Baptism before Jesus


I wasn’t sure if I should put this in Liturgy and Sacraments or Sacred Scripture. Anyways…

This is something I have always wondered, if Judaism doesn’t have baptism, which I don’t think it does, how did John the Baptist called to baptize others? What are the origins of baptism? And why were people being baptized before Jesus? What meaning did it have back then for a Jew at the time to be baptized by John the Baptist?

This is something that I’ve been curious about for as long as Ii can remember.

Any help would be great.


Circumcision was a foreshadowing or type of Christian baptism. And I believe many cultures in that region and time had a practice of a spiritual baptism, Judaism included. Although it probably was not a dogmatic element of Judaism, but rather a type of cultural belief or simply religious discipline and perhaps only within certain Jewish groups. I am not positive about this , and others can probably answer with more certainty, but I think this is fairly accurate.


I’ve heard that, around Christ’s time, there had arisen a ceremony similar to Baptism, in which a Jew was ritually “cleansed of impurity” by washing in water. St John probably took this idea and ran with it, changing the cleansing aspect from physical to spiritual. Supposedly, that same ceremony was what the jugs of water that were turned into wine at Cana were going to be used for.

Of course, Baptism didn’t gain its supernatural and regenerative qualities until after Christ’s Resurrection.


There a a Jewish ceremony that involves water. I forgot why. I remember asking this after watching “sex in the city” and one of the girls converted to Jewdism (sp?) from Christianity. Anyways she walked into a pool and it looked lots like baptism.

Further, I was reading Tobas … And saw the word, “Pentacost” … Well, I guess the Jewish also followed Passover with a Pentacostal service.

Jesus models the Old Testament so that he can make all the covenants of the Old Testament become fulfilled. I think author Scott Hann does infinantly better than I describing these unfoldings. You might want to check him out.


Well as a foreshadowing of Baptism, in the OT an observant Jew who was guilty of some sort of ritual impurity would have to wash himself and his clothing. The bathing was in what is called a mikvah, it is a bath or pool of naturally flowing water (living water) usually from a natural spring or river, one walks in while reciting prayers and comes out the other side. In most major cities (I know there are several Mikvot (plural) in Los Angeles. Usually there is one for men and another for women. Orthodox women usually go to the mikvah after her period has ended.

Other ritual impurity in the Bible would be if someone had a skin ulcer, leprosy or boils. They would present themselves to the priest at the temple or a priest who was not serving at the temple if they were not in Jerusalem. After they were certified to no longer being ritually impure, the absolution was pronounced and the now absolved went to the mikvah and immersed themselves. There are ancient mikvot all over Israel, in Rome and other places that Jews have lived over the centuries.


In the OT times and in today’s Judaism, there’s a thing called a mikvah, which is just a ritual bathing. These days, it seems to only be used by people converting and maybe some more Orthodox sects.


Exactly right, but it has regained popularity some in recent times to the point where it is quite common.

The basis for Jesus’ baptism was the Jewish ritual tevillah. It is a complete ritual immersion of the entire body for ritual purity. It is still practiced today part of converting to Judaism as a sign of repentance and conversion.

Tevillah was done in an immersion pool called a mikveh, or some other location with flowing or “Living” water such as rain water. Use of lakes, rivers and other natural bodies of water, as long as they weren’t stagnant pools, was common. Jews at the time of Jesus would have been very familiar with ritual immersion in the mikveh. Essene Jews immersed themselves daily. Mikveh baths were quite common in Israel. Every synagogue had one, and many, if not most synagogues today still do.

This is exactly what John the Baptist was doing - ritual immersion - tevillah in the mikveh. Jesus raised it to sacramental status.

The mikvah offers the individual, the community, and the nation of Israel the remarkable gift of purity and holiness. No other religious establishment, structure, or rite can affect the Jew in this The world’s natural bodies of water – its oceans, rivers, wells, and spring-fed lakes – are mikvahs in their most primal form way and, indeed, on such an essential level. Its extraordinary power, however, is contingent on its construction in accordance with the numerous and complex specifications as outlined in Halachah, Jewish Law. Read More….

Here are a few links…





As to John’s inspiration for his baptism of repentance, Luke 3:2 speaks of the word of God coming to John in the wilderness. The Baptist also claimed that the One Who sent him to baptize told him that the Messiah was the One on Whom the Holy Spirit would come to rest - Jesus (John 1:33-34).

I am wondering here if the Jewish ritual bathing was referred to as baptism - since “baptism” is from the Greek “bautizo.” Some who went from the Pharisees to John asked if he was the prophet or the Messiah, because he was baptizing, (John 1:24-25),

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Eli′jah, nor the prophet?”

So the immersion which we know as the baptism of repentance must have had some great symbolism to them - perhaps the new factor of repentance causing them to take notice.


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