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The verb Baptize in a context WITHOUT water in the New Testament

Posted by on Jul 27, 2012 in ordinances/sacraments, scripture | 4 comments

The verb Baptize in a context WITHOUT water in the New Testament

This is my fifth post in a series on baptism. Primarily, my concern is to determine the various meanings of the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo), and how those meanings may be used in the New Testament. So far, by examining the usage of the verb in the LXX, in Philo, and in Josephus, we’ve seen that βαπτίζω (baptizo) is very similar to the English verbs “immerse” and “plunge.” They can be used to mean “to submerge under water,” but they can also have other meanings when water is not in the context. Thus, context becomes very important in understanding the meaning of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo). In this post, I want to examine several passages in the New Testament that definitely indicate a medium besides water in the context.

Just as there are some uses of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) which clearly indicate “water baptism” or “washing” in the context, there are other uses which clearly do not indicate water in the context. In other words, in these passages βαπτίζω (baptizo) does not mean “to immerse in water,” but takes on other meanings which have nothing to do with water, much like the English verbs “immerse” and “plunge.”

For example, while considering contexts which include water in the previous post, we looked at Matthew 3 and parallel passages. These passages also include a use of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) which does not include water in its context:

I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Matthew 3:11; cf. Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16)

You can see my post “Baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire” for further explanation of this passage. Clearly, there is a contrast between John’s baptism “with water” and Jesus’ baptism “with the Holy Spirit and with fire”. So, just as John “immersed” people in water, Jesus will “immerse” people in the Holy Spirit and in fire.

There are two other passage where the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) is used but the context clearly does not indicate that “immersion in water” is the meaning:

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” (Mark 10:38-40 ESV)

I (Jesus) have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:50 ESV)

In these two passages, although the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) is used, the context does not indicate water. Instead, the two passages indicate that people will be “immersed” in suffering, not water.

Now that I have examined passages in the New Testament where the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) is used with clear indications of the meaning (either “water” or not) from the context, in the next post I will examine passages where the context leaves the meaning of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) unclear or ambiguous.

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Examining the Verb “Baptize” Series:

  1. The verb Baptize in the Old Testament (LXX)
  2. The verb Baptize in Philo’s writings
  3. The verb Baptize in Josephus’ writings
  4. The verb Baptize in a context with water in the New Testament
  5. The verb Baptize in a context WITHOUT water in the New Testament
  6. The verb Baptize in ambiguous contexts in the New Testament

4 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-27-2012

    “In these two passages, although the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) is used, the context does not indicate water. Instead, the two passages indicate that people will be “immersed” in suffering, not water.”

    Thanks Alan, as if I wasn’t weary enough today…………….\:o/

  2. 7-27-2012

    SybilJean,

    Yes, that’s one way the verb “baptize” was used in the NT. There are other ways as well. Perhaps the most important one is that we are baptized in the Holy Spirit. Because of that baptism, it is possible to live through a baptism of suffering with joy and peace and hope. Amazing, isn’t it?

    -Alan

  3. 7-27-2012

    Alan, thanks so much for these posts on βαπτίζω. It’s very helpful and illuminating, and quite exciting to see how this Koine Greek verb is used with the Holy Spirit.

    Without really investigating the word for myself I have always assumed it implied some sort of soaking or drenching. Being covered or soaked in the Spirit would be quite something, but to be plunged or even perhaps ‘thrust’ deeply into him is altogether more meaningful to me.

    It describes my personal experience of him rather well and I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising!

    Words are wonderful things, particularly when properly understood. Keep up the good work – I’m hanging on every post :-)

  4. 7-29-2012

    Chris,

    The idea of being baptized/immersed in the Spirit is definitely found in Scripture. I believe we are immersed in him when we are saved. I think many references to being baptized in Scripture refers to this permanent indwelling of the Spirit, although there are certainly example of water baptism as well.

    -Alan