Barry Newman's Blog

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 The idea that the object is to be withdrawn from the fluid medium is generally, if not always, not part of the concept.  This is not to say that the object is not withdrawn later.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.


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