Baptism - Part 2 - Immersion or sprinkling

SERMON TOPIC: Baptism - Part 2 - Immersion or sprinkling

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 17 April 2011


Sermon synopsis: Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines 'baptizo' as 'immersion, submersion and emergence'.

Hence to speak of 'baptism by sprinkling' is really an oxymoron (something that's self-contradictory): it’s like saying we're going to immerse you by sprinkling.

In the Bible, blood was sprinkled (rhantizo); not water.

John Calvin wrote in 'Institutes of the Christian Religion': 'it is evident that the term baptize means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church'.
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1) Baptism into the body of Christ

2) Baptism in water

3) Baptism in the Holy Spirit


Holy Spirit

A believer



A repentant sinner

A believer

A believer


Body of Christ


Holy Spirit



Outward profession of salvation

Power to witness


In our previous study we saw that there were 3 main baptisms for Christians.

We also saw that believers - and not infants - should be baptized.

Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Today we will look at the different modes of baptism. There are 3 modes of ‘baptism’ practiced by churches:

Immersion (or dipping) 1

Pouring (or affusion)

Sprinkling (or aspersion)

1 Some differentiate further between ‘submersion’ (complete immersion of the body) and immersion (immersion of the head only)


In the NT Greek, there are different words for immersion, pouring and sprinkling. ‘Baptizo’ (pronounced bap-tid'-zo) is never translated as ‘sprinkle’ or ‘pour’, but as ‘baptize’, ‘dip’ or ‘wash’.



rhantizo, rhantismos

ekcheo, epicheo, katacheo







Our English word ‘baptize’ is transliterated (via Latin and Old French) from the Greek word ‘baptizo’ and means:

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

“immersion, submersion and emergence”

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon:

“to dip, immerse, submerge”

Strong’s New Testament Greek Lexicon:

to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)

to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe

to overwhelm

‘Baptizo’ is related to the word ‘bapto’, which is found three times in the New Testament, and in each case it is rendered ‘dip’ or ‘dipped.’

“And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip (bapto) the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’” (Luke 16:24) 1

Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip (bapto) the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. (John 13:26) 1

He is clothed with a robe dipped (bapto) in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. (Rev 19:13) 1




The Septuagint - used in Jesus’ day - is the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT.

In 2 Kings 5:14 Naaman was told to ‘dip’ seven times in the Jordan River. Baptizo is used to translate the Hebrew word ‘tabal’ which means to ‘dip’ or to ‘plunge’ (Strong’s).

It’s unlikely that Naaman sprinkled or even poured some water on his head. He would have washed or ‘plunged’ into the water.

According to a Messianic Jewish website:

Baptism is a Greek translation of tevila, meaning Immersion. Jewish immersion is usually done in a Mikveh, which means a pool where water has gathered. A Mikveh is an essential in any Synagogue and they were also part of the temple. 1

Baptism by total immersion is practiced by Baptists and other evangelical denominations, but the connection to Jewish practice is not generally appreciated. 1

1 baptism.htm


Hezekiah's Tunnel, where it comes out at the Pool of Siloam, counts as a mikveh. 1

Note: There is no evidence to support the claim that the Greek word ‘baptizo’ was transliterated as ‘baptism’ by the KJV translators on instruction from King James (who was underwriting the effort) - in order not to upset the status quo in the Church of England who practiced sprinkling and not immersion. 1

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary 2 the word ‘baptize’ was already in use in the 14th century:

c.1300, from Old French batisier (11c.), from Latin baptizare, from Greek baptizein “to immerse, to dip in water” ... Christian baptism originally consisted in full immersion.

1 The King’s instructions to the translators did not include any specific comment on the word ‘baptizo’. See the Appendix 1 for a copy of King James instructions. 2


When the KJV was translated (1603-1611), the word ‘baptize’ or some form thereof had been in use for at least 200 years. John Wycliffe (c. 1328-1384), whose middle English 1 translation of the Latin Bible appeared in 1382, used the word ‘baptisid.’

Acts 8:36 And the while thei wenten bi the weie, thei camen to a water. And the gelding seide, Lo! watir; who forbedith me to be baptisid?

1 Old English (pre-1066), Middle English (1066–1500), Early Modern English (1500–1800), Modern English (1800-present)


John Wycliffe

William Tyndale, whose translation of the NT was published about 75 years before the KJV, used the word ‘baptised.’

Acts 8:36 And as they went on their waye they came vnto a certayne water and the chamberlayne sayde: Se here is water what shall let me to be baptised?

The Geneva Bible (both the 1560 and 1599 editions), which was the Bible in most common use among English speakers until the second half of the 17th century, used the word ‘baptized.’

Acts 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water, and the Eunuch said, See, here is water, what doeth let me to be baptized?


The famous English playwright, William Shakespeare (1564-1616) also used the word ‘baptized’ in the following plays, showing that the word was already in common use before 1611.

Romeo and Juliet (1591 - 1595)

Henry V (1599)

Othello (1603)

Henry VIII (1613). 1

1 See Appendix 2 for references


William Shakespeare


Dr. Everett Ferguson (1933-) 1 writes:

The baptism commanded by Jesus in the making of disciples is an immersion in water. The topic formerly was warmly debated, but in these days there is general scholarly agreement. 2

The New Testament descriptions of baptism imply a full bath. 2

1 Abilene Christian University (Undergraduate bachelor degree and first master’s degree). Harvard University (Bachelor of Sacred Theology & doctoral degree “with distinction” in History and Philosophy of Religion). 2 Ferguson, “The church of Christ: a biblical ecclesiology for today” (1996)


Dr. Everett Ferguson

Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-) 1 notes that “New Testament scholars generally agree that the early church baptized by immersion.” 2

Prof. Larry R. Helyer 3 says that “modern NT scholars generally concede, regardless of denominational affiliation, that Christian baptism in NT times was by immersion, as it was and still is in Judaism.” 4

1 American pastor and a prolific writer of Christian literature and theological works. Studied at Indiana University in Indianapolis, Roosevelt University, and graduated from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. 2 “Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament” (1997). 3 Professor of biblical studies at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana for 29 years. 4 “Exploring Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period” (2002).


Dr. Warren Wiersbe

Church history doesn’t determine what we believe; only Scripture does (i.e. Sola Scriptura). But, church history does help us understand how the early church and their successors understood the Scripture.

Immersion was not only the practice of the apostolic church, but also of the early church. Tertullian, at the end of the 2nd century, writes, “The act of baptism itself belongs to the flesh, because we are immersed in water.” 1

1 In aqua mergimur. Do Baptismo, cap. 7, pars ii. p. 37. Lipsia, 1839. 2 The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus



Hippolytus of Rome in the early 3rd century speaks in detail of triple immersion being used after a confession of faith. Here is an excerpt:

When the person being baptized goes down into the water, he who baptizes him, putting his hand on him, shall say: “Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?” And the person being baptized shall say: “I believe.” Then holding his hand on his head, he shall baptize him once. 1

1 The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus



Archaeologists have shown that this traditional Roman house centered around an open court or atrium was built around the year 200 AD. Around 230 the building was modified to meet the needs of the local Christian community... The most significant change was the modification of a room to become a room to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism. Changes included the addition of a tub along one wall and the decoration of the walls with murals echoing the symbolism of Baptism: 2

1 faculty/ farberas/ arth/ arth212/ Early_Christian_art.html


Theodore of Antioch (c.350–428), an early Bishop of Mopsuestia (central Asia Minor) wrote in detail of their practice of triple immersion:

Believing this we come to him for baptism, because we wish now to share in his death so as to share like him in the resurrection from the dead. So when I am baptized and put my head under the water, I wish to receive the death and burial of Christ our Lord, and I solemnly profess my faith in his resurrection; when I come up from the water, this is a sign that I believe I am already risen... 1

1 Baptismal Homilies, 3.5, 9, 18, 19, 20 [Catechetical Homilies, 14]; Edward Yarnald, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation: Baptismal Homilies of the Fourth Century, (Slough, England: St. Paul Press, 1972), 192ff.


Theodore continues:

Then the bishop lays his hand on your head with the words, ‘In the name of the Father,’ and while pronouncing them pushes you down into the water. You obediently follow the signal he gives by word and gesture, and bow down under the water. You incline your head to show your consent and to acknowledge the truth of the bishop’s words that you receive the blessings of baptism from the Father ...You bow your head when you immerse yourself... 1

1 Ibid



The “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles” is a collection of eight treatises possibly from Antioch in Syria, dated from 375 to 380 AD. It describes the meaning of the immersion and rising up out of the water:

This baptism, therefore, is given into the death of Jesus: the water is instead of the burial... the descent into the water the dying together with Christ; the ascent out of the water the rising again with Him. 1

Peter Chrysologus (c.380-c.450), Bishop of Ravenna wrote:

Let the faithful listen and learn how the three days the Lord spent in the grave are represented by the triple immersion in baptism. 2

1 Sermons, 113; W. Palardy, St. Peter Chrysologus; Selected Sermons, 148. 2 “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles”, Book 3, Section 16/ 17


Ambrose (4th C), expounding the baptismal death in Romans 6:3, says, “The death, therefore, is a figurative, not a real bodily death, for when you are immersing you present a likeness of death and burial.” 1

Jerome (5th C), in his notes on Ephesians 4:5, says, “We are immersed three times to receive the one baptism of Christ.” 2

1 Cum enim mergis, mortis suscepis et sepultarae similitudinem. Do Sacramentis, lib. ii. cap.7. 2 Ter mergimur, tome ix. p. 109. Basle, 1516.


Statue of Jerome at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

After the conversion of Constantine resulted in the legalization of the church, large buildings for public worship began to appear. Baptismal fonts were constructed in separate enclosures alongside these churches. 1

Cote lists the locations of sixty-five baptistries in Italy alone, giving the approximate dates of construction (from the fourth through the fourteenth centuries) and the shapes of the fonts (circular, octagonal, square, twelve-sided, Greek cross, et cetera). Regardless of other differences, all sixty-five were constructed for baptism by immersion. 1

1 " archive/ 1981/ March/ baptism-in-the-early-church"> archive/ 1981/ March/ baptism-in-the-early-church


Bishop of Rome, Leo the Great, speaking of baptism in the 5th century, says, “Trine immersion is an imitation of the three days’ burial (of Christ), and the Emersion out of the waters is a figure (of the Saviour) rising from the grave.” 1

In the late 6th century, although infant baptism was also being practiced, it was still by immersion and not sprinkling. Gregory, bishop of Rome writes in 591, “Now we, in immersing thrice, signify the sacraments of the three days’ sepulture; so that, when the infant is a third time lifted out of the water, the resurrection after a space of three days may be expressed… neither so is there any objection to immersing the person to be baptized in the water once…” 2

1 Trina demersio, ep. 16, vol. liv. p. 699, Patrl. Lat. 2 Book I, Epistle XLIII


Lanfranc (11th C) writes, “Being made conformable unto his death in baptism, for as Christ lay for three days in the sepulchre, so let there be a trine immersion in baptism.” 1

Bernard Of Clairvaux, the most prominent cleric in France in the 12th century, says “Baptism is the first of all the sacraments, in which we are planted together in the likeness of his (Christ’s) death. Hence trine immersion represents the three days we are about to celebrate.” 2

1 Sic in baptismate trina sit 2 Trina mersio

Bernard Of Clairvaux


Until the beginning of the 13th century immersion was the mode of baptism of all Western Christendom, except in cases of sickness, and it was a common practice long afterwards in many parts of the papal dominions; it was the general usage in England until after the Reformation, and it was frequently observed down to the middle of the 17th century. There is a record of the immersion of Arthur and Margaret, the brother and sister of Henry VIII, and there is no doubt that immersion was the mode of baptism that prevailed all over his kingdom in Henry’s day. 1

William Tyndale (c. 1494 – 1536) said, “Baptism was a plunging into the water.” 2

1 The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881 – William Cathcart, editor 2 Tyndale, Works, III, p. 179


Immersion was the universal rule of baptism in the reign of Henry VIII. There are two elaborate rituals of the Church of England at this period. The one is: “A Declaration of the Seremonies to the Sacrament of Baptysm,” A. D. 1537; and the other is the “Saulsbury Liturgy,” 1541. The last is regarded, by some, as the most sacred Liturgy belonging to the Church of England. Both of these liturgies enforce immersion. Erasmus, writing from England in 1532, gives the English practice. He says: “We dip children all over in cold water, in a stone font”. Every English monarch of the sixteenth century was immersed. Henry VIII and his elder brother Arthur, Elizabeth in 1533 and Edward VI in 1537 were all immersed. 1

1 " History/ John%20T.%20Christian/ vol1/ history_15.htm">A History of the Baptists – Chapter XV – The Baptists in the Reformation period in England


The Bible passages only indicate single immersion, but the practice of triple immersion started fairly early in the Christian church. It is mentioned as being their practice by Hippolytus of Rome (3rd C), Theodore (4th-5th C), Peter Chrysologus (4th-5th C), Jerome (5th C), Leo the Great (5th C), Gregory I (6th C) and Bernard Of Clairvaux (12th C).

It is still practiced today by the Eastern church. Some of the arguments used for triple immersion include:

Baptism signifies burial - and the number three represents the number of days Jesus was in the tomb.

Three is the number of the Trinity. Jesus instructed us to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. And so they immerse three times – once for each member of the Trinity.


Many modern non-immersionist writers have supposed that despite the references to immersion consistently found in early literary accounts, most depictions of baptism in early Christian art actually show that pouring or sprinkling was the mode generally used. 1

Dr. Everett Ferguson writes:

Later church practice in this regard led artists to the strange fantasy of Jesus standing waist deep in water while John poured water on his head (such pictures do not occur until medieval western times). 2

1 http:// 2 Ferguson, “The church of Christ: a biblical ecclesiology for today” (1996)


There are relatively few examples of baptismal scenes that pre-date the 5th century. The esteemed Presbyterian Philip Schaff (1819-93) noted:

The oldest of these pictures represents the baptized as coming up (after immersion) from the river which reaches over his knees, and joining hands with the baptizer, who is dressed in a tunic, and assists him in ascending the shore... 1

1 Philip Schaff, The Oldest Church Manual Called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1885), 37.


Philip Schaff

Despite claims that the [catacomb] art represents pouring or sprinkling, the hand of the administrator is never shown pouring water but uniformly rests on the head of the baptizand, a feature absent from the Gospel accounts, so drawn from liturgical practice. 1

Dr. Everett Ferguson says:

[Early literary sources indicate that] the baptizer placed his hand on the head of the candidate, who was standing in the water, when he asked for a confession of faith. 1

1 Everett Ferguson, “Baptism in the Early Church” For a detailed discussion on baptism in early Christian art see this excellent article on: "http:// ">http://




In the Bible, blood 1 was sprinkled (rhantizo); not water.

1 Here are the 6 times ‘rhantizo’ (pronounced hran-tid'-zo) and ‘rhantismos’ are used in the NT (KJV):

Heb 9:13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling (rhantizo) the unclean…

Heb 9:19 … he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled (rhantizo) both the book, and all the people

Heb 9:21 Moreover he sprinkled (rhantizo) with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.

Heb 10:22 … having our hearts sprinkled (rhantizo) from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed (louo) with pure water.

Heb 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling (rhantismos)…

1 Pet 1:2 … unto obedience and sprinkling (rhantismos) of the blood of Jesus Christ…

The first recorded departures from the practice of immersion in baptism were in special cases only i.e. due to deathbed or sickbed baptisms, or scarcity of water. Some see the Didache as making the earliest reference to an exception with it’s remarks about the preferred use of “living water” (which might be running water) for baptism.

And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19 in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. 1

1 Didache (Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism)


So the writer of the Didache seems to be saying that immersion in running (or still) water is preferable, but pouring is allowable if these are not available. 1

Hippolytus of Rome, who wrote in detail about their common practice of triune immersion conceded, “If water is scarce, whether as a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available.” 2

1 The Didache is not inspired, but is considered valuable as an early church document. It is also called the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” and is supposed to be a record what the twelve apostles taught. It was possibly written in the late 1st or early 2nd century but there is debate as to its authenticity. The work is cited by Eusebius (260-341), Athanasius (293-373) and possibly by Origen (185-254). The Didache 16:2-3 is either quoted in the Epistle of Barnabbas 4:9, or vice versa. The Epistle of Barnabbas was written in 130-131 AD. 2 The Apostolic Tradition (AD 215)


The Bishop of Rome, Cornelius I, wrote that as Novation was about to die, “he received baptism in the bed where he lay, by pouring”. 1

Cyprian wrote that no one should be “disturbed because the sick are poured upon or sprinkled when they receive the Lord’s grace.” 2

However it was not until AD 1311 that the Council of Ravenna seems to give sprinkling preference over immersion:

“Baptism is to be administered by trine aspersion or immersion.” 3 (Aspersion refers to sprinkling.)

1 Letter to Fabius of Antioch (AD 251); cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6:43:11) 2 Letter to a Certain Magnus 69:12 (AD 255) 3 Labbe and Cosasart, Sacrosancta Concilia, II. B. 2.1586. Paris, 1671




Today the Roman Catholic Church baptizes by pouring, but admits the change from immersion to pouring was simply for convenience: “The present mode of pouring arose from the many inconveniences connected with immersion, frequent mention of which are made in the writings of the early Church Fathers.” 1

According to a Catholic website, “In the Roman Catholic Church, most believers are baptized by pouring (also known as infusion). At the same time, Catholics know that immersion (also known as dunking) and sprinkling are valid ways of baptizing. Some Protestant and Evangelical Churches reject all form of baptism other than immersion. They claim that most Catholics are not validly baptized.” 2

1 Question Box, Bertrand L. Conway 2 “Catholic teachings regarding Baptism: immersion, pouring or sprinkling?” " ">



Today the Reformed churches baptize by sprinkling. These churches trace their roots back to the reformer, John Calvin (1509–1564). John Calvin wrote:

... it is evident that the term baptize means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church 1

But Calvin believed all modes of baptism were acceptable:

Whether the person who is baptized be wholly immersed, and whether thrice or once, or whether water be only poured or sprinkled upon him, is of no importance; Churches ought to be left at liberty in this respect, to act according to the difference of countries. 1

1 Institutes of the Christian Religion

The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic church never changed and immerses to this day – albeit that they practice infant baptism (christening).

In their controversy with the Western Church, the Eastern or Orthodox Church maintained that the Roman Church did not practice a ‘baptismos’ but a ‘rantismos’. The Greek Church has always baptized infants by means of triune immersion. Triune immersion crept into the Church in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, and is erroneous, but no Greek would ever try to practice sprinkling in the place of complete immersion - after all, they do know their own language, and know what the word ‘baptizo’ really means. 1

1 Warren Paynter: “1st Principles 03 - The doctrine of baptisms”


Generally Baptists and Pentecostals see immersion (i.e. submersion or total immersion) as the only valid Biblical way of baptizing. They also believe only in believers-baptism (which we covered in our last study) and reject baptism of infants.

We have seen how ‘baptizo’ means immersion in the Greek. Hence to speak of “baptism by sprinkling” is really an oxymoron (something that’s self-contradictory): it’s like saying we’re going to immerse you by sprinkling.





Roman Catholic

Usually by pouring

Eastern Catholic

Submersion or immersion; sprinkling only if the water then flows on the head

Eastern Orthodox

Submersion (triune) - pouring allowed in special cases (e.g. deathbed)


Sprinkling or pouring

Anglican communion

Sprinkling or pouring (immersion or submersion allowed but seldom used)


Sprinkling or pouring



Reformed churches

Sprinkling (most common practice), pouring or immersion

Congregational churches

Sprinkling (most common practice), pouring or immersion

Assemblies of God

Submersion only


Submersion only


Submersion only

Churches of Christ

Submersion only


Pouring, immersion or submersion

Methodists (Wesleyans)

Sprinkling, pouring, or immersion

Seventh-day Adventists

Submersion only


An argument frequently used by non-immersionists is based in the account of the baptisms on the day of Pentecost, where they argue that the 12 apostles could not have immersed 3000 people in one day.

Acts 2:41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

It doesn’t explicitly say that they were all baptized on the same day. Two thoughts are conveyed which can be viewed independently:

Those who accepted his message were baptized.

About 3000 were added to their number that day.


Nowhere does it say that the apostles did all of the baptizing themselves. Others may have helped as well. Note how Philip, a non-apostle, baptized in Samaria (Acts 8:12) before the apostles even arrived (Acts 8:14). There were at least 120 disciples from the Upper Room in Jerusalem at the time.

John Chrysostom, aided by his elders, baptized (by immersion) 3000 people in a day in AD 404.

Nicholas Bhengu of the A/ G in South Africa, with the assistance of his helpers, baptized 502 new converts in a single service in East London. 1

1 "http:// pdf/ PentecostalEvangel/ 1950-1959/ 1954/ 1954_06_20.pdf">http:// pdf/ PentecostalEvangel/ 1950-1959/ 1954/ 1954_06_20.pdf


Bhengu baptizing in the Buffalo River (East London)

Even if only the 12 apostles did the baptizing of all the 3000 believers in only one day, it could have been accomplished in just over four hours, if each baptism took approximately one minute. 1

1 Bear in mind that the apostles were experienced in the matter of baptism. During Jesus’ ministry we see that “Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John [the Baptist] although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.” (John 4:1-2)






Believers per apostle

250 (3000/ 12)

Believers per apostle per minute


Total hours required

4.17 (250/ 60)

Non-immersionists also allege that there was insufficient water in Jerusalem to immerse 3000 people.

In the time of Jesus, Jerusalem had a permanent population of around 80,000. During the feasts there were around 100,000 to 250,000 visitors. But there was no problem supplying water to double or five times the usual amount of people. Yet we must believe it was difficult to find water to baptize 3000 people by immersion?


Dr. Robinson (Biblical Researches) says, “Almost every private house in Jerusalem of any size is understood to have at least one or more cisterns, excavated in the soft limestone rock upon which the city is built. The house of Mr. Lanneau, in which we resided, had no less than four cisterns. From the dimensions of these reservoirs, which he gives, this house alone would have supplied water sufficient for the immersion of the whole multitude at Pentecost. The water is conducted into these cisterns from the roofs of the houses during the rainy season, and with proper care remains pure and sweet during the whole summer and autumn. In this manner most the larger houses and of the public buildings are supplied.” 1

1 belfast/ text/ baptism.htm


“The same causes which led the inhabitants of Judea to excavate cisterns, induced them also to build in and around most of their cities large open reservoirs for more public use. Such are found at Hebron, Bethel, Gibeon, and various other places. With such reservoirs Jerusalem was abundantly supplied. Without the walls of Jerusalem, on the west side is the Upper Pool, 316 feet long, 200 broad; the Lower Pool, 502 by 260 (mean breadth) ... The Pool of Hezekiah, 250 by 144; Pool of Bethesda, 360 by 130; Solomon's Pools, viz., The Lower Pool, 582 by 177; Middle Pool, 423 by 205; Upper Pool, 380 by 232. Any one of these pools would have been amply sufficient to immerse the 3,000 at Jerusalem.” 1

1 Ibid


Another argument raised by non-immersionists is regarding the baptism of the Phillipian jailer and his family. They question how Paul and Silas, still bleeding from a flogging, took the whole family in the middle of the night to a river to be immersed. (A similar argument is used about the baptism of Cornelius.)

The ancients were far more accustomed to pain, inconvenience, and disaster than we are. If the flogging was so severe to Paul and Silas, then how are they managing to sing? … (Note as well that the jailor attended to their wounds first) ... Is a river necessary? (Not that that is a problem, but the jailor, who was likely a military veteran, also quite likely had his own bath.) The objection is creative, but without grounding. 1

1 gk/ howbapt.html


Non-immersionists sometimes make the claim that Paul was baptized standing up, based on the following verse where he was told, “Get up, be baptized...” (Acts 22:16)

This is an extremely poor argument as it assumes that “be baptized” is an action that cannot subsequently involve getting into a different position. Using that logic we’d have to assume that David, Elijah and Ahab all ate while standing based on the phrase “Get up and eat” (see 2 Sam 12:21, 1 Kings 19:5 & 1 King 21:7).

If your child is watching TV and you tell them “Get up and do your homework,” you surely wouldn’t expect them to do it while standing.



Some non-immersionists point out that there are cases where ‘baptizo’ is translated as ‘wash’ (Mark 7:3 and Luke 11:38):

Mark 7:3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash (nipto) their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 And when they come from the market, except they wash (baptizo), they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing (baptismos) of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. 1

They argue that it is unlikely that the Pharisees took a complete bath before they ate.

1 KJV Strong’s. See also Luke 11:38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed (baptizo) before dinner.


However, according to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, it was obligatory for the Essenes (another sect) to take a cold bath before meals. Josephus himself was no stranger to the purificatory cold bath and boasts that when he was with Bannus he “bathed frequently in frigid water, day and night, for purification”. 1

If Jesus had intended to mean the word ‘wash’, why not use the standard word ‘nipto’ he used in the previous verse?

they wash (nipto) their hands (v3)

except they wash (baptizo) (v4)

He clearly meant immersion with ‘baptismos’ later on in the verse by “the washing (baptismos) of cups...”

1 “The Life of Flavius Josephus 11”


In the case of “the washing (baptismos) of cups, and pots, brazen vessels”, this was done by immersion. A Messianic Jewish website says that for the Jews, immersion was conducted for various occasions including “converts to Judaism” and “for new kitchen utensils”.

There are separate Mikvot for men, women, the dead and for utensils. 2

A Jewish website details current kosher requirements, “Similarly, the vessels and utensils used for preparing food and for dining must be given special holiness. When these dishes and/ or utensils have been previously owned by a non-Jew we have to immerse these utensils, these keilim, in a mikvah, a ritualarium, before their first use.” 1

1 Rabbi Moshe Heinemann ( kashrus/ kk-containers-tevilas.htm) 2 baptism.htm


The verb baptizo appears in this sense in Lk 11:38 (margin) where the Pharisee marveled that Jesus “had not first bathed himself before breakfast” (noon-day meal). The Mosaic regulations required the bath of the whole body (Lev 15:16) for certain uncleannesses. Tertullian (de Baptismo, XV) says that the Jew required almost daily washing. Herodotus (ii.47) says that if an Egyptian “touches a swine in passing with his clothes, he goes to the river and dips himself (bapto) from it” (quoted by Broadus in Commentary on Matthew, 333). See also the Jewish scrupulosity illustrated in Sirach 34:25 and Judith 12:7 where baptizo occurs. The same thing appears in the correct text in Mk 7:4, “And when they come from the market-place, except they bathe themselves, they eat not.” 1

1 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: By Geoffrey W. Bromiley


And so the following versions more correctly (and consistently) render Mark 7:4 as follows - using ‘bathe’ rather than ‘wash’ to translate ‘baptizo’:

and when they come from the market-place, except they bathe themselves, they eat not… (American Standard Version)

and when they come from market they will not eat without bathing first; (Weymouth New Testament)

They don’t eat when they come from the marketplace, unless they bathe themselves (World English Bible)


Others have objected to the inclusion of ‘tables’ or ‘couches’ as requiring baptism by immersion; this seems impractical. The KJV rendering of Mark 7:4 is:

... And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing (baptismos) of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.

The term ‘klinon’, translated ‘tables’ in the KJV is not in the better Greek manuscripts. Accordingly, ‘tables’ is not in the text of most of the later versions (ASV, RSV, NIV), but is relegated to a footnote. The NKJV is an exception. The NASB does not even grant the term footnote status. 1

1 articles/ 213-does-mark-7-4-authorize-sprinkling




According to renowned church historian and historical theologian Geoffrey W. Bromiley (1915-2009) in the “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”:

If baptizo never occurred in connection with a disputed ordinance, there would be no controversy on the meaning of the word. There are, indeed, figurative or metaphorical uses of the word as of other words, but the figurative is that of immersion, like our “immersed in cares,” “plunged in grief,” etc. It remains to consider whether the use of the word for a ceremony or ordinance has changed its significance in the New Testament as compared with ancient Greek. 1

1 “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”


The “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”:

It may be remarked that no Baptist has written a lexicon of the Greek language, and yet the standard lexicons, like that of Liddell and Scott, uniformly give the meaning of baptizo as ‘dip,’ ‘immerse.’ They do not give ‘pour’ or ‘sprinkle,’ nor has anyone ever adduced an instance where this verb means ‘pour’ or ‘sprinkle.’ The presumption is therefore in favor of ‘dip’ in the New Testament. 1

1 Ibid

John the Baptist chose places where there was “plenty of water” to baptize:

John 3:23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized.

Matt 3:5-6 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Matt 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.

John 1:28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


In the case of the Ethiopian eunuch we read:

Acts 8:38-39 ... Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized (‘baptizo’ or dipped) him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away...

While “went down into the water” and “they came up out of the water” is not referring to the act of immersion, as it is applied to both the eunuch and Philip – it would have been unnecessary for them to go into the water if only a few drops were needed to sprinkle.


Baptism symbolizes death, burial and resurrection.

Col 2:12 … having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

Romans 6:3-4 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

In a burial the body is ‘immersed’, not ‘sprinkled’ with earth.



Sources: Lewis’ “History of the English Bible” and “The Men Behind the KJV” by Gustavus S. Paine

The following set of “rules” had been prepared on behalf of church and state by Richard Bancroft, Bishop of London and high-church Anglican. “For the better ordering of the proceedings of the translators, his Majesty recommended the following rules to them, to be very carefully observed:--

“1. The ordinary Bible, read in the church, commonly called the Bishop’s Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit.

“2. The names of the prophets and the holy writers, with the other names in the text, to be retained, as near as may be, according as they are vulgarly used.

“3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept; as the word church, not to be translated congregation, &c.

1 other/ kj_instructs.htm


“4. When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which has been most commonly used by the most eminent fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place, and the analogy of the faith.

“5. The division of the chapters to be altered, either not at all, or as little as may be, if necessity so require.

“6. No marginal notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanation of the Hebrew or Greek words, which cannot, without some circumlocution, so briefly and fitly be expressed in the text.

“7. Such quotations of places to be marginally set down, as shall serve for the fit references of one scripture to another.

“8. Every particular man of each company to take the same chapter of chapters; and having translated or amended them severally by himself, where he thinks good, all to meet together, to confer what they have done, and agree for their part what shall stand.

“9. As any one company hath dispatched any one book in this manner, they shall send it to the rest to be considered of seriously and judiciously: for his Majesty is very careful in this point.


“10. If any company, upon the review of the book so sent, shall doubt or differ upon any places, and therewithal to send their reasons; to which if they consent not, the difference to be compounded at the general meeting, which is to be the chief persons of each company, at the end of the work.

“11. When any place of special obscurity is doubted of, letters to be directly by authority to send to any learned in the land for his judgment in such a place.

“12. Letters to be sent from every bishop to the rest of the clergy, admonishing them of this translation in hand, and to move and charge as many as being skillful in the tongues, have taken pains in that kind, to send their particular observations to the company, either at Westminster, Cambridge, or Oxford, according as it was directed before the king’s letter to the archbishop.

“13. The directors in each company to be deans of Westminster and Chester, and the king’s professors in Hebrew and Greek in the two universities.

“14. These translations to be used when they agree better with the text than the Bishop’s Bible, viz. Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, Matthew’s, Wilchurch’s, 1 Geneva.”

1 By “Wilchurch” is meant the Great Bible, which was printed by Edward Wilchurch, one of King Henry VIII’s printers.


Use of the word ‘baptize’ in Shakespeare’s plays:

“For we will hear, note, and believe in heart, That what you speak is in your conscience wash’d As pure as sin with baptism.” (Henry V, I. ii. 30-2.)

“My Lord of Canterbury, I have a suit which you must not deny me: That is, a fair young maid that yet wants baptism; You must be godfather, and answer for her.” (Henry VIII, V. iii. 159-62.)

“And then for her To win the Moor, were’t to renounce his baptism, All seals and symbols of redeemed sin” (Othello, II. iii. 325-9.)

“I take thee at thy word. Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptiz’d; Henceforth I never will be Romeo.” (Romeo and Juliet, II. ii. 49-51.)


In “The Apostolic Tradition”, Hippolytus of Rome (3rd C) speaks of triple immersion being used – once for each member of the godhead.

Theodore (c.350–428) wrote, “Three times you immerse yourself, each time performing the same action, once in the name of the Father, once in the name of the Son and once in the name of the Holy Spirit.” 1

Peter Chrysologus (c.380-c.450 wrote, “… the three days the Lord spent in the grave are represented by the triple immersion in baptism.” 2

1 Baptismal Homilies 2 Sermons, 113; W. Palardy, St. Peter Chrysologus; Selected Sermons, 148.


Jerome (5th C) writes, “We are immersed three times to receive the one baptism of Christ.” 1

Bishop of Rome, Leo the Great (5th C) says, “Trine immersion is an imitation of the three days’ burial (of Christ), and the Emersion out of the waters is a figure (of the Saviour) rising from the grave.” 2

Bernard Of Clairvaux (12th C) says, “Hence trine immersion represents the three days we are about to celebrate.” 3

1 Ter mergimur, tome ix. p. 109. Basle, 1516. 2 Trina demersio, ep. 16, vol. liv. p. 699, Patrl. Lat. 2 Book I, Epistle XLIII 3 Trina mersio


In 591 AD the bishop of Rome, Gregory speaks of triple immersion but admits that single immersion was also practiced and legitimate in his opinion:

“Now we, in immersing thrice, signify the sacraments of the three days’ sepulture; so that, when the infant is a third time lifted out of the water, the resurrection after a space of three days may be expressed. Or, if any one should perhaps think that this is done out of veneration for the supreme Trinity, neither so is there any objection to immersing the person to be baptized in the water once, since, there being one substance in three subsistences, it cannot be in any way reprehensible to immerse the infant in baptism either thrice or once, seeing that by three immersions the Trinity of persons, and in one the singleness of the Divinity may be denoted.” (Book I, Epistle XLIII)


Scripture quotations taken from the NIV:

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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