Barry Newman's Blog

November 28, 2012

The Sacraments (Full Series PDF)

Filed under: Baptism,Holy Communion,Lord's Supper,The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 11:59 pm

Here is the full series.

The Sacraments (part XXVII)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:47 am

Are the Sacraments of “Baptism” and “The Supper of the Lord” ordained by Christ?

No one should doubt the extraordinarily significant practice of genuine baptism.  No one should question the richness of reflecting with the people of God on the death of the Lord Jesus Christ – the death “for many”.

However what is the answer to the question?  If the question entails the notion that Christ has commanded that one ceremonial practice be undergone by all those coming to be believers and that the other ceremonial practice be observed  by believers on an ongoing basis, and that these practices are thereby obligatory, the answer seems to be “no”.  Regardless of what we might find was practised and believed in the early church beyond New Testament times, an examination of the New Testament itself does not seem to support the answer, “yes”.  The idea that certain ceremonies are mandatory would appear to be contrary to the gospel as portrayed in the New Testament and contrary to the notion of freedom from such regulations inherent in the gospel. Indeed surely we do not want to be condemned, even if only by implication, with the words of Yahweh uttered against the people of Jerusalem, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29: 13) – words, quoted by Jesus in his vitriolic response to the Pharisees and the Scribes expressing their concern for ritual observance, according to the traditions of the elders (Matthew 15: 8, 9).

If the practices of undergoing water baptism and partaking in the Lord’s Supper, are not understood as formal religious rites arising from a command of the Lord Jesus, but, to the contrary, as ceremonies freely engaged in by his followers, this arguably would result in:

highly regulated religious practices receiving less attention, the grace of God displayed in the glorious gospel being better understood, the necessity of the righteous life being more soberly apprehended, the judgement of God being held in greater awe, the love of God portrayed in the death of Jesus the Christ more deeply appreciated, his Son being much more deeply loved and wondered at, his resurrection being better understood as the catastrophic world cracking sign of all times, proclaiming the word of God, the message of God, being given greater urgency and clarity, the expectation of the second coming of Jesus the Lord in all his glory being much more to the fore in our thought and speech, the difference between the gospel and all other world beliefs being seen to be so much greater as to defy comparison and God being the more greatly honoured.

November 25, 2012

The Sacraments (part XXVI)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 7:23 pm

The Sacraments, the Gospel and freedom (part 2)

In the New Testament the gospel is referred to in many ways and it is obvious that it contains many facets.  One way of deciding how the gospel is to be understood or not to be understood is to examine how the Greek words, “euaggelion”, often translated “good news”, and “euaggelizomai”, often translated “proclaiming” or “proclaiming the good news” or similar, function in the New Testament. Almost all instances of each of these words relate to that great news concerning the Lord Jesus.

What part do the ceremonies, water baptism and something akin to the Lord’s Supper, play in the glorious and great gospel?  Actually, not at all with respect to “euaggelion.” The noun occurs 75 times in the New Testament but never once in any association with either ceremony.  The verb occurs 52 times in the New Testament and on only one occasion is there any connection being made with it to either of the ceremonies.  In 1 Corinthians 1: 17, Paul writes, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel.”  The verb “euaggelizomai” is used in conjunction with baptism but in a negative sense!

In the New Testament the greatest concentration of “euaggelion” and “euaggelizomai” taken together occurs in Galatians. This is the letter that is fundamentally concerned with the believers being led into living under a false gospel – a gospel where the observance of the ceremony of circumcision was regarded as mandatory and where the observance of special days also seems to have become extremely important.  It would seem very odd for Paul to write in his letter to the Galatians, that with respect to the gospel, the obligatory observance of water baptism and something akin to the Lord’s Supper were exceptions to his general concern.  Of course, he makes no such statement.  To the contrary, this letter would seem to rule out of order any claims that such ceremonies were necessarily to be observed.

In that letter, Paul writes: “You observe days and months and seasons and years!  I am afraid I have laboured over you in vain” (4: 10, 11). And continues: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (5: 1).  “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail but faith working through love” (5: 6).  “You were called to freedom brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be slaves of one another” (5: 13). “Walk by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (5:16).  “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (5: 25). “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation (6: 14, 15).  And in another place he writes, “Don’t let anyone judge you with regards to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day … or by what you eat and drink” (Colossians 2: 16)

Indeed, Paul, the learned Jew, once exceedingly zealous for the law and its observance including the observance of its ceremonial aspects proclaims a concept of freedom as an aspect of the gospel that we seem to find great difficulty in comprehending. For Paul it did not matter whether one was circumcised or not.  It did matter if one thought it necessary for acceptance by God. It did not matter whether one observed certain regulations concerning the type of food one ate.  What did matter was the concern one had for the spiritual welfare of a brother. It did not matter whether or not one treated one day differently to another.  But observing them as though such observance was fundamental did matter. The things that Paul considered as of importance were such as “turning to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come” and “admonishing the idle, encouraging the fainthearted, helping the weak, being patient with all the brethren and not repaying evil with evil but always seeking to do good to one another and to all” (1 Thessalonians 1: 9, 10; 5: 14, 15).

November 23, 2012

The Sacraments (part XXV)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:19 pm

The Sacraments, the Gospel and Freedom (part 1.)

If being baptised and partaking in something like the Lord’s Supper are obligatory, what part do they play in the gospel? One could argue that under the old covenant there was the compulsory sign of circumcision.  Under the new covenant, the corresponding compulsory sign is baptism.  Similarly it might be claimed that under the old covenant there was a compulsory festive meal.  Under the new covenant, the corresponding compulsory meal is the Lord’s Supper.

In the Old Testament the matter of partaking in the Passover celebration is clearly declared necessary by an express command of God.  In the New Testament, if what Jesus said at the Last Passover meal was indeed a command then it would seemingly apply to future Passover meals, if such were to be celebrated in the future.  Besides, as argued above, what Jesus said could be in the indicative mood.  However, even if it is understood as being in the imperative mood then what was said could be understood as Jesus informing the disciples that in future they are to see the Passover meal in a new light rather than his issuing some “commandment” to so view it.  Whatever the case, there is certainly no injunction in Scripture that there is to be some meal that is somewhat reflective of a Passover meal and that it is to be partaken of a number of times throughout the year.  Anything like the Lord’s Supper does not appear to be of the same status as the Passover meal of the Old Testament.

The matter of (males) being circumcised is also clearly declared necessary in the Old Testament by an express command of God.  While being baptised obviously has symbolic character as did circumcision they are entirely different ceremonies. There is however a text of the New Testament where circumcision and baptism appear to be linked.  Colossians 2: 11, 12 reads: “In him (Christ) also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ and you were buried with him in baptism ‘en to(i) baptismo(i)’, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Whatever Paul is referring to by his references to “circumcised” and “circumcision”, the concept of circumcision is being used metaphorically, none the less to describe very significant realities.  “Buried with him (Christ)” and “raised with him” are phrases also having a metaphorical character, again, none the less descriptive of very significant realities.  Is the reference to “baptism” here meant to be a reference to a literal water ceremony?  If so, it is a piece of literalism without metaphorical character in the midst of metaphorical allusions.  If so, it also bespeaks of an extraordinary importance to be attached to the water baptism ceremony for it would appear that in that very physical act, the burying with Christ and the raising with Christ take place.  Given this understanding one can see the extraordinary importance attached to water baptism by certain believers and the concern they have for anyone who not having been baptised still claims to be in Christ.

Translating the phrase ‘en to(i) baptismo(i)’ as “in baptism” automatically steers us towards understanding the words to refer to a literal water ceremony.  However it could be translated in such a way as to convey the metaphorical sense of “immersion” or “envelopment”.  Such a translation would simply be as one with the metaphorical elements which precede it and follow it. Besides, this is not Paul indicating that the rite of circumcision is to be replaced by a ceremony of water baptism.  He has referred to circumcision metaphorically whatever one thinks he is referring to by ‘baptismo(i)’.

 Circumcision and baptism are indeed different ceremonies though both do operate as signs indicative of entering into a distinctive relationship with God on the one hand and Jesus the Son of the Father on the other.  Again, it should be noted even if Matthew 28: 19 is thought to constitute a commandment regarding a water ceremony, a position which has been argued against, it is not a command to be baptised but a command for his disciples to baptise.  It does not have the status that the instruction by God for the males of his people to be circumcised had.

November 21, 2012

The Sacraments (part XXIV)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 9:23 pm

The Sacraments and History

There are a number of relatively early references to water baptism practices to be found in the writings of the Early Fathers and other Christian sources: Justin of Caesarea (middle 2nd century), The Didache (early 1st century to early 3rd century?), Irenaeus (late 2nd century), The Apostolic Tradition (early 3rd century ?) Tertullian of Rome (early 3rd century). Though it is difficult to say in every instance exactly what such a practice entailed, it is clear that, similar to what is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, new believers underwent a water ceremony meant to indicate a profound allegiance to Jesus.  However what was practised seems to have differed widely. Tertullian makes it clear that he believed that Jesus had made a reference to the necessity of a water ceremony being performed[1], although it was probably so believed from fairly early times.

One of the earliest references to something like a “Lord’s Supper” is made by Ignatius of Antioch[2], though generally it is in terms of what he calls “the eucharist”. He makes explicit reference to celebrating “one eucharist” because “one is the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup of union through his blood and one the altar”[3].  Justin of Caesarea in a passage where he quotes Jesus saying “Do this in remembrance of me”[4] probably indicates that he believes this to be a commandment of his, obedience to which was being made evident in a perhaps weekly participation in a Eucharistic celebration. Most likely this understanding was held from earlier times. As mentioned above, the two Greek words often translated, “the Lord’s Supper” appear only once before the 4th century[5].

Given that there seems to be fairly early evidence that Christians believed that being baptised and participating in a celebration associated with the death of Jesus were mandatory, why would one doubt that such a perception was incorrect?  Surely, their understanding must be accepted as correct over and above any later but different understanding. Three matters which should be considered before adopting that position as a conclusion to the debate:  Firstly, it is clear that at the same time that the Early Fathers seem to indicate that they saw participation in these ceremonies as mandatory there were disagreements amongst themselves as to how baptisms should be conducted and there were statements about the nature of the bread and the wine in Eucharistic services that evangelicals at least would claim to be in error. The Early Fathers cannot have “gotten it all right”. Secondly it is also clear that even as early as the 50s and 60s Paul is struggling to combat various false teachings of such significant character as to warrant his giving extensive instructions in attempts to undermine them– witness his letter to the Galatians.  False views made their mark from the very early days.  Thirdly, that something was written as early as, 100  years, nay let’s be really generous, 10 years after the gospels in one form or another had been circulating is absolutely no guarantee that any understanding of gospel material in such a writing is correct.  For historical reasons, at least, the textual material of the New Testament is the bedrock for our understanding of the issues which concern us and it needs to be treated with respect and examined on the basis of its own merits.

If the early Christians did misunderstand what Jesus said, how would that have happened?  One can only guess.  But there are some plausible possibilities.  One is as follows: There seems to be a natural tendency in human beings, if they are conscientiously religious, to create regulations. If the regulations are followed it enables people to be satisfied that they have done what needs to be done, to feel assured that God or the gods, spirits or demons will be pleased or at least satisfied, and to be more confident that God or the gods, spirits or demons are more likely to make one’s life more bearable, even happier as a consequence.  If the regulations are not followed it can drive people to strive to do better in the future and it provides for them an understanding that why their life is not as good as it could be since they have failed God or the gods, spirits or demons.  Setting up mandatory regulations to be observed in early Christian communities would have been simply mirroring this tendency.

Another possible explanation, not to be divorced from the above, focuses on what one might consider a basic difference between a Greek way of relating to the gods and a Roman way of so relating.  The early Christians lived in a world dominated by Graeco-Roman culture.  The culture was infused with both recognisably Greek and Roman perspectives.  Speaking generally, when it came to the gods, it seems that the Greek way was not nearly as “rite” bound as the Roman way. It appears that one was at greater liberty to carry out one’s religious duties in one way or another, living as a Greek than if living as a Roman.  The word “rite” derives from the Latin word, “ritus”.  There does not appear to be a single word, carrying the concept, “rite” in the Greek language. This was drawn to my attention by E.A. Judge.  If Christianity was to go badly astray and the writings of Paul, let alone those of the Early Fathers, indicate that was not only likely but happened, then conceivably there were two tempting pathways.  It could go the Greek way or the Roman way. If it were to go the Greek way, from a human point of view, then the gospel would indeed be lost, Jesus would be viewed as just another deity among the myriads to be worshipped as you pleased.  If it were to go the Roman way, the gospel in main substance could be preserved – partly preserved by means of focussing on mandatory rites and partly preserved by setting up fairly rigid systems of governance.  If there is any substance to this theory, one might argue that it was necessary to have gone the Roman way in order to preserve the gospel.  However, Paul would have loudly proclaimed, “Not so!”  He had greater confidence in the gospel itself, provided believers adhered to it, and the God of the gospel, provided they abided in him.


[1] Tertullian, On the Soldier’s Crown, 3.3

[2] For example, Ignatius of Antioch, To the Smyrnaeans, 7.1 and 8. 1, 2 and To the Philadelphians 4.1

[3] Ignatius of Antioch, To the Romans 7.3

[4] Justin of Caesarea, Apology I, 66

[5] See Note 11

November 19, 2012

The Sacraments (part XXIII)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 9:56 pm

“Do this” or “You are doing this” – “in remembrance of me” – a final word 

Returning to the matter of “the Lord’s Supper” one of the matters to which little attention has been given is that in Luke, the words of remembrance appear only with respect of the bread and in 1 Corinthians, in reciting what Paul received from the Lord, the word, “whenever” only appears with respect to the cup and drinking.  We also need to remember in the New Testament, the words “do” (poieo) and “this” (houtos) when used to describe what Jesus said at the Last Passover Meal, even given their contex,t lack a degree of specificity.  For instance it is not being recorded that Jesus said, “Eat this” and “Drink this” or even “You are eating this” and “You are drinking this” “in remembrance of me”.  What the “this” and the “do” refer to is at least a little imprecise.

Although it may well be that in the original text Luke might not have made any mention of words of remembrance, if we assume he did, why did he choose not to make such a reference in association with the cup as well as the bread?  Given that the breaking of bread occurred at the beginning of the main course, did Luke see the words “do this in remembrance of me”, while seemingly connected in some way directly to the bread, as also indirectly in some way embracing the main course of the meal as a whole (and by inference, participation in the entire meal)?  Similarly, given that the drinking from the cup in question, arguably concluded the main course of the meal, did Paul in his quoting the words of Jesus see the word, “whenever”, connected in some way directly with the drinking from the cup, as also indirectly in some way embracing that course as a whole (and by inference participation in the entire meal)?  Perhaps the answer is, “Yes”, though to argue such might appear a little strained.

However, if what Jesus said was, “You are doing this” the proposal seems a little more natural.  Luke is recording that at the beginning of the main course, Jesus is saying that they are doing this, participating in this main course in remembrance of him – the bread introducing the main course, having just been broken and distributed or in the process of being distributed.  In Luke, the impression being given would be that they were to see that Passover meal as a remembrance event of his death but not necessarily previous Passover meals.  On the other hand, Paul’s reference to Jesus saying “you are doing this whenever” in connection with the drinking of the wine, which concluded the main course, could be understood as a reference to Passover meals in general being remembrance events of the death of Jesus.  That Paul also refers to Jesus saying “you are doing this in remembrance of me” in connection with the bread that began the main course, is in line with what Luke may have recorded but would stress that in particular, it was that last Passover meal that was in memory of his death.

Understanding, “touto poieite” as “you are doing this” may seem to better account for the slight “oddities” in the accounts of both Luke and Paul and while direct references were being made to both bread and wine, the indirect reference was to the main course of the meal and by inference to the entire meal.

November 17, 2012

The Sacraments (part XXII)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:16 pm

Understanding “Immersing” in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Matthew records three situations where the word “baptizo” is part of the text – the water baptismal ceremony carried out by John the immerser, the reference to the one who would be immersed in the Holy Spirit and fire and Jesus speaking to the disciples before his departure. The first situation employs a literal rendering of the verb, the second a metaphorical usage.  What of the third situation?  If “baptizo” is understood metaphorically, Matthew 28: 19b, reading something like, “immersing them in all that pertains to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, the difficulties referred to above disappear and additional insight is given into what Jesus is saying.

The text now makes an explicit reference to what the disciples of the future need to be taught, something which otherwise would only be implicit in the instructions Jesus gives. It allows for the fact that some early Christians did not think it necessary to carry out water baptisms in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, whatever they actually made of verse 19. It explains why the Acts of the Apostles only records water baptisms in the name of Jesus the Christ or Jesus the Lord.  It recognises the difficulty of making disciples from the Gentile world.  It recognises the difficulty that the disciples would have of seeing the necessity of engaging with the Gentile world.  It provides an explanation as to why there is no actual command of Jesus to be baptised in a water ceremony.  It provides a partial understanding of why the writers of the other Gospels did not consider it essential to refer to “baptising in the name of …” which otherwise one would expect them to do so, if it were indeed part of a command statement made by Jesus at the end of his earthly ministry.  It underlines the idea that the command that Matthew refers to is a command that is especially important to record for a Jewish audience.  It answers any objection that the mandatory requirement of such a ceremony seems to be inconsistent with the grace of God revealed in Christ.

November 15, 2012

The Sacraments (part XXI)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:43 pm

“Immersing” in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

What does, “Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” mean?  If it refers to the necessity of the disciples of Jesus to baptise others in a water ceremony in association with them also becoming disciples, there is at least one important difficulty.  In the Acts of the Apostles people are baptised in the name of Jesus the Christ (2x) and Jesus the Lord (2x)[1].  There is no reference to anyone ever being baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Attempts have been made to indicate that somehow or other they really were baptised in the name of our triune God but the four texts are what they are.  It is true that in the early days in what may be referred to as the eastern arm of Christianity, people were baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  My guess is that they did think that the text in Matthew did refer to a water ceremony.  On the other hand in what could be referred to as the western arm of Christianity it seems that the general position was to baptise in the name of Jesus only, whatever the precise formula used, until about the 9th century.

But there are other difficulties with the view that the text refers to a water ceremony: Why is it that only Matthew records what Jesus said if what he said refers to a mandatory water ceremony?  The other three Gospels make no mention of such a compulsory water ceremony. Furthermore, it seems inconsistent and completely unexpected given all that is recorded by Matthew of Jesus and what he said and did prior to the farewell discourse that almost the very last words written by Matthew refer to a mandatory water ceremony. And why would the only command relating to this water ceremony, if that is indeed what is being referred to, be a command for the ceremony to be carried out by others rather than a command that people needed themselves to undergo the water baptism? And if the text does refer to a water ceremony, there seems to be an important but necessary aspect of making disciples that is not explicitly mentioned in the final words of Jesus.  The nations will need to be taught a great deal about this triune God.  Why no explicit reference to teaching who Jesus, the Father the Holy Spirit really are and their relationship? Is the teaching caught up in the water baptismal preparation?  Not so. In the Acts of the Apostles, the teaching of one sort or another that precedes the water ceremony is treated as one thing, the baptism another.


[1] See earlier note

November 13, 2012

The Sacraments (part XX)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 9:26 pm

In the Name of

In the Old and New Testaments and in the Greek literature external to the New Testament, “the name” within the phrase, “in the name” is often a reference to a specific aspect of a person, for example, his power or his authority.  However in some instances it is not so limited. For example, in the Old Testament the phrase “in the name” with reference to God and in the New Testament the same phrase with reference to Jesus often carries with it, to a lesser or greater degree, “who the person is”.  The Old Testament speaks of 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.  The New Testament with respect to Jesus records, “many will say that they prophesied in his name, cast out demons in his name and did mighty works in his name”, “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”, “his disciples will be hated by all for his name’s sake”,  “whatever the disciples would ask the Father in his name he would give to them”, “the name that he obtained is more excellent than the name of angels”. In particular, it seems that when “in the name” is used in association with the words, “Jesus the Christ”, “Jesus the Lord” and arguably, “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, it is a reference to something like, “who the person is”.

Matthew 28: 19, 20a

Matthew 28: 19, 20a consists of one imperative clause and three participles or participle phrases which hang on this clause and derive their imperative force from it.  The imperative is to make disciples of all nations, that is, disciples of Jesus.  Making disciples of all nations implies having Jews and Gentiles informed about who Jesus is and what he taught and having them adhere to Jesus and what he taught.  The first participle phrase is “going”.  Those to whom the imperative is given will have to get up and go beyond their homeland if the disciples to be made are to come from all nations. The final phrase is “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you”.  “All that I have commanded you” is most likely a reference not only to those strict commands that Jesus uttered but to all his teaching in general.  For a person to be a genuine disciple of Jesus his teaching must be adhered to. He or she will need to obey. The emphasis in this participle phrase is “obey” and “command”.

The phrase yet to be discussed is, “baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Whatever we are to make of this phrase, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one.  They have the one name.  They have a unique relationship with each other. The would be disciples are to be baptised in all that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit stand for, in all that they really are.

A question: Where in this final instruction of Jesus as recorded in the book of Matthew is there an explicit reference to “teaching about who Jesus is, indeed who the Father and the Holy Spirit really are”?  Gentiles and even many Jews will know little if anything of who Jesus is.  Most Jews will know little if anything of the relationship between the Father and the Holy Spirit and the Son Jesus.  The Gentiles will know nothing of who the Father and the Holy Spirit is let alone the relation they have with the Son.  A great deal has to be taught about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit before a person could become a disciple.  Where is any explicit reference to the necessity of this instruction?

November 11, 2012

The Sacraments (part XIX)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:27 pm

Other Figurative Usage in the New Testament

Recognised that “baptizo” can, indeed should, sometimes be understood figuratively, enables us to understand the following texts as possibly unrelated to a water baptism (the traditional rendering being placed within parentheses): Acts 19: 3 “Into what ‘teaching’ (what) were you immersed (baptised)?”; Romans 6: 3 “As many of us who were caught up (baptised) into Christ Jesus were caught up (baptised) into his death”;  1Corinthians 12: 13 “By one spirit we were all immersed (baptised) into one body”; Galatians 3: 27 “Those who have been enveloped in (baptised into) Christ have put on Christ.”

The Prepositions used with “Baptizo

The prepositions found accompanying “baptizo” in the Greek literature external to the New Testament during the period 1st century BC to 1st century AD are “en” (1x) and “eis” (11x).  In the New Testament “baptizo” is followed by “eis” (11x) and “en” (14x), with “epi” occurring once.

With respect to the New Testament and the occurrence of “baptizo” followed by a preposition, worthy of note is the following: (i) A reference to the Holy Spirit, whether in the Gospels or in Acts, is always such that it is governed by the preposition “en”.  (ii) Paul only ever uses “eis”. (iii) The various objects of “eis” are “the name” (5x), a person named (3x), “what” (in a question being asked) (1x), the death of Jesus (1x) and “one body” (1x).  (iv) The various objects of “en” are the “Holy Spirit” (6x), “water” (4x), a locality (3x) and “the name” (1x).  (v) The object of the single occurrence of “epi” is “the name”.

In the New Testament it does not seem to be particularly significant whether “eis”, “en” or even “epi” follow “baptizo”, particularly when the object of these prepositions is “the name”.  However, in general, if some distinction is to be made, “eis” seems to carry with it the idea of “into”, with “en” taking on the notion of “in” both with respect to a locality but also when the object is the person of the Holy Spirit.  Some differences of usage may simply be a matter of style.

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