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Greek Word Study - Baptize

BAPTIZE is a violent word! It comes from a rough, tough background and has an aroma of death about it. When people of the first Century heard the Greek word baptizo (bahp TEEDZ oh), they not only thought of immersion--they also thought of death!

Josephus, the famous Jewish historian of the first century, provides a vivid illustration of this point. The word baptize is found thirteen times in his writings, nearly every time in a context of destruction and death. His uses of the word include: to “sink” a ship; to “drown” an enemy; to “punge" a sword into; and to “bring down” a city to destruction. Josephus also tells about Herod the Great, who was jealous of the growing popularity of his handsome young brother-in-law, Aristobulus. Herod lured him into a swimming pool in Jericho, and had his servants hold Aristobulus down and drown him. The word used by Josephus was baptizo (Wars 1, 437 and Antiquities 15, 55).

It was no accident, then, that the Scriptures connect Christian baptism with our death to the former life and our burial in Christ (Col 2:12; Rom. 6:3-11). When we were baptized, we were sunk; we were drowned; we were killed. The former life was brought down to destruction so that God could give us new life in Christ.

Conclusion: While we go about explaining the proper form of baptism and the actual results of baptism, let us also impress on people the real meaning of baptism. The picture for baptizo is the watery demise of a sinner . . . sinking . . . drowning . . . dead.