[B-Greek] B-Greek BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI (part 3)

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Fri Oct 26 02:51:08 EDT 2007

Dear Carl,

For the sake of clarification let me respond to your number 3 below - and indirectly also respond to 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>
To: "Iver Larsen" <iver_larsen at sil.org>
Cc: "B-Greek B-Greek" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>

(3) probabilities of lexical determinations of meaning and usage

> CC:
> For my part, I am not at all convinced that BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI in the
> distinct sense of ritual baptism really does differ in grammatical
> formation from the more basic verb BAPTIZW/BAPTIZOMAI with the sense
> of "bathe ritually." I cite the relevant parts of the BDAG entry:
> --------
> 1. wash ceremonially for purpose of purification, wash, purify, of a
> broad range of repeated ritual washing rooted in Israelite tradition
> (cp. Just., D. 46, 2) Mk 7:4; Lk 11:38; Ox 840, 15.—WBrandt, Jüd.
> Reinheitslehre u. ihre Beschreibg. in den Ev. 1910; ABüchler, The Law
> of Purification in Mk 7:1–23: ET 21, 1910, 34–40; JDöller, D.
> Reinheits- u. Speisegesetze d. ATs 1917; JJeremias, TZ 5, ’49,  418–
> 28. See 1QS 5:8–23; 2:25–3:12; 4:20–22.
> 2. to use water in a rite for purpose of renewing or establishing a
> relationship w. God, plunge, dip, wash, baptize. The transliteration
> ‘baptize’ signifies the ceremonial character that NT narratives
> accord such cleansing, but the need of qualifying statements or
> contextual coloring in the documents indicates that the term ß. was
> not nearly so technical as the transliteration suggests.
> ---------
> Iver:
> The dictionary is rather confused between technical usage and  different senses, and it fails to
> account adequately for those different senses. Louw and Nida is  somewhat better, but still
> inadequate.

Let's add LEH:
2 Kgs 5:14; Is 21:4; Jdt 12:7; Sir 34:25 M: to dip oneself 2 Kgs
5:14; to wash Jdt 12:7 ἡ ἀνομία με βαπτίζει [hH
ANOMIA ME BAPTIZEI] I am imbued with transgression Is 21:4

This is relevant for an understanding of the full range of senses of the Greek word BAPTIZW, but not 
very relevant for the sense of Christian baptism as used in the NT. It is important to separate 
different senses of the same word according to usage and context, something BDAG failed to do 
and Barclay Newman's (well-named) "Concise Greek-English Dictionary
of the NT":
βαπτίζω [BAPTIZW] baptize; wash
IL: This dictionary is basically a listing of how the Greek words have been translated in the GNB. 
They have translated the instance in Mark 7:4 and Luk 11:38 as "wash". Of these two, the first is 
aorist middle and the second aorist passive, but both are translated by the English "wash" which is 
ambiguously either active or middle-reflexive. So, the two glosses simply mean that the same Greek 
word is used in at least two different senses and the translators decided that they could not use 
the same English word for these two quite different senses. In fact, ALL English translations 
recognize that the same word is used in different senses, so they use different words to translate 
the different senses, which is the only sensible thing to do.
I cited only the first part of BDAG's entry on BAPTIZW; it's much
more thorough than anything else that I've seen on the lexicography
of the word. Iver speaks of confusion "between technical usage and
different senses" but I wonder whether we can speak of technical
usage at all before the period when acknowledged institutional
regulations governing Christian baptism come into evidence. LEH
focuses, of course, on LXX usage and won't tell us anything about NT
usage in the sense that we usually translate with some form of
"baptize" -- but (a) it does seem to indicate that the middle sense
"dip oneself" is present in the LXX, and (b) it shows a figurative
sense in Isaiah 21:4 (where the LXX seems at great variance from the
Hebrew of MT): the LXX translator was using BAPTIZW in a sense
approaching "flood" or "engulf."

IL: I am not so concerned whether we talk about a technical sense or not. My concern is that the 
different senses of the same word are properly recognized as different based on their usage, and 
that seems to be a problem for some of the dictionaries.
As you say, "dip oneself" is one of the possible senses of the Greek verb, but it is not the sense I 
am talking about when referring to Christian baptism. It does apparently occur in the NT in Mark 7:4 
and possibly in Luke 11:38, although here it is likely that the "dipping oneself" (which happenes to 
be aorist passive) does not refer to full immersion but a ceremonial cleansing of the hands. I would 
have expected a middle form of BAPTW rather than a passive of BAPTIZW, so it seems that both the 
distinction between BAPTW and BAPTIZW as well as the distinction between middle and passive have 
been blurred. This is probably because BAPTIZW has aquired a ceremonial sense that BAPTW lacks. If 
that is correct, the ceremonial cleansing idea is more important than the difference between dipping 
and immersing.

The general sense of BAPTIZW does include the idea of "being engulfed" which fits well with the 
immersion concept, and it is especially apt for the sense of baptism in the Spirit. (It is somewhat 
akin to the difference between taking a bath in a river and in a shower. You can bathe - 
BAPTIZOMAI - in both ways).
In the GNT we certainly have a variety of usages. of 77 instances (as
tagged in Accordance), I find the breakdown by voice-morphology thus:
Active 30x (Present 17x, Imperfect 2x, Future 3x, Aorist 8x)
Middle 12x (Present 4x, Imperfect 5x, Aorist 2x, Perfect 1x)
Passive 35x (Future 3x, Aorist 32x)

Accordance tags these differently than Friberg:
The Friberg tags are based on context and the ambigous MP forms in present, imperfect and perfect 
have therefore been tagged as passive rather than middle. So, he has 30 Active, 45 Passive and 2 
Middle, since there are only two aorist middle forms and no future middle forms in the NT. These two 
are Mark 7:4 (which is not baptism) and Acts 22:16.

If these tags were to follow your own criteria, I suppose 30 should be tagged as Active and 47 as 
Some will understand some or most of the 12 Middle forms as
semantically passive, although  the verb in Mark 7:4 (ἐὰν μὴ
βαπτίσωνται οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν [EAN MH
BAPTISWNTAI OUK ESQIOUSIN) is surely semantically middle; I have
difficulty understanding the argument that the verb in Acts 22:16
(ἀναστὰς βάπτισαι καὶ ἀπόλουσαι
hAMARTIAS SOU]) is semantically passive (it's said that it can't mean
"baptize yourself" -- and I agree --, and can't mean "have yourself
baptized,"  but must mean "be baptized." Of the passive (QH) forms I
would not contest the view that those instances with a hUPO +
genitive agent constructions are semantically passive, but I'm not at
all sure about many of the instances that don't have the agent
construction: 1 Cor 10:2 καὶ πάντες εἰς τὸν
Μωϋσῆν ἐβαπτίσθησαν ἐν τῇ νεφέλῃ
καὶ ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ [KAI PANTES EIS TON MWUSHN
several of the aorist passive forms in QH are semantically middle
(EBAPTISQHN having become the more common form for EBAPTISAMHN). Luke
11:38 is a clear instance of middle semantics in the QH aorist: ὁ
δὲ Φαρισαῖος ἰδὼν ἐθαύμασεν ὅτι
οὐ πρῶτον ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ
You are still mixing the different senses, which IMO only causes confusion. I am not going to 
discuss Mark 7:4, Luke 11:38 and 1 Cor 10:2 again, since I think I have exhausted these and they do 
not carry the sense I am talking about, that of Christian baptism (or John's baptism and Spirit 

If you agree that Acts 22:16 can NOT mean "baptize yourself", then I think we have reached fairly 
good agreement after all. This has been my main point throughout, namely, that the sense of BAPTIZW 
when used for Christian baptism can not be reflexive, no matter whether the form is middle or 
I have no problem with any of the following translations:
1) have yourself baptized
2) allow yourself to be baptized
3) get yourself baptized
4) cause yourself to be baptized
5) get baptised
since all of them are essentially passive where the baptizand willingly submits to a command or 
request to undergo a baptism. Number 5) is ambiguous in English as to who is the agent just as the 
middle aorist in this verse is ambiguous in Greek, so if you want to keep that ambiguity in a formal 
translation, that is OK. The context and usage of the word in the whole NT ought to be enough to 
clarify that a passive sense is intended, and indeed, every single English version I have checked 
correctly translate this verse with "be baptized".

Iver Larsen
PS. I'll be travelling to another continent today, so I don't expect to continue this thread. 

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