From the Beginning

A STORY OF "TIME" by Trevor Topsfield


Baptism is a word straight out of the Koine Greek language, which is the original language of The New Testament.

There has been no attempt to translate it into English; therefore it is easy to assume that those who originally translated the Greek into English did not understand what βαπτιξω (baptisw) meant in context with its use, so they used a transliteration instead.

Baptism was never found in The Old Testament because it was originally written in Hebrew and there is no such word in that language.

βαπτιξω is used to describe what happens to a ship when it sinks, it is overcome with water or it is overwhelmed.

So to simplify it I will substitute “βαπτιξω ” with “overwhelm” and see if this will make more sense.

While the first impression of Baptism might be a variation of going under water like a sinking ship, there are other times it has nothing to do with water.

John the Baptist is the first recorded in The Bible to have baptised, while this is true it does not mean that others in The Old Testament did not go through the same ritual under another (Hebrew) name which is not recorded in The Old Testament.

The Gospel of John introduces John the Baptist with the priests and Levites sent by the Jews to ask him who he was. (John 1:19)

Are you Elijah? This is an interesting question as the Greek words that make up this question have been given a “D” rating by the Textual Criticism experts, this means there is a high degree of doubt they were written by John.

So I will ignore that question, but the next one is legitimate. Are you a prophet?

John’s answer was no. John the Baptist was a voice in the wilderness making way for Jesus Christ.

One of the reasons the Jews took any notice of John’s actions was that there was a prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 that there would be such a voice.

Another reason was that it would appear that men of importance throughout Jewish history performed this ritual but these events were not recorded in The Old Testament.

For John the Baptist to have had an impact on the Jews who were his main target, he would need to do something that important people have done in the past so he could be identified with them. (The Jews were sticklers for tradition.)

The most important people in Jewish history were the prophets, they would have had some form authorisation and it would appear as though baptism was one of them. It would have been pointless for John the Baptist to do anything that was not recognisable by the Jews of his day.

To add some weight to this idea is that baptisms are never mentioned in The Bible as a ritual in early Churches that were established in Paul’s era, but it appears to me they were a transition component that linked the early Christians and the Jews. The Church was new only in the fact that it was established on the reality of the “Cross”, while Judaism looked forward to the promised “Sacrifice”. Faith in Jesus Christ however it was taught, is the common factor in both systems.

John the Baptist in Luke 3:16 explained that he baptised with water, he overwhelmed with water when they were submerged in it. But Jesus Christ who is more powerful will baptise or “overwhelm” them with fire which is a reference to Hell for those who fail to believe in him. Jesus will also baptise or overwhelm them in the Holy Spirit which refers to the filling of the Spirit when those who do believe are in fellowship with God. While being overwhelmed by the Spirit they will produce the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience ect. ect. (Galatians 5:22)

When John is the subject; some baptisms refer to water, another to fire and of course we can be overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit

The King James Version of The Bible set many of the standards that more modern versions have adopted. One thing that some of them have continued with is the transliteration of “βαπτιξω” to baptism in the “English”.

Because (baptism) is not translated, there seems to be some confusion where the English word “baptism” should be used.

In Matthew Chapter 20 Verses 22+23 both “baptism” and “baptised” are used in both verses, however in both these verses no form of “βαπτιξω” is found in The Greek of New Testament.

This can be seen if we compare The King James version with The New International where “baptism” is not found in both these verses.

V22 (KJV) “But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him. We are able.

V22 (NIV) “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said unto them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. (NIV)

V23 (KJV) And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

V23 (NIV) Jesus said unto them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right hand or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

Often in The King James version the translators have added English words to try and clarify the meaning of the text, but when they do they put these extra words in italics. However, this has not been done with any of the “baptism” words found in Matthew 20:22+23.

This would indicate the translators thought that the original Greek words which do not include any form of “βαπτιξω ” fitted their understanding of what “baptism” meant to them.

I will not try to explain the message behind these two verses, only to say there seems to be no connection to any form of baptism, as the lack of “βαπτιξω ” would indicate.

It is easy to conclude nothing from this passage as the word “baptism” has six mentions, but not found at all in original Greek language.

It is difficult to understand exactly the message Matthew has written in Chapter 20 Verses 22+23 if the actual Greek text is not analysed.

The purpose of this discussion is to demonstrate how little we learn from The Bible on this subject, because it does not give us any background of its original use. To add to our frustration there is no information of any consequent function of it within the early Churches.

1 Corinthians 10:2 does not help clarify the subject of “Baptisms” for in 1Corinthians 10:2. it says that when the Jews passed through the Red Sea they were baptised into Moses, however just to confuse the issue even more ”εβατισθσαν” which is 3 persons plural aorist tense, indicative mood, passive voice of βαπτιξω has been given a “C” rating by our Textual Criticism experts so they say there is considerable doubt it is legitimate.

If and where there is any confusion over what “Baptism” is, it can easily be traced back to the translators who apparently did not understand “βαπτιξω ” enough in the first place to translate it.

However John the Baptist knew exactly what he was doing.

When Jesus went to John to be baptized, (Matthew 3:-) John said “No Jesus you got it wrong, I need to be baptized by you”.

John preached the baptism of repentance, (Mark 1:4) just as they were overwhelmed by water in the ritual of John’s baptism, the reality was that they were overwhelmed by repentance. To be remorseful is a meaning of repentance, therefore when they were being baptized by John they were remorseful of their sinfulness and therefore appreciating the coming of the Messiah. (Matthew 3:6)

When Jesus wanted to be baptized by John; John refused because John knew Jesus had no need to be remorseful. In the case of Jesus the water represented his commitment to the salvation of mankind, (he was overwhelmed by it) with a reaction from the Father after his Baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (NIV) (Matthew 3:17)

Before his death Jesus himself did not baptize, except his disciples. (John 4:2)

However after that and at the beginning of the Church, the disciples remembered how he said he would baptise with the Holy Spirit. This happens to every believer so they are overwhelmed by him. Another term sometimes used for the overwhelming of the Spirit is called the filling of the Spirit. When the believer is in fellowship he is filled with Spirit and overwhelmed by him to produce love, joy, peace, ect. (Galatians 5:22)

The Book of Acts of the Apostles is a transition between the Jews and the Church and therefore there are some things belonging to Judaism that were used by the Church in this time. However there is no record of the ritual of baptism being carried in the newly formed Churches in the rest of The New Testament except as a misuse of it in 1 Corinthians.

Paul thanks God he did not baptize any of the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 1:14-17) as they have used their baptism as a badge of superiority. Some throughout their Church were saying “I was baptized by Paul”, others “I was baptized by Apollos”, some said “I was baptised by Crispus” then there were those who said “I was baptised by Gauis”. What made Paul a little mad was that baptisms were dividing Church.

To conclude; I think Baptisms were carried out for the Jews benefit for the period of time until the 5th stage of discipline was administered in 70 AD.

Trevor Topsfield


Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.


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