Inscription 2015 (39th Session)
|Criteria iii, vi|
UNESCO region Arab States
|Location Balqa Governorate Jordan|
Baptism (from the Greek noun βάπτισμα baptisma; see below) is a Christian sacrament of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally. The canonical Gospels report that Jesus was baptized—a historical event to which a high degree of certainty can be assigned. Baptism has been called a holy sacrament and an ordinance of Jesus Christ. In some denominations, baptism is also called christening, but for others the word "christening" is reserved for the baptism of infants. Baptism has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations, they being called Baptism as a whole.
- Mode and manner
- Meaning of the Greek verb baptizein
- Derived nouns
- Inconsequential views before AD 300
- Meaning and effects
- Christian traditions
- Ecumenical statements
- Validity considerations by some churches
- Recognition by other denominations
- Churches of Christ
- Reformed Protestantism
- Roman Catholicism
- Jehovahs Witnesses
- Latter day Saints
- Salvation Army
- Comparative summary
- Other initiation ceremonies
- Mystery religion initiation rites
- Gnostic Catholicism and Thelema
- Baptism of objects
- Mandaean baptism
The usual form of baptism among the earliest Christians was for the candidate to be immersed, either totally (submerged completely under the water) or partially (standing or kneeling in water while water was poured on him or her). While John the Baptist's use of a deep river for his baptism suggests immersion, "The fact that he chose a permanent and deep river suggests that more than a token quantity of water was needed, and both the preposition 'in' (the Jordan) and the basic meaning of the verb 'baptize' probably indicate immersion. In v. 16, Matthew will speak of Jesus 'coming up out of the water'. The traditional depiction in Christian art of John the Baptist pouring water over Jesus' head may therefore be based on later Christian practice." Pictorial and archaeological evidence of Christian baptism from the 3rd century onward indicates that a normal form was to have the candidate stand in water while water was poured over the upper body. Other common forms of baptism now in use include pouring water three times on the forehead, a method called affusion.
Martyrdom was identified early in Church history as "baptism by blood", enabling martyrs who had not been baptized by water to be saved. Later, the Catholic Church identified a baptism of desire, by which those preparing for baptism who die before actually receiving the sacrament are considered saved. As evidenced also in the common Christian practice of infant baptism, baptism was universally seen by Christians as in some sense necessary for salvation, until Huldrych Zwingli in the 16th century denied its necessity.
Today, some Christians, particularly Christian Scientists, Quakers, The Salvation Army, and Unitarians, do not see baptism as necessary, and do not practice the rite. Among those that do, differences can be found in the manner and mode of baptizing and in the understanding of the significance of the rite. Most Christians baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (following the Great Commission), but some baptize in Jesus' name only. Much more than half of all Christians baptize infants; many others hold that only believer's baptism is true baptism. Some insist on submersion or at least partial immersion of the person who is baptized, others consider that any form of washing by water, as long as the water flows on the head, is sufficient. The term "baptism" has also been used to refer to any ceremony, trial, or experience by which a person is initiated, purified, or given a name.
For nothing perceivable was handed over to us by Jesus; but with perceivable things, all of them however conceivable. This is also the way with the baptism; the gift of the water is done with a perceivable thing, but the things being conducted, i.e., the rebirth and renovation, are conceivable. For, if you were without a body, He would hand over these bodiless gifts as naked [gifts] to you. But because the soul is closely linked to the body, He hands over the perceivable ones to you with conceivable things. (Chrysostom to Matthew., speech 82, 4, c. 390 A.D.)
The English word baptism is derived indirectly through Latin from the neuter Greek concept noun baptisma (Greek βάπτισμα, "washing-ism"), which is a neologism in the New Testament derived from the masculine Greek noun baptismos (βαπτισμός), a term for ritual washing in Greek language texts of Hellenistic Judaism during the Second Temple period, such as the Septuagint. Both of these nouns are derived from the verb baptizō (βαπτίζω, "I wash" transitive verb), which is used in Jewish texts for ritual washing, and in the New Testament both for ritual washing and also for the apparently new rite of baptisma. The Greek verb baptō (βάπτω), "dip", from which the verb baptizo is derived, is in turn hypothetically traced to a reconstructed Indo-European root *gʷabh-, "dip". The Greek words are used in a great variety of meanings.
Baptism has similarities to Tvilah, a Jewish purification ritual of immersing in water, which is required for, among other things, conversion to Judaism, but which differs in being repeatable, while baptism is to be performed only once. (In fact, the Modern Hebrew term for "baptism" is "Christian Tvilah".) John the Baptist, who is considered a forerunner to Christianity, used baptism as the central sacrament of his messianic movement. The apostle Paul distinguished between the baptism of John, ("baptism of repentance") and baptism in the name of Jesus, and it is questionable whether Christian baptism was in some way linked with that of John. Christians consider Jesus to have instituted the sacrament of baptism, though whether Jesus intended to institute a continuing, organized church is a matter of dispute among scholars.
The earliest Christian baptisms were probably normally by immersion, complete or partial. though other modes may have also been used. The first recorded liturgy of baptism, written down by Saint Hippolytus of Rome (170–235) in his Apostolic Tradition, required men, women and children to remove all clothing, including all foreign objects such as jewellery and hair fastenings.
- At the hour in which the cock crows, they shall first pray over the water.
- When they come to the water, the water shall be pure and flowing, that is, the water of a spring or a flowing body of water.
- Then they shall take off all their clothes.
- The children shall be baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family.
- After this, the men will be baptized. Finally, the women, after they have unbound their hair, and removed their jewelry. No one shall take any foreign object with themselves down into the water.
By the third and fourth centuries, baptism involved catechetical instruction as well as chrismation, exorcisms, laying on of hands, and recitation of a creed.
In the early middle ages infant baptism became common and the rite was significantly simplified. In Western Europe Affusion became the normal mode of baptism between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, though immersion was still practiced into the sixteenth. In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther retained baptism as a sacrament, but Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli considered baptism and the Lord's supper to be symbolic. Anabaptists denied the validity of the practice of infant baptism, and rebaptized converts.
Mode and manner
Baptism is practiced in several different ways. Aspersion is the sprinkling of water on the head, and affusion is the pouring of water over the head.
The word "immersion" is derived from late Latin immersionem, a noun derived from the verb immergere (in – "into" + mergere "dip"). In relation to baptism, some use it to refer to any form of dipping, whether the body is put completely under water or is only partly dipped in water; they thus speak of immersion as being either total or partial. Others, of the Anabaptist belief, use "immersion" to mean exclusively plunging someone entirely under the surface of the water. The term "immersion" is also used of a form of baptism in which water is poured over someone standing in water, without submersion of the person. On these three meanings of the word "immersion", see Immersion baptism.
When "immersion" is used in opposition to "submersion", it indicates the form of baptism in which the candidate stands or kneels in water and water is poured over the upper part of the body. Immersion in this sense has been employed in West and East since at least the 2nd century and is the form in which baptism is generally depicted in early Christian art. In the West, this method of baptism began to be replaced by affusion baptism from around the 8th century, but it continues in use in Eastern Christianity.
The word submersion comes from the late Latin (sub- "under, below" + mergere "plunge, dip") and is also sometimes called "complete immersion". It is the form of baptism in which the water completely covers the candidate's body. Submersion is practiced in the Orthodox and several other Eastern Churches. In the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, baptism by submersion is used in the Ambrosian Rite and is one of the methods provided in the Roman Rite of the baptism of infants. It is seen as obligatory among some groups that have arisen since the Protestant Reformation, such as Baptists and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
Meaning of the Greek verb baptizein
The Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott gives the primary meaning of the verb baptizein, from which the English verb "baptize" is derived, as "dip, plunge", and gives examples of plunging a sword into a throat or an embryo and for drawing wine by dipping a cup in the bowl; for New Testament usage it gives two meanings: "baptize", with which it associates the Septuagint mention of Naaman dipping himself in the Jordan River, and "perform ablutions", as in Luke 11:38.
Although the Greek verb baptizein does not exclusively mean dip, plunge or immerse (it is used with literal and figurative meanings such as "sink", "disable", "overwhelm", "go under", "overborne", "draw from a bowl"), lexical sources typically cite this as a meaning of the word in both the Septuagint and the New Testament.
"While it is true that the basic root meaning of the Greek words for baptize and baptism is immerse/immersion, it is not true that the words can simply be reduced to this meaning, as can be seen from Mark 10:38–39, Luke 12:50, Matthew 3:11//Luke 3:16, 1 Corinthians 10:2."
Two passages in the Gospels indicate that the verb baptizein did not always indicate submersion. The first is Luke 11:38, which tells how a Pharisee, at whose house Jesus ate, "was astonished to see that he did not first wash (ἐβαπτίσθη, aorist passive of βαπτίζω—literally, "was baptized") before dinner". This is the passage that Liddell and Scott cites as an instance of the use of βαπτίζω to mean perform ablutions. Jesus' omission of this action is similar to that of his disciples: "Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash (νίπτω) not their hands when they eat bread" (Mt 15:1–2). The other Gospel passage pointed to is: "The Pharisees...do not eat unless they wash (νίπτω, the ordinary word for washing) their hands thoroughly, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they wash themselves (literally, "baptize themselves"—βαπτίσωνται, passive or middle voice of βαπτίζω)" (Mk 7:3–4).
Scholars of various denominations claim that these two passages show that invited guests, or people returning from market, would not be expected to immerse themselves ("baptize themselves") totally in water but only to practise the partial immersion of dipping their hands in water or to pour water over them, as is the only form admitted by present Jewish custom. In the second of the two passages, it is actually the hands that are specifically identified as "washed" (Mark 7:3), not the entire person, for whom the verb used is baptizomai, literally "be baptized", "be immersed" (Mark 7:4), a fact obscured by English versions that use "wash" as a translation of both verbs. Zodhiates concludes that the washing of the hands was done by immersing them. The Liddell–Scott–Jones Greek-English Lexicon (1996) cites the other passage (Luke 11:38) as an instance of the use of the verb baptizein to mean "perform ablutions", not "submerge". References to the cleaning of vessels which use βαπτίζω also refer to immersion.
As already mentioned, the lexicographical work of Zodhiates says that, in the second of these two cases, Mark 7:4, the verb baptizein indicates that, after coming from the market, the Pharisees washed their hands by immersing them in collected water. Balz & Schneider understand the meaning of βαπτίζω, used in place of ῥαντίσωνται (sprinkle), to be the same as βάπτω, to dip or immerse, a verb used of the partial dipping of a morsel held in the hand into wine or of a finger into spilled blood.
A possible additional use of the verb baptizein to relate to ritual washing is suggested by Peter Leithart (2007) who suggests that Paul's phrase "Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead?" relates to Jewish ritual washing. In Jewish Greek the verb baptizein "baptized" has a wider reference than just "baptism" and in Jewish context primarily applies to the masculine noun baptismos "ritual washing" The verb baptizein occurs four times in the Septuagint in the context of ritual washing, baptismos; Judith cleansing herself from menstrual impurity, Naaman washing seven times to be cleansed from leprosy, etc. Additionally, in the New Testament only, the verb baptizein can also relate to the neuter noun baptisma "baptism" which is a neologism unknown in the Septuagint and other pre-Christian Jewish texts. This broadness in the meaning of baptizein is reflected in English Bibles rendering "wash", where Jewish ritual washing is meant: for example Mark 7:4 states that the Pharisees "except they wash (Greek "baptize"), they do not eat", and "baptize" where baptisma, the new Christian rite, is intended.
Two nouns derived from the verb baptizo (βαπτίζω) appear in the New Testament: the masculine noun baptismos (βαπτισμός) and the neuter noun baptisma (βάπτισμα):
A Christian baptism is administered in one of the following forms, performing the action either once or thrice:
Until the Middle Ages, most baptisms were performed with the candidates naked—as is evidenced by most of the early portrayals of baptism (some of which are shown in this article), and the early Church Fathers and other Christian writers. Deaconesses helped female candidates for reasons of modesty.
Typical of these is Cyril of Jerusalem who wrote "On the Mysteries of Baptism" in the 4th century (c. 350 AD):
Do you not know, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death? etc....for you are not under the Law, but under grace.
1. Therefore, I shall necessarily lay before you the sequel of yesterday's Lecture, that you may learn of what those things, which were done by you in the inner chamber, were symbolic.
2. As soon, then, as you entered, you put off your tunic; and this was an image of putting off the old man with his deeds.[Col 3:9] Having stripped yourselves, you were naked; in this also imitating Christ, who was stripped naked on the Cross, and by His nakedness put off from Himself the principalities and powers, and openly triumphed over them on the tree. For since the adverse powers made their lair in your members, you may no longer wear that old garment; I do not at all mean this visible one, but the old man, which waxes corrupt in the lusts of deceit.[Eph 4:22] May the soul which has once put him off, never again put him on, but say with the Spouse of Christ in the Song of Songs, I have put off my garment, how shall I put it on?[Song of Sol 5:3] O wondrous thing! You were naked in the sight of all, and were not ashamed; for truly ye bore the likeness of the first-formed Adam, who was naked in the garden, and was not ashamed.
3. Then, when you were stripped, you were anointed with exorcised oil, from the very hairs of your head to your feet, and were made partakers of the good olive-tree, Jesus Christ.
4. After these things, you were led to the holy pool of Divine Baptism, as Christ was carried from the Cross to the Sepulchre which is before our eyes. And each of you was asked, whether he believed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and you made that saving confession, and descended three times into the water, and ascended again; here also hinting by a symbol at the three days burial of Christ.... And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born;
The symbolism is threefold:
1. Baptism is considered to be a form of rebirth—"by water and the Spirit"[Jn 3:5]—the nakedness of baptism (the second birth) paralleled the condition of one's original birth. For example, St. John Chrysostom calls the baptism "λοχείαν", i.e., giving birth, and "new way of creation...from water and Spirit" ("to John" speech 25,2), and later elaborates:
For nothing perceivable was handed over to us by Jesus; but with perceivable things, all of them however conceivable. This is also the way with the baptism; the gift of the water is done with a perceivable thing, but the things being conducted, i.e., the rebirth and renovation, are conceivable. For, if you were without a body, He would hand over these bodiless gifts as naked [gifts] to you. But because the soul is closely linked to the body, He hands over the perceivable ones to you with conceivable things. (Chrysostom to Matthew., speech 82, 4, c. 390 A.D.)
2. The removal of clothing represented the "image of putting off the old man with his deeds" (as per Cyril, above), so the stripping of the body before for baptism represented taking off the trappings of sinful self, so that the "new man", which is given by Jesus, can be put on.
3. As St. Cyril again asserts above, as Adam and Eve in scripture were naked, innocent and unashamed in the Garden of Eden, nakedness during baptism was seen as a renewal of that innocence and state of original sinlessness. Other parallels can also be drawn, such as between the exposed condition of Christ during His crucifixion, and the crucifixion of the "old man" of the repentant sinner in preparation for baptism.
Changing customs and concerns regarding modesty probably contributed to the practice of permitting or requiring the baptismal candidate to either retain their undergarments (as in many Renaissance paintings of baptism such as those by da Vinci, Tintoretto, Van Scorel, Masaccio, de Wit and others) and/or to wear, as is almost universally the practice today, baptismal robes. These robes are most often white, symbolizing purity. Some groups today allow any suitable clothes to be worn, such as trousers and a T-shirt—practical considerations include how easily the clothes will dry (denim is discouraged), and whether they will become see-through when wet.
Inconsequential views before AD 300
Though some form of immersion was likely the most common method of baptism, many of the writings from the ancient church appeared to view the mode of baptism as inconsequential. The Didache 7.1–3 (AD 60–150) allowed for affusion practices in situations where immersion was not practical. Likewise, Tertullian (AD 196–212) allowed for varying approaches to baptism even if those practices did not conform to biblical or traditional mandates (cf. De corona militis 3; De baptismo 17). Finally, Cyprian (ca. AD 256) explicitly stated that the amount of water was inconsequential and defended immersion, affusion, and aspersion practices (Epistle 75.12). As a result, there was no uniform or consistent mode of baptism in the ancient church prior to the fourth century.
Meaning and effects
There are differences in views about the effect of baptism for a Christian. Some Christian groups assert baptism is a requirement for salvation and a sacrament, and speak of "baptismal regeneration". Its importance is related to their interpretation of the meaning of the "Mystical Body of Christ" as found in the New Testament. This view is shared by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox denominations, and by Churches formed early during the Protestant Reformation such as Lutheran and Anglican. For example, Martin Luther said:
To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save. No one is baptized in order to become a prince, but as the words say, to "be saved". To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever.
The Churches of Christ," Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, and LDS Church also espouse baptism as necessary for salvation.
For Roman Catholics, baptism by water is a sacrament of initiation into the life of the children of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1212–13). It configures the person to Christ (CCC 1272), and obliges the Christian to share in the Church's apostolic and missionary activity (CCC 1270). The Catholic holds that there are three types of baptism by which one can be saved: sacramental baptism (with water), baptism of desire (explicit or implicit desire to be part of the Church founded by Jesus Christ), and baptism of blood (martyrdom). In his encyclical Mystici corporis Christi of June 29, 1943, Pope Pius XII spoke of baptism and profession of the true faith as what makes members of the one true Church, which is the body of Jesus Christ himself, as God the Holy Spirit has taught through the Apostle Paul:
By contrast, Anabaptist and Evangelical Protestants recognize baptism as an outward sign of an inward reality following on an individual believer's experience of forgiving grace. Reformed and Methodist Protestants maintain a link between baptism and regeneration, but insist that it is not automatic or mechanical, and that regeneration may occur at a different time than baptism.
Churches of Christ consistently teach that in baptism a believer surrenders his life in faith and obedience to God, and that God "by the merits of Christ's blood, cleanses one from sin and truly changes the state of the person from an alien to a citizen of God's kingdom. Baptism is not a human work; it is the place where God does the work that only God can do." Thus, they see baptism as a passive act of faith rather than a meritorious work; it "is a confession that a person has nothing to offer God".
The liturgy of baptism for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and Methodist makes clear reference to baptism as not only a symbolic burial and resurrection, but an actual supernatural transformation, one that draws parallels to the experience of Noah and the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea divided by Moses. Thus, baptism is literally and symbolically not only cleansing, but also dying and rising again with Christ. Catholics believe that baptism is necessary for the cleansing of the taint of original sin, and for that reason infant baptism is a common practice. The Eastern Churches (Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy) also baptize infants on the basis of texts, such as Matthew 19:14, which are interpreted as supporting full Church membership for children. In these denominations, baptism is immediately followed by Chrismation and Communion at the next Divine Liturgy, regardless of age. Orthodox likewise believe that baptism removes what they call the ancestral sin of Adam. Anglicans believe that Baptism is also the entry into the Church and therefore allows them access to all rights and responsibilities as full members, including the privilege to receive Holy Communion. Most Methodists and Anglicans agree that it also cleanses the taint of what in the West is called original sin, in the East ancestral sin.
Eastern Orthodox Christians usually insist on complete threefold immersion as both a symbol of death and rebirth into Christ, and as a washing away of sin. Latin Church Catholics generally baptize by affusion (pouring); Eastern Catholics usually by submersion, or at least partial immersion. However, submersion is gaining in popularity within the Latin Catholic Church. In newer church sanctuaries, the baptismal font may be designed to expressly allow for baptism by immersion. Anglicans baptize by submersion, immersion, affusion or sprinkling.
According to evidence which can be traced back to at latest about the year 200, sponsors or godparents are present at baptism and vow to uphold the Christian education and life of the baptized.
Baptists argue that the Greek word βαπτίζω originally meant "to immerse". They interpret some Biblical passages concerning baptism as requiring submersion of the body in water. They also state that only submersion reflects the symbolic significance of being "buried" and "raised" with Christ.[Rom 6:3–4] Baptist Churches baptize in the name of the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, they do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation; but rather that it is an act of Christian obedience.
Some "Full Gospel" charismatic churches such as Oneness Pentecostals baptize only in the name of Jesus Christ, citing Peter's preaching baptism in the name of Jesus as their authority.[Ac 2:38] They also point to several historical sources that maintain that the early church always baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus until development of the Trinity Doctrine in the 2nd century.
In 1982 the World Council of Churches published the ecumenical paper Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. The preface of the document states:
Those who know how widely the churches have differed in doctrine and practice on baptism, Eucharist and ministry, will appreciate the importance of the large measure of agreement registered here. Virtually all the confessional traditions are included in the Commission's membership. That theologians of such widely different denominations should be able to speak so harmoniously about baptism, Eucharist and ministry is unprecedented in the modern ecumenical movement. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the Commission also includes among its full members theologians of the Catholic and other churches which do not belong to the World Council of Churches itself.
A 1997 document, Becoming a Christian: The Ecumenical Implications of Our Common Baptism, gave the views of a commission of experts brought together under the aegis of the World Council of Churches. It states:
...according to Acts 2:38, baptisms follow from Peter's preaching baptism in the name of Jesus and lead those baptized to the receiving of Christ's Spirit, the Holy Ghost, and life in the community: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers"[2:42] as well as to the distribution of goods to those in need.[2:45]
Those who heard, who were baptized and entered the community's life, were already made witnesses of and partakers in the promises of God for the last days: the forgiveness of sins through baptism in the name of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on all flesh.[Ac 2:38] Similarly, in what may well be a baptismal pattern, 1 Peter testifies that proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and teaching about new life[1 Pe 1:3–21] lead to purification and new birth.[1:22–23] This, in turn, is followed by eating and drinking God's food,[2:2–3] by participation in the life of the community—the royal priesthood, the new temple, the people of God[2:4–10]—and by further moral formation.[2:11ff] At the beginning of 1 Peter the writer sets this baptism in the context of obedience to Christ and sanctification by the Spirit.[1:2] So baptism into Christ is seen as baptism into the Spirit.cf. [1 Co 12:13] In the fourth gospel Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus indicates that birth by water and Spirit becomes the gracious means of entry into the place where God rules. [Jn 3:5]
Validity considerations by some churches
Since the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist and Lutheran churches teach that baptism is a sacrament that has actual spiritual and salvific effects, certain key criteria must be complied with for it to be valid, i.e., to actually have those effects. If these key criteria are met, violation of some rules regarding baptism, such as varying the authorized rite for the ceremony, renders the baptism illicit (contrary to the church's laws) but still valid.
One of the criteria for validity is use of the correct form of words. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the use of the verb "baptize" is essential. Catholics of the Latin Church, Anglicans and Methodists use the form "I baptize you...." Eastern Orthodox and some Eastern Catholics use a passive voice form "The Servant/(Handmaiden) of God is baptized in the name of...." or "This person is baptized by my hands...."
Use of the Trinitarian formula "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is also considered essential; thus these churches do not accept as valid baptisms of non-Trinitarian churches such as Oneness Pentecostals.
Another essential condition is use of water. A baptism in which some liquid that would not usually be called water, such as wine, milk, soup or fruit juice was used would not be considered valid.
Another requirement is that the celebrant intends to perform baptism. This requirement entails merely the intention "to do what the Church does", not necessarily to have Christian faith, since it is not the person baptizing, but the Holy Spirit working through the sacrament, who produces the effects of the sacrament. Doubt about the faith of the baptizer is thus no ground for doubt about the validity of the baptism.
Some conditions expressly do not affect validity—for example, whether submersion, immersion, affusion or aspersion is used. However, if water is sprinkled, there is a danger that the water may not touch the skin of the unbaptized. As has been stated, "it is not sufficient for the water to merely touch the candidate; it must also flow, otherwise there would seem to be no real ablution. At best, such a baptism would be considered doubtful. If the water touches only the hair, the sacrament has probably been validly conferred, though in practice the safer course must be followed. If only the clothes of the person have received the aspersion, the baptism is undoubtedly void." For many communions, validity is not affected if a single submersion or pouring is performed rather than a triple, but in Orthodoxy this is controversial.
According to the Catholic Church, baptism imparts an indelible "seal" upon the soul of the baptized and therefore a person who has already been baptized cannot be validly baptized again. This teaching was affirmed against the Donatists who practiced rebaptism. The grace received in baptism is believed to operate ex opere operato and is therefore considered valid even if administered in heretical or schismatic groups.
Recognition by other denominations
The Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches accept baptism performed by other denominations within this group as valid, subject to certain conditions, including the use of the Trinitarian formula. It is only possible to be baptized once, thus people with valid baptisms from other denominations may not be baptized again upon conversion or transfer. Such people are accepted upon making a profession of faith and, if they have not yet validly received the sacrament of confirmation or chrismation, by being confirmed. In some cases it can be difficult to decide if the original baptism was in fact valid; if there is doubt, conditional baptism is administered, with a formula on the lines of "If you are not yet baptized, I baptize you...."
In the still recent past, it was common practice in the Roman Catholic Church to baptize conditionally almost every convert from Protestantism because of a perceived difficulty in judging about the validity in any concrete case. In the case of the major Protestant Churches, agreements involving assurances about the manner in which they administer baptism has ended this practice, which sometimes continues for other groups of Protestants. The Catholic Church has always recognized the validity of baptism in the Churches of Eastern Christianity, but it has explicitly denied the validity of the baptism conferred in the LDS Church.
Practice in the Eastern Orthodox Church for converts from other communions is not uniform. However, generally baptisms performed in the name of the Holy Trinity are accepted by the Orthodox Christian Church. If a convert has not received the sacrament (mysterion) of baptism, he or she must be baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity before they may enter into communion with the Orthodox Church. If he has been baptized in another Christian confession (other than Orthodox Christianity) his previous baptism is considered retroactively filled with grace by chrismation or, in rare circumstances, confession of faith alone as long as the baptism was done in the name of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The exact procedure is dependent on local canons and is the subject of some controversy.
Oriental Orthodox Churches recognise the validity of baptisms performed within the Eastern Orthodox Communion. Some also recognise baptisms performed by Catholic Churches. Any supposed baptism not performed using the Trinitarian formula is considered invalid.
In the eyes of the Catholic Church, all Orthodox Churches, Anglican and Lutheran Churches, the baptism conferred by the LDS Church is invalid. An article published together with the official declaration to that effect gave reasons for that judgment, summed up in the following words: "The Baptism of the Catholic Church and that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differ essentially, both for what concerns faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose name Baptism is conferred, and for what concerns the relationship to Christ who instituted it."
The LDS Church stresses that baptism must be administered by one having proper authority; consequently, the church does not recognize the baptism of any other church as valid.
Jehovah's Witnesses do not recognise any other baptism occurring after 1914 as valid, as they believe that they are now the one true church of Christ, and that the rest of "Christendom" is false religion.
There is debate among Christian churches as to who can administer baptism. The examples given in the New Testament only show apostles and deacons administering baptism. Ancient Christian churches interpret this as indicating that baptism should be performed by the clergy except in extremis, i.e., when the one being baptized is in immediate danger of death. Then anyone may baptize, provided, in the view of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the person who does the baptizing is a member of that Church, or, in the view of the Catholic Church, that the person, even if not baptized, intends to do what the Church does in administering the rite. Many Protestant churches see no specific prohibition in the biblical examples and permit any believer to baptize another.
In the Roman Catholic Church, canon law for the Latin Church lays down that the ordinary minister of baptism is a bishop, priest or deacon, but its administration is one of the functions "especially entrusted to the parish priest". If the person to be baptized is at least fourteen years old, that person's baptism is to be referred to the bishop, so that he can decide whether to confer the baptism himself. If no ordinary minister is available, a catechist or some other person whom the local ordinary has appointed for this purpose may licitly do the baptism; indeed in a case of necessity any person (irrespective of that person's religion) who has the requisite intention may confer the baptism By "a case of necessity" is meant imminent danger of death because of either illness or an external threat. "The requisite intention" is, at the minimum level, the intention "to do what the Church does" through the rite of baptism.
In the Eastern Catholic Churches, a deacon is not considered an ordinary minister. Administration of the sacrament is reserved to the Parish Priest or to another priest to whom he or the local hierarch grants permission, a permission that can be presumed if in accordance with canon law. However, "in case of necessity, baptism can be administered by a deacon or, in his absence or if he is impeded, by another cleric, a member of an institute of consecrated life, or by any other Christian faithful; even by the mother or father, if another person is not available who knows how to baptize."
The discipline of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East is similar to that of the Eastern Catholic Churches. They require the baptizer, even in cases of necessity, to be of their own faith, on the grounds that a person cannot convey what he himself does not possess, in this case membership in the Church. The Latin Catholic Church does not insist on this condition, considering that the effect of the sacrament, such as membership of the Church, is not produced by the person who baptizes, but by the Holy Spirit. For the Orthodox, while Baptism in extremis may be administered by a deacon or any lay-person, if the newly baptized person survives, a priest must still perform the other prayers of the Rite of Baptism, and administer the Mystery of Chrismation.
The discipline of Anglicanism and Lutheranism is similar to that of the Latin Catholic Church. For Methodists and many other Protestant denominations, too, the ordinary minister of baptism is a duly ordained or appointed minister of religion.
Newer movements of Protestant Evangelical churches, particularly non-denominational, allow laypeople to baptize.
In the LDS Church, only a man who has been ordained to the Aaronic priesthood holding the priesthood office of priest or higher office in the Melchizedek priesthood may administer baptism.
A Jehovah's Witnesses baptism is performed by a "dedicated male" adherent. Only in extraordinary circumstances would a "dedicated" baptizer be unbaptized (see section Jehovah's Witnesses).
Anabaptists ("re-baptizers") and Baptists promote adult baptism, or "believer's baptism". Baptism is seen as an act identifying one as having accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.
Early Anabaptists were given that name because they re-baptized persons who they felt had not been properly baptized, having received infant baptism, sprinkling.
Anabaptists perform baptisms indoors in a baptismal font, a swimming pool, or a bathtub, or outdoors in a creek or river. Baptism memorializes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.[Rom 6] Baptism does not accomplish anything in itself, but is an outward personal sign or testimony that the person's sins have already been washed away by the blood of Christ's cross. It is considered a covenantal act, signifying entrance into the New Covenant of Christ.
For the majority of Baptists, Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[Mt 28:19] It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to the believer's faith in the final resurrection of the dead.
Churches of Christ
Baptism in Churches of Christ is performed only by full bodily immersion, based on the Koine Greek verb baptizo which is understood to mean to dip, immerse, submerge or plunge. Submersion is seen as more closely conforming to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus than other modes of baptism. Churches of Christ argue that historically immersion was the mode used in the 1st century, and that pouring and sprinkling later emerged as secondary modes when immersion was not possible. Over time these secondary modes came to replace immersion. Only those mentally capable of belief and repentance are baptized (i.e., infant baptism is not practiced because the New Testament has no precedent for it).
Churches of Christ have historically had the most conservative position on baptism among the various branches of the Restoration Movement, understanding baptism by immersion to be a necessary part of conversion. The most significant disagreements concerned the extent to which a correct understanding of the role of baptism is necessary for its validity. David Lipscomb insisted that if a believer was baptized out of a desire to obey God, the baptism was valid, even if the individual did not fully understand the role baptism plays in salvation. Austin McGary contended that to be valid, the convert must also understand that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. McGary's view became the prevailing one in the early 20th century, but the approach advocated by Lipscomb never totally disappeared. More recently, the rise of the International Churches of Christ (who "saw themselves as the only true Christians and insisted on reimmersing all who come into their fellowship, even those previously immersed 'for remission of sins' in a Church of Christ") has caused some to reexamine the issue.
Churches of Christ consistently teach that in baptism a believer surrenders his life in faith and obedience to God, and that God "by the merits of Christ's blood, cleanses one from sin and truly changes the state of the person from an alien to a citizen of God's kingdom. Baptism is not a human work; it is the place where God does the work that only God can do." Baptism is a passive act of faith rather than a meritorious work; it "is a confession that a person has nothing to offer God." While Churches of Christ do not describe baptism as a "sacrament", their view of it can legitimately be described as "sacramental." They see the power of baptism coming from God, who chose to use baptism as a vehicle, rather than from the water or the act itself, and understand baptism to be an integral part of the conversion process, rather than just a symbol of conversion. A recent trend is to emphasize the transformational aspect of baptism: instead of describing it as just a legal requirement or sign of something that happened in the past, it is seen as "the event that places the believer 'into Christ' where God does the ongoing work of transformation." There is a minority that downplays the importance of baptism in order to avoid sectarianism, but the broader trend is to "reexamine the richness of the biblical teaching of baptism and to reinforce its central and essential place in Christianity."
Because of the belief that baptism is a necessary part of salvation, some Baptists hold that the Churches of Christ endorse the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. However, members of the Churches of Christ reject this, arguing that since faith and repentance are necessary, and that the cleansing of sins is by the blood of Christ through the grace of God, baptism is not an inherently redeeming ritual. Rather, their inclination is to point to the biblical passage in which Peter, analogizing baptism to Noah's flood, posits that "likewise baptism doth also now save us" but parenthetically clarifies that baptism is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but the response of a good conscience toward God" (1 Peter 3:21). One author from the churches of Christ describes the relationship between faith and baptism this way, "Faith is the reason why a person is a child of God; baptism is the time at which one is incorporated into Christ and so becomes a child of God" (italics are in the source). Baptism is understood as a confessional expression of faith and repentance, rather than a "work" that earns salvation.
In Reformed baptismal theology, baptism is seen as primarily God's offer of union with Christ and all his benefits to the baptized. This offer is believed to be intact even when it is not received in faith by the person baptized. Reformed theologians believe the Holy Spirit brings into effect the promises signified in baptism. Baptism is held by almost the entire Reformed tradition to effect regeneration, even in infants who are incapable of faith, by effecting faith which would come to fruition later. Baptism also initiates one into the visible church and the covenant of grace. Baptism is seen as a replacement of circumcision, which is considered the rite of initiation into the covenant of grace in the Old Testament.
Reformed Christians believe that immersion is not necessary for baptism to be properly performed, but that pouring or sprinkling are acceptable. Only ordained ministers are permitted to administer baptism in Reformed churches, with no allowance for emergency baptism, though baptisms performed by non-ministers are generally considered valid. Reformed churches, while rejecting the baptismal ceremonies of the Roman Catholic church, accept the validity of baptisms performed with them and do not rebaptize.
In Catholic teaching, baptism is stated to be "necessary for salvation by actual reception or at least by desire". This teaching is based on Jesus' words in the Gospel according to John: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."[Jn 3:5] It dates back to the teachings and practices of 1st-century Christians, and the connection between salvation and baptism was not, on the whole, an item of major dispute until Huldrych Zwingli denied the necessity of baptism, which he saw as merely a sign granting admission to the Christian community. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament." The Council of Trent also states in the Decree Concerning Justification from session six that baptism is necessary for salvation. A person who knowingly, willfully and unrepentantly rejects baptism has no hope of salvation. However, if knowledge is absent, "those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states: "Since Baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate". In the Roman Rite of the baptism of a child, the wording of the prayer of exorcism is: "Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness and bring him into the splendour of your kingdom of light. We pray for this child: set him (her) free from original sin, make him (her) a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him (her). Through Christ our Lord."
Catholics are baptized in water, by submersion, immersion or affusion, in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit—not three gods, but one God subsisting in three Persons. While sharing in the one divine essence, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, not simply three "masks" or manifestations of one divine being. The faith of the Church and of the individual Christian is based on a relationship with these three "Persons" of the one God. Adults can also be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
It is claimed that Pope Stephen I, St. Ambrose and Pope Nicholas I declared that baptisms in the name of "Jesus" only as well as in the name of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" were valid. The correct interpretation of their words is disputed. Current canonical law requires the Trinitarian formula and water for validity.
The Church recognizes two equivalents of baptism with water: "baptism of blood" and "baptism of desire". Baptism of blood is that undergone by unbaptized individuals who are martyred for their faith, while baptism of desire generally applies to catechumens who die before they can be baptized. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes these two forms:
The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. (1258)
For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. (1259)
The Catholic Church holds that those who are ignorant of Christ's Gospel and of the Church, but who seek the truth and do God's will as they understand it, may be supposed to have an implicit desire for baptism and can be saved: "'Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.' Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." As for unbaptized infants, the Church is unsure of their fate; "the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God".
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that baptism should be performed by complete immersion (submersion) only when an individual is old enough to understand its significance. They believe that water baptism is an outward symbol that a person has made an unconditional dedication through Jesus Christ to do the will of God. They consider baptism to constitute ordination as a minister.
Prospective candidates for baptism must express their desire to be baptized well in advance of a planned baptismal event, to allow for congregation elders to assess their suitability. Elders approve candidates for baptism if the candidates are considered to understand what is expected of members of the religion and to demonstrate sincere dedication to the faith.
Most baptisms among Jehovah's Witnesses are performed at scheduled assemblies and conventions by elders and ministerial servants and rarely occur at local Kingdom Halls. Prior to baptism, at the conclusion of a pre-baptism talk, candidates must affirm two questions:
- On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
- Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?
Only baptized males may baptize new members. Baptizers and candidates wear swimsuits or other informal clothing for baptism, but are directed to avoid clothing that is considered undignified or revealing. Generally, candidates are individually immersed by a single baptizer, unless a candidate has special circumstances such as a physical disability. In circumstances of extended isolation, a qualified candidate's dedication and stated intention to become baptized may serve to identify him as a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, even if immersion itself must be delayed. In rare instances, unbaptized males who had stated such an intention have reciprocally baptized each other, with both baptisms accepted as valid. Individuals who had been baptized in the 1930s and 1940s by female Witnesses, such as in concentration camps, were later re-baptized but recognized their original baptism dates.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), baptism has the main purpose of remitting the sins of the participant. It is followed by confirmation, which inducts the person into membership in the church and constitutes a baptism with the Holy Spirit. Latter-day Saints believe that baptism must be by full immersion, and by a precise ritualized ordinance: if some part of the participant is not fully immersed, or the ordinance was not recited verbatim, the ritual must be repeated. It typically occurs in a baptismal font.
In addition, members of the LDS Church do not believe a baptism is valid unless it is performed by a Latter-day Saint one who has proper authority (a priest or elder). Authority is passed down through a form of apostolic succession. All new converts to the faith must be baptized or re-baptized. Baptism is seen as symbolic both of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection and is also symbolic of the baptized individual discarding their "natural" self and donning a new identity as a disciple of Jesus.
According to Latter-day Saint theology, faith and repentance are prerequisites to baptism. The ritual does not cleanse the participant of original sin, as Latter-day Saints do not believe the doctrine of original sin. Mormonism rejects infant baptism and baptism must occur after the age of accountability, defined in Latter-day Saint scripture as eight years old.
Latter-day Saint theology also teaches baptism for the dead in which deceased ancestors are baptized vicariously by the living, and believe that their practice is what Paul wrote of in 1 Corinthians 15:29. This occurs in Latter-day Saint temples.
Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) do not believe in the baptism of either children or adults with water, rejecting all forms of outward sacraments in their religious life. Robert Barclay's Apology for the True Christian Divinity (a historic explanation of Quaker theology from the 17th century), explains Quakers' opposition to baptism with water thus:
"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire".[Mt 3:11] Here John mentions two manners of baptizings and two different baptisms, the one with water, and the other with the Spirit, the one whereof he was the minister of, the other whereof Christ was the minister of: and such as were baptized with the first were not therefore baptized with the second: "I indeed baptize you, but he shall baptize you." Though in the present time they were baptized with the baptism of water, yet they were not as yet, but were to be, baptized with the baptism of Christ.
Barclay argued that water baptism was only something that happened until the time of Christ, but that now, people are baptised inwardly by the spirit of Christ, and hence there is no need for the external sacrament of water baptism, which Quakers argue is meaningless.
The Salvation Army does not practice water baptism, or indeed other outward sacraments. William Booth and Catherine Booth, the founders of the Salvation Army, believed that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself. They believed what was important was spiritual grace itself. However, although the Salvation Army does not practice baptism, they are not opposed to baptism within other Christian denominations.
There are some Christians termed "Hyperdispensationalists" who accept only Paul's Epistles as applicable for the church today. They do not accept baptism or the Lord's Supper, since these are not found in the Prison Epistles. They also teach that Peter's gospel message was not the same as Paul's. Hyperdispensationalists assert:
Water baptism found early in the Book of Acts is, according to this view, now supplanted by the one baptism[1 Cor 12:13] foretold by John the Baptist. The one baptism for today, it is asserted, is the "baptism of the Holy Spirit".[Ac 11:15–16]
Many in this group also argue that John's promised baptism by fire is pending, referring to the destruction of the world by fire.
John, as he said "baptized with water", as did Jesus's disciples to the early, Jewish Christian church. Jesus himself never personally baptized with water, but did so through his disciples.[Jn 4:1–2] Unlike Jesus' first Apostles, Paul, his Apostle to the Gentiles, was sent to preach rather than to baptize[1 Co 1:17] but did occasionally baptize, for instance in Corinth[1:14–16] and in Philippi,[Ac 16:13] in the same manner as they.cf.[Mt 28:19] He also taught the spiritual significance of the submerging in baptism and how one contacts the atoning death of Christ in such.[Rom 6:4]
Other Hyperdispensationalists believe that baptism was necessary only for a short period between Christ's ascension and mid-Acts. The great commission [Mt 28:18–20] and its baptism was directed to early Jewish believers, not the Gentile believers of mid-Acts or later. Any Jew who believed did not receive salvation[Mk 16:16] [1 Pe 3:21] or the Holy Spirit[Ac 2:38] until they were baptized. This period ended with the calling of Paul.[9:17–18] Peter's reaction when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit before baptism[10:44–48] is worthy of note.
Comparative Summary of Baptisms of Denominations of Christian Influence. (This section does not give a complete listing of denominations, and therefore, it only mentions a fraction of the churches practicing "believer's baptism".)
Most Christian churches see baptism as a once-in-a-lifetime event that can be neither repeated nor undone. They hold that those who have been baptized remain baptized, even if they renounce the Christian faith by adopting a non-Christian religion or by rejecting religion entirely. But some other organizations and individuals are practicing debaptism.
Other initiation ceremonies
Many cultures practice or have practiced initiation rites, with or without the use of water, including the ancient Egyptian, the Hebraic/Jewish, the Babylonian, the Mayan, and the Norse cultures. The modern Japanese practice of Miyamairi is such as ceremony that does not use water. In some, such evidence may be archaeological and descriptive in nature, rather than a modern practice.
Mystery religion initiation rites
Apuleius, a 2nd-century Roman writer, described an initiation into the mysteries of Isis. The initiation was preceded by a normal bathing in the public baths and a ceremonial sprinkling by the priest of Isis, after which the candidate was given secret instructions in the temple of the goddess. The candidate then fasted for ten days from meat and wine, after which he was dressed in linen and led at night into the innermost part of the sanctuary, where the actual initiation, the details of which were secret, took place. On the next two days, dressed in the robes of his consecration, he participated in feasting. Apuleius describes also an initiation into the cult of Osiris and yet a third initiation, of the same pattern as the initiation into the cult of Isis, without mention of a preliminary bathing.
The water-less initiations of Lucius, the character in Apuleius's story who had been turned into an ass and changed back by Isis into human form, into the successive degrees of the rites of the goddess was accomplished only after a significant period of study to demonstrate his loyalty and trustworthiness, akin to catechumenal practices preceding baptism in Christianity.
Gnostic Catholicism and Thelema
The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, or Gnostic Catholic Church (the ecclesiastical arm of Ordo Templi Orientis), offers its Rite of Baptism to any person at least 11 years old. The ceremony is performed before a Gnostic Mass and represents a symbolic birth into the Thelemic community.
Baptism of objects
The word "baptism" or "christening" is sometimes used to describe the inauguration of certain objects for use.
Mandaeans revere John the Baptist and practice frequent baptism as a ritual of purification, not of initiation.