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Early Christian Baptism and the Catechumenate: West and East Syria.

Early Christian Baptism and the Catechumenate: West and East Syria. By Thomas M. Finn. Message of the Fathers of the Church. Collegeville: Liturgical, 1992. Pp. xiv + 218. $17.95.

This collection of extracts from Syriac and some Greek Fathers about baptism ranges from the Didache in the second century to Jacob of Sarug in the sixth. The General Introduction discusses the ritual practices in the early catechumenate, their variations, and their underlying theological significance. The rest of the book is divided into two very lengthy chapters, each with its own introductory material. These briefly sketch who the West and the East Syrian Christians are. Finn offers ten selections of Syriac and Greek Fathers from the West Syrian region and selections from eight Syriac writers from what is widely viewed as East Syria. Each extract has its own Foreword providing basic information about the author and the importance of his work for baptism.

This is a semi-popular work detailing baptismal practices and convictions in the early Syriac Christian world and revealing their liturgical links to the Bible. It makes available in reliable and easy-to-read English translations excerpts of prominent works on baptism. I found the selections, with their covering introduction, to be well chosen. They are both informative and illuminating about early church practices by Greek as well as Syriac writers who lived from areas on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Western part of present-day Iran. My only reservation about the choices is that I regard Jacob of Sarug as belonging to the West rather than the East Syrian Tradition.

This is a valuable work for those teaching courses on the early origins of baptism and confirmation and for those seeking to understand the symbolism underlying the baptismla rite itself.

Frederick G. McLeod, S.J.

Saint Louis University
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Author:McLeod, Frederick G.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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