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.

4 Answers 4


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.

  • Can you add supporting references and citations to improve this? Sep 29, 2013 at 5:25

Teshuva is performed in a pool, in addition to the ritual cleansing required for the various contaminations listed in Torah: contact with dead bodies, men with emissions of semen, menstruating women, etc. There is no teachings about teshuva in the Tanakh, and its observance would not have been possible in the wilderness. It was formed through tradition, and also became a necessary ritual for conversion to Judaism.

Baptism is NOT cleansing from contaminations either listed above, or more. It is a mark signifying compliance by the candidate, that he has believed that Christ is the Rest promised by God to Abraham, the destination, the shelter, the harbour, the city, the country, where the candidate can stop from his labours, can end his travelling. Prompted by his conscience, with his judgment taking all things into consideration, including God's display of great saving acts, like Abraham's rescue from the kings who kidnapped Sarah, and Israel's rescue by the water flowing from the Rock. Every believer will experience rescue. Now God accepts his clearing his conscience of any guilt that he has not obeyed.

1 Peter 3:21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

The effect of this baptism is that the believer is immediately inducted into a course of edification, building up of faith. God created calamities, dangerous situations like famines and then rescued. You can see this happened with Abraham, and the children of Israel in the wilderness. Whilst Abraham learnt obedience through suffering, Israel did not. But even Abraham and many other successful heroes of faith did not receive the Rest promised. They were to be fulfilled only together with those who did receive the Rest.

Hebrews 11:13All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.


Hebrews 11:39And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

All Scripture references from the NASB.


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.
  • 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, 2013 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, 2013 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, 2013 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, 2013 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, 2013 at 18:04

"In these, baptism by water is only the event at the end of a confession of faith which had to be learnt by heart"

No not at all unless you cherry pick history, for example.


"He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).

"‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]" (Fragment34 [A.D. 190]).


"Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them" (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).


"Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous" (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).

"The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage

"As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born" (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).

"If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another" (ibid., 64:5).

  • 1
    Welcome to Christianity.SE! Thanks for providing an answer with some solid citations from church Fathers. However, as it stands your answer is more of a response to a comment than an answer to the original question. This is a Q&A site rather than a discussion site. I would suggest editing your answer to focus it more on what the original question asked. For some further tips on writing good answers, please see: What makes a good supported answer? May 13, 2015 at 17:52

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