Saturday, September 3, 2016

Baptism In the Old Testament

In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Greek word baptizo (βαπτιζω) occurs very infrequently. Only twice, to be exact. In Isaiah 21:4, we read: "My heart goes astray and lawlessness baptizes my soul." The writer was changed from a state of quiet trust in God to fearfulness as a result of seeing great wickedness and knowing that terrible judgments would follow. Similarly, Galatians 3:27 says, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." In other words, the Christians in Galatia had been identified with Christ Jesus. We see the same thing in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2: "I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the seas, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." This passage is especially significant in understanding baptism, since the people of Israel were obviously not "immersed" (the Baptist's favourite word for baptism) either in the sea or the cloud.

Let us look at the favourite verse on baptism that some cults twist out of context and draw false conclusions from: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). This verse has never meant that unless a person is baptized (immersed) in water, he/she cannot be saved. We know this conclusion is wrong because of the rest of Scripture. We are saved by grace through faith in the work of Christ on Calvary. This verse, like all verses dealing with baptism, is addressing the believer's identification with Christ.

The only other word found in the Septuagint is the Greek word bapto (βαπτω), occurring 18 times. They are as follows:
Exodus 12:22
Leviticus 4:6, 17
Leviticus 9:9
Leviticus 11:32
Leviticus 14:6, 16, 51
Numbers 19:18
Deuteronomy 33:24
Joshua 3:15
Ruth 2:14
1 Samuel 14:27
2 Kings 8:15
Job 9:31
Psalm 68:23
Daniel 4:33
Daniel 5:21
dip hyssop in blood
dip finger in blood
dip finger in blood
dip in water
dip in blood, in oil, in running water
dip hyssop in water
dip foot in oil
dipped in edge of water
dip bread in vinegar
dip staff in honey comb
dip in water
dip into pit (plunge)
dip in blood
wet with the dew of heaven
wet with the dew of heaven
With the possible exception of three of these passages, none of them can be used to support the concept of "immersion." This concept is derived eisegetically from the Baptist's misinterpretation of Romans 6:3-4 due to their failure to pay attention to the context of the passage. The majority of the above passages all speak of dipping something into something (without "immersion"), and some continue on to speak of sprinkling.

Baptism in the Bible more frequently than not is used figuratively or metaphorically to speak of a change of identity having taken place. When you examine 600 years of classical Greek literature (from about 400 B.C. to about 200 A.D.), you find that there is no definite translation for the words bapto and baptizo. If they meant "immersion" definitively, then our Bibles would have translated the words as "immersion." The fact that these words are transliterated rather than translated is demonstrative of the fact they do not have a definitive translation, as seen by Isaiah 21:4's translation of the Hebrew word ba'ath (בעת), which means "terrify, startle, fall upon": to input fear.

Children of believing parents are baptized so as to identify them with Christ Jesus. Baptism is a sign and seal of that identification. It is then the parents' responsibility to train up their children in the ways of the Lord so that when their children are older they will not depart from the faith. As the child grows and learns, he/she can then appropriate that identification or reject it. His/her baptism acts as a testimony/witness for or against them. They either kept covenant with God or they broke covenant with God. Either the promises are theirs or the curses are theirs. The Baptist practice of baptism (that of waiting until physical/spiritual maturity) is unbiblical, as in Scripture we see individuals who have professed Christ being baptized immediately—even when that profession turns out to have been false!