Monday, May 24, 2004


Many people argue that baptism in the New Testament always implies immersion. In fact, that is simply untrue. It is clear that there are many uses of "baptism" that do not imply immersion. It is also true that no account of baptism demands the immersion interpretation.

One case where the word "baptized" definitely does NOT mean immersed.
and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, (1 Cor. 10:2)

Were the Jews "immersed" in the cloud or the sea? Certainly not the sea. The Egyptians were immersed in the sea. What about the cloud?

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. (Ex. 13:21)

No, they were led by the cloud, not immersed in the cloud. One cannot be led by a cloud in which one is immersed.

Just one more example, from Hebrews:
9(which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10(but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. (Heb 9:9-10)

Here we are in the midst of a discussion regarding the inferiority of the old covenant. In verse 10, the word washings is found. The Greek word is baptismos (baptisms). This is important: the word translated as washings in Heb 9:10 is the same word translated as baptism elsewhere. What does the author of Hebrews go on to say about these baptisms?
For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh,

For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,

And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. (Heb 9:13,19,21)

These baptisms involved sprinkling, not immersion.

None of the baptisms recorded in the bible demand an interpretation that immersion occurred. For example:
36As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" 38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts: 8:36-39).

Verse 39 cannot demand immersion, unless both were immersed, for it reads they came up out of the water. The more natural interpretation is that they went into the water, the baptism was performed (mode unspecified), and together they came up out of the water, i.e., they returned to shore or to the road.

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