Yohanan Ben Zechariah and Ezekiel 36:25:

Evidence for the Origin of the Messianic Water Rite

Hanoch Ben Keshet     ' : , , .




The article, "Ezekiel 36:25-27 as the Besorah for Israel: Evidence and Implications,"[1] reviewed data, primarily from the New Covenant writings, that supports the contention that Eze 36:25-27 was knowingly inaugurated by both Yohanan Ben Zechariah and Messiah Yeshua, and that it was considered a foundational prophetic feature of the imminent Kingdom by the first Yeshua-believing Jews. This paper, "Yohanan Ben Zechariah and Ezekiel 36:25: Evidence for the Origin of the Messianic Water Rite," extends that investigation by examining in greater detail three main topics: first commonwealth purification practices from which Eze 36:25 was derived; Jewish usage of the Greek word baptizo (βαπτίζω) in the LXX, Philo and Josephus; and Yohanan's activity as an eschatological prophet to Israel. This article provides compelling evidence that Yohanan's rite was not an innovation, but rather was the inauguration of Eze 36:25. To be sure, this proposition directly impacts supersessionist hermeneutics which have shaped Jewish-Christian relations through the centuries. If Yohanan did indeed inaugurate Ezekiel's purification, then this Israel-specific component of the Besorah must be reincorporated into modern exegesis of the New Covenant (NC) writings. This article is divided into three parts:


         Part One The Jewish Need for Purity: this section surveys practices of bodily washing in the Torah commanded by the word wash, raḥaẓ (),[2] and which is translated in the LXX with the word louo (λούω). These first commonwealth washings are never commanded by dip, taval () and should not be assumed to be identical to late second Temple practices ostensibly described in the Mishnah. The key result is that Yohanan's rite is actually seen as a first commonwealth prophetic washing performed alongside late second Temple practices; i.e. Yohanan's rite is not based on late second Temple washings.


         Part Two Use of the Greek Baptizo in Jewish Culture: this section surveys relevant word usage of the LXX, Philo and Josephus, and finds that:

o   The LXX translates raḥaẓ () with louo (λούω) but never with baptizo (βαπτίζω)

o   The LXX's use of baptizo (βαπτίζω), meager though it is, reveals meaning beyond immerse and beyond bodily washing

o   Philo and Josephus use baptizo (βαπτίζω) in several distinct semantic domains with meanings beyond the simple idea of immerse

o   The neologism baptisma (βάπτισμα) was very likely coined in Pauline circles for the semantic context of New Covenant transformation, and this almost certainly affects how subsequent NC authors used the term

o   New Covenant authors used baptizo (βαπτίζω) and baptisma (βάπτισμα) in defined Jewish religious semantic domains to convey the key idea of transformation of condition, often related to purification from defilement, though not limited to that

While the pivotal word baptizo (βαπτίζω) never means sprinkle or pour, it does convey the idea of complete transformation of condition. In certain contexts such a change is caused by actions that do not correspond to immersion, e. g. getting drunk (as Philo used baptizo) is caused by an act of drinking wine. The point is the form of action (immerse, pour, splash, sprinkle) had little bearing on the transformational change that NC authors intended by their use of baptizo (βαπτίζω).


         Part Three Yohanan Hanavi: this section reviews Yohanan's declaration of the Besorah in Hebrew, and the implication of his activity beyond the Jordan. This evidence strongly favors the position that Yohanan's rite is the inauguration of Eze 36:25 for Israel and as such it remains a crucial feature of Israel's heritage.


Relevant texts are provided in Hebrew, Greek and English in parallel columns. Many full citations are provided to minimize the need to leave the article.


Part One The Jewish Need for Purity

The recent doctoral work "The Archaeology of Purity" by archeologist Rabbi Dr. Yonatan Adler reports that some 850 mikva'ot have been identified in Israel, dating from 164 BCE to 400 CE, proving that the Jewish people made wide use of mikva'ot in the late and post second Temple period.[3] But as the title suggests, the goal was purification, not merely the mechanics of self-immersion. Indeed, it is the Mishnaic Seder Tohorot (Order of Purities) that contains the tractate Mikva'ot. One could self-immerse repeatedly in a water-filled mikveh that was pasul (disqualified) and simply not accomplish a Mishnaic tevilah (). Moreover, the Torah is not explicit about the required form of washing. Self-immersion in a mikveh holding a minimum of forty seah (120 to 200 gallons) is a second-commonwealth ruling to provide a transgression-preventing fence for the Torah. The Encyclopedia Talmudica for Matters of Halachah ( ) states:


We find the expression tevilah, with the understanding of sinking the body in mikveh waters, in the Mishnah. We do not find this expression, tevilah, as such, in the Torah, but rather reḥiẓah (wash, bathe) for the matter of tevilat adam (personal immersion), and kibbus (launder) for the matter of tevilat begadim (immersion of clothes), and be'ah b'mayim (bring through water), or shetifah (rinse), for the matter of tevilat kelim (immersion of utensils). [Author's translation]

. , , , .[4]



According to the Encyclopedia Talmudica's findings, the washing, reḥiẓah () of the Torah was not known as immersion, tevilah (); that evidently was a Mishnaic development. Yet actually neither of these terms, tevilah (), nor reḥiẓah (), occur in the Tanakh; both are subsequent to it.[5] The writer of the above passage imposes the idea of tevilah () on Torah practices, but in the survey below we will see that it is simply unreasonable to assume that bodily washings of the first commonwealth were restricted to the Mishnaic form of momentary self-immersion, tevilah b'vat eḥat (  ).


If that is so, then it becomes quite plausible to view Eze 36:25 as a known first commonwealth form of washing, raḥ'ẓah () centuries prior to the sages' decision for self-immersion in forty seah. Indeed the prophet Isaiah also spoke of an eschatological purification in which Hashem performs the washing: "When Adonai washes away [raḥaẓ ()] the filth of the women of Tziyon," (Isa 4:4).[6] This first commonwealth imagery has one person actively washing someone else (cf., Eze 16:9). Moreover on Shavu'ot Peter and the talmidim were awaiting Yeshua's promise of receiving the Ruach Hakodesh (per Acts 1:5), and in Acts 2:17-18 Peter described the form by citing the first commonwealth prophet Joel, "After this, I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity . . . in those days I will pour out my Spirit." Peter added his own explanation that Messiah had received and poured out (ἐκχέω) the Ruach Hakodesh (Acts 2:33). So, neither the Tanakh nor Messiah Yeshua's first talmidim object to affusion as a legitimate form for Israel's eschatological events. One must not impose second Temple halachah on an evaluation of first Temple purification; if Yohanan announced Israel's impending Kingdom promised in the Tanakh, as in Eze 36, then it stands to reason that he inaugurated its associated purification. One therefore cannot assume that self-immersion in a mikveh is the basis to understand Yohanan's rite.


The following section reviews Torah-established kosher water sources in order to help understand the origin and development of purification practices in Israel.


But a Spring and a Cistern for Gathering Water shall be Pure


Leviticus 11:36


This verse occurs amidst a chapter on defilement and it tells Israel which water sources remain pure: a spring, mayan (), and a cistern, bor (), in which water is gathered, mikveh mayim ( ), are suitable sources for pure water.[7] The Hebrew syntax uses mikveh mayim ( ) to describe the bor (); i.e. the intent is "a cistern in which water gathers."


However, a spring or cistern in which water is collected shall be clean, but whoever touches such a carcass in it shall be unclean.  (JPS Tanakh)

-, ; .



Avraham Ahuviah's note in the "Eidi" Tanakh (which is given to IDF soldiers) reads:


Bor mikveh mayim a cistern into which rain water has gathered. [Author's translation]



However the LXX, a late second commonwealth translation, makes three distinct sources of pure water instead of two in Hebrew by distinguishing between the spring, the cistern, and the synagoges hydatos (συναγωγῆς ὕδατος), the term which translates mikveh mayim ( ).[9]


[W]ith the exception of springs of water and a cistern and a gathering of waterit shall be clean, but whoever touches carcasses in them shall be unclean. (NETS)[10]

πλὴν πηγῶν ὑδάτων καὶ λάκκου καὶ συναγωγῆς ὕδατος, ἔσται καθαρόν· ὁ δὲ ἁπτόμενος τῶν θνησιμαίων αὐτῶν ἀκάθαρτος ἔσται. 


The LXX translation certainly aligns with second Temple exposition of the verse that gave rise to purpose-built mikveh pools. R. Adler agrees with his predecessor in the study of ancient mikva'ot, Professor Ronny Reich,[11] who reports that mikva'ot first appeared during the Hasmonean period. Adler suggests mikva'ot gained popularity "as a result of changes in the exegetical treatment of the scriptural injunction to 'wash' in order to obtain ritual purification."[12] Indeed, R. Aryeh Kaplan describes the logic of the sages in his book, The Waters of Eden, The Mystery of the Mikveh, and points precisely to their interpretation of Lv 11:36 as the source for the mikveh.[13] According to R. Kaplan the sages determined from this verse that a "mikveh mayim" is a class of purification installation which is distinct from both a mayan and a bor. The language of the Mishnah is la'mikveh le'taher be'ashboren (  ) (m Mikva'ot 1.7). So the Mishnaic ashboren is the pit in which a mikveh mayim, gathering of water, is formed. The sages then also extrapolated from this the rule that all seas are suitable for purification as well (cf., Gen 1:9-10).[14]


However when Moses wrote Lv 11:36 a millennium or more earlier he quite likely had sources of drinkable water in mind, especially since Lv 11:34 says that all drinkable liquids in a vessel susceptible to defilement will also be defiled if the vessel is defiled. If that is so, then an additional factor must be counted in the equation of purity for the late Bronze Age. In the semi-arid Near East drinkable water was (and remains) a precious resource. Conservation requirements in the first commonwealth make it virtually impossible to imagine that even a rustic society would foul drinking sources by daily community bathing in them. In areas with no surplus water, washings were most likely conducted with water drawn from the cisterns. A plausible method is for the individual to apply the drawn water to the body by hand and rub, and while still damp rinse off by pouring or splashing on water. According to the Hebrew text of Leviticus, Moses had no notion of a small, purpose-built 120-200 gallon pool for individual bathing; instead a cistern, bor () was where drinking water gathered, as the following examples in the Tanakh show:


Genesis 37:24, 28-29

24 and took him and threw him into the cistern (the cistern was empty; without any water in it).


28 [T]hey drew and lifted Yosef up out of the cistern. 


29 Re'uven returned to the cistern, and, upon seeing that Yosef wasn't in it . . .

, -

-- , ; , .



- -.




-, - .


Exodus 21:33

If someone removes the cover from a cistern or digs one and fails to cover it, and an ox or donkey falls in . . .

- - - .


1 Samuel 19:22

Then he himself went to Ramah. When he arrived at the big cistern in Sekhu, he asked, "Where are Sh'mu'el and David?" Someone answered, "They're at the prophets' dormitory in Ramah."

- - .


2 Kings 10:14

"Take them alive," said Yehu. They took them alive, forty-two men, slaughtered them and threw them into the shearing shed's pit; he spared not one of them. (Other versions have cistern or well)

- - - .


Jeremiah 38:6, 10, 13

Then they took Yirmeyahu and threw him into the cistern of Malkiyahu the king's son, which was in the guards' quarters; they let down Yirmeyahu into it with ropes. In the pit there was no water, but there was mud; and Yirmeyahu sank into the mud.


Then the king ordered 'Eved-Melekh the Ethiopian, "Take thirty men with you from here, and bring Yirmeyahu the prophet up out of the cistern before he dies."


[T]hey pulled Yirmeyahu up with the ropes and took him out of the cistern.

, ,

- - - .







- - - ...



- -.


Jeremiah 41:7, 9

Yishma'el the son of N'tanyahu and the men with him slaughtered them and threw them into the cistern.


The cistern in which Yishma'el threw the corpses of the men he had murdered with G'dalyahu was the one Asa the king had made in fear of Ba'asha king of Isra'el; it was this cistern that Yishma'el the son of N'tanyahu filled with the slaughtered men.


- - -.




- - - - .


Zechariah 9:11

Also you, by the blood of your covenant, I release your prisoners from [the dungeon,] the cistern that has no water in it. 

- -, , .


1 Chronicles 11:22

One day when it was snowing, he went down into a pit and killed a lion.

- .


First commonwealth cisterns were large and secure enough to be used as cells for Joseph and Jeremiah. In the mitzvah of Ex 21:33 a carved cistern was large enough for a bull or donkey to fall into. In 1 Sam 19:22 a cistern was the local landmark. If a cistern was seriously cracked and unable to hold water then alternatively it could be used as a tomb. In 2 Kings 10:14 forty-two prisoners were executed and thrown into the cistern. In addition, prophets and psalmists expressed a comparison between sheol and a bor () as the abode of the dead (cf., Ps 30:4, Prov 1:12, Isa 14:15; 38:18, Eze 26:20; 31:16). So the bor (), of the Tanakh, and the late second Temple forty seah mikveh in an ashboren were not identical.


The implication is that prior to the Hellenistic period the Jewish people used means other than purpose-built mikveh pools to purify, and if so, then almost certainly bodily washings were performed differently during the first commonwealth than the self-immersion of the Hellenistic age. Keeping in mind Joseph's and Jeremiah's plight, it becomes far-fetched to imagine the vast majority of first commonwealth Israelites daily hoisting themselves down into and out of large cisterns for routine purifications. Both husband and wife are to wash after semen contact, Lv 15:18, and it is imprudent to imagine that for centuries all Israel immersed in their drinking cisterns to fulfill this mitzvah. Even if one doubts wide-spread compliance to purity laws in the first commonwealth there was still a need for simple hygiene.[15] It is more reasonable to believe that first commonwealth Israel drew water from cisterns and washed thoroughly, though frugally, by any means including by pouring.


The following section takes a closer look at bodily washings commanded by the word raḥaẓ () and finds no influence from the word taval () in shaping their form.


Raḥaẓ () as Washing

The word raḥaẓ () occurs seventy two times in the Tanakh and is used for washing hands, feet (e.g. Ex 40:31), and face (e.g. Gen 43:31), as well as bodily washing. No fixed form of washing is demanded by the word. The United Bible Societies' online Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew,[16] provides the following entry for raḥaẓ ():


[T]o wash (part of) one's own body or someone else's body or another object, usually with water, ► in order to remove any dirt; ≈ the resulting cleanness often symbolizes ritual cleanness, innocence, or even holiness; ● causer: human, animal; affected: any - to take a bath; to bathe, to wash


The SDBH definition leaves the form of washing indistinct, and it can be self-administered or performed by an attendant. For example, Avigails expression shows that attendants regularly washed the feet of others in the first commonwealth.


1 Samuel 25:41

[S]he immediately bowed low with her face to the ground and said, Your handmaid is ready to be your maidservant, to wash the feet of my lords servants.


, ; , , , .


Moreover, cohanim were commanded to wash parts of sacrifices:


Leviticus 9:14

He washed the entrails and the legs, and turned them into smoke on the altar with the burnt offering.

-, -; -, .


Regarding human bodily washing, R. Adler provides further elucidation of ambiguities, not only for the meaning of raḥaẓ (), but also for circumstantial issues related to the many washing commanded by this word. R. Adler states at the outset of his work that he strives not to read back into the text what later tradition concludes "must" have occurred, resulting in considerable leeway for first commonwealth practices.[17]


The Archeology of Purity

The process of purification of the human body with water is described in the Torah by the root r-ḥ-ẓ, used as a verb: "and wash with/in water" (Lv 14:8, 15:5-8, 10-11, 21-22, 27; Num 19:19), or in similar forms: "and they wash with/in water" (Lv 15:18), "and wash [] his body with/in water" (Lv 14: 9; 16:24, 26, 28; Num 19:7-8), "and wash his body with/in water " (Lv 16:4), and "he will wash with/in water" (Deut 23:12). The vague language employed by the Torah opens up various exegetical possibilities regarding the form of this activity "washing" by outpouring of water on the body from a vessel (affusion), sprinkling water on the body (aspersion), or tevilah of the body in gathered waters (immersion). Another exegetical possibility, of course, is that any form of washing is appropriate to purify a defiled person. [Author's translation]

-- , : " " ( , ; , , , , ; , ), : " " ( , ), " [...] " ( , ; , , , ; , ), " " ( , ), " " ( , ). "" ,(affusion)   (aspersion), .(immersion)   , , .[18]  


Adler further illustrates ambiguities of the various washings:


Usually it is not written explicitly if it is necessary to wash every part of the body, or if it is possible to be satisfied with washing just certain parts. The text is explicit in only one instance about the need for washing all of the body with/in water: "and when a man has a seminal emission, he will wash all his flesh with/in water" (Lv 15:16), but even here it is not explicit how to perform this washing and if the intention is for washing the whole body in a momentary dip, or if even washing every limb separately can occur. [Bolding in the original] [Author's translation]

, . : " " ( , ), , , .[19]


Adler also comments on the Torah's lack of stipulation for any particular quantity or quality of water for the washing:[20]


Just as the Torah does not describe how to perform the washing, so there is no reference to the amount of water required, the facilities or vessels that may possibly aid this washing, or the source and quality of the water used for the washing. Only regarding the process of purification of the zav is there any reference to water quality to perform the washing: "and he will wash his flesh with/in living water" (Lv 15:13), even though the term "living water" is vague and could be interpreted several ways. [Bolding in the original] [Author's translation]

, , , . : " " ( , ), " ", .[21]


According to R. Adler's reading of the Torah, a first commonwealth audience would find no explicit form for washing and would find little detail on water quality or quantity. These observations are critical when considering prophetic imagery of the Tanakh.


One should also realize that both Lv 14 and Num 19 command bodily washings with raḥaẓ and in both chapters there are nearby occurrences of taval () which describe minor, secondary actions: a cohen dipping his finger into oil; dipping a living bird, cedar wood, scarlet thread and hyssop into the blood of the other bird and water; or dipping hyssop into water and ashes (Cf., Lv 14:6, 16, 51; Num 19:18).


Leviticus 14:6-8

 6 [A]nd he shall take the live bird, along with the cedar wood, the crimson stuff, and the hyssop, and dip them together with the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slaughtered over the fresh water.  7 He shall then sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the eruption and cleanse him; and he shall set the live bird free in the open country.  8 The one to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe in water; then he shall be clean. After that he may enter the camp. (JPS Tanakh)


 - , - - -; , , , .  , --- ; , - - .   - --, , , -.


Numbers 19:18-19

18 A person who is clean shall take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle on the tent and on all the vessels and people who were there, or on him who touched the bones or the person who was killed or died naturally or the grave.  19 The clean person shall sprinkle it upon the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day, thus cleansing him by the seventh day. He shall then wash his clothes and bathe in water, and at nightfall he shall be clean. (JPS Tanakh)


  , , - --, - -; -, , , . -, ; , .


So taval occurs in the Torah, sometimes in close proximity to raḥaẓ, but there is no demand for a person to accomplish a bodily washing by dipping. The Tanakh's sole example of Na'aman the Aramaen and taval in 2 Kings 5:14 is considered below.


The following are selected examples of special and daily bodily washing described by raḥaẓ () that the LXX translates by louo (λούω). In the first three examples, Ex 29:4; 40:12, Lv 8:6, Hashem commands Moses to wash his brother and nephews, which he does, and that leaves open the possibility that he poured water on them. The English translation bathe in the remaining verses is possible but it is not demanded by raḥaẓ; an attendant pouring water on the person being washed could suffice, as Avigail did, above. Indeed, after leaving Egypt for the arid Sinai Israel almost certainly practiced austere water conservation with short, efficient washings by pouring, not bathing, much like the brief Navy Showers modern sailors take to save water. Indeed, this would be the rule anywhere in semi-arid Israel where there was no surplus water.


Exodus 29:4

Lead Aaron and his sons up to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and wash them with water. (JPS Tanakh)

- - , - ; , .


Exodus 40:12

You shall bring Aaron and his sons forward to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and wash them with the water. (JPS Tanakh)

- -, - ; , ..


Leviticus 8:6

Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water. (JPS Tanakh)


, - -; , .


Leviticus 14:8

The one to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe in water; then he shall be clean. (JPS Tanakh)

- --, .


Leviticus 14:8

The one to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe in water; then he shall be clean. (JPS Tanakh)

- --, .


Leviticus 14:9

On the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair -- of head, beard, and eyebrows. When he has shaved off all his hair, he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; then he shall be clean. (JPS Tanakh)

--, - - , --, ; -, - .


Leviticus 15:5

Anyone who touches his bedding shall wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening.[22] (JPS Tanakh)


, -- , -.


Leviticus 15:6

Whoever sits on an object on which the one with the discharge has sat shall wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening. (JPS Tanakh) 

, -, - , -- , -.


Leviticus 15:7

Whoever touches the body of the one with the discharge shall wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening. (JPS Tanakh)

, -- , -.


Leviticus 15:8

If one with a discharge spits on one who is clean, the latter shall wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening. (JPS Tanakh)

- , -- , -.


Leviticus 15:13

When one with a discharge becomes clean of his discharge, he shall count off seven days for his cleansing, wash his clothes, and bathe his body in fresh water; then he shall be clean. (JPS Tanakh)

- , -- , ; , .



Leviticus 15:16

When a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and remain unclean until evening. (JPS Tanakh)

, - --- --, -.



Leviticus 15:18

And if a man has carnal relations with a woman, they shall bathe in water and remain unclean until evening. (JPS Tanakh)

, --- , -.


Leviticus 15:21

Anyone who touches her bedding shall wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening. (JPS Tanakh)

-, -- , -.



Leviticus 15:22

Anyone who touches any object on which she has sat shall wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening. (JPS Tanakh)

 ----, - : , -.


Cohen Gadol on Yom Kippur

Leviticus 16:4

He is to put on the holy linen tunic, have the linen shorts next to his bare flesh, have the linen sash wrapped around him, and be wearing the linen turban - they are the holy garments. He is to bathe his body in water and put them on.

- , - -, , ; - , - .


Cohen Gadol on Yom Kippur

Leviticus 16:24

Then he is to bathe his body in water in a holy place, put on his other clothes, come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, thus making atonement for himself and for the people.  

- , -; , - - , , .


Leviticus 16:26

The man who let go the goat for 'Az'azel is to wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; afterwards, he may return to the camp. 

-, -- , - ; -, -.


As R. Adler points out, no form is imposed on these washings; evidently anything ranging from an attendant's outpoured water to self-immersion could have been acceptable.


Purification after Menses

Leviticus 15 focuses on the purification of men and woman from defilement by sexual discharge whether normally by healthy individuals or abnormally as a result of disorder. Subordinate defilements require a washing for purification. A superficial reading has led some to surmise that neither a healthy menstruant nor a woman healed from a lengthy disorder must wash with water. But a closer look at the four main sections of Lv 15 brings that idea into question:


A)    Leviticus 15:3-15 gives details for the zav (), a man who has an unnatural sexual (or venereal disease) discharge who is healed of the disorder, who washes, raḥaẓ (), verse 13, after which he is said to be pure.

B)     Leviticus 15:16-18 speaks of a healthy male with a seminal discharge, shiḳ'vat zera (-), who is defiled, and of couples who have sex, in which both the male and female are defiled. All must wash raḥaẓ () and remain unclean until the evening.

C)     Leviticus 15:19-24 provides details of a healthy woman during menstruation, called a zavah () however the passage does not describe her purification, but instead continues directly to a woman with a disorder in the following section.

D)    Leviticus 15:25-30 gives with details for a woman whose flow does not stop. In verse 28, upon healing and counting of seven clean days she becomes pure ( )[23] and in light of the virtually identical language in verse 13 for the male zav (), it is thus implied that she washes with water; for the healthy menstruant, or the healed woman, both are to finish their purification process as did the men in the preceding sections.


From the standpoint of kal-vaḥomer, a woman whose defilement requires others in contact with her to wash would also wash to end the defilement. Arguably this was the accepted interpretation even in the first commonwealth since the Tanakh evidently describes Bat-Sheva performing this washing, listed below.


First Commonwealth Washings in Practice

While the evidence is limited, the Tanakh does show to some extent that Levitical purifications were practiced in first Temple days. In the first example Ruth is told to wash (Ruth 3:3) and while there is no explicit mention of Torah purification she follows typical sanctification patterns (cf., Gen 35:2-6; Num 8:7; 11:18; 1 Sam 16:5):


Ruth 3:3

So bathe, anoint yourself, put on your good clothes.



In 1 Sam 20:26 King Saul evidently thought David was not purified (according to Rashi, from defilement of sexual emission, David had not yet "immersed" for purification).


1 Samuel 20:26

However, Sha'ul didn't say anything that day; because he thought, "Something has happened to him, he is unclean. Yes, that's it, he isn't clean."

-   - .



This evidently indicates an awareness of defilement and purification ordered by Lv 15:16-18. Jewish and Christian translators and commentators have understood Bat-Sheva's washing in 2 Sam 11:2-4 as purification after menses. She was washing (), and afterward was sanctified from her impurity ( ). Verse two says:


2 Samuel 11:2

David got up from his bed and went strolling on the roof of the king's palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.[24]

- -, .


The Gihon spring which feeds the Shiloah (Siloam) pool outside the city walls was a source of pure water and Bat-Sheva might have sent an attendant to get water in a vessel from which she could wash, or have an attendant pour it over her. Since mikva'ot were not in use until the Hasmonean period, some 800 years later, it is hard to imagine that she had a personal mikveh. The City of David was recently captured and was no sprawling metropolis. Individuals may have washed within the walls of the city in various ways.


The cohanim in the newly built Temple were instructed to wash, and this implies that cohanim in the Mishkan, Tent of Meeting previously had been performing these purifications as set forth in the Torah.


2 Chronicles 4:6

He also made ten basins for washing and put five on the right and five on the left. Items needed for the burnt offerings would be cleansed in these, but the Sea was for the cohanim to wash in.

- .


Hezekiah prayed for the people that attended Passover in Jerusalem even though they were not purified according to the Torah. This implies that a segment of Israel did understand the purity obligations of the Torah, though many did not.


2 Chronicles 30:18-19

For a large number of the people, especially from Efrayim, M'nasheh, Yissakhar and Z'vulun, had not cleansed themselves but ate the Pesach lamb anyway, despite what is written. For Hizkiyahu had prayed for them, "May ADONAI, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God, ADONAI, the God of his ancestors, even if he hasn't undergone the purification prescribed in connection with holy things."


- -  ' , - , ' ; , .


These passages provide a tiny window into first commonwealth purification practices and indicate awareness of defilement, tumah () and purification, tohorah ().


First Commonwealth Prophetic Purifications

At the same time it is reasonable to assume that imagery of affusion was familiar to Israel when Samuel poured out water, when Elijah had water poured on a sacrifice (perhaps related to the animal's washing, Lv 1:9; 8:21; 9:14) and when prophets such as Joel, Isaiah and Ezekiel wrote their visions of the out-poured Ruach. The imagery of Isa 4:4 and Eze 16:9 and 36:25 points to a communal washing by someone who actively performs the purification. Technically, Ezekiel wrote during the exile and Zechariah during the initial return to Zion, however it appears the form of outpouring was well known, most likely from the earlier prophets.


1 Samuel 7:6

So they gathered together at Mitzpah, drew water and poured it out before Adonai, fasted that day, and said there, "We have sinned against Adonai." Sh'mu'el began serving as judge over the people of Isra'el at Mitzpah.


- ' ' - .


Joel 3:1       

I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh . . . I will pour out my Spirit.

- --. . . -.


1 Kings 18:34-35

Then he said, "Fill four pots with water, and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood." They did it. "Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he said, and they did it a third time. By now the water was flowing around the altar, and it had filled the trench. 


, , -, -; , . , ; -, -.


2 Kings 3:11

But Y'hoshafat said, "Isn't there a prophet of Adonai here through whom we can consult Adonai?" One of the servants of the king of Isra'el answered, "Elisha the son of Shafat is here, the one who used to pour water on Eliyahu's hands."

, ', -', ; -, , -, - - .


Isaiah 4:3-4

And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.


, --, :  - , . , -, - , -- , .


Isaiah 44:3

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

- -, -; -, -.


Ezekiel 16:9

Then I bathed [washed] you in [with] water, washed [rinsed] the blood off you, and anointed you with oil.

, ; , .


Ezekiel 36:25

Then I will sprinkle [splash] clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your idols.

, :  -, .


Ezekiel 39:28

For I have poured out My Spirit on the House of Israel.

- - .


Zechariah 12:10

[A]nd I will pour out on the house of David and on those living in Yerushalayim a spirit of grace and prayer; and they will look to me, whom they pierced. They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son; they will be in bitterness on his behalf like the bitterness for a firstborn son.

- - - -.



The prophets assume that one person can wash someone else. Arguably, the pious among the Jewish people would emulate what Hashem confirmed through his prophets. Indeed the word pour out, shafaḳ () occurs more than 110 times in the Tanakh in various contexts for various activities, including for pouring water or the Ruach Hakodesh.


The Dead Sea Scrolls and Purification

R. Adler points out that the term wash, raḥaẓ () is almost always used to describe bodily washings in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS).


The Archeology of Purity

In the Qumran scrolls, the biblical verb raḥaẓ () is used almost always to describe the form of ritual purification of the body in water. Use of the verb taval () for the sake of purity in a clear context of purification, is found in only one section in this corpus, in which it refers to the form of the purification of a man or vessel that came in contact with semen. [Author's translation]

, -- . -- , .[25]


That raḥaẓ () is almost always used must be considered significant when relating to Yohanan and his purification. There is no evidence that first commonwealth Israel practiced any particular form of washing for routine purifications; certainly no evidence exists that washings were restricted to self-immersion in purpose-built pools. Moreover, even though the late second Temple Qumran facilities have purpose-built pools they almost always described their rites in terms of washings, not immersions (more about this below).


Yet this issue of taval-tevilah strongly impacts the understanding of baptisma (βάπτισμα) in the NC writings, so we now review each of the sixteen verses in the Tanakh in which taval () occurs. The results reveal that a) taval does not define bodily washings of the Torah, and b) there is no warrant for pressing its meaning as immerse in place of dip.


Taval () A Closer Look

For English speakers fourteen of the sixteen usages of taval () are well represented by the word dip which, while similar to immerse, should not be taken as an equivalent.


      The primary idea dip conveys is a momentary unbroken action: the partial or complete entrance of an object into a liquid and its immediate removal.

      The primary idea immerse conveys is more a lasting state: the complete entrance of an object into a liquid.


Some conceptual overlap exists since immerse does not prevent an object's removal and dip does not prevent the entire object from entering the liquid. Yet according to the Tanakh even partial dippings are within the semantic range of taval. Indeed, the Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew,[26] lists the following for taval ():


[T]o briefly place part or all of an object into a liquid and, in most cases, remove it; ► often to absorb some of the liquid and apply it elsewhere  - to dip; to soak; to bathe; to immerse


The first occurrence of taval is in the episode of Joseph's coat dipped in the blood of a goat's kid. It is highly questionable to assume the coat was entirely immersed in blood since that would not suggest random splatterings by a wild beast's attack, but rather that a human agent fully immersed it. So, the Tanakh's first example presents the idea of partial action, not entire immersion, and includes the intent of staining the garment.[27] Leviticus 14:16 precludes the notion that a cohen dipped his entire finger in oil up to the knuckle, since physically the palm of the hand is simply too small. It also seems unnecessary to assume that dipping hyssop into water or blood required complete immersion, because the hand holding it would then also go in the liquid. The point is, Joseph's coat, the cohen's finger and the hyssop are not completely immersed, yet these examples form a significant component of the semantic range of taval.


Two of the sixteen usages of taval could possibly lend themselves to the idea of immerse, Job 9:31 and 2 Kings 5:14, however a closer look shows that even they do not demand complete immersion, see below. Job 9:31 is translated with the word plunge in many English versions, apparently following the King James Version, but the JPS Tanakh renders it dip, which is just as reasonable and in light of the rest of the usages makes good sense.


The LXX translated the Hebrew taval with the Greek word bapto (βαπτω) in all cases but two: Gen 37:31 has molunan (μόλυναν), stained, and this translation choice probably resulted from the fact that by that time bapto was used specifically for dyeing cloth. The LXX translators may have thought it possible that Greek readers would mistakenly conclude that Joseph's brothers were dyeing cloth with animal blood, so to avoid confusion molunan was used. Then for 2 Kings 5:14 baptizo (βαπτίζω) appears instead of bapto (βαπτω). Surprisingly, the JPS Tanakh translates taval as dip in every case but this one; even Job is merely "dipped" in muck, not immersed. But in 2 Kings 5:14, concerning Na'aman's washing, they translate immerse, their sole exception. This rendering says more about contemporary halachah and tradition than about actual word meaning.


Genesis 37:31

Then they took Joseph's tunic, slaughtered a kid, and dipped the tunic in the blood. (JPS Tanakh) 

Γένεσις 37:31

Λαβόντες δὲ τὸν χιτῶνα τοῦ ᾿Ιωσὴφ ἔσφαξαν ἔριφον αἰγῶν καὶ ἐμόλυναν τὸν χιτῶνα τῷ αἵματι.

, - ; , - .


Exodus 12:22

Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and to the two doorposts. (JPS Tanakh) 

Έξοδος 12:22

λήψεσθε δὲ δέσμην ὑσσώπου, καὶ βάψαντες ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ παρὰ τὴν θύραν καθίξετε τῆς φλιᾶς καὶ ἐπ᾿ ἀμφοτέρων τῶν σταθμῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος, ὅ ἐστι παρὰ τὴν θύραν·

, -, - - , - .


Leviticus 4:6

The priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the LORD, in front of the curtain of the Shrine. (JPS Tanakh) 

Λευιτικόν 4:6

καὶ βάψει ὁ ἱερεὺς τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸ αἷμα, καὶ προσρανεῖ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος ἑπτάκις ἔναντι Κυρίου, κατὰ τὸ καταπέτασμα τὸ ἅγιον· 


-, ; - , , -, .


Leviticus 4:17

 [A]nd the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle of it seven times before the LORD, in front of the curtain. (JPS Tanakh) 

Λευιτικόν 4:17

καὶ βάψει ὁ ἱερεὺς τὸν δάκτυλον ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ μόσχου καὶ ρανεῖ ἑπτάκις ἔναντι Κυρίου, κατενώπιον τοῦ καταπετάσματος τοῦ ἁγίου·

, -; , , , .


Leviticus 9:9

Aaron's sons brought the blood to him; he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar; and he poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. (JPS Tanakh) 

Λευιτικόν 9:9

καὶ προσήνεγκαν οἱ υἱοὶ ᾿Ααρὼν τὸ αἷμα πρὸς αὐτόν, καὶ ἔβαψε τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸ αἷμα καὶ ἐπέθηκεν ἐπὶ τὰ κέρατα τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ τὸ αἷμα ἐξέχεεν ἐπὶ τὴν βάσιν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου·

-, , , - ; - , - .


Leviticus 14:6

 [A]nd he shall take the live bird, along with the cedar wood, the crimson stuff, and the hyssop, and dip them together with the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slaughtered over the fresh water. (JPS Tanakh) 

Λευιτικόν 14:6

καὶ τὸ ὀρνίθιον τὸ ζῶν λήψεται αὐτὸ καὶ τὸ ξύλον τὸ κέδρινον καὶ τὸ κλωστὸν κόκκινον καὶ τὸν ὕσσωπον, καὶ βάψει αὐτὰ καὶ τὸ ὀρνίθιον τὸ ζῶν εἰς τὸ αἷμα τοῦ ὀρνιθίου τοῦ σφαγέντος ἐφ᾿ ὕδατι ζῶντι· 

- , - - -; , , , .


Leviticus 14:16

And the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in the palm of his left hand and sprinkle some of the oil with his finger seven times before the LORD. (JPS Tanakh)

Λευιτικόν 14:16

καὶ βάψει τὸν δάκτυλον τὸν δεξιὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐλαίου τοῦ ὄντος ἐπὶ τῆς χειρὸς αὐτοῦ τῆς ἀριστερᾶς καὶ ρανεῖ τῷ δακτύλῳ ἑπτάκις ἔναντι Κυρίου·

, - , -, - ; - , '.


Leviticus 14:51

He shall take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the crimson stuff, and the live bird, and dip them in the blood of the slaughtered bird and the fresh water, and sprinkle on the house seven times. (JPS Tanakh) 

Λευιτικόν 14:51

καὶ λήψεται τὸ ξύλον τὸ κέδρινον καὶ τὸ κεκλωσμένον κόκκινον καὶ τὸν ὕσσωπον καὶ τὸ ὀρνίθιον τὸ ζῶν, καὶ βάψει αὐτὸ εἰς τὸ αἷμα τοῦ ὀρνιθίου τοῦ ἐσφαγμένου ἐφ᾿ ὕδατι ζῶντι, καὶ περιρρανεῖ ἐν αὐτοῖς ἐπὶ τὴν οἰκίαν ἑπτάκις.


-- - , , , ; -, .


Numbers 19:18

A person who is clean shall take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle on the tent and on all the vessels and people who were there, or on him who touched the bones or the person who was killed or died naturally or the grave. (JPS Tanakh) 

Αριθμοί 19:18

καὶ λήψεται ὕσσωπον καὶ βάψει εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ ἀνὴρ καθαρός, καὶ περιρρανεῖ ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ σκεύη καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς ψυχάς, ὅσαι ἂν ὦσιν ἐκεῖ, καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν ἡμμένον τοῦ ὀστέου τοῦ ἀνθρωπίνου ἢ τοῦ τραυματίου ἢ τοῦ τεθνηκότος ἢ τοῦ μνήματος· 

, , - --, - -; -, , , .


Deuteronomy 33:24

And of Asher he said: Most blessed of sons be Asher; May he be the favorite of his brothers, May he dip his foot in oil. (JPS Tanakh) 

Δευτερονόμιον 33:24

καὶ τῷ ᾿Ασὴρ εἶπεν· εὐλογημένος ἀπὸ τέκνων ᾿Ασὴρ καὶ ἔσται δεκτὸς τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς αὐτοῦ. βάψει ἐν ἐλαίῳ τὸν πόδα αὐτοῦ· 

, ; , .


Joshua 3:15

Now the Jordan keeps flowing over its entire bed throughout the harvest season. But as soon as the bearers of the Ark reached the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the Ark dipped into the water at its edge. (JPS Tanakh) 

Ιησούς Ναυή 3:15

ὡς δὲ εἰσεπορεύοντο οἱ ἱερεῖς οἱ αἴροντες τὴν κιβωτὸν τῆς διαθήκης ἐπὶ τὸν ᾿Ιορδάνην καὶ οἱ πόδες τῶν ἱερέων τῶν αἰρόντων τὴν κιβωτὸν τῆς διαθήκης Κυρίου ἐβάφησαν εἰς μέρος τοῦ ὕδατος τοῦ ᾿Ιορδάνου· ὁ δὲ ᾿Ιορδάνης ἐπληροῦτο καθ ὅλην τὴν κρηπίδα αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ ἡμέραι θερισμοῦ πυρῶν·

, -, , ; , --, , .


Job 9:31

You would dip me in muck Till my clothes would abhor me. (JPS Tanakh)


Ιώβ 9:31

ἱκανῶς ἐν ρύπῳ με ἔβαψας, ἐβδελύξατο δέ με ἡ στολή·

, ; , .


1 Samuel 14:27

Jonathan, however, had not heard his father adjure the troops. So he put out the stick he had with him, dipped it into the beehive of honey, and brought his hand back to his mouth; and his eyes lit up. (JPS Tanakh) 

Βασιλειών Α' 14:27

καὶ ᾿Ιωνάθαν οὐκ ἀκηκόει ἐν τῷ ὁρκίζειν τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ τὸν λαόν· καὶ ἐξέτεινε τὸ ἄκρον τοῦ σκήπτρου αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔβαψεν αὐτὸ εἰς τὸ κηρίον τοῦ μέλιτος καὶ ἐπέστρεψε τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀνέβλεψαν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτοῦ. 


-, -, - , ; -, () .


2 Kings 5:14

So he went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had bidden; and his flesh became like a little boy's, and he was clean. (JPS Tanakh) 

Βασιλειών Δ' 5:14

καὶ κατέβη Ναιμὰν καὶ ἐβαπτίσατο ἐν τῷ ᾿Ιορδάνῃ ἑπτάκις κατὰ τὸ ρῆμα ῾Ελισαιέ, καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν ἡ σάρξ αὐτοῦ ὡς σάρξ παιδαρίου μικροῦ, καὶ ἐκαθαρίσθη. 


, , , ; , .


2 Kings 8:15

The next day, [Hazael] took a piece of netting, dipped it in water, and spread it over his face. So [Ben-hadad] died, and Hazael succeeded him as king. (JPS Tanakh) 

Βασιλειών Δ' 8:15

καὶ ἐγένετο τῇ ἐπαύριον, καὶ ἔλαβε τὸ μαχμὰ καὶ ἔβαψεν ἐν τῷ ὕδατι καὶ περιέβαλεν ἐπὶ τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀπέθανε, καὶ ἐβασίλευσεν ᾿Αζαὴλ ἀντ᾿ αὐτοῦ.


, , -, ; , .


Ruth 2:14

At mealtime, Boaz said to her, "Come over here and partake of the meal, and dip your morsel in the vinegar." (JPS Tanakh)  

Ρούθ 2:14

καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ Βοόζ· ἤδη ὥρα τοῦ φαγεῖν, πρόσελθε ὧδε καὶ φάγεσαι τῶν ἄρτων καὶ βάψεις τὸν ψωμόν σου ἐν τῷ ὄξει. 

, -, , .


A related personal name occurs in 1 Chr 26:11, T'valyah (), which, in view of Moses' blessing of Asher in Dt 33:24, above, probably bears the idea, Luxuriously blessed of Hashem.[28] In nearly every one of these usages the most facile rendering of taval () is dip, not immerse.


Second Temple Understanding of Tevulim () as Dyed

LXX translators, Jerome, and Jewish scholars and commentators committed to tevilah accepted the idea that tevulim () in Ezekiel 23:15 is a Hebrew word from the root taval () which, like the Greek bapto (βαπτω), bore a meaning not merely of mode, dipped, but of effect, dyed. Modern scholars dispute this understanding of tevulim, but for this discussion it is immaterial to determine whether or not taval actually developed like bapto and was used in Ezekiel's day for dyeing. What is important is that late Second Temple Jews thought it had followed this trajectory, evidenced by the LXX translation.


Ezekiel 23:15

[G]irded with brocades upon their loins and  dyed tiaras on their heads; all had a triple aspect, a likeness of sons of Chaldeans of their native land. (NETS)

Ιεζεκιήλ 23:15

ἐζωσμένους ποικίλματα ἐπὶ τὰς ὀσφύας αὐτῶν, καὶ τιάραι βαπταὶ ἐπὶ τῶν κεφαλῶν αὐτῶν, ὄψις τρισσὴ πάντων, ὁμοίωμα υἱῶν Χαλδαίων, γῆς πατρίδος αὐτῶν.


Moreover, Jerome's 4th-5th century CE translation of the verse, ostensibly from Hebrew into Latin, also presents this view:


Ezekiel 23:15

And girded with girdles about their reins, and with dyed turbans on their heads, the resemblance of all the captains, the likeness of the sons of Babylon, and of the land of the Chaldeans wherein they were born.[29]

Ezechielis 23:15

et accinctos balteis renes et tiaras tinctas in capitibus eorum formam ducum omnium similitudinem filiorum Babylonis terraeque Chaldeorum in qua orti sunt.


Classical Jewish commentators accepted this view of tevulim in Ezekiel 23:15 as well:


Menachem (10th c. CE)

Seruḥay tevulim berashayhem the solution is according to context, the excess length of the colored turban drapes down. [Author's translation]

, . [30]


Rashi  (11th c. CE)

hanging turbans: [Heb. .] [ means] oversized, large hats. Menachem explains [] like (Gen. 37:31) and dipped () the shirt in the blood. Thus the interpretation of is as follows (Exod. 26: 12): The overhanging () length of the ( ) dyed turban. There is no [other occurrence of a word] similar to , and its meaning is derived from the context, and so did Jonathan render: helmets placed on their heads]. [31]


 - ( ) ' ( ) , " .


Radak on Ezekiel 23 (12-13th c. CE)

Tevulim refers to dyed turbans of a variety of dyed colors. Here it means dipped in (or dyed with) color just as they dipped the coat in blood. . . [Ezekiel] says that men of Babel wear colored turbans on their heads, and these turbans are lengthy and hang down their backs, but thus is not the custom of the people of the land of Israel. [Author's translation]


, . . . . [32]


Yosef ben Avraham Hayun (15th c. CE)

Tevulim like the expression "and they dipped the coat in blood" thus [the turbans] were colored with beautiful coloring. [Author's translation]

' "

" " . [33]


Malbim: elucidation (19th c. CE)

"Seruḥay tevulim" the turban is dipped in (or dyed with) color and its exess length drapes downward on both sides. [Author's translation]

": :

" " : [34]


In contrast, modern scholarship has linked tevulim () in Ezekiel 23:15 to an Assyrian word tublu which is said to mean turban, and most modern translations render the verse as flowing turbans on their heads.


Seruḥay tevulim on their heads tevulim are turbans. This name in like instruction is found in Assyrian. Long turbans on their heads, and the ends hung down. [Author's translation]

. . , . [35]


Ezekiel 23:15

[G]irded with belts round their waists, and with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them looking like officers -- a picture of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea. (JPS Tanakh)

, -- , :  - , .


Yet for the better part of two millennia Jewish translators and scholars accepted the idea that taval, like the Greek bapto, developed an additional meaning of effect beyond the mode of dip and meant the dyed state of headgear. Therefore one must not ignore the possibility that baptizo (βαπτίζω) followed this pattern in New Covenant writings and expressed the analogous idea of transforming effect beyond immerse.


Nonetheless, Job 9:31 and 2 Kings 5:14 say a human body was dipped, which for many in modern times is synonymous with immersion. We now focus on 2 Kings 5:14 to show that this understanding is not demanded.


Na'aman, Raḥaẓ () and Taval ()

Elisha told Na'aman that he must go to the Jordan and wash, raḥaẓ (), seven times to be purified from his skin disease (2 Kings 5:10). It is astonishing that Craig Evans writes in his article on Josephus and John the Baptist that, "Elisha . . . ordered the Syrian captain to be immersed in the Jordan River."[36] Elisha did not order Na'aman to be immersed, or to self-immerse; instead the narrator-editor of 2 Kings used taval () in verse 14 to provide another description of Na'aman's activity. Both raḥaẓ and taval serve the overriding goal of Na'aman's healing purification


2 Kings 5:10-14

And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean. But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, Wash, and be clean? So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (ESV)


, :  , - , , . , ; , -' , -, . () , --- , ; , . , , , ; - , . , , , ; , --.


The semantic range of taval leaves the form of Na'aman's washing uncertain. In Lv 14:6 a living bird is dipped, taval, in a water-blood mixture, and it is virtually certain that the bird was only partially dipped since immersion could drown this non-aquatic creature and at minimum inhibit its ability to fly off when released. This and other usages mentioned above describe partial actions. Na'aman then could be considered "dipped" in the Jordan River by taval, even if he did not completely immerse.[37]


If, in the first commonwealth, raḥaẓ () was understood to mean any form of washing, then the narrator of 2 Kings may have used taval () to say that Na'aman did not wash on the river bank with his servants' help, but rather that he actually got in the water. In other words, the narrator did not mean that Na'aman "fully submerged" his entire body; rather the narrator meant that he entered the water instead of washing from the bank. The narrator likely intended readers to understand that a significant portion of Na'aman's body was in the water, i.e. more than feet and legs, but again, without thinking in strict technical terms of entire immersion. Admittedly nothing in the text prevents Na'aman from a momentary self-immersion as second Temple sages later required for Israel. Even so, nothing demands that form. So too with Job 9:31: if a significant part of Job's body and clothes were soiled with repulsive muck, even without complete immersion, then the requirements of taval were met.


Almost certainly Na'aman washed in the Jordan River's northern segment that is fed by large springs, between the Banias and the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), not the Jordans sluggish southern segment. Na'aman specifically mentions the "rivers of Damascus" in verse 12 so he was probably returning there, and that would make his crossing of the Jordan north of the Kinneret more likely. Evidently Israel shared certain religious-cultural concepts with surrounding nationsNaaman considered his skin disease a defilement just as found in the Torahso it is possible basic ideas of defilement and purity were shared. In any case, for Israelites observing the Leviticus 11:36 mitzvah for pure water (see above) the difference between the northern and southern segment of the Jordan River is consequential. Water from a spring is pure whether flowing or standing, so the Jordan Rivers northern segment of flowing spring water is pure and suitable for purification. However Lv 11:36 specifies that a cistern gather rain water into one place, thus rain water must stand still for Jewish purification. In other words, for rain water to serve Jewish purification it cannot flow. The Jordan River flowing out the Kinnerets south end is mostly rain water and it becomes sluggish and silt-laden as it flows to the Dead Sea. Indeed, second commonwealth Jewish sages ruled the southern segment unsuitable as living water (i.e. spring water) for the ashes of the red heifer. So all told, Naaman probably did not wash for his purification in the southern segment of the Jordan. (Further ramifications of the Jordan River related to Yohanans rite are discussed below.)


Beyond that, Elisha did not physically immerse Na'aman nor did Elisha act as an "official witness" of his purification. Na'aman was not an Israelite and was not performing a mitzvah from Israel's Torah. Israelites healed from skin disease were required to perform rites after their healing; Na'aman however is told to wash in order to be healed. In fact Na'aman did not have faith in Hashem until after he was healed (2 Kings 5:15). No matter how one views the term taval, one is hard-pressed to find direct correspondence between Elisha's and Na'aman's activity and any conventional view about Yohanan and the repentant of Israel.


The occurrence of taval in Na'aman's purification is said to be the example the sages took to justify immersion, tevilah ().[38] Yet 2 Kings was compiled centuries after Moses; at the earliest it was completed in the late first commonwealth. The Torah makes no demands for the form of washing, being content with raḥaẓ, and self-immersion is almost certainly an expansion of the fence by the sages to avert transgression.[39]


The DSS and Taval

R. Adler mentioned that only a single passage in any of the Qumran texts actually contains taval () in the context of purification. The passage quoted by Adler reads:


[] ֗


[] [ . . . ] .(4QToharot A [4Q274] 2i 46)


[Who]ever touches a man's emission of semen shall immerse even all the utensils, and whoever carried it [shall immerse . . . shall immer]se the clothing upon which it was found and the utensils he carried, he shall immerse.[40]


Adler comments on this passage:


It is an interesting fact that the sole Qumran text that recalls tevilah () for the sake of purity is involved precisely with defilement from sexual emission, since only in this case of defilement does the Torah explicitly state that one is obligated to wash all the body with water: "When a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water." Lv 15:16 [Bolding in original] [Author's translation]

, : " " ( , ).


Adler adds a note on this passage, citing the work of Joseph M. Baumgarten:


The emphatic use of , unique to this text, implies that its author did not consider immersion mandatory for all purifications. Thus it may be presumed that in lines 68 describes a more lenient procedure requiring only washings.


In Qumran writings, is sometimes used for washing rather than immersion. [] It is also the case in 4Q274 2 i, where is clearly distinguished from , "to immerse." Thus washing ( frg. 2 i 1) is adequate to permit eating on the day of purification by sprinkling, but contact with semen requires immersion ( frg. 2 i 45) for both vessels and men. The use of for purificatory immersion of persons is common in rabbinic sources, but is found only once in the Bible (2 Kgs 5:14). At Qumran so far, it is confined to 4Q274, thus leaving the sense of in other texts to be decided mainly on the basis of context. [41]


Qumran purifications were described by the authors of the DSS as washings, and Baumgarten points out that the sole use of taval in a specific context almost certainly means that the vast majority of their washings were not "immersions" defined by taval.


We now take a closer look at the terminology of the eschatological purification in Eze 36, as well as references to it in Jewish tradition.


Ezekiel 36:25 in Translation and in Jewish Sources

I will splash pure water upon you, and you shall be purified. [Author's translation]

, .


The combination of terminology found in Eze 36:25 is unique in the Tanakh; the substance, pure water, mayim tehorim ( ) is not found in any other passage, much less in conjunction with the verb, throw, zaraq (). As a result, commentators and translators refer to other rituals in the Tanakh to elucidate the meaning. The most widely acknowledged is that of sprinkling the red heifer ashes of Num 19 and both Christian and Jewish commentators argue for this (e.g., Rashi, Metzudat David and Metzudat Tzion). However there are good reasons to reject this assumption.


The vast majority of English translations, including the JPS Tanakh, render the Hebrew term zaraq () as "sprinkle."[42] But this is actually derived from the verb; it is not a direct translation. The primary sense of zaraq () is of an act of throwing, whatever the substance or object. Moses threw furnace soot up in the air (Ex 9:8, 10). If a large quantity of liquid is thrown there is less of a sprinkling and more of a splashing or dousing, thus Eze 36:25 could legitimately be understood in terms of splashing. In fact the Douay-Rheims Bible breaks ranks with other versions and translates: "And I will pour upon you clean water . . . ", which likely reflects Jerome's translation "et effundam super vos aquam mundam." [43] Two additional occurrences of zaraq () are found in Ezekiel and both bear the idea of throw


Ezekiel 10:2

Go in between the wheels under the k'ruvim, fill both your hands with fiery coals from between the k'ruvim, and throw them on the city.

- - - , , -.


Ezekiel 43:18

These are the regulations for the altar when the time comes to construct it, offer burnt offerings on it and splash the blood against it.

, -- , .



Ezekiel was a cohen and was certainly interested in the laws of korbanot (offerings). Cohanim were required to splash blood on the mizbeaḥ, or altar, and these mitzvot use the term zaraq (), as seen in the following two examples of many in the Torah:


Leviticus 1:5

He is to slaughter the young bull before Adonai; and the sons of Aharon . . . are to splash the blood against all sides of the altar, which is by the entrance to the tent of meeting.

- , '; , -, - - , - .


Leviticus 3:2

He is to lay his hand on the head of his offering and slaughter it at the entrance to the tent of meeting; and the sons of Aharon, the cohanim, are to splash the blood against all sides of the altar.

, - , , ; -, -Ǘ.


There is no automatic justification for translating zaraq () as sprinkle; for an increasing quantity of liquid zaraq () has to be translated differently, as in splash. Evidently most translators assume Eze 36:25 refers to the Num 19 sprinkling of the red heifer ashes. Indeed the term zaraq () appears in Num 19 and there it is used for a small quantity of liquid which results in a sprinkling.


Numbers 19:13

Whoever touches a corpse, the body of a person who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the LORD's Tabernacle; that person shall be cut off from Israel. Since the water of lustration was not dashed on him, he remains unclean; his uncleanness is still upon him. (JPS Tanakh)

- - , - ' -- , :  - , --, .


Numbers 19:20

If anyone who has become unclean fails to cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the congregation, for he has defiled the LORD's sanctuary. The water of lustration was not dashed on him: he is unclean. (JPS Tanakh) 

- , :  - ' , - -- .


Nevertheless, the term for the water and ashes mixture in Num 19 is waters of separation, mey niddah ( ) (water of lustration in the JPS Tanakh) and as a cohen writing in Hebrew, Ezekiel would almost certainly have known the term. However, Eze 36:25 uses a different term, pure water, or mayim tehorim ( ) as the substance to be thrown. No direct evidence links mey niddah ( ) with mayim tehorim ( ). Indeed the Rav Kook Institute Da'at Mikra commentary on Ezekiel notes that on the face of it the two are not the same:[44]


According to the literal reading of the text, "pure watermayim tehorim" in our passage is not mey niddah. [Author's translation]

 " "  -.


Moreover, Num 19 relates to the impurity of the human corpse in Torah law, which Rashi calls a "father of fathers" of Torah contamination in his comment on Num 19:22. The Num 19 purification from corpse contamination requires seven days, including two sprinklings of mey niddah ( ) on the third and seventh day, and then a washing with ordinary water. The two sprinklings are only part of the week-long Num 19 purification process. However, in Eze 36, Israel is likened to a woman in her monthly impurity, not to a corpse or to someone defiled by a corpse, and this impurity requires only one purification.


Ezekiel 36:17

O mortal, when the House of Israel dwelt on their own soil, they defiled it with their ways and their deeds; their ways were in My sight like the uncleanness of a menstruous woman. (JPS Tanakh)

-, -, , :  , , , .


We saw above that first commonwealth Israel was aware of the washing required for a menstruant, niddah (), evidenced by Bat-Sheva who washed, raḥaẓah () and was sanctified from her impurity ( ). Arguably, Isaiah also described Jerusalem's moral failures under the imagery of the niddah, and of Jerusalem's transformational washing by Hashem for its purification:


Isaiah 4:4

When my Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and from Jerusalem's midst has rinsed out her infamy [blood] -- In a spirit of judgment and in a spirit of purging. (JPS Tanakh)


, -, - , -- , .


Ezekiel says Israel's defilement was like that of a niddah, which requires a purification washing that is out of harmony with the week-long Num 19 purification from corpse contamination. In light of first commonwealth washing practices there is good reason to see Ezekiel's prophecy as a thorough dousing of Israel with pure water. The Jewish Soncino commentary remarks on Eze 36:25:


Since Israel's evil ways were compared to the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity (verse 17), the forgiveness of his sins is characterized as a purification by cleansing water.[45]


A recent commentary on Ezekiel by R. Yigal Ariel, called Lev Ḥadash (A New Heart),[46] surveys the sages' wisdom and cites Tanḥuma Meẓora to prove that Israel's condition of defilement was likened to that of a niddah for a reason.


Lev Hadash, Studies in Ezekiel

The prophet compares the people's transgression to a restricted defilement, to the defilement of the niddah [there is a certain peripheral similarity between bloodletting and a menstruant], and they defiled the land by their ways and their deeds, just like a niddah was their way before me.


, [ ], , :  , , , .


The course of events emphasizes the seriousness of the sin, but the sages explained that the prophet chose the example of a niddah's defilement in order to mollify the transgression. This imagery diminishes the sin and turns it into something temporary that passes, and that can be corrected:

, . , :


"Therefore, the Holy One, blessed is he, likens Israel's defilement to the defilement of a niddah, who is first defiled, yet then is purified. Thus it is Hashem's future plan to purify Israel, as it is said, 'And I will splash pure water on you and you shall be pure.' And another thing: 'Like the defilement of a niddah was your way before me.' Like the defilement of a niddah, but not like the defilement of a corpse, because if a dead body is in the house the Cohen Gadol cannot enter lest he be defiled. But a niddah, the Cohen Gadol can enter her house with her and sit on the bench (only that the bench must be fixed). Thus, had the Holy One, blessed is he, used the imagery of a corpse for Israel's defilement, you would have to say that the Sh'kinah would never return to them, ever. But described as a niddah such that the Cohen can stand with her in her house without any doubts, thus Hashem imparts his Sh'kinah with Israel  despite their defilement, as it is said, 'Who dwells with them in the midst of their defilement' Leviticus 17:17, (Tanḥuma Meẓora 9). [Author's translation]

" " , . " , , , . : , , , , , , . " , , " , , , , " ( ').


The sages that produced this work acknowledged Israel's defilement in terms of a niddah, as well as an ultimate purification by the splashing of pure water, Eze 36:17, 25. This supports the argument that Ezekiel used imagery of a first commonwealth washing for a niddah which is not related to the Num 19 purification from corpse defilement.


Ezekiel in the Tanakh, the Mishnah and the Talmud

The Mishnah and the Talmud recall the eschatological splashing of pure water in Eze 36. The quotations below from the Bavli and Yerushalmi Talmuds show that the sages understood Eze 36:25 as an eschatological purification immediately preceding the Messianic Kingdom.


Ezekiel 36:22-28

Say to the House of Israel: Thus said the Lord GOD: Not for your sake will I act, O House of Israel, but for My holy name, which you have caused to be profaned among the nations to which you have come. I will sanctify My great name which has been profaned among the nations -- among whom you have caused it to be profaned. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD -- declares the Lord GOD -- when I manifest My holiness before their eyes through you. I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you back to your own land. I will sprinkle [splash] clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes. And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you: I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; and I will put My spirit into you. Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules. (JPS Tanakh)


-, ', , :  -- , - . - , , , ; - ', ', , . -, -; , -. , : -, . , ; - , , , . -, ; , - , , .


In the following, R. Akiva's word play in Yoma 8.9 juxtaposes Ezekiel's splashing of water with the "mikveh" of Jer 17:13 for a metaphorical, circumstantial commentary; Akiva compares Eze 36:25 with pure water found in the mikveh, not the waters of separation, mey niddah ( ) of Num 19. This passage obviously is a midrashic interpretation, but that does not imply there is no literal understanding for the verse.[47]


m Yoma 8.9

Rabbi Akiva says: Fortunate are you O Israel! Before whom do you purify yourselves? [And] who purifies you? Your Father in Heaven! As it is said: "I will sprinkle [splash] upon you pure water and you shall become purified" (Eze 36:25), and it is further said: "The hope [] of Israel is the Lord" (Jer 17:13), just as a mikveh purifies the defiled so too, does the Holy one Blessed is He, purify Israel.[48]

, , []

, , -- : " , ." ( ,), " '" ( ,)-- , .


In the following citation in b Kiddushin 72b, the terminology tanu Rabbanim ("), or "our Rabbis taught" means the paragraph is considered a baraita, which was a tannanite tradition that did not make its way into the Mishnah.  Nevertheless, such baraitot are found in the traditional sources, which indicates the body of sages seriously contemplated them and considered them worthy of preservation. Thus the sages indeed considered the implications of Eze 36:25 in its pashat (intended) understanding and argued over how much purifying power Ezekiel's water conveys, proposing that even mamzerim (i.e. offspring of forbidden unions) could be purified.


b Kiddushin 72b

Our Rabbis taught: Mamzerim and Nethinim will become pure in the future: this is R. Jose's view. R. Meir said: They will not become pure. Said R. Jose to him: But was it not already stated: And I will sprinkle [splash] clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean? R. Meir replied. When it is added, from all your filthiness and from all your idols, [it implies] but not from bastardy. Said R. Jose to him: When it is [further] said, will I cleanse you, you must say: From bastardy too. As for R. Meir, it is well: hence it is written, and the bastard shall dwell in Ashdod. But according to R. Jose, why 'and the bastard shall dwell in Ashdod'? As R. Joseph translated it: The house of Israel shall dwell in security in their land, where [formerly] they were as strangers. Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: The halachah agrees with R. Jose. R. Joseph said: Had not Rab Judah ruled in Samuel's name that the halachah is as R. Jose, Elijah would have come and sent entire gangs away from us.[49]


" ' ' ' ( ) ' ' ( ) '



The Jerusalem Talmud reproduces the same argument of R. Meir and R. Yossi, and takes Eze 36:25 as a literal eschatological purification. However the argument of R. Yossi is not accepted, nor does this version carry the formula, "our Rabbis taught."


y Kiddushin 41b

Rabbi Meir says mamzerim will not be purified in the Messianic age, as it is written in (Zech 9) "and the mamzer will dwell in Ashdod." . . . Rabbi Yossi says mamzerim will be pure in the Messianic age, as is written (Eze 36) and I will splash on you pure water, etc. Said Rabbi Meir, But does it not say rather, From all your filthiness and from all your idols I will purify you. Said Rabbi Yossi, If it had said, and all your filthiness and from all your idols, I would be silent. I would say as you say. But does it not say, "I will purify you" thus even from mamzerut. Rabbi Huna in the name of Rabbi Yosef said the halachah is not according to Rabbi Yossi about the future. [Author's translation]

, ,

.  ( ) . . . ( ) '. [ ]. ' . . .



These references show that Eze 36:25 was never forgotten by the sages, nor was it relegated solely to a metaphorical or homiletical drash understanding.


Pouring Nine Kav of Water

The Talmud recalls a washing by pouring nine kav of water in place of immersion in forty seah established by Nahum, Ish Gamzu, who was the teacher of R. Akiva. This rite has long since fallen into de facto invalidation, but it nevertheless shows that at the close of the second commonwealth the sages accepted pouring water in place of immersion to achieve certain purifications.


b Berakoth Folio 22a

Our Rabbis taught: A ba'al keri on whom nine kabs of water have been thrown is clean. Nahum a man of Gimzu whispered it to R. Akiba, and R. Akiba whispered it to Ben 'Azzai, and Ben 'Azzai went forth and repeated it to the disciples in public. . . R. Joshua b. Levi said: What is the sense of those who bathe in the morning? [He asks], What is the sense! Why, it was he himself who said that a ba'al keri is forbidden [to occupy himself] with the words of the Torah! What he meant is this: What is the sense of bathing in forty se'ahs when one can make shift with nine kabs? What is the sense of going right in when throwing the water over one is sufficient? R. Hanina said: They put up a very valuable fence by this . . . He replied: R. Adda b. Ahabah is of the same opinion as you. R. Ze'ira used to sit in a tub of water in the baths and say to his servant, Go and fetch nine kabs and throw over me. R. Hiyya b. Abba said to him: Why, sir, do you take this trouble, seeing that you are sitting in [that quantity of] water? He replied: The nine kabs must be like the forty se'ahs: just as the forty se'ahs are for immersion and not for throwing, so the nine kabs are for throwing and not for immersion.[50]



... " ... .

As far as maintaining a Jewish form is concerned, throwing or pouring water was acceptable for certain rites in the second commonwealth or post CE 70, and in some cases was as valid as immersion.[51] Paul's terminology in Titus 3:5-7 comports very well with the last example.


We have seen in this section that the Torah and the prophets make no demand for immersion to fulfill bodily washings, and that the prophets described various eschatological events with outpourings. We have seen that even post CE 70 sages saw the eschatological Eze 36:25 related to Israel as defiled as a menstruant woman, a niddah, who must be purified after her impurity, and that it is not the Num 19 purification from corpse impurity. Indeed, for some of the leading post CE 70 sages pouring of water was satisfactory for purification, even though immersion was for them the typical requirement. Contrary to much of modern scholarship which attempts explain Yohanan's rite in terms of contemporary second Temple practices of the Pharisees, the Essenes, or other groups[52] this implies that Yohanan could indeed have taken Eze 36:25 as his special obligation, to purify Israel in order to usher in the promised Kingdom.


The following section presents a review of the Greek verb baptizo (βαπτιζω) and cognates found in the LXX, Philo and Josephus and shows that it was used in a variety of semantic domains. Circumstances are proposed for the coinage of the neologism, baptisma (βάπτισμα), as well as the intended meaning behind it. The results show that these Greek words are by no means limited to a narrow idea, immerse, and as a result could well be used to describe the purifying influence of Yohanan's rite independent of its form.


Part Two Use of the Greek Baptizo in Jewish Culture

Hellenism made deep inroads into Jewish culture during the second commonwealth such that Israel had no recourse but to learn Greek. Sanhedrin, afikomen, and synagogue are but a sample of many Greek words still familiar to Jews. Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber says there are "well over a thousand Greek words in rabbinic literature"[53] and at least one occurrence is ironic in light of the NC writings.[54] Even modern Hebrew uses a number of ancient Greek words that found their way into the Mishnah and Talmuds.


This section presents each sentence where a usage of the verb baptizo (βαπτιζω) occurs in the LXX, Philo and Josephus[55] and provides comments on the range of meaning. In an effort to maximize objectivity available Hebrew translations by Jewish scholars are included which themselves provide a valuable reference point from which to judge the word's semantic range. It is worth noting at the outset that modern NT lexicons typically include purify as a definition of baptizo, as for example in the recently revised BDAG's first definition:


1. wash ceremonially for purpose of purification, wash, purify, of a broad range of repeated ritual washing rooted in Israelite tradition . . . (Mk 7:4; Lk 11:38).[56]


Categorizing Usage of Baptizo in Semantic Domains

The distinctive Louw-Nida (LN) Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains[57] is an initial effort to classify semantic domains for Greek words of the NC writings, employing 93 main domains and more than 6,300 subdomains (not including 615 names of people and places). Collections of words that describe a discrete mental concept form a semantic domain. Timothy C. Clausner and William Croft explain that "concepts do not occur as isolated, atomic units in the mind, but can only be comprehended (by the speaker as well as by the analyst) in a context of presupposed, background knowledge structures. The most generic term for this background knowledge structure is domain."[58] Thus a given word might be used in several collections for several domains, and it might be used with similar but not identical meanings in each. Dr. Reinier de Blois, editor of the Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew[59] writes of the success of the LN lexicon, despite certain limitations, calling it a masterpiece. De Blois explains that "words do not have meaning in a vacuum. The meaning behind a word can only be fully understood when it is studied within its semantic domain."[60] De Blois gives further details:


Semantic domains are not universal. They differ from language to language and from culture to culture. Different cultures reflect different world views, different systems of experiences, beliefs, and practices. This is also true for New Testament Greek. Ideally, the theoretical framework behind a semantic domain dictionary like LN's gives insight into the world behind the language.[61]


The implication is that Greek-speaking Jews could have used baptizo for concepts that were specific to Jewish culture which were not known in the wider Hellenistic world. So examining the semantic range of baptizo by Greek-speaking Jews will almost certainly provide insight on usage in the New Covenant writings. De Blois provides an example of how contextual semantic domains can throw light on word use:


In my research I have been using the term contextual semantic domain to indicate cognitive frames. A biblical example that illustrates the distinction between cognitive categories and cognitive frames is the one of DOMESTIC ANIMALS. Sheep, for example, belong to the same category as cows, goats, donkeys, camels, etc. The lexical meaning of sheep is to be described in such a way that it tells the sheep clearly apart from those other animals.


The same sheep, however, can function in more than one cognitive frame, and each frame gives the word "sheep" a slightly different contextual meaning and groups it with different related terms, e.g.


- SHEPHERD frame: sheep, pasture, grass, staff, sling, etc.

- SACRIFICE frame: sheep, priest, altar, temple, knife, blood[62]

[Emphasis and bolding in the original]


Indeed the "Lamb of G-d" of John 1:29, is understood in a radically different context than the "lost sheep" of Luke 15:4. The LN lexicon classifies the Greek word baptizo (βαπτιζω) and cognates in several different domains and subdomains.[63] However, the LN also lists the transliterations "baptize" and "baptism" as a subdomain,[64] which because of these words' subtle nuance is understandable, but it is nevertheless disappointing. How can one articulate the meaning of such a crucial word by simply transliterating it into the receiving language? 


We find several distinct semantic domains in the LXX, Philo and Josephus, including: maritime disasters, drownings, drunkenness, abstract negative effects and Jewish purification rites. We will propose Louw-Nida semantic domains for all usages of baptizo and cognates in these works. These domains should be kept in mind when approaching the NC writings with their nearly eighty usages by five authors.[65] Hopefully more light can be thrown on usage to minimize the need for transliterating baptizo into baptize. One thing is certain, usage of baptizo in the LXX, in Philo and in Josephus is not constrained solely to the idea immerse.


The LXX, Bapto (Βαπτω) and Baptizo (βαπτιζω)

We saw above that the LXX translators used the Greek verb louo (λούω) for washings of the Tanakh specified by raḥaẓ (). The translators used the verb bapto (βαπτω) for fourteen of the sixteen occurrences of taval () and in these cases the English word dip represents bapto quite well. However, it is important to realize that bapto (βαπτω) was also widely used for dyeing.[66] Everett Ferguson writes,


"By way of contrast to the usage of the Greek Old Testament, βαπτω occurs in Josephus exclusively in its secondary meaning of 'to dye': Herod's dyed hair (J.W. 1.490 [24.7]), dyed mantles (J.W. 4.563 [9.10]), and dyed fabrics in the tabernacle" (Exod. 35:5ff Ant. 3.102 [36.1])[67]


At the same time the verb baptizo (βαπτιζω) appears only four times in the LXX, in Isa 21:4, in 4 Kings 5:14 (2 Kings 5:14) for the purification of Na'aman, as well as Judith 12:7 and Sirach 34:25.[68] The first occurrence in Isa 21:4 reveals a semantic domain quite different from Jewish rituals.


Overwhelm Louw-Nida Sections 25.223-250, Attitudes and Emotions, Worry, Anxiety, Distress, Peace; Sections 37.1-32, Control, Rule, A Control, Restrain, 37.19 overpower.


Isaiah 21:4

My heart wanders, and lawlessness overwhelms me; my soul has turned to fear. (NETS)

Ησαΐας 21:4

ἡ καρδία μου πλανᾶται, καὶ ἡ ἀνομία με βαπτίζει, ἡ ψυχή μου ἐφέστηκεν εἰς φόβον.


Here baptizo is not related to Jewish rituals, nor to physical immersion, nor does it describe a fixed form of action. Rather "lawless human behavior" has an overwhelming controlling effect on the speaker. A number of ancient usages of baptizo similarly indicate some controlling effect on the subject, such as the following:


Libanius Soph. et Rhet., Orationes 164, 45.24

[B]ut if one asks your judgment of any of the greater matters, you are not at leisure but are OVERWHELMED (BAPTIZED), and the multitude of other affairs holds you in subjection. (Conant)[69]

ἂν δέ τι τῶν μειζόνων τὴν σὴν ἀπαιτῇ γνώμην, οὐκ ἄγεις σχολήν, ἀλλὰ βαπτίζῃ καί σε ὁ τῶν πραγμάτων τῶν ἄλλων ὄχλος ὑφ' αὑτῷ πεποίηται.


Evidently the LXX translator simply used baptizo in one of its common semantic domains of antiquity, which also corresponds to a striking degree with the Louw-Nida domain Sensory Events and States, 24.82, where they list baptizo with the notation, "suffer severely."[70] In Isaiah lawlessness exerts a harmful effect; it wields irresistible controlling influence of a decidedly negative quality that leads to fear.[71]


Wash Louw-Nida Sections 53.28-32, Religious Activities, Purify, Cleanse, wash, 53.31.


4 Kings 5:14

Then Naiman went down, and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, according to the word of Elisaie; and his flesh returned like the flesh of a small child, and he was cleansed. (NETS)

Βασιλειών Δ' 5:14

καὶ κατέβη Ναιμαν καὶ ἐβαπτίσατο ἐν τῷ Ιορδάνῃ ἑπτάκι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμα Ελισαιε καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν ἡ σὰρξ αὐτοῦ ὡς σὰρξ παιδαρίου μικροῦ καὶ ἐκαθαρίσθη.


In 4 Kings 5:14 the verb baptizo translates taval () which, as we saw above, does not demand complete immersion; a dipping, even partial, is sufficient. Moreover we have just seen that the LXX Isa 21:4 expresses a powerful effect, not the act of immersion. These considerations leave open the question in Na'aman's case of whether the LXX translators intended something more than the form of immersion. The command of Elisha was "wash and be cleansed," and it has been argued that here baptizo carries the additional idea of purifying effect.[72] Since the LXX translates taval in every other instance with bapto except one (Gen 37:31), it is argued that baptizo would naturally intend purification as the stated outcome. While that may be possible, the use of the middle voice seems to diminish the probability. Na'aman acted upon himself, but he evidently did not completely purify himself each time since his healing did not occur until after his seven washings. So the most likely meaning is that Na'aman got into the water and bathed himself. It nevertheless seems forced to say he immersed, as in the NETS version.


Wash Louw-Nida Sections 53.28-32, Religious Activities, Purify, Cleanse, wash, 53.31.


Judith 12: 7-9

And Olophernes ordered the bodyguards not to hinder her. And she remained in the camp for three days, and she went out each night into the ravine of Baityloua and bathed at the spring of water. And when she came up, she would plead the Lord, God of Israel, to direct her path for the grandeur of the sons of his people. And entering clean, she would remain in the tent until she took food toward evening. (NETS)

Ιουδίθ 12:7-9

καὶ προσέταξεν ᾿Ολοφέρνης τοῖς σωματοφύλαξι μὴ διακωλύειν αὐτήν. καὶ παρέμεινεν ἐν τῇ παρεμβολῇ ἡμέρας τρεῖς, καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο κατὰ νύκτα εἰς τὴν φάραγγα Βαιτυλούα καὶ ἐβαπτίζετο ἐν τῇ παρεμβολῇ ἐπὶ τῆς πηγῆς τοῦ ὕδατος· καὶ ὡς ἀνέβη, ἐδέετο τοῦ Κυρίου Θεοῦ ᾿Ισραὴλ κατευθῦναι τὴν ὁδὸν αὐτῆς εἰς ἀνάστημα τῶν υἱῶν τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ. καὶ εἰσπορευομένη καθαρὰ παρέμενε τῇ σκηνῇ, μέχρις οὗ προσηνέγκατο τὴν τροφὴν αὐτῆς πρὸς ἑσπέραν. 


- - . - . - .[73]


The deuterocanonical book, Judith, presents evidence that purification was an important idea associated with baptizo. Fascinatingly, the Hebrew translation provided by Avraham Kahana uses the term wash, raḥaẓ (), not tevilah. Indeed, form is evidently a doubtful emphasis since she baptizes epi (ἐπὶ), at the spring, not eis, (εἰς), into it. This textual feature is ignored by R. Adler who instead focuses on anebe (ἀνέβη), come up, to make the doubtful supposition of reemergence after immersion.[74] But it is just as reasonable to argue that the ravine of Baityloua inclined downward to get to the spring, and after purifying by whatever means, she came back up from the spring. Her choice of spring water must also tell of Jewish purification (cf., Lv 11:36) since drawn household drinking water could have been used for simple hygienic purposes.


Wash Louw-Nida Sections 53.28-32, Religious Activities, Purify, Cleanse, wash, 53.31.


The other deuterocanonical reference, Sirach, also speaks in terms of purification from contact with a corpse, though it is not clear as to what precisely it refers.


Sirach 34:28-31

28 One builds, and one tears down - What did they gain more than hard labors?

29 One prays, and one curses to whose voice will the master listen?

30 When one bathes due to a corpse and when one touches it again what did he gain by his washing?

31 So is a person when he fasts for his sins and goes again and does the same things; who will listen to his prayer, and what did he gain by humbling himself? (NETS)

Σοφία Σειράχ 34:23-26

23 εἷς οἰκοδομῶν, καὶ εἷς καθαιρῶν· τί ὠφέλησαν πλεῖον ἢ κόπους;

24 εἷς εὐχόμενος καὶ εἷς καταρώμενος· τίνος φωνῆς εἰσακούσεται ὁ δεσπότης;

25 βαπτιζόμενος ἀπὸ νεκροῦ καὶ πάλιν ἁπτόμενος αὐτοῦ, τί ὠφέλησε τῷ λουτρῷ αὐτοῦ;

26 οὕτως ἄνθρωπος νηστεύων ἐπὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ πάλιν πορευόμενος καὶ τὰ αὐτὰ ποιῶν· τῆς προσευχῆς αὐτοῦ τίς εἰσακούσεται; καὶ τί ὠφέλησεν ἐν τῷ ταπεινωθῆναι αὐτόν;













* ' "".


The early reconstructed Hebrew Ben Sira [75] has extensive notes, one of which says that dip, tovel () comes from the Syriac translation, so that word is not necessarily in the original Hebrew.[76] The note goes on to list an alternative word, wash, roḥeẓ (), in response to his washing "reḥiẓato" () at the end of the verse. The grandson of the author of Ben Sira in Hebrew is said to have translated the original Greek version. The Greek author's use of baptizo could intend the final washing after the seven day cleansing period, or he could be speaking of the entire purification week consisting of the third and seventh day sprinklings, followed by bodily washing. Whether self-immersion was fully established in Sirach's day is open to question.[77] It seems possible that the Greek translator writes about the entire seven day purification process which he described by baptizo and not just the final bath. Of note is the construction, βαπτιζόμενος ἀπὸ νεκροῦ, "baptizing from (the) dead" with the participle in present, middle-passive form, which appears to show that baptizo describes the effect after the performance of the entire seven day ritual to purify one's self from [defilement of the] dead.


The alternative understanding, bathing from the dead, would evidently refer to the final washing which, of itself, was not the actual purification from corpse defilement. However it is possible that Sirach simply refers to the concluding washing as a metonymy with the intent of letting that refer to the entire week of purification.[78]


Thus for the two deuterocanonical passages, almost certainly the use of baptizo in Judith intends purification, and possibly so for Sirach, no matter how one views the form of their washings.


Philo and Baptizo

Philo of Alexandria, a first century Jew, used baptizo six times in three main domains that were evidently familiar to Greeks:


         Once for drunkenness (cf., Plato, Conon, Lucian, Plutarch)[79]

         Four times for an overwhelming negative effect on the mind, soul, or reasoning[80] (Libanus, Themistius, Heliodorus, Aliciphon, Achilles Tatius, Plutarch)

         Once, citing Zeno, about the impossibility of sinking an object (widely used)


Remarkably, Philo begins Contemplative Life by mentioning Essenes who are known for daily washings, but his sole mention of baptizo here has nothing to do with rites, but with drunkenness. Philo also describes the Essenes at greater length in Every Good Man is Free:


Moreover Palestine and Syria too are not barren of exemplary wisdom and virtue, which countries no slight portion of that most populous nation of the Jews inhabits. There is a portion of those people called Essenes, in number something more than four thousand in my opinion, who derive their name from their piety, though not according to any accurate form of the Grecian dialect, because they are above all men devoted to the service [therapeutai] of God, not sacrificing living animals, but studying rather to preserve their own minds in a state of holiness and purity.


Yet Philo's only use of baptizo in this work is a citation from Zeno about the impossibility of sinking an inflated bag, and that imagery is used to say a noble man's soul will never submit to tyranny.


E. P. Sanders reviewed Philo's statements about Jewish religious practices, including purification washings for Temple access as well as routine purifications, found in the following passages: Dreams 1.209-212; Spec. Law 1.191; 1.258; 1.261; 1.265-66; Spec. Law 3.63; 3.89; 3.204-206; Changes of Names 124; Planter 116; and Decalogue 45. Sanders says that when Philo wanted to say bathe he could do so perfectly well with louein or apolouein, which are found in the LXX. Sanders concludes that Philo's regular use of loutrois and perirranteriois as in (dia loutron kai perirranterion) for purification meant that Philo was aware of Torah practices as well as additional purifications known to the Alexandrian Jewish community. None of these passages contains a usage of baptizo.[81] Moreover, Philo's usages of baptizo do not refer to ritual purification, much less ritual immersion. Yet every usage bears the idea of completeness of condition, a concept which indeed encompasses the idea immersion. Drunkenness is not immersion, but it is completeness of condition by a controlling factor; immersion is not drunkenness, but it likewise is completeness of condition by a controlling environment. The forms of drinking wine or eating food cannot in any way be considered important in Philo's usage; instead the effect is important, whether wine-induced inebriation or over-fed torpor, both of which are described with baptizo. Philo's usage finds limited parallels in Mark 10:38-39 and Luke 12:50.


The English translations presented below are from the Loeb collection, T.J. Conant and Yonge. There is little translational consistency of baptizo, evidenced by a repetition of a phrase in Greek, baptizonta ten psychen (βαπτίζοντα τὴν ψυχὴν), which in the Worse Attacks Yonge translated, "overwhelm the soul," while in Allegorical Laws he translated, "submerge the soul." This lack of unanimity does not obscure the original intent of a negative controlling effect. This range of translation, over-whelming or sub-merging the soul, rather clearly presents the core ideas of completeness of condition and controlling influence.


The Bialik Institute's Hebrew version of Contemplative Life renders baptizo simply as get drunk (). However, it too shows lack of consistency regarding the same two corresponding Greek phrases about the soul, translating one matbia () (transitive sinking into destruction) and the second, matbil () (transitive immersing).


Drunkenness Louw-Nida Sections 23.1-39, Physiological Processes and States, 23.37; Sections 88.283-288, Moral and Ethical Qualities and Related Behavior.


The Contemplative Life 5.4

I know of some who when they are half-seas-over and before they have completely gone under arrange donation and subscriptions in preparation for to-morrow's bout, considering that one factor in their present exhilaration is the hope of future intoxication.[82] (Loeb)


[W]hen they become slightly intoxicated, before they are completely OVERWHELMED (BAPTIZED) provide, by contributions and tickets.[83] (Conant)

De Vita Contemplativa

οἶδα δέ τινας, [οἳ] ἐπειδὰν ἀκροθώρακες γένωνται, πρὶν τελέως βαπτισθῆναι, τὸν εἰς τὴν ὑστεραίαν πότον ἐξ ἐπιδόσεως καὶ συμβολῶν προευτρεπιζομένους, μέρος ὑπολαμβάνοντας τῆς ἐν χερσὶν εὐφροσύνης εἶναι τὴν περὶ τῆς εἰς τὸ μέλλον μέθης ἐλπίδα.

, .[84]

(get drunk)


Overwhelm the Soul Louw-Nida Sections 25.223-250, Attitudes and Emotions, Worry, Anxiety, Distress, Peace.


The Worse Attacks the Better 48.176

[A]nd it is better to be made an eunuch than to be hurried into wickedness by the fury of the illicit passions: for all these things, as they overwhelm the soul in pernicious calamities, are deservedly followed by extreme punishments.[85] (Yonge)


All these things, seeing that they plunge the soul in disasters for which there is no remedy.[86] (Loeb)

Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat

ἐξευνουχισθῆναί γε μὴν ἄμεινον ἢ πρὸς συνουσίας ἐκνόμους λυττᾶν. ἅπαντα δὴ ταῦτα συμφοραῖς ἀνηκέστοις βαπτίζοντα  τὴν ψυχὴν δίκης καὶ τιμωρίας εἰκότως ἂν τῆς ἀνωτάτω τυγχάνοι.



-. , , .[87]

(transitive sinks)


Allegorical Laws 3.[6].18

[H]e crosses the river of objects of sense that swamps and drowns the soul under the flood of the passions, and, when he has crossed it, sets his face for the lofty high-land, the principle of perfect virtue.[88] (Loeb)


[W]hich wash over and threaten to submerge the soul.[89] (Yonge)

Legum Allegoriarum

καὶ διαβαίνει τὸν τῶν αἰσθητῶν ποταμὸν τὸν ἐπικλύζοντα καὶ βαπτίζοντα τῇ φορᾷ τῶν παθῶν τὴν ψυχήν, καὶ ὁρμᾷ διαβὰς εἰς τὸν ὑψηλὸν καὶ μετέωρον <τόπον> τὸν λόγον τῆς τελείας ἀρετῆς

, 3.18

, . , - .[90]

(immerses into destruction)


Migration of Abraham 37.204

He commanded . . . to store up in the treasury abundant materials and nourishment for the five outward senses, in order that each of them might rejoice while filling itself unrestrainedly with suitable food, and that it might weigh down and overwhelm the mind with the multitude of things which were thus brought upon it; for during the banquet of the outer senses, the mind is laboring under a famine, as, on the contrary, when the outward senses are fasting, the mind is feasting.[91] (Yonge)


[T]hat so each of them incessantly glutting itself with its own objects may wanton and drown the mind under the weight of all that it devours.[92] (Loeb)

De Migratione Abrahami

τροφὰς ἀφθόνους θησαυροφυλακεῖν ταῖς πέντε αἰσθήσεσιν, ὅπως ἑκάστη τῶν οἰκείων ἀνεπισχέτως ἐμπιπλαμένη τρυφᾷ καὶ τὸν νοῦν τοῖς ἐπεισφορουμένοις βαρύνουσα βαπτίζῃ ταῖς γὰρ τῶν αἰσθήσεων εὐωχίαις λιμὸν ἄγει διάνοια, ὡς ἔμπαλιν ταῖς νηστείαις εὐφροσύνας


On Providence, frag. 2.68

And one might show it also from this, that those who live soberly, and content with little, excel in understanding; but those, on the contrary, who are always glutted with drink and food, are least intelligent, as though the reason were WHELMED (BAPTIZED) by the things overlying it.[93] (Conant)


[B]ecause the reason is drowned by the stuff that is brought in.[94] (Loeb)

De Providentia

τεκμηριώσαιτο δ' ἄν τις καὶ ἐκ τοῦ τοὺς μὲν νήφοντας καὶ ὀλιγοδεεῖς συνετωτέρους εἶναι, τοὺς δὲ ποτῶν ἀεὶ καὶ σιτίων ἐμπιπλαμένους ἥκιστα φρονίμους, ἅτε βαπτιζομένου τοῖς ἐπιοῦσι τοῦ λογισμοῦ.


Sink Louw-Nida Section 47, Activities Involving Liquids or Masses.


Every Good Man is Free, 1.97

At such positive refusals then, and at such brave sentiments, is it not natural for any one to quote that saying of Zeno that, "It would be easier to sink a bladder which was full of wind, than to compel any virtuous man whatever, against his will, to commit any action which he had never intended."[95] (Yonge)


[T]he saying of Zeno: "Sooner will you sink an inflated bladder than compel any virtuous man to do against his will." [96] (Loeb)

Quod Omnis Probus Liber Sit

Ἐπὶ δὴ τοιαύταις ἀποφάσεσι καὶ γνώμαις ἆρ' οὐκ ἄξιον τὸ Ζηνώνειον ἐπιφωνῆσαι, ὅτι "θᾶττον ἂν ἀσκὸν βαπτίσαι τις πλήρη πνεύματος ἢ βιάσαιτο τῶν σπουδαίων ὁντινοῦν ἄκοντα δρᾶσαί τι τῶν ἀβουλήτων."



Philo's limited usage of baptizo presents a broad range of meaning, accomplished by various physical acts not limited to immersion. Interestingly, he makes no use of this word for Jewish washings or purification, even when writing about the Essenes.


Josephus and Baptizo

Josephus used baptizo sixteen times in Wars, Antiquities and his Autobiography, and also used baptistou (βαπτιστοῦ) and baptismos (βαπτισμός) in Antiquities to describe Yohanan. In contrast to Philo's usages for negative influences on the soul, Josephus' predominate use is destruction of ships at sea, and drowning at sea or by premeditated murder. Josephus' usages evidently correspond to semantic domains known to the wider Greek world and can be grouped as follows:


         Four times for the sinking of ships (cf., Polybius, Plutarch, Dion Cassius, Diodorus, Epictitus, Heliodorus, Heimerius, Achilles Tatius, Themistius)

         Four times for drowning, whether in battle or by premeditated murder (cf., Diodorus, Lucian, Suidas, Aesop)

o   Once for shipwreck survivors floating in the water

         Three times for the ruin of a city, one under the figure of a sinking ship (cf., Libanius, Himerius)

         Once for an implunged-sword (cf., Chrysostom)

         Once in a passage related to drunkenness (cf., Plato, Conon, Lucian, Plutarch, Philo)

         Once to describe metaphorically the desperate plight of Herod's doomed sons

         Once for the rite of the red heifer ashes (the text is disputed)

         One of each βαπτιστοῦ, βαπτίσις, and βαπτισμός to describe Yohanan and his rite


Uses are prosaic, as well as in figure and in metaphor, describing a city's destruction as a sinking ship, and the execution of Herod's sons as drowning in a violent storm at sea. In sharp contrast to storm, destruction and death, Josephus also describes Yohanan and his rite in a Jewish religious context of sanctification and purification, which is his only usage with undisputed direct correspondence to a Louw-Nida semantic domain, i.e. Religious Activities 53.41-43. However, in Antiquities 4:81 Josephus' use of baptizo to describe the Num 19 purification also seems appropriate for this domain, see below.


The English versions provided are the Loeb and the Milltown Institute's online translation.[97] Two Hebrew translations are presented for War, and one for Antiquities.[98] All translations reveal various meanings are born by baptizo; it was not constrained to the idea of form as immerse in English, or tevilah () in Hebrew. A city's destruction, as in Josephus, describes a horrific state, not an action. LN semantic domains are proposed at the beginning of each grouping of passages. We also notice translation inconsistencies in English and Hebrew, though the core idea of completeness of condition is always obvious.


Sinking Ships Louw-Nida Section 54, Maritime Activities; Sections 20.31-60 Destroy.


Autobiography 1:15

For our ship sank in the Adriatic Sea, and we the passengers, about six hundred of us, had to swim for our lives all night.


Βίος 1:15

βαπτισθέντος γὰρ ἡμῶν τοῦ πλοίου κατὰ μέσοντὸν Ἀδρίαν περὶ ἑξακοσίους τὸν ἀριθμὸν ὄντες δι'ὅλης τῆς νυκτὸς ἐνηξάμεθα.


War 3:368

[I]n my opinion there could be no more arrant coward than the pilot who, for fear of a tempest, deliberately sinks his ship before the storm.[99] (Loeb)


[I]f . . . he deliberately sinks his own ship. (Milltown)


Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

ὡς ἔγωγε καὶ κυβερνήτην ἡγοῦμαι δειλότατον, ὅστις χειμῶνα δεδοικὼς πρὸ τῆς θυέλλης ἐβάπτισεν ἑκὼν τὸ σκάφος.



(sinks [into destruction])


, - , .

(sank [into destruction])


War 3:423

Many from dread of this rock-strewn coast and the enemy that occupied it, strove to gain the open sea in the teeth of the gale, and foundered among the towering billows.[100] (Loeb)


[A]nd the waves rose and drowned them. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

τόν τε γὰρ αἰγιαλὸν ὄντα πετρώδη καὶ τοὺς ἐπ᾽ αὐτοῦ πολεμίους ἐδεδοίκεσαν, μετέωρος ὑπεραρθεὶς κλύδων ἐβάπτιζεν.



[high waves]

(drowned them)


, .

(covered them over)



War 3:525

[O]n the other hand, when they ventured to approach, before they had time to do anything they instantly came to grief and were sent to the bottom with their skiffs.[101] (Loeb)


[A]nd when they ventured near the Romans, they died before they could do them any harm, and were sunk with their ships. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

καὶ πλησιάζειν τολμῶντες πρὶν δρᾶσαί τι παθεῖν ἔφθανον καὶ σὺν αὐτοῖς ἐβαπτίζοντο τοῖς σκάφεσιν.


, , .

(plunged in the depths)



(sank in the deep)



Antiquities 9:212

At first they did not dare to do so, regarding it as an impious act to take a man who was a stranger and had entrusted his life to them, and cast him out to so certain a death; but finally, as their distress pressed more heavily upon them and the vessel was on the point of sinking, and since they were driven to it both by the prophet himself and by fear for their own lives, they cast him into the sea.[102] (Loeb)


[W]ith the ship about to sink, and urged to it by the prophet. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαικὴ 'Aρχαωλογία

οἱ δὲ τὸ μὲν πρῶτον οὐκ ἐτόλμων κρίναντες ἀσέβημα ξένον ἄνθρωπον καὶ πεπιστευκότα αὐτοῖς τὸ ζῆν εἰς φανερὰν αὐτοὺς ἀπώλειαν ἐκρῖψαι,τελευταῖον δ᾽ ὑπερβιαζομένου τοῦ κακοῦ καὶ ὅσον οὔπω μέλλοντος βαπτίζεσθαι τοῦ σκάφους, ὑπό τε τοῦ προφήτου παρορμηθέντες αὐτοῦ καὶ ὑπὸ τοῦ δέους τοῦ περὶ τῆς αὑτῶν σωτηρίας ῥίπτουσιν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν.


( ), , , () . , .

(to sink)





Drowning by Design Louw-Nida Sections 23.88-128, Physiological Processes and States, 23.119; Sections 20.61-88 Violence, Harm, Destroy, Kill.


The following two references describe the demise of Aristobulus III by Herod's order. Josephus actually provides two distinct usages of baptizo, one passive, the other active. Josephus' initial description of this episode in War is concise; Aristobulus' death was the direct result of passively being baptized by the Gauls. He was literally baptized to death. The latter account in Antiquities gives more details and Josephus changes his usage from passive to active, now putting baptizo into the service of the murdering Gauls. They continually and vigorously baptize Aristobulus until he is too weakened to recover and he died. This episode cannot be categorized as a solemn religious rite, but rather it is a premeditated exhausting exercise designed to kill; Aristobulus receives no assistance to resurface from his forced immersions.


The translations reveal some inconsistency though completeness of condition is clear. Both Hebrew translations of War render baptizo as active, so that instead of letting Aristobulus be baptized, the Gauls immerse or dip him.  


War 1:437

He was, consequently, sent by night to Jericho, and there, in accordance with instructions, plunged into a swimming-bath by the Gauls and drowned.[103] (Loeb)


[H]e was plunged by the Galatian guards in a swimming-pool until he drowned. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου πέμπεται μὲν οὖν παῖς διὰ νυκτὸς εἰς Ἱεριχοῦντα, ἐκεῖ  δὲ κατ᾽ ἐντολὴν ὑπὸ τῶν Γαλατῶν βαπτιζόμενος ἐν κολυμβήθρᾳ τελευτᾷ.


, .

(they drowned him)


, .

(they dipped)


Antiquities 15:55

At first they watched some of the servants and friends (of Herod) as they swam, and then, at Herod's urging, the youth was induced (to join them). But with darkness coming on while he swam, some of the friends, who had been given orders to do so, kept pressing him down and holding him under water as if in sport, and they did not let up until they had quite suffocated him.[104] (Loeb)


[T]he friends assigned to it dipped him under in the dark waters as if doing so only in sport and did not let up until he drowned. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαικὴ 'Aρχαωλογία

καὶ πρῶτον μὲν ἑώρων τοὺς νέοντας τῶν οἰκετῶν καὶ φίλων, ἔπειτα προαχθέντος καὶ τοῦ μειρακίου τῷ καὶ τὸν Ἡρώδην παροξῦναι, τῶν φίλων οἷς ταῦτα ἐπιτέτακτο σκότους ἐπέχοντος βαροῦντες ἀεὶ καὶ βαπτίζοντες ὡς ἐν παιδιᾷ νηχόμενον οὐκ ἀνῆκαν, ἕως καὶ παντάπασιν ἀποπνῖξαι.


, , .

(they immersed)



Shipwrecked Louw-Nida Section 54, Maritime Activities

This passage describes people in the water who were shipwrecked, not dead, and who would be killed if hit by an arrow.


War 3:527

When any who had been sunk rose to the surface, an arrow quickly reached or a raft overtook them.[105] (Loeb)


Any who had fallen into the lake. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

τῶν δὲ βαπτισθέντων τοὺς ἀνανεύοντας βέλος ἔφθανεν σχεδία κατελάμβανεν.


, .

(those shipwrecked)



(the floating shipwrecked people were killed by enemy arrows)


Destruction of Cities Louw-Nida Sections 20.31-60 Destroy; Section 54, Maritime Activities.


War 2:556

After this catastrophe of Cestius many distinguished Jews abandoned the city as swimmers desert a sinking ship.[106] (Loeb)


[L]ike people swimming from a sinking ship. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

Μετὰ δὲ τὴν Κεστίου συμφορὰν πολλοὶ τῶν ἐπιφανῶν Ἰουδαίων ὥσπερ βαπτιζομένης νηὸς ἀπενήχοντο τῆς πόλεως.





, .



War 3:196

For his departure would wreck the town, as none would have the heart to resist the enemy any longer.[107] (Loeb)


His departure would be the city's ruin. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

ἐπιβαπτίσειν γὰρ αὐτοῖς τὴν πόλιν μηδενὸς ἔτι τοῖς πολεμίοις τολμῶντος ἀνθίστασθαι δι' ὃν ἂν θαρσοῖεν οἰχομένου.

(epi could literally signfy the idea of "over" as in over-whelm)


, , , .

(take down into the depths)


, , .

(overthrow into the deep)


War 4:137

Yet it was just this circumstance which, irrespectively of the sedition, eventually wrecked the city.[108] (Loeb)


[T]urned out to be the direct cause of the city's destruction. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

δὴ καὶ δίχα τῆς στάσεως ὕστερον ἐβάπτισεν τὴν πόλιν.


[ ] .

(sank it into the depths)



(to destroy)


Implunged Sword Suicide - Louw-Nida Sections 19.14-26, Physical Impact, Pierce, Cut; Sections 20.61-88, Violence, Harm, Destroy, Kill.


War 2:476

[A]nd with right hand uplifted to attract all eyes, plunged the sword up to the hilt into his own throat.[109] (Loeb)


[H]e plunged the length of his sword into his own bowels. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

καὶ περίοπτος ἐπιστὰςτοῖς σώμασιν τήν τε δεξιὰν ἀνατείνας, ὡς μηδέναλαθεῖν, ὅλον εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ σφαγὴν ἐβάπτισεν τὸ ξίφος.


, .



, .



Drunkenness Louw-Nida Sections 23.1-39, Physiological Processes and States, 23.37; Sections 88.283-288, Moral and Ethical Qualities and Related Behavior.


Antiquities 10:169

Seeing him in this condition, sunken into unconsciousness and a drunken sleep, Ismaelos sprang up with his ten friends and slaughtered Gadalias and those reclining with him at the banquet table.[110] (Loeb)


Seeing him in that state, utterly drunk and asleep. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαικὴ 'Aρχαωλογία

θεασάμενος δ᾽ αὐτὸν οὕτως ἔχοντα καὶ βεβαπτισμένον εἰς ἀναισθησίαν καὶ ὕπνον ὑπὸ τῆς μέθης Ἰσμάηλος ἀναπηδήσας μετὰ τῶν δέκα φίλων ἀποσφάττει τὸν Γαδαλίαν καὶ τοὺς κατακειμένους σὺν αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ συμποσίῳ.


, - , .



Desperate Plight of Herod's Sons - Louw-Nida Sections 22.15-20, Trouble, Hardship, Relief, Favorable Circumstances; Section 54, Maritime Activities; Sections 23.88-128, Physiological Processes and States, 23.119; Sections 20.61-88 Violence, Harm, Destroy, Kill.


War 1:535

This was, as it were, the final hurricane which submerged the tempest-tossed youths.[111]



This was the blast that finally sank the storm-tossed youths. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

τοῦτο δ᾽ ὥσπερ τελευταία θύελλα χειμαζομένους  τοὺς νεανίσκους ἐπεβάπτισεν·


epebaptisen the use of epi "over" suggests the idea of "over"- whelming the youth.



(overwhelmed and drowned)


, .

)drove those drowning(


Purification by Red Heifer Ashes

Josephus used baptizo in the religious context of the red heifer ashes. The text is disputed, quite possibly because of a failure to understand the usage of baptizo itself. The Loeb translation says the hyssop is dipped and the Hebrew version says that the hyssop is immersed, and both translations evidently ignore the second occurrence of the ash (τῆς τέφρας) in the Greek text. The Milltown version evidently completely omits translating baptizo.


Antiquities 4:81

When, therefore, any had been polluted by contact with a corpse, they put a little of these ashes in running water, dipped hyssop into the stream, and sprinkled such persons therewith on the third and on the seventh day, and thenceforth they were clean.[112] (Loeb)


[P]ut a little of these ashes into spring water, with hyssop, and sprinkled them with it. (Milltown)

Ἰουδαικὴ 'Aρχαωλογία

τοὺς οὖν ἀπὸ νεκροῦ μεμιασμένους τῆς τέφρας ὀλίγον εἰς πηγὴν ἐνιέντες καὶ ὕσσωπον βαπτίσαντές τε

καὶ τῆς τέφρας ταύτης εἰς πηγὴν ἔρραινον τρίτῃ τε καὶ ἑβδόμῃ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ καθαροὶ τὸ λοιπὸν ἦσαν. 


( ) .




One has to admit that among ships sunk in storms and war, cities destroyed, and people murderously drowned, Josephus' usage of baptizo here is one of his most benign. If, as these translations assume, baptizo merely means the action of dipping, then the uniqueness is greater still, because no other of Josephus' usages of baptizo describes the entrance and removal of the object; sunken ships stay at the bottom, the implunged sword is not removed. Everett Ferguson writes on this passage:


He says, "They put a little of the ashes into running water [πηγήν] and, dipping [βαπτἰσαντες] hyssop into the running water, they sprinkled [ἔρραινoν]" it on them. It is to be noted that Josephus preserves the distinction between the actions of dipping and sprinkling.[113]


Ferguson does not quote the Greek text here but only mentions a few words in it. Yet he says elsewhere in his book that he is aware of James Dale's series on baptism, which he does not engage, charging that they are polemical and marred by inferior Greek texts though he does not mention which of Dale's texts are substandard. In this case of Ant 4.81 Ferguson evidently used a modified text that omits the second occurrence of the ash (τῆς τέφρας) to arrive at his translation. Dale remarks in Judaic Baptism that this text is disputed and some exegetes surmise that the text suffered scribal duplication of words, so that, according to Dale, Bekker's version (6 vols., Leipzig, 1855-6) deletes the second occurrence of the ash (τῆς τέφρας). Yet the later Niese critical version (6 vols., Berlin, 1888-95) includes the disputed text. Dale points out that the full passage makes good sense if the word baptizo is understood as "purifying" instead of "dipping." Dale considers the passage to read as follows:


Purification Louw-Nida Sections 53.28-32, Religious Activities, Purify, Cleanse, βαπτίζω, wash, 53.31.


τοὺς οὖν ἀπὸ νεκροῦ μεμιασμένους


τῆς τέφρας ὀλίγον εἰς πηγὴν ἐνιέντες καὶ ὕσσωπον


βαπτίσαντές τε καὶ τῆς τέφρας ταύτης εἰς πηγὴν


ἔρραινον τρίτῃ τε καὶ ἑβδόμῃ τῶν ἡμερῶν



καὶ καθαροὶ τὸ λοιπὸν ἦσαν.

Those, therefore, defiled by a dead body,


introducing a little of the ash and a hyssop-branch into a spring,


and baptizing [purifying] of this ash in the spring,


they sprinkled both on the third and seventh of the days


and after that they were clean.[114]


The Perseus-Tufts, the PACE and the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae digitalized Greek texts evidently are all the Niese text and all are identical to this text above.[115] If Josephus intended by his use of baptizo to say that a person was wholly purified (which seems likely) then this distinctive semantic domain affects the verb's sense significantly and has a direct effect on interpreting the NC writings. Yet, even if Josephus intended the idea of "dip" then the understanding of the verb is still drastically affected by this usage since it differs so significantly from sunken ships and drowned people. Here the hand-held hyssop is partially dipped in the mixture, not completely immersed, which of itself is a major difference in Josephus' usage.


Yohanan Ben Zechariah and His Rite

Josephus presents a clear usage distinction in his description of Yohanan. Josephus only used the verb baptizo in all the previous passages seen above, but for Yohanan, interestingly enough, he only uses nouns: baptistou (βαπτιστοῦ), baptismos (βαπτισμός), and baptisis (βαπτίσις). Both baptistou and baptismos are found in the NC writings, and though the form baptisis is uncommon, the suffix is (ις) was commonly added to verbal roots to form nouns.[116] All of Josephus' usages of the verb, except one, occur in episodes of a downbeat, destructive nature, while these nouns occur when describing one of Israel's great prophets. If the single non-negative use of the verb actually means that a person was to purify with the red heifer ashes, then that usage also points to a significant variation in meaning. Josephus' terminology change evidently signifies a distinction that he sees in the effect of Yohanan's activity compared to the effect of ships sinking and of people drowning, a distinction that implies that the words carried far more information than immerse and immersion.


Purifier-Purification Louw-Nida Sections 53.41-43, Religious Activities, Baptize, 53.41-42; Sections 53.28-32, Religious Activities, Purify, Cleanse.


Antiquities 18:116-7

But to some of the Jews the destruction of Herod's army seemed to be divine vengeance, and certainly a just vengeance, for his treatment of John, surnamed the Baptist. For Herod had put him to death, though he was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety towards God, and so doing to join in baptism. In his view this was a necessary preliminary if baptism was to be acceptable to God. They must not employ it to gain pardon from whatever sins they committed, but as a consecration of the body implying that the soul was already thoroughly cleansed by right behavior.[117] (Loeb)


John, who was called the Baptist. . . telling the Jews to practice virtue . . . and so to come to baptism. This would make the washing acceptable to Him . . . for the purification of the body, since the soul was already purified by righteousness.


Ἰουδαικὴ 'Aρχαωλογία 18:116-7

Τισὶ δὲ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἐδόκει ὀλωλέναι τὸν Ἡρώδου στρατὸν ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ μάλα δικαίως τινυμένου κατὰ ποινὴν Ἰωάννου τοῦ ἐπικαλουμένου βαπτιστοῦ. κτείνει γὰρ δὴ τοῦτον Ἡρώδης ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα καὶ τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις κελεύοντα ἀρετὴν ἐπασκοῦσιν καὶ τὰ πρὸς ἀλλήλους δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν εὐσεβείᾳ χρωμένοις βαπτισμῷ συνιέναι οὕτω γὰρ δὴ καὶ τὴν βάπτισιν ἀποδεκτὴν αὐτῷ φανεῖσθαι μὴ ἐπί τινων ἁμαρτάδων παραιτήσει χρωμένων, ἀλλ' ἐφ' ἁγνείᾳ τοῦ σώματος, ἅτε δὴ καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς δικαιοσύνῃ προεκκεκαθαρμένης.


, () () . , , () , , - - .


The Hebrew translation renders Baptist (βαπτιστοῦ) with a hifil form of taval, matbil, and the other two nouns as tevilah, immersion. The sense conveyed is that Yohanan actively immersed people, a practice neither foretold in the Tanakh nor decreed by contemporary second Temple sages. In short, the Hebrew rendering paints Yohanan as an innovator. If Yohanan instead actively purified the people (see below) then the Hebrew translation misreads the text's original intent. More importantly, Yohanan may then have purified people according to Eze 36:25, a possibility which restores his image as one whose central activity fulfills prophecies of the Tanakh for Israel.


This concludes the review of the usage of baptizo and cognates in the LXX, Philo and Josephus. Yet it is also interesting to note that Josephus, a cohen and self-described Pharisee, used apolouo (ἀπολούω) and louo (λούω) to describe daily bodily washings of the Essenes. Interestingly, as mentioned above the word taval () is found only once in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the more typical word used was raḥaẓ, yet the first listed Hebrew translation of apolouo (ἀπολούω) in a passage about the Essenes renders the Greek word with tovel (), dipping. The second translation indeed sticks closer to the original meaning and uses raḥaẓ. We see a religious usage of louo (λούω) for washing which is further emphasized by Josephus' description of Banus, his mentor for three years: Banus would wash for sanctification.


Essene Washings Louw-Nida Sections 53.28-32, Religious Activities, Purify, Cleanse.


War 2.129 

[W]hen they again assemble in one place and, after girding their loins with linen cloths, bathe their bodies in cold water. After this purification, they assemble in a private apartment which none of the uninitiated is permitted to enter; pure now themselves, they repair to the refectory, as to some sacred shrine.[118] (Loeb)


[T]hey bathe their bodies in cold water. . . (Milltown)



Ἰουδαϊκοῦ Πολέμου

πάλιν εἰς ἓν συναθροίζονται χωρίον, ζωσάμενοί τε σκεπάσμασιν λινοῖς οὕτως ἀπολούονται τὸ σῶμα ψυχροῖς ὕδασιν, καὶ μετὰ ταύτην τὴν ἁγνείαν εἰς ἴδιον οἴκημα συνίασιν, ἔνθα μηδενὶ τῶν ἑτεροδόξων ἐπιτέτραπται παρελθεῖν αὐτοί τε καθαροὶ καθάπερ εἰς ἅγιόν τι τέμενος παραγίνονται τὸ δειπνητήριον.


, . , .



- - , , .



Banus Washing Louw-Nida Sections 53.28-32, Religious Activities, Purify, Cleanse.


Vita. 11.6

Not content, however, with the experience thus gained, on hearing of one named Bannus, who dwelt in the wilderness, wearing  only such clothing  as trees provided, feeding on such things as grew of themselves, and using frequent ablutions of cold water, by day and night, for purity's sake, I became his devoted disciple. With him I lived for three years and, having accomplished my purpose, returned to the city. Being now in my nineteenth year I began to govern my life by the rules of the Pharisees, a sect having points of resemblance to that which the Greeks call the Stoic school.[119] (Loeb)


[A]nd bathed often in cold water, night and day, for chastity's sake.


Βίος 11:6

καὶ μηδὲ τὴν ἐντεῦθεν ἐμπειρίαν ἱκανὴν ἐμαυτῷ νομίσας εἶναι πυθόμενός τινα Βάννουν ὄνομα κατὰ τὴν ἐρημίαν διατρίβειν, ἐσθῆτι μὲν ἀπὸ δένδρων χρώμενον, τροφὴν δὲ τὴν αὐτομάτως φυομένην προσφερόμενον, ψυχρῷ δὲ ὕδατι τὴν ἡμέραν καὶ τὴν νύκτα πολλάκις λουόμενον πρὸς ἁγνείαν, ζηλωτὴς ἐγενόμην αὐτοῦ. καὶ διατρίψας παρ' αὐτῷ ἐνιαυτοὺς τρεῖς καὶ τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν τελειώσας εἰς τὴν πόλιν ὑπέστρεφον. ἐννεακαιδέκατον δ' ἔτος ἔχων ἠρξάμην τε πολιτεύεσθαι τῇ Φαρισαίων αἱρέσει κατακολουθῶν, ἣ παραπλήσιός ἐστι τῇ παρ' Ἕλλησιν Στωϊκῇ λεγομένῃ.


The preceding proves that Jewish usage of baptizo (βαπτίζω) and cognates varied according to the semantic domain, and that it was used in the particular Jewish semantic domain of religious purification. The NC writings make wide usage of this semantic domain, evidently driven to some extent by the coinage of the noun baptisma (βάπτισμα).


Baptisma (βάπτισμα) and the Jews

The four besorot briefly describe Yohanan's activity with the verb baptizo, together with the neologism baptisma (βάπτισμα). The noun baptisma is derived from the verb baptizo and is consistent with other nouns derived from verbs in the class of which baptizo belongs. This section considers possible circumstances which led to the coinage of baptisma and finds that there is no reason to see it strictly equivalent in meaning to immersion, or tevilah ().[120] Instead, evidence suggests that soon after after Messiah's resurrection baptisma was coined by Greek-speaking Yeshua-believing Jews, like Paul or Apollos, to convey a range of ideas. Colin Brown writes:


Baptisma appears for the first time in the N.T.  No instance of its occurrence in pagan and Jewish literature has yet been found.[121] 


The questions as to why and when baptisma was coined cannot be answered definitively, however the early proclamation of the Besorah to Greek-speaking diaspora Jews very likely led to its development. The earliest surviving written use of the noun is Romans 6:4, from Paul. However there is evidence that the nouns use was well-established among Yeshua-believing Jews by the time the three synoptic besorot were composed. Although the order in which the synoptic besorot were composed is debated, many scholars see strong evidence for Markan priority, i.e. Mark composed his besorah first, followed by Matthew and Luke who consulted Mark. The words of Yeshua, in Mark 10:38-39, evidently show the wide range of baptizos use, but also of baptisma the neologism.


Mark 10:38-39 (NA28)


38 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε. δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω ἢ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι;

38 Jesus said to them, You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?

39 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ δυνάμεθα. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω πίεσθε καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθήσεσθε.

39 And they said to him, We are able. And Jesus said to them, The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.


Evidently Yeshua spoke in a Hebrew couplet in which both of the couplets clauses related to the same thing: drinking from the cup followed by debilitating intoxication that sends the person reeling. Both metaphors express his coming suffering. The following examples in Hebrew confirm this.


Jeremiah 13:13-14

13 Then you shall say to them, Thus says the LORD:  Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on Davids throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 14 And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the LORD. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them. (ESV)


Jeremiah 25:17-18

So I took the cup from the LORDs hand, and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it: 18 Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day; (ESV)


Jeremiah 23:9

My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man,  like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and because of his holy words. (ESV)


Ezekiel 23:33

You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow.  A cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria; (ESV)


Habakkuk 2:15-16

 Woe to him who makes his neighbors drinkyou pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness! 16 You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision! The cup in the LORDs right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory! (ESV)


Indeed Jeremiah 13:13 and 25:18 say kings of the house of David are included in the decree of the cup and drunkenness. Thus in Mark 10 Yeshua may be self-identifying with the decree of drinking the cup and suffering the drunkenness of divine punishment even though he was guiltless.


All commentators agree that Messiahs words in Mark 10:38-39 mean suffering, raising the the question of which metaphorical images convey the suffering. All agree that drink the cup is a short-hand OT figure i.e. partaking of an extreme situation sent by God and which refers to drinking a cup of intoxicating wine ( ). The Tanakh uses this picture for the spiritually drunken inability to people to see the divine wrath that is about to fall.


The second clause, of being baptized with a baptism, is understood to intend suffering, but Christian commentators anachronistically impose an ecclesiastically tinged meaning often of an image of immersion or drowning or burial, rather than looking to broader contemporary usage in accord with the Hebrew couplet. Recent Hebrew translations of the New Covenant for Mark 10:38-39 use (to be immersed) and (immersion) for βαπτίζω and βάπτισμα which evidently reflects an some kind of immersion in a mikveh. Yet Yeshuas use of figure need not have jumped from the prophetic OT drinking a cup to late second Temple immersion in a mikveh. Indeed the figure of drinking the cup results in drunkenness. Indeed Philos use of βαπτιζω to express drunkenness, seen above, points to a surprising interpretation of Mark 10:38-39. Philos Greek and a modern Hebrew translation from the Bialik Institute read:


De Vita Contemplativa

οἶδα δέ τινας, [οἳ] ἐπειδὰν ἀκροθώρακες γένωνται, πρὶν τελέως βαπτισθῆναι, τὸν εἰς τὴν ὑστεραίαν πότον ἐξ ἐπιδόσεως καὶ συμβολῶν προευτρεπιζομένους, μέρος ὑπολαμβάνοντας τῆς ἐν χερσὶν εὐφροσύνης εἶναι τὴν περὶ τῆς εἰς τὸ μέλλον μέθης ἐλπίδα.

, .
(get drunk)

, , ,

: , 1997), 46)


The Hebrew rendering by Bialik Institute translators, who have no ecclesiastical creed to guard concerning βαπτίζω, simply translate as before they will get drunk () completely. We note that the identical form of the word, βαπτισθῆναι, is found in both Philo and Mark 10. Evidently, the second clauses of the two verses in Mark 10:38-39 were misinterpreted early on because Christian commentators knew that baptize and baptism spoke of the Churchs salvific ordinance. Surely the Messiah (via Mark) would not stoop to such a vulgar meaning as drunkenness, even though that understanding keeps the prophetic Hebrew couplet intact far better than the Christian alternative.


Matthews parallel of Mark 10 in the critical text version only includes drinking the cup, which sufficiently captures the OT figure without Marks rather heavy repetition of baptize and baptism. On the other hand, if Marks version actually contained a new different figure of Messiahs suffering represented by βαπτίζω and βάπτισμα, then, to me, one might ask why Matthew would omit that novel clause.


The following is a proposed Hebrew translation (and English translation) of these verses based on Philos usage:


38 Jesus said to them, You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be inebriated unto the drunkenness with which I get inebriated.

38 : " . ?"

39 And they said to him, We are able. And Jesus said to them, The cup that I drink you will drink, and you will be inebriated with the drunkenness with which I am inebriated.

39 : " ." : " ."


This propositions momentous implication is that both baptizo (βαπτίζω) and the neologism baptisma (βάπτισμα) were not bound to an exclusive ecclesiastical meaning, and were not bound solely to an idea of immersion, even on the lips of Messiah Yeshua. This has ramifications for interpreting Matthew 28:19, for example, where there is evidence that Messiah never intended a water rite, but rather the transformation of idolatrous first-century nations into servants of the living God.


Pauls use of Baptisma

The earliest document containing baptisma is Paul's letter to the Romans, (cf., Rom 6:4) which is typically dated from 55 to 57 CE. By all accounts, Paul's use of baptisma in Romans would precede the composition of the four extant Greek besorot and almost certainly it impacts our understanding of Yohanan's rite as a baptisma.[122] For the sake of comparison, the Greek text Rom 6:1-6[123] by The Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) is presented below, flanked by Daniel Gruber's English translation, The Messianic Writings,[124] and the Hebrew Tirgum Hadash[125] (New Translation) by the Bible Society in Israel, and the ESV. Gruber translates baptizo with immerse, and the Hebrew translates with tevilah (). Neither translation seems to grasp the magnitude of the transformation.


Romans 6:1-6

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in Sin so that grace may abound? 2 Far from it! We who died to Sin, how shall we still live in it?


3 Or do you+ not know that as many as were immersed into Messiah Yeshua were immersed into his death?


4 Therefore we were buried [co-entombed] with him through immersion to death, so that just as Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.


5 For if we have been planted with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection.


6 We know this: that our old man was put to death on the stake with him, so that the body of Sin might be made useless, so that we would no longer be in bondage to Sin. (The Messianic Writings)

Romans 6:1-6

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?


Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?


We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.



For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.


We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.




Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; *ἐπιμένωμεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, ἵνα ἡ χάρις πλεονάσῃ; μὴ γένοιτο οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, πῶς ἔτι ζήσομεν ἐν αὐτῇ;


ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε ὅτι ὅσοι ἐβαπτίσθημεν εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ ἐβαπτίσθημεν;


Συνετάφημεν οὖν αὐτῷ διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος εἰς τὸν θάνατον, ἵνα ὥσπερ ἠγέρθη Χριστὸς ἐκ νεκρῶν διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ πατρός, οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς περιπατήσωμεν.



Εἰ γὰρ σύμφυτοι γεγόναμεν τῷ ὁμοιώματι τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως ἐσόμεθα



τοῦτο γινώσκοντες ὅτι ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος συνεσταυρώθη, ἵνα καταργηθῇ τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ.

, ? ? ! , ?



, ?




, .





, .




: .


Paul's extraordinary usage of baptizo (βαπτίζω) in verse three is unlike previous Greek and Jewish usages of baptizo. In fact Paul rhetorically asked, "[D]o you not know?" as a warning sign to make sure his audience pays close attention to what he is about to explain. Paul's unique usage is accentuated by the neologism baptisma (βάπτισμα) in verse four. The idea of being baptized to death could be understood literally, as in the murder of Aristobulus which Josephus described, but how does one understand being baptized into Messiah's death? How is one co-entombed with Messiah by the "baptisma into death"? Douglas Moo explains that "Paul uses the language of 'realm transfer' to show how inconceivable is the suggestion that a believer should 'remain in sin' in order to accentuate grace (vv. 1-2a),"[126] and this suggests that the underlying thought behind Paul's teaching is some permanent internal transformation, not a one-time ritual act.[127]


One thing is certain in the Greek text, the twice-used verb, ebaptisthemen, (ἐβαπτίσθημεν) is aorist passive, meaning that the Roman disciples did not personally self-immerse either into Messiah or into his death, for if Paul had desired to describe self-immersion one would have expected middle voice.[128] This casts doubt on the idea that self-immersion, tevilah (), in a mikveh is the guiding idea in this passage. It is thus surprising that Moo insists "it is clear that Paul refers in vv. 3-4 to water baptism." Even so, Moo adds that the water baptism of his conception "is not the theme of the paragraph nor is it Paul's purpose to exposit his theology of baptism. Baptism, rather functions as shorthand for the conversion experience as a whole."[129]


Yet Moo admits: "To be sure, a few scholars have denied any reference to water baptism here, arguing that 'baptize' means 'immerse' in a metaphorical sense, or the Paul refers to 'baptism in the Spirit,' or that he uses 'baptize' as a metaphor for incorporation into the body of Christ." But Moo insists, "[W]ithout discounting the possibility of allusions to one or more of these ideas, a reference to water baptism is primary. By the date of Romans, 'baptize' had become almost a technical expression for the rite of Christian initiation by water, and this is surely the meaning the Roman Christians would have given the word."[130] Moo does not explain how he knows this about the Roman Christians, and even his brief note 38 simply asserts that baptizo in Paul is used in a Christian technical sense. But in view of Philo's and Josephus' distinctive usages of baptizo it seems much wiser to say that there is also a "Pauline" usage that is unlike the others. Paul himself actually writes of four different usages of baptizo (βαπτίζω) in his single epistle, first Corinthians, and in addition makes a striking parallel usage of apolouo (ἀπολούω) in the context of Messianic salvation (which Moo fails to mention):


      1 Cor 1:13-17, the Messianic water rite that Paul actively performed on the Corinthians, and which he stated that Messiah had not sent him to perform.

       1 Cor 6:11, in which Paul uses apolouo (ἀπολούω) in terms of a spiritual washing in Messianic redemptive phrasing.

       1 Cor 10:1-2, redemption of the Israelites by the leadership of Moses.

       1 Cor 12:13, redemption of Yeshua-believers in one body by operation of the Ruach Hakodesh.

        1 Cor 15:29, related to baptizing for the dead, which has confounded expositors for generations.


Far from using baptizo (βαπτίζω) as some well-defined Christian technical term, we see rather that Paul used both baptizo and apolouo with interchangeability and with wide-ranging flexibility in his own characteristic way. Thus, quite the reverse, Galatians and Romans are known to be among the earliest extant documents preserved by Yeshua-believers, and they do not reveal what Moo claims they do; the aorist passive forms that Paul used simply do not comport to participation in a physical water rite.


Thus it appears much simpler to argue that Paul used this striking neologism in a context far beyond a water rite; an external power acted on the disciples to bring them into a new state of being. Though Moo insists this passage speaks of water baptism he does observe that other scholars see a spatial meaning in this phrase: "we were baptized 'into union with Christ'" which again actually points to divine activity that is out of the hands of man.[131] James Dunn agrees that "in Paul the aorist passive clearly speaks of something done by God."[132] The obvious implication of the aorist passives in this passage is that Hashem causes this life-changing new state of being and Paul exhorts disciples to realize this and live by it.


Verse 4 is the heart of Paul's argument; the disciples have been synetaphemen (συνετάφημεν) co-entombed, in aorist passive, meaning the disciples were entombed passively, they did not bury themselves, and this entombment is caused by the very neologism that first appears here βαπτίσματος εἰς τὸν θάνατον baptisma into death.[133] Arguably this baptisma is also the cause of being synestaurothe (συνεσταυρώθη), being co-crucified, which is also in aorist passive. Not only are the disciples passively baptized, co-entombed and co-crucified, but Messiah himself was egerthe (ἠγέρθη), aorist passive, acted on and raised from the dead by an external power. In other words, Hashem acted on Messiah to change his condition, from death to life, and this fact is the linchpin of Paul's argument: "For as Messiah was (passively) raised from the dead, so also we (passively transformed) should walk in newness of life." In other words, just as Messiah passively received power from Hashem for new life from the dead, so disciples are to receive divine power for new life. Nothing in these verses demands a water rite. Instead, a chapter earlier the Roman disciples were reminded of a palpable spiritual event that they had experienced in their faith walk:


Romans 5:5

And hope does not disappoint us, because Gods love has been poured out into our hearts through the Ruakh Kodesh which was given to us. (The Messianic Writings)


5ἡ δὲ ἐλπὶς οὐ καταισχύνει ὅτι ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκκέχυται ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου τοῦ δοθέντος ἡμῖν.

, .


Certainly this verse was not a theoretical proposition for Roman disciples, but a living truth, of - ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ - of the loving-kindness of Hashem via the Ruach Hakodesh. Indeed, James Dunn writes:


Reception of the Spirit was generally a vivid experience in the remembered beginnings of Christian commitment, and Paul refers to it repeatedly, and could do so, precisely because it was such a striking highlight in the crucial transition. . . The focal and most memorable feature of their conversion and initiation was the gift of the Spirit.[134]


Moo also comments that the verb "pour out" connotes an "extravagant" effusion and he adds that Paul uses the same verb to depict the "pouring out" of God's Spirit in Titus 3:6, and mentions Eze 36:25-27 as well:


Paul's language reflects prophetic description of the eschatological gift of God's Spirit as part of the inauguration of the New Covenant (Moo's note 57 lists Joel 2:28 (3:1), Jer 31:31-34, and Eze 36:25-27). That covenant promises a new and permanent relationship between God and his people, a relationship in which our "sins are remembered no more" (Jer 31:34) and in which we are given a hope that involves "being changed into Christ's likeness from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor 3:12-18).[135]


This then supports the idea that Rom 5:5 must impact Paul's argument in Rom 6.


The Semantic Context for Coining Baptisma

During a living language's constant evolution words are coined to bear fresh concepts that are not well expressed by existing vocabulary. It appears that baptisma was coined to convey the concept of New Covenant transformation of human beings.


We saw above that taval () had virtually no role in shaping first commonwealth bodily washings. While Na'aman's purification was remarkable, use of taval is hardly decisive as to first commonwealth purification practices and need not mean more than getting into the river. The LXX's use of baptizo (βαπτίζω) for Na'aman's washing, in conjunction with louo (λούω) in the passage, likewise need not be taken as more than bathe, though possibly immerse. Moreover the LXX already had translated the Tanakh's usual term for washing, raḥaẓ () with the verb louo, so it seems highly unlikely that baptisma refers to the usual physical act of washing.


However the Pauline salvation washing, the loutron (λουτρόν) of Titus 3:5-7, describes a stunning radical transformation. If baptisma was appropriated to express transformation then one must set aside notions of mode (immersion) and instead consider a new abiding state (regeneration and renewal).


Titus 3:5-7

He saved us . . . through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Ruakh Kodesh. He poured the Spirit out upon us richly, through Yeshua the Messiah our Savior. (The Messianic Writings)

Προς Τίτον Γ 5-7

ἔσωσεν ἡμᾶς διὰ λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ ἀνακαινώσεως πνεύματος ἁγίου, οὗ ἐξέχεεν ἐφ' ἡμᾶς πλουσίως διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν.



Arguably, baptisma was gladly adopted in Pauline circles to describe the radical New Covenant transformation that results from a palpable reception of the Ruach Hakodesh.[136] This in turn supports the idea that baptisma in Eph 4:5 tells of the one regenerational transformation by one faith in the one Lord (εἷς κύριος, μία πίστις, ἓν βάπτισμα). In fact the Rom 6:4 baptism into death demands an instantaneous permanent transformation because one is not merely dead, but rather is simultaneously made alive to new life in Messiah. The Rom 6 transformation loudly echoes Ezekiel's eschatological pledge:


I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit inside you; I will take the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Eze 36:26)


Conceptually, removal of a stony heart is death to sin, while reception of a new heart of flesh is new life to Messiah, and this is the result of a new heart and new spirit. Note also that Hashem performs this operation on Israel, which is consistent with the Rom 6:3-4 transformation in aorist passive, signifying that Hashem himself is the external power who causes the transformation. Moreover, Galatians is commonly thought to be Paul's earliest epistle and Gal 3:27 also uses an aorist passive form of baptizo. All these Pauline grammatical features oppose self-immersion in a mikveh as the driving idea behind the transformation that clothes or co-entombs one with Messiah. Instead, Yeshua-believers receive passively this divine transformation, and it appears that this occurs as a result of Messiah's outpouring of the Ruach Hakodesh, as described in Rom 5:5 and Titus 3:5-7.[137] The upshot is that one must not assume that the meaning of baptisma can be determined by the sages' ruling for self-immersion, tevilah (). [138]


Finally one must not confuse the Titus 3 imagery with a mikveh. According to the sages a mikveh was considered kosher if the prescribed forty seah of naturally gathered water was already standing in the mikveh prior to self-immersion. But if an impure person stood in an empty mikveh pit and had water poured on him, then not only would he not be purified according to the laws of the mikveh, he would render the mikveh pasul (disqualified) from use. Paul surely knew this. It is thus virtually certain that Paul's imagery of a washing by pouring was not drawn from self-immersion in a mikveh.[139]


Semantic Domains of Baptizo and Cognates in the NC Writings

This section surveys usages of baptizo (βαπτίζω) and cognates and proposes additional semantic domains to help illuminate the sense. Existing LN categorizations are listed, and certain usages of baptizo are reclassified in other domains and subdomains. This section provides examples for consideration and is by no means exhaustive. There is also overlap as some occurrences can be classified in more than one way.


Severe Suffering Louw-Nida Sections 24.77-94, Sensory Events and States: Pain, Suffering.


This section already exists in LN and it describes both baptizo and baptisma as follows:


βαπτίζω           (βάπτισμα βαπτίζομαι) suffer severely                      24.82

βάπτισμα         (βάπτισμα βαπτίζομαι) suffer severely                      24.82


These are references to Mark 10:38-39 and Luke 12:50 which more than justify categorizing other unusual usages of these words.


Purification Washings in Jewish Tradition Louw-Nida Section 53.31 Religious Activities:

Purify, Cleanse.


Traditional purifications are important for the Jewish people but are not directly mandated by the Torah. Mark 7:3-4: Purification washings decreed by the sages. Luke 11:38: The verb ἐβαπτίσθη is aorist passive which indicates Yeshua failed to let someone baptize him.[140] It is widely accepted that this episode involves purifying of hands, which is described once in the Tanakh by pouring on the hands, cf., 2 Kings 3:11. Yeshua declined to undergo the washing as evidently there was no demand for it from the Torah. The form is most likely of pouring by attendants, cf., John 2:5-9. Acts 9:37: Tabitha's body was washed, louo (λούω), prior to burial, which is a Jewish custom of purification. 1 Cor 15:29: This seems most likely to refer to the same Jewish custom of purifying deceased Jews to be prepared for the resurrection, which would prove that the Jewish people have long believed in a general resurrection of the dead, the denial of which Paul is rebutting.


The nouns baptismos (βαπτισμός) and baptisma (βάπτισμα) do not occur in the LXX, yet Heb 9:10 says the Torah prescribed "diverse baptisms," (διαφόροις βαπτισμοῖς) and Hebrews' author used the LXX for citations. However this makes good sense when "diverse baptisms" convey the idea of diverse effects, i.e. purification or sanctification, not the form of immersion. Moreover, arguing that "diverse baptisms" conveys the idea of varying outcomes of different washings, all by immersion, does not solve the dilemma. If there are differing outcomes, then those differences are the author's focus and they surely relate to purification and sanctification. Furthermore, the author of Hebrews hardly confines himself to water washings, but states in Heb 9:13 for example that the "blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been profaned, sanctify for the purifying of the flesh." Thus we find evidence that Hebrews uses baptismois (βαπτισμοῖς) for all kinds of purification and sanctification rites, not solely for immersions. In addition, since the noun baptismos derives from the verb baptizo, not the verb bapto, it is virtually certain that the diaphorois baptismois (διαφόροις βαπτισμοῖς) of Heb 9:10 refer to major effects of purification and sanctification, but not to the subservient minor dipping actions translated in the LXX by bapto.


Yohanan's Rite Louw-Nida Section 53.41 Religious Activities: Baptize.


Just as Baptistes (βαπτιστής) was given a unique LN section designation, 53.43, so it is quite reasonable to propose a specific subdomain for Yohanan's unique rite, Section 53.41.01: in comparison to Messiah's activity with the Ruach Hakodesh: Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; John 1:33; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16. Other passages express its uniqueness: Luke 7:29-30; Luke 20:4; Mark 11:30; Matt 21:25; Acts 13:24.


Messiah's Purification by the Ruach Hakodesh Louw-Nida Section 53.41 Religious Activities: Baptize.


If the proposal of a subdomain for Yohanan's activity is accepted, then it is quite reasonable to propose a subdomain for Yeshua's unique activity, Section 53.41.02: Messiah's activity with the Ruach Hakodesh: Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; John 1:33; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16; 1 Cor 6:11, louo (λούω); 1 Cor 12:13; (Titus 3:5-6, Eph 5:26, already have a specific domain, loutron (λουτρόν), washing 53.43, though in the LN lexicon it appears to speak of a literal water washing, not that of the Ruach Hakodesh.)


Comparison of Water and Spirit Louw-Nida Section 53.41 Religious Activities: Baptize.


Yohanan's work and Messiah's activity are compared directly six times in the NC, which almost certainly means this contrast was well known and appreciated by the early Yeshua-believing community. Thus there is warrant for a subdomain for this concept, proposed as Section 53.41.03, and it directly overlaps with Yohanan's rite and Messiah's purification:  Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; John 1:33; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16.


Change of Lordship Louw-Nida Sections 57.1-21, Possess, Transfer, Exchange: Have, Possess, Property, Owner.


The LN lexicon includes a lengthy domain, Possess, Transfer, Exchange, and in the NC writings there are several usages of baptizo, in conjunction with eis, that appear to parallel this idea of transfer of lordship within a spiritual domain, which justifies the proposal of Section 57.22: Acts 8:16; Acts 19:5-6; 1 Cor 10:1; 1 Cor 1:13-16; Gal 3:27; Matt 28:19.


New Covenant Transformation Louw-Nida Sections 13.48-68, Be, Become, Exist, Happen: Change of State.


Titus 3:5 in particular describes in vivid detail the inner transformation that occurs when one receives the Ruach Hakodesh. This transformation can be detected in various passages and warrants a subdomain, 13.64.01: Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor 6:11, apolouo (ἀπολούω); Eph 4:5; Col 2:12; 1 Pe 3:21; Titus 3:5-6, loutron (λουτρόν); Eph 5:26, loutron (λουτρόν).


Baptizo Not Used in Certain Semantic Domains in the NC Writings

Luke and Acts alone contain thirty-one usages of baptizo, the most of any of the NC writings; indeed, this is more usages than the LXX, Philo and Josephus combined. However, it is clear that Luke, as well as the other NC authors, avoided using baptizo in semantic domains that Josephus preferred; e.g. the sinking of ships and drowning:


Luke 5:7: So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; and they came and filled both boats to the point of sinking [of being baptized].


Luke 8:23: So they set out; and as they were sailing, he fell asleep. A windstorm came down on the lake, so that the boat began to fill up with water, putting them in great danger [of being baptized].


Luke 8:33: The demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, whereupon the herd rushed down the hillside into the lake and were drowned [baptized].


Luke 17:2: It would be to his advantage that he have a millstone hung around his neck and he be thrown [baptized] into the sea, rather than that he ensnare one of these little ones.


Acts 27: This passage contains lengthy description of a ship in danger of sinking, and after it had run aground the passengers went into the sea, virtually identical to situations Josephus described using baptizo (e.g., the ship on which Jonah sailed was in danger of being baptized).


Matt 14:30: But when he saw the wind, he became afraid; and as he began to sink [be baptized], he yelled, "Lord! Save me!"


While Mark 10:38-39 examined above shows that baptize and baptism were used in the semantic domain of drunkenness, other authors like Luke avoided this usage:


Luke 12:45: But if that servant says to himself, My master is taking his time coming, and starts bullying the men- and women-servants, and eating and drinking, getting drunk [baptized].


Luke 21:34: But keep watch on yourselves, or your hearts will become dulled by carousing, drunkenness [being baptized] and the worries of everyday living, and that Day will be sprung upon you suddenly like a trap!


Acts 2:15: These people aren't drunk [baptized], as you suppose it's only nine in the morning. 


These examples show that authors of the NC writings tended to focus on using baptize in a positive, godly context, though Mark 10:38-39 and Luke 12:50 prove they did not confine themselves solely Jewish ritual practices.


This section has presented clear evidence that from the LXX to the NC writings Jewish authors used baptizo with wide flexibility that goes far beyond the idea of immerse. That being the case, one cannot dismiss the likelihood that baptizo and cognates were used to describe the purifying effect of Yohanan's rite, not the physical form. If so, then nothing in the Greek NC prohibits Yohanan from having inaugurated Eze 36:25. The following section takes a closer look at Yohanan and his Besorah in Hebrew.


Part Three Yohanan Hanavi

We now reconsider Yohanan as a Navi a Prophet to Israel. We will propose the core message in Hebrew that Yohanan actually proclaimed to Israel, as well reconsider where he performed his rite.


The Original Language of Yohanan's Besorah

Yohanan awakened Israel to the imminent Kingdom and he almost certainly declared his Besorah in Hebrew. Continued research has cast more light on the question of languages in Judea during late second Temple and has proved that Hebrew was far more common than previously thought. David Flusser writes about the Jewish people's knowledge of Hebrew at the time of Yeshua:


Today, after the discovery of the Hebrew Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus), of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and of the Bar Kokhba Letters, and in the light of more profound studies of the language of the Jewish Sages, it is accepted that most people were fluent in Hebrew.[141]


Yohanan may have known Aramaic and it is possible that he was conversant in Greek, yet he self-identified as the Voice of Isa 40:3 and was known as the Messenger of Mal 3:1, both eschatological personages of the Tanakh. The audience of Yohanan's Besorah was Israel, not the western Greek-speaking world or the eastern Aramaic-speaking world. So Yohanan would have best fulfilled his calling by declaring his Besorah in Hebrew.


If Yohanan did not use Greek, then he could not have used baptizo or baptisma. What then did Yohanan declare in the Hebrew? If he had begun his ministry proclaiming simply, "I immerse you in water" ( ), then his audience would have been perplexed because there is no such eschatological immersion in the Tanakh, or an occurrence of taval () in hifil form, hitbil (), to signify active causation of immersion.[142] There is no episode in the Tanakh where one person dips another, even with the qal form tovel (), nor did Elisha act as witness to Na'aman's self-washing. Mishnaic tradition has no demand for one person to actively immerse someone else, and while the Dead Sea Scrolls certainly point to Hashem's eschatological purification of mankind there is no evident reference to personal immersion in an eschatological setting.[143]


It is widely accepted that routine Jewish washings contemporary to Yohanan were self-immersion, so those who argue that Yohanan actively immersed people inadvertently propose that he was an innovator, outside the body of sages and not conforming to Israel's prophets. Others propose that Yohanan only acted as a witness, see below. Yet these suggestions raise perplexing questions. How could Yohanan devise an eschatological immersion while ignoring the purification promised to Israel in Eze 36:25 for six hundred years? Why would he claim to fulfill the prophetic Voice of Isaiah, yet invent on his own a rite in place of that of a fellow cohen, Ezekiel? These conundrums result from the notion that baptizo can only mean immerse, and that Yohanan must have conformed to second commonwealth traditions of self-immersion. But if, in the Jewish religious domain, baptizo means purify, then suddenly these problems evaporate. Indeed, the surprise of Jewish authorities from Jerusalem was not Yohanan's rite, but rather his performance of it since he was not the eschatological figure that they expected to perform it (John 1:25).


Many Jews quickly submitted to Yohanan's call to national repentance and recognized him as a prophet of the long-promised Kingdom, surmising that he was Elijah or Messiah. It seems highly likely that Yohanan inaugurated Eze 36:25, and that he described his activity in various Heeschatological terms. Yohanan proclaimed many things to the people beyond what was recorded (Luke 3:18) leading to the likelihood that he declared a rich cluster of Hebrew ideas during the course of his activity. Josephus attested to Yohanan's widespread approval and said his rite provided sanctification on the basis of a soul made righteousness by previous purification (i.e. repentance). It provided:


[A] consecration of the body implying that the soul was already thoroughly cleansed by right behavior. (Loeb)[144]

ἀλλ᾽ ἐφ᾽ ἁγνείᾳ τοῦ σώματος, ἅτε δὴ καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς δικαιοσύνῃ προεκκεκαθαρμένης.


If Yohanan's goal was Israel's sanctification, then how might he have originally described his activity in Hebrew? Actually he might easily have declared sanctification directly:


I sanctify you with water. The One coming after me will sanctify you with the Ruach Hakodesh and fire.

, .



Indeed, the hope of being "sanctified" by the Holy Spirit is emphasized in Hebrew because that term is from the same root () used in the term Ruach Hakodesh ( ). So this phrase would resonate strongly with Hebrew speaking Jews. At other times Yohanan might have emphasized eschatological purification:


I purify you with water. The One coming after me will purify you with the Ruach Hakodesh and fire.

, .


The benefit of this version is that it joins two eschatological purifications known to Israel: the first, purification by water (Eze 36:25), and the second, purification by fire, by Messiah (Malachi 3:2-3), which itself strongly implies purification by the Ruach Hakodesh:


Malachi 3:2-3

For he will be like a refiner's fire, like the soapmaker's lye. He will sit, testing and purifying the silver; he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold and silver [Emphasis added]


- , . , , -- , .


Since Yohanan was said to be the initial messenger of Mal 3:1, and since he himself was a cohen a son of Levi then he arguably had this purifying transformation in mind when he told Messiah that he needed to be baptized, i.e. purified by him (Matt 3:14). It seems highly probable that Malachi's promise strongly influenced Yohanan's announcement of Messiah's work with the Holy Spirit and fire, an expression that could be understood as a hendiadys, i.e. the Holy Spirit, even fire ( , ).[145] The fiery Ruach Hakodesh promised in Malachi would purify what was valuable by burning away the dross.


At other times Yohanan may have used raḥaẓ (), the standard Hebrew verb for a purification washing. The first part of the phrase would echo Moses' washing of Aaron and sons in Lv 8:16, while the second part, of Ruach Hakodesh and fire, would loudly echo the fiery washing of Isa 4:3-4:


I am washing you with water. The One coming after me will wash you with the Ruach Hakodesh and fire.

, .


Leviticus 8:6

Moshe brought Aharon and his sons, washed them with water.


, - -; , .


Isaiah 4:3-4

And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.


, --, :  - , . , -, - , -- , .


Though the following seems less likely, Yohanan may also have declared the Besorah in modal terms, both for his activity and for that of the coming Messiah. The Eze 36:25, zarak (), would apply to his activity, while Joel 3:1 (2:28) shafaḳ, (), or Isa 44:3, yaẓak, () would apply to that of Messiah. Followers of Messiah understood Yeshua's activity in terms of Joel's outpouring of the Spirit so it is certainly possible that Yohanan himself also had that prophecy in mind as he proclaimed Messiah's coming.


I am splashing water on you. The One coming after me will pour out the Ruach Hakodesh and fire on you.

, () .


Yohanan almost certainly declared the Besorah in Hebrew, and he probably described his work in different terms at various times, including washing, sanctification and purification. The writers of the Greek besorot chose the verb baptizo in its Jewish religious semantic domain for purification-sanctification, along with the newly-coined baptisma to capture this collection of Hebrew terminology. It is virtually certain that they did not intend the restrictive modal notion of immerse or immersion.


Passive Witness of Self-immersion? or Active Purifier of Israel?

Recent translations of the New Covenant by Messianic Jews use immerse for baptizo[146] and these English translations follow Hebrew translations that used tevilah ().[147] However, in the four besorot the active and passive forms of baptizo in the texts do not comport with self-immersion. Yohanan actively baptized,[148] while the people, including Yeshua, were passively baptized.[149] The active and passive verb forms of baptizo do however support Eze 35:25, particularly when one agrees the term speaks of purifying.


Yet some scholars argue that Yohanan was an official witness who only called the repentant to self-immersion. This view imposes an awkward technical sense on baptizo because when Yohanan said "I baptize with water" his intent would have been, "I, as a witness, call you to self-immersion in water." But it is impossible to maintain logical consistency with the immediately following phrase related to Messiah: "He, as a witness, will call you to self-immersion in the Spirit." This is obviously spurious. There are no standing pools of the Spirit nor is Messiah a passive witness to the activity of the repentant. Howard Marshall offers the following criticism of this view:


"[J. Jeremias] argued [in New Testament Theology I, London: SCM Press 1971, 51] that the underlying Aramaic expression means 'to undergo immersion, immerse oneself' rather than 'to be baptized' by somebody else, and that accordingly John had the function of a witness to the self-immersion of his converts. Against this view it may be argued that one would perhaps have expected a Greek middle rather than a passive to express this sense, and that it does not do full justice to John's nickname of 'the Baptizer' which suggests a more active role than that of a witness."[150]


Joan Taylor has no clear understanding of what Yohanan did, but she also finds no evidence to support the idea that Yohanan was merely a witness to self-immersion.


The action could have been self-administered, with John directing or participating. However, he must have been more than a witness, because a witness could never be understood as "immersing" someone else. In the rabbinic period, a new convert to Judaism had to immerse himself or herself in a ritual bath in the presence of witnesses (b. Yebam. 46b), but these witnesses did not actually "baptize" the person.[151]


Acts 8:38 provides further hints as to the form of the Messianic purification rite. Philip and the Eunuch both go down to, or into, the water, and there Philip actively baptized him:


[A]nd they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. (ESV)

καὶ κατέβησαν ἀμφότεροι εἰς τò ὕδωρ ὅ τε Φίλιππος καὶ ὁ εὐνου̃χος, καὶ ἐβάπτισεν αὐτόν.


There certainly is no reason for Philip to go down into the water to witness the Eunuch's self-immersion, and as stated, active immersing of the Eunuch would not conform to contemporary halachah which prescribes self-immersion. Philip's activity clearly parallels Yohanan's active involvement in the eschatological Jewish purification, and both comport with Eze 36:25.[152]


Yohanan's Besorah: Repentance, Remission of Sin and Purification

Further evidence supports the idea that Yohanan initiated Ezekiel's purification since Ezekiel too demanded brokenness and remorse for transgression:


Ezekiel 36:31-32

Then you shall recall your evil ways and your base conduct, and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abhorrent practices. Not for your sake will I act -- declares the Lord GOD -- take good note! Be ashamed and humiliated because of your ways, O House of Israel! (JPS Tanakh)


- , -; , , ‍, . -, --, :  , .


Though these verses about the remembrance of and brokenness over abhorrent practices follow the purification and transformation it is obvious that all of these verses form a complete description of Ezekiel's Kingdom promise. Israel must collectively repent for being a disobedient nation, and this will occur precisely at the point of the nation's purification and spiritual transformation. Ezekiel calls to the entire House of Israel; Yohanan likewise cried out for precisely this national repentance, and he certainly believed he performed a national purification for those who believed his message. Even a righteous Jew who knew no flagrant transgression ought to be broken to the core because Israel as a whole had failed to live up to Hashem's righteous standards. Robert Webb notes in Josephus' words that Yohanan's Besorah calls for corporate action by the covenant people:


In light of Jewish self-understanding as the elect, covenant people of God and a hope for national restoration, Johns announcement of restoration as well as judgment would have been understood corporately. That Johns baptism functioned as an initiatory rite is also suggested by Josephus statement in Ant. 18.117: John "exhorted the Jews to practice virtue and act with justice toward one another and with piety toward God, and so to gather together by baptism, βαπτισμῷ συνιέναι." The verb συνιέναι means "to come together" or "to gather together," with the implication of a common purpose, and the gathering together accomplishes this purpose.[153]


Yohanan's call was national, not individual. The question boiled down to whether or not anyone actually believed Yohanan was the eschatological Messenger of Hashem. Many received Yohanan as Hashem's urgent Voice to the nation, but many did not. 


It is safe to say that most views of Yohanan's rite, past and present, fail to find linkage to any particular prophecy of the Tanakh. Yet currently there is a growing lack of consensus on Yohanan's activity, which Craig Evans terms a "dichotomy" among scholars on the purificatory and initiatory aspects of Yohanan's rite.[154]


On the one hand we have the better known interpretation of John's baptism as prophetic, initiatory, restorative, and once-only, while on the other hand we have a newer interpretation that views the baptism as repeated ritual immersion for purification, not unlike that practiced by many Jews and Jewish groups.[155]


Evans himself attempts to find middle ground by arguing that "it is not necessary to view a prophetic, restorative dimension of John's baptism as competing with another dimension that recommends repeated immersions for purification. Parallels between the lifestyle and teaching of John suggest an overlap of both ideas."[156] On the other hand, Bruce Chilton argues that most of what is presented about Yohanan regarding repentance represents an "anachronistic assignment to John of an element of the language of catechesis within early Christianity."[157] Joan Taylor argues that Yohanan's rite, like other Jewish rites, was for purification, but was not symbolic or initiatory.[158] Joseph Fitzmyer evidently argues that Yohanan's rite was neither unique, nor initiatory, nor not-to-be-repeated, but that Yohanan would administer the rite for any Jew who came for forgiveness of sins as often as he would come.[159] Colin Brown moves far beyond any of these ideas and suggests Yohanan acted as a prophet leading Israel across the Jordan to symbolically reenter the Promised Land.[160]


Because these scholars fail to see Yohanan's activity in terms of a specific Hebrew prophecy they approach his rite as an innovation that was based mostly on contemporary second Temple Jewish practices, and they take baptizo and cognates to refer to the second Temple practice of full immersion. At the same time they fail to explain how the active form of the verb is related to Yohanan. This failure to identify Yohanan's rite in the Tanakh is all the more astonishing since scholars like Craig Evans cite the Hebrew prophets in reference to Yohanan's vague comment about Hashem raising stones up as children to Avraham:


According to tradition shared by Matthew and Luke (in what usually is identified as the Q source), the Baptist warns the Jewish people not to presume upon Gods grace by saying, We have Abraham as our father. No Jew can say this, John asserts, because God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham (Matthew 3: 9; cf. Luke 3: 8). Reference to these stones in the context of the Jordan River may well have alluded to the story of Joshua building a monument of twelve stones when the twelve tribes of Israel crossed the Jordan to enter the promised land. . . . The symbolism of twelve stones also appears in the story of Elijah, who led the struggle in Israel against the adoption of foreign gods.[161]


First of all there is no shortage of stones in Israel, and lacking any reference to the twelve stones of Joshua's monument in Matthew and Luke it seems quite a stretch to suppose Yohanan had that in mind. But the point is that modern scholars are able to find a basis in prophetic material for Yohanan's vague comment. How is it then that Yohanan's rite, the very focus of his eschatological activity, draws such a blank among scholars?


Then too Yohanan's insistent call to repentance is often thought to signify antagonism to the Temple. Chilton observes however:


The notion that John somehow opposed the cult in the Temple is weakly based. The argument is sometimes mounted that, because John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, he consciously challenged the efficacy of sacrificial forgiveness. Such assertions invoke a supposed dualism between moral and cultic atonement which simply has no place in the critical discussion of early Judaism, and they in no way suffice to establish that John deliberately opposed worship in the Temple.[162]


Yohanan's reception of Jewish authorities from Jerusalem and his response to their questions evidently shows that he bore no animus toward Jerusalem or the Temple (John 1:19-27). As Hashem's messenger who appeals to the entire nation he could not refuse to engage anyone in Israel. On the other hand, in the office of a national prophet, Yohanan must also judge lack of readiness to repent, including by the king, Herod Antipas, which indeed the synoptic accounts highlight. The point is that neither Ezekiel's prophecy nor Yohanan's Besorah posit the replacement of Israel's Torah or the purification rites therein. Indeed Ezekiel promises Israel's divine empowerment to live up to all that Hashem commands in the Torah, which evidently includes individual bodily washings:


Ezekiel 36:27

[A]nd I will put My spirit into you. Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules. (JPS Tanakh)

-, ; , - , , .


However Christian supersessionism assumes that a final "baptism" has canceled all previous Jewish washings of the Torah, and this idea evidently has influenced many modern scholars' view of Yohanan's rite. But Yohanan never said his rite cancels or replaces other rites; he specifically called for national repentance and participation in his rite to enter the imminent Kingdom. In other words, Yohanan's eschatological purification is one thing; rites of the Torah are something else and there is no sign they suddenly lose authority.


In addition to these issues, the synoptics combine the water rite and repentance in a way that has remained something of an enigma. Matthew uses baptizo as a verb and writes:


Matthew 3:11

I baptize you with water for repentance. (ESV)

Κατά Ματθαίον

ἐγὼ μὲν βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν·

Kenneth Wuest provides the likely sense of this phrase: the purification rite is performed "at" repentance, not "for" repentance:


A comparison of this passage with Matthew 12:41 where the same preposition eis is translated "at," namely, "the men of Ninevah repented at, (because of) the preaching of Jonah," makes it clear that John said, "Repent, and be baptized because of the remission of sins." The same holds true of Peter's words in Acts 2:38, where the same preposition is used. This is confirmed by context in Matthew (3:7-9) where John refuses to baptize the Pharisees and Sadducees because they did not show evidences of repentance. This is also shown to be the correct interpretation and the translation eis here, by the testimony of Josephus who declared that John taught the Jews that the rite of baptism would not wash away sins, but was for those who had already had their souls purified beforehand.[163]


Yohanan's rite does not facilitate repentance, but rather "at" one's repentance the rite is performed. Mark 1:5 and Matt 3:6 make clear that people confessed their sins and participated in Yohanan's rite. Yet Mark and Luke make use of an identical phrase that appears to complicate the matter:


Mark 1:4 (cf., Luke 3:3)

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (ESV)

Κατά Μάρκον 1:4

ἐγένετο Ἰωάννης [ὁ] βαπτίζων ἐν τῇἐρήμῳ καὶ κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.


We immediately notice that the neologism baptisma (βάπτισμα) is used in this phrase, (βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν) and in light of the investigation above on Rom 6, this ought to alert us to the probability of nuanced usage. If this term bears any of the sense intended previously in Romans, then arguably the basic idea conveyed is this:


A repentance transformation, unto forgiveness of sins.


In this line of reasoning baptisma does not specifically refer to the water rite, but rather to the entire process of one's transformation which is occasioned by repentance, forgiveness and the water purification. Mark's use of baptizo just earlier in the verse provides context to show that this particular transformation is intimately tied to Yohanan's water rite. Yet there is good reason to believe that usage of baptisma in this phrase does not speak primarily of simple immersion in water.


Mayim Hayim ( ) for Purification

This section takes a closer look at the highest grade of water for purification according to the sages, mayim hayim ( ), and posits that Yohanan's activity was purification of the repentant with spring water in the wilderness around the Jordan, but not immersion in the channel of the Jordan River south of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).


The sages' study of Lv 11:36 determined that a cistern filled naturally with rain water could purify, or a large depression filled naturally with water from a spring could purify. In other words, natural sources of water that gather in a cistern or pit can purify.[164] From this verse and others, the sages determined that there were six grades of water for purification, the highest of which is living water, mayim hayim ( ), from a cool, sweet spring. The six ascending grades are listed in the Mishnah, Tohorot, tractate Mikva'ot, 1:



, .

Mey gebain gathering of rain water in a depression less than forty seah.

( , ' ) ( ).[165]

Mey tamtziyot water after rain that flows into a basin less than forty seah.

, , ( ).

Mikveh of forty seah.

, , .

Mayan a spring of little output with additional drawn water.

, .

Mayim mukin a spring of warm or brackish water that purify even while creeping along.

,  , .

Mayim hayim a spring of unceasing, cool, sweet water

, .


The last two grades, mayim mukin ( ) and mayim hayim ( ), both referring to spring water, can purify while creeping along even without gathering in a mikveh. If the sages' ruling of immersion has been assumed to relate to Yohanan's eschatological purification, then surely this additional halachic ruling that spring water, by itself, can purify even without gathering in a pit must also be kept in mind. The term mayim hayim ( ) is found in the Torah (cf., Gen 26:19; Lv 14:5, 6, 50, 51; Num 19:17) and was expressed by Messiah in the NC writings (cf., John 7:37-38).


The sages considered the Jordan River emerging from the large springs at the Banias north of the Kinneret to be the highest grade, i.e. living water, mayim hayim ( ), and fit for the red heifer purification, Parah 8:11. However, the sages considered the Jordan River south of the Kinneret "mixed" waters and thus unsuitable for use as living water for preparing the red heifer ashes, Parah 8:10.


Parah 8:10

The waters of the Jordan and the waters of the Yarmuk are invalid, because they are mixed waters. Mixed waters are thus: one is kosher and the other invalid that are mixed together. If both were kosher and mixed together then they are kosher. [Author's translation]

, , . , . , .



If the sages investigated the quality of Jordan River south of the Kinneret and ruled it pasul invalid as living water, then almost certainly Yohanan likewise made his own quality evaluation of the waters he used, which after all was the centerpiece of his eschatological work and source for his surname, ho Baptistes (ὁ βαπτιστὴς). John 3:25 suggests that Yohanan and his talmidim were mindful of halachic issues of purification, otherwise there would have been nothing to argue about.


Water from springs in the Jordan Valley south of the Kinneret would be appropriate for purification, but would the Jordan River south of the Kinneret? Prima facie, the constraints of Lv 11:36 seem to stipulate that drinkable water remains pure. If true, then the river south of the Kinneret is of far less than optimum quality. The Jordan Valley from the Kinneret to the Dead Sea is 65 miles, but the river meanders so much that it is some 135 miles long.[166] The river carries silt to the Dead Sea, and spring flooding typically erodes banks and changes the river's course. Colin Brown writes of the Jordan River:


If one fell into the southern part of the Jordan where John is traditionally believed to have baptized, the first thing that one would want would be a shower to rinse off the dirt from the sediment. Apart from times when swollen by the winter rains, those southern stretches of the Jordan that are accessible are often shallow and sluggish. While religious bathing in unclean water is not unknown and intention counts more than the quality of the water (as is evident from bathing in the Ganges), insistence on purity of the water is well attested in Jewish literature. If ritual purification were the prime consideration in John's baptism, the lower Jordan would seem to be precluded.[167]


Moreover, spring flooding is the direct result of rain, and flowing rain water is not a "mikveh," i.e. a stationary gathering of water.[168] In addition, neither the term stream, naḥal (), nor river, nahar (), are included in Lv 11:36 as sources of water for purification, and this arguably excludes the Jordan River from the original intent of the Torah.[169] These issues throw into question the legitimacy of self-immersion in the flowing Jordan River south of the Kinneret.


Yohanan Beyond the Jordan River

Strong circumstantial evidence in the NC writings supports the argument that Jews did not use the Jordan River south of the Kinneret for religious purification. The author of John's besorah claims to be an eyewitness of what he recorded (John 19:35; 21:24). If so, then the synoptic accounts of Yohanan's activity seemingly at the Jordan River must be scrutinized and weighted accordingly, because John's besorah states clearly that Yohanan's early activity was "beyond the Jordan" (cf., John 10:40: πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, εἰς τὸν τόπον ὅπου ἦν Ἰωάννης τὸ πρῶτον βαπτίζων, cf., John 1:28; 3:26) and subsequently Yohanan is never located in the channel of Jordan River.


While the location of Bethany beyond the Jordan is uncertain, the Greek Βηθανίᾳ sounds like the Hebrew, beit ayn-Yah,   ‑ , i.e. the Place of the Spring of Yah, (or better, beit ay-nei-Yah,   ‑ , i.e. the Place of the Springs of Yah) which is admittedly unknown to history. But Yohanan's high esteem among the repentant of Israel could have led to an impromptu naming of the location in the wilderness where he was active. Indeed, Yohanan's name begins with Yo, which is analogous to Yah in compound name construction. In that case, the name beit ay-nei-Yah might have been selected to refer directly to both Hashem and to Yohanan. If true, this adds support to the idea that springs were Yohanan's source of water, not the Jordan River. Yet, even this description, beyond the Jordan, reveals dependence on the river as a reference point. Bruce Chilton critiques Robert Webb's portrayal of Yohanan as a popular prophet at the Jordan River:


[Webb's] admission does scant justice to the clear indications that the reference to the Jordan in Mt. 3.6/ Mk 1.5 is not to be taken as a limitation: the specific word 'river' is omitted in significant witnesses, and the Lukan analogue (3.3) is a purely regional reference. Moreover, the Baptist is explicitly portrayed as baptizing at other sites in John's Gospel (Bethany in 1.28, Aenon in 3.23); and although his setting is Judaean, the Jordan River is not mentioned as a place where people are baptized. Within the Fourth Gospel, the Jordan is more a point of reference (1.28; 3.26; cf. 10.40) than a place where action unfolds (or in which people re-enact the Exodus).[170]


The Johannine exclusion of activity at the Jordan River seemingly raises a contradiction to Mark's and Matthew's focus on it, but actually that is caused by an over reading of the latter two accounts. The Jordan River was simply a well-known reference point for each of the four besorot. Luke locates Yohanan's activity in all the surrounding regions, Luke 3:4, (πᾶσαν [τὴν] περίχωρον τοῦ Ἰορδάνου), but surprisingly, like John's besorah, never actually locates Yohanan at the Jordan River.


However, Mark and Matthew are both are dependent on other sources and both recognize the importance of a reference point to help readers locate Yohanan's activity. Both accounts describe Yohanan's tremendous impact on the Jewish population of Jerusalem, Judea and the area around the Jordan, together with the general location of his activity. The table below shows a clear textual relationship between Mark 1:5 and Matt 3:5-6 which is usually ascribed to Markan priority and Matthean dependence.


Mark 1:5

Matthew 3:5-6



ἐξεπορεύετο πρòς αὐτòν

ἐξεπορεύετο πρòς αὐτòν



πα̃σα ἡ 'Ιουδαία χώρα

'καὶ πα̃σα ἡ 'Ιουδαία

καὶ οἱ 'Ιεροσολυμι̃ται πάντες



καὶ πα̃σα ἡ περίχωρος
του̃ 'Ιορδάνου

καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο

καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο

ὑπ' αὐτου̃
ἐν τω̨̃ 'Ιορδάνη̨ ποταμω̨̃

ἐν τω̨̃' Ιορδάνη̨ ποταμω̨̃
ὑπ' αὐτου̃

τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτω̃ν

τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτω̃ν

And all the country of Judea
and all Jerusalem

Then Jerusalem
and all Judea


and all the region
about the Jordan

were going out to him,

were going out to him,

and were being baptized
by him
 in the river Jordan,

and they were baptized
 by him
 in the river Jordan,

confessing their sins. (ESV)

confessing their sins. (ESV)


Mark and Matthew imply that Yohanan actively performed his rite by saying the people were passively "being baptized by him" (καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ὑπ' αὐτου̃) and as such the repentant did not self-immerse, but rather participated passively under Yohanan's active performance. The most obvious choices available for this textual feature are either that Yohanan actively immersed, or else that he actively purified by whatever means. With no caused-immersion or even self-immersion associated with the Tanakh's promise of the Kingdom, Eze 36:25 provides the most reasonable source for Yohanan's activity.


The Greek preposition en (ἐν) of the phrase, en toi Iordane potamoi (ἐν τω̨̃ 'Ιορδάνη̨ ποταμω̨̃), might easily be understood to convey in the vicinity of the Jordan River. Nevertheless, Mark 1:9 leads many to believe that Yohanan immersed people eis (εἰς) into the Jordan River, yet that sense cannot be proved because Mark used eis (εἰς) in ways that Matthew did not, i.e. Matthew uses epi (ἐπὶ τὸν ᾿Ιορδάνην) in his parallel to Mark's eis (εἰς τὸν ᾿Ιορδάνην). Even the differences in the arrangement of the texts cannot be shown to prove that Mark used eis (εἰς) to mean into, rather than at.


Matthew 3:13

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. (ESV)

Κατά Ματθαίον 3:13

Τότε παραγίνεται ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐπὶ τὸν ᾿Ιορδάνην πρὸς τὸν ᾿Ιωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ.

Κατά Μάρκον 1:9

Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἦλθεν ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἐβαπτίσθη εἰς τὸν ᾿Ιορδάνην ὑπὸ ᾿Ιωάννου.

Mark 1:9

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. (ESV)


This is accentuated in the Matt 15:29Mark 7:31 parallel where Matthew uses para (παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν) beside the sea, while Mark writes eis (εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν), and it is very clear that Mark does not mean Yeshua and followers actually got into the sea.


Matthew 15:29

Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. (ESV)

Κατά Ματθαίον 15:29

Καὶ μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἦλθε παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ ἀναβὰς εἰς τὸ ὄρος ἐκάθητο ἐκεῖ.

Κατά Μάρκον 7:31

Καὶ πάλιν ἐξελθὼν ἐκ τῶν ὁρίων Τύρου ἦλθεν διὰ Σιδῶνος εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν ὁρίων Δεκαπόλεως.

Mark 7:31

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. (ESV)


In addition, in Matt 24:3 Yeshua sat down epi (ἐπὶ τοῦ ὄρους), on the mount, while Mark 13:3 has eis (εἰς τὸ Ὄρος) and this cannot mean that Yeshua sat down "into" the mount.


Matthew 24:3

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? (ESV)

Κατά Ματθαίον 24:3

καθημένου δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦ ὄρους τῶν ἐλαιῶν προσῆλθον αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ κατ᾿ ἰδίαν λέγοντες· εἰπὲ ἡμῖν πότε ταῦτα ἔσται, καὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον τῆς σῆς παρουσίας καὶ τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.

Κατά Μάρκον 13:3

Καὶ καθημένου αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ Ὄρος τῶν Ἐλαιῶν κατέναντι τοῦ ἱεροῦἐπηρώτα αὐτὸν κατ' ἰδίαν Πέτρος καὶ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης καὶ Ἀνδρέας.

Mark 13:3

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately. (ESV)


Nothing constrains Mark or Matthew to the notion that Yohanan's activity was actually in the river's channel, and at any rate, both authors state that Yohanan was active in the wilderness.


John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness (βαπτίζων ἐν τη̃ ἐρήμω̨) and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (ESV) Mark 1:4.

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, (ἐρήμω̨ τη̃ς 'Ιουδαίας). (NASB) Matt 3:1

Both Matthew and Luke have Messiah Yeshua asking crowds about Yohanan and he mentioned the wilderness.


As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness (εἰς τὴν ερημον) to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (ESV) Matt 11:7 (also Luke 7:24)

All four gospels describe Yohanan as Isaiah's Voice, who cries, in the wilderness (Φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ), Matt 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23. In light of the preceding we may legitimately focus on John's besorah as a primary source for information on Yohanan's activity.


The district beyond the Jordan was called Perea, based on the Greek word for beyond, as in beyond the Jordan (πέραν του̃ 'Ιορδάνου). This region was populated by Jews and ruled by Herod Antipas. John 10:40 thus appears to speak of some recognizable distance from the river, and was the location where Yohanan first performed his rite. Herod Antipas arrested Yohanan and that appears to indicate that he regularly conducted his activity beyond the Jordan. Tradition says Herod Antipas imprisoned and executed Yohanan in Macherus in southern Perea. Not only was this location where Yohanan first baptized, it was also where Yeshua was found with Yohanan, John 3:26:


Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, he is baptizing and all are coming to him. (NASB) [Emphasis added]

These disciples considered their master Yohanan a rabbi, i.e. someone well-informed on Torah and halachah. This passage does not recall Bethany but simply locates Yeshua and Yohanan beyond the Jordan, leaving open the possibility of a wider area of activity than only Bethany. John 3:23 also tells us that Yohanan was then active at Aenon (i.e. springs) near Salem.


Yohanan's personal testimony in John 1:28-34 strongly implies that we should look beyond the Jordan to find the place where Messiah Yeshua underwent Yohanan's rite, where he received the Ruach Hakodesh, and where he heard the Father's voice, though it must be said there is no direct account of these events in John's besorah. It is also likely that Messiah returned to this location for a time after his forty day fast and temptations from Satan. Furthermore, John 3:22 and John 4:3-4 describe the Messiah and his disciples performing the purification rite in the land of Judah, not at the Jordan River, and that they made more disciples than Yohanan. Geographically, it is highly probable that Messiah and disciples were not at the Jordan River since they passed through a Samaritan village on their way to Galilee, but if they had actually been at the Jordan River then they likely would have bypassed Samaria by taking the Jordan Valley road to Galilee.


John's besorah provides credible testimony that neither Yohanan nor Messiah Yeshua's disciples required the Jordan River, and it also suggests that Yohanan used spring water in two locations, Bethany and Aenon. This comports well with contemporary Jewish tradition regarding the efficacy of spring water, and the pasul (invalid) status of the Jordan River south of the Kinneret as living water, mayim hayim ( ).


In the following section we consider an issue related to Mishnaic rulings about drawn water. If Yohanan performed Eze 36:25, then he may have used a vessel to draw water to throw it and Mishnaic halachah restricts that practice.   


Drawn Water ( )

Mishnaic sages ruled that water drawn by hand into any vessel, called mayim she'uvim ( ), was pasul (disqualified) for the initial filling of a mikveh.[171] While Mishnaic rulings about drawn water have no direct bearing on purification during the first commonwealth, they are now part of halachah and must be considered. If the Messianic Jewish community accepts the evidence that Yohanan inaugurated Eze 36:25, then it is imperative to present a justifiable halachic rationale for the practice.


It is currently accepted that one cannot fill a forty seah mikveh with hand-drawn water according to the operative principle:


Sifra Shmini Parasha Tet

The spring is in the hands of heaven, thus the mikveh also is in the hands of heaven.



In other words, a valid mikveh can only be filled without human intervention. Rain water was and remains a typical source for filling mikva'ot.[172] According to halachah, once a mikveh is filled with forty seah of valid water then one can add drawn water and the mikveh remains valid. The sages also ruled that a valid mikveh could "purify" the drawn water of an adjacent invalid mikveh by a small interconnecting channel that allowed the water of the valid mikveh to "kiss" the drawn water, thus making it valid as well.[173]


An additional concern that led to disqualifying drawn water was that if water in a vessel actually could remain valid for purification, then people might assume that large vessels filled with water could purify in addition to a legitimate forty seah mikveh. But the sages ruled that the ashboren of a mikveh could not be a moveable vessel and thus water in vessels, no matter how large, is not valid for purification.


On the other hand, the sages specifically ruled that purification of hands before meals was by drawn water that was poured over the hands. The episode of Yeshua at the Pharisee's banquet, Luke 11:38, has the passive verb ebaptisthe (ἐβαπτίσθη), to describe the washing that Yeshua refused. This does not suggest self-immersion as some think, but rather purification of his hands by banquet attendants (cf., John 2:5-9). This episode inadvertently recalls the sages' tradition regarding drawn water poured over hands for purification.


The following Torah verses show that vessels could be pure, and that water drawn into vessels remained valid for the duration of certain rites. These particular details might have informed first commonwealth sages, making possible purification by drawn water in vessels.


Utensils, vessels and clothing captured or otherwise obtained from gentiles were to be purified (Num 31:20-23) and this implies that utensils owned or manufactured by Israelites were also pure, or could be purified, and is the basis for tevilat kelim ( ) the immersion of vessels acquired from non-Jews.


Numbers 31:20-23

You shall also cleanse every cloth, every article of skin, everything made of goats' hair, and every object of wood." Eleazar the priest said to the troops who had taken part in the fighting, "This is the ritual law that the LORD has enjoined upon Moses: Gold and silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead -- any article that can withstand fire -- these you shall pass through fire and they shall be clean, except that they must be cleansed with water of lustration; and anything that cannot withstand fire you must pass through water. (JPS Tanakh)


- -- - , ----.  - , : , - ' -.   -, -; -, -, -, -.  - - , --, ; - , .


Persons with venereal discharge can defile household utensils (implying the vessel's previous status was pure). Wooden utensils can be purified, but earthenware vessels must be broken. According to halachah stone vessels are impervious to defilement.


Leviticus 15:12

An earthen vessel that one with a discharge touches shall be broken; and any wooden implement shall be rinsed with water. (JPS Tanakh)

- -- , ; ----, .


Living water ( ) and red heifer ashes were to be mixed in a vessel, and the mixed water and ashes remained valid while in the vessel (Num 19:17-18). It is virtually certain that many houses in Israel did not have a nearby source of living water ( ) required by the Num 19 rite. This implies that from the time of mixing until the time of use, the vessel and mixture remained pure and potent, even if carried any distance from the point of mixing.


Numbers 19:17-18

Some of the ashes from the fire of cleansing shall be taken for the unclean person, and fresh water shall be added to them in a vessel. A person who is clean shall take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle on the tent and on all the vessels and people who were there, or on him who touched the bones or the person who was killed or died naturally or the grave. (JPS Tanakh)


, , , ; , -. , , - --, - -.


Bird's blood and living water ( ) for purification of the "leper" or "leprous house" were mixed in an earthen vessel and the mixture remained valid and potent from the time of mixing until the time of use, even if carried any distance (Lv 14:5-6, especially 50-52).


Leviticus 14:50-52

He shall slaughter the one bird over fresh water in an earthen vessel. He shall take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the crimson stuff, and the live bird, and dip them in the blood of the slaughtered bird and the fresh water, and sprinkle on the house seven times. Having purged the house with the blood of the bird, the fresh water, the live bird, the cedar wood, the hyssop, and the crimson stuff. (JPS Tanakh)


, - , --, - . -- - , , , ; -, . --- , .


Although these passages do not speak directly of bodily washing, they establish a principle that hand-drawn water in pure vessels remained valid for the time required by the purification. These considerations might easily have informed practices of first commonwealth Israel. In other words, pure water drawn into a pure vessel remains pure and potent until the completion of the intended washing. These verses may also have informed certain groups during the second Temple as there are many single-pooled mikva'ot throughout Jerusalem. It may be that residents with a single pool mikveh filled them with spring water from the Shiloah (Siloam) spring drawn in vessels that were incapable of contamination, such as the stone vessels in John 2:6.[174]



Joan Taylor remarks that "in early Christian art John the Baptist is depicted as baptizing Jesus in the Jordan by pouring water over his head."[175] Taylor attributes that to a mistaken reading back of Christian practice into the interpretation of Yohanan's rite. While early Christians may have misunderstood the actual intent, perhaps Taylor, along with much of modern scholarship, is also mistaken by reading the Mishnaic tevilah back into first century NC usage of the word baptizo. We have seen above that if Yohanan purified the people, by whatever means or form, then he fulfilled the meaning of baptizo from the perspective of a Jewish religious semantic domain.


Arguably, among the many ramifications accompanying this reading of Yohanan's rite, the most significant is the challenge to a universal assumption that Messiah Yeshua commanded an international Christian water rite in Matt 28:19. The remarkable new book, Introduction to Messianic Judaism, provides an important survey of the maturing Messianic Jewish community as well as a review of its post-supersessionist theological undergirding. The fact that such a book has been written proves that exegesis of the New Covenant writings was woefully misguided for long centuries. Yet chapter two, "Messianic Jewish Synagogues," describes the prevailing view of the Messianic water rite:


Messianic Jews express their initial public identification with Yeshua through tevilah (immersion in water) in keeping with Yeshua's commandment. (Matt 28:18-20)[176]


Certainly both the Christian Church and the Messianic Jewish community have proven their eagerness to try to comply with Messiah Yeshua's wishes, but if Matt 28:19 has been misread, then that same fervor must be directed to discover Messiah's actual intent. Acts 1:4-8 is an iteration of Messiah's Great Commission no less important than Matt 28, but there Yeshua repeats the comparison between water and the Ruach Hakodesh first declared by Yohanan, and which is found six times in the NC writings.[177] Yeshua implied that something new is occurring through the substantiation of the New Covenant on earth; Shavu'ot indeed marked the beginning of the age of the freely out-poured Ruach Hakodesh. One thing is certain, Matt 28:19 cannot be imposed on the water rite in Acts; instead Luke's besorah is the basis for understanding Acts and it contains no command from Messiah for a new water rite to replace Yohanan's.


The assumption that Messiah Yeshua commanded a universal rite in Matt 28 has cast a long shadow on anything Matthew says about Yohanan and his Israel-specific mission, such as:


         Matthew 3 where Yohanan is presented as the Voice crying in the wilderness (Isa 40:3) calling Israel to repentance, and who contrasts his activity with water from that of Messiah's with the Ruach Hakodesh. Yohanan's comparison includes both of the main aspects of Eze 36:25-27, i.e. the purification with water and the transformation by the Ruach Hakodesh.

         Matthew 11 where Messiah declares Yohanan's distinctiveness, calling him the initial messenger of Malachi 3 who announces to Israel the coming Messenger of the Covenant, i.e. Yeshua himself. Yohanan was no passing fad for Israel.

         Matthew 21 where Messiah is in the Temple, publically endorsing Yohanan's rite to Israel's leaders with the tacit assumption that all Israel is still obligated to repent and participate in that rite. Moreover, the divine legitimacy of Yeshua's authority as Messiah is directly parallel to the divine legitimacy of Yohanan's rite.


The Christian Church has deemphasized these important reports because it assumes an international water rite has superseded all that Yohanan did. Arguably, nascent supersessionism can be traced to the supremacy accorded to Matt 28:19 as the worldwide Christian rite over Yohanan's Israel-specific activity; a controlling hermeneutic was set in place that easily justified supersessionism. In fact the universal rite trumps Ezekiel's purification for Israel, rendering it void. If the Church's view is correct, then Israel literally has to engage three different eschatological water rites: a) Ezekiel's purification, b) Yohanan's [supposed] short-lived innovation which was endorsed by Messiah, and c) the international Christian water baptism, which finds no direct precedent in the Tanakh. One can hardly deny that this seems quite confusing.


The word baptizo (βαπτίζω) in Matt 28 is the key to the question and it has been understood to mean an international water rite. Interestingly, every other usage of baptizo and baptisma in Matthew refers only to Yohanan and his rite or to Messiah's activity with the Ruach Hakodesh. Moreover, we have seen above that the LXX, Philo and Josephus all used this word for situations beyond corporal watery events. Indeed, two NC authors use baptizo, not for a literal water rite, but to signify a staggering effect on Messiah's life (Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50). The question thus arises regarding the striking usage in Matt 28:19: Did Matthew use baptizo in Messiah's parting command similarly to Mark and Luke? Did Messiah send Shlichim, Jewish Apostles, to idolatrous nations of the first century with orders to cause a staggering change of life by true relational knowledge of the living G-d?


This article has presented evidence that first commonwealth purification practices were not identical to Mishnaic practices, and that relevant Hebrew and Greek terms in use prior to the NC writings do not demand a bodily washing by immersion. Eze 36:25 was an anticipated purification and Yohanan was deemed a great prophet who self-identified as an eschatological character in the Tanakh. The evidence is convincing that Yohanan inaugurated Eze 36:25 for Israel, which then led to Messiah's great sacrificial establishment of the New Covenant and to the out-pouring of the Ruach Hakodesh, promised in the aḥerit hayamim (eschaton). These great events were very likely first proclaimed in Hebrew, and then in Greek, leading to the coinage of baptisma to convey the tremendous transformation of life by those who participate in the New Covenant.

[1] Kesher: A Journal of Messianic Judaism, Issue 25, Summer, 2011. http://besoratyehizkel.com/

[2] This paper makes use of the following under-pointed characters for transliterated Hebrew: =chet, =tzadik, =khaf. However, some words like ruach and mitzvah have long been transliterated in those forms and do not receive under-pointed letters.

[3] Cf., "The Archaeology of Purity: Archaeological Evidence for the Observance of Ritual Purity in Ereẓ-Israel from the Hasmonean Period until the End of the Talmudic Era (164 BCE 400 CE)" (Hebrew) which is Adler's 464 page PhD thesis submitted to Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan (2011). Adler mentions his indebtedness to Ronny Reich's groundbreaking PhD thesis of 1990 which then investigated 300 mikva'ot.

[4]  , ' , 18, (: , 1993) ‑

[5] Yet the noun washing, raḥ'ẓah () occurs six times in the Tanakh, while the verb raḥaẓ () is used seventy two times for washing, whether for feet, hands, face or the entire body. The verb dip, taval (), from which tevilah is derived, occurs sixteen times, but in the Torah it describes minor acts such as dipping a bunch of hyssop in blood or in water, or a cohen dipping his finger in blood or in oil. In two cases taval () describes a minor act in close proximity to an occurrence of raḥaẓ (), which describes the bodily washing (see below for a review of all sixteen usages of taval).

[6] Unattributed scripture quotations are from David H. Stern's, Complete Jewish Bible (Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. 1998).

[7] Another source of drinking water, i.e. a well, or (be'er, cf., Be'er Sheva) was evidently not considered suitable as a source for pure water. A be'er does not collect rain water, nor is it a spring, but is simply a shaft dug down to the level of ground water that slowly fills the lowest parts of the shaft. Cf., "Water Sources of the Bible Period: Bor, Be'er and Mayan."( (" " ",, , :"

[8]  Cf., ( : "" ", ") 186. So also Adler, "The Archaeology of Purity," 25.

[9] Adler suggests that the LXX was translated from a Hebrew text other than the Masoretic Text, Adler, "The Archaeology of Purity," 25, n39. Yet it may be possible that the LXX translator used the MT and simply recorded the contemporary understanding of the distinction between the bor and the mikveh mayim. There is a remote possibility that the second καὶ signifies a hendiadys with the meaning of "a cistern, even a gathering of water."

[10] New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) (Oxford University Press, 2009).

[11] "Reich's groundbreaking doctoral dissertation, a monumental worklaid the foundations for all subsequent scholarly inquiry on the topic of ancient ritual bathsReich counted approximately 300 miqwa'ot . . .:of these, over 90% date to the Second Temple period" [cf. Ronny Reich, Miqwa'ot (Jewish Ritual Immersion Bath) in Eretz-Israel in  the Second Temple and the Mishnaic and Talmudic Periods (Ph.D. diss., The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1990) [Hebrew]] cited by Yonatan Adler and David Amit in, "The Observance of Ritual Purity after 70 C.E.: A Reevaluation of the Evidence in Light of Recent Archaeological Discoveries" in Follow the Wise (B. Sanhedrin 32b): Studies in Jewish History and Culture in Honor of Lee I. Levine (eds. Z. Weiss, O. Irshar, J. Magness, and S. Schwartz: Winona Lake IN: Eisenbrauns, 2010), 121-143.

[12] Cf., Adler, "The Archaeology of Purity," ii.

[13] Cf., The Waters of Eden, The Mystery of the Mikveh, Aryeh Kaplan (New York: NCSY/Orthodox Union, 1976), 49-59. See also E.P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE 66 CE (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1992), 222-230. 

[14] m Mikva'ot 5.4; Shulhan Arukh, http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Shulchan_Aruch/Yoreh_Deah/201 (seif 5)

[15] Modern mikveh installations include showers for mandatory hygienic cleansing before ritual immersion in the mikveh to fulfill mitzvoth, including that of Lv 15:18. Yet by all appearances, at least regarding Lv 15:18, the "hygienic" cleansing itself was the Torah ritual in the first commonwealth.

[16] Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, ed. Reinier de Blois, assisted by Enio R. Mueller, United Bible Societies (2000-2009). http://www.sdbh.org/vocabula/

[17] Cf., Adler compares his reading of the Torah to that of "reception theory" which takes into account the original audience's reaction to Torah commandments from within in their cultural milieu, not the later researcher's. Adler, "The Archaeology of Purity," 5.

[18] Cf., Adler, "The Archaeology of Purity," 15.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] In addition to washing the body with water we see that the passage of time, until evening, is also a component of the purification process for this and many of the following examples.

[23] If the verb tithar (( be taken as binyan qal then it could signify that women would actively wash, raḥaẓ (), to purify, as males do in verse 13.

[24] Typical translations and comments on this verse say David, walking on the roof, saw Bat-Sheva washing in a courtyard. Josephus says she washed in a house. However the original Hebrew could mean the woman was "washing from the roof." The first part of the sentence reads, David got up from his bed (  ). The verb, get up, kam (), acts on the adjacent prepositional phrase, from his bed, ( ). The verse's second half has a woman followed by the verb, washing, followed immediately by the prepositional phrase, from the roof, me'al hagag ( ); the text could be understood as a woman washing from the roof. Even though there is no textual support, many think the verse means, essentially:       (i.e. [David] saw from the roof a woman washing). But if pouring was acceptable for raḥ'ẓah (), (which it almost certainly was for washing the hands and feet of cohanim) then washing from the roof might have been customary at the time. Women probably would not want to go to the pool outside the city wall just before dark. R. Adler also remarks on this possible sense of the Hebrew text, Adler, "The Archaeology of Purity," 16. 

[25] Adler, "The Archaeology of Purity," 18.

[26] SDBH, De Blois, (2000-2009). http://www.sdbh.org/vocabula/

[27] A partially dipped object may retain a permanent effect as a result of the act; Joseph's coat dipped in blood was stained.

[28] Others have read ideas of bodily immersion into taval () and suggest the meaning is Purified of Hashem, cf., Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon by F. W. Gesenius, http://www.tyndalearchive.com/tabs/Gesenius/, as cited in Judaic Baptism, James W. Dale (Philadelphia: WM. RUTTER & CO., 1870), 157.

[30] Page 97 , 1854

[33] , " (: , ")

[35]    , .. ( : ", 1992) 75.
" [] ." ,
( : , 2006) 369

[36] Craig A. Evans, "Josephus on John the Baptist and Other Jewish Prophets of Deliverance," The Historical Jesus in Context (Princeton Readings in Religions), eds. Amy-Jill Levine, Dale C. Allison Jr., and John Dominic Crossan (Princeton, N.J.:  Princeton University Press, 2006), 55-63.

[37] R. Adler mentions that Jacob Milgrom understands a full immersion occurred, cf., Leviticus 116: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor Bible (1991) 928 (also 842), but Adler correctly points out that use of taval for many partial dippings provides no final proof, Adler, "The Archaeology of Purity," 16.

[38] Cf., 2 Kings 5:14, comment on verse 14 (), page , Mossad Harav Kook, Jerusalem, 1989.

[39] Na'aman's purification can scarcely provide the basis to understand Yohanan's rite, or Paul's activity in 1 Cor 1:13-17, since in both cases Yohanan and Paul were directly involved in the performance of the rites.

[40] The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, Volume 2 (4Q274-11Q31), ed. Florentino Garcia Martinez, Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans (Brill), 1997), 629, 631.

[41] Adler, "The Archaeology of Purity," 18.

[43] Vulgate: et effundam super vos aquam mundam et mundabimini ab omnibus inquinamentis vestris et ab universis idolis vestris mundabo vos.

[44]   . - ; the Da'at Mikra commentary does not take the washing as literal, but as an allegory: ' (' ) - -, Ezekiel (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook,  : , 1985)

[45]  A. Cohen, Ezekiel, Soncino Books of the Bible, (New York: Soncino Press, Ltd., 2nd ed., 1983) 243; Others comment on the purification of the niddah and the dashing with pure water, cf. Abarbanel, Commentary on the Later Prophets, Ezekiel, (Jerusalem: Mizrahi, ) .; Also, L.C. Allen, Ezekiel 20-48, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 29 (Dallas: Word, 1990).

[46]  , , , (: - ", 2004) 283.

[47] The sages expounded any verse of the Tanakh they wished by principles of pashat (intended meaning), remez (alluded meaning), drash (interpretative meaning), or sod (mystical-esoteric meaning), according to their immediate purpose.

[48] http://www.emishnah.com/moed2/Yoma/8.pdf

[49] http://halakhah.com/pdf/nashim/Kiddushin.pdf

[50] http://halakhah.com/berakoth/berakoth_22.html

[51] Indeed pouring nine kav of water for purification of deceased Jews is still a living tradition today as part of preparation for burial (cf., Acts 9:37 which uses louo (λούω) to describe the washing), cf., Chesed Shel Emet: Guidelines for Taharah, R. Stuart L. Kelman, (Albany, CA: EKS Publishing Co, 2003); A Plain Pine Box: A Return to Simple Jewish Funerals and Eternal Traditions, R. Arnold M. Goodman (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 1981, 2003) 69-74; http://www.jewish-funerals.org/tahara-manual-practices

[52] Cf., Joan E. Taylor provides a persuasive refutation of this idea in the discussion of Yohanan's baptism and the "baptist movement" in, The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 29-32. Taylor also shows convincingly that though Yohanan may have been in contact with Essenes, his lifestyle in the wilderness and his activity were dissimilar to the Essenes' exclusive, anti-Temple, separated community (cf., ch. 1, "John and the Essenes," 15-48).

[53] Greek in Talmudic Palestine, Daniel Sperber (Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2012) 113-114. In personal correspondence R. Professor Sperber mentioned that he cannot recall any occurrence of βαπτίζω, βάπτισμα, βαπτισμός, λούω, λουτρόν in Talmudic literature. While this phenomenon may be the result of simple lack of interest in these Greek terms, it is not out of the question to suppose that the Talmudic omission resulted from deliberate self-censorship to avoid terms of worship used by those they considered minim.

[54]   . , .

  , , ." ( , )- Rabban Gamliel used -- ασθενης, to explain the reason he washed the night his wife died, using the same word Messiah Yeshua used to describe the weakness of the flesh as opposed to the willingness of the spirit, Matt 26:41, ἡ δὲ σὰρξ ἀσθενής.

[55] Greek texts in this section have been gathered from several online sources. The author gives special recognition to Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, A Digital Library of Greek Literature. http://www.tlg.uci.edu/

[56] Cf., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, Bauer, ed. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000); Friberg's definition includes: "1) of Jewish ritual washings wash, cleanse, purify by washing." Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Friberg, Friberg, (Victoria, BC, Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2005,) 87; "To dip, immerse; to cleanse or purify by washing," The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, ed. Perschbacher, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), 66.

[57] Intended primarily for translators, this lexicon also provides insight for any researcher into NC word use. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, eds. Johannes P. Louw, Eugene A. Nida (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988, 1989).

[58]  Cf., Timothy C. Clausner and William Croft, "Domains and Image Schemas," in Cognitive Linguistics 101, Walter de Gruyter (1999), 131.

[60] Dr. Reinier de Blois, "Lexicography and Cognitive Linguistics: Hebrew Metaphors from a Cognitive Perspective," Davar Logos 3.2 (2004), 97-116.

[61] Dr. Reinier de Blois, "Semantic Domains for Biblical Greek: Louw and Nida's Framework Evaluated from a Cognitive Perspective," a paper presented at SBL Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA (November 2005), 2.

[62] Ibid., 8.

[63] Four Louw-Nida subdomains for baptizo in the NC writings are: suffer severely, wash, baptize, and cause religious experience.; http://www.laparola.net/greco/parola.php?p=βαπτιζω

[64] Cf., Religious Activities, section 53.41.

[65] The SBL Greek NT lists 77 occurrences of the verb baptizo. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul use baptizo; Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, and 1 Peter use baptisma (βάπτισμα); Mark and Hebrews use baptismos (βαπτισμός) (possibly also Paul in Colossians 2:12).

[66] Bapto (βαπτω) occurs four times in the NC writings, Luke 16:24, twice in John 13:26, and Rev 19:13. The occurrences in Luke and John are momentary dippings with no demand for sustained immersion. Though Rev 19:13 is usually translated "dipped," the Holman Christian Standard Bible translated it as "stained" with blood, in accord with the alternative meaning of bapto, to dye. Also, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 1, Gerhard Kittle, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964, 1995), 529-530.

[67] Cf., Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church (2009), 47. Several times in his work Ferguson defines words in terms of "primary meaning," and a dozen times he uses the term "secondary meaning." One gets the impression that use of a word in its "secondary meaning" is tolerated, but preferred usage ought to stay with the "primary meaning." This is important for Ferguson's view that baptizo's "primary meaning" is "immerse" and that "secondary meanings" are tolerated, but not preferred in trying to understand usage in the NC writings. Priority-neutral terminology for word sense would have been "initial meaning" and for subsequent use, "alternative meaning" or "derivative meaning."

[68] LXX recenscions contain a few additional usages. Everett Ferguson writes, "The tendency toward a greater use of βαπτἰζω is perhaps indicated by Aquila using it in Job 9:31, where the Old Greek used βἀπτω. Symmachus uses the word in rendering Psalm 68:3 (Eng. 69:2), 'I was plunged [ἐβαπτἰσθην] into bottomless pits,' and Jer 38 (Gk. 45):22, 'They submerged [ἐβἀπτισαν] your feet into [εἰς] the swamp.' Βαπτἰζω is used in a metaphorical sense in Isa 21:4, where the translators read a different text from the standard Hebrew, 'Lawlessness overwhelms [βαπτἰζει] me.'" Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church (2009).

[69] T.J. Conant, Baptizein (New York: American Bible Union, 1861)60.

[71] Conversely, one should not impose a narrow meaning on baptizo by arguing that lawlessness has been personified and acts as an administrator to immerse Isaiah. In that case the question arises: into what would the personified lawlessness immerse Isaiah? So it is unfeasible to make lawlessness the administrator of immersion.

[72] Cf., Judaic Baptism, James W. Dale (Philadelphia: WM. RUTTER & CO., 1870) 159-164. Dale writes that someone may object to purification: "If baptizo here expresses purification, then there were seven purifications." A reference to Psalm 12:7, "The words of the Lord are pure . . .as silver purified seven times," will show that such conjunction of words is allowable. Tertullian, ii, 575, is not alarmed by seven purifications. He represents the case as showing forth power to cleanse the seven capital sins of the Gentile nations: "Idololatria, blasphemia, homicidio, adulterio, stupro, falso testimonio, fraude. Quapropter septies quasi per singulos titulos in Jordane lavit, siraul et ut totius hebdomadis caperet expiationem; quia unius lavacri vis et plenitude Christo soli dicabatur." "Wherefore he washes" (not dips) "in the Jordan seven times, as if for the several sins, and that he might receive expiation from all seven at once; for the power and fulness of one washing belonged to Christ alone."

[73]  ,  , , (: , 1978), .

[74] Cf., Adler, "The Archeology of Purity," 17-18.

[75] Fragments of the Hebrew Ben Sira were found in the past two centuries and the Bialik Institute published an early reconstruction of the entire book based on the Hebrew fragments and the translation of Greek into Hebrew. As noted above, the word dip, tovel () is not original, but comes from a Syriac translation. The Complete Book of Ben Sira, Moshe Tzvi Segal (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1953, 4th printing 1997).

[76] It has not been determined if the Syriac Ben Sira was translated from the Greek, or from the Hebrew original.

[77] Adler notes that the "mikveh" mentioned in Sirah 50.3 is almost certainly a large cistern for gathering drinking water and not a purification installation, "The Archeology of Purity," n27, 21-22.

[78] Whether or not Sirach considered the ritual in the following terms is open to debate, but there are commentators who say the actual purification from contact with the dead was achieved solely by sprinkling the heifer ashes mixed with spring water. However, afterward a final washing was necessary to purify from the powerful side-effect of the ashes and water. "The apparent paradox as to how the red heifer purifies the defiled and defiles the pure is no paradox. Too much sanctity is dangerous and leads to impurity. The same conception underlies Rabban Yohanan b. Zakkai's explanation (Yad. 4:56) that sacred Scripture defiles the hands because of their precious character. The [? sanctity of the red heifer] though, conveys a lesser impurity than corpse contagion. The uncleanness of the red heifer is only until evening, but it affects the priest, the gatherer, the lustrator, whoever touches the water of lustration, and indeed the man who is purified by it from the more severe defilement. Thus, after his purification from the latter by the application of water of lustration, he, like the lustrator, must wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening (Num 19:19b)." [Emphasis added] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0017_0_16546.html

[79] Cf., Conant, Baptizein, for a convenient listing of ancient usage. http://www.archive.org/details/TheMeaningAndUseOfBaptizeinPt01HighRebaptizoBaptised.

[80] This domain corresponds with the LN domain Sensory Events and States, 24.82, "suffer severely," related to Mark 10:38-39 and Luke 12:50. http://www.laparola.net/greco/louwnida.php?sezmag=24&sez1=77&sez2=94

[81] Cf., Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah, E. P. Sanders (London: SCM Press, 1990), 262-271.

[82] Philo vol IX, F.H.Colson, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), 141; C.D. Yonge, "And I know some persons who, when they are completely filled with wine, before they are wholly overpowered by it, begin to prepare a drinking party for the next day." http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book34.html

[83] Conant, Baptizein68.

[84]   , , , (: , 1997), 46.

[86] Philo vol II, F.H.Colson, G.H. Whitaker (1979), 317-9.

[87] . , , , (: , 1997), 273

[88] Philo vol I, F.H.Colson, G.H. Whitaker (1971), 313.

[90] . , , , (: , 1997), 89

[92] Philo vol IV, F.H. Colson, G.H. Whitaker (1985), 251-253.

[93] Conant, Baptizein, 65-66.; C.D. Yonge, "[T]hose who are continually filling themselves with meat and drink are the least sensible, as if their reasoning faculties were drowned by the quantity which they swallow." http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book39.html

[94] Philo vol IX, F.H. Colson (1967), 503-505.

[96] Philo vol IX, F.H. Colson (1967), 67.

[97] The English translation of Josephus (http://biblical.ie/josephus/Josephus.asp) is from the work of the Milltown Institute (http://www.milltown-institute.ie/).

[98] Two Hebrew translations are given for Wars, the first is Liza Ulman's recent translation first published in 2009,
, (: ", 2009, 2012)

The second listed is Simhoni's version published in 1968,
, " .. ( -, : ", 1968)
The Hebrew translation for Antiquities is the two volume Kadmoniot Hayehudim by Avraham Shalit,
, (: , 1944, 2011)

[99] Josephus Jewish Wars, I-III, H. ST. J. Thackeray, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 679.

[100] Wars, I-III (1976), 695.

[101] Wars, I-III (1976), 725.