"Baptismos" and "Baptisma"

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
My Young's Analytical Concordance (22nd American ed.) states the difference between baptismos and baptisma as

Baptismos: Baptism, as an act
and
Baptisma: Baptism, as a state.

What is the difference here? When baptismos is used, is it referencing the act of baptizing, and when baptisma is used, is it referencing a characterization of the object? For example:

Acts 1:22 "beginning from the Baptisma of John

Hebrews 6:2 "of the doctrine of Baptismos (Plural)
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Both are nouns for the act of baptizing (as a verb) with water, as a religious ceremonial rite of purification. The NT primarily uses baptismos in reference to Jewish/Levitical rites, and baptisma in exclusive reference to John's and the Christian rite, or in a metaphorical sense as drawn from the same. Notably Josephus referred to John's baptism as a baptismos.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
Both are nouns for the act of baptizing (as a verb) with water, as a religious ceremonial rite of purification. The NT primarily uses baptismos in reference to Jewish/Levitical rites, and baptisma in exclusive reference to John's and the Christian rite, or in a metaphorical sense as drawn from the same. Notably Josephus referred to John's baptism as a baptismos.
Thank you, this is helpful. So Hebrews 6:2 is referring to Jewish washings? Also you're saying Josephus considered John's baptism non-Christian correct?
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
So Hebrews 6:2 is referring to Jewish washings? Also you're saying Josephus considered John's baptism non-Christian correct?
The meaning in Hebrews 6:2 is a somewhat disputed occurrence of baptismos. I would tend to agree with those who see it not so much in exclusive reference to Jewish baptisms, but rather making a transitional connection between some similar aspects of Christian baptism and the Levitical (and perhaps proselytical) rites.
Josephus considered John's baptism non-Christian correct?
The implication with Josephus seems to be that he viewed John's baptism in a strictly Jewish context, whereas the NT presents it more in connection or at least as a transitional precursor to Christian baptism. Many Reformed theologians, especially the earlier ones, have seen John's and Christian water baptism as essentially the same.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It's a bad practice to decide in advance what a word *must* mean, and even worse what the form of a certain word *always* (allegedly) means, and then go about the business of interpreting a sentence or a passage. Referring a certain word invariably either to Jewish or Christian washing treats the words as if they are "technical language," a specialized term that has a monopoly on the meaning.

Words ordinarily have a "semantic range," based on their actual use. A certain word could usually mean one thing in many places, and then the same term is used in another place or by another author where the meaning is more or less distinct from the typical. But most words have an even fuller manner of use than that. Meaning and sense is always dependent on context clues.

So even to say that in the Bible God the Holy Spirit "he would always use a word one way, or else we'd be uncertain or he'd be a liar"--which is the way some unreliable but popular interpreters argue--this is an implausible principle.

It goes along with the rule that every word and phrase in the Bible must be taken in the most literal or non-metaphorical sense possible. The example I heard long time ago keeps coming back to mind: of the man who said with a straight face that there was a dragon (Rev.12) right now flying around in outer space, waiting to fulfill this element of prophecy at the appointed time. Why? Because he thought sure he knew exactly what a "dragon" is, and the direction of "heaven." Language, to him, was static as opposed to dynamic.

I would go with the following general concepts:
βαπτίζω (baptizo), this verb focuses our attention on baptizing, on what is going on​
βάπτισμα (baptisma) this neuter noun focuses our attention on the performers or the receivers, the actors, emphasizing a result or end state​
βαπτισμός (baptismos) this masculine noun focuses our attention on the action as event. Example: "I went to the GAME."​
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
It's a bad practice to decide in advance what a word *must* mean, and even worse what the form of a certain word *always* (allegedly) means, and then go about the business of interpreting a sentence or a passage. Referring a certain word invariably either to Jewish or Christian washing treats the words as if they are "technical language," a specialized term that has a monopoly on the meaning.

Words ordinarily have a "semantic range," based on their actual use. A certain word could usually mean one thing in many places, and then the same term is used in another place or by another author where the meaning is more or less distinct from the typical. But most words have an even fuller manner of use than that. Meaning and sense is always dependent on context clues.

So even to say that in the Bible God the Holy Spirit "he would always use a word one way, or else we'd be uncertain or he'd be a liar"--which is the way some unreliable but popular interpreters argue--this is an implausible principle.

It goes along with the rule that every word and phrase in the Bible must be taken in the most literal or non-metaphorical sense possible. The example I heard long time ago keeps coming back to mind: of the man who said with a straight face that there was a dragon (Rev.12) right now flying around in outer space, waiting to fulfill this element of prophecy at the appointed time. Why? Because he thought sure he knew exactly what a "dragon" is, and the direction of "heaven." Language, to him, was static as opposed to dynamic.

I would go with the following general concepts:
βαπτίζω (baptizo), this verb focuses our attention on baptizing, on what is going on​
βάπτισμα (baptisma) this neuter noun focuses our attention on the performers or the receivers, the actors, emphasizing a result or end state​
βαπτισμός (baptismos) this masculine noun focuses our attention on the action as event. Example: "I went to the GAME."​
This is helpful Pastor, thank you. I thought what was interesting particularly about baptisma is that when used in the gospels and the Acts, it usually seems to be referring to physical water baptism, but when used in the Apostolic letters it seems to point to spiritual baptism. I was trying to study 1 Peter 3:20-22 better, and it seems the Apostle Peter is referring to physical baptism.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
This is helpful Pastor, thank you. I thought what was interesting particularly about baptisma is that when used in the gospels and the Acts, it usually seems to be referring to physical water baptism, but when used in the Apostolic letters it seems to point to spiritual baptism. I was trying to study 1 Peter 3:20-22 better, and it seems the Apostle Peter is referring to physical baptism.
Blessings on your studies. My point would be: I encourage you to avoid having a specific word or form of the word to drive you toward a conceptual conclusion.
 
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