An Argument For Sprinkling And Pouring As Baptism?
It is written:
“When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.” (Mark 7:4)
Recently I was a blessed to enter into a Bible study with a friend on the subject of baptism.
My friend comes from the Presbyterian belief system, which teaches that baptism may be immersion, sprinkling, or pouring of water upon a person. In our study of baptism we looked to this passage in Mark.
He pointed out that the verb used in this verse and translated as “wash” is the verb for baptism, “baptizo.” He then made the remark, “I have a hard time believing that these Jews were immersing their couches!”
Upon first hearing this, I agreed with him that this was a strange situation, and I would do some intense study on the subject.
Could this passage be teaching that baptism did not necessarily mean to immerse, but simply to sprinkle or pour water on something?
Is it rational to believe that the Jews were “immersing” their couches in water in order to wash them?
First, let’s look at the word “couch.” It is the Greek word kline, and it is translated as “bed” 8 times in the KJV (Matthew 9:2, 6; Mark 4:21; 7:30; Luke 5:18; 6:18; 17:34; Revelation 2:22) and as “beds” once (Acts 5:15). The “couches” being discusses here were beds.
At first, this made even less sense then before: why would a Jewish person immerse their bed?!
Second, the confusion abounded when I went back and carefully studied afresh the linguistic evidence which demonstrates that the word “baptizo” is literally “immersion.”
“BAGSTER.—Bapto; to dip, to dye. Baptizo: pr., to dip, immerse; to cleanse or purify by washing; to administer the rite of baptism, to baptize; met., with various references to the ideas associated with Christian baptism as an act of dedication—e. g., marked designa- tion, devotion, trial, etc.; mid., to procure baptism for one’s self, to undergo baptism. Baptisma: pr., immersion, baptism, ordinance of baptism; met., baptism in the trial of suffering. Baptismos: pr., an act of dipping or immersion; a baptism; an ablution. BASS.—Baptizo: (1) to dip, immerse, or plunge in water; mid. and pas., to wash, bathe one’s self (Mark vii. 4; Luke xi. 38); (2) to baptize, administer baptism, pass., to receive baptism; figuratively, to be immersed in sufferings or afflictions. Baptisma: (1) the ordinance of baptism; (2) immersion in afflictions or sufferings (Matt. xx. 22, 23, etc.). Baptismos: an ablution, immersion or washing in water. (25) BLOOMFIELD. — Baptizo: to immerse, or sink anything in water, or other liquid; said both of persons (also animals) and things, class. In N. T. it occurs only in the following senses: (1) from the adjunct of immersion, to wash or cleanse by washing; trans. mid. and aor. 1 pass. in mid. sense, to wash one’s self, bathe; (2) to baptize, administer the rite of baptism, either that of John, or of Christ; and in pass, and mid., to be baptized, or cause one’s self to be baptized, i. e., gener., to receive baptism; which in the primitive church was, according to Oriental habits, usually, though not necessarily, performed by immersion. Baptisma: (1) prop., something immersed in liquid, and thereby washed. In N. T. the rite of baptism, whether that of John or of Jesus Christ; (2) met., baptism into calamity, a being plunged into and overwhelmed by afflictions. Baptismos: (1) the act of washing, or ablution, of vessels, etc. (Mark vii. 4, 8; Heb. ix. 10, comp. Lev. xi. 32); (2) specially and met. a religious rite, which directs immersion into, or washing with, water as the symbol of spiritual ablution and purification. Bapto: to dip or immerse; by impl. to tinge or dye. BRETSCHNEIDER. — Baptizo: properly, to dip repeatedly, to wash repeatedly; then (1) to wash, to cleanse simply; (2) to immerse into water, to submerge. Baptisma: immersion, submersion, in N. T. only concerning the sacred submersion which the fathers call baptism. Baptismos: (1) immersion, a washing done with water. Mark vii. 4, 8, Heb. ix. 10; (2) the sacred submersion which, the fathers call baptism. Bapto: to dip in, to immerse. BULLINGER.—Baptizo: (in form a frequentative or factitive of bapto, dip or dye); baptizo, to make a thing dipped or dyed. To immerse for a religious purpose. Baptisma: an immersion or washing with water, (washing unto purification from sin), used in N. T. for the rite of baptism. Baptismos: the washing. It denotes the act as a fact, as baptisma does the result of the act. CONSTANTINE.—Baptizo: immerse, plunge, dip, bathe, dye, cleanse, moisten, wash, make clean. Baptismos: that is the act of dipping, plunging, in which signification dyeing is used. Bapto: dip, bathe, dye, plunge, wet with oil, heal moisten, color. CREMER.—Baptizo: immerse, submerge. The peculiar N. T. and Christian use of the word to denote immersion, submersion for a religious purpose=baptize, John i. 25, ti oun baptizeis; may be pretty clearly traced back to Levitical washings. Baptisma: baptism. Baptismos: the washing, Mark vii. 4, 8. Bapto: immerse. To make wet by immersion. LXX. =Tabal.—Then=to dye by dipping. DAWSON.—Baptizo: to dip or immerse in water, to baptize; in the passive, to be baptized voluntarily; in the middle, to procure baptism for a person’s self; also to dip a person’s self, to bathe, to wash. From bapto, to dip. Baptisma: baptism, an immersion or washing in water. Baptismos: the same as the preceding. Bapto: to dip in water, to plunge, to immerse. DONNEGAN.— Baptizo: to immerse repeatedly into a liquid; to submerge, to sink, viz., descend, to soak thor-oughly with wine; met., to dip in a vessel and draw, to overwhelm; pas., to be immersed. Bapto: to dip, to plunge, into water, or any liquid, to submerge, to sink—to dye, to color; met., said of a spear, dye, in blood, to wash—to draw out water, by dipping a vessel into it, in order to Jill another vessel, to temper metals by immersion in water; neut., to dip one’s self=mid., baptomai, to bathe one’s self. DUNBAR.—Baptize: to dip, immerse, submerge, plunge, sink, overwhelm; to soak; pas., to be immersed; to be drenched with wine. In N. T., to wash, perform ablution, cleanse, to baptize. Baptisma: immersion, dipping, plunging; metaphor, misery, calamity, i. e., with which one is overwhelmed, Matt. xx. 22, 23. Baptismos: washing, baptism. Bapto: to dip, plunge, immerse; to dye or stain; to temper by dipping in water; to wash, to draw up; to fill by drawing up. Mid., to bathe one’s self. EWING.—Baptizo: in its primary and radical sense, J cover with water or some other fluid, in whatever manner this is done, whether by immersion or affusion, wholly or partially, permanently or for a moment; and, in the passive voice, I am covered with water or some other fluid, in some manner or other. Hence the word is used in several different senses, referring either mediately or immediately to the primary idea. It is used to denote, (1) I plunge or sink completely under water; (2) I cover partially with water, I wet; (3) J overwhelm or cover with water in that mode; (4) I drench or impregnate with liquor by affusion; (5) J oppress or overwhelm, in a metaphorical sense, by bringing affliction or distress upon; (6) I wash, in gen-eral, without specifying the mode; (7) I wash for the special purpose of symbolical, ritual, or ceremonial purification; (8) I administer the ordinance of Christian baptism, I baptize. GREEN.—Bapto: to dip; to dye. Baptizo; pr., to dip, immerse; to cleanse or purify by washing; to administer the rite of baptism, to baptize. Baptisma; pr., immersion; baptism, ordinance of baptism, Matt. iii. 7; Rom. vi. 4, et al.; met., baptism in the trial of suffering, Matt. xx. 22, 23; Mark x. 38, 39. Baptismos: pr., an act of dipping or immersion; a baptism, Heb. vi. 2; an ablution, Mark vii. 4, 8; Heb. ix. 10. GREENFIELD.—Baptizo; (fr. bapto) to immerse, immerge, submerge, sink; in N. T. to wash, perform ablution, cleanse, to immerse, baptize, administer the rite of baptism. Met., to overwhelm one with anything, to bestow liberally, imbue largely; pas., to be immersed in, or overwhelmed with miseries, oppressed with calamities. Baptisma: pr., what is immersed; hence immersion, baptism, ordinance of baptism. Met., misery, calamity. Baptismos: immersion, baptism; a washing, ablution. Bapto; to dip, plunge; to dye. GRIMM.—Baptizo: I. (1) prop., to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge; (2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water; in the mid. and the 1 aor. pass., to wash one’s self, bathe; (3) met. to overwhelm; to be overwhelmed with calamities of those who must bear them. II. In the N. T. it is used particularly of the rite of sacred ablution, first instituted by John the Baptist, afterward by Christ’s command, received by Christians and adjusted to the contents and nature of their religion, viz., an immersion in water, performed as a sign of the removal of sin, and administered to those who, impelled by a desire for salvation, sought admission to the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom. Baptisma: a word peculiar to N. T. and eccl. writ., immersion, submersion; (1) used trop. of calamities and afflictions, with which one is quite overwhelmed; (2) of John’s baptism, that purificatory rite by which men on confessing their sins were bound to a spiritual reformation, obtained the pardon of their past sins and became qualified for the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom soon to be set up; (3) of Christian baptism; this, according to the view of the apostles, is a rite of sacred immersion commanded by Christ. Bapto: (a) to dip, dip in, immerse; (b) to dip into dye, to dye, color. GROVES.—Baptizo: (fr. bapto, to dip) to dip, immerse, immerge, plunge, to. wash, cleanse, purify; to baptize; to depress, humble, overwhelm. Baptisma: a washing, ablution; purification; baptism; the Christian doctrine; depth of affliction or distress. Baptismos: immersion in water, washing; ceremonial purification. HERDERICUS.—Baptizo: plunge, immerse, cover with water; (2) cleanse, bathe; (3) baptize in the sacred signification. Baptisma: immersion, dipping; (2) baptism. Bapto: plunge, immerse; (2) moisten in dye, dye; (3) bathe; (4) draw, fill by drawing; (5) perish, of a ship. JONES.—Baptizo: fr. izo, I plunge—plunge in water, dip, baptize, John iv. 2.—plunge in sleep, bury, overwhelm. Baptismai: I am plunged—am baptized—I plunge myself, I plunge myself. in sin, wallow in, plunge myself in sorrow, submit to, suffer, Matt. xx. 20. Baptisma, atos, to; baptismos, on, o: immersion, baptize—plunging in. affliction, Mark x. 38. LEIGH.—Baptize: the native and proper signification of it is to dip into water, or to plunge under water, John iii. 22, 23; Matt. iii. 16; Acts viii. 38. … The word baptize, though it be derived from bapto tingo, to dip, or plunge into the water, and signifieth primarily such a kind of washing as is used in bucks, where linen is plunged and dipt, yet it is taken more largely for any kind of washing, rinsing, or cleansing, even where there is no dipping at all; as Matt. iii. 11; xx. 22; Mark vii. 4; x. 38; Luke iii. 16; Acts i. 5; xi. 16; 1 Cor. x. 2. Baptisma: dipping into water, or washing with water. Bapto: intingo. LIDDELL AND SCOTT.—Baptizo: (1) to dip in or under water; of ships, to sink or disable them; met., of the crowds who flocked into Jerusalem at the time of the siege; to be drenched; soaked in wine; over head and ears in debt; seeing that he was being drowned with questions or getting into deep water. (2) to draw wine by dipping the cup in the bowl. (3) to baptize; to get one’s self baptized. Baptisma: baptism, the usual form in N. T., both of John’s and of Christian baptism. Baptismos: a dipping in water, ablution. Baptistes: one that dips; a baptizer. Bapto: I. trans. (1) to dip in water, Latin, immergere. 2) to dip in dye. (3) to draw water by dipping a vessel. II. intrans., the ship. dipped, sank. MALTBY.—Baptizo: immergo, to plunge, to immerse. Bapto: mergo, (2) tingo, to dip, to dye. MORELL.—Baptizo: plunge, immerse, cover with water; (2) wash off, bathe; (3) baptize in the sacred signification. Baptisma: immersion, dipping; (2) baptism. Baptismos: same as the above. Bapto: plunge, immerse; (2) dip in dye, dye; (3) bathe; (4) draw, fill by drawing; (5) perish, of a ship. PARKHURST.—Baptizo: from bapto, to dip. (1) To dip, immerse, or plunge in water; but in the N. T. it occurs not strictly. in this sense, unless so far as this is included in sense (2) and (3) below. (2) Baptizomai: mid. and pass., to wash one’s self, be washed, wash, i. e., the hands by immersion or dipping in water. Mark vii. 4; Luke xi. 38; comp. Mark vii. 3; Matt. xv. 2, and under Putme. The LXX. use baptizomai, mid., for washing one’s self by immersion, answering to the Heb. Tabal, 2 K. v. 14, comp. ver. 10. Thus it is also applied in the apocryphal books, Judith xii. 7; Ecclus. xxxiv. 25. (3) To baptize, to immerse in or wash with water, in token of purification from sin, and from spiritual pollution. (4) Figuratively, to be immersed or plunged in a flood, or sea, as it were, of grievous afflictions and sufferings, Matt. xx. 22, 23; Mark x. 38, 39; Luke xii. 50. Baptisma: (1) an immersion or washing with water, hence used in the N. T. for the baptism both of John the Baptist and of Christ. ) Baptism or immersion in grievous and overwhelming afflictions and. sufferings, Matt. xx. 22, 23. Baptismos: an immersion or washing in water, occ. Mark vii. 4, 8; Heb. ix. 10; vi. 2. Bapto: to dip, plunge, immerse. PICKERING.—Bapto: to dip, to dip under, to plunge; to steep, dye, or color; to wash; to d raw up; to fill by drawing up; mid., to bathe one’s self; pass., to sink or be lost, as a ship; to temper steel or iron by dipping it in water. Baptizo: to dip, immerse, submerge, plunge, sink, overwhelm; to steep, to soak, to wet; mid., to wash one’s self, or bathe. Baptisma: that which is dipped or steeped; immersion, dipping, plunging; in N. T., the rite of baptism; also metaphorically, misery, calamity, i. e., with which one is overwhelmed, Matt. xx. 22, 23. Baptismos: a washing, ablution; in N”. T., baptism. ROBINSON.—Baptizo: to immerse, to sink; trans., e. g., spoken of ships, galleys, etc. In N. T.—(1) to wash, to cleanse by washing, trans., mid., and aor., pass., in middle. sense, to wash one’s self, to bathe, to perform ablutions. (2) to baptize, to administer the rite of baptism, either that of John or of Christ; pass, and mid., to be baptized or to cause one’s self to be baptized, i. e., genr., to receive baptism. Met., and (1) in direct allusion to the sacred rite, to baptize in the Holy Ghost and in fire, i. e., to overwhelm, richly furnish with all spiritual gifts, or overwhelm with ‘fire unquenchable,’ etc.; (2) genr., but still in allusion to the rite, to baptize with calamities, i. e., to overwhelm with sufferings. Baptisma: pr.,something immersed; in N. T. Baptism.— Metaph. baptism into calamity, i. e., afflictions with which one is oppressed. or overwhelmed. Bapto: to dip in, to immerse. ROBSON.—Bapto: to dip in, immerse; to tinge, dye. Baptizo (bapto, a frequentative in form, but not in fact): to immerse, sink; trans., e. g., spoken of ships, galleys, etc.; in N. T., (1) to wash one’s self, bathe, perform ablutions, Mark vii. 4; Luke xi. 38. (2) To baptize, administer the rite of baptism, either that of John or of Christ, pass, and mid., to be baptized, i. e., genr., to receive baptism: in the primitive churches (where, according to Oriental habits, bathing was to them what washing is to us,) the rite appears to have been ordinarily, though not necessarily, performed by immersion. Baptisma: pr., something immersed. SCAPULA.—Bapto: to dip, to immerse. Also to dye (because it may be done by immersing.) To put into, to saturate. At Luke xvi. 24, “that he may dip the tip of his finger in water.” Also, to wash. Baptizo: to dip or immerse, as we immerse things for the purpose of dyeing or cleansing by means of water. Likewise, to dip, to submerge, to cover over in water. Also, to cleanse, to wash. Mark vii., Luke xi. Baptizomai: to be dipped, to be submerged, and, metaphorically, to be covered over. Baptismos and baptisma: a dipping, washing, cleansing; the act itself of immersing; also, of washing or cleansing Mark vii.; also baptism, by the Christian writers. SCHLEUSNER.—Baptizo: (1) properly, to immerse, to dip in, to dip into water, from bapto, and corresponds to the Hebrew Tabal 2 Kings v. 14 in the Alexandrian ver-sion, and to Tabang in a version of Psalm lxviii. 5, by Symmachus, and to Psalm ix. 6, by an unknown translator. But in this sense it is never used in the New Testament, but frequently in Greek writings. Now, because not unfrequently anything is accustomed to be immersed and dipped into water that it may be washed, therefore (2) it signifies to cleanse, to wash, to purify with water. So it is used in the New Testament, Mark vii. 4: “And [when they come] from the marketplace, except they wash [baptize] themselves they eat not.” Luke xi. 38: “And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that Jesus had not washed [baptized himself] before dinner.” Baptisma: (1) properly, immersion, dipping into water, washing. Hence it is applied to the sacred rite which by distinction is called baptism, in which those to be baptized formerly into water were immersed, that they might be bound to the true divine religion. SCHREVELIUS. — Baptizo: to baptize, dip, immerse, wash, cleanse. Baptisma: an object immersed; a washing, dipping, immersion. Bapto: to dip, immerse, sink, wash, dye, stain, temper. SOPHOCLES.—Baptizo, iso (bapto): to dip, to immerse: to sink; (2) mid., baptizomai, to perform ablution, to bathe; (3) to plunge a knife; (4) baptizo, mergo, mergito, tingo, or tinguo, to baptize. There is no evidence that Luke and Paul and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greeks. Baptismos, ou, o: a plunging, immersion. Bapto: to dip; (2) to dye. Classical. STEPHANUS. —Bapto: plunge, immerse, likewise dip which is done by. plunging. To stain, to moisten. Baptizo: plunge, immerse, as we dip in the water either for the purpose of moistening or for cleansing. Plunge, that is, to submerge, cover with water. Cleanse, bathe. Mark vii. 4; Luke xi. 38. Baptismos and Baptisma; plunging, bathing, or cleansing one’s self. Mark vii. 4. Likewise baptisma, with the name preserved in the Christian Scriptures. Baptistes: he who plunges, he who cleanses. STOCKIUS.— Baptizo: generally and by force of the word it has the notion of dipping in and of immersing. (2) Specially, (a) properly it is to immerse and to dip into water; (b) tropically (I). By metalepsis it is to wash, to cleanse, because anything is accustomed to be dipped in and immersed in water, that it may be washed or cleansed, although also by sprinkling water the washing or cleansing may be done, and is accustomed to be done. Baptisma: (1) generally and by force of its origin it denotes immersion or dipping. (2) Specially (a) properly it denotes the immersion or dipping of a thing into water that it may be cleansed or washed. Hence it is used to designate the first sacrament of the New Testament, which they call the sacrament of initiation, namely, baptism, in which those to be baptized were formerly immersed into water; however, now the water is at least sprinkled upon them, that they may be washed from the defilements of sin, may obtain the remission of it, and be received back into the covenant of grace as heirs of eternal life. Baptismos: generally and by force of the word it denotes immersion and dipping in. (2) Specially (a) properly it denotes the immersion and dipping of a thing into water that it may be washed. Hence it is applied to the sacrament of baptism, in which the one to be baptized formerly into water was immersed, that he might be cleansed from the defilements of sin and received into the covenant of grace. THAYER.—Baptizo: I. (1) prop., to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge. (2) To cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water; in the mid. and the 1 aor. pass., to wash one’s self, bathe. (8) Met., to overwhelm, to be overcome with calamities, of those who must bear them. II. In the N. T. it is used particularly of the rite of sacred ablution, first instituted by John the Baptist, afterwards by Christ’s command received by Christians and adjusted to the contents and nature of their religion (see baptisma, 3), viz., an immersion in water, performed as a sign of the removal of sin, and administered to those who, impelled by a desire for salvation, sought admission to the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom. Baptisma, tos, to, (baptizo): a word peculiar to the N. T. and eccl. writ., immersion, submersion, (1) used trop., of calamities and afflictions, with which one is quite overwhelmed; (2) of John’s baptism, that purificatory rite by which men, on confessing their sins, were bound to a spiritual reformation, obtained the pardon of their past sins, and became qualified for the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom, goon to be set up; (3) of Christian baptism; this, according to the view of the apostles, is a rite of sacred immersion, commanded by Christ. Bapto: (a) to dip, dip in, immerse, foil, by a gen. of the thing into which the object is dipped (because only a part of it is touched by the act of dipping); (b) to dip into dye, to dye, color. WRIGHT.—Baptizo: I dip, immerse, plunge; saturate; baptize; humble, overwhelm. Baptisma: Washing, ablution; purification; baptism; depth of affliction.” (J.W. Shepherd, Handbook On Baptism, 25-38 (iBooks edition))
There can be no doubt that the lexical authorities make it crystal clear that baptism in the first century Greek world was clearly immersion!
Third, that still leaves the question: what am I to make of people “baptizing” their beds?
Am I really to believe that this was something commonplace in the first century?
After all, who would wash their bed by baptizing it?
Actually, what I found is that the Jews REALLY DID wash their beds by immersing them!
Everett Ferguson has this intriguing commentary on the subject:
“The Mishnah tractate Mikwaoth discusses the immersion of vessels (6.1-2, 5-6; 10.1, 5), including beds (7.7).” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism In The Early Church: History, Theology, And Liturgy In The First Five Centuries, 22148 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Intrigued, I turned to my copy of the Jewish Midrish. I found the following traditions:
“MISHNAH 1. IF A MAN DISMANTLED A BED IN ORDER THAT HE MIGHT IMMERSE IT, 1 ANY ONE WHO TOUCHES THE ROPES2 REMAINS CLEAN. 3…MISHNAH 7. IF A BED WAS IMMERSED THEREIN, 32 ALTHOUGH ITS FEET SINK INTO THE THICK MUD, IT STILL BECOMES CLEAN BECAUSE THE WATER TOUCHED THEM BEFORE [THE MUD]. 33” (I. W. Slotki, H. Bornstein, M. H. Segal, I. Fishman, S. M. Lehrman UNDER THE EDITORSHIP OF ISIDORE EPSTEIN Reformatted by Reuven Brauner, Raanana 5771, The Soncino Babylonian Talmud MISHNAH SEDER TOHOROT, 2850, 11857 (Kindle Edition); Teaneck New Jersey; Talmudic Books)
The Midrash makes it clear that it was necessary for the Jews to wash their beds considering menstrual and seminal discharges. So when Jesus talked about the Jews “baptizing” their beds, He was referencing immersion (which determination is made linguistically, historically, and contextually).
In the New Testament, baptism is shown to be an immersion through several figures and textual clues (Romans 6:3-4, 5; Colossians 2:12). It is in the act of baptism that the believer in Jesus atoning death, burial, and resurrection on the third day is forgiven as he repents of his sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-47).
Have you been baptized into Christ?