[B-Greek] BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Thu Oct 18 13:50:07 EDT 2007


>From Iver, comments below and some parts skipped for the sake of brevity.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>

> On Oct 18, 2007, at 12:42 AM, Taylor Swendsen wrote:

>> (I know the sense of the word in NT usage is cultic and not used  with inanimate objects, but I 
>> think of the example given in  Strong's Lexicon where he tries to give a comparison between BAPTW 
>> and BAPTIZW: "The clearest example that shows the meaning of  baptizo (vs bapto) is a text from 
>> the Greek poet and physician  Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making 
>> pickles and is helpful because it uses both words.  Nicander says  that in order to make a 
>> pickle, the vegetable should first be  ‘dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ 
>> (baptizo)  in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of  vegetables in a 
>> solution. But the first is temporary. The second,  the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a 
>> permanent change.")

IL: I doubt that the difference is between temporary and permanent, but rather that BAPTW is 
normally dipping an object in a liquid without immersing it completely, while BAPTIZW refers to 
complete immersion. One cannot get a clear picture of the sense from one example. Which vegetable is 
it? Does the cook hold on to it while (part of it) is dipped into boiling water? Maybe first one 
part is dipped and then another part before the whole thing is dumped into the vinegar?
BAPTW is farily common in the LXX in the sense of dipping, but BAPTIZW is very rare in the LXX, and 
it quite understandably never has the meaning of "baptism" in the NT sense.

CC:
If Iver is right in asserting that BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI is essentially
a transitive verb (and I don't think I'd argue with that assertion),
I think nevertheless that its middle usage is distinctive, rather
like that of LOUW/LOUOMAI "wash, bathe" (middle 38x/45 in LXX, GNT:
Jn 13:10 LELOUMENOS, Acts 9:37 LOUSANTES {AUTHN}, Acts 16:33 ELOUSEN
{AUTOUS}, Heb 10:22 LELOUSMENOI TO SWMA, 2 Pet 2;22 hUS LOUSAMENH EIS
KULISMON BORBOROU), KEIRW/KEIROMAI ("cut one's hair," normally middle
as a direct reflexive; Acts 8:32 KEIRANTOS of shearing a sheep, Acts
18:18 KEIRAMENOS "have one's hair cut"; 1 Cor. 11:6 KEIRASQAI "have
one's hair cut"), or XURAW/XURAOMAI, regularly middle as direct
reflexive; Acts 21:24 XURHSONTAI, 1 Cor 11:5 2x EXURHMENHi, XURASQAI,
all in the sense "shave, or have shaved.").

IL: I don't think we can jump from the semantics of LOUW to BAPTIZW and suggest that the same 
meaning differences apply to both. I have no quarrel with the middle sense of LOUOMAI.

CC:
As a direct reflexive the middle BAPTIZOMAI belongs in a standard
middle-voice category.

IL: On what empirical basis? What is meant by "direct reflexive", when BAPTIZOMAI is not reflexive 
in any usage where it refers to baptism?

CC:
If that analysis is correct, then we ought to understand the active
BAPTIZW in a causative sense where the patient is another person or
persons. Moreover, although the NT usage most commonly is in the
sense of ritual bathing and specifically to baptism, it can refer to
ritual bathing of other sorts, as in Mark 7:4 KAI AP' AGORAS EAN MH
BAPTISWNTAI OUK ESQIOUSIN). Cf. 2 Kgs 5:14 KAI KATEBH NAIMAN KAI
EBAPTISATO EN TWi IORDANHi hEPTAKI; Judith 12:7 EBAPTIZETO EN THi
PAREMBOLHi EPI THS PHGHS TOU hUDATOS; Sir. 34:25 BAPTIZOMENOS APO
NEKROU KAI PALIN hAPTOMENOS AUTOU TI WFELHSEN EN TWi LOUTRWi AUTOU?

IL: I think it is important to look at context. In all the examples listed above, the verb is 
clearly middle and it refers to a person immersing him- og herself in water for the purpose of 
bathing or cleansing onself. They are all different from the sense of baptize as used in the NT.
So, my point is not that the word BAPTIZW as such does not occur in a middle sense. Rather, my point 
is that when it used to refer to John's baptism or Christian baptism, it never occurs in a middle 
sense.

> So, I am afraid I disagree with Carl and Kimmo here. EBAPTISANTO  does not occur in the NT among 
> the
> 77 examples of this verb and the sense suggested by Carl for this  form is non-existent, unless 
> you
> think of Jewish cleansing ceremonies.

CC:
That's true, the aorist middle of BAPTIZOMAI doesn't appear in the
GNT; nevertheless, I think something comparable may be seen in 2 Kgs
5:14 KAI KATEBH NAIMAN KAI EBAPTISATO EN TWi IORDANHi hEPTAKI. Does
Naaman here wash himself -- or is he attended by one or more
servants? It's curious how much like a description of a baptism this is!

IL:
I assume that he is immersing himself, but this is not like baptism at all.

CC:
Of the MP forms of BAPTIZOMAI in the GNT, the following would
normally be interpreted as passive:
Mt 3:6 EBAPTIZONTO hUP' AUTOU (John); Mk 1:5 EBAPTIZONTO hUP' AUTOU
(John); Jn 3:32 PAREGINONTO KAI EBAPTIZONTO (by John?) -- but even
here I would have to say that the subject is an agent as well as a
patient: they undergo the baptism by John of their own accord.

IL: That they presumably undergo the baptism by their own accord does not made them semantically an 
agent. They are still the patient, because John is the one baptizing them. You cannot have two 
different agents for the same event.

CC:
Mk 10:38 ... DUNASQE ... TO BAPTISMA hO\ EGW BAPTIZOMAI
BAPTISQHNAI? .. TO BAPTISMA hO\ EGW BAPTIZOMAI BAPTISQHSESQE.
Insofar as the "baptism" which the sons of Zebedee are to undergo is
one that they would not at the time of the incident undergo
voluntarily, they will in time do so. I have argued that the
accusative object hO\ of BAPTIZOMAI and BAPTISQHSESQE depends upon
middle semantics of these forms of BAPTIZOMAI; "baptism which I
undergo" as a direct reflexive.

IL: I really cannot see how the concept of "voluntariness" has anything to do with the question of 
middle or passive sense. Here, of course, the "baptism" is a different concept, meaning suffering 
that one has to undergo. (The semantic role of patient is also called the "undergoer", because it 
undergoes an action.)
I see no reason to intepret these as middle rather than passive.

CC:
The following are very much like Jn 3:32: no external agent is named,
although presumably there is one: believing and voluntary submission
to baptism go hand-in-hand.
Acts 8:12 hOTE DE EPISTEUSAN, EBAPTIZONTO ANDRES TE KAI GUNAIKES
Acts 8:16 BAPTISMENOI hUPHRCON EIS TO ONOMA TOU KURIOU IHSOU
Acts 18:8 POLLOI TWN KORINQIWN AKOUONTES EPISTEUON KAI EBAPTIZONTO

IL: It is true that no external agent is mentioned, since that is not in focus. But that does not 
mean that there was no agent, and voluntary submission does not exclude the need for an agent, nor 
does it make the patient an agent.

CC:
MK 7:4 has been dealt with above as a matter of ritual hand-washing;
it is clearly middle semantically.

IL: Actually, I think that the BAPTISWNTAI here probably refers to a ritual immersion of the whole 
body, since the word used for hand washing is NIPTW in v. 3 (and ANIPTOS) in v. 2. This sense is 
similar to some of the OT examples above and is clearly middle in sense.

CC:
Finally there's 1 Cor 15:29 ... TI POIHSOUSIN hOI BAPTIZOMENOI hUPER
TWN NEKRWN? EI hOLWS NEKROI OUK EGEIRONTAI, TI KAI BAPTIZONTAI hUPER
AUTWN? However strange we may deem this procedure of undergoing
baptism for the sake of the dead, it is certainly a matter of
voluntarily undergoing the process. Surely it's a matter of "those
who have themselves baptized." Here too the usage of BAPTIZOMAI seems
very much like that of LOUOMAI, KEIROMAI, and XURAOMAI -- and NIPTOMAI.

IL: These people have probably asked to be baptized, but that does not make them the agent, and I 
maintain that the way BAPTIZW is used for John's baptism or Christian baptism cannot contextually be 
interpreted as middle.

Iver Larsen




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