Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Does Baptizo mean to Baptize??

     The verb "baptize" in its various forms (baptized, baptizes, and baptizing) occurs
more than 70 times in English translations of the New Testament. Those words are
placed in the text as "translations" of the grammatical forms of the Greek verb baptizo
which is used 77 times  in  the  Greek  New  Testament. It  is  appropriate  to ask,
"Does baptizo mean  to   baptize?"  This  may  surprise  you, but  the answer is no.
Baptize is the Greek word itself with a slightly different spelling. Look at the word  
baptizo. Now look at the word baptize. Notice that they are almost identical except
the "o" (omega) in baptizo has been dropped and an "e" replaces it so we have the
word "baptize." What we have is almost a transliteration, that is, the  writing  or
spelling  of  a  word in corresponding characters of another language. The receptor
language in this case is English. So, when Greek-English lexicons  say  baptizo 
means  to  baptize,  they  are  not  only  inaccurate, but  they  are perpetuating a
grave linguistic inconsistency, and are partly responsible for the confusion that exists
as to the New Testament use of  the Greek word. When they list baptize as one of the
meanings of baptizo, they are saying, "baptizo means baptizo," or that the word itself
is the meaning of the word.  This kind of lexical methodology would be laughable if it
were   applied   to   other   words   in   the   Greek  New Testament, but it is tragic!
How would the scholarly community react if lexicons were to say, theos means theos,
pascha means pascha, ekklesia means ekklesia, parthenos means parthenos, etc.?
In that case we would have no need for lexicons. The words in the Greek New
Testament would be their own lexicographers.

     Is something else at play in this scenario? Actually there is. There is a theological
and polemical value to be gained by saying baptizo means to baptize. (Cf. Louw&
Nida's Greek-English lexicon, vol. 1, pages 537-538 as proof of this fact.) The word
"baptize" is defined by English dictionaries to mean, "to dip a person into, or sprinkle
with, water as a symbol of admission into Christianity or a specific Christian church."
(Webster's New World Dictionary, second college edition, page 111) So some
Greek lexicographers and translators who choose the word baptize to represent  
baptizo contradict  its  own  use  and  meaning.  To  "dip...or sprinkle?" The   fact
is, the verb baptize is used to "translate" baptizo because it is not a specifically
exclusive word, and it allows a person or religious group to choose the "mode" 
of "baptizing" that harmonizes with their practice, whether right or wrong. The use
of "baptize,"  in English translations is based on ecumenical grounds, not accurate
lexical grounds. The translators want to give a person or religious community the
right to decide the "kind" of "baptism" they prefer to practice. The New Covenant
gives no such right of choice.

     The use of the word baptizo in the New Testament in texts that relate to
salvation from sin, and  entering  into  a  state  in  which  one  partakes of the
blessings in Christ shows that  it  means  to  immerse,  plunge,  sink,  and submerge.
(cf. Acts 8:38-39; Philip and the eunuch "went down into the water" and when
the act was performed, "they came up out of the water;" Romans 6:4; "We were
buried therefore with him through the baptismatos;"  Colossians 2:12; "having
been buried with him in the baptismo." In passages where it is used  metaphorically
the connotation is to overwhelm, drench, cover, etc. (Mark 10:38-39)

     See the following resources for further research about baptizo: BAGD, pages
131-132; BDAG, pages 164-165; Liddell and Scott, pages 305-306; Sophocles,
vol. 1, page 297; Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 1, pages
529-546; Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1, pages 144-153;  
Thayer, pages 94-95; Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, page 102;  
Abbott-Smith, pages 74-75
                                                                                                                      R. Daly
Copyright 2013

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