Baptism in early Christianity

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Baptism has been part of Christianity from the start, as shown by the many mentions in the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles.

Background in Jewish ritual[edit]

Although the term "baptism" is not today used to describe the Jewish rituals (in contrast to New Testament times, when the Greek word baptismos did indicate Jewish ablutions or rites of purification),[1][2] the purification rites (or mikvah—ritual immersion) in Jewish law and tradition have some similarity to baptism, and the two have been linked.[3][4] In the Hebrew Bible and other Jewish texts, immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of "ritual purity" in specific circumstances. For example, Jews who (according to the Law of Moses) became ritually defiled by contact with a corpse had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Temple in Jerusalem. Immersion was not required for converts to Judaism as part of their conversion, although many mistakenly believe otherwise.[5] Immersion in the mikvah represents a change in status in regards to purification, restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community, ensuring that the cleansed person will not impose uncleanness on property or its owners.[6][7]

New Testament[edit]

The New Testament includes several references to baptism as an important practice among early Christians and, while giving no actual account of its institution by Jesus, portrays him as giving instructions, after his resurrection, for his followers to perform the rite (see Great Commission).[8] It also gives interpretations by the Apostle Paul and in the First Epistle of Peter of the significance of baptism.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God

— John 3:5 RSV

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

— Ephesians 5:25–27 RSV

God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you

— 1 Peter 3:20–21 RSV

Baptism of Jesus[edit]

The baptism of Jesus is described in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. John's gospel does not directly describe Jesus' baptism.

John the Baptist was a 1st-century mission preacher on the banks of the River Jordan.[9][page needed] He baptized Jews for repentance in the River Jordan.[10]

At the start of his ministry, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Critical scholars broadly agree that the baptism of Jesus is one of the most authentic, or historically likely, events in the life of the historical Jesus.[citation needed] Christian baptism has its origin in the baptism of Jesus, in both a direct and historical sense.[11] Many of the earliest followers of Jesus were people who, like him, were baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist.[12]

Baptism by Jesus[edit]

The Gospel of John[Jn 3:22-30] [4:1-4] states that Jesus at an early stage led a mission of baptism that drew crowds. John 4:2, considered by many scholars to be a later editorial insertion,[13] denies that Jesus himself baptized and states that he did so only through his disciples.

Some prominent scholars conclude that Jesus did not baptize. Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz assert that Jesus did not baptize, detached the notion of repentance from baptism, recognized John's baptism, and put forward a purity ethic in tension with baptism.[14] The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions also states that Jesus did not baptize as part of his ministry.[15][page needed]

E. P. Sanders omits John's account of Jesus' baptizing mission from his portrait of Jesus as a historical figure.[16]

Robert W. Funk considers the account of Jesus' baptism ministry in John to have internal difficulties: that, for instance, it reports Jesus coming to Judea even though he is already in Jerusalem and thus in Judea.[17][page needed] John 3:22 actually speaks of Jesus and his disciples coming, not "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν" (into Judea), but "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν" (into the Judean countryside),[18] which some interpret as contrasted with Jerusalem, the scene of the encounter with Nicodemus described immediately before.[19] According to the Jesus Seminar, the passage about Jesus "coming to Judea" (as they interpret "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν") to lead a mission of baptism probably preserves no historical information (a "black" rating).[20][page needed]

On the other hand, the Cambridge Companion to Jesus[21] takes a different view. According to this source, Jesus accepted and made his own John the Baptist's message of repentance, forgiveness and baptism;[22] taking over from John, when the latter was imprisoned, he called for repentance and for baptism as a first step in accepting the imminent Kingdom of God;[23] and the central place of baptism in his message is confirmed by the passage in John about Jesus baptizing.[24] After John's execution, Jesus ceased baptizing, through he may have occasionally returned to the practice; accordingly, while baptism played an important part in Jesus' ministry before John's death and again among his followers after his resurrection, it had no such prominence in between.[25]

New Testament scholar Raymond E. Brown, a specialist in the Johannine writings, considers that the parenthetic editorial remark of John 4:2 that Jesus baptized only through his disciples was intended to clarify or correct the twice repeated statement in the preceding verses that Jesus did baptize, and that the reason for its insertion may have been that the author considered the baptism that the disciples administered to be a continuation of the Baptist's work, not baptism in the Holy Spirit.[26]

Other New Testament scholars also accept the historical value of this passage in John. This is the view expressed by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall.[27] Another states that there is "no a priori reason to reject the report of Jesus and his disciples' conducting a ministry of baptism for a time", and mentions that report as one of the items in John's account[3:22–26] "that are likely to be historical and ought to be given due weight".[28]

In his book on the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, Daniel S. Dapaah says that John's account "may be a snippet of historical tradition", and comments that the silence of the Synoptic Gospels does not mean that the information in John was invented, and that Mark's account also suggests that Jesus worked with John at first, before moving to Galilee.[29] Frederick J. Cwiekowski agrees that the account in John "gives the impression" that Jesus baptized.[30]

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible says that "though he [Christ] himself baptized not so many as his disciples; 'For he suffered them for an example, preferring one another.'[31]

The Gospel of John remarks, in John 3:32, that, though Jesus drew many people to his baptism, they still did not accept his testimony,[32] and the Jesus Seminar concludes, on the basis of Josephus's accounts, that John the Baptist likely had a larger presence in the public mind than Jesus.[10]

Paul's epistles[edit]

In the Pauline epistles baptism effects and represents the believer's union with Christ, a union by which the believer shares in Christ's death and resurrection;[Rom 6:3–4] cleanses of sin;[1 Cor 6:11] incorporates into the Body of Christ and makes one "drink of the Spirit."[1 Cor 12:13][33]

The conception of a sacramental principle, widespread not only in the Greco-Roman world, but even in pre-Columbian America and in preliterate societies, took on a unique significance, and to Paul's influence is attributed an interpretation given to the Christian rite in terms of the Greco-Roman mysteries[34] but little weight can be attached to the counterparts of baptism in mystery religions as an explanation of the Christian practice.[33]

Gospel of Matthew[edit]

Matthew 3:11–17; Matthew 28:18–20

Matthew[a] begins with the "generation" of Jesus as Son of David, followed by the visit of the gentile Magi, and the flight into Egypt to escape Herod, after whose death the holy family returns into the land of Israel, then moves to Nazareth, and then includes a detailed version of the preaching of John the Baptist, followed by the baptism of Jesus.[Mt 3:11–15] John protests to Jesus that he needs to be baptized by Jesus, but Jesus tells him to let it be so now, saying that it is fitting for the two of them ("for us") to thus "fulfill all righteousness." When Jesus is baptized, he goes up immediately out of the water, the heavens open and John sees the Spirit of God descend upon him like a dove, alighting on him, and he hears a voice from heaven say, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Later, at the request of the mother of James and John, who prompted her to present their request to him to declare that they are to sit one at his right hand and the other at his left, Jesus speaks of the "cup" he is to drink[20:20–23], and he tells them that they too will drink of his cup, but in Matthew's gospel Jesus does not explicitly state that the baptism with which he must be baptized is also the "cup" that he must drink.

The Gospel of Matthew also includes the most famous version of the Great Commission.[28:18–20] Here, the resurrected Jesus appears to the apostles and commissions them to make disciples of all nations, to baptize, and teach.[35][page needed] This commission reflects the program adopted by the infant Christian movement.[35][page needed]

Gospel of Mark[edit]

Mark 1:1–11

This gospel, today generally believed by scholars to be the first[b] and to have been used as a basis for Matthew and Luke, begins with Jesus' baptism by John, who preached a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. John says of Jesus that he will baptize not with water but with the Holy Spirit. At Jesus' baptism, he hears God's voice proclaiming him to be his Son, and he sees the spirit like a dove descend on him.

During Jesus' ministry, when James and John ask Jesus for seats of honor in the coming kingdom[10:35–39], Jesus likens his fate to the cup that he will drink and to the baptism with which he must be baptized, the very cup and baptism in store for John and James (that is, martyrdom).[42]

Mark 16:19–20

The traditional ending of Mark is thought to have been compiled early in the 2nd century, and initially appended to the gospel by the middle of that century.[43] It says that those who believe and are baptized will be saved, "but he who does not believe will be condemned."[Mk 16:9–20] Mark's gospel does not explicitly state that baptized persons who believe will be saved from the "wrath to come," the wrath to which John the Baptist refers in Matthew's gospel[3:7–10], but readers can infer that being "condemned" includes the "wrath to come".

Gospel of Luke[edit]

Luke 3:21–22; Luke 24:45–47

This gospel begins with a statement that it contains reliable information obtained directly from the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word[1:1–4]. It introduces the conception of John the Baptist, the annunciation of Gabriel to Mary the virgin, the birth of the Baptist who will be called the prophet of the Most High, and then the birth of Jesus, in the days of Herod, king of Judea, and of Caesar Augustus, emperor of the Roman Empire. There follows the account of Jesus in the Temple among the teachers; and then the calling and preaching of the prophet John the Baptist in the days of Tiberius Caesar, emperor, of Herod and Philip, tetrarchs, of Annas and Caiaphas, high priests; and then by far the briefest account in the canonical Gospels of the baptism of Jesus[3:1–22].

The baptism of John is different from the baptism of the one who is to come after him[3:3][3:16]. Jesus declares later that he has another baptism to be baptized with, and that he is under constraint (he is straitened[44]) until it is accomplished[12:50]. (The petition of the mother of James and John, the personal request of James and John, and Jesus' declaration to them that they will be baptized as he will be baptized, and will drink the cup that he will drink, is not in Luke's gospel.)

In the Gospel of Luke, the risen Jesus appears to the disciples and the eleven apostles gathered together with them in Jerusalem and gives them the Great Commission[24:45–47] without explicitly speaking of baptism, but readers can infer that "the forgiveness of sins" here includes "baptism" according to the preaching of the apostles at the time of Luke's gospel.

Gospel of John[edit]

The Gospel of John mentions John the Baptist's baptizing activity,[1:24-28][3:22–23] [10:40–41] in particular his baptism of Jesus,[1:15], and his statement that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.[1:29-34] It also mentions baptizing activity by Jesus,[3:25–30] specifying that the baptizing was not done by Jesus himself but by his disciples.[4:1–3]

Some references to water in John's Gospel have been interpreted as referring to baptism, in particular, the phrase "born of water and the Spirit"[3:2–9] and the account of blood and water coming out of the side of Jesus when pierced after crucifixion[19:31–37][45]


Acts of the Apostles, written c. 85–90,[46] states that about 3,000 people in Jerusalem were baptized in one day on Pentecost.[2:41] It further relates baptisms of men and women in Samaria,[8:12–13] of an Ethiopian eunuch,[8:36–40] of Saul of Tarsus,[9:18] [22:16] of the household of Cornelius,[10:47–48] of Lydia's household,[16:15] of the Philippi jailer's household,[16:33] of many Corinthians[18:8] and of certain Corinthians baptized by Paul personally.[1:14–16]

In Acts, the prerequisites of baptism are faith and repentance, but in certain cases (like Cornelius' household) the reception of the Spirit also precedes baptism.[33]

Also in Acts, some twelve men who had undergone John's baptism, a "baptism of repentance" that John administered, "telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus", were baptized "in the name of the Lord Jesus", whereupon they received the Holy Spirit.[19:1–7]

Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48 and Acts 19:5 speak of baptism "in the name of Jesus" or "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ", but whether this was a formula that was used has been questioned.[33]

Apostolic Age[edit]

There is a scholarly consensus that the earliest Christian baptism was by immersion.[47] Thomas Schreiner likewise states that "Most scholars agree that immersion was practiced in the NT",[48] identifying submersion as the form of immersion practiced.[49] Heyler says most New Testament scholars generally agree that Christian baptism in the New Testament era was by immersion.[50] Everett Ferguson similarly speaks of "general scholarly agreement" that the baptism commanded by Jesus was immersion in water by dipping, in the form of a "full bath".[51] He describes medieval depictions of Jesus standing in water while John poured water over him as a "strange fantasy" deriving from later church practice.[52] Di Berardino describes the baptism of the New Testament era as generally requiring total immersion,[53] Tischler says that total immersion seems to have been most commonly used,[54] and Lang says "Baptism in the Bible was by immersion, that is, the person went fully under the waters".[55] Sookey says it is "almost certain" that immersion was used.[56] The Global Dictionary of Theology says that it is probable that immersion was the early church's normal mode of baptism, but that it was not seen as an important issue.[57]

The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, an anonymous book of 16 short chapters, is probably the earliest known written instructions, outside of the Bible, for administering baptism. The first version of it was written c. 60–80 AD.[58] The second, with insertions and additions, was written c. 100–150 AD.[58] This work, rediscovered in the 19th century, provides a unique look at Christianity in the Apostolic Age and is the first explicit reference to baptism by pouring, although the New Testament does not exclude the possibility of this practice."[59] Its instructions on baptism are as follows:

Now about baptism: this is how to baptize. Give public instruction on all these points, and then baptize in running water, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit... If you do not have running water, baptize in some other. If you cannot in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, then pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Before the baptism, moreover, the one who baptizes and the one being baptized must fast, and any others who can. And you must tell the one being baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand.[60][c]

Commentaries typically understand that the Didache indicates a preference for baptizing by immersion.[62][63][64][65][66][67][68][69][70] in "living water" (i.e., running water, seen as symbolic of life).[71] Furthermore, in cases of insufficient water it permits pouring (affusion),[72][73][74][75][76] which it differentiates from immersion, using the Greek word ekcheō,[77] ("pour", in the English translation) and not baptizō ("baptize", in the English translation), while at the same time considering the action done by pouring to be a baptism,[78][79] giving no hint that this form made the baptism any less valid,[80] and showing that immersion was not the only baptismal practice then acceptable.[81] Barclay observes the Didache shows that baptism in the early church was by total immersion, if possible,[82] Barton describes the immersion of the Didache as "ideally by total immersion",[83] and Welch says it was by "complete immersion".[84]

James V. Brownson notes that the Didache does not specify either immersion or pouring when using running water,[85] and Sinclair B. Ferguson argues that really the only mode that the Didache mentions is affusion.[86] Martin and Davids say the Didache envisages "some form of immersion",[87] and the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church refers its readers to its entry on immersion, which it distinguishes from submersion and affusion.[88]

Early Christianity[edit]


The theology of baptism attained precision in the 3rd and 4th centuries.[15] While instruction was at first given after baptism, believers were given increasingly specific instructions before being baptized, especially in the face of heresies in the 4th century.[89] By the 4th and 5th centuries, a series of rites spread over several weeks led up to the actual baptism at Easter: catechumens attended several meetings of intensive catechetical instruction, often by the bishop himself, and often accompanied by special prayers, exorcisms, and other rites.[90] Catechumens recited the Creed on Holy Saturday to show that they had completed their catechetical instruction.[91] At dawn following the Paschal Vigil starting the night of Holy Saturday, they were taken to the baptistry where the bishop consecrated the water with a long prayer recounting the types of baptisms. The catechumens disrobed, were anointed with oil, renounced the devil and his works, confessed their faith in the Trinity, and were immersed in the font. They were then anointed with chrism, received the laying on of hands, clothed in white, and led to join the congregation in the Easter celebration.[90] By then, postponement of baptism had become general, and a large proportion of believers were merely catechumens (Constantine was not baptized until he was dying); but as baptisms of the children of Christians, using an adaptation of the rite intended for adults, became more common than baptisms of adult converts, the number of catechumens decreased.[89]

As baptism was believed to forgive sins, the issue of sins committed after baptism arose. Some insisted that apostasy, even under threat of death, and other grievous sins cut one off forever from the Church. As indicated in the writings of Saint Cyprian, others favoured readmitting the "lapsi" easily. The rule that prevailed was that they were readmitted only after undergoing a period of penance that demonstrated sincere repentance.

What is now generally called the Nicene Creed, longer than the text adopted by the First Council of Nicaea of 325, and known also as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed because of its adoption in that form by the First Council of Constantinople in 381, was probably the baptismal creed then in use in Constantinople, the venue of the 381 Council.[92][page needed]

Mode of baptism[edit]

Scholars "generally agree that the early church baptized by immersion",[93] but sometimes used other forms.[15][94] Howard Marshall says that immersion was the general rule, but affusion and even sprinkling were also practised.[95] His presentation of this view has been described by Porter and Cross as "a compelling argument".[96] Laurie Guy says immersion was probably the norm, but that at various times and places full immersion, partial immersion and affusion were probably in use.[97]

It is disputed where immersion was necessarily total. Tischler and the Encyclopedia of Catholicism say that the immersion was total.[98][99] The same encyclopedia of Roman Catholicism notes that the preference of the Early Church was total immersion in a stream or the sea or, if these were not available, in a fountain or bath-sized tank,[100] and Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity says that baptism was normally by immersion, without specifying whether total or partial.[101] The Dictionary of the Bible (2004)[102] says "Archaeological evidence from the early centuries shows that baptism was sometimes administered by submersion or immersion... but also by affusion from a vessel when water was poured on the candidate's head...". In one form of early Christian baptism, the candidate stood in water and water was poured over the upper body.[15] Baptism of the sick or dying usually used means other than even partial immersion and was still considered valid.[103] Internet-available illustrations of ancient Christian representations of baptism from as early as the 2nd century include those in CF Rogers, Baptism and Christian Archeology,[104] the chapter "The Didache and the Catacombs" of Philip Schaff's The Oldest Church Manual Called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,[105] and Wolfrid Cote's The Archaeology of Baptism.[106]

Studies before 1950[edit]

In The Archaeology of Baptism (1876) Wolfrid Cote, quoting Prudentius, who in his Psychomachia spoke of the "bathed chests" of the baptized, and the views of two earlier Italian archaeologists, stated that "the primitive mode appears to have been this: The administrator and candidate both standing in the water the former placed his right hand on the head of the candidate, and, pronouncing the baptismal words, gently bowed him forward, till he was completely immersed in the water".[107] He included in his book a woodcut of a fresco in the Catacomb of San Callisto (a photographic reproduction appears in this article), and reported that one archaeologist interpreted it as a youth being baptized by affusion, while for another the youth standing in the water was "immersed in a cloud of water". Cote described this painting as of great antiquity, probably of the 4th or 5th century, while remarking that it is impossible to ascertain the precise age of the pictures in the catacombs of Rome.[108] The other paintings that Cote described are of much later periods, while the mosaic in the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte, in Ravenna (erected in the 4th century), which shows John baptizing Jesus by pouring water on his head from a cup, Cote explained as the product of later restoring.[109] The font in this baptistery Cote described as ten feet in diameter and three and a half feet deep. Cote listed 67 still existing Italian baptisteries dating from the 4th to the 14th centuries, all of which he understood to have been used for total immersion.[110] He made no mention of any pre-Constantine evidence.

In 1903 Clement F Rogers published "Baptism and Christian Archaeology". This was a study of the archaeological evidence, both the positive evidence that paintings and carvings on sarcophagi etc. provide about how baptism actually was conferred, and the negative evidence given by the structure of baptismal fonts on how it could not have been conferred. He used literary sources plentifully but merely for illustration. For the first three centuries (i.e. before the time of Constantine) direct archaeological evidence is limited to pictures of baptism in the catacombs of Rome. Rogers concluded that "the direct evidence from archaeology alone may not be conclusive to show that in pre-Constantinian times baptism by affusion only was practiced generally or indeed in any one single case; but it does show that there was nothing repugnant in it to the general mind, that no stress was laid on total immersion, that the most important moments were held to be those when water was poured over the catchumen, and when the minister laid his hand on his head. This, taken in connexion with the known customs of later ages, make it more than probable that the usual method of administration was by affusion only."[111] Taking into account the positive archaeological evidence of post-Constantinian times, Roger concludes: "All the evidence of archaeology goes to prove that the essential part of baptism was considered in the early Church to be the pouring of water over the candidate's head by the bishop, or the guiding his head under a descending stream, followed by the laying on of hands"; he adds: "There remains the question, whether this was preceded by a self-immersion".[112] To answer this question, he examines the negative evidence of ancient baptismal fonts, especially those found in archaeological sites, providing on pp. 347–49 a Synoptic Table of Fonts, with date, shape, diameter and depth, showing that some of them could not have been intended for full immersion.

In his "Churches Separated from Rome" (1907), Louis Duchesne responded to accusations by Eastern Orthodox that the Roman Catholic was corrupted because of "the Filioque, baptism by affusion, unleavened bread, &c.",[113] by pointing to the absence of any ancient representation of baptism that showed the neophyte actually being immersed totally.[114]

Studies in the second half of the 20th century[edit]

Alois Stenzel's 1958 study of baptism with a focus on liturgy[115] argued that both immersion and affusion were practised by the early Church, since some baptismal pools which have been uncovered were too shallow for baptism and pictorial evidence favoured affusion.[116]

"Baptism in the Early Church" by George Rice (1981), in "Bible and Spade", cited Cote with favour and claimed that archaeology "overwhelmingly testifies to immersion as the normal mode of baptism in the Christian church during the first ten to fourteen centuries".[117] Rice cites in particular imagery in the Catacomb of San Ponziano[118] and a crypt in the catacomb of Santa Lucina,[119] as well as a 9th- or 10th-century fresco in the basilica of San Clemente[120] he also states that "pictures of Jesus standing in water while John pours water over His head are of a much later date than those depicting immersion and they demonstrate the change in the mode of baptism that came into the church". He mentions a 4th-century baptistery sufficiently large for immersion,[121] Rice says that archaeological evidence demonstrates some early baptismal fonts large enough for adult immersion were later made smaller or replaced, to accommodate affusion baptism of infants,[122] leading to mistakes in the dating of art works by 20th-century studies.[123]

In his contribution to the 1986 11th International Archaeology Congress on "What do the texts teach us on the equipment and furnishings needed for baptism in southern Gaul and northern Italy?" Jean-Charles Picard concluded that the texts speak only of immersion and that the area has no archaeological images of baptism by pouring water on the head.[124]

In 1987, on the basis of archaeology and parallels with Jewish practice, Sanford La Sor considered it likely that total immersion was also Christian practice.[125]

In the same year, Lothar Heiser, in his study of baptism in the Orthodox Church, concluded on the basis of the literary and pictorial evidence in that field that "the water customarily reached the hips of the baptizand; after calling on the triune God, the priest bent the baptizand under so as to dip him in water over the head; in the cases of pouring in the Didache and in sickbed baptism the baptized did not stand in the font"; but acknowledges that in present Greek practice the priest places the infant being baptized as far down in the water as possible and scoops water over the head so as to cover the child fully with water.[126]

In 1995, Renate Pillinger concluded from the evidence provided by images and buildings and by some literary sources that it was usual for the baptizand to stand in water no more than hip-deep and for the baptizer to pour water over him.[127]

With regard to the shallow baptismal fonts that archaeologists had discovered, Malka Ben Pechat expressed in 1999 the view that full immersion was possible even in small fonts with a mere 60 centimetres (2 feet) of water, while the fonts that were even shallower were intended for the baptism of infants.[128]

21st-century studies[edit]

In the close of his comprehensive 2009 study, Baptism in the Early Church,[129] Everett Ferguson devoted four pages (457–60) to summarizing his position on the mode of baptism, expressed also in his The Church of Christ of 1996,[130] that the normal early-Christian mode of baptism was by full immersion.[131]

He observed that "those who approach the study of baptism from the standpoint of archaeology tend to find greater probability that affusion, or perfusion was a normal practice; those who come from the literary evidence see a greater likelihood of immersion, or submersion, being the normal practice"; but he intended his own comprehensive survey to give coherence to the evidence (p. 857). Ferguson dismissed Rogers' 1903 study as dated with regard to both the depictions of baptism and his survey of the baptismal fonts.[132]

Like Rice, whom he did not mention, Ferguson said that the size of the baptismal fonts was progressively reduced in connection with the prevalence of infant baptism,[133] although there are a few cases where larger fonts are later than the smaller ones.[134] Ferguson also stated: "The predominant number of baptismal fonts permitted immersion, and many were so large as to defy any reason for their existence other than immersion".[135]

Robin Jensen writes: "Historians have sometimes assumed that baptism was usually accomplished by full immersion – or submersion – of the body (dunking). However, the archaeological and iconographic evidence is ambiguous on this point. Many – if not most – surviving baptismal fonts are too shallow to have allowed submersion. In addition, a significant number of depictions show baptismal water being poured over the candidate's head (affusion), either from a waterfall, an orb or some kind of liturgical vessel."[136] Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible also casts doubt on "the usual assumption that all NT baptisms were by immersion", stating that some early baptisteries were deep enough to stand in but not broad enough to lie down in, and mentioning that ancient representation of Christ at his baptism show him standing in waist-deep water.[137] The immersion used by early Christians in baptizing "need not have meant full submersion in the water"[138][139] and, while it may have been normal practice, it was not seen as a necessary mode of baptism,[57] so that other modes also may have been used.[140] Submersion, as opposed to partial immersion, may even have been a minority practice in early Christianity.[141]

See also[edit]

Related articles and subjects[edit]

People and ritual objects[edit]


  1. ^ Matthew is listed first in every complete (undamaged) extant canon of the New Testament scriptures of the first five centuries CE, hence the two-millennia-old tradition of presenting the Gospel of Matthew first in the order of the books in the Christian New Testament, a usage preserved today by every major Christian denomination and by every major Bible book printer and publisher world-wide. It is first here in accordance with tradition. Nevertheless, some scholars dispute the primacy of the Gospel of Matthew.
  2. ^ The primacy of Mark is disputed. The witnesses of the first five centuries unanimously supported the primacy of the Gospel of Matthew, a position undisputed for 1,700 years until the beginning of the 19th.[36][page needed][37][page needed][38][page needed]
    [39][page needed][40][page needed][41] The subject of Matthean vs. Marcan primacy is outside the scope and intent of this article. For further discussion: see "Augustinian hypothesis," "Two-gospel hypothesis," "Jewish-Christian Gospels," "Gospel of Matthew," "Christianity in the 1st century," "Synoptic problem," "Aramaic primacy," and most particularly the textual footnotes and References lists citing names and titles of works by various authors together with the External Links to sources provided—far too many for a comprehensive listing here.
  3. ^ A more literal translation is Didache, Catholic planet, Now concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first taught all these things, baptize ye into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. And if thou hast not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm (water). But if thou hast neither, pour [water] thrice upon the head in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. But before Baptism let the baptizer and the baptized fast, and any others who can; but thou shalt command the baptized to fast for one or two days before, Philip Schaff's translation. Other translations are given at Early Christian Writings.[61]


  1. ^ MacArthur, John (1983), Hebrews: New Testament Commentary, Moody, p. 139, ISBN 978-0-8024-0753-5
  2. ^ Longman, Tremper; Garland, David E (2006), The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Hebrews-Revelation, Zondervan, p. 61, ISBN 978-0-310-26894-9
  3. ^ Stoltz, Eric (2005). "A Christian Glossary: Baptism". The Abraham Project. Retrieved February 25, 2009.[unreliable source?]
  4. ^ "Baptism", Jewish Encyclopedia, The only conception of Baptism at variance with Jewish ideas is displayed in the declaration of John, that the one who would come after him would not baptize with water, but with the Holy Ghost (Mark i. 8; John i. 27).
  5. ^ "Body of Practical Divinity - Christian Classics Ethereal Library". Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  6. ^ Num. 19
  7. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Chagigah, p. 12
  8. ^ "Baptism", Encyclopædia Britannica (online ed.), 2009, retrieved May 21, 2009
  9. ^ Cross & Livingstone 2005, ‘John the Baptist’.
  10. ^ a b Funk 1998, p. 268, ‘John the Baptist’.
  11. ^ Lichtenberger, Herman (1999). "Syncretistic Features in Jewish and Jewish-Christian Baptism Movements". In Dunn, James DG (ed.). Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, AD 70 to 135. Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdmans. p. 87. ISBN 0-8028-4498-7. OCLC 40433122. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  12. ^ Chadwick, Henry (2001). "John Baptist". The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-19-924695-5. OCLC 191826204. Retrieved February 24, 2009.
  13. ^ See, e.g., the summary of such opinions by Brown, Raymond E (1966), "The Gospel according to John (i–xii): Introduction, translation, and notes", The Anchor Bible, 29 (2nd ed.), Garden City, NY: Doubleday, pp. 164–65, 188–89
  14. ^ Theissen, Gerd; Merz, Annette (1998). The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp. 209, 377. ISBN 0-8006-3122-6. OCLC 38590348.
  15. ^ a b c d Bowker, John (1999). The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866242-4. OCLC 60181672.[page needed]
  16. ^ Sanders, EP (1993). The Historical Figure of Jesus. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9059-7. OCLC 30112315.[page needed]
  17. ^ Funk 1998, pp. 365–440, ‘John’.
  18. ^ Kruse, Colin G (2004), The Gospel according to John: an Introduction and Commentary, William B Eerdmans, p. 119
  19. ^ Dapaah 2005, p. 98.
  20. ^ Funk 1998, pp. 365–440.
  21. ^ Bockmuel 2001, p. 27.
  22. ^ Tomson 2001, p. 27.
  23. ^ Bockmuel 2001, p. 40.
  24. ^ Bockmuel 2001, p. 30.
  25. ^ Chilton, Bruce (2001). "Friends and enemies". In Bockmuehl, Markus (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Jesus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-521-79678-4.
  26. ^ Brown, Raymond Edward, The Gospel and Epistles of John: a Concise Commentary, p. 3
  27. ^ Green, Joel B; McKnight, Scot; Marshall, I Howard (1992), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, InterVarsity Press, p. 375, Simply because information is found only in John is no reason to discard it as of no historical value … Scholars consider it probable, for example, that Jesus' ministry lasted two to three years (as John implies), that he was in and out of Jerusalem (as the other Gospels hint, e.g., Luke 13:34, that some of his disciples were first disciples of John the Baptist,[Lk 1:35–37] and that Jesus and his disciples conducted a ministry of baptism.
  28. ^ Smith, Dwight Moody; Culpepper, R Alan; Black, C Clifton (1996), Exploring the Gospel of John: In Honor of D. Moody Smith, Westminster John Knox Press, p. 28, There are items only in John that are likely to be historical and ought to be given due weight. Jesus' first disciples may once have been followers of the Baptist (cf. John 1:35–42).
  29. ^ Dapaah 2005, pp. 7, 98: ‘We propose to defend the historicity of this piece of Johannine material. We shall argue that the Johannine evidence of Jesus' baptizing activity may be a snippet of historical tradition, as there is no discernible theological agenda behind that piece of information. Moreover, the synoptists' silence may be explained, among others, by the supposition that the Evangelists were embarrassed by the event and that reference to the rite was unnecessary in a baptizing church […] The absence of Jesus' baptizing ministry in the synoptic Gospels does not mean that the Johannine detail is not authentic, neither does it suggest that the synoptists invented the story that John was out of action when Jesus arrived on the scene.(Mark 1:14 and par) The Marcan tradition, for example, which is chronologically earlier than the Fourth Gospel, suggests that Jesus was so close to John that Jesus moved to Galilee to embark on an independent ministry when John was imprisoned. It appears that John and Jesus initially worked together, an event which the Fourth Evangelist makes explicit’
  30. ^ Cwiekowski, Frederick J (1988), The Beginnings of the Church, Paulist Press, p. 55, This text from the fourth gospel gives the impression that when John was no longer at Bethany (Jn 3:23; cf. 1:28) Jesus— accompanied by former disciples of John—— was himself in the Jordan area conducting a ministry of baptism. When Jesus left the area of Judea and began his ministry in Galilee he evidently abandoned his baptizing ministry and concentrated on preaching and teaching.
  31. ^ Smith, Joseph, "St. John Chapter 4", Translation of the Bible, Center place
  32. ^ Dapaah 2005, p. 97.
  33. ^ a b c d Cross & Livingstone 2005, pp. 151–54, ‘Baptism’.
  34. ^ "Sacrament", Encyclopædia Britannica (Online ed.), 2009, retrieved May 21, 2009
  35. ^ a b Funk 1998, pp. 129–270, ‘Matthew’.
  36. ^ Clement.
  37. ^ Papias
  38. ^ Irenaeus.
  39. ^ Origen, Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew
  40. ^ Eusebius (326), Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, chapter 24 and Book 5, chapter 8
  41. ^ Griesbach, JJ (2005) [1978], Synoptic and Text-critical Studies 1776-1976, SNTS Monograph, 34, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-02055-7).
  42. ^ Harris, Stephen L (1985), "John", Understanding the Bible, Palo Alto: Mayfield, pp. 302–10
  43. ^ May, Herbert Gordon; Metzger, Bruce (1977). The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1213–39. ISBN 0-19-528348-1. OCLC 3145429.
  44. ^ "Straitened", Greek lexicon, Eliyah
  45. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Rome, IT: The Vatican, 1225, archived from the original on December 3, 2010, The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible 'to be born of water and the Spirit' in order to enter the Kingdom of God Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  46. ^ Harris, Stephen L (1985). Understanding the Bible: A Reader's Introduction. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield. pp. 266–68. ISBN 0-87484-696-X. OCLC 12042593.
  47. ^ Jewett (2009), "Baptism", in Murray (ed.), Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1 (rev ed.), Zondervan, p. 466, Lexicographers universally agree that the primary meaning of baptizo G966 is 'to dip' or 'to immerse", and there is a similar consensus of scholarly opinion that both the baptism of John and of the apostles was by immersion
  48. ^ Schreiner 2007, p. 81: ‘Most scholars agree that immersion was practiced in the NT, and it is likely that both of these texts allude to the practice, even though baptism is not the main point of either text.’
  49. ^ Schreiner 2007, p. 82: ‘Submersion under the water in baptism – which is in Jesus' name – indicates that the persons have experienced God's judgment in Christ.’
  50. ^ Helyer (2002), Exploring Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period, p. 481, Furthermore, modern NT scholars generally concede, regardless of denominational affiliation, that Christian baptism in NT times was by immersion, as it was and still is in Judaism.
  51. ^ Ferguson 1996, pp. 201–2: ‘The baptism commanded by Jesus in the making of disciples is an immersion in water. The topic formerly was warmly debated, but in these days there is general scholarly agreement. Several lines of evidence converge in support of the baptismal action as a dipping. […] The New Testament descriptions of baptism imply a full bath.’
  52. ^ Ferguson 1996, p. 202: ‘Later church practice in this regard led artists to the strange fantasy of Jesus standing waist deep in water while John poured water on his head (such pictures do not occur until medieval western times).’
  53. ^ Di Berardino (2009), We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, p. 88, It seems also that the profession was articulated in responses that the one being baptized made to the questions of the one baptizing during the baptismal rite, which in general was required to take place through total immersion, in total nudity, in running water.
  54. ^ Tischler (2006), All Things in the Bible: An Encyclopedia of the Biblical World, 1, p. 57, In the early days of the Church, total immersion, often in streams or rivers, seems to have been most commonly used (Mark 1:9; Acts 8:38).
  55. ^ Lang (2007), Everyday biblical literacy: the essential guide to biblical allusions in art, literature, and life, p. 47, Baptism in the Bible was by immersion, that is, the person went fully under the waters, usually in a river or lake (harking back to the practice of John in the Jordan River).
  56. ^ Eerdmans (2009), Dictionary of the Bible, p. 148, ISBN 978-0-8028-2748-7
  57. ^ a b Dyrness & Kärkkäinen 2008, p. 101.
  58. ^ a b Funk, Robert Walter; Hoover, Roy W (1993). "Stages in the Development of Early Christian Tradition". The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus : New Translation and Commentary. New York City: Macmillan. p. 128. ISBN 0-02-541949-8. OCLC 28421734.
  59. ^ Turner 2000, p. 16.
  60. ^ Didache, 7, translation by Cyril C. Richardson.
  61. ^ "Didache", Early Christian writings Didache
  62. ^ Turner 2000, p. 16 (quote): ‘The document clearly prefers baptism by immersion in a natural body of water.
  63. ^ Williams (2007), Renewal theology: systematic theology from a charismatic perspective, p. 227, We may now turn briefly from the New Testament to an early teaching about baptism in the Didache. It specifies immersion as the basic practice but also offers the option of pouring.
  64. ^ Knuzler (2001), Church's Liturgy, p. 262, Probably the oldest witness for baptism by immersion is the Didache, which also takes it for granted that immersion in ‘living water’ is the usual form of baptism
  65. ^ Meeks (2006), "Social and ecclesial life", in Mitchell; Young; Bowie (eds.), Origins to Constantine, pp. 160–61, The Didache, representing practice perhaps as early as the beginning of the second century, also assumes immersion to be normal, but it allows that if sufficient water for immersion is not at hand, water may be poured three times on the head (7:3).
  66. ^ Milavec (2003), Didache, p. ix, One witnesses the fasting and the solemn rite of baptism, preferably by immersion in flowing water.
  67. ^ Lacoste, Jean-Yves (2005). Encyclopedia of Christian Theology: G–O. Milton Park: Routledge. p. 1607. ISBN 1-57958-250-8. According to the Didache (1st century), baptism should be done by a triple immersion in running water.
  68. ^ Draper (1996), The Didache in Modern Research, p. 47, The argument of the section is clear: while adhering strictly to the preference for flowing water and baptism by immersion, necessary concessions are made to local circumstances.
  69. ^ Fahlbusch; Bromiley, eds. (1999–2003), The encyclopedia of Christianity, 1, p. 184, As a rule, it involved immersion in running water (see Acts 8:38; Did. 7).
  70. ^ Manion; Mudge (2008), The Routledge Companion to the Christian Church, pp. 42–43, It contains details of the church life of the earliest Christians, their preference for baptism by immersion, their fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, the forms of their eucharistic prayers.
  71. ^ Strang, Veronica (1997). "Water in the Church". The Meaning of Water. Berg Publishers. p. 91. ISBN 1-85973-753-6. Fonts and baptisteries were constructed with taps and channels to ensure that they were supplied with moving water, which, as Schmemann points out, is symbolically crucial: 'The early Christian prescription is to baptize in living water. This is not merely a technical term denoting running water as distinct from standing water… it is this understanding that determined the form and theology of the baptismal font… The characteristic feature of the "baptistery" was that water was carried into it by a conduit, thus remaining "living water".'
  72. ^ Vokes (1993), "Life and Order in an Early Church: The Didache", in Haase (ed.), Aufstieg Und Niedergang Der Romischen Welt [Rise and Decline of the Roman World] (in German), 2, p. 221, Baptism is by immersion in the threefold name, but sprinkling three times on the head is allowed in an emergency.
  73. ^ Barnard (1967), Justin Martyr: his life and thought, p. 139, According to the Didache baptism was preferably to be in living, that is running, water, by immersion although, if running water was not at hand, other water could be used; if however neither was available then affusion could be used as second best.
  74. ^ Silva; Tenney, eds. (2009), The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, 2. D–G, p. 139, Cold running water was preferred, and immersion is probably the assumed mode. An alternate mode was pouring (7.3)
  75. ^ Metzger, Marcel (1997). "The Order of Baptism in the Didache". History of the Liturgy: The Major Stages. Collegeville Township, MN: Liturgical Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-8146-2433-2. The Didache recognizes the superior value of running water for the baptismal immersion but does not impose it as a necessary condition… The regulations of the Didache also foresee the case in which immersion is impossible for lack of water and prescribe baptism by pouring water three times on the candidate's head.
  76. ^ Dau, WHT (1995). "Baptism". In Bromiley, Geoffrey W (ed.). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. A–D. MI: William B Eerdmans. p. 419. ISBN 0-8028-3781-6. This seems to say that to baptize by immersion was the practice recommended for general use, but that the mode of affusion was also valid and enjoined on occasions
  77. ^ Silva; Tenney, eds. (2009), The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1. A-C (rev, full-color ed.), pp. 494–95, In the Didache 7 (a.d. 100–160), the oldest baptismal manual extant, triple immersion is assumed, and pouring is allowed if there is an insufficient amount of water (the word used for pouring is ekcheō G1772).
  78. ^ Schöllgen, Georg (1996), "The Didache as Church Order", in Draper, Jonathan A (ed.), The Didache in Modern Research, Brill, p. 47, ISBN 978-90-04-10375-7
  79. ^ Dever, Mark E (2007), "The Church", in Akin, Daniel A (ed.), "lexically+significant" A Theology for the Church, B&H, p. 786, ISBN 978-0-8054-2640-3, It is lexically significant that, in this document, first- (or early second-) century Greek-speaking Christians could refer to ἔκχεον as a βαπτίσματος (baptism)
  80. ^ Dyrness & Kärkkäinen 2008, p. "baptism+any+less+valid" 101.
  81. ^ Toulouse, Mark G (1992), "immersion+though+normally" Joined in Discipleship, Chalice Press, p. 146, ISBN 978-0-8272-1710-2
  82. ^ Barclay (2002), The Letter to the Hebrews, p. 64, It shows that baptism in the early Church was, if possible, by total immersion.
  83. ^ Barton (2001), The Oxford Bible commentary, p. 1309, Chs. 7–15 give instruction on baptism (ideally by total immersion but also by affusion), fasting (on Wednesdays and Fridays), prayer, and eucharist.
  84. ^ Welch (2009), The Sermon on the Mount in the Light of the Temple, p. 142, Although the meaning of this instruction is not very clear, the point may be that once a person has been fully bathed (that is, baptized by complete immersion)
  85. ^ Brownson, James V (2006), "not+say+however+whether+immersion" The Promise of Baptism, Eerdmans, p. 75, ISBN 978-0-8028-3307-5
  86. ^ Ferguson, Sinclair B (2009), "Infant Baptism Response", in Wright, David F (ed.), "only+mode+mentioned+is+affusion" Baptism: Three Views, InterVarsity Press, p. 52, ISBN 978-0-8308-3856-1
  87. ^ Martin; Davids, eds. (2000), Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (electronic ed.), Some form of immersion is envisaged
  88. ^ Cross & Livingstone 2005, p. 482: ‘Baptism is by *immersion if possible, otherwise by threefold *affusion’
  89. ^ a b "Catechumen", Encyclopædia Britannica (online ed.), 2009, retrieved May 20, 2009
  90. ^ a b Old 1992, p. 3.
  91. ^ Old 1992, p. 7.
  92. ^ Cross & Livingstone 2005, ‘Nicene Creed’.
  93. ^ Wiersbe (1997), Expository outlines on the New Testament, pp. 466–67, New Testament scholars generally agree that the early church baptized by immersion.
  94. ^ Old (1992), The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth Century, p. 268, We imagine that immersion was used normally, but on the basis of the New Testament it is hard to insist that immersion was the only form used.
  95. ^ Marshall, Howard (2002), "The Meaning of the Verb 'Baptize'", in Porter, Cross (ed.), Dimensions of Baptism: Biblical and Theological Studies, Sheffield Academic Press, pp. 18, 23, ISBN 0-8264-6203-0
  96. ^ Porter, Cross (2002), Dimensions of Baptism, p. 2
  97. ^ Guy, Laurie (2004), Introducing Early Christianity: A Topical Survey of Its Life, Beliefs, and Practices, pp. 224–25
  98. ^ Tischler (2006), All Things in the Bible: An Encyclopedia of the Biblical World, 1
  99. ^ Flinn (2007), "Baptism", Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Encyclopedia of World Religions, p. 52, Of special note are early baptisteries. The earliest preference was for baptism in running streams or in the sea (Mark 1:9; Acts 8:36; Didache 7). Next in preference was total immersion in a fountain or bath-sized tank (Tertullian, Baptism 4). Total immersion recalled the abyss of the Flood or the Red Sea, and reemergence into the light of day reenacted the death and resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 6:1-5).
  100. ^ Flinn (2007), "Baptism", Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Encyclopedia of World Religions, p. 52, The earliest preference was for baptism in running streams or in the sea (Mark 1:9; Acts 8:36; Didache 7). Next in preference was total immersion in a fountain or bath-sized tank (Tertullian, Baptism 4). Total immersion recalled the abyss of the Flood or the Red Sea, and reemergence into the light of day reenacted the death and resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 6:1–5). Here the covered and ornamented baptistery at Dura Europos takes pride of place (see ARCHAEOLOGY).
  101. ^ Dowley, ed. (1977), Handbook to the History of Christianity, Eerdman, p. 10, Baptism was normally by immersion either in the river or in the bath-house of a large house
  102. ^ "Submersion". Dictionary of the Bible. 2004.
  103. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Fanning, William (1913). "Baptism" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  104. ^ Rogers 2006.
  105. ^ The Oldest Church Manual Called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (PDF), pp. 36–41
  106. ^ Cote 1876, pp. 32 ff..
  107. ^ Cote 1876, p. 31.
  108. ^ Cote 1876, pp. 34–35.
  109. ^ Cote 1876, pp. 177–78.
  110. ^ Cote 1876, pp. 160–61.
  111. ^ Rogers 2006, pp. 257–58.
  112. ^ Rogers 2006, p. 304.
  113. ^ Duchesne 1907, p. 49.
  114. ^ Duchesne 1907, pp. 62–63: ‘We constantly see representations of the celebration of baptism on monuments the Gospel scene of the baptism of our Lord, or even ordinary baptisms. But do we ever see total immersion, the neophyte plunged into the water so as to disappear completely? Such a thing is never seen. This immersion, which is the Greek form, is never to be met with, either in the mosaics of ancient churches, or in the paintings of the Catacombs, nor in ordinary pictures or domestic objects, glasses, spoons, &c, nor sculptured, nor engraved on marble. In all such ancient monuments the neophyte appears standing, his feet in the water, but the greater part of his body out of the water, while water is poured on his head with the hand or with a vase’
  115. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 5: ‘Stenzel's introduction identifies his interest as liturgy, not theology or parallels from the history of religions, and primarily the Latin development leading to the medieval Roman liturgy’
  116. ^ Kunzler, Michael (2001), The Liturgy of the Church, LIT, p. 262, ISBN 3-8258-4854-X, Stenzel is of the opinion that both immersion and affusion were practised. He bases his opinion on archaeological findings which show a lack of depth in baptismal 'pools' ('piscinae'), making a total immersion of an adult impossible. Pictorial representations which reflect baptismal procedures of the time strengthen his opinion: 'The person being baptized stands in water which reaches only half way up his body and water is poured from above. If the flow of water is sufficient then he is wholly covered at least for an instant with water and so 'buried', 'immersed', as the Fathers say
  117. ^ Rice 1981: ‘Among the ruins of early Christian structures, and also in ancient churches still in use, the history of Christian baptism can be traced. Paintings in catacombs and churches, mosaics on floors, walls, and ceilings, sculptured reliefs, and drawings in ancient New Testament manuscripts add details to this history, as well as raising interesting questions that need further investigation. The record left by these various witnesses overwhelmingly testifies to immersion as the normal mode of baptism in the Christian church during the first ten to fourteen centuries. This is in addition to the evidence found throughout the writings of the church fathers that immersion was the early church’s common mode of baptism.’
  118. ^ Rice 1981, p. f1: ‘This fresco, showing the baptism of Christ, who stands waist-deep in water is attributed to the 9th or 10th century, but Rogers (pp. 289–90) thinks it more probably dates from the 6th. It is illustrated also in Cote, p. 32.’
  119. ^ Rice 1981, p. 126.
  120. ^ Rice 1981, p. 127.
  121. ^ Rice 1981, p. f2: ‘One such baptistry in the catacomb of San Ponziano is four and a half feet long, three and a half feet wide, and three and a half feet deep. A channel diverted water from a nearby stream to fill this font. Wolfred Cote believes it was in use from the first to the fourth century. Neophytes either stood or knelt in the water and were immersed by 'bending forward under the hand of the administrator'’
  122. ^ Rice 1981, p. f3: ‘The font of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran is an excellent example. The original font is below floor level, twenty-five feet in diameter and three feet deep. Lined and paved with marble, it was once used for adult immersion. Falling into disuse, it was filled in and a bath for infant baptism was erected in its place. This, in turn, was no longer used, and a smaller font was placed above it for the pouring of children.’
  123. ^ Rice 1981, p. f4: ‘Yet it is of interest to note that directly below this dome is a font for immersion that has been subsequently altered for sprinkling! This fact would tend to place a question on Brown’s date for the mosaic, especially since it appears over a baptistry that is inside a church. Baptistries were only beginning to be moved into churches in the sixth century.’
  124. ^ Actes du Congrès International d'Archéologie Chrétienne, 2, Vatican, 1989 [Lyon, Vienne, Grenoble, Genève et Aoste, 21–28 septembre 1986], pp. 1451–68, Jean-Charles Picard, working with the literary texts but correlating them with archaeological sources for southern France and northern Italy, concludes that the authors who furnish details of the baptismal rite speak only of immersion. Tinguere, mergere, and submergere seem to imply a total immersion, and he notes that there is no ancient representation where the celebrant pours water on the head of the baptized.; as reported in Ferguson 2009, p. 852.
  125. ^ La Sor, Sanford (1987), "Discovering What Jewish Miqva'ot Can Tell Us About Christian Baptism", Biblical Archaeology Review, 13 (1), The philological evidence is technical and inconclusive. But the archaeological and Mishnaic evidence seems to support the argument for immersion. That is clearly what occurred in the contemporaneous Jewish miqva’ot, so that is probably what happened in early Jewish Christian baptism
  126. ^ Die Taufe in der orthodoxen Kirche: Geschichte, Spendung und Symbolik nach der Lehre der Väter [The Baptism in the Orthodox Church: History, dispensation and symbolism according to the teaching of the Fathers] (in German), Trier: Paulinus, 1987, pp. 101–2, as reported in Ferguson 2009, p. 860
  127. ^ Pillinger, Renate (1995), "The Significance of Early Christian Monuments for the Study of Liturgy: The Example of Baptism", Studia liturgica, 25: 32–50, reported in Ferguson 2009, p. 858.
  128. ^ Ben Pechat, Malka, (needs title), Consequently I have come to the conclusion that an adult of average height should have adapted himself, helped by the priest, to the dimensions of the font and to its internal design by taking an appropriate position which would have enabled him to dip and rise [sic] his head without losing his balance. Either bending his knees, kneeling, or sitting, an adult could have been totally immersed as required in fonts from 1.30 m [4.3 ft] to 60 cm [2.0 ft] deep ... Under 60 cm (2.0 ft) by depth the fonts were probably used for child baptism only quoted in Ferguson 2009, p. 852.
  129. ^ Ferguson 2009.
  130. ^ Ferguson 1996, pp. 201–3.
  131. ^ Ferguson 2009, pp. 857–58: ‘The Christian literary sources, backed by secular word usage and Jewish religious immersions, give an overwhelming support for full immersion as the normal action. Exceptions in cases of lack of water and especially of sickbed baptism were made. Submersion was undoubtedly the case for the fourth and fifth centuries in the Greek East, and only slightly less certain for the Latin West. [...] The express statements in the literary sources, supported by other hints, the depictions in art, and the very presence of specially built baptismal fonts, along with their size and shape, indicate that the normal procedure was for the administrator with his head on the baptizand's head to bend the upper part of the body forward and dip the head under the water.’
  132. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 858: ‘Claiming that the literature and the church orders represent the ideal and archaeology the average, Rogers examines the artistic representations in various media and baptismal fonts. His work is now quite dated, especially in dates assigned to the items examined, is replaced by later, more complete knowledge, and includes many items later than the period of my study’
  133. ^ Ferguson 2009, pp. 836–8: ‘The progressive reduction in size from an exterior diameter of nearly 3 meters [10 ft] and interior diameter of over 2.40 meters to an interior dimension of 1.80 meters [5 ft 11 in] may reflect increased use of affusion or the decline of adult baptism […] At Noli in Liguria beneath the Romanesque church of San Paragorio there is a fifth-century font, octagonal on the exterior and a circle on the interior with a diameter of 1.26 meters and a depth of about 1.60 meters. It shows successive reduction in size […] A late baptistery may be noted for its indication of changes prompted by the general practice of infant baptism’
  134. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 849.
  135. ^ Ferguson 2009, p. 834.
  136. ^ Jensen, Robin (2010), Living Water, Brill, p. 137, ISBN 978-9-00418898-3
  137. ^ Freedman, David Noel; Myers, Allen C, eds. (2000), Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Amsterdam University Press, p. 148
  138. ^ Bower, Peter C, ed. (2003), Companion to the Book of Common Worship, Geneva Press, p. 163, ISBN 978-0-66450232-4
  139. ^ Hellholm, David (2011), Ablution, Initiation and Baptism, et al, Walter de Gruyter, pp. 682, 699, 1397, ISBN 978-3-11024751-0
  140. ^ Guy, Laurie (2011), Introducing Early Christianity, InterVarsity Press, p. 225, ISBN 978-0-83083942-1
  141. ^ "Pastoral Answers", Our Sunday Visitor, p. 99, 2002, ISBN 978-0-87973725-2


Further reading[edit]

  • Jungkuntz, Richard (1968). The Gospel of Baptism. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. OCLC 444126.

External links[edit]