House Church Talk - Baptism equalls Calamity research

Ross J Purdy rossjpurdy at
Wed Feb 11 21:43:22 EST 2004

>From Ross Purdy

Here is the research on the Greek use of the word Baptize which means to
suffer some calamity etc. This is not intended to imply it is the only use
but it was a typical secular use.

The Greeks used this word BAPTIZE in the same way ancient and modern writers
use it, to express a total or great calamity, as seen in Don Cassius's
account of the Battle of Actium, Roman History, Book 1, Ch. 32:

. . . the other from above BAPTIZING (sinking) them with stones and engines
. . . . . . for our vessel having been BAPTIZED (sunk) in the midst of the
Adriatic, being about six hundred in number, we swam through the whole night
. . . Life of Josephus, Sec. 111.

Since the word implied death, destruction or calamity, Josephus used it in
his book, "Wars Of The Jews," Book 111, ch. 9:3:

. . . and many struggling against the opposing swell toward the open sea . .
. the billow rising high above BAPTIZED (drowned) them . . .

When Molon sent his cavalry through the marshes to attack Xenotas, the
resulting pain, death, and tragedy that beset his forces are spoken of as

. . . through ignorance of the localities, required no enemy but themselves,
by themselves BAPTIZING (drowning and floundering) sinking down in the
pools, were all useless, and also many of them perished . . .

Polybuis, Hist. Bk.V, ch. 47.

The flood-tide (in-coming tide) about the Pillars of Hercules, and the
ebb-tide (out-going tide) uses the term BAPTISM to describe the overwhelming
eagre or tidal bore caused by this sea action:

. . . desert places full of rushes and seaweed, which when it is ebb-tide
are not BAPTIZED but when it is flood-tide, are flooded.

Asitotkle, Wonderful Reports, 136.

In Plutarch's Life of Sylla," ch. 21, being BAPTIZED is associated with dead
bodies and implements of war:

. . . dying, they filled the marshes with blood, and the lake with dead
bodies; so that until now, many barbaric bows, and helmets, and pieces of
iron breast-plates, and swords, are found BAPTIZED in the pools.

Josephus was fond of the word BAPTIZO, and in five of the usages "drown" or
"death" is implied when he tells of the sinking of ships as resulting in the
death of those cast in the sea. Winston's text translates the word:
Destruction, Sink, Dipped till drowned, and Plunge. Don Cassius, Roman
History, Bk. 1, ch. 35, cites similar concepts: . . . others, leaping into
the sea were drowned or struck by the enemy were drowned (baptized). In all
these an actual DEATH-BAPTISM is intended. Again, Josephus writes: . . .
continually pressing down and BAPTIZING him while swimming, as if in sport,
they did not desist 'til they had entirely suffocated him. Josephus,
Antiquities, Bk. XV., ch. 3:3. And: . . . desiring to swim through, they
were BAPTIZED (drowned) by their full armor . . . Suidas, Lex. Being
BAPTIZED with debts was as common anciently as it is today: . . . and that
he was loaded (BAPTIZED) with a debt of five million drachmas . . .
Plutarch's Lives, Galba. Vol. IV., p. 393. If a city was destroyed, it was
said to have been BAPTIZED: . . . these very men, besides the seditions they
raised, were otherwise the direct cause of the city's destruction (BAPTISM)
. . . Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Bk.IV, ch. 3:3. To BAPTIZE a sword was to
bury it in a body, thus taking a life: . . . and stretching out the right
hand so as to unseen by none, he BAPTIZED the whole sword into his own neck
. . . Josephus, Jewish Wars, Bk. II, ch. 18, p.4.

A natural usage of BAPTIZO is for a person to be under the influence of
something or someone:

. . . therefore I beseech thee, before thou art fully BAPTIZED by this
drunkenness, to return to soberness . . .

Chrysostom's Plea to Theodorus.

A person driving a chariot under the influence of much wine finds a
counterpart on our highways:

. . . and having made Alexander drunk (BAPTIZED) with much wine . . . Conon,
Narration L.

This was putting wine into the man, not man into the wine. The result was
inebriation, being brought under the influence of wine.

The LXX speaks of transgressions BAPTIZING the prophet, (The A.V. differs
from the LXX):

. . . my heart wanders, and transgression BAPTIZES me; my soul is occupied
with fear. Isa. 21:4.

The prophet had reason to fear for his nation, after two hundred and
sixty-five years of national revolt against God under twenty despotic
rulers, the sword of the Assyrian threatened to destroy the nation; the
prophet identifies himself with the wayward people and seeks deliverance
from the sword of the Assyrian. The nation's sins are the prophet's baptism
as our were those of the Saviour.

These illustrations of BAPTISM show the oft tragic and fatal associations
between the object baptized and the baptismal element, the result being
frequently death and some sort of entombment. The baptismal element is that
which engulfs, drowns, or overwhelms, having been used of debt, sin, death,
suffering, a billowing wave or flooding water, destruction, or even blood -
as of a sword sheathed in a body. The Hebrew O.T. usage allowed washing and
sprinkling to be included in the meaning. The object baptized and the
baptismal element are closely allied so as to make the identity and destiny
of the one the same as the other. In the O.T. symbolism, the identity of one
with the other was essential to convey the import of the symbolism used.

That the word BAPTISM should be so weakened as to mean only a watery ritual
or some symbol of reality when the reality has already come, is indeed

As mentioned earlier, BAPTISM and its family of words, have been
transliterated from the Greek to the English. Some translations have tried
to find an English equivalent but in doing so usually show a predisposition
to a certain mode of water baptism, as though water were the main element
synonymous with BAPTISM. Among Reform churches teaching Baptismal
Regeneration very little water is used, while others, teaching a Symbolical
Meaning of water baptism, use much water. In Scripture the water-mode is
left to inference, as for instance, John came baptizing WITH water, Luke
3:16, if possible with running water as the O.T. enjoined, hence, the Jordan
River. In translating, the classic usage should be considered for it must
not be forgotten that in the Greek language usage of baptism it meant death,
entombment, drowning, killing, overwhelming trials and troubles. It meant to
be under the dire influence of someone, or something, such as intoxicants.
If a ship was baptized, it was sunk; if a city was baptized, it was put to
the sword; if a person was baptized in the sea, he was drowned; if a man was
baptized in wine, he was intoxicated; in debt, bankrupt; in sorrow,
desolate; in death, dead. There is a unique singular BAPTISM in which the
baptismal element of actual death (not symbolical or spiritual) is the
method and mode of bringing our need and God's redemptive provision to
fruition for us all.

The above was culled from another source and I checked it against the
following standard references: Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary of the
Greek Testament confirms this use of calamity and connects it to Christ's
use in Mark 10:38. Such use is also recognized in the Abbott-Smith Manual
Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, Vine, Kittel's The Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament, Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich's A
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian
Literature, Liddell and Scott's A Greek-English Lexicon, and noted in domain
24.82 in Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on
Semantic Domains.

Wuest on MK 10:38 says: The papyri offer instances of its use, as for
instance, where a person is overwhelmed with calamities.Rogers and Rogers'
The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament on MK 10:38
says: Here it means to be overwhelmed by some difficult experience or ordeal
(Louw Nida, 1:286). His death and sufferings are compared to a raging flood
of sorrow (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament).

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