used in these scriptures, Luke xvi. 24, John xiii. 26, Rev. xix. 13, we
translate “to dip.” It is only “to touch one part of the body.” That
of Rev. xix. 13 is better rendered, “stained by sprinkling.”
In other authors it is “tingo, immergo, lavo,” or “abluo;” but in no
other author ever signifies “to dip,” but only in order to washing, or
as the means of washing. It is nowhere used with respect unto the ordinance
rendered by the LXX, Gen. xxxvii. 31, by molunw [mol-oo’-no],
“to stain by sprinkling” or otherwise; mostly by baptw.
2 Kings v. 14 they render it by baptizw [bap-tid’-zo], and nowhere else. In verse 10, Elisha commands
Naaman “to wash;” therefore that in verse 14 is that “he washed.”
Exod. xii. 22 is, to put of the hyssop into blood, to sprinkle it; 1 Sam.
xiv. 27, is to take a little honey with the top of a rod. In neither place
can dipping or plunging be intended. Lev. iv. 6, 17, ix. 9, and in other
places, it is only to touch the blood, so as to sprinkle it.
signifies “to wash,” and instances out of all authors
may be given, – Suidas, Hesychius, Julius Pollux, Phavorinus, and
It is first used in the
Scripture, Mark i. 8, John i. 33, and to the same purpose, Acts i. 5. In
every place it either signifies “to pour,” or the expression is
equivocal. “I baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the
Holy Ghost;” which is the accomplishment of that promise, that the Holy
Ghost should be poured on them.
For the other places, Mark vii.
3, 4, niptw
are plainly the same, both “to wash.” Luke xi. 38 is
the same with Mark vii. 3. No one instance can be given in the Scripture
wherein baptizw doth necessarily signify either
“to dip” or “plunge.”
be considered either as to its original, natural sense, or as to its
mystical use in the ordinance.
This distinction must be observed
concerning many other words in the New Testament, as ekklhsia [ek-klay-see’-ah],
which have a peculiar sense in their mystical use.
In this sense, as it expresseth
baptism, it denotes “to wash” only, and not “to dip” at all: for so
it is expounded, Tit. iii. 5; Eph. v. 26; Heb. x. 22; 1 Pet. iii. 21. And it
signifies that communication of the Spirit which is expressed by “pouring
out” and “sprinkling,” Ezek. xxxvi. 25, and expresseth our being
washed in the blood of Christ, Tit. ii. 14; Heb. ix. 14, 19, 23.
Wherefore, in this sense, as the
word is applied unto the ordinance, the sense of dipping is utterly
excluded. And though as a mere external mode it may be used, provided the
person dipped be naked, yet to urge it as necessary overthrows the nature of
For the original and natural
signification of it, it signifies “to dip, to plunge, to dye, to wash, to
But I say, – 1. It doth not
signify properly “to dip” or “plunge,” for that in Greek is embaptw [em-bap’-to]
and embaptizw. 2.
It nowhere signifies “to dip,” but as a mode of and in order to washing.
3. It signifies the “dipping” of a finger, or the least touch of
the water, and not plunging the whole. 4.
It signifies “to wash,” also, in all good authors.
I have not all those
quoted to the contrary. In the quotations of them whom I have, if it be
intended that they say it signifies “to dip,” and not “to wash” or
“to dip” only, there is neither truth not honesty in them by whom they
Scapula is one, a
common book, and he gives it the sense of “lavo, abluo,” “to wash,”
and “wash away.”
Stephanus is another,
and he expressly, in sundry places, assigns “lavo” and “abluo” to be
also the sense of it.
Aquinas is for
dipping of children, provided it be done three times, in honour of the
Trinity; but he maintains pouring or sprinkling to be lawful also, affirming
that Laurentius, who lived about the time 250, so practised. But he meddles
not with the sense of the word, as being too wise to speak of that which he
understood not; for he knew no Greek.
In Suidas, the great
treasury of the Greek tongue, it is rendered by “madefacio, lavo, abluo,
The places in the
other authors being not quoted, I cannot give an account of what they say. I
have searched some of them in every place wherein they mention baptism, and
find no one word to the purpose. I must say, and will make it good, that no
honest man who understands the Greek tongue can deny the word to signify
“to wash,” as well as “to dip.”
It must not be denied
but that in the primitive times they did use to baptize both grown persons
and children oftentimes by dipping, but they affirmed it necessary to dip
them stark naked, and that three times; but not one ever denied pouring
water to be lawful.
The apostle, Rom. vi.
3-5, is dehorting from sin, exhorting to holiness and new obedience, and
gives this argument from the necessity of it and our ability for it, –
both taken from our initiation into the virtue of the death and life of
Christ, expressed in our baptism, – that by virtue of the death and burial
of Christ we should be dead unto sin, sin being slain thereby, and by virtue
of the resurrection of Christ we should be quickened unto newness of life;
as Peter declares, 1 Pet. iii. 21. Our being “buried with him,” and our
being “planted together in the likeness of his death” and “in the
likeness of his resurrection,” Rom. vi. 4, 5, is the same with “our old
man being crucified with him,” and the “destroying of the body of
sin,” verse 6, and our being raised from the dead with him; which is all
that is intended in the place.
There is not one word
nor one expression that mentions any resemblance between dipping under water
and the death and burial of Christ, nor one word that mentions a resemblance
between our rising out of the water and the resurrection of Christ. Our
being “buried with him by baptism into death,” verse 4, is our being
“planted together in the likeness of his death,” verse 5. Our being
“planted together in the likeness of his death” is not our being dipped
under water, but “the crucifying of the old man,” verse 6. Our being
“raised up with Christ from the dead” is not our rising from under the
water, but our “walking in newness of life,” verse 4, by virtue of the
resurrection of Christ, 1 Pet. iii. 21.
That baptism is not a
sign of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, is clear from hence,
because an instituted sign is a sign of gospel grace participated, or to be
participated. If dipping be a sign of the burial of Christ, it is not a sign
of a gospel grace participated; for it may be where there is none, nor any
For the major: If all
gospel ordinances are signs and expressions of the communication of the
grace of Christ, then baptism is so; but this is the end of all gospel
ordinances, or else they have some other end, or are vain and empty shows.
The same individual
sign cannot be instituted to signify things of several natures; but the
outward burial of Christ, and a participation of the virtue of Christ’s
death and burial, are things of a diverse nature, and therefore are not
signified by one sign.
which would enervate the apostle’s argument and design, our comfort and
duty, is not to be admitted; but this interpretation, that baptism is
mentioned here as the sign of Christ’s burial, would enervate the
apostle’s argument and design, our comfort and duty: and therefore it is
not to be admitted.
The minor is thus
proved: The argument and design of the apostle, as was before declared, is
to exhort and encourage unto mortification of sin and new obedience, by
virtue of power received from the death and life of Christ, whereof a pledge
is given us in our baptism. But this is taken away by this interpretation;
for we may be so buried with Christ and planted into the death of Christ by
dipping, and yet have no power derived from Christ for the crucifying of sin
and for the quickening of us to obedience.
of John Owen, Vol. 16, Banner
of Truth 1991. pp 266-268.