At this point in the history of Baptism, we will study the use of BAPTIDZO in cases where the baptized object remains, for the most part, uninfluenced by the baptizing agent. By uninfluenced, we mean there was no significant change to the element baptized other than the fact that it may have become wet. In the history of Baptism, this is the more primitive use of the word BAPTIDZO, what we might call the primary meaning or BAPTIDZO1. As we do this research, look for the mode of baptism in these passages; see how many different ones are in these texts. Also, very interestingly, notice how often mode is simply ignored, not addressed at all! Even in this primitive use BAPTIDZO does not address mode. Mode must be found in its context, not the word itself. Let us consider these illustrations from Classic Greek to see how this word was used by the anchients.
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History of Baptism
“They say that the Phoenicians inhabiting the region called Gadira, sailing beyond the Pillars of Hercules, with an easterly wind, four days, reach to certain desert places full of rush and seaweed; which when it is ebb tide are not baptized (BAPTIDZO); but when it is full tide are flooded.” Aristotle , Wonderful Reports, 136
The history of Baptism provides this ancient text by Aristotle in which we read of a baptism of “places full of rush and seaweed.” And what is the mode of the baptism? It is the flowing and flooding of the tide over the “rush and seaweed” that produces the baptism. Several things can be noticed from this. 1) The beach was not dipped in and taken out of the sea. The beach didn’t move; the sea moved. 2) The mode or act of baptism was “flowing” which resulted in the beach being “flooded.” We are told by some that a baptism can only be by dipping. Clearly you don’t have to go far to prove that false.
The great Baptist scholar John Gale comments on this passage saying, “…, the word BAPTIDZO, perhaps, does not so necessarily express the action of putting under water, as, in general, a thing’s being in that condition, no matter how it comes so, whether it is put into the water, or the water comes over it; tho’ indeed to put into water is the most natural way and the most common, and is, therefore, usually and pretty constantly,
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Envelopment Without Influence
but it may be not necessarily required.” It would appear that Dr. Gale has given away the farm with this statement. What is left to concede? This is the very point we made from the beginning, BAPTIDZO refers to condition, result, state, or an effect accomplished brought about by any one of several possible acts.
“I found Cupid among the roses, and holding him by the wings I baptized (BAPTIDZO) him into the wine, and took and drank him.” Julian , Egypt, Cupid, 223
Through some mode not revealed to us, Cupid was baptized in the wine. He may have been placed into the wine, or pushed into the wine, or plunged into the wine, or enticed to jump in the wine. One thing is certain, however, he was not dipped into the wine, for he stayed in the wine and was thereby swallowed down (through the influence of the wine Julian fell in love). In our study of the history of Baptism, this is the nature of BAPTIDZO; it places in while making no provision to take out. It commonly engenders a result or change of condition. In this case the result was falling in love. Julian was neither the first nor the last to fall in love by means of the consumption of wine.
“But when the Sun had baptized (BAPTIDZO) himself into the Ocean flood.” Orphei , Argonautica, 512
To all appearances, the Ocean enveloped the Sun. Perhaps the writer viewed the Sun as diving or plunging or dropping into the Ocean, but he certainly did not view it as dipping into and out of the Ocean. Inherent in the word dip is a momentary time element. But this was a long-term baptizing, reversing itself only after many hours and even then 180 degrees and thousands of miles from the point of entry. Not many prospective Baptist converts will be encouraged by this mode of baptism. Indeed, if embraced, it would represent the setting sun of the whole movement. To preserves lives, it is best to stick with dip notwithstanding it is never the mode of BAPTIDZO.
“A bladder, thou may be baptized (BAPTIDZO); but there is no decree for thee to sink.” Plutarch , Theseus, xxiv
Like a bladder filled with air and pushed down or forced under water for some period of time, so the city of Athens was for a while under the oppression of a foreign power. However, as it is not the nature of an air filled bladder to permanently sink, so Athens will recover from the subjection of her enemies.
Now the question is this: is an air filled bladder forced under water for some considerable period of time the model of a Christian baptism? I think not. I do not believe that Baptists push down or force their converts under the water, to be held there for as long as possible-as did the Persians to Athens. Yet that is the mode of baptism illustrated here.
“And dying they filled the lake with dead bodies; so that to the present many barbaric arrows, and helmets, and pieces of iron breastplates and swords, baptized (EMBAPTIDZO) in the marshes, are found.” Plutarch, Sylla, xxi
You will notice that this ancient weaponry is not put into and then taken out of the marshes-dipped. No, it has apparently lain there for years. For Plutarch, baptizing was not a dipping. It was instead 1) a condition of envelopment 2) for an undetermined period of time. How that envelopment occurred is not a point he is discussing. This lack of interest in mode of baptism is typical of Greek literature.
“Alexander falling upon the stormy season, and trusting, commonly, to fortune, pressed on before the flood went out, and through the entire day the army marched baptized (BAPTIDZO) up to the waist.” Starbo , xiv, 3, 9
In looking for the mode of baptism in this passage we find that it is “marched.” Now some will find a marching baptism to be beyond their capacity to grasp. That is understandable; if you are told all your life that baptizing is dipping and dipping is baptizing then surely this passage will throw you. But if baptism is a state of envelopment, well here is a whole army enveloped up to the waist by the mode of marching. And notice that it is not necessary for the whole body to be under water for a baptism to take place. Baptists often fret over such things as a hand, arm or part of a head that did not get fully under the water, wondering if that was then a valid baptism. The Greeks would have simply scratched their heads in confusion at such a conversation-or laughed.
In this study of the history of Baptism we must ask: Did these ancient Greeks understand Greek? Certainly that is not the problem. Closer to home, do those that say a baptism is a dipping understand Greek?
“Being innocent, he advances, unhesitatingly, having the water to the knees; but when guilty, proceeding a short distance he is baptized (BAPTIDZO) up to the head.” Porphyry , Abstinence, 282
In our study of the history of Baptism, we here come across a case of baptism by “advances,” presumably by walking or marching. But if baptism is only a dipping then how is this a baptism, for the author mentions no dipping at all? It would appear that the only conclusion possible is that baptism is by any number of acts or modes-the act being irrelevant, the condition resulting from the baptism the only relevant factor. It might be added that the guilty are drowned, that is-baptized. Because baptism is for an undetermined period of time, it generally drowns those that have their head baptized.
“Although the spear should fall out into the sea, it is not lost; for it is constructed out of both oak and pine, so that the oaken part being baptized (BAPTIDZO) by the weight, the rest is floating and easily recovered.” Polybius , xxxiv, 3, 7
It would appear that the portion of the spear that was baptized was baptized by dropping, or falling, or sinking, without the removal of the object baptized from the water, which are perfectly normal modes of baptism to the Greeks although frowned upon by Baptists, insisting that the word means to dip and nothing but dip. The only reason the spear did not stay baptized was because a part of the spear floated allowing its retrieval at some time after the baptism. Note: it was not the retrieval of the spear that was the baptism; the baptism was the envelopment of the spear by water. If it had never been retrieved, it would be baptized to this day. Baptism does not make provision for retrieval, in fact, the retrieval un-baptized the spear. Think about that!
“To one throwing down a javelin, from above, into the channel, the force of the water resists so much that it is hardly baptized (BAPTIDZO).” Strabo , xii, 2, 4
What we have here is a fast flowing channel that resists the force of the javelin entering the water. In fact, the force is so great that the javelin can hardly be baptized, enveloped by water.
So, to our example list of baptism acts found in this history of Baptism, we can now add “throw down.” Can you imagine the consternation of young converts when they discover that “throw down” into the water is a legitimate mode of baptism; but even worse, “pick up” from the water is not mentioned even once!
A conclusion to this History of Baptism
There are many modes of baptism illustrated in these passages: flowing, placed, pushed, plunged, jump, setting, dropping, marched, advances, falling, sinking, push down, force under, and throw down. But in the history of Baptism, the only one not present is dip!