BAPTISM (băp'tĭzm). A term derived from the Greek baptisma (antecedent, baptizō); the etymological significance of the word often has been obscured by a lack of exegetical clarity and by forced interpretation. Its true meaning can be found only in its usage and its theological significance. Its antecedent meaning involves the Judaic usage in the Old Testament times and the practice of . Its incipient meaning lies in Christ’s baptism and his interpretation of it. Its formal meaning is to be found in its apostolic interpretation, particularly by Paul.
Significance and Development
While later Judaism certainly attached a deeply pietistic significance to the cleansing act, John the Baptist, who followed in this tradition, infused into the ritual act of initiation and purification an ethical quality that baptism had not had before. His was a moral community of penitent souls seeking personal righteousness, and he associated with the act of baptism the imperative necessity for a thorough change in the condition of the soul, manifested in a remission of sins through repentance. His fervent exhortation to repent and flee from the wrath to come (
John’s baptism was, nevertheless, only transitory—his baptism of repentance was but preparatory to a baptism of identification. The meaning and efficacy of baptism can be understood only in the light of the redemptive death and resurrection of Christ. Christ referred to his death in the words “I have a baptism to undergo” (
John’s baptism of Jesus, therefore, connects the act of water baptism with the meaning of the salvation events through his own person and work. To the act of water baptism Jesus added the promise of the baptism with the Spirit, the means by which his redemptive work is applied to human beings (
The apostolic writers, particularly Paul, related Spirit baptism to the whole of the redemptive act. The act of water baptism symbolizes cleansing, but Spirit baptism gives the believer entry into the righteousness of Christ through an identification with Christ himself. Through Spirit baptism the redeemed sinner is incorporated into the spiritual body of Christ, not merely as an act of initiation but as a state or condition of personal righteousness. It is, therefore, the only access to identification with the redeeming Christ.
Baptism may, therefore, be regarded from two perspectives. Subjectively, the baptism by the Holy Spirit brings the believer into positive relationship to God; symbolically, water baptism is the objective manifestation of the believer’s acquiescence in that relationship.
Its subjective significance is represented in the NT by many analogies. It is regarded as the means of participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In
Its symbolic significance is depicted in its objective form. While much debate has focused on the varying interpretations of the forms of baptism, each form (immersion, sprinkling, or pouring) is clearly associated with the concept of cleansing and identification, which are the two integral parts of Spirit baptism. Immersion, however, depicts more clearly the symbolic aspect of baptism since its three steps—immersion (going into the water), submersion (going under the water), and emersion (coming out of the water)—more closely parallel the concept of entering into the death of Christ, experiencing the forgiveness of sins, and rising to walk in the newness of Christ’s resurrected life (
The genius of Christian baptism, however, is to be found not merely in its symbolic significance but in its actual effect in the life of the believer. Spirit baptism is always vitally related to faith. Only through responsive faith to the regenerative work of Christ does the soul participate in Spirit baptism and, simultaneously, in vital union with God. Subsequently, the symbolic form of baptism (water baptism) should also be related to, and on the basis of, personal faith, as a public commitment to the person of Christ.
While much recent emphasis among Evangelicals has been on the “symbol only” concept of baptism, and while the NT pointedly abstains from ascribing a sacramental value to the act itself, a renewed emphasis on Spirit baptism will restore to its proper place a much neglected aspect of this doctrine. No statement of the doctrine can be a truly biblical one if it fails to emphasize that beyond the symbolic and commemorative act performed by a person there is also the Holy Spirit’s inward operation. Spirit baptism brings the regenerated person into a redemptive relationship through his participation in and identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and the subsequent infusion of the merits of that death and resurrection into the life of the believer, by which he may live as one dead to sin but alive to God (
Bibliography: K. Barth. The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism, 1948; W. F. Flemington, TheDoctrine of Baptism, 1948; O. Cullmann, Baptism in the New Testament, 1950; P. C. Marcel, The Biblical Doctrine of , 1953; R. E. O. White, The Biblical Doctrine of Initiation, 1960; G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the New Testament, 1962, and Baptism Today and Tomorrow, 1966; E. Schlink, The Doctrine of Baptism, 1972; G. W. Bromiley, Children of Promise, 1979.——CBB
The Christian rite of initiation whereby Christians confess their faith in Christ and are admitted into membership in the Christian Church. The origin of the rite probably is in the universal practice of sacred lustrations. The rite is variously interpreted as a sacrament essential to salvation; as merely a sign of one's Christian commitment; as a symbol picturing the believer's identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection; or, as in the case of some spiritualist groups, as being entirely spiritual without material form. Apostolic age. Christian baptism has its specific background in the OT acts of ritual purification as well as the Jewish practice of proselyte baptism and the ritual lustrations of the Qumran community. Although Jewish proselyte baptism has been questioned, the references in Epictetus, the, and the Mishnah confirm a first-century practice. The practice of Qumran differs from the NT practice in that it was frequently observed, and although the mode and specific directions for its administration are lacking, its association with the , purity of life, messianism, and the judgment of Yahweh has led scholars to find parallels with both the baptism of and early Christian baptism.
The following facts may be noted regarding the baptism of John the Baptist and early Christian baptism: (1) John's baptism was primarily an ethical act whereby one prepared for the coming kingdom of God and associated oneself with the herald of that kingdom (cf. Matt. 3:1-17; 11:2-15; Acts 19:1-7). (2) Jesus began his public ministry by association with John's baptism, probably not as a sign of repentance but as the King of the kingdom (cf. Matt. 3:13-l7; cf. John 1:19-34), and according to John 4:2 Jesus Himself probably did not baptize. (3) The apostolic history of the Book of Acts reveals a developing practice and theology for the rite of baptism. In the early chapters beginning with the first Christian Pentecost, baptism is closely associated with repentance as a qualification for salvation and membership in the Christian community (cf. Acts 2:37-41), whereas the later passages place greater emphasis upon repentance and faith (cf. 3:16; 16:31) with baptism following (cf. 9:1-19, 16:31-34). The references to baptism “in the name of Jesus” are probably attempts to distinguish Christian baptism from Jewish proselyte baptism rather than a specific baptismal formula (cf. Acts 2:38; 8:16). Also, the ritual act was closely associated with the Holy Spirit and the confirmatory sign of the glomssai (cf. Acts 2:1-13; 10:44-48; 19:1-7). (4) Paul's baptismal theology is stated in several key passages: Romans 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:12- 13; Galatians 3:26-29; Colossians 2:9-13. Baptism is primarily an act of identification with the dead, buried, and resurrected Christ, but it is also a sign of the covenant and is therefore corresponded to the OT rite of circumcision. That Paul did not conceive of baptism as an essential saving sacrament is clearly indicated by 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. For Paul there seems to be one essential baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit by which we are incorporated into the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 4:4). (5) The rest of the NT corpus does notpresent a unified picture regarding the meaning and administration of baptism. Hebrews 6:2 speaks of baptisms (RSV “ablutions”); 1 Peter 3:21 distinguishes between a bodily and a psychological cleansing associated with baptism; and Paul speaks of a mysterious “baptism for the dead” in 1 Corinthians 15:29 (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). Patristic and medieval period. Probably our earliest references to baptism outside the NT are to be found in the Didache.* Here the mode is clearly a tri-immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but the Didache permits baptism by affusion if insufficient water is available. It seems clear that up until about the end of the fifth century, adult believer's baptism was the normal practice of the church. This fact is demonstrated by the emphasis in the Early Fathers on careful preparation for baptism, and the necessity to live a sinless life after baptism. As a result of this latter teaching, many postponed baptism until their deathbed, which came to be known as “Clinical Baptism” (cf. Gr. klinem, “bed”). Doctrinally, baptism very early came to be understood as a means of grace or a sacrament, in the sense of an instrumental means of regeneration.bases his doctrine of baptismal regeneration on John 3:3,5 and Isaiah 1:16- 20. Although Irenaeus says almost nothing about the mode or practice of baptism, he is a strong defender of the Trinitarian formula and baptismal regeneration.
Schism within and heresy without forced the church to raise the question of the validity of the baptismal rite. In the second century, Tertullian denied the validity of baptism administered by heretics. Normally it was done by the bishop; however, on special occasions deacons and presbyters might be permitted to administer the rite. Even women were forbidden to perform it, according to the decrees of the Fourth Council of Carthage (c.255). The issue was raised in a somewhat different way with the Novatian* and Donatist* controversies. From these controversies the idea, if not the term, of ex opere operato developed.
The practice of infant baptism completes the early patristic developments. Infant baptism was practiced in the second century, but only with the aid of an adult sponsor. A full defense of this custom came to expression in the theology of Augustine in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. Only in the fifth century did the Syrian Church make infant baptism obligatory; prior to this time it was the exception rather than the rule. But with the developing conceptions of original sin,* a theological foundation for infant baptism was found. And it was Augustine more than anyone else who lent his theological genius to this issue. Basing his conception of an original act of sin by Adam in which all humanity participated, Augustine drew the conclusion that each child is not only born with an inherited tendency toward sin, concupiscence, but also shares in the guilt of Adam's sin. It is noteworthy that Augustine based this position largely upon the faulty text of Rom. 5:12-a Latin text which translated the Greek phrase “because that” as “in quo” (“in whom”). Prior to the fifth century, the normal practice was to administer baptism at Easter and Pentecost, but from the fifth century the importance of infant baptism placed great stress upon the rite's being administered prior to the eighth day after birth.
During the, the theology and practice of baptism were largely refinements of the earlier developments. The major concern during the period from the fifth to the eleventh centuries was the issue of heretical baptismal practices. At the Fourth Lateran Council,* baptism and the six other sacraments received their basic dogmatic definition. modified the sign emphasis of Augustine, and Aquinas* provided the theological framework not only for baptism but for all seven official sacraments. Aquinas is the first to trace all seven back to Christ, and he taught that baptism, confirmation, and ordination stamp an indelible mark upon the soul; consequently, these three sacraments cannot be repeated. Greater stress was also given to the concept of ex opere operato, and the earlier teaching-which appeared prior to Augustine but which Augustine gave greater recognition, regarding a baptism of blood for martyrs and the baptism of desire for those who had not been officially baptized but who gave evidence of intending to do so-was further refined by Aquinas and the Scholastics. In the debate between Nominalism and Realism, both baptism and the Eucharist were involved in the manner in which grace was bestowed. The creedal formulations of the Fourth Lateran Council and the theological foundations of Thomistic theology were restated at the * (1545- 63) and have remained to this day the essential position of the Roman Catholic Church. Reformation and contemporary developments. During the sixteenth century, baptism along with the Eucharist became one of the major divisive issues not only separating reforming groups from Catholicism, but also dividing the rival sects. Nearest the Roman Catholic position was Luther's view, which reduced the number of sacraments finally to two-baptism and the Lord's Supper-but which stressed infant baptism on Augustinian grounds. In his of the Church, Luther recognized the meaning of baptizom as immersion, but qualified this by regarding the mode as a matter of indifference to the sacramental power of the rite; and he further admitted that the normal NT pattern was adult believer's baptism. The absolutely essential element of faith was to be supplied by the sponsoring adult; Luther sometimes stated that God gave the infant faith in the baptismal act. Calvin treats the subject of baptism in his Institutes (IV, 15). For him, baptism is a sacrament, but its efficacy is limited to the elect. Later Calvinism made greater use of covenant theology, the effect of which was to minimize the sacramental nature of baptism and replace sacramentalism with a covenantal sign significance. Luther and Calvin's contemporary Zwingli had already reduced baptism to a mere sign, making it unnecessary to salvation. Zwingli's ideas were also represented by the Anabaptists,* whose major emphasis was upon believer's baptism rather than the mode. Only with the English Baptists about 1633 did the issue of immersion arise among the . Prior to this, even the Baptists practiced affusion or sprinkling, since the issue was believer's baptism as opposed to paedo-baptism. Among the spiritualists, especially the seventeenth-century Quakers, baptism and the Lord's Supper were rejected as irrelevant to the age of the Spirit. On other grounds, eighteenth-century rationalism also set aside not only sacramentalism but also ecclesiastical insitutionalism which included baptism. The Tractarian Movement* and High Church Anglican theologians (cf. E.B. Pusey) sought to restore baptism to its earlier sacramentalism. American theology has tended more and more in the direction of Zwinglianism, largely because of the influence of revivalistic emphases. In the twentieth century there has been a revival of interest in baptism mainly as a result of the influence of * and his rejection of infant baptism, although he stood in a paedobaptist tradition. The ecumenical movement has also stimulated interest in baptismal and sacramental theology as the various branches of Christendom have attempted to work out a rapprochement. More often than not it has been the sacraments that have provided one of the greatest hindrances to achieving ecumenicity in spirit and form.
J. Corblet, Historie dogmatique, liturgique et archéologique du sacrament de baptême (2 vols., 1881-82); K. Barth, The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism (1948); G.W.H. Lampe, The Seal of the Spirit (1951); J. Murray, Christian Baptism (1952); P. Ch. Marcel, The Biblical Doctrine of(ET 1953); J. Warns, Baptism: its History and Significance (ET 1958); T.F. Torrance, Conflict and Agreement in the Church, vol. 2 (1959), pp. 93-132; R.E.O. White, The Biblical Doctrine of Initiation (1960); W. Carr, Baptism: Conscience and Clue for the Church (1964); D. Moody, Baptism: Foundation for Christian Unity (1967).
I. MEANING OF BAPTISM 1. Terminology
2. Proselyte Baptism
3. Greek Usage
II. THE SUBJECTS OF BAPTISM
III. THE PRESENT OBLIGATION LITERATURE
This article is not a discussion of the whole subject, but is merely a presentation of the Baptist interpretation of the ordinance. The origin and history of the ordinance, as a whole, do not come within the range of the present treatment.
I. Meaning of Baptism. 1. Terminology:
If baptizo never occurred in connection with a disputed ordinance, there would be no controversy on the meaning of the word. There are, indeed, figurative or metaphorical uses of the word as of other words, but the figurative is that of immersion, like our "immersed in cares," "plunged in grief," etc. It remains to consider whether the use of the word for a ceremony or ordinance has changed its significance in the New Testament as compared with ancient Greek
It may be remarked that no Baptist has written a lexicon of the Greek language, and yet the standard lexicons, like that of Liddell and Scott, uniformly give the meaning of baptizo as "dip," "immerse." They do not give "pour" or "sprinkle," nor has anyone ever adduced an instance where this verb means "pour" or "sprinkle." The presumption is therefore in favor of "dip" in the New Testament.
2. Proselyte Baptism:
Before we turn directly to the discussion of the ceremonial usage, a word is called for in regard to Jewish proselyte baptism. It is still a matter of dispute whether this initiatory rite was in existence at the time of
3. Greek Usage:
The Greek language has had a continuous history, and baptizo is used today in Greece for baptism. As is well known, not only in Greece, but all over Russia, wherever the Greek church prevails, immersion is the unbroken and universal practice. The Greeks may surely be credited with knowledge of the meaning of their own language. The substitution of pouring or sprinkling for immersion, as the Christian ordinance of baptism, was late and gradual and finally triumphed in the West because of the decree of the. But the Baptist position is that this substitution was unwarranted and subverts the real significance of the ordinance. The Greek church does practice trine immersion, one immersion for each person of the Trinity, an old practice (compare ter mergitamur, Tertullian ii.79 A), but not the Scriptural usage. A word will be needed later concerning the method by which pouring crept in beside immersion in the 2nd and later centuries. Before we turn directly to the New Testament use of bapti zo it is well to quote from the Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods by Professor E. A. Sophocles, himself a native Greek. He says (p. 297): "There is no evidence that Luke and Paul and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greeks." We expect therefore to find in the New Testament "dip," as the meaning of this word in the ceremonial sense of an initiatory Christian rite. Thayer’s Lexicon likewise defines the word in this ceremonial Christian use to mean "an immersion in water, performed as a sign of the removal of sin."
Baptists could very well afford to rest the matter right here. There is no need to call for the testimony of a single Baptist scholar on this subject. The world of scholarship has rendered its decision with impartiality and force on the side of the Baptists in this matter. A few recent deliverances will suffice. Dr. Alfred Plummer () in his new Commentary on Matthew (p. 28) says that the office of John the Baptist was "to bind them to a new life, symbolized by immersion in water." Swete (Church of England) in his Commentary on Mark (p. 7) speaks of "the added thought of immersion, which gives vividness to the scene." The early Greek ecclesiastical writers show that immersion was employed (compare Barnabas, XI, 11): "We go down into the water full of sins and filth, and we come up bearing fruit in the heart." For numerous ecclesiastical examples see Sophocles’ Lexicon.
4. New Testament Usage:
There is nothing in the New Testament to offset this obvious and inevitable interpretation. There are some things which are brought up, but they vanish on examination. The use of "with" after baptize in the English translation is appealed to as disproving immersion. It is enough to reply that the Committee of the American Standard Revision, which had no Baptist member at the final revision, substituted "in" for "with." Thus: "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance" (
5. The Didache:
Appeal has been made to the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which may belong to the first half of the 2nd century. Here for the first time pouring is distinctly admitted as an ordinance in place of immersion. Because of this remarkable passage it is argued by some that, though immersion was the normal and regular baptism, yet alongside of it, pouring was allowed, and that in reality it was a matter of indifference which was used even in the 1st century. But that is not the true interpretation of the facts in the case. The passage deserves to be quoted in full and is here given in the translation of(Presbyterian) in his edition of the Didache (pp. 184 ff): "Now concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first taught all these things, baptize ye into (eis) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the , in living water. And if thou hast not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm (water). But if thou hast neither, pour water thrice upon the head in (eis) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." There is thus no doubt that early in the 2nd century some Christians felt that baptism was so important that, when the real baptism (immersion) could not be performed because of lack of water, pouring might be used in its place. This is absolutely all that can be deduced from this passage. It is to be noted that for pouring another word (ekcheo) is used, clearly showing that baptizo does not mean "to po ur." The very exception filed proves the Baptist contention concerning baptizo. Now in the New Testament baptizo is the word used for baptism. Ekcheo is never so used. Harnack in a letter to C. E. W. Dobbs, Madison, Ind. (published in The Independent for February 9, 1885), under date of January 16, 1885 says:
(1) Baptizein undoubtedly signifies immersion (eintauchen).
(2) No proof can be found that it signifies anything else in the New Testament and in the most ancient Christian literature. The suggestion regarding `a sacred sense’ is out of the question.
This is the whole point of the Baptists admirably stated by Adolph Harnack. There is no thought of denying that pouring early in the 2nd century came to be used in place of immersion in certain extreme cases. The meaning of baptizo is not affected a particle by this fact. The question remains as to why this use of pouring in extreme cases grew up. The answer is that it was due to a mistaken and exaggerated estimate put upon the value of baptism as essential to salvation. Those who died without baptism were felt by some to be lost. Thus arose "clinic" baptisms.
6. Baptismal Regeneration:
(For the doctrine of baptismal regeneration see, First Apology, 61.) Out of this perversion of the symbolism of baptism grew both pouring as an ordinance and infant baptism. If baptism is necessary to salvation or the means of regeneration, then the sick, the dying, infants, must be baptized, or at any rate something must be done for them if the real baptism (immersion) cannot be performed because of extreme illness or want of water. The Baptist contention is to protest against the perversion of the significance of baptism as the ruin of the symbol. Baptism, as taught in the New Testament, is the picture of death and burial to sin and resurrection to new life, a picture of what has already taken place in the heart, not the means by which spiritual change is wrought. It is a privilege and duty, not a necessity. It is a picture that is lost when something else is substituted in its place.
II. The Subjects of Baptism.
It is significant that even the Teaching of the Twelve apostles with its exaggerated notion of the importance of baptism does not allow baptism of infants. It says: "Having first taught all these things." Instruction precedes baptism. That is a distinct denial of infant baptism. The uniform practice in the New Testament is that baptism follows confession. The people "confessing their sins" were baptized by John (
III. The Present Obligation. The Baptists make one more point concerning baptism. It is that, since Jesus himself submitted to it and enjoined it upon His disciples, the ordinance is of perpetual obligation. The arguments for the late ecclesiastical origin of
The Greek Lexicons, like Suicer, Liddell and Scott, Sophocles, Thayer, Preuschen; the Biblical Dictionaries; the Critical Commentaries on the New Testament; books of antiquities like Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Antiquities; the new Sch-Herz; Binghara’s Antiquities of the Christian Church; Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom; Neale’s History of the Holy Eastern Church; Lives of Christ, like Edersheim’s LTJM, or a survey of the customs of the Jews like Schurer’s HJP; books on John the Baptist like Reynolds’ John the Baptist, Feather’s Last of the Prophets, Robertson’s John the Loyal; special treatises on Baptism like Wall’s History of, Stanley’s Christian Institutions, Dargan’s Ecclesiology, Conant’s Baptizein, Mozley’s Review of the Baptismal Controversy, Christian’s Immersion, Broadus’ Immersion, Frost’s The Moral Dignity of Baptism, Whitsitt’s a Question in Baptist History, Lofton’s The Baptist Reformation, Lambert’s The Sacraments of the New Testament, Dale’s Classic Baptism and Christian and Patristic Baptism, Kirtley’s Design of Baptism, Forester’s The Baptist Position, Frost’s Baptist Why and Why Not, Ford’s Studies in Baptism.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. THE TERM 1. The Derivation
2. The Meaning
3. The Application
4. Equivalent Terms
II. THE ORDINANCE 1. The Teaching of Scripture
(1) An Authoritative Command
(2) A Clear Declaration of the Object in View
(3) A Definite Promise
(4) A Plain Indication of the Scope
(5) A Prescribed Formula for Administering the Ordinance
2. The Biblical History of the Ordinance
3. Types of Baptism
III. DIFFICULTIES 1. Are
2. Was the Trinitarian Formula Used inTimes?
3. Was Christian Baptism Really a New Ordinance?
4. Should Infants Be Baptized?
5. Why Did Paul not Baptize?
6. What Is the?
I. The Term. 1. The Derivation:
The word "baptism" is the Anglicized form of the Greek baptisma, or baptismos. These Greek words are verbal nouns derived from baptizo, which, again, is the intensive form of the verb bapto. "Baptismos denotes the action of baptizein (the baptizing), baptisma the result of the action (the baptism)" (Cremer). This distinction differs from, but is not necessarily contrary to, that of Plummer, who infers from
2. The Meaning:
3. The Application:
4. Equivalent Terms:
Scripture occasionally alludes to Christian baptism without employing the regular term. Thus in
II. The Ordinance. 1. The Teaching of Scripture:
Christian baptism, as now practiced, is a sacred ordinance of evangelical grace, solemnly appointed by the risen Christ, prior to His entering into the state of glory by His ascension, and designed to be a means, until His second coming, for admitting men to discipleship with Him.
(1) An Authoritative Command
An authoritative (
(2) A Clear Declaration of the Object in View.
The participle "baptizing" qualifies the imperative "make disciples," and expresses that, what the imperative states as the end, is to be attained by what the participle names as a means to that end. The participle "baptizing," again, is qualified by "teaching" (
(3) A Definite Promise:
(c) The establishment of a spiritual union with Christ, and a new relationship with God (
(d) The sanctifying gifts of the
(4) A Plain Indication of the Scope:
"All nations," "the whole creation" (pase te ktisei to be understood as in
(5) A Prescribed Formula for Administering the Ordinance:
"Into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The belief in the Trinity is fundamental to Christianity; accordingly, the sacred rite by which men are initiated into the Christian religion justly emphasizes this belief. The three Persons are mentioned as distinct from one another, but the baptismal command is issued upon their joint and coequal authority ("in the name," not "names"), thus indicating the Unity in Trinity. This ancient baptismal formula represents "the Father as the Originator, the Son as the Mediator, the Holy Ghost as the Realization, and the vital and vitalizing blessing of the promise and fulfillment," which is extended to men in this ordinance (Cremer).
2. The Biblical History of the Ordinance:
III. Difficulties. 1. Are
Feine (PER3, XIX, 396 f) and Kattenbusch (Sch-Herz, I, 435 f) argue that the Trinitarian formula in
2. Was the Trinitarian Formula Used in New Testament Times?:
No record of such use can be discovered in the Ac or the epistles of the apostles. The baptisms recorded in the New Testament after the Day of Pentecost are administered "in the name of
5. Why Did Paul not Baptize?:
Paul did baptize Crispus, Gaius and Stephanas with his household. These baptisms he performed at Corinth alone; we have no record of his baptisms at other places. What Paul declares in
6. What Is the Baptism for the Dead?:
See Baptism for the Dead.
W. H. T. Dau
I. THE SCRIPTURAL NAMES FOR THE RITE
II. PRE-CHRISTIAN BAPTISM 1. Baptism of Proselytes
2. Baptism of John
3. Baptism in the Pagan Mysteries
III. CHRISTIAN BAPTISM 1. The administration of the Rite
2. The Mode of Using the Water
3. Who May Perform Baptism
4. Who May Receive Baptism
(1) Baptism of Infants
IV. THE FORMULA OF BAPTISM
V. THE DOCTRINE OF BAPTISM The Doctrine of
Baptism (baptisma, baptismos, baptizein) has been from the earliest times the initiatory rite signifying the recognition of entrance into or of presence within the Christian church. We find the earliest mention of the ceremony in the Epistle to the Galatians (
II. Pre-Christian Baptism. 1. Baptism of Proselytes:
Converts in the early centuries, whether Jews or Gentiles, could not have found this initiatory rite, in which they expressed their new-born faith, utterly unfamiliar. Water is the element naturally used for cleansing the body and its symbolical use entered into almost every cult; and into none more completely than the Jewish, whose ceremonial washings were proverbial. Besides those the Jew had what would seem to the convert a counterpart of the Christian rite in the baptism of proselytes by which Gentiles entered the circle of Judaism. For the Jews required three things of strangers who declared themselves to be converts to the Law of Moses: circumcision, baptism, and to offer sacrifice if they were men: the two latter if they were women. It is somewhat singular that no baptism of proselytes is forthcoming until about the beginning of the 3rd century; and yet no competent scholar doubts its existence. Schurer is full of contempt for those who insist on the argument from silence. Its presence enables us to see both how Jews accepted readily the baptism of John and to understand the point of objectors who questioned his right to insist that all Jews had to be purified ere they could be ready for the Messianic kingdom, although he was neither the Messiah nor a special prophet (
2. Baptism of John:
The baptism of John stood midway between the Jewish baptism of proselytes and Christian baptism. It differed from the former because it was more than a symbol of ceremonial purification; it was a baptism of repentance, a confession of sin, and of the need of moral cleansing, and was a symbol of forgiveness and of moral purity. All men, Jews who were ceremonially pure and Gentiles who were not, had to submit to this baptism of repentance and pardon. It differed from the latter because it only symbolized preparation to receive the salvation, the kingdom of God which John heralded, and did not imply entrance into that kingdom itself. Those who had received it, as well as those who had not, had to enter the Christian community by the door of Christian baptism (
3. Baptism in the Pagan Mysteries:
Baptism, as an initiatory rite, was no less familiar to Gentileconverts who had no acquaintance with the Jewish religion. The ceremonial washings of the priests of pagan in the religions have been often adduced as something which might familiarize Gentileconverts with the rite which introduced them into the Christian community, but they were not initiations. A more exact parallel is easily found. It is often forgotten that in the earlier centuries when Christianity was slowly making its way in the pagan world pagan piety had deserted the official religions and taken refuge within the Mysteries, and that these Mysteries represented the popular pagan religions of the times. They were all private cults into which men and women were received one by one, and that by rites of initiation which each had to pass through personally. When admitted the converts became members of coteries, large or small, of like-minded persons, who had become initiated because their souls craved something which they believed they would receive in and through the rites of the cult. These initiations were secret, jealously guarded from the knowledge of all outsiders; still enough is known about them for us to be sure that among them baptism took an important place (Apuleius Metamorphoses xi). The rite was therefore as familiar to pagan as to Jewish converts, and it was no unexpected requirement for the convert to know that baptism was the doorway into the church of Christ. These heathen baptisms, like the baptism of proselytes, were for the most part simply ceremonial purifications; for while it is true that both in the cult of the Mysteries and beyond it a mode of purifying after great crimes was baptizing in flowing water (Eurip. Iph. in Tauri 167) or in the sea, yet it would appear that only ceremonial purification was thought of. Nor were ceremonial rites involving the use of water confined to the paganism of the early centuries. Such a ceremony denoted the reception of the newly-born child into pagan Scandinavian households. The father decided whether the infant was to be reared or exposed to perish. If he resolved to preserve the babe, water was poured over it and a name was given to it.
III. Christian Baptism. 1. The Administration of the Rite:
In the administration of the rite of Christian baptism three things have to be looked at: the act of baptizing; those who are entitled to perform it; and the recipients or those entitled to receive it. A complete act of baptizing involves three things: what has been called the materia sacramenti; the method of its use; and the forma sacramenti, the baptismal formula or form of words accompanying the use of the water. The materia sacramenti is water and for this reason baptism is called the Water Sacrament. The oldest ecclesiastical manual of discipline which has descended to us, the Didache, says that the water to be preferred is "living," i.e. running water, water in a stream or river, or fresh flowing from a fountain; "But if thou hast not living water, baptize in other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm" (c. 7). In those directions the prescriptions of the ceremonial for the Jewish baptism of proselytes are closely followed. The earlier canons of the church permit any kind of water, fresh or salt, provided only it be true and natural water (aqua vera et naturalis).
2. The Mode of Using the Water:
The use of the water is called ablutio. According to the rules of by far the largest portion of the Christian church the water may be used in any one of three ways: Immersion, where the recipient enters bodily into the water, and where, during the action, the head is plunged either once or three times beneath the surface; affusion, where water was poured upon the head of the recipient who stood either in water or on dry ground; and aspersion where water was sprinkled on the head or on the face. It has frequently been argued that the word baptizein invariably means "to dip" or immerse, and that therefore Christian baptism must have been performed originally by immersion only, and that the two other forms of affusion and aspersion or sprinkling are invalid--that there can be no real baptism unless the method of immersion be used. But the word which invariably means "to dip" is not baptizein but baptein. Baptizein has a wider signification; and its use to denote the Jewish ceremonial of pouring water on the hands (
On the other hand affusion is certainly a more vivid picture of the bestowal of the
The third method of administering baptism, namely, by aspersio or sprinkling, has a different history from the other two. It was in the early centuries exclusively reserved for sick and infirm persons too weak to be submitted to immersion or affusion. There is evidence to show that those who received the rite in this form were somewhat despised; for the nicknames clinici and grabatorii were, unworthily Cyprian declares, bestowed on them by neighbors. The question was even raised in the middle of the 3rd century, whether baptism by aspersio was a valid baptism and Cyprian was asked for his opinion on the matter. His answer is contained in his lxxvth epistle (lxix Hartel’s ed.). There he contends that the ordinance administered this way is perfectly valid, and quotes in support of his opinion various
The idea that baptism is valid when practiced in the one method only of immersion can scarcely be looked on as anything else than a ritualistic idea.
3. Who May Perform Baptism:
The Scripture nowhere describes or limits the qualifications of those who are entitled to perform the rite of baptism. We find apostles, wandering preachers (
4. Who May Receive Baptism:
The recipients of Christian baptism are all those who make a presumably sincere profession of repentance of sin and of faith in the Lord
(1) Baptism of Infants.
This brings us to the much-debated question whether infants are to be recognized as lawful recipients of Christian baptism. The New Testament Scriptures do not in so many words either forbid or command the baptism of children. The question is in this respect on all fours with the change of the holy day from the seventh to the first day of the week. No positive command authorizes the universal usage with regard to the Christian Sabbath day; that the change is authorized must be settled by a weighing of evidence. So it is with the case of infant baptism. It is neither commanded nor forbidden in so many words; and the question cannot be decided on such a basis. The strongest argument against the baptizing of infants lies in the thought that the conditions of the rite are repentance and faith; that these must be exercised by individuals, each one for himself and for herself; and that infants are incapable either of repentance or of faith of this kind. The argument seems weak in its second statement; it is more dogmatic than historical; and will be referred to later when the doctrine lying at the basis of the rite is examined. On the other hand a great deal of evidence supports the view that the baptism of infants, if not commanded, was at least permitted and practiced within the apostolic church. Paul connects baptism with circumcision and implies that under the gospel the former takes the place of the latter (
(2) Baptism for the Dead.
Paul refers to a custom of "baptizing for the dead" (
IV. The Formula of Baptism.
V. The Doctrine of Baptism. The sacraments, and baptism as one of them, are always described to be
(1) signs representing as in a picture or figure spiritual benefits (
(2) as seals or personal tokens and attestations corroborative of solemn promises of spiritual benefits.
The Doctrine of Infant Baptism:
The latter taking their stand on the fundamental doctrine of all evangelical Christians that faith is necessary to make any sacrament efficacious, and assuming that the effect of an ordinance is always tied to the precise time of its administration, insist that only adults can perform such a conscious, intelligent, and individually independent act of faith, as they believe all Protestants insist on scriptural grounds to be necessary in the right use of a sacrament. Therefore they refuse to baptize infants and young children.
The great majority of evangelical Protestants practice infant baptism and do not think, due explanations being given, that it in any way conflicts with the idea that faith is necessary to the efficacy of the sacrament. The Baptist position appears to them to conflict with much of the teaching of the New Testament. It implies that all who are brought up in the faith of Christ and within the Christian family still lack, when they come to years of discretion, that great change of heart and life which is symbolized in baptism, and can only receive it by a conscious, intelligent and thoroughly independent act of faith. This seems in accordance neither with Scripture nor with human nature. We are told that a child may be full of the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb (
The literature on the subject of baptism is very extensive. It may be sufficient to select the following: J. S. Candlish, The Sacraments, 10th thousand, 1900; J. C. W. Augusti, Denkwurdigkeiten aus d. christ. Archaologie, V, 1820; Hofling, Das Sakrament der Taufe, 1846-48; J. B. Mozley, Review of the Baptismal Controversy, 2nd edition, 1895; W. Goode, The Doctrine of theas to the Effects of Baptism in the Case of Infants, 1849; W. Wall, History of Infant Baptism, 1705; E. B. Underhill, Confessions of Faith .... of Baptist Churches of England (Hanserd Knollys Soc., IX), 1854.