[B-Greek] Acts 10:48 (Was B-Greek Question)

Harold Holmyard hholmyard at ont.com
Fri Apr 21 15:08:33 EDT 2006

Dear Carl,

>>> Culturally, the person "baptising someone else" is functioning as a
>>> witness and a teacher. Contrary to endless debates, they did not dunk
>>> or pour (or sprinkle). The person being baptised went down with their
>>> own motor skills while the teacher was a witness. Now many people on
>>> the list will read Acts 8:35ff as putting Phillip in the water  itself,
>>> but that is not a necessary reading if one starts with the cultural
>>> pictures just described. As for the Greek here, the PAQHTIKH
>>> experiencer/passive would be naturally read as MESH middle.
>> HH: Do I assume correctly that this implies an idea like: "And he
>> ordered them to get baptized . . . "?
> Better: "get themselves baptized" (text: PROSETAXEN DE AUTOUS EN TWi  
> aorist MIDDLE sense. That is, as Randall explained it, they were to  
> perform the acts for themselves.

HH: I'm uncomfortable with such an emphasis on the middle. Even if a
person submerged himself in the water, that does not mean another person
could not have accompanied him into the water and could not have been
viewed as responsible for the baptizing. To me, Acts 8:38-39 suggests
that both men went into the water and came out of the water, not that
they both went down to the water and came up from the water. The text
even emphasizes that both of them did these things. The emphasis seems
more plausible if they both went into the water rather than both going
to and from the body of water.

The NT constantly stresses that one person baptizes another, even the
text in Acts 8:38-39. So the passive idea would be perfectly appropriate
in Acts 10:48. Since the aorist of BAPTIZW has distinct middle forms (Mk
7:4; Acts 22:16), I am inclined to take the passive form here in Acts
10:48 as a genuine passive. Also, the aorist passive forms of BAPTIZW
are used elsewhere with clear evidence of agency ("be baptized by
someone"), showing that a true passive is intended (Matt 3:13-14; Mk
1:9; Lk 3:7). And middle-passive forms of BAPTIZW are used in other
constructions with a true passive sense (imperfect: Matt 3:6; Mk 1:5;
aorist participle: Lk 7:30).

The NET note mentions that Jewish Christians might have hesitated to
baptize Gentile believers, but Peter would not have hesitated to do so.
Also, Gentiles might have hesitated to undergo a Jewish ritual.

Harold Holmyard

More information about the B-Greek mailing list