the weblog of Alan Knox

ordinances/sacraments

The supper is a genuine meal, not a ritual to be administered

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in blog links, fellowship, gathering, ordinances/sacraments | 9 comments

The supper is a genuine meal, not a ritual to be administered

One of my favorite bloggers, Dave Black, wrote a few thoughts on the “Lord’s Supper” on his blog (Monday, July 29, at 6:58 p.m.).

Earlier (Sunday, July 28, at 5:15 p.m.), Dave had explained that for the first time the believers he gathers with shared a single loaf of bread and a single cup as the Lord’s Supper. I love the fact that Dave celebrates the small steps that a group is willing to take. As we read his further thoughts, it’s easy to see that he would love to change the “Supper” among that church even more. Well, he doesn’t want to change it… he wants to see God change it.

Here are some of the observations that Dave makes concerning the “Lord’s Supper” (from 1 Cor 11 primarily, but also from 1 Cor 10 and Acts 20):

1) The Lord’s Supper is the centerpiece of the Christian assembly.

2) The supper is superbly Christ-centered (“Do this in MY remembrance”).

3) No believer is “invited” to partake of the supper; we eat and drink in obedience to Christ’s command (“Do this” is in the imperative mood).

4) The supper is a genuine meal, not a ritual to be “administered.”

5) The emphasis is both on remembering and anticipating.

6) It is a joyous celebration and not a sorrowful funeral.

7) The meal symbolizes the unity of the Body of Christ.

8) ALL are to partake, and ALL are to partake together.

9) The “unworthy manner” to which Paul refers has nothing to do with one’s spiritual status at the time of eating. It refers to eating and drinking in a divided manner.

10) Self-examination is a necessary part of the Christian life, but in 1 Cor. 11 it is not a reference to the preparedness on the part of the believer. It is a call to observe the social nature of the meal in which distinctions based on partiality of any kind are forbidden.

11) The one loaf of bread not only symbolizes this unity but in some sense creates it.

12) Because there is only one loaf of bread, we are one body no matter how many we are or how diverse we may be. “Many yet one.”

Can you imagine gathering with your brothers and sisters in Christ around a table of food? Can you imagine eating and talking together knowing that Jesus is present (because he is and because it’s his meal)? Can you imagine how much different the teaching, encouraging, serving, and fellowship would be?

So, what would be the benefits of gathering in the way that Dave describes above? Would there be any disadvantages?

Pulling up a chair at the table of the Lord

Posted by on Nov 1, 2012 in blog links, fellowship, ordinances/sacraments | 5 comments

Pulling up a chair at the table of the Lord

There have been some really good blog posts lately about “the table of the Lord.” I want to highlight a few of them.

Kathleen at “Church in a Circle” writes about the table in her post “Tomorrow’s church – Part 5: Food and fellowship.” At one point, she writes, “The act of sharing food draws us together. It relaxes us, and creates an intimate space to talk and interact. It ‘greases the wheels’ of conversation and fellowship.” Then she connects this conversation and fellowship to the meal that we call “the Lord’s Supper.”

Jamie at “The Cost of Community” also writes about the table in his post “At The Table of Belonging.” He says, “The start of our time together is our shared meal- a potluck dinner where everyone (who is able) brings something to add to the table where we all partake. For me, this shared table is the center piece of our worship together.” I think he describes a great way of meeting together around the table.

Finally, David at “Reclaiming the Mission” writes about extending the table in his post “The Table in the Neighborhood.” He begins with this thought-provoking statement: “One important pathway to mission in the neighborhood is ‘the meal.’ This is what I have been learning these past many years.” The remainder of this post is how meals have allowed him to connect with his neighbors.

I’d encourage you to read each of these posts, and join in the discussion at each site.

Then, I wonder, how have you seen God use meals (and especially meals among believers – i.e., the table of the Lord)?

Breaking bread means sharing a meal together

Posted by on Oct 2, 2012 in blog links, ordinances/sacraments | 11 comments

Breaking bread means sharing a meal together

Over at “God Directed Deviations,” Miguel asked a good question last week in his post “Does Breaking Bread = The Lord’s Supper?” I’ve commented on the phrase “breaking bread” before, but I thought it would be interesting to visit the topic again.

The comments on Miguel’s post are interesting, with some saying, “Yes, ‘breaking bread’ refers to the Lord’s Supper / the Eucharist / Communion,” and others saying, “No, ‘breaking bread’ does not refer to the Lord’s Supper.”

Here are some of Miguel’s questions and comments from his post:

Let’s go back to breaking bread. What was commonly understood when someone used this term? Was it the Lord’s Supper? Was it a general term for sharing a meal? I don’t think we can definitively say one way or the other.

There are several instances in the New Testament in which the phrase “breaking bread” cannot refer to “the Lord’s Supper”: the feeding of the 5000/4000 (Matthew 14:19, Matthew 15:36, and parallels) and Paul feeding the pagan sailors and soldiers on a ship in a storm (Acts 27:35).

Then, there’s this interesting passage in Jeremiah, which could not have referred to “the Lord’s Supper” and yet includes “breaking bread” and “sharing the cup”:

No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother. (Jeremiah 16:7 ESV)

It seems, instead, that “breaking bread” is an idiom for “sharing a meal.”

The verb Baptize in ambiguous contexts in the New Testament

Posted by on Jul 30, 2012 in ordinances/sacraments, scripture | 18 comments

The verb Baptize in ambiguous contexts in the New Testament

This is the sixth and final 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. 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 do not mention water as the medium of baptism in the context. In some cases, there is no medium mentioned at all. In other cases, the medium mentioned is not what we might expect. Thus, these passages are ambiguous – at best – in terms of the meaning of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo).

Now, before I start listing some of the passages, please note that I am not making a particular claim about these passages. I am merely recognizing that Scripture itself does specify water as the medium for baptism in some passages. And, since we have seen that the authors of the New Testament use the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) with meanings other than “to immerse in water,” we must at least acknowledge that the meaning of the verb in these passages is ambiguous.

Also, some of these passages are very popular, and some are used in doctrinal positions for certain groups of Christians. Again, I am not making a statement about the meaning of these passages. I am only suggesting that “to immerse in water” may or may not be the best way to think about the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) in these passages.

First, consider the “Great Commission” from Matthew 28:19-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

When Jesus instructs his followers to “baptize”, does he mean “immerse in water”? Perhaps. This is the traditional interpretation. However, water is not mentioned in this context at all. As we’ve seen before, when the meaning of “baptize” is “immerse in water”, we usually find water in the context. If the phrase “in the name of the Father…” was changed to “in the water…”, then we would immediately know how to interpret the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo).

Could it be, then, that instead of “immersing in water”, Jesus has something else in mind? Could it be that in order to “make disciples” (the command), we need to “immerse” people in the “name” (character, authority, etc.) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? This seems to fit better into the context, especially when “teaching” is considered along with “baptizing”.

Again, I’m not making a definite claim at this point. I’m only demonstrating that this use of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) is ambiguous – that is, unclear from the context.

Also, consider the following passage from the second chapter of Acts:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37-41 ESV)

Again, the traditional interpretation of the two instances of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) in this passage is “immerse in water.” Thus, Peter was instructing the people to “repent and be immersed in water”, and three thousand people were “immersed in water”. However, again, notice that water is not indicated in this context either.

If we begin back at Acts 1:4, we read the following:

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5 ESV)

Jesus told his followers that they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” soon, pointing to the day of Pentecost. Later, the Spirit did descend on his followers, just like Jesus promised. In fact, the purpose of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 is to demonstrate that the coming of the Holy Spirit was predicted in Scripture, made possible because of Christ, and was available to everyone listening to his words. Re-read Acts 2:37-41 above. When people ask Peter, “What should we do?”, his response was to tell them that the Promise (the Holy Spirit) was available to them. Those who received his words were “baptized”… in water? … or in the Spirit?

These are only two passages where the meaning of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) is ambiguous, that is, the medium of immersion is not clear from the context. If you would like to consider other “ambiguous” passages, look at Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, Acts 19:1-5, Romans 6:3, 1 Corinthians 12:13, and Galatians 3:27. If some or all of these passages are not specifically about “immersing in water,” then we should consider other possible meanings and mediums for the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) in these contexts.

Again, I still believe that John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, Philip, and others in the New Testament practiced water baptism by immersion. I still believe that baptism in water is an important method of testifying to the work of Christ in a person’s life. However, this does not mean that every instance of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) means “immerse in water.”

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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

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

The verb Baptize in a context with water in the New Testament

Posted by on Jul 26, 2012 in ordinances/sacraments, scripture | 6 comments

The verb Baptize in a context with water in the New Testament

This is my fourth 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. 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 of water in the context.

First, all four Gospels indicate that John “the Baptist” baptized in water. Either the Jordan River or water are specifically mentioned in several passages related to John’s baptism. For example:

Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:5-6 ESV)

Similarly, in John’s contrast between his baptism and Jesus’ baptism, John states that his baptism occurred in water (by the way, this statement occurs in all four Gospels, and twice in Acts) (see the post “Baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire” for further examination of this passage):

I [John] have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8 ESV)

John baptized Jesus in water:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him… (Matthew 3:16 ESV)

The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus’ disciples baptized people in water:

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized. (John 3:22-23 ESV)

Also, Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in water:

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36 ESV)

There are also a few uses of the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) which are associated with water, but are not associated with “baptism,” but with washing:

[W]hen they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash (baptize). And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing (baptism) of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches. (Mark 7:4 ESV)

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash (baptize) before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” (Luke 11:37-39 ESV)

As far as I can tell, these (and any parallel passages) are all of the scriptural references to the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) that specifically indicate water in the context. This does not mean that these are the only instances where immersing or washing in water is meant. However, as we have seen from our previous study of the use of βαπτίζω (baptizo) in the LXX, in Philo, and in Josephus, we must consider the context very carefully before we decide if water is part of the meaning in each particular passage.

In the next post of the series, I will examine some passages of the New Testament in which the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) in not used in a context with water.

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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

The verb Baptize in Josephus’ writings

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in ordinances/sacraments, scripture | 5 comments

The verb Baptize in Josephus’ writings

This is the third post in my 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. In this post, I’ll examine the use of βαπτίζω (baptizo) in the writings of Titus Flavius Josephus.

Josephus (37 AD – sometime after 100 AD) was a Hebrew priest from Jerusalem. He fought the Romans in the war of 66-73 AD. However, he was taken prisoner early in the conflict. As with Philo, Josephus lived at about the same time as the New Testament authors, he was also a Jew, and he also wrote in Koine Greek.

Josephus used the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) about 13 times in his writings, and he used the term in many different contexts. One of these uses is similar to the verb “dip” in the LXX:

When, therefore, any persons were defiled by a dead body, they put a little of these ashes into spring water, with hyssop, and, dipping (baptizing) part of these ashes in it, they sprinkled them with it, both on the third day and on the seventh, and after that they were clean. (Antiquities 4:81)

Also, he uses the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) with regard to ships sinking:

[F]or as our ship sank (was baptized) in the Adriatic Sea, we that were in it, being about six hundred in number… (Autobiography 1:15; cf. Antiquities 9:212, War 2:556, War 3:368)

Furthermore, he uses the verb to mean “drown”:

And for such as were drowning (being baptized) in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by arrows, or caught by the vessels (War 3:527; cf. Antiquities 15:55, War 1:437, War 3:423)

Interestingly, there is one passage where Josephus uses the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) to mean both “sink” and “drown” simultaneously:

[W]hen they ventured to come near the Romans, they became sufferers themselves before they could do any harm to the other, and were drowned (baptized), they and their ships together. (War 3:525)

In each of the examples above, water – or some type of liquid – is specifically indicated as the medium of “baptism.” However, in the following examples, the word does not seem to carry the meaning of being immersed in liquid:

[W]hen Ishmael saw him in that case, and that he was drowned (baptized) in his cups to the degree of insensibility, and fallen asleep, he rose up suddenly, with his ten friends, and slew Gedaliah. (Antiquities 10:169)

[W]hen he had gone over all his family, he stood upon their bodies to be seen by all, and stretching out his right hand, that his action might be observed by all, he sheathed (baptized) his entire sword into his own bowels. (War 2:476)

[T]hese very men, besides the seditions they raised, were otherwise the direct cause of the city’s destruction (baptized the city) also. (War 4:137)

In the first of these last three examples, being baptized in his cups seems to be an idiom for being drunk – similar to Philo’s usage in Contempl. 1:46. Perhaps the last two usages of βαπτίζω (baptizo) are the most interesting. In War 2:476, the verb seems to mean “bury to the hilt”, while in War 4:137, the word conveys a similar meaning to the one found in the LXX of Isaiah 21:4: “overwhelm” or perhaps “cover.”

Thus, it seems that in the LXX, in Philo, and in Josephus, the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) is very similar to the English verbs “immerse” or “plunge.” While they certainly can indicate being covered with water, they can also be used in other contexts. The context is very important to understand the “medium” into which someone is “immersed” or “plunged.”

A student can be “immersed” in a swimming pool, but the same student can also be “immersed” in her studies. A boy can be plunged into the sea, but he can also be plunged into despair. A person can immerse themselves in a tub of water, but that same person can also immerse themselves in the Spanish language.

As we begin to consider how the New Testament authors used the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo), we must recognize the importance of context in understanding the meaning of the verb. The verb does not always mean “to submerge under water.”

In the next installment in the series, we’ll examine baptism in the New Testament passages where water is obviously in the context.

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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

The verb Baptize in Philo’s writings

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in ordinances/sacraments, scripture | 5 comments

The verb Baptize in Philo’s writings

This is the second 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. In this post, I’ll examine the use of βαπτίζω (baptizo) in the writings of Philo of Alexandria.

Philo of Alexandria (20 BC – 50 AD) was a Hellenistic Jew living in Alexandria in Egypt. He shared several similarities with the authors of the New Testament: he was their contemporary – living at about the same time, he was a Jew, and he wrote in the common Greek dialect of the day. So, studying Philo can help us understand some of the words used in the New Testament.

In Philo’s five uses of the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo), the one that comes the closest to the idea of water baptism is the following:

It would be easier to sink (baptize) a bladder which was full of wind, than to compel any virtuous man whatever, against his will, to commit any action which he had never intended. (Prob. 1:97)

In this parable, which is a quotation from Zeno, the air-filled bladder is being sunk in water. Although water is not specifically mentioned, it does seem obvious from the context.

The other four uses of βαπτίζω (baptizo) in Philo’s writings appear more closely related to the translation “overwhelm” or perhaps “overpower” as found in the LXX in Isaiah 21:4. In this first example, while the context suggests water as the medium for baptism, the context also indicates that the water is being used figuratively, so the idea of “baptism” should be considered figurative as well:

[S]o he crosses over the river of the objects affecting the outward senses, which wash over and threaten to submerge (baptize) the soul by the impetuosity of the passions… (Leg. 3:18)

The remaining examples are below:

[I]t is better to be made an eunuch than to be hurried into wickedness by the fury of the illicit passions: for all these things, as they overwhelm (baptize) the soul in pernicious calamities, are deservedly followed by extreme punishments. (Det. 1:176)

Moreover, he also enacts laws for the whole of Egypt, that they should honor them, and pay taxes and tribute to them every year as to their kings; for he commands them to take a fifth part of the corn, that is to say, to store up in the treasury abundant materials and nourishment for the five outward senses, in order that each of them might rejoice while filling itself unrestrainedly with suitable food, and that it might weigh down and overwhelm (baptize) the mind with the multitude of things which were thus brought upon it; for during the banquet of the outer senses, the mind is laboring under a famine, as, on the contrary, when the outward senses are fasting, the mind is feasting. (Mig. 1:204)

And I know some persons who, when they are completely filled with wine, before they are wholly overpowered (baptized) by it, begin to prepare a drinking party for the next day by a kind of subscription and picnic contribution, conceiving a great part of their present delight to consist in the hope of future drunkenness; (Contempl. 1:46)

In each of these last four examples, physical water is not in view in the context. Instead, the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) means something like “overwhelm” or “overpower.” Again, context is very important in understanding the meaning of the verb.

It does seem clear, however, that when water is in context, the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) carries the idea of submerging under the water. However, we cannot conclude that βαπτίζω (baptizo) ALWAYS means immerse or wash in water. As we have seen both in the LXX and in Philo, sometimes water is not in view at all when the author uses the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo).

Next, we’ll look at Josephus’ use of the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) in his writings.

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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

The verb Baptize in the Old Testament (LXX)

Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in ordinances/sacraments, scripture | 2 comments

The verb Baptize in the Old Testament (LXX)

This post is the first 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. In this post, I’ll begin by examining the use of βαπτίζω (baptizo) in the Septuagint (LXX) – the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

According to BDAG (the standand Greek lexicon), the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) carries three primary meanings: 1) wash ceremonially for the purpose of purification (wash, purify), 2) to use water in a rite for the purpose of renewing or establishing a relationship with God (plunge, dip, was, baptize), and 3) to cause someone to have an extraordinary experience akin to an initiatory water-rite (plunge, baptize).

However, as we’ll see, outside of the New Testament, the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) can have different meanings based on context.

For example, beginning with the LXX, we see three instances where the author clearly uses the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) to mean to immerse or wash in water:

So he [Naaman] went down and dipped (baptized) himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:14 ESV)

Then Holofernes commanded his guard that they should not stay her: thus she abode in the camp three days, and went out in the night into the valley of Bethulia, and washed (baptized) herself in a fountain of water by the camp. (Judith 12:7 KJV Apochrypha)

He that washeth (baptized) himself after the touching of a dead body, if he touch it again, what availeth his washing? (Sirach 34:25 KJV Apochrypha)

In these three examples, the author clearly indicates that the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) indicates washing in water. In the first two examples (2 Kings 5:14 and Judith 12:7), the source of the water is indicated in the context (the Jordan river and a fountain of water, respectively). In the last example (Sirach 34:25), the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) is paralleled with the noun λουτρόν (loutron) indicating a bath or wash.

However, there is one other instance of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) in the LXX that does not lend itself to the definition of washing or plunging in water:

My heart wanders, and transgression overwhelms (baptizes) me; my soul is occupied with fear. (Isaiah 21:4 LXE – English translation of the LXX)

In this case, the verb βαπτίζω (baptizo) is transltaed “overwhelms,” and neither water nor washing is indicated in the context. Thus, it seems possible that βαπτίζω (baptizo) can carry other meanings besides being plunged or washed in water, when the context does not indicate water as the medium. Perhaps this is similar to BDAG’s definition #3 above, but it seems slightly different.

Context is apparently very important for translating the Greek verb βαπτίζω (baptizo). In the next post, I will examine the meanings of βαπτίζω (baptizo) in the writings of Philo of Alexandria.

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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

Sharing a meal with the Lord and our brothers and sisters

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 in blog links, ordinances/sacraments | 9 comments

Sharing a meal with the Lord and our brothers and sisters

Recently, two posts have brought up a question that I’m very familiar with: “Should the Lord’s Supper be a full meal?”

First, Miguel from “God’s Directed Deviations” asked this question in his post “Grape Juice Drops and Cracker Crumbs Lord’s Supper?

Also, Jon from “Jon’s Journey” asked the same question in his post “Lord’s Supper Thoughts.”

In all of these questions and positions and discussions concerning the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist / Communion / whatever you want to call it), there is one thing that seems very clear in Scripture: whatever else it may have been, it was a meal.

This is the comment that I left on Miguel’s post:

I’ve always found it interesting that every mention of “the Lord’s Supper” in Scripture referred to a full meal, and many times the same language is used for a full meal when it did not refer to “the Lord’s Supper.” For example, see Acts 27:33-36. Also, Jeremiah 16:6-8 can help us understand what was meant by “breaking bread” and sharing “the cup.”

What do you think? Is it important that we understand that “the Lord’s Supper” is intended to be a meal, or can the meal be set aside?