Monday, October 17, 2016

Synthaptō (συνθαπτω)

Immersion has been supported by the equivocal rendering of the verb synthaptō in Rom. 6:4 and Col. 2:12. In Rom. 6:4 the rendering is "buried by baptism"; in Col. 2:12 "buried in baptism." The English word bury is applicable either to burial in earth or in water; but the Greek word synthaptō is applicable only to burial in earth. No one would render it "to immerse." The English word bury can suggest immersion, but the Greek cannot. Consequently, when a person unacquainted with the original reads in the English version of a "burial in baptism" or "by baptism," a burial in water is the only idea that enters his mind; an idea which the Greek positively excludes. For when a dead body is "buried" in a tomb as our Lord was, it comes into no contact with water and is carefully protected from it. Had synthaptō been translated literally by "entombed" instead of "buried," this text never would have been quoted, as it so frequently has been, to prove that Christian baptism is immersion. Christ's entombment or burial in Joseph's sepulcher has not the slightest connection with his baptism at the Jordan and throws no light upon the mode in which he was baptized; and, consequently, it throws no light upon the mode in which his disciples were.
—William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, pp.823-834.
Here, once again, is evidence against Baptists eisegetically interpreting Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12 as having anything to do with water baptism, or more specifically, "immersion." Not only does the context have nothing to do with water baptism or the mode thereof, but these verses have to do with identification with Christ Jesus. 

As I have repeatedly said in the past, when you have two opposing views, turning to the Greek grammar will decide the case between them conclusively, which means, providing that both are not wrong, that one of the views is wrong and must be obedient and submit to the text and conform their beliefs, or be disobedient and rebel against the text by stubbornly holding to their false beliefs. While the context reveals that neither water baptism nor mode of baptism are in view in these two verses, the use of the Greek word synthaptō (συνθαπτω) further destroys any platform Baptists attempt to use in connection with these verses and their eisegetical interpretation thereof.

A careful study of the Greek words used, the context, the details provided in Scripture, and the circumstantial evidence all destroy the notion that baptism in Scripture is by "immersion." In classic secular usage, the words often meant "to immerse," but one is hard-pressed to attempt to force that meaning upon the usage in the verses of the Septuagint and the New Testament.
The classical meaning of baptō and baptizō is to dip into water, to sink under water, to dye or tinge in a fluid. The classical meaning favors baptism by immersion, as the classical meaning of sacramentum proves that the Christian sacrament is an oath. But in Hebraistic and New Testament Greek, baptō and baptizō are employed in a secondary ceremonial signification to denote a Jewish and Christian rite. Consequently, their meaning in the Septuagint and New Testament must be determined by their ritual and historical use, not by their classical. The word pagans (pagani), etymologically and classically, denoted persons living in the villagers (pagi) outside of the large towns and cities. Classically, pagans were "villagers." As Christianity spread first among the inhabitants of the cities, the villagers were the unevangelized; and thus "pagan" came to mean "heathen" instead of villager." Similarly, baptō and baptizō, which in heathenism denoted any unceremonial, nonritual immersion into water, when adopted by Judaism and Christianity, came to have the secondary signification of a ceremonial sprinkling or effusion of water. And he who argues that baptism means immersion in the Scriptures because in the classics the primary meaning of baptō and baptizō is "to immerse" commits the same error with him who should argue that a pagan is a villager because this was the original signification of paganus or that the Christian sacramentum is an oath and not a symbol because this is its meaning in Livy and Tacitus.
—William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, pp.821-822.
The four volumes by James W. Dale dealing with the history of baptizō (βαπτιζω), and Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, also destroy the notion that baptism in Scripture is by "immersion." While in classic secular usage, the words often meant "to immerse," that is not what they solely or entirely meant. If they solely and entirely meant "to immerse," then our English Bibles would have rendered each of these words as "immerse" when translated.
In the English Bible baptizō has generally been transliterated to give us the word baptize. When a word is transliterated into English from another language, it is quite often an indication of a multiplicity of meanings. Thus, if the word baptizō had lent itself to easy translation, an obvious English word would have been used to translate it. If baptizō had meant only "immerse," then immerse would be the word used. We would speak of "John the Immerser." Or we would recite, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
—James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, p.598.
We cannot stubbornly hold to traditions we have been taught. Our beliefs must conform to the truths of Scripture. I was raised as an Immersionist, believing that baptism was by immersion alone. For the past two and a half years I have been studying the issue of baptism on and off. The more I studied, the weaker the Baptist position became. Because I am a seeker of the truth, when God reveals it, I conform my beliefs accordingly—the way a good Christian ought to. Stubbornness and pride need to be replaced with humility. There is nothing wrong with being wrong or admitting that you have believed wrongly for so long. Freedom comes when through humility you submit to the truth and conform your beliefs accordingly. The Christian ought to love correction because it draws us closer to Christ and makes us more like Him. Be like the noble Bereans and search the Scriptures daily.