Observations and Questions regarding the words of scripture on baptism
by Karen Loeschen
I live in a small town of 500. Almost every day for the past 25 years I walk about a mile. My walk usually circles around the church. On the same intersection as the church there was an auto body business owned by a man named Wayne. Wayne’s house is across the street from his business. I have attended the same church with Wayne for 30 years but have only had one conversation with him. In all the years of walking through that intersection I had never seen Wayne on the street walking between his house and business except for one day. This particular day as I was approaching the intersection Wayne was walking across the street directly towards me with a book in his hand. He handed the book to me and said, “Here Karen, you need to read this”. I thought “Well, I guess I better read this book”. The name of the book was The Hebrew Jesus vs. the Greek Jesus by Nehemiah Gordon? Mr. Gordon is a Karaite Jew with a degree in Archaeology and Biblical Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and worked for several years on the Dead Sea Scroll Publication Project. He is experienced in ancient biblical texts and languages. The book was written because he was asked to explain Matthew 23:1-4. The premise of the book is that the original language of Matthew was Hebrew not Greek. The author explains the significance of the difference in wording between the Greek and Hebrew. He uses the Shem-Tov’s Manuscript as corroborating evidence. This manuscript was held in the hands of the Jews and dates from the 14th century with evidence for an earlier origin.
I was raised in a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church which firmly believes in infant baptism. In my young adulthood I became dismayed at the denominationalism in the Christian Church. Over the years I have sometimes attended various denominations. In about 2008(?) I started attending a nondenominational church. I thought, finally, I will get away from the denominationalism. I understood that this church believed in believer’s baptism but was not bothered by this because a couple years prior I had chosen to be baptized as an adult because I thought maybe that was the more accurate instruction from scripture. I really enjoyed attending this church. The preaching was good and they had some wonderful women’s bible studies. I had been attending these bible studies for about 3(?) Years when they asked me to become one of the facilitators for the women’s bible study groups. I was very willing to do that. As a prerequisite they asked me to fill out a questionnaire regarding my theology. I passed all the questions except the one regarding baptism. I can’t remember my exact response but my feeling was that since there is so much controversy regarding the understanding and practice of baptism that the salvation of infant baptized Christians was not in question. That is when I found out how strongly this church believed in believer baptism and that even though this church claimed to be nondenominational that they were actually a denomination unto themselves. One of the women of the Women’s Ministry Team was very disturbed by my stance on baptism. She suggested that I go talk to the preacher. I was willing to do that and suggested that she go with me so that the conversation would be cohesive.
In the course of my discussion with her and the preacher I was stunned to discover that she believed infant baptized believers would not be saved. This was my first experience attending an Ante Baptist church so I was puzzled as to why they were comfortable in believing in an age of accountability which had no biblical basis at all and yet they were so firm in following scripture in every other area.
The preacher suggested that we do some study which I agreed to do. He handed me a pamphlet that his church had made up and printed regarding baptism. This pamphlet listed every verse in the New Testament that contained the word baptism. (Appendix) As I read through these verses I noticed some trends and started categorizing them. Most, not all, of the verses in the gospels were concerning John’s baptism. Also, by reading between the lines in the remainder of the New Testament it seemed to me that baptism was of more significance to the Apostles than it was to Paul. This led me to question “What did Jesus himself actually say about baptism?” There are only two verses in the Gospels that contain the words of Jesus regarding baptism.
They are Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16. I have long known that there is a long and short version of Mark and that Mark 16:16 may not be part of the original manuscripts. Research from the following links indicated that Mark 16:16 was a late addition and not original.
https://committedtotruth.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/problem-texts-mark-169-20-does-it-belong/; https://www.gotquestions.org/Mark-16-9-20.html; http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVarticles/AuthenticityOfMark16920.html; https://carm.org/baptism-and-mark-1616.
That left only one verse, Matthew 28:19, which recorded Jesus words on baptism. I thought, really, one verse out of all the Gospels? How could it be possible for something as important as baptism that Jesus words are only recorded in one verse?” I quickly did a google search of Matthew 28:19 and was surprised to find how much came up. There was evidence that this verse had been altered in about the 4th century. Most of what came up was regarding the discussion by Unitarians who do not accept the theology of the trinity. That was not of interest to me because I believe other scripture validates the concept of the trinity. However, I was interested in the fact that the original form of the verse did not contain instruction on baptism. Information from the following links led me to believe that Matthew 28:19 had been altered. The part of the verse which included baptism had not shown up in the manuscripts until the 4th century which was also the time the early church was debating the concept of the trinity.
Matthew 28:19 is the only place in scripture that the wording ‘of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ appears. I wondered, “Did the Roman Church corrupt the text in an attempt to prove their point concerning the trinity? How could I know if they had done that? Is there a manuscript that the Roman Church would not have had an opportunity to corrupt?” In short time I remembered the book that I had read some 2-3 years earlier, The Greek Jesus vs. the Hebrew Jesus. It had used as a source The Shem-Tov’s Manuscript which had been only in the hands of the Jews. Since this manuscript would not have been available to the Roman Church, could this manuscript have escaped corruption? The Jews would have had no incentive to alter a passage to imply any particular doctrine. I found there was an English translation of this manuscript in The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew by George Howard. The Shem-Tov’s Manuscript dates from the 14th century but the Analyses and Commentary section of Mr. Howard’s book makes the case for an earlier origin of the manuscript. Upon receipt of this book I immediately turned to Matthew 28:19 and read this. Matthew 28:19-20 “Go and (teach) them to carry out all the things which I have commanded you forever.” No mention at all of baptism. I was stunned. In addition the following source indicates that Eusebius references to Matthew 28:19 did not include an instruction for baptism.
According to Conybeare:
Eusebius cites this text (Matt. 28:19) again and again in works written between 300 and 336, namely in his long commentaries on the Psalms, on Isaiah, his Demonstratio Evangelica, his Theophany …in his famous history of the Church, and in his panegyric of the emperor Constantine. I have, after a moderate search in these works of Eusebius, found eighteen citations of Matthew 28:19, and always in the following form: ‘Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in My name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded _2819.htm. from (https://www.facebook.com/notes/church-of-the-living-el-יהוה-jerusalem/the-matthew-2819-forgery/607126512641911)
Without Matthew 28:19 or Mark 16:16 Jesus made no statement at all instructing baptism.
I made additional observations and had questions regarding other verses on baptism.
1) Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated in the following verses that Jesus baptism would not be with water but with the Holy Spirit and with fire. It would seem that the “but” in these verses negates water baptism. Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:26, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16
2) Jesus himself never baptized anyone. Is that because his baptism was not to be of water? John 4:1-2
3) The baptism that Jesus was speaking of in Mark 10:38-39 & Luke 12:50 was not a baptism of water.
4) John preached to Israel a baptism of confession and repentance not salvation.
Mat 3:6, Mat 3:11, Mark 1:4-5, Luke 3:3, Acts 13:24, Act 19:4
5) The purpose of John’s baptism of Jesus was to reveal Jesus to Israel. Jesus was revealed to Israel at his own baptism. Mat 3:16-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:31, John 1:33
6) John 3:3-8 Being born of water refers to the physical birth of the water breaking from the womb at birth as suggested by Nicodemus question of how can a man again enter into his mother’s womb and Jesus response that flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit. Jesus was not referring to a baptism with water but a physical birth plus a spiritual birth.
7) John 3:16 says nothing about baptism.
8) Acts 2:1-4 The coming of the Holy Spirit in this instance does not appear to have been associated with water.
9) Of the many recorded interactions that Jesus had with people he never once instructed anyone to be baptized.
10) Sometimes the Holy Spirit was received before being baptized.
Acts 10:47, Acts 11:15
11) The Holy Spirit came by the laying on of hands not by water in these verses. Acts 8:16-18, Acts 19:6, Acts 9:17
12) Acts 11:16-Was the water baptism a carryover of a Jewish ritual? Was Peter realizing that Jesus baptism did not involve water?
13) Acts 16:33, Acts 18:8-Was this a baptism of water or the spirit?
14) Acts 22:16 NLT implies washing away your sins ‘by’ calling on the name of the Lord Jesus.
15) Paul was not sent to baptize. I Corinthians 1:14-17
16) For we were all baptized by one Spirit I Corinthians 12:13
If Matt 28:19 and Mark 16:16 are not genuine, then Jesus did not command baptism, he did not instruct anyone to be baptized, and did not say it was necessary for salvation. Was baptism a carryover from the Apostle’s Jewish heritage? There appears to have been a fuzzy understanding and lack of unity amongst the Apostles regarding the necessity and purpose of baptism and how the Holy Spirit was received. Is the confusion in the present church regarding an understanding of baptism a carryover from the Apostles?
Baptism is one of the biggest points of division in the Christian Church. Some teach infant baptism and some teach believer baptism and most all teach the necessity of baptism for salvation. How can there be an acceptance of the glorious gospel if baptism is necessary in the eyes of most Christians?
Matthew 3:6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River
Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was Baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers? Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”
Matthew 3:11 I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
Matthew 3:14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Matthew 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.
Matthew 21:25 “John’s baptism-where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ”‘Then why didn’t you believe him?”
Matthew 28:19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 1:4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 1:5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Mark 1:8 I baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
Mark 1:9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Mark 10:38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
Mark 10:39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.”
Mark 11:30 John’s baptism- was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!
Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Luke 3:3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”
Luke 3:12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
Luke 3:16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Luke 3:21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened.
Luke 7:29 All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.
Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.
Luke 12:50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!
Luke 20:4 “John’s baptism-was it from heaven or from men?”
John 1:25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
John 1:26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know.”
John 1:28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing
John 1:31 “I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel?”
John 1:33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
John 3:22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them and baptized.
John 3:23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized.
John 3:26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan-the one you testified about-well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
John 4:1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John.
John 4:2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples
John 10:40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed.
Acts 1:5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts2:41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women.
Acts 8:13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
Acts 8:16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them: they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 8:17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit
Acts 8:36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
Acts 8:38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
Acts 9:18 Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes. And he could see again. He got up and was baptized.
Acts 10:37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached-
Acts 10:47 Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.
Acts 10:48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
Acts 11:16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 13:24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.
Acts 16:15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house”. And she persuaded us.
Acts 16:33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.
Acts 18:8 Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.
Acts 18:25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.
Acts 19:3 So Paul asked,”Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied.
Acts 19:4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus”.
Acts 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 22:16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
Romans 6:3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Roman’s 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
I Corinthians 1:13` Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
I Corinthians 1:14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius.
I Corinthians 1:15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.
I Corinthians 1:16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)
I Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
I Corinthians 10:2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
I Peter 3:12 and this water symbolized baptism that now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
I Corinthians 15:29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?
Galations 3:27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism
Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Hebrews 6:2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
I Peter 3:12 and this water symbolized baptism that now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.