How Do Standard Reference Works Define the Term “Baptize:?


How do Standard Reference Works Define the Term “Baptize”?


A variety of reference works may be consulted by the student who wishes to learn something of the act of baptism. Although some of them are colored by denominational and theological presuppositions, many of them honestly deal with the linguistic evidence and provide unbiased definitions.

This study may be eye-opening to some of our readers. Notice this sample of quotations from standard works:

Baptize: “dip, plunge, baptize” (An Analytical Concordance to the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament, p. 46).

Baptism: “a dipping or immersion” (Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia: New Testament, p. 59).

Baptism: “From the Greek word baptizien, ‘to immerse.’ . . . In the history of the Church, three modes of baptism have been practiced: immersion (baptizo), sprinkling (rantizo), and pouring (cheo)” (The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words, Terry L. Miethe, p. 42).

Baptizo: “Dip, immerse, submerge, baptize. . . . Despite assertions to the contrary, it seems that baptizo, both in Jewish and Christian contexts, normally meant ‘immerse,’ and that even when it became a technical term for baptism, the thought of immersion remains” (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, p. 144).

Baptizo: “The meaning of baptizo, which is the intensive or frequentative form of bapto, ‘I dip,’ and denotes to immerse or submerge” (A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, Vol. 1, p. 169).

Baptism: “Gr., baptizein, ‘to dip in water’” (Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 25).

Baptism: “The word is derived from the Greek bapto, meaning ‘to dip’ or ‘to immerse’” (The New Dictionary of Theology, 1987, ed. Joseph A. Komonchak, p. 77).

Baptizein: “Baptizein, to dip, plunge under water, sink, or swamp” (A Theological Word Book of the Bible, ed. Alan Richardson, p. 27).

Baptisma: “This word, not found in classics or LXX, describes the state resulting from the action of the verb baptizein. The verb means to dip, immerse, sink (Polybius), or, metaphorically, to swamp, as when refugees inundate a city (Josephus).” (Vital Words of the Bible, J.M. Furness, p. 23).

Baptism: “Deriving from the Greek baptisma, ‘baptism’ denotes the action of washing or plunging in water” (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 83).

Baptism: “Baptism, the sacrament of (Gr. Baptismos, dipping in water)” (The Catholic Encyclopedic Dictionary, ed. Donald Attwater, p. 49).

Baptism: “The Gr. Baptisma literally means a ‘dipping’ or ‘immersion’; from baptizo, a casual or iterative form of bapto, I dip, or submerge. The active form baptismos (‘dippings’) is used always of Levitical or Jewish ‘washings’ (Mk. 7:4; Heb. 9:10)” (The New Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p. 41).

Baptism: “The verb baptizo is secular enough, meaning ‘dip,’ and is peculiarly Christian only in the sense of ‘baptize whether of John in the Gospels or of Christian baptism elsewhere” (Nigel Turner, Christian Words, p. 37).

Baptism: “Gk., baptismos, a dipping or immersion” (Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia, p. 59).

Baptism: “Transliteration of the Greek baptisma and baptismos. Literally, a dipping” (The Language of the King James Bible, Melvin E. Elliott, p. 16).

Baptism: “’dip,’ ‘bathe,’ ‘immerse,’ ‘baptize’” (A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Mark, UBS, p. 17).

There is little doubt about the meaning of the term baptizo when we examine the Greek authorities. The nearly consistent testimony is that it means to immerse, to dip, to plunge, to submerge, to sink, and metaphorically, to overwhelm. It should be observed that these authorities come from various religious backgrounds but they seek to define the Greek words in an unbiased manner.

The question for us to answer is whether we will believe and obey what Scripture teaches. Will we take to heart what the Lord Jesus, as well as Paul and Peter, had to say about baptism. Will you?

Richard Hollerman

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