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July 3, 2007 / vivator

Sprinkling or Immersion?

One generally raised about Baptism in the Catholic Church is the Church’s practice to do it by sprinkling, not by immersion.  Does the Greek verb “to baptize” mean “to immerse” or “to dip”?  The Catholic Church does not reject Baptism by immersion, which in fact, is the practice of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1239-40).  Baptism by sprinkling, or to be exact, by pouring water over the candidate’s head three times has been a practice since ancient times. The earliest evidence of Baptism by sprinkling is recorded in the Didache Chapter 7, written in 1st or 2nd century AD:

And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

In Luke 11:38 the Pharisees criticized Jesus for not washing (Greek baptizo) before dinner.  Here most likely immersing hands was referred, i.e. the Pharisees did not expect Christ to immerse His whole body.

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3 Comments

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  1. Newchasm / Jul 23 2007 10:12 am

    Is that from the didache. I thought the three-fold baptism was considered heretical for it treats the three names as separate.

    I think it is a false dichotomy to fight over the word. Baptizo in greek could mean both. I am a credobaptist who prefers immersion but there is no evidence against sprinkling. The only evidence against it is only for immersion. Holding both acceptable rather than an either/or. I side closer with Tertullian in that the amount of water and even the mode do not matter as much as the grace behind it. Or in my case since i am protestant. The grace signified behind it.

  2. John / Feb 17 2008 10:58 am

    even the quote from the Didache show sprinkling to be a non prefered methode. Why then does the Church use it as the preferd methode when the Bible clearly teaches otherwise. ie the eunic and Steven went “down into the water”?

  3. vivator / Feb 17 2008 6:33 pm

    They went down to the water – it is still posible to do either immersion and sprinkling. In Acts 9:18 and 22:16 Saul (aka Paul) rose and was baptized in the house of Judas. It was a house in Damascus two thousand years ago – it did not have bath tub (or swimming pool in backyard) to perform immersion baptism like houses in western countries in twenty-first century.

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