Was St. Paul baptized by immersion?

Hi all,

I had an informal debate with a Full Gospel pastor who said that those who were not immersed were not really baptized and are not true Christians.
I challenged him to either prove that St. Paul was immersed or admit that St. Paul was not true Christian.
To my surprise, he could neither prove St. Paul was immersed nor willing to accuse him of being “not true Christian”.
Surprising still, this lack of Biblical evidence did not al all worry this believer of “sola scriptura”.


Just for information: The VAST majority of protestants are going to disagree with this pastor.

It’s true that Acts doesn’t specifically speak about the nature of the Baptism here. However, the assumption that is made by Baptists is that since John the Baptist baptized Jesus using full immersion then Saul would have been baptized the same way. However, the amount of water used is really not that important of a detail.

Does the bible actually use the word ‘immersion’ anywhere? In Matthew 3:16 is says, ‘After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water…’ It doesn’t say he was dunked. Mark 1:10 says, ‘On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.’ Again, he was coming up out of the water. That could mean immersion, or it could mean he walked out of the river.

I am sure Jesus was immersed, but the bible doesn’t use those words. It is (gasp) Tradition!

There is also baptism by desire and baptism of the blood.

St. Paul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus was an incredible experience, Paul being blinded for awhile. That experience in itself…of him coming to Christ would be a baptism of desire in itself. There is no indication whether or not Paul was baptized by water…but he encountered Christ and His living waters.

Paul was baptized in Christ, but how was never noted.

The word baptism means immersion and full immersion was the the ideal method used by the early church.

While the question brings to light faults within the idea of solo scriptura (not sola scriptura which doesn’t dispense with tradition altogether), saying that because it isn’t in the bible means it didn’t happen that way is a rather Protestant way of looking at things.

I believe the Didiach specifies full immersion, although I’m not sure.

**The Didache

Second Part

This (vii-x) begins with an instruction on baptism, which is to be conferred “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” in living water, if it can be had — if not, in cold or even hot water. The baptized and, if possible, the baptizer, and other persons must fast for one or two days previously. If the water is insufficient for immersion, it may be poured thrice on the head. This is said by Bigg to show a late date; but it seems a natural concession for hot and dry countries, when baptism was not as yet celebrated exclusively at Easter and Pentecost and in churches, where a columbethra and a supply of water would not be wanting. Fasts are not to be on Monday and Thursday “with the hypocrites” (i.e. the Jews), but on Wednesday and Friday (viii). Nor must Christians pray with the hypocrites, but they shall say the Our Father thrice a day. The text of the prayer is not quite that of St. Matthew, and it is given with the doxology “for Thine is the power and the glory for ever”, whereas all but a few manuscripts of St. Matthew have this interpolation with “the kingdom and the power” etc.

Don’t be too sure. :slight_smile:

Strong’s Numbers:

907. baptizó: to dip, sink
908. baptisma: (the result of) a dipping or sinking
909. baptismos: (the act of) a dipping or washing
910. baptistés: a baptizer
911. baptó: to dip

The implication being that immersion is the standard practice of the era.

Liddle & Scotts agrees that it can mean dip, however generally speaking it means immersion. The above given quote from the Didache would back this up. :wink:

edit: I’m not sure how Western paintings from 1500 years later is any proof regarding how Jesus was baptized. Painters are going to paint to look like modern practice.

Uh - yes there is. A few verses later, we see someone (likely either Judas or Ananias) baptizing him with water in the house of Judas. (Acts 9:18)

Since it was in the house (and because I am reasonably certain they didn’t have running water, and they needed to keep some water by for cooking and drinking) it’s not likely that it was a full-immersion baptism.

907 βαπτιζω baptizo bap-tid’-zo

from a derivative of 911; TDNT-1:529,92; verb

AV-baptize (76), wash 2, baptist 1, baptized + 2258 1; 80

  1. to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
  2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe
  3. to overwhelm

The word has to do with immersed according to this Greek word as defined in a Greek lexicon.

I see this going back and forth however, it appears to be drifting off the subject. Was St. Paul baptized by immersion?

Good point.

For clarification, here is St. Paul’s baptism in Acts 9 (NAB):

17 So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.”

18 Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized,

19 and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

There is no possible way to say for sure, we only know that it was the norm, but not the only method. I’m not quite sure why this is an important point.

He most likely was, but without a time machine we don’t know.

He was baptized; the word 'baptized is as defined as I posted; yes he was immersed, IMO.

But scriptures do not clearly state that he was baptized by immersion. To accept it as such would be going by tradition, wouldn’t it?

Yes, and it’s not clarified whether or not it was by immersion, pouring or sprinkling in Acts 22.

**Act 22:7 And falling on the ground, I heard a voice saying to me: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Act 22:8 And I answered: Who art thou, Lord? And he said to me: I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
Act 22:9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light: but they heard not the voice of him that spoke with me.
Act 22:10 And I said: What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said to me: Arise and go to Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things that thou must do.
Act 22:11 And whereas I did not see for the brightness of that light, being led by the hand by my companions, I came to Damascus,
Act 22:12 And one Ananias, a man according to the law, having testimony of all the Jews who dwelt there,
Act 22:13 Coming to me and standing by me, said to me: Brother Saul, look up. And I, the same hour, looked upon him.
Act 22:14 But he said: The God of our fathers hath preordained thee that thou shouldst know his will and see the Just One and shouldst hear the voice from his mouth.
Act 22:15 For thou shalt be his witness to all men of those things which thou hast seen and heard.
Act 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? Rise up and be baptized and wash away thy sins, invoking his name. **
Act 22:17 And it came to pass, when I was come again to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance,
Act 22:18 And saw him saying unto me: Make haste and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: because they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.

We don’t know. We know that he was baptized in Judas’ house, and we know that they didn’t have running water in those days - the water to be used for that day would have been kept in a large clay pot.

While it’s possible that the pot was still full, and that they immersed Paul in the pot of water, it seems equally likely that they took some of the water out of the pot and baptized him by pouring over the sink, while keeping the rest of the water clean for cooking and drinking.

Thanks for the clarification…I am recalling my own reflections of the life of St. Paul…yes, the scales came off and he was instructed to be baptized…

I am inclined to believe water was sprinkled on him 3 times…in regards to the times he lived in…especially since he already had such a profound experience…but then again…because of his past sins…he may have wanted full immersion…

Roll the dice…think tradition of the times wins for me.

Thanks for the references!

People did bathe in those days, and the context seems to indicate Judas was a fairly well known individual. Additionally Damascus has quite a few little streams running through or near the Old City. No timeline is given.

I don’t think Acts 9 can be used to dismiss the standard methodology.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.