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William

The Mode of Baptism

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William
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“So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:14).

- 2 Kings 5:1–14

 

Christians plainly disagree over the proper mode of baptism. Some believe the sacrament is only valid if the recipient is immersed completely under water. Others are convinced that pouring, sprinkling, or dipping are appropriate modes of baptism.

 

But is there enough evidence to dismiss any one of these as invalid? While we may have our own convictions regarding the matter, is there enough evidence in Scripture to lead us to break fellowship with others who differ with us over the mode of baptism?

 

The English word baptism comes from the Greek bapto or baptizo. To clarify the meaning of these terms we will consider their use in the Septuagint, the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament often employed by the apostles when composing the New Testament.

 

In the Septuagint, these terms primarily refer to cleansing and not to the mode used to effect it. The verb baptizo is rendered dipped in today’s passage. Daniel 4:33, on the other hand, uses the terms in question for wetting in general and not for immersion. Eventually, baptizo could refer to Jewish ritual washings in general (used in Mark 7:4), which reveals a main emphasis on making something clean.

 

Many say the references to John the Baptist doing his work in the Jordan river prove immersion was favored in the first century. But given the evidence from the Septuagint, it is just as likely that the person stood in the river and had water poured on his head without being fully immersed. In fact, early Christian art depicts John doing this, possibly revealing that pouring was his actual practice.

 

Finally, the earliest Christians apparently sought to provide as few obstacles as possible to baptism. When a candidate was presented for baptism in the years immediately following the apostolic age, an elder would ask, “Is there anything to hinder this one from being baptized?” The emphasis was on the ease of receiving the sacrament, and so it seems the quantity of water would not delay a new convert’s baptism. If a person in the desert wanted to be baptized, the church would not have waited until there was enough water for immersion. Pouring or sprinkling with the available water would have sufficed.

 

Coram Deo

 

All of the above evidence indicates that in baptism, it is the cleansing aspect that is the emphasis and not the way in which water is applied. Whether dipped, immersed, sprinkled, or poured upon, we are to see a picture of the cleansing the Holy Spirit provides to all of those who trust in Christ. Ask yourself today if you believe in the Messiah. If so, and if you have been baptized at any point in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, you need not be baptized again.

 

Source: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devot.../mode-baptism/

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Explorer55

Matthew 3:16 implies Jesus was fully immersed and under the water: "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:" KJV

 

The Aramaic Bible In plain english says: "But when Yeshua was baptized, at once he came up from the water, and Heaven was opened unto him, and he saw The Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him."

 

Also Mark 1:10 says: "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:"

 

The verse says he came "up" "out of the water". I believe that means fully immersed.

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reformed baptist

An interesting post - to my mind the the question of 'who' is far more important then the question of 'how'. That being said this is a thread about the 'how' so I will try and address that. In regards to 'breaking fellowship' I agree that mode is not sufficient as a reason to 'break fellowship' but I would add that fellowship exists on all kinds of levels, there is a fellowship at the Lord's table, there is a fellowship in service and in worship, and there is a fellowship in friendship. In my church, we would not normally allow someone baptized by any other mode then immersion to the Lord's Table - but that is not just a matter of the mode of baptism, the reasoning behind that decision lies also in the person's refusal not to accept the teaching of the local church - now whilst that means we cannot enjoy the closest of fellowship with that person, it is not to suggest that we seeking to 'break fellowship' with them either.

 

I will look into what you said about the LXX usage of βαπτίζω and βάπτισμα because I have never heard that argument put quite like that before, but I do want to pick up on this:

 

Many say the references to John the Baptist doing his work in the Jordan river prove immersion was favored in the first century. But given the evidence from the Septuagint, it is just as likely that the person stood in the river and had water poured on his head without being fully immersed. In fact, early Christian art depicts John doing this, possibly revealing that pouring was his actual practice.

 

How early is this art to which you refer please, and could you point me to a link of these pictures?

 

It seems clear from didache that the early practice was to use whatever was available - however does that mean that in our western culture where we are not under the same restraints we should just not bother about getting it as right as we can - or does their desire to still be baptized despite all the obstacles in their way rather compel us (with all our freedoms) to go back to scripture and make sure we get it right. I'm reminded of a little church in Africa I know, they use Coca Cola for communion because they don't have wine, and their water isn't clean enough to drink yet Coca-cola is readily available (strange eh) - I don't use that as a reason to say we can use coke if we want, rather i use it to be thankful to God that we have the means to obey him as he commands, and I rejoice in his grace that he still accepts what they do - i hope that all makes sense.

 

Now, in regards to the mode, and was it possible that it was a sprinkling - I think not and I think not because in verse like "It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in (εἰς) the Jordan." (Mark 1 9)

 

Notice Jesus is the subject of the sentence, and not 'water' that means Jesus is the receiver of the action conveyed by the verb - if Jesus was being sprinkled it follows that water would be the subject of the verb - the only grammatical way this makes sense is for Jesus to be dipped/ immersed.

 

Notice also the preposition εἰς - properly meaning 'in to' Jesus was baptized into the Jordan.

 

 

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Explorer55

Here's something else to ponder...what about areas which had no rivers, creeks, lakes, or other suitable large bodies of water like out in the desert? What then?

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reformed baptist
Here's something else to ponder...what about areas which had no rivers, creeks, lakes, or other suitable large bodies of water like out in the desert? What then?

 

I'm not convinced that is relevant to us in our situation. We are not short of water to baptize so our concern has to be what is the biblical ideal.

 

That God allows for those situations where the ideal cannot be achieved is evident from the example of dying thief who was not even baptized at all - but that isn't a reason not to baptize and just like my friends in Africa have to make do with what they have for communion so those people with limited access to water have to do the best they can - in God's grace he accepts that - but we don't have similar constraints and the bible is clear that to those whom much is given, much is required.

 

Edited by reformed baptist

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theophilus
Many say the references to John the Baptist doing his work in the Jordan river prove immersion was favored in the first century. But given the evidence from the Septuagint, it is just as likely that the person stood in the river and had water poured on his head without being fully immersed. In fact, early Christian art depicts John doing this, possibly revealing that pouring was his actual practice.

 

Was any of this art made by people who had actually seen John baptize? I can think of another possible explanation for this art. Perhaps the artists worked at a time when the Church taught that pouring water on a person was the proper mode of baptism, but they knew the Bible said that John actually baptized in the Jordan. Their art could have been a way of reconciling these two facts.

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Origen
Moderator
Matthew 3:16 implies Jesus was fully immersed and under the water: "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:"
That is not likely. The phrase εὐθὺς ἀνέβη ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος does not suggest that Jesus was coming from under the water merely that he was existing from the water.

 

The Aramaic Bible In plain english says: "But when Yeshua was baptized, at once he came up from the water, and Heaven was opened unto him, and he saw The Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him."
First, the Aramaic text cannot override the Greek text. Second, the Aramaic text is making the same point as the Greek.

 

Also Mark 1:10 says: "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:"
Same point as above. This does not prove your point.

 

The verse says he came "up" "out of the water". I believe that means fully immersed.
To come up out from the water does not necessarily mean that Jesus was under or immersed in the water. The phrase can simply mean he left the water. This can be verified by simply checking Greek\NT scholars.

 

The εὐθὺς (i.e. immediately) refers to what happen next (i.e. first this happened then that happened) after Jesus was baptized and not to method of baptism.If it helps any the question is still open. The text does not state one way or the other.

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reformed baptist

I said i would look into this and come back - well here goes :RpS_thumbup:

 

In the Septuagint, these terms primarily refer to cleansing and not to the mode used to effect it. The verb baptizo is rendered dipped in today’s passage. Daniel 4:33, on the other hand, uses the terms in question for wetting in general and not for immersion. Eventually, baptizo could refer to Jewish ritual washings in general (used in Mark 7:4), which reveals a main emphasis on making something clean.

 

I want to start with the meaning of βαπτίζω in the first century. I'm going to quote Josephus from his complete works (Kregel publications 1960). Josephus makes clear distinctions between immersion and sprinkling in several places, for example when he talks about cleansing a dead body he says 'and dipping (baptizo) part of the ashes in [spring water] they sprinkled them (rhaino) (4.4.6). In regards to Jonah, he writes that the ship mwas in danger of being baptised (9.10.2) and in regards to Aristobulus he described Herods young men as baptizing him till he drowned (15.3.3) - so in the days that the new testament was being written there were two words, one for sprinkled and one for immersing and one for sprinkling and we see the NT testament writers make good use of this distinction themselves - 7 times in the NT the writers refer to the OT process of sprinkling, and every time they use a deriviative of the verb rhaino - never baptizmo.

 

Both baptizmo and rhaino provide a cleansing - but there is clear distinction been made about the nature of the mode of cleansing.

 

The meaning of βαπτίζω in the first LXX

 

The verb Baptizo is used twice in the LXX (4 times if you include the Apocrypha)

 

BGT Isaiah 21:4 ἡ καρδία μου πλανᾶται καὶ ἡ ἀνομία με βαπτίζει ἡ ψυχή μου ἐφέστηκεν εἰς φόβον

 

This is a translation of: תָּעָ֣ה לְבָבִ֔י פַּלָּצ֖וּת בִּֽעֲתָ֑תְנִי אֵ֚ת נֶ֣שֶׁף חִשְׁקִ֔י שָׂ֥ם לִ֖י לַחֲרָדָֽה׃

 

βαπτίζει (baptizmo) is a translation of בעת which means to 'fall on'. In the Hebrew it is Piel (intensive) form of the verb tabal - it is speaking of being suddenly taken by an intense occurrence - in this case fear. In English 'overwhelmed' is an excellent translation. However note this clearly figurative language - horror is a feeling/ emotion it cannot be poured, or fall upon, or overwhelm in a literal sense. We do not draw conclusions about the meaning of words based upon idiomatic usage.

 

The other occurrence is in 2 kings 5:14 which reads

 

καὶ κατέβη Ναιμαν καὶ ἐβαπτίσατο ἐν τῷ Ιορδάνῃ ἑπτάκι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμα Ελισαιε καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν ἡ σὰρξ αὐτοῦ ὡς σὰρξ παιδαρίου μικροῦ καὶ ἐκαθαρίσθη

 

This is a translation of:

 

WTT 2 Kings 5:14 וַיֵּ֗רֶד וַיִּטְבֹּ֤ל בַּיַּרְדֵּן֙ שֶׁ֣בַע פְּעָמִ֔ים כִּדְבַ֖ר אִ֣ישׁ הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיָּ֣שָׁב בְּשָׂר֗וֹ כִּבְשַׂ֛ר נַ֥עַר קָטֹ֖ן וַיִּטְהָֽר׃

 

Here ἐβαπτίσατο (baptizmo) is a translation of טבל which means to dip. It is used 16 times in the OT and it seems to always carry the sense of immersed/dipped/plunged: Gen. 37:31

 

Exod. 12:22

Lev. 4:6, 17

Lev. 9:9

Lev. 14:6, 16, 51

Num. 19:18

Deut. 33:24

Jos. 3:15

Ruth 2:14

1 Sam. 14:27

2 Ki. 5:14

2 Ki. 8:15

Job 9:31

 

Now, let's look at the translation in more detail. In the greek we have the verb in the aorist reflexive form, which translates the Qal intransitive Hebrew tabal which means the subject (Naman) is receiving the action - he dipped himself into the water.

 

Just for the sake of completeness here are the other two uses:

 

So Holofernes ordered his bodyguards not to stop her. She remained in the camp for three days. Each night she went out to the Bethulia Valley and bathed in the spring of water near the camp. (Jdt 12:7)

 

If you touch a dead body and then purify yourself by washing, but then go and touch it again, what good did the washing do? (Sir 34:25)

 

Furthermore we never find the Hebrew verb זרק (sprinkle/ toss/ scatter) translated with any word associated with with baptizmo, but rather they are always terms related to rhaino.

 

Whilst I am in agreement that we are talking about 'being amide clean' I think the careful language chosen emphasizes the mode (or method) of that cleaning as requiring dipping/ immersion.

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GaoLu

The baptismal mode is not the cause of salvation. However, we need to take baptism very seriously and from sincere hearts we want to perform it respectfully, biblically and in line with God's heart on the matter.

 

I have a friend whose aunt was Asian Buddhist. On her death bed, the Buddhist family tolerated the young Christian nephew to enter her room and speak to her alone for an hour. She had heard the Gospel before, but this time she responded, believed in Jesus and requested baptism. The young man had well over-stayed his hour and looked around the room but could see no means to baptize her. He feared that if he even asked at the door for water the family would make him immediately leave. So, he prayed and wept and asked God to provide a means to baptize the old woman. God spoke to his heart that his hands were wet with his tears. So, he baptized her with his tears.

 

Do you think that counts?

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reformed baptist
The baptismal mode is not the cause of salvation. However, we need to take baptism very seriously and from sincere hearts we want to perform it respectfully, biblically and in line with God's heart on the matter.

 

I have a friend whose aunt was Asian Buddhist. On her death bed, the Buddhist family tolerated the young Christian nephew to enter her room and speak to her alone for an hour. She had heard the Gospel before, but this time she responded, believed in Jesus and requested baptism. The young man had well over-stayed his hour and looked around the room but could see no means to baptize her. He feared that if he even asked at the door for water the family would make him immediately leave. So, he prayed and wept and asked God to provide a means to baptize the old woman. God spoke to his heart that his hands were wet with his tears. So, he baptized her with his tears.

 

Do you think that counts?

 

Counts as what?

 

A valid baptism - well as I have said there is huge difference between situations where one is limited as to what can be done and the normal situation we western believers find ourselves in.

 

Let me turn the question around, do you believe this example is a justification for me to ignore what is the clear practice of baptism in the NT when I have plenty of water readily available to me and all the emans that I need to fully immerse a person?

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GaoLu

 

Counts as what?

 

A valid baptism - well as I have said there is huge difference between situations where one is limited as to what can be done and the normal situation we western believers find ourselves in.

 

Let me turn the question around, do you believe this example is a justification for me to ignore what is the clear practice of baptism in the NT when I have plenty of water readily available to me and all the emans that I need to fully immerse a person?

 

Thanks for framing the question this way. I do not believe this example is a justification to ignore what is the clear practice of baptism in the NT. My understanding is that the clear NT practice is full immersion baptism.

 

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