Abstract: Our two debaters, one from Dallas Theological Seminary, discuss water baptism, Holy Spirit baptism, and salvation. Did the profane and religious use of the Greek word for "immerse" inherently mean "immersion in water" when God uses it in the Bible, or does context need to be considered in determining definitions?

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Salvation by faith or by water baptism?

by Aramus Crane 2004

Annex A:  Can "water" be assumed anywhere "baptism" is mentioned in Scripture?

Based on a dialog with a missionary friend (claims to be formerly fundamentalist, now evangelical) who graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).  To make the dialog more understandable to the reader, I reordered some of it, corrected some English mistakes, and eliminated redundencies.

The views of my brother in the Lord should not be taken to reflect those of all fundamentals, evangelicals, or DTS.  In fact, you'll find that his views differ explicitly from those expressed on the DTS website:  "no baptism or other ordinance however administered, can help the sinner to take even one step toward heaven."

I consider myself a simple Christian.  My views are generally Protestant but the reader should not assume that they reflect the ideas of all Protestants, my foundation, my church, my supporters, my alma mater, or any other creature on the planet.

Bible quotations are from the King James Version (KJV) because most people of my brother's persuasion prefer that version.

His statements are in blue.  Mine are in black.

 The word baptize or its derivatives occurs around 20 times or so in Acts.  the majority of the occurrence have to do with water baptism not spirit baptism although that is clearly mentioned and often clearly indicated as "baptism with the HS" c.f 11:16.  Which happens to bring up another point.  The NT in general if referring to spirit baptism seems to specify such by not speaking of just "baptism" but baptism with or by the HS.   Also, regarding total NT usage of the term.  The majority of the occurrence of the word are clearly water baptism

If you assume it is water baptism each time, you will think it is.  It is what psychologists call self-fulfilling prophecy.  Brother, I think this disagreement is caused by your Fundamentalist background and so all the non-specific verses you interpret as water baptism.  I come from a Protestant background and am interpreting them by their context and the rest of Scripture.  Perhaps neither of us are 100% right.

It is coming from the fact that I know what I am talking about (at least on this point) because I have the training to do so.  You are coming from what you have heard, and perhaps what you want to believe.

OK tell me what you think they trained you to think.

So you are saying anytime water is not mentioned it must not be with water? i.e. spirit baptism?  To make a pun here you are out of your water... The word itself from the Greek batisma denotes the action of washing for (sic?) plunging in water.  You have to argue against Greek vocabulary, grammar, and 2,000 years of church history to say spirit baptism is in view unless water is clearly stated....  So to use the  redundant word "water" in a given context would be redundantly repetitive saying the same thing twice. So from the very meaning of the term itself water baptism is implied.  Thus if spirit is added for clarity it is to differentiate between the two but saying "I'm not talking about water baptism here".  But when you start basing your opinions on technical terms, grammar etc you need to go to the original.  So the burden of proof is automatically on your part to prove a given passage is referring to spirit baptism if the spirit is not expressly mentioned -- a hard task to say the least.

The word "baptism" is another case in point.  I'm not telling you what I think it means.  I'm telling you (greatly simplified) what the term itself in Greek means, and meant for centuries even in pagan literature.  "to dip, immerse, etc"  Its root meaning has nothing to do with the Spirit.  It has everything to do with water.   That is not what I think.  It is a fact.  Plain and simple.

You started right but ended wrong.  Have you ever immersed a paintbrush in oil paint? How about yourself in work?  Did you wear your bathing suit?  I'm having fun at your expense so please excuse me.

True, it has nothing implicitly to do with the Spirit, but your educational bias really shows through here because it has absolutely nothing implicitly to do with water either.  Baptizo is a verb and Spirit and water are nouns.  Your saying it has everything to do with one and nothing to do with another is like saying, "Driving has nothing to do with cars and everything to do with golf balls."  Unless you provide the subject and object explicitly or in the context, there is absolutely no way you can logically assume that baptism refers to water. As you wrote, the Greeks and the "pagans" knew that.  Go to the DTS website to learn that they know that and I maintain that the Bible authors and God know that.  I think you realize your problem by now, so  let's go on.

[Much time passed and he looked up the definition, acknowledging a broader definition of batisma.  Other mistaken references that batisma only means "washing or plunging in water" will be deleted to prevent confusion of the reader.]

OK, you have three levels of meaning in the term.
1. The profane use -- to simply immerse in something.   In common non religious usage it would refer to immersing in a liquid, dye, water, etc...  I would challenge you find any non biblical sources for "immersion in the spirit" or any spirit for that matter.  I may have had that very specific usage but it would have been very rare (perhaps in the Greek mystery religions).  It would have been used a gazillion times in everyday usage to dip in water. 
[This second definition is more correct in that "to immerse in something" includes "to immerse in water" since water is a thing in which an object can be immersed.  :-) ]

This common (profane) usage is also found in the bible.   Mark 7:3 uses "nipto" to wash Mark 7:4 uses "baptizomai" to "wash" speaking of their hands...  I
nteresting "water" is not mentioned but clearly understood..... 
 Luke 11:38 is another simple wash usage 
 In Numbers 19:18 is an OT (LXX) usage of the common meaning of the term.  to wash (in water)
I pose no debate that the Bible used it in this way.
2.  the religious usage referring to ceremonial washing.  Like water baptism was... 
When John baptized did he baptize them in the spirit?  or in the Jordan??  Mat 3:6?  Seems like the Jordan was full of water if I remember right.  Interesting too that John was baptizing hundreds if not thousands before the spirit was even promised. (see 3:11) Christ was the first to received the spirit if you remember (note Jesus was standing in water at the time being baptized by John)
I take no exceptions to these points.  In fact, Matthew 3:6 mentions the Jordan to ensure clarity.  It is good that this time you kept the chronology in mind.  This is essential to understanding Scripture.
The OT ceremonial washings before offering sacrifices.. before entering the temple... etc.. are examples.  
Acts 8:36  Why did they have to stop??? they saw some water....   (vs. 36)
True.  (Click here for the discussion of this text.)
3. The figurative usage referring to baptism or immersion (or maybe "saturation" would be a better translation) in the spirit. 

Now you are getting into another field of theology.  Baptism with the Spirit or filling of the Spirit.  Let's not go there right yet.

What you are arguing for is a linguistic anomaly -- That a term lost all of its original profane meaning and leap frogged from a merely profane term to a technical religious figure of speech.  First of all terms generally don't completely use their original meaning.... second a figurative usage is one step beyond a technical usage...   So what you are arguing for goes against the "normal" development of religious terms...    profane > religious > figurative. 
You are forgetting basic hermeneutics.   The primary audience and writers of the Bible were simple people who used everyday language.  They used baptisma to refer to water or any substance.  They even use it figuratively in "be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ." If we replace the Greek "batizo" with its English equivalent, "immersed" then we see that it coheres with all the other Gospel presentations that justification ("forgiveness") comes not by works but by faith at God's initiative.  The verse reads, "be immersed every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ".  We must be immersed in Him  as His blood cleanses us. They then used symbolism of water to give an analogy of the Living Water, Jesus Christ.  Let us not make an idol of the water and think that it has some special powers.

What I am arguing is not what you are understanding.  First a table.  (We engineers love these things.)

1. profane
2. religious
A. usage: literal
immerse in water
immerse in the baptismal pool, temple bowl...
B. usage: figurative
immerse in work
immerse in Holy Spirit

Each of these blocks are equally as important and valid as a linguistic definition.  Additionally, they all influence each other.  Lingustics is dynamic so box A1 of a given word might cause a new use of the word in block B2 which would produce a new use in A2 and B1 or any permutation thereof.  

Because we live in a physical world and language developed as the mind developed (sorry, if you are a strict creationist), sectors A1 and A2 usually developed first.  90% would have started in A1 because physical life predominates most of human existance, especially as language developed.  Isreal was an advanced civilization with an advanced religion (Judaism).   The New Testament was written in an advanced language (Greek).  Thus, for a word like baptizo in an age as late as the 1st Century AD, it was no more odd to use the word as in quadrants B1 and B2.  To say that the default is quadrant A2 has no connection to logic or linguistics but to dogmatism and indoctrination.  Moderates will continue to have problems with your point.  And, beloved brother, so does DTS when they state water baptism where they intend such.  You don't think they are better at communicating than the omniscient and omnipotent God, do you?

Take our poll: Water or Holy Spirit Baptism, how do you interpret it?

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