Barry Newman's Blog

February 29, 2012

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

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 10:21 pm

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

This section questions the idea that in Matthew 28: 19 we have a direct reference to a mandatory water ceremony.

Whatever we make of this oft quoted passage: “Going therefore, make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”, we need to be reminded that Jesus gave no imperative to” be baptised”.  There was an imperative but strictly speaking it involved “baptising” not “being baptised”.  The substantial imperative however was to make disciples of all nations and “baptising in the name of …” only gained imperative force because the phrase was attached to the substantial imperative.  For an imperative, “to be baptised”, the only appeals that can be made are to Acts 2: 38 and 10: 48.

With respect to Acts 10: 48 the command by Peter for Cornelius and his group “to be baptised”, as suggested earlier, could well have arisen from Peter’s desire for there to be a “public” witness that these God fearing Gentiles must also be considered as entitled to the blessings of God and entitled to be part of the Messianic movement.  They were baptised into Jesus the Christ.  The Messiah had not come only for the Jews.

In the Acts 2: 38 passage, although the imperative is used, such does not automatically devolve into some sort of “hard command”. In fact the first imperative is for repentance.  The second could be understood more as a direction, flowing from the first.  Perhaps what Peter is saying is a little like: “Take her as your wife and put a ring on her finger”.  The first is what is mandatory.  The second is a reference to what by this time has become part and parcel of joining the Messianic movement.  See earlier.

A further matter:  Would it not strike the reader of Matthew’s Gospel as a little odd to have in this Gospel (or any of the Gospels) a ceremony made mandatory and furthermore, for this mandatory practice to be given special prominence by being placed almost at the very end of this Gospel?  In this Gospel much has been made of “matters of the heart, of the mind, of the soul and of the body”.

See the “Sermon on the Mount”, the question about fasting,  persecutions, whom to fear, rewards, woe to unrepentant cities, unclean spirits, the many healed and delivered from demons, the great parables of the sower, and the weeds amongst the wheat,  the teaching against the traditions of the elders, the faith of the Canaanite woman, Jesus words about those who seek signs, the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Peter’s declaration about Jesus, the transfiguration of Jesus, those who are great in the kingdom, temptations to sin, the parable of the lost sheep, forgiveness, divorce, wealth, God’s grace exemplified in the parable of the vineyard workers, the cleansing of the temple, the parables of the vineyard and the tenants, the marriage feast, loving God with  all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s mind and loving one’s neighbour as oneself, Jesus foretelling his death and resurrection, the great “woes” of Jesus against the scribes and the Pharisees, his lament over Jerusalem, the coming of the Son of Man, the parables of the waiting maidens and what to do with the talents, the judgement of the nations, the anointing of Jesus, the last Passover meal, Peter’s denial, praying in Gethsemane,  Jesus his arrest and “trial”, being brought before Pilate, the mocking of Jesus, the two robbers, the cruel crucifixion – a must for sinners, the shaking of the earth, the torn curtain, the entombment, the glorious earth shaking resurrection, and  who can easily forget the warm words, “Come to me all who labour and are heavy lade, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

At the end of all these things, that Jesus should institute a mandatory ceremony?  Does it not seem at least counter intuitive if not incredible?

And the matter appears in no other gospel?!  No command to be baptised, at the end of the other Gospels, dealing, as all the Gospels do with matters of sin, righteousness, judgement and deliverance?  How extraordinary!

And what are we to make of the stark difference between being baptised “in the name of Jesus the Christ” or “in the name of Jesus the Lord” in the Apostolic period and being baptised “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in Matthew 28: 19?  Were the apostles simply being perverse and disobedient?  Surely not!  Appealing to the fact that the Father and the Spirit are mentioned in some way or another at the same time as the person or persons being baptised in the name of Jesus … in some of the instances, cannot really be conceived of as providing a solution.  The phrases are explicit.  They begin with, “in the name of” whatever the preposition used. Attempts to see “in the name of Jesus …” as inclusive of “in the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit” in some way or another, defy credibility.


February 28, 2012

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

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 5:49 am

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

This section focuses on the phenomenon of the “name” in Matthew 28: 19 being applied to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as a unity.  A suggestion is also made as to how this reference to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit functions as part of the literary structure of the Gospel.

What an intriguing phrase it is.  For starters, would it have surprised us if the words had simply been, “in the name of Jesus Christ” or “in the name of Jesus the Lord” or “in my name”?   Perhaps we would have expected it.  One cannot be sure but the Acts of the Apostles may have been in circulation before Matthew’s Gospel and given its references to being baptised “in the name of Jesus …” one might have been more than surprised to find the reference to “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28.

But the phrase is what it is and surely we are meant to think of some sort of unity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit because of the one “name”.  It is their name!  That Jesus should utter these words is highly significant.  He, the son sees himself as one with the Father and one with the Holy Spirit.  They are one together.  There is a unity to the Godhead.  Each was caught up in the one plan.  It was their plan.  And this unity is relational and of a specific kind.  Jesus could have referred to “God the Creator”, “Myself, the Messiah” and “The Spirit who will come upon you.”  But he did not.  He is the Son to the Father and the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, the one who comes from God the Father.

And see how they acted together in the one enterprise

An angel of the Lord God – the Father disclosed to Joseph that Jesus, the Son, was to be born through the activity of the Holy Spirit: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.  When his mother had been betrothed to Joseph before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit … But as Joseph considered these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’” (Matthew 1: 18, 20). And the Lord God – the Father put his Spirit upon his servant, Jesus, his Son and the activity of the Spirit was evident in the works of the Son: “And many followed him and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known.  This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, ‘Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.  I will put my Spirit upon him and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.’” (Matthew 12: 15 – 18).

While there are over 40 references to the “Father” in Matthew there are only 12 references to the Spirit, identified as the “Holy Spirit” on five of those occasions.  But all three – the Father, the Son and the Spirit are only clearly mentioned together on a few occasions.  In addition to the two just referred to, all three are mentioned together at the baptism of Jesus.  Perhaps it is the most striking instance partly because it is very dramatic in itself, but perhaps also because on that occasion of a water baptism, “baptising”, “immersing” was also strikingly mentioned in a metaphorical sense.  John proclaimed, “I baptise you with water for repentance but he who is coming after me is mightier than I … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire … Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John … And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him, and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3: 11-17).

This text of Matthew 3, with a foretaste of some of its content in Matthew 1 and the one we are focussing on, Matthew 28: 19, appear to act as “book ends” to his work.  And somewhat half way through, we were kept informed of the basic scenario, in Matthew 12.  The story that began, that developed, that continued and that had a conclusion is a story of the one name, their plan, their activity – the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

February 16, 2012

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

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 7:06 pm

The water “baptism” practice

Before proceeding any further I thought it appropriate to “take a breather”, to some extent, and to do so by examining the origins and nature of the practice of water baptism especially as revealed in the New Testament.

The practice of water baptism in the New Testament has a short history.  John the baptiser seems to have begun a unique practice of baptism (Matt. 3:1-6; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:1-3; John 1:26-28).  He claims that the reason behind his coming, baptising with water, is so that “the lamb of God” “might be revealed to Israel” and that God (“the one”) had sent him “to baptise with water” (John 1:31,33). Given his prophetic character, perhaps baptism is to be understood as an enacted sign, somewhat along the lines of the enacted signs of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 4:1-5: 4; 12:1-11; 24:15-27) and Hosea (Hosea 1:2-9).  He may have seen himself as involved in fulfilling something like, Ezek. 36: 25 – “I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean.” Indeed he preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1: 4) and the notion of “the forgiveness of sins” probably carried with it the notion of “cleansing”.  And Paul, in recounting his personal experience, referred to Ananias saying, “Be baptised, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22: 16).  In John 3: 25 there is a reference to the disciples of John discussing with a Jew the matter of “purification” and this might indicate that what John was doing entailed a certain notion of purifying. However, what the Jew understood by purifying probably had little to do with how John’s disciples saw the matter of “forgiveness” or even “the washing away of sin”. Yet in spite of these references to “cleansing”, it should be realised that, “baptizo” is very rarely directly associated with “cleansing” in the Classical/Hellenistic literature before or at this time. The imagery of being immersed in water bringing about one’s death,  should not be ignored as another contender  for what was being symbolised, with coming out of the water being associated with a new life – a new approach to how to live, having repented of the old way of life.  Indeed given that “baptizo” in the Greek world was not uncommonly associated with death by drowning this may have been the main point of the symbolism.  John may have adopted a custom associated with Jewish proselyte baptisms but the date at which such baptisms occurred is uncertain and they may have had their beginnings some time after John’s ministry. Furthermore, Jewish proselyte baptisms were self administered rather than by another.

Sometime after John began baptising, the disciples of Jesus and perhaps Jesus himself began to baptise (John 3:22; 4:2).  That great crowds became familiar with what both John and the disciples of Jesus were doing is well attested. (Matt. 3:5-6; Mark 1:5; Luke 3:7; John 3:26).  Though to our ears an exaggeration, Mark records that, “the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him (John)” (Mark 1:5).  At one time it appeared that Jesus, or his disciples were baptising even more disciples than John (John 4:1). Presumably, by the time of the apostolic period, by whatever means, water baptism had become a very well known practice in their part of the world.  Thus the command of Peter to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2: 38) can be understood as a reference to the necessity of repentance to be followed by a custom having considerable precedence.  The references in Acts to Peter and then others baptising indicate that the practice was becoming very well established, though unlike the situation with John, it now revolved around the person of Jesus.  That it had become a common practice is also suggested by what happened in the case of the Ethiopian Eunuch. When he came to understand who Jesus was he immediately asked whether he could be baptised as soon as he came across some water (Acts 8: 36).  He was returning from Jerusalem where presumably he had heard about or witnessed people being baptised.

It began with the water baptisms of John the baptiser, continued with the baptisms carried out by the disciples of Jesus during his ministry and then became a common practice for new believers in the apostolic period, as is evident in the Acts of the Apostles.

It is not clear to what extent the disciples of Jesus were baptised.  Simon Peter was a disciple of John the baptiser and he became a disciple of Jesus (John 1: 35 – 42).  John, the writer of the Gospel was possibly the other disciple mention alongside of Peter.  Both, being disciples of John the baptiser, the had probably been baptised by him.  Had Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother been baptised by John?  Had Philip and Nathaniel (Bartholomew?) been baptised by John (John 1: 43-51)?  There is no evidence that other disciples, like Matthew, were baptised by anyone.  Though it became the accepted practice for new disciples to be baptised, it is not clear that water baptism assumed the status of a ceremony that had to be performed of necessity.

Aside from the idea put forward here that the water baptismal practice became customary, I do not think that this section is all that relevant in attempting to understand Matthew 28: 19.

However the idea being suggested that the practice became customary is important when considering whether or not undergoing a water baptismal ceremony is mandatory or not and whether or not there is such a mandatory command in the Matthew 28: 19 text.  If the practice came to be seen as customary, though important, rather than mandatory, it weakens the idea that Matthew 28: 19 must be seen and was seen as a mandatory statement concerning the water baptismal practice.  Of course, in the final analysis, Matthew 28: 19 must stand independently of whether or not the practice became customary.  One could argue that the text makes it mandatory whether it became customary or not.

February 15, 2012

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

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 9:59 pm

In the name – with reference to “the name” (continued)

                     Other perspectives

Bietenhard discusses how “onoma” is used in a number of different contexts: the Greek World and Hellenism, the Old Testament, Hellenistic Judaism, and Later Judaism and the New Testament.[1]  In general terms, although he recognises that “onoma” can be used in a variety of ways, including a reference to “people”, a person’s reputation, and simply providing an appropriate label to an entity, he indicates that it often denotes more than a “name” itself.

Focussing on “eis to onoma” for the moment, Schaberg considers the possibility that it “may simply be a common phrase, without the overtones of the OT ‘name’ theology.”[2]  He writes, “In Hellenistic inscription and papyri, “eis to onoma” is frequent with a financial meaning: a sum of money is paid ‘into the account’ of someone.” Referring to Schweizer he states that, “Soldiers took an oath and pseudonymous documents were written ‘eis to onoma’”.  With this usage in mind he posits that the phrase in Matthew could be that the baptised person, as he sees it, was dedicated to Father, Son and Spirit, becoming their property.”  However he cites, Hartman warning against such a technical understanding supplying the imagery for the New Testament text.  “He is of the opinion that the phrase was more neutral and carried different meanings.”[3] Schaberg claims that “An explanation of the phrase based on the Hebrew-Aramaic expression ‘leshum’ or ‘leshem’, a term found in the Mishnah and Talmud, and elsewhere leads to a similar interpretation, though the Semitic phrase is more elastic.  Here ‘shem’ does not have a strict meaning, ‘Name’ but the phrase (that is, ‘eis to onoma’) means ‘with regard to’, ‘with reference to’, ‘for the sake of’, ‘because of’, ‘in the interests of’, ‘with the obligation of venerating’, ‘for’ (I take it that “the name” is understood).  It is a flexible phrase and can denote both the basis and purpose of that which is named.”[4]  Schaberg continues, “The meaning of the baptismal context (as he sees it) would have to do with the relationship between the baptized and the Father, Son and Spirit.”[5] Schaberg again refers to Hartman however, who “cautions … against finding too precise a grammatical aspect and of distinguishing too sharply between a causal and final meaning of the phrase.”[6]

Obviously the notion, “in the name of” does denote different things with different names being involved and in different contexts. However we are concerned with the general notion of “in the name of” when that applies to God and ultimately in the phrase, “immersing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” as found in Matthew 28: 19.

I suggested earlier that “onoma” in “eis to onoma” when the reference is to being “baptised”, “immersed” in the name of Jesus or similar or when it is to believing in the name of Jesus or similar can generally be understood to imply something like, “who he is”. The New Testament, and in this Matthew is no exception, has a high view of Jesus, such a high view, that he is referred to along with the Father and the Holy Spirit and bracketed between them in the phrase, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”!  I have suggested that “name” in “in the name” in the Old Testament where the reference is to God can generally be understood as a reference to who God is or to some significant aspect or aspects of God.  One might expect a similar situation when the name is a reference to Jesus.

So now a few comments on how “the name” is sometimes used in association with Jesus in the New Testament: Many will say that they prophesied in his name, cast out demons in his name and did mighty works in his name (Matthew 7: 22).  Whoever receives such a child, as the one he held in his arms, in his name, receives him and whoever receives him receives him who sent him (Mark 9: 37).  His disciples will be hated by all for his name’s sake (Luke 21: 17).  Whatever the disciples would ask the Father in his name he would give to them (John 15: 16). Paul was a chosen instrument of the Lord Jesus who declared to him that he Paul would carry his name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel (Acts 9: 15). The name of the Lord Jesus was extolled when an evil spirit reacted adversely upon the use of the name of the Lord Jesus by those the evil spirit did not recognise (Acts 19: 17).  Paul urged the Colossian believers to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3: 17).  The name that he obtained is more excellent than their name, being much superior to angels (Hebrews 1: 4). As Jesus has been given the name, “Lord”, God’s own name (Philippians 2: 11), so his name can be invoked as though it were God’s and vice versa – “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 3: 5, Acts 2: 21, Romans 10: 13). Belief in his name is not a reference to claiming that one knows he exists but to him, he being who he is. He, what is denoted by his name, has become the object of one’s trust (John 1: 12).  He is worthy of such trust. And such trust leads to eternal life (John 3: 16). And many believed in his name (John 2: 23). That sins are forgiven for the sake of his name” (Acts 10: 43) implies that sins are forgiven, when one might have thought only God can forgive sins, somehow or another, because of what his name represents.  Does not his name represent who he is?

In conclusion, it depends on the context, but reference to “the name” within the phrase, “in the name” can often bring to the fore, some specific aspect of a person, for example, his power or his authority.  However in some instances it can become too artificial to so limit it. “In the name” with reference to God or with reference to Jesus seems, in general terms, often to carry with it, to a lesser or greater degree, “who the person is”.   Consequently, the position that I have adopted in relation to the “to onoma” of “eis to onoma” when used in association with “Jesus, the Christ”, “Jesus, the Lord” and “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (and even “Paul”) is a reference to something like, “who the person is”.  And I do not think any consideration of how “name” is understood  in such a phrase as, “eis to onoma” in the Greek speaking world, external to the New Testament, has much bearing on how one should understand it in the New Testament particularly when the reference is to such as those just named.

[1] Bietenhard, H. “onoma, onomazo, eponomazo, pseudonumos” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (eds. Kittel, G. and Friedrich, G. (trans. Bromiley, W., volume V, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1968, pp. 242-283

[2] Schaberg, J., The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Society of Biblical Literature, Dissertation Series, No., 61, Scholar Press, Chico, CA, 1982, p. 19

[3] Idem.

[4] Idem.

[5] Idem.

[6] Idem.

February 14, 2012

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

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 9:29 pm

In the name – with reference to “the name”

Some consideration will now be given to how we should understand the notion of “name” beginning with how the word, translated “name” is used in the Old Testament.  Reference will be made to the opinions of a number of authors, particularly with respect to how “name” in “in the name” could be understood. There will be some focus on “eis to onoma” in particular. In discussion earlier, “into (‘eis’) the name” was sometimes referred to as though “the name” in that phrase could be understood as “who a person is”. Some justification for this understanding is now required.

Old Testament perspectives

The Hebrew word, “shem” in its various forms is to be found about 825 times in the Masoretic text of the Old Testament.  It is often used simply in terms of a particular name given to a person or other entity and sometimes the name has special significance.  Occasionally the person or a group of people such as Israel as referred to but in terms of their “name,” e.g.  their name will stand, they will be summoned by name. Occasionally it can be found denoting the idea of “fame” or “renown” – the person or nation having a “name” amongst other people.  Often the name is God’s name and there are expressions such as, singing praise to his name, calling on his name, building a sanctuary for his name,

Perhaps of most significance given our main area of focus is the Hebrew word, “beshem”. It along with ubeshem” is often translated, “in the name”, though sometimes, with other words such as “on the name” or “by the name”. In about 50 of the 71 instances the name is a reference to God with phrases such as, glorying in the name, speaking in the name, calling on the name, help being in the name of Yahweh, trusting in the name of Yahweh, serving in the name of Yahweh, being named by the name of Yahweh.  There are other forms of “shem” where most of the references are to God and where “in the name” or something similar is a possible translation. These are: “bishemi” and “ubishemi” where translations refer to “in” or “by” or “on” “my name” (the references are to God 18 times from a total of 19), “bishemeka”, “beshimka” and “uleshimka” where the translations refer to “in” or “by” or “on “your name” (the references are to God 12 times from 15), and “bishmo” and “ubishmo” where the reference is to “in” or “by” or “on” his name (the references are to God 9 times from 10).

It might be thought that the Hebrew words, “leshem” and “uleshem” are relevant when considering the notion of “in the name of” or similar.  See later.  Taken together there are 32 instances where these words occur in the Masoretic text. However the notion generally conveyed seems to be in terms of something being done “for” or “to” such as in the phrases, “a house being built for the name of the Yahweh”, “thanks being given to the name of Yahweh”.  Translations commonly use the words, “for” or “to” in these instances.  I will not appeal to “leshem” or “uleshem” as relevant to the present discussion.

Of importance then is what we might say about the significance of “name” in the expression “in”, “by” or “on” “the name” as it is found in the Old Testament.  Sometimes, the name given seems to be simply the name as a label of the entity: the city was called by the name of Dan, Bezaleel being called by name, towns being allotted by name. More commonly, and almost in almost all instances, where the reference is to God, or to a person of some prominence, something more or indeed much more, seems to be involved.   For example, the actual appeal might be to God’s authority or his power.  And his authority or power is some aspect of who he is. Indeed sometimes, it seems to be a reference to who he is without there being a focus on some aspect of his being.  To call upon the name of the Lord is not simply to call upon the name, “Yahweh”.  One is calling on him who has that name.  Prophesying in the name of the Lord is prophesying as the spokesperson of Yahweh, Yahweh being who he is. Trusting in his name, is not making a mere name the object of one’s trust but he who is behind, as it were, that name.  Swearing by God’s name is not simply invoking his name as part of some oath but invoking him in so doing.  Though sometimes it is his actual name that is being called upon, the expectation or hope is that he himself will act. Even with respect to another god, though sometimes the context might be that of invoking the particular name of a god, it is the god, who has been envisaged, in which one has placed one’s hopes.

February 13, 2012

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

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 9:59 pm

                    Immersed “eis” the name (contiunued)

At this point mention should be made of the text of 1 Corinthians 10: 2 where reference is made to “all were “baptised”, “immersed” into (eis)  Moses in (en) the cloud and in (en) the sea.  Although it is not an example of being baptised into a name, a name is mentioned – Moses.  “Immersed” into Moses has some parallel with being “immersed” into Paul, though in the case of Moses, a metaphorical usage, at least in part, is clearly the situation.  The sense here seems to be that the Israelites are caught up into Moses. As their leader they follow him.  Where he goes, they go, at least on the occasion being referred to.  The medium into which they are “immersed” is not foremost the sea or the cloud, however.  It is the person of Moses. None the less presumably the imagery of “immersion” conjures up such as a cloud and sea, into which one could be immersed.  In actual fact the Israelites had the sea on either side with the cloud behind – perhaps suggestive of a type of immersion for which Paul thinks the appropriate preposition is “en” (in).

Similarly, mention should be made of Romans 6: 3 and Galatians 3: 27.  In Romans the reference is to all who have been “baptised”, “immersed” into (“eis”) Christ Jesus having been “baptised”, “immersed” into (“eis”) his death.  In Galatians, the reference is to those Galatians “baptised”, “immersed” into (“eis”) Christ having put on Christ.  It is commonly understood that the first reference to “baptised” in Romans and the single reference to “baptised” in Galatians are references to the water ceremony undergone by the believers.  Would this imply that a believer who had not undergone the water ceremony had not been immersed into Christ’s death and had not put on Christ or additionally that the person was not even really a believer?  Surely not!

However, to the rescue, a metaphorical understanding of “baptizo” is quite possible in both instances.  Just as in 1 Corinthians 10: 2 the Israelites can be understood as being caught up, “immersed” in Moses, so too in these two texts, the sense could be that believers are caught up, “immersed” in Christ.  In Romans 6: 3 the sense would then seem to be that a person “immersed” in Christ is obviously also “immersed” in his death with Romans 6: 4 pointing out that upon the death comes newness of life, given that Christ upon his death was raised from the dead.  Similarly, in Galatians the sense would then be that a person “immersed” in Christ can be understood as having put him on, as with clothing, with Galatians 3: 28 pointing out that consequently no distinction can be made between Jew or Greek etc. for those who are “in Christ”.   It should be noted that in both instances part of the context is clearly metaphorical in character.  In Romans the believer is “immersed” into the death of Christ and in Galatians, the believer has “put on” Christ. In my view the word “baptizo” used twice in the Romans text and once in the Galatians text is best understood as being metaphorical in character.  At the same time, it could be that the water ceremony is part of the backdrop against which the text has been written.

As an aside, the phrase, “baptised”, “immersed” into one body (1 Corinthians 12: 15) could well be a reference to being “immersed” into that one body of believers but without that implying that a water ceremony was necessarily involved.  Paul follows the reference with “whether Jews or Greeks … all were made to drink of one Spirit.”  This strikes a chord with the Galatians text and again part of the context is clearly metaphorical in character – “to drink of one Spirit”.


By way of a conclusion, the Acts 8 and 19 and 1 Corinthian 1 texts on which we have focussed would seem to be relevant for our understanding of Matthew 28: 19, at least because they indicate that “eis to onoma” in association with “baptizo” is not exceptional. Though they do not refer to “’baptising’, ‘immersing’ in the name of …”.  The 1 Corinthian 10, Romans 6 and Galatians 3 texts are important because they illustrate the plausibility of “baptizo eis” being understood metaphorically in some instances where a person is named.

February 12, 2012

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

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 10:59 pm

                    Immersed “epi” the name

We will now attempt to provide and answer to the question of why, “epi” is used in association with “baptizo” and “the name” in Acts 2: 38.  The phrase under scrutiny is, “baptistheto epi to onomati”.

To begin with it should not be surprising that Acts 2: 38 with its “epi” should have as a variant “en”, the appearance of “epi” seemingly being an oddity.   Yet it is more likely that “epi” is the original” rather than “en” since, independently of the weight of the manuscript evidence being in favour  of “epi”, it would be less likely for “en” to have been changed to “epi” than the other way around.

Liddell and Scott, indicate that one of the usages for “epi” with the accusative has a causal sense – “of the object or purpose for which one goes”, “as regards”, “of persons set over others” or, “according to, by”.[1]  The first three of these alternatives may be the most significant in the present instance.  It might also be worth noting that Acts 2: 38 is the only instance when “baptizo appears in the imperative in the New Testament. Furthermore, there is no such instance to be found in the Greek literature at least up until the beginning of the 2nd century A.D.

Given that this is Peter’s imperative on the Day of Pentecost to the crowds that had gathered, perhaps the emphasis in what Peter is demanding is not so much on the performance of a water ceremony but the completely new appraisal that his listeners are to have of this Jesus of Nazareth.   He begins with the notion of repentance rather than with that of water baptism. “Repent and be baptised” are his words.  Whatever people previously thought of him, this Jesus of Nazareth is to be seen as the Christ and they are being told to be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ or Jesus, the Christ[2].  The extent to which Peter elaborates upon the person of this Jesus, the appeal he makes to his mighty works, the outworking of the purposes of God through him and the fulfilment of Scripture concerning him is consistent with “epi” being used in the sense of “with respect to”. And it is with respect to “the name” of Jesus, the Christ.  That is, I suggest it is with respect to who this Jesus, the Christ is.  He is at least the Christ!  See later for discussion on the significance of “name”.

In spite of all that has been said above and its significance, I do not think that the use of “epi” in Acts 2: 38 is all that relevant to our consideration of Matthew 28: 19 where “eis” is used.  None the less, what occurred on the Day of Pentecost will again be referred to, from time to time, later.

As an aside it should be noted, as indicated earlier, that it is not that the phrase, “epi to onomati” is rare in the Greek literature, it is not.  It is simply rare when used in conjunction with “baptizo”, the only occurrence known up until New Testament times being in the Acts 2: 38 passage.

Immersed “en” the name

We will now attempt to provide an answer to the question of why, “en” is used in association with “baptizo” and “the name” in Acts 10: 48.  The phrase under scrutiny is, “baptisthenai to onomati”.

The Acts 10: 48 passage with its “en” has some common elements with Acts 2: 38.  Although “baptizo” is not in the imperative, it is linked with the verb of “command” – Peter, “commanded” Cornelius and his company to be baptized.  Furthermore, the name in which they are to be baptized is the same name as the name in Acts 2: 38 – the name of Jesus, the Christ – the only other time that this name is used in conjunction with baptism in the New Testament.  But why “en” in the case of Acts 10 and not “epi” as with Acts 2 or “eis” as in the other five instances?

Liddell and Scott, give as one illustration of the use of “en” with the dative case – “of the state, condition, position in which one is”[3].  Noting that again an imperative is to the fore, perhaps “en” in Acts 10: 48 is used to give emphasis to the new situation arising for these God fearers (Acts 10: 2).  They were to be seen as having the same state as that of the Jews of Acts 2.  Luke gives considerable attention to this perspective in Acts 10 and 11.  “Epi” might have given greater focus to “regarding Jesus, the Christ” and “eis” might have given greater focus to what one was being immersed into but “en” perhaps draws attention to the state – the same state as the believing Jew.  Peter commanded that the baptism take place perhaps because he wanted it to be clear that though Cornelius and his group were not Jews, they were to be treated as having the same status in Jesus, the Christ as the believing Jew.

In terms of a conclusion, I think that when considering issues relating to Matthew 28: 19 it is important to give some recognition to the circumstances in which Peter commanded that Cornelius and his company be baptised.  Understandably then, the baptism of Cornelius and his company will again be referred to later. However, that “en” is used in Acts 10: 48 and not “eis” is probably of no great relevance for our understanding of the Matthew 28 text.

Again as an aside it should be noted that the phrase, “en to onomati” is not rare.  It is simply that in conjunction with “baptizo” it is quite rare.

[1] Liddell, H.G. and Scott, Ibid., p. 287

[2] I think that it is more likely that at the baptismal ceremony, the sense is “Jesus, the Christ” rather than Jesus Christ.  I will tend to refer to “Jesus, the Christ” hereafter particularly when a baptismal ceremony in the New Testament is being discussed.

[3] Ibid., p. 257

February 11, 2012

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

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 9:11 pm

Immersed “eis” the name

We turn now to four of the five instances where “eis” is used in association with “baptizo” and “the name”.  Additionally, we will examine three texts where “baptizo eis” is used but instead of the reference being to “to onoma”, the person is named.

In Acts 8: 16 and 19: 5 the name into which people are to be immersed is that of “the Lord Jesus” or “Jesus, the Lord”[1] – the Samaritan believers in Acts 8: 16 and the Ephesian disciples in Acts 19: 5.   Perhaps we are to see that the reference to “Jesus, the Lord” is more appropriate for these non-Jews (identifying who the Ephesians really were, is problematic) than the term, “Jesus, the Christ” used on the Day of Pentecost and with the God fearing Gentiles – Cornelius and his company.  Furthermore, as suggested earlier, “eis” is a preposition suitable for use in conjunction with “baptizo” when both the “immersing” and the medium into which the “immersion” takes place are considered significant. The Samaritans and Ephesians are to be immersed into the name of the Jesus, the Lord, that is, I suggest, immersed into “who this Jesus, the Lord is” and the water ceremony of immersion will symbolise this.  They will come under his authority.  They will recognise him as Lord.  They will understand to some extent, what his relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit is and what he has accomplished.

In both Acts 8 and Acts 19 the situation was that the believers had not yet received the Holy Spirit. In both instances, the Holy Spirit came upon them after the laying on of hands.  It would seem that in each instance those present are to witness this special manifestation of the Spirit coming upon these new believers as a sure indication of God’s blessing not only upon Jews and God fearing Gentiles but also upon the Samaritans and other Gentiles as well.

Contrary to the situation that applied in Acts 8 and 19, in Acts 2 the disciples had already received the Spirit and Peter promised the giving of the Holy Spirit to all those who would repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus, the Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  And in Acts 10 the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the new believers even before the command given for them to be baptized. Their baptism could not be denied given that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on them.

The 1 Corinthian 1: 13 and 15 texts are exceptional in that they amount to a denial of “being immersed in the name of” and the person being referred to is Paul.  The context is that of Paul’s concern with divisions that had arisen amongst the Corinthians.  Perhaps these divisions had come about because different ones saw themselves attached to, obligated to, or as having learnt from different Christian leaders or because they believed some leaders deserved more esteem than others.  Whatever the root causes of these divisions, Paul refers to each one of them saying, “‘I am of Paul’ and ‘I of Apollos’ and ‘I of Cephas’ and ‘I of Christ’”. And in retort he writes, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you was he? Or were you baptized (‘immersed’) in the name of Paul (‘eis to onoma Paulos’)? I thank God I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius so that no one would say you were baptized in my name (‘eis to emon onoma’). Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanus; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other” (NASB).

In this response he resists mentioning Cephas or Apollos a second time probably finding it more suitable to simply refer to himself.  And by using “eis” (although it has been noted that he always uses “eis” in connection with “baptizo”), he may have been pointedly drawing attention to what the immersion was into – himself.  And this for him was what made it so appalling.  Christ had been crucified for them, no one else.

Note that he begins by referring to the notion of some Corinthians being “of Paul” (“Paulou”), others “of Apollos” (“Apollo”), others of Cephas (“Kepha”), and yet others of Christ (Christou”), rather than their being “baptised”, “immersed”.

As an aside, why did Paul mention Christ along with the others as though Christ was on par with the others? Was it really the case that some saw Christ as comparable though superior to the others?  Or did Paul mention him and locate him in last place as a way of focussing on the one in whom there were no divisions, the one, the only one, who had died for them?

More significantly, in the present discussion, what was intended by Paul, to begin with,  simply using the genitive without any reference to “baptised”, ”immersed”? Perhaps it was Paul’s way of dealing with the fact that there were a variety of reasons why different Corinthians appealed to different leaders, without these differences being simply ones associated with “baptism”, “immersion”. Perhaps when he first raises the matter of “baptising”, “immersing” he intends to use the word, “baptizo” somewhat metaphorically, rather than by way of making a reference to a water ceremony. He has rhetorically asked, “Paul was not crucified for you was he?  Why then do some of you consider yourselves “immersed” in my name, in who I Paul am?

As mentioned earlier, “baptizo” can be used in a metaphorical sense and a couple of examples of this were given earlier – “being ‘swamped’ in or by taxes, or in or by debt”.  Paul is after all not so much concerned with a ceremony but under whom the believers are to consider themselves subject, to whom they are to consider themselves obligated or something similar.  Then not unnaturally having used the word “baptizo” perhaps metaphorically he then uses it to refer to the water ceremony. “I thank God I baptized none of you so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.”

Finally he asserts, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel” (v. 17).  However we are to precisely understand Paul’s text in vv. 12 to 16, we cannot escape Paul’s view of the relative importance of the water ceremony – he was not even sent to perform it!  Instead he was sent to preach the gospel.

[1] I think that it is more likely that at the baptismal ceremony, the sense is “Jesus, the Lord” rather than the Lord Jesus.  I will tend to refer to “Jesus, the Lord” hereafter particularly when a baptismal ceremony of the New Testament is being discussed.


February 9, 2012

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

Filed under: Baptism — barrynewman @ 10:40 pm

“Immersed” in the name

Now we will refer to what is called the intensive nature of “baptizo” and examine where the phrases, “eis to onoma”, “en to onomati” and “epi to onomati” are associated with “baptizo in the New Testament and the frequency of those occurrences.

Baptizo” is a verb “intensive” in form, as indicated by the presence of the “iz” stem, there being something thorough, about the idea of immersion. Any entity or part of an entity that is immersed is completely, thoroughly immersed. There are no half measures to the actual immersion that has taken place. The idea that the object is to be withdrawn from the fluid medium is generally, if not always, not part of the concept.  This is not to say that the object is not withdrawn later. It often is.  It is simply that the idea of removal from the medium is not “written into” the verb itself.

It is derived from the verb “bapto” which has the general sense of “dip” but in certain contexts takes on other notions such as “dye”. It does seem to have the notion of withdrawal from the medium as part of the concept.[1] It is found four times in the New Testament (Luke 16: 24’ John 13: 26 (2x), Revelation 19: 13).

There are several other Greek verbs commonly used in association with water, e.g. “bapto, louo, nipto, pluno, raino, cheo”, and each has an intensive form created by the addition of the prefix, “apo”.  For example, “raino” carries it with the idea of “sprinkle” but “aporaino” refers to the notion of “spurting”. As another example, “luoo” refers to “washing” but “apolouo” has the notion of thoroughly washing, that is, “washing clean”. “Baptizo” has no such intensive form. It is already of an intensive nature.  The intensive nature of “baptizo” has implications for our understanding of Matthew 28: 19, whatever final view one decides to take.


The word “baptizo” occurs, along with the prepositional phrase “in the name”, seven times in the New Testament.  As mentioned earlier, on five occasions (Matthew 28: 19; Acts 8: 16, 19: 5; 1 Corinthians 13 and 15), “the phrase translated “in the name” is “eis to onoma”. However on one occasion (Acts 10: 48), it is “en to onomati” and on another (Acts 2: 38) it is “epi to onomati” with a variant to this latter reading being, “en to onomati”. See Table 6.

eis to onoma

en to onomati

epi to onomati





Table 6

Frequency of the occurrence in the New Testament of three prepositional phrases (“in the name”) in association with “baptizo

It eventuates that there are no examples of “baptizo” used in association with “name”, whether prepositions are used or not, outside of the New Testament prior to New Testament times and at least up until about the beginning of the 2nd century A.D.

For whatever reason “eis” is the dominant preposition to be found in the phrase “in the name” when the governing verb is “baptizo”.  We have already commented that it is a suitable preposition to use in conjunction with “baptizo” but the same could have been said for “en” in its association with “baptizo” given its frequency of occurrence with that verb at least in the New Testament.

Furthermore we cannot ignore the exceptions. What are we to make of the two instances, one where “en” is used” and the other, where “epi” is used?  This is probably a question impossible to answer with any degree of confidence.  A writer may choose to employ language with a freedom that in itself makes such a question pointless.  Besides we have only one instance to examine in each case. None the less, an attempt should probably be made.  The suggestions offered in what follows are only suggestions.

[1]Schnabel, E. J., “The Language of Baptism: The Meaning of “Baptizo” in the New Testament”, in Understanding the Times: New Testament Studies in the 21st Century, Crossway, Wheaton, IL, 2011, pp. 217-246, is of the view that “bapto” and “baptizo” are almost equivalent and refers to “baptizo” being used in the sense of dyeing.  Yet, there is no example of “baptizo” being used to refer to dyeing at least up until about the beginning of the 2nd century A.D.

February 8, 2012

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — barrynewman @ 11:01 pm

                    “In the name” with reference to “in” (en)

Using the Thesaurus Linguae Graeca I came across four instances of “en to onomati” appearing in the Greek literature apart from the New Testament up until about the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. One related to a person’s reputation, the other three seemed to be related to words as names for things.

In the New Testament, the phrase, “en to onomati” occurs 29 times. On 23 occasions the reference is to Jesus in one way or another, the phrase being “in my name” eight times, “in your name” three times, “in the name of Jesus Christ” three times, “in the name of the Lord” three times, “in the name of Jesus” twice, and “in the name of the Lord Jesus”, “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”, “in his name” and “in that name” (i.e. “Christ” as in “Christian”?) once each. Other references are to the Father (as “in the name of the Father” and “in your name”, each twice), with one reference being to “in his own name” (an unnamed “another person”) and another being to “in what name”.  The contexts are: some action being carried out, some situation occurring or something being said or requested “in the name”   “In my name” is to be found seven times in John’s Gospel with one occurrence in Mark’s Gospel. The references to the names ascribed to Jesus are to be found in the Acts of the Apostles, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, James and 1 Peter.  Acts 10: 48 records Peter commanding that Cornelius and his company be baptised.

The phrase, “en onomati” also occurs in the New Testament and is found there 12 times. On six occasions the reference is to “in the name of the Lord” (God), “in the name of Christ” and “in the name of the Lord Jesus” twice each and “in the name of Jesus Christ” and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”, once each.

There are no instances in the New Testament of the phrase, “en tois onomasi” (in the names). However a cursory search of the Thesaurus Linguae Graeca turned up many instances of its occurrence up until about the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. 26 of these are attributed to Galen, and six each to Dionysius Halicarnassus, Apollonus Dyscolus and Philo Judaeus.  No further analysis of the usage of “en tois onomasi” was carried out.


I do not think the material relating to “eis ta onomata”, “epi to onomati”, “epi tois onomasi”, “en to onomati” or “en tois onomasi” is all that relevant to the subject on which we are mainly focussed.   However it may be helpful to keep in mind that “eis”, “epi” and “en” often seem to function like each other.  Perhaps it simply depends on who the author is.  For example, “eis” occurs in the phrase, “in his name” in John’s Gospel, whereas, “en” occurs in the phrase, “in your name” in Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels and in the phrase “in my name” in John’s Gospel, and “epi” occurs in the phrase, “in my name” in each of the synoptic Gospels.

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