George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 23 12:55:27 EDT 2007

I rather doubt that the baptizee would have been able to "go into the water" since it would appear that the form of baptism practiced in the early church was either effusion or aspergation.

Therefore, O faithful Christian, search for truth, hear truth, 
learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, 
defend the truth till death.
- Jan Hus

----- Original Message ----
From: Carl W.Conrad <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>
To: Iver Larsen <iver_larsen at sil.org>
Cc: BG <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 12:09:46 PM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI (part 2)

I've been doing a lot of thinking about this verb and the process  
which it represents; most of my thinking has been outside the box and  
speculative, something I think I need to state clearly at the outset.  
Whatever I suggest is tentative, and I can't help but feel that there  
are hermeneutical and theological factors in play with respect to how  
we think about the evidence that we must sift here when we talk about  
whether the baptizee undergoes the process of baptism voluntarily and  
deliberately -- and is therefore more than a "patient" -- or whether  
the baptizee is manipulated, directed, or otherwise the passive  
object of what the baptizer does to him or her. It may well be also  
that our views regarding divine governance and human freedom of  
choice are at play in how we understand the process of baptism as  
represented by the GNT verb BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI. I really want to  
avoid discussion of such views and of hermeneutical and theological  
factors altogether; I mention them because it seems to me that they  
may well influence how we are inclined to think about the process of  

Inasmuch as this re-thinking the matter of baptism has been  
triggered, in large measure, by Iver's explicit acknowledgement that  
we really don't know how the baptism actually took place --

> How the baptism actually took place, whether the baptizer went into  
> the water together with the
> baptizee or not, is not specified anywhere in these texts. Maybe  
> the baptizer only oversaw the
> confession of the baptizee and his immersion without himself being  
> in the water. I cannot deduce
> anything about that from either the syntax, morphology or  
> semantics. In the case of Spirit baptism,
> the baptizer (Jesus) is not visibly present, but he still remains  
> the agent.

-- I am inclined to deal with matters raised in the later part of  
Iver's message in reverse order (hUSTERON PROTERON, hELLHNISTI): (1)  
what LOUSAI as an aorist middle imperative means and how it's best  
translated ("wash," "wash yourself," or perhaps "bathe," or even  
"cleanse yourself"; (2) usage of active, middle, and passive forms of  
BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI in GNT texts; and (3) probabilities of lexical  
determinations of meaning and usage.

On Oct 20, 2007, at 11:34 AM, Iver Larsen wrote:

>> From Iver:
> It looks like I need to clarify my position which is based on an  
> empirical analysis of all the NT
> data plus a semantic theory of case frames.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>
> To: "Iver Larsen" <iver_larsen at sil.org>
> Cc: "BG" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: 19. oktober 2007 18:05
> Subject: Re: [B-Greek] BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI
(omitted material dealt with in part 1 of my response)

(1) what LOUSAI as an aorist middle imperative means and how it's  
best translated ("wash," "wash yourself," or perhaps "bathe," or even  
"cleanse yourself"

>> IL: I said above that in Danish we would have to say "I washed  
>> me",  there is no way we could say
>> "I baptized me".
> CC: How might you say, "they had themselves baptized"?
> IL: That is impossible to say in Danish. If I were to translate it,  
> I would first have to analyze the underlying semantic structure  
> which is "they caused someone to baptize them." Then I can  
> translate it.
>> Since you mention 2 Kgs 5, let us look at it a bit. In verse 10,  
>> the LXX has "Go and wash" POREUQEIS LOUSAI with a middle aorist  
>> imperative of LOUOMAI. Many English  versions say "Go and wash",  
>> but several express the implied reflexive overtly: "go and wash  
>> yourself".
> CC:
> They're not very good English translations if they do that. NET has  
> 'Elisha sent out a messenger who told him, “Go and wash seven  
> times in the Jordan; your skin will be restored and you will be  
> healed.”' KJV has "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times."
> IL:
> TEV: "Elisha sent a servant out to tell him to go and wash himself  
> seven times in the Jordan River"
> NIV: "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan"
> NLT: "Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River"
> GW: "Wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River"
> There are several native speakers of English who disagree with you  
> whether this is good English or not. These translations are  
> normally considered to use better and more natural English than NET  
> and KJV.

Well, what do I know? To me, at least, it seems unnatural. Perhaps I  
should refer this to Wayne Leman, who has been testing translations  
for "naturalness." Suzanne Kemmer (The Middle Voice, p. 53) says,  
" ... in English, the verb 'wash' normally takes a reflexive object  
only when the subject is nonhuman, as shown in the contrast between  
(29)a and b.
    (29) a. Tiger was washing himself [where Tiger is a cat]
          b. John washed/John got washed [where John is my brother]"

For my part, I think "Go and bathe" would be more natural English for  

>  (2) usage of active, middle, and passive forms of BAPTIZW/ 
>> CC:
>> For this reason I cannot so readily dismiss the relevance to our  
>> question of the clearly middle uses in the LXX cited above (4 Km
>> 5:14; Sir 34:25; Jdth 12:7). I don't have the Irenaeaus 1.21.3  
>> text ready to hand, but I'd like to look at it. I don't understand  
>> why the
>> verb BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI when referring to the distinctive NT  
>> baptism should behave grammatically in a way different from its  
>> behavior in other contexts of ritual purification.
>> Iver:
>> In that case, I need to give a more thorough explanation of how  
>> the word is used in the NT.
>> First, there are three situations which can be lumped together,  
>> because they use the same case frames and have a very similar  
>> sense: John's baptism, Christian baptism in water, and Baptism in  
>> the Spirit.

Agreed, but I'm not altogether convinced that the analysis of these  
as transitive verbs with only the two arguments of agent and patient  
is the right one.

>> Then there are a few cases where the word BAPTIZW is used in a  
>> sense different from any of the three above. These are Mark 7:4,  
>> 10:38-39, Luk 11:38, 12:50 and 1Cor 10:2. These must be looked at  
>> individually in their context and not confused with all the others.

Yes, let's do that.

>> Mark 7:4 uses a middle form in a reflexive sense - bathe oneself.

I'd say simply "bathe" -- i.e. purify themselves from uncleanness

καὶ ἀπ᾿ ἀγορᾶς ἐὰν μὴ  
βαπτίσωνται οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν KAI AP' AGORAS  

>> Mark 10:38-39 use MP forms in the sense of going through en  
>> experience of suffering. There is no agent mentioned, so it is not  
>> clear whether these are best interpreted as middle or passive. I  
>> would think that it is most likely that they are passives, because  
>> if you are given a cup to drink, then there is somebody else who  
>> gives it to you. And it is probably God who is the implied agent  
>> for the suffering that Jesus has to go through.

δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ  
πίνω ἢ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ  
βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι;  DUNASQE PIEIN TO  

Drinking is surely active and is something one accepts unless the  
drink is forced down one's throat. I think that the baptism here must  
be conceived the same way as the drinking. Undoubtedly death is in  
view here, but it is a death that one accepts and undergoes,  
ultimately, willingly, whether we conceive it as self-sacrifice or  
martyrdom. Is Jesus a passive victim being executed or one who  
accepts, even embraces, his "fate"? I think that how one answers that  
question has a bearing on whether BAPTISQHNAI should be understood as  
semantically middle or semantically passive.

>> Luk 11:38 is a passive form that is probably intended to be middle  
>> reflexive as it refers to Jewish cleansing.

ὁ δὲ Φαρισαῖος ἰδὼν ἐθαύμασεν ὅτι  
οὐ πρῶτον ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ  

I would agree: EBAPTISQH here means exactly what EBAPTISATO would  
mean. We should probably understand the -QH- form here as the middle- 
passive verb-form that is replacing the MAI/SAI/TAI form.

>> Luk 12:50 is parallel to Mark 10:38-39, with God being the most  
>> likely implied agent in a passive construction.

I would agree that this is parallel to the Marcan passage -- probably  
even derivative (but that's a separate question). I would raise the  
same question here as above with regard to the Marcan passage.

>> 1Cor 10:2 is a metaphorical usage which is probably middle in  
>> sense, but we already discussed this one.

καὶ πάντες εἰς τὸν Μωϋσῆν  
ἐβαπτίσθησαν ἐν τῇ νεφέλῃ καὶ ἐν  

But this remains problematic, as we did note. p46 as well as some  
other witnesses have EBAPTISANTO (see NET tc note). This at the very  
least raises the question whether the form EBAPTISQHSAN is  
semantically passive or semantically middle.

>> Now, let me list how the first three constructions above are used  
>> in the NT. I am going to list the reference, the voice, the agent  
>> and the patient. A parenthesis indicates that the agent or patient  
>> is not directly mentioned, but implied from context.
>> Ref:                Voice            Agent                Patient
>> Mt 3:6            Pass          John                    people  
>> (Also Mk 1:5)
>> Mt 3:11a        Act              I (John)              you (also  
>> Mk 1:8a,Lk 3:16a, Jn 1:26)
>> Mt 3:11b        Act              He(Jesus)            you (also Mk  
>> 1:8b, Lk 3:16b)
>> Mt 3:13          Pass          John                    Jesus
>> Mt 3:14          Pass          you(Jesus)          me(John)
>> Mt 3:16          Pass          (John)                Jesus
>> Mt 28:19        Act              you(disciples)      them (people/ 
>> believers)
>> Mk 1:4          Act              John                    (people)
>> Mk 1:9          Pass          John                    Jesus
>> Mk 6;14,24    Act            John                    (people)
>> Mk 16:16        Pass          (disciples)          believers
>> Lk 3:21a        Pass          (John)                people
>> Lk 3:21b        Pass          (John)                Jesus
>> Lk 3:7            Pass            him(John)          crowds
>> Lk 3:12          Pass            (John)                tax collectors
>> Lk 7:29          Pass            (John)                tax collectors
>> Lk 7:30          Pass            him(John)          Pharisees
>> Jn 1:25          Act              you(John)          (people)
>> Jn 1:33a        Act              (John)                (people)
>> Jn 1:33b        Act              he(Jesus)          (people)  
>> (Spirit baptism)
>> Jn 3:23a        Act              John                  (people)
>> Jn 3:23b        Pass            (John) they          (people)
>> Jn 3:26          Act              he(Jesus)          (people)
>> Jn 4:1            Act              (Jesus/discip.)    (people)
>> Jn 4:2            Act              (disciples)          (people)
>> Jn 10:40        Act              John                  (people)
>> Act 1:5a        Act              John                  (people)
>> Act 1:5b        Pass            (Jesus)              you(disc.)  
>> (Spirit baptism)
>> Act 2:38        Pass            (apostles)          you (people)
>> Act 2:41        Pass            (apostles)          believers
>> Act 8:12        Pass            (Philip)                men and  
>> women
>> Act 8:13        Pass            (Philip)                Simon
>> Act 8:16        Pass            (Philip)                believers
>> Act 8:36        Pass            (Philip)                me(eunuch)
>> Act 8:38        Act              (Philip)                eunuch
>> Act 9:18        Pass            (Ananias/disc.)    (Paul)
>> Act 10:47      Pass            (Peter et al.)      these(believers)
>> Act 10:48      Pass            (Peter et al.)      them(believers)
>> Act 11:16a    Act                John                  you
>> Act 11:16b    Pass            (Jesus)              you 
>> (disciples) (Spirit baptism)
>> Act 16:15      Pass            (Paul et al.)        she (Lydia)
>> Act 16:33      Pass            (Paul et al.)        he and his  
>> people
>> Act 18:8        Pass            (Paul et al.)        Cor. believers
>> Act 19:3        Pass            (disciples)          12 Eph.  
>> believers
>> Act 19:4        Act                John                  (people)
>> Act 19:5        Pass            (Paul et al.)        12 Eph.  
>> believers
>> Act 22:16      MP                (Ananias/disc.)    Paul
>> Rom 6:3a,b  Pass              (disciples)          believers
>> 1Co 1:13      Pass              (disciples)          you 
>> (Corinthians)
>> 1Co 1:14      Act                (Paul)                you 
>> (Corinthians)
>> 1Co 1:15      Pass              (disciples)          you 
>> (Corinthians)
>> 1Co 1:16a    Act                I(Paul)              house of  
>> Stephen
>> 1Co 1:16b    Act                I(Paul)              others
>> 1Co 1:17      Act                me(Paul)          (people)
>> 1Co 12:13    Pass              (Jesus)            we all  
>> (Spirit baptism)
>> 1Co 15:29a,b Pass            (disciples)          they(people)
>> Gal 3:27        Pass              (disciples)        you(believers)
>> In all of these cases we clearly have one person or group of  
>> people acting as agent and another person or group of people  
>> filling the slot of patient. That is why none of these can  
>> possibly be reflexive. Nor is it relevant to talk about  
>> benefactive, since the person who baptizes someone does not  
>> benefit from it.

Twelve of these instances are MP in form; they may very well be  
passive semantically, but in view of the fact that -QH- forms might  
conceivably be middle semantically, I don't quite think this is an  
open-and-shut case. To anticipate, I want to leave open the possible  
view that baptism is a process that an initiate undergoing it  
proceeds through deliberately and voluntarily (middle semantics) and  
that the active form should refer to the baptizer as a 'mystagogue'  
who guides the 'baptisand' through the process. Far out? Maybe, or  
maybe not.

>> There is one unusual form, Act 22:16, but in this case what is  
>> morphologically a middle is apparently used just like a passive.  
>> This verse actually quotes 9:18 where a passive is used. In both  
>> cases Ananias or some other local church leader(s) are the  
>> baptizers and Paul is the baptizee.

καὶ νῦν τί μέλλεις; ἀναστὰς  
βάπτισαι καὶ ἀπόλουσαι τὰς  
ἁμαρτίας σου ἐπικαλεσάμενος τὸ  

Acts 9:18 καὶ εὐθέως ἀπέπεσαν αὐτοῦ  
ἀπὸ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν ὡς λεπίδες,  
ἀνέβλεψέν τε καὶ ἀναστὰς  

I don't know that I'd say Acts 22:16 QUOTES 9:18; it echoes it. But  
(to me, at least) it seems no less likely that EBAPTISQH in 9:18 is  
semantically middle than that BAPTISAI in 22:16 is semantically  
passive, no matter how many English versions convert BAPTISAI into  
"be baptized." That form BAPTISAI is altogether anomalous if it isn't  
middle in meaning.

>> So, the data indicate that we are dealing with a case frame  
>> consisting of two roles: agent and patient. The agent may be left  
>> unspecified, in which case a passive is used rather than an  
>> active. It is possible to re-introduce the agent in a passive  
>> construction by using hUPO.

I think there is some reason to dispute the findings here -- or at  
least to interpret what we find in a different way. But that carries  
us over into the third matter, probabilities of lexical  
determinations of meaning and usage of BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI. Part 2 is  
already very long, and I've decided to send it off, for what it's  
worth. I'll leave this third matter for Part 3 in a separate message

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Ret)

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