Notes on Jewish Baptism - M'Crie

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Pilgrim Standard

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have transcribed and modernized spelling (excepting the ligatures which I have allowed to remain) of some notes on Jewish Baptism by Thomas M'Crie.
The notes, taken from the Appendix of M'Crie's Lectures on Christian Baptism, I have found to be rather interesting. The Appendix collectively contains

Below I have place the text from JEWISH BAPTISM if any one is interested:


THE fact of its having been a practice among the ancient Jews, before the coming of Christ, to baptize, as well as circumcise, proselytes and their children, has been placed beyond all question by the learned researches of Lightfoot, Selden, and many others. Lightfoot, in his “Harmonia Quatuor Evangelistarum,” proves this by quotations from Maimonides; who after observing that “the covenant is confirmed by circumcision, arid baptism, and a voluntary offering,” adds: “A stranger who is circumcised and not baptized, or baptized and not circumcised, is not called a proselyte.” Quotations from other Jewish writers follow. “The foreigner who is circumcised and not baptized,” says Rabbi Eliezer, differing from the other, “is yet a proselyte; for this we gather from our fathers having been circumcised and yet not baptized.” Again: “He is a proselyte,” says Rabbi Jehoshua, “who is baptized, and yet not circumcised.” -(Lightfoot, Op., tom. i. p. 390.) They differ on the question of its necessity to constitute a proselyte; all agree as to the commonness of the practice. The same writer proves that “the infants of proselytes were baptized, according to the judgment of the Sanhedrim.” Witsius refers those who wish for further information on this subject to Selden, “De Jure Naturæ et Gent.” to Lightfoot, and to Altingius. And he adds, “Hence we may see how it happened that the Scribes and Pharisees are not said to have quarreled with John as to his baptism, but only inquired by what and whose authority he baptized. (John i. 25.) And hence the crowds that flocked to his baptism; for he was famous for his sanctity and doctrine; he adopted no new rite, and preached the approach of the kingdom of heaven, which was then expected. From that time baptism became a divine institution.” (Œcon. Fœd., lib.iv., cap. 16, 8.) “Hence we may observe, that a kind of initiation by water was long in use among the Jews, though it was not sacramental until Christ s institution; yea, therefore, it may seem to have been used by them, because they expected it at the coming of the Messiah, as appears by their coming to John, questioning not so much his baptism as his authority: ‘Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?’ ” (Godyn’s Moses and Aaron, lib. i., cap. 3.)

Wall has successfully proved the same point in the Introduction to his “History of Infant Baptism;” in which, after showing that little children were made proselytes by baptism, together with their fathers, he notices the following curious facts: - “The natural Jews reckoned that neither they themselves nor their children did stand in any need of this baptism, never since the time when their whole nation, men, women, and infants, were baptized before the giving of the law. It was our Savior who first ordered that every particular person, Jew or Gentile, or of whatever parents born, must be born again of water. As for the proselyte’s baptism, it was a rule among them, as Mr. Selden shows, that it was never reiterated on him and his posterity; and Dr. Lightfoot gives this as their rule: ‘The sons of proselytes in following generations were circumcised indeed, but not baptized, as being already Israelites.’ ” “An Israelite,” says Maimonides, “that takes a little heathen child and baptizes him for a proselyte - behold, he is a proselyte.” “Another thing observable about the Jewish baptism of proselytes is this, that they called such an one’s baptism his new birth, regeneration, or being born again. This was a very usual phrase with the Jews: ‘If any one become a proselyte, he is like a child new born.’ ”

The idea started by Jenning (Jewish Antiquities, vol. i.p. 138,) that the Jews may have borrowed this baptism from the Christians, is in the highest degree improbable. What rite have the Jews ever borrowed from Christians? Customs do not change so easily as doctrines; the Jews were proverbially tenacious of theirs, and it is surely much more reasonable to hold, with Lightfoot, that, as the enemies of Christianity, they would be more likely to drop than continue the ceremony, had it not been of a date prior to Christ, and that our Lord “took into his hands baptism such as he found it; adding only this, that he exalted it to a nobler purpose and a larger use.”

It may be added, that though the Jewish writers referred to lived some centuries after Christ, yet as the days of Jewish proselytism had long gone by, the customs and rules which they record could only have existed in the days when the temple was in its glory, ere its “gates” had been overthrown, and its “sacrifice and oblation had been caused to cease.”



Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
That seems very well done! And quite a curious matte for reflection.

Pilgrim Standard

Puritan Board Sophomore
That seems very well done! And quite a curious matte for reflection.
I can't format it on the board to meet standards, but I thougt it interesting enough to post anyway.
I have yet to find any of M'Crie's writings that were anthing short of profound to me. I am awaiting M'Crie's commentary on Esther.
It's on its way now! Processed through USPS Sort Facility - 2012-01-20, 10:01:00, CINCINNATI, OH 45235 :banana:


Puritanboard Amanuensis
Benjamin, Thankyou for the excerpt by M'Crie. I look forward to seeing this excellent work republished. Just a note of clarification -- the father wrote the Lectures on Esther. Blessings!
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