Historical Dictionary of the Baptists

Historical Dictionary of the Baptists – Book Review

Charles W. Deweese

By William H. Brackney. Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements, No. 25. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 199. 495 pp.

William H. Brackney is one of the top two or three Baptist historians in North America. This book shows why. Few scholars would dare singlehandedly to write a dictionary with hundreds of articles. But Brackney is a highly competent, broad-thinking Baptist historian who accepted the challenge. Still, he candidly admits in his acknowledgments that he “indirectly depended upon the work and advice of many authorities and sources.”

The book begins with “A Chronology of Baptist History.” With entries from 1606 to 1998, this excellent list of dates and events treats Baptists on a worldwide basis. The writer then uses his introduction to lay out his conviction that “historically speaking … Baptists are a movement, a denomination, and a tradition.”

Articles focus on Baptist life worldwide. Important biographical articles saturate the volume. Baptist principles, movements, and organizations receive attention. Articles deal with relatively unknown groups of Baptists such as the Leg of Mutton Baptists in England in the early 1700s who ate “meat, particularly leg of mutton, at the Lord’s Supper”

Topical articles are wide-ranging and intensely interesting including:

“Architecture, Baptist Church”

“Black Baptists”

“Confessions of Faith”

“Ecumenism, Baptist Involvement”

“Fundamentalism, Baptist”

“Holiness Movement and Baptists”

“Human Rights, and Baptists”

“Martyrology, Baptist”

“Peacemaking, Baptist”

“Temperance, Baptists and”


“Women in Baptist Life.”

This dictionary is an exceedingly valuable contribution to Baptist historical studies. Church and academic libraries, pastors, editors, associational and convention leaders, professors, and students will find this volume to be an amazing source of information on a myriad of topics.

Careful use of this volume will correct misconceptions about Baptist identity, clarify the achievements of Baptist notables, set Baptists in a worldwide context, enhance preaching, and illuminate research and writing.

The publisher might want to make minor changes in the next edition: (1) The claim on page 210 that the Southern Baptist Historical Commission “in 1985 took over the Dargan-Carver Library of the Sunday School Board” should be changed to read: “in 1985 dissolved its relationship with the Dargan-Carver Library and created the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.” (2) The bibliographical reference on page 466 to the Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists lists Davis C. Wooley and Lynn E. May Jr. as editors of the four volumes. In fact, Norman W. Cox edited volumes 1 and 2. And “Wooley” in that entry should be changed to “Woolley.” (3) A significant omission from the “Primary Source Materials” section of the bibliography on page 466 is H. Leon McBeth, A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990).–Reviewed by Charles W. Deweese, Executive Director-Treasurer, Southern Baptist Historical Society, Brentwood, Tennessee.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Baptist History and Heritage Society

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group