WAS THE METHOD OF IMMERSION IN ACTS DIFFERENT FROM THE “BAPTISM” USED BY MOST PROTESTANTS TODAY ?
Let us begin by saying that the correct term which should have been used to describe the “immersion” in the book of Acts should not have been “baptism”, but rather, the Hebrew term, “mikvah”. It is vital to understand that the term, “baptism”, did not exist until around the 1600’s when Catholic translators found themselves in a precarious position. The Greek text that they were translating into English, used only one word for “immerse” and that was the word, “baptidzo”. It was a term used by the wool making industry in ancient times which had to do with not only total immersion of the fabric in the dye but also with the total saturation of the dye into the wool. The word, "baptidzo", can not be translated any other way.
Unfortunately, the translators knew that the most common use of water to show that a person was brought into the Catholic Church was sprinkling, not immersion. If they translated “baptidzo” as immersed, it would be an embarrassment to the Church. What could they do ? There solution was not to translate the word, but to invent an English word, “baptize”, from the Greek word, “baptidzo”. They knew that no one but a Greek scholar would have any idea what the word, “baptize” meant and the reader could therefore assume that the word meant anything that he wanted it to. So the Catholic Church, even today, continues to perform their totally unbiblical “infant baptisms“ without public embarrassment, even though their so-called “baptisms” had absolutely nothing to do with the immersion of the baby.
The main text used by Protestants today as the model for their method of “baptism” is found in Acts, chapter eight.
26 But a messenger of YHWH spoke to
Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the
south along the way which goes down
from Yerushalayim to Azzah.” This is desert.
27 And he arose and went, and saw, a man
of Kush, a eunuch of great authority under
Kandake the sovereigness of the Kushites,
who was in charge of all her treasury, and
had come to Yerushalayim to worship,
28 and was returning. And sitting in his
chariot, he was reading the prophet Yeshayahu.
29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near
and join him in that chariot.”
30 And running up, Philip heard him reading
the prophet Yeshayahu, and said, “Do
you know what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How am I able, unless
someone guides me?” And he called Philip
near, to come up and sit with him.
32 And the passage of the Scripture which
he was reading was this, “He was led as a
sheep to slaughter, and like a lamb silent
before its shearer, so He opened not His mouth.
33 “In His humiliation He was deprived of
right-ruling. And who shall declare His
generation? Because His life was taken
from the earth.”
34 And the eunuch, answering Philip, said,
“I ask you, about whom does the prophet
say this, about himself or about some other?”
35 And Philip opening his mouth, and
beginning at this Scripture, brought to him
the Good News: Yahshua!
36 And as they were going on the way,
they came to some water. And the eunuch
said, “Look, water! What hinders me from
37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all
your heart, it is permitted.” And he (“it is permitted” according to the Torah)
answering, said, “I believe that Yahshua
Messiah is the Son of Elohim.”
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand
still. And both Philip and the eunuch went Philip was the witness — branch of hysop.
down into the water, and he immersed him.
39 And when they "came up" out of the As they "walked out" of the water.
water, the Spirit of YHWH caught Philip
away, and the eunuch saw him no more,
for he went his way rejoicing.
From this passage the Protestants get the idea that the candidate for baptism should lean backward into the water into the arms of the minister who “immerses him” and that the act of baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime event. But this is not an accurate picture of what happened at all. The person being immersed immerses himself and goes forward under the water. He does not lean backward relying upon anyone. Mikvah is a picture of a number of things:
(1) First, the proper Mikvah shows that the immersion is totally the decision of the person who immerses himself. No one makes him do it and no one helps him do it. It is totally his choice and each person is responsible for his own immersion.
(2) Second, the Mikvah shows complete repentance. Not only does the person immerse, but the water is supposed to touch every part of the body. With the exception of concerns for basic modesty, the person immersing himself removes as much clothing as possible. Rings and jewelry are also removed so that nothing prevents the water from touching the skin. If anyone were to touch the person who is immersing himself, the place where he is being touched would not come in contact with the water and therefore, the whole immersion would be invalid.
(3) Third, whenever possible, the Mikvah is “witnessed” by a person who goes into the water with the one who is immersing himself. The job of the witness is to pass a small branch of some kind (usually hyssop) over the surface of the water each of the three times that the person immerses himself as proof that the person was totally immersed and that even their hair went totally under the water. The witness is also the person who usually says the appropriate blessing at the beginning and at the conclusion of the three immersions. It makes perfect sense when the Scriptures say that Philip immersed the Ethiopian even though he never touched him.
(4) Fourth, mikvah is not a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are a number of verses in the Torah which command us to immerse ourselves (for example, Leviticus 15:27). Let’s look at five circumstances which would be considered good cause for mikvah:
REASONS FOR MIKVAH:
(NOT JUST ONCE AT THE TIME OF SALVATION)
1. First, priests and dedicated Jews (that includes the Natsarim) should immerse themselves for the maintenance of ceremonial cleanliness based upon the following circumstances:
A. If a woman has a monthly period.
B. If a man has an emission of semen.
C. If you come into contact with a dead body.
D. If you walk through a grave yard.
E. If you are healed of a disease.
F. After you deliver a baby.
G. If you touch someone else who is ceremonially unclean.
H. If you show excessive anger.
2. Secondly, we are to immerse ourselves as an act of repentance.
3. Third, we are to immerse ourselves whenever we profess a life-changing commitment.
4. Fourth, we are to immerse ourselves whenever we receive special spiritual revelation.
5. And fifth, we are to immerse ourselves as an act of thanksgiving. (Notice that # 2-5 all relate to the mikvah unto salvation.)
As you can see, the manner by which Yohanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) “immersed” Yahshua, our Messiah was totally different from the traditional baptism method used by Protestants today.
One final word —
The Christian community has always sought to distance itself from the Jews. The fact is that no matter what the Jewish method of baptism would have been, the Christians would have done it differently. Sadly, this principle of "intentional distancing" applies to almost every area of Christian doctrine and practice, as the Church by its anti-Jewish nature, seeks to push its self away from its Jewish roots.