[B-Greek] No mode in BAPTIZW

bitan buth ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
Wed Mar 8 09:41:08 EST 2006

>> BAPTW, the verb of which BAPTIZW is a frequentative form.  

>> Sometimes, but not always, frequentative forms suggest an 

>> imperfective aspect:  the notion that the verb's concept is 

>> incomplete, or repeated, or ongoing -- somehow a work in progress.


>> I think that this might be true of BAPTIZW.  Rather than simply 

>> 'plunge into' (active -- not middle) something liquid, BAPTIZW has 

>> the flavor of 'in and out' or 'over again', something perfectly 

>> consonant with the triple immersion still practiced by the orthodox, 

>> faintly imaged by the triple pouring of other Christians.  As 

>> described in the DIDACH, pouring and sprinkling are the least 

>> desirable methods of baptism, which then becomes analogous rather 

>> than actual, but still effective as a minimum when the maximum is 

>> truly impossible rather than just avoided.

George egrapse

> I think that the practice of referring to BAPTIZW as immersion is an

> example of the "root fallacy."  


Two points: 

a) words acquire meaning thru usage, not etymology. NB: -IZ- is used to
create vocabulary but it not does mean frequentative with
BAPTISAI//BAPTIZEIN. (Mk 1:9) KAI EBAPTISQH is singulative, a single event.
EBAPTISANTO (p46,B) means 'got baptised' (middle). 


b) meanings are defined and used within a culture. In Judaism, tvila was
self-immersion. A 'baptiser' was a witness/preacher not a waterwet-partner.
A Jewish reading of Acts 8:38-39 would be to go off the road down into the
waterhole and then up out of the waterhole, the Meroitic/Nubian man getting
wet and Phillip getting 'out of there'. The language, of course, does not
distinguish either person, so without that cultural gridwork, one could
picture both getting wet. However, going back to Acts 2, it would be
difficult to imagine anything but normal tvila with the thousands of people
around the temple area, where it was expected to individually walk down the
impure side of a miqve, self-immerse, and then walk up the pure/clean side.
At least plenty of water was available, as temple mount excavations show.
When, where, and how this changed within Christian practice I wouldn't know.
The point here is simply that words have meaning within certain cultural
expectations. Words can be used outside of their normal meaning, of course,
but this usually takes extra-communicative energy, to use relevance theory
terms. With a book like Acts there is the additional problem of two
audiences, the hearers of Peter's sermon around 30CE, and the recipients of
the book of Acts, who may or may not have been listening with a different

All of these are complications that one might not often hear in North
America, but the texts didn't take place over there. 



Randall Buth


Randall Buth, PhD
Biblical Language Center


c/o margbuth at gmail.com

also, Director, Biblical Studies in Israel
under Rothberg International School,

Hebrew University

ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il


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