After James L Barker, ‘The Divine Church,’ LDS Church, 1951
In New Testament times, total immersion is the only mode of Christian baptism known to have been used. Roman Catholics have at times maintained that the Apostles must have baptized [immersed] by sprinkling or pouring, since they baptized three thousand converts on the Day of Pentecost, and there was not, they maintain, much water in Jerusalem and, therefore, there existed insufficient places where the ceremonial rite of baptism by immersion could have taken place. However, this is not accurate. An eminent Catholic scholar controverts that view. He writes:
About three thousand persons were baptized; it is not said that it was on the same day or in the same place, or whether they were baptized by Peter alone. It has been objected that it would have been very difficult to baptize three thousand persons, even in a certain lapse of time, considering the form, immersion, in which baptism was administered in this period of time, and the scarcity of water in Jerusalem. The public authorities would have been alerted by this demonstration. But all around Jerusalem there were a sufficient number of pools (piscines) to enable them to baptize such a large number of persons without even attracting attention. –E Jacquier, Les Actres des Apôtres, p. 85. (This is the most scholarly Catholic translation and commentary of the Acts of the Apostles.)
Did Paul baptise the gaoler by sprinkling or pouring? Roman Catholics have used such arguments as these:
Saint Paul preached to the gaoler in the middle of the night and then and there baptised him. … the event took place in the gaol. … the gaoler got some water with which to wash them (Paul’s wounds). The text goes on to say that immediately afterwards St Paul baptised him. All this mean just one thing, namely that St Paul took some of the water that had been brought and baptised the gaoler; evidently, therefore, by sprinkling or pouring. –Acts 2:16:23-34
The text says nothing about sprinkling or pouring, and nothing in regard to the manner of the gaoler’s baptism may be inferred from it. The gaoler was not baptised in the gaol: before the baptism, the gaoler “had brought out” Paul and Silas from the gaol: before the baptism; and after the baptism, “he brought them into his house, consequently, in the interval Paul and Silas had been free to baptise him wherever they could find enough water. –Acts 3:30, 34
There is not the slightest evidence here of baptism by sprinkling or pouring.
In Paul's Epistle to Titus are these words:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he sheds on us abundantly, (through Jesus Christ our Lord.” –Titus 3:5-6
Roman Catholic Bishop Hunt made use of this passage from Titus to affirm, wrongly, that Paul refers to pouring as the method of baptism. He comments as follows—
It is necessary to note, in particular, the phrase ‘sheds on us.’ St Paul wrote in Greek and the Greek word which he used for ‘sheds’ mean ‘ours.’ What St Paul really wrote, then, was this:
The washing of regeneration which god pours on us. No one will doubt that the washing of regeneration is baptism. And in light of St Paul’s words, how can one doubt that he refers to baptism by pouring? –Address by, then, Monsignor, later Bishop, Hunt in the ‘Intermountain Catholic,’ Friday, August 10, 1934.
“By the washing (λούτρου) of regeneration “ does refer to baptism but λούτρον (washing) refers to a washing of the whole body – a bath, baptism, (but not by pouring.) Λούτρον is used in the same sense in Ephesians 5:26 (That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word). In his comment on the passage Hunt cynically omits the phrase “and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The phrase reads as quoted in the complete Greek text: “by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which sheds (pours) on us abundantly.” The Greek relative pronoun ;which’ (ού) does not refer then to washing, but to the Holy Ghost. The same verb (εκχεε), (pours, sheds) is used in the same way, of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in Acts 2:18. This is very apparent if one compares the Vulgate: ‘washing’ in the Latin text is lavacrum, a bath, and is a neuter noun. Holy Ghost is masculine. The relative pronoun is quem (which) is masculine and can refer only to the noun closest to it and of the same masculine gender. The sentence then reads: “he saved us, by washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost which (the Holy Ghost) he shed (poured) on us abundantly.”
Rather early, pouring began to be substituted for immersion baptism (βαπτϊςματος), baptise (βαπτισατε)—immerse) thus: Having first rehearsed all these things, baptise (βαπτισατε)—immerse), in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water; but if thous hast no running water, baptise in other water, and if thou hast neither, pour (εκχεον) water three times on the head in the name of the father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And before the baptism let the baptiser and him who is to be baptised fast, and any others who are able. And thou shalt bid him who is to be baptise3d to fast one or two days before. –Didache VII
The meaning of baptisate is seen to be immerse. No modifying phrase is used and when they mean pour, they use pour; in fact, to have said baptisate (immerse) by pouring would be absurd.
Roman Catholic writers frequently define the Greek words bapto and baptizo as meaning I wash and I baptize. The placing of ‘wash’ first, as the primary meaning of the verbs, is entirely unjustifiable. The immense Greek dictionary of MA Bailly ;ists eighteen examples of the use of baptizo (I baptise) and, with one exception, it gives in all of these the meaning, plunge, immerse. The same dictionary gives twenty-one examples of the use of bapto (I baptise), and defines all but one of them, to plunge into the water, hence to bathe, to wash. This is the only example cited in which the Greek word bapto has the meaning to wash and then it is given not as the primary but as a derived meaning. The dictionary also gives the following derived meanings growing out of the meaning to plunge: to plunge a sword into the body of a man and kill him: to plunge steel into water, hence to temper it; to plunge something into dye, hence to colour or to dye it. The Greek word from which baptise comes means to dip, to plunge, to immerse, and has no other primary meaning.
The Greek word baptizein (infinitive of baptizo, I baptise) means to dip, to submerge . . . there is cited from Greek literature not a single instance of the use of the word in which the idea of submersion is not involved . . . Immersion is the only catholic (universal) act of baptism, the only one whose validity is recognised semper et ubique et ab omnibus (always and everywhere and by everybody). The burial in water continued to be the standard usage of the Church for more than a thousand years . . . It was the practise in Britain until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and is still demanded in the order of the Church of England for the baptism of children unless the parents shall certify that the child is weak. –The New Schaff-Herzog Encylopedia of Religious Knowledge, article, ‘Baptism.’
In its beginnings, baptism by pouring was recognised as irregular and there were doubts as to its validity, since the disqualified for ordination to the priesthood:
In the case of illness, one was baptised by pouring. This was the case of Novatus, but one could not thenm, as a matter of [principle (en principe) enter into the clergy. Tixeront, Histoire des Dogmes, vol. 1, p. 250 note.
Sprinkling or pouring (‘clinical baptism’) is considered an irregularity normally disqualifying for promotion to the office by of bishop by the Ecclesiastical Canons (Canon 20) and by the Council of Neo-Cæsarea. – Canons 8, 12.
Baptism by immersion was evidently practiced by Saint Peter, the head of the College of Apostles:
Therefore there is no difference whether a man is washed in the sea, or in a pool, in a river or in a fountain, in a lake or in a canal; nor is there any distinction between those whom John baptised in the Jordan and those whom Peter baptised in the Tiber. –Tertullian, De Baptismo, viii, 4, 20.
The revealed ordinance of baptism—just as the revealed doctrine—should have been preserved and guarded unchanged. The doctrine was changed: instead of baptism with the authority of the priesthood for the forgiveness of the sins committed by the individual, it became “baptism” without authority solely (in the case of new born infants) for the sin inherited from Adam, for “original sin” And, over a long period of time, the form of the ordinance itself was completely changed.
According to the manner of administering the water, baptism us administered by immersion, which takes place wholly or in part, vertically or horizontally, introducing the body to of the person to be baptised in the water; by aspersion or infusion, pouring water over the head of the one to be baptised. The Abbiott Corlet sets forth the history thus. . . . ‘In the Orient in the first three centuries, baptism was administered by means of total immersion in the rivers and probably in baptisteries, not excluding an immersion mixed with infusion (pouring), which has been preserved to the present day in almost all cases in the oriental regions. In the Occident, from the fourth to the eighth centuries, there was a partial immersion in the baptisteries. . . . From the eighth to the ninth, vertical and complete immersion of children in fonts. During this period, and in the while case of the Middle Ages, various procedures were used for the baptism of adults, when it was not possible to submerge in the bottom of the fonts; from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, horizontal and complete immersion in fonts. In the thirteenth and fourteenth, sometimes by partial immersion accompanied by infusion, rarely infusion alone. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, infusion alone was employed, and immersion was preserved until our time in the Mozarabic and Ambrosian rites; to be noted also the re-establishing of immersion in some religious sects . . . Nevertheless, in the Latin Church, from a beginning, along with baptism by immersion, there were employed, if only in exceptional cases, as in case of baptising a sick or dying person, infusion or sprinkling, which was called baptism of the sick (baptismus clinicorum). If indeed, in the latin Church, immersion prevailed until the sixteenth century, infusion and sprinkling were adopted from the thirteenth century. The form in use today is infusion (pouring). –Espasa, Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada, tomo 7, pagina 1250.
Writing of the fourth and fifth centuries, FJ Foakes Jackson says:
The ceremony of baptism was perhaps the most impressive in the early Church, and it was celebrated at the greatest festivals and frequently only at the cathedral church (the church of the bishop). Buildings were attached to certain churches for the reception of the very large number of candidates for the (baptismal) sacrament. On the Thursday before Easter when St John Chrysostom was arrested, he had already baptised three thousand men and many more were awaiting the rite. For such ceremonies extensive buildings were required and, as ba[ptim was invariably by immersion, a very large supply of water. –FJ Foakes Jackson, History of the Christian Church to AD 461.
In the Catechical Lectures of Cyril of Jerusalem, we have a full account of a baptismal ceremony at Easter. After delivering a Procatechesis or introduction, eighteen lectures on the duties of a Christian believer and on the Creed, Cyril gave further lectures to his hearers after their baptism in order to explain the nature of the mysteries into which they had been initiated.
First, he tells them they entered the vestibule (proaulion) of the baptistery, and facing westward renounced Satan, saying, “I renounce thee, Satan, and all thy works, and all thy pomp, and all thy service.” Turning then to the east, the place of light, the candidates declared their belief in the trinity y and in one baptism. Next they entered the inner chamber of the baptistery and put off their clothes, and were anointed with oil ‘from the hairs of your head to your feet.’ The oil had been exorcised and was ‘a charm to drive away every trace of hostile influence.’ After this the candidates (κολυμβεθρα) and were asked their belief in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The immersion which followed was threefold and completed the actual baptism. The newly baptised were mow anointed, first on the forehead, then on the ears, then on the ears, nostrils, and breast ‘Having been counted worthy of this holy Chrism,’ the preacher assured them ‘ye are called Christians.’ The candidates clothed in white garments, now proceeded to receive the Eucharist. –FJ Joakes Jackson, History of the Christian Church to AD 461, p. 576
After the death of the Apostles, there was no central authority to send out instructions, to make visits to set the churches in order, and to appoint bishops. The Christian communities were left to take care of themselves, and frequently made changes in the ordinances, independently of each other:
… during the first three centuries of Christianity, the Church, troubled unceasingly by the persecutions, had only been able to work slowly toward its organisation and the fixing of dogmatic formulas. In all domains, in the domain of discipline as well as in that of dogma, the Christian communities enjoyed a very strong autonomy. –Boulenger, L’Antiquité chrétienne, tome 1, vol. iii, p. 26
And this ‘fixing’ of dogma and ordinances took place long after divine revelation had ceased and under the influence of pagan philosophy and religion.
The doctors . . . had then great liberty of action: provided that they took care to respect the capital truths, they could with impunity emit the most hazardous hypotheses when they attempted to adapt the truths of the faith to their philosophical ideas. –Boulenger, L’Antiquité chrétienne, tome 1, vol. iii, p. 26
Mourret indicates undoubtedly one of the motives of this adaptation:
An ingenious writer has imagined a dialogue between the apostle Peter, arriving in Rome, poor and badly dressed, and one of those idle Romans, seeking after news, as so many of them were met with at that time. The Galilean fisherman admits that he has neither gold nor silver, that he has passed a good part of his life catching fish in a lake of his own country and mending nets in order to earn his bread; that he is now coming to preach of a God who died from the worst torture on a cross, between two thieves; that he has the intention of substituting the worship iof this God for that of the demons and of spreading it all over the earth. The Roman shrugs his shoulders and passes on his way, murmuring, ‘Poor fool.’ –Mourret, Les Origines chrétiennes, p. 105
In the eyes of many, the simple Christian worship suffered in comparison with the pomp and circumstances of the pagan rites; and Mourret indicates the extent of the adaptation:
Finally, when the old antique religions had crumbled because of their dogmatic and moral insufficiency, the Church, in her powerful vitality, knew how to borrow from those of their rites, which expressed the true religious aspirations of the soul, the elements of a liturgy, pompous and touching at the same time. –Mourret, Les Origines chrétiennes, p. 182
The Roman Catholic historian is proud of the fact that the Church, not content with the simple worship given by the Saviour in person or by revelation to his apostles, borrowed from the pagans, “such of their rites as expressed the true religious aspirations of the soul.” And thus the revealed worship is found inferior to a liturgy, largely pagan, but elaborate, colourful, and imposing. The Church was turning away from the Saviour, and returning to paganism by adopting its rites.
Baptism in the baptistery of the Lateran Church at Rome, as early perhaps as the seventh or eighth century is described by Duchesne. Like the baptistery at Pisa, the baptistery of the Lateran was built for the purpose of baptising by immersion. –Duchesne, Les Origins du Culte chrétien, p. 312 [Note]
After describing the font (piscine) and how it was fed by running water, Duchesne states that it was here that the bishop (pope) celebrated baptism at Easter. Preceded by two huge candles borne in front of him to the singing of the litany, the bishop entered them baptistery preceded by his suite. After a ‘collective’ prayer and another prayer in ‘Eucharistic form,’ the bishop proceeded with the baptism. Another long prayer, prescribed by the ritual of the eighth century, still in use, was interrupted twice while the sign of the cross was made on the water and then once more to blow on the water. Then the bishop pronounced these words: Descendat in hanc plenitudinem fontis virtus Spiritus tui (May the power of the Spirit descend into this fullness of the font). The two dignitaries who carried the candles, plunged them into the water of the font. The bishop then took a vase of oil (previously consecrated) and poured it in the form of a cross on the water, afterwards stirring it with his hand.
The baptism proper then began. Completely disrobed (Entiĕrement depouillés de tout vétement),the candidates advanced to the font, the arch-deacon presented them to the bishop (pope), who asked each one of them, three questions concerning his belief. Having answered these satisfactorily, the candidate was them immersed three times as the bishop repeated: ‘I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. –Duchesne, Les Origins du Culte chrétien, pp. 326-333
After baptism the head of the baptised was anointed with oil, he was dressed in white, and the bishop then invoked the Holy Ghost upon him.
Aside from immersion (baptism) in water and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost, no element of this elaborate ceremony is mentioned before the year 200, neither by the Apostolic fathers, nor by Justin Martyr. However, about the year 200 baptism is already accompanied by designation of the cross, the use of salt, the renouncing of Satan, the exorcising of the evil one, the confession of faith, and the taking of an oath. Immediately after baptism, the newly baptised was given the sacrament with milk and honey.
After the testimony of the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit ceased, following the acceptance of baptism, without the authority of the priesthood, in the period from AD 313-476,
Baptism was enriched by some new ceremonies, insufflation after the exorcisms, the επϑεθα, in the ears; the sign of the cross on the forehead and the chest; salt, and the renunciation of Satan. –Boulenger,--de la Fuente, Historia de la Iglesia, p. 174
Until the eighth century, baptism was administered by immersion in the baptisteries. But soon baptismal fonts were placed inside the entrance to the church and, in some cases, in the baptisteries themselves formerly used, and then, ‘baptism, by pouring’ took the place of immersion.
Baptism was still administered in the names of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, but without authority. It was generally administered to infants unable to enter into a covenant with the Lord and having no sin. It was no longer baptism (immersion), but a sprinkling or a pouring. All sorts of ceremonies had been substituted for the simple ceremonies of the apostles, and all of the changes and additions had been made,. After the cessation of all revelation, by the wilful authority of man; and thus the Church did not ‘jealously guard the deposit of faith’ and became a purely human church without the witness of the Spirit.