"My heart I give Thee, Lord, eagerly and earnestly." - John Calvin
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The Mode of Baptism, According to the Scriptures, Part 2
Continuing with A. A. Hodge's refutation of the immersion-only view of baptism, I come to his discussion of the Greek word adopted into English as "baptize."
In the New Testament, that word is always baptizo, which can indeed mean "immerse," but also "dip, moisten, purify, wash," depending of course on context. The Septuagint uses bapto and baptizo, with no apparent distinction between the two variants. In the Greek version of Daniel 4:33, Nebuchadnezzar is said to be "baptized with the dew of heaven." That could hardly mean immersion. And in the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus 34:30, reference is made to one "who baptizes himself after the touching of a dead body." Yet, Numbers 19:9, 13, and 20, describe that rite as done through sprinkling.
In Mark 7:3-4 and Luke 11:38, Jesus refers to the Pharisees "washing their hands" with baptizo, but in the parallel passage in Matthew 15:2, 20, the Greek has nipto, which simply means "to wash." The emphasis in using baptizo, therefore, is not on the method, whether immersion or otherwise, but on the use, i.e., cleansing. The same meaning for baptizo is seen in its use by the disciples of John in John 3:25 and 4:2.
In Hebrews 9:10, the author describes the use of the earthly tabernacle for "diverse baptisms" ("washings" in contemporary English versions), then gives specific "baptisms" in verse 13 ("the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood"), verse 19 ("sprinkled both the book itself and all the people"), and verse 21 ("he sprinkled with the blood"). Thus the writer of Hebrews explicitly uses "baptize" to describe a rite of sprinkling, not immersion.
I will add one additional passage to those mentioned by Hodges. In I Corinthians 10:2, Israel is said to have been "baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea", that is, in the crossing of the Red Sea. Yet, not only was Israel not immersed, they are even explicitly said not to have gotten wet (Exodus 14:16, 21, 22, and 29)! It was the Egyptians that were immersed, yet they are not described as "baptized"!
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at email@example.com.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
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"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43