Short first impression of "The Meaning and Use of Baptizein" by T.J. Conant

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Reformed Baptist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Having read "An Introduction to Theological Research" by Cyril Barber and Robert Krauss, I found a tremendous book referenced there. It was given as an example of how a word study could/should be done. Cyril Barber wrote the forward to the book after searching for it for eight years. It was published in 1977 by Kregel entitled, "The Meaning and Use of Baptizein" by T.J. Conant.

Barber heard of this book in a sermon preached by the late W.A. Criswell who referenced it as a tremendous gem in treating the subject of the meaning of the word "baptism." What took Barber 8 years to find can be found in a few minutes on Amazon or Abebooks. (There is an 1861 copy out there right now (only one) for $75 bucks which is very tempting..) You should be able to pick up a copy for a few dollars plus shipping off Amazon. I opted for the Kregel copy because it is a hardback.

So what is the value in this book? First, it gives the reader a look at what doing a real word study is. Folks, this is a study on one word, baptism (baptizein), and the book is 192 pages long. Doing word studies (as I am learning) involves much more than reading a lexical aid or Bible dictionary. While those tools are very helpful, they do not always trace the history of the word in non-Christian sources, the church fathers, and in the Bible.

I had some time to skim the book and read a few selections from it so far. I am going to have to force myself to shelve this book for later use due to seminary studies, but let me share a nugget or two. This book will not disappoint either the scholar or serious Bible student. However, it will prove itself a sufficient sleeping aid to our fast-food, lazy, mindless entertainment, don't-make-me-think-too-hard crowd. If you really want to think through this subject rather than have someone else do the thinking for you, don't buy this book.

The book covers the use of the word baptizein in ancient Greek literature citing page after page of references and quotes the Greek juxtaposition to the translation. You don't have to know Greek to understand this book, but it is there should one want to see that as well. The Septuagint is addressed (Greek translation of the OT). Here is a excerpt as a summary of how thorough Conant is:

These examples (of the word meaning 'to put under' 'submerge' et.) are drawn from writers in almost every department of literature and science; from poets, rhetoricians, philosophers, critics, historians, geographers; from writers on husbandry, on medicine, on natural history, on grammar, on theology; from almost every form and style of composition, romances, epistles, orations, fables, odes, epigrams, sermons, narratives; from writers of various nations and religions, Pagan, Jew, and Christian, belonging to many different countries, and through a long succession of ages.

These examples (of the word meaning 'to put under' 'submerge' et.) are drawn from writers in almost every department of literature and science; from poets, rhetoricians, philosophers, critics, historians, geographers; from writers on husbandry, on medicine, on natural history, on grammar, on theology; from almost every form and style of composition, romances, epistles, orations, fables, odes, epigrams, sermons, narratives; from writers of various nations and religions, Pagan, Jew, and Christian, belonging to many different countries, and through a long succession of ages.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Folks, this is a study on one word, baptism (baptizein), and the book is 192 pages long.

Actually, baptism (or baptisma) is a noun and baptizein is a verb, and a non-lexical form of the verb at that (baptidzo would the lexical form). Furthermore, that specific form of the verb appears to only occur twice in the NT (John 1:33 and 1 Corinthians 1:17). Why does the author restrict himself to only that form of the verb? :scratch:

Also, is the author familiar with James Dale's multi-volume work on baptism, where he examines the use of baptizo in various ancient literature? I'm only asking because it would seem difficult to think that a 192 page book could exhaust the usage of the word, when Dale spends four volumes doing so. :2cents:
 

Reformed Baptist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Folks, this is a study on one word, baptism (baptizein), and the book is 192 pages long.

Actually, baptism (or baptisma) is a noun and baptizein is a verb, and a non-lexical form of the verb at that (baptidzo would the lexical form). Furthermore, that specific form of the verb appears to only occur twice in the NT (John 1:33 and 1 Corinthians 1:17). Why does the author restrict himself to only that form of the verb? :scratch:

Also, is the author familiar with James Dale's multi-volume work on baptism, where he examines the use of baptizo in various ancient literature? I'm only asking because it would seem difficult to think that a 192 page book could exhaust the usage of the word, when Dale spends four volumes doing so. :2cents:

I don't know. The book is only a few bucks. Perhaps you should pick up a copy? The author of this book first published in the late 1800s.

Like Dale's work it does not conclude with the baptist point of view or presbyterian. But like my "initial impression" here states, I have not read the book from cover to cover has I have about 2000 pages to get through for class right now. I think its a good book and for someone who may not want to read 4volumes on a word, then this one should do.

Added: Looked up Dale's work on Amazon. The 2008 printing has a look option. Dale addresses Conant in what can be viewed online. I thought Dale's work was going to be neither baptist or presbyterian as one of the intros said. But Dale takes his aim at Baptists. Countess writes:

"Dale's conclusions are directed neither at Baptists nor at Presbyterians.."

Hogwash.

Jay Adams writes in his forward, "Sometimes the work of the Baptist T.J. Conant is presented as a tour de force by those who do not know better. But Dale utterly destroys every one of Conant's arguments."

And Dale himself writes,

"If Dr. Conant will accept condition without "the image of the act," he will agree with us, and differ from Baptists."

Dale's conclusions are not directed at Baptists? Really?

My suggestion then is that both be read and the reader understand that both the pedobaptist and the baptist are likely tilting the information in the favor of their practice.
 
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Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
:oops: My mistake. I just realized the book you have reviewed was actually written before Dale's work. Going back and looking at Dale's work on classical baptism, I see that he actually interacts with Conant as an example of someone who is mistaken on the meaning of the word. Here's a link: Classic baptism: an inquiry into the ... - Google Books (the discussion begins on p. 62).
 
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Reformed Baptist

Puritan Board Sophomore
:oops: My mistake. I just realized the book you have reviewed was actually written before Dale's work. Going back and looking at Dale's work on classical baptism, I see that he actually interacts with Conant as an example of someone who is mistaken on the meaning of the word. Here's a link: Classic baptism: an inquiry into the ... - Google Books

It seems Dale and Conant were writing at the same time. To me then both works carry value, and I appreciate you letting me know about Dale's work. I would actually read both works should I be able to make a thorough study on the subject.

But the bias in Dale's work with the denial of it by Adams is hard to stomach. I actually WANT the presbyterian to vigorously argue for his position, and visa versa. Convince me of it.

But again, thanks for the heads up on Dale's work. Now THAT is a mammoth example of the work of philology.

I added this work by Dale to my blog. Has me thinking about a thesis already.. hehe.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
I went back and edited my previous post to include the page number where Dale interacts with Conant (p. 62 -- it's about 80 pages in length; he also references Conant early on in the preface, page vii). Dale is obviously addressing what he considers to be incorrect statements by Baptists on the meaning of baptizo. Most famously, he mentions Alexander Carson's famous statement that baptizo "in the whole history of the Greek language, has but one [meaning]. It not only signifies to dip or immerse, but it never has any other meaning" -- a statement that is demonstrably wrong, but which is still repeated over a century later, even though it has been shown to be wrong. But, yes, obviously Dale was writing a polemical work -- as, I suspect, was Conant as well. As I suspect both you and I as well are doing in our posts. ;)
 

Reformed Baptist

Puritan Board Sophomore
I went back and edited my previous post to include the page number where Dale interacts with Conant (p. 62 -- it's about 80 pages in length; he also references Conant early on in the preface, page vii). Dale is obviously addressing what he considers to be incorrect statements by Baptists on the meaning of baptizo. Most famously, he mentions Alexander Carson's famous statement that baptizo "in the whole history of the Greek language, has but one [meaning]. It not only signifies to dip or immerse, but it never has any other meaning" -- a statement that is demonstrably wrong, but which is still repeated over a century later, even though it has been shown to be wrong. But, yes, obviously Dale was writing a polemical work -- as, I suspect, was Conant as well. As I suspect both you and I as well are doing in our posts. ;)

To be truly honest, I actually don't care which way the evidence goes. If the evidence from Scripture supports and teaches infant baptism, I will change my PB to Reformed-Reformed Baptist. I do get a tiny miffed when someone tells me they are not going in this direction or that, and then do. Drives me nuts. Frederick Danker does this in his book Bible Study Tools. He essentially says he is not going to use terms like "liberal" or "conservative" and let the reader decide and let the works stand on their own merits, then later on assumes Q. I just have to shake my head at that stuff.

Do I think the Bible teaches what the Baptists say? Well, yeah..or I wouldn't be confessionally baptist! I think Conant repeats the sentiment of Carson. If that is the case, how disingenuous! Why not deal with it honestly, objectively (as possible) and by all means in a true REFORMED spirit. Are we really willing to let the Bible change us? To really dictate to us what it teaches or does not teach?

I really didn't mean this thread to be anything but an initial impression from a new seminary student who was impressed by 200 pages devoted to a single word in the Bible. I was impressed that this is how word study is done. There is no way anyone can do such word study in their lifetime for every important word in the Bible. But these works do serve as an example of thorough study.
 
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Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
I appreciate the comments, Geoff. At any rate, may I say that I am impressed with any young man who dedicates himself to read a 19th century scholarly work such as this. Too many the rich works of old are sorely neglected in our day. Or even older works. Sometimes I wonder how many Reformed folks have actually read Calvin or the Puritans. Granted, there's too much to read, and we can't read everything. So kudos to you for reading something "old" instead of the fluff that litters so many "Christian bookstores" today. :up:
 

Reformed Baptist

Puritan Board Sophomore
I appreciate the comments, Geoff. At any rate, may I say that I am impressed with any young man who dedicates himself to read a 19th century scholarly work such as this. Too many the rich works of old are sorely neglected in our day. Or even older works. Sometimes I wonder how many Reformed folks have actually read Calvin or the Puritans. Granted, there's too much to read, and we can't read everything. So kudos to you for reading something "old" instead of the fluff that litters so many "Christian bookstores" today. :up:

Thanks for the words. They are encouraging. Going through Hermeneutics now and reading Milton Terry's work. Then two books by Fairbairn. It has been good reading so far. The Systematic Theology course does assign Calvin's writings. I have read some of his commentary and found them very well done. I do plan on reading both of the Intitutes. I would also like to read Scrivener's work on Textual Critcism, but I just don't have time at the moment.

Is there a job that pays a man well to study all the time? haha!
 
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