Note: This is Article III is the Series: I. Immersion in the Baptism Form, II. Incorporation Into Christ. A discussion follows between Pastor Johann Muller, Charles Fessler, a catechumen, and Melvin Rausch, Charles’ Baptist friend.
Charles: Pastor Muller, today I’ve brought with me my friend Melvin, who is a member of Berachah Church. He has some questions and problems centering around the teaching of the lexicons on the Greek words bapto and baptizo.
Pastor M: Welcome aboard, Melvin. Good to have you here. Tell us about some of those lexicon problems of yours.
M.R.: Pastor Muller, I’ve brought along for each of us this little four-page tract, put out by our Berachah Church, where about once a month a sermon is preached on the mode of baptism from the immersionist point of view.
Pastor M: All right, go ahead. Oh, I see that this tract deals with the immersionist mode of Baptism as allegedly supported by the lexicons. Now, what’s your problem in this connection?
M.R.: Well, sir, we can all see from this tract that the contention is that the Greek word baptizo according to the lexicographers means “to be submerged, or immersed.” The first lexicographer mentioned is “Donnegan—Baptizo: submerge.”
Pastor: Let me list these lexicographers on the blackboard, Melvin, in a left-hand column, and then on the right additional quotations which should be included. Okay?
Here we go: “Donnegan—Baptizo: submerge.” But this lexicographer also has, which the tract does not include, “Bapto: to dip, to plunge, to wash, to dye, to color, to draw water.”
M.R.: Really? That’s all in Donnegan’s lexicon?
Pastor: Oh, yes, certainly. Next your tract has “Robinson—Baptizo: to dip, to sink, to immerse.” But Robinson also adds, which your church does not take cognizance of, “to wash, to lave, to cleanse by washing.”
Now let’s just go on to the third. “Greenfield—Baptizo: to immerse.” What your church’s tract neglects to tell us is that Greenfield also adds the lexicographical meaning, “to cleanse, to wash.”
M.R.: Oh! Well then, what is found in the lexicons is not by any means given fully?
Pastor: Not by a long shot! Here, let’s each have a copy of this sheet I’ve prepared and check out a list of the eminent lexicographers your church could have listed.
1. Scapula, a Greek lexicographer of almost 200 years ago. He defined baptizo: “to dip, to immerse, to submerge, to overwhelm with water, to cleanse, to wash.”
2. Henry Stephens (d. 1598) has, “Baptizo: to dip, to immerse, to submerge, to overwhelm with water, to cleanse, to wash.”
3. Shrevelius (d. 1667): Baptizo: to dip, to cleanse, to wash.
4. Robertson’s Thesaurus, one of the most accurate of dictionaries, printed 1676, Baptizo: has only the two meanings, to dip, to wash.
5. John G. Suicer, Thesaurus published 1683, Baptizo: immerse, submerge, overwhelm with water; to cleanse, to wash,
But (Pastor speaking) before we go any further, (and there are many more lexicographers available for our consideration), let me tell you of the time I had the privilege of being present at a Dunker baptism. I asked an elder there, “When you take in members from another church, do you insist that they must be baptized again?” “No,” he replied, “not if they’ve been baptized by trine immersion forward! But if they’ve been immersed once forward, and twice backward, say—or merely backward—or by any other method—then we do!” I asked, Why? Why do you immerse forward, while other churches do it backward? He smiled, “The only reason I can think of for immersing backward is that people usually are buried on their backs, and baptism is supposed to be the burial of sin. However, when a person’s drowned, he lies face forward in the water, doesn’t he?” I nodded. “Well, we don’t want the devil Sin to rise again, and so we drown him by immersing forward!”
Charles and Melvin, looking at one another, snickered, then cracked up in uproarious laughter.
Pastor (laughing): Now let’s get back to the lexicographers.
6. Hedericus, published in 1722—Baptizo: to dip, to immerse, overwhelm with water, to cleanse, to wash, to baptize…
7. Schoetgen’s Lexicon, 1765, to dip, to immerse…to cleanse, to wash, to pour profusely upon.
8. Bretschneider – Baptizo: often “to dip into,” often “to wash,” simply “to cleanse.”
9. Schleusner – Baptizo: to immerse as to dye, to dip into water. However, it is never used in the New Testament but in the sense, “to cleanse, to wash, to purify with water.”
Melvin: Then the lexicons really do not support the immersionists, do they?
Pastor: No, that’s correct. They do not.
10. (Going on!) Parkhurst has “dip,” and “immerse” among his definitions of baptizo: but also has “to wash with water in token of purification.”
11. Robinson gives baptizo’s classic use as dip, immerse: but in the New Testament it is never so used. The sense of the New Testament usage he confines to washing, cleansing, bathing.
Charles: Pastor, by “the classic use” is meant the secular Greek classics, such as the Greek writings of Polybius, Plutarch, et.al?
Pastor: That’s right. The next is,
12. Parkhurst – Baptizo, to dip, to immerse, to wash, to purify.
13. Pickering – Baptizo: to dip, to immerse, to wet, to wash, to cleanse.
Pastor: Hold on now! Just two more!
14. Dunbar – Baptizo: to dip, to immerse, to sink, to soak, to wash.
15. Liddell and Scott – to dip repeatedly, to dip under, to bathe, to wet, to pour upon, to drench, to overwhelm. Well, this is not all, as far as the lexicons are concerned; but surely this is enough.
Charles: Well, I should say so! Pastor, here in the lexicons is a great body of true, accurate definitions.
Melvin: And to think that this Berachah Church tract quotes only partially from three lexicons!
Pastor: Well, you can see that the lexicons do not support the idea that baptizo means “I dip”, and that it always means “to dip all over.” One cannot understand Classical Greek usage by limiting the meaning to only one word. Dip cannot be meant where wet is meant. For example, in Dan. 4:33, Septuagint version, written in Greek, Scripture says, “his (Nebuchadnezzar’s) body was wet (baptized with the dew of heaven.”) His body was not dipped in dew, but wet with dew.
Melvin R: Wow! Then how dare the ministers in Berachah Church claim, as they do in their tract, that “all the early defenders of Christianity taught that nothing but immersion was baptism”?
Pastor: Not even the Baptist authority, Carson, would go that far. He stated the truth when he wrote, “I have all the lexicographers and commentators against me in this opinion”—that baptizo means nothing but a modal and total immersion!
Pastor: You are grown up young people, but even children can understand that the lexicons do not limit the meaning of the word baptizo to “immerse and to nothing else.”
Melvin: But our Berachah Church teaches that “every child knows that immerse has but one literal meaning, and that no sophistry can blind his understanding.”
Pastor: Then listen to a parent who says, “Child, you are entering on your education, so I tell you to be immersed in your books.” Later the parent checking on the child’s study progress finds the child answering from under a pile of books, “Here I am, Father!” “What are you doing under there?” he is asked. He replies out from under his inundation in books, “You told me to be immersed in my books; so here I am, under a pile of them!” “But child, don’t you know that ‘immersed in books’ means to be thoroughly engaged in their study?” “Oh, no, sir! Every child knows that ‘immerse’ means put down in and under, and nothing else. I read it in the Baptist Herald. No sophistry can blind my understanding.”
Pastor: So, my young friends, though baptizo in the lexicons has the meaning of immerse in the Classics, yet is also has many other meanings, as to cleanse, purify, wash, etc. But in Scripture ‘baptizo’ NEVER means to immerse; and though there are in Scripture words for the idea of immersion, they do not refer to ‘baptism’!…Like some proof for that? Then do a little homework and read in John Owen’s Works, Vol. 16, page 267 on Matt. 3:1, 6, 11, 14, 16.