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In the history of Baptism, commonly, BAPTIDZO or baptisms convey influence to the object baptized. These are baptisms “with influence.” By this we mean that a change of some consequence has occurred because of the mersion. “It is the indefinitely long continuance of mersion which qualifies it to exert a controlling influence over objects physically mersed, and which makes it the representative word for any controlling influence….” However, in the history of Baptism, when a Greek author intended to record a dipping, a mersion, for a momentary period, resulting in no change of condition, he used the word BAPTO-to dip, never BAPTIDZO.

History of Baptism - Baptized by a Storm

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History of Baptism

“We all, therefore, changed our position to the higher parts of the ship, that we might raise up the baptized (BAPTIDZO) part of the vessel.” Achilles Tatius , iii, 1

“The wind changes suddenly to the other side of the ship, and it is nearly baptized (BAPTIDZO).” Achilles Tatius , iii, 1

“A severe storm occurring, and the ship in hazard of being baptized (BAPTIDZO), throwing out all the cargo into the sea, he hardly saved by the empty ship.” Aesop , Shepherd and the Sea

“The commander was slain, and his ship being baptized (BAPTIDZO), confusion seized the fleet of the barbarians.” Diodorus Siculus , xi, 18

“The vessels which were in the Tiber, and anchored at the city and at its mouth, were baptized (BAPTIDZO).” Dion Cassius , Roman History, xxxvii, 58

“As you would not wish, sailing in a large and elegant and gilded ship, to be baptized (BAPTIDZO).” Epictetus , Mor. Dis., xi

“Already being baptized (BAPTIDZO) and wanting little of going down, some of the pirates, at first, attempted to pass into their own boat.” Heliodorus , Aethiop. V. 28

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Envelopment With Influence

“Shall I not ridicule one baptizing (BAPTIDZO) his ship by much freight, then blaming the sea for sinking it full.” Hippocrates , iii, 809

It always makes the heart of a Baptist beat with a gentle pitter-patter when he hears of the envelopment of an object in water in a baptism. Sadly, however, in the history of Baptism, all these illustrations of BAPTIDZO have one thing in common; they all refer to the possible or actual loss of a vessel by storm at sea. The mode of all these baptisms is to sink. In other words, the vessel is enveloped or threatened with envelopment for an undetermined period of time, which would or does result in a change of condition of the vessel-its destruction. In no case is the vessel dipped, put into and taken out of the sea, except as an accident of circumstance. Surely, in the history of Baptism, these baptisms offer little joy to one who hopes to breathe again soon after the baptism.

History of Baptism - Baptidzo by Drowning

“Crowds of them fleeing perished; some in embarking upon the boats, thrown down by the press; others, even in the boats baptized (BAPTIDZO) [drowned] by their own weight.” Dion Cassisu , Roman History, xli, 42
“Attempting to escape, some way or other, some of them were baptized (BAPTIDZO) [drowned] by the wind, using it immoderately; other were destroyed, being overtaken by the enemy.” Dion Cassius , Roman History, lxxiv, 13
“But baptized (BAPTIDZO) by themselves, and sinking in the marshes, were all useless, and many of them were destroyed [drowned].” Polybius , History, v, 47

“Pools near Agrigentum have the taste of salt water, a different nature; for it does not happen to the unskilled in swimming to be baptized (BAPTIDZO) [drowned].” Strabo , vi, 2, 9

“Then floating, through the nature of the water, according to which, we have said, to swim was not necessary; nor is one entering it baptized (BAPTIDZO) [drowned], but lifted out.” Strabo , xiv, 2, 42

“They were baptized (BAPTIDZO) [drowned] by the full armor.” Suidas , Lexicon

Is it not a wonder that in the history of Baptism, drown is so rarely found or discussed in dictionaries or lexicons as a definition for BAPTIDZO, yet few words could lay a better claim to its meaning. In the Greek literature, when people are baptized they are generally drowned. So, holding to the dictum that baptism is to dip and dip is to baptize, how does one respond to these passages? Would it not be closer to the truth to say that baptism is to drown and to drown is to baptize? That is a far more accurate statement than the first.

“The blood boiling up, through great force, often overflows the veins, and flowing round the head within, baptizes (BAPTIDZO) the breathing (passage) of the intellect.” Achilles Tatius , iii, 1

Here we have a person lying unconscious and through the “act” of blood flowing round his head is baptized and thereby suffocates. Since when is flowing round a mode of baptism? In the history of Baptism, since about 2,500 years ago! But, again, the mode is irrelevant to the word BAPTIDZO. It is the result, state or change of condition produced by the baptism that is the focus of this word. In this case, as is so often the case in Greek, baptisms of people produce a change of condition-from life to death. A brief dipping could never do this; the momentary nature of dip would not allow it. But BAPTIDZO, stressing the unlimited period inherent in the nature of a baptism, serves very well to describe this change of condition-he drowned in his own blood!


“Why do some, being alarmed, die? Because the physical power fleeing, overmuch, into the depth, with the blood, all at once baptizes (BAPTIDZO) and quenches the natural and vital warmth which is at the heart, and causes death.” Alexander Aphrodisias , ii, 38

Here we have a picture of a person bleeding to death “the physical power fleeing, overmuch, into the depth, with the blood.” The person is baptized not by drowning on his own blood but by that blood fleeing or flowing from his body. He is not dipped into and taken out of his blood; he is not even enveloped by his blood. He is not enveloped at all. His bodily system experiences a massive loss of blood, which thereby quenches the natural and vital warmth which is at the heart, which results in a change of condition-from life to death.

I am sure that at least a few Baptists have read passages like this and said to themselves, “These people simply didn’t understand what the word BAPTIDZO meant.” But they did. They understood that a baptism results in a change of condition, in this case as is so often in the baptism of a person, from life to death.


“Many of the land animals, surrounded by the river, perish, being baptized (BAPTIDZO); but some, fleeing to the high places are saved.” Diodorus Siculus , xi, 18

As we have seen in the past, animals or people who are baptized, drown. Dipping does not do so. To flee death, you must flee baptism by moving to higher ground. One is tempted to follow up on that last statement with a theological conclusion.


“The river, with a stronger current, rolling down, baptized (BAPTIDZO) many, and, swimming through with their arms, destroyed them.” Diodorus Siculus , ix, 18

Again, we read of the destructive nature of a baptism. If they were but dipped, they would have lived. However, being baptized instead, they were enveloped for an undetermined period of time, with a change of condition; that change being from life to death.

History of Baptism - Baptized by Drunkenness

“Who is baptized (BAPTIDZO), now the fourth day, wearing away the life of a miserable, starveling mullet.” Eubulus , Nausicaa

Here is a person, who for four days now has been on a drunk. He leads a life of no greater significance than that of a mullet (fish). There are many words that might be used to express his condition, sinking, drinking, whatever, one thing is certain; he was not dipped for four days. If he were, then we would not be speaking of the man living the life of a mullet; instead we would be thinking of a fish fry, for this mullet would long since be dead. To be baptized by drunkenness is not to be put into and taken out of wine; it is to have wine put into the person and not taken out. Once the wine is gone, he is no longer baptized. Notice: baptism is a change of condition-from sobriety to drunkenness.

History of Baptism - Baptism of a Sword

“For, indeed, hereby he shows greater emphasis, as if the sword were so baptized (BAPTIDZO) as to be warmed.” Homer ’s Life and Poetry, ii, 26

The picture is one of war. A sword, so long and often plunged into the bodies of enemies is “warmed” by their blood as a result of this action. Now the question is this: is a plunging the point Homer is making? For the sword was certainly plunged into the bodies of the enemy. But, no, his point is that the sword was warmed. In other words, because it spent such a long time enveloped in blood, it experienced a change of condition, from cold to warm. The baptism is one of decided influence, which BAPTIDZO can effect but BAPTO cannot. If the point was that the act was a momentary dipping into the body, then BAPTO would have been the perfect choice. But if the point was that a change of condition of the sword had taken place, from cold to warm brought about through an enveloping of the sword in blood, BAPTIDZO would be needed. BAPTIDZO delivers the goods, a warmed sword; BAPTO could never make that point.

History of Baptism - Baptism of the Soul

“They have the soul very much baptized (BAPTIDZO) by the body, and therefore the seminal element partaking in the highest degree of the rational and physical power, makes its offspring more intelligent.” Alexander Aphrodisias

Notice that the body, a corporal element, baptizes the soul by enveloping it. Notice that again we have here “envelopment with influence.” The rational and physical power of the body, through the influence of the soul, becomes more intelligent. Commonly, baptism results in influence, either intentionally or unintentionally. A man unintentionally baptized by water, drowns; a cucumber intentionally baptized by vinegar is pickled and preserved. In neither case will dipping convey influence. In this passage above, the soul was not dipped into and taken out of the body. Instead, it was there for an indeterminate period of time, a feature that characterizes Baptidzo but not Bapto. What was the new condition or result? The body became more intelligent.


“She dies, therefore, as the soul may die; and death to her, even yet baptized (BAPTIDZO) in the body, is to sink in matter, and to be filled of it.” Plotinus

According to Plotinus, a soul dies, as it is baptized in the body. The mode of baptism is here defined as sink, a very common act of baptism in Greek literature but almost unknown to the Lexicons today. And again notice the influence of the baptism-death. There is here a change of condition from life to death as a result of baptism. And finally, notice that the soul was not dipped into and taken out of the body. There was a marriage of the two, which resulted in death to the soul (according to Plotinus).

This history of Baptism provides the context whereby we can come to a reasoned conclussion as to what baptidzo means.