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What is the biblical basis for the idea that it is wrong or incorrect to baptize by sprinkling or pouring the water? Growing up as a baptist I heard this all the time.

Related, but opposite: What is the biblical basis for baptism by sprinkling?

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    How about the fact that the word, "Baptism" is from a Greek word (βαπτίζω) which means to “dip” or “immerse.” – ShemSeger Feb 26 '15 at 22:21
  • @ShemSeger Eh, good start I guess. – LCIII Feb 27 '15 at 1:30
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    @ShemSeger: But see Luke 11:38. – user900 Feb 27 '15 at 4:50
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    @H3br3wHamm3r81 - The usage in that verse is curious, especially considering in Mark 7:3, speaking of the same washing, they use νίψωνται. – ShemSeger Feb 27 '15 at 5:28
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    Just saying but the Didache has this to say: " (1) Concerning baptism, baptize in this way. After you have spoken all these things, “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” in running water. (2) If you do not have running water, baptize [baptizon] in other water. If you are not able in cold, then in warm. (3) If you do not have either, pour out [ekcheo] water three times on the head “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” – Sola Gratia Jul 24 '17 at 21:40
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The argument from scripture centres firstly around the meaning of the original word which we translate as baptize in english:

Strong's Concordance

baptizó: to dip, sink

Original Word: βαπτίζω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: baptizó

Phonetic Spelling: (bap-tid'-zo)

Short Definition: I dip, submerge, baptize

Definition: lit: I dip, submerge, but specifically of ceremonial dipping; I baptize.

HELPS Word-studies

907 baptízō – properly, "submerge" (Souter); hence, baptize, to immerse (literally, "dip under"). 907 (baptízō) implies submersion ("immersion"), in contrast to 472 /antéxomai ("sprinkle"). - Biblehub.com (emphasis added)

It was the same word used to describe the dyeing process used at the time - cloth would be steeped (fully immersed) in dye.

Secondarily regarding what it signifies and what is therefore the most appropriate analogy:

3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. - Romans 6:3-4 NIV (emphasis added)

Baptism signifies our being buried with Christ - we have died to sin and our old life - and are raised to life new life in Him. Full immersion expresses this in a way that sprinkling does not.

Finally, there is no explicit biblical example of anyone being 'baptized' (using a wider - ie. non-biblical - definition of the word) by sprinkling. You have to make up your mind whether to read implicit permission for sprinkling by synthesizing other scriptural doctrines, or reject it as a tradition from men.

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Apart from the root meaning of the word Baptizo as 'dip' or 'submerge', there are some instances in the Bible which suggest that the act was not performed by simply sprinkling.

Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch:

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:36-39, ESV)

From the above passage, it suggests that Philip baptized the eunuch only when they came near a large quantity of water. The eunuch, without a doubt was carrying some drinking water with him as he was traveling for a long distance. If sprinkling was enough, Philip could have done it inside the chariot itself because sprinkling doesn't require much water. But they performed baptism only when they came across a large body of water, which suggest that sprinkling was not what was in the mind of Philip.

Baptism of Jesus:

And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. (Mark 1:10, ESV)

The text used in narrating the baptism of Jesus also strongly suggests that Jesus was immersed in the water.

  • I don't think it was obvious that the eunuch would have been carrying water at all – he might have had wine. – cwallenpoole Mar 3 '15 at 20:35
  • @cwallenpoole - wine was also a likely commodity onboard / in the caravan .. but water would be vital for a long trip, too – warren Mar 4 '15 at 19:09
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While not strictly biblical, The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles - arguably the earliest Christian catechism (1) - has this to say.

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. (Didache, Ch. 7)

From which one could infer that a river or lake (living water) that is cold is preferable, but it is not wrong or incorrect to do otherwise.

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Let's look at the original question, "What is the biblical basis for the idea that it is wrong or incorrect to baptize by sprinkling or pouring the water?". I claim there's nothing wrong about sprinkling. However, as most everyone has pointed out, the Bible is full of references to submersion and no references to sprinkling. So then I would ask the question, "Do you want to be baptized the way Jesus was or some way that man has invented?". I think the bigger question is whether one can be baptized as a baby vice as a teen or adult. Often sprinkling occurs as a baby. Then you have to look at the purpose of baptism...a public profession of your faith. I'm not thinking the baby made any conscious public profession. Many adults (such as I even though I was sprinkled as a baby) then choose to be submersed because now it's my choice. I was submersed in a river...and that's what Jesus did.

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