Posted by: stpowen | April 30, 2010

Baptism and Circumcision (2)

Please go to https://marprelate.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/circumcision-and-baptism/ before reading this article.

The question of the relationship between circumcision and baptism seems to be crucial in the debate between supporters of Infant Baptism and Credobaptists.  I have already written on the subject (1), but Richard Barcellos, of the Centre for Biblical Studies has linked to an article in Themelios magazine by a Gentleman called Mark Salter that is altogether more learned than mine.

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/publications/35-1/does-baptism-replace-circumcision-an-examination-of-the-relationship-between-circumcision-and-baptism-in-colossians-2-11-12

The only comment that I will make is that circumcision was not given to Abraham as the seal of his faith, as Mr Salter states at one point.  It was the seal of the righteousness of his faith (Rom 4:11).  That is, his circumcision was given to him as a sure and certain declaration from God that the faith which he had before he was circumcised was indeed credited to him as righteousness (Rom 4:3).

(1) https://marprelate.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/circumcision-and-baptism/

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Responses

  1. It does not appear to be written by Barcellos at all…

  2. You are quite correct. I have altered my O.P.

  3. Dear Martin,
    Thank you for mailing me Salter and Barcellos. A few immediate comments:

    a. The Heidelberg passage quoted has been translated and edited badly. The German gives the Article quite a differewnt Sitz-im-Leben.
    Heidelberg is comparing the Old Testament with the New not adults with babies. The latter distinction is only made in Baptist circles as far as my experience goes. Surely no Christian believes that baptism is for male adults only. No Christian believes that baptism is for babies only.

    b. Obviously baptism is like circumcision in some aspects, such as a sign of the righteousness which is of faith, but in others not, such as being applicable to males only. Obviously baptism takes over from circumcision as Christians use baptism as a pointer to the righteousness which is of faith and no longer circumcision.
    c. For a pan-Biblical subject one must have a pan-Biblical analysis. The platform on which Salter has based is argument is far too small for the superstructure he places on it. It merely topples.
    d. Salter neither defines what he means by Baptism nor Paedobaptism. There are as many different versions of the one as the other. Is not ‘Paedobaptism’ a misnomer as no one, as far as my studies take me, believes in baptism for babies only.
    e. Neither is any one so naive, I would hope, that he believes that one baptised by ducking is somehow more spiritual than one baptised by pouring or sprinkling. That would be sheer sacramentalism.
    f. Many of us hold to a doctrine of baptism which is not even considered in the article quoted.
    h. Salter has certainly started off on the wrong foot and has also landed on the wrong path. There are much better works on baptism from many different sides.

    George
    [Post edited by Martin Marprelate]

  4. Here is the full statement on baptism taken from the Heidelberg Confession. It is the only set book prescribed in RE in my state North-Rhine Westphalia and is adhered to by all Protestant churches including the Baptists. This is why Baptist teachers are allowed to teach Scripture in the federal state. Of course, they must also have the necessary academic qualifications and a ‘Vokation’ ordination.

    Interpreted as the original catechism was meant to be interpreted, I cannot see any Reformed Christian not accepting it.

    Von der heiligen Taufe

    FRAGE 69

    Wie wirst du in der heiligen Taufe erinnert und versichert, daß das einmalige Opfer Christi am Kreuz dir zugute kommt?

    So, daß Christus dieses äußerliche Wasserbad eingesetzt hat (Mt 28,19.20; Apg 2,38) und dabei verheißen hat (Mt 3,11; Mk 16,16; Röm 6,3.4), daß ich so gewiß mit seinem Blut und Geist von der Unreinigkeit meiner Seele, das heißt von allen meinen Sünden, reingewaschen bin, so gewiß ich äußerlich mit Wasser, das die Unsauberkeit des Leibes hinwegnimmt, gewaschen bin (Mk 1,4; Lk 3,3).

    FRAGE 70

    Was heißt, mit dem Blut und Geist Christi gewaschen sein?

    Es heißt, Vergebung der Sünden von Gott aus Gnade haben um des Blutes Christi willen, das er in seinem Opfer am Kreuz für uns vergossen hat (Hebr 12,24; 1. Petr 1,2; Offb 1,5; Sach 13,1; Hes 36,25); danach auch durch den Heiligen Geist erneuert und zu einem Glied Christi geheiligt sein, daß wir je länger, je mehr der Sünde absterben und ein gottgefälliges, unsträfliches Leben führen (Joh 1,33; Joh 3,5; 1.Kor 6,11; 12,13; Röm 6,4; Kol 2,12).

    FRAGE 71

    Wo hat Christus verheißen, daß wir so gewiß mit seinem Blut und Geist wie mit dem Taufwasser gewaschen sind?

    In der Einsetzung der Taufe, die so lautet: »Geht hin und lehrt alle Völker und tauft sie im Namen des Vaters und des Sohnes und des Heiligen Geistes« (Mt 28,19). »Wer da glaubt und getauft wird, der wird selig werden; wer aber nicht glaubt, der wird verdammt werden« (Mk 16,16). Diese Verheißung wird auch wiederholt, wo die Schrift die Taufe das Bad der Wiedergeburt (Tit 3,5) und das Abwaschen der Sünden nennt (Apg 22,16).

    FRAGE 72

    Ist denn das äußerliche Wasserbad das Abwaschen der Sünden selbst?

    Nein (Mt 3,11; 1. Petr 3,21; Eph 5,26.27); denn allein das Blut Jesu Christi und der Heilige Geist reinigen uns von allen Sünden (1.Joh 1,7; 1.Kor 6,11).

    FRAGE 73

    Warum nennt denn der Heilige Geist die Taufe das Bad der Wiedergeburt und das Abwaschen der Sünden?

    Gott redet so nicht ohne große Ursache: Nämlich, nicht nur, daß er uns damit lehren will, daß, gleich wie die Unsauberkeit des Leibes durch Wasser, so unsere Sünden durch Blut und Geist Christi hinweggenommen werden (Apg 1,5; 7,14; 1.Kor 6,11), sondern vielmehr, daß er uns durch dieses göttliche Pfand und Wahrzeichen versichern will, daß wir so wahrhaftig von unseren Sünden geistlich gewaschen sind, wie wir leiblich mit dem Wasser gewaschen werden (Mk 16,16; Gal 3,17).

    FRAGE 74

    Soll man auch die jungen Kinder taufen?

    Ja; denn weil sie, ebenso wie die Alten, in den Bund Gottes und in seine Gemeinde gehören (1.Mose 17,7) und ihnen in dem Blut Christi die Erlösung von den Sünden (Mt 19,14) und der Heilige Geist, der den Glauben wirkt, nicht weniger als den Alten zugesagt wird (Lk 1,14.15; Ps 22,11; Jes 44,1-3; 46,3.4; Apg 2,39), so sollen sie auch durch die Taufe als das Bundeszeichen der christlichen Kirche eingeleibt und von den Kindern der Ungläubigen unterschieden werden (Apg 10,47), wie es im Alten Testament durch die Beschneidung geschehen ist (1.Mose 17,14), an deren Stelle im Neuen Testament die Taufe eingesetzt wurde (Kol 2,11-13).

  5. George,
    I have left the German version of the Heidelberg Catechism so that those who speak German can read it (I can’t), but I think you might have done better to povide your own translation so that we could see where Mr Salter’s falls short.

    You also write,

    “Interpreted as the original catechism was meant to be interpreted, I cannot see any Reformed Christian not accepting it.”

    Well, it seems that Art 74 asks, ‘Are children also to be baptized?’ And the answer is given, ‘Ja.’ Sorry! But my answer is ‘Nein!’

    As to the rest, you write,

    “Obviously baptism takes over from circumcision as Christians use baptism as a pointer to the righteousness which is of faith and no longer circumcision.”

    This is to beg the question. It is not obvious to me, and in my earlier article I spent some time attempting to show that circumcision and baptism signify two very different things.
    https://marprelate.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/circumcision-and-baptism/

  6. Dear Martin,
    Sorry for the delay in replying. I have been in hospital with heart trouble and have just now seen your comments. I was not notified through the web of your comment.
    To your remark:
    ‘I think you might have done better to povide your own translation so that we could see where Mr Salter’s falls short.’
    I wanted to make sure that readers got the very wording of the articles and see that they are far more comprehensive than Salter’s quote from them. If I had translated them, I would be open to the criticism that I have read my own thoughts into them. All translations are interpretations unless one is an ‘inspired author’ as Matthew, Mark etc., which I am not.
    To your comment:
    Well, it seems that Art 74 asks, ‘Are children also to be baptized?’ And the answer is given, ‘Ja.’ Sorry! But my answer is ‘Nein!’
    You kindly advised me only to make statements when backed up by Scripture. What backs up your ‘Nein’? So, too, as you cannot understand the full article, your ‘nein’ needs special qualification. Surely you believe that baptism points to the righteousness which is of faith and the work of Christ on the cross to those who experience this? At least, I have gathered this from your words. In this, we are thus one.
    To your comment on my words:
    “Obviously baptism takes over from circumcision as Christians use baptism as a pointer to the righteousness which is of faith and no longer circumcision.”
    You wrote:
    ‘This is to beg the question. It is not obvious to me, and in my earlier article I spent some time attempting to show that circumcision and baptism signify two very different things.’
    Which question is being begged? My remark was that Christians do not look to circumcision as a sign of the righteousness which is of faith but to baptism. Thus, as far as a sign demonstrating the people of God is concerned, we baptise and do not circumcise any longer. I presumed you would accept this. You appear to be reading things into my words which I did not intend to put into them and am unaware of what you mean. Circumcision, as I argued, has similarities with baptism and is also different to baptism. In my naivity, I thought this was not a matter of debate. I recently met a minister from Israel who told me he circumcised children as a pointer to faith and then baptised them after faith came. Of course, I did not agree with him at all.
    In my attemp to be precise, I have caused you difficulty in understanding me. Sorry. This was, however, my thought on reading Salter in general and yourself on circumcision in particular. In striving to be specific, we often leave out other factors, which other people attempt to read in. I strove to understand both of you by the words written and no further. Other questions, whether begged or not, did not play a role.
    My honest opinion is that the dipped and the sprinkled should live in peace and the amount of water or whether baptism is a pointer to faith or the result of faith provides no bar to communion. I know Christians would rather fight over these matters than find peace in Christ with one another, but surely our ministry to Christians is that they might take the latter course. Remember, our major criticism of Affirmation 2010 is their intolerance which we do not share.
    Yours in peaceful unity in Chrsit,
    George

  7. George,
    I’m sorry to hear that you have been unwell, brother. I have been praying for a restoration to health since I read your post and will continue to do so.

    You write:-

    “You kindly advised me only to make statements when backed up by Scripture. What backs up your ‘Nein’? So, too, as you cannot understand the full article, your ‘nein’ needs special qualification.”

    If you will read some of my articles under the heading ‘Baptism,’ You will find my reasons for upholding Believers’ Baptism. I try to back them up with Scripture.

    “My remark was that Christians do not look to circumcision as a sign of the righteousness which is of faith but to baptism. Thus, as far as a sign demonstrating the people of God is concerned, we baptise and do not circumcise any longer. I presumed you would accept this. You appear to be reading things into my words which I did not intend to put into them and am unaware of what you mean. Circumcision, as I argued, has similarities with baptism and is also different to baptism. In my naivity, I thought this was not a matter of debate.”

    That the faith of believers is accounted to them for righteousness is a wonderful truth and worthy of all acceptance, but I do not believe that that is what baptism signifies. The fact is that I cannot think of anywhere in the Bible where baptism is described as a sign. It is primarily an ordinance, as the 1689 Confession describes it. Yet it must surely signify something and the Bible seems to tell us that it signifies our union with Christ in His death and resurrection and pictures our own dying to sin and resurrection to new life (Rom 6:3ff; Col 2:12ff; Gal 3:27. cf. also 2nd Baptist Confession XXIX:I). That is why the mode of baptism is important; not because baptism affects our salvation in any way, but because immersion gives full expression to the significance of our baptism.

    “My honest opinion is that the dipped and the sprinkled should live in peace and the amount of water or whether baptism is a pointer to faith or the result of faith provides no bar to communion. I know Christians would rather fight over these matters than find peace in Christ with one another, but surely our ministry to Christians is that they might take the latter course. Remember, our major criticism of Affirmation 2010 is their intolerance which we do not share.”

    I agree with you; my own church is happy to share communion with all true believers. The writers of the1689 Confession went as far as they could to show unity with the Westminster and Savoy Confessions. However, it is no good glossing over differences. They do exist, and only one party can be correct. I could not possibly sign up to a confession or catechism that gave approval to infant baptism, but that does not mean that I cannot and do not have sweet fellowship with paedobaptists. Where I live, the Westcountry Reformed Fellowship holds regular meeting to which Baptists and paedobaptists are invited.

  8. Dear Brother Martin,
    Thank you for your well-wishes and most gracious reply. I note again that we agree on many things and pray that we shall grow in grace together as we strive to extend our agreement in brotherly give and take.
    Is there no automatic notification of further comments?
    The issue is not the baptism of believers on the one side and the misnomer ‘paedobaptism’ on the other. The antithesis to paedobaptism would be adult baptism and I do not see either term as helpful in our debate. I presume the antithesis to believer’s individual baptism would be household baptism as the first Baptists indeed practised (See Grebel, Mantz etc..). My argument is that the dividing line you suggest between the baptism of Christian individuals and the baptism of families in covenant with God (not infant baptism) is an artificial one. The Biblical truth concerning baptism is to be found, I believe, partly on both sides. This is most obvious from the amount of agreement we have already found. I thus do not take the opposite stance to yours but stand with you in a common desire to follow Scripture and not go a step beyond it.
    You say you have dealt with baptism on your most useful and edifying website. You have, but not yet adequately enough for a full overview of the matter in hand. It takes a pan-Biblical study taking the arguments of both sides into consideration before one can even start a dialogue on the subject of baptism. It appears to me that you start your examination of the subject with certain conclusive ideas of what baptism means and then cut and choose until you find a biblical skeleton on which to paste your ideas. Every Bible-study should have an open end until we get there. A case in point is your narrow definition of baptism as immersion and your careful choice of Biblical data to ‘prove’ this. When others make the same study, they come to different conclusions as they have used a wider basis of material. Moreover, the idea of immersion as a synonym for Biblical baptism is an anachronism. Its origin is in fourth century Roman Catholic theology, indicating the cleansing from sin by being buried under water and then taken out. Even the Vulgate uses the Biblical term baptism and not the late Latin term immersion.
    The fact is, that all your Biblical quotes for the Baptist view of baptism are accepted by Bible-believing Christians who are not Baptists but they see far more to the issue than the very narrow choice of Scriptures on which Baptists use as a basis for their rite. Baptists, according to my view of the Scriptures, are only part right. I will not say they are part wrong as I believe that development is in progress. They are learning, as I trust we are all learning. Look how Baptist Principles have developed since the time of the early Baptist discussions of the 1520s in Germany and Switzerland.
    I complained last time of confusion in your use of terms on the question of covenants. Again, I find this in your discussion of the word ‘sign’. You say that baptism is not a sign but it signifies things. Is not that which signifies things a sign? Could we then, to avoid confusion, call baptism a demonstaration of gospel truths regarding salvation? Or could we call baptism a picture of what God in Christ does for those who are given faith to accept Him?
    You write of baptism:
    “Yet it must surely signify something and the Bible seems to tell us that it signifies our union with Christ in His death and resurrection and pictures our own dying to sin and resurrection to new life (Rom 6:3ff; Col 2:12ff; Gal 3:27. cf. also 2nd Baptist Confession XXIX:I).”
    I agree with you here but not with the conclusion you draw from it. Anyway, in being buried with Christ in baptism, we are pointing to Christ’s burial, which was above ground, and not to our faith demonstrated in our baptism. So, too, we use the Biblical pictures of pouring, sprinkling, planting, being clothed with etc.. These are all pointers to what Christ has done for the ‘whosoevers’ not to what the ‘whosoevers’ in obedience have done for Christ.
    Thus I can only accept the simplistic and problem-evasive excuse that one side must be right and the other wrong as a basis for further and deeper fellowship in discussions. I would question on grounds of Biblical evidence that one party is correct and the other wrong. Indeed, Baptists themselves are notoriously split in their understanding of baptism, as are also the bulk of Christians, if not all.

    We have taken sides too long. May we now pool our resources. If we dogmatically assume that there are two sides to this issue, both sides, on the evidence available, must be pronounced wrong. There is only one side to this issue – growing in grace and a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ together.

    Your Westcountry Reformed Fellowship seems to be the very kind of thing I would like here in Westcountry, Germany.
    Yours in grace,
    George

  9. Hello George,
    My apologies for taking so long to reply to your post. I fear that we are not quite as close in our views as you appear to think.

    You write:-

    ‘I presume the antithesis to believer’s individual baptism would be household baptism as the first Baptists indeed practised (See Grebel, Mantz etc..). My argument is that the dividing line you suggest between the baptism of Christian individuals and the baptism of families in covenant with God (not infant baptism) is an artificial one. The Biblical truth concerning baptism is to be found, I believe, partly on both sides.’

    Are you saying that the Zurich Anabaptists baptized families that included infants? I have never read it, and would be interested in your sources. If you mean that the adults in a family were baptized together having each made a declaration of faith in our Lord, then that is not very strange. That has often happened in times of revival, and as a matter of fact my wife and I were baptized together, having been converted at much the same time.

    However, the Bible does not give us reason to suppose that whole families are particularly likely all to be believers. “For from now on five in one family will be divided: three against two and two against three” (Luke 12:52. cf. Matt 10:34-36). ‘From now on’ clearly means the Christian era. Under the old covenant, families were all Jews together, the physical children of Abraham, even if most of them lacked saving faith in Jehovah. But in the New Covenant, only believers are Abraham’s children (Gal 3:7 etc).

    ‘Even the Vulgate uses the Biblical term baptism and not the late Latin term immersion.’

    That is true, but you will notice that baptism takes place ‘in aqua,’ ‘in water’ not ‘with water’ as the English versions wrongly translate en hudati. My Latin is very rusty, but I think I am right in saying that the Latin word ‘in’ does not have the same range of meanings that the Greek ‘en’ has. Moreover, as I have shown elsewhere, the Greek fathers are unanimous in understanding baptism to signify dying to sin and rising to new life (See ‘What about Baptism (2)’).

    ‘I complained last time of confusion in your use of terms on the question of covenants. Again, I find this in your discussion of the word ‘sign’. You say that baptism is not a sign but it signifies things. Is not that which signifies things a sign?

    I am sorry if I have been opaque. I meant to say that baptism is not primarily a sign; it is an ordinance, but it does indeed have a significance as I explained. What it signifies is what the Bible says it signifies, and that, it seems to me, is quite clear. Rom 6:4. ‘Therefore we were buried with him in baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life.’ Col 2:12. ‘Buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him.’ To object that our Lord was buried above ground seems to me to be neither here nor there. This is the picture that the Holy Spirit has given us and we should accept it.

    As for fellowship and growing in grace together, I believe that is possible without surrendering deeply-held convictions. My church has excellent relations with a Congregational church in a nearby town. Their minister speaks at my church from time to time and my minister and I both speak at his occasionally. That which unites us is much greater than that which divides us. Yet I could not be a member of a church that baptized infants as I believe it to be unbiblical and potentially to have potentially unfortunate consequences.

  10. Concerning the twelve or so different Swiss Täufer movements. We have early documents extant of the baptisms of Swiss Mantz, Blaurock, Schad, Bruggbach, Grebel etc. which speak of the heads of households being baptised and subsequently their entire household, without anything whatsoever being required of those people but to follow in their parents’ or master’s footprints. They said with true New Testament spirit, ‘As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord!’ Early Täufer such as Wolfgang Brandhuber even taught that as servants and their families were part of the believer’s household, they should share all their masters’ property and Christian rights. There is little comparison between the Zürich Täufer and modern Baptists apart from the desire by Baptists to find a footing in history. Indeed, many of them withdrew their children from the baptism of the various churches principally because they felt the pastors had not the right sacramental qualifications to baptize others. They were like the Landmarkers, Southern Baptists and Trent.
    Concerning ‘in’ as being the only one of some twenty meanings of ‘en’ recognised by Martin, Conant has influenced this teaching enormously, so I use his findings as examples. He translates the relevant parts of Matthew 3:11 “I indeed IMMERSE you in water … He will IMMERSE you in holy spirit and fire.” The capitals are Conant’s as also is his indication that here the Holy Spirit is not referred to but a mere ‘holy spirit’. He sees baptism as John’s immersing disciples into the passive elements of water as a symbol of Christ’s immersing disciples in the passive element of ‘holy spirit’ (sic!). For him, Matthew 3:11 the Greek word for baptism with the preposition ‘in’ (en) can only indicate locality where the baptism takes place or the element into which or within which the act is performed.
    This is bad English and worse Greek. ‘en’ is as little chained to ‘in’ as baptised is chained to ‘immerse’. It is quite true that baptizein with  can refer to locality. We read in Mark 1:4, however, that John “did baptise in the wilderness.” Obviously here, John did not baptise in the element ‘wilderness’. He did not first preach ‘wilderness baptism’ and then ‘water baptism.’ We cannot maintain, therefore, that locality is all that is meant by ‘to baptise’. ‘To baptise ‘in the wilderness’ must be seen as different to ‘to baptise in or with water’. The first is obviously the locality, the second the medium or agent. The first answers the question ‘Where?’, the second. “With what?” or “How?” We can thus deduce that the term can be used of locality but also of instrumentality or agency. To baptise in the desert, affirms where one is; to baptise in or with water, i.e. using water, explains how the baptism takes place. Thus when John 3:23 tells us that John is baptising  (in) Aenon, this is not the same syntactic-grammatical or semantic construction as when we read that John was baptising  (in, with) water. The former tells us where John was baptizing and the later tells us how or with what he was baptising, i.e. not with blood, nor with oil, certainly not with sand, but with water. A further meaning of  is illustrated by Luke 15 where we read that a King is wondering whether he might have a chance against twenty thousand soldiers when he enters battle with ten thousand. Here, the preposition ‘with’ translates the Greek word ‘‘. Obviously the King does not come in his men but he brings them with him. So  tells us not where the King is but who accompanies him. Furthermore, if baptzein with  did mean immersion in something, it could never be used of places as John never immersed in the dessert sand nor whelmed (Conant’s word) in the town of Aeon. The fact is that baptizein with  can be used for a variety of meanings, according to whether it is used actively or passively; whether it is used as a phrasal verb, whether the preposition refers to the verb or the object and according to what case follows the preposition. This is not surprising as  itself can be translated as in, with, by, on, at, near, to, before, in the presence of, during, when, while, with the help of, whereby, because, the whole, etc.. In other words, the preposition  has almost as many meanings as the verb baptzein and only the context can determine the appropriate meaning.
    Conant, dispensing with the Biblical word ‘baptise’ insists on using the anachronistic Roman Catholic term ‘immerse’ which demands the preposition ‘in’ or ‘within’, as he understands the meaning to be merely one of locality and not agency. In other words, his use of the papist theological term restricts and limits his view of Christian baptism and points to the papist idea that only water immersion can cleanse from all sin. Conant, following the papist sacramentalists, destroys all comparison to Biblical ceremonial cleansing as in the sprinkling of blood and the pouring of oil, or even washing so that he might put forward his theory that ‘to baptise’ ought not to refer to the mode and means of baptism but merely to its locality, i.e. in water or in holy spirit. This is a linguistic tangle in which Conant has wrapped himself, merely because he has rejected the anglicised Biblical Greek word (baptise) for a much later, unbiblical, anglicised Latinism (immerse) which is a phrasal verb of necessity using the preposition ‘in’. It is this translation blunder on which many Baptists build their entire doctrine of baptism. Randalls, for instance, carries the emphasis on locality rather than agency and purpose even further, translating Matthew 3:11, “I indeed immerse you in water into repentance … he will immerse you in the Holy Spirit and fire.” Randalls claims that this translation is ‘common sense’. Thus water, repentance, Spirit and fire are all seen as localities in or into which the believer is baptised. It is not difficult to accept a baptism in water but to describe repentance and the Spirit as mere localities brings with it many semantic and grammatical problems which Randalls does not deal with, yet they would be necessary to an understanding of what he means. If baptism is ‘into repentance’, how come that he maintains baptism is only for those who have not only already repented but also believed?
    Once it is seen that ‘immerse’ is not the meaning here but ‘to baptise’ which refers to ‘how’, ‘why’, ‘to whom’ and ‘by whom’ via its prepositions rather than ‘where’, the Baptist bubble bursts. In reality, there are a variety of terms used in the Old Testament which are translated by baptizein and related words. This is especially the case in the New Testament, where the Biblical use of baptizein is quite different from most of the secular Greek usages. Thus, we find words like to pour, to descend on, to sprinkle, to come upon, to fall on, to be filled with, to sit upon, etc.., explain the mode of baptism. All these, of course, quite destroy the argument that the only words which describe baptism are sink, submerge, whelm and immerse as per Conant. Actually, none of Conant’s suggestions come anywhere near to describing the Biblical doctrine of baptism but merely lead the Bible student away from its basic teaching.
    In arguing for a ‘burial’ only meaning of baptism and ignoring the wealth of other Scriptural meanings, Baptists are making the same mistake as they do with limiting the meaning of ‘en’ to ‘in’. They pick one meaning out of many and make a religion out of it. Of course, as I pointed out in my last letter, all Christians accept the burial imagery but only Baptists reject all the other Biblical pictures which describe baptism. Why? If they now accepted the whole Biblical account, would this be a confession that Baptists have hitherto formed themselves around a popish rite and not the Word of God? If they now accepted the pan-Biblical meanings of baptism instead of basing their linguistics on pagan and popish etymology, would this mean they were formerly pagan and popish?

  11. Sorry folks, my Greek for ‘in’ or ‘with’ etc. did not come out right in my reply.

    George

  12. Hello George,
    I can’t do justice to your very long post, but I will comment on one or two points briefly.

    I find your evidences of family baptisms among the Anabaptists very puzzling, though I’m sure you must be correct. Are you sure that the family baptisms of which you speak included infants? I will just quote from the Anabaptist Schleitheim Confession of 1527.

    “Baptism is to be given to all those who have learned repentance and reformation of life and who truly believe that their sins are removed by Christ, and to all those who live according to Jesus Christ’s resurrection, and wish to be buried with Him in death, so that they my be resurrected with Him, and to all those who with this intention requst baptism from us and demand it for themselves. This rules out infant baptism, which is the greatest and chief abomination of the pope. In this you have the basis and testimony of the apostles.”

    You write:-

    They said with true New Testament spirit, ‘As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord!’

    Well I don’t know about the spirit, but you don’t need me to tell you that that the text is actually Old Testament. The New Testament says, ‘But when they believed Philip as he preached………both men and women were baptized.’ No children. with reference to families, the Lord Himself tells us that, “From now on five in one house will be divided; three against two and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father…….” (Luke 12:52-53).

    With regard to the Greek preposition en, you are correct that it is translated in a number of different ways. According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, it is translated
    ‘By’ 142 times,
    ‘With’ 139 times,
    ‘Among’ 114 times,
    ‘At’ 106 times,
    ‘On’ 45 times,
    ‘Through’ 37 times
    ‘As’ 22 times,
    ‘To’ 15 times,
    ‘Within’ 13 times,
    ‘Into’ 11 times,
    ‘Unto’ 9 times,
    and ‘In’ 1863 times, or around 75% of the time, and six times more frequently than ‘by’ or ‘with’ put together. Therefore ‘In’ is the usual meaning of en and so it should be translated unless there is a very good contextual reason why not.

    There is also a perfectly good Greek word for ‘sprinkle,’ rantizo. If the Holy Spirit had wanted to indicate sprinkling, He could have used it and we would all be talking about John the Rantist instead of John the Baptist.

    George, forgive me for the shortness and bluntness of these comments, but I am pressed for time before I leave for my holiday. Your post deserves a longer answer and I will try to give it one on my return.

  13. Dear Martin,
    Thank you for your kind remarks. Of course Baptists are always puzzled by the Biblical and historical references to household baptisms. Perhaps this is why so many Baptist writers such as Warns refer to ‘the so-called household baptisms’. The modern Baptist distinctions between adult and infant baptisms is a product of modern Baptist apologetics alone. From this angle, they reinterpret the Scriptures and the history of the Church.- For instance, when Tertullian intruduced the self-confessed novelty of delaying baptism for proselytes, a most un-criptural thing to do, he spoke of all proselytes of whatever age. Modern Baptists claim that he was speaking of infants only and not just prosylite infants but all infants. On this and similar errors, the modern Baptist movement is based. You will remember that the early Arians rejected the baptism of households, though they agreed that this had been practiced since NT times, but they argued it was wrong and true Arian baptism by pouring water over their followers was correct because of sacramental and ritualistic factors maintained. It is thus to be expected that the pioneer writers on so-called adult or believers’ baptism were Arians.
    Concerning 1527 statements on baptism, you will find a great variety of changes between 1525-27. You will probably be able to collect over a dozen apparently conflicting statements. By 1527 they were split into many different movements. By the way, Mantz, Grebel and Co. did not immerse but took a lading can and poured it over the heads of the candidates in their private houses. Modern Baptists tend to filter out of the vast and confusing amount of historical documents concerning Baptism, only that which they wish to believe. This is unscholarly and naive. Besides, even if the Täufer did practice the same doctrines and rites as modern Baptists, which they did not, this alone would not justify their doing so.
    I take the Biblical statement ‘As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord’ as the true Christian attitude, just the same as ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’. The idea that the Old Terstament has no relevance for Christians would rob us of the New. What do you mean by ‘I do not know about the spirit’? This reminds me of a debate I had with Baptist pastors on the early church fathers. They told me that though I had the arguments, they had the Spirit and therfore I was wrong and they were right. Of what spirit a man is one can tell by such remarks.
    Which Bible version do you use? Are you referring to Acts 8:12 where Philip, not Peter, preached? The Scriptures speak at times, as at Pentecost, of males only being baptised, others of females and their families being baptised, others of men and women being baptised and others of husbands and wives being baptised, still others of whole household. Baptism tied down to a set chronological sequence of events and age groups is never an issue. None of these passages rule out that that certain other people could not be baptised, Pentecost being the obvious case in point. Look at the Eunuch. a story so many Baptist writers discount. Certainly Christian mothers and fathers (as in the case you cite), knew their gospel-given responsibility to their children. Neither did I get the point of your new translation of Luke 12, 52-53 and its relevance. Are you claiming that Christ ment that baptised fathers would be at logger heads with their unbaptised sons? You might as well argue that where the refererence to houshold baptism is the case, parents and their children are not meant but only servants and their offspring. Of course, all were meant. If one looks at the Christian gospel through the key-hole of one out of over forty pagan or secular meanings of baptizein, it is no wonder that the Bible becomes distorted. Add to that Baptist sacramentalism, what can you expect? Concerning a house divided between fathers and sons, what has this to do with baptism? The most split up and divided communities at present seem to be of the Baptist persuasion – yet they are all nowadays immersed! How many different Baptist denominational communities are there. Five hundred? Note, too, how the modern Bible translations tackle Acts 8:12 and many commentators argue that the meaning is that females were baptised just like males. You appear to use the NIV, why? Have you not noticed how it truncates and paraphrases Scripture and gives it another gramatical, syntactical and lexicological thrust which is difficult to fit in with the Hebrew and Greek? The narrative of the Bible is esential to its semantics but this is not followed.
    You have gone to great trouble to list Young’s Analysis, which I, too, of course use, amongst many other works, some far better. However, you have missed trhe point. I argued not statistically but contextually and semantically. Not from the AV which is my fafourite English version, but from the Hebrew and Greek. I once read a doctor’s thesis on how many times Paul used a question mark!!! No comment needed. Actually, neither ‘in’ or ‘with’ are used in the original documents.
    Dear Martin, I matriculated in both Hellenistic (NT) Greek and Classical Greek and have studied both languages besides Hebrew and Aramaic, to post-graduate level. I also majored at Uppsala in Higher and Lower Criticism based on the Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, Syrian, Coptic etc. texts. and it strengthened my faith no end. I therefore am quite familiar with rantizo which, unlike you, I find a Biblical word being used both in the LXX and New Testament and is found in the most complete MSS. Why not mention perirantizo while you are at it? However, again you have missed the point. We are talking about how baptism is performed and why and what mode we ought to use. Of course I would not speak of John the Sprinkler as we are striving to understand baptism, not sprinkling. The baptism is more important than the mode and all the early evidence points to John having poured. I personally would prefer pouring but I would not reject one immersed as baptised, nor automatically accept an imersionist as a believer. Nor one baptised in other ways. The one is no guarantee of the other. We are not sacramentalists. The amount of water is not important. However, I do take it that you WOULD speak of John the IMMERSER as Baptists believe the mode ‘immersion’is more important than the act of baptism or at least is used as a substitute for it. For a Baptist, the amount of water is a matter of faith. I have indeed, actually read a few Baptist re-translations where John is called John the Immerser.
    Your back-to-front argument (from mode to meaning) can also easily be turned on its head:
    Actually, all but Baptists do find rantizo in the Bible associated so closely with baptism in that it would be linguistic and exegetical folly to separate them. Baptists, however, profess that they may legitimately call baptism ‘immersion’, though tabag, yarad etc. which describe immersion, are never used to describe either bapto or baptizo in the OT. Furthermore, there is a good NT Scriptural word for sink or immerse (actually, there are four or five) katapontizomai which is used, for instance, in Matthew 14:30. Here, Peter, walking on the waves, panics and “beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” If sinking were synonymous with baptising, here we would have a good picture of Baptist baptism. The same word is used in Matthew 18:6 where Jesus blesses the little children and says that those who offend little children were better of if they had tied a millstone around their necks, jumped into the sea and drowned. Thus when Baptists use the argument that if baptism can be performed by sprinkling then we would expect rantizo to be used throughout, one might as well confront them with the argument that if sinking and immersing were the correct form for baptism, one would expect katapontizomai to be used throughout. This will not shake an ardent Baptist but might give him food for thought. Actually, rantizo is often used in connection with baptising but katapontizomai never. Thus Baptists ought to speak of John the Tabagist or John the Yaradist or John the Katapontizomaiist to use the same reasoning as you do. Such reasoning is, however, demonstrably false.
    It is interesting to note that Gerhard Kittel in volume one of his ten-volumed Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, Stuttgart, 1933, concludes that in the Jewish-Greek Old Testament, the meaning ‘drown’, ‘go under’ and ‘sink’ are totally foreign to baptizein and the equivalent Hebrew and Aramaic words. He mentions the Jewish writer Josephus (born 37-38 a.d.) tentatively as possibly including these meanings in his works but adds that Josephus did not have a Jewish-Greek vocabulary. Similarly, Arndt and Gingrich in their new edition of Bauer’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, conclude under the heading baptizoo that ‘plunge, sink, drench and overwhelm’ are meanings only found in non-Christian literature. Yet, our Baptist friends tell us that ‘sink’ is the only ‘Christian’ rendering of baptizein and bapto possible!

    Dear Brother Martin, I admire your stickability and earnest wish to get to the bottom of these things. You are an enormous help to an old man like myself to keep my mind and heart allert. But from what you say concerning your long and faithful marriage, you are no chicken youself. May we both, with the help of eaxh other, be old trees that bear the best fruit.

    God bless,

    George

  14. Hello George,
    At last I have a little time to respond to your post. Thank you, by the way for your kind remarks concerning my series on the New Birth.

    You write,

    Of course Baptists are always puzzled by the Biblical and historical references to household baptisms.

    Well, there are many different kinds of Baptists, just as there are many different kinds of Episcopalians, and it may well be that some of them are puzzled by Household baptisms, but I have never met any Reformed Baptist who had any trouble with them. As a matter of fact, I was part of a ‘household baptism.’ My wife and I were saved at much the same time and baptized together on our profession of faith. We have to compare Scripture with Scripture and reconcile the household baptisms with the repeated Biblical association of baptism with repentance, discipleship and faith (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16; John 4:1; Acts 2:41; 8:12,37; 16:32-33; Eph 4:5). The conclusion we must come to is that, as in my case, young children were not involved. We can see this in many cases; for example, 1Cor 1:16; ‘Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas.’ Did Stephanas have infant children? Not unless they were remarkably precocious! ‘The household of Stephanas……have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints’ (1Cor 16:15). In every other instance of household baptism save one, it is clear that the Gospel was preached to the whole household and that they responded (Acts 10:44ff; 16:32-34). The one exception is in the case of Lydia, but it is clear that Lydia had no husband (Acts 16:15) since she refers to ‘my house.’ Her household will have consisted of various servants. Is it really suggested that they were baptized against their wills? God forbid!

    You mention Tertullian. He does indeed speak of all converts, but he especially refers to infants. ‘….And so it is more salutary to delay baptism according to the state and character of each person, but especially in the case of infants. For why is it neccessary for sponsors also to be involved in danger, who may fail to fulfil their promises through mortality and may be disappointed by the development of a bad character [in the child]…….Let them become Christians when they are able to know Christ’ (De Baptismo, 18). Amen to the last part! But where does he get the ‘sponsors’ (godparents) from? Not from the Bible! He continues, ‘Those who are to enter upon baptism must pray with repeated prayer, fasts and kneelings and vigils; and with confessions of past sins (Ibid, 20). How are infants going to manage that?

    I will just add that the two Fathers who precede Tertulian and mention baptism show that they are completely unaware of any such thing as infant baptism. Check out Didache VII and Justin Martyr, Apologia I, LXI.

    You write,

    Concerning 1527 statements on baptism, you will find a great variety of changes between 1525-27. You will probably be able to collect over a dozen apparently conflicting statements.

    Perhaps, but I don’t find it so. Here they are in 1525. ‘…..George of the House of Jacob stood up and besought Conrad Grebel for God’s sake to baptize him with the true [recht] Christian baptism upon his faith and knowledge’ (italics mine). No change there, and no room for the baptism of infants.

    By 1527 they were split into many different movements.

    No doubt. They were attacked, imprisoned and murdered by Romanist and Protestant alike. What chance did they have to develop their theology?

    By the way, Mantz, Grebel and Co. did not immerse but took a lading can and poured it over the heads of the candidates in their private houses. Modern Baptists tend to filter out of the vast and confusing amount of historical documents concerning Baptism, only that which they wish to believe.

    Your blanket smears of ‘Baptists’ are a little wearisome. Perhaps there are some who are unaware of this, but it is very well known. What of it? They didn’t get everything right. No more did the Magisterial Reformers.

    What do you mean by ‘I do not know about the spirit’?

    You have taken an O.T. text and applied it to the N.T. without any explanation. True New Testament Spirit is, ‘My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.’ Confusing the two Covenants is a typical error of paedobaptism.

    Which Bible version do you use? Are you referring to Acts 8:12 where Philip, not Peter, preached?

    I use the NKJV throughout. My substitution of Peter for Philip was a copyist’s error. Sorry! I have amended my article to avoid confusing others.

    Neither did I get the point of your new translation of Luke 12, 52-53 and its relevance. Are you claiming that Christ ment that baptised fathers would be at logger heads with their unbaptised sons?

    “From now on five in one house will be divided; three against two and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father…….” I see very little difference between this and the A.V. rendering. Its meaning is very simple. When is ‘from now on’? From the time our Lord spoke it until now. It is the change from old to new covenant that brings about the change. Previously, a family was united in being Jewish, even though there may have been no living faith in Yahveh. They were united against threats from outside, be they religious, political or military. Hophni and Phineas, the obviously godless sons of Eli the priest, nonetheless take the ark of the covenant into battle against the Philistines (1Sam 4:4). You might think this sounds a little like the religious scene in Britain today where an obviously unsaved Archbishop of Canterbury gets to crown the next King or Queen, be they Christian or otherwise, to sprinkle the little princes and princesses and to pontificate on events both political and quasi-religious. You might be right. It’s what you get when you confuse the Old and New Covenants.
    In the new covenant there are no ‘Christian’ countries; God’s people are spread throughout the nations (cf. Isaiah 49:6 etc.). Nor can it be assumed that there are Christian families. No one is born Christian, at least, not the first time (Psalm 51:5; John 3:3). And so Luke 12:51ff comes to pass. Some children reject the Christianity of their parents; others are the first in their families for generations to come to faith. In China, the children of atheist government officials become leaders of illegal house churches; in Britain, vicars’ offspring become openly atheistic. In North Korea, children are induced to betray their Christian parents to the State. This is the reality of John 1:13. The New Birth is ‘Not of blood.’
    This post is already getting unwieldy and I am only half-way through my reply to you. I think I shall end it here, and since no one else seems to be interested in joining in, I am going to close this discussion, though if you wish to reply privately, I shall be delighted to hear from you.


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