lowed by fifty-five pages of learned notes and
comments.

    The De Baptismo, written c. 200, was one of
Tertullian's more sedate works. It lacks the
fire of the De Spectaculis, the vital topicality
of the De Corona Militis, or the pungency of
argument in the Adversus Praxean. It is
mainly a didactic treatise, defending the
utility of the sacrament of baptism against
the rather captious arguments of opponents,
whom he terms charitably sceleratissimi illi,
and practical questions about preparation for
the rite, and the time when catechumens
should be baptized. Yet it is important as an
early statement of the North African view of
a subject which was to cause a bitter dispute
between the Churches of Carthage and

Rome half a century later. In Tertullian's
hands we see emerging all the main planks
of the North African position. The Church
was a gathered community guided by the
Holy Spirit. Admission was by the water of
baptism imbued with the Spirit, and this
sacrament could only be given by one whose
standing in the Church was unchallengeable.
Heretics and schismatics could not give
a valid baptism. For those who fell away
after solemn reception of the Spirit there re-
mained the second baptism of blood, i.e.
martyrdom.

    Canon Evans is fully aware of the in-
fluence of Tertullian's tract in the Baptismal
controversy during Cyprian's episcopate
fifty years later. He might perhaps have
devoted a little more space to discussing the
crucial importance of the rite in the develop-
ment of the Western doctrine of the Church,
and in the more emphatic stress on the role
of the Holy Spirit which differentiated
Western from Eastern Trinitarian thought.
Again, the interesting comparison between
the Church and a bark tossed on the ocean
might have deserved a note (chapter 12), for
this ship symbol accurately portrayed with
the waves is among the earliest which appear
on Christian funerary plaques in Carthage.
Moreover, though the 'so-called Acts of Paul
and Thecla' may be 'a Christian romance
of a thoroughly unhealthy character' (p.
100), they are also a very useful commentary
on the growth of Christian legend by the
late second century. A reference to
Schneemelcher's edition and notes (N. T.
Apokryphen
, ii [Tübingen, 19631, 221 ff.)
would have been welcome, if available in
time.

    Otherwise it is not easy to fault Canon
Evans. The student of early Christian
martyrdom in particular will find the notes
to chapter xvi, where are included parallels
for the 'second baptism' drawn from Hip-
polytus and Melito of Sardis, valuable. The
handling of textual problems is both
thorough and succinct. Canon Evans has
produced another work of scholarship of out
standing interest to classicist and theologian
alike.

W. H. C. FREND

Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge


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