[b-hebrew] Mikveh and Baptism
Yigal-Levin at utc.edu
Fri Feb 14 09:41:17 EST 2003
The Hebrew word "mikveh" (MQWH) does, indeed, mean "pool" or "reservoir".
In Gen. 1:9 God says: "Let the waters BE GATHERED" - "Yiqqawu Hammayim",
and then in vs. 10 He calls "the gathering of the waters" - "Miqweh
Hammayim" - "seas". This is certainly not a reference to a ritual bath!
The origin of ritual bathing is in the various passages in Leviticus, in
which lepers, women after childbirth, people who come into contact with the
dead, and especially priests before entering the sanctuary, must wash their
flesh with water. The Hebrew word used here is "Raxac" - "wash". While
there is no specific instruction on how or where this is to be done
(remember Naaman the Aramean dipping in the Jordan to cure his leprosy?),
by the late Second Temple period this had been interpreted as immersion in
"living (naturally flowing) water" - a stream or lake. The common word in
the Mishnah is "Taval". However, Israel is a land of few streams, and so
the "mikveh" (reservoir) of stored stream-water was invented - especially
in places like Jerusalem and Qumran. In post-Temple Judaism, most such
"immersion" is done by woman after their menstrual period (though some men,
especially in Hasidic sects, dip as well), and while Halakhah still
recognizes immersion in a lake or stream to be "kosher", modesty,
convenience and heated water have made the indoor mikveh much more common.
I would assume, that John Hammatbil, being an eccentric with perhaps ties
to the Essines or Qumran, preferred the Jordan. In any case, you could say
that the Jewish mikveh and Christian baptism both have their roots in the
Second Temple understanding of Leviticus.
By the way, the modern Samaritans, who claim to take Leviticus literally,
don't use a mikveh (though archaeological evidence shows that their
ancestors did) - they just "Raxac" in the shower!
At 08:09 AM 2/14/2003 -0600, Medina, Vincent wrote:
>Greetings to all:
>I have a question that I would like to submit to the collective wisdom
>of the list. My question is this...
>Is the Jewish mikveh the antecedent to Christian baptism? Though there
>are similarities, I suspect that it is not. However, not being an expert
>in Judaic studies, I would like some guidance. I understand that the
>term mikveh means "pool" or "reservoir" or some such. However the NT
>name for John "the Baptizer" does not seem to be related to that. The
>UBS Hebrew NT translates it as Yochanan hammatbil, from a Hebrew verb
>meaning "to dip." Is there any precedent in Judaism for someone who
>administers the mikveh being described in this way? Any insight you can
>give will be appreciated.
>Solo Deo Gloria
>b-hebrew mailing list
>b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Dr. Yigal Levin
Dept. of Philosophy and Religion
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
615 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga TN 37403-2598
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