Barry Newman's Blog

November 6, 2012

The Sacraments (part XVII)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:45 pm

The Early Practice of Baptising

The disciples of Jesus during the earthly ministry of Jesus also baptised.  The practice appears to have been very similar to that of John with the difference being that with the disciples of Jesus one became a disciple of Jesus.  There is no evidence that these baptisms actually invoked the name of Jesus as a necessary part of the ceremony. However, people were presumably clearly indicating that they wished to “follow” Jesus. There is no indication that those disciples of John who became disciples of Jesus underwent a second baptism. Furthermore while it is assumed that all of the disciples of Jesus were baptised by someone or other, it is only an assumption.  After the resurrection, it is clear that Peter and others baptised many and that the baptisms were in response to preaching and teaching about Jesus and a call to repentance. In the Acts of the Apostles, there are references to people being baptised “in the name of “Jesus the Lord” or “Jesus the Christ”[1].  It is not absolutely clear that the words “in the name of …” were actually used as part of the ceremony. However if they were not there would still have been a strong sentiment that the baptisms related to being “caught up under” who he was and what he had taught. It appears to be the general practice that if you were to become a believer, whether Jew of Gentile, then you underwent a baptismal water ceremony.  There is no clear evidence that children were baptised, although the head of a household may have been baptised on behalf of his whole household.

The Baptismal Verb and the Nouns

The “baptismal” words used in the New Testament are: “baptizo” (I immerse), baptisma” (a baptism), “baptismos” (a baptism) and “baptistes”, the (immerser). Up until about the beginning of the 2nd century A.D., while “baptisma” occurs 20 times in the New Testament it is found only twice outside of the New Testament (one relating to the baptisms conducted by John)[2]. “Baptistes” is found only once outside of the New Testament (a direct reference to John)[3] and “baptismos” (found only 3 times in the New Testament) not at all.  An examination of the use of “baptizo” in the Greek literature outside of the New Testament for the time periods, prior to 1st century BC (40 instances) and 1st century BC to 1st century AD (59 instances) indicated no obvious differences in usage between the two periods and that approximately 1/3 of usages were figurative, generally metaphorical.  There is only one clear instance where the word is used of a ritual[4].  Its literal usage almost always involves water and is commonly used in the sinking of ships or the drowning of men.  Its figurative usage extends to being immersed in taxes, worry, debt, words, and very commonly wine.  With its overall sense being “immersing”, its figurative usage takes on the notion of “overwhelming”, “engulfing”, “enveloping” or similar.


[1] See Acts 2: 38; 8: 16; 10: 48; 19: 5

[2] See Note 15 above.

[3] See Note 15 above

[4] See Note 15 above

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