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The absurd theory that immersion is not baptism

September 13, 2013 2 comments

broadusChapter 8. Dr. Dale’s Theory.

Before closing this long discussion, it is perhaps desirable to refer briefly to a new theory as to the act of baptism, put forward some years ago by Rev. Dr. Dale, a Presbyterian minister of Pennsylvania. In three volumes, and with great fullness of detail and elaborate ingenuity, he explains and defends his view, but the substance of his argument may be stated in comparatively few words.

As to the primary meaning of the word baptizo, Dr. Dale does not differ materially from Liddell and Scott. They say it means “to put in or under”; he says it is to put within, which he expresses by a manufactured word, “intuspose,” compounded from the Latin, and signifying “put within.” (Dr. Conant, in his treatise on “Baptizein,” has also given nearly the same definition: “In its literal use it meant to put entirely into or under a liquid, or other penetrable substance, generally water, so that the object was wholly covered by the enclosing element.”) This definition of Dale, and of Liddell and Scott, is doubtless more correct than that which has often been given, that the word primarily means “to dip frequently. ” But Dr. Dale goes on to insist that baptizo is always broadly different in its meaning from the simple word bapto, the basis on which it is formed; that bapto alone means to dip, and baptizo never signifies to dip, but only to put within, giving no intimation that the object is to be taken out again. (Does the word “dip” in itself denote that the object is to be taken out? lt is connected with deep, as the German taufen (the word for baptize) is with tief, and the Greek bath, the root of bapto, is with bath in bathus which means deep. See Curtius, Griechische Etymologie, s. 416.)

Bapto, according to him, would put an object in water and quickly take it out – but baptizo would put it in, and so far as the meaning of the term is concerned, would leave it there. Suppose it were granted that this was true; then we should have Christ commanding us to put men within or under water, as a religious ceremony, and, because he does not expressly add that we are to take them out again, we should be bound, forsooth, to let them remain there. If any of my esteemed brethren of other denominations should take this view of the matter, and request me to “intuspose” them, to put them within the water, in the name of our Redeemer, it may be assumed that my common sense and humanity will cause me to take them out again, as their own common sense and prudence will then lead them to go off and change their garments without needing an express command in either respect.

If, then, Dr. Dale were right in maintaining such a broad and invariable difference between bapto and baptizo, and right in advancing to maintain, laboriously and amusingly, a similar invariable difference between the English “dip” and “immerse,” and between the Latin tingo and mergo, all this would leave the practical duty the same. Let it be granted for the sake of argument, that dip and immerse are not only sometimes different, but always broadly different in the way maintained, still a command to immerse men in water would be practically plain enough for all who are trying to learn their duty. So the theory would all amount to nothing.

But such a broad and invariable difference between bapto and baptizo does not exist, any more than between the English words or the Latin words mentioned. Without discussing the numerous passages involved in this question, I merely mention a single one. Plutarch uses baptizo where be describes the soldiers of Alexander, on a riotous march, as by the roadside dipping (literally baptizing) with cups from huge wine-jars and mixing-bowls, and drinking to one another. Liddell and Scott say it here means to draw wine from bowls in cups, and add “of course, by dipping them.” This is the obvious meaning, which no one can well mistake; and Dr. Dale’s attempt to explain it away is simply amusing. Here, then, we have baptizo used precisely where Dr. Dale’s theory would call for bapto. And there are numerous other cases, not always so obvious, but equally real.

It is a common tendency in language, that a strengthened form of a word shall gradually take the place of the weaker. From bapto, to dip, came the verbal adjective baptos, dipped; and from this verbal adjective, by means of the termination-izo was formed bapt-izo, which we may clumsily describe as primarily meaning to diptize, to cause to be dipped, or to bring into a dipped condition, and may well enough render by put in, or under, or within. Being thus a stronger word, it is frequently used where the simple bapto would be less appropriate or less forcible. But by the tendency I have mentioned, the stronger word gradually came to be preferred to the weaker, with no substantial difference of meaning. The same thing has happened, still more completely, with the words signifying to sprinkle. From raino, to sprinkle, came rantos, sprinkled; and upon this verbal adjective was formed rant-izo, which would thus mean to cause to be sprinkled, or to bring into a sprinkled condition. But in this case there is never any practical difference in meaning between the simple and the derived form. In the classics we find only the simple raino; in later Greek writers and the Septuagint, both this and the stronger rantizo; in the New Testament, only rantizo; in modern Greek, both; and nowhere is any practical difference discernible.

There are other examples of the same sort. E.g., phantazomai, airetizo. The frequentative sense of some verbs, as hriptazo, kuptazo, is probably derivative from the causative or active sense described above. Another derivation would be the intensive sense, where the termination is frequently appended, not to the stem of the verbal adjective, but to the simple verb root, as in aiteo, “ask”; aitizo, “beg”; herpo, “crawl “; herpuzo, “creep.” Curtius gives some indirect support to this view (Griech. Etym., S. 553-55), but the terminations in – zo have never been thoroughly studied.

While bapto and baptizo did not (like raino and rantizo) become identical in meaning, but each has uses of its own, yet the stronger word came to be frequently employed in substantially the same sense as the weaker, seeing that the natural and common way of bringing a thing into a dipped condition is to dip it.

Thus far, then, Dr. Dale has made no important addition to our knowledge of the primary meaning of baptizo. He deserves the credit of having brought out that meaning more clearly than others, though he has not perceived its connection with the etymology. His attempt to establish a broad and invariable difference in meaning between it and the simple form bapto is a mistake, and even if he were right, it would make no practical difference as to the duty enjoined by baptizo. His elaborate efforts to show that Baptist writers, of different generations and countries, have differed in their views as to the mere theory of the word, prove nothing as to the real question at issue.

But Dr. Dale now takes an additional step which is novel and surprising. In the first place, he confounds the literal and figurative uses of the term in question, and substantially claims that in the literal use it can have no more definite sense than it has in the figurative – a process destructive of all exact interpretation. He then attempts to show that the word is used in three different senses: first, intusposition without influence, as when a stone is intusposed in water; second, intusposition with influence, as when a man is intusposed in water, and not being taken out – is drowned; third, influence without intusposition, so that whatever controllingly influences a thing may be said to baptize it. This last can only be called a figment of Dr. Dale’s fancy. By the same sort of process I could reduce to a nebulous condition the meaning of any word whatever. Anything which controllingly influences as to change its condition, may be described as baptizing that object. Thus if I should set fire to this piece of paper and change it to ashes, I should be baptizing it. If I hang a man, or stab him, or poison him, or corrupt his morals, I baptize him. This fanciful notion he attempts to support by a mass of painstaking, but utterly wild interpretation, such as can only excite one’s astonishment.

And the grand result of the whole discussion is, if possible, still more wonderful. Beginning with the position that baptize means immerse, he ends by maintaining that immersion is not baptism. This surpasses the jugglers. Here is the word baptize meaning immerse, or, if you prefer it, intuspose; now a few passes of logical and philological sleight of hand, and behold ! immersion, or intusposition, is not baptism at all. If you feel inclined to say the force of absurdity could no further go, be not too fast, for Dr. Dale, apparently fascinated by his fancies, has in his most recent production practiced an utter reductio ad absurdum upon his own theory.

Our blessed Lord speaks of his dreadful sufferings as a baptism, and also speaks of them as drinking a cup; and Dr. Dale deliberately infers that drinking a cup is baptism. I cannot hold this up to the sheer ridicule it deserves, because the subject is too sacred.

(In noticing one of Dr. Dale’s volumes on its appearance, the present writer predicted that in twenty years the work would be forgotten, and it seems to be coming true.)

John A. Broadus-Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism

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Immersion is scriptural and essential to baptism

broadusChapter 1. The Question at Issue.

The object set before us is to maintain the proposition, that Immersion in water is essential to Christian Baptism.

The point here involved is not by any means the most important of those upon which Baptists differ with many of their fellow Christians. The questions: Who ought to be baptized? and, What does baptism signify and effect? appear to us, so far as it is proper to assign degrees in matters of divine ordinance, to be of far greater consequence.

To insist on the Scriptural act of baptism is a necessary consequence of a great fundamental principle, which was once held by Baptists almost alone, but which many of our brethren of other connections are now coming to share-the exclusive authority of Scripture. We do not say simply the authority, nor the paramount authority, but the exclusive authority of Scripture. Baptism is performed at all, simply because the Scriptures direct us to perform it; therefore we feel bound to inquire what it is that they direct, and to do that. We cannot acknowledge any other authority. The opinions and practices of eminent Christians in past ages, yea, of our own best friends, our pastors, our parents, must not be regarded, except in so far as they may help us to determine what is taught on the subject in the Scriptures.

And it is not an inquiry as to the mere manner of performing a duty. The popular phrase, “mode of baptism,” seems to us to beg the question. The real question is, What is baptism? Compare the case of the Lord’s Supper. No Protestant insists strongly on any particular mode of observing the Lord’s Supper. We may have our preference, and may recommend it – as sitting around a table, kneeling around a railing, sitting in the pews, etc., – yet we do not insist. But when the Romanist gives only the bread to the laity, reserving the cup for the priests, all Protestants cry out. The Romanist might say, “Why, does not the bread really represent the great fact that Christ gave himself for us? Does not the body include the blood? May we not get all that is essential to the ordinance in taking the bread alone?” We – all who are commonly called Protestants – answer two things: First, to take the wine also, makes a more complete and expressive representation. Second, our Lord told us to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him; what right have we to alter that which he appointed, is if we knew better than he?

Now just the same ground do Baptists take as to baptism. They do not insist strongly on the mere manner and circumstances of its administration. Thus, it is a mere question of taste and convenience whether it shall be performed in a stream or a baptistery. Dr. Judson preferred to baptize face foremost. Even the practice of trine immersion, which was once very common, and still exists in some quarters, while it is in our judgment unwarrantable and improper, may be considered a matter of no great importance. The question is, not what is the most appropriate manner of performing baptism, but what is the act to be performed. And when any think proper to alter this act, we object most earnestly, and for the same two reasons as in the other case. First, the act enjoined gives a more complete and expressive representation of those things which baptism denotes; in fact, without it the representation is grievously defective. Second, our Lord told us to baptize; what right have we to alter his appointment? He did not tell us to recline at a table as he was doing, and take bread and wine, but he told us to take bread and wine; and we do not insist on the reclining: we insist on the bread and wine. He did not tell us to be baptized in the Jordan, or in a river, as he was, but he told us to be baptized; and we do not insist on the Jordan, or any river, or any other mere circumstance, but we insist on the baptizing.

John A. Broadus-Immersion Essential to Christian Baptism

The Definition of Baptizo

As it is recorded by the Holy Ghost in the Scriptures of God, even so it is the judgment of the most and best learned in the land, so far as I have seen, or can come by any of their writings, and in all the Common Dictionaries, with one joint consent affirm, that the word Baptism or Baptizo, being the original word, signifies to dip, wash, or to plunge one into the water, though some please to mock and deride, by calling it a new found way, or what ever they please.

John Spilsbery A Treatise concerning the lawful subject of Baptism (1652)