Friday, July 14, 2006

MEANING OF BAPTISM

The Greek word that is translated baptism in the New Testament is from the verb BAPTIDZO which means to submerge, bury, or plunge.
"Baptize" is a transliteration of the Greek word Baptidzo, meaning to immerse, dip, plunge beneath, or submerge (Thayer, 1958, p. 94).
A transliteration, and not a translation, the word has persisted since the original King James translation of the Bible in 1611. A translation of the word would have no doubt created turmoil for the English and Roman churches which were sprinkling and not immersing.

Some will point to the fact that earlier translations in English also used the transliteration instead of the translating the verb Baptidzo, but this does not change the fact that the Greek word was not being translated. In fact, it appears that by the time of the 1611 King James Bible, the English word "Baptize" did mean to "immerse" and not sprinkle. Note the following comment:
The primary meaning of the English word "baptize" is "to immerse" and the translators used the word in this sense, they were all familiar with the Book of Common Prayer authorised by Queen Elizabeth I in 1559 and the earlier Prayer Books of Edward VI issued in 1549 and 1552. The 1549 book required "trine immersion" and the 1552 and 1559 books merely required that the minister should take the child and ... "shal dippe it in the water". The slight revision of the Prayer Book in 1604 did not affect this requirement, so it is evident that the translators, who were members of the Church of England, understood the word "baptism" to signify "dippe it in the water", or "to immerse". (Accessed from http://www.holybible.com/resources/Trinitarian/article_43.htm)
Unlike today's reader of the Bible, the Bible reader of the 17th century understood the command was to immerse. Any other practice, would require the justification on the grounds of tradition. But should we be respecting traditions that contradict or ignore the original intent of Scripture?

The usage of the word in Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:3-5 reflects the meaning, showing that in Baptism we are buried with Christ and from Baptism we are raised to walk in newness of life. Also the examples of John the Baptist and the Ethiopian Eunuch have the individuals going down into the water (John 3, Acts 8).

There are some who wish to justify the act of sprinkling or pouring water over the individual in place of an immersion. According to early writers, the church only knew immersion and the first instance of something to the contrary was in the mid-third century with the situation of Novatian who it was believed would soon die and the pouring of water over him in his bed was permitted. But according to the written history, this was not acceptable to most of the Bishops and no laymen accepted it.

Those who wish to justify sprinkling must ignore the almost universal protestations which Novatians "baptism" received, and do so on the theory that the tradition was passed down from the Apostles. However, the Apostles and Prophets didn't mention it when they were guided by the Holy Spirit, but instead their words and practices were to immerse. There is no evidence that the Apostles were Baptizing by sprinkling. And so it is much better to follow the tradition of the New Testament writers. If they said to be immersed both by command and example, it is not acceptable to be sprinkled with water.

Others who wish to justify sprinkling make an attempt to redefine the Greek word. They use passages like Luke 11:38 where the Pharisees were astonished that Jesus did not Baptidzo (translated 'wash') before eating. The translation "to wash" is too general of a term and does not reflect the specific action of the inspired verb. The real intent of the Pharasaic tradition was to wash by immersion. His hands were to be baptized, dipped, according to the Pharisees tradition. Those who turn to such passages for justification of sprinkling do not find it in the inspired text.

When we follow the New Testament command and pattern, we will desire to be fully immersed into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the remission of our sins.

7 comments:

  1. Discipler,

    What is your teaching on the correct words for a valid baptism?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Greetings,
    Baptism is commanded - Mt 28:18-20
    Baptism is the way to "call on the name of the Lord." - Acts 2:21; 2:38
    Baptism is received by adults - Acts 8:12
    Baptism requires going down into the water - Acts 8:38
    Baptism is urgent - Acts 22:16
    Baptism is where you wash away sins - Acts 22:16
    Baptism is uniting with Christ death, burial and resurrection - Romans 6:3-5
    Baptism is where the person is raised by faith in God's power - Col. 2:12
    Baptism is where the person is clothed with Christ by faith - Gal. 3:26,27
    Baptism saves through the resurrection of Jesus Christ - 1 Peter 3:21
    Thank you for asking.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Discipler,

    What is your teaching on the valid formula? For example, some choices to consider, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit"; "I baptize you in the name of the Father"; "I baptize you in the name of God"? What is your take?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello Friend,

    This is a good question because it matters in whose name you do anything.

    In the "great commission" recorded in Matthew 28, the Lord said to baptize "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." We know that it would not therefore be displeasing to the Lord for us to baptize in this manner.
    When it says in Acts 2:38 to be baptized "in the name of Jesus", harmonizing Scripture is important so that it's really saying the same thing (i.e. the 3,000 or so on Pentecost were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

    Also, I don't think it is a legalistic formula as much as it is a matter of understanding who you are being united with. If one doesn't know that he is entering an association with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then there cannot be the proper faith in that person.

    What do you think?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Discipler,

    Here is what The Didache (a.k.a. “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) has to say on Baptism. The Didache is an early liturgical manual dated as early as the year 70 A.D..

    “The procedure for baptism is as follows. After repeating all that has been said, immerse in running water ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost.’ If no running water is available, immerse in ordinary water. This should be cold if possible; otherwise warm. If neither is practicable, then pour water three times on the head ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost’. Both baptizer and baptized ought to fast before the baptism, as well as any others who can do so; but the candidate himself should be told to keep a fast for a day or two beforehand.” (From “Early Christian Writings” by Penguin Classics)

    Much early Christian artwork depicts baptism as one in a river with water being poured over the head of the baptized. The evidence is that from the earliest times both immersion and pouring are valid forms for the Sacrament of Baptism.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Greetings Pazdziernik,
    First, the date of the "Didache" isn't known. For all we know, it could be a third century production. But I've heard that middle of the second century is more likely.
    Second, the exception given in the Didache for pouring instead of immersing is not an exception to be found in the New Testament. As I already pointed out, the Greek for Baptize is not to be generalized to mean "wash", although a washing occurs, and the specific meaning to "immerse" negates other action forms.

    Here is why, and I have probably spoke on this before. The command is for the sinner to be buried, a passive act of obedience where he permits another to lower him/her into the water. This burial is a uniting with Christ burial. If we permit the word meaning to be sprinkle or pour, then the sinner is permitted to do nothing toward the command. Jesus didn't say for the water to be sprinkled or poured; he said for the sinner to be buried.
    This is a very specific point which goes to the heart of respecting what Jesus said (Matthew 28:18-20).
    Here is an illustration to make the point. When Jesus said to drink the cup (the contents), it would be an error to teach that the cup (contents) could be snorted, injected, splashed on, or fill in any suitable verb. I know this illustration is bordering on the absurd, but it makes the point. Jesus taught for us to abide in His word; that's what a disciple does.

    One last point: even if the Didache was found to be Apostolic, and the evidence grew that it was in fact their practice to pour water over the head if there wasn't enough for immersing, it would seem that you would still want to immerse in most situations. Am I right?

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  7. Discipler,

    Certainly, a full immersion form of Baptism has a very nice “symbolic value” of dying and rising in Christ. The heart of Matthew 28:18-20 is Our Lord giving his authority to the disciples to make disciples, baptize, teach and observe what He commanded with the promise that He will be with them always. It is Christ acting through them that is important and is the "heart" of this passage in my estimation. In particular, through baptism all three persons of the Trinity act. (I will respect the scope of your post and limit my additional comments to the "form" but just as God acts through making disciples, teaching, He also acts through Baptism itself. It is not merely symbolic.)

    The root of Baptism may be to immerse. But as you yourself indicated it allows for a wider meaning which is not always “full immersion.” How this word is understood in a Christian context is most important. The root of a word or its “original scope” can not be normative. For example, Trinity and agape were words that took on particular meanings in a Christian context apart form their original meanings: “ a group of three” or “love.”

    Another example is the root of the word “humble”, humus, which means “black dirt”. “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) This does not tell us that Moses dug a hole and hid in it or covered himself with black earth.

    Consider the fulfillment of Baptism by the Holy Spirit:
    "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’" (Acts 1:4-5)

    Acts 2:17 , 18 and 33 all indicate that this baptism of the Holy Spirit was “poured out” :

    “…I will pour our my Spirit upon all flesh…” (Acts 2:17)

    “…I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:18)

    “… and having received from the Father the promise of The Holy Spirit, he poured out this which you see and hear.” (Acts 2: 33)

    “Baptizo” in the N.T. itself is broad enough to cover pouring in addition to immersion.

    Have you considered these passages from Acts?

    ReplyDelete

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