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When one believes in Christ as Lord and King, and undergoes a water baptism, in what document is the method described? What immediate effect did this baptism have? How does this baptism compare to the method that the Judeans underwent as part of teshuva, and what was the immediate benefit to the person of this ritual?

I wondered this because IFAIK from the text, only five disciples were baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan, and none was baptized by Jesus.

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2 Answers 2

Teshuva, to my knowledge, would take place in a ritual bathing pool called a Mikveh. Mikveh's were typically constructed with a set of steps separated by a middle divider (a risen stone divider several inches to a foot high) next to the entrance of the outer court of a Jewish synagogue or temple or in a town square. This water was also heated or "living" water, as the Jews called it, typically provided by hot springs or other means. Jews, before entering the Mikveh, often fasted several days to cleanse soul, spirit, and body, as the Mikveh was a required ritual bath upon intention to enter a synagogue or temple, as well as a pool used for other religious purification. Separate Mikveh's existed for men and for women. The partaker of the Teshuva would then walk down one side of the steps unclean, immerse oneself in water, and then walk up and out of the pool on the other side of the steps and be proclaimed clean. Only then were they allowed to enter the temple. The pools of Bathesda, and in particular, the pool of Siloam were probably both Mikvehs to this effect. (Bathesda in the gospel mentioning the "stirring of the waters" provided by it's probable hot springs periodically).

Partaking in a Christian baptism was essentially based on the same premise as the Teshuva. Baptism in ancient Judaism had both to do with ritual cleanness, but also to do with agreement. In obtaining water baptism you agreed to the laws, statutes, and beliefs of the institute or theology presented by the temple or prophet providing the means of baptism. In effect, it is symbolic of dying to your old way of thinking, and being reborn in unity with the beliefs of your baptizer. John the Baptist, for example, was readying hearts for Christ's arrival by preaching repentance, or the realization of one being a sinner needing forgiveness. One cannot fix a problem if one is in denial of it existing, after all. Then, upon Christ showing up, Jesus provided the answer to this revelation of sin in man. Water baptisms, to this effect, helped others in the Christian church publicly identify with John the Baptist's idea of needed repentance, that those who got baptized, were publicly proclaiming their agreement with their baptizers that Christ was the one who would solve their issues of sin.

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Can you add supporting references and citations to improve this? –  David Stratton Sep 29 '13 at 5:25

Here is some information on baptism in the early church and a few sources for further research.

  • The Didache is one early writing that describes baptism, though its authenticity is disputed.

    Chapter seven describes baptism as follows:

    Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

  • The Book of Acts tells us that, at that time, converts were often baptized as soon as they professed faith. By the beginning of the third century, however, baptism was usually preceded by a period of doctrinal training which commonly lasted up to three years, called the "catechumenate." Baptism was administered once per year, on Easter Sunday, to those disciples who had completed the period of training.

    The extensive duration of the catechumenate was due to the fact that, while many of the early believers were Jewish, or had some familiarity with Jewish beliefs and customs (of which Christianity was an extension), by this point in history, many converts came from pagan background and had little of no previous exposure to Judaism.1

  • Chapter sixty-five of Justin's First Apology is devoted to baptism.

  • In the third century, Dionysius wrote to Cornelius regarding certain then-current controversies over baptism. Research there will provide further information.

  • Eusebius has several things to say about baptism in the first nine chapters of volume seven of his Church History.

  • In the time of Constantine, the most common architectural plans devoted a building to the baptistery, that building being large enough for several dozen people. There was a great curtain in the middle of the room, creating two separate areas, one for men and one for women. Baptism was by immersion and/or pouring, and involved descending a series of steps into the baptistery itself to kneel in the water, and on emerging from the water the individual would be clothed in a white robe. Gonzalez offers the following information as a parenthetical, though he does not cite a source:2

    Actually, these were the normal ways of administering baptism at least until the ninth century. Baptism by dabbing water on the head had been practiced long before that, but usually only in extreme conditions of poor health, deathbed baptisms, or scarcity of water.

I'm not familiar with the Jewish Teshuva, but perhaps you can contrast this information with your own knowledge of the Judaic practice.

Extensive further reading:


  1. The Story of Christianity, Revised Edition, by Justo Gonzalez. Volume 1.
  2. Ibid, p. 147.
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Well, I own a copy of Aaron Milovec's Didache, and the Paulist Press Didache, and of course Eusebius's Church History. In these, baptism by water is only the event at the end of a confession of faith which had to be learnt by heart, and sometimes there was much delay in order to allow the faith to "sink in." In the Athanasian Creed it states "let him who wishes to be saved, think thus concerning the Trinity." Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Faith." Until believed, the washing in water was delayed. Some of the Fathers mention people who delayed the washing until old age. –  Waeshael Aug 11 '13 at 17:33
    
The link to Dionysisus letter to Cornelius was not much help, there was no description of the method, not the profession of faith required. –  Waeshael Aug 11 '13 at 17:41
    
The link to Justin's First APology in the New Advent Encyclopedia was helpful: It begins "after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching" and uses the word "illuminated" for baptized. This method of baptism agrees with Didache. And incidentally with modern Roman practice. Quite different from my experience in the Episcopal Church where a simple statement of the Apostles's creed was required prior to baptism. –  Waeshael Aug 11 '13 at 17:46
    
I am still looking for the comparison with the Jewish washing. And I would like to know what is expected to be the immediate benefit of the baptism, both from ecclesial and spiritual POV. –  Waeshael Aug 11 '13 at 17:51
    
I followed the link to the New Schaff-Hertzog encylopedia. It states that St. Augustine was the first to systematically explain the method and purpose of baptism, and he taught that baptism was entrance into the Church to enable salvation. "It was Augustine especially who developed the theory that baptism had reference to original sin." In the Greek Church baptism is by three immersions, and is also related to original sin, but includes the idea of transference from a world of darkness to that of lightness. thanks: this link was very helpful. –  Waeshael Aug 11 '13 at 18:04

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