In Christianity, baptism (from Greek baptizo: "immersing", "performing ablutions", i.e., "ritual washing") is the ritual act, with the use of water, by which a person is admitted to membership of the Church.
Jesus himself was baptized. The usual form of baptism among the earliest Christians was for the candidate (or "baptizand") to be immersed totally or partially. While John the Baptist's use of a deep river for his baptism suggests immersion, 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. 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. 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.
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, 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.
Meaning of the word in the New Testament
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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 as an example, that another meaning is "perform ablutions".
 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 and the New Testament. A related word, βάπτω, is also used in the New Testament, with the senses "dip" or "dye", The dipping may be incomplete, as in dipping a morsel of bread in wine ( ).
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 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."
Scholars of various denominations 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.
The lexicographical works of Zodhiates and Balz & Schneider also say that in the second of these two cases,  They understand the meaning of βαπτίζω to be the same as βάπτω, to dip or immerse, a word used of the partial dipping of a morsel held in the hand into wine or of a finger into spilled blood., 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.
Two nouns derived from βαπτίζω appear in the New Testament: βαπτισμός and βάπτισμα.
Βαπτισμός refers in  in the same verse and in to Levitical cleansings of vessels or of the body; and in perhaps also to baptism, though there it may possibly refer to washing an inanimate object. In , inferior manuscripts have βάπτισμα, but the best have βαπτισμός, and this is the reading given in modern critical editions of the New Testament. This is the only New Testament instance in which βαπτισμός is clearly used of Christian baptism, rather than of a generic washing, but may also refer to baptism., When referring merely to the cleansing of instruments, βαπτισμός is equated with ῥαντισμός (sprinkling), found only in and , a word used to indicate the symbolic cleansing by the Old Testament priest.to a water-rite for the purpose of purification, washing, cleansing, of dishes;
- 13 times with regard to the rite practised by John the Baptist;
- 3 times with reference to the specific Christian rite (4 times if the use in some inferior manuscripts in 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 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 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. (Seventh-day Adventists, however, see baptism as repeatable if a believer comes to a new knowledge of Christianity, as in . It is also possible for a person who has fallen away from following Christ to make a new commitment via rebaptism.)
John the Baptist adopted baptismal immersion as the central sacrament in his messianic movement.
Baptism of Jesus
John the Baptist was a 1st-century mission preacher on the banks of the River Jordan. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Baptism by Jesus
The Gospel of John
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. The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions also states that Jesus did not baptize as part of his ministry.[page needed]
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. actually speaks of Jesus and his disciples coming, not "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν" (into Judea), but "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν" (into the Judean countryside), which some interpret as contrasted with Jerusalem, the scene of the encounter with Nicodemus described immediately before. 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).
On the other hand, the Cambridge Companion to Jesus takes a different view. According to this source, Jesus accepted and made his own John the Baptist's message of repentance, forgiveness and baptism; 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; and the central place of baptism in his message is confirmed by the passage in John about Jesus baptizing. 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.
New Testament scholar Raymond E. Brown, a specialist in the Johannine writings, considers that the parenthetic editorial remark of 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.
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. 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
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. Frederick J. Cwiekowski agrees that the account in John "gives the impression" that Jesus baptized.
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). It also gives interpretations by the Apostle Paul and in the First Epistle of Peter of the significance of baptism.
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."
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).
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. It says that those who believe and are baptized will be saved.
Matthew includes a brief version of the baptism of Jesus.
The Gospel of Matthew also includes the most famous version of the Great Commission.