Is Baptism a New Testament ritual?

Reading the Gospels, I was always under the impression that Baptism started with John the Baptist. Was John the inventor of Baptism? Or did Baptism originate before him? Where did Baptism really come from? What is the true meaning and purpose of it? These are some of the questions I had myself.

The issue this study will try to address mainly, is that Baptism did not suddenly appear after John and Yeshua, but that it existed and has it’s roots in the Old Testament Scriptures.

It is a fact that the word “Baptism” does not appear in the Old Testament Scriptures. It seems to be an alien ritual that John suddenly starts out of nowhere, and people take part of, in the thousands(Mat 3:5,6). Even the Pharisees and Sadducees who were vehemently opposing Yeshua, wanted to take part in it(Mat 3:7).

An interesting point to ponder on, is in John 1:25. Here some asked him “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”(Joh 1:25). If Baptism was a completely new idea, why did they ask why John is Baptizing, instead of what is this thing called the “Baptism” that you are doing?

————————————————–The sum of this study——————————————————
Since this study delves deep into the Greek words written in the original manuscripts, I have compiled a summary of sorts for everyone who would find the evidence below a bit too advanced or time consuming.

The English word “Baptism” is a “Cognate” word. What this means is, that the English word “Baptism” comes from a similar sounding word from Greek, which is “Baptiszo”, which originally means “to make fully wet, whelmed or wash”. The reason we do not find Baptism in the English translation of the Old Testament, is a simple one; The English translations that we have of the Old Testament, was translated from Hebrew, while the New Testament was translated from Greek.

Even though 2000 years later, we see the English cognate word “Baptism” as a “ritual” that was started by John and Yeshua, the Greek word “Baptiszo” simply meant “to make fully wet, fully whelmed or wash”.

Further to this, “Baptism” is one of the main 3 acts performed by whomever wants to become a proselyte of Judaism. The Jewish Baptism (also called immersion), is identical to the “Baptism” recorded in the New Testament. And this act of Jewish Baptism predates John, Yeshua and the Christian Baptism. (Refer, Ablution, Jewish Baptism, Jewish proselyte baptism).

The act of Baptism, is believed to originate from the commandment God gave to His people before the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:10). This act can be seen further in Leviticus 8:6, where Aaron and his sons were washed when they were ordained as priests to minister in the holy tabernacle.

Baptism is an important step in the life of anyone who believes in Yeshua. It depicts how we are dead to our old sinful self, and is born in Christ’s image (Rom 6:3,4). Baptism cannot save anyone, in the same way circumcision cannot save anyone. Both are outward acts that show an inward change. The person with the repentant heart alone will be saved through God’s grace. I am in no way, saying that Baptism is of no use. It is an ordinance made by Messiah to proclaim to the world, what has happened inside of a person who gets baptized in his name. In other words, you are showcasing the inner change to the world by the act of immersing yourself in a body of water, which is “Baptism”.

Just because we start seeing the English word “Baptism” in the Gospels first, does not mean that the act of Baptism wasn’t there before John or the Gospels. Getting caught in a word has blinded us to the reality of Baptism or Immersion in Water, as an act of re-birth and purification which was there, long before Christianity. This has in turn, led to the erroneous idea that Yeshua, our saviour introduced a complete set of new rules and regulations, and that baptism was also a new law that came with the New Covenant.
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Study of Greek words in the Original Manuscripts using the Strong’s Concordance
Now let’s look at the 3 main Greek Words used in connection with the idea of Baptism in the Original Greek Manuscripts. I have showcased all of these words (even though 2 of them originate from the first word) and their corresponding translations to English, as well as highlight key verses for discussion and shedding insight into the act of Baptism.

1) G907 – βαπτίζω – baptizō – bap-tid’-zo – From a derivative of G911; to make whelmed (that is, fully wet); used only (in the New Testament) of ceremonial ablution, especially (technically) of the ordinance of Christian baptism: – baptize, wash.

G907 is translated as “Baptize”, “Baptized”, “Baptizest”, “Baptizing”, “Baptizeth” in  – Mat_3:6; Mat_3:11; Mat_3:13; Mat_3:14; Mat_3:16; Mat_20:22; Mat_20:23; Mat_28:19; Mar_1:4; Mar_1:5; Mar_1:8; Mar_1:9; Mar_10:38; Mar_10:39; Mar_16:16; Luk_3:7; Luk_3:12; Luk_3:16; Luk_3:21; Luk_7:29; Luk_7:30; Luk_12:50; Joh_1:25; Joh_1:26; Joh_1:28; Joh_1:31; Joh_1:33; Joh_3:22; Joh_3:23; Joh_3:26; Joh_4:1; Joh_4:2; Joh_10:40; Act_1:5; Act_2:38; Act_2:41; Act_8:12; Act_8:13; Act_8:16; Act_8:36; Act_8:38; Act_9:18; Act_10:47; Act_10:48; Act_11:16; Act_16:15; Act_16:33; Act_18:8; Act_19:3; Act_19:4; Act_19:5; Act_22:16; Rom_6:3; 1Co_1:13; 1Co_1:14; 1Co_1:15; 1Co_1:16; 1Co_1:17; 1Co_10:2; 1Co_12:13; 1Co_15:29; Gal_3:27;

It is also translated as “wash” in Mar 7:4 and as “washed” in Luk 11:38.
Mar 7:4  And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Luk 11:38  And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
These verses should ideally read as given below:-
Mar 7:4  And when they come from the market, except they baptize, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Luk 11:38  And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first baptized before dinner.

This is clear proof to the fact that the Greek Word “G907 – βαπτίζω – baptizō – bap-tid’-zo” clearly meant “wash”. Since this Greek word has been translated to “Baptism” in English, which is a “Cognate” word, (meaning a similar sounding word which has originated from it’s Greek counterpart) it has caused people to think that the act of “Baptism” is a completely new idea only found in the New Testament. The fact is, that this word originally meant “wash” or “immerse” in the Greek.


2) G908 – βάπτισμα – baptisma – bap’-tis-mah
– From G907; baptism (technically or figuratively): – baptism.

G908 is also translated as “Baptism” in Mat_3:7; Mat_20:22; Mat_20:23; Mat_21:25; Mar_1:4; Mar_10:38; Mar_10:39; Mar_11:30; Luk_3:3; Luk_7:29; Luk_12:50; Luk_20:4; Act_1:22; Act_10:37; Act_13:24; Act_18:25; Act_19:3; Act_19:4; Rom_6:4; Eph_4:5; Col_2:12; 1Pe_3:21;

G908 – baptisma originates from G907 baptizō


3) G909 – βαπτισμός – baptismos – bap-tis-mos’
– From G907; ablution (ceremonially or Christian): – baptism, washing.
Mar 7:4  And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Mar 7:8  For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
Heb 6:2  Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Heb 9:10  Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

Just like G908 – baptisma, G909 – baptismos also originates from G907 baptizō. This word which is translated as “baptisms” in He 6:2, is translated as “washing/s” in Mar 7:4, 7:8 & Heb 9:10. This further proves the fact of “Baptizo/Baptism” being the equivalent of “Wash”.

Baptism in Judaism predating John and Messiah
Any and everyone who wants to become a proselyte of Judaism has to go through 3 main acts over and above studying. The 3 acts are “Circumcision”, “Baptism” and offering of “Sacrifice”. In today’s context, as the Temple in Jerusalem is no more, they have to accomplish the first 2. It has been so, even before John & Yeshua according to historical documents.  And this Jewish Baptism (also called immersion), is identical to the “Baptism” recorded in the New Testament. (Refer, Ablution, Jewish Baptism, Jewish proselyte baptism). Furthermore, they even believe that the person who goes through “Baptism” is like a newborn child, which is very close to the idea of born-again, used by Christians.

“Baptism”(G907 – baptizō ) found in Septuagint
The “Septuagint“, which is a Greek Translation of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures, contains G907 – baptizō  in 2 Kin 5:14.
2Ki 5:14  Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

In this verse Naaman the Syrian, who had a skin disease washed/immersed himself 3 times in the Jordan as per Elisha’s instructions. It is translated as “dipped” in our English Bibles, though the Greek scholars who translated the Hebrew to Greek for the Septuagint, 2 centuries before Yeshua, used G907 – baptizō  in this place. This is a clear indication, that G907 – baptizō  meant to “wash/immerse oneself”. And that the word itself was there 2 centuries before Yeshua, even though the English word “Baptism” came to be, only much later in time.
Origins of Baptism or Ritual Washing/Immersion
In Exodus 19:10, God tells Moses to tell the people to wash their clothes in preparation of hearing God speak and receiving His Commandments. This is the first instance there is any mention of a ritual of washing.

Leviticus 8:6 records that Aaron and his sons were washed with water when they were ordained as priests to minister in the holy tabernacle, according to God’s Command. Again, in Leviticus 16:4, God commands Aaron to wash himself before he ministered in the Holy of Holies.

The first Temple in Jerusalem built by Solomon had a large circular pool of water, which was called the “Sea of Solomon”. This was used by the priests for cleansing/washing and is mentioned in 1Kings 7:23 and 2Chron 4:2.

Baptising or Washing/Immersing ourselves today
Baptism in itself is only an act. It is the heart of the person that gets Baptised/Immersed/Washed that matters. Baptism cannot save anyone, in the same way circumcision cannot save anyone. Both are outward acts that show an inward change. The person with the repentant heart alone will be saved through God’s grace. Baptism is an important step in the life of anyone who believes in Yeshua. It depicts how we are dead to our old sinful self and is born in Christ’s image (Rom 6:3,4). It is an ordinance made by Messiah to proclaim to the world, what has happened inside of a person who gets baptized in his name. In other words, you are showcasing the inner change to the world by the act of immersing yourself in a body of water, which is “Baptism”.

Concluding words
A person can very well say, that “Baptism” is first seen in the Gospels. This has led to the idea that Yeshua, our saviour introduced a new set of rules and regulations, and that baptism was also a new law that came with the New Covenant.

Just because we start seeing the English word “Baptism” in the Gospels first, does not mean that the “act of Baptism” was started by John in the Gospels. As we have seen above, “Baptism”, a cognate word, originating from it’s Greek counterpart literally means “immerse/wash”.  And washing as an act of renewal and cleansing has been there from Old Testament times.

Finally, I hope this article adequately shows you that the act of “Baptism” was not created by John or Yeshua, and that it is not something that anyone can use to separate the Old Testament from the New. If at all, this act brings the Old Testament Scriptures closer to the Gospels and epistles, of the New.

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