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



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