Wednesday, November 3 2010, 3:15 - 4:30 pm

The Birth of Death Imagery in Baptismal Theology in East Syria
by Paul Smith, BA, ThM, ThD student (Wycliffe College)


Older scholarship worked under the assumption that a Romans 6 model of baptism, revolving around the death and resurrection of Christ, was the dominant baptismal model of the early church.  A more careful reading of the sources has led modern scholars to replace this view with a more nuanced view which saw both a Romans 6 model as well as a “Johannine” theology of   baptism as a new birth.  Under this new model, East Syria’s baptismal theology exclusively revolved around new birth imagery until (ca. 399-ca. 502 CE), under the influence of West Syria, especially Jerusalem, death imagery was introduced. It will be argued that this model needs to be slightly revised.  While it is true that new birth imagery is the dominant East Syrian image for    baptism, it is not the exclusive image.  Death imagery appears in both Aphrahat (ca. 270-ca. 345 CE) and Ephrem (ca. 306-373 CE), almost a hundred years before Narsai.