Are there any records that explain why baptism was used for repentance when the Jews already had a method of repentance by putting ashes on them and wearing sackcloth? This seemingly worked as noted in various parts of the bible (e.g. Ninevites in book of Jonah)

What made repentance through baptism unique?


What made repentance through baptism unique?

Baptism existed prior to John in the conversion of someone to Judaism and in the ordination of priests. Calls for repentance had existed before John particularly before the Babylonian captivity.

We have from the dead sea scrolls a picture of ascetics forming a religious community apart from what they considered an apostate or secular Israel from a century before to possibly overlapping with John’s time.

The combination of a call to repent (change one’s mind) and take seriously one’s heritage, obligations to God, and course of one’s life and a symbolic cleansing indicative of putting away the old life and becoming faithful to observe the law was an appeal to the individual to make a decision about how he lived his life and to make a public demonstration reflecting his desire to change.

Baptism was symbolic and declarative more than efficacious. It was also preparatory.

John 1:23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

What was being "made straight" were the hearts of men called to repent.

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    I like your first paragraph, but it sounds like you are saying that straightening the hearts of men was new - but I am not sure I buy that. The prophets and even Moses himself continually preached and wrote about the heart. I don't see any of that as being new and there is no comparison to other existing forms of repentance at that time in history. – Adam Heeg Nov 4 '15 at 16:06

The act of wearing sackcloth and ashes was a sign of mourning, sometimes as a sign that one was so repentant that they mourn. Mordecai wore sackcloth and ashes because of the decree to wipe out the Jews (Esther 4:1). His actions was completely unrelated to repentance as far as we know. This was done multiple times as a sign of mourning. The citizens of Nineveh did this as a sign of repentance and mourning.

The Baptism of John was a baptism of repentance. Today, baptism using water is a way to tell others that you are a Christian.

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  • This really doesn't address any of my questions, I'm sorry. – Adam Heeg Nov 4 '15 at 20:10
  • @AdamHeeg I was trying (at the least) to explain that John's baptism was a sign of repentance and that sackcloth and ashes was a sign of mourning. – A Child of God Nov 4 '15 at 20:16
  • I added sackcloth in my question because I'm unsure if it is specific to mourning or applies to both mourning and repentance. However, I am sure that putting ashes on oneself was directly related to repentance. – Adam Heeg Nov 4 '15 at 20:47
  • Mordecai (of whom I mentioned in my answer) put on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of mourning (Esther 4:1). His actions was completely unrelated to repentance as far as we know. – A Child of God Nov 5 '15 at 14:20

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