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Why They Believe It

by J. G. Bow, D. D.


Since pedobaptists have tried so hard to make capital out of the New. Testament washings, that is, the translation of the word baptidzo by wash, we have decided to devote this article to an explanation of these washings. In Mark 7:3, "For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not," the word is not baptidzo, but nipto here the third person plural nipsontai). It is never used to de note the ordinance of baptism or an immersion, but the washing of parts, as the hands, the feet, the eyes. The word is never translated baptize in any instance. It does not mean the same thing as wash in the fourth verse: "And when they come from the market except they wash (baptidzontai, they eat not." Dr. Eaton, Faith of Baptists, p. 27, says, "Mark, writing primarily for the Romans, stops to explain the ab surd lengths to which the Pharisees carried their cleanings."

"For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash [nipsontai] their hands oft [the Greek is, with the fist, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash (baptidzontai, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing [baptismous] of cups, and pots, brasen vessels." Now there would have been no point in Marks stopping to explain that the Pharisees went to the great length of sprinkling or pouring water upon them ] selves on returning from market, when they, while at home, washed diligently or "with the fist" before eating. That they would go to the length of immersing themselves on re turning from market, where Gentiles had touched them, was a remarkable thing, and worth explaining to the Romans, who did not know the customs of the Pharisees and strict Jews. Meyer, in loco, says: "In this case ean ma baptidzontai is not to be understood of washing the hands, but of immersion, which the word in classic Greek and in the New Testament everywhere denotes, i. s., in this case, according to context, to take a bath. Having come from market where they may have contracted pollution through contact with the crowd, they eat not without having first bathed.

"As for the immersion of cups and pots and brasen vessels; that was simply carrying out the ceremonial law, given in Leviticus 11 :32: 'nd upon whatsoever any of them, when they are dead, doth fall, it shall be unclean; whether it be any vessel of wood, or raiment, or skin, or sack, whatsoever vessel it be, wherein any work is done, it must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the even; so it shall be cleansed."

"The cups and pots were of wood, and these with the brasen vessels were to be immersed for cleansing, when they became ceremonially unclean, while earthen vessels were to be broken. The word rendered 'tables in the common version klion does not belong. to the true text, and the revisers very properly omitted it."

"It is an interesting and significant fact that in after years, copyists, not understanding the customs of the Pharisees, came to this passage, and thought the word baptidzo must be a mistake, since it seemed out of the question that Pharisees should actually immerse themselves when they came from market. So the copyists ventured to strike out baptidzo and insert rantidzo, which means to sprinkle. They never suspected that baptidzo could mean sprinkle, or pour, or they would not have made the substitution."

"And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brawn vessels, and of tables" (Mark 7:4).

"For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do" (Mark 7:8).

"And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed before dinner" (Luke 11:38). "Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation" (Heb. 9:10).

In the above passages the translation of baptidzo is wash, and only in these. Some have hooted at the idea of a Jew who had been to the market dipping himself before eating, but that was exactly what he did, and what Jewish tradition required him to do.

Maimonides, the great Jewish writer, of whom the encyclopedia says: His importance for the religion and science of Judaism, and his influence upon their development is so gigantic that he has rightly been placed second to Moses, the great law-giver himself, says: "If they had been to market and mingled with persons ceremonially unclean they were defiled and in a layer that holds forty seahs (about sixty gallons) of water every defiled maw dips himself. And so when a Jew came from the market he dipped himself in water before he would eat."

So the Pharisees marveled (were greatly surprised) that Jesus did not perform this ablution, dip himself before eating.

But this was not Gods law, or requirement, but only a Jewish tradition, and was not binding on him who came to break down the middle wall, or partition, between Jew and Gentile. There were certain washings, dippings, bathings which God did require, as in Leviticus 15:1-13. Jesus never disobeyed any command of God, but often showed contempt for the traditions which men had substituted for Gods requirements, and by which they made the commands of God of no effect. "But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the. commandments of men" (Matthew 15:3-9).

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