Lynellen Perry Christian Thought Case Study #7 May 2, 1991 Baptism is Jewish In Case Study #7, the newborn son of an intermarried Lutheran and Jewish couple is to be baptized into the Lutheran Church. Most Christians, and indeed most Jews, would say that this baptism would be an event entirely foreign to the Jew and his religious belief. However, this is not so, for the Christian rite of Baptism has its roots deep in Biblical Judaism, just as the rest of Christianity does. It is true that modern Judaism has greatly departed from Biblical Judaism, but there remains today a shadowy remnant of the Biblical past just as there remains a physical people remnant. This paper will present a brief Biblical, historical and theological background of the doctrine of baptism during the Old Testamental, Intertestamental and New Testamental times to show that baptism is Jewish. In the Old Testament, the washings or immersions that were performed were a baptism of purification. Robinson says that these washings "were almost always for those of the already believing community. They symbolized cleansing from sin and guilt. Whereas sacrifices were to atone for acts of sin, washing or bathing seems generally associated with cleansing from a sinful or otherwise unholy condition" (1). There are basically three groups to whom baptism was directed--the nation, the priesthood, and the individual. According to Exodus 19:10-11, God required the nation of Israel to purify and consecrate themselves for two days before He would appear to them and give them the Law from Mt. Sinai on the third day. This purification was not accomplished by a bodily washing of the whole nation, but instead by the washing of their clothes. The Israelites also used the "water of cleansing" described in Numbers 19 to purify themselves and their plunder after battling with the Midianites in Numbers 31:21-24 (Rosen, 2). The washing of clothes is also a possible means of purification for the individual. "A person who had recovered from an unclean skin disease had to wash his clothes, shave off all his hair and bathe with water to be ceremonially clean" according to Leviticus 14:8, 9 (Rosen, 2). The washing of clothes also purifies people after having a skin infection (Lev. 13:6), a scale on the skin (Lev. 13:34), after lying in a house that has become unclean (Lev. 14:47), or after being defiled by various flows of bodily fluids (Lev. 15:5-8, 10-11, 13, 21-22, 27). "Numbers 19 gives explicit instructions for purification after defilement by a dead body. After bathing and washing his clothes, the 'unclean' person had to be sprinkled with fresh water combined with ashes from a sacrificed animal." (Rosen, 2). Bathing was also required "if a person came into contact with an unclean person or with things that belonged to this person (Lev. 15:5-10)" (Badia, 12). Perhaps the group that had to ritually wash the most is the priesthood. Their whole purpose of serving God in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, demanded that they be ritually and ceremonially clean. So, beginning with their consecration (Lev. 8:6-9), the priesthood had many occasions that required the washing of their clothes and of their bodies. "In Leviticus 16:4, 24 God commanded Aaron to wash himself before and after he ministered in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement" (Rosen, 2). The other participants in the atonement ceremony also had to wash their clothes and bathe when they were done with their duties (Lev. 16:26-28). This "Levitical washing" or symbolic cleansing for the purpose of setting a person aside as holy for religious service forms the background of all religious ceremonies of cleansing in the Bible (DSB, 134). Rosen says, All these water rituals formed the basis for the Jewish mikveh laws. While the Hebrew word mikveh means literally 'a collection or gathering together,' in this context it refers to a gathering or pool of water for the purpose of ritual cleansing. The earliest Biblical uses of the word 'mikveh' occur in 1 Kings 7:23ff and its parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 4:2ff. These verses describe the huge, circular 'Sea of Solomon,' constructed along with the first Temple for the priests to carry out their ceremonial washing. (2) We have seen that there are many washings required by many different situations. Aside from the washing of clothes, there were three different type s of bodily washing required, depending on the type of impurity the person had obtained: "complete immersion of the whole body, immersion of the hands and feet, or immersion of the hands only" (Badia, 12). The priests would perform these repeated, self-administered washings in the Bronze sea, but the common individual would have to perform them in a stream, spring, river, or a mikveh-- the point being that the water be from a naturally flowing source, not carried or collected by hand. Leviticus clearly shows "that there were several types of washing. The object could be plunged into water (Lev. 11:32), or the person led to the water (Lev. 14:7), or the person washed in running water (Lev. 14:13)" (Badia, 12). In Intertestamental and Rabbinic Judaism, the baptism of purification was again a washing used as a rite of cleansing. A clear example of this practice comes from the Jewish Essene group at Qumran from the second century B.C. through the first century A.D. which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. From The Damascus Rule, we know that the community required repeated bodily washing for purification, and that the method appears to have been by self-administered, complete immersion in the water. Chapter 11 says, "No man entering the house of worship shall come unclean and in need of washing". The washing requirements are given in chapter 10, "No man shall bathe in dirty water or in an amount too shallow to cover a man. He shall not purify himself with water contained in a vessel" (Robinson, 1). Apparently, there was no set formula for these baptismal practices, and the Manual of Discipline "suggests that baptism marked entry into an eschatological community" and that "man had to repent of his sins before he could receive forgiveness from God. No washings, therefore, were of any avail without sincere repentance" (Badia, 50). Early Rabbinic Judaism also used baptism as a sign of initiation of Gentile converts to Judaism along with male circumcision and sacrificial offerings. "Though the only Biblical requirement for entrance into the covenant was circumcision, baptism became an added requisite. No one knows exactly when or by whom the requirements were changed to include baptism, but it was before the time of Jesus" (Rosen, 3) and "postdates the Old Testament and predates the Mishnah" (Robinson, 1). The debates between the rabbinic schools of Shammai and Hillel, both contemporaries of Jesus, on the subject of proselyte baptism have been recorded. The house of Shammai "stressed circumcision as the point of transition," but the house of Hillel, which ultimately prevailed as seen in the Talmudic writings, stressed baptism because "it portrayed spiritual cleansing and the beginning of a new life" (Rosen, 3). A greatly revered 12th century Jewish scholar, Maimonides, summed up the Talmudic tradition about proselytes, By three things did Israel enter into the Covenant: by circumcision, and baptism and sacrifice. Circumcision was in Egypt, as it is written: 'No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof' (Exodus 12:48). Baptism was in the wilderness, just before giving of the Law, as it is written: 'Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes' (Exodus 19:10). And sacrifice, as it is said: 'And he sent young men of the children of Israel which offered burnt offerings' (Exodus 24:5) . . . When a gentile is willing to enter the covenant . . . He must be circumcised and be baptized and bring a sacrifice . . . And at this time when there is no sacrifice, they must be circumcised and be baptized; and when the Temple shall be built, they are to bring a sacrifice . . . The gentile that is made a proselyte and the slave that is made free, behold he is like a child new born (Rosen, 3). The Soncino Talmud, in Keritot 9a, also states, "As your forefathers entered in to the Covenant only by circumcision, immersion and the sprinkling of the blood, so shall they [the proselytes] enter the Covenant only by circumcision, immersion and the sprinkling of the blood" (Robinson, 1). This same statement is true even today for any Gentile who would like to convert to Judaism. Today, the convert must be baptized in a mikveh ritual, whose purpose is to symbolize spiritual cleansing, "as Maimonides concluded in his codification of the laws of mikveh: '. . . uncleanness is not mud or filth which water can remove, but it is a matter of scriptural decree and dependent on the intention of the heart' " (Rosen, 3). Since the destruction of the Temple, the Biblical purification laws have been practiced mostly for the purification of the niddah , the ritually unclean woman, as described in such passages as Leviticus 12:1-8 and 15:19-24, and for the initiation of converts (Robinson, 1). Returning to Biblical times, in the New Testament period there are several kinds of baptisms mentioned. First of all, there is the baptism of repentance administered by Yochanon ben Zechariah (John the baptist). Mark 1:4ff and its parallel passages tell that John demanded an inward change of heart or a returning to the covenant before the sign of baptism, and an outward sign of a changed life afterwards. It is clear that the Jews of his day understood the meaning of the baptism he gave and that they saw "nothing pagan or wrong in his demands . . . though [his message was] not a popular one . . . otherwise, surely the religious leaders would have had him stoned as a false prophet" (Rosen, 3). Axtell says of John's baptism, "the absence of definition or description shows that the people already understood its meaning, and could readily see its special application" (141). The lack of any Biblical remark shows that it did not differ from what they were already familiar with--the ancient ceremony of purification. The synoptic passages "indicate that John's baptism was non-repeatable and it was temporary. It was a preparation for another baptism that would be greater than his own" (Badia, 48). In the same general time period, we have other records of the practice of a baptism of repentance. The Sibylline Oracles are "a genre of literature found in the ancient world among Greeks, Jews and pagans, typically predicting disaster and misfortune." A section of these oracles (4:165), dated ca. 80 A.D. say, "Ah, wretched mortals, change these things, and do not lead the great God to all sorts of anger, but abandon daggers and groanings, murders and outrages, and wash your whole bodies in perennial rivers. Stretch out your hands to heaven and ask forgiveness for your previous deeds" (Robinson, 2). All of the previously discussed types of baptisms differ from the Christian rite of baptism, for the Christian baptism is a baptism of identification. While "Jewish baptism was the bringing, or introducing, of a person or object into a clean or holy condition under the Law, by a ceremonial washing away of defilement and sin with the water of separation" (Axtell, 149), and John's baptism was also one of repentance and return to the covenant, the Christian baptism is symbolic of entering into Jesus' death and resurrection. Romans 6:3-5 says, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." Here we see that through baptism, "the believer publically announces that through faith in the Messiah, he has died to his old sinful ways and has been made alive to God. The New Covenant scriptures teach that those who believe in the Messiah are plunged or buried into his atoning death, so that God might raise them to a new life, even as the Messiah himself rose from the dead." Christian baptism is also symbolic of a person who believes on Christ as passing through judgment into salvation as seen in 1 Peter 3:18-22. Titus 3:5 teaches that "baptism depicts the washing away of sin and uncleanness by Messiah's blood sacrifice, and the giving of new life by God's Holy Spirit to those who are cleansed in this way" (Rosen, 4). In Christian baptism, Jesus is the source and authority of the administration of the baptism (BSD, 1694) which, unlike the Levitical washings, is performed only once. There are also some important difference to note between the Jewish proselyte baptism and the Christian baptism. Both involve circumcision, baptism and sacrifice, but in a different order and a different way. In Christian baptism, sacrifice comes first, for Christ has already given his blood to atone for us, since, while Maimonides may have waived the sacrifice requirement while there is not Temple, God never did so. Secondly, there is an inward circumcision of the heart of a Christian, as described in Colossians 2:9-12 and Jeremiah 31:33. The final difference is that, "in Jewish thought, proselyte baptism implies renunciation of one's past associations" while Christian baptism is an affirmation, not a renunciation, that "no human can please God without the supernatural help He has provided through Messiah's atoning sacrifice" (Rosen, 5). There is much discussion about what the verb "baptizo" means in relation to the method of the Christian baptism (immersion or sprinkling; infant or adult) which is beyond the purpose of this paper, for that is a discussion that has be argued for hundreds of years and was the cause of several church schisms. However, the purpose of this paper has been accomplished, for we have seen a brief overview of the backgrounds of the Christian rite of baptism in the Biblical period. Hopefully, a deeper appreciation for Christianity's Jewish roots has been gained, for indeed, baptism is as Jewish as our Savior. Appendix Since so many people think that Jewish people must become Gentiles when they believe in the Jewish Messiah, I would like to include here a Messianic Jewish baptism ceremony to help show how greatly a service can be enriched when the cultural and historical roots are understood and not ignored. This liturgy was formulated by and used by the Chicago branch of Jews for Jesus. Ceremony Congregation: from Psalm 16 (NASB). Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in thee. I have said to the LORD, "Thou art my Lord; I have no good besides thee." As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight. The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; Thou dost support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt thou allow thy Holy One to undergo decay. Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; in thy presence is fullness of joy; in thy right hand there are pleasures forever. Leader: In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, God describes a spiritual renewal which our Jewish people will experience in the end of days. As it is written: "For I will take you from the nations, gather your from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances. And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be my people, and I will be your God." (Ezekiel 36:24-28) The prophet Zechariah makes it clear that the water that will cleanse the Jewish people is the Holy Spirit of God. As he says: "And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications, so that they will look on me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son . . . in that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity." (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1) The prophets of the Hebrew scriptures speak of the day when our people will turn to the Lord and recognize the Pierced One, the Messiah. This profound repentance will be brought about by God's Spirit, and the prophets use the image of our people going through a mikveh (a ceremonial bath symbolizing rebirth). But even today when, by the grace of God and the power of his Spirit, a person turns from sin toward the Lord, and recognizes the Pierced One, we are commanded to perform t'vilah (a ritual immersion) symbolizing our formal commitment to the kingdom of God, and to its King, the Messiah. The symbolism of baptism is described in these words: "All of us who have been baptized into Messiah Jesus have been baptized into his death. Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that as Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection . . . for the death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Messiah Jesus." (Romans 6:3-5, 10-11) The ceremony of t'vilah is a vivid picture of death and resurrection. This portrays both our present experience and our hope for the future: our present experience inasmuch as we have been spiritually reborn, redeemed from the futility of living our sinful lives apart from God and given new life by the Messiah, a life filled with the beauty of knowing God; our future hope inasmuch as God has promised that when we die physically we will one day be resurrected, as the Messiah was, and we will live forever with the Lord because of what Y'shua has done for us in atoning for our sins and conquering death. "Therefore, we now prepare to fulfill the command of our Creator, as our Messiah taught us: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age' " (Matthew 28:19-20) [prayer commending the candidate(s) to God.] [The leader and those to be baptized now go to their places at the mikveh (baptistery).] The congregation sings: "Create in Me a Clean Heart" Leader's Charge to the Candidate(s): Since we believe that the true washing of spiritual rebirth is the work of the Holy Spirit performed in a person's heart, and that the outward ceremony of t'vilah should be a public sign of what God does inwardly, I am going to ask you to testify to your faith in the Messiah in the presence of these witnesses. You have heard in the passages we read from the Scriptures, that t'vilah symbolizes a commitment we make to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. It symbolizes the burial of our old sinful nature and our new life in Messiah. Leader: (Name of candidate), do you believe in Y'shua, our Messiah, that he died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures? Do you believe that he will come again to judge the living and the dead? Do you entrust yourself completely to him, to save, keep and lead you throughout your lifetime and eternity? Candidate(s): I believe in him with all my heart. [At this point the candidate may offer a brief testimony of his/her faith.] Leader: Will you live as a disciple of the Messiah Y'shua, seeking to know him better in public and private study of his Word, through worship both in private and in the fellowship of other believers? Will you seek to serve him through telling others of your faith, and caring for your neighbor? Will you strive to imitate Messiah through living a holy life according to the instructions in the Scriptures? And when you fail, will you confess your sins to him, and receive his forgiveness, continuing to walk with him? Candidate: With God as my help, I will. [Prayer for the candidates to receive grace to fulfill his or her promises.] Leader: (Name), I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. [After each candidate is baptized, the congregation sings "May All who Live Believe In You"] When all the immersions are complete, additional songs are sung as the leader and those who were baptized regather in front of the congregation. Leader's Charge to the Congregation: Since these, our brothers and sisters, have promised in our presence to renounce the evil of this world, to believe in the Messiah, and to serve God in his name, we must remember that it is our duty to do all that we can to help them grow in grace and in the knowledge of God's Word, and to become more and more like our Master, the Messiah Y'shua, and to live holy lives while we wait together for his coming. [Prayer to thank God for those baptized and to ask for God's grace for the congregation in fulfilling its duty to them.] Aaronic Benediction: May the Lord bless you, and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord life up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Closing song: "Let Us Exalt His Name" Bibliography Axtell, J. Stockton. The Mystery of Baptism. London: Bible Churchmen's Missionary Society, no date. Badia, Leonard F. The Qumran Baptism and John the Baptist's Baptism. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1980. Robinson, Rich. "Ritual Washings and Baptism". Jews for Jesus Newsletter, Feb. 1991. Rosen, Ceil. "Baptism--Pagan or Jewish?". Issues. Vol. 2:10. Notes: DSB = Disciple's Study Bible (NIV). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988. Most Scripture was quoted from The Open Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985.