Was Baptism an old testament ritual?


#1

Why did John the Baptist engage in a performance of baptizing with water? In this Sunday’s gospel Jn 1:29-34 he says he ‘…was sent to baptize with water’ by the Holy Spirit who came down ‘…like a dove from heaven and remained upon him.’ I guess my question is, was baptism a old testament practice, a cleansing ritual? Do we know if Jesus immersed as some interpretations of scripture claim or was it a symbolic pouring of water by John?:slight_smile:


#2

What I found interesting about baptism was that it was taking place long before Jesus was in the picture. Roman warriors used to go together to the rivers and 'baptize" each other as a bonding ritual/rite prior to battles. So by the time John the Baptist arrived on the scene, baptism weren’t anything “new” except it wasn’t for warriors, but to unite/bond soon-to-be (since Christ wasn’t there yet)Christians together. However, I am not a history or relgious scholar - just a learner - and I’m sure some others could give more discussion to the matter than I.


#3

I remember running across a Jewish site that discussed the history of baptism within Judaism, and I recall that converts to Judaism were baptized, including infants. I’m not sure how accurate this information is, though.

Fiat


#4

[quote=ProudArmyWife]What I found interesting about baptism was that it was taking place long before Jesus was in the picture. Roman warriors used to go together to the rivers and 'baptize" each other as a bonding ritual/rite prior to battles. So by the time John the Baptist arrived on the scene, baptism weren’t anything “new” except it wasn’t for warriors, but to unite/bond soon-to-be (since Christ wasn’t there yet)Christians together. However, I am not a history or relgious scholar - just a learner - and I’m sure some others could give more discussion to the matter than I.
[/quote]

Peace be with you ProudArmyWife,

I would suggest that Baptism stems from the much older bathing rituals of the Hebrew People and is much older than Roman Soldier bonding rituals before battles. The Essenes, of whom, John the Baptist is associated were Jews who removed themselves from society to “await” the Messiah. They practiced ritual cleansing just as their other Jewish brethren. Baptism was derived from this practice.

Perhaps, SSV could pop in here and illuminate further this Jewish custom. “hint, hint SSV”

Peace, Love and Blessings,


#5

Hi all!

(Thanks chrisb!)

Fiat, you’re close (enough to win a cookie!). Converts to Judaism must dunk in a ritual pool/bath known as a mikveh (see photos at tinyurl.com/5vu4u) under the supervision of either 3 rabbis (male converts) or 3 orthodox women (women converts), who will then tell the rabbinical court that the dunking has taken place. This dunking seals/finalizes the conversion process. The other main use of the mikveh is for ritual ablutions to remove certain forms of ritual impurity. Since we temporarily lack a Temple & the order of offerings :crying: , the main one of these in use today is for married women, after their menstrual cycle is over, so that they can resume intimate relations with their husbands (see forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=343310&highlight=mikveh#post343310). When the Torah talks about someone having to “bathe his/her flesh in water”, it means (in our view) in a proper mikveh.

Some orthodox Jewish men dunk in a mikveh prior to the SAbbath or certain major holydays, but this is a voluntary custom & they recite no blessing when doing so. (Married women using a mikveh is a positive Torah precept & they, therefore, recite a proper blessing before immersing themselves.)

Here jr.co.il/ma/pic/ma01203.htm is a picture of the mikveh building just down the street from our flat here in Israel.

I’ve heard it said that the Christian practice of baptism evolved from the above. The Essenes were heretics, whose strange doctrines have no bearing on normative, traditional (i.e. orthodox) Judaism of today.

Howzat?

Be well!

ssv :wave:


#6

Peace be with you SSV,

I knew that Judaism had a bathing ritual but I didn’t know that Judaism also “dunged” (i.e. emersed) converts as the “seal of their conversion”. What did this ritual “mean”. I know we recognize in our Baptism the indwelling of the Spirit. What I am interested in is was this a development from Judaic Conversion Rituals or something which developed separately in Christianity.

Blessings be with you. Amen.


#7

Hi ChrisB!

Lessee, it’s 20:37 or so here. Shabbat (i.e. the Sabbath) is out, our youngest is :sleep: , DW & our oldest are in the process of becoming :sleep: & I’m anxiously waiting for the Steelers & Jets to come on in just under 3 hours (in which, hopefully, New York will get a reminder that America doesn’t end at the Hudson).

You posted:

I knew that Judaism had a bathing ritual but I didn’t know that Judaism also “dunged” (i.e. emersed) converts as the “seal of their conversion”. What did this ritual “mean”.

The waters of the mikveh symbolize amniotic fluid, By (immersing in and then) emerging from them, the convert is symbolically reborn, thus becoming a new person, sinless like a newborn infant (we utterly reject the notion of Original Sin).

Howzat?

ssv :wave:


#8

Ezekiel 36:25-26 had prophesized that the messiah will “pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed.”

Zechariah 13:1-3 prophesized that “when that day comes a fountain will be opened for the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to wash sin and impurity away.”

Because of these scriptures, baptism was recognized by the Jews as a sign of the coming of the messianic age.

This is why, when the Pharisees saw John the Baptist, they challenged his authority to baptize because it was presumed to be a sign of the messiah. John the Baptist then points to the messiah, announcing him as the Lamb of God who will baptize in the spirit.

Later, in John 3:26 the followers of John the Baptist told him that Jesus was baptizing people on the other side of town, and John the Baptist told them it is as it should be, intimating that Jesus was indeed the messiah.

As to the question of immersion in water, notice that the Hebrew scripture [Ezekiel] describes the sign as the pouring of water over you.

Anyway, this info comes from the Jerome Biblical Commentary.


#9

Thanks everyone! http://forums.catholic.com/images/icons/icon14.gif The questions came up at our bible study group this past week and so your responses are great… wonderfully enlightening! And timely too, as the gospel this Sunday is about the Baptism of Jesus by John.

Shoehorn


#10

Thanks everyone! http://forums.catholic.com/images/icons/icon14.gif The questions came up at our bible study group this past week and so your responses are great… wonderfully enlightening! And timely too, as the gospel this Sunday is about the Baptism of Jesus by John.

Shoehorn


#11

Sorry. Double Thanks!


#12

[quote=shoehorn]Why did John the Baptist engage in a performance of baptizing with water? In this Sunday’s gospel Jn 1:29-34 he says he ‘…was sent to baptize with water’ by the Holy Spirit who came down ‘…like a dove from heaven and remained upon him.’ I guess my question is, was baptism a old testament practice, a cleansing ritual? Do we know if Jesus immersed as some interpretations of scripture claim or was it a symbolic pouring of water by John?:slight_smile:
[/quote]

The nearest thing in the OT to baptism in the NT is the washing prescribed by Elisha for Naaman in 2 Kings 5.

The short answer is, no. ##


#13

The waters of the mikveh were (and are) often referred to by the Jews as being “living water”. In OT times, the baths were constructed so that they were filled by natural sources of water, so that the water was not handled by human hands. It was considered that this holy water was provided from God’s hand for our spiritual cleansing.

I think that if the Elders had heard Jesus tell the woman at the well “(I) would give you living water” they would have picked up rocks to stone him for blasphemy, as this was tantamount to a claim of deity.

So yes, new covenant Baptism, like the Eucharist, is a more perfect sign than the old covenant mikveh. It’s not just a symbol anymore.


#14

I might as well jump in (ha ha, pun intended).

Now I heard that people on the way to the Temple had to bathe to purify themselves as others here have stated, in the ritual sense. So, the physical washing was supposed to remind them of a spiritual washing before they entered the Temple area for worship.

So, John the Baptizer’s “living waters” was in the first instance a reference to the flowing river water, and we’d take that now as foreshadowing Baptism by the Holy Spirit. But, John was emphasizing the proper baptism was one of water and repentence for sins, before going on to the Temple. So, his teaching was deeply prophetic.

As a footnote, when Jesus was baptized He immediately went up out of the water. Why did He do that? I suppose because He didn’t have to linger in the water repenting, which is an important detail that early Christians might have instantly recognized.

And, further, from fundamentalist land, why did He have to be baptized, as He said He must? Well, going back to Noah’s flood, water was a sign of God’s condemnation. And so, Jesus “had” to take on Himself the sign of condemnation. And, that, my friends, is why John says, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He took on Himself the sign of the condemnation.

And, even further, that’s why evangelicals prefer and insist on immersion, as it symbolizes the same condemnation for our sins and momentary death of the old man/woman in the water, and the emergence of the new man/woman from the waters.

I had the same original question, too, about Baptism, because, according to Strong’s, the word does not occur in the Old Testament. If an old testament word were to be translated ‘baptism’ it would confuse the heck out of us for some time, but it would tip us to the earlier ritual washing.

Baptism is not the banal “sacrament of initiation” It’s about the greatest thing that ever happens in our lives !


#15

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