We received an email from someone who was impressed with the fact that my last article, the one on baptism, echoes almost exactly the thoughts that he has had on baptism, and in fact as already written about. The last paragraph of his article in particularly is interesting, as it contains almost exactly the same information about the mikvahs, and the 3000 being baptized by going into the ritual baths. Very interesting, and thanks to our guest blogger.
The pouring method was likely introduced by the Catholics to make it possible to baptize babies. Checking ancient Christian writings on baptism going back to the first century is a very interesting study. Ancient cave paintings in the catacombs depict people standing in the water for baptism. The Didache, a Christian writing from the first or second century says to immerse in “living water” (running water) and if there is not sufficient to immerse it may be poured over the head. This is the only known reference to pouring surviving from the first 3 centuries. All other writings appear to speak of immersion.
Some quick quotes:
Barnabas from the second century, “Blessed are those who placed their hope in His cross and descended into the water…..We descend into the water full of sins and uncleanness, and we ascend bearing reverence in our heart and having hope in Jesus in our spirit.”
Hermas the Shepherd from the second century, “There is no other repentance except that one when we descended into the water….The seal then is the water. They descend into the water dead, and they ascend alive….. They descended therefore with them into the water and ascended again.”
Justin Martyr, 2nd century, “Then they are led by us to where there is water….”
Tertullian, “Baptism itself is a bodily act, because we are immersed in water, but it has a spiritual effect, because we are set free from sins.”
Origen, “You descend into the water and you escape safely; having washed away the filth of sin.”
Cyril of Jerusalem, “For he who plunges into the waters and is baptized is surrounded on all sides by the waters, so were the also baptized completely by the Spirit.”
Basil of Caesarea, “We imitate the burial of Christ through baptism. For the bodies of those being baptized are as it were buried in water.”
Ambrose, “We are plunged and we lift ourselves up….. So therefore also in baptism, since it is a likeness of death, without doubt when you dip and rise up there is made a likeness of the resurrection.”
John Chrysostom, “Exactly as in some tomb, when we sink our heads in water, the old man is buried, and as he is submerged below, he is absolutely and entirely hidden. Then when we lift our heads up, the new man again comes up.”
A most interesting passage from the Martyrs Mirror on page 214 states, “However, we are in possession of as much testimony from authentic writers as is necessary to establish said matter. As regards this that baptism was at that time administered to adult persons….. As regards the place of baptizing….. here and there at the rivers….. to kneel during baptism, and go in or under the water….. This manner of baptizing by the ancients called immersion or submersion, has long been observed, even up to the present time.”
Another quote from MM, page 153, “But by saying “in the waters,” he means to signify that the same baptism can be administered in all kinds of waters as, in rivers, lakes, wells, baths, seas, etc.”
Much more could be written, but it is easy to prove that the earliest recorded forms of baptism are immersion, or at least performed in a body of water large enough to immerse. This does not fit the present day method of pouring. The most simple, childlike expression of baptism, taking ALL the examples of scripture and the early church would be to immerse! It is quite likely that John Holdeman did not have access to all these writings when he formed his opinions on pouring. An interesting side note is that even John Holdeman initially thought immersion was the correct mode. On page 120 of his book “History of the Church of God” he relates, “On Sunday morning my father came to my house and asked me again whether I desired to be baptised; and I said I wanted to be baptised in the water and with water.” By the time his actual baptism took place he had changed his mind and relates, “After this, I told him that I found no command to go into the water to be baptised and was willing to be baptised in the house.”
Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death. (catch the phrase “by baptism”)
Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with
him through the faith of the operation of God,
Mark 1:9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
Acts 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Acts 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. (This scripture has been used to prove that baptism was performed in the jailors house but look at what it says. In verse 33 they were baptised, and in verse 34 they went into the house, not the other way around)
Acts 16:13 “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” Notice they went to her house after baptism.
It is irrefutable by scripture and by early Christian writings that the way pouring baptism is currently performed, is not the way the apostles and early church performed it. It has long been argued that there was not enough water in large enough quantities in Jerusalem for the apostles to have baptised 3000 people in one day, but recent archeological finds prove differently. The ancient Jewish baths used for ritual cleansing were designed for immersion. There have been a number of these uncovered in archaeological digs in ancient Jerusalem, at least one large enough to accommodate 3000 people flowing through in one day. They entered the pool by a set of steps on one end, dunked themselves under and exited out on the other end. It is likely that those early Christians used these baths for baptism as they were all newly converted Jews who were accustomed to the Jewish ritual of immersion cleansing. Read more about it here. http://www.mikvahminder.com/mikvah-blog/ancient-mikvah-found-in-jerusalem.html
The reality is that it takes more scriptural wrangling to “prove” pouring than to prove immersion. But those who are “convinced against their will; will remain unconvinced still,” due to having to completely undo a lifetime of wrong belief in order to honestly consider what the scriptures say.