The jewish background of christian baptism

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by Mayflower, Dec 8, 2008.

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  1. Mayflower

    Mayflower Puritan Board Junior

    BY Ron Moseley, Ph. D.

    The following article is provided by:

    Arkansas Institute of Holy Land Studies
    9700 Highway 107 Sherwood, Arkansas 72120

    or, FAX: 1-501-835-1453
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    There is no question that the church is debtor to Judaism for its main structure including such items as Messiah, Scripture, canon, liturgy, altar, pulpit, church offices, songs, offerings, the Lord's Supper, as well as baptism itself. Dr. Merrill Tenney, the editor of the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible said, "Baptism as a rite of immersion was not begun by Christians but was taken by them from Jewish and pagan forms...." Since early Christianity was a part of the Judaism of Jesus' day, it is without question that baptism in today's church was originally Jewish. Further evidence comes from Scholars like William Lasor and David Daube who tell us of the early church's practice of baptism by self immersion after the custom of the Jews.

    History of the Jewish Mikveh
    The term mikveh in Hebrew literally means any gathering of waters, but is specifically used in Jewish law for the waters or bath for the ritual immersion. The building of the mikveh was so important in ancient times it was said to take precedence over the construction of a synagogue. Immersion was so important that it occurred before the high Priest conducted the service on the Day of Atonement, before the regular priests participated in the Temple service, before each person entered the Temple complex, before a scribe wrote the name of God, as well as several other occasions.

    The Mishnah attributes to Ezra a decree that each male should immerse himself before praying or studying. There were several Jewish groups that observed ritual immersion every day to assure readiness for the coming of the Messiah. The Church Fathers mentioned one of these groups called Hemerobaptists which means "daily bathers" in Greek. Among those used to regular immersion were the Essenes and others that the Talmud calls tovelei shaharit or "dawn bathers."

    On the third day of creation we see the source of the word mikveh for the first time in Genesis 1:10 when the Lord says, " the gathering (mikveh) of waters, He called seas." Because of this reference in Genesis the ocean is still a legitimate mikveh.

    The Mikvaot Around The Temple
    The New Testament tells us that many of the early church's daily activities were centered around the Temple. Historically, we know that there were many ritual immersion baths (mikvaot) on the Temple Mount including one in the Chamber of Lepers situated in the northwest corner of the Court of Women (Mid. 2:5). Josephus tells us that even during the years of war (66-73 A.D.) the laws of ritual immersion were strictly adhered to (Jos. Wars, 4:205). The Temple itself contained immersion baths in various places for the priests to use, even in the vaults beneath the court (Commentary to Tam. 26b; Tam. 1:1). The High Priest had special immersion pools in the Temple, two of which are mentioned in the Mishnah. We are told one of these was in the Water Gate in the south of the court and another was on the roof of the Parva Chamber (Mid. 1:4; Mid. 5:3). There was an additional place for immersion on the Mount of Olives which was connected with the burning of the red heifer (Par. 3:7). A special ramp led to the mikveh on the Mount of Olives from the Temple Mount, which was built as an arched way over another arched way to avoid uncleanness from the graves in the valley below. Recent archaeological excavations have found 48 different mikvaot near the Monumental Staircase leading into the Temple Complex.

    Three Basic Areas
    According to Jewish law there are three basic areas where immersion in the mikveh is required.

    1. Immersion is required for both men and women when converting to Judaism. There were three prerequisites for a proselyte coming into Judaism: Circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice (Maimonides, Hilkh. Iss. Biah xiii. 5). 2. Immersion is required after a woman has her monthly period (Lev. 15:28). 3. Immersion is required for pots and eating utensils manufactured by a non-Jew (Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion p-263).

    Besides these, there are other times when it is customary to be immersed in the mikveh such as the occasion before Yom Kippur as a sign of purity and repentance and before the Sabbath in order to sensitize oneself to the holiness of the day.

    The Six Descending Orders of Ritual Immersion
    There are six descending orders of ritual baths in the Mishnah (Oral Laws of how to accomplish the written Law) and the highest order is that of a spring or flowing river. We see Jesus understanding and fulfilling this order in Matthew 3:16 as He comes to be baptized in the Jordan River "fulfilling all righteousness." This highest order was called Living Water and illustrated the forgiving of sins, therefore, we hear Jesus using this term concerning Himself (John 4:10-11).

    The Water Restrictions
    There were also six basic restrictions on the water used in the mikveh including such rules as:
    (1) the mikveh can not contain other liquid besides water. (2) The water has to be either built into the ground or be an integral part of a building attached to the ground. (3) The mikveh can not be flowing except for a natural spring, river or ocean. (4) The water can not be manually drawn. (5) The water can not be channeled to the mikveh by anything unclean. (6) The mikveh must contain at least 40 sa'ah or approximately 200 gallons of water.

    The term sa'ah is an ancient Biblical measurement equivalent to approximately five gallons. All six requirements come from the original Hebrew words found in Leviticus 11:36. Rabbi Yitzchok ben Sheshes said the amount of 40 sa'ah was derived from the idea that the largest normal human body has a volume of 20 sa'ah, therefore the amount of water needed to "nullify" this body is double this amount or 40 sa'ah.

    Why Be Immersed?
    To the ancient Jew, the mikveh was a process of spiritual purification and cleansing, especially in relation to the various types of Turmah or ritual defilement when the Temple was in use. Although God has not revealed all the meaning of the mikveh, it is obvious because of the amount of space given to it in Scripture, and the effort of Jesus to fulfill it, the command is of utmost importance. All commands of the Lord fall into three categories:

    1. The moral or ethical laws that are necessary for man to live in harmony are known as Mishpatim and are literally translated judgments. 2. The rituals and festivals which reawaken us to important religious truths such as Sabbath, holidays, the Tefillin and the Mezuzah that remind us of God's presence are known as Edos and are literally translated witnesses. 3. The third group often has no explicit reason given for their existence except for Israel's identification as God's chosen people to the other nations (Deuteronomy 4:6). This group of laws are known as Chukim and are literally translated as decrees. Among the decrees of this group are the dietary laws as well as ritual immersion.

    How Immersion Was Done
    Jewish baptism has never been taken lightly, but in ancient times immersion was to be performed in the presence of witnesses (Yebam. 47b). The person being baptized made special preparations by cutting his nails, undressed completely and made a fresh profession of his faith before the designated "fathers of the baptism" (Kethub. 11a; Erub 15a). This is possibly where churches, sometime later, got the term Godfathers. The individual stood straight up with the feet spread and the hands held out in front. The candidate would totally immerse themselves by squatting in the water with a witness or baptizer doing the officiating. Note the New Testament points out the fact that Jesus came up straightway out of the water (Matthew 3:16).

    The earliest drawing of Christian baptism was found on the wall of a Roman catacomb in the second century showing John standing on the bank of the Jordan helping Jesus back to shore after self immersion.

    Ancient sages teach that the word mikveh has the same letters as Ko(v)Meh, the Hebrew word for "rising" or "standing tall," therefore we see the idea of being baptized "straightway."

    Although it is the Jewish belief that repentance is necessary, purification from defilement is done primarily through water, while other effects of sins are covered by blood (Romans 4:7; note the "almost all things" in Hebrews 9:22). The concept of immersion in rabbinic literature is referred to as a new birth (Yeb. 22a; 48b; 97b; Mass. Ger. c.ii). Note six other important aspects of ancient Jewish immersion:

    1.Immersion was accompanied by exhortations and benedictions (Maimonides Hilkh. Milah iii.4; Hilkh. Iss, Biah Xiv .6). A convert would reaffirm his acceptance of the Torah by declaring, "I will do and I will hear" which was a phrase from the oath that was originally taken by the priests not to forsake the Torah (Deuteronomy 29:9- 14). This ritual demonstrates the willingness of the convert to forsake his Gentile background and assume his Jewish identity by taking on the status of one who keeps the commandments.

    According to a number of Jewish sages, mayim, which is the Hebrew word for water, shares the same root as the word "mah", meaning "what." This teaching points out that when a person immerses in water, he is nullifying the fleshly ego and is asking, "what am I?" in the same manner that Moses and Aaron did in Exodus 16:7 when they said to the Lord, "we are what?"

    2. The Jewish baptism candidates were often immersed three times. The idea of total immersion comes from the Scripture in Leviticus 15:16 when it says, "he shall wash all his flesh in the water." One reason it was customary to immerse three times was because the word mikveh occurs three times in the Torah.

    3. According to Jewish law the immersion had to have a required witness. Dr. William LaSor in the Biblical Archaeology Review says apparently the Biblical phrase "in the name of" was an indication of the required witness. In several New Testament references such as I Corinthians 1:13, 15; Matthew 21:25; Acts 1:22; and Acts 19:3 we see early baptism mentioned in conjunction with the name of individuals such as John and Paul. Further information on this can be found in Jewish literature concerning proselyte baptism where it indicates his baptism required attestation by witnesses in whose name he was immersed.

    4. The immersion candidate was not touched by the baptizer in Jesus' day. Because Leviticus 15:16 says "He shall wash all his flesh in the water," Judaism stresses that the entire body must come in contact with the water of the mikveh. To insure the immersion was valid, no clothing or individuals could touch the candidate. Any such intervention that prevented the water from reaching a part of the body was known as Chatzitzah and rendered the immersion invalid. Although the mikveh was more spiritual than physical, often the bath had two sets of steps, one entering and another leaving so as not to defile what had been purified.

    5. The baptismal water (Mikveh) in rabbinic literature was referred to as the womb of the world, and as a convert came out of the water it was considered a new birth separating him from the pagan world. As the convert came out of these waters his status was changed and he was referred to as "a little child just born" or "a child of one day" (Yeb. 22a; 48b; 97b). We see the New Testament using similar Jewish terms as "born anew," "new creation," and "born from above." According to Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum rabbinic literature uses the term "born again" to refer to at least six different occurrences. Note each of these life changing experiences: (a) When a Gentile converts to Judaism. (b) When an individual is crowned king. (c) At age 13 when a Jewish boy chooses to embrace God's covenant and be numbered with the believers. (d) When an individual gets married. (e) When an individual becomes a rabbi. (f) When an individual becomes the head of a rabbinical school.

    6. Jewish law requires at least three witnesses made up of qualified leaders to be present for certain immersions (Yebam 47b). Ordinarily a member of the Sanhedrin performed the act of observing the proselytes immersion, but in case of necessity others could do it. Secret baptism, or where only the mother brought a child, was not acknowledged.

    Repentance Without Baptism
    One of the most important teachings in Judaism is that of repentance. According to both Scripture and rabbinic literature, no matter how great the sin, if a person repents and forsakes the sin before God he can be forgiven. As we see in the case of John, Jesus, and all New Testament writers, repentance was always involved. The Jerusalem Talmud states, "nothing can stand before repentance" (Yebamos 47b). According to Dr. David Flusser, the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as the New Testament teach that water can purify the body only if the soul has first been purified through repentance and righteousness.

    Water and Blood Both Illustrate God's Cleansing In Judaism
    Both water and blood are used constantly in the Torah and the New Testament as the two main agents to illustrate God's cleansing. The Jews believe that uncleanness is not physical, but rather a spiritual condition as related in Leviticus 11:44 where it states by wrong actions one can make the "soul unclean." Therefore, the purification through ritual immersion, as commanded in Scripture is basically involved with the soul, rather than the body. Note how both water and blood are cited in Scripture: (1) Blood is used in cleansing in relation to the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12). (2) Blood is used in cleansing in relation to the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). (3) Blood is used in cleansing in relation to the Feast Offerings (Leviticus 23). (4) Blood is used in cleansing in relation to the five Levitical Offerings (Leviticus 1-7). (5) Blood is used in cleansing in relation to the atonement for the soul (Leviticus 17:11-14).

    (1) Water is used in cleansing in relation to the separation and the ashes of the Red Heifer (Numbers 19). (2) Water is used in cleansing in relation to the consecration to priestly ministry (Leviticus 8:6). (3) Water is used in cleansing in relation to the cleansing of the leper (Leviticus 14:1-8). (4) Water is used in cleansing in relation to the different washings of the Law (Hebrews 9:10). (5) Water is used in relation to the remission of sins (Acts 2:38); Titus 3:5; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3; I Peter 3:20-21; Ephesians 5:26; John 19:34; I John 5:6; Hebrews 9:19- 23).

    A detailed study of the Jewish background of Christian baptism shows that it is vitally important, but God doesn't always tell us why. Obviously, the convert could repent and have a part in the life to come without it, but the emphasis seems to be pointing to the taking on of a new "believer" status illustrated as a "new birth" by immersion. In any covenant with the Lord the three items of God's Word, the blood, and a token are always present (Genesis 17:11). Jesus was always cautious to have three witnesses in everything He did (I John 5:7-8). In the Old Testament circumcision was considered the token of God's covenant, and in the New Testament we see the same wording concerning baptism as it is referred to as "circumcision made without hands" (Colossians 2:11-12). Whatever religious denomination, all believers should agree that immersion has its roots in the Jewish mikveh of Jesus' day, and it is of utmost importance for each of us to fulfill this righteous deed.
  2. TheFleshProfitethNothing

    TheFleshProfitethNothing Puritan Board Freshman

    Interesting article. What of Jesus telling the Pharisees and other religious leaders, that they were hypocrites, and that the ceremonial washings were good for washing the "outside of the cup"; and "white washed seplucres full of dead men's bones" and the such like. I'm not too sure I go along with this whole idea. On the one hand it seems credobapists believe in a whole New Covenant, which one might think there is a new type of sign to indicate such covenant; then on the other they use an old covenant type ceremonial washing as there form of baptism. And then there is (as I was taught) the idea that baptism represents the understanding of Christ's death, burial and ressurection...Not "born again". I'm not sure I get where this fella is coming from.

    Also, in the church(es) I attend don't believe in "altars" as mentioned in the first sentence. Anyhow, Rome likes to use the Old Testament to justify the way they perform their ceremonies as well; you know, incense, altars, robes, etc...

    I could just as easily formulate a treatise on pouring, as they did many washing with this method. Then there is the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb on the white washed wall until every minute spot was covered for the sins of the people. Not to mention the prophesy of Joel, about Pouring out MY Spirit on all flesh. Would not this be more of a new Covenant sign...that one understands God has regenerated him through the pouring out of His Spirit on His Elect ones, giving them new life (born again) and understanding of their Spiritual Father?

    I leave it to you, and any other to formulate his/her ideas on the matter...God is Faithful and I do appreciate the man stating that one can be saved and not baptised in the last paragraph...because it is the inward working of the Spirit of God that matters first and foremost.

    Anyway, my main concern is he mentions nothing of the sprinklings and pourings in the ritual cleansings of the, I just had to go there.:coffee:
  3. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I thought the whole article was essentially without spiritual merit.

    I hope that doesn't sound overly harsh personally toward you, Ralph, I don't mean it to. My complaint is entirely with the writer of the article.

    His article is predicated upon the positive spiritual quality of things that are 100% "the doctrines and commandments of men" for which Jesus Christ himself excoriated the Pharisees. The author basically credits the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and other sects of Judaism with having an accurate form of religion, based on their rather outrageous stretching of a handful of law-texts.

    Even if the Jews adopted even higher, ceremonial barriers to entry than the law demanded (what, circumcision wasn't enough?!?), how does pointing to extrabiblical activity make an argument for biblical baptism? Much less the ridiculous insistence that baptism=immersion.

    If ancient Jewish "proselyte-immersion" is such an accurate description of NT baptism, then why won't the author practice it in like manner? GET NAKED, BUDDY! Because nudity was certainly insisted on by those who practiced it.
  4. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree.

    Clearly, it doesn't.

    My suspicion is that many of the scholars who trace origins of Christian baptism back to extra-biblical Jewish rites are the same sorts of people who would call Moses a "religious genius" (that's not totally fair as a generalization, but it's true in many cases).

    It's true that John the Baptist was a weird guy who lived in the desert and baptized people; but that doesn't make him an Essene.

    Mar 11:27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him,
    Mar 11:28 and they said to him, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?"
    Mar 11:29 Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
    Mar 11:30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me."
    Mar 11:31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?'
    Mar 11:32 But shall we say, 'From man'?"--they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet.
    Mar 11:33 So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."​

    ... and if John's baptism was "from Heaven", how much more the baptism of the one whose coming John proclaimed, whose sandals John wasn't fit to untie?

    In my view, the only reason to investigate (valid, Torah-based) Jewish ritual practices in relation to Christian baptism, is to investigate what the author of Hebrews meant when he referred to the obsolescence of the various washings=baptisms of the Old Covenant... which brings us to your next statement:

    If the legitimate "various washings" of the Old Covenant were indeed performed by full or partial immersion, that does indeed lend credence to the immersionist position, since the author of Hebrews chose that word to describe them.

    So, Contra Mundum or anyone else, do you believe that (any of) the water ablutions of the Old Covenant were performed by immersion?

    I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable about Judaica to agree or disagree with the above. Of course we're all familiar with nudity with respect to early Christian baptism, and I've at least heard from somebody third hand that it was true of male laypersons entering the Jewish temple area back in the day.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2008
  5. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Hebrews 9 makes it clear that the baptisms of the OT (various washings) were given by God, to Moses.

    Mikvah immersions are not found in the law, sprinklings, pounings, annointings, and various other "baptisms" are found there.

    Baptism is described by Divine inspiration in clear, unmistakable, terms & immersion is nowhere in sight.

    Therefore Jewish mystical practices of immersion can NOT be the basis of Christian practice any more then the Kabbalah could be the foundation of piety.

  6. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    While I think it is possible that certain small holy-articles could have been dipped and swirled in in a small basin, I not only do not think that this manner of washing was normative or demanded, but in the cases of much larger items would have been impossible.

    Since we have Heb.9:10 as evidence of OT baptisms, plus the pre-legal-era baptisms of Noah's flood (1Pet.1:21) and the Red-Sea crossing (1Cor.10:2), we really need to understand what baptism means according to the OLD TESTAMENT, so that we can understand what the NEW TESTAMENT writers understood about baptism, even as they added richness and depth to our Christian understanding of it.

    Back to the impossibility of immersing things baptized, we have this teaching of Jesus: "...And when they come from the market, except they wash [baptizo], they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing [baptismos] of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables [or couches]." (Mar 7:4; cf. v.8 where the saying clearly originates from Jesus' own lips.)

    It's painfully obvious that these Pharisees didn't take their household furniture, cushions and all, out poolside and drop them in regularly. And how many people had pools?

    But there's an even more cogent argument: the desert wilderness where Israel wandered for 40 years is the original context for the Levitical laws regarding purification. They simply did not have the facilities in situ, nor did they tote such around with them to perform "grand immersions" of things or people. The portable "laver" was as big a basin as they carried around.

    Again, to borrow Lev.15:16 from the article writer, are we supposed to accept the idea that daily there were thousands of married men running around looking for pools in the desert so they could "wash their whole bodies" properly by immersing them? To ask the question is almost alone sufficient to dismiss the notion!

    The wilderness setting for the people of God and the origin of the Israelite cultus should help demonstrate that the least thing THEY considered a "baptism" is enough to determine the minimum requirements met.

    Finally, just look at the context of Heb.9 (esp. vv.18-22) to find reference to what might qualify as the single most important "baptism" or ritual purification in the whole Law corpus: the FIRST ONE, conducted in concert with the national swearing-to of the covenant. How was this purification performed? With water, mixed with blood and other ingredients, sprinkled on many things and people to "purge" and "purify" them.
  7. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    I asked the question of whether any of the ritual ablutions involved immersion. You say that maybe they sometimes had a couple small basins floating around. (Remember, I asked the question whether immersion or partial immersion was ever used in the various water ablutions.)

    So maybe your answer refered to one of these "small basins"? :^)

    2Ch 4:2 Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference.
    2Ch 4:3 Under it were figures of gourds, for ten cubits, compassing the sea all around. The gourds were in two rows, cast with it when it was cast.
    2Ch 4:4 It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. The sea was set on them, and all their rear parts were inward.
    2Ch 4:5 Its thickness was a handbreadth. And its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held 3,000 baths. [i.e. 17,500 gallons]
    2Ch 4:6 He also made ten basins in which to wash, and set five on the south side, and five on the north side. In these they were to rinse off what was used for the burnt offering, and the sea was for the priests to wash in.​

    OK, sure, with the understanding that Noah's flood and the Red Sea crossing may very well be figurative usages of the word, and not literal usages.

    OK, so what did those tables and couches look like? (Ignoring for the sake of discussion that the word "couches" is judged spurious by many textual critics -- the NIV has "cups, pitchers and kettles". Hey, I think they'll fit in the dishwasher!)

    I've seen images of Roman couches that look like ours, which lends support to your point. However, were the Jewish Pharisees' couches big and bulky things like we find in our living rooms? I dunno. Not necessarily. The first century was a long time ago, and it wouldn't surprise me if it was shown that something we would call a "thick mat", they might call a "table" or "couch".

    And even if they were big, solid and bulky, I think it's important to recognize that Jesus is calling attention to the extreme nature of their vainglorious practice -- thus even if they were dunkin' the La-Z-Boy, that would not be totally out of place in this context.

    Rich people had access to large bodies of water when they wanted to. There were pools in Jerusalem if you had some strong servants to lug your large furniture around (again, given your assumptions, which aren't at all clear).

    Here's another wrench in the works of your argument. It has been well established that immersion was a common mode of personal ablution among the Jews by the time of Christ. Since we're talking about the "baptisms" of the Pharisees who were contemporaries of Christ, you are in danger of losing your ability to argue that the ancient mode of baptisms was sprinkling, but by the time of Christ the superstitious Jews immersed instead. Your argument has them sprinkling their couches concurrently with immersing their bodies, which sounds questionable.

    I will refute this argument in two ways -- mathematically and theologically.

    1. Mathematical Refutation

    How much water does a person drink in a day? In a week? How about a large family of people? How about their cows and their sheep and their goats? And their pigs? (Wait a second, they didn't have pigs.)

    Perform a little thought experiment for yourself, do a couple google searches on how much animals drink in a day, and do a little back-of-the-envelope number crunching; and if you have the basic mathematical ability I expect you do, then you will shortly conclude that the daily water consumption of the Israelite community (including people and animals) was... well.. it was a whole lotta water. Think about it -- every day many, many thousands of gallons of water was consumed by Israel in the desert.

    Now, how hard would it be to set aside enough in some kind of tub or large vessel for somebody to sit himself down in, and immerse up to his neck? Based on the above, it's not hard. The water was obviously there in the community. It probably was recycled after its ritual usage and went straight to the mouths of their animals.

    2. Theological Refutation

    A physicist would look at the population of Israel, do the back-of-the-envelope calculations, and conclude that the Bible is a myth. It's simply impossible that millions of people and animals could have had enough water in the desert to survive as long as they did.


    But the physicist doesn't know (or at least acknowledge) the power of God. However, I am confident that you, as an elder in the church, have probably a better understanding of God's power than either the physicist or I do.

    Consequently, you are well aware that the impossibility of finding large amounts of water in the desert is (at best) an utterly silly argument to make about anything related to the Israelites' experience -- and at worst a rank expression of unbelief.

    I am not accusing you of unbelief... however, I do reserve the right to accuse you of silliness... :^)

    Anyway, I know that you have strong reasons related to your denominational tradition for arguing against immersion in any form in the Old Covenant ablutions, and that is probably why you posted what you did above.

    OK... I distinguish between the sin atonement rituals and the ablution rituals. Maybe you can't always draw a neat line of division, but it seems like the sin cleansings and blood atonement symbolized justification, and the water ablutions/washings symbolized sanctification. I know I'm not the only one with that view. But I suspect that the author of Hebrews is referring to the water ablutions when he says 'baptisms", hence the common translation of "washings".

    -----Added 12/8/2008 at 11:32:56 EST-----

    Any discussion of baptism in the Old Testament is incomplete without mention of Naaman. His case provides us some first hand evidence of what somebody in the ancient world might do when told to go and wash himself in water.

    What did Naaman do? He went into the river Jordan and dipped himself in it, as instructed.

    Do you know what word the Septuagint account of Naaman uses to convey the Hebrew verb for "dip"?

    You guessed it! ebaptisato.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2008
  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I don't plan on creating a new post that doubles the length of our answers each time, its going to be long enough anyway. So trying to take the various points in order:

    1) I answered your specific question: do you believe that (any of) the water ablutions of the Old Covenant were performed by immersion? I gave a qualified "yes" answer that would fit into "any" period of time under the law. You could NOT immerse a single major piece of Tabernacle furniture in the Laver the Levites carried around, while you could dip utensils into such a basin, or dip water out for pouring.

    How was the water in the laver was used or applied? Ex. 30:19 "with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet." I can think of any number of ways to use the water found in the container. The Bible does tell us there were utensils in the Temple service including bowls and cups, hand-held items that could be used for carrying water around, or pouring it on things. But I CAN'T imagine trying to immerse a grown person in the laver.

    The Temple increased the size of everything. That fact doesn't mean that the manner in which the furniture or instruments were used also changed or changed dramatically. A basin as huge as the Temple laver was a "pool", and it was taller than a man, and its rim was at least 8 feet off the ground. So, do I think the basins at man-level were "handy"? Yes, and useful for the same things the much smaller Tabernacle laver was used for. Do I think the priests got IN the furniture? No, they washed themselves the way people normally do in public at the 10 littler/lesser stands with water. And what they washed were their hands and feet as per Ex.30:19, the meats for the altar, the utensils, other ceremonial cleansings...

    2) "OK, sure," and it doesn't sound like you've conceded anything that says the OT Scripture has something to teach you about baptism. Its all just "might be" figurative.

    3) "Couches" "Spurious" "Many Critics". And the ESV retains the word. If you can get rid of the word, it helps... Other than that, "I don't know" and "Wouldn't surprise me if" are just special-pleading defenses of what you already think. Where would the inclusion of such a thing in the list even come from? The likelihood of its being dropped by accident seems greater than the likelihood that it would be added in improperly.

    And the last thing you say makes me think it would be simpler if you just said "I think Mark was just using hyperbole." If you are simply committed to "baptism=immersion", then for sure you will find a way for these guys to dunk their dining-room sets. I may be wrong, but it sure seems simpler to "baptize/wash" all these articles any way that's convenient.

    4) "Rich people" is just the thing. Was it only the "rich" who were Pharisees? And, this claim that there was all these "large bodies of water" in Jerusalem? Right. Everybody had a pool in their backyard, or basement. They all had bathtubs, and massive kitchen sinks. No?

    Jerusalem is situated on a mountain top, in a climate with long dry seasons. Water certainly had to be provided in significant quantity, but we aren't talking here about 50 gallons a day made available for personal, discretionary use for every man, woman, and child in Jerusalem. Getting water for a day or two was WORK. Pharisees probably weren't too many of them servants. But they were plentiful enough. And they weren't all going to be wealthy.

    So... the ones who could sent their servants to the public pools, and drinking water places, where there were all these "sinners" polluting the waters, and dropped their items in there (no one complained of course), which were then carried back daintily through the streets filled with defilement so the Pharisee could sit on "clean" furniture. Or maybe they had Pharisee-only pools, in the Pharisee-only neighborhoods, keep out the riff-raff.

    This can't be plausible to you. You can't be serious. How far must you go to defend a theoretical "possibility"?

    And the business of immersion being a common practice of personal ablution is "well established" where? How? Under what circumstances? I don't buy this at all on your say-so. I'm sure you can point me to relevant literature.

    5) It not ME who has the problem with the water-issues in the wilderness. Wilderness= water shortage, kind of by definition. That really should not be quite such a point of contention. And, of course there was the fact that there were occasions of the people whining to Moses about the water situation. So, its not as if the Bible itself doesn't tell us there were these issues.

    Did they need more than a small amount of water? Did they need lots of water? YES. But you are simply assuming that there were "some kind of tub or large vessel" around for the usage that you want. Really? Where? Were they toting lots of stone, clay, or metal vats around, like the Levites with their laver?

    Funny, I always thought that Tabernacle-moving business was rather exceptional. Not only that, but once again only something sanctified can be used TO sanctify. There's not a WORD about all sorts of other tanks for this use you're proposing. And of course, if they did exist, the Levites would also have to carry these things for the rest of the people.

    Once again, what you seem to be saying is "baptism= immersion, therefore I have to be able to have the necessary logistical framework to make it happen, even if the Bible doesn't say anything about it." And then, when it does say something that doesn't fit, well then, that's figurative...

    Potable water would have been carried in skins. It is still the way water is carried by nomads, unless they've gone to using modern plastics. Israel in the desert wandered between various oasis, such as Kadesh-Barnea. Animals do have to be watered. But there's a big difference between water, on the ground in a shallow depression, that can be licked up by animals, and vats of water. Where is the biblical evidence for such things in the wilderness?

    6) Of course, the theological argument is part of the whole thing--God DID provide miracles of water in the wilderness. The rocks that were struck, the branch in the water at Marah, for instances. But all that says is that much water was produced. It doesn't say anything about the Israelites hauling it around in wagons, or setting up bathtubs...

    Telling me they had "enough water" doesn't begin to address the matter of how it might be rationally put to the uses that you glibly indicate are but minor details in your proposal. The text says God provided water. It doesn't say God also provided for the logistical nightmares necessitated by the uses your conclusions dictate.

    7) And saying that my views are mere "tradition" is not so subtle. And, I didn't say that "immersions" (as I understand you to mean that term) were not plausible in any form. I said they weren't "normative or demanded," AND that they were simply impossible in some cases. I stand by that assessment. The Laver was the place for these sorts of things, and the original was small enough to be carried around.

    8) Of course, your view on Heb.9 is special pleading again. You want to have the writer mention ceremonial cleansings, baptisms (v10), and immediately go on to talk about anything except for ceremonial cleansing. How convenient. Verse 10 is a summary statement, from which point the writer gets specific for his main points concerning the Mosaic service, and how Christ is "better".

    Why does baptism have to be only water, even on your view? If all "baptism" means is "immersion" then a thing can be immersed in anything liquid, and maybe a few other things. Besides, v19 says Moses used WATER, along with the blood, etc. So your distinction is artificial.

    The whole point of the "baptisms" was cleansing, whether you're talking about justification or sanctification. The language is "purging" and "purification" v22. Justification is definitive, sanctification is ongoing. What was the Sinai covenant more indicative of? If we are going to use an ordo-salutis template, how about Adoption? Which is logically post-justification. Maybe that explains the writer's mixing of blood and water?

    Anyway, its all special-pleading: "cleansing with blood CAN'T be baptism, because no one was ever dipped in a a blood vat, and we already know baptism= immersion." All quite nice and circular. Which of us is bringing his "tradition" to the text again...?

    9) If you want to take this to the LXX, we can do that. More than happy to.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2008
  9. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the detailed interaction, I'll try to be less long-winded... :^)

    It sounds like you have withdrawn your argument that there was not enough water (except to argue that there was not enough water for a fresh bath for each person, to which I answer the somewhat disgusting-to-us-but-culturally-realistic answer that they shared baths).

    Your primary argument related to the desert-wandering period now seem to be that they wouldn't have had big enough tubs or vessels for a person to dip himself in. That's admittedly a good objection. I guess I'm imagining a really big clay pot or something, big enough for an adult to crouch down in and immerse up to his neck. You are right that I don't have any evidence for this, so of course this is just speculation consistent with an assumption of immersion.

    Perhaps it would behoove me to clarify at this point that I am not dogmatic about the ancient Israelite "mode of ablution". It's clear to me that their ablutions may have been by immersion, and that the Jews both immediately at and since the time of Christ have used immersion (which is really our strongest clue; the story of Naaman is a data point, but pretty weak by itself). If you think about it, partial immersion is the most water-conserving way to take a bath in a hurry. If you pour out the water, then you need to have a big vessel underneath to catch it anyway. (What, you were going to pour it on the ground??? Give me that skin of water right back, mister!) And if you have a big vessel on the ground to catch it, then why not make the vessel a bit bigger, squat down quickly in it and be done?

    Here's an article in the Jewish Encyclopedia discussing the personal ablutions practiced by Jews -- by immersion of course, as specified in their rabbinical tradition: - ABLUTION:

    Here's Wikipedia, to be taken with about a bushel of salt; but it does have a nice picture of mikveh facilities in some medieval house and at a modern synagogue in Birmingham, Alabama.

    Mikvah - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Here are some pictures of mikveh facilities at Qumran:

    Archaeology Research Media - Mikveh, Jewish Ritual Bath - Sites & Photos

    This is (probably) one on the temple mount, and mentions that many others have been discovered there:

    One of your comments is worth a special response:

    You wondered where Jerusalem residents got water at the top of a mountain for all those immersions. Here's an informative discussion: » The Mikva’ot in Jerusalem

    Brief summary: the people of Jerusalem, and particularly the water-guzzling temple crew, did not carry their water by hand from wells. Spring-fed aquaducts from points higher than Jerusalem supplied their water. Was this system in place in the time of Solomon? Your guess is as good as mine... but it's interesting stuff, anyway.

    -----Added 12/9/2008 at 09:59:27 EST-----

    A quote from the blog I linked to (actually an Israeli archaeologist he was quoting):

    “One of the hallmarks of these buildings [i.e. Jewish houses of 1st century Jerusalem] – an element found in almost every one of them – is the mikveh or ritual bath. Since they were carved out of bedrock, these baths survived almost intact despite the subsequent destruction inflicted on other parts of the houses. Every generation has its social classes, and from this point of view the Second Temple period was no different from any other. Yet rather than be based on economic or social standards, classes then were defined on the basis of a religious guideline. Some were very strict in observing the religious precepts of the halakhah, others were less rigorous. The more fastidious in their observance of the commandments were called haverim (“comrades”), while their less exacting counterparts were called amei aratzot (“the uninitiated” or “common folk”). Yet we should note that the commandments in question are not the religious precepts whose observance or violation distinguishes between religious and non-observant people today, such as the Sabbath and the dietary laws of kashrut. Those commandments were universally observed in the Jewish community during the Second Temple period. What distinguished between the haverim and the amei aratzot was a rigorous observance of halakhic practice – most particularly the laws of impurity and purification – sometimes well beyond the demands of the halakhah. Hence the abundance of ritual baths. According to the halakhah, the water used in a ritual bath must either be rainwater or come from a constantly flowing source such as a spring. In places where there was no water source in the vicinity, rainwater was used. But that gave rise to problems of its own, for when the water in the ritual bath had to be changed in the summertime, it was necessary to draw water from cisterns.”​

    Hmmm. Sounds like "various washings" by immersion to me. Even mentions the overly fastidious among the Jews, and their emphasis on "baptisms" performed in these mikva'ot.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2008
  10. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    That is one good point. It doesn't take away anything from Pastor B's main argument, but in King Solomon's time they without question used aqueducts from higher places, with backup wells for times of siege. Archaeological digs of irrigation works that could only be interesting to people like me and Vic and the other farmers here make it pretty clear.

    Something I thought of was the nakedness factor in light of the fact that the whole architecture of the Temple was partly to make sure nobody could see under the High Priest's robes. I can't see a bunch of naked Priests in the temple, and the washing of hands and feet alone, even if it weren't mentioned in Scripture could be fairly deduced.
  11. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    I was trying to think about references from Solomon's time, but didn't think of any. Do you know of any verses? Regardless, I wouldn't be surprised if Solomon did create aquaducts. It was definitely the peak of Israel's history.

    See, this is where we need Semper Fidelis to contribute to this discussion...

    "Um, sir, I was wondering if I could take a shower on my own."
    "Oh, um, I'm just a modest person."
    "No problem, sir!"
    "Yes, sir."

    (Just kidding. I have two brothers in the Marines.)

    Back on a serious note, you are right based on the verses about steps on the altar and priestly undergarments, that modesty is important in the worship of God. However, immersion with some minimal clothing doesn't imply immodesty; and even if they did strip, it would be possible to use small, private rooms with a mikveh or put up curtains or something. These problems are not insurmountable.
  12. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Except that I haven't withdrawn a single thing I said starting with our first exchange. All I've done is reiterate my first point, and helped you see that I never denied that some form of dipping was reasonable, given the presence and use of water within the Tabernacle court. What I did deny was that "immersing" items (not a "part" of an item, but the "whole" thing has to go totally under at one moment, according to the Baptist) was not something that was requisite--and in many cases was unreasonable or impossible.

    Thus, the "washing" defined as "baptism" doesn't have to meet the "fully-whelmed" criteria that is the peculiar insistence of the Baptist. I can grant a legitimate "baptism" that does OR doesn't meet that criteria, while you are left positing endless schemes for HOW they "must have" accomplished their "immersions" so as not to allow "baptism" to mean anything but a condition of "completely-underwater."

    Now, if the laver itself was the "washtub," then the water for the laver is immediately polluted with a single use. Maybe that's not so important until the first half-hour of sacrifices, but eventually the whole thing has to be refreshed. On the other hand, if water is removed for various uses, poured over items, put in a smaller bowl for cleaning (which is what I said in my first response to you), then we have a more efficient use of the Tabernacle furnishment. The water in and from the laver is always clean, and it can be kept relatively full as a mater of convenience, not as a matter of necessity (as in: "Get me fresh water, NOW!").

    This also makes the transition to the Temple service a reasonable and consistent expression of the same principle. The clean water supply is immense, the 10 stands are reminiscent of the original laver.

    And I don't think the nomads bathed in tubs of any kind. What a luxury! "Sponge-bath" and the sparing use of water is what people do who wander about deserts on foot, and live in tents.

    No comment.

    I have to ask, are you giving up TOTAL immersion, a fully-whelmed object, as a requirement for baptism?

    Rag/sponge, water. This is how you bathe in the desert. And the water goes to ground, unless you have a basin. We know the Israelites carried kneading bowls on their backs leaving Egypt. Again, I have to say: You only need to create bathtubs, or HUGE pots big enough to sit inside, if you have an a priori requirement, based on a preselected definition.

    How did Aaron and Co. wash their feet? They could have sponged them, poured water over them, or dipped them in a flat pan, or... But they sure didn't lift their feet and hang them over the edge of the laver. If we're talking about small amounts of water, then "pouring on the ground" is letting waste water go its way, and relax, NBD.

    Pity the poor sap in your illustration who has to go dunking 10th--he's not going to get very clean. But you could give a 100 or more sponge-baths with all that water.

    I will look at the article, and comment in a later post.

    I don't know why my posts aren't taken at "face value." You may note, just by re-reading it, that I plainly recognize that any sort of city (much more a city on a hill-top) has huge water demands. Population increase either compels the finding/creation of water sources, or people will move away.

    My comment was that water in the amounts called for respecting these "immersion ablutions" was a LUXURY item. But if these ablutions are supposed to be the common or daily practice of ordinary Jerusalem dwellers (or Jewish people in general), then the requirements of 10-20 gallons a day just for bathing, let alone drinking and other purposes, would totally outstrip the resources. Thus, it cannot have been standard practice to follow this tradition.

    And suppose there was a "mikveh" in every single house.
    1) "Halakhah" isn't biblical but idolatrous, so the idea that God would incorporate idolatrous practices into Christian worship on the basis of their "familiarity" is contrary to the divine example.

    2) We see added to the unscriptural practices of body-washing the further abomination of ritual pot washing, etc. Does the Bible, NT or OT, associate "halakhah" with biblical cleansings from the law? If not, then whatever this practice "looked like" why should we assume it aids us in understanding biblical baptism? I would expect extraneous additions to have the character of wild exaggeration--kind of like going from sprinkling-as-sufficient, to insistence on full-body-washing for "efficacy".

    3) Were these baths "total immersions"?

    4) Did God "reduce" multiplicity of "baths" to a single bath? Is this what Jesus meant when he told Peter, "You are already clean; all you need is a foot-wash"? Do we need an expansion on the baptismal sacrament/ordinance?

    Help, I missed the reference to "baptism"??? Maybe its at the original site...

    But that's the point as issue. Was this behavior the sort of thing that the Bible recognizes as baptism? When you throw in the reference to "various washing" (Heb.9:10) you are begging the question as to the legitimacy of these things. You are saying that the writer to Hebrews is referring to unscriptural practices. How can you do that?

    Did the Jews know about "ritual immersion" for one purpose of another? You know, that's never been the question I was seeking to answer. I've known for a long time there was some of that in Judaism. Your claim was that it was "well established" and "a common mode". Which implies greater standardization than I am aware of.

    But more than that, you seem to have taken its presence and ubiquity (whatever its extent) and drawn conclusions therefrom about its legitimacy from a biblical standpoint. My inference has been 180^o the inverse of yours. The exaggerated character of these ablutions, over against the simplicity of the wilderness (Levitical) rites, is exactly the "religious inflation" we've seen repeated again and again in the last 2000 years of church history.

    If the presence of Jewish "immersions" teaches me anything, it's that the novelty of it is reason enough to suspect it's legitimacy. If it was as widespread as you think, all the worse for it.

    I promise to check out the links. But I'll tell you ahead of time, I will be looking for facts, not interpretations.
  13. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    The English word "immersion" can encompass the meanings of either full or partial immersion. However, note that the English word "immersion" cannot denote "sprinkling", except perhaps in a figurative way.

    Similarly, my position is that baptizo's literal meaning is immersion. When the author of Hebrews chose that word to describe the "various washings" obsoleted with the passing of the Old Covenant, it is not necessary that these washings be full immersions. A partial immersion is still an immersion. It is a separate question whether Christian baptism should be "full immersion"; and it is significant that all records of Christian baptism by immersion of which I'm aware describe full immersion. Tradition is not the only argument, however. As Paul says, we also symbolize Christ's burial and resurrection in the ceremony -- admirably pictured with a full dunking.

    Do you believe that the Jews at any time in history satisfied the requirement to "wash their bodies" for ceremonial purposes by dripping three or four drops of water on their heads? :^)

    -----Added 12/9/2008 at 03:18:02 EST-----

    No, sorry, you didn't miss anything. My post was unclear.

    The archaeologist was describing a division in society between those of greater religiosity who more rigorously observed things like ritual bathing in the mikveh, versus those who merely observed kosher, etc.

    I was suggesting a comparison to two scriptures: Jesus' complaint about the fastidious legalistic baptizers, and the passage in Hebrews about "various baptisms". The former passage reflected those who went overboard; the latter many who properly observed the laws of ritual ablution or washing, most probably by immersion in a mikveh.

    I hope you are at least open to the view that immersion was a common mode of ceremonial ablution in Jesus' day, and at the time when Hebrews was written.

    1. It's indisputable that it is now among Orthodox Jews.
    2. It's indisputable that it has been from our earliest knowledge of post-biblical history -- courtesy of the Mishnah and Talmud.
    3. The discovery of the mikva'ot in Jerusalem on and around the temple and in people's houses is further strong evidence that the use of mikva'ot even precedes Christ's coming and the authoring of Hebrews.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2008
  14. Blueridge Believer

    Blueridge Believer Puritan Board Professor

    If Romans 6 is used for a baptist proof text for full immersion then how come you're not baptized with your arms straight out symbolizing the cross?
  15. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    You use the word "novelty" above. Could you explain?

    I have made...

    1. ...a weak argument that ancient washing of one's body often meant immersion, because Naaman clearly did so.

    2. ...a slightly stronger argument from continuity. The Jews of Christ's day immersed, so maybe those before them immersed as well.

    3. explanation of how immersion could be feasible in the desert, contra your objections.

    Meanwhile, correct me if I'm wrong, but you have not given me any good reason to believe that 1st century Jewish immersion to satisfy the "washing your body" laws was an innovation. Why should I believe your statement that it was an "innovation"?

    -----Added 12/9/2008 at 03:37:03 EST-----

    It says, "buried with him in baptism". I don't follow your logic above, unless you're making a joke.

    As far as that being the Baptist argument... well, recall that sprinkling and pouring were exceptions to the rule in the primitive church of which we have record, and even though the Western Catholic Church abandoned immersion in most cases, it was continued in the East. Baptists are not the only immersionists, and as I said, probably all immersionists would appeal to that passage of Paul's. I recall reading an argument by the Anglican William Wall that made that argument (that total immersion was the only satisfactory immersion based on the burial analogy).
  16. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Ah, now I remember. Until very recently Texas A&M hosted a site called Anthropology in the News, which I visited regularly, and I saw it there.

    Ancient Parasites Confirm the Sect of Essenes - Their ritual of purification brought them disease - Softpedia
  17. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Which is why we don't use language like "John the Immerser" :^) Wouldn't want to confuse people by causing them to err thinking baptism= immersion.

    If that's the case, if it is only a matter of degree, then the Baptist position respecting the necessity of full immersion (or the baptism is invalid) is utterly lost. Specify the "degree" according to Scripture. Can you "baptize" a bed-ridden, hospitalized person? Why can't you pour some water on his head? Pour it all over his body if you wish.

    I think this is a devastating concession. Which is why no Baptist theologian I have ever heard of would make it. They cannot concede this vital point, that if degrees of immersion are not sufficient to immerse, nothing less than full immersion satisfies.

    1) I don't think its a separate question at all. Make it a separate question, and you have special-pleading.

    2) Tradition is worthless. That is what the Baptists say to the effusionist's appeal to the scope of church-history favoring the alternate practice, so it isn't ANY argument, not ONE argument.

    3) Baptism depicts union with Christ, there in Rom.6:3-4 and Col.2:12, according to his death, and his resurrection as a consequent. But also in 1Cor12:13, baptism is said to symbolize drinking. And in Gal 3:27 putting on clothing. So apart from your a priori why is only one of those symbols made an "admirable picture" of something through the act of baptism?

    Can I say that the drinking is symbolized admirably by the cupped hand filled with water? That's the way Gideon's 300 gallants were identified! Do you lie down to get dressed? You choose one symbol that fits your predilection, and ignore the others, using the same criteria.

    1) I don't think they had to be totally immersed; and if demonstrated, that is sufficient to abolish that requirement.

    2) I think a washing by any means on their body was sufficient.

    3) Numbers 19:11ff speaks of ritual purification, the man is to be "purified with water, v12; and v13 that purification is described as "sprinkling of water".

    And, Eze 36:25, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you."

  18. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    I read the same article. One can easily see why John baptized in the Jordan, and why the rabbinical authorities mandated using the freshest possible water for ablutions.

    (this was a reply to Tim)

    -----Added 12/9/2008 at 04:09:29 EST-----

    Maybe you didn't understand what I said. Please allow me to say it again, and perhaps you will understand it this time.

    1. You should regard it as possible that the word "baptize" is similar in meaning to our word "immerse".

    2. Our word "immerse" can mean full or partial immersion. However, it can't mean sprinkling (except figuratively).

    3. If God chose a word meaning "immerse" as his description of the New Testament ordinance, it is also possible he added additional information that would clarify whether it should be full or partial immersion. But those churches who immerse have always fully immersed, and Paul is taken as a strong reason for that. Don't shoot the messenger. If you immersed, you would probably fully immerse, too.

    If you grant #1 for the sake of argument, it shouldn't be too hard to accept the others. Can you explain to me how I have "utterly lost" my argument? Looks like it's still sitting right there.

    Again, you missed my point, which was that as far as we know, Christians have always fully immersed, and that Paul's image of baptism is best performed with full immersion. This is important additional information on top of the wider possible meanings of baptizo.

    Nope, see above.

    Say what they will, I think continuity with our Christian heritage is a strong reason why Baptists fully immerse. Maybe we would have the clarity of scriptural interpretation to do it even without tradition... maybe.

    If you hold the person under water long enough, then they perform the drinking as well.

    No, seriously. The above is a cheap shot; the bural picture is an obvious pictoral description of a physical baptism. Drinking or putting on Christ are harder to get a visual image of with regard to the baptism process.

    Not just me, man. All immersing Christendom from the 1st century on. Take it up with Augustine.

    I'm still convinced that if you granted that immersion was the proper mode of baptism, you would perform full immersion. I can't imagine that you would do it differently from all other Christians through history. Consequently, "full" versus "partial" is perhaps not a particularly meaningful distinction for us to argue about.

    No -- QNED.

    I suspect that sprinkling hearkens back to the Levitical sprinkling with water mixed with the red heifer's ashes, to be performed when you touch a dead person or human bone, etc. It's important for us to distinguish the concept of "purification" versus "washing" here. To us in the modern age who use Ivory soap, it sounds like the same thing; but they are two distinct concepts in the Hebrew language and culture.

    But anyway, moving away from the "ritual purification by sprinkling a person with [ashes+]water", back to the "ritual ablution by bathing oneself in water", I will again grant it is possible that ancient Hebrews bathed by some other means than immersion in obedience to the Torah command.

    However, my only real interest in their mode of bathing is what the author of Hebrews meant by the word "various baptisms", and it seems that the only mode used in his time that we're aware of historically is immersion in the various mikv'ot.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2008
  19. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Its novelty because it isn't prescribed by God. It falls outside the regulative principle of worship. It's will-worship. Any ceremonial, religious activity that is not prescribed by God is nothing but a snare and idolatry, and the doctrines and commandments of men. Where were these little shrines to cleansing authorized by God?

    You mentioned Naaman. The muddy Jordan River was sanctified enough for Naaman to dip in. The Bible seems to recognize only two types of water for purification: priestly applied water, which cleansed ceremonially, and ordinary water, which cleaned off outward defilement, which God might use (as in Naaman's case) for an extraordinary event.
    You are taking "innovation" in a sense I did not mean. I mean anything religious that has not been authorized.

    1) Naaman was a once-off. And he was specifically authorized. And he used an already available body of water, not a constructed shrine. No other record of a similar occasion of "7 dips" or even "1 dip"; no Levitical ordinance, related to leprosy or otherwise.

    So, I don't think one case of unique prescription authorized all the lepers in Israel to go dip 7-times in the Jordan, and they'd be cleansed.

    2) "Is" does not imply "ought", which is the substance of the debate here. If the Jews of the 1st C. were immersing, it is no argument that they should have been. Fidelity to Scripture is the only continuity that counts for anything.

    3) Feasibility in the desert is fine, if you are bound to make immersion normative or ordinary. The actual descriptions of the ritual cleansings in the wilderness are sprinklings, pourings, or partial immersions at best (assuming a bowl with the foot dipped in).

    So, where is the description of or explicit command to dip? Other than Naaman the Syrian, with Israel settled in the land of Israel, and still nothing to do with ordinary Hebrew religious pactice as described in the Torah?
  20. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    Let's get this straight.

    1. God commands the people of Israel to ceremonially bathe themselves in water on an extremely frequent basis.
    2. People build bathtubs to do it most conveniently.
    3. You label the bathtubs as "shrines" and complain that this violates the RPW.

    I say, on the contrary, bathtubs are a very effective way to "bathe oneself in water". Next question, please. This is in no way a violation of the RPW. Let's be serious here.

    OK. "Ordinary water" was also what ordinary Israelites used for routine ceremonial ablutions. with no priests involved.

    God told the people to "bathe themselves in water". He didn't necessarily tell them how to do it. Therefore, immersion in a convenient tub is certainly no more of a violation of the RPW than scrubbing with a rag.

    (I'm changing from "mikveh" to "tub", hoping it will help you to get over whatever your hangup is here. A mikveh was not a shrine, and bathing in water in obedience to the ceremonial commands of the Torah was not idolatry.)

    OK. The above is true as far as I know.

    They wished! (You're right of course.)

    Given you've presented no argument that immersion is wrong, just what I'd characterize as an unsubstantiated diatribe referencing the RPW...

    ...the above doesn't (yet) meaningfully add to our discussion. Some more meat, please.

    I'm not so sure about that. "Bathe in water" ... "bathe his body in water" .. "bathe themselves in water"... This is obviously more than dipping your foot, and it sounds like sprinkling or pouring would not be the most natural way to perform these functions.

    I find it unhelpful when discussing the passages that told the Israelites to "wash themselves", that you insist on mixing in unrelated ordinances such as the sprinkling with water and ashes. You have no passage that indicates when the Israelites "bathed themselves in water" that they sprinkled, so let's just leave that angle out of it, please.

    I've said before, it's not clear to me that immersion was required. It is clear to me that immersion is a very good way to fulfill the Old Covenant command to wash one's whole body in water. Therefore, unlike you, I fully approve of the first century Jews who observed at least the regular bathing in water on occasions specified in the Torah, and I suspect that the author of Hebrews references the mode in currency at that time when he chose the word "baptisms" to describe these ablutions/washings.

    -----Added 12/9/2008 at 04:59:48 EST-----

    Lev 14:8 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days.
    Lev 14:9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.
    Lev 15:5 And anyone who touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:6 And whoever sits on anything on which the one with the discharge has sat shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:7 And whoever touches the body of the one with the discharge shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:8 And if the one with the discharge spits on someone who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:10 And whoever touches anything that was under him shall be unclean until the evening. And whoever carries such things shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:11 Anyone whom the one with the discharge touches without having rinsed his hands in water shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:13 "And when the one with a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count for himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes. And he shall bathe his body in fresh water and shall be clean.
    Lev 15:16 "If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:18 If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:21 And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:22 And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 15:27 And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening.
    Lev 16:4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.
    Lev 16:24 And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people.
    Lev 16:26 And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
    Lev 16:28 And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
    Lev 17:15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean.
    Num 19:7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. But the priest shall be unclean until evening.
    Num 19:8 The one who burns the heifer shall wash his clothes in water and bathe his body in water and shall be unclean until evening.
    Num 19:19 And the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean.
    Deu 23:11 but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp.​

    And last but not least:

    Heb 9:9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,
    Heb 9:10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.​

    I contend that the "various washings" include the self-ablutions described above. I have heard an argument that the "various washings" must refer only to ceremonies performed on site at the temple and altar. However, even if you grant that the context's focus is on the altar, we know that the personal washings were necessary to attain ceremonial cleansing in order to approach the altar. Moreover, the "food and drink" referenced in the same verse certainly affected everyday Israelites, so that's another proof he's describing the ceremonies all across the spectrum.

    I think when the author of Hebrews says "various washings", he is referencing something that was very familiar to every Israelite. Particularly, as Contra Mundum pointed out, the married folks.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2008
  21. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    But I don't grant this. Why should I regard the words as similar? It is not the case that these words have essentially the same semantic range. Without that, "similar" is totally vague.
    But of course, if the word IS used for a sprinkling, then whatever you want to say about it, it has been used that way! "Figurative use" is no less a "real" use. Your unwillingness to let ancient writers mean what THEY please by baptizo is an arbitrary restriction. That would be like saying that "running the race that is set before us" is an improper use of the words "run" and "race"?!?
    I can follow a hypothetical syllogism. But, if I don't grant premise #1, then the case falls apart. I understand that your argument is valid, if it is self-contained. But I don't grant either the initial premise, or all the "possibilities" that riddle the syllogism.
    For a minute, forget about whether baptizo means immerse or not. If you grant that immersion doesn't have to mean "fully-whelmed" (and you have) then you cannot argue that any baptism that has only partially wet a person is improper or invalid. You cannot insist on it. In fact, since it can mean sprinkling (since it has that ancient usage) despite what you say, only a "ritual" application of water is necessary to "baptize."

    Your reliance on Rom.6:4/Col.2:12 is DEPENDENT on a specific understanding of the word baptizo. Your argument only makes sense if you are already a baptist who believes total immersion is THE biblical model. If baptizo DOESN'T mean "total-immersion" and only that, then those verses don't necessarily paint the picture you claim they paint. If sprinkling or any partial immersion were the "best" modality, then the "picture" was swept away.

    You have a specific understanding of what baptism looks like, which you then take to those verses and read them as a "picture" of the physical activity. This is why I could, and did, appeal to OTHER "descriptions" of baptism, which you called a cheap shot. Sorry, my friend, but that's the price you've paid for deciding ahead of time what the word means, and have selected for verses that support it.
    As far as we know?!? This has always been the case? How about "As far as I know Christians have always been immersed."

    For my part, I don't think either John the Baptist or the apostles immersed anyone, and I don't think the early church did either. And, which one of of Paul's "baptismal imageries" is most consistent with the "form" of baptism? The one that happens to agree with your side of the debate, right?
    Obvious? Only if you already agree with the Baptist.
    Probably, IF a baptist I was. Except that you've allowed baptism's definition to be something other than full immersion. So non-full-immersions ARE Christian baptisms, they just aren't the best baptisms? If Joe was converted and baptized as a 20 yr old by sprinkling, your church would receive him unreservedly as a member?
    Sure, it doesn't fit the paradigm, so now introduce all sorts of distinctions. What was washing for? What was purifying for? For removal of uncleanness! For removal of defilement! Filthiness! Make an exegetical case for this division/distinction, or that one.

    It is most frustrating to have you move the goalposts like this. And in the end, you've simply reverted outside the Bible, to Jewish activities which fall under Christ's own ban, to explain Heb.9:10. How can you justify that in light of 9:9?
  22. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    What Jewish activity that falls under Christ's own ban?

    Washing oneself in water was a routine part of an observant Jew's worship under the Torah.

    Please prove to me that immersion in a tub after ceremonial contamination was an act of disobedience and a violation of the RPW (that's the only conclusion I can draw from some of your rather intemperate and ill chosen words above).

    You made the argument above that when God told people to wash themselves, he didn't tell them how to do it. Now you are saying that anything except sprinkling or pouring is disobedience.

    Are you listening to yourself? Are you thinking this through?

    -----Added 12/9/2008 at 06:03:58 EST-----

    Your post above makes it clear that you are possessed of an overwhelming certainty that the literal meaning of "baptism" is not restricted to immersion, but also includes sprinkling.

    I really can't help you there. I'm sure you either have read, or are aware of the Reformed and other authorities who disagree with you, including the prominent Reformers, scholars of Classical Greek, etc.

    I've heard Presbyterians joke that in the Red Sea crossing, it was the Egyptians were immersed, and the Israelites were baptized. Ha ha, jokes aside, one of the common Classical Greek meanings of baptizo happens to be "drown". So the Egyptians were indeed baptized in a literal sense.

    But since the dogmatic tradition of sprinkling or pouring as the preferred mode of baptism is not necessarily subject to critical evaluation for a confessional Presbyterian, I don't suppose it would be useful to discuss this too much further. We've covered the ground I wanted to cover with regard to the Hebrews reference and the "mode of ablutions" in use at that time. I am interested to know what you meant in my question above, but beyond that we will probably just start going in circles.
  23. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Are you saying that the mikveh were nothing but bathtubs? Well, that's fine. I like people who don't smell bad. Was that the reason they had these baths?

    I keep hearing them referred to as if they were built for the purpose of ritual purity. That that's the reason they were found in so many houses in Jerusalem. They are not being referred to as common sinks. Have I been hearing this wrong from what you've been saying?

    But, even if the Hebrews invented household bathtubs, is it OK to create a "ritual demand" that basically, in order to keep pace with your "saintly neighbor" now you HAVE to have one of these things? So you can purify yourself to HIS degree?

    See, if you NEED this mikveh, to get pure, then the wanderers in the wilderness needed it too. Conversely, if they didn't NEED it, then Joe Jerusalem doesn't need it either. Couldn't the nomad wash his body like the rest of the desert wanderers? The text does not insist that the washing be done in a pool of water, or with a damp rag! The amount of water is irrelevant. And if these vats were extra-biblical mandates, along with the washings that were performed in them apart from divine command, then they were an added imposition, a new doctrine.

    So the RPW is directly relevant. If a person has to bathe a certain way, then that way would need to be spelled out in the law, not by a bunch of Pharisaic nit-pickers.
    Again, we're actually in agreement here--except that I keep getting the impression that immersion is a form that was being insisted upon, and not left to a poor man's discretion. Was it OK for the poor man to simply dispense with the extravagance? And might they all also dispense with the myriad of additional cleansings?
    Here, you are limiting the ceremonies to those prescribed by the Torah. That's good. I want to know which washings performed were done in explicit fulfillment of the law's meticulous commands? How many NON-Torah washings, of any kind?
    All I want from your side, preferring immersion, is an acknowledgment that any mode of washing was allowable, anything that could have been performed in a wilderness. If you insist on immersion, then I assume that you feel the Jews must have insisted on it.
    But the preposition is just that flexible. It can mean "in" as "inside" or "with" just as easily. The issue is that he use water to do the bathing, not mud, or sand, or milk, or you-name-it.

    "Dipping the foot" was a reference to Aaron and Co. washing hands and feet at the Laver. I don't know why those methods I proposed won't sound natural to you. I don't think you have given half the consideration you ought to the actual, wilderness conditions under which Israel operated.

    If you insist on physical baths for the people, you are basically saying that they were living like Arabian princes in little pavilions for each family. Were they living in opulence? They may not have been utterly miserable, but the Bible's description of their life out there was one of austerity, and total dependence on God.
    I understand you would prefer if I just adopted your arbitrary distinction. But no, this is YOUR distinction, which you have predicated upon the idea that "baptisms" in Heb.9:10 CANNOT mean the sprinklings, AND everything else; ALL the Levitical ordinances.

    In light of Heb. 9:9 (and the later context), how can you say that? Unless you assume you are allowed to cut out everything that doesn't fit with your definition of "baptism"? THOSE washings you prefer get a mention in a passage about the priestly work of Christ, but the priestly cleansings DON'T get mentioned? How convenient.
    Well, we agree at least that immersion per se is not plainly called for in the OT test. But in light of Jesus' condemnation I cannot agree that the full halakhah directions are simply the proper outworking of Levitical principles. More to the point, I don't think that personal washings are even uppermost in the Hebrews writer's mind.

    Now, your conclusion here seems to "take back" your previous point: viz. that the "washings" (Heb.9:10) are specifically the personal ablutions. Does it "include" the personal washings? I certainly never disagreed with that! It is INDEED the ceremonies all across the spectrum, with a focus on the altar.

    But it seems arbitrary, again, to have you say that it is permissible to cut-away all the ceremonial cleansings that were plainly NOT immersions, simply on the basis of what you think ought to be included in the MEANING of that word.

    -----Added 12/9/2008 at 06:58:52 EST-----

    Mark 7:4, with or without the couches? If they were washing themselves or anything else apart from the law--and apparently they were!--these people were being rebuked. This was the MAIN aspect of religious observance of these folks.
    I'm not disputing this. I won't even dispute a person's choice of method--as long as he doesn't insist that it has to be done with a dipping.

    From J.W.Dale's work, Classic Baptism, without controversy, the final word on the subject of the meaning of "baptizo"
    I do not object to positing a definition of "baptizo". I don't even mind taking it from some other Reformed author we can agree on. You never did, and you seemed simply to assume that I would automatically agree with whatever definition you chose, regardless of the source, and regardless of nuance.

    Since I don't know what you would mean by "basic meaning" and "immerse" (which we came to find out was for you both total and partial under the same designation!), I wasn't going to let you just get away with assuming it.

    I completely agree.

    For anyone else who is interested in finding the meaning of "sprinkling" in the USAGE (not in the etymology) of baptizo:
    Numbers 19:11
    He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days: [12] the same shall purify himslef therewith on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify himself not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. [13] Whosoever toucheth a dead person, the body of a man thathath died, and purifieth not himslef, defileth the tabernacle of Jehovah; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water for impurity was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.​
    The like language is extended and repeated until verse 22 (end of chapter).

    Now take a look at extra-biblical, contemporaneous, pre-Christian literature, again from the Apocrypha, Siriach (or Ecclesiasticus) 31:25 (34:25 in English versions):

    "Baptizomenos (nom. s. m. pres. mid/pass participle of baptizo) apo nekrou, kai palin aptomenos autou, ti wfelhse tw loutrw autou?"

    "He that washeth himself after touching of a dead body, if he touch it again, what availeth his washing?"
  24. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for sharing the above, it's a valuable contribution to the discussion. (I'm not being sarcastic. I truly appreciate the depth of background in theology as well as the courteous and engaging manner you are using in this controversial thread. I am definitely learning things from this discussion, which is my goal.)


    The connection you are drawing between Numbers and the LXX with regard to sprinkling is unwarranted, and I will explain why. Numbers describes multiple steps for the person who touches a "dead guy". There are two uses of water.

    1. Somebody else is to take the hyssop and sprinkle him with water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer.

    2. He is to wash himself at a later point. There is no suggestion that this is the sanctified water mixed with heifer ashes.

    Num 19:18 Then a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there and on whoever touched the bone, or the slain or the dead or the grave.
    Num 19:19 And the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him
    , and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean.

    I would suggest that the word baptizomenos in the LXX refers to the subject's self-bathing in Numbers 19:19b, not to the sprinkling performed upon him by a clean person in 19:18 and 19:19a.

    -----Added 12/9/2008 at 07:15:19 EST-----

    Also of note is that the heifer-ash-water-mixture sprinkling was not mandated in the case of touching an animal carcass. However, a self-administered bathing of some kind (or washing clothes, I forget) was. Not familiar with that LXX citation, so don't know if the dead body is human or animal. Guessing human?
  25. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Romans 6 better not be used as a baptist proof text for full immersion in water baptism for if it is so used the necesssary consequence is to make baptism a magical rite that frees all who undergo it from the power of sin.
  26. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Well, you have completely ignored the verses from Num.19 that are actually being referenced by Siriach, vv11-13. Please revisit.

    The key word in both texts is haptomenos, participle indicating "the one who touches." THAT word is the direct connection to LXX Num.19 vv11 & 13. The word nekrou for "dead" is mentioned once in v16, however, not the prepositional phrase apo nekrou, but in a list. The vv11-13 use this phrase, "dead soul of a man" (Gk. tethnakotos psukas anthropou) to describe the dead man, a very woodenly literal rendering of the Hebrew.

    There is no question but these are the verses referred to by Siriach. To refer them down to vv18-19 is mere evasion. The truth is, the whole thing from beginning to end is the "baptism", but it is one part in particular that stands out for special mention, indeed it is the main point.

    In v13, and in v20--the latter after the verses you chose to highlight--what EXACTLY in the text does Moses say makes unclean the man who does not follow the law? Is it his failure to bathe himself? No, it is not. It is his failure to to be sprinkled with the water of cleansing. The main point is twice emphasized, emphasis of repetition.

    In context, "purifying himself" (v11) and passively having the water sprinkled on him amounts to the same thing. In other words, the responsibility to get clean is his, but he needs the help of another, the priest. Likewise, in v20, the phrase, "the man who does not purify himself" cannot in the context refer ONLY to the final stage of the purification rites. The language of vv11-13 establishes that.

    Again, you try to evade the clear force of the text; you have to say that Siriach focuses attention on the least important aspect of the cleansing process, least significant according to Moses.

    v12 is rendered: (the KJV is pretty literal) "He shall purify himself with it on the third day,..." The identity of this substance isn't even repeated, it's so superfluous. Moses just spent 10 verses talking about its manufacture. And then, the end of v13 (and vv20-21), it is mentioned again. This is the "sprinkling" water, and NO, I don't think he used the "water of purification" to bathe in or wash his clothes.

    But the "water of purification" is still ... water! And the verse in Siriach seems to be making the point that the man could go to all that trouble, and immediately be none the better for it by sinning yet again.

    Oh well. That's enough Bible study. I better get back to memorizing my "traditions"...
  27. TsonMariytho

    TsonMariytho Puritan Board Freshman

    I wanted to make sure that others were aware that the subject's "washing himself" with ordinary water was also a commanded part of that specific purification process. Of course you have a strong interest (yes, related to your denominational tradition) for that to refer to the sprinkled water of purification, rather than the water of ablution. However, others may not see through those glasses.

    Apparently, you believe that if the subject followed all the steps right up to washing himself and his clothes, but then skipped that step, he would still be ceremonially clean"at evening".


    -----Added 12/10/2008 at 08:45:18 EST-----

    To respond to your quoting of the verse that indicates that the sprinkling of the ash-water mixture is the sine qua non of the ceremonial cleansing...

    I would just say that the Spirit of God through Moses didn't need to say the same thing about the personal ablution at the end of the ceremony, because that was already painfully clear to someone familiar with the other laws requiring personal ablution in various situations.

    The law of "touching dead guys" is a rarer case of ceremonial uncleanness than most, and has this extra sprinkling step added, which -- even though it was a lot of trouble -- God wanted to make sure they didn't skip. Bathing oneself in water is relatively easy, and it's clear elsewhere that it's also a sine qua non of ceremonial cleansing when commanded, so God didn't have to say anything special about the necessity of it.

    -----Added 12/10/2008 at 10:40:37 EST-----

    To be fair, I should add (as you've also remarked repeatedly in this discussion) that I myself am not exactly reeling in crises of existential doubt over my own underlying theological agenda in this discussion.

    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
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