fredag 26 mars 2010


In Christianity, baptism (from Greek baptizo: "immersing", "performing ablutions", i.e., "ritual washing")[2] is the ritual act, with the use of water, by which a person is admitted to membership of the Church.[3]

Jesus himself was baptized.[4] The usual form of baptism among the earliest Christians was for the candidate (or "baptizand") to be immersed totally or partially.[5][6][7][8][9] While John the Baptist's use of a deep river for his baptism suggests immersion,[10] pictorial and archaeological evidence of Christian baptism from the 3rd century onward indicates that the normal form was to have the candidate stand in water while water was poured over the upper body.[11][12][13][14] Other common forms of baptism now in use include pouring water three times on the forehead.

Baptism was seen as in some sense necessary for salvation, until Huldrych Zwingli in the sixteenth century denied its necessity.[15] Martyrdom was identified early in Church history as "baptism by blood", enabling martyrs who had not been baptized by water to be saved. Later, the Catholic Church identified a baptism of desire, by which those preparing for baptism who die before actually receiving the sacrament are considered saved.[16]

Some Christians, particularly Quakers and the Salvation Army, do not see baptism as necessary, nor do they practice the rite. Among those that do, differences can be found in the manner and mode of baptizing and in the understanding of the significance of the rite. Most Christians baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (following the Great Commission), but some baptize in Jesus' name only. Most Christians baptize infants,[17] many others do not. Some insist on submersion or at least partial immersion of the person who is baptized, others consider that any form of washing by water, as long as the water touches the head, is sufficient.

The English word "baptism" has been used in reference to any ceremony, trial, or experience by which a person is initiated, purified, or given a name.[18] See Other initiation ceremonies below.

File:Cappella brancacci, Battesimo dei neofiti (restaurato), Masaccio2.jpg

Meaning of the word in the New Testament

Catacombs of San Callisto: baptism in a third-century painting

As Christians of different traditions dispute whether total immersion (submersion) is necessary for baptism, the precise meaning of the Greek word has become important for discussion.

The Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott gives the primary meaning of the word βαπτίζω (transliterated as "baptizô"), from which the English word "baptism" is derived, as "dip, plunge", but indicates, giving Luke 11:38 as an example, that another meaning is "perform ablutions".[2]

[edit] Usual meaning of the verb βαπτίζω

Although the Greek word βαπτίζω does not exclusively mean dip, plunge or immerse (at least partially), lexical sources note that this is the usual meaning of the word in both the Septuagint[19][20][21] and the New Testament.[22] A related word, βάπτω, is also used in the New Testament, with the senses "dip" or "dye",[23][24][25][26] The dipping may be incomplete, as in dipping a morsel of bread in wine (Ruth 2:14).[27]

Representation of baptism in early Christian art.

Deviations from the above meaning

Two passages in the New Testament indicate that the word βαπτίζω, when applied to a person, did not always indicate submersion. The first is Luke 11:38[28] which tells how a Pharisee, at whose house Jesus ate, "was astonished to see that he did not first wash (ἐβαπτίσθη, aorist passive of βαπτίζω—literally, "be baptized") before dinner." This is the passage that Liddell and Scott cites as an instance of the use of βαπτίζω to mean perform ablutions. Jesus' omission of this action is similar to that of his disciples: "Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash (νίπτω) not their hands when they eat bread."[Mt 15:1-2] The other New Testament passage pointed to is: "The Pharisees…do not eat unless they wash (νίπτω, the ordinary word for washing) their hands thoroughly, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they wash themselves (literally, "baptize themselves"—βαπτίσωνται, passive or middle voice of βαπτίζω)".[Mk 7:3–4]

Scholars of various denominations[29][30][31] claim that these two passages show that invited guests, or people returning from market, would not be expected to immerse themselves ("baptize themselves") totally in water but only to practise the partial immersion of dipping their hands in water or to pour water over them, as is the only form admitted by present Jewish custom.[32]

The lexicographical works of Zodhiates and Balz & Schneider also say that in the second of these two cases, Mark 7:4, the word βαπτίζω means that, after coming from the market, the Pharisees only immersed their hands in collected water, and so did not immerse themselves totally.[33] They understand the meaning of βαπτίζω to be the same as βάπτω, to dip or immerse,[34][35][36] a word used of the partial dipping of a morsel held in the hand into wine or of a finger into spilled blood.[37]

Derived nouns

Two nouns derived from βαπτίζω appear in the New Testament: βαπτισμός and βάπτισμα.

Βαπτισμός refers in Mark 7:4 to a water-rite for the purpose of purification, washing, cleansing, of dishes;[38][39] in the same verse and in Hebrews 9:10 to Levitical cleansings of vessels or of the body;[40] and in Hebrews 6:2 perhaps also to baptism, though there it may possibly refer to washing an inanimate object.[39] In Colossians 2:12, inferior manuscripts have βάπτισμα, but the best have βαπτισμός, and this is the reading given in modern critical editions of the New Testament.[41] This is the only New Testament instance in which βαπτισμός is clearly used of Christian baptism, rather than of a generic washing, but Hebrews 6:2 may also refer to baptism.,[39] When referring merely to the cleansing of instruments, βαπτισμός is equated with ῥαντισμός (sprinkling), found only in Hebrews 12:24 and 1Peter 1:2, a word used to indicate the symbolic cleansing by the Old Testament priest.[42]

Βάπτισμα, which must not be confused with βαπτισμός,[42] is found only in writings by Christians.[38] In the New Testament, it appears at least 21 times:

  • 13 times with regard to the rite practised by John the Baptist;[43]
  • 3 times with reference to the specific Christian rite[44] (4 times if the use in some inferior manuscripts in Colossians 2:12 is counted);
  • 5 times in a metaphorical sense.[45

Background in Jewish ritual

Although the term "baptism" is not used to describe the Jewish rituals, the purification rites (or mikvah—ritual immersion) in Jewish laws and tradition have some similarity to baptism, and the two have been linked[46] In the Jewish Bible and other Jewish texts, immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of "ritual purity" in specific circumstances. For example, Jews who (according to the Law of Moses) became ritually defiled by contact with a corpse had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Holy Temple. Immersion is required for converts to Judaism as part of their conversion. Immersion in the mikvah represents a change in status in regards to purification, restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community, ensuring that the cleansed person will not impose uncleanness on property or its owners Num. 19 and Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Chagigah, p. 12). This change of status by the mikvah could be obtained repeatedly, while Christian baptism, like circumcision, is, in the general view of Christians, unique and not repeatable.[47] (Seventh-day Adventists, however, see baptism as repeatable if a believer comes to a new knowledge of Christianity, as in Acts 19:1-5. It is also possible for a person who has fallen away from following Christ to make a new commitment via rebaptism.)[48]

John the Baptist adopted baptismal immersion as the central sacrament in his messianic movement.[49]

Baptism of Jesus

John the Baptist was a 1st-century mission preacher on the banks of the River Jordan.[50] According to Christian theology, he was selected by God to proclaim the first coming of the Christ. He baptized Jews for repentance in the River Jordan.[51]

At the start of his ministry, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Many of the earliest followers of Jesus were other people who, like him, were baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist.[52]

Scholars broadly agree that the baptism of Jesus is one of the most authentic, or historically likely, events in the life of the historical Jesus. Jesus and his earliest disciples accepted the validity of John's baptism, though Jesus himself detached the notion of repentance from baptism and promoted purity ethic in tension with rituals.[53] Early Christianity practiced a baptism of repentance which conferred the remission of sins. Christian baptism has its origin in the baptism of Jesus, in both a direct and historical sense.[54]

The event raised the issue of Jesus' potential submission to John the Baptist and seemed contradictory to the Christian belief in the sinless nature of Jesus Christ. John's baptism did not remit sin. It was only for repentance and to prepare the way for Christ (remission of sins is only by baptism into Jesus which was commanded by Christ himself after the resurrection). Attempts to address this theological difficulty are apparent in the earliest Christian writings, including the Gospels. For Mark, the baptism by John is the setting for the theophany, the revelation of Jesus' divine identity as the Son of God.[Mk 1:7-11] Matthew shows John objecting to baptizing Jesus, an obvious superior, and only agreeing when overruled by Jesus[Mt 3:14-15] and omits Mark's reference to baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Luke emphasizes the subservience of John to Jesus while both are still in the womb[Lk 1:32-45] and omits the role of John in the baptism of Jesus. [3:18-21] The Gospel of John omits the episode.[55]

Early explanations for Jesus' baptism that have remained popular include Ignatius of Antioch's assertion that Jesus was baptized to purify the waters of baptism and Justin Martyr's explanation that Jesus was baptized in his role as the ideal example for everyone.[55]

Baptism by Jesus

The Gospel of John[Jn 3:22-30] [4:1-4] states that Jesus at an early stage led a mission of baptism that drew crowds. John 4:2, considered by many scholars to be a later editorial insertion,[56] denies that Jesus himself baptized and states that he did so only through his disciples.

Some prominent scholars conclude that Jesus did not baptize. Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz assert that Jesus did not baptize, detached the notion of repentance from baptism, recognized John's baptism, and put forward a purity ethic in tension with baptism.[53] The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions also states that Jesus did not baptize as part of his ministry.[14][page needed]

E. P. Sanders omits John's account of Jesus' baptizing mission from his portrait of Jesus as a historical figure.[57]

Robert W. Funk considers the account of Jesus' baptism ministry in John to have internal difficulties: that, for instance, it reports Jesus coming to Judea even though he is already in Jerusalem and thus in Judea.[58] John 3:22 actually speaks of Jesus and his disciples coming, not "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν" (into Judea), but "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν" (into the Judean countryside),[59] which some interpret as contrasted with Jerusalem, the scene of the encounter with Nicodemus described immediately before.[60] According to the Jesus Seminar, the passage about Jesus "coming to Judea" (as they interpret "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν") to lead a mission of baptism probably preserves no historical information (a "black" rating).[58]

On the other hand, the Cambridge Companion to Jesus[61] takes a different view. According to this source, Jesus accepted and made his own John the Baptist's message of repentance, forgiveness and baptism;[62] taking over from John, when the latter was imprisoned, he called for repentance and for baptism as a first step in accepting the imminent kingdom of God;[63] and the central place of baptism in his message is confirmed by the passage in John about Jesus baptizing.[64] After John's execution, Jesus ceased baptizing, through he may have occasionally returned to the practice; accordingly, while baptism played an important part in Jesus' ministry before John's death and again among his followers after his resurrection, it had no such prominence in between.[65]

New Testament scholar Raymond E. Brown, a specialist in the Johannine writings, considers that the parenthetic editorial remark of John 4:2 that Jesus baptized only through his disciples was intended to clarify or correct the twice repeated statement in the preceding verses that Jesus did baptize, and that the reason for its insertion may have been that the author considered the baptism that the disciples administered to be a continuation of the Baptist's work, not baptism in the Holy Spirit.[66]

Other New Testament scholars also accept the historical value of this passage in John. This is the view expressed by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall.[67] Another states that there is "no a priori reason to reject the report of Jesus and his disciples' conducting a ministry of baptism for a time", and mentions that report as one of the items in John's account[3:22-26] "that are likely to be historical and ought to be given due weight".[68]

In his book on the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, Daniel S. Dapaah says that John's account "may be a snippet of historical tradition", and comments that the silence of the Synoptic Gospels does not mean that the information in John was invented, and that Mark's account also suggests that Jesus worked with John at first, before moving to Galilee.[69] Frederick J. Cwiekowski agrees that the account in John "gives the impression" that Jesus baptized.[70]

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible says that "though he [Christ] himself baptized not so many as his disciples; 'For he suffered them for an example, preferring one another.'[71]

The Gospel of John remarks, in John 3:32, that, though Jesus drew many people to his baptism, they still did not accept his testimony,[72] and the Jesus Seminar concludes, on the basis of Josephus's accounts, that John the Baptist likely had a larger presence in the public mind than Jesus.[51]

New Testament

The New Testament includes several references to baptism as an important practice among early Christians and, while giving no actual account of its institution by Jesus, portrays him as giving instructions, after his resurrection, for his followers to perform the rite (see Great Commission).[73] It also gives interpretations by the Apostle Paul and in the First Epistle of Peter of the significance of baptism.

Paul's epistles

The Apostle Paul wrote several influential letters in the AD 50s, later accepted as canonical. For Paul, baptism effects and represents the believer's union with Christ, Christ's death, and his resurrection; cleanses one of sin; incorporates one into the Body of Christ, and makes one "drink of the Spirit."[1 Co 12:13][15] On the basis of Paul's writings, baptism was interpreted in the terms of the mystery religions.[74]

Gospel of Mark

Mark 1:1-11

This gospel, generally believed to be the first and to have been used as a basis for Matthew and Luke, begins with Jesus' baptism by John, who preached a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. John says of Jesus that he will baptize not with water but with the Holy Spirit. At Jesus' baptism, he hears God's voice proclaiming him to be his Son, and he sees the spirit like a dove descend on him. During Jesus' ministry, when James and John ask Jesus for seats of honor in the coming kingdom, Jesus likens his fate to a baptism and to a cup, the very baptism and cup in store for John and James (that is, martyrdom).[75]

Mark 16:19-20

The traditional ending of Mark is thought to have been compiled early in the second century, and initially appended to the gospel by the middle of that century.[76] It says that those who believe and are baptized will be saved.[Mk 16:9-20]

Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 3:12-14; Matthew 28:18-20

Matthew includes a brief version of the baptism of Jesus.[Mt 3:12-14]

The Gospel of Matthew also includes the most famous version of the Great Commission.[28:18-20] Here, the resurrected Jesus appears to the apostles and commissions them to make disciples, baptize, and teach.[77] This commission reflects the program adopted by the infant Christian movement.[77]

[edit] Acts

Acts of the Apostles, written c. 85–90,[78] states that about 3,000 people in Jerusalem were baptized in one day on Pentecost.[2:41] It further relates baptisms of men and women in Samaria,[8:12-13] of an Ethiopian eunuch,[8:36-40] of Saul of Tarsus,[9:18] [22:16] of the household of Cornelius,[10:47-48] of Lydia's household,[16:15] of the Philippi jailer's household,[16:33] of many Corinthians[18:8] and of certain Corinthians baptized by Paul personally.{{ 1Cor1:14-161 Co 1:14-16}}

In Acts, the prerequisites of baptism are faith and repentance.[15] Acts associates baptism with receiving the Spirit, but the exact connection is not always the same.[15]

Also in Acts, twelve individuals who had undergone John's baptism, and who consequently had yet to receive the Holy Spirit, were directed by Paul to be rebaptized, whereupon they received the Holy Spirit.[19:1-7]

Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48 and Acts 19:5 speak of baptism "in the name of Jesus" or "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ", but whether this was a formula that was used has been questioned.[15]

[edit] Early Christianity

Early Christian beliefs (Christianity practiced after the apostolic age) regarding baptism were variable.[14] In the most usual form of early Christian baptism, the candidate stood in water and water was poured over the upper body.[14] Baptism of the sick or dying usually used means other than even partial immersion and was still considered valid.[91] The theology of baptism attained precision in the 3rd and 4th centuries.[14]

While instruction was at first given after baptism, believers were given increasingly specific instructions before being baptized, especially in the face of heresies in the fourth century.[92] By then, postponement of baptism had become general, and a large proportion of believers were merely catechumens (Constantine was not baptized until he was dying); but as baptisms of the children of Christians, using an adaptation of the rite intended for adults, became more common than baptisms of adult converts, the number of catechumens decreased.[92]

As baptism was believed to forgive sins, the issue of sins committed after baptism arose. Some insisted that apostasy, even under threat of death, and other grievous sins cut one off forever from the Church. As indicated in the writings of Saint Cyprian, others favoured readmitting the "lapsi" easily. The rule that prevailed was that they were readmitted only after undergoing a period of penance that demonstrated sincere repentance.

What is now generally called the Nicene Creed, longer than the text adopted by the First Council of Nicaea of 325, and known also as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed because of its adoption in that form by the First Council of Constantinople in 381, was probably the baptismal creed then in use in Constantinople, the venue of the 381 Council.[93]

Early Middle Ages

Infant baptism became common, alongside the developing theology of original sin, displacing the earlier common practice of delaying baptism until the deathbed.[14] Against Pelagius, Augustine insisted that baptism was necessary for salvation even for virtuous people and for children.

Baptism of Augustine of Hippo as represented in a sculptural group in Troyes cathedral (1549)

[edit] Middle Ages

The twelfth century saw the meaning of the word "sacrament" narrowed down and restricted to seven rites, among them that of baptism, while other symbolic rites came to be called "sacramentals".[94]

In the period between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries, affusion became the usual manner of administering baptism in Western Europe, though immersion continued to be found in some places even as late as the sixteenth century.[91] Throughout the Middle Ages, there was therefore considerable variation in the kind of facility required for baptism, from the baptismal pool large enough to immerse several adults simultaneously of the 13th century Baptistery at Pisa, to the half-metre deep basin in the 6th century baptistery of the old Cologne Cathedral.[95]

Both East and West considered washing with water and the Trinitarian baptismal formula necessary for administering the rite. Scholasticism referred to these two elements as the matter and the form of the sacrament, employing terms taken from the then prevailing Aristotelian philosophy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, while teaching the necessity of both elements, nowhere uses these philosophical terms when speaking of any of the sacraments.[96]


Awaiting submersion baptism in the Jordan river

In the 16th century, Martin Luther considered baptism to be a sacrament. For the Lutherans, baptism is a "means of grace" through which God creates and strengthens "saving faith" as the "washing of regeneration"[Titus 3:5] in which infants and adults are reborn.[Jn 3:3-7] Since the creation of faith is exclusively God's work, it does not depend on the actions of the one baptized, whether infant or adult. Even though baptized infants cannot articulate that faith, Lutherans believe that it is present all the same.[97] Because it is faith alone that receives these divine gifts, Lutherans confess that baptism "works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare."[98] In the special section on infant baptism in his Large Catechism, Luther argues that infant baptism is God-pleasing because persons so baptized were reborn and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.[99]

Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli differed with the Lutherans by denying sacramental status of baptism. Zwingli identified baptism and the Lord's supper as sacraments, but in the sense of an initiatory ceremony.[15] His understanding of these sacraments as symbolic differentiated him from Luther.

Anabaptists (a word that means "rebaptizers") rejected so thoroughly the tradition maintained by Lutherans as well as Catholics that they denied the validity of baptism outside their group. They "rebaptized" converts on the grounds that one cannot be baptized without wishing it, and an infant, who does not understand what happens in a baptism ceremony and who has no knowledge of the concepts of Christianity, is not really baptized. They saw as non-biblical the baptism of infants, who cannot confess their faith and who, not having yet committed any sins, are not in the same need of salvation. Anabaptists and other Baptist groups do not consider that they rebaptize those who have been baptized as infants, since, in their view, infant baptism is without effect. The Amish, Restoration churches (Churches of Christ/ Christian Church), Hutterites, Baptists, Mennonites and other groups descend from this tradition. Pentecostal, charismatic and most non-denominational churches share this view as well.[100]

Modern practice

Today, baptism is most readily identified with Christianity, where it symbolizes the cleansing (remission) of sins, and the union of the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection so that he may be called "saved" or "born again". Most Christian groups use water to baptize and agree that it is important, yet may strongly disagree with other groups regarding aspects of the rite such as:

  • Manner or method of baptism
  • Recipients of baptism
  • Meaning and effects of baptism

Mode and manner of baptism

Baptism of a child by affusion

A Christian baptism is administered in one of the following forms, performing the action either once or thrice:[101][102]

[edit] Aspersion

Aspersion is the sprinkling of water on the head.

[edit] Affusion

An affusion baptism, in the Santa Cruz Parish, 1991.

Affusion is the pouring of water over the head.

[edit] Immersion

The word "immersion" is derived from late Latin immersionem, a noun derived from the verb immergere (in- "into" + mergere "dip"). In relation to baptism, some use it to refer to any form of dipping, whether the body is put completely under water or is only partly dipped in water; they thus speak of immersion as being either total or partial. Others, of the Anabaptist tradition, use "immersion" to mean exclusively plunging someone entirely under the surface of the water (submersion).[103][104]. The term "immersion" is also used of a form of baptism in which water is poured over someone standing in water, without submersion of the person.[105][106] On these three meanings of the word "immersion", see Immersion baptism.

When "immersion" is used in opposition to "submersion",[107] it indicates the form of baptism in which the candidate stands or kneels in water and water is poured over the upper part of the body. Immersion in this sense has been employed in West and East since at least the second century and is the form in which baptism is generally depicted in early Christian art. In the West, this method of baptism began to be replaced by affusion baptism from around the 8th century, but it continues in use in Eastern Christianity.[105][106][108]

File:Child baptism with water.jpg

Baptism of a child by affusion


Baptism by submersion in the Eastern Orthodox Church (Sophia Cathedral, 2005)

The word Submersion comes from the late Latin (sub- "under, below" + mergere "plunge, dip")[109] and is also sometimes called "complete immersion". It is the form of baptism in which the water completely covers the candidate's body. Submersion is practiced in the Orthodox and several other Eastern Churches (although immersion, as distinct from submersion, is now also common), as well as in the Ambrosian Rite. It is one of the methods provided in the Roman Rite of the baptism of infants. The supposition that the term "immersion", used by historians when speaking of the usual practice of the early Christians,[83][84] referred to submersion has been challenged from the evidence of primitive pictorial representations and from measurements of surviving early baptismal fonts.[110] It is still frequently confused with immersion.

An evangelical Protestant Baptism by submersion in a river

Baptists believe that "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water. …It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus" [ellipsis retained from quoted text].[111] Baptists, like most other Christians who believe in baptism by total immersion, read Biblical passages[112] to imply that the practice intentionally symbolizes burial and resurrection. Especially when performed before onlookers, the total immersion ceremony depicts a burial (when the person being baptized is submerged under the water, as if buried), and a resurrection (when the person comes up out of the water, as if rising from the grave)—a "death" and a "burial" to an old way of life focused on sinning, and a "resurrection" to the start of a new life as a Christian focused on God. Such Christians typically believe that John 3:3-5 also supports this view, with its implication that water baptism symbolizes (but does not produce) a Christian being "born again" spiritually.[113]

A submersion baptism in Community of Christ, in Las Terrazas Beach, Pichilemu, Chile.

Baptism by submersion is also practiced by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),[114] although the faith does not suggest rebaptism of those who have undergone a different Christian baptism tradition.[115] Baptism in Churches of Christ, which also have roots in the Restoration Movement, is performed only by bodily immersion.[116]:p.107[117]:p.124 This is based on their understanding of the meaning of the word baptizo as used in the New Testament, a belief that it more more closely conforms to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and that historically immersion was the mode used in the first century, and that pouring and sprinkling later emerged as secondary modes when immersion was not possible.[118][119]:p.139-140

Seventh-day Adventists believe that "Baptism symbolizes dying to self and coming alive in Jesus." They practice full immersion baptism.[120]

Latter-day Saints beliefs concerning baptism state "You are briefly immersed in water, as Jesus Christ was baptized. Baptism by immersion is a sacred symbol of the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it represents the end of your old life and the beginning of a new life as a disciple of Jesus Christ."[121] The Community of Christ also practices submersion for their baptisms.

Jehovah's Witnesses teach "When a person is baptized, his whole body should be put under the water momentarily."[122]


Until the Middle Ages, most baptisms were performed with the candidates completely naked—as is evidenced by most of the early portrayals of baptism (some of which are shown in this article), and the early Church Fathers and other Christian writers. Typical of these is Cyril of Jerusalem who wrote "On the Mysteries of Baptism" in the 4th Century (c. 350 A.D.):

Do you not know, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death? etc.…for you are not under the Law, but under grace.

1. Therefore, I shall necessarily lay before you the sequel of yesterday's Lecture, that you may learn of what those things, which were done by you in the inner chamber, were symbolic.

2. As soon, then, as you entered, you put off your tunic; and this was an image of putting off the old man with his deeds.[Col 3:9] Having stripped yourselves, you were naked; in this also imitating Christ, who was stripped naked on the Cross, and by His nakedness put off from Himself the principalities and powers, and openly triumphed over them on the tree. For since the adverse powers made their lair in your members, you may no longer wear that old garment; I do not at all mean this visible one, but the old man, which waxes corrupt in the lusts of deceit.[Eph 4:22] May the soul which has once put him off, never again put him on, but say with the Spouse of Christ in the Song of Songs, I have put off my garment, how shall I put it on?[Song of Sol 5:3] O wondrous thing! You were naked in the sight of all, and were not ashamed; for truly ye bore the likeness of the first-formed Adam, who was naked in the garden, and was not ashamed.

3. Then, when you were stripped, you were anointed with exorcised oil, from the very hairs of your head to your feet, and were made partakers of the good olive-tree, Jesus Christ.

4. After these things, you were led to the holy pool of Divine Baptism, as Christ was carried from the Cross to the Sepulchre which is before our eyes. And each of you was asked, whether he believed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and you made that saving confession, and descended three times into the water, and ascended again; here also hinting by a symbol at the three days burial of Christ.… And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born;[123]

The symbolism is three-fold:

1. Baptism is considered to be a form of rebirth—"by water and the Spirit"[Jn 3:5]—the nakedness of baptism (the second birth) paralleled the condition of one's original birth. For example, St. John Chrysostom calls the baptism "λοχείαν", i.e., giving birth, and "new way of creation…from water and Spirit" ("to John" speech 25,2), and later elaborates:

"For nothing perceivable was handed over to us by Jesus; but with perceivable things, all of them however conceivable. This is also the way with the baptism; the gift of the water is done with a perceivable thing, but the things being conducted, i.e., the rebirth and renovation, are conceivable. For, if you were without a body, He would hand over these bodiless gifts as naked [gifts] to you. But because the soul is closely linked to the body, He hands over the perceivable ones to you with conceivable things " (Chrysostom to Matthew., speech 82, 4, c. 390 A.D.)

2. The removal of clothing represented the "image of putting off the old man with his deeds" (as per Cyril, above), so the stripping of the body before for baptism represented taking off the trappings of sinful self, so that the "new man," which is given by Jesus, can be put on.

3. As St. Cyril again asserts above, as Adam and Eve in scripture and tradition were naked, innocent and unashamed in the Garden of Eden, nakedness during baptism was seen as a renewal of that innocence and state of original sinlessness. Other parallels can also be drawn, such as between the exposed condition of Christ during His crucifixion, and the crucifixion of the "old man" of the repentant sinner in preparation for baptism.

Changing customs and concerns regarding modesty probably contributed to the practice of permitting or requiring the baptismal candidate to either retain their undergarments (as in many Renaissance paintings of baptism such as those by da Vinci, Tintoretto, Van Scorel, Masaccio, de Wit and others) and/or to wear, as is almost universally the practice today, baptismal robes. These robes are most often white, symbolizing purity. Some groups today allow any suitable clothes to be worn, such as trousers and a t-shirt—practical considerations include how easily the clothes will dry (denim is discouraged), and whether they will become see-through when wet.

Baptism in most Christian traditions

The baptistry at St. Raphael's Cathedral, Dubuque, Iowa. This particular font was expanded in 2005 to include a small pool to provide for immersion baptism of adults. Eight-sided font architectures are common symbology of the day of Christ's Resurrection: the "Eighth Day".

The liturgy of baptism in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and Methodist traditions makes clear reference to baptism as not only a symbolic burial and resurrection, but an actual supernatural transformation, one that draws parallels to the experience of Noah and the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea divided by Moses. Thus, baptism is literally and symbolically not only cleansing, but also dying and rising again with Christ. Catholics believe that baptism is necessary for the cleansing of the taint of original sin, and for that reason infant baptism is a common practice. The Eastern Churches (Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy) also baptize infants on the basis of texts, such as Matthew 19:14, which are interpreted as supporting full Church membership for children. In these traditions, baptism is immediately followed by Chrismation and Communion at the next Divine Liturgy, regardless of age. Orthodox likewise believe that baptism removes what they call the ancestral sin of Adam.[126] Anglicans believe that Baptism is also the entry into the Church and therefore allows them access to all rights and responsibilities as full members, including the privilege to receive Holy Communion. Most Anglicans agree that it also cleanses the taint of what in the West is called original sin, in the East ancestral sin.

Eastern Orthodox Christians usually insist on complete threefold immersion as both a symbol of death and rebirth into Christ, and as a washing away of sin. Latin Rite Catholics generally baptize by affusion (pouring); Eastern Catholics usually by submersion, or at least partial immersion. However, submersion is gaining in popularity within the Latin Catholic Church. In newer church sanctuaries, the baptismal font may be designed to expressly allow for baptism by immersion.[citation needed] Anglicans baptize by submersion, immersion, affusion or sprinkling.

According to a tradition, evidence of which can be traced back to at latest about the year 200,[127] sponsors or godparents are present at baptism and vow to uphold the Christian education and life of the baptized.

Baptists argue that the Greek word βαπτίζω originally meant "to immerse". They interpret some Biblical passages concerning baptism as requiring submersion of the body in water. They also state that only submersion reflects the symbolic significance of being "buried" and "raised" with Christ.[Rom 6:3-4] Baptist Churches baptize in the name of the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, they do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation; but rather that it is an act of Christian obedience.

Some "full gospel" charismatic churches such as Oneness Pentecostals baptize only in the name of Jesus Christ, citing Peter's preaching baptism in the name of Jesus as their authority.[Ac 2:38] They also point to several historical sources that maintain that the early church always baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus until development of the Trinity Doctrine in the Second Century.

Validity considerations by some Churches

Russian Orthodox priest greeting an infant and its godparents on the steps of the church at the beginning of the Sacred Mystery of Baptism.

Since the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist and Lutheran Churches teach that baptism is a sacrament that has actual spiritual and salvific effects, certain key criteria must be complied with for it to be valid, i.e., to actually have those effects. If these key criteria are met, violation of some rules regarding baptism, such as varying the authorized rite for the ceremony, renders the baptism illicit (contrary to the Church's laws) but still valid.

One of the criteria for validity is use of the correct form of words. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the use of the verb "baptize" is essential.[91] Catholics of Latin Rite, Anglicans and Methodists use the form "I baptize you…." Eastern Orthodox and some Eastern Catholics use the form "This servant of Christ is baptized…" or "This person is baptized by my hands…." These Churches generally recognize each other's form of baptism as valid.

Use of the Trinitarian formula "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is also considered essential; thus these churches do not accept as valid baptisms of non-Trinitarian churches such as Oneness Pentecostals.

Another essential condition is use of water. A baptism in which some other liquid was used would not be considered valid.

Another requirement is that the celebrant intends to perform baptism. This requirement entails merely the intention "to do what the Church does", not necessarily to have Christian faith, since it is not the person baptizing, but the Holy Spirit working through the sacrament, who produces the effects of the sacrament. Doubt about the faith of the baptizer is thus no ground for doubt about the validity of the baptism.

Some conditions expressly do not affect validity—for example, whether submersion, immersion, affusion or aspersion is used. However, if water is sprinkled, there is a danger that the water may not touch the skin of the unbaptized. If the water does not flow on the skin, there is no ablution and so no baptism.

If for a medical or other legitimate reason the water cannot be poured on the head, it may be poured over another principal part of the body, such as the chest. In such case validity is uncertain and the person will be considered to be conditionally baptized – until such time as they can be baptized in the traditional manner later.

For many communions, validity is not affected if a single submersion or pouring is performed rather than a triple, but in Orthodoxy this is controversial.

According to the Catholic Church, baptism imparts an indelible "seal" upon the soul of the baptized. Thus, once baptized, an individual cannot be baptized again. This teaching was affirmed against the Donatists who practiced rebaptism. Baptism is said to operate ex opere operato and is valid even if administered in heresy or schism.[14] Like holy orders, it confers a "character" on the recipient, who can never be re-baptized.[14]

Recognition of baptism by other denominations

The Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches accept baptism performed by other denominations within this group as valid, subject to certain conditions, including the use of the Trinitarian formula. It is only possible to be baptized once, thus people with valid baptisms from other denominations may not be baptized again upon conversion or transfer. Such people are accepted upon making a profession of faith and, if they have not yet validly received the sacrament of confirmation or chrismation, by being confirmed. In some cases it can be difficult to decide if the original baptism was in fact valid; if there is doubt, conditional baptism is administered, with a formula on the lines of "If you are not yet baptized, I baptize you…."[132]

In the still recent past, it was common practice in the Roman Catholic Church to baptize conditionally almost every convert from Protestantism because of a perceived difficulty in judging about the validity in any concrete case. In the case of the major Protestant Churches, agreements involving assurances about the manner in which they administer baptism has ended this practice, which sometimes continues for other groups of Protestant tradition. The Catholic Church has always recognized the validity of baptism in the Churches of Eastern Christianity, but it has explicitly denied the validity of the baptism conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[133]

Practice in the Eastern Orthodox Church for converts from other communions is not uniform, but even a convert received without administration of baptism is considered to have his previous baptism retroactively filled with grace by whatever form is used to accept him, such as by chrismation or confession. The exact procedure is dependent on local canons and is the subject of some controversy.[citation needed]

Oriental Orthodox Churches recognise the validity of baptisms performed within the Eastern Orthodox Communion. Some also recognise baptisms performed by Catholic Churches. Any supposed baptism not performed using the Trinitarian formula is considered invalid.[citation needed]

In the eyes of the Catholic Church, all Orthodox Churches, Anglican and Lutheran Churches, the baptism conferred by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is invalid.[134] An article published together with the official declaration to that effect gave reasons for that judgment, summed up in the following words: "The Baptism of the Catholic Church and that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differ essentially, both for what concerns faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose name Baptism is conferred, and for what concerns the relationship to Christ who instituted it."[135]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stresses that baptism must be administered by one having proper authority; consequently, the Church does not recognize the baptism of any other church as valid.[136]

Jehovah's Witnesses do not recognise any other baptism occurring after 1914[137] as valid,[138] as they believe that they are now the one true church of Christ,[139] and that the rest of "Christendom" is false religion.[140]

Who may administer a baptism

A baptism administered by a U.S. Navy chaplain in Iraq

There is debate among Christian churches as to who can administer baptism. The examples given in the New Testament only show apostles and deacons administering baptism. Ancient Christian churches interpret this as indicating that baptism should be performed by the clergy except in extremis, i.e., when the one being baptized is in immediate danger of death. Then anyone may baptize, provided, in the view of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the person who does the baptizing is a member of that Church, or, in the view of the Catholic Church, that the person, even if not baptized, intends to do what the Church does in administering the rite. Many Protestant churches see no specific prohibition in the biblical examples and permit any believer to baptize another.

In the Catholic Church the ordinary minister of baptism is a member of the clergy (bishop, priest or deacon),[141] but in normal circumstances only the Parish Priest of the person to be baptized, or someone authorized by the Parish Priest, may do so licitly[142] "If the ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or some other person deputed to this office by the local Ordinary, may lawfully confer baptism; indeed, in a case of necessity, any person who has the requisite intention may do so[141] By "a case of necessity" is meant imminent danger of death because of either illness or an external threat. "The requisite intention" is, at the minimum level, the intention "to do what the Church does" through the rite of baptism.

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, a deacon is not considered an ordinary minister. Administration of the sacrament is reserved, as in the Catholic Rite, to the Parish Priest. But, "in case of necessity, baptism can be administered by a deacon or, in his absence or if he is impeded, by another cleric, a member of an institute of consecrated life, or by any other Christian faithful; even by the mother or father, if another person is not available who knows how to baptize."[143]

The discipline of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East is similar to that of the Eastern Catholic Churches. They require the baptizer, even in cases of necessity, to be of their own faith, on the grounds that a person cannot convey what he himself does not possess, in this case membership in the Church.[144] The Latin Rite Catholic Church does not insist on this condition, considering that the effect of the sacrament, such as membership of the Church, is not produced by the person who baptizes, but by the Holy Spirit. For the Orthodox, while Baptism in extremis may be administered by a deacon or any lay-person, if the newly-baptized person survives, a priest must still perform the other prayers of the Rite of Baptism, and administer the Mystery of Chrismation.

The discipline of Anglicanism and Lutherans is similar to that of the Latin Rite Catholic Church. For Methodists and many other Protestant denominations, too, the ordinary minister of baptism is a duly ordained or appointed minister of religion.

Newer movements of Protestant Evangelical churches, particularly non-denominational, have begun to allow those persons most instrumental in one's faith to baptize.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, only a man who has been ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood holding the priesthood office of Priest or higher office in the Melchizedek Priesthood may administer baptism.[145]

A Jehovah's Witnesses baptism is performed by a "dedicated male" adherent.[146][147] Only in extraordinary circumstances would a "dedicated" baptizer be unbaptized (see section Jehovah's Witnesses).

Anabaptist baptism

A river baptism in North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century. Full-immersion (submersion) baptism continues to be a common practice in many African-American Christian congregations today.

Anabaptists ("re-baptizers") and Baptists promote adult baptism, or "believer's baptism." Baptism is seen as an act identifying one as having accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.

Early Anabaptists were given that name because they re-baptized persons whom they felt had not been properly baptized, having received infant baptism, sprinkling, or baptism of any sort by another denomination.

Anabaptists perform baptisms indoors in a baptismal font, a swimming pool, or a bathtub, or outdoors in a creek or river. Baptism memorializes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.[Rom 6] Baptism does not accomplish anything in itself, but is an outward personal sign or testimony that the person's sins have already been washed away by the cross of Christ.[148] It is considered a covenantal act, signifying entrance into the New Covenant of Christ.[148][149]

[edit] Baptist views

For the main majority of all Baptists, Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[Mt 28:19] It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to the believer's faith in the final resurrection of the dead.[150]

Most Baptists believe that baptism in itself does not convey salvation or transformation, but is a sign of what has already happened in a spiritual sense to a new believer. Since it is considered not to bestow "saving grace" or be salvific as such, Baptists consider it an "ordinance" rather than a "sacrament." Being a church "ordinance"—a teaching of the Bible that Jesus intended his followers to observe,[100] it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper (Baptists' preferred term for communion).[150]

Baptism cannot be separated from one’s doctrine of Christ, since Christ himself was baptized and his redemptive work is depicted in baptism by immersion as a new relationship in Christ which all believers enjoy.[100]

Baptists also believe that baptism is an important way of professing one’s faith in Christ. Typically, adults, youth, or older children who understand the commitment of faith to Christ and wish to respond to God’s call are acceptable candidates for baptism.[100]

Baptists have been criticized because their rejection of infant baptism appears to have no place for children in an adult or believers’ church. Instead of baptizing young children and infants, Baptists prefer to dedicate children to the Lord in a public church service where the parents and the members of the church are called upon to live exemplary lives before children, and to teach them the ways of the Lord. Water baptism is not an element in that service.[100] Baptists respond to this criticism by saying God's love extends to all, and explicitly children; that baptism is not in itself a sacrament, and so does not convey the salvation those critics consider children to be lacking; and that as baptism merely conveys an outward sign of the confession of faith, it is a pointless exercise until the person being baptized is mature enough to make an informed decision to make that confession.[100]

[edit] Churches of Christ

Baptism in Churches of Christ is performed only by full bodily immersion,[116]:p.107[117]:p.124 based on the Koine Greek verb baptizo which is understood to mean to dip, immerse, submerge or plunge.[118][119]:p.139[151]:p.313-314[152]:p.22[153]:p.45-46 Submersion is seen as more closely conforming to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus than other modes of baptism.[118][119]:p.140[151]:p.314-316 Churches of Christ argue that historically immersion was the mode used in the first century, and that pouring and sprinkling later emerged as secondary modes when immersion was not possible.[119]:p.140 Over time these secondary modes came to replace immersion.[119]:p.140 Only those mentally capable of belief and repentance are baptized (i.e., infant baptism is not practiced because the New Testament has no precedent for it).[117]:p.124[118][151]:p.318-319[154]:p.195

Churches of Christ have historically had the most conservative position on baptism among the various branches of the Restoration Movement, understanding baptism by immersion to be a necessary part of conversion.[124]:p.61 The most significant disagreements concerned the extent to which a correct understanding of the role of baptism is necessary for its validity.[124]:p.61 David Lipscomb insisted that if a believer was baptized out of a desire to obey God, the baptism was valid, even if the individual did not fully understand the role baptism plays in salvation.[124]:p.61 Austin McGary contended that to be valid, the convert must also understand that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins.[124]:p.62 McGary's view became the prevailing one in the early 20th century, but the approach advocated by Lipscomb never totally disappeared.[124]:p.62 More recently, the rise of the International Churches of Christ (who insisted on re-baptising anyone joining their movement) has caused some to reexamine the issue.[124]:p.66

Churches of Christ consistently teach that in baptism a believer surrenders his life in faith and obedience to God, and that God "by the merits of Christ's blood, cleanses one from sin and truly changes the state of the person from an alien to a citizen of God's kingdom. Baptism is not a human work; it is the place where God does the work that only God can do."[124]:p.66 Baptism is a passive act of faith rather than a meritorious work; it "is a confession that a person has nothing to offer God."[125]:p.112 While Churches of Christ do not describe baptism as a "sacrament", their view of it can legitimately be described as "sacramental."[124]:p.66[152]:p.186 They see the power of baptism coming from God, who chose to use baptism as a vehicle, rather than from the water or the act itself,[152]:p.186 and understand baptism to be an integral part of the conversion process, rather than just a symbol of conversion.[152]:p.184 A recent trend is to emphasize the transformational aspect of baptism: instead of describing it as just a legal requirement or sign of something that happened in the past, it is seen as "the event that places the believer 'into Christ' where God does the ongoing work of transformation."[124]:p.66 There is a minority that downplays the importance of baptism in order to avoid sectarianism, but the broader trend is to "reexamine the richness of the biblical teaching of baptism and to reinforce its central and essential place in Christianity."[124]:p.66

Because of the belief that baptism is a necessary part of salvation, some Baptists hold that the Churches of Christ endorse the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.[155] However, members of the Churches of Christ reject this, arguing that since faith and repentance are necessary, and that the cleansing of sins is by the blood of Christ through the grace of God, baptism is not an inherently redeeming ritual.[119]:p.133[155][156]:p.630,631 Rather, their inclination is to point to the biblical passage in which Peter, analogizing baptism to Noah's flood, posits that "likewise baptism doth also now save us" but parenthetically clarifies that baptism is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but the response of a good conscience toward God" (1 Peter 3:21).[157] One author from the churches of Christ describes the relationship between faith and baptism this way, "Faith is the reason why a person is a child of God; baptism is the time at which one is incorporated into Christ and so becomes a child of God" (italics are in the source).[154]:p.170 Baptism is understood as a confessional expression of faith and repentance,[154]:p.179-182 rather than a "work" that earns salvation.[154]:p.170

[edit] Reformed and Covenant Theology view

Paedobaptist Covenant theologians see the administration of all the biblical covenants, including the New Covenant, as including a principle of familial, corporate inclusion or "generational succession". The biblical covenants between God and man include signs and seals that visibly represent the realities behind the covenants. These visible signs and symbols of God's covenant redemption are administered in a corporate manner (for instance, to households), not in an exclusively individualistic manner.

Baptism is considered by the Reformed churches as the visible sign of entrance into the New Covenant and therefore may be administered individually to new believers making a public profession of faith. Paedobaptists further believe this extends corporately to the households of believers which typically would include children, or individually to children or infants of believing parents (see Infant baptism). In this view, baptism is thus seen as the functional replacement and sacramental equivalent of the Abrahamic rite of circumcision and symbolizes the internal cleansing from sin, among other things.

[edit] Catholic baptism

In Catholic teaching, baptism plays an essential role in salvation.[158] This teaching dates back to the teachings and practices of first-century Christians, and the connection between salvation and baptism was not, on the whole, an item of major dispute until Martin Luther's teachings regarding grace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament."[16] Accordingly, a person who knowingly, willfully and unrepentantly rejects baptism has no hope of salvation. This teaching is based on Jesus' words in the Gospel according to John: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."[Jn 3:5]

Catholics are baptized in water, by submersion, immersion or infusion, in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit[159]—not three gods, but one God subsisting in three Persons. While sharing in the one divine essence, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, not simply three "masks" or manifestations of one Person. The faith of the Church and of the individual Christian is based on a relationship with these three Persons of the one God. Adults can also be baptized, if they are not baptized already, through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

It is claimed that Pope Stephen I, St. Ambrose, and Pope Nicholas I declared that baptisms in the name of "Jesus" only as well as in the name of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" were valid. The correct interpretation of their words is disputed.[91] Current canonical law requires the Trinitarian formula and water for validity[158]

The Church recognizes two equivalents of baptism with water: "baptism of blood" and "baptism of desire". Baptism of blood is that undergone by unbaptized individuals who are martyred for the Faith, while baptism of desire generally applies to catechumens who die before they can be baptized. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes these two forms:

The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. (1258)

For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. (1259)

Non-Christians who seek God with a sincere heart and, moved by grace, try to do God's will as they know it through the dictates of conscience can also be saved without water baptism; they are said to desire it implicitly.[160] As for unbaptized infants, the Church is unsure of their fate; "the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God" (Catechism, 1261).

[edit] Jehovah's Witnesses

Baptism is also practiced by Jehovah's Witnesses. They believe it should be performed by complete immersion (submersion) only when one is old enough to understand the significance of it. They teach that water baptism is an outward symbol that one has made a complete, unreserved, and unconditional dedication through Jesus Christ to do the will of Jehovah God; for males and females, baptism constitutes ordination as a minister[161] Jehovah's Witnesses usually baptize converts at large conventions[162] rather than at the local Kingdom Halls.

A candidate must request baptism some time before a planned baptismal event, since preparation is required to qualify.[163] Congregation elders may only approve a candidate for baptism after he understands what is expected of a Christian associated with Jehovah's Witnesses and he demonstrates sincere dedication to the faith.[164]

Before the actual baptism, the candidates must answer in the affirmative when presented with the following two oaths[165]:

  1. On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
  2. Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?

While baptisms may be performed simultaneously by different baptizers, the baptism of a typical Jehovah's Witness candidate is performed by one male minister."Normally only one male minister is needed to baptize someone".[166]

In practice, most baptisms among Jehovah's Witnesses are performed at scheduled assemblies and conventions by elders and ministerial servants, although smaller services without onlookers are considered Scriptural.[146] and the only baptizer requirement is that he should himself be a baptized male.[167][168] Unless the candidate is physically challenged or some other special situation exists, a particular candidate is immersed by only one baptizer. "Jesus’ baptism, then, sets the pattern of total immersion in water, but it also suggests that one male servant of God should perform the baptism.[166] In circumstances of extended isolation, a qualified candidate's prayerful dedication and publicly stated intention to become baptized as soon as possible serve to identify the start of his or her life as a dedicated Christian, even if immersion itself must be delayed.[169] In rare instances, an unbaptized man who has made a public dedication has performed the baptism of another who immediately reciprocated; Witnesses accept both baptisms as valid.[170] Witnesses who had been baptized in the 1930s and 1940s by women ministers, such as in concentration camps, were rebaptized but retained the earlier as their baptism dates.[146]

[edit] Mormonism

A Mormon baptism, circa the 1850s

In Mormonism, baptism has the main purpose of remitting the sins of the participant. It is followed by confirmation, which inducts the person into membership in the church and constitutes a baptism with the Holy Spirit. Mormon baptism must be by full immersion, and by a precise ritualized prayer: if some part of the participant is not fully immersed, or the prayer was not recited verbatim, the ritual must be repeated.[171] It typically occurs in a baptismal font. In addition, Mormons do not believe a baptism is valid unless it is performed by a Mormon priest or someone of higher authority.[172] Authority is passed down through a form of apostolic succession. All new converts the faith must be baptized or re-baptized. Baptism is seen as symbolic both of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection[173] and is also symbolic of the baptized individual discarding their "natural" self and donning a new identity as a disciple of Jesus.

According to Mormon theology, faith and repentance are prerequisites to baptism. The ritual does not cleanse the participant of original sin, as Mormons do not believe the doctrine of original sin. Baptism must occur after an "age of accountability", defined in Mormon scripture as eight years old.[174] Mormonism rejects infant baptism.[175] Mormon theology also countenances baptism for the dead in which deceased ancestors are baptized vicariously by the living. This generally occurs in Mormon temples.[176]

oposition to water baptism

Quakers and baptism

Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) do not believe in the baptism of either children or adults with water, rejecting all forms of outward sacraments in their religious life. Robert Barclay's Apology for the True Christian Divinity (a historic explanation of Quaker theology from the 17th century), explains Quakers' opposition to baptism with water thus:

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire".[Mt 3:11] Here John mentions two manners of baptizings and two different baptisms, the one with water, and the other with the Spirit, the one whereof he was the minister of, the other whereof Christ was the minister of: and such as were baptized with the first were not therefore baptized with the second: "I indeed baptize you, but he shall baptize you." Though in the present time they were baptized with the baptism of water, yet they were not as yet, but were to be, baptized with the baptism of Christ.

Robert Barclay, 1678


Barclay argued that water baptism was only something that happened until the time of Christ, but that now, people are baptised inwardly by the spirit of Christ, and hence there is no need for the external sacrament of water baptism, which Quakers argue is meaningless.

[edit] Salvation Army and baptism

The Salvation Army does not practice water baptism, or indeed other outward sacraments. William Booth and Catherine Booth, the founders of the Salvation Army, believed that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself, whereas what they believed was important was spiritual grace itself. However, although the Salvation Army does not practice baptism, they are not opposed to baptism within other Christian denominations.[178]

[edit] Hyperdispensationalism

There are some Christians who carry dispensationalism to such an extreme that they accept only Paul's Epistles as applicable for the church today.[neutrality is disputed] As a result, they do not accept baptism or the Lord's Supper, since these are not found in the Prison Epistles. They also teach that Peter's gospel message was not the same as Paul's.[179] Hyperdispensationalists assert:

  • The great commission[Matthew 28:18-20] and its baptism is directed to early Jewish believers, not the Gentile believers of mid-Acts or later.
  • The baptism of Acts 2:36-38 is Peter's call for Israel to repent of complicity in the death of the Messiah; not as a Gospel announcement of atonement for sin, a later doctrine revealed by Paul.

Water baptism found early in the Book of Acts is, according to this view, now supplanted by the one baptism[1 Cor 12:13] foretold by John the Baptist.[180] The one baptism for today, it is asserted, is the "baptism of the Holy Spirit".[Ac 11:15-16] This, "spirit" baptism, however, is unlikely given the texts and facts that the baptisms of the Eunuch[Ac 8:36] and the household of Cornelius[10:47-48] were explicitly in water. Further evidence points to the humanly administered Great Commission which was to last until the end of the world.[Mt 28:19-20] Therefore, the baptism the Ephesians underwent was water by context.[181] Likewise, Holy Spirit Baptism is recorded as only occurring twice in all the book of Acts to selected individuals.[Ac 2:1-4] [10:44-46] Finally, it is argued that only Jesus possessed the power to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire which eliminates any mortal ever doing.[Mt 3:11] [Lk 3:16]

John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire"[Lk 3:16].

Many in this group also argue that John's promised baptism by fire is pending, referring to the destruction of the world by fire.[182]

John, as he said "baptized with water", as did Jesus's disciples to the early, Jewish Christian church. Jesus himself never personally baptized with water, but did so through his disciples.[Jn 4:1-2] Unlike Jesus' first Apostles, Paul, his Apostle to the Gentiles, was sent to preach rather than to baptize[1 Co 1:17] but did occasionally baptize, for instance in Corinth[1:14-16] and in Philippi,[Ac 16:13] in the same manner as[Mt 28:19] He also taught the spiritual significance of the submerging in baptism and how one contacts the atoning death of Christ in such.[Rom 6:4]

Other Hyperdispensationalists believe that baptism was necessary only for a short period between Christ's ascension and mid-Acts. The great commission [Mt 28:18-20] and its baptism was directed to early Jewish believers, not the Gentile believers of mid-Acts or later. Any Jew who believed did not receive salvation[Mk 16:16] [1 Pe 3:21] or the Holy Spirit[Ac 2:38] until they were baptized. This period ended with the calling of Paul.[9:17-18] Peter's reaction when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit before baptism[10:44-48] is worthy of note.

[edit] Other initiation ceremonies

Many cultures practice or have practiced initiation rites, with or without the use of water, including the ancient Egyptian, the Hebraic/Jewish, the Babylonian, the Mayan, and the Norse cultures. The modern Japanese practice of Miyamairi is such as ceremony that does not use water. In some, such evidence may be archaeological and descriptive in nature, rather than a modern practice.

[edit] Mystery religion initiation rites

Apuleius, a second-century Roman writer, described an initiation into the mysteries of Isis:

Then, when the priest said the moment had come, he led me to the nearest baths, escorted by the faithful in a body, and there, after I had bathed in the usual way, having invoked the blessing of the gods he ceremoniously aspersed and purified me.[183]

This initiation of Lucius, the character in Apuleius's story who had been turned into an ass and changed back by Isis into human form, into the successive degrees of the rites of the goddess was accomplished only after a significant period of study to demonstrate his loyalty and trustworthiness, akin to catechumenical practices in Christianity.[184]

[edit] Mandaean baptism

Mandaeans, who abhor[citation needed] Jesus and Moses as false prophets, revere John the Baptist and practice frequent baptism, a rite therefore of purification, not of initiation.

[edit] Sikh baptism ceremony

The Sikh initiation ceremony, which involves drinking, not washing, dates from 1699, when the religion's tenth leader (Guru Gobind Singh) initiated 5 followers of his faith and then was initiated himself by his followers. The Sikh baptism ceremony is called Amrit Sanchar or Khande di Pahul. The Sikh has taken Amrit once they have been initiated. In Sikhism, the initiated Sikh is also called an Amritdhari literally meaning Amrit Taker or one who has Taken on Amrit.

Khande Di Pahul (Amrit ceremony) was initiated in the times of Guru Gobind Singh when Khalsa was inaugurated at Sri Anandpur Sahib on the day of Baisakhi in 1699. Guru Gobind Singh asked a gathering of Sikhs, who was prepared to die for God? At first, the people hesitated, and then one man stepped forward, and he was taken to a tent. After some time, Guru Gobind Singh came out of the tent, with blood dripping from his sword. He asked the same question again. After the next four volunteers were in the tent, he reappeared with the four, who were now all dressed like him. These five men came to be known as Panj Pyares or the Beloved Five. These five were initiated into the Khalsa by receiving Amrit. These five were Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Mukham Singh, Bhai Sahib Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh and Bhai Himmat Singh. Sikh men were then given the name "Singh" meaning "lion" and the women received the last name "Kaur" meaning "princess".

Filling an iron bowl with clean water, he kept stirring it with a two-edged sword (called a Khanda) while reciting over it five of the sacred texts or banisJapji, Jaap Sahib, Savaiyye, Chaupai and Anand Sahib. The Guru’s wife, Mata Jito (also known as Mata Sahib Kaur), poured into the vessel sugar crystals, mingling sweetness with the alchemy of iron. The five Sikhs sat on the ground around the bowl reverently as the holy water was being churned to the recitation of the sacred verses.

With the recitation of the five banis completed, khande di pahul or amrit, the Nectar of Immortality, was ready for administration. Guru Gobind Singh gave the five Sikhs five palmsful each of it to drink.

[edit] Ritual washing in Islam

Islam requires a sort of washing called Ghusul[185] (Arabic word means washing), similar to Judaic practices mentioned above, which should include the washing of the whole body in special order or immersion of the whole body (submersion), in a river for instance. This Ghusul is not required for an adult when adopting Islam, but must be performed after each sexual intercourse or a wet dream or a menstrual flow so that they may resume their five daily prayers. Also is required to be done for dead bodies. The notion that prayers must be invoked to ask God for forgiveness from impure thoughts and actions is incorrect; it is only desirable.[citation needed]

Such Ghusul is very different from practices in other religions. A person performs it alone privately, whenever it is indicated or desired.[citation needed]

Apart from this, washing before daily prayers is essential and is called Wudu. Muslims believe no one should approach God in prayer, before first asking God to forgive them their sins. Formal prayers are offered five times per day. While washing, one prays to God asking for forgiveness of the sins committed throughout the day, whether intentional or unintentional. This is a Muslim's way of reminding him/herself that the goal of this life is to please God, and to pray to attain His forgiveness and grace.[citation needed]

Christian baptism is challenged in the Quran in the verse: "Our religion is the Baptism of Allah; And who can baptize better than Allah? And it is He Whom we worship". It means that belief in the monotheism of God in Islam is merely sufficient for entering in the fold of faith and does not require a ritual form of baptism.[186]

[edit] Gnostic Catholicism and Thelema

The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, or Gnostic Catholic Church (the ecclesiastical arm of Ordo Templi Orientis), offers its Rite of Baptism to any person at least 11 years old.[187] The ceremony is performed before a Gnostic Mass and represents a symbolic birth into the Thelemic community.[188]

[edit] Comparative summary

Comparative Summary of Baptisms of Denominations of Christian Influence.[189][190][191] (This section does not give a complete listing of denominations, and therefore, it only mentions a fraction of the churches practicing "believer's baptism".)

DenominationBeliefs about baptismType of baptismBaptize infants?Baptism regenerates / gives spiritual lifeStandard
Anglican Communion"Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God."[190]By submersion, immersion, pouring, or sprinkling.Yes (in most sub-denominations)Yes (in most sub-denominations)Trinity
Apostolic BrethrenNecessary for salvation because it conveys spiritual rebirth.By submersion only. Also stress the necessity of a “second” Baptism of a special outpouring from the Holy Spirit.[192]YesYesJesus[193]
BaptistsA divine ordinance, a symbolic ritual, a mechanism for publicly declaring one's faith, and a sign of having already been saved, but not necessary for salvation.By submersion only.NoNoTrinity
ChristadelphiansBaptism is essential for the salvation of a believer.[194] It is only effective if somebody believes the true gospel message before they are baptized.[195] Baptism is an external symbol of an internal change in the believer: it represents a death to an old, sinful way of life, and the start of a new life as a Christian, summed up as the repentance of the believer — it therefore leads to forgiveness from God, who forgives people who repent.[196] Although someone is only baptized once, a believer must live by the principles of their baptism (i.e.,death to sin, and a new life following Jesus) throughout their life.[197]By submersion only[198]No[198]YesThe Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (although Christadelphians do not believe in the Nicean trinity)
Disciples of ChristBaptism is an outward and public sign of God's grace made manifest in the individual. In submersion, one symbolically experiences dying with Christ, and then rises with Him.[199]Usually by submersionNoNoTrinity
Churches of ChristChurches of Christ have historically had the most conservative position on baptism among the various branches of the Restoration Movement, understanding baptism by immersion to be a necessary part of conversion.[124]:p.61By immersion only[116]:p.107[117]:p.124[118]No[117]:p.124[118][151]:p.318-319[154]:p.195Because of the belief that baptism is a necessary part of salvation, some Baptists hold that the Churches of Christ endorse the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.[155] However, members of the Churches of Christ reject this, arguing that since faith and repentance are necessary, and that the cleansing of sins is by the blood of Christ through the grace of God, baptism is not an inherently redeeming ritual.[119]:p.133[155][156]:p.630,631 Baptism is understood as a confessional expression of faith and repentance,[154]:p.179-182 rather than a "work" that earns salvation.[154]:p.170Trinity
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsAn ordinance essential to enter the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven and preparatory for receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.By immersion performed by a person holding proper priesthood authority.[200]No (at least 8 years old)YesFather, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost (The LDS church doesn't believe in the Nicean trinity, but rather in the Godhead)[201]
Eastern Orthodox Church / Oriental Orthodox Church / Eastern CatholicThe old man dies the "New Man" is born free from the stain of ancestral sin. A new name is given. All previous commitments and sins are null and void.[citation needed]By 3-fold submersion or immersion (other forms only in emergency, must be corrected by priest if possible).[citation needed]Yes. Chrismation (i.e., Confirmation) and Holy Communion follow immediately.[citation needed]YesTrinity
Jehovah’s WitnessesBaptism is necessary for salvation as part of the entire baptismal arrangement: as an expression of obedience to Jesus' command (Matthew 28:19-20), as a public symbol of the saving faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10), and as an indication of repentance from dead works and the dedication of one's life to Jehovah. (1 Peter 2:21) However, baptism does not guarantee salvation.[202]By submersion only; typical candidates are baptized at district and circuit conventions.[203]NoNoJesus
Denomination (continued)Beliefs about baptismType of baptismBaptize infants?Baptism regenerates / gives spiritual lifeStandard
LutheransBaptism is a miraculous Sacrament through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person's heart. "Although we do not claim to understand how this happens or how it is possible, we believe (because of what the Bible says about baptism) that when an infant is baptized, God creates faith in the heart of that infant."[204]By sprinkling or pouring.[205][206]Yes[207][208]Yes[208]Trinity
Methodists (Arminians, Wesleyans)The Sacrament of initiation into Christ's holy Church whereby one is incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the spirit. Baptism washes away sin and clothes one in the righteousness of Christ.By sprinkling, pouring, immersion or submersion.[citation needed]YesMay varyTrinity
Trinitarian Pentecostals and various "Holiness" groups, Christian Missionary Alliance, Assemblies of GodWater Baptism is an ordinance, a symbolic ritual used to witness to having accepted Christ as personal Savior.[citation needed]By submersion. Also stress the necessity of a “second” Baptism of a special outpouring from the Holy Spirit.[209]NoVariesTrinity
Oneness PentecostalsNecessary for SalvationBy submersion onlyNoYesJesus name
Presbyterian and most Reformed churchesA sacrament, a symbolic ritual, and a seal of the adult believer’s present faith. It is an outward sign of an inward grace.[citation needed]By sprinkling, pouring, immersion or submersion[citation needed]Yes, to indicate membership in the New Covenant.[citation needed]NoTrinity
Quakers (Religious Society of Friends)Only an external symbol that is no longer to be practiced.[citation needed]Do not believe in Baptism of water, but only in an inward, ongoing purification of the human spirit in a life of discipline led by the Holy Spirit.[citation needed]
RevivalismA necessary step for salvation.By submersion, with the expectation of receiving the Holy Spirit.NoYesTrinity
Roman Catholic Church"Necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament"[16]Usually by pouring in the West, by submersion or immersion in the East; sprinkling admitted only if the water then flows on the head.[210][211]YesYesTrinity
Seventh-day AdventistsNot stated as the prerequisite to salvation, but a prerequisite for the admission to the church. It symbolizes death to sin and new birth in Jesus Christ.[212]"It affirms joining the family of God and sets on apart for a life of ministry."[212]By submersion.[213]NoNoTrinity
United Church of Christ (Evangelical and Reformed Churches and the Congregational Christian Churches)One of two sacraments. Baptism is an outward sign of God's inward grace. It may or may not be necessary for membership in a local congregation. However, it is a common practice for both infants and adults.[citation needed]By sprinkling, pouring, immersion or submersion.[citation needed]Yes, to indicate membership in the New Covenant.[citation needed]NoTrinity
AnabaptistBaptism is considered by the majority of Anabaptist Churches (anabaptist means to baptize again) to be essential to Christian faith but not to salvation. It is considered a biblical ordinance along with communion, feet washing, the holy kiss, the Christian woman's head covering, anointing with oil, and marriage. The Anabaptists also have stood historically against the practice of infant baptism. The Anabaptists stood firmly against infant baptism in a time when the Church and State were one and when people were made a citizen through baptism into the officially sanctioned Church (Reformed or Catholic). Belief and repentance are believed to precede and follow baptism.[citation needed]By pouring, immersion or submersion.[citation needed]NoNoTrinity

[edit] Non-religious initiations

Although even the use of water is often absent, the term baptism is also used for various initiations as rite of passage to a walk of secular life.

  • In the Brazilian martial art capoeira, an annual promotion ceremony is held, known as a batizado (literally "baptism"). For practitioners participating in their first batizado, it is traditional to receive their Capoeira names at that time, as a mark that they have been received in the community of Capoeiristas. The name is often given by the senior instructor or other senior students, and is largely determined by an individual way they perform a movement, how they look, or something else unique to the individual. Their Capoeira name is often used as a nom de guerre within Capoeira circles, a tradition which dates back to when practicing Capoeira was illegal in Brazil.[citation needed]

[edit] Baptism of objects

Christening of USS Dewey

The word "baptism" or "christening" is sometimes used to describe the inauguration of certain objects for use.

  • The name Baptism of Bells has been given to the blessing of (musical, especially church) bells, at least in France, since the eleventh century. It is derived from the washing of the bell with holy water by the bishop, before he anoints it with the oil of the infirm without and with chrism within; a fuming censer is placed under it and the bishop prays that these sacramentals of the Church may, at the sound of the bell, put the demons to flight, protect from storms, and call the faithful to prayer.
  • Baptism of Ships: at least since the time of the Crusades, rituals have contained a blessing for ships. The priest begs God to bless the vessel and protect those who sail in. The ship is usually sprinkled with holy water.[91]

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