corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.12.06
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Baptism

Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

1. Christian baptism in the NT.-It will be convenient at the beginning of this article to collect the narratives of and allusions to Christian baptism in the NT. The command of our Lord to make disciples of all the nations by baptism (Matthew 28:19; see below, 4 and 8) was faithfully carried out by the first disciples. Actual baptisms are recorded in Acts 2:38; Acts 2:41 (the 3000 converts), Acts 8:12 f., Acts 8:16 (Samaritans, men and women, and Simon), Acts 8:36; Acts 8:38 (the Ethiopian eunuch), Acts 9:18; Acts 22:16 (Saul), Acts 10:47 f. (Cornelius and his friends), Acts 16:15 (Lydia and her household), Acts 16:33 (the Philippian jailer ‘and all his’), Acts 18:8 (Crispus and his house, and many Corinthians), Acts 19:5 (about twelve Ephesians), 1 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Corinthians 1:16 (Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas).

In addition to these narratives there are many allusions to Christian baptism in the NT-Romans 6:11., Colossians 2:12, baptized into Christ Jesus, into His death, buried with Him in baptism: a common thought in early times-e.g. Apost. Const. ii. 7 and often in that work (see A. J. Maclean, Ancient Church Orders, 123).-1 Corinthians 6:11, sanctification and justification connected with the washing of baptism; three aorists, referring to a definite event: ‘ye washed away (ἀπελούσασθε, middle) [your sins] … in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’; cf. Acts 22:16 (above): ‘arise and be baptized’ (βαπτίσαι, ‘seek baptism’) and wash away (ἀπολούσαι) thy sins.’-1 Corinthians 12:13, [Jews and Gentiles] all baptized in one Spirit into one body.-Galatians 3:27, baptized into Christ, put on Christ.-Ephesians 4:5, ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’-Ephesians 5:26, Christ sanctified the Church, having cleansed it by the washing (λουτρῷ) of water with the word. The ‘word’ is said by Robinson (Com. in loc.) to be the ‘solemn invocation of the name of the Lord Jesus’; Westcott (in loc.) adds: ‘accompanied by the confession of the Christian faith, cf. Romans 10:9’; Chase (Journal of Theological Studies viii. 165) interprets it of the word or fiat of Christ, and compares Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. iii. 5).-Titus 3:5, ‘by the washing of regeneration (διὰ λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας) and renewing of the Holy Ghost’; see below, 8.-Hebrews 6:2; Hebrews 6:4, the first principles are repentance, faith, teaching of baptisms (βαπτισμῶν) and of laying on of hands, resurrection, and judgment; Christians were once enlightened (φωτισθέντας) and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; hence the name ‘illumination’ (φωτισμός) and ‘illuminated’ for ‘baptism’ and ‘the baptized’ in Justin (Apol. i. 61, 65) and elsewhere. Westcott interprets the ‘teaching [διδαχῆς, but B reads -ήν, which is adopted in Revised Version margin and by Westcott-Hort’s Greek Testament ] of baptisms’ as instruction about the difference between Christian baptism and other lustral rites. Chase (Confirmation in Apostol. Age, p. 44f.) denies this, and interprets the phrase of the baptism of different neophytes, ‘the Christian rite in its concrete application to individual believers’: the ‘heavenly gift’ is one part of the illumination or baptism, i.e. the gift of the Son, of Eternal life, of sonship (Chase); the partaking of the Holy Ghost is the other part. In any case the ἐπίθεσις χειρῶν must refer to the laying on of hands which followed immersion (see below, 6), though Westcott would extend it to benedictions, ordinations, etc., as well.-Hebrews 10:22 f., ‘our body washed with pure water’ (our sacramental bathing contrasted with the symbolic bathings of the Jews [Westcott]), ‘let us hold fast the confession (ὁμολογίαν) of our hope.’-In 1 Peter 3:21 baptism is the ‘antitype’ of the bringing of Noah safe through the water; the antitype is here the ‘nobler member of the pair of relatives’ (Bigg, International Critical Commentary , in loc.), the fulfilment of the type; but in Hebrews 9:24 it is used conversely, as it often is in Christian antiquity when the Eucharistic bread and wine are called the antitype of our Lord’s body and blood, e.g. Verona Didascalia (ed. Hauler, p. 112) ‘panem quidem in exemplar quod dicit Graecus antitypum corporis Christi’; so Cyr. Jer., Cat. xxiii. 20; Tertullian similarly uses ‘figura’ (adv. Marc. iv. 10), and Serapion ὁμοίωμα (Liturgy, § 1). For other instances, see Cooper-Maclean, Test. of our Lord, Edinburgh, 1902, p. 172f., and Apost. Const. v. 14, vi. 30, vii. 25. In Ps.-Clem. 2 Cor. 14 the flesh is the ‘antitype’ of the Spirit.

In the Gospels, Christian baptism is three times referred to: Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, John 3:3; John 3:5. In the last passage the words ἐξ ὕδατος, read in all Manuscripts and VSS [Note: SS Versions.] , have been judged by K. Lake (Inaug. Lecture at Leyden, 17th Jan. 1904, p. 14) to be an interpolation, as they are not quoted by Justin. This deduction is very precarious (for an examination of it, see Chase, Journal of Theological Studies vi. [1905] 504, note, who deems the theory unscientific); but in any case the ‘birth of the Spirit’ could not but convey to the Christian readers of the Fourth Gospel a reference to baptism. Westcott truly remarks (Com. in loc.) that to Nicodemus the words would suggest a reference to John’s baptism. An attempt to explain ‘water’ here without reference to baptism is examined by Hooker (Eccl. Pol. v. 59), who lays down the oft-quoted canon that ‘while a literal construction will stand, the farthest from the letter is commonly the worst’ (see below, 8).

In these passages water is not always mentioned; but the word βαπτίζω, which to us is a mere technical expression, and its Aramaic equivalent (rt. [Note: root.] מבל) would to the first disciples at once convey the idea of water. The clement is mentioned or alluded to in Acts 8:36, 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Corinthians 12:13 (‘drink of one Spirit’), Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5, Hebrews 10:22, 1 Peter 3:20, and is necessitated by the metaphor of burial in baptism in Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12. Justin (Dial. 14) emphasizes the element used, by calling baptism the ‘water of life’: so in Hermas (Vis. iii. 3) the Church (the tower) is built on the waters, ‘because your life is saved and shall be saved by water.’

More indirect allusions to Christian baptism are found in the NT. The Israelites, by a metaphor from it, are said to have been baptized into (εἰς) Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Corinthians 10:2). Whatever view is taken of baptism for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29), it alludes to the Christian rite. It has been interpreted (a) of vicarious baptism on behalf of those who had died unbaptized (cf. 2 Maccabees 12:43 ff., offering made for the dead); this was the practice of some heretics (so Tert., de Res. Carn. 48, adv. Marc. v. 10, and Goudge, Alford). But there is no evidence that it existed in the 1st cent., and the practice may have originated from this verse; could St. Paul have even tacitly approved of such a thing?-(b) The words ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν are rendered by many Greek Fathers ‘in expectation of the resurrection of the dead’; but this forces the grammar, and gives no good sense to ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν, which is the best attested reading at the end of the verse; also ‘they which are baptized’ means not all Christians, but some of them.-(c) Others interpret the verse of people being drawn to the faith and to baptism out of affection for some dead friend; Robertson-Plummer (International Critical Commentary , in loc.) incline to this.-(d) Estius and Calvin render ‘as now about to die,’ jamjam morituri; but see (b).-(e) Luther renders ‘over the graves of the dead’; here again see (b). Many other suggestions have been made. It is probable that the problem is insoluble with our present knowledge, and that the reference is to some ceremony in the then baptismal rite at Corinth of which we hear no more, but not to vicarious baptism (see Plummer in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i. 245).

Other allusions to baptism (the complete rite, see below, 6) may probably be found in the metaphors of anointing and sealing. For anointing, see 2 Corinthians 1:21 (χρίσας, aorist), 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27 (the anointing abides in us and is not only a historical act). Though anointing may have accompanied the rite in the NT, and Chase (Confirmation, 53ff.) decides that it was so used, yet it is also not improbable that its institution at a very early age of the Church may have been due to these very passages-that the practice came from the metaphor. We notice that in the Didache, § 7, anointing is not mentioned, but that in Apost. Const. vii. 22 (4th cent.), which incorporates and enlarges the Didache, it is introduced. It was certainly used very early. Irenaeus says that some of the Gnostic sects anointed alter baptism (c. Haer. i. xxi. 3f.); and as the Gnostic rites were a parody of those of the Church, this carries the evidence back to c. [Note: . circa, about.] a.d. 150. It is mentioned by Tert., de Bapt. 7, de Res. Carn. 8; by Cyr. Jer., Cat. xxii. 1. From the anointing came the custom of calling the baptized ‘christs,’ χριστοί (Cyr. Jer., loc. cit.; Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins, viii. 8, where Psalms 105:15 Septuagint is quoted). In the NT, χρίειν is used metaphorically of our Lord; cf. Luke 4:18, Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38, Hebrews 1:9.

For sealing, see 2 Corinthians 1:22 (same context as the anointing), Ephesians 1:13 (‘having believed ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise’), Ephesians 4:30 (‘sealed in the Holy Spirit’). The aorists in all three passages, which connect the Holy Ghost with the sealing, point to the definite time when they became believers (Chase, Confirmation, p. 52). (The metaphor is used in Romans 4:11 of circumcision; and otherwise in John 3:33; John 6:27, Romans 15:28, 1 Corinthians 9:2, 2 Timothy 2:19.) Hence in Christian antiquity the baptismal rite, either as a whole or in one or other of its parts, is frequently called ‘the seal,’ σφραγίς; e.g. Hermas, Sim. ix. 16, ‘the seal is the water’; cf. viii. 6; Ps.-Clem., 2 Corinthians 7; Clem. Alex., Quis dives, 42; Tert., de Spect. 24 (signaculum); Cyr. Jer., Cat. iv. 16, etc.

To these passages must be added those which speak of Christian adoption; Romans 8:15; Romans 8:23, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5; for these see article Adoption.

2. Predecessors of Christian baptism

-(a) The words βαπτίζω, βαπτισμός, βάπτισμα are used in the NT of various ceremonial washings of the Jews. The verb is derived from βάπτω, ‘to dip’ (found in the NT only in Luke 16:24, John 13:26, and some Manuscripts of Revelation 19:13, always literally), and has in classical Greek the same meaning. In the NT βαπτίζω is used either metaphorically, of the Passion of our Lord (Mark 10:38 f., Luke 12:50, and some Manuscripts of Matthew 20:22 f.-so also βάπτισμα) and of the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost (Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16, see below, 6), or else of baptism and of Jewish ablations. For these last, see Mark 7:4 (the Jews ‘baptize,’ v.l. [Note: .l. varia lectio, variant reading.] sprinkle, themselves before meat and have ‘baptizings,’ βαπτισμούς, of vessels), Luke 11:38 (of washing before breakfast, ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ ἀρίστου), Hebrews 9:10 (divers ‘baptisms,’ i.e. washings).* [Note: βαπτισμός is used of Christian baptism in Colossians 2:12 (v.l. βάπτισμα), and in the plural in Hebrews 6:2 (see above, 1); Josephus (Ant. XVIII. v. 2) uses it of John’s baptism. βάπτισμα is used in the NT 12 times of John’s baptism and 3 (or 4) times of Christian baptism; for its metaphorical nee see above.] Ceremonial ablution was a common practice of the Jews (Exodus 29:4 etc., Mark 7:3 πυγμῇ νίψωνται, John 2:6; John 3:25); and the allusions to washing in connexion with baptism (above, 1) would be familiar to the early Christians, who also had the metaphor of cleansing; see 2 Corinthians 7:1, 1 John 1:7, Revelation 1:5 (some Manuscripts ) Revelation 7:14; cf. 2 Peter 2:22.

(b) Baptism of proselytes.-The Jews admitted ‘proselytes of righteousness,’ i.e. full proselytes, with baptism, circumcision, and sacrifice. This custom was very common in Rabbinical times, though Josephus and Philo do not mention it, and some have therefore concluded that it did not exist in the 1st cent.; but Edersheim has clearly proved from ancient evidence that it was then in use (LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Edersheim).] ii. 746, Appendix xii.). It may be added that the Jews in later times would not have borrowed baptism from the Christians, though it is intelligible that first John and then our Lord and His disciples should have adopted a custom already existing and have given it a new meaning. Such a baptized person was said by the Rabbis to be as a little child just born (cf. Titus 3:5; see Edersheim, loc. cit.).

(c) The baptism of John is described in all the Gospels. It was a preparatory baptism (Matthew 3:11), the baptism of repentance (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:8, Acts 13:24; Acts 19:4), intended, by an outward symbol, to induce repentance which is the essential requisite for the reception of spiritual truth. So marked a feature of his teaching was baptism, that John is called pre-eminently ‘the Baptist’ (ὁ βαπτιστής, Matthew 3:1; Matthew 11:11 f., Mark 8:28, Luke 7:20; Luke 7:33; Luke 9:19; Josephus, Ant. xviii. v. 2; in Mark 6:14; Mark 6:24 f. ὁ βαπτίζων). But he himself shows the difference between his baptism and that of Jesus, in that the latter was to be with the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33) and with fire (Mt., Lk.). For the meaning of baptism ‘with the Holy Ghost,’ see below 6 and 8 (e). Baptism ‘with fire’ is explained in Matthew 3:12; it is a baptism of judgment separating the wheat from the chaff, and burning the chaff with fire unquenchable (Allen, Com. in loc.; so || Luke 3:17). This interpretation, however, is denied by Plummer (International Critical Commentary on Luke 3:16), who prefers a reference to the purifying power of the grace given, or to the fiery trials that await Christians. Others see a reference to the ‘tongues like as of fire’ at Pentecost (Acts 2:3). However this may be, the fundamental difference between the two baptisms is that John’s was a ceremonial rite symbolizing the need of repentance and of washing away sin, while that of our Lord was, in addition, the infusing of a new life; see below, 8. The baptism of John is mentioned in the NT outside the Gospels in Acts 1:5; Acts 1:22; Acts 10:37; Acts 11:15; Acts 13:24; Acts 18:25; Acts 19:3 f.; the last two passages show that it survived after Pentecost among those who had not yet received the gospel.

To this preparatory stage is also to be assigned the baptism of Jesus by John; it was not the institution of Christian baptism, though it paved the way for it, and in some sense our Lord may be said to have thereby sanctified ‘water to the mystical washing away of sin.’ Such also was the baptizing by Jesus’ disciples during His earthly ministry (John 3:22; John 4:2); we note that our Lord carried on the Baptist’s teaching about the approach of the kingdom and about repentance (Mark 1:15; cf. Matthew 3:2), though in His teaching the Good Tidings predominated, while in that of John repentance was the chief note (Swete, Com. in loc.).

3. Preparation for baptism.-Instruction in Christian doctrine before baptism is to some extent necessary, because otherwise there cannot be faith and repentance. Our Lord commanded the disciples to teach (Matthew 28:20, διδάσκοντες) as well as to baptize. St. Peter instructed the people and Cornelius before he commanded them to be baptized (Acts 2:14-38; Acts 10:34-43; Acts 10:48). Philip instructed the Samaritans and the Eunuch before baptism (Acts 8:5 f., Acts 8:12; Acts 8:35). The instruction of Theophilus (Luke 1:4) was probably, at least in part, before baptism. Lydia’s baptism followed a preaching (Acts 16:18), as did that of the Corinthians (Acts 18:5). But in most of these cases the teaching was very short, in some of them not lasting more than one day. And no instruction that can be properly so called is mentioned in the case of Saul (Acts 9:18; Acts 22:16), or the Philippian jailer (Acts 18:8; note ‘immediately’), or the twelve Ephesians (Acts 19:5). Apollos had been instructed (ἦν κατηχημένος) in the way of the Lord, but only imperfectly, and Priscilla and Aquila taught him more carefully (ἀκριβέστερον, Acts 18:26). The allusions to the instruction of Christians in 1 Corinthians 14:19, Galatians 6:6 (κατηχέω), Romans 12:7, Colossians 1:28 etc. (διδάσκω), have no special reference to baptism. In Romans 2:18 κατηχέω is used of Jewish instruction.

At a later period, persons under instruction for baptism were called catechumens (κατηχούμενοι, ‘those in a state of being taught’; cf. Galatians 6:6), and their preparation was called catc̄chçsis (κατήχησις; cf. our word ‘catechism’ from κατηχισμός, through Latin). The catechumens were taught the Creed, or Christian doctrine, during their catechumenate, and their instruction was called the ‘traditio symboli’; they professed their faith at baptism, and this profession was called the ‘redditio symboli’ (see below, 5). The baptism in later times normally took place in the early morning of Easter Day, and the selection of candidates for baptism took place on the 40th day before (Cyr. Jer., Cat., Introd. § 4; it was called the ‘inscribing of names,’ ὀνοματογραφία); thenceforward the selected candidates were called ‘competentes,’ συναιτοῦντες. In the 4th cent. the catechumenate lasted two years (Elvira, can. 42) or three years (Ap. Const. viii. 32, and several Church Orders); but this was never a hard and fast rule. Catechumens were not allowed to be present at the main part of the Eucharist or at the Agape (Didache, 9, and often in the Church Orders). See, further, A. J. Maclean, op. cit. pp. 16-19, 97; Dict. of Christian Antiquities , article ‘Catechumens.’

4. Formula of baptism.-It is not quite clear what words were used for baptism in NT times. In Matthew 28:19 our Lord bids His followers make disciples of all the nations, baptizing (βαπτίζοντες, present part.) them into the name (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, Authorized Version ‘in the name,’ see 8) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. These words are in all Manuscripts and VSS [Note: SS Versions.] , but F. C. Conybeare (Zeitschrift für die neutest. Wissenschaft , 1901, p. 275ff.; HJ [Note: J Hibbert Journal.] i. [Oct. 1902] 102ff.) and K. Lake (Inaug. Lect. at Leyden, 17th Jan. 1904) dispute their authenticity, because Eusebius often quotes the text without them or with ‘make disciples of all the nations in my name.’ The careful refutation of this view by Chase (Journal of Theological Studies vi. 483ff.) and Riggenbach (‘Der trinitar. Taufbefehl Matthew 28:19,’ in Beiträge zur Förderung christl. Theol., Gütersloh, 1903) has made this position untenable, and we can with confidence assert that the full test is part of the First Gospel. It has, however, been denied that the words were spoken by our Lord. But the view that He made some such utterance, of which the words in Matthew 28:19 are doubtless a much abbreviated record, is the only way in which we can comprehend how such a Trinitarian passage as 2 Corinthians 13:14 could have been written, or understand the numerous passages in the NT which affirm the Godhead of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (Chase, Journal of Theological Studies vi. 509f.; see also article ‘God’ in Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible ).

In Acts we read of people being baptized (almost always in the passive) ‘in (ἐν) the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 2:38 [v.l. [Note: .l. varia lectio, variant reading.] ἐπί]), or ‘into (εἰς) the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 8:16; Acts 19:5), or ‘in (ἐν) the name of Jesus Christ’ (Acts 10:48). In the Pauline Epistles we read of baptism into Christ Jesus, into His death (Romans 6:3), into Christ (Galatians 3:27); with these passages cf. 1 Corinthians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 1:15 (‘into the name of Paul,’ ‘into my name’), 1 Corinthians 10:2 (‘into Moses’), 1 Corinthians 12:13 (‘into one body’), Acts 19:3 (‘into what?’-‘into John’s baptism’); all these passages also have the passive ‘to be baptized,’ except 1 Corinthians 10:2 which (according to the best reading) has the middle ἐβαπτίσαντο (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11, Acts 22:16; above, 1); 1 Corinthians 6:11 has ‘in (ἐν) the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.’ Of these passages only Acts 8:16; Acts 10:48; Acts 19:5 are narratives of baptisms.

The Pauline references clearly do not refer to the formula used, though 1 Corinthians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 1:15 makes it probable that in some form the ‘Name’ was mentioned in the words of baptism. Do the other passages refer to a formula? On this point there is much diversity of opinion. (a) It is maintained that the formula at first ran ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’ or the like; and that the First Evangelist introduced into his Gospel the Trinitarian formula which was in use towards the end of the 1st century (Robinson, Encyclopaedia Biblica , article ‘Baptism’). It is not easy to see how, if the other formula was the original apostolic usage, this one could have been invented in the third or even in the last quarter of the lat cent., unless indeed our Lord had really spoken such words as are found in Matthew 28:19; and in that case it is hard to see why the apostles should have used a quite different formula.-(b) It is thought that the passages in Mt. and Acts alike refer to the formula used, but that baptism into Christ’s name is necessarily the same as baptism into that of the Holy Trinity. The latter statement is quite true, but it does not meet the whole difficulty.-(c) It is said that none of the passages in Acts refers to a formula at all, but only to the theological import of baptism (see below, 8). This is quite probable; at least the differences of wording show that if a formula is referred to at all in Acts, it was not stereotyped in the first age.-(d) Assuming that our Lord spoke, at any rate in substance, the words recorded in Matthew 28:19, many think that He did not here prescribe a formula, bat unfolded the spiritual meaning of the rite (so Chase, Journal of Theological Studies vi. 506ff., viii. 177; Swete, Holy Spirit in NT, p. 124; W. C. Allen, International Critical Commentary , in loc.). This view is extremely probable, whatever interpretation we put upon the passage, for which see below, 8. It was our Lord’s habit not to make regulations but to establish principles; so Socrates (HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] v. 22), speaking of the keeping of Easter, contrasts the practice of Jesus with that of the Mosaic Law in the matter of the making of rules.

It is quite possible that no formula of baptism is given in the NT at all, and even that at first there were no fixed words. It is probable that all the NT passages refer primarily to the theological import of the rite, though they may have a remote allusion to the mode of baptizing. But though we cannot assert that there was in the Apostolic Age a fixed form of words, it was a sound instinct which induced the Church, at least from the 1st cent. onwards, to adopt the Trinitarian formula, and it would be rash indeed to depart from it. If our Lord’s words did not prescribe a form of words, at least they suggested it. We find it in the Didache (§ 7: ‘baptize into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost’), though in describing Christians in § 9 the writer speaks of them as ‘baptized into the name of the Lord.’ So Justin paraphrases: ‘They then receive the washing with water in the name (ἐπʼ ὀνοματος) of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit,’ and says that ‘he who is illuminated (see above, 1) is washed in the name of Jesus Christ … and in the name of the Holy Ghost’ (Apol. i. 61). Tertullian says that the formula has been prescribed [by Christ], and quotes Matthew 28:19 exactly (de Bapt. 13; note especially that he translates εἰς τὸ ὄνομα by ‘in nomen’ though Migne, apparently by error, gives ‘nomine’). In de Praescr. 20 he paraphrases the text: ‘He bade them … go and teach the nations who were to be baptized (intinguendas) into the Father (in Patrem), and into the Son, and into the Holy Ghosts’; and in adv. Prax. 26 thus: ‘He commands them to baptize into the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, non in unum’-i.e. not into one Person. The Trinitarian formula is the only one found in the Church in ancient times. It is prescribed or referred to in Origen, Hom. in Leviticus 7 § 4, in the Church Orders (Can. of Hipp. xix. [ed. Achelis, § 133]; Ap. Const. iii. 16, vii. 22; Ethiopic Didascalia, 16, ed. Platt; Test. of our Lord, ii. 7), in the Acts of Xanthippe twice (M. R. James, Apocr. Anecd. i. [=Texts and Studies ii. 3, Cambridge, 1893] p. 79), and in the Apostolic Canons [c. [Note: . circa, about.] a.d. 400], can. 49f. The fact that this last work forbids any other form probably shows that in some heretical circles other words were used.

Most of the Eastern Churches, Orthodox or Separated, use the passive voice ‘N. is baptized,’ or the like. The Westerns, on the contrary, always use the active: ‘N., I baptize thee.’ The latter is perhaps the older form; it is found in the Canons of Hippolytus and (in the plural, ‘We baptize thee’) in the Acts of Xanthippe (as above); and it is favoured by Matthew 28:19 itself (‘baptizing them’) and Didache, 7 (‘baptize,’ imperative). It is also found among the Copts and Abyssinians (Dict. of Christian Antiquities i. 162b; H. Denzinger, Ritus Orientalium, Wurzburg, 1863, i. 208, 230, 235).

We may ask what is meant by the invocation of the Divine name over the persons who were being baptized, of which we read in Justin, Apol. i. 61 (‘the name of God is pronounced over him’) and Ap. Const. iii. 16 (‘having named, ἐπονομάσας, the invocation, ἐπίκλησιν, of Father and Son and Holy Ghost, thou shalt baptize them in the water, ἐν τῷ ὕδατι’). In connexion with this, Acts 22:16 (‘calling on his name’) is quoted; but there it is the baptized, not the baptizer, who ‘invokes’; baptism is given in response to the prayer of the candidate. More to the point are Acts 15:17 (‘the Gentiles upon whom my name is called,’ from Amos 9:12), and James 2:7 (‘the honourable name which was called upon you,’ Revised Version margin, τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς); cf. Numbers 6:27, where God’s name is put upon the Israelites by the threefold blessing, and Acts 19:13, where the Jewish exorcists names the name of the Lord Jesus over the demoniacs, saying, ‘I adjure you by Jesus …’ It is quite possible that in the NT passages there may be some reference to the words used in baptizing, which, as we have seen, probably (at least in the ordinary way) included a mention of the Name. But there is no evidence that any invocation was part of the rite in apostolic times, and Chase denies that it was so (Journal of Theological Studies viii. 164). Is it necessary to suppose that Justin and the writer of the Apostolic Constitutions refer to anything else than the Trinitarian formula of baptism?

5. Baptismal customs.-Some traces of customs which were part of the rite in the early Church are found in the NT.

(a) A profession of faith and renunciation of evil is common in ancient times (e.g. Justin, Apol. i. 61, where the candidate undertakes to be able to live according to the faith; Tert. de Bapt. 6, de Idol. 6, de Cor. 3, de Spect. 4-Tertullian mentions the renunciations, for which see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics i., article ‘Abrenuntio’). To such a profession the gloss of Acts 8:37, which is older than Irenaeus who mentions it (c. Haer. III. xii. 8), is the oldest certain reference. But it is possible that there is an allusion to it in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 -or at least to an instruction before baptism-though no form of Creed can be intended (note v. 3: ‘I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received’-the ‘delivery’ of the faith to the catechumens, see above, 3); also in Romans 6:17; Romans 10:9, 1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 1:13 f., Hebrews 10:22 f., 1 Peter 3:21 (for this verse see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics i. 38), Judges 1:3. While, however, it is extremely probable that some sort of a profession of faith was always made at baptism, the NT passages fall short of proof of the fact.

(b) Trine immersion is a very early custom, being mentioned in the Didache (§ 7) and by Tertullian (de Cor. 3, adv. Prax. 26). The practice of immersion would probably be suggested by the word βαπτίζω (see above, 1). But J. A. Robinson (Journal of Theological Studies vii. 187ff.) denies this, and says that as the word is used of ceremonial washings in Mark 7:4, Luke 11:38, it need not imply immersion, though βάπτω (see above, 2) does; but need only denote ceremonial cleansing with water. Chase (Journal of Theological Studies viii. 179f.) replies that the vessels in Mark 7:4 must have been dipped in order to be cleansed, and also that Luke 11:38 means bathing; to this may be added that ceremonial ‘baptizing’ of ‘themselves’ in Mark 7:4 is shown by Mark 7:3 to mean the dipping of their hands into water. However this may be with regard to those passages, it seems more than probable that the word βαπτίζω to the first disciples, when used of baptism, conveyed the idea of immersion, both because it would be difficult otherwise to explain the metaphor of baptismal burial and resurrection (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12), and because the Jewish practice in proselyte-baptism (see above, 2) was to undress the candidate completely, and to immerse him so that every part or his body was touched by the water (Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Edersheim).] ii. 745f.; the candidate also made a profession of faith before the ‘fathers of the baptism’ or sponsors). But it is also probable that total immersion could not always be practised, as in the case of the Philippian jailer; and that when this was the case the candidate stood in the water, which vas then poured over him.

There is no trace in the NT of trine immersion, which doubtless was founded on the Trinitarian formula, though this is no evidence against its existence, in the apostolic period. Flowing (‘living’) water, if it can be had, is prescribed in the Didache (§ 7) and in several Church Orders (Maclean, p. 104). In case of necessity the Didache (loc. cit.) expressly allows affusion. Immersion is implied in Ep. of Barnabas, § 11, where we read of going down into the water laden with sin, and rising up from it bearing fruit in the heart.

(c) Clothing the neophytes.-In the early Church the putting off of the clothes of the candidates before baptism, and the clothing of them afterwards, usually in white robes, were emphasized as ceremonial actions; but of this we have no certain evidence before the 4th century. Constantine was buried in his baptismal robes (τὰ ἐμφώτια, Dict. of Christian Antiquities i. 162). The Church Orders make a great point of the clothing, and the Test. of our Lord mentions white robes (ii. 12, see Maclean, p. 105), as does Ambrose, de Myst. 34 (vii.). Even from the first, whether immersion was total or partial, there must have been an unclothing and a re-clothing; and this, as it would seem, gives point to the metaphor about ‘putting off’ (ἀπεκδυσάμενοι) the old man, and ‘putting on’ (ἐνδυσάμενοι) the new, in Colossians 3:9 f., and about ‘putting on’ Christ in baptism in Galatians 3:27; cf. Romans 13:14, Ephesians 4:24. The metaphor goes back in some degree to OT times; in Zechariah 3:3 f. Joshua the high priest is stripped of his filthy garments as a symbol, and Justin (Dial. 116) perhaps applies this to Christian baptism: ‘even so we … have been stripped of the filthy garments, that is, of our sins.’ Josephus tells us (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. viii. 5) that the Essenes clothed themselves in white veils and bathed as a purification, and then partook of a common meal with benediction before and after it; then, laying aside their garments, they went to work till the evening. But there was apparently no symbolism about this clothing.

(d) The kiss of peace after baptism is common in Christian antiquity. Justin (Apol. i. 65) describes it as taking place after the newly-baptized are received among the faithful and after the people’s prayers, i.e. at the Eucharist which followed the rite of baptism. Cyprian (Ep. lviii.4, ad Fidum) alludes to it at the baptism of infants. In the Church Orders it is used at Confirmation, as well as at the Eucharist, and (apparently) at all times of prayer (Maclean, pp. 18f., 108). Tertullian (de Orat. 18) says that some did not observe it in times of fasting. There could be no better symbol of Christian love than this, and it is highly probable that it was used in worship in NT times; such would seem to be the suggestion of the ‘holy kiss’ in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, and of the ‘kiss of love’ in 1 Peter 5:14. But there is no evidence in the NT as to its use in baptism.

(e) For a possible use of anointing in the NT, see 1; for the laying on of hands, see 6. The sign of the cross was used in early times, and was often called the ‘seal’ (Maclean, p. 108; Cyr. Jer., Cat. xiii. 36). Some think that this is referred to in the passages cited above in 1 about ‘sealing’; but this is more than doubtful.

(f) Of three other early baptismal customs there is no trace in the NT. (α) Sponsors are mentioned by Tertullian in de Bapt. 18 (‘sponsores’); cf. de Cor. 3 (‘inde suscepti’). They were called ‘susceptores’ (ἀνάδοχοι) because they ‘received’ the newly-baptized when they came up from the font; cf. ἀναληφθείς, Socrates, HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] vii. 4. They are found in the Church Orders (Maclean, p. 98f.); and, especially in the case of infants, when they make the responses for them, they might be the parents or others of their ‘houses’ (Test. of our Lord, ii. 8). In Justin (Apol. i. 61) ‘he who leads the person that is to be washed to the laver’ seems to be the baptizer. (β) Fasting before baptism is ordered in the Didache (§ 7), and is mentioned by Justin (Apol. i. 61) and Tertullian (de Bapt. 20; cf. de Jejun. 8), and frequently in the Church Orders (Maclean, pp. 133f., 137f.). This is analogous to the fasting in Acts 13:2 before the sending forth of Barnabas and Saul. (γ) The tasting of milk and honey by the newly-baptized after baptism (and communion) seems originally to have been an Egyptian and ‘AfricanR


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Baptism'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/b/baptism.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
ADVERTISEMENT
Search for…
Enter query in the box:
 or 
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

 
Prev Entry
Banquet
Next Entry
Baptism
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology