Middle English baptisme
- Date: 14th century
- 1 a : a Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community
- b : a non-Christian rite using water for ritual purification
- c Christian Science : purification by or submergence in Spirit
In Christianity, baptism (from Greek baptizo: "immersing", "performing ablutions", i.e., "washing") is the ritual act, with the use of water, by which one is admitted to membership of the Christian Church and as a member of the particular Christian tradition in which the baptism is administered.
Jesus himself was baptized. The usual form of baptism among the earliest Christians was for the candidate (or "baptizand") to be immersed totally or partially. While John the Baptist's use of a deep river for his baptism suggests immersion, pictorial and archaeological evidence of Christian baptism from the 3rd century onwards indicates that the normal form was to have the candidate stand in water while water was poured over the upper body. Other common forms of baptism now in use include pouring water three times on the forehead.
Baptism was seen as in some sense necessary for salvation, until Huldrych Zwingli in the sixteenth century denied its necessity. Martyrdom was identified early in church history as "baptism by blood", enabling martyrs who had not been baptized by water to be saved. Later, the Catholic Church identified a baptism of desire, by which those preparing for baptism who die before actually receiving the sacrament are considered saved.
Some Christians, particularly Quakers and the Army Salvation Army, do not see baptism as necessary. Among those that do, differences can be found in the manner and mode of baptizing and in the understanding of the significance of the rite. Most Christians baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (following the Great Commission), but some baptize in Jesus' name only. Most Christians baptize infants, many others do not. Some insist on submersion or at least partial immersion of the person who is baptized, others consider that any form of washing by water is sufficient.
Meaning of the word in the New Testament
The Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott gives the primary meaning of the word βαπτίζω (transliterated as "baptizô"), from which the English word "baptism" is derived, as "dip, plunge", but indicates, giving Luke 11:38 as an example, that another meaning is "perform ablutions".
Usual meaning of the verb βαπτίζω
Although the Greek word βαπτίζω does not exclusively mean dip, plunge or immerse, lexical sources note that this is the usual meaning of the word in both the Septuagint and the New Testament. A related word βαπτω, also used in the New Testament, is used only with the sense 'dip' or 'dye'. It is used, for instance, of the partial dipping of a morsel of bread in wine.[Ruth 2:14]