Dr. Donghyun Jeong, assistant professor of New Testament, has published his first book, Pauline Baptism among the Mysteries: Ritual Message and the Promise of Initiation (De Gruyter, 2023).
Dr. Jeong explains, “The ‘mysteries’ (or mystery cults) are the various cults that existed from Classical Greece to the Roman world in late antiquity (chronologically and geographically widespread), characterized by initiation rituals … My book seeks to answer questions such as: Why did some first-century ‘pagans’ choose to perform Christian initiation rituals? What benefits did they gain from baptism, when compared to rituals devoted to other deities in the ancient Mediterranean world? … In doing this comparative work, I seek to articulate the social realities of Pauline communities and Paul’s theology of baptism.”
Based upon his PhD dissertation, Professor Jeong’s book is intended for an academic audience. According to the publisher, this study substantiates that “Paul is an innovative interpreter of ritual who recalibrates the messages of preexisting rituals for his theological and ethical program, seeking to radically extend the implications of initiation to the embodied life of every Christ-believer. Students and scholars of New Testament, early Christianity, classics, and ritual studies will benefit from engaging this volume.”
“As a Presbyterian,” says Jeong, “I confess that ‘as a sign and seal of God’s gracious action and our grateful response, Baptism is the foundation for all Christian commitment.’ My study of early Christian baptism in the first century is a way for me to explore these theological implications in social, cultural, and historical terms. Personally, I was already attracted to things beyond human words and expressions. Although the term ‘mysteries’ and the notion of mysticism do not refer to the same thing, my study of the mysteries is partly related to my desire to explore mystic, non-linguistic aspects of religious experience.”