Baptidzo = Immerse – A Root Word Fallacy?

by Reed DePace

Is it an example of the root word fallacy to say that baptizw in Scripture always means immerse?

I’ve seen more and more Baptist friends translate baptizw with immerse, as if the two words are explicitly equivalent. Some have taken a passage from Scripture where a form of this Greek word appears and they simply insert a form of immerse.

For example: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing immersing them”…. Or “Baptism Immersion which now saves you, …. Or “I baptized immersed you with water, but he will baptize immerse you with the Holy Spirit.”

Seems to me that this is an example of the root word fallacy. What do you think?

by Reed DePace


  1. Ryan J. Ross said,

    February 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Spot on! In fact, as a Presbyterian, the word *always* means sprinkle/pour over.

    For example: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, sprinkling them”…. Or “Sprinkling which now saves you, …. Or “I sprinkled you with water, but he will sprinkle you with the Holy Spirit.”

    In all seriousness, this debate is endless. In my opinion, a responsible hermeneutic would allow for different modes. Some passages are contextually more clear than others, but a universal application of one word, whichever word is selected, would produce significant interpretive issues.

  2. Drew said,

    February 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

    The LXX for Daniel 4:33 has baptidzo in the sense of dew, further confirmation of your thesis.

  3. Reed Here said,

    February 28, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Ryan, as one who thinks the best case for mode can be made for “pouring”, I do not believe the issue of “mode” is actually primary in the meaning of baptidzo. Rather, I believe the word actually, by the NT usage, becomes a technical term. It refers, when speaking of water baptism, to a symbolic washing-bath.

    As such, a technical term, it is best transliterated. IF we were to translate however, “wash” or “bath” would be closest to primary meaning.

  4. Ryan J. Ross said,

    February 28, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I am in agreement with you on both counts. Transliterating the word, if I understand what you mean by transliterate, would not resolve many questions, however. That is, if you are suggesting it would be more helpful to keep “baptidzo” in the English translations, then I think we would likely have the same theological questions arising between many Baptists and Presbyterians–as well as others. Mode, though not the primary issue, often becomes the primary issue in application. As a sacramental means of grace for the NT Church, I am not sure adopting a symbolical understanding of its use will quash the debate.

  5. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 28, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    The Didache (c. AD 60) has always settled the issue for me in terms of understanding what the early church thought about the mode of baptism and therefore the meaning of the command “baptize”:

    And concerning baptism, in this manner baptize: when you have gone over these things, baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in running water.

    If you do not have running water, baptize in other water. If you are not able to use cold water, use warm. And if you have neither, pour water on the head three times, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And before baptism, the one baptizing and the one to be baptized should fast, as well as any others who are able. And you should instruct the one being baptized to fast one or two days before.

    In other words: dunk if you can; pour if you can’t.

    It is interesting to me that many Baptist arguments have become more sophisticated in the last 30 years by appealing to 1st cent. Jewish archaeological evidence. It would seem that this piece of 1st cent Christian evidence should put the issue to bed.

  6. jedpaschall said,

    February 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Given some of the tragedies that have occurred when EO immerse their infants, I think that sprinkling has some real practical benefits for infant baptism. Not that this settles the issue at all but I was happy that safety was not a concern when my two boys were sprinkled and will be when my daughter (due in May) is baptized as well.

  7. rfwhite said,

    February 28, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Jeff C: How did you arrive at “dunk if you can; pour if you can’t” from that citation? Just want to understand your reasoning …

  8. jedpaschall said,

    February 28, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    To me Ezekiel 36-37 seems to lend more credibility as we draw a connection to sprinkling to the eschatological cleansing and kingdom entrance depicted there. Oddly enough I was turned on to the passage by the baptist DA Carson in his treatment of the passage in his excellent work in Exegetical Fallacies.

  9. Cris Dickason said,

    February 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Jeff@ 5:

    What’s the meaning or use to be made of “running water”?

    Does it merely mean a supply of fresh, clean H2O, or are you saying baptism should occur in a river or stream? Note just because the 2 persons are standing in running water does not mean pouring water over the head is not the method.

    Seems odd that adult convert symbolic entry to the church would occur in an outdoor setting. I know, the church is not the building, but more often than not, churches gather or assemble in a building or structure of some kind.

    Having specified ” adult converts” that brings up the question, paedobaptism is to occur by walking the babe into a river and dunking!?!

  10. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 28, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Dr White,

    That’s a good question, since the wording doesn’t actually specificy immersion in any place directly. Notice that “dunk” was a colorful way of expression immersion.

    Here’s how I read it:

    (1) There is some action called “baptism” to be performed in running water, or in other cold water, or in other warm water, if possible.

    (2) If not, then baptism can be performed by pouring water on the head three times.

    From the extant modes, I assume that the first action is one of the three: sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. We eliminate pouring since pouring is introduced de novo in (2). We eliminate sprinkling because it is so close to pouring, and because sprinkling does not require a large quantity of water.

    It isn’t a water-tight argument, but it seems to me to be the most natural reading.

    The point of the argument, however, is not so much to argue for immersion, but to point out to the Baptist that pouring was accepted as a (possibly secondary?) mode of baptism, an acceptable meaning of the word baptism, by 1st century Christians who understood the language better than we.

  11. Ryan J. Ross said,

    February 28, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Jeff Cagle,
    Perhaps this is a good time, then, to mention the uncertainty about provenance, dating, and authorship of the Didache? I have trouble using it in any authoritative sense. That is, for this Presbyterian, it does not put the issue to bed.

    Also, I agree with JedPaschall on the Ezekiel reference.

  12. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 28, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Ryan: I would welcome information about the dating of the Didache. I’ve never heard or read anything other than 1st century.

    Here, I’m not using the Didache as an authoritative source.

    NOT: whatever the Didache prescribed is normative for the church

    but as a linguistic source

    INSTEAD: the Didache’s understanding of the linguistic range of baptizo is likely to be an accurate reflection of the apostle’s understanding of the linguistic range of baptizo.

    In other words, the Didache falsifies the hypothesis “baptizo means immerse.”

    I agree with Jed as well. The connection between washing with water and washing with the Spirit (sign/thing signified) is very strong.

  13. rfwhite said,

    February 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    5/10 Jeff C.: thanks. Fair enough. In a tangential way, Mark 7.4 raises similar issues, especially given the variant reading, which sees dining couches being subjected to “baptism.”

  14. TurretinFan said,

    February 28, 2013 at 3:19 pm


    I think a safer dating for the Didache is early to mid second century – but the linguistic point remains.


    a) Many (and probably most) of the early church assemblies were outdoors or in homes. Synagogue-like buildings were slow in coming, partly because of the initial persecution, partly because of the poverty of Christians.

    b) Baptism’s primary significance is that of cleansing, not that of unifying. It does signify faith (since it is by faith that we are justified), and it does in this secondary sense signify our ingrafting into Christ, but that is not its primary significance. The symbol of Christian unity is the Lord’s supper. So, the location of the baptism does not need to be in the place of the assembly – a private baptism is permissible (see the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch, for example). By contrast, a private Lord’s Supper is a contradiction.

    c) And yes, Eastern Orthodox normally do dunk (partially or completely) covenant infants (our term, not theirs).


  15. Cris Dickason said,

    February 28, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Jeff @ 10

    >> It isn’t a water-tight argument <<

    [insert smiley]

  16. February 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Baptidzo is an intensive form of bapto to dip and hence acquires the meaning to dip intensively or to dye, and hence it comes to be applied to any action in which something is changed. Thus in the classical Greek people are baptised when they come into a state of inebriation, or ships when they are sunk – ie no longer sailing proudly by lying at the bottom. Metaphorical uses include being overwhelmed by debt or by horror/fright (Isaiah 21:3-4 LXX) or being radically cleansed (transformed) as of Naaman (2 Kings 5:14 LXX). In Christian use it does not express mode but refers to the application of water to symbolise a new position or relationship; indeed, you belong to the one in whose name you are baptised (1 Cor 1).

    Certainly the notion of immersion runs into trouble on a number of fronts: (a) the practical difficulties, the theological – (b) the Spirit falls upon believers, they do not immerse themselves in him; (d) Paul’s ref to baptism reads “in (Gk: en) which you were also raised up with him” not “out of which..” which it should have if baptism is a picture of death, burial and resurrection.

    It is the meaning of baptism as an initiatory rite speaking of union with Christ in HIS death, burial and resurrection that is in view. You can’t properly represent this union by a mode supposedly a symbolic burial anymore than you can find a mode that pictures being crucified with Christ. Further, Jesus wasn’t buried in the ground but laid on a shelf in a tomb. While immersion is not invalid it is not required and tends to obscure the profound meaning.

    Baptism is the sign of God’s covenant promise and that we are brought into a new relationship with God.

    The Didache’s ref is probably to be understood as indicating baptism occurred originally generally when standing in a stream (“running water”) and having water poured on the head. Where running water was not available pouring on the head was sufficient.

    The Greek Orthodox do a three-fold dipping but they don’t think of it as three baptisms nor do they reject the baptism of the Western church.

  17. jsm52 said,

    February 28, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Acts 22:16-

    And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

    1 Peter 3:20-21-

    because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

    Titus 3:5-

    he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

    “I will sprinkle on you clean waters, even My Spirit.” Ezek. 36:25, 27

    Isn’t the emphasis on the washing of water… which points to the cleansing from sin, regeneration? The element of water must necessarily be used for the sacrament to signify that which God effects. But is the method by which one is washed by the sign of the water really the issue?

  18. March 1, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Baptizo does not denote mode or participants for baptism. Only by context can this be determined. Affusion, aspersion, and immersion are all valid forms of baptism. However, most baptisms found in Scripture were performed by pouring or sprinkling…including Jesus’.

  19. Reed Here said,

    March 1, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Jeff: adding to the pile on ya ;), aren’t you just reading “immerse” into the usage again? You think there is a contrast of modes when the pouring reference is made. On the other hand, it could just as easily be clarification.

    I.e.,, it could mean: use running water and baptize (mode not expressed). If no running water, use standing water and baptize (mode not expressed). In no standing water than use water poured from a pitcher (or other container) and baptize.

    The ordinary bathing practices of the ANE provided the basis for the bathing signified/pictured in baptism. Folks would stand in shallows at a rivers’ edge and pouring water over the head with a container of some sort used to scoop water out of the river, (Still practiced today the same way.)

    it seems to me that the Didache is merely describing different ways of portraying the ordinary bathing practices. Best: just like an ordinary bath, at the river’s edge, pour river water over the head. Acceptable: in a pool of water (standing water), pour water over the head. Allowable: when no river or pool of water is available, pour water over the head from a container.

    “Pour” is not used as an antonym for “baptize” but as a synonym. Pouring water was the minimum necessary for the sacramental sign to match the sacramental signification.

  20. Reed Here said,

    March 1, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Ryan: by transliterate I meant simply what our English Bibles already do. The word is primarily used to refer to the sacrament of baptism, either the sign or thing signified. That is what I meant by a technical term.

    And yeah, agree completely with you. Our Baptist brothers tend to start at modal considerations in defining baptism. Since their understanding of baptism dominates most of the folks I minister to, I need to start there, albeit in an apologetic approach. I need to dismantle the error before I can offer the correction.

    (Of course, Baptist brothers and sisters, writing from my perspective here. Take no offense. I know we sincerely disagree in faith. :) )

  21. rfwhite said,

    March 1, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    19 Reed: Your comment about the verb “pour” reminds me that Christ’s “baptizing” with/in the Spirit by pouring indicates that the mode of baptism cannot be inferred from the word baptidzo itself. As others have said here, context rules.

  22. Reed Here said,

    March 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Dr. White, agreed.

  23. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm


    That’s entirely possible, although I think a contrast is the likelier reading.

    But my point in #5 was really this: If we give *as much ground as possible* to the Baptist, we still arrive at the conclusion that pouring was an acceptable mode of baptism in the early church.

  24. Reed Here said,

    March 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Jeff: yeah, but I’m not interested in allowing for pouring. :) I’m seeking to counter the argument that baptidzo ALWAYS means immersion.

  25. March 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I always liked these quotes from Calvin and Luther… ;)

    Whether the person baptised is to be wholly immersed, and that whether once or thrice, or whether he is only to be sprinkled with water, is not of the least consequence: churches should be at liberty to adopt either, according to the diversity of climates, although it is evident that the term baptise means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church. – Calvin, Institutes 4.15.19

    “On this account (as a symbol of death and resurrection), I could wish that such as are to be baptized should be completely immersed into the water, according to the meaning of the word, and to the significance of the ordinance, not because I think it necessary, but because it would be beautiful to have a full and perfect sign of so perfect a thing; as also, without doubt, it was instituted by Christ.” Luther

  26. Phil D. said,

    March 1, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Regardless of where one comes down on this issue, it takes but little research to discover that Baptists are scarcely alone in asserting that baptizo’s primary – or even universal – meaning is to dip or immerse. Here are a few examples that seemingly may surprise some here:

    Martin Luther: The second part of baptism is the sign…which is that immersion in water from which it derives its name, for the Greek baptizō means “I immerse,” and baptisma means “immersion.” (Babylonian Captivity of the Church)

    John Calvin: It is evident the term “baptize” means to immerse, and that this was the form used in the primitive church. (Institutes, 4.15.19)

    Theodore Beza: Christ commanded us to be baptized, by which word it is certain immersion is signified. (Epistola ii ad Thomam Tilium)

    Isaac Casaubon (Swiss Reformed; Professor of Greek at the Genevan Academy): For [in apostolic times] the rite of baptizing was performed by immersion in water: which the word baptizein sufficiently declares…Hence we see it was not without reason that the ancients contended for an immersion of the entire body in the ceremony of baptism; for they emphasized the import of baptizein. (Criticorum Sacrorum)

    Francis Gomarus (1563–1641; Dutch Reformed; prominent leader at the Synod of Dort): Baptismos…baptisma…both indicate the act of baptizing: that is, either immersion alone, or a dipping and the consequent washing. (Opera Theologica Omnia)

    Hermann Witsius: It cannot be denied but the native signification of baptein and baptizein is to plunge or dip. (Economy of the Covenants)

    George Campbell (Scottish Presbyterian): Baptizein, both in sacred authors and in classical, signifies to dip, to plunge, to immerse, and was rendered by Tertullian, the oldest of the Latin Fathers, tingere, the term used for dyeing cloth, which was by immersion. It is always construed suitably to this meaning. (The Four Gospels, Translated from the Greek)

    Charles Anthon (Episcopalian; Professor of Greek & Latin at Columbia University): The primary meaning of the word [baptizō] is to “dip,” or “immerse”; and its secondary meanings, if it ever had any, all refer, in some way or other, to the same leading idea…Sprinkling, etc., are entirely out of the question. (cited in Christian Quarterly)

    Adolph von Harnack (German Lutheran): Baptizein undoubtedly signifies immersion. No proof can be found that it signifies anything else in the New Testament, and in the most ancient Christian literature…There is no passage in the New Testament which suggests the supposition that any New Testament author attached to the word baptizein any other sense than “immersion.” (cited by Philip Schaff in The Oldest Church Manual called “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles [i.e. the Didache])

    Henry Dosker (American [Dutch] Reformed): Every candid historian will have to admit that the Baptists have, both philologically and historically, the better of the argument, as to the early prevailing mode of baptism. The word baptizō means “immersion,” both in classical and biblical Greek, except where it is manifestly used in a tropical [figurative] sense. (The Dutch Anabaptists)

    Joseph Thayer (Congregationalist lexicographer): As to the meaning of baptizō…all reputable lexicographers are now agreed that its primary meaning is “to immerse”. (Cited in J. B. Briney’s The Form of Baptism)

    Heinrich Meyer (German Lutheran) [on Mark 7:4]: Ean me baptisontai is not to be understood of washing the hands…but of immersion, which the word in classic Greek and in the New Testament everywhere denotes…in this case, according to the context: “to take a bath”…So also Luke 11:38. (Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to the Gospels of Mark and Luke)

  27. CD-Host said,

    March 1, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    FWIW put me down in the immerse camp. As far as I know virtually every piece of evidence we have about Jewish baptismal sects, including Christian identified baptism as an extension of the Mikveh ritual. Hellenistic Judaism in general made that identification baptismos for Mikveh ritual. We have Christian literature from the late 1st and early 2nd century that ties the words together using both terms semi or fully interchangeably. Mikveh is part of the conversion ritual. Without some extensive counter evidence I’d say that immersion is a good English translation.

    The issue about how best to translate the bible is vastly more complex. This comes down to a lot about translation philosophy. For most Christian bible’s I’d say the English term “baptism” captures the meaning rather well, so I don’t see much reason to buck tradition. But obviously if someone is going to translate using a word other than baptism they are aiming to try and wake up the reader and strip away the Christian gloss. In which case “immerse” is faithful to the text.

  28. Phil D. said,

    March 1, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I really don’t mean to nick-pick, but I also couldn’t help but noticed a few technical errors in the OP and some of the comments.

    Reed, I don’t believe that either βαπτίζδω or βαπτίδζω are valid Greek spellings of the word in question – even though it is phonetically transliterated “baptidzo” in some English writings.

    Drew, Daniel 4:33 uses the verb bapto, not baptizo.

    Mr. Ward, many Eastern Orthodox have and some still reject outside baptisms (or rhantisms as they are apt to derogatorily call them) if the have not been performed by immersion. Historically, baptism without immersion was the primary grounds on which the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem effectively “de-Christianized” most Western churches (in their joint Decree of the Holy and Great Church of Christ on the Baptism of Converts from the West, issued in 1755).

    Also, I am not aware of any mainstream scholars (whether Christian or secular) who would interpret the Didache’s passage on baptism in the way you suggest. For one thing, there simply isn’t any descriptive written evidence from the early fathers that baptism was performed in such a manner – quite the contrary. The only possible historical appeal for the method you propose are some examples of early art, yet even then only if they are interpreted as being strictly literal in what they depict – which numerous other elements they typically contain strongly discourage.

  29. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 1, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Reed (#24): Does #12 satisfy?

  30. Reed Here said,

    March 2, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Jeff: didn’t see that. Yes.

    Phil: correct on my spelling of the Greek. An inadvertent error; now corrected.

  31. Reed Here said,

    March 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Phil; no denying your list of evidence. This, however, is not the whole of it, even for those you quoted. All your sources are demonstrating is the root meaning of batptidzo. Not denying that this is “immerse.”

    It is simply wrong to say that this is the determinative meaning of the word in any specific passage in which it is used. Even a cursory review, say of Calvin’s Commentaries, will show he does not woodenly translate baptidzo as immerse wherever it is found.

    About the only passage I can find which comes close to requiring that we translate baptidzo with immerse is in the LXX, in 2Ki 5:14 (“Naaman dipped/immersed himself”). Even in that passage, the prior action verb tells Naaman to “wash” in the Jordan. Whether Naaman actually immersed himself, or imitated the ordinary bathing practice (river edge, shallow spot, pouring water over his head) is relatively insignificant to the action being pictured. It is washing the leprosy away, not immersing it, that is the critical detail of the picture.

    Again, no denying that immerse is the root meaning of baptidzo. So, if it always determinatively means immerse, what were those Pharisees doing with their dining couches (Mk 7:4)? ;-)

  32. stuart said,

    March 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    A serious question for my Baptist brothers . . .

    Does the following make the best sense of Mark 1:8 in light of the Joel 2 quote in Acts 2:17-18?

    “I have immersed you in water, but he will immerse you in the Holy Spirit.”

  33. CD-Host said,

    March 2, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    @stuart #32

    I don’t see why they would object. The idea of being enveloped, surrounded, flooded… that works with the Holy Spirit.

  34. Phil D. said,

    March 2, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Hi Reed,

    It seems fair to characterize most of the quotations I cited as expressing the viewpoint that baptizo at least incorporates the idea of immersion when it is used in the NT context of water baptism. Some clearly go well beyond even that. When you read these comments in broader context it is true that most take the position (contra various Baptist writers) that baptizo does not only (that is, merely) denote the act of immersion, but it can also directly convey its intended purpose or consequence as well (see for example Gomarus’ statement). In other words it denotes “a washing done by immersion”, wherein some cases “wash” may indeed be the leading idea. I agree, and personally would not support the idea of always translating baptizo as immerse. I think that some passages are best rendered “wash”, although the idea and/or practice of immersion still remains in view.

    Calvin is interesting in that he nowhere gave indication that he believed the apostolic church practiced anything but immersion. Rather, he simply stated other modes are acceptable because “the Church did grant liberty to herself, since the beginning, to change the rites somewhat, excepting this substance [water]”. (Commentaries, Acts 8:38) I have actually found a fair number of other early Reformed leaders who took similar positions (e.g. Manton, Perkins, Keckermann, Burmann, Beza, Baxter, and eventually, contra some of his Westminster era writings, Lightfoot). In most cases the change to pouring and sprinkling is expressly justified on grounds that immersion seems incompatible with cold climates such as in Britain and Northern Europe, especially in the case of infants.

    I would genuinely be interested in hearing why you believe the “ordinary [Jewish] bathing practice” was via “river edge, shallow spot, pouring water over his head”. I have read a good number of Jewish sources on this subject (the Mishna, the Talmud, Maimonides, Rashi, Neusner, etc.), and their unanimous consensus is that the numerous rahas (bathings) prescribed in the OT were an immersion. Most of the Christian Hebraists I have read take the same position (Lightfoot, Edersheim, Schurer, Danby – none of which, by the way, were Baptist). Notably, the LXX always translates rahas as louo, which denotes a complete bodily washing, as distinct from washings that involved only a part of the body, which is always rendered by nipto.

    And, yes, the Mishna is replete with explicit instructions on how contaminated seats and beds (ala Lev. 15) were to be cleansed by total immersion (e.g. in Miqvaot 7:6-7). Nor, if you will recall, was it Just the Pharisees who did this, but rather “all the Jews”… ;-)

  35. stuart said,

    March 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm


    OK. But the Spirit was “poured out” upon people, right? God didn’t pick people up and dunk them in a vat of Spirit.

    So it would seem a Baptist could not deny the validity of pouring as a mode of baptism . . . as long as the person poured upon got REALLY wet.
    (Insert smirky emoticon here)

  36. Phil D. said,

    March 2, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Hi Stuart,

    First, although I currently attend a Reformed Baptist church, I’m not quite sure I can, or necessarily want to fully own the moniker “Baptist” in its traditional sense, since I do differ with their typical viewpoint on a number of significant baptismal issues – but, alas, that discussion is for another time…

    However, with your indulgence I would still like to offer a few comments on the use of the term baptize in the context of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.

    The earliest commentary I have found on this issue comes from several of the Greek speaking church fathers, who insisted baptizo was used here for the explicit purpose of conveying the “overwhelming” extent of the gift, particularly at Pentecost. In other words, the Holy Spirit was given/sent from above (metaphorically described as a pouring out) which resulted in the believers being “immersed in” or “overwhelmed” by the Gift (with said condition metaphorically described as a “baptism”). Here are two examples:

    Cyril: But He came down to clothe the Apostles with power, and to baptize [baptisē (baptizō)] them; for the Lord says, “ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost [baptisthēsesthe (baptizō) en pneumati] not many days hence.” This grace was not in part, but His power was in full; for as [ōsper] he who plunges into the waters [endunōn en tois hydati] and is baptized [baptizomenos] is encompassed by the waters, so were they also baptized [ebaptisthēsan] completely [olotelōs—wholly; altogether] by the Holy Ghost. The water however flows round the outside only, but the Spirit baptizes [baptizei] also the soul within, and that completely [aparaleiptōs—uninterrupted; completely]. (Continuation of the Discourse on the Holy Ghost, 17.14)

    Chrysostom: When he [John the Baptist] said, “He shall baptize [baptisei] you with the Holy Ghost,” at once, by the very figure of speech [lexeōs], declared [empsainōn—to vividly illustrate] the abundance [dapsile] of the grace, (for he said not, “He will merely give [dōsei] you the Holy Ghost,” but “He will baptize [baptisei] you with the Holy Ghost”). (Homilies on Matthew, 11.6)

    While most early Reformed writers I have read on this passage didn’t really get into the philological issues in question here, the few who did tended to agree with the early fathers’ interpretation (e.g Leigh, L’enfant, Gurtlerus).

  37. CD-Host said,

    March 2, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Stuart @35 —

    LOL! Thank you for funny reply.

    As I said above in #27 the best word in English is “baptism”.
    There are two questions here:

    a) Is immersion a legitimate translation if one is avoiding the term “baptism”?

    b) Is immersion mandatory for baptisms based on a full read of scripture?

    Obviously there is some connection between (a) and (b) but I wouldn’t identify them casually. I’d say (b) should be answered based entirely on the Greek. There is no reason the structures of English as opposed to Hungarian should have any weight. This thread started as a discussion of (a). If we are answering about (b), I’m going with the historical evidence because there is so much of it, not the poetical imagery. And whether I’m right to do that or not is a question of hermeneutics not translation.

    That being said, if I did agree it was a question of the poetic metaphors I’d say your joke definitely scored points off me. :)

  38. stuart said,

    March 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm


    You’ve obviously done some homework on this issue. As a former Baptist, I can relate to what you’re laying down. I am, however, suggesting something so simple one doesn’t need to comb through all the historical statements of the Fathers.

    If the argument made by many Baptists (perhaps you are not one of them?) that “bapti” language can ONLY mean immersion (as in to submerge) is to hold water (bad pun alert), then one has to explain the baptism of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The passage explicitly states the Spirit is poured out on the people. No one was submerged in a pool of Spirit.

    If someone wants to argue that the baptism of the Spirit is about the Spirit overwhelming people, then the point is still made. We can be overwhelmed by a lot of water poured over our heads just as much as by being submerged (granted, most Presbys don’t get their baptizees that wet when they pour . . . ). Immersion may very well be a primary meaning of the bapti word group, but it is not necessary to the idea of baptism. Once one admits this on any level, I think the immersion only argument is difficult to defend.

  39. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 2, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Stuart: God didn’t pick people up and dunk them in a vat of Spirit.

    You win the Internet for tonight.

  40. stuart said,

    March 2, 2013 at 10:32 pm


    Maybe Presbys are just more poetic than Baptists. Strike that. I know way too many Presbyterians to believe that’s true.

    But you are right . . . most of these kinds of issues come down to a matter of hermeneutics.

  41. Phil D. said,

    March 3, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Stuart, I think the key in this particular area of the discussion is the fact that baptizo is being used metaphorically (the Holy Spirit is an infinite being, and obviously cannot be literally poured out). In such lingual constructs one must determine the tertium comparationis of the chosen terminology, and not confuse the intended associations of the various literalisms being drawn upon. Cyril and Chrysostom’s contention was that baptizo is specifically used in this context in order to describe the results of the event, as distinct from how the bestowal of the Holy Spirit is described. So, in a strictly technical sense I agree that a truly copious pouring out can produce an immersion. But that doesn’t mean that in such a semantic relationship the normal meaning of either term is amended or somehow blended together.

    I certainly don’t think the ECFs are necessarily, let alone always reliable when it comes to understanding theology. However, I do think they are worthy of close study when it comes to understanding ancient word usage, especially when it concerns their mother tongues, and thus they are uniquely valuable in terms of helping inform reliable grammatical-historical interpretation.

    I guess one of my biggest complaints with modern non-immersionists (for lack of a better term) is the way they often frame the debate. That is, they attribute many issues as merely being ridiculous “Baptist” ideas, when the fact is that a considerable majority of pre-18th century Protestants, including those of the Reformed churches, interpreted the biblical and historical data relative to the apostolic mode of baptism in essentially the same way immersionists have. By this I specifically mean:

    (1) They agreed that the native and normal meaning of baptizō is “to dip/immerse,” and that the New Testament’s usage of it appears to generally retain (or, at the very least, include) this physical characteristic.

    (2) They agreed that the spiritual symbolism expressly attached to Christian baptism in the New Testament prominently includes or, according to many, even centers on the integrated concept of the believer’s vicarious inclusion in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and that this truth is vividly portrayed by a brief immersion into, and emersion out of water.

    (3) They agreed that a natural, straightforward reading of the New Testament’s accounts describing both John’s and subsequent Christian water baptism amply supports the understanding that the normative and intentional mode practiced in the apostolic church was a full bodily immersion.

    (4) Secondarily, they also agreed that until the 14th century or so, the vast majority of Christians continued to practice baptism by immersion whenever possible.

    To denigrate these points, then, is to in effect say that most Christians prior to the 18th century, including most of the early Protestant reformers, simply misunderstood the basic meaning of key scriptural passages on this subject—this, despite the fact that many obviously considered the matter at some length, and came to substantially the same conclusions. And, although I think it extremely unlikely, such might conceivably be the case.

    Either way, many criticisms of how immersionists have historically understood these texts can sometimes reach the level of ridicule, or even outright disdain. Yet they are unavoidably (if perhaps unwittingly) made to apply to all of these other men as well. One cannot credibly apply such criticisms to only some while selectively exempting others who substantially agreed on the same specific points.

    Of course, and equally significant, most of these godly men clearly disagreed with modern immersionists in concluding that the use of immersion in water baptism was not something necessary or important to maintain. Rather they decided mode was largely adiaphorous.

    All this raises the question to what extent the present-day church should emulate the apostolic when it comes to observing the sacraments. In my reading of them, it seems many Reformed leaders were somewhat inconsistent in their application of this principle when it came to the Lord’s Supper vs. Baptism. In terms of the former it was insisted that both the elements and the recipient’s physical, bodily interaction with them must coincide with biblical example. In terms of the latter, most were content to limit such emulation to just the given element.

    Personally, I favor immersion in baptism for the same reason I frown on intinction in the Lord’s Supper. That is, I believe that while it may not outright invalidate a sacrament when the recipient’s interaction with the elements differ from apostolic example (the presence of faith is an eminently more important factor), it is always best and beneficial to follow original practice whenever possible.

    I know I have probably opened I can of worms with what I’ve said here. I certainly do not intend to offend or sow discord. Just stimulate healthy thought and civil discussion.

    The Sabbath approaches. Have a blessed Lord’s Day, everyone.

  42. rfwhite said,

    March 3, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    41 Phil D.: would you tell us what contribution 1 Cor 10.2 makes to your understanding of the mode of baptism?

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 3, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Phil (#41) and Rowland (#16):

    The reason I posted what I did is to make the case that mode of baptism is adiaphorous.

    Phil, for all of your examples showing that immersion *was practiced* (and I believe that it was), it is much harder for you to show that immersion *was practiced exclusively.* And indeed, the Didache shows that it was not practiced exclusively.

    The baptizing of the 3000 at Pentacost is hard to fathom as being immersive.

    Where the rubber meets the road is in this question: Shall Christians accept one another’s baptisms?

    Baptists do not accept sprinkling or pouring as valid baptisms, on the grounds that the mode is invalid. And thus they require re-baptism by immersion. But historically, Christians have understood that they should not be baptized twice.

    It is not hard to see why. For the sign of baptism is a sign from God to man that sins are washed away by faith; to apply the sign twice is to suggest that there can be a second cleansing.

    For that reason, I hold that is a greater injury to force re-baptism, than to accept an “inferior mode.” Regardless of which mode seems best, preserving the “once for all time” nature of baptism is even better.

  44. CD-Host said,

    March 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    @Jeff #43

    A few comments. At least the way I was raised the key to baptism was an understanding of baptism and a commitment to Christ. The big issue with Presbyterian baptism wouldn’t be the pouring but the paedobaptism, which was seen as outright sin.

    If we were talking about an adult pouring, that probably would be seen as deficient baptism but I don’t think most baptists would reject it if the person being baptized by pouring believed they had been baptized emotionally. I think most baptists would leave it up to the individual member’s conscience while mildly encouraging rebaptism. Generally an adult baptized person felt their baptism was deficient and requested rebaptism. I can’t think of a single example of the church having to force it.

    In terms of seeing rebaptism as a terrible thing, that comes from a theology of sacraments. Baptists reject sacramental theology entirely. To baptists there are no sacraments, just ordinances. In particular baptism doesn’t remit sins, Jesus does. Baptism is a command, and engaging in it is following a command. So Baptists will rebaptize their own members after serious sin that leads to excommunication / apostasy. For example to quote Sister White, “The Lord calls for a decided reformation. And when a soul is truly re- converted, let him be rebaptized. Let him renew his covenant with God, and God will renew His covenant with him.”

    It doesn’t really make sense to look at this issue in isolation if you want to consider Baptists.

  45. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 3, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    CD (#44): At least the way I was raised the key to baptism was an understanding of baptism and a commitment to Christ.

    Yes, as a former Baptist, I resonate with what you say.

    The difficulty with that position for the Baptist is it becomes hard to explain why we can “rededicate our lives to Christ” but not be rebaptized, and I note that Sister White grasps that point exactly.

    Another way of putting it is that the Baptist understands the sign backwards: It is not a sign from man to God, affirming his faith; it is a sign from God to man, affirming His promise to us.

  46. Phil D. said,

    March 3, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Dr. White, I know the Corinthian account of the Red Sea crossing has been appealed to by both sides of the modal argument. As early as the 17th century (in polemical writings against the Baptists) a few non-immersionists began urging that since the Israelites weren’t literally immersed in that event, this is a good example of an immersion free baptism. The point is sometimes stressed (usually quite triumphantly) that the only ones that underwent a literal immersion were in fact the Egyptians. A few even stretch the case to insist that the baptism Paul describes was surely effected by the spray coming off the waves and surrounding walls of water- hence it was a baptism by sprinkling (from what I can tell Owen was the first to suggest this).

    Historically, however, the consensus has been that this account of baptism is one of the three instances in which the NT employs baptizo in a figurative sense (the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Jesus’ use of the term to describe his upcoming passion being the other two). In this paradigm the understanding is that the Red Sea account was drawing on a familiar feature in apostolic water baptism, namely being surrounded by water, for pedagogical purposes. Of course in a metaphorical construct comparisons are often more virtual than literal, as would be the case here. Again this interpretation is voiced by numerous ECFs, (including Origen, Ambrose, Cyril, Chrysostom and Augustine, that I know of). Samuel Bloomfield gives this account:

    “…‘Eis ton Mousen ebaptisanto’…The exposition [of this phrase] supported by nearly all the ancient and early modern commentators, is thus expressed by Theophylact [an 11th Century Eastern Orthodox archbishop]: ‘That is, they shared with Moses both the shadow beneath the cloud and the passage through the sea; for seeing him first pass through, they also themselves braved the waters. As, also, in our case, Christ having first died and risen, we also are ourselves baptized, imitating death by the sinking down [kataduseos], and resurrection by the coming up [anaduseos]. They were ‘baptized unto Moses’…for the being under [hupo] the cloud and the passing through the sea were a type of baptism.’ “(The Greek Testament with English Notes, Critical, Philological, and Exegetical, in loc cit)

    Many Reformed theologians have concurred (Zanchi, Braun, Poole, Witsius, Turretin). I also know of at least two Westminster divines who supported this view, Gouge and Gataker – the latter quite enthusiastically:

    “The going down of the Israelites into the bottom and middle of the sea, and their coming up from thence to dry ground, are in wonderful agreement with the rite of Christian baptism, as it was administered in the first times: seeing the persons to be baptized went down into the water, and again came up out of it; of which going down and coming up express mention is made in the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch…So the Israelites might seem, when passing through the waters of the sea, that were higher than their heads, to be overwhelmed, and, as it were, buried; and, again, to emerge and arise, when they escaped to the opposite shore.” (Adversaria Miscellanea inqibus Sacrae Scripturae Primo)

    Once again I find it quite unfortunate that this view is often ridiculed and dismissed by modern non-immersionists as being an outlandish and modern “Baptist” notion. It is also a bit ironic that one of the points of greatest ridicule, the fact that the Egyptians were the ones literally immersed and drowned, is actually one of the points emphasized in the traditional interpretation of the passage. That is, a key association in the analogy is that the Egyptians were the Israelites’ slave masters (representative of sin and the world), and thus the thing from which they (and we) most desperately needed deliverance. As Chrysostom put it.

    “The first Human being in us was buried [i.e the old Adam], buried not in earth but in water…Do you want to see the sign of this? I’ll show you the baptismal font in which one person was buried, but another rose up. In the Red Sea the Egyptians were drowned, but the Israelites rose up. The same event buries the one and gives birth to the other. Don’t be surprised that both birth and destruction occur in baptism.” (Homilies on Colossians, 7)

    Proponents of this view often point out that the Old Testament prophet Micah was almost certainly alluding to Israel’s Red Sea experience when he exulted, “You [God] will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19b; cf. 6:4, 7:15). Of course elsewhere Paul very poignantly connected being “baptized” with the “death…[of]…the body of sin” to which God’s people were formerly “enslaved” (Romans 6:4–6).

    I would also suggest that If one insists on pressing the literalistic notion that the Israelites were physically sprinkled by the cloud and the sea, then it stands to reason that the surrounding terrain was wetted as well—which is contrary to the literal fact that the people traversed the sea on “dry ground” (Exodus 14:22, 29; Hebrews 11:29) Also militating against such an idea is Moses’ wonderment at how the sea was miraculously “congealed” (Exodus 15:8).

    (Two of the best exegetical analyses of this passage, IMO, supporting the historical view, are in Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to the Epistles to the Corinthians, and Joseph Ysebaert’s Greek Baptismal Terminology: Its Origins and Early Development.)

  47. Phil D. said,

    March 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Jeff #43 – Good thoughts, I’ll try to interact with them in the next several days.

  48. stuart said,

    March 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Phil D,

    After reading your comment (#41), I had a thought about the people standing around at the Jordan River hearing John the Baptist speak.

    One day John talks about someone coming after him and says, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

    One of the guys standing around (whose name is George) says to his friend, “What in the world is he talking about? Baptism = immersion. How can we be immersed in the Spirit?”

    His friend answers, “George, don’t you know that in such lingual constructs one must determine the tertium comparationis of the chosen terminology, and not confuse the intended associations of the various literalisms being drawn upon? I mean c’mon, George! Everybody knows that!”

    All kidding aside, metaphorical uses of the word baptizo show that baptizo does not always = immersion in a strict sense. And if this is admitted, it makes it a little more difficult to argue that the mode of baptism must always be immersion. Again, even if it is only in a strictly technical sense that copious pouring could equal a baptism, that little bit of wiggle room proves a point . . .

    If you want to argue immersion is the best mode, that’s one thing. But saying it is the only valid mode seems out of accord with the way Scripture sometimes uses the term.

  49. CD-Host said,

    March 3, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    @Jeff #45

    Another way of putting it is that the Baptist understands the sign backwards: It is not a sign from man to God, affirming his faith; it is a sign from God to man, affirming His promise to us.

    I would agree with you that most Baptists see baptism as either a sign from man to God or a sign from man to Christian community. Again since we’ve agreed on Sister White as a valid source for a sort of pure view: her doctrine is that a cold faith demands recommitment while a dead faith demand rebaptism. So repeated rebaptism for the emotional charge she was opposed to and the adventists don’t offer. Mostly though it was a matter of individual conscience. In most cases a believer acted as the authority on their own baptismal status. And that sort of attitude is identical to what I was raised with.

    I suspect when we talk about a sign from man to God or God to man we are getting close to the Reformed / Arminian issue at its heart. And Baptists are going to be on the other side of that. For example the in 2006 the SBC was debating some churches that would allow membership for had been sprinkled as children and considered this binding. That is could you be a member of a baptist church if you reject the baptist theology on baptism? Most of the churches felt no, that was a disqualifying view. Those that wanted to allow the members continued to see refusing baptism as an adult as a sin, but didn’t want it to be disqualifying. But what was interesting was that Baptists often rejected sprinkling baptisms for adults because it was covenantal. In other words someone who believed they had an impartation of grace ex opere operato wasn’t being baptized in the Baptist sense at all. That never went to a vote but it seemed to very much be the majority opinion. They seemed rather unanimous that Baptism was a step of obedience. To use your language a symbol from man to God.

    So even if we just restrict ourselves to adults, pouring vs. immersion is still likely a secondary issue.

  50. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 4, 2013 at 12:09 am

    CD (#49): I suspect when we talk about a sign from man to God or God to man we are getting close to the Reformed / Arminian issue at its heart.

    Yes, indeed.

    CD: So even if we just restrict ourselves to adults, pouring vs. immersion is still likely a secondary issue.

    Possibly so, but significant enough of a secondary issue that re-baptism is still recommended. E.g.:


    And it was debated upon a time in the circles I ran with.

    CD: …because it was covenantal. In other words someone who believed they had an impartation of grace ex opere operato wasn’t being baptized in the Baptist sense at all.

    I don’t know whether you were representing their viewpoint or your own, but Presbies don’t believe that baptism imparts grace ex opere operato.

  51. michael said,

    March 4, 2013 at 12:14 am

    This has been one of the best exchanges in here in awhile considering.

    Would one of you who is well read with regard to the ECF’s understanding open up and treat this issue of immersion and paedo? Someone early on mentioned some issue the EO had immersing infants? Do the ECF’s specifically address the way an infant is to be baptized or even baptized at all?

    Also while you’re at it would you address two other points?

    One, why it seems baptism wasn’t as important to The Lord or Paul as a prime issue though it was a part of the package? My focus here has to do with how baptism is treated with regard to Jesus personally not baptizing and Paul’s expression in 1st Corinthians of thanks that he didn’t do a lot of baptisms?

    And second could you also address those passages that use the word in English translations “household”? Is there a common assumption this word includes infants?

    Finally let me ask are there 2 baptisms like there are two circumcision? Regarding the circumcisions, it is obvious only males experienced physical circumcision.

  52. CD-Host said,

    March 4, 2013 at 6:04 am

    @Jeff #50 —

    The advice in the gotquestions link is pretty consistent with what I’ve been saying. They recommend the person who was baptized by pouring as an adult search their own conscience, “If the believer’s conscience is unsure, it would be best to go ahead and be rebaptized biblically to put the conscience at ease (Romans 14:23)”. Which is the way I always saw questionable baptisms handled. The member believes their own baptism was deficient, they believe themselves to be disobedient.

    I don’t know whether you were representing their viewpoint or your own, but Presbies don’t believe that baptism imparts grace ex opere operato.

    I was representing the 2006 conversations, the closest thing Baptist have to official statements on the issue. Presbyterians are Reformed so I’d assume that this human act like any other doesn’t impart grace period. That being said I think SBC view on this makes sense so it does kinda reflect my views.

    If an adult who was baptized by Presbyterians did not dedicate themselves to Christ then the baptism did nothing more than get them wet. Same as a forced baptism or a baptism on a dead person. Presbyterians don’t demand an act of will during baptism while Baptists do.

    WCF 6: . The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.

    Can you see their point in seeing this as questionable because for them it absolutely is tied to that moment in time? For them it comes down to what the Presbyterian member was thinking he was doing when he got adult baptized.

  53. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 4, 2013 at 8:14 am

    CD (#52): They recommend the person who was baptized by pouring as an adult search their own conscience…

    That’s fair. Pragmatically, that’s what I saw also, except among the “Church of Christ”, who insisted that proper baptism is necessary for salvation.

    CD: Can you see their point in seeing this as questionable because for them it absolutely is tied to that moment in time?

    Yes, I can see that point. The prior issue for them, of course, is “efficacy” and what that means. If baptism is an “outward sign of an inward change”, then the timing of baptism is determined already: after faith.

    But if it is a “sign and seal of the promise of God”, then the question is thrown open.

  54. rfwhite said,

    March 4, 2013 at 9:18 am

    46 Phil D.: thanks for your comments on 1 Cor 10.2. Another question: in connection Acts 2, you indicate that baptizo is applied to the result of bestowal and that result of bestowal is distinguishable from mode of bestowal (pouring). Is it your contention that the word baptidzo refers to result and not mode?

  55. Reed Here said,

    March 4, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Phil: my primary concern in this post is not with modal questions. Instead I am responding to the position that a root meaning of the word baptidzo is determinative of the words use in Scripture. I will try to confine myself to this topic, and avoid the modal issues for now.

    I’ve read the evidence that all the Early Church writers understood baptidzo to determinatively (exclusively according to some today) mean immersion. When I go back to those sources I do indeed see the word baptidzo used a lot – but I never see them say anything which tells me they were also saying something like, “which, as we all know, means immersion”. Instead they were just using the word, without necessary reference to mode. Even in the Didache quote Jeff mentioned earlier, that the word MEANS immersion is an inference, and not a necessary one.

    When I read these ancient fathers what I hear them saying is an echo of Scripture. And in Scripture, it seems to me, the determinative meaning for baptidzo is “bathe” (to use a different spelling to denoted the verbal usage).The word is used with reference to the symbolic bathing that pictures the washing clean from sin. The issue of mode is not dominant, certainly not determinative.

    As to the ANE bathing practices, I don’t have sources handy. (I’m a pastor whose calling does not allow for academic rigors). However, some internet searching will show enough background to note that what I described is an ordinary practice of bathing in locales without the convenience of public water systems and private plumbing. An alternative to the river bath is what is called the bucket bath. This is most likely, for example, what Bathsheba was doing in the privacy of her home (done on a rooftop, normally with some sort of privacy screening).

    But again, I’m not trying to prove against immersion as a mode. I’m trying to prove against immersion as the determinative meaning. By way of one helpful example:

    If immersion is the determinative meaning, then why can’t we simply use that word as a synonym for baptidzo? After all, if the sense of immersion is ALWAYS present, and determinative, immersion is just about 100% equal with baptidzo (no synonym is 100%, but has a range of overlap with its partner).

    And if so, then tell me what the Pharisees were doing with their dining couches, objects about 5′ x 2′ x 2′ in overall dimensions. When Mark (7:4) says they baptized them, are we supposed to understand him to be saying that they immersed them?

    Thanks for interacting.

  56. Phil Derksen said,

    March 4, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Woah – just checking back in on this thread, and there sure are a lot of questions being asked of me! I don’t know if I will have time to interact with each and every one of them – I’ll do my best in the coming days (weeks…?).

  57. Jeff said,

    March 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Great discussion. Simply pointing out that the Greek for baptizo should have an omega at the end, not an omicron.

  58. Reed Here said,

    March 4, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Yep, another backwards mistake. Thanks for catching it Jeff. Fixed.

  59. Reed Here said,

    March 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    As you wish Phil. Don’t let this drag you away from more important things. (i.e., just about everything else in life. ;) )

  60. CD-Host said,

    March 4, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    @Jeff #53

    That’s fair. Pragmatically, that’s what I saw also, except among the “Church of Christ”, who insisted that proper baptism is necessary for salvation.

    Church of Christ I don’t know much about. But Joseph Smith’s views were sacramental credobaptism which is a really odd combination, to the best of my knowledge he’s the only major Christian thinker with this combination. Though he uses the term “ordinances” his theology was sacramental. So assuming CoC still has his theology at least to some extent, I’d just consider them an outlier and move on.

    As for your comments on the timing of baptism, I agree. That was sort of my point that, the rebaptism issue for adults who rejected their own prior baptism couldn’t be separated off from the whole theology of credobaptism. If one sees baptism as a sign of divine promise then it gets harder to argue for a firm rejection of paedobaptism, and if you don’t reject paedobaptism then there is no reason to reject adult baptisms where the person did not have the proper degree of commitment….

    Ultimately Baptists cannot accept baptisms lacking faith in Christ and a commitment to righteousness. Ultimately paedobaptists are perfectly legitimate in seeing the Baptists position as coming close to rejecting the Nicene Creed’s “one baptism for the remission of sins”. There is some obvious tension there. Right now conservatives of all stripes are trying to get along but if they wanted to fight, there is certainly room for it.

  61. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 4, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Church of Christ is a somewhat Southern phenomenon.

    * credobaptistic
    * baptism required for salvation except possibly in extraordinary circumstances
    * Arminian wrt losable salvation
    * Grotian wrt the atonement
    * congregationalist
    * non-cessationalist
    * a capella worship.

  62. Cris Dickason said,

    March 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    CD-Host @ 60 writes

    But Joseph Smith’s views were sacramental credobaptism which is a really odd combination, to the best of my knowledge he’s the only major Christian thinker with this combination. Though he uses the term “ordinances” his theology was sacramental.

    Well, there’s sufficient material there for a couple of posts…

    I would deny (in a cheerful and friendly way), that Joseph Smith and “christian thinker” ought to not be used in the same sentence. I would not categorize the founder of Mormonism as a major Christian thinker.

    And it it’s fundamentally a mistake to think that credobaptism is not a “sacramental” theology or concept. Maybe the write meant sacerdotal credobaptism? Some kind of credobaptist ex opere operato position?

    And to harken back to earlier posts: just because in some Baptist circles they avoid the terminology sacrament/sacramental, and stick to “ordinance” does not mean that they thereby avoid having a sacramental position or theology. The Westminster Standards (and surely a variety of theological writings) use sacrament and ordinance as synonymous or overlapping terms for the same concept.


  63. CD-Host said,

    March 7, 2013 at 1:07 am

    @Cris #62 —

    Understand the objections to Joseph Smith. I tend to believe Mormons are a form of Hermetic Christians. Though understanding that the LDS church is 10x the size of all the other Hermetic churches put together. I get the objection in thinking that a religion this divergent from mainstream Christianity is Christian at all. I think you can definitely make a case that Mormonism theologically has more in common with Hinduism than Protestant Christianity. It comes down to how much you weigh the use of Christian symbols and Mormons being culturally Christian. That being said, the CoC is the new name for RLDS so I was responding to the example by pointing out that I thought that Joseph Smith was such an outlier I wanted to exclude him. Your position of excluding him from Christianity all together I’d assume would exclude the CoC’s understanding and thus…

    I sort of lost your 2nd paragraph but I think most baptists would assert the recipient’s state and intent are vital for any effectualness. In particular by asserting the doctrine of ordinances they hold that no acts are sacred, they are of value for salvation only in so far as the demonstrate and reinforce faith of the recipient and the community. And that is a fundamentally non sacramental position.

    The Westminster Standards (and surely a variety of theological writings) use sacrament and ordinance as synonymous or overlapping terms for the same concept.

    Let me start by saying I think we were using the term Baptism above to mean primarily traditional arminian credobaptists not reformed baptists. Reformed Baptists are sort of in a class by themselves.

    I think Jeff above properly stated Calvin’s position that the sacraments/ordinances are badges of God’s grace which I would classify as a non sacramental position. Though I concur Calvin identified these acts as sacraments. The notion of ordinances is a complete rejection of any intrinsic effectualness of any act. Calvin didn’t quite go that far, because for him the focus was on divine sovereignty.

  64. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2013 at 10:01 am

    CD: That being said, the CoC is the new name for RLDS

    Oh, no. I mean, the RLDS may have taken on the name “Church of Christ”, but the term Church of Christ has typically referred to this.

  65. CD-Host said,

    March 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    @Jeff #64

    Oh wow. That was dumb. I got Church of Christ and Community of Christ confused in my head and thought you were taking about the other one. I would have caught that except that it happened to be true for Community of Christ as well, and I didn’t know about the baptismal theology for Church of Christ and most of what you described is also true of Mormon wards. Sorry about that.

    The good thing is Joseph Smith was heavily influenced by Campbell / Stone, so most of this still works. Now that I’m not mixing up the words I guess this provides another example of sacramental baptism theology (baptismal regeneration…) along with credobaptism. So I guess it is the whole Stone, Campbell restoration movement, including the RLDS and LDS.

    So I guess you did provide a good counter example to me considering this an outlier. Lots of Campbell’s theology has crept into other Baptist’s thinking so next time this comes up with more mainstream Baptists I’ll ask and see where they stand on the effects of baptism.

  66. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    One indication that this is in the mainstream of Baptist thought is that almost all Baptist teenagers have this discussion at least once:

    “So suppose you make a profession of faith and get creamed by a bus before you get baptized. Are you still saved?”

    Of course, a good Baptist youth minister will answer Yes. But the fact that the question comes up indicates that something is in the air…

  67. CD-Host said,

    March 7, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    @Jeff #66

    That’s an excellent point. It wouldn’t be shocking if a large number of Baptists do believe in baptismal regeneration indirectly but would deny it if asked directly. I often make the point that very few Christians when you poll believe in a material resurrection even though almost all of them will claim to believe the Apostle’s Creed if the question is asked that way.

    However, I do think the sacramental aspects I’ve never seen from mainstream Baptists. They certainly believe baptism in and of itself is not effectual.

  68. peacebyjesus said,

    March 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    While the intent is the key, immersion best corresponds to the burial it typifies, (Rm. 6) as you do not simply sprinkle dead souls with dirt or pour some on them, and it is also what i see as best inferred in descriptions of the event.

    “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: ” (Matthew 3:16)

    “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. ” (Acts 8:38)

    Why go into water and get wet if a relative little dab will do you?

    “And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. ” (John 3:23)

    Why would much water be needed to sprinkle?

  69. March 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    According to Isaiah’s prophecy, John was to minister in the desert. People had to go to him, so water would be needed for purposes other than baptising.

    Jesus did not baptise but his disciples – a mark of his superiority to John who baptised but not his disciples. Try immersing the crowds that came from all over Judea to be baptised by John and you’ll soon be exhausted and run out of time. But suppose he had walked up and down sprinkling clean water upon them, and he would be fitting into the OT priestly practices and the prop[hetic promise of Ezekiel, and he could reasdily do it.

    Both Philip and the Euuch went down into the wall and both came up out of it. What is said of one is said of the other, but Philip was not baptised; rather he baptised the ethiopian as they were both standing in the water.

    How does temporary submersion in water typify burial with Christ? or being crucified with Christ? It is the meaning of baptism not the mode of applying the water that is the key.

  70. michael said,

    March 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Rowland in light of that what do you make of this verse?

    John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (John 3:23 ESV)

  71. March 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Sorry Michael. I thought I had covered it, but I’ll expand:

    When, about 27 AD, the Elijah-like John began preaching in the wilderness the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, many people flocked to be baptised. “Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region about Jordan, and they were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Matthew 3:5-6). We should not underestimate this response. There was a fervent expectation of the Messianic time, and it was not thought strange that this one ‘crying in the wilderness’ should administer a rite which spoke of true cleansing and a new position for God’s people in the unfolding purpose of the Lord.

    To assume that John baptised by immersion in the Jordan would be just that – an assumption, and one without very satisfactory support. We have already seen that the Old Testament provides no explicit support for such a practice. Further, by his commission he was limited to lonely and uninhabited places. Thus, his commission as given in Isaiah 40:3 reads: “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” Matthew links this passage with the statement: “John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea…” (Matthew 3:1). It was thus according to God’s appointment that John laboured in such areas. That he frequented the places where water was to be found was appropriate in order that there might be water for baptising so many thousands, and also, of course, because the people had to come to him and so water was needed for humanitarian purposes too. The overall picture is one in which the stark Judean hills formed a suitable backdrop against which the life-giving blessing of the water might teach its spiritual lesson.

    The “much water” argument is not a very helpful one to advocates of immersion. This will be seen if the argument is turned around. We know that Jesus’ disciples made and baptised more disciples than John (John 4:1-2), yet they did not frequent the wilderness but the towns and villages. Are we to conclude that John near Jordan or the springs [lit: “many waters”] at Aenon (John 3:23) equals immersion but Jesus in the towns and villages equals sprinkling? Of course not. It is simply that John’s commission was distinctive.

    Aenon means fountains. The locality has not been identified with certainty but fits a place seven miles south of Beisan where there are a number of springs within a short distance of each other. Certainly there is no Lake Michigan in the Judaen wilderness! But fresh-water springs would well suit the symbolism.

  72. jsm52 said,

    March 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    And to reiterate from an earlier comment… Baptism has a meaning that is not restricted to being buried and raised in Christ. “Baptism for the remission of sins”, i.e. the washing away of sins, the washing of regeneration is not only closely connected with baptism but the washing away of one’s defilements, both in O.T. types (Nahum) and in N.T. teaching is evident as central to the work of redemption

  73. CD-Host said,

    March 9, 2013 at 12:14 am


    There is far more than just an “assumption”. I think the strongest piece of evidence is the fact that baptismal cults identified baptism with mikvah which is an immersive ritual. The second strongest piece of evidence is that there are still followers of John the Baptist and their ritual (from The Mandaean Religion by Kurt Rudolf)

    The most important and oldest ceremonies are the “baptism” (maṣbuta, pron. maṣwetta) and the “ascent” (of the soul; masiqta, pron. masexta). The baptism or “immersion” takes place every Sunday (the first day of the week, habšaba) in “flowing water” (called yardna). It consists of two main parts: first is the actual baptismal rite, including a threefold immersion (the participants dressed in the sacral white garments, rasta), a threefold “signing” of the forehead with water, a threefold gulp of water, the “crowning” with a small myrtle wreath (klila), and the laying on of hands by the priest. The second part takes place on the banks of the “Jordan” and consists of the anointing with oil (of sesame), the communion of bread (pihta) and water (mambuha), and the “sealing” of the neophyte against evil spirits. Both parts are concluded by the ritual handclasp or kušṭa (“truth”). The purpose and meaning of the baptism is not only a purification of sins and trespasses but also a special kind of communion (laufa) with the world of light, because it is believed that all “Jordans” or “living waters” originate in the upper world of “Life.”

    The references from peacebyjesus from Acts are also strong evidence for at least 2nd century Christian beliefs about early practice.

    As for there not being enough water the sea of galilee that feeds the Jordan River is 13×8 miles. No that’s not lake Michigan but it is plenty big enough to dunk a the largest humans in essentially unlimited numbers.

  74. March 9, 2013 at 12:44 am

    CD-Host – I believe our concern was actually Aenon. Of course you could immerse in the Jordan, but I believe we were talking about Aenon.

    The background to John’s baptism has to be found in the OT not in practices not sanctioned there.

    I recognise that wealthy homes had ritual cisterns entered by steps typically holding 66 imperial gallons and about 47 inches deep. These miqva’ot were used for ceremonial washings according to the traditions of the Pharisees. The stone water pots at the wedding in Cana presumably held water to be used in such a way cf also Mark 7:3-4, and Jesus’ rejection of these traditions.

    All the ritual washings in the OT which could have been total were private, involved removal of the clothes and (with the possible exception of the investiture of priests), were self-administered.The mode of applying the cleansing agent in the OT varies but sprinkling predominates.

    The parallel with Holy Spirit baptism requires if it does not demand that the water be applied to the person not that the person put themselves into it.

  75. Phil D. said,

    March 9, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Jeff #43: I certainly agree it would be impossible to show that immersion was practiced exclusively in the NT to everyone’s satisfaction. As individuals often we simply view things from different perspectives, we sometimes process information differently, and we all unavoidably bring certain prejudices to the table (although I believe these can be reduced somewhat through various disciplines).

    For myself, studying the issue has convinced me that immersion was most likely the exclusive, and undoubtedly the normative practice of the apostolic church. As I said before, quite a few of our non-immersionist Reformed forbearers indicated agreement with this position. So I believe the question becomes to what extent mode is adiaphorous. In that the sacraments are designed to use sensible elements and actions that will convey certain spiritual truths, I believe it is best to remain true to the original practice. The two intended of baptism historically discerned by the universal church are spiritual cleansing and regeneration—that is, a death, burial and resurrection. It is entirely a modern and, it must be said, sectarian view that has come to question or in some cases even deny the latter.

    Still, and unlike traditional Baptists, I don’t have any desire, let alone presume the authority to pronounce people who were not immersed to necessarily be un-baptized in the cultic sense of the term. I believe there may be people who have sincerely considered the issue of mode and are truly convinced that their baptism by other means was valid. In such cases I ultimately defer to the matter of conscience emphasized in 1 Peter 3:21.

    I think the incredulity often expressed at the idea that 3000 people could have been baptized by immersion in one day tends to suffer from some anachronistic ideas being transposed onto the situation. For one thing, rather than the method commonly used in modern immersionist churches— whereby the administrator physically supports, lowers and raises (hopefully…) the recipient—Jewish proselyte baptism is known to have been performed by what might be called an assisted self-immersion. A similar method is indicated in the most detailed descriptions of baptism in the patristic church. For instance, Theodoret described the candidate as “going down into the water” whereupon the administrator “lays his hand on your head…as you immerse yourself”, while he “guides you as you bend down into the water.” (Baptismal Homilies, 3)

    Nor, IMO, does such a feat seem all that incredible when one runs the actual numbers, even if only the 12 apostles are imagined to have been involved in the enterprise (which isn’t necessary to suppose, given the seventy that had previously been commissioned to minister). In one hypothetical scenario, placing the allotted time for each baptism at 30 seconds, and even with, say, only four men operating at a time, the entire event would take a total of about 6 hours and 15 minutes. This could be further broken down into imagining each man baptizing for perhaps 3 shifts, each about 42 minutes in length, and providing nearly 1-½ hour long rests in between. Such an endeavor certainly wouldn’t be unfeasible, let alone impossible—especially considering that four of the disciples had been professional fishermen… If more men were involved in the process, as seems likely, then of course the workload could easily have been spread out even more, and the task accomplished in a few hours or less.

    As for the lack of water aspect of the objection commonly expressed, in the last forty years or so several hundred miqvaot (individual immersion pools) from the first century have been excavated in the Jerusalem area. They are found both within public and residential structures, with more than fifty being located on or immediately adjacent to the Temple Mount. Those particular pools were continuously supplied with fresh water by a surprisingly sophisticated plumbing system. (Encyclopedia Judaica [2nd ed.], 4:225ff.) Edersheim relates the findings of a 19th century scientific survey of the infrastructure used to supply water to Jerusalem in the 1st century conducted by the British army. It documents miles long supply aqueducts, channels to handle “surplus” water and seasonal “overflow”, and reservoirs holding “acres of water” totaling more than “ten million gallons”. (The Temple, Its Ministries and Services)

  76. Phil D. said,

    March 9, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Dr. White # 54: I think that, like most verbs, baptizo can be used to primarily express action, condition, or even an event. Syntax, conjugation, and context are obviously determining factors. In recent times I know some non-immersionists have insisted it always and only denotes condition (e.g. Dale—and it sure does surprise me that he hasn’t been brought up in this thread before now…), while many non-immersionists insist it always and only denotes action. For me, It seems hard to conceive from the evidence that in its literal New Testament usage baptizo/baptisma would have been understood to simply mean “apply/use water in whatever way you can or seems best”.

  77. Reed Here said,

    March 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Phil: agreed, not “apply water anyway you can,” but “apply water to accurately picturing washing away dirt.” The sign of the sacrament is an accurate representation of the thing signified.

    Immersion was a way on representing washing, but not the only way. The point I’m pressing is not modal considerations (although they are in the background). Rather, I am pushing against the position that interprets baptidzo universally as immerse, when it is better translated wash.

  78. CD-Host said,

    March 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm


    The background to John’s baptism has to be found in the OT not in practices not sanctioned there.

    Well yes Lev 15 also other verses like Lev 13:53-9

    The parallel with Holy Spirit baptism requires if it does not demand that the water be applied to the person not that the person put themselves into it.

    The terms are still used by Jews and other sects “like washing in living water”. So evidently it doesn’t or didn’t demand that. Moreover it is assisted.

    cf also Mark 7:3-4, and Jesus’ rejection of these traditions.

    For right now we are talking about whether John rejected them, not whether Jesus did. The argument was being made was that John followed a practice of baptism by pouring.

    For the NT generally you have frequent references to: * Water
    * Much water
    * Coming to the water
    * Going down into the water
    * Coming up out of the water
    * Burial
    * Resurrection
    * Washing the body

    used with baptism. So I’d like to keep the focus on John if there is a separate case to be made regarding him.

  79. Phil D. said,

    March 9, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Reed, I know this thread has deviated into primarily a discussion of mode. But then again this isn’t your first rodeo, and you had to expect that would inevitably be the case, right?

    I attempted to address the translational issue in an earlier post. But to reiterate, I would not be in favor of always translating baptizo as immerse. There are certain contexts in which wash or even baptize seem best to me. However, I don’t see any biblical examples (or classical, for that matter) where immersion cannot at least remain in the background.

    You mentioned -key word “you”, so I am only responding here… ;-) -that baptism is intended to represent the washing away of dirt. Do you think sprinkling is a good depiction of this, or might you favor pouring for this reason (honest question)? Also, what about the nearly universal acclamation among pre-18th century Christians of all parties and cultural stripes that biblical baptism was a picture of death, burial and resurrection? Do you dissent from this understanding? I am of the opinion that immersion is the only mode that adequately figures both symbolisms. That is a major reason why I think it is worth preserving, promoting and practicing.

    I do find it interesting that up until about a century ago it wasn’t all that unusual to find opinions like this expressed among Reformed luminaries:

    “In the first period of the life of the church, the rite of baptism consisted in immersing candidates for baptism in water and after a moment lifting them out again. The Greek word baptizein already points in that direction, for it literally means “to dip” or “dip into”…Finally, sacramental phraseology [in the New Testament] is completely based on this mode of administering baptism (Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12). (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 9.52.5)

    Look, this isn’t my first rodeo either, and I’m not so naive as to think that discussions like this are likely to really change anybody’s mind on the issue, no matter the evidence being considered. In the end I know many Christian brethren will simply end up having to agree to disagree on the proper or best mode of baptism. Still, I enjoy a good discussion conducted with equal amounts of substance, vigor and civility. I always hope that at the very least some of the material I refer to will help inform people of the long and esteemed history immersion has held across the entire spectrum of Christianity, whether with respect to its apostolic origins or abiding value.

  80. March 9, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Reed can answer for himself. But on your two main points:

    Ezekiek shows sprinkle can equal clean, the more so I would say because water baptism is a ritual not a real washing.

    Warfield in NSHERK (and elsewhere) is a witness to the revision of the earlier views based on the architecture of early fonts etc.

  81. Phil D. said,

    March 9, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Mr. Ward, I know you also expressed those viewpoints in your book on baptism, which I read with interest. It is a pleasure to speak with you, even if only via internet,

    My main point regarding symbolism is that historically it has been perceived that apostolic baptism was intentionally connected to two major spiritual themes, not just one. Personally, I concur.

    With regard to Warfield’s work, I would simply counter that many subsequent works on baptismal archaeology and art from the early church do not interpret the collective data in the same way he did. Probably the best and fullest example of this would be Ferguson;s massive Baptism in the Early Church.

  82. michael said,

    March 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Phil D.

    Would you render an opinion about infant baptisms?

    From your study of history and the ECF’s would it be fair to say there was no doubt about baptizing infants?

    Where did this issue first start showing up that infants should not be baptized until they were fully informed?

  83. Phil D. said,

    March 9, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Michael, I might in certain venues or circumstances, I;m just not sure that deviating yet further from the subject of the OP is appropriate or would be appreciated.

  84. March 9, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks Phil D. This has been a civil discussion and some interesting points have been raised.

    Greetings from Melbourne, Australia

  85. Mike Dugaard said,

    March 30, 2013 at 9:35 am

    A bit late to the conversation, but Hebrews 9:10 sure seems a clear case of baptidzo being used in reference to sprinkling (vs. 13, 19, 21).

  86. CD-Host said,

    March 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    @Mike #85

    Hebrews 9:13’s sprinkling is not a reference to baptism but to the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer. See Numbers 19:2-9 for the ritual being described. That ain’t baptism, it is a temple ritual being rejected.

  87. Phil Derksen said,

    April 1, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Re: #85

    Disallowing the untenable premise that Levitical purifications always and only involved pouring or sprinkling, so directly unifying the baptisms and sprinklings mentioned in the course of Hebrews 9 necessarily depends on making the following two assumptions:

    (1) The regulations specifically mentioned in verse 10 will be given further treatment.

    (2) If the previous point is in fact true, then additionally, all of methods involved in the bodily purifications later mentioned are specifically (literally) described by the noun baptismos.

    The first notion is rendered questionable by the fact that the entire genus of corporeal regulations mentioned alongside the various washings—namely, that dealing with food and drink—receives no further discussion. Apart from an explicit connection in the text itself, the veracity of the second idea would seem further contingent on accepting a kind of syllogism that might go something like this:

    – It is stated in Hebrews 9 that Levitical purifications were done by baptismos.

    – It is stated in Hebrews 9 that Levitical purifications were done by rhantizo.

    – Therefore, these baptismos and rhantizos must be in reference to one and the same purifications—and hence the two terms are shown to be synonymous.

    Again, this is highly questionable and even impossible to so determine simply based on the passage’s given terms. However, when it is recognized that “bathing” (rahas [LXX louo – and which is specifically described in 2 Kings 5:14 as a baptizo) was actually the most common, as well as the concluding action prescribed in most Levitical cleansing procedures, and further knowing that it was the only modal action employed in the remediation of every major form of personal defilement (e.g. Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 14:8, 15:7, 16, 26–27, 16:4, 28, 17:15–16, 22:4–7; Numbers 19:19), baptizo would certainly be an apt, and arguably the most suitable term for the author of Hebrews to employ to represent the category of Old Testament purification rites as a whole. In such a case baptismos is used as a synecdoche (which the overall structure of the narrative strongly suggests), wherein the normal meaning of baptizo would still remain intact. (For comparison, the Ten Commandments are also formally synecdoches. For instance, the command to honor one’s parents principally represents the greater truth that all legitimate authority figures are to be duly honored, yet the term “parents” is still meant literally, and fully retains its normal meaning. It merely stands in place of any other relative circumstances.)

    In philological terms, the noun baptismos is never used in any other biblical passage apart from denoting a cultic procedure that was clearly effected by means of water. (One of the very rare non-scriptural occurrences of baptismos in ancient Greek literature is in Josephus’ reference to John’s baptism.) Nor are there any compelling grammatical indicators which necessitate so directly (word to word) connecting the baptismos in Hebrews 9:10 with the blood sprinklings mentioned later in the chapter. (No cross referenced bible or lingual-centric commentary on Hebrews that I am aware of does so—while at least two notable ones directly affirm a distinction.) To then insist that in this particular case baptismos must refer to sprinkling blood—even though it is not contextually necessary to do so—would be to impose an abnormal meaning on the word. This in turn questionably discounts the interpretative principle that whenever the normal/common sense of a word is wholly admissible no other meaning need (or generally should) be sought.

    As the Dutch Reformed linguist and theologian Jacob Alting (1618–79) put it:

    “Washings”; the apostle calls these diaphorois baptismois, that is, various immersions [immersiones varias], for baptismois is immersion wherein the whole body is submerged, while this word is never used with regard to sprinkling [adspersione]…Further, these Jewish baptisms were numerous, such as respecting the high priest (Leviticus 16:4), of the other priests at their consecration (Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 8:6), and of the Levites, when they were about to be appointed to their office (Numbers 8:7, 21)…And especially of any who were defiled by the carcass of an unclean animal (Leviticus 11), or by leprosy (Leviticus 14)…[etc., etc.]. (Opera Omnia Theologica, 4:260]

  88. April 1, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    In your quote Alting does not embrace the full range of ritual washing (maybe he does in the fuller context) nor does he draw the conclusions a full consideration would suggest. It is true that the investiture of priests and re Day of Atonement and also Red Heifer sacrifice required the whole body to be washed (Hebrew: rachats), presumably because otherwise the holy garments worn by the priests would be defiled. Of course these were private and self-administered. In regard to contact of persons/objects with the dead (Lev 11, 25 etc), certain household items were to be put in water until evening/clothes were to be washed. In these case immersion is clearly the mode (Hebrew kabas).

    But there are many other ceremonial cleanings in the Mosaic law that were not immersions or even total washings. In regard to seminal/menstrual discharges it is specified (Lev 15:16ff) that all the body was to be washed, which might suggest an ordinary wash by an Israelite was not total.

    The lack generally of minute specification of mode is significant I think. Some cases of purification were by sprinkling, others washing only part of the body as in regard to priestly purification before entering the tabernacle (Ex 30:18-). The stress falls on the application of water to the person rather than the action of putting person in the cleaning agent. Whatever may be said for the prevalence of miqveh in NT times, they didn’t have plunge pools in the Sinai desert!


  89. CD-Host said,

    April 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    @Rowland #88

    Seminal discharge, keri is a full body ritual washing. Woman’s discharge, niddah is also a full body immersive ritual wash. Neither is performed in the home.

    Obviously there are ritual washings that are not fully immersive but they aren’t associated with baptism. The netilat yadayim before meals is just a hand washing. But no one ever associates it with baptism.

    This isn’t a complex argument. 100% of the activities that get associated with baptism were full body immersions. There are other washing that aren’t full bod immersions but they never got associated with the word baptism.

  90. April 1, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    I think we will have to agree to disagree.

    It is possible for the body to be totally washed without immersion.

    Ritual purifications involved a variety of modes. Baptizo has the idea of the application of a cleansing agent with a view to removal of that which disqualifies from acceptance with God. The mode of applying the cleansing agent varies but sprinkling is very well represented.

    Mark 7:4 refers to the ceremonial hand washing, but also the baptisms of cups, pots, copper vessels, couches.

  91. Phil D. said,

    April 1, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Mr. Ward,

    Alting is commenting specifically on the use of baptismos in Hebrews 9:10, while also making a blanket statement about its inherent disassociation from acts of sprinkling. In context, he takes the same position that I outlined above. In terms of the various modes prescribed for personal cleansings under the Levitical code, here is a fairly comprehensive synopsis:

    Sprinkling (nazah/zaraq) various substances (oil, blood, or water mixed with blood or ashes) was used in three main circumstances: [1] In the consecration of priests (e.g. Exodus 29:21), [2] to cleanse those with leprosy (Leviticus 14:7), and [3] in purifying persons who had touched a corpse or grave (Numbers 19:13). Notably, the sprinkling of pure, unmixed water is never prescribed.

    Pouring (yatsaq) oil was involved in two of these same situations, namely: [1] In the consecration of priests (e.g. Exodus 40:15), and [2] in cleansing those with leprosy (Leviticus 14:18). In addition, pouring water was almost certainly part of the regular washing of the priests’ hands and feet (Exodus 30:21; cf. 2 Kings 3:11).

    Bathing (rahas) with water was prescribed in at least seven different circumstances, including all of those previously mentioned: [1] In the consecration of priests (e.g. Exodus 29:4), [2] as part of the priests’ ongoing purifications—such as before putting on their vestments, after making certain sacrifices, and often before eating—(Leviticus 16:4, 28, 22:4–7), [3] in cleansing those who had touched a corpse or grave (Numbers 19:19), [4] in cleansing lepers (Leviticus 14:8), [5] in cleansing those with various bodily discharges (Leviticus 15:16), [6] in cleansing those who had touched a contaminated person or object (Leviticus 15:7, 26–27), and [7] in purifying those who had eaten carrion or other unclean meat (Leviticus 17:15–16).

    By such an accounting it can be said that bathing (universally understood to mean immersion by Jewish scholarship, and many Christian Hebraists) was the most prominent mode by which Levitical cleansings were administered. Moreover, it was apparently the only mode involved in the remediation of every major category of religious impurity.

    The point that the law specifically spelled-out washing a person’s “whole body” in only one instance is technically valid, but only in the strictest sense. Some passages dealing with Levitical bathings do employ just the finite verb rahas (bathe), while others include its direct object, and thus use the phrase, rahas basar (bathe their body). With regard to cleansing a man who had a seminal discharge (Leviticus 15:16), the word kol (all, or whole) is added (rahas kol basar—bathe their whole body). However, the practical equivalency of all these terms is pretty clearly brought out in the way they are interchangeably used in reference to the same procedures. For example, while Leviticus 15:16 uses the most detailed phrase rahas kol basar, verse 18 describes the same procedure using just rahas—as does Deuteronomy 23:10–11. In Leviticus 17:15–16, the washing of those who had eaten unclean meat is designated both as rahas and rahas basar, as is the bathing of lepers in Leviticus 14:8–9. In Leviticus 22:3–7, the bathing of priests who were contaminated from just about any source of defilement—leprosy, a bodily discharge, or contact with any unclean object, creature, or person (specifically including those with seminal issues)—is both comprehended and conveyed by the single phrase rahas basar.

    It is also noteworthy that seminal issues were historically considered to be, relatively speaking, a minor source of defilement (touching a corpse was the worst form). As such, and as Hillel and other first century Jewish sages specifically affirmed, the hermeneutic principle of qal wahomer would understand rahas to be connected with the phrase kol basar in this particular case precisely for the purpose of showing that even this “least” form of contamination required one to bathe their entire body in water—whereby it would be clearly understood that issues of greater consequence necessarily required employing the same procedure. In other words, in the other cases it went without saying. As Maimonides says in his summarization of the Mishnah’s directives on the Levitical law (which are highly relative to Jewish practice in the apostolic era—and which is what passages like Mark 7:4 and Luke 11:38 are specifically referring to):

    “That purification from any uncleanness be by immersion in the water of a mikweh, as it is said, ‘He shall bathe all his flesh in water (Leviticus 15:16)…Hence, wherever ‘washing of the flesh’ or ‘cleansing of garments’ from uncleanness is spoken of in Scripture, it means nothing else but the immersion of the whole person or object in an immersion pool.” (Book of Cleannesses, 10)

    With regard to purifying inanimate objects, sprinkling various substances was certainly a very prominent practice (e.g. Leviticus 16:14; Numbers 8:7, 19:13). However this must be balanced with the sweeping command in Leviticus 11:32 that, “any [unclean] article that is used for any purpose…must be put into water [bo b-mayim LXX; bapto eis hydor]…” This is in fact the direct scriptural antecedent for the practices described in Mark 7:4 (cf. Leviticus 6:28, 15:12). Frankly, the incredulity expressed by some modern Westerners that even larger household items like seats and couches were immersed under this rubric suffers from some anachronistic suppositions similar to those attached to the baptisms in Acts 2. Here is a series of some relative mishnic prescripts, as expounded by Maimonides:

    “(1)…The cushion or mattress of leather—once one has lifted their lips out of the water, the water in them is deemed drawn water. What should he do? He should immerse them and raise them by their bottoms. (2)…[If] one immersed the bed therein, even though its legs sink down into thick mud—it is clean, because the water touched them before [the mud did]. (3) Any object fit for use as a couch or seat, even though it is clean for Hallowed Things, still in whatever concerns the rite of purification, counts as something which a man with flux has pressed against, unless it is immersed especially for the rite of purification. (4)…If an object is made of jointed work, having its boards and beams bound together, such as a bed or the like, and it becomes unclean and needs immersion for heave offering, the whole of it may be immersed forthwith while still bound together. But if it is for Hallowed Things, it must first be unbound and wiped, lest there be anything that interposes, and then it must be immersed and afterward rebound. (5)…If the entire bed becomes unclean and it is immersed piece by piece, it becomes clean.”

  92. April 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    I appreciate your post but you haven’t persuaded me. In particular, I wonder if the interpretations in the Jewish traditions and as exemplified in Moses Mainmonides in the 12 century AD, are not just the typical over done approach of the Pharisees.

    And as I say, there were no plunge pools and little in the way of deep creeks and rivers in the desert of Sinai.

  93. Phil D. said,

    April 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    In most on the instances given Maimonides is quoting from the Mishna (2nd century AD) which, other than the Bible itself, is arguably the most important historical source that can be brought to bear on issues of religious perception and practice in 2TJ. Although it is a slightly later redaction, it’s relevance to that period is evidenced by its detailed description of Temple ritual. Much of what it describes in this relation has also been validated by modern archaeology, including the presence of numerous immersion pools that date from the first century. I think you would be hard pressed to find a Hebraist of note who wouldn’t agree with this take on the Mishna. One may disagree with the legitimacy of its role in these matters, but surely it is more credible than simple and largely unsubstantiated doubts or alternative ideas of what such things must have been like. Nor can the Pharisaical understanding of such things be dismissed when it comes to understanding the practices being described in the NT, as well as the vocabulary that was historically employed to describe them in that era.

    Regarding Israel’s time in the wilderness, I think simply realizing the sheer number of people that came out of captivity helps put a proportional perspective on issues like this. According to the census records in Numbers, over 600,000 adult males took part in the exodus from Egypt. From this statistic biblical scholars extrapolate that when women and children are included, the total number of people involved could have numbered anywhere from 2 to 5 million. It then becomes pretty obvious that the amount of water necessary for religious ablutions would have been relatively modest compared to what would’ve been needed just for the general hygiene and sustenance of an entire nation of herdsmen.

    It is also true that various rituals and practices were at times temporarily suspended during Israel’s sojourns. Rather remarkably this included administering the covenantal sign that identified them as God’s chosen nation—circumcision (Joshua 5:5). It would then seem at least possible that other important ceremonial requirements may have at times or circumstantially (whether properly or not) been similarly deferred.

    As you said, I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this subject, and I’m alright with that. Actually, I’m getting rather used to it… :-)

  94. April 1, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I remain somewhat or even deeply sceptical of the Mishna as recording what is really required by the OT law.

    Whatever, the question of the number who excited Egypt is of course another issue, but there is no way an army of 600,000 is going to encircle Jericho (a city of at most 10000) for six days and on the seventh seven times. Too many people, not enough room and not enough time. Why bother if you so outnumber your opponents. It’s just one evidence that there is something wrong with our understanding of the numbers.

    But again, where do you get water for constant immersion washings in the desert. Water from the rock , yes. But I think the problem is still there.

    Greetings from Australia.

  95. CD-Host said,

    April 2, 2013 at 9:56 am

    @Rowland —

    I think you are going down a bit of a rabbit hole here with the whole Moses and the desert issue. Even if everything you say about Moses’ time is true, and I don’t think it is, it is still totally irrelevant. No one cares what the Jews did and thought in 1500 BCE. The question is what the Jews did and thought at the time they were authoring the New Testament and in particular creating a baptism cult around John. Does the word “baptism” allow for sprinkling is not a question about 1500 BCE but a question about 30 CE. The community that created the tie between the greek word baptism and the Jewish cleansing rituals was the Hellenistic Jewish community. Their opinion is what matters, in some sense all that matters.

    Otherwise what you are arguing is that John, the Jewish baptismal sects, Jesus and the apostles didn’t mean sprinkling when they said baptism but meant immersion. However but they should have meant it because some people as distant from them as I am from dark ages meant sprinkling


    Now in terms of the rabbit hole itself. The bible argues for the existence of a large scale civilization traveling the desert with livestock doing some sort of grass farming. 1 lb of goat meat requires 127 gallons of water. For a sheep it is 731 gallons. You can believe they had access to large natural sources of water, you can believe the the bible account is total fiction. What you can’t believe is the bible account is fact and water was scarce during most of their time. The civilization the bible describes had to be water rich most of the time.


    As for Mark, without a dishwasher, immersion is still how you clean dishes and pots.

  96. April 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Well CD-Host, I’ll pop out of my den once more with a bit of a summary.

    I for one do care about the meaning of the Mosaic text as originally given. How can it be irrelevant? I contend that the OT ritual cleansings included various modes according to the varied circumstances but that sprinkling was among these modes. John in fact was of priestly descent, and was well aware of the sprinkling of blood of the covenant at Sinai, as well as the sprinkling of clean water at the consecration of the Levites so they, as representing the nation, were qualified to enter on the Lord’s service. John was appointed by prophecy as the forerunner of the Christ who would sprinkle many nations (Is 52:15) through his sacrificial death, so that a literal sprinkling of blood in the typical ritual would be superceded by a sprinkling with clean water as typical of the giving of the Spirit (Ezek 36:25ff) by whom we are set apart to God’s service because of the one whose blood has inaugurated the new covenant. Accordingly, John came baptising: “I baptise with water, he will baptise with the Holy Spirit.”

    Now what word in Greek will suit to describe a ritual cleansing? There are specific terms for sprinkling and submersion, but baptizo and its congnates is used. Originally an intensive form of bapto to dip, thus to dye, in pre Christian classical writers it is used to describe the sinking of a ship, a person being overwhelmed by debt, an overwhelming experience that brings a person into a new condition (so Isaiah 21:4 LXX, Mark 10:38 in ref to Christ death). In Josephus there are 15 uses, most to sinking or drowning, one to plunging a sword into an enemy, twice to the destruction of cities in war, once to intoxication and once to the purification ritual of Numbers 19. Whatever its original meaning is has ceased to express mode. Hence the mode of Christian baptism is not so vital although the emphasis on the action of the cleaning agent being applied to the subject does suggest sprinkling or pouring as very suitable. The meaning, whatever the precise mode, is a sign of initiation into a new relationship.

    I’m not qualified in farming so can’t comment on the quantities of water for sheep or goats other than to say (a) the vegetarian lobby are saying that we’re running out of clean water given our propensity for meat; and (b) there is a big difference between the water requirements for up to 100,000 people (the upper range of a number of suggested reconstructions of the Exodus based on the range of meaning over time for the Hebrew word commonly translated thousand and NOT a denial of the historicity and significance of the event) and 2 to 5 million on traditional interpretations. It’s a distinct and worthy issue for discussion but it deserves its own thread.

  97. CD-Host said,

    April 4, 2013 at 7:41 am

    @Rowland #96

    there is a big difference between the water requirements for up to 100,000 people (the upper range of a number of suggested reconstructions of the Exodus based on the range of meaning over time for the Hebrew word commonly translated thousand and NOT a denial of the historicity and significance of the event) and 2 to 5 million on traditional interpretations. It’s a distinct and worthy issue for discussion but it deserves its own thread.

    OK lets assume there are only 20,000 adults consuming 1 lb of meat under ideal conditions. The point about the animals is that their water usage: even if we assume they get buy animal babies and thus don’t have to keep adults strictly for breeding and not for food and eat nothing but goat is a 60 foot by 60 foot by 60 foot pool per day every day. Start changing that to a mixture of animals, start having them not get their billy goats from Monsanto, throw some sheep in the mix and you that water need doubles or triples or quadruples.

    You cannot maintain a human civilization without a lot of water. The argument that they wouldn’t have pools to baptize because it is the desert doesn’t work. Either they have lots of water or they don’t exist. Humans are not lizards or deep desert termites we need a lot of water everywhere we go. It is easy to not realize how much because the bulk of it goes to agriculture. So now that this is out of the way.

    I contend that the OT ritual cleansings included various modes according to the varied circumstances but that sprinkling was among these modes.

    I agree.

    John in fact was of priestly descent, and was well aware of the sprinkling of blood of the covenant at Sinai, as well as the sprinkling of clean water at the consecration of the Levites so they, as representing the nation, were qualified to enter on the Lord’s service. John was appointed by prophecy as the forerunner of the Christ who would sprinkle many nations (Is 52:15) through his sacrificial death, so that a literal sprinkling of blood in the typical ritual would be superceded by a sprinkling with clean water as typical of the giving of the Spirit (Ezek 36:25ff) by whom we are set apart to God’s service because of the one whose blood has inaugurated the new covenant. Accordingly, John came baptising: “I baptise with water, he will baptise with the Holy Spirit.”

    And that last line is the jump. You need to find a 1st century association between baptism and sprinkling rituals. This is where the argument keeps falling apart. Absolutely sprinkling rituals exist in the 1st century. Did anyone ever call any of them baptisms? Every single time we see baptism we see it associated with immersive rituals.

    I have two asides. John is described as an Essene not a Sadducee which means he hates the Jewish priesthood considering it totally corrupted by the Romans. What we do know from Essene documents, like 4Q414, is they used immersive ritual cleaning for purification as well.

    Second, I’m not sure Is 52:15 actually means sprinkle. That’s how the KJV translated it because of this association. But grammatically it doesn’t work. So you end up with something that has nothing to do with sprinkling:

    his form was so marred he no longer looked human –
    so now he will startle many nations.
    Kings will be shocked by his exaltation,
    for they will witness something unannounced to them,
    and they will understand something they had not heard about.

    Whatever its original meaning is has ceased to express mode.

    In Josephus? Mode of what? Josephus is a believer in normal Pharisaic Judaism. That’s the mishnah stuff you were dismissing in your response to Phil. For Josephus baptism, in so far at it was used in ritual, absolutely expresses a complex and very detailed mode. That mode involved a full immersion.

  98. April 4, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    CD Host

    No one else seems to be contributing so perhaps this thread has run out of steam.

    However, coming from the driest continent on earth we do have info on water requirements here which for adult dry sheep on grassland is 4 to 6 litres per day (double this if salt bush). Requirements in the Middle East may be different, and of course the route of the wanderings is relevant as to what creek water etc was available.

    In the wilderness the Israelites used animals for sacrifice but were provided manna for food. I don’t recall references to them eating their sheep and goats so just what was the situation is a matter of some conjecture.

    I remain of the view that the text of Moses does not require the immersion bath of persons you so insist on.

    Isaiah 52:15 in the Hebrew is sprinkle, and the usual word for priestly sprinklings. Startle arises as an emendation (first in the LXX) because people do not construe the passage correctly. The summary of the Song in 52:13-15 is expanded in what follows in 53. There is atonement in 52:15 (leading to exaltation) and that is expanded particularly in 53:10-12.

    I affirm baptizo does not express mode. My citation of Josephus illustrates that, and I’m not citing rabbinic stuff just linguistic uses in a neutral context.

    You may think John was an Essene and it’s a common enough comment among those of a liberal viewpoint, but Scripture does not say this and John’s single public unrepeated baptism is not to be identified with the repeated immersions of the Dead Sea sect or the self-administered private immersions in the presence of authorised witnesses characteristic of Jewish proselyte baptism. His baptism was of God not man (Mark 11:30).

  99. Phil D. said,

    April 4, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Well maybe this post will help re-stoke the thread…

    I must say I’m always a bit bemused when modern non-immersionists (to whom the suggestion is pretty much unique) urge that by apostolic times baptizo had obviously ceased to express mode. It seems useful in light of such claims to take a little bit closer look at its use by the 1st century Jewish source invoked above as prime evidence.

    Josephus plainly used baptizo in its classical and most basic sense to express the act of dipping/immersing a number of times: [1] twice in describing the specific action (means) by which Herod’s son Aristobulus was murdered—namely, by being submerged (baptizo) in a pool of water “until drowned”—with the victim’s end condition being separately and distinctly described with a different word, and where in one of these instances the verb barounte ( “to press down or into”) is used synonymously with baptizo; and [2] In describing the action of dipping a hyssop branch into the water and ashes mixture used for purifying those who had been contaminated by touching a corpse—where it clearly corresponds with the Hebrew verb tabal in Num. 19:18, which all acknowledge undoubtedly means “to dip”— as such, I think to just generally state that in this instance Josephus used baptizo in relation to a “purification ritual” is rather misleading. In addition Josephus once used baptizo to describe the gruesome “action” (as expressly denoted in the original text) of a sword being plunged into (or as might also be translated, “buried in”) a person’s torso.

    Josephus used baptizo seven times to denote the sinking of ships or the drowning of persons , in one case using the verb to jointly describe both circumstances. Again, in several of these instances the end result (being permanently sunk or fatally drowned) is described by a separate term, and in each case one could very sensibly translate baptizo with direct variants of either “submerge” or “immerse”(even though I would agree that in most of these cases the more nuanced terms “drown” or “sink” are better options).

    Altogether Josephus used baptizo in a figurative sense four times. Obviously, in order for a figurative term to be appreciable it has to have a clear, if to some degree fanciful association with its literal meaning, which one can certainly see is the case here. In two of these instances Josephus used baptizo to describe the misfortunes of Jerusalem as it was besieged and ultimately destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, where it is clearly intended in the sense of the city being overwhelmed by the enemy force and finally (metaphorically) sunk. In a third instance he used it to describe the political fortunes of a group of ambitious young men as having been “sunk” by a “storm” of counter partisan intrigues. All of these are long established metaphors common to many languages. In the final case, Josephus used baptizo to metaphorically describe the inebriated state of a banquet host as one who was “plunged (or, drowned) in his cask” of wine, which is again a hyperbolic slur historically common to many cultures, including up through Victorian England.

    So how can it be said that baptizo had ceased to be expressive of mode by the 1st century? In every example from Josephus it clearly expresses an essentially modal theme best denoted by the semantically compatible word group “dip, immerse submerge, plunge” or the functionally correlative terms “drown, sink, overwhelm”. On the other hand, there is no detectable relationship in these examples, real or imaginable, to the terminology or action of pouring, and especially not sprinkling.

    Nor is it linguistically satisfactory to say that baptizo merely means (functions as a sign of?) initiation into a new relationship. This is far too nebulous a definition given its historical usage, and seems to be derived from James Dale’s highly problematic definition:

    “Whatever is capable of thoroughly changing the character, state, or condition of any object, is capable of baptizing that object; and by such change of character, state, or condition, does, in fact, baptize it.”

    This clearly flies in the face of baptizo’s historical usus loquendi, by which means any word’s normal meaning is established. Dr. James Hadley (1821–72; Congregationalist), a highly-respected philologist and Professor of Greek at Yale University, was indeed incredulous at this oddly elastic definition, and demonstrated its fallacy with this simple exercise:

    “He [Dale] does not say that a surgeon who, by a successful amputation, saves a dying patient, baptizes that patient; or that a whetstone, when it changes a dull knife into a sharp one, baptizes the knife; or that the sun, when it dries up a stream in summer, baptizes the stream. But we are left to infer that he would regard these, and others like these, as natural and appropriate expressions.” (Yale Review, 26:755)

    While undergoing a baptizo may in fact effect a change in its direct object’s condition (being sunk, drowned, or at least drenched), the point of commonality in all such cases plainly lies in the modal realm of being immersed, submerged, or, metaphorically, overwhelmed. All lexical sources of reputation are agreed on this.

  100. CD-Host said,

    April 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    @Rowland —

    Huge differences between how much water is required to keep livestock alive and how much water is required to have them produce meat. If we are going to assume that the diet was primarily manna, magic bread, then in theory goats and sheep could be eating that too and the amount of water needed is pretty low. Since you are also cutting the number of people they could be water poor and survive in that circumstance.

    Phil did a great job on responding to Josephus.

    As far as the LXX vs. the KJV. The origin of sprinkle is from the vulgate: iste asperget gentes multas super ipsum continebunt reges os suum quia quibus non est narratum de eo viderunt et qui non audierunt contemplati sunt.

    Even the ESV, which ain’t exactly a bastion of liberalism, understands the verb problem with the vulgate’s treatment.

    You may think John was an Essene and it’s a common enough comment among those of a liberal viewpoint, but Scripture does not say this

    It describes him as running a desert messianic baptismal cult. Other than not using the word, yeah scripture does say this. As for Mark 11:30, Jesus never answers the question of John’s baptism. And certainly the context of those verses are imply that the mode of John’s baptism was similar to the mode of other baptismal cults. The people view John’s baptism as different because John is a prophet not because he was doing something totally unlike them.

  101. April 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Valid point re livestock and manna, although Scripture is silent.

    I’d hardly describe John as running a desert messianic baptismal cult. His ministry was in the desert because that was his calling according to OT prediction. The Qumran guys were also no doubt following out their understanding of some OT passages (even their location as per a literal reading of Ezekiel. But they were not raised up by God as John was.

    Personally I’d be happy to vase the argument re baptizo on Scripture alone. The metaphorical is the key, also in Jsephus I think. And even if early baptismal mode was submersion it hardly proves that is necessary to the ordinance, any more than the Lord’s Supper must be observed in the evening.

    You might note Tertullian refers (On Baptism 5:5-6) to the pagans ritual purifications carrying water about and sprinkling it (aspergine) it, getting baptised (tinguntur) wholesale at the Apollinarian and Pelusian Games. He’s writing a bit later than the NT – about 200AD – but still at a point where I imagine you would think Christians were still practising submersion. And of course both festivals had been in existence from NT times, the Ludi Apollinares for a couple of hundred years before the NT.

  102. Hugh McCann said,

    April 5, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Text question for my learned friends here:

    Must one take the phrase common to Romans 6:3 & Galatians 3:27 –baptized into Christ– as aquatic, and not as Spiritual baptism?

    What makes this to be necessarily speaking of water baptism?


  103. Hugh McCann said,

    April 5, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    jsm52 @17 & 72 –

    Why are Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:20f,* Titus 3:5,** and even ~gasp~ Reed’s example of Matt. 28:19, necessarily speaking of water baptism?

    This certainly is not: Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. {Ez. 36:25-27}

    * Peter seems to be anticipatorily rejecting baptismal regeneration.

    ** Titus 3:5 says, “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Not two things there, but one?

  104. Phil D. said,

    April 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Mr. Ward,

    I think you are misreading Tertullian here. In context he is noting some of the different cultic washings (lavationibus) that were practiced among various sects of pagans. He says some carry water around with them and sprinkle certain structures and even entire locales, namely “villages, houses, temples, and whole cities” (villas, domos, templa, totasque urbes). He then states that while attending the mentioned festivals some pagans are apt to “completely dip” themselves. This major difference in the rituals’ subjects makes clear the distinction between the practices being mentioned. In these instances buildings were sprinkled, people were dipped. Accordingly, both critical texts I have seen place a period between the two statements. Notably Tertullian then goes on to specifically call the personal washings a (false) “baptismum”. Moreover, he does not leave us to wonder how the church in his era and locale performed the Christian sacrament. In section 7 he explicitly states that in Christian baptism the person is “immersed in water” (in aqua mergimur), as so elsewhere (e.g. The Soldiers Chaplet, 3—mergitamur).

  105. CD-Host said,

    April 5, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    @Hugh #102 —

    Must one take the phrase common to Romans 6:3 & Galatians 3:27 -baptized into Christ- as aquatic, and not as Spiritual baptism?

    To be honest, I’m not sure what you mean by “Spiritual Baptism”. I know this is a big point for Calvin’s commentaries though the verse certainly looks clear enough. I know people have said weird stuff about verb tenses, but to be honest those arguments on all sides sound like hooey to me so far. AFAICT there is nothing in the Greek in Rom 6:3 that in those verses that prevents any odd understanding and nothing that requires it either.

    I do however think interpretatively it is hard to defend the spiritual view. Romans 6:3 the entire structure is physical act X represents spiritual act Y. If the two acts are both spiritual, that is the we being spoken of in Romans didn’t act physically at all, I don’t see how to make sense of what Paul’s saying.

    I don’t see a similar problem with Gal 3:27 and some sort of purely non physical state of being. I don’t see what it buys you though.

  106. Hugh McCann said,

    April 5, 2013 at 9:51 pm


    I mean regeneration. I am working on the phrase baptized into Christ, and trying to get the meaning.

    If it’s watery, does it fail? PL & FV-ers & Rome say, “Yeah.”


    P.S. What is “AFAICT”?

  107. Hugh McCann said,

    April 5, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    You mentioned the French master. He saith on Gal. 3:27 ~

    As many of you as have been baptized. The greater and loftier the privilege is of being the children of God, the farther is it removed from our senses, and the more difficult to obtain belief. He therefore explains, in a few words, what is implied in our being united, or rather, made one with the Son of God; so as to remove all doubt, that what belongs to him is communicated to us. He employs the metaphor of a garment, when he says that the Galatians have put on Christ; but he means that they are so closely united to him, that, in the presence of God, they bear the name and character of Christ, and are viewed in him rather than in themselves. This metaphor or similitude, taken from garments, occurs frequently, and has been treated by us in other places.

    “But the argument, that, because they have been baptized, they have put on Christ, appears weak; for how far is baptism from being efficacious in all? Is it reasonable that the grace of the Holy Spirit should be so closely linked to an external symbol? Does not the uniform doctrine of Scripture, as well as experience, appear to confute this statement? I answer, it is customary with Paul to treat of the sacraments in two points of view. When he is dealing with hypocrites, in whom the mere symbol awakens pride, he then proclaims loudly the emptiness and worthlessness of the outward symbol, and denounces, in strong terms, their foolish confidence. In such cases he contemplates not the ordinance of God, but the corruption of wicked men. When, on the other hand, he addresses believers, who make a proper use of the symbols, he then views them in connection with the truth — which they represent. In this case, he makes no boast of any false splendor as belonging to the sacraments, but calls our attention to the actual fact represented by the outward ceremony. Thus, agreeably to the Divine appointment, the truth comes to be associated with the symbols.

    “But perhaps some person will ask, Is it then possible that, through the fault of men, a sacrament shall cease to bear a figurative meaning? The reply is easy. Though wicked men may derive no advantage from the sacraments, they still retain undiminished their nature and force. The sacraments present, both to good and to bad men, the grace of God. No falsehood attaches to the promises which they exhibit of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Believers receive what is offered; and if wicked men, by rejecting it, render the offer unprofitable to themselves, their conduct cannot destroy the faithfulness of God, or the true meaning of the sacrament. With strict propriety, then, does Paul, in addressing believers, say, that when they were baptized, they “put on Christ;” just as, in the Epistle to the Romans, he says, “that we have been planted together into his death, so as to be also partakers of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:5.)

    “In this way, the symbol and the Divine operation are kept distinct, and yet the meaning of the sacraments is manifest; so that they cannot be regarded as empty and trivial exhibitions; and we are reminded with what base ingratitude they are chargeable, who, by abusing the precious ordinances of God, not only render them unprofitable to themselves, but turn them to their own destruction!” ~ Calvin @ CCEL

  108. April 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Phil 104:

    Here’s the fuller context in Tertullian who in Ch 4 had been talking about the santification of water for Christian baptism, an idea already smacking of a move away from Scripture but this aside, he goes on..
    5 ‘But’, you object, ‘the gentiles, strangers to all understanding
    of spiritual things, ascribe power of equal effectiveness to their
    idols.’ They tell themselves lies, for their waters are barren. In
    certain sacred rites they are initiated by means of a bath Isis perhaps or Mithras. Also they carry their gods
    out for washings. Moreover they ritually purify
    their country and town houses, their temples, and whole cities,
    by carrying water about and sprinkling it. Certainly at the Apol-
    linarian and Pelusian games they get baptized wholesale, and
    suppose they are doing this with a view to rebirth and release
    from their broken oaths. Among the ancients, one who had
    infected himself with homicide looked about for purifying waters.
    So then, if because cleansing is a particular characteristic of water,
    they seek favours of an idol as agent of purification, how much
    more truly shall water convey that benefit by the authority of
    the God by whom every one of its attributes has been appointed?
    If they suppose water receives healing power from religious
    usage, what more effective religious usage is there than the
    acknowledgement of the living God? Here too we observe the
    devil’s zeal in hostility to the things of God, in that he also
    practises baptism among his own. Yet how unlike.

    I submit that whatever the mode and idea of baptism Tertullian held to, this passage shows that the pagan ritual use of water by sprinkling or other modes is regarded as a baptism – false and ineffective of course, but it can be termed a Devil’s baptism all the same.

    In the end of course, one relies on the Biblical evidence from OT and NT.

  109. CD-Host said,

    April 5, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    @Hugh 106

    AFAICT = As Far As I Can Tell

    First off let me just start by saying justification is a Reformed obsession and I was a Arminian Baptist. This sort of hair splitting on justification that characterizes Reformed debate I suck at. So take everything below this sentence with a lot of grains of salt.

    If it’s watery, does it fail? PL & FV-ers & Rome say, “Yeah.”

    Funny I’d argue the other way. FV and Rome believe in the real possibility of apostasy. Traditionally Reformed don’t believe that apostasy is possible because of Preservation of the Saints. FV argues the Reformed positions makes apostasy a non sin because if someone was never in Christ they can’t fall away. So for the FV (I think) the elect (specifically and individually) are those who will be preserved in Christ, while the baptized are those who at one point were in Christ.

    The baptism doesn’t fail but baptism doesn’t confer election.

    For Rome baptism confers membership in the church. Baptism regenerates, that is it clears the slate of all past sins. Baptism gives one access to the Holy Spirit through a supernatural change in state. But that’s it. Rome doesn’t have a doctrine of preservation at all. Baptism guarantees you membership in the church not membership in the elect.

    So I’m not sure how it fails.

    Conversely in traditional Reformed doctrine, as far as I know Baptism is always ineffectual. One is elected from before time or not. All acts, works, including the act of baptism have 0 effect on election. Either one wins at bingo or they don’t getting baptized doesn’t meaningfully change anything but get infant / adult wet.

    As for the Calvin quote that’s a good example of why I’m none too fond of him. Calvin’s reasoning seems to be Paul doesn’t agree with him therefore Paul didn’t really mean what he appears to say. I’d rather take Paul at his word. Similarly saying a sacrament is effectual just not effectual for the person engaging in it, is a total copout. It is like saying that a dud bullet is functional just not functional when shot.

    I think Paul is rather clear. Baptism, the external attribute, the actual act of going into water is effectual. The question then becomes what effect it has, but denying effectuality is denying Paul’s clear meaning.

    I am working on the phrase baptized into Christ, and trying to get the meaning.

    Here is my take. For Paul, Christ and Christ crucified for our redemption is the core spiritual truth of his ministry.

    Romans 6:8 Now if we be dying (aorist) with Christ, we believe (present simple) that we shall live (future simple) with him

    Through baptism we unify ourself into Christ death, a supernatural and timeless eternal event. Belief in our ability to unify as evidence by our acting upon that belief allows us to live with him in heaven / the resurrection. Baptism is a means but belief is the key: believe and be baptized.

  110. Hugh McCann said,

    April 6, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Thanks, CD-H.

    “For Rome baptism
    confers membership in the church.
    …clears the slate of all past sins.
    …gives one access to the Holy Spirit
    …guarantees you membership in the church
    not membership in the elect.”
    >That’s what I meant by baptism possibly failing in the Romish system.

    “I’d rather take Paul at his word.”
    >Me too! That’s why I’m wondering if “baptized into Christ” in Rom. 6:3 & Gal. 3:27 mean in water…

    “Similarly saying a sacrament is effectual just not effectual for the person engaging in it, is a total copout.”
    >Agreed – AND confusing!

    “I think Paul is rather clear. Baptism, the external attribute, the actual act of going into water is effectual. The question then becomes what effect it has, but denying effectuality is denying Paul’s clear meaning.”
    >Hence, my reticience to say he means aquatic baptism…

    “For Paul, Christ and Christ crucified for our redemption is the core spiritual truth of his ministry.”

    “Romans 6:8 Now if we be dying (aorist) with Christ, we believe (present simple) that we shall live (future simple) with him.”

    “Through baptism we unify ourself into Christ death, a supernatural and timeless eternal event. Belief in our ability to unify as evidence by our acting upon that belief allows us to live with him in heaven / the resurrection. Baptism is a means but belief is the key: believe and be baptized.”
    >Still not on board. But thanks again.

  111. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 6, 2013 at 12:41 am

    CD: Conversely in traditional Reformed doctrine, as far as I know Baptism is always ineffectual. One is elected from before time or not. All acts, works, including the act of baptism have 0 effect on election. Either one wins at bingo or they don’t getting baptized doesn’t meaningfully change anything but get infant / adult wet.

    WCF: 2. There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

    3. The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.

    Calvin, Geneva Catechism: Q328 M. But do you attribute nothing more to the water than that it is a figure of ablution?

    S. I understand it to be a figure, but still so that the reality is annexed to it; for God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts. Accordingly, it is certain that both pardon of sins and newness of life are offered to us in baptism, and received by us.

    Suggests that “efficacy” is not being used in the same sense by Reformed folk and you.

  112. CD-Host said,

    April 6, 2013 at 6:55 am

    @Hugh #110

    That’s what I meant by baptism possibly failing in the Romish system

    Understood. But you get that’s a lot like saying this block cheddar fails because it makes a terrible bicycle. Baptism in the Roman system isn’t intended to guarantee salvation so it isn’t failing if performs as intended.

    Hence, my reticience to say he means aquatic baptism…

    I think I get what you are saying now. Let me repeat this back to you.

    failed baptism = doesn’t go to heaven.
    You want a doctrine of preservation so depravity so that our continued action is not a requisite for baptism to be successful.
    Obviously water baptism can fail and hence Paul must mean spiritual baptism.
    But… you recognize that distinction is nowhere in Paul’s language and it feels like you are just reading into Paul what you want to be there.

    I gotta tell you the easy way out of this complexity where you are trying to deal with spiritual vs. water baptism which is nowhere in Paul nor even hinted at in either of these verses is to drop the doctrine of preservation that’s causing you to have to play this game. Just read Paul’s plain meaning per Rom 6:8. Belief / faith at any given point is a prerequisite for the baptism to be effectual. It is our belief that makes baptism effectual. God offers us grace but we must affirmatively take it. Believe and be baptized, we do the belief and we do the baptized. God infuses the belief and the baptism with saving grace. You don’t have to create a dichotomy which is nowhere in Paul between water baptism and spiritual baptism they are the same thing. Water baptism that originates from belief is a spiritual baptism. Water baptism without belief is a way to get wet. And yes that means paedobaptism is out.

    If you want to keep the doctrine of preservation then you are going to need to keep playing games. Because the bible in dozens of places couldn’t be more explicit in its doctrine of anti-preservation, that God’s servants fall away and that our action is required.

    I get down from the soapbox now.

    Anyway good luck in working through this Federal Vision logic.

  113. CD-Host said,

    April 6, 2013 at 9:19 am


    This gets into the whole Calvin talking out of both sides of his mouth issue. Calvinism is self contradictory. Calvin could not be more clear in his writings on baptism that baptism is effectual on sins both those already committed and those to be committed and its effects come from Jesus. Not that baptism might be effectual but that it is effectual. And we assured of these effects.

    At the same time Calvin could not be more clear that works including works of faith have 0 effect. So getting baptized doesn’t do anything.If you are asking me to make sense of Calvin’s thinking on this I can’t. I think it is self contradictory gibberish. The way Calvinists have mostly resolved this is by believing the latter view and mostly dismissing the former.

    Ursula is unelected earnestly desires baptism gets it, it does nothing for her. Bianca is elected earnestly desires baptism the minister gives her an invalid one no effect. Say for example instead of
    In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti
    she gets
    In nomine mickey mus, canis goofy, et amicum donald anas

    Where is the effect? Under what circumstance can a baptism or lack thereof produce effect? I get that Calvinist don’t like to admit their doctrines preclude baptism from being effectual, and they have another doctrine that declares to be effectual while being very vague about effect.

    This situation isn’t unique. Calvin wants God to be completely sovereign in everything and wants his religion to not be entirely disconnected from material reality and human action. So for him sin has something to do with our own personal fault, and sin is a state we our born into that is inescapable without divine grace. The church offers salvation, and salvation is purely a work of God. The visible and the invisible church must be identified as one thing, they just have totally different people in them. etc…

    But at the end of the day if a person earnestly (at least in their estimation) desires the grace of God and is baptized that has 0 effect on their spiritual wellbeing in the Calvinist system. None, zero, zilch, nada… I’m comfortable calling that a doctrine of ineffectual baptism. If I have 1 million people with cancer say 230k will die in a year if left untreated. If I give those million people aspirin and 230k still die then aspirin is ineffectual in treating cancer.

    As I’ve said above I suck at this Reformed justification stuff. I have never found Calvin plausible. Deprivation, Conditional Election, Unlimited Atonement, Resistible Grace and Security through Faithfulness strike me as at least being a consistent system. I can believe that men have freewill. I can believe that men are puppets with an illusion of freedom. I cannot believe that men can be both puppet and free. But when it comes to the bible I hear Paul speak to people as if they are able to have faith. He seems to believe that it is their will that needs to be changed, not their ability. And I stand by what I wrote to Hugh, that Paul clearly is indicating his parishioners are able to believe and thus through Jesus able to make their baptism effectual.

  114. Phil D. said,

    April 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Mr. Ward (or would you prefer I call you Rowland…?),

    Interesting take on Tertullian. I hadn’t ever read it that way before, but must admit what you are proposing seems within the realm of possibility—if perhaps just barely. On the other hand, I think there are several factors that militate against it being the likely intent.

    Linguistically, baptismum is singular. Tertullian has just given several examples of lavationibus (washings-plural), including one done by a sprinkling and another by “complete dipping”, which is the most literal meaning of tinguunter. Thus, it makes more sense to think that he was referring to just one of the particular rites he had previously mentioned when he talks about a false baptism (singular). If multiple kinds of washing rituals were being comprehended, one would expect the conjugation to be baptismis, or baptisma.

    There is also a translational issue with the Latin preposition “in”, which in your edition (Evans’ it seems) is given as “among [his own]”. While that is perhaps an admissible option, it is a relatively rare way to translate it. “In”, “on”, or “upon” are much more common. The standard ANF edition translates the phrase “baptism in his subjects”, which I must frankly say doesn’t come across all that fluently (perhaps it is even a typo, and “on” was intended?). Dodgson’s edition says “baptism upon his own people”, and Halley’s “baptism on his followers”. In any case, all of these renditions effectively exclude any rituals involving inanimate objects, and would again point toward the preceding personal dipping. Souter’s edition specifically takes the singular form of baptismum into account while using the more unusual “among” for “in”, and thus renders it “a baptism among his followers”. Here again, though, a particular ritual would be in view. I would also point out that while Evans’ edition technically leaves the option you are proposing open, it certainly doesn’t demand it.

    Notably, in another place Tertullian discussed the same basic issue involved in this passage, but only mentioned a pagan dipping:

    “The question will arise, By whom is to be interpreted the sense of the. passages which create heresies? The devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the essential aspects of the sacraments of God. For he too dips [or, ‘baptizes’—tingit] some, namely his own believers and faithful followers. He too promises the putting away of sins by a washing of his own…and if my memory still serves me, Mithra, in the kingdom of Satan…also celebrates the religious offering of bread, as well as introduces a portrayal of a resurrection [et imaginem resurrectionis]…Therefore, Satan has shown such emulations [transferens] in his great aim of expressing, in the service of his idolatry, those very things of which consists the administration of Christ’s sacraments.” (Against Heretics, 40)

    There are also some other interesting things to consider in terms of Tertullian’s baptismal vocabulary. Alongside the general agreement that tingo (and its variants) was employed among the Latin fathers to convey, or at the very least incorporate the idea of dipping, Tertullian went so far as to use it in immediate place of the Greek baptizo/baptisma.

    “After His resurrection He [Christ] promises in a pledge to His disciples that He will send them the promise of His Father; and lastly, He commands them to baptize [tinguerent] into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a uni-personal God. And indeed it is not once only [nec semel], but three times [sed ter], that we are immersed [tinguimur] into the Three Persons, at each several mention of Their names.” (Against Praxeas, 26)

    Here tingo is deemed to be essentially synonymous with baptizo. Another statement by Tertullian clearly corroborates that in the previous instance he had used tingo in the same sense as mergitamur (mergo):

    “When we are going to enter the water [aquam adituri], but a little before in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed [ter mergitamur], making a somewhat fuller pledge than the Lord appointed in the Gospel.” (The Soldiers’ Chaplet, 3)

    Since we can be certain Tertullian was not saying there are three distinct rituals or three individual cleansings involved in the sacrament of baptism, when taken together these two statements also convey that Tertullian believed immersion was the original mode of baptism—that is, Christ himself commanded his followers to baptize (tinguerent) new converts, while the church in his time and place went so far as to carry out that particular precept in triplicate (ter tinguimur/mergitamur).

    So, in revisiting the original issue under discussion, the collective evidence would suggest that when Tertullian specifically talked about “baptism”, he had a tingo/mergo in mind.

  115. Phil D. said,

    April 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Re. above: I should have said “one would expect the declension to be…” Nouns obviously aren’t conjugated. Brain cramp…

  116. Hugh McCann said,

    April 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    CD @ 110 – message received and understood. You are getting what I’m saying.

    failed baptism = doesn’t go to heaven.
    You want a doctrine of preservation so depravity so that our continued action is not a requisite for baptism to be successful.
    Obviously water baptism can fail and hence Paul must mean spiritual baptism.

    I disagree with your soteriology, but you do understand where I’m coming from.
    Thank you,

  117. Hugh McCann said,

    April 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Pardon me – CD @112…

  118. Hugh McCann said,

    April 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Jeff & CD,

    If WCF says “…a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.”

    And Calvin’s Catechism says “…the reality is annexed to it;”

    “…God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts.”

    “Accordingly, it is certain that both pardon of sins and newness of life are offered to us in baptism, and received by us.”

    Should these not all have attached the caveat, “if the baptismal candidate is elect”?

    Is not a “worthy receiver” one chosen to receive?

    Rome (& others) see a losable Holy Spirit being given at baptism.

    The non-FV-type paedobaptists see a sure promise if one is elect?

  119. CD-Host said,

    April 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    @Hugh 118 —

    “If the baptismal candidate is elect” caveat solves the problem in one direction but it still leaves open the problem in the other. Calvin wants to rule out even passive participation, i.e. a rejection of Molinism. So you also have the situation that if someone is elected and doesn’t receive the baptism (say for example my baptism in the name of Mickey Mouse above) they still receive saving grace because God’s intent cannot be thwarted. Which means the baptism doesn’t change anything, it is by definition of no effect.

    As for the Holy Spirit it depends on which specific group. In general though outside of Reformed circles people talk about grace as having two components God is always giving it and we are always deciding whether to accept or reject it. You are trying to force reformed language by speaking as if the person played no role. Which is to say you need to switch your paradigm when you talk about what the other groups see. For them, God is unconditionally loving, humanity is conditionally accepting of that love. The Holy Spirit joins us to the body of Christ and to the co-crucifixion with Christ (again as per Romans 6:8). That bridge always exists. We choose whether to keep our side if the bridge. We can untie our shore from the bridge, but we cannot lose the bridge by accident.

  120. Hugh McCann said,

    April 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm


    Right. Not sure I understand your first sentence.

    On your 2nd paragraph, in infant baptism, at least in Rome’s view,* isn’t the baby infused with the Holy Spirit, and then must later decide whether to cooperate or resist?

    * and perhaps Lutherans’ & Anglicans’ views?

  121. CD-Host said,

    April 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    @Hugh 120 —

    There are 4 cases:

    a) baptized and elect
    b) baptized and non-elect
    c) unbaptized and elect
    d) unbaptized and non-elect

    You were arguing that the promises of baptism should include the “for the elect” caveat. That is with the caveat you fix the problem with (b) being different than (a). My point in the first sentence is the caveat still leaves the problem with (c) being different from (d).

    On your 2nd paragraph, in infant baptism, at least in Rome’s view [and perhaps Lutherans’ & Anglicans’ views] isn’t the baby infused with the Holy Spirit, and then must later decide whether to cooperate or resist?

    I’d agree with that characterization. The thing I was focusing on is that there are 2 parties in their views. You can’t talk in terms of people acted on solely. It does get a bit more complex when we start throwing in lots of groups between them. A baptist can (and in practice quite often do) reject their baptism, arguing the baptism for some reason didn’t work and ask for rebaptism. A Catholic might desire some sort of reconciliation with the church but the baptism is always effectual in creating a bond. So, yes there are lots of other differences.

    Bring this back to FV wants to bring some of the ideas in part way. They aimed to stay within the Reformed camp just push against the limits. Whether they are just outside the line or barely inside the line is of course a matter of debate.

    The question in Calvin’s scheme though is, what is apostasy? How is the sin of apostasy even possible under a system of preservation? Do you believe apostasy exists?

  122. Hugh McCann said,

    April 6, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    CD @121,

    I don’t know why you’re introducing the notion of unbaptized folk in our discussion, and I cannot see how to answer your first point.

    I don’t know what you mean by “preservation,” or what you consider Calvinism/ sovereign grace theology, but normally, the first point is called Total Depravity (not “deprivation” as you give in #113).

    “Preservation” is certainly what God gives his elect, though this “5th point” of Cavinism’s TULIP is usually denoted “perseverance of the saints.” But whatever.

    Yes, I believe apostasy exists. Again, not sure why you’re going here…

    FWIW: Apostasy is one falling away from a prior profession of faith in Christ. Defecting to Rome is an example of this.

  123. CD-Host said,

    April 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    @Hugh 122

    I don’t know why you’re introducing the notion of unbaptized folk in our discussion,

    I was introducing it regarding in reformed theology baptism always being ineffectual.

    but normally, the first point is called Total Depravity (not “deprivation” as you give in #113).

    The list from 113 are the alternatives to TULIP. I wasn’t saying total depravity I was saying the opposite that man is corrupted by original sin but capable of reaching out to God. I was giving the Arminian list

    Total Depravity vs. Deprivation / Limited Depravity
    Unconditional Election vs. Conditional Election
    Limited Atonement vs Unlimited Atonement,
    Irresistible Grace vs. Resistible Grace
    Preservation of the Saints vs. Security through Faithfulness

    Yes, I believe apostasy exists. Again, not sure why you’re going here…

    Because if you want to understand the FV view of baptism the meaning of apostasy is the road to understanding. Build a hypothetical apostate. Were they elected? Were they regenerate? If yes how come their faith was not preserved? If no, then what difference did their apostasy make since they were never part of the invisible church or a child of God to begin with?

    Try and give a more serious answer. In what sense does apostasy exist in the Reformed system?

    FWIW: Apostasy is one falling away from a prior profession of faith in Christ. Defecting to Rome is an example of this.

    OK so there are bunch of people from conservative reformed churches on CtC. Were they elected? Were they regenerate? Why weren’t they preserved? …

  124. Hugh McCann said,

    April 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    123 CD,

    Build a hypothetical apostate.
    Were they elected?

    Were they regenerate?

    what difference did their apostasy make since they were never part of the invisible church or a child of God to begin with?
    >What does “what difference did their apostasy make” mean?

    In what sense does apostasy exist in the Reformed system?
    >In falling away from a profession of faith in Christ. Defecting to Rome is an example of this.
    > I thought my answer was clear & serious enough.

    OK so there are bunch of people from conservative reformed churches on CtC. Were they elected?
    >Not if they persist in their heinous, popish errors and die therein.

    Were they regenerate?
    >Not if they persist in their heinous, popish errors and die therein.

    Why weren’t they preserved? …
    >B/c God had fitted them to destruction as vessels of his wrath.

    P.S. I sincerely hope this “Arminian list” is not your theology!
    Deprivation / Limited Depravity
    Conditional Election
    Unlimited Atonement,
    Resistible Grace
    Security through Faithfulness

  125. April 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Phil #114

    We seem to be getting contributions well off topics from some.

    However, a couple of points:

    I accept tingo in ref to baptism but to my mind the idea of it is not to dip but to tinge or dye. Mergo would be used if he wanted to indicate immersion.

    Of course in this discussion we mustn’t overlook the much earlier Didache where a simple pouring is certainly regarded as an option if
    water (?to stand in) ids not available.


  126. CD-Host said,

    April 6, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    @Hugh 124

    What does “what difference did their apostasy make” mean?

    They were damned before. They were not elect nor regenerate. They were never part of the invisible church. They had no union with Christ. Their baptism did nothing. All they did in their apostasy was stopped lying and pretending to be part of a church worshipping a god whom by their nature they were unable to worship.

    You said above an apostasy so what really happened here of consequence?

    Defecting to Rome is an example of this. I thought my answer was clear & serious enough.

    So lets take that example. The person was never legitimately a Christian else they couldn’t have apostatized for life. So all that happens is they go from pretending to be a Christian in one church to pretending to be a Christian in another. Of what consequence is it?

    P.S. I sincerely hope this “Arminian list” is not your theology!

    That was my theology growing up and I’d say the general church goer I knew as a kid was either Arminian or semi-pelagain. I read Berkhof’s systematic theology but I had never met anyone in a bible study who understood it much less believed it till much later. Calvinism was a historical doctrine, an important intermediate step in moving from Catholicism to Baptist.

    That’s what the overwhelming majority of Protestants believe. Your Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists that’s what they believe. And in practice in most churches that don’t formally subscribe to this view that’s what most Americans believe.

    My views have matured. But my theology is relevant to Paul’s theology and his understanding of baptism. And yeah I do think Paul is presenting the Arminian list. Romans 11:22 is hard to reconcile with Calvin’s view. I’ll present Calvin’s commentary on this verse link to Calvin on preservation and you can decide for yourself if his read seems plausible.

  127. CD-Host said,

    April 6, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    But my theology is relevant to Paul’s theology and his understanding of baptism.

    Sorry that should read:

    But my theology is irrelevant to Paul’s theology and his understanding of baptism.

  128. Hugh McCann said,

    April 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    CD: But your theology is relevant to how I view/ address you:
    As a professor of faith, a heretic, or an unbeliever.

    They were damned before. >Yes
    They were not elect nor regenerate. >Yes
    They were never part of the invisible church. >Yes
    They had no union with Christ. >Yes
    Their baptism did nothing. >Yes

    All they did in their apostasy was stopped lying and pretending to be part of a church worshipping a god whom by their nature they were unable to worship. >Yes

    You said above an apostasy so what really happened here of consequence?
    >Nothing, except they fell from grace: their profession of Christ, his church, any hope of eternal life.

    The person was never legitimately a Christian else they couldn’t have apostatized for life. >Yes

    So all that happens is they go from pretending to be a Christian in one church to pretending to be a Christian in another. >Yes.

    Of what consequence is it?
    >Hell-wise, nothing. But to commit more sin (in the case of moving from an orthodox confession to blatant idolatry), is to incur more wath. But Hell is the destiny all the same. But so what?

  129. Hugh McCann said,

    April 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    CD @ 126 –

    If this is Pauline/ biblical theology:

    Deprivation / Limited Depravity, Conditional Election, Unlimited Atonement, Resistible Grace, & Security through Faithfulness

    then I am not a Christian.

  130. CD-Host said,

    April 7, 2013 at 9:51 am

    @Hugh 128

    CD: But your theology is relevant to how I view/ address you:
    As a professor of faith, a heretic, or an unbeliever.

    OK go with unbeliever.

    Hell-wise, nothing. But to commit more sin (in the case of moving from an orthodox confession to blatant idolatry), is to incur more wrath. But Hell is the destiny all the same. But so what?

    Remember that Calvin’s entire argument for TULIP starts with a theology of apostasy: Jesus died for sheep not goats. Jesus will not lose sheep. Not all will be saved. Therefore there must be some predestined to be goats.

    The biblical authors believe something real and meaningful is broken in an apostasy. Yet as you’ve seen above today’s Calvinism doesn’t lead one to that belief. They bible speaks unequivocally of their having been a relationship that was betrayed or broken through apostasy. This is precisely the opposite language one would expect if it were a taking a position consistent with Calvinism’s preservation view. If you want a biblical faith, there needs to be some consistency with the bible here and you want something real and meaningful to be broken. There needs to be a relationship between all people and God not just the elect.

    Now in this discussion more and more and you’v been comfortable siding with Calvin over the bible. Calvin himself would not be comfortable with that sort of position and the whole point of the reformation was to not have scriptural readings that level of authority. Nowhere in Calvinism are Calvin and Paul seen as peers. Calvin is right only in so far as he agrees with Paul, Paul is right by definition.

    The Federal Vision is a conservative Reformed movement. They aren’t going to just outright reject Calvin wholesale. On the other hand they respect the core doctrines of the reformation. So they started to investigate a way to reconcile Calvinism and the bible. And what they found was that Calvin himself and other other early Reformers took positions that often were more in accord with a conventional or Federal view of the church and less of an individual view. They had multiple view of election. That is Calvinism as understood in 21st century America was not fully reflective of Calvin. They believed those shifts in theology would be easy because they didn’t threaten fundaments and they proposed the Reformed faith return to views it had earlier held that were more biblical. From their perspective they were able to reconcile: the gospels, Paul, Calvin and the the Reformed creeds.

    Rowland is right this thread is going in a different direction in that it is not about immersion vs. sprinkling. So lets pull this back. FV does not believe there are 2 types of baptisms. They hold to 2 types elections. That’s how Paul in Eph 1:3-4 can greet the whole church as elect. And that’s how the baptism in Romans can be both spiritual and physical. Mark 1:3-4 forgiveness is dependent upon repentance and baptism not purely faith but faith expressed in works.


    If this is Pauline/ biblical theology: Deprivation / Limited Depravity… then I am not a Christian.

    You’re Christian and you much deeper disagreements with the biblical authors than TULIP.

  131. Hugh McCann said,

    April 7, 2013 at 11:45 am

    CD 130-
    “Calvin is right only in so far as he agrees with Paul, Paul is right by definition.”
    “Rowland is right this thread is going in a different direction in that it is not about immersion vs. sprinkling. So lets pull this back.”

  132. Phil D. said,

    April 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm


    Initially I was a bit hesitant to address your posts on this thread because they seemed a bit divergent from the topic of the OP. However, I do think that there is an aspect of the modal issue that has some bearing on your question.

    What I mean is that the vast majority of theologians throughout Christian history, of all doctrinal and denominational stripes, including virtually all Reformed leaders up through the mid 17th century (Zwingli, Calvin, Turretin, Witsius, the creators of the Geneva Bible, the Dutch Annotations and the Westminster Annotations, van Mastricht, a’Brakel, Perkins, Gataker, Ussher, Manton, Poole, Brown, Goodwin, etc., etc., etc.), have understood the phrase “buried in/by baptism” in Romans 6 and Colossians 2 as being an allusion to the mode of baptism prevalent in Paul’s time. If this is true, and it is indeed admitted that Romans 6:4 comprehends water baptism, then there is no real reason to doubt it can be comprehended in the other passages you have mentioned. With apologies in advance for the relative lengthiness they will give this post, allow me to provide a number of citations that are relevant to your question. Dr. John Cunningham (Scottish Presbyterian), wrote:

    “Baptism means ‘immersion’ and it was immersion. The Hebrews immersed their proselytes; the Essenes took their daily baths; John plunged his penitents into the Jordan; Peter dipped his crowd of converts into one of the great pools which were to be found in Jerusalem. Unless it had been so, Paul’s analogical argument about our being ‘buried’ with Christ in baptism would have had no meaning. Nothing could have been simpler than baptism in its first form.” (The Growth of the Church, 173)

    I think Cunningham evokes a valid question. If “burial” in these passages isn’t alluding to immersion, what meaning does it really convey and what purpose does it ultimately serve? Dr. Charles Dodd (English Congregationalist) gave this more in-depth treatment:

    “The position was simple: the Church was a society with its own forms of organized life, and it had always recognized faith by administering baptism, and thereby conferring membership of the Body. Hence Paul could appeal directly to baptism as a fact with a generally recognized significance, and draw from it conclusions what entrance into the people of God involved.

    “He is not, in the present passage, expounding the nature of a sacrament as such, but exploiting the accepted significance of the sacrament for a pedagogical purpose [i.e., as an instructional aid]—to bring home to the imagination a truth deeply rooted in experience, but difficult to put into purely intellectual terms. ‘Surely you know,’ he says, ‘that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death!’

    “The very symbolism of the sacrament emphasizes that fact. Immersion is a sort of burial; emergence from the water is a sort of resurrection. Paul does not indeed draw out the suggestion of the symbolism, but it lies near the surface. The whole sacrament is an act by which the believer enters into all that Christ did as his Representative, in that He ‘was delivered up for our trespasses and raised that we might be justified’. All this Paul could have said without any appeal to baptism at all, for it follows directly from his teaching about Christ as the second Adam; but the reference to baptism is of great value pedagogically.” (The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, 85f.)

    In my reading of them it seems most evangelical scholars would agree with this analysis (again, until relatively recently, when some non-immersionists began to dissent). The mode of baptism is not the central theme here, but it is nonetheless in the background. For all his enthusiasm on the modal implications of Romans 6:4, even Charles Spurgeon stated that “the visible emblem is not the most prominent matter in the text”, and then proceeded to preach a lengthy sermon on that passage in which baptismal mode is scarcely mentioned again (Baptism: A Burial).

    The highly regarded German Lutheran theologian Heinrich Meyer—whom Charles Hodge reckoned “perhaps the ablest commentator on the New Testament of modern times” (so too B. B. Warfield)—exegeted the phraseology in Romans 6:4 as follows:

    “’Buried with Him therefore (not merely dead with Him, but, as the dead Christ was buried in order to rise again, buried with Him also) were we, in that we were baptized into His death.’ The recipient of baptism, who by his baptism enters into the fellowship of death with Christ, is necessarily also in the act of baptism ethically buried with Him (1 Corinthians 15:4), because after baptism he is spiritually risen with Him. In reality this burial with Him is not a moral fact distinct from the having died with Him, as actual burial is distinct from actual dying; but it sets forth the fullness and completeness of the relation, of which the recipient, in accordance with the form of baptism, so far as the latter takes place through katadusis [‘going down’] and anadus [‘coming up’]…becomes conscious successively.

    “The recipient—thus has Paul figuratively represented the process—is conscious, (a) in the baptism generally: now am I entering into fellowship with the death of Christ…(b) in the immersion in particular: now am I becoming buried with Christ; (c) and then, in the emergence: now I rise to the new life with Christ. Compare on Colossians 2:12…” (Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to the Epistle to the Romans, 231)

    So, if the historical consensus on the NT’s “burial in baptism” language is right, and water baptism is in fact part of the picture in passages like Romans 6, it helps explain and corroborate the position taken in the Reformed confessions and catechisms as to why Scripture often uses forceful and even efficacious language in connection with the sacraments:

    “There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.” (WCF 27.2)

    The Heidelberg Catechism concurs:

    “Question 72. Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself? Not at all: for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost cleanse us from all sin.

    “Question 73. Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism “the washing of regeneration,” and “the washing away of sins”? God speaks thus not without great cause, to-wit, not only thereby to teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially that by this divine pledge and sign [i.e. baptism] he may assure us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as we are externally washed with water.”

    A couple of summary points might be made respecting the historical consensus:

    (1.) Paul’s association of a burial and baptism is mainly pedagogical—that is, it was employed as a helpful, demonstrative teaching aid. While his primary purpose was not to teach on the proper mode of water baptism per se, he was most likely using the known means by which that rite was administered to better make his theological point about the believer’s spiritual union with (“baptism into”) Christ.

    (2.) Such a pedagogical usage could only be effective if the associated verbal action (water baptism by immersion) were well-known in real terms, and hence practically relatable by Paul’s immediate New Testament audience.

    For what it’s worth, this is also a large part of why I am a proponent of immersion. These kinds of pedagogical references are indeed the very means which properly inform the church of the concepts that are intended to be symbolized, and thus sensibly portrayed in the sacraments.

  133. Hugh McCann said,

    April 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Thank you, Phil D.
    Lots to read here and much more to ponder.
    I appreciate it!

  134. April 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm


    Proselyte baptism’s origin is less than certain I think unless I’ve missed something. The rabbinic debates around 100AD about whether circumcision would suffice may suggest that proselyte baptism was relatively new.

    In regard to your earlier authorities, these men, whatever they thought of early Chrisistian practice distinguished the essence and the circumstance, and so did not believe the mode was of the essence.

    A very competent modern exegete, Herman Ridderbos, offers this comment:
    So far as the water of baptism is concerned, its symbolical significance, as appears from the whole of the New Testament, is that it purifies, not that one can sink down into it and drown, to say nothing of being buried in the water. There is likewise no basis for the notion that the posture of the one baptised would suggest such a symbolism. Were one able to think of dying at the moment of immersion (“the waters” closing over the head, etc. the single time that Paul speaks of “being baptised into his death” cannot really offer sufficient evidence for this conception. To see this moment of immersion especially as a symbol of burial, however, seems to us entirely absurd. For not only is one not buried in water, but it is also difficult to symbolise burial by immersing oneself for an instant under water. And so far as resurrection is concerned, if the only place where “being raised with him” in baptism” is mentioned (Col 2:12) were intended to denote coming up out of the water as a symbol of the resurrection, surely the preposition”out of” (ek) and not “in” (en) would have been used (as with dying and being buried with him in baptism). The more one goes into the matter, the more he is compelled to the conclusion that the symbolic connection thus made between baptism and the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, however frequently advanced, finds no support whatever either in the texts or in the thing itself” (Paul:An Outline of his Theology, trans. by J.R.De Witt, Grand Rapids, 1975, pp. 402/403).

    It is usual that controversy can clarify what had previously been too readily assumed. Perhaps also in this matter. And whatever Warfield thought of Meyer, on this particular point he takes the view I’ve advanced in this discussion.

  135. Phil D. said,

    April 9, 2013 at 10:28 am


    Based on the nearly endless armada of examples that might be cited—which by any accounting includes the most eminent theologians and exegetes from throughout church history, including those of the Reformed/Presbyterian community—the understanding that the term “burial in baptism” in Colossians 2 and Romans 6 alludes to the prevailing (many would say exclusive) form of baptism in apostolic times, is very likely the most agreed upon interpretative issue ever regarding the biblical teaching on baptism. It is also remarkable how firmly and enthusiastically even most pre-19th century Reformed leaders embraced the historical understanding.

    While even an overwhelming historical consensus like this doesn’t automatically prove that a given viewpoint is right, I believe to ignore or unduly discount one as deep and wide as this will almost always be to one’s own detriment. I would also urge that in certain cases, like this one, that stratum of information is a very meaningful, and indeed crucial factor to consider. Here’s why:

    At a very fundamental level typology and symbolism, and hence typological and figurative language are somewhat subjective in nature. That is, while the intended meaning behind a given imagery is obviously known to the person originating it, its interpretation ultimately rests with the beholder. For instance, upon initially seeing the emblem of a dove a Christians may instinctively perceive it as a representation of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, a secularist might more readily associate it with “world peace.” Still others may simply see a depiction of a certain species of bird, the meaning of which is uncertain, insignificant, or even indeterminable. Therefore an important concern in using figurative language is to realize how it is most likely to be perceived by those intended to appreciate it.

    Accordingly, in order for their readership to accurately grasp a given image a writer has to insure two things: (1) That there is indeed a credible resemblance between the figure and that which it is intended to portray, and (2) that the subject matter is applied in a context that their intended readership is sufficiently familiar with. As such—assuming, of course, the basic competency of the originating party to communicate—simply knowing how widely and durably a particular interpretation has been ascribed to a symbolical statement by its target audience must be given considerable weight when it comes to determining the author’s intent, and one’s own anecdotal, subjective, and perhaps anachronistic take kept in check.

    So, it seems reasonable to say that the vast cloud of witnesses that exists on this issue, beginning with the unanimous understanding of the earliest church writers that specifically expounded on the matter, presents us with two starkly opposite possibilities:

    (1) The twice used Pauline expression “buried by baptism” (complementary to its more essential theological import) is a meaningful, and indeed highly intuitive allusion to baptismal immersion—which explains why this understanding has so long endured as such a strong sensibility in the collective conscience of the universal church,


    (2) The association in question is an interesting, but in reality overly-imaginative textual misapprehension (in other words, it is merely an unfortunate mass delusion), from which a relatively small, but unusually astute minority within the broader Christian community has only quite recently begun to extricate themselves.

    Personally, I find the first option to be much, much more tenable. Can controversy bring clarity and ultimately discredit an earlier and nearly universal consensus? Perhaps. But I think it is often more likely that certain parties may simply become jaded in a controversy in which they have a personal stake. Writing several years before his death—having witnessed and occasionally commented on the many heated polemical works created by both non-immersionists and immersionists throughout his lifetime—Philip Schaff (Presbyterian) similarly concluded:

    “The Protestant Baptists can appeal to the usual meaning of the Greek word and the testimony of antiquity for immersion…The baptism of Christ in the Jordan and the illustrations of baptism used in the New Testament (Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2:12; 1 Cor. 10:2; 1 Pet. 3:21) are all in favor of immersion rather than of sprinkling, as is freely admitted by the best exegetes, Catholic and Protestant, English and German. Nothing can be gained by unnatural exegesis. The persistency and aggressiveness of the Baptists have driven Paedobaptists to the opposite extreme.” (The Oldest Church Manual called ‘The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles’, 55f)

    I find it rather difficult to argue with Schaff’s assessment. Here are some other hard-hitting comments by non-immersionist scholars worth considering:

    James Chrystal (Episcopalian) “The Lutheran and Calvinistic communions, especially the latter, have unfortunately been driven by the immersing Anti-paedobaptists into a position far different from that of the Reformers whose name they bear, and thus have added to their difficulties. Luther and Calvin have already been cited. Because the Baptists made the primitive mode essential in all cases, the later Presbyterians have deemed themselves justified in practically laying it aside altogether. Every effort is put forth to write up the compends [i.e. sprinkling and pouring] and to write down the full form.” (A History of the Modes of Christian Baptism, 152)

    William Wall (Anglican) “Their [early Christians’] general and ordinary way was to baptize by immersion, or dipping the person. It is so plain and clear, by an infinite number of passages, that, as one cannot but pity the weak endeavors of such paedobaptists as would maintain the negative of it. So we ought to disown and show a dislike of the profane scoffs which some people give to the English anti-paedobaptists merely for the use of dipping…[For] it was, in all probability, the way by which our blessed Savior, and, for certain, was the most usual and ordinary way by which the ancient Christians did receive their baptism…Tis a great want of prudence, as well as of honesty, to refuse to grant to an adversary what is certainly true, and may be proved so. It creates a jealousy of all the rest that one says.” (History of Infant Baptism)

    Levi Paine (Congregationalist Professor of Church History, with specific regard to patristic baptism) “It may be honestly asked, by some, “was immersion the primitive form of baptism, and if so, what then?” As to the question of fact, the testimony is ample and decisive. No matter of church history is clearer. The evidence is all one way, and all church historians of any repute agree in accepting it. We cannot claim even originality in teaching it in a Congregational seminary. And we really feel guilty of a kind of anachronism in writing an article to insist upon it. It is a point on which ancient, medieval, and modern historians alike, Catholic and Protestant, Lutheran and Calvinist, have no controversy. And the simple reason for this unanimity is that the statements of the early Fathers are so clear, and the light shed upon these statements from the early custom of the Church is so conclusive, that no historian who cares for his reputation would dare to deny it, and no historian who is worthy of the name would wish to. There are some historical questions concerning the early church on which the most learned writers disagree…But on this one of the early practice of immersion, the most distinguished antiquarians—such as Bingham, Augusti, Coleman, Smith and historians such as Mosheim, Gieseler, Hase, Neander, Milman, Schaff, and Alzog —hold a common language…Any scholar who denies that immersion was the baptism of the Christian Church for thirteen centuries, betrays utter ignorance or sectarian blindness.” (Christian Mirror, 54:33f.)

  136. Rowland S. Ward said,

    April 9, 2013 at 7:05 pm


    I’ve read most of the writers you cite and a good view others. The whole discussion is mired by people talking past each other.
    It is interesting to note that early immersionist writers were much more interested in the nature of the church/subjects of baptism than the precise mode of baptism, but Carson in 1831 changes emphasis with two thirds of his large volume on mode and subjects devoted to the mode.

    Your response does not really address the exegetical issue succinctly put by Ridderbos but asserts the weight of scholarly opinion down the ages. Can I remind you that “this is my body” in terms of transubstantiation is held by the vast majority of professed Christians. Doesn’t make it right!

    BTW “buried by baptism” is not quite the Pauline expression in Romans 6 and Colossians 2…

    But I suspect we’ve nearly exhausted this aspect of the subject. I need to immerse myself in other things (Pun intended!)_


  137. Phil D. said,

    April 9, 2013 at 8:20 pm


    Good enough then, brother. We’ll have to be content to leave it at me thinking your arguments don’ t hold water, while you’re convinced mine are all wet… I too have a sprinkling of things to do… God bless.

    Phil D.

  138. theoldadam said,

    August 23, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Water is water. No matter the amount. It’s the Word of Promise, attached to the water, that is the MAIN thing.

    If one were stuck in the desert, with no water, then sand would do.

    We aren’t legalists, after all.


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