Barry Newman's Blog

January 30, 2012

Baptising in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (part III)

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 7:28 pm

“Immersed” in – with reference to “in”

Perhaps one of the first tasks is to examine the prepositions that are used when reference is made to “immerse” in both the Greek world outside of the New Testament and the New Testament itself.

With respect to the first part of this task, a search was carried out, using the Thesaurus Linguae Graeca for the periods, “Prior to 1st century B.C.” and “1st century B.C. to 1st century A.D.”

For “Prior to 1st century B.C.” in three instances the preposition is “en”: Philochorus (“baptizoi” in a place), LXX – 4 Kings 5: 14 (“baptizei” in the Jordan) and LXX – Isaiah 21: 4 (“ebaptizeto” in the camp at [epi] the fountain). In the last, the sense seems to be that the “washing” took place within the camp – that is at this general locality, at the fountain.  In the first two instances, “en” may have been chosen rather than “eis” because in both cases a locality, again, rather than the water in which the actual immersion took place, may have been mainly in mind.  There are a few examples where the sense of being immersed “in” or “into” is conveyed by the simple use of the dative alone rather than by use of a preposition (for example, turnips being immersed in brine; a person being immersed in the waves of the sea; a person being immersed in taxes). There are no examples of the use of either “epi” or “eis” in association with “baptizo”.

For “1st century B.C. to the 1st century A.D.”, the preposition used is “en” in one instance: Josephus (“baptizomenos” in a swimming bath) and “eis” eleven times: Josephus (“bebaptismenon” into sleep, “ebaptisen” into a person’s own neck), Plutarch (“baptison” in a sea, “baptisas” in blood, “baptizon” in the lake), Strabo, (“baptisthenti” into it [the lake]), Soranus (“baptizein” in the embryo) and Heron on four occasions refers to (“baptizomenon” [2x], “baptizesthai” and “baptizomenou” in water).  Josephus may have chosen “en” rather than “eis” in the first instance because the actual locality where the immersion (a drowning) took place was a swimming bath – immersion occurring in the actual water itself. Again, there are examples of the simple dative alone being used to indicate immersed “into” or “in”, without appeal to a preposition (for example, something or somebody immersed in water, a person immersed in debts).  There are no examples of “epi” occurring in association with “baptizo”. See Table 1 for both periods.




Prior to 1st century B.C.


1st century B.C. to 1st century A.D.



Table 1

The frequency of occurrence the three prepositions, “en”, “epi” and “eis” in association with “baptizo” outside of the New Testament for the periods: “Prior to 1st century B.C.” and “1st century B.C .to 1st century A.D.”.

It might be argued that “eis” commonly appearing in association with “baptizo” in this period but not at all in the previous period is simply an example of a change in language usage.  However, we do not really know enough to be sure of such a claim.

According to Liddell and Scott, “eis” commonly has the sense of “into” or “to” a place.  It is also found with verbs which express the idea of rest in a place where a movement towards that place is implied.[1]

Given that the underlying meaning of “baptizo” is “immerse”, “eis”, with one of its general senses being “into”, seems to be an appropriate preposition to be used in conjunction with “baptizo”, whatever the historical situation – a sense of “immersed into” a medium of some type or another being conveyed.  However see immediately below for the frequency of use of “en” as well as “eis” in association with “baptizo” in the New Testament.

[1]Liddell, H.G. and Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, founded upon the seventh edition of, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1889, p. 230



January 28, 2012

Baptising in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (part II)

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 8:53 pm


What does this well know phrase from Matthew 28: 19 really mean?  Of course we know what it means – comes the swift reply: This is a command from Jesus to be baptised and the baptism has to be carried out in the name of the Father and in the name of the Son and in the name of the Holy Spirit.

There are a number of errors in this statement – some quite consciously inserted.  The command was not to be baptised.  It was to baptise.  Then again it is actually a participle phrase and only acquires its imperative force because it “hangs on” the explicit imperative phrase which is “make disciples of all nations”.  That “make disciples of all nations” is the substantial imperative on which the other participle phrases in Matthew 28: 19 hang should not be overlooked.  Furthermore, there is only one reference to “name”.  It is “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, not individual names.

The problems however do not stop here.  Over many centuries different “churches” seem to have understood the text differently when it came to what should be said at the baptismal ceremony.  This matter will be referred to later.

And why do we have to translate the Greek “baptizo[1] as baptise?  “Baptizo” is a an ordinary “run of the mill” Greek word which has the general sense of “immerse” and outside of the New Testament has no automatic association with a ceremony.  Even in the New Testament the verb is sometimes used in a context that has nothing to do with a ceremony.  Sometimes it is clearly used metaphorically rather than literally.  This is the case where Jesus is described as referring to his sufferings and when it is used of John the “baptiser” when speaking of Jesus “baptising” in the Holy Spirit and fire.  Of course “baptise” is not a translation at all.  Rather it is a transliteration.  Because we see this transliteration so often in the New Testament and because a ceremony of immersion is often being referred to we tend automatically to associate almost every usage of the word with a ceremony and see other usages as oddities.  In the Classical/Hellenistic world, the view would have been the other way around.  Any association of “baptizo” with a ceremony was quite the exception.  A number of my previous blog series have made references to “baptizo” and of necessity more will have to be said in this series, towards the end, on what the term can signify.

In order to prevent us from automatically associating “baptizo” with a water ceremony I will tend to use words such as, “immerse” and “immerser” even when it is clear that a water ceremony is in mind.  It may be claimed that “baptizo” (together with its associated nouns) became technical terms in the New Testament and that the “translations” “baptise” (and “baptism”) are quite appropriate.  I think at best they became “pseudo-technical terms.  “Technical”, because they are used in the New Testament more often than not of a water ceremony and that usage appears to be novel. “Pseudo- technical”, because in the New Testament, that is not the only way in which they are used.  If it is maintained that in the New Testament the other type of usage is simply metaphorical in character, it should be noted that both literal and metaphorical usages of “baptizo” are to be found in the Classical/Hellenistic literature.  In that respect, there is no difference between “baptizo” as used in the New Testament and “baptizo” as it is found in the Greek literature external to the New Testament. “Immersing” or something similar, such as, “overwhelming or “engulfing” is the overriding notion associated with “baptizo” in the Classical/Hellenistic world and underlies even the water ceremony practice.  Hence, for the reason given – as a way of preventing us from automatically seeing the water ceremony practice wherever we come across “baptizo” in the New Testament, I will tend to use the terms, “immerse” and “immerser”.

As this document proceeds it will be obvious that we are trying to answer a number of questions.  Questions such as, “What can ‘in the name’ mean, particularly in its association with ‘the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’ and specifically in the context of Matthew 28: 19”?  “What would “immersing in that name” signify? We will need to look at these and related questions separately but in the end with a view to understanding the complete phrase, “immersing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

[1] References to “baptizo” are to be understood as references to any of the cognates of the verb.

January 26, 2012

Baptising in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (part I)

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 10:53 pm

Baptising in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit


I have found writing this blog series to be quite demanding.  It has been demanding partly because it proposes something that is likely to be unacceptable to many.  I think some will be biased against the proposition I am endeavouring to make and at least some of that bias in some cases will be unjustified.  The mind shift required before one is able to consider the possibility of the correctness of what I want to suggest could be considerable.

The reader may find the series to be tedious in parts.  I hope that it is not found to be too tedious and that some sections of it, even if the reader does not agree with the main tenant being proposed, are actually interesting and perhaps helpful.

The way this series develops is somewhat complicated.  I apologise for that.  I am sure that some other writer would have made it simpler and would have better presented the material in many ways.  For me there was no simple way to proceed.  I thought it necessary to consider so many aspects of the problem, the significance and relevance of which would not be immediately clear.  Some matters have been raised not because I thought they were all that relevant but because I considered that others might view them as quite relevant.  There are bound to be areas that I have not dealt with that others will think should have been.

In some sections I repeat a little of what was written earlier and sometimes I begin to drive towards my conclusion even though the argument is at a preliminary stage.  I found it convenient to draw out some implications to some extent earlier rather than later while still trying to lay down a foundation for the final and more explicit conclusion.  I sometimes make a suggestion the justification for which is not attempted until later. Sometimes I elaborate upon an item simply for the sake of some sense of “completing” the picture. These features do not lend themselves to creating a steadily flowing document.  Again I apologise recognising that there must have been a better way.

In an attempt to make it a little less confusing than it might otherwise be I have tried to map the “journey” undertaken in this series, as it goes from section to section, by indicating at the beginning of almost all sections what is being attempted within that section.  As a further aid I now list the headings to the sections as they occur:


“Immersed” in – with reference to “in”

In the name – with reference to “in”




“Immersed” in the name

            Immersed “epi” the name

            Immersed “en” the name

            Immersed “eis” the name

In the name – with reference to “the name”

            Old Testament Perspectives

            Other perspectives

The water “baptism” practice

Water baptism epi/en/eis in the name

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Different practices – different understandings?

The teaching of Jesus about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

Baptizo” – meaning in Matthew 28: 19?

The verbal and situational context of Matthew 28: 19b

            The situational context

            The verbal context

“Baptising”, “immersing” them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – a possible understanding

Concluding Remarks


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