Tuesday, February 22, 2011


     The word baptisma is a noun and it occurs 19 times in the Greek N.T.
The English translations represent it as "baptism" in the various passages
where it is found. The word "baptism" is actually a gloss, that is, a misleading
interpretation and not a true translation of baptisma. The translators drop
the "alpha" from the end of the word and bring it over as "baptism." The
problem is, baptisma does not mean "baptism." That is like saying, "theos"
means "theos" or "ekklesia" means "ekklesia."

     Baptisma means "immersion, submersion, plunging, or dipping." Most of
the older and modern Greek lexicons define it as such and most of them cite
evidence from the ancient Greek writings as proof. We will examine a notable
exception at the end of this study.

     Among the older lexicons are A Greek and English Lexicon Of The 
New Testament by Edward Robinson, 1879 edition, page 119; A Greek-
English Lexicon Of The New Testament (Clavis Novi Testamenti
Philologica of C.G. Wilke/C.L. Grimm), translated, revised, and enlarged by
Joseph Henry Thayer, 1889 edition, page 94; Greek-English Lexicon To 
The New Testament, a new edition with additions and alterations, revised by
Thomas Sheldon Green, page 29. 

     The more recent lexicons are Greek-English Lexicon With a Revised
Supplement, compiled by Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, revised
and augmented by Henry Stuart Jones, Roderick McKenzie and many scholars,
1996 edition, pages 305-306; Theological Dictionary Of The New 
Testament, volume 1, page 945; A Patristic Greek Lexicon, edited by
G.W.H. Lampe, page 284; and A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New 
Testament And Other Early Christian Literature, Walter Bauer-Frederick
Danker-W.F. Arndt-F.W. Gingrich, third edition (2000), page 165.

     Baptisma is used literally in the N.T. regarding salvation in Christ when
water is the element. (1 Peter 3:20-21; cf. Acts 10:47 where the verb form  
baptizo is used.) It is also used figuratively in the N.T. Jesus speaks of being
"immersed with the immersion with which I am immersed." (Mark 10:38) This
refers to Jesus' sufferings and death. Jesus says, "I have an immersion to be
immersed with..." (Luke 12:50) The meaning is to be inundated, overwhelmed,
or immersed in suffering or persecution.

     The lexicons are correct in their definitions of baptisma. This is clear from
the complimentary metaphors that Paul uses in his letter to the Romans. He
speaks of  being "buried with him through immersion." (sunetaphemen oun 
auto dia tou baptismatos). There is no burial signified by sprinkling and pouring.
A burial is pictured in immersion. As Christ was raised from the dead through the
glory of the Father, so we rise from the act of immersion in water to walk in
newness of life. Paul says the same thing to the brothers and sisters in Colossae.
(Col. 2:12)

     The N.T. also records complimentary literal phrases that prove the action
is immersion. Acts 8:38-39 Luke says, "And they both went down into the 
water (kai katebesan amphoteroi eis to hudor), Philip and the eunuch, and
he immersed him. And when they came up out of the water (hote de anebesan 
ek tou hudatos), the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away..." Notice that the text
says they "went down into the water and came up out of the water. Neither
sprinkling nor pouring necessitates these actions; immersion does.

     It is interesting to note that the Greek-English Lexicon Of The New 
Testament Based On Semantic Domains, by Johannes P. Louw and Eugene
A. Nida, volume 1, page 537, defines baptizo, baptisma, and baptismos as "to
employ water in a religious ceremony designed to symbolize purification and
initiation on the basis of repentance..." It is not without theological prejudice that
they use the generic phrase "to employ water in a religious ceremony." This allows
a broad range of interpretation that includes sprinkling, pouring, and/or immersion.
The N.T. use of baptizo, baptisma, or baptismos does not allow such a broad
range of interpretation. Their definition of those words is incorrect. Other lexical
evidence and more importantly N.T. contextual evidence shows the wisdom
of "not risking the family farm" on the testimony of prejudicial sources. Lexicons
are important tools for studying the original languages of sacred scripture, but
they must be used with discretion.

Copyright 2011

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