Submersion Baptism

So recently I’ve been engaged in a debate with a nondom minister, we disagree about submersion when your baptized. I’ve heard several things that trend towards sprinkling, like how apostles would have come up with so much water in their location to baptize 3000 people or early christian art shows pouring vs submersion. Can anyone put forth resources for me? I’d like to be able to cite somethings instead of I heard this guy said “this” from my boss’s sisters husband.:confused:

Hi, there.

A quick scan yields information that’s mostly historical on how baptism can be performed in the Catholic Church.

Historically, baptisms can be done via immersion or by small pouring of water on a person’s forehead over a baptismal font. Since a Catholic baptism is (based on my research) never conducted outside but in a church (since now we have facilities to perform it, rather than using, say, a river, as done for Christ), pouring is common in churches with a baptismal font. If the church has a larger baptismal pool (a baptistery), then the baptism is handled by partial immersion (the catechumen sits or kneels while the priest or deacon pours water over the body in the trinitarian form). I was baptized in a makeshift baptistery.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops official missal notes here how baptisms should be performed during the most common time for it, the Easter Vigil.

You can show him pictures of many churches old and new that show baptismal fonts all over the place. One of these, to start you off, is the baptismal font of my favorite saint, Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) from the 1400’s.

Your friend may be implying that immersion is superior than partial immersion or forehead pouring. So long as water is involved in the contact of the body and the trinitarian form ("I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit) is used, there’s nothing wrong. (Catholics must be baptized by an ordained priest or deacon; Protestants can have whoever they want).

(Mormons are a special exception; while they use the trinitarian form, their theology is actually polytheist, making their baptisms invalid).

\(Catholics must be baptized by an ordained priest or deacon; Protestants can have whoever they want). \

**Actually, in an emergency (meaning imminent danger of death) ANY person may baptizae in the Catholic Church. Even Deacons may be ordinary ministers of baptism.

In most Protestant Churches, authority to baptize is limited to their official ministers,

So you have it backwards.

Since there were many ritual baths (mikvaot) at the Temple, it would have been no problem to baptize 3000 people on Pentecost.

The “living water” of the Didache refers to a stream or river, not a fountain–which is actually preferred to this day for the rite of mikveh among Jews. In fact, immersion in the mikveh is part of the conversion process for ALL Gentiles of ether sex entering Judaism, even for a Gentile infant a Jewish couple plans on raising as a Jew. So you see that infant baptism came from pre-Chrsitian Judaism, and is not something cooked up by that nasty ole pope feller.

However, “baptizo” means to IMMERSE, and immersion is the NORMAL form of baptism in all the Eastern Churches, both those in union with Rome and not.

The West started to get sloppy about baptizing by immersion and substituted pouring–NOT sprinkling-- in the 800’s or so.

Early Christian art actually shows immersion, with the baptizand nude, following the precedent of the mikveh.**

Of course, pouring is, AFAIK, technically only practiced in the West within the Roman Rite and its offspring, say, the local medieval uses. The Ambrosians in Milan practice baptism by triple immersion (for infants, of the head “in crucis formam”).
The Mozarabic Rite in Spain meanwhile also practice immersion using the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, that you may have eternal life, Amen” (Ego te baptizo in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, ut habeas vitam aeternam, Amen.)

I don’t know much about the history of it, but I wonder if it has to do with baptising infants. It would be a little dangerous to immerse an infant.

Personally I love Catholic baptisms with the sprinkling, the oil and the candles and the baptismal gowns. They seem very beautiful and holy.

For example, if a person were in a hospital bed he or she could be baptized by pouring.

Other than water and saying the Trinitarian formula nowhere in scripture does it say how baptism is to be administered. If there was a verse that said one must be baptized by immersion then things would be different although I imagine there would be some protestant sect that would argue whether that verse was to be taken literally or figuratively. But since there is no such verse why does he insist that baptism is only by immersion? Because your nondem minister is basing his insistence purely on a strict translation of the Greek word baptizobapto and baptizo. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped’ (**bapto) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first bapto is temporary. The second, baptizo the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. And here is the key. It not the act of submersion that is the reason for using baptizo but it is the change that takes place. When used in the New Testament, this word baptizo refers to our union and identification with Christ than to the method of water baptism.

In addition to the above, the insistence on a strict interpretation of a word can lead to some erroneous teachings. For instance the Greek word adelphos is given the strict interpretation of a sibling brother. But that is not the case. Paul calls one of the two Apostles named James, the Lord’s brother *adelphos *] but neither one is a sibling of Jesus. In addition, Jesus calls all of the Apostles Peter’s brothers adelpos but we know only one, Andrew. was his sibling. This error in ascribing a strict interpretation to a word where there is evidence that such a strict interpretation should not be applied leads to the erroneous teaching that Mary had other children than Jesus. So too with ascribing a strict interpretation to *baptizo *. The Jews had many ritual washings that did not include total immersion. For instance scripture records in Luke 11:37-38 the following:

“37 And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. 38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.” [Luke 11:37-38]

According to the KJV, the word translated as washed there is baptizo. Now did the Jews do a complete immersion before dinner? Apparently not for in Mt 15:2 we find this verse:

“Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” [Mt 15:2]

There the word for wash is not baptizo but nipto and it does not mean to immerse but merely to wash. So the practice among the Jews was only to wash their hands before eating but the use of the word baptizo to describe this washing means that the strict interpretation can not be forced on the word baptizo.

Continuing from my last post:

Again In Acts 1:4–5 Jesus charged his disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” Did this mean they would be “immersed” in the Spirit? No: three times Acts 2 states that the Holy Spirit was poured out on them when Pentecost came (2:17, 18, 33). Later Peter referred to the Spirit falling upon them, and also on others after Pentecost, explicitly identifying these events with the promise of being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:15–17). These passages demonstrate that the meaning of baptizo is broad enough to include “pouring.”

Again, from the earliest writings of the church the act of Baptizing was varied and included immersion, pouring and sprinkling. To wit the Didache, otherwise known as the Teaching of the Apostles and written in about 70 AD during the Apostolic Age states:

“Concerning baptism, baptize in this manner: Having said all these things beforehand, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living water [that is, in running water, as in a river]. If there is no living water, baptize in other water; and, if you are not able to use cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water three times upon the head in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” These instructions were composed either while some of the apostles and disciples were still alive or during the next generation of Christians, and they represent an already established custom.

correction here, you can be baptized by anyone, including non-Christians, as long as the intention is to baptize you into Christianity and using the Trinitarian Formula. of course the ordinary ministers would be a priest or deacon, but in other cases, anyone would qualify

from the CCC

1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. **In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize **, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.

CCC 1239 states: “Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate’s head.” Source: John 3:5

The problem most pastors have seems to come from the translation into and from the Greek. ‘Bautizo’ does not strictly mean to completely immerse. Nor is there an explicit or specific instruction in scripture about the exact form of baptism. So, his preferred method of baptism is precisely that: his preference.

I once went to a Vineyard (mega-church) to see a friend baptized. A husband and his wife were to both be baptized. A friend baptized the husband, then the husband turned around and baptized the wife. Because baptism in a Protestant church is a public declaration of faith, rather than a belief of removal of sin, anyone can baptize anyone.

This brings up an important question. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Who Can Baptize? (1256)
The ordinary ministers are the bishop, the priest, and in the Latin Church, the deacon. If necessity, anyone (even someone not baptized) can baptize. They must have the intention to will what the Church does when she baptizes and use the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The Church sees this possibility for others to baptize because Baptism is necessary for salvation.”

Paragraph 1284 states:

"1284 In case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he pours water on the candidate’s head while saying: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Notice in both paragraphs the words, *“They must have the intention to will what the Church does when she baptizes…” *[1256] and “any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does…” [1284]

The question I pose is whether a protestant ‘baptism’ which, in the words of the last post, “*is a public declaration of faith, rather than a belief of removal of sin,” * valid or is it null and void because it does not “have the intention as doing that which the Church does.” To publicly declare one’s faith is not the same as to remit sin.

As long as the baptizer uses the proper form (“I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”) and the proper matter (water), such a baptism is valid - even if done by an atheist. However, this is usually reserved for emergency situations. Normally, the Ordinary (Priest or Deacon) performs the Baptism.

That’s a very interesting point. I never thought of it in those terms. When a baptized Protestant converts to the RCC, they do not need to be rebaptized as long as the baptism is done in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But, they don’t have the same belief in what the purpose of baptism is.

One of the things that gets emphasized every year in our RCIA class (This is my third consecutive year as a sponsor in this parish) is that Sacraments effect the thing they signify. Baptism is a washing away of sins. Taken in that light, immersion can do this, and so can pouring. (that’s basically what the kitchen sink is when you wash your hands, right?). Sprinkling, on the other hand, does not cleanse… it just gets wet. :wink: This is why the Catholic Church authorizes both immersion and pouring, but not sprinkling. If someone was baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, but was baptized via sprinkling, it is considered illicit, and that person, if seeking entry into the Catholic Church, would be re-baptized as a Catechumen. (sp?) I haven’t seen any official teaching on this distinction, but that’s what we are taught by both the deacon and the priest in our parish.


Exactly right. Sprinkling is used as a form of ritual blessing, but not as a Sacrament.

You would probably find this link helpful:

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