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MEANING OF BAPTIZO IN THE WRITINGS OF THE GREEK
It is a happy circumstance that but one Greek term SECT.
II. has been employed with reference to the ordinance of baptism. The word bapto is never found in this con- Battw. nection ; yet much time has been needlessly expended in this controversy respecting it. While, indeed, it was contended that the termination zo was a diminutive, and therefore that baptizo must designate something less than bapto, it might have been of some consequence; but since this position has been abandoned as untenable," the question simply is, what is the act the term baptizo designates ? It may, however, be proper to observe, that while bapto was used frequently for dyeing, and colour. ing in various methods, this is never the case with
a " I should incline to give the word the meaning, to cause to come into that state, and this idea is favoured by the termination, zo.”—President Beecher's import of the term baptizo. Bib. Repos.
48. b« Bapto is never used to denote the ordinance of baptism, and baptizo never signifies to dye. The primitive word bapto has two significations, the primary to dip, the secondary to dye. But the derivative is formed to modify the primary only; and in all the Greek language, I assert that an instance is not to be found in which it has the secondary meaning of the primitive word. If this assertion is not correct, it will be easy for learned men to produce an example in contradiction. That bapto is never applied to the ordinance of baptism, any one can verify who is able to look into the passages of the Greek Testament, where the ordinance is spoken of. Now, if this observation is just, it overturns all those speculations that explain the word, as applied to baptism, by an
CH AP. That the primitive meaning of baptizo is to immerse I.
or dip, is conceded by all the advocates of sprinkling of Βαπτίζω.
c. any pretension to philological knowledge ; and the fact
that all lexicographers, ancient and modern, concur in this opinion, precludes discussion.
The ordinary, or general meaning, throughout the Greek classics has been established by Gale, Stennett, Gill, Booth, Carson, Ripley, Judd, and others, beyond the possibility of successful dispute. Hundreds of instances in which the word can possibly admit of no other
meaning, have been quoted at length. On this point Bib. Rep. the acknowledgment of President Beecher may super
sede the necessity of reference to the passages themselves; “I fully admit that in numerous cases it clearly denotes to immerse, in which case an agent submerges, partially or totally, some person or thing. Indeed this is so notoriously true, that I need attempt no proof. Innumerable examples are at hand, and enough may be found in all the most common discussions of this subject."
allusion to dyeing; for the primitive word that has this secondary meaning is not applied to the ordinance; and the derivative word, which is appointed to express it, has not the secondary signification of dyeing. Bapto has two meanings; baptizo in the whole history of the Greek language, has but one. It not only signifies to dip or immerse, but it never has any other meaning. Each of these words has its specific province into which the other cannot enter ; while there is a common province in which either of them may serve. Either of them may signify to dip generally; but the primitive cannot specifically express that ordinance to which the derivative has been appropriated ; and the derivative cannot signify to dye, which is a part of the province of the primitive. The difference is precise and important. Most of the confusion of ideas on both sides of the question, with respect to the definite meaning of the word baptism, has arisen from overlooking this difference.”- Baptism, in its Mode and Subjects Considered. By Alexander Carson, A. M.
Mr. Beecher, however, with Professors Stuart, Woods, SECT. and others, thinks that in a few instances in the writings of the Greek classics baptizo has been used in a sense Presumed in which immersion cannot be fairly implied. The exceptions. reader shall judge with what propriety this conclusion is inferred from the premises.
“It is also applied to cases where a fluid is poured copiously over any thing so as to flood it, though not completely or permanently to submerge it. Of this usage I shall adduce but one example: Origen, referring to the copious pouring of water by Elijah on the wood and on the sacrifice, represents him as baptizing them. For the passage, and remarks on it, see Wall's History of Infant Baptism. It is also applied to cases where a fluid without an agent rolls over or floods, and covers any thing, as in the oft quoted passage in Diodorus Siculus, vol. iii. p. 191, as translated by Professor Stuart : The river, borne along by a more violent current, overwhelmed many,' (ebaptize). So, vol. i. p. 107, he speaks of land animals intercepted by the Nile, as baptizomene, overwhelmed and perishing. The same mode of speaking is also applied to the sea-shore, which is spoken of by Aristotle as baptized or overwhelmed by the tide. It is also applied in cases where some person or thing sinks passively into the flood. Thus Josephus, in narrating his shipwreck on the Adriatic, uses this word to describe the sinking of the ship.”c
These three instances are a fair specimen of a few others, (a very few,) in which the term is used in a some
c American Biblical Repository, Jan. 1840. Ari. III. by President Beecher. Page 47.
CHAP. what extended sense,d but not extended beyond the pro1.
per application of the term immerse. The altar of Elijah, the many overwhelmed by the river, the animals in the Nile, he who sank passively in the flood, were all immersed ; and it is remarkable that no instance should heve been yet produced of the use of the term baptizo to which the word immerse may not with propriety be applied. Professor Pond, however, thinks the case of dipping the bucket in the well, as quoted from Callimachus does not imply immersion! It does not appear to me, however, in the slightest degree important to the argument that no cases of variation of meaning should be found. What word can be more specific than the Saxon word dip? and yet we have the dip of the magnetic needle, which has certainly nothing to do with plunging. Could several instances of extension or dilution of meaning be found among the profane Greek writers, it would not affect the question, which is, “In what sense did Christ and his Apostles use the term baptizo, and what did they design the disciples then and now to understand by it?" We shall presently see that the sacred writers used it in its ordinary acceptation
that of immerse. Over- Professor Stuart thinks that a general meaning of whelm.
baptizo is to overwhelm, as well as to immerse. Mr. Judd considers that in all cases the idea of immersion is clearly incorporated; and in this he has followed Car
a Would our brethren be willing to use such a pouring as is described to have taken place at the celebrated sacrifice, where Elijah put the false prophets to shame?
To-day, ye drawers of water, me baptete, draw up none." Is it not dip up? the idea of a bucket or other vessel being distinctly alluded to.
son, whose opinion is justly esteemed high authority. Sect. Mr. Carson contends that baptizo 5 always signifies to
II. dip; never expresses any thing but mode.” When it is considered, however, how customary it is, in all languages, to use words of the most specific character, occasionally, in a sense varying slightly from their strict meaning, it would seem extraordinary that such an instance should never have occurred in the case of baptizo. Referring to the quotation from Aristotle, in De Mirab. which he relates a saying among the Phænicians, that there are certain places beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which, when it is ebb-tide, are not baptized, but at full tide are inundated or overflowed, Mr. Judd observes, that " Professor Stuart thinks that because the land is not actually taken and put into the water, but the water brought over it, baptizo must here have a different shade of meaning, and chooses to render it overwhelm. This would answer in a free translation; but it is not the meaning of the word. Baptizo has strictly the same signification here, that it has every where else ; nor has it, in such situations, any more latitude of application than is frequently true of the correspondent term in English: for, though immersion strictly implies that the thing immersed is put into the immersing substance, yet, as Mr. Carson very justly observes, when the same effect is produced without the usual manner of the operation, the name of the operation is often catachrestically given to the result.”
On this point it may be justly observed, that whatever may be the technical term applied to this slight latitude of meaning, it does not alter the fact itself: and it may be safely affirmed, with the instances of Professors Stuart
f Judd's Review of Stuart, p. 23.