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Baptism of Neophytes by Masaccio, 15th century, Brancacci Chapel, Florence.[1]
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In Christianity, baptism (from Greek baptizo: "immersing", "performing ablutions", i.e., "washing")[2] is the ritual act, with the use of water, by which a person is admitted to membership of the Christian Church.[3][4]

Jesus himself was baptized.[5] The usual form of baptism among the earliest Christians was for the candidate (or "baptizand") to be immersed totally or partially.[6][7][8][9][10] While John the Baptist's use of a deep river for his baptism suggests immersion,[11] pictorial and archaeological evidence of Christian baptism from the 3rd century onward indicates that the normal form was to have the candidate stand in water while water was poured over the upper body.[12][13][14][15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

Some Christians, particularly Quakers and the 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,[18] 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.

The English word "baptism" has been used in reference to any ceremony, trial, or experience by which a person is initiated, purified, or given a name.[19] See Other initiation ceremonies below.


Meaning of the word in the New Testament

Catacombs of San Callisto: baptism in a third-century painting

As Christians of different traditions dispute whether total immersion (submersion) is necessary for baptism, the precise meaning of the Greek word has become important for discussion.

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".[2]


Usual meaning of the verb βαπτίζω

Although the Greek word βαπτίζω does not exclusively mean dip, plunge or immerse (at least partially), lexical sources note that this is the usual meaning of the word in both the Septuagint[20][21][22] and the New Testament.[23] A related word, βάπτω, is also used in the New Testament, with the senses "dip" or "dye",[24][25][26][27] The dipping may be incomplete, as in dipping a morsel of bread in wine (Ruth 2:14).[28]

Representation of baptism in early Christian art.

Deviations from the above meaning

Two passages in the New Testament indicate that the word βαπτίζω, when applied to a person, did not always indicate submersion. The first is Luke 11:38[29] which tells how a Pharisee, at whose house Jesus ate, "was astonished to see that he did not first wash (ἐβαπτίσθη, aorist passive of βαπτίζω—literally, "be baptized") before dinner." This is the passage that Liddell and Scott cites as an instance of the use of βαπτίζω to mean perform ablutions. Jesus' omission of this action is similar to that of his disciples: "Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash (νίπτω) not their hands when they eat bread."[Mt 15:1-2] The other New Testament passage pointed to is: "The Pharisees…do not eat unless they wash (νίπτω, the ordinary word for washing) their hands thoroughly, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they wash themselves (literally, "baptize themselves"—βαπτίσωνται, passive or middle voice of βαπτίζω)".[Mk 7:3–4]

Scholars of various denominations[30][31][32] claim that these two passages show that invited guests, or people returning from market, would not be expected to immerse themselves ("baptize themselves") totally in water but only to practise the partial immersion of dipping their hands in water or to pour water over them, as is the only form admitted by present Jewish custom.[33]

The lexicographical works of Zodhiates and Balz & Schneider also say that in the second of these two cases, Mark 7:4, the word βαπτίζω means that, after coming from the market, the Pharisees only immersed their hands in collected water, and so did not immerse themselves totally.[34] They understand the meaning of βαπτίζω to be the same as βάπτω, to dip or immerse,[35][36][37] a word used of the partial dipping of a morsel held in the hand into wine or of a finger into spilled blood.[38]

Derived nouns

Two nouns derived from βαπτίζω appear in the New Testament: βαπτισμός and βάπτισμα.

Βαπτισμός refers in Mark 7:4 to a water-rite for the purpose of purification, washing, cleansing, of dishes;[39][40] in the same verse and in Hebrews 9:10 to Levitical cleansings of vessels or of the body;[41] and in Hebrews 6:2 perhaps also to baptism, though there it may possibly refer to washing an inanimate object.[40] In Colossians 2:12, inferior manuscripts have βάπτισμα, but the best have βαπτισμός, and this is the reading given in modern critical editions of the New Testament.[42] This is the only New Testament instance in which βαπτισμός is clearly used of Christian baptism, rather than of a generic washing, but Hebrews 6:2 may also refer to baptism.,[40] When referring merely to the cleansing of instruments, βαπτισμός is equated with ῥαντισμός (sprinkling), found only in Hebrews 12:24 and 1Peter 1:2, a word used to indicate the symbolic cleansing by the Old Testament priest.[43]

Βάπτισμα, which must not be confused with βαπτισμός,[43] is found only in writings by Christians.[39] In the New Testament, it appears at least 21 times:

  • 13 times with regard to the rite practised by John the Baptist;[44]
  • 3 times with reference to the specific Christian rite[45] (4 times if the use in some inferior manuscripts in Colossians 2:12 is counted);
  • 5 times in a metaphorical sense.[46]


Baptism has been part of Christianity from the start, as shown by the many mentions in the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles. Christians consider Jesus to have instituted the sacrament of baptism. How explicit Jesus' intentions were and whether he envisioned a continuing, organized Church is a matter of dispute among scholars.[16]

Background in Jewish ritual

Although the term "baptism" is not used to describe the Jewish rituals, the purification rites (or mikvah—ritual immersion) in Jewish laws and tradition have some similarity to baptism, and the two have been linked[47] In the Jewish Bible and other Jewish texts, immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of "ritual purity" in specific circumstances. For example, Jews who (according to the Law of Moses) became ritually defiled by contact with a corpse had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Holy Temple. Immersion is required for converts to Judaism as part of their conversion. Immersion in the mikvah represents a change in status in regards to purification, restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community, ensuring that the cleansed person will not impose uncleanness on property or its owners Num. 19 and Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Chagigah, p. 12). This change of status by the mikvah could be obtained repeatedly, while Christian baptism, like circumcision, is, in the general view of Christians, unique and not repeatable.[48] (Seventh-day Adventists, however, see baptism as repeatable if a believer comes to a new knowledge of Christianity, as in Acts 19:1-5. It is also possible for a person who has fallen away from following Christ to make a new commitment via rebaptism.)[49]

John the Baptist adopted baptismal immersion as the central sacrament in his messianic movement.[50]

Baptism of Jesus

John the Baptist was a 1st-century mission preacher on the banks of the River Jordan.[51] According to Christian theology, he was selected by God to proclaim the first coming of the Christ. He baptized Jews for repentance in the River Jordan.[52]

At the start of his ministry, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Many of the earliest followers of Jesus were other people who, like him, were baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist.[53]

Scholars broadly agree that the baptism of Jesus is one of the most authentic, or historically likely, events in the life of the historical Jesus. Jesus and his earliest disciples accepted the validity of John's baptism, though Jesus himself detached the notion of repentance from baptism and promoted purity ethic in tension with rituals.[54] Early Christianity practiced a baptism of repentance which conferred the remission of sins. Christian baptism has its origin in the baptism of Jesus, in both a direct and historical sense.[55]

The event raised the issue of Jesus' potential submission to John the Baptist and seemed contradictory to the Christian belief in the sinless nature of Jesus Christ. John's baptism did not remit sin. It was only for repentance and to prepare the way for Christ (remission of sins is only by baptism into Jesus which was commanded by Christ himself after the resurrection). Attempts to address this theological difficulty are apparent in the earliest Christian writings, including the Gospels. For Mark, the baptism by John is the setting for the theophany, the revelation of Jesus' divine identity as the Son of God.[Mk 1:7-11] Matthew shows John objecting to baptizing Jesus, an obvious superior, and only agreeing when overruled by Jesus[Mt 3:14-15] and omits Mark's reference to baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Luke emphasizes the subservience of John to Jesus while both are still in the womb[Lk 1:32-45] and omits the role of John in the baptism of Jesus. [3:18-21] The Gospel of John omits the episode.[56]

Early explanations for Jesus' baptism that have remained popular include Ignatius of Antioch's assertion that Jesus was baptized to purify the waters of baptism and Justin Martyr's explanation that Jesus was baptized in his role as the ideal example for everyone.[56]

Baptism by Jesus

The Gospel of John[Jn 3:22-30] [4:1-4] states that Jesus at an early stage led a mission of baptism that drew crowds. John 4:2, considered by many scholars to be a later editorial insertion,[57] denies that Jesus himself baptized and states that he did so only through his disciples.

Some prominent scholars conclude that Jesus did not baptize. Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz assert that Jesus did not baptize, detached the notion of repentance from baptism, recognized John's baptism, and put forward a purity ethic in tension with baptism.[54] The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions also states that Jesus did not baptize as part of his ministry.[15]

E. P. Sanders omits John's account of Jesus' baptizing mission from his portrait of Jesus as a historical figure.[58]

Robert W. Funk considers the account of Jesus' baptism ministry in John to have internal difficulties: that, for instance, it reports Jesus coming to Judea even though he is already in Jerusalem and thus in Judea.[59] John 3:22 actually speaks of Jesus and his disciples coming, not "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν" (into Judea), but "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν" (into the Judean countryside),[60] which some interpret as contrasted with Jerusalem, the scene of the encounter with Nicodemus described immediately before.[61] According to the Jesus Seminar, the passage about Jesus "coming to Judea" (as they interpret "εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν") to lead a mission of baptism probably preserves no historical information (a "black" rating).[59]

On the other hand, the Cambridge Companion to Jesus[62] takes a different view. According to this source, Jesus accepted and made his own John the Baptist's message of repentance, forgiveness and baptism;[63] taking over from John, when the latter was imprisoned, he called for repentance and for baptism as a first step in accepting the imminent kingdom of God;[64] and the central place of baptism in his message is confirmed by the passage in John about Jesus baptizing.[65] After John's execution, Jesus ceased baptizing, through he may have occasionally returned to the practice; accordingly, while baptism played an important part in Jesus' ministry before John's death and again among his followers after his resurrection, it had no such prominence in between.[66]

New Testament scholar Raymond E. Brown, a specialist in the Johannine writings, considers that the parenthetic editorial remark of John 4:2 that Jesus baptized only through his disciples was intended to clarify or correct the twice repeated statement in the preceding verses that Jesus did baptize, and that the reason for its insertion may have been that the author considered the baptism that the disciples administered to be a continuation of the Baptist's work, not baptism in the Holy Spirit.[67]

Other New Testament scholars also accept the historical value of this passage in John. This is the view expressed by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall.[68] Another states that there is "no a priori reason to reject the report of Jesus and his disciples' conducting a ministry of baptism for a time", and mentions that report as one of the items in John's account[3:22-26] "that are likely to be historical and ought to be given due weight".[69]

In his book on the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, Daniel S. Dapaah says that John's account "may be a snippet of historical tradition", and comments that the silence of the Synoptic Gospels does not mean that the information in John was invented, and that Mark's account also suggests that Jesus worked with John at first, before moving to Galilee.[70] Frederick J. Cwiekowski agrees that the account in John "gives the impression" that Jesus baptized.[71]

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible says that "though he [Christ] himself baptized not so many as his disciples; 'For he suffered them for an example, preferring one another.'[72]

The Gospel of John remarks, in John 3:32, that, though Jesus drew many people to his baptism, they still did not accept his testimony,[73] and the Jesus Seminar concludes, on the basis of Josephus's accounts, that John the Baptist likely had a larger presence in the public mind than Jesus.[52]

New Testament

The New Testament includes several references to baptism as an important practice among early Christians and, while giving no actual account of its institution by Jesus, portrays him as giving instructions, after his resurrection, for his followers to perform the rite (see Great Commission).[74] It also gives interpretations by the Apostle Paul and in the First Epistle of Peter of the significance of baptism.

Paul's epistles

The Apostle Paul wrote several influential letters in the AD 50s, later accepted as canonical. For Paul, baptism effects and represents the believer's union with Christ, Christ's death, and his resurrection; cleanses one of sin; incorporates one into the Body of Christ, and makes one "drink of the Spirit."[1 Co 12:13][16] On the basis of Paul's writings, baptism was interpreted in the terms of the mystery religions.[75]

Gospel of Mark

Mark 1:1-11

This gospel, generally believed to be the first and to have been used as a basis for Matthew and Luke, begins with Jesus' baptism by John, who preached a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. John says of Jesus that he will baptize not with water but with the Holy Spirit. At Jesus' baptism, he hears God's voice proclaiming him to be his Son, and he sees the spirit like a dove descend on him. During Jesus' ministry, when James and John ask Jesus for seats of honor in the coming kingdom, Jesus likens his fate to a baptism and to a cup, the very baptism and cup in store for John and James (that is, martyrdom).[76]

Mark 16:19-20

The traditional ending of Mark is thought to have been compiled early in the second century, and initially appended to the gospel by the middle of that century.[77] It says that those who believe and are baptized will be saved.[Mk 16:9-20]

Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 3:12-14; Matthew 28:18-20

Matthew includes a brief version of the baptism of Jesus.[Mt 3:12-14]

The Gospel of Matthew also includes the most famous version of the Great Commission.[28:18-20] Here, the resurrected Jesus appears to the apostles and commissions them to make disciples, baptize, and teach.[78] This commission reflects the program adopted by the infant Christian movement.[78]


Acts of the Apostles, written c. 85–90,[79] states that about 3,000 people in Jerusalem were baptized in one day on Pentecost.[2:41] It further relates baptisms of men and women in Samaria,[8:12-13] of an Ethiopian eunuch,[8:36-40] of Saul of Tarsus,[9:18] [22:16] of the household of Cornelius,[10:47-48] of Lydia's household,[16:15] of the Philippi jailer's household,[16:33] of many Corinthians[18:8] and of certain Corinthians baptized by Paul personally.{{ |1Cor|1:14-16||1 Co 1:14-16}}

In Acts, the prerequisites of baptism are faith and repentance.[16] Acts associates baptism with receiving the Spirit, but the exact connection is not always the same.[16]

Also in Acts, twelve individuals who had undergone John's baptism, and who consequently had yet to receive the Holy Spirit, were directed by Paul to be rebaptized, whereupon they received the Holy Spirit.[19:1-7]

Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48 and Acts 19:5 speak of baptism "in the name of Jesus" or "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ", but whether this was a formula that was used has been questioned.[16]

Apostolic period

The Apostolic Age is the period from Jesus' life to the death of the last apostle c. 100 (see Beloved Disciple). Most of the New Testament was written during this period, and the primary sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist were established. Protestants in particular value the church of the Apostolic Age as a witness to Jesus' true message, which they believe was subsequently corrupted during the Great Apostasy.

Along with fasting, the practice of baptism may have entered Christian practice under the influence of former followers of John's.[52]

The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, an anonymous book of 16 short chapters, is probably the earliest known written instructions, outside of the Bible, for administering baptism. The first edition was written c. 60–80 AD.[80] The second, with insertions and additions, was written c. 100–150 AD.[80] This work, rediscovered in the 19th century, provides a unique look at Christianity in the Apostolic Age. In particular, it describes the two foundational sacraments of Christianity: the Eucharist and baptism. It indicates a preference for baptizing by immersion in "living water" (i.e., running water seen as symbolic of life)[81] or, if that is unavailable, in still water, preferably at its natural temperature, but considers that, when there is not enough water for immersion, it is sufficient to pour water on the head.[82][83][84][85][86]

In Matthew's (c. 80–85[79]) Great Commission, Christians are to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.[78] Baptism has been in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit since at least the end of the 1st century.[16] In Acts (c. 90),[79] Christians baptize "in the name of Jesus"[Ac 19:5] though whether that meant a spoken formula has been questioned.[16]

There is general agreement that the New Testament contains no positive evidence for infant baptism,[87][88] and the requirements made by the Didache on baptismal candidates are typically understood as precluding infant baptism.[89][90][91]

Early Christianity

Early Christian beliefs (Christianity practiced after the apostolic age) regarding baptism were variable.[15] In the most usual form of early Christian baptism, the candidate stood in water and water was poured over the upper body.[15] Baptism of the sick or dying usually used means other than even partial immersion and was still considered valid.[92] The theology of baptism attained precision in the 3rd and 4th centuries.[15]

While instruction was at first given after baptism, believers were given increasingly specific instructions before being baptized, especially in the face of heresies in the fourth century.[93] By then, postponement of baptism had become general, and a large proportion of believers were merely catechumens (Constantine was not baptized until he was dying); but as baptisms of the children of Christians, using an adaptation of the rite intended for adults, became more common than baptisms of adult converts, the number of catechumens decreased.[93]

As baptism was believed to forgive sins, the issue of sins committed after baptism arose. Some insisted that apostasy, even under threat of death, and other grievous sins cut one off forever from the Church. As indicated in the writings of Saint Cyprian, others favoured readmitting the "lapsi" easily. The rule that prevailed was that they were readmitted only after undergoing a period of penance that demonstrated sincere repentance.

What is now generally called the Nicene Creed, longer than the text adopted by the First Council of Nicaea of 325, and known also as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed because of its adoption in that form by the First Council of Constantinople in 381, was probably the baptismal creed then in use in Constantinople, the venue of the 381 Council.[94]

Early Middle Ages

Infant baptism became common, alongside the developing theology of original sin, displacing the earlier common practice of delaying baptism until the deathbed.[15] Against Pelagius, Augustine insisted that baptism was necessary for salvation even for virtuous people and for children.

Baptism of Augustine of Hippo as represented in a sculptural group in Troyes cathedral (1549)

Middle Ages

The twelfth century saw the meaning of the word "sacrament" narrowed down and restricted to seven rites, among them that of baptism, while other symbolic rites came to be called "sacramentals".[95]

In the period between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries, affusion became the usual manner of administering baptism in Western Europe, though immersion continued to be found in some places even as late as the sixteenth century.[92] Throughout the Middle Ages, there was therefore considerable variation in the kind of facility required for baptism, from the baptismal pool large enough to immerse several adults simultaneously of the 13th century Baptistery at Pisa, to the half-metre deep basin in the 6th century baptistery of the old Cologne Cathedral.[96]

Both East and West considered washing with water and the Trinitarian baptismal formula necessary for administering the rite. Scholasticism referred to these two elements as the matter and the form of the sacrament, employing terms taken from the then prevailing Aristotelian philosophy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, while teaching the necessity of both elements, nowhere uses these philosophical terms when speaking of any of the sacraments.[97]

Luther's Seal
 Lutheranism portal


Awaiting submersion baptism in the Jordan river

In the 16th century, Martin Luther considered baptism to be a sacrament. For the Lutherans, baptism is a "means of grace" through which God creates and strengthens "saving faith" as the "washing of regeneration"[Titus 3:5] in which infants and adults are reborn.[Jn 3:3-7] Since the creation of faith is exclusively God's work, it does not depend on the actions of the one baptized, whether infant or adult. Even though baptized infants cannot articulate that faith, Lutherans believe that it is present all the same.[98] Because it is faith alone that receives these divine gifts, Lutherans confess that baptism "works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare."[99] In the special section on infant baptism in his Large Catechism, Luther argues that infant baptism is God-pleasing because persons so baptized were reborn and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.[100]

Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli differed with the Lutherans by denying sacramental status of baptism. Zwingli identified baptism and the Lord's supper as sacraments, but in the sense of an initiatory ceremony.[16] His understanding of these sacraments as symbolic differentiated him from Luther.

Anabaptists (a word that means "rebaptizers") rejected so thoroughly the tradition maintained by Lutherans as well as Catholics that they denied the validity of baptism outside their group. They "rebaptized" converts on the grounds that one cannot be baptized without wishing it, and an infant, who does not understand what happens in a baptism ceremony and who has no knowledge of the concepts of Christianity, is not really baptized. They saw as non-biblical the baptism of infants, who cannot confess their faith and who, not having yet committed any sins, are not in the same need of salvation. Anabaptists and other Baptist groups do not consider that they rebaptize those who have been baptized as infants, since, in their view, infant baptism is without effect. The Amish, Restoration churches (Churches of Christ/ Christian Church), Hutterites, Baptists, Mennonites and other groups descend from this tradition. Pentecostal, charismatic and most non-denominational churches share this view as well.[4]

Modern practice

A baptism in the Roman Catholic Santa Cruz Parish, Chile, in 1991.

Today, baptism is most readily identified with Christianity, where it symbolizes the cleansing (remission) of sins, and the union of the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection so that he may be called "saved" or "born again". Most Christian groups use water to baptize and agree that it is important, yet may strongly disagree with other groups regarding aspects of the rite such as:

  • Manner or method of baptism
  • Recipients of baptism
  • Meaning and effects of baptism

Mode and manner of baptism

Baptism of a child by affusion

A Christian baptism is administered in one of the following forms, performing the action either once or thrice:[101][102]


Aspersion is the sprinkling of water on the head.


An affusion baptism, in the Santa Cruz Parish, 1991.

Affusion is the pouring of water over the head.


The word "immersion" is derived from late Latin immersionem, a noun derived from the verb immergere (in- "into" + mergere "dip"). In relation to baptism, some use it to refer to any form of dipping, whether the body is put completely under water or is only partly dipped in water; they thus speak of immersion as being either total or partial. Others, of the Anabaptist tradition, use "immersion" to mean exclusively plunging someone entirely under the surface of the water (submersion).[103][104]. The term "immersion" is also used of a form of baptism in which water is poured over someone standing in water, without submersion of the person.[105][106] On these three meanings of the word "immersion", see Immersion baptism.

When "immersion" is used in opposition to "submersion",[107] it indicates the form of baptism in which the candidate stands or kneels in water and water is poured over the upper part of the body. Immersion in this sense has been employed in West and East since at least the second century and is the form in which baptism is generally depicted in early Christian art. In the West, this method of baptism began to be replaced by affusion baptism from around the 8th century, but it continues in use in Eastern Christianity.[105][106][108]


Baptism by submersion in the Eastern Orthodox Church (Sophia Cathedral, 2005)

The word Submersion comes from the late Latin (sub- "under, below" + mergere "plunge, dip")[109] and is also sometimes called "complete immersion". It is the form of baptism in which the water completely covers the candidate's body. Submersion is practiced in the Orthodox and several other Eastern Churches (although immersion, as distinct from submersion, is now also common), as well as in the Ambrosian Rite. It is one of the methods provided in the Roman Rite of the baptism of infants. The supposition that the term "immersion", used by historians when speaking of the usual practice of the early Christians,[84][85] referred to submersion has been challenged from the evidence of primitive pictorial representations and from measurements of surviving early baptismal fonts.[110] It is still frequently confused with immersion.

Baptism by submersion in a river

Baptists believe that "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water. …It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus" [ellipsis retained from quoted text].[111] Baptists, like most other Christians who believe in baptism by total immersion, read Biblical passages[112] to imply that the practice intentionally symbolizes burial and resurrection. Especially when performed before onlookers, the total immersion ceremony depicts a burial (when the person being baptized is submerged under the water, as if buried), and a resurrection (when the person comes up out of the water, as if rising from the grave)—a "death" and a "burial" to an old way of life focused on sinning, and a "resurrection" to the start of a new life as a Christian focused on God. Such Christians typically believe that John 3:3-5 also supports this view, with its implication that water baptism symbolizes (but does not produce) a Christian being "born again" spiritually.[113]

A submersion baptism in Community of Christ, in Las Terrazas Beach, Pichilemu, Chile.

Baptism by submersion is also practiced by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),[114] although the faith does not suggest rebaptism of those who have undergone a different Christian baptism tradition.[115] Baptism in Churches of Christ, which also have roots in the Restoration Movement, is performed only by bodily immersion.[116]:p.107[117]:p.124 This is based on their understanding of the meaning of the word baptizo as used in the New Testament, a belief that it more more closely conforms to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and that historically immersion was the mode used in the first century, and that pouring and sprinkling later emerged as secondary modes when immersion was not possible.[118][119]:p.139-140

Seventh-day Adventists believe that "Baptism symbolizes dying to self and coming alive in Jesus." They practice full immersion baptism.[120]

Latter-day Saints beliefs concerning baptism state "You are briefly immersed in water, as Jesus Christ was baptized. Baptism by immersion is a sacred symbol of the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it represents the end of your old life and the beginning of a new life as a disciple of Jesus Christ."[121] The Community of Christ also practices submersion for their baptisms.

Jehovah's Witnesses teach "When a person is baptized, his whole body should be put under the water momentarily."[122]


Until the Middle Ages, most baptisms were performed with the candidates completely naked—as is evidenced by most of the early portrayals of baptism (some of which are shown in this article), and the early Church Fathers and other Christian writers. Typical of these is Cyril of Jerusalem who wrote "On the Mysteries of Baptism" in the 4th Century (c. 350 A.D.):

Do you not know, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death? etc.…for you are not under the Law, but under grace.

1. Therefore, I shall necessarily lay before you the sequel of yesterday's Lecture, that you may learn of what those things, which were done by you in the inner chamber, were symbolic.

2. As soon, then, as you entered, you put off your tunic; and this was an image of putting off the old man with his deeds.[Col 3:9] Having stripped yourselves, you were naked; in this also imitating Christ, who was stripped naked on the Cross, and by His nakedness put off from Himself the principalities and powers, and openly triumphed over them on the tree. For since the adverse powers made their lair in your members, you may no longer wear that old garment; I do not at all mean this visible one, but the old man, which waxes corrupt in the lusts of deceit.[Eph 4:22] May the soul which has once put him off, never again put him on, but say with the Spouse of Christ in the Song of Songs, I have put off my garment, how shall I put it on?[Song of Sol 5:3] O wondrous thing! You were naked in the sight of all, and were not ashamed; for truly ye bore the likeness of the first-formed Adam, who was naked in the garden, and was not ashamed.

3. Then, when you were stripped, you were anointed with exorcised oil, from the very hairs of your head to your feet, and were made partakers of the good olive-tree, Jesus Christ.

4. After these things, you were led to the holy pool of Divine Baptism, as Christ was carried from the Cross to the Sepulchre which is before our eyes. And each of you was asked, whether he believed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and you made that saving confession, and descended three times into the water, and ascended again; here also hinting by a symbol at the three days burial of Christ.… And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born;[123]

The symbolism is three-fold:

1. Baptism is considered to be a form of rebirth—"by water and the Spirit"[Jn 3:5]—the nakedness of baptism (the second birth) paralleled the condition of one's original birth. For example, St. John Chrysostom calls the baptism "λοχείαν", i.e., giving birth, and "new way of creation…from water and Spirit" ("to John" speech 25,2), and later elaborates:

"For nothing perceivable was handed over to us by Jesus; but with perceivable things, all of them however conceivable. This is also the way with the baptism; the gift of the water is done with a perceivable thing, but the things being conducted, i.e., the rebirth and renovation, are conceivable. For, if you were without a body, He would hand over these bodiless gifts as naked [gifts] to you. But because the soul is closely linked to the body, He hands over the perceivable ones to you with conceivable things " (Chrysostom to Matthew., speech 82, 4, c. 390 A.D.)

2. The removal of clothing represented the "image of putting off the old man with his deeds" (as per Cyril, above), so the stripping of the body before for baptism represented taking off the trappings of sinful self, so that the "new man," which is given by Jesus, can be put on.

3. As St. Cyril again asserts above, as Adam and Eve in scripture and tradition were naked, innocent and unashamed in the Garden of Eden, nakedness during baptism was seen as a renewal of that innocence and state of original sinlessness. Other parallels can also be drawn, such as between the exposed condition of Christ during His crucifixion, and the crucifixion of the "old man" of the repentant sinner in preparation for baptism.

Changing customs and concerns regarding modesty probably contributed to the practice of permitting or requiring the baptismal candidate to either retain their undergarments (as in many Renaissance paintings of baptism such as those by da Vinci, Tintoretto, Van Scorel, Masaccio, de Wit and others) and/or to wear, as is almost universally the practice today, baptismal robes. These robes are most often white, symbolizing purity. Some groups today allow any suitable clothes to be worn, such as trousers and a t-shirt—practical considerations include how easily the clothes will dry (denim is discouraged), and whether they will become see-through when wet.

Meaning and effects of baptism

There are differences in views about the effect of baptism for a Christian. Some Christian groups assert baptism is a requirement for salvation and a sacrament, and speak of "baptismal regeneration". This view is shared by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, and by Churches formed early during the Protestant Reformation such as Lutheran and Anglican. For example, Martin Luther said:

To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save. No one is baptized in order to become a prince, but as the words say, to "be saved". To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever.

Luther's Large Catechism, 1529

The Churches of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also espouse baptism as necessary for salvation.

For Roman Catholics, baptism by water is a sacrament of initiation into the life of children of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1212-13). It configures the person to Christ (CCC 1272), and obliges the Christian to share in the Church's apostolic and missionary activity (CCC 1270). The Catholic Tradition holds that there are three types of baptism by which one can be saved: sacramental baptism (with water), baptism of desire (explicit or implicit desire to be part of the Church founded by Jesus Christ), and baptism of blood (martyrdom) (see topic below).

By contrast, most Reformed (Calvinist), evangelical, and fundamentalist Protestant groups recognize baptism as an act of obedience to and identification with Jesus as the Christ. They say that baptism has no sacramental (saving) power, and only testifies outwardly to the invisible and internal operation of God's power, which is completely separate from the rite itself.

Churches of Christ consistently teach that in baptism a believer surrenders his life in faith and obedience to God, and that God "by the merits of Christ's blood, cleanses one from sin and truly changes the state of the person from an alien to a citizen of God's kingdom. Baptism is not a human work; it is the place where God does the work that only God can do."[124]:p.66 Thus, they see baptism as a passive act of faith rather than a meritorious work; it "is a confession that a person has nothing to offer God."[125]:p.112

Baptism in most Christian traditions

The baptistry at St. Raphael's Cathedral, Dubuque, Iowa. This particular font was expanded in 2005 to include a small pool to provide for immersion baptism of adults. Eight-sided font architectures are common symbology of the day of Christ's Resurrection: the "Eighth Day".

The liturgy of baptism in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and Methodist traditions makes clear reference to baptism as not only a symbolic burial and resurrection, but an actual supernatural transformation, one that draws parallels to the experience of Noah and the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea divided by Moses. Thus, baptism is literally and symbolically not only cleansing, but also dying and rising again with Christ. Catholics believe that baptism is necessary for the cleansing of the taint of original sin, and for that reason infant baptism is a common practice. The Eastern Churches (Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy) also baptize infants on the basis of texts, such as Matthew 19:14, which are interpreted as supporting full Church membership for children. In these traditions, baptism is immediately followed by Chrismation and Communion at the next Divine Liturgy, regardless of age. Orthodox likewise believe that baptism removes what they call the ancestral sin of Adam.[126] Anglicans believe that Baptism is also the entry into the Church and therefore allows them access to all rights and responsibilities as full members, including the privilege to receive Holy Communion. Most Anglicans agree that it also cleanses the taint of what in the West is called original sin, in the East ancestral sin.

Eastern Orthodox Christians usually insist on complete threefold immersion as both a symbol of death and rebirth into Christ, and as a washing away of sin. Latin Rite Catholics generally baptize by affusion (pouring); Eastern Catholics usually by submersion, or at least partial immersion. However, submersion is gaining in popularity within the Latin Catholic Church. In newer church sanctuaries, the baptismal font may be designed to expressly allow for baptism by immersion.[citation needed] Anglicans baptize by submersion, immersion, affusion or sprinkling.

According to a tradition, evidence of which can be traced back to at latest about the year 200,[127] sponsors or godparents are present at baptism and vow to uphold the Christian education and life of the baptized.

Baptists argue that the Greek word βαπτίζω originally meant "to immerse". They interpret some Biblical passages concerning baptism as requiring submersion of the body in water. They also state that only submersion reflects the symbolic significance of being "buried" and "raised" with Christ.[Rom 6:3-4] Baptist Churches baptize in the name of the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, they do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation; but rather that it is an act of Christian obedience.

Some "full gospel" charismatic churches such as Oneness Pentecostals baptize only in the name of Jesus Christ, citing Peter's preaching baptism in the name of Jesus as their authority.[Ac 2:38] They also point to several historical sources that maintain that the early church always baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus until development of the Trinity Doctrine in the Second Century.[128][129]

Ecumenical statements

In 1982 the World Council of Churches published the ecumenical paper Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. The preface of the document states:

Those who know how widely the churches have differed in doctrine and practice on baptism, Eucharist and ministry, will appreciate the importance of the large measure of agreement registered here. Virtually all the confessional traditions are included in the Commission's membership. That theologians of such widely different traditions should be able to speak so harmoniously about baptism, Eucharist and ministry is unprecedented in the modern ecumenical movement. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the Commission also includes among its full members theologians of the Catholic and other churches which do not belong to the World Council of Churches itself."[130]

A 1997 document, Becoming a Christian: The Ecumenical Implications of Our Common Baptism, gave the views of a commission of experts brought together under the aegis of the World Council of Churches. It states:

…according to Acts 2:38, baptisms follow from Peter's preaching baptism in the name of Jesus and lead those baptized to the receiving of Christ's Spirit, the Holy Ghost, and life in the community: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers"[2:42] as well as to the distribution of goods to those in need.[2:45]

Those who heard, who were baptized and entered the community's life, were already made witnesses of and partakers in the promises of God for the last days: the forgiveness of sins through baptism in the name of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on all flesh.[Ac 2:38] Similarly, in what may well be a baptismal pattern, 1 Peter testifies that proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and teaching about new life[1 Pe 1:3-21] lead to purification and new birth.[1:22-23] This, in turn, is followed by eating and drinking God's food,[2:2-3] by participation in the life of the community—the royal priesthood, the new temple, the people of God[2:4-10]—and by further moral formation.[2:11ff] At the beginning of 1 Peter the writer sets this baptism in the context of obedience to Christ and sanctification by the Spirit.[1:2] So baptism into Christ is seen as baptism into the [1 Co 12:13] In the fourth gospel Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus indicates that birth by water and Spirit becomes the gracious means of entry into the place where God rules. [Jn 3:5][131]

Validity considerations by some Churches

Russian Orthodox priest greeting an infant and its godparents on the steps of the church at the beginning of the Sacred Mystery of Baptism.

Since the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist and Lutheran Churches teach that baptism is a sacrament that has actual spiritual and salvific effects, certain key criteria must be complied with for it to be valid, i.e., to actually have those effects. If these key criteria are met, violation of some rules regarding baptism, such as varying the authorized rite for the ceremony, renders the baptism illicit (contrary to the Church's laws) but still valid.

One of the criteria for validity is use of the correct form of words. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the use of the verb "baptize" is essential.[92] Catholics of Latin Rite, Anglicans and Methodists use the form "I baptize you…." Eastern Orthodox and some Eastern Catholics use the form "This servant of Christ is baptized…" or "This person is baptized by my hands…." These Churches generally recognize each other's form of baptism as valid.

Use of the Trinitarian formula "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is also considered essential; thus these churches do not accept as valid baptisms of non-Trinitarian churches such as Oneness Pentecostals.

Another essential condition is use of water. A baptism in which some other liquid was used would not be considered valid.

Another requirement is that the celebrant intends to perform baptism. This requirement entails merely the intention "to do what the Church does", not necessarily to have Christian faith, since it is not the person baptizing, but the Holy Spirit working through the sacrament, who produces the effects of the sacrament. Doubt about the faith of the baptizer is thus no ground for doubt about the validity of the baptism.

Some conditions expressly do not affect validity—for example, whether submersion, immersion, affusion or aspersion is used. However, if water is sprinkled, there is a danger that the water may not touch the skin of the unbaptized. If the water does not flow on the skin, there is no ablution and so no baptism.

If for a medical or other legitimate reason the water cannot be poured on the head, it may be poured over another principal part of the body, such as the chest. In such case validity is uncertain and the person will be considered to be conditionally baptized – until such time as they can be baptized in the traditional manner later.

For many communions, validity is not affected if a single submersion or pouring is performed rather than a triple, but in Orthodoxy this is controversial.

According to the Catholic Church, baptism imparts an indelible "seal" upon the soul of the baptized. Thus, once baptized, an individual cannot be baptized again. This teaching was affirmed against the Donatists who practiced rebaptism. Baptism is said to operate ex opere operato and is valid even if administered in heresy or schism.[15] Like holy orders, it confers a "character" on the recipient, who can never be re-baptized.[15]

Recognition of baptism by other denominations

The Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches accept baptism performed by other denominations within this group as valid, subject to certain conditions, including the use of the Trinitarian formula. It is only possible to be baptized once, thus people with valid baptisms from other denominations may not be baptized again upon conversion or transfer. Such people are accepted upon making a profession of faith and, if they have not yet validly received the sacrament of confirmation or chrismation, by being confirmed. In some cases it can be difficult to decide if the original baptism was in fact valid; if there is doubt, conditional baptism is administered, with a formula on the lines of "If you are not yet baptized, I baptize you…."[132]

In the still recent past, it was common practice in the Roman Catholic Church to baptize conditionally almost every convert from Protestantism because of a perceived difficulty in judging about the validity in any concrete case. In the case of the major Protestant Churches, agreements involving assurances about the manner in which they administer baptism has ended this practice, which sometimes continues for other groups of Protestant tradition. The Catholic Church has always recognized the validity of baptism in the Churches of Eastern Christianity, but it has explicitly denied the validity of the baptism conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[133]

Practice in the Eastern Orthodox Church for converts from other communions is not uniform, but even a convert received without administration of baptism is considered to have his previous baptism retroactively filled with grace by whatever form is used to accept him, such as by chrismation or confession. The exact procedure is dependent on local canons and is the subject of some controversy.[citation needed]

Oriental Orthodox Churches recognise the validity of baptisms performed within the Eastern Orthodox Communion. Some also recognise baptisms performed by Catholic Churches. Any supposed baptism not performed using the Trinitarian formula is considered invalid.[citation needed]

In the eyes of the Catholic Church, all Orthodox Churches, Anglican and Lutheran Churches, the baptism conferred by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is invalid.[134] An article published together with the official declaration to that effect gave reasons for that judgment, summed up in the following words: "The Baptism of the Catholic Church and that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differ essentially, both for what concerns faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose name Baptism is conferred, and for what concerns the relationship to Christ who instituted it."[135]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stresses that baptism must be administered by one having proper authority; consequently, the Church does not recognize the baptism of any other church as valid.[136]

Jehovah's Witnesses do not recognise any other baptism occurring after 1914[137] as valid,[138] as they believe that they are now the one true church of Christ,[139] and that the rest of "Christendom" is false religion.[140]

Who may administer a baptism

A baptism administered by a U.S. Navy chaplain in Iraq

There is debate among Christian churches as to who can administer baptism. The examples given in the New Testament only show apostles and deacons administering baptism. Ancient Christian churches interpret this as indicating that baptism should be performed by the clergy except in extremis, i.e., when the one being baptized is in immediate danger of death. Then anyone may baptize, provided, in the view of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the person who does the baptizing is a member of that Church, or, in the view of the Catholic Church, that the person, even if not baptized, intends to do what the Church does in administering the rite. Many Protestant churches see no specific prohibition in the biblical examples and permit any believer to baptize another.

In the Catholic Church the ordinary minister of baptism is a member of the clergy (bishop, priest or deacon),[141] but in normal circumstances only the Parish Priest of the person to be baptized, or someone authorized by the Parish Priest, may do so licitly[142] "If the ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or some other person deputed to this office by the local Ordinary, may lawfully confer baptism; indeed, in a case of necessity, any person who has the requisite intention may do so[141] By "a case of necessity" is meant imminent danger of death because of either illness or an external threat. "The requisite intention" is, at the minimum level, the intention "to do what the Church does" through the rite of baptism.

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, a deacon is not considered an ordinary minister. Administration of the sacrament is reserved, as in the Catholic Rite, to the Parish Priest. But, "in case of necessity, baptism can be administered by a deacon or, in his absence or if he is impeded, by another cleric, a member of an institute of consecrated life, or by any other Christian faithful; even by the mother or father, if another person is not available who knows how to baptize."[143]

The discipline of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East is similar to that of the Eastern Catholic Churches. They require the baptizer, even in cases of necessity, to be of their own faith, on the grounds that a person cannot convey what he himself does not possess, in this case membership in the Church.[144] The Latin Rite Catholic Church does not insist on this condition, considering that the effect of the sacrament, such as membership of the Church, is not produced by the person who baptizes, but by the Holy Spirit. For the Orthodox, while Baptism in extremis may be administered by a deacon or any lay-person, if the newly-baptized person survives, a priest must still perform the other prayers of the Rite of Baptism, and administer the Mystery of Chrismation.

The discipline of Anglicanism and Lutherans is similar to that of the Latin Rite Catholic Church. For Methodists and many other Protestant denominations, too, the ordinary minister of baptism is a duly ordained or appointed minister of religion.

Newer movements of Protestant Evangelical churches, particularly non-denominational, have begun to allow those persons most instrumental in one's faith to baptize.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, only a man who has been ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood holding the priesthood office of Priest or higher office in the Melchizedek Priesthood may administer baptism.[145]

A Jehovah's Witnesses baptism is performed by a "dedicated male" adherent.[146][147] Only in extraordinary circumstances would a "dedicated" baptizer be unbaptized (see section Jehovah's Witnesses).

Other Baptism traditions

Anabaptist baptism

A river baptism in North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century. Full-immersion (submersion) baptism continues to be a common practice in many African-American Christian congregations today.

Anabaptists ("re-baptizers") and Baptists promote adult baptism, or "believer's baptism." Baptism is seen as an act identifying one as having accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.

Early Anabaptists were given that name because they re-baptized persons whom they felt had not been properly baptized, having received infant baptism, sprinkling, or baptism of any sort by another denomination.

Anabaptists perform baptisms indoors in a baptismal font, a swimming pool, or a bathtub, or outdoors in a creek or river. Baptism memorializes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.[Rom 6] Baptism does not accomplish anything in itself, but is an outward personal sign or testimony that the person's sins have already been washed away by the cross of Christ.[148] It is considered a covenantal act, signifying entrance into the New Covenant of Christ.[149][148]

Baptist views

For the main majority of all Baptists, Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[Mt 28:19] It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to the believer's faith in the final resurrection of the dead.[150]

Most Baptists believe that baptism in itself does not convey salvation or transformation, but is a sign of what has already happened in a spiritual sense to a new believer. Since it is considered not to bestow "saving grace" or be salvific as such, Baptists consider it an "ordinance" rather than a "sacrament." Being a church "ordinance"—a teaching of the Bible that Jesus intended his followers to observe,[4] it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper (Baptists' preferred term for communion).[150]

Baptism cannot be separated from one’s doctrine of Christ, since Christ himself was baptized and his redemptive work is depicted in baptism by immersion as a new relationship in Christ which all believers enjoy.[4]

Baptists also believe that baptism is an important way of professing one’s faith in Christ. Typically, adults, youth, or older children who understand the commitment of faith to Christ and wish to respond to God’s call are acceptable candidates for baptism.[4]

Baptists have been criticized because their rejection of infant baptism appears to have no place for children in an adult or believers’ church. Instead of baptizing young children and infants, Baptists prefer to dedicate children to the Lord in a public church service where the parents and the members of the church are called upon to live exemplary lives before children, and to teach them the ways of the Lord. Water baptism is not an element in that service.[4] Baptists respond to this criticism by saying God's love extends to all, and explicitly children; that baptism is not in itself a sacrament, and so does not convey the salvation those critics consider children to be lacking; and that as baptism merely conveys an outward sign of the confession of faith, it is a pointless exercise until the person being baptized is mature enough to make an informed decision to make that confession.[4]

Churches of Christ

Baptism in Churches of Christ is performed only by full bodily immersion,[116]:p.107[117]:p.124 based on the Koine Greek verb baptizo which is understood to mean to dip, immerse, submerge or plunge.[118][119]:p.139[151]:p.313-314[152]:p.22[153]:p.45-46 Submersion is seen as more closely conforming to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus than other modes of baptism.[118][119]:p.140[151]:p.314-316 Churches of Christ argue that historically immersion was the mode used in the first century, and that pouring and sprinkling later emerged as secondary modes when immersion was not possible.[119]:p.140 Over time these secondary modes came to replace immersion.[119]:p.140 Only those mentally capable of belief and repentance are baptized (i.e., infant baptism is not practiced because the New Testament has no precedent for it).[117]:p.124[118][151]:p.318-319[154]:p.195

Churches of Christ have historically had the most conservative position on baptism among the various branches of the Restoration Movement, understanding baptism by immersion to be a necessary part of conversion.[124]:p.61 The most significant disagreements concerned the extent to which a correct understanding of the role of baptism is necessary for its validity.[124]:p.61 David Lipscomb insisted that if a believer was baptized out of a desire to obey God, the baptism was valid, even if the individual did not fully understand the role baptism plays in salvation.[124]:p.61 Austin McGary contended that to be valid, the convert must also understand that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins.[124]:p.62 McGary's view became the prevailing one in the early 20th century, but the approach advocated by Lipscomb never totally disappeared.[124]:p.62 More recently, the rise of the International Churches of Christ (who insisted on re-baptising anyone joining their movement) has caused some to reexamine the issue.[124]:p.66

Churches of Christ consistently teach that in baptism a believer surrenders his life in faith and obedience to God, and that God "by the merits of Christ's blood, cleanses one from sin and truly changes the state of the person from an alien to a citizen of God's kingdom. Baptism is not a human work; it is the place where God does the work that only God can do."[124]:p.66 Baptism is a passive act of faith rather than a meritorious work; it "is a confession that a person has nothing to offer God."[125]:p.112 While Churches of Christ do not describe baptism as a "sacrament", their view of it can legitimately be described as "sacramental."[124]:p.66[152]:p.186 They see the power of baptism coming from God, who chose to use baptism as a vehicle, rather than from the water or the act itself,[152]:p.186 and understand baptism to be an integral part of the conversion process, rather than just a symbol of conversion.[152]:p.184 A recent trend is to emphasize the transformational aspect of baptism: instead of describing it as just a legal requirement or sign of something that happened in the past, it is seen as "the event that places the believer 'into Christ' where God does the ongoing work of transformation."[124]:p.66 There is a minority that downplays the importance of baptism in order to avoid sectarianism, but the broader trend is to "reexamine the richness of the biblical teaching of baptism and to reinforce its central and essential place in Christianity."[124]:p.66

Because of the belief that baptism is a necessary part of salvation, some Baptists hold that the Churches of Christ endorse the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.[155] However, members of the Churches of Christ reject this, arguing that since faith and repentance are necessary, and that the cleansing of sins is by the blood of Christ through the grace of God, baptism is not an inherently redeeming ritual.[119]:p.133[155][156]:p.630,631 Rather, their inclination is to point to the biblical passage in which Peter, analogizing baptism to Noah's flood, posits that "likewise baptism doth also now save us" but parenthetically clarifies that baptism is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but the response of a good conscience toward God" (1 Peter 3:21).[157] One author from the churches of Christ describes the relationship between faith and baptism this way, "Faith is the reason why a person is a child of God; baptism is the time at which one is incorporated into Christ and so becomes a child of God" (italics are in the source).[154]:p.170 Baptism is understood as a confessional expression of faith and repentance,[154]:p.179-182 rather than a "work" that earns salvation.[154]:p.170

Reformed and Covenant Theology view

Paedobaptist Covenant theologians see the administration of all the biblical covenants, including the New Covenant, as including a principle of familial, corporate inclusion or "generational succession". The biblical covenants between God and man include signs and seals that visibly represent the realities behind the covenants. These visible signs and symbols of God's covenant redemption are administered in a corporate manner (for instance, to households), not in an exclusively individualistic manner.

Baptism is considered by the Reformed churches as the visible sign of entrance into the New Covenant and therefore may be administered individually to new believers making a public profession of faith. Paedobaptists further believe this extends corporately to the households of believers which typically would include children, or individually to children or infants of believing parents (see Infant baptism). In this view, baptism is thus seen as the functional replacement and sacramental equivalent of the Abrahamic rite of circumcision and symbolizes the internal cleansing from sin, among other things.

Catholic baptism

In Catholic teaching, baptism plays an essential role in salvation.[158] This teaching dates back to the teachings and practices of first-century Christians, and the connection between salvation and baptism was not, on the whole, an item of major dispute until Martin Luther's teachings regarding grace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament."[17] Accordingly, a person who knowingly, willfully and unrepentantly rejects baptism has no hope of salvation. This teaching is based on Jesus' words in the Gospel according to John: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."[Jn 3:5]

Catholics are baptized in water, by submersion, immersion or infusion, in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit[159]—not three gods, but one God subsisting in three Persons. While sharing in the one divine essence, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, not simply three "masks" or manifestations of one Person. The faith of the Church and of the individual Christian is based on a relationship with these three Persons of the one God. Adults can also be baptized, if they are not baptized already, through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

It is claimed that Pope Stephen I, St. Ambrose, and Pope Nicholas I declared that baptisms in the name of "Jesus" only as well as in the name of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" were valid. The correct interpretation of their words is disputed.[92] Current canonical law requires the Trinitarian formula and water for validity[158]

The Church recognizes two equivalents of baptism with water: "baptism of blood" and "baptism of desire". Baptism of blood is that undergone by unbaptized individuals who are martyred for the Faith, while baptism of desire generally applies to catechumens who die before they can be baptized. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes these two forms:

The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. (1258)

For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. (1259)

Non-Christians who seek God with a sincere heart and, moved by grace, try to do God's will as they know it through the dictates of conscience can also be saved without water baptism; they are said to desire it implicitly.[160] As for unbaptized infants, the Church is unsure of their fate; "the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God" (Catechism, 1261).

Jehovah's Witnesses

Baptism is also practiced by Jehovah's Witnesses. They believe it should be performed by complete immersion (submersion) only when one is old enough to understand the significance of it. They teach that water baptism is an outward symbol that one has made a complete, unreserved, and unconditional dedication through Jesus Christ to do the will of Jehovah God; for males and females, baptism constitutes ordination as a minister[161] Jehovah's Witnesses usually baptize converts at large conventions[162] rather than at the local Kingdom Halls.

A candidate must request baptism some time before a planned baptismal event, since preparation is required to qualify.[163] Congregation elders may only approve a candidate for baptism after he understands what is expected of a Christian associated with Jehovah's Witnesses and he demonstrates sincere dedication to the faith.[164]

Before the actual baptism, the candidates must answer in the affirmative when presented with the following two oaths[165]:

  1. On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
  2. Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?

While baptisms may be performed simultaneously by different baptizers, the baptism of a typical Jehovah's Witness candidate is performed by one male minister."Normally only one male minister is needed to baptize someone".[166]

In practice, most baptisms among Jehovah's Witnesses are performed at scheduled assemblies and conventions by elders and ministerial servants, although smaller services without onlookers are considered Scriptural.[146] and the only baptizer requirement is that he should himself be a baptized male.[167][168] Unless the candidate is physically challenged or some other special situation exists, a particular candidate is immersed by only one baptizer. "Jesus’ baptism, then, sets the pattern of total immersion in water, but it also suggests that one male servant of God should perform the baptism.[166] In circumstances of extended isolation, a qualified candidate's prayerful dedication and publicly stated intention to become baptized as soon as possible serve to identify the start of his or her life as a dedicated Christian, even if immersion itself must be delayed.[169] In rare instances, an unbaptized man who has made a public dedication has performed the baptism of another who immediately reciprocated; Witnesses accept both baptisms as valid.[170] Witnesses who had been baptized in the 1930s and 1940s by women ministers, such as in concentration camps, were rebaptized but retained the earlier as their baptism dates.[146]


A Mormon baptism, circa the 1850s

In Mormonism, baptism has the main purpose of remitting the sins of the participant. It is followed by confirmation, which inducts the person into membership in the church and constitutes a baptism with the Holy Spirit. Mormon baptism must be by full immersion, and by a precise ritualized prayer: if some part of the participant is not fully immersed, or the prayer was not recited verbatim, the ritual must be repeated.[171] It typically occurs in a baptismal font. In addition, Mormons do not believe a baptism is valid unless it is performed by a Mormon priest or someone of higher authority.[172] Authority is passed down through a form of apostolic succession. All new converts the the faith must be baptized or re-baptized. Baptism is seen as symbolic both of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection[173] and is also symbolic of the baptized individual discarding their "natural" self and donning a new identity as a disciple of Jesus.

According to Mormon theology, faith and repentance are prerequisites to baptism. The ritual does not cleanse the participant of original sin, as Mormons do not believe the doctrine of original sin. Baptism must occur after an "age of accountability", defined in Mormon scripture as eight years old.[174] Mormonism rejects infant baptism.[175] Mormon theology also countenances baptism for the dead in which deceased ancestors are baptized vicariously by the living. This generally occurs in mormon temples.[176]

Opposition to water baptism

Quakers and baptism

Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) do not believe in the baptism of either children or adults with water, rejecting all forms of outward sacraments in their religious life. Robert Barclay's Apology for the True Christian Divinity (a historic explanation of Quaker theology from the 17th century), explains Quakers' opposition to baptism with water thus:

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire".[Mt 3:11] Here John mentions two manners of baptizings and two different baptisms, the one with water, and the other with the Spirit, the one whereof he was the minister of, the other whereof Christ was the minister of: and such as were baptized with the first were not therefore baptized with the second: "I indeed baptize you, but he shall baptize you." Though in the present time they were baptized with the baptism of water, yet they were not as yet, but were to be, baptized with the baptism of Christ.

Robert Barclay, 1678


Barclay argued that water baptism was only something that happened until the time of Christ, but that now, people are baptised inwardly by the spirit of Christ, and hence there is no need for the external sacrament of water baptism, which Quakers argue is meaningless.

Salvation Army and baptism

The Salvation Army does not practice water baptism, or indeed other outward sacraments. William Booth and Catherine Booth, the founders of the Salvation Army, believed that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself, whereas what they believed was important was spiritual grace itself. However, although the Salvation Army does not practice baptism, they are not opposed to baptism within other Christian denominations.[178]


There are some Christians who carry dispensationalism to such an extreme that they accept only Paul's Epistles as applicable for the church today. As a result, they do not accept baptism or the Lord's Supper, since these are not found in the Prison Epistles. They also teach that Peter's gospel message was not the same as Paul's.[179] Hyperdispensationalists assert:

  • The great commission[Matthew 28:18-20] and its baptism is directed to early Jewish believers, not the Gentile believers of mid-Acts or later.
  • The baptism of Acts 2:36-38 is Peter's call for Israel to repent of complicity in the death of the Messiah; not as a Gospel announcement of atonement for sin, a later doctrine revealed by Paul.

Water baptism found early in the Book of Acts is, according to this view, now supplanted by the one baptism[1 Cor 12:13] foretold by John the Baptist.[180] The one baptism for today, it is asserted, is the "baptism of the Holy Spirit".[Ac 11:15-16] This, "spirit" baptism, however, is unlikely given the texts and facts that the baptisms of the Eunuch[Ac 8:36] and the household of Cornelius[10:47-48] were explicitly in water. Further evidence points to the humanly administered Great Commission which was to last until the end of the world.[Mt 28:19-20] Therefore, the baptism the Ephesians underwent was water by context.[181] Likewise, Holy Spirit Baptism is recorded as only occurring twice in all the book of Acts to selected individuals.[Ac 2:1-4] [10:44-46] Finally, it is argued that only Jesus possessed the power to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire which eliminates any mortal ever doing.[Mt 3:11] [Lk 3:16]

John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire"[Lk 3:16].

Many in this group also argue that John's promised baptism by fire is pending, referring to the destruction of the world by fire.[182]

John, as he said "baptized with water", as did Jesus's disciples to the early, Jewish Christian church. Jesus himself never personally baptized with water, but did so through his disciples.[Jn 4:1-2] Unlike Jesus' first Apostles, Paul, his Apostle to the Gentiles, was sent to preach rather than to baptize[1 Co 1:17] but did occasionally baptize, for instance in Corinth[1:14-16] and in Philippi,[Ac 16:13] in the same manner as[Mt 28:19] He also taught the spiritual significance of the submerging in baptism and how one contacts the atoning death of Christ in such.[Rom 6:4]

Other Hyperdispensationalists believe that baptism was necessary only for a short period between Christ's ascension and mid-Acts. The great commission [Mt 28:18-20] and its baptism was directed to early Jewish believers, not the Gentile believers of mid-Acts or later. Any Jew who believed did not receive salvation[Mk 16:16] [1 Pe 3:21] or the Holy Spirit[Ac 2:38] until they were baptized. This period ended with the calling of Paul.[9:17-18] Peter's reaction when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit before baptism[10:44-48] is worthy of note.

Other initiation ceremonies

Many cultures practice or have practiced initiation rites, with or without the use of water, including the ancient Egyptian, the Hebraic/Jewish, the Babylonian, the Mayan, and the Norse cultures. The modern Japanese practice of Miyamairi is such as ceremony that does not use water. In some, such evidence may be archaeological and descriptive in nature, rather than a modern practice.

Mystery religion initiation rites

Apuleius, a second-century Roman writer, described an initiation into the mysteries of Isis:

Then, when the priest said the moment had come, he led me to the nearest baths, escorted by the faithful in a body, and there, after I had bathed in the usual way, having invoked the blessing of the gods he ceremoniously aspersed and purified me.[183]

This initiation of Lucius, the character in Apuleius's story who had been turned into an ass and changed back by Isis into human form, into the successive degrees of the rites of the goddess was accomplished only after a significant period of study to demonstrate his loyalty and trustworthiness, akin to catechumenical practices in Christianity.[184]

Mandaean baptism

Mandaeans, who abhor[citation needed] Jesus and Moses as false prophets, revere John the Baptist and practice frequent baptism, a rite therefore of purification, not of initiation.

Sikh baptism ceremony

The Sikh initiation ceremony, which involves drinking, not washing, dates from 1699, when the religion's tenth leader (Guru Gobind Singh) initiated 5 followers of his faith and then was initiated himself by his followers. The Sikh baptism ceremony is called Amrit Sanchar or Khande di Pahul. The Sikh has taken Amrit once they have been initiated. In Sikhism, the initiated Sikh is also called an Amritdhari literally meaning Amrit Taker or one who has Taken on Amrit.

Khande Di Pahul (Amrit ceremony) was initiated in the times of Guru Gobind Singh when Khalsa was inaugurated at Sri Anandpur Sahib on the day of Baisakhi in 1699. Guru Gobind Singh asked a gathering of Sikhs, who was prepared to die for God? At first, the people hesitated, and then one man stepped forward, and he was taken to a tent. After some time, Guru Gobind Singh came out of the tent, with blood dripping from his sword. He asked the same question again. After the next four volunteers were in the tent, he reappeared with the four, who were now all dressed like him. These five men came to be known as Panj Pyares or the Beloved Five. These five were initiated into the Khalsa by receiving Amrit. These five were Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Mukham Singh, Bhai Sahib Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh and Bhai Himmat Singh. Sikh men were then given the name "Singh" meaning "lion" and the women received the last name "Kaur" meaning "princess".

Filling an iron bowl with clean water, he kept stirring it with a two-edged sword (called a Khanda) while reciting over it five of the sacred texts or banisJapji, Jaap, Savaiyye, Benti Chaupai and Anand Sahib. The Guru’s wife, Mata Jito (also known as Mata Sahib Kaur), poured into the vessel sugar crystals, mingling sweetness with the alchemy of iron. The five Sikhs sat on the ground around the bowl reverently as the holy water was being churned to the recitation of the sacred verses.

With the recitation of the five banis completed, khande di pahul or amrit, the Nectar of Immortality, was ready for administration. Guru Gobind Singh gave the five Sikhs five palmsful each of it to drink.

Ritual washing in Islam

Islam requires a sort of washing called Ghusul[185] (Arabic word means washing), similar to Judaic practices mentioned above, which should include the washing of the whole body in special order or immersion of the whole body (submersion), in a river for instance. This Ghusul is not required for an adult when adopting Islam, but must be performed after each sexual intercourse or a wet dream or a menstrual flow so that they may resume their five daily prayers. Also is required to be done for dead bodies. The notion that prayers must be invoked to ask God for forgiveness from impure thoughts and actions is incorrect; it is only desirable.[citation needed]

Such Ghusul is very different from practices in other religions. A person performs it alone privately, whenever it is indicated or desired.[citation needed]

Apart from this, washing before daily prayers is essential and is called Wudu. Muslims believe no one should approach God in prayer, before first asking God to forgive them their sins. Formal prayers are offered five times per day. While washing, one prays to God asking for forgiveness of the sins committed throughout the day, whether intentional or unintentional. This is a Muslim's way of reminding him/herself that the goal of this life is to please God, and to pray to attain His forgiveness and grace.[citation needed]

Christian baptism is challenged in the Quran in the verse: "Our religion is the Baptism of Allah; And who can baptize better than Allah? And it is He Whom we worship". It means that belief in the monotheism of God in Islam is merely sufficient for entering in the fold of faith and does not require a ritual form of baptism.[186]

Gnostic Catholicism and Thelema

The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, or Gnostic Catholic Church (the ecclesiastical arm of Ordo Templi Orientis), offers its Rite of Baptism to any person at least 11 years old.[187] The ceremony is performed before a Gnostic Mass and represents a symbolic birth into the Thelemic community.[188]

Comparative summary

Comparative Summary of Baptisms of Denominations of Christian Influence.[189][190][191] (This section does not give a complete listing of denominations, and therefore, it only mentions a fraction of the churches practicing "believer's baptism".)

Denomination Beliefs about baptism Type of baptism Baptize infants? Baptism regenerates / gives spiritual life Standard
Anglican Communion "Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God."[190] By submersion, immersion, pouring, or sprinkling. Yes (in most sub-denominations) Yes (in most sub-denominations) Trinity
Apostolic Brethren Necessary for salvation because it conveys spiritual rebirth. By submersion only. Also stress the necessity of a “second” Baptism of a special outpouring from the Holy Spirit.[192] Yes Yes Jesus[193]
Baptists A divine ordinance, a symbolic ritual, a mechanism for publicly declaring one's faith, and a sign of having already been saved, but not necessary for salvation. See Baptist— Believer's Baptism. By submersion only. No No Trinity
Christadelphians Baptism is essential for the salvation of a believer.[194] It is only effective if somebody believes the true gospel message before they are baptized.[195] Baptism is an external symbol of an internal change in the believer: it represents a death to an old, sinful way of life, and the start of a new life as a Christian, summed up as the repentance of the believer — it therefore leads to forgiveness from God, who forgives people who repent.[196] Although someone is only baptized once, a believer must live by the principles of their baptism (i.e.,death to sin, and a new life following Jesus) throughout their life.[197] By submersion only[198] No[198] Yes The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (although Christadelphians do not believe in the Nicean trinity)
Disciples of Christ Baptism is an outward and public sign of God's grace made manifest in the individual. In submersion, one symbolically experiences dying with Christ, and then rises with Him.[199] Usually by submersion No No Trinity
Churches of Christ Churches of Christ have historically had the most conservative position on baptism among the various branches of the Restoration Movement, understanding baptism by immersion to be a necessary part of conversion.[124]:p.61 By immersion only[116]:p.107[117]:p.124[118] No[117]:p.124[118][151]:p.318-319[154]:p.195 Because of the belief that baptism is a necessary part of salvation, some Baptists hold that the Churches of Christ endorse the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.[155] However, members of the Churches of Christ reject this, arguing that since faith and repentance are necessary, and that the cleansing of sins is by the blood of Christ through the grace of God, baptism is not an inherently redeeming ritual.[119]:p.133[155][156]:p.630,631 Baptism is understood as a confessional expression of faith and repentance,[154]:p.179-182 rather than a "work" that earns salvation.[154]:p.170 Trinity
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints An ordinance essential to enter the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven and preparatory for receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. By immersion performed by a person holding proper priesthood authority.[200] No (at least 8 years old) Yes Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost (The LDS church doesn't believe in the Nicean trinity, but rather in the Godhead)[201]
Eastern Orthodox Church / Oriental Orthodox Church / Eastern Catholic The old man dies the "New Man" is born free from the stain of ancestral sin. A new name is given. All previous commitments and sins are null and void.[citation needed] By 3-fold submersion or immersion (other forms only in emergency, must be corrected by priest if possible).[citation needed] Yes. Chrismation (i.e., Confirmation) and Holy Communion follow immediately.[citation needed] Yes Trinity
Jehovah’s Witnesses Baptism is necessary for salvation as part of the entire baptismal arrangement: as an expression of obedience to Jesus' command (Matthew 28:19-20), as a public symbol of the saving faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10), and as an indication of repentance from dead works and the dedication of one's life to Jehovah. (1 Peter 2:21) However, baptism does not guarantee salvation.[202] By submersion only; typical candidates are baptized at district and circuit conventions.[203] No No Jesus
Denomination (continued) Beliefs about baptism Type of baptism Baptize infants? Baptism regenerates / gives spiritual life Standard
Lutherans Baptism is a miraculous Sacrament through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person's heart. "Although we do not claim to understand how this happens or how it is possible, we believe (because of what the Bible says about baptism) that when an infant is baptized, God creates faith in the heart of that infant."[204] By sprinkling or pouring.[205][206] Yes[207][208] Yes[208] Trinity
Methodists (Arminians, Wesleyans) The Sacrament of initiation into Christ's holy Church whereby one is incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the spirit. Baptism washes away sin and clothes one in the righteousness of Christ. By sprinkling, pouring, immersion or submersion.[citation needed] Yes May vary Trinity
Trinitarian Pentecostals and various "Holiness" groups, Christian Missionary Alliance, Assemblies of God Water Baptism is an ordinance, a symbolic ritual used to witness to having accepted Christ as personal Savior.[citation needed] By submersion. Also stress the necessity of a “second” Baptism of a special outpouring from the Holy Spirit.[209] No Varies Trinity
Oneness Pentecostals Necessary for Salvation By submersion only No Yes Jesus name
Presbyterian and most Reformed churches A sacrament, a symbolic ritual, and a seal of the adult believer’s present faith. It is an outward sign of an inward grace.[citation needed] By sprinkling, pouring, immersion or submersion[citation needed] Yes, to indicate membership in the New Covenant.[citation needed] No Trinity
Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) Only an external symbol that is no longer to be practiced.[citation needed] Do not believe in Baptism of water, but only in an inward, ongoing purification of the human spirit in a life of discipline led by the Holy Spirit.[citation needed]
Revivalism A necessary step for salvation. By submersion, with the expectation of receiving the Holy Spirit. No Yes Trinity
Roman Catholic Church "Necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament"[17] Usually by pouring in the West, by submersion or immersion in the East; sprinkling admitted only if the water then flows on the head.[210][211] Yes Yes Trinity
Seventh-day Adventists Not stated as the prerequisite to salvation, but a prerequisite for the admission to the church. It symbolizes death to sin and new birth in Jesus Christ.[212]"It affirms joining the family of God and sets on apart for a life of ministry."[212] By submersion.[213] No No Trinity
United Church of Christ (Evangelical and Reformed Churches and the Congregational Christian Churches) One of two sacraments. Baptism is an outward sign of God's inward grace. It may or may not be necessary for membership in a local congregation. However, it is a common practice for both infants and adults.[citation needed] By sprinkling, pouring, immersion or submersion.[citation needed] Yes, to indicate membership in the New Covenant.[citation needed] No Trinity
Anabaptist Baptism is considered by the majority of Anabaptist Churches (anabaptist means to baptize again) to be essential to Christian faith but not to salvation. It is considered a biblical ordinance along with communion, feet washing, the holy kiss, the Christian woman's head covering, anointing with oil, and marriage. The Anabaptists also have stood historically against the practice of infant baptism. The Anabaptists stood firmly against infant baptism in a time when the Church and State were one and when people were made a citizen through baptism into the officially sanctioned Church (Reformed or Catholic). Belief and repentance are believed to precede and follow baptism.[citation needed] By pouring, immersion or submersion.[citation needed] No No Trinity

Non-religious initiations

Although even the use of water is often absent, the term baptism is also used for various initiations as rite of passage to a walk of secular life.

  • In the Brazilian martial art capoeira, an annual promotion ceremony is held, known as a batizado (literally "baptism"). For practitioners participating in their first batizado, it is traditional to receive their Capoeira names at that time, as a mark that they have been received in the community of Capoeiristas. The name is often given by the senior instructor or other senior students, and is largely determined by an individual way they perform a movement, how they look, or something else unique to the individual. Their Capoeira name is often used as a nom de guerre within Capoeira circles, a tradition which dates back to when practicing Capoeira was illegal in Brazil.[citation needed]

Baptism of objects

Christening of USS Dewey

The word "baptism" or "christening" is sometimes used to describe the inauguration of certain objects for use.

  • The name Baptism of Bells has been given to the blessing of (musical, especially church) bells, at least in France, since the eleventh century. It is derived from the washing of the bell with holy water by the bishop, before he anoints it with the oil of the infirm without and with chrism within; a fuming censer is placed under it and the bishop prays that these sacramentals of the Church may, at the sound of the bell, put the demons to flight, protect from storms, and call the faithful to prayer.
  • Baptism of Ships: at least since the time of the Crusades, rituals have contained a blessing for ships. The priest begs God to bless the vessel and protect those who sail in. The ship is usually sprinkled with holy water.[92]


  1. ^ Note that this is an image of baptism by immersion in the sense explained below, distinct from baptism by submersion beneath the water. This mode of baptism continues in the East except for infants, but in the West it had dropped almost completely out of use by the 15th century, and the artist may have chosen an archaic form for this depiction of baptism by St Peter.
  2. ^ a b Liddell, Henry George; Robert Scott, Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie (1940). "βαπτίζω". A Greek-English Lexicon. Medford, Massachusetts: Tufts University. ISBN 0-19-864226-1. 
  3. ^ Ascol, Thomas. "Troubling Waters of Baptism." Founders Ministries. Web: Baptism and Membership
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Brackney, William H. "Doing Baptism Baptist Style: Believer's Baptism." Baptist History and Heritage Society. July 29, 2009. Online:
  5. ^ Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:9-10, Luke 3:21
  6. ^ Schaff, Philip (2009). "Baptism". History of the Christian Church, Volume I: Apostolic Christianity. A.D. 1-100.. "The usual form of baptism was immersion…. But sprinkling, also, or copious pouring rather, was practised at an early day with sick and dying persons, and in all such cases where total or partial immersion was impracticable" 
  7. ^ Fanning, W. (1907). "Baptism". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York City: Robert Appleton Company. "The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion". 
  8. ^ "Roman Catholicism: Baptism". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. "Two points of controversy still exist in modern times. One is baptism by pouring or sprinkling water on the head rather than by immersion of the entire body, even though immersion was probably the biblical and early Christian rite" 
  9. ^ Collins, Adela Yarbro (1995). "The Origin of Christian Baptism". in Maxwell E. Johnson. Living Water, Sealing Spirit: Readings on Christian Initiation. Collegeville Township, Stearns County, Minnesota: Liturgical Press. pp. 35–57. ISBN 0-8146-6140-8. OCLC 31610445. "The baptism of John did have certain similarities to the ritual washings at Qumran: both involved withdrawal to the desert to await the lord; both were linked to an ascetic lifestyle; both included total immersion in water; and both had an eschatological context" 
  10. ^ Dau, W. H. T. (1979). "Baptism". in Geoffrey W. Bromiley. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A-D. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 416. ISBN 0-8028-3781-6. OCLC 50333603. "It is to be noted that for pouring another word ‘’(ekcheo)’’ is used, clearly showing that baptizo does not mean pour. …There is thus no doubt that early in the 2nd century some Christians felt baptism was so important that, 'when the real baptism (immersion) could not be performed because of lack of water, a token pouring might be used in its place" 
  11. ^ France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 109. ISBN 0-8028-2501-X. OCLC 122701585. "The fact that he chose a permanent and deep river suggests that more than a token quantity of water was needed, and both the preposition 'in' (the Jordan) and the basic meaning of the verb 'baptize' probably indicate immersion. In v. 16 Matthew will speak of Jesus 'coming up out of the water.' The traditional depiction in Christian art of John the Baptist pouring water over Jesus' head may therefore be based on later Christian practice" 
  12. ^ Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge. "The Archæology of the Mode of Baptism". "We may then probably assume that normal patristic baptism was by a trine immersion upon a standing catechumen, and that this immersion was completed either by lowering the candidate's head beneath the water, or (possibly more commonly) by raising the water over his head and pouring it upon it" 
  13. ^ While in some places and in certain circumstances total immersion very likely was practiced, all the evidence (and there is much more) points to baptism in most cases by partial immersion, or affusion (dunking of the head or pouring water over the head, typically when the baptizand was standing in the baptismal pool). Here the words of St. John Chrysostom might be noted: "It is as in a tomb that we immerse our heads in the water… then when we lift our heads back the new man comes forth" (On John 25.2, PG 59:151). In a word, while early Christians were very attentive to symbolism relating to baptism (cf. the funerary shape of the baptistry building; the steps, typically three, for descending and rising from the font; the iconography relating to regeneration, etc.), they show few signs of preoccupation with total immersion. (Father John Erickson in St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 41, 77 (1997), quoted in The Byzantine Forum)
  14. ^ McGuckin, John Anthony (2004). "Baptism". The Westminster handbook to patristic theology. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 41–44. ISBN 0-664-22396-6. OCLC 52858567. "Eastern tradition strongly defended the practice of three-fold immersion under the waters, but Latin practice increasingly came to use a sprinkling of water on the head (also mentioned in Didache 7 if there was not sufficient water for immersion.)" 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Bowker, John (1999). The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866242-4. OCLC 60181672. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cross, Frank Leslie; Elizabeth A. Livingstone (2005). "Baptism". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 151–154. ISBN 0-19-280290-9. OCLC 58998735. 
  17. ^ a b c "The Necessity of Baptism". Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican Publishing House. 1993. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  18. ^ For instance, the Roman Catholic Church: 1,100,000,000; the Eastern Orthodox Church: 225,000,000; most of the 77,000,000 members of the Anglican Communion; Lutherans and others (Religious Bodies of the World with at Least 1 Million Adherents; Major Denominational Families of Christianity). See also Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-1995
  19. ^ Joseph P. Pickett, ed (2000). "baptism". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-82517-2. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  20. ^ 'In the Sept.: 2 Kgs. 5:13, 14 we have loúō (3068), to bathe and baptízomai. See also 28, 40;&version=TNIV; Lev. 11:25, 28, 40, where plúnō (4150), to wash clothes by dipping, and loúō (3068), to bathe are used. In 19;&version=TNIV; Num. 19:18, 19, báphō, to dip, and plúnō, to wash by dipping are used', Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G908). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
  21. ^ 'In the LXX βάπτειν (βαπτίζειν occurs only at 4 Βασ. 5:14) as a rendering of טָבַל, “to dip,” is used for the dipping of the morsel in wine at Ru. 2:14, of feet in the river at Jos. 3:15, of the finger in blood in the Torah of sacrifices at Lv. 4:6, 17 etc., of the dipping of unsanctified vessels in water in the laws of purification at Lv. 11:32 (בא hiph)', Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (1:535). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  22. ^ 'Ex 12,22; Lv 4,6.17; 9,9; 11,32 to immerse sth in sth [τι εἴς τι] Lv 9,9; id. [τι ἔν τινι] Dt 33,24; id. [τι ἀπό τινος] Ex 12,22; to plunge or to dip sb in sth [τινα ἔν τινι] Jb 9,31', Lust, J., Eynikel, E., & Hauspie, K. (2003). A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint : Revised Edition. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart.
  23. ^ 'In Mark 7:3, the phrase “wash their hands” is the translation of níptō (3538), to wash part of the body such as the hands. In Mark 7:4 the verb wash in “except they wash” is baptízomai, to immerse. This indicates that the washing of the hands was done by immersing them in collected water. See Luke 11:38 which refers to washing one’s hands before the meal, with the use of baptízomai, to have the hands baptized.', Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G907). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
  24. ^ 'The NT uses βάπτω only in the literal sense, in Lk 16:24; Jn 13:26 for “to dip in,” and in Rev. 19:13 for “to dye”.', Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (1:530). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  25. ^ ' to dip something in a liquid, dip, dip in J 13:26', Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G907). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
  26. ^ 'βάπτω fut. βάψω; 1aor. ἔβαψα; pf. pass. ptc. βεβαμμένος; (1) dip in or under, immerse in a liquid (LU 16.24); (2) as coloring cloth dip into dye, dye (RV 19.13)', Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4: Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament library (87). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
  27. ^ '970 βάπτω (baptō): vb.; ≡ DBLHebr 3188; Str 911; TDNT 1.529—LN 47.11 dip in (Lk 16:24; Jn 13:26(2×); Rev 19:13+)', Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.) (DBLG 970). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  28. ^ Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (1:535). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  29. ^ Luke 11:38
  30. ^ A. A. Hodge,Outlines of Theology 1992 ISBN 0851511600, 9780851511603 quoted in Bremmer, Michael (September 7, 2001). "The Mode of Baptism". Archived from the original on January 26, 2002. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  31. ^ Naumann, Bertram (2006). "The Sacrament of Baptism". in Paul Naumann. Learn From Me. Church of the Lutheran Confession. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  32. ^ Brom, Robert H. (August 10, 2004). "Baptism: Immersion Only?". Catholic Answers. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  33. ^ Drachman, Bernard; Kaufmann Kohler. "Ablution". in Cyrus Adler. Jewish Encyclopedia. 
  34. ^ 'Washing or ablution was frequently by immersion, indicated by either baptízō or níptō (3538), to wash. In Mark 7:3, the phrase “wash their hands” is the translation of níptō (3538), to wash part of the body such as the hands. In Mark 7:4 the verb wash in “except they wash” is baptízomai, to immerse. This indicates that the washing of the hands was done by immersing them in collected water.', Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G908). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
  35. ^ 'Mark 7:4 [v.l. in v. 8]; here βαπτίσωνται appears in place of ῥαντίσωνται in Koine D Θ pl, giving βαπτίζω the meaning of βάπτω', Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-c1993). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (1:195). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
  36. ^ 'Βάπτω dip, immerse', Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-c1993). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (1:195). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
  37. ^ 'βάπτω; ἐμβάπτω: to dip an object in a liquid—‘to dip in.’', Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996, c1989). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (1:522). New York: United Bible societies.
  38. ^ "In the LXX βάπτειν…is used for the dipping of the morsel in wine at Ju. 2:14, …of the finger in blood in the Torah of sacrifices at Lv. 4:6, 17 etc.", Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (1:535). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  39. ^ a b Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (3rd ed.) (165). Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  40. ^ a b c Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament Library (87). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
  41. ^ Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (1:545). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  42. ^ See Nestle-Aland 27th (latest) edition.
  43. ^ a b Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G908). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
  44. ^ Matthew 3:7, Matthew 21:25; Mark 1:4, Mark 11:30; Luke 3:3, Luke 7:29, Luke 20:4; Acts 1:22, Acts 10:37, Acts 13:24, Acts 18:25, Acts 19:3-4)
  45. ^ Romans 6:4, Ephesians 4:5, 1Peter 3:21
  46. ^ Matthew 20:22-23, Mark 10:38-39, Luke 12:50
  47. ^ Stoltz, Eric (2005). "A Christian Glossary: Baptism". The Abraham Project. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  48. ^ Pongratz-Lippitt, Christa (May 5, 2007). "Churches mutually recognise baptisms". The Tablet. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  49. ^ SDA Church Manual, 2005, pp. 42-3
  50. ^ sacrament (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  51. ^ Cross, Frank Leslie; Elizabeth A. Livingstone (2005). "John the Baptist". The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280290-9. OCLC 58998735. 
  52. ^ a b c Funk, Robert W. (1998). "John the Baptist". The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds of Jesus. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. p. 268. ISBN 0-06-062978-9. OCLC 37854370. 
  53. ^ Chadwick, Henry (2001). "John Baptist". The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-19-924695-5. OCLC 191826204. 
  54. ^ a b Theissen, Gerd; Annette Merz (1998). The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp. 209, 377. ISBN 0-8006-3122-6. OCLC 38590348. 
  55. ^ Lichtenberger, Herman (1999). "Syncretistic Features in Jewish and Jewish-Christian Baptism Movements". in James D. G. Dunn. Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 87. ISBN 0-8028-4498-7. OCLC 40433122.,M1. Retrieved January 19, 2009. 
  56. ^ a b Dapaah, Daniel S. (2005). The relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth: a critical study. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America. pp. 86–88. ISBN 0-7618-3109-6. OCLC 60342941. 
  57. ^ See, e.g., the summary of such opinions by Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John (i-xii): Introduction, translation, and notes (2nd ed.), in The Anchor Bible, Volume 29 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966), pp. 164-165, 188-189.
  58. ^ Sanders, E. P. (1993). The Historical Figure of Jesus. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9059-7. OCLC 30112315. 
  59. ^ a b Funk, Robert W. (1998). "John". The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds of Jesus. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. pp. 365–440. ISBN 0-06-062978-9. OCLC 37854370. 
  60. ^ Colin G. Kruse, The Gospel according to John: an Introduction and Commentary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004), p. 119
  61. ^ Dapaah, Daniel S. The Relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth: A Critical Study. University Press of America, 2005, p. 98
  62. ^ [Markus Bockmuel (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (Cambridge University Press 2001 ISBN 9780521796781), p. 27
  63. ^ Tomson, Peter J. (2001). "Jesus and His Judaism". in Markus Bockmuehl. The Cambridge Companion to Jesus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 0-521-79678-4. 
  64. ^ Cambridge Companion, p. 40
  65. ^ Cambridge Companion, p. 30
  66. ^ Chilton, Bruce (2001). "Friends and enemies". in Markus Bockmuehl. The Cambridge Companion to Jesus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-521-79678-4. 
  67. ^ Raymond Edward Brown, The Gospel and Epistles of John: a Concise Commentary, p. 3,
  68. ^ Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 375: "Simply because information is found only in John is no reason to discard it as of no historical value … Scholars consider it probable, for example, that Jesus' ministry lasted two to three years (as John implies), that he was in and out of Jerusalem (as the other Gospels hint, e.g., Luke 13:34, that some of his disciples were first disciples of John the Baptist, [Lk 1:35-37] and that Jesus and his disciples conducted a ministry of baptism."
  69. ^ Dwight Moody Smith|Smith, D. Moody, R. Alan Culpepper, C. Clifton Black. Exploring the Gospel of John: In Honor of D. Moody Smith. Westminster John Knox Press, 1996, p. 28: "There are items only in John that are likely to be historical and ought to be given due weight. Jesus' first disciples may once have been followers of the Baptist (cf. John 1:35-42)"
  70. ^ Daniel S. Dapaah, The Relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth: A Critical Study (University Press of America, 2005): "We propose to defend the historicity of this piece of Johannine material. We shall argue that the Johannine evidence of Jesus' baptizing activity may be a snippet of historical tradition, as there is no discernible theological agenda behind that piece of information. Moreover, the synoptists' silence may be explained, among others, by the supposition that the Evangelists were embarrassed by the event and that reference to the rite was unnecessary in a baptizing church" (p. 7). "The absence of Jesus' baptizing ministry in the synoptic Gospels does not mean that the Johannine detail is not authentic, neither does it suggest that the synoptists invented the story that John was out of action when Jesus arived on the scene.(Mark 1:14 and par) The Marcan tradition, for example, which is chronologically earlier than the Fourth Gospel, suggests that Jesus was so close to John that Jesus moved to Galilee to embark on an independent ministry when John was imprisoned. It appears that John and Jesus initially worked together, an event which the Fourth Evangelist makes explicit" (p. 98).
  71. ^ The Beginnings of the Church (Paulist Press 1988), pp. 55: "This text from the fourth gospel gives the impression that when John was no longer at Bethany (Jn 3:23; cf. 1:28) Jesus— accompanied by former disciples of John—— was himself in the Jordan area conducting a ministry of baptism. When Jesus left the area of Judea and began his ministry in Galilee he evidently abandoned his baptizing ministry and concentrated on preaching and teaching."
  72. ^ Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, St. John Chapter 4
  73. ^ Dapaah, Daniel S. The Relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth: A Critical Study. University Press of America, 2005, p. 97
  74. ^ Baptism. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 21, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  75. ^ Sacrament. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 21, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  76. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "John" pp. 302-310.
  77. ^ May, Herbert Gordon; Bruce Metzger (1977). The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1213–1239. ISBN 0-19-528348-1. OCLC 3145429. 
  78. ^ a b c Funk, Robert W. (1998). "Matthew". The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds of Jesus. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. pp. 129–270. ISBN 0-06-062978-9. OCLC 37854370. 
  79. ^ a b c Harris, Stephen L. (1985). Understanding the Bible: A Reader's Introduction. Palo Alto, California: Mayfield Publishing Company. pp. 266–268. ISBN 0-87484-696-X. OCLC 12042593. 
  80. ^ a b Funk, Robert Walter; Roy W. Hoover (1993). "Stages in the Development of Early Christian Tradition". The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus : New Translation and Commentary. New York City: Macmillan Publishers. p. 128. ISBN 0-02-541949-8. OCLC 28421734. 
  81. ^ Strang, Veronica (1997). "Water in the Church". The Meaning of Water. Berg Publishers. p. 91. ISBN 1-85973-753-6. "Fonts and baptisteries were constructed with taps and channels to ensure that they were supplied with moving water,which, as Schmemann points out, is symbolically crucial: 'The early Christian prescription is to baptize in living water. This is not merely a technical term denoting running water as distinct from standing water… it is this understanding that determined the form and theology of the baptismal font… The characteristic feature of the "baptistery" was that water was carried into it by a conduit, thus remaining "living water".'" 
  82. ^ "(7:1) Concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. (7:2) But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. (7:3) But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit." Didache, chapter 7.
  83. ^ Metzger, Marcel (1997). "The Order of Baptism in the Didache". History of the Liturgy: The Major Stages. Collegeville: Liturgical Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-8146-2433-2. "The Didache recognizes the superior value of running water for the baptismal immersion but does not impose it as a necessary condition… The regulations of the Didache also forsee the case in which immersion is impossible for lack of water and prescribe baptism by pouring water three times on the candidate's head." 
  84. ^ a b Lacoste, Jean-Yves (2005). Encyclopedia of Christian Theology: G – O. Milton Park: Routledge. p. 1607. ISBN 0-5795-8250-8. "According to the Didache (1st century), baptism should be done by a triple immersion in running water." 
  85. ^ a b Meeks, Wayne A. (2006). "Baptism: ritual of initiation". in Margaret Mary Mitchell and Frances Margaret Young. The Cambridge History of Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 160–161. ISBN 0-521-81239-9. "The Didache, representing practice perhaps as early as the beginning of the second century, probably in Syria, also assumes immersion to be normal, but it allows that if sufficient water for immersion is not at hand, water may be poured three times over the head (7:3)." 
  86. ^ Dau, W. H. T. (1995). "Baptism". in Geoffrey W. Bromiley. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A – D. Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 419. ISBN 0-8028-3781-6. "This seems to say that to baptize by immersion was the practice recommended for general use, but that the mode of affusion was also valid and enjoined on occasions". 
  87. ^ Dau, W. H. T. (1995). "Baptism". in Geoffrey W. Bromiley. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A – D. Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 417. ISBN 0-8028-3781-6. "It is frankly admitted by paedo-baptist scholars that the NT gives no warrant for infant baptism". 
  88. ^ Bromiley, Geoffrey William (1985). "baptizo". in Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 94. ISBN 0-8028-2404-8. OCLC 11840605. "Infant baptism, which cannot be supported from NT examples…" 
  89. ^ Miller, Randolph A. (2002). A Historical and Theological Look at the Doctrine of Christian Baptism. iUniverse. p. 140. ISBN 9780595215317. "It is often maintained that the Didache, a very early second-century document describing the practices of the first-century church, including baptism, knows nothing of infant baptism and excludes the possibility of it in the early church because of the fasting and confession of the candidate mentioned in the text." 
  90. ^ Williams, J. Rodman (1996). Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. p. 236. ISBN 9780310209140. OCLC 36621651. "For example, the Didache has a section on baptism (as we have seen) that concludes with this statement: 'And before the baptism, let the one baptizing and the one who is to be baptized fast. …Also, you must instruct the one who is to be baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand' (The Apostolic Fathers 7:4). Obviously none of this is applicable to infants" 
  91. ^ Wiley, Tatha (2002). Original sin: origins, developments, contemporary meanings. New York City: Paulist Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-8091-4128-0. OCLC 50404061. "The Didache’s assumption of adult baptism offers evidence that its author did not suppose human beings were in need of divine forgiveness from birth" 
  92. ^ a b c d e Fanning, William (1907). "Baptism". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York City: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  93. ^ a b catechumen. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  94. ^ Cross, Frank Leslie; Elizabeth A. Livingstone (2005). "Nicene Creed". The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280290-9. OCLC 58998735. 
  95. ^ Cross, Frank Leslie; Elizabeth A. Livingstone (2005). "Sacrament". The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280290-9. OCLC 58998735. 
  96. ^ Ristow, Sebastian (2005). "Baptismal Font from the Cologne Baptistery". Cologne Cathedral. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  97. ^ The words "matter" and "form" are not found in the index, nor do they appear in the definition of the sacraments given in section 1131. A search of the electronic form of the book finds no instance of the word "matter", and finds "form" only in the section 1434, headed "The Many Forms of Penance in Christian Life", which is not about the sacraments.
  98. ^ "Baptism and Its Purpose". Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  99. ^ Luther, Martin (2009) [1529]. "The Sacrament of Holy Baptism". Luther's Small Catechism. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  100. ^ Luther, Martin (2009) [1529]. "Of Infant Baptism". Luther's Large Catechism. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  101. ^ Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley, David B. Barrett, The encyclopedia of Christianity (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999 ISBN 0802824137), p. 562
  102. ^ Didache, chapter 7: "Pour out water three times upon the head".
  103. ^
  104. ^ John Piper, ed. "1689 Baptist Catechism". Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  105. ^ a b Cross, Frank Leslie; Elizabeth A. Livingstone (2005). "Immersion". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. p. 827. ISBN 0-19-280290-9. OCLC 58998735. 
  106. ^ a b Study published on the website of Pinehurst United Methodist Church
  107. ^ In scientific contexts the two words are often understood as mutually exclusive. Examples are found in mathematics (see Ralph Abraham, Jerrold E. Marsden, Tudor S. Ra iu, Manifolds, Tensor Analysis, and Applications, p. 196 and Klaus Fritzsche, Hans Grauert, From Holomorphic Functions to Complex Manifolds, p.168), in medicine (Effect of immersion, submersion, and scuba diving on heart rate variability), and language learning (Immersion in a Second Language in School).
  108. ^ [ Catholic Encyclopedia, article Baptismal Font
  109. ^
  110. ^ Cross, Frank Leslie; Elizabeth A. Livingstone (2005). "Submersion". The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 1563. ISBN 0-19-280290-9. OCLC 58998735. , p. 1563; cf. Wilson, Louis Charles (1895). The History of Sprinkling. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing. OCLC 4759559. 
  111. ^ Official Website of the Southern Baptist Convention Basic Beliefs, subheading "Baptism & the Lord's Supper". Retrieved 2009–04–08.
  112. ^ such as Colossians 2:12–13 and Romans 6:2–13
  113. ^ William H. Brackney. "Believer's Baptism." Baptist History and Heritage Society.June 18, 2009.
  114. ^, copyrighted Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Baptism, retrieved 2009–04–08, "Just as the baptism represents the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it symbolizes the death and burial of the old self of the repentant believer, and the joyous birth of a brand new being in Christ."
  115. ^ The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): A Reformed North American Mainstream Moderate Denomination, retrieved 2009–04–08, "Our traditions of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ecumenical. While practicing believer’s immersion, most congregations affirm the baptisms of other churches."
  116. ^ a b c Stuart M. Matlins, Arthur J. Magida, J. Magida, How to Be a Perfect Stranger: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies, Wood Lake Publishing Inc., 1999, ISBN 1896836283, 9781896836287, 426 pages, Chapter 6— Churches of Christ
  117. ^ a b c d e Ron Rhodes, The Complete Guide to Christian Denominations, Harvest House Publishers, 2005, ISBN 0-7369-1289-4
  118. ^ a b c d e f Batsell Barrett Baxter, Who are the churches of Christ and what do they believe in? Available on-line in a Archive copy at the Internet Archive, and here, here and here
  119. ^ a b c d e f g Tom J. Nettles, Richard L. Pratt, Jr., John H. Armstrong, Robert Kolb, Understanding Four Views on Baptism, Zondervan, 2007, ISBN 0310262674, 9780310262671, 222 pages
  120. ^ "About Adventists." St. Louis Unified School. June 18, 2009.
  121. ^ Official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Basic Beliefs, subheading "Baptism and Confirmation". Retrieved 2009–04–08.
  122. ^ Brochure: "Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe?", p. 13 [1]
  123. ^ Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 20 (On the Mysteries. II. of Baptism) Romans 6:3-14
  124. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Douglas Allen Foster and Anthony L. Dunnavant, The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Churches of Christ, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0802838987, 9780802838988, 854 pages, entry on Baptism
  125. ^ a b Harold Hazelip, Gary Holloway, Randall J. Harris, Mark C. Black, Theology Matters: In Honor of Harold Hazelip: Answers for the Church Today, College Press, 1998, ISBN 0899008135, 9780899008134, 368 pages
  126. ^ Nicodemos the Hagiorite. "Concerning Thoughts". Exomologetarion. 
  127. ^ Tertullian. "Of the Persons to Whom, and the Time When, Baptism is to Be Administered". in Philip Schaff. Ante-Nicene Fathers. 
  128. ^ "Baptism in Jesus' Name". Apostolic Network. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  129. ^ "Water Baptism in Jesus' Name is Essential unto Salvation". Retrieved February 26, 2009. 
  130. ^ "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry—Faith and Order Paper No. 111". World Council of Churches. 1982. Retrieved March 1, 2009. 
  131. ^ "Becoming a Christian: The Ecumenical Implications of Our Common Baptism". World Council of Churches. 1997. Retrieved May 13, 2007. 
  132. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 869; cf. New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law By John P. Beal, James A. Coriden, Thomas J., pp. 1057-1059.
  133. ^ "Response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith". June 5, 2001. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  134. ^ Declaration of June 5, 2001 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
  135. ^ "The Question Of The Validity Of Baptism Conferred In The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter". August 1, 2001. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  136. ^ "Topic Definition: Baptism". Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  137. ^ "Questions From Readers", The Watchtower, May 1, 1959, p. 288, "Thus, when Christ was enthroned as King A.D. 1914 it was not necessary for all true Christians to be rebaptized in recognition of his ruling position."
  138. ^ "Jehovah’s Witnesses Endure for His Sovereign Godship", The Watchtower, September 15, 1966, p. 560, "In the decades of restoration since 1919, right-hearted clergymen of various religious sects in different parts of the earth have repentantly accepted the priesthood services of the anointed remnant of Job-like ones by becoming rebaptized and ordained as true ministers of Jehovah."
  139. ^ "True Christianity Is Flourishing", The Watchtower, March 1, 2004, p. 7 As retrieved April 9, 2009, "While Christendom's theologians, missionaries, and churchgoers continue to grapple with the gathering storm of controversy in their churches, true Christianity is flourishing worldwide. Indeed, true Christians…invite you to join Jehovah's Witnesses in united Christian worship of the only true God, Jehovah."
  140. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses— Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, publ Jehovah's Witnesses, "Chapter 31: How Chosen and Led by God", p. 706, "Clearly, when the time of the end began in 1914, none of the churches of Christendom were measuring up to these Bible standards for the one true Christian congregation. What, though, about the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known?"
  141. ^ a b "The Minister of Baptism". Code of Canon Law. Vatican Publishing House. 1983. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  142. ^ "Parishes, Pastors, and Parochial Vicars". Code of Canon Law. Vatican Publishing House. 1983. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  143. ^ "Canon 677". Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. 1990. Retrieved February 26, 2009. 
  144. ^ Ware, Kallistos (1964). The Orthodox Church. New York City: Penguin Books. p. 285. 
  145. ^ "Aaronic Priesthood", Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders’ Guidebook, © 1992, 2001 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc., As Retrieved September 16, 2009, "Brethren who hold the Aaronic Priesthood have authority to perform certain priesthood ordinances. Priests may perform baptisms"
  146. ^ a b c "Questions From Readers", The Watchtower, August 1, 1973, page 480, "In connection with baptism, it may also be noted that a baptism may be performed by a dedicated male even though no other human witnesses are present."
  147. ^ "The General Priesthood Today", The Watchtower, March 1, 1963, page 147, "Because he is a minister, any competent male member is called on to perform funerals, baptisms and weddings, and to conduct the service in annual commemoration of the Lord’s death."
  148. ^ a b London Baptist Confession of 1644. Web: [ London Baptist Confession of 1644. 29 Dec 2009
  149. ^ Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-12; Romans 6
  150. ^ a b "The Baptist Faith and Message," Southern Baptist Convention. Adopted, June 14, 2000. Accessed July 29, 2009:
  151. ^ a b c d V. E. Howard, What Is the Church of Christ? 4th Edition (Revised) Central Printers & Publishers, West Monroe, Louisiana, 1971
  152. ^ a b c d Rees Bryant, Baptism, Why Wait?: Faith's Response in Conversion, College Press, 1999, ISBN 0899008585, 9780899008585, 224 pages
  153. ^ Edward C. Wharton, The Church of Christ: The Distinctive Nature of the New Testament Church, Gospel Advocate Co., 1997, ISBN 0-89225-464-5
  154. ^ a b c d e f g Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0802841899, 9780802841896, 443 pages
  155. ^ a b c d Douglas A. Foster, "Churches of Christ and Baptism: An Historical and Theological Overview," Restoration Quarterly, Volume 43/Number 2 (2001)
  156. ^ a b Douglas Allen Foster and Anthony L. Dunnavant, The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Churches of Christ, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0802838987, 9780802838988, 854 pages, entry on Regeneration
  157. ^ KJV, italics inserted.
  158. ^ a b "Code of Canon Law, canon 849". May 4, 2007. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  159. ^ Ordo initiationis christanae adultorum, editio typica, Vatican City, Typis polyglottis vaticanis, 1972, pg 92, cf Lateran IV De Fide Catholica, DS 802, cf Florence, Decretum pro Armeniis, DS , 1317.
  160. ^ cf. Catechism, 1260
  161. ^ Jet magazine, Aug 4, 1955, page 26 Online.
  162. ^ Organized to Do Jehovah's Will, published by Jehovah's Witnesses, page 215, "Baptisms are usually performed at assemblies and conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses."
  163. ^ Organized to Do Jehovah's Will, published by Jehovah's Witnesses, page 182.
  164. ^ Organized to Do Jehovah's Will, published by Jehovah's Witnesses, page 217-218.
  165. ^ Watchtower June 1, 1985
  166. ^ a b "Questions From Readers", The Watchtower, November 15, 1986, page 31
  167. ^ The Watchtower, May 15, 1970, page 309.
  168. ^ "The General Priesthood Today", The Watchtower, March 1, 1963, page 147
  169. ^ "Questions From Readers", The Watchtower, August 1, 1973, pages 479-480
  170. ^ "Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands", 1987 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 71
  171. ^ Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B: Performing Priesthood Ordinances, §Baptism.
  172. ^ See, e.g., Guide to the Scriptures: Baptism, Baptize, §Proper authority.
  173. ^ See, e.g., Bible Dictionary: Baptism, ¶2.
  174. ^ See Doctrine and Covenants 68:25, 27.
  175. ^ See Book of Mormon, Moroni 8:4-23.
  176. ^ Baptisms for the Dead
  177. ^ "Apology, Proposition 12". Retrieved July 28, 2009. 
  178. ^ "Why does The Salvation Army not baptise or hold communion?". The Salvation Army. February 28, 1987. Retrieved July 28, 2009. 
  179. ^ Havard, David M.. "Are We Hyper-Dispensationalists?". Berean Bible Society. Retrieved January 19, 2009. 
  180. ^ Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Matt 3:11Acts 1:5
  181. ^ Ephesians 5:26; Acts 19:1-5
  182. ^ Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17, [2]
  183. ^ Apuleius (1998). "11.23.1". The golden ass, or, Metamorphoses. trans. E. J. Kenney. New York City: Penguin Books. pp. 208–209. ISBN 0-14-043590-5. OCLC 41174027. 
  184. ^ Hartman, Lars (1997). Into the Name of the Lord Jesus: Baptism in the Early Church. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. p. 4. ISBN 0-567-08589-9. OCLC 38189287. 
  185. ^ Siddique Katiya. "Cleanliness in Islam, abulation wadu Seven pre-requisites of Prayer". Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  186. ^ Sura 2:138
  187. ^ "US Grand Lodge, OTO: Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica". March 19, 1933. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  188. ^ "Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica: Baptism: Adult". Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  189. ^ Good News. Issue 3. St Louis, MO. 2003. p 18-19
  190. ^ a b "The Thirty-Nine Articles". Anglicans Online. April 15, 2007. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  191. ^ "The Baptist Faith & Message". Southern Baptist Convention. June 14, 2000. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  192. ^ Huston, David A. (2003). "Speaking in Tongues in the Church: A Look at the Purpose of Spiritual Utterances". Rosh Pinnah Publications. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  193. ^ Huston, David A. (2003). "Questions and Answers about The Doctrine of the Oneness of God". Rosh Pinnah Publications. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  194. ^ "Baptism". Retrieved August 22, 2007. 
  195. ^ "Baptism". Bible Q & A. 2001. Retrieved August 22, 2007. 
  196. ^ Levin, David. "Forgiveness". Retrieved August 22, 2007. 
  197. ^ Norris, Alfred (November 12, 2006). "His Cross and Yours". Retrieved August 22, 2007. 
  198. ^ a b Morgan, Tecwyn (2006). "What Exactly is Christian Baptism?". Understand the Bible for Yourself. Christadelphian Bible Mission. Retrieved February 26, 2009. 
  199. ^ "Why does the church of Christ baptize only by immersion?" Web: [ Why does the church of Christ baptize only by immersion?
  200. ^ "Topic Definition— Baptism". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2008. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  201. ^ See Guide to the Scriptures: God, Godhead for a more thorough Latter-day Saint explanation of the Godhead with scripture references.
  202. ^ Worship the Only True God, published by Jehovah's Witnesses (2002, 2006), "Chapter 12: The Meaning of Your Baptism", p. 118, "It would be a mistake to conclude that baptism is in itself a guarantee of salvation. It has value only if a person has truly dedicated himself to Jehovah through Jesus Christ and thereafter carries out God’s will, being faithful to the end."
  203. ^ "Questions From Readers", The Watchtower, May 1, 1979, p. 31, "The Bible shows that baptism by complete immersion is very important. So even when unusual steps are necessary because of a person’s condition, he should be baptized if at all possible. …In modern times Jehovah’s Witnesses have arranged for baptisms at conventions. [However], fully valid baptisms have even been performed locally in large home bathtubs. …Of course, it might be that in some extreme case baptism would seem absolutely impossible for the time being. Then we trust that our merciful heavenly Father will understand".
  204. ^ LCMS Baptism Regeneration, Retrieved 18 December 2009
  205. ^ ELCA Baptism Methods, Retrieved 18 December 2009
  206. ^ LCMS Baptism Methods, Retrieved 18 December 2009
  207. ^ ELCA Infant Baptism views, Retrieved 18 December 2009
  208. ^ a b LCMS Infant Baptism views, Retrieved 18 December 2009
  209. ^
  210. ^ Scott Hahn, Leon J. Suprenant, Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God (Emmaus Road Publishing, 1998 ISBN 0966322304, 9780966322309), p. 135.
  211. ^ Paul Haffner, The Sacramental Mystery (Gracewing Publishing, 1999 ISBN 0852444761, 9780852444764), p. 36.
  212. ^ a b Seventh-day Adventist Minister's Handbook, ed. Ministerial Association, The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (Silver Spring,Marylend, 1997), 199.
  213. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual: Revised 2005 17th Edition, ed. The Secretariat of General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (Hagerstown, Marylend: Review and Herald, 2005), 30.

See also

Related articles and subjects

People and ritual objects


  • Jungkuntz, Richard (1968). The Gospel of Baptism. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. OCLC 444126. 
  • Kolb, Robert W. (1997). Make Disciples, baptizing: God's gift of new life and Christian witness. St. Louis: Concordia Seminary. ISBN 0-911770-66-6. OCLC 41473438. 
  • Scaer, David P. (1999). Baptism. St. Louis: The Luther Academy. OCLC 41004868. 
  • Schlink, Edmund (1972). The Doctrine of Baptism. St. Louis, Mo: Concordia Publishing House. ISBN 0-570-03726-3. OCLC 228096375. 
  • Stookey, Laurence Hull (1982). Baptism, Christ's act in the church. Nashville, Tenn: Abingdon. ISBN 0-687-02364-5. OCLC 7924841. 
  • Linderman, Jim (2009). Take Me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950. Atlanta: Dust to Digital. ISBN 978-0-9817342-1-7. 

External links

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One of the Seven Sacraments of the Christian Church; frequently called the "first sacrament", the "door of the sacraments", and the "door of the Church". The subject will be treated under the following headings: Church on the subject of baptism. They are valuable, also, as containing a summary of the main points to be considered in the treatment of this important matter. Baptism is defined positively in the one and negatively in the other.

(1) The Positive Document: "The Decree for the Armenians"

"The Decree for the Armenians", in the Bull "Exultate Deo" of Pope Eugene IV, is often referred to as a decree of the Council of Florence. While it is not necessary to hold this decree to be a dogmatic definition of the matter and form and minister of the sacraments, it is undoubtedly a practical instruction, emanating from the Holy See, and as such, has full authenticity in a canonical sense. That is, it is authoritative. The decree speaks thus of Baptism:
Holy Baptism holds the first place among the sacraments, because it is the door of the spiritual life; for by it we are made members of Christ and incorporated with the Church. And since through the first man death entered into all, unless we be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, we can not enter into the kingdom of Heaven, as Truth Himself has told us. The matter of this sacrament is true and natural water; and it is indifferent whether it be cold or hot. The form is: I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. We do not, however, deny that the words: Let this servant of Christ be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; or: This person is baptized by my hands in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, constitute true baptism; because since the principal cause from which baptism has its efficacy is the Holy Trinity, and the instrumental cause is the minister who confers the sacrament exteriorly, then if the act exercised by the minister be expressed, together with the invocation of the Holy Trinity, the sacrament is perfected. The minister of this sacrament is the priest, to whom it belongs to baptize, by reason of his office, In case of necessity, however, not only a priest or deacon, but even a layman or woman, nay, even a pagan or heretic can baptize, provided he observes the form used by the Church, and intends to perform what the Church performs. The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual; likewise of all punishment which is due for sin. As a consequence, no satisfaction for past sins is enjoined upon those who are baptized; and if they die before they commit any sin, they attain immediately to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.

(2) The Negative Document: "De Baptismo"

The negative document we call the canons on baptism decreed by the Council of Trent (Sess. VII, De Baptismo), in which the following doctrines are anathematized (declared heretical):

  • The baptism of John (the Precursor) had the same efficacy as the baptism of Christ,
  • True and natural water is not necessary for baptism, and therefore the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost" are metaphorical.
  • The true doctrine of the sacrament of baptism is not taught by the Roman Church,
  • Baptism given by heretics in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost with the intention of performing what the Church performs, is not true baptism,
  • Baptism is free, that is, not necessary for salvation.
  • A baptized person, even if he wishes it, can not lose grace, no matter how much he sins, unless he refuses to believe.
  • Those who are baptized are obliged only to have faith, but not to observe the whole law of Christ.
  • Baptized persons are not obliged to observe all the precepts of the Church, written and traditional, unless of their own accord they wish to submit to them.
  • All vows made after baptism are void by reason of the promises made in baptism itself; because by these vows injury is done to the faith which has been professed in baptism and to the sacrament itself.
  • All sins committed after baptism are either forgiven or rendered venial by the sole remembrance and faith of the baptism that has been received.
  • Baptism although truly and properly administered, must be repeated in the case of a person who has denied the faith of Christ before infidels and has been brought again to repentance.
  • No one is to be baptized except at the age at which Christ was baptized or at the moment of death.
  • Infants, not being able to make an act of faith, are not to be reckoned among the faithful after their baptism, and therefore when they come to the age of discretion they are to be rebaptized; or it is better to omit their baptism entirely than to baptize them as believing on the sole faith of the Church, when they themselves can not make a proper act of faith.
  • Those baptized as infants are to be asked when they have grown up, whether they wish to ratify what their sponsors had promised for them at their baptism, and if they reply that they do not wish to do so, they are to be left to their own will in the matter and not to be forced by penalties to lead a Christian life, except to be deprived of the reception of the Eucharist and of the other sacraments, until they reform.

The doctrines here condemned by the Council of Trent, are those of various leaders among the early reformers. The contradictory of all these statements is to be held as the dogmatic teaching of the Church.



The word Baptism is derived from the Greek word, bapto, or baptizo, to wash or to immerse. It signifies, therefore, that washing is of the essential idea of the sacrament. Scripture uses the term baptize both literally and figuratively. It is employed in a metaphorical sense in Acts 1:5, where the abundance of the grace of the Holy Ghost is signified, and also in Luke 12:50, where the term is referred to the sufferings of Christ in His Passion. Otherwise in the New Testament, the root word from which baptism is derived is used to designate the laving with water, and it is employed, when speaking of Jewish lustrations, and of the baptism of John, as well as of the Christian Sacrament of Baptism (cf. Hebrews 6:2; Mark 7:4). In ecclesiastical usage, however, when the terms Baptize, Baptism are employed without a qualifying word, they are intended to signify the sacramental washing by which the soul is cleansed from sin at the same time that water is poured upon the body. Many other terms have been used as descriptive synonyms for baptism both in the Bible and Christian antiquity, as the washing of regeneration, illumination, the seal of God, the water of eternal life, the sacrament of the Trinity, and so on. In English, the term christen is familiarly used for baptize. As, however, the former word signifies only the effect of baptism, that is, to make one a Christian, but not the manner and the act, moralists hold that "I christen" could probably not be substituted validly for "I baptize" in conferring the sacrament.


The Roman Catechism (Ad parochos, De bapt., 2, 2, 5) defines baptism thus: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration by water in the word (per aquam in verbo). St. Thomas Aquinas (sacrament. By the former they understand the formula expressing the action of ablution and the utterance of the invocation of the Trinity; by the latter, the definition: "Sacrament of regeneration" or that institution of Christ by which we are reborn to spiritual life. The term "regeneration" distinguishes baptism from every other sacrament, for although penance revivifies men spiritually, yet this is rather a resuscitation, a bringing back from the dead, than a rebirth. Penance does not make us Christians; on the contrary, it presupposes that we have already been born of water and the Holy Ghost to the life of grace, while baptism on the other hand was instituted to confer upon men the very beginnings of the spiritual life, to transfer them from the state of enemies of God to the state of adoption, as sons of God. The definition of the Roman Catechism combines the physical and metaphysical definitions of baptism. "The sacrament of regeneration" is the metaphysical essence of the sacrament, while the physical essence is expressed by the second part of the definition, i.e. the washing with water (matter), accompanied by the invocation of the Holy Trinity (form). Baptism is, therefore, the sacrament by which we are born again of water and the Holy Ghost, that is, by which we receive in a new and spiritual life, the dignity of adoption as sons of God and heirs of God's kingdom.


Having considered the Christian meaning of the term "baptism", we now turn our attention to the various rites which were its forerunners before the New Dispensation. Types of this sacrament are to be found among the Jews and Gentiles. Its place in the sacramental system of the Old Law was taken by circumcision, which is called by some of the Fathers "the washing of blood" to distinguish it from "the washing of water". By the rite of circumcision, the recipient was incorporated into the people of God and made a partaker in the Messianic promises; a name was bestowed upon him and he was reckoned among the children of Abraham, the father of all believers. Other forerunners of baptism were the numerous purifications prescribed in the Mosaic dispensation for legal uncleannesses. The symbolism of an outward washing to cleanse an invisible blemish was made very familiar to the Jews by their sacred ceremonies. But in addition to these more direct types, both the New Testament writers and the Fathers of the Church find many mysterious foreshadowings of baptism. Thus St. Paul (I Cor., x) adduces the passage of Israel through the Red Sea, and St. Peter (1 Peter 3) the Deluge, as types of the purification to be found in Christian baptism. Other foreshadowings of the sacrament are found by the Fathers in the bathing of Naaman in the Jordan, in the brooding of the Spirit of God over the waters, in the rivers of Paradise, in the blood of the Paschal Lamb, during Old Testament times, and in the pool of Bethsaida, and in the healing of the dumb and blind in the New Testament,

How natural and expressive the symbolism of exterior washing to indicate interior purification was recognized to be, is plain from the practice also of the heathen systems of religion. The use of lustral water is found among the Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Hindus, and others. A closer resemblance to Christian baptism is found in a form of Jewish baptism, to be bestowed on proselytes, given in the Babylonian Talmud (Dollinger, First Age of the Church). But above all must be considered the baptism of St. John the Precursor. John baptized with water (Mark, i) and it was a baptism of penance for the remission of sins (Luke, iii). While, then, the symbolism of the sacrament instituted by Christ was not new, the efficacy which He joined to the rite is that which differentiates it from all its types. John's baptism did not produce grace, as he himself testifies (Matt., iii) when he declares that he is not the Messias whose baptism is to confer the Holy Ghost. Moreover, it was not John's baptism that remitted sin, but the penance that accompanied it; and hence St. Augustine calls it (De Bapt. contra Donat., V) "a remission of sins in hope". As to the nature of the Precursor's baptism, St. Thomas sacrament of itself, but a certain sacramental as it were, preparing the way (disponens) for the baptism of Christ." Durandus calls it a sacrament, indeed, but of the Old Law, and St. Bonaventure places it as a medium between the Old and New Dispensations. It is of Catholic faith that the Precursor's baptism was essentially different in its effects from the baptism of Christ, It is also to be noted that those who had previously received John's baptism had to receive later the Christian baptism (Acts, xix).


That Christ instituted the Sacrament of Baptism is unquestionable. Rationalists, like Harnack (Dogmengeschichte, I, 68), dispute it, only by arbitrarily ruling out the texts which prove it. Christ not only commands His Disciples (Matthew 28:19) to baptize and gives them the form to be used, but He also declares explicitly the absolute necessity of baptism (John 3): "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the Kingdom of God." Moreover, from the general doctrine of the Church on the sacraments, we know that the efficacy attached to them is derivable only from the institution of the Redeemer. When, however, we come to the question as to when precisely Christ instituted baptism, we find that ecclesiastical writers are not agreed. The Scriptures themselves are silent upon the subject. Various occasions have been pointed out as the probable time of institution, as when Christ was Himself baptized in the Jordan, when He declared the necessity of the rebirth to Nicodemus, when He sent His Apostles and Disciples to preach and baptize. The first opinion was quite a favorite with many of the Fathers and Schoolmen, and they are fond of referring to the sanctification of the baptismal water by contact with the flesh of the God-man. Others, as St. Jerome and St. Maximus, appear to assume that Christ baptized John on this occasion and thus instituted the sacrament. There is nothing, however, in the Gospels to indicate that Christ baptized the Precursor at the time of His own baptism. As to the opinion that it was in the colloquy with Nicodemus that the sacrament was instituted, it is not surprising that it has found few adherents. Christ's words indeed declare the necessity of such an institution, but no more. It seems also very unlikely that Christ would have instituted the sacrament in a secret conference with one who was not to be a herald of its institution.

The more probable opinion seems to be that baptism, as a sacrament, had its origin when Christ commissioned His Apostles to baptize, as narrated in John, iii and iv. There is nothing directly in the text as to the institution, but as the Disciples acted evidently under the instruction of Christ, He must have taught them at the very outset the matter and form of the sacrament which they were to dispense. It is true that St. John Chrysostom (Hom., xxviii in Joan.), Theophylactus (in cap. iii, Joan.), and Tertullian (De Bapt., c. ii) declare that the baptism given by the Disciples of Christ as narrated in these chapters of St. John was a baptism of water only and not of the Holy Ghost; but their reason is that the Holy Ghost was not given until after the Resurrection. As theologians have pointed out, this is a confusion between the visible and the invisible manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The authority of St. Leo (Ep. xvi ad Episc. Sicil.) is also invoked for the same opinion, inasmuch as he seems to hold that Christ instituted the sacrament when, after His rising from the dead, He gave the command (Matthew 28): "Go and teach . . . baptizing"; but St. Leo's words can easily be explained otherwise, and in another part of the same epistle he refers to the sanction of regeneration given by Christ when the water of baptism flowed from His side on the Cross; consequently, before the Resurrection. All authorities agree that Matt., xxviii, contains the solemn promulgation of this sacrament, and St. Leo does not seem to intend more than this. We need not delay on the arguments of those who declare baptism to have been necessarily established after Christ's death, because the efficacy of the sacraments is derived from His Passion. This would prove also that the Holy Eucharist was not instituted before His death, which is untenable. As to the frequent statement of the Fathers that the sacraments flowed from the side of Christ upon the Cross, it is enough to say that beyond the symbolism found therein, their words can be explained as referring to the death of Christ, as the meritorious cause or perfection of the sacraments, but not necessarily as their time of institution.

All things considered, we can safely state, therefore, that Christ most probably instituted baptism before His Passion. For in the first place, as is evident from John 3 and 4, Christ certainly conferred baptism, at least by the hands of His Disciples, before His passion. That this was an essentially different rite from John the Precursor's baptism seems plain, because the baptism of Christ is always preferred to that of John, and the latter himself states the reason: "I baptize with water . . . [[[Jesus Christ (Catholic Encyclopedia)|Christ]]] baptizeth with the Holy Ghost" (John, i). In the baptism given by the Disciples as narrated in these chapters we seem to have all the requisites of a sacrament of the New Law:

  • the external rite,
  • the institution of Christ, for they baptized by His command and mission, and
  • the conferring of grace, for they bestowed the Holy Ghost (John 1). In the second place, the Apostles received other sacraments from Christ, before His Passion, as the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, and Holy orders (Conc. Trid., Sess. XXVI, c. i). Now as baptism has always been held as the door of the Church and the necessary condition for the reception of any other sacrament, it follows that the Apostles must have received Christian baptism before the Last Supper. This argument is used by St. Augustine (Ep. clxiii, al. xliv) and certainly seems valid. To suppose that the first pastors of the Church received the other sacraments by dispensation, before they had received baptism, is an opinion with no foundation in Scripture or Tradition and devoid of verisimilitude. The Scriptures nowhere state that Christ Himself conferred baptism, but an ancient tradition (Niceph., Hist. eccl, II, iii; Clem. Alex. Strom., III) declares that He baptized the Apostle Peter only, and that the latter baptized Andrew, James, and John, and they the other Apostles.


(1) Matter

In all sacraments we treat of the matter and the form. It is also usual to distinguish the remote matter and the proximate matter. In the case of baptism, the remote matter is natural and true water. We shall consider this aspect of the question first.

(a) Remote matter

It is of faith (de fide) that true and natural water is the remote matter of baptism. In addition to the authorities already cited, we may also mention the Fourth Council of the Lateran (c. i). Some of the early Fathers, as Tertullian (De Bapt., i) and St. Augustine (Adv. Hær., xlvi and lix) enumerate heretics who rejected water entirely as a constituent of baptism. Such were the Gaians, Manichians, Seleucians, and Hermians. In the Middle Ages, the Waldensians are said to have held the same tenet (Ewald, Contra Walden., vi). Some of the sixteenth century reformers, while accepting water as the ordinary matter of this sacrament, declared that when water could not be had, any liquid could be used in its place. So Luther (Tischr., xvii) and Beza (Ep., ii, ad Till.). It was in consequence of this teaching that certain of the Tridentine canons were framed. Calvin held that the water used in baptism was simply symbolic of the Blood of Christ (Instit., IV, xv). As a rule, however, those sects which believe in baptism at the present time, recognize water as the necessary matter of the sacrament. Scripture is so positive in its statements as to the use of true and natural water for baptism that it is difficult to see why it should ever be called in question. Not only have we the explicit words of Christ (John 3:5) "Unless a man be born again of water", etc., but also in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul there are passages that preclude any metaphorical interpretation. Thus (Acts, x, 47) St. Peter says "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized?" In the eighth chapter of the Acts is narrated the episode of Philip and the eunuch of Ethiopia, and in verse 36 we read: "They came to a certain water; and the eunuch said: See, here is water: what doth hinder me from being baptized?" Equally positive is the testimony of Christian tradition. Tertullian (op. cit.) begins his treatise: "The happy sacrament of our water". Justin Martyr (Apol., I) describes the ceremony of baptism and declares: Then they are led by us to where there is water . . . and then they are laved in the water". St. Augustine positively declares that there is no baptism without water (Tr. xv in Joan.).

The remote matter of baptism, then, is water, and this taken in its usual meaning. Theologians tell us consequently that what men would ordinarily declare water is valid baptismal material, whether it be water of the sea, or fountain, or well, or marsh; whether it be clear or turbid; fresh or salty; hot or cold; colored or uncolored. Water derived from melted ice, snow, or hail is also valid. If, however, ice, snow, or hail be not melted, they do not come under the designation water. Dew, sulfur or mineral water, and that which is derived from steam are also valid matter for this sacrament. As to a mixture of water and some other material, it is held as proper matter, provided the water certainly predominates and the mixture would still be called water. Invalid matter is every liquid that is not usually designated true water. Such are oil, saliva, wine, tears, milk, sweat, beer, soup, the juice of fruits, and any mixture containing water which men would no longer call water. When it is doubtful whether a liquid could really be called water, it is not permissible to use it for baptism except in case of absolute necessity when no certainly valid matter can be obtained. On the other hand, it is never allowable to baptize with an invalid liquid. There is a response of Pope Gregory IX to the Archbishop of Trondhjem in Norway where beer (or mead) had been employed for baptism. The pontiff says: "Since according to the Gospel teaching, a man must be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, those are not to be considered validly baptized who have been baptized with beer" (cervisia). It is true that a statement declaring wine to be valid matter of baptism is attributed to Pope Stephen II, but the document is void of all authority (Labbe, Conc., VI).

Those who have held that "water" in the Gospel text is to be taken metaphorically, appeal to the words of the Precursor (Matt., iii), "He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire". As "fire" must certainly be only a figure of speech here, so must "water" in the other texts. To this objection, it may be replied that the Christian Church, or at least the Apostles themselves, must have understood what was prescribed to be taken literally and what figuratively. The New Testament and church history prove that they never looked on fire as a material for baptism, while they certainly did require water. Outside of the insignificant sects of Seleucians and Hermians, not even heretics took the word "fire" in this text in its literal meaning. We may remark, however, that some of the Fathers, as St. John Damascene (Orth. Fid., IV, ix), concede this statement of the Baptist to have a literal fulfillment in the Pentecostal fiery tongues. They do not refer it, however, literally to baptism. That water alone is the necessary matter of this sacrament depends of course on the will of Him Who instituted it, although theologians discover many reasons why it should have been chosen in preference to other liquids. The most obvious of these is that water cleanses and purifies more perfectly than the others, and hence the symbolism is more natural.

(b) Proximate matter

The proximate matter of baptism is the ablution performed with water. The very word "baptize", as we have seen, means a washing. Three forms of ablution have prevailed among Christians, and the Church holds them all to be valid because they fulfill the requisite signification of the baptismal laving. These forms are immersion, infusion, and aspersion. The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion. This is not only evident from the writings of the Fathers and the early rituals of both the Latin and Oriental Churches, but it can also be gathered from the Epistles of St. Paul, who speaks of baptism as a bath (Ephes., v, 26; Rom., vi, 4; Tit., iii, 5). In the Latin Church, immersion seems to have prevailed until the twelfth century. After that time it is found in some places even as late as the sixteenth century. Infusion and aspersion, however, were growing common in the thirteenth century and gradually prevailed in the Western Church. The Oriental Churches have retained immersion, though not always in the sense of plunging the candidate's entire body below the water. Billuart (De Bapt., I, iii) says that commonly the catechumen is placed in the font, and then water is poured upon the head. He cites the authority of Goar for this statement. Although, as we have said, immersion was the form of baptism that generally prevailed in the early ages, it must not thereby be inferred that the other forms of infusion and aspersion were not also employed and held to be valid. In the case of the sick or dying, immersion was impossible and the sacrament was then conferred by one of the other forms. This was so well recognized that infusion or aspersion received the name of the baptism of the sick (baptismus clinicorum). St. Cyprian (Ep. lxxvi) declares this form to be valid. From the canons of various early councils we know that candidates for Holy orders who had been baptized by this method seem to have been regarded as irregular, but this was on account of the culpable negligence supposed to be manifested in delaying baptism until sick or dying. That such persons, however, were not to be rebaptized is an evidence that the Church held their baptism to be valid. It is also pointed out that the circumstances under which St. Paul (Acts, xvi) baptized his jailer and all his household seem to preclude the use of immersion. Moreover, the acts of the early martyrs frequently refer to baptizing in prisons where infusion or aspersion was certainly employed.

By the present authorized ritual of the Latin Church, baptism must be performed by a laving of the head of the candidate. Moralists, however, state that in case of necessity, the baptism would probably be valid if the water were applied to any other principal part of the body, as the breast or shoulder. In this case, however, conditional baptism would have to be administered if the person survived (St. Alph., no. 107). In like manner they consider as probably valid the baptism of an infant in its mother's womb, provided the water, by means of an instrument, would actually flow upon the child. Such baptism is, however, later to be repeated conditionally, if the child survives its birth (Lehmkuhl, n. 61). It is to be noted that it is not sufficient for the water to merely touch the candidate; it must also flow, otherwise there would seem to be no real ablution. At best, such a baptism would be considered doubtful. If the water touches only the hair, the sacrament has probably been validly conferred, though in practice the safer course must be followed. If only the clothes of the person have received the aspersion, the baptism is undoubtedly void. The water to be employed in solemn baptism should also be consecrated for the purpose, but of this we shall treat in another section of this article. It is necessary in baptizing to make use of a threefold ablution in conferring this sacrament, by reason of the prescription of the Roman ritual. This necessarily refers, however, to the liceity, not to the validity of the ceremony, as St. Thomas Church and apparently of Apostolic origin. It is mentioned by Tertullian (De cor. milit., iii), St. Basil (De Sp. S., xxvii), St. Jerome (Dial. Contra Luc., viii), and many other early writers. Its object is, of course, to honor the three Persons of the Holy Trinity in whose name it is conferred. That this threefold ablution was not considered necessary to the validity of the sacrament, however, is plain. In the seventh century the Fourth Council of Toledo (633) approved the use of a single ablution in baptism, as a protest against the false trinitarian theories of the Arians, who seem to have given to the threefold immersion a significance which made it imply three natures in the Holy Trinity. To insist on the unity and consubstantiality of the three Divine Persons, the Spanish Catholics adopted the single ablution and this method had the approval of Pope Gregory the Great (I, Ep. xliii). The Eunomian heretics used only one immersion and their baptism was held invalid by the First Council of Constantinople (can. vii); but this was not on account of the single ablution, but apparently because they baptized in the death of Christ. The authority of this canon is, moreover, doubtful at best.

(2) Form

The requisite and sole valid form of baptism is: "I baptize thee (or This person is baptized) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." This was the form given by Christ to His Disciples in the twenty-eighth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, as far, at least, as there is question of the invocation of the separate Persons of the Trinity and the expression of the nature of the action performed. For the Latin usage: "I baptize thee", etc., we have the authority of the Council of Trent (Sess. VII, can. iv) and of the Council of Florence in the Decree of Union. In addition we have the constant practice of the whole Western Church. The Latins also recognize as valid the form used by the Greeks: "This servant of Christ is baptized", etc. The Florentine decree acknowledges the validity of this form and it is moreover recognized by the Bull of Leo X, "Accepimus nuper", and of Clement VII, "Provisionis nostrae." Substantially, the Latin and Greek forms are the same, and the Latin Church has never rebaptized Orientals on their return to unity. At one time some Western theologians disputed the Greek form, because they doubted the validity of the imperative or deprecatory formula: "Let this person be baptized" (baptizetur). As a matter of fact, however, the Greeks use the indicative, or enuntiative, formula: "This person is baptized" (baptizetai, baptizetur). This is unquestionable from their Euchologies, and from the testimony of Arcudius (apud Cat., tit. ii, cap. i), of Goar (Rit. Græc. Illust.), of Martene (De Ant. Eccl. Rit., I) and of the theological compendium of the schismatical Russians (St. Petersburg, 1799). It is true that in the decree for the Armenians, Pope Eugene IV uses baptizetur, according to the ordinary version of this decree, but Labbe, in his edition of the Council of Florence seems to consider it a corrupt reading, for in the margin he prints baptizatur. It has been suggested by Goar that the resemblance between baptizetai and baptizetur is responsible for the mistake. The correct translation is, of course, baptizatur.

In administering this sacrament it is absolutely necessary to use the word "baptize" or its equivalent (Alex. VIII, Prop. damn., xxvii), otherwise the ceremony is invalid. This had already been decreed by Alexander III (Cap. Si quis, I, x, De Bapt.), and it is confirmed by the Florentine decree. It has been the constant practice of both the Latin and Greek Churches to make use of words expressing the act performed. St. Thomas sacramental nature of the ablution. St. Paul (Coloss., iii) exhorts us to do all things in the name of God, and consequently an ablution could be performed in the name of the Trinity to obtain restoration of health. Therefore it is that in the form of this sacrament, the act of baptism must be expressed, and the matter and form be united to leave no doubt of the meaning of the ceremony. In addition to the necessary word "baptize", or its equivalent, it is also obligatory to mention the separate Persons of the Holy Trinity. This is the command of Christ to His Disciples, and as the sacrament has its efficacy from Him Who instituted it, we can not omit anything that He has prescribed. Nothing is more certain than that this has been the general understanding and practice of the Church. Tertullian tells us (De Bapt., xiii): "The law of baptism (tingendi) has been imposed and the form prescribed: Go, teach the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." St. Justin Martyr (Apol., I) testifies to the practice in his time. St. Ambrose (De Myst., IV) declares: "Unless a person has been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, he can not obtain the remission of his sins," St. Cyprian (Ad Jubaian.), rejecting the validity of baptism given in the name of Christ only, affirms that the naming of all the Persons of the Trinity was commanded by the Lord (in plena et adunata Trinitate). The same is declared by many other primitive writers, as St. Jerome (IV, in Matt.), Origen (De Princ., i, ii), St. Athanasius (Or. iv, Contr. Ar.), St. Augustine (De Bapt., vi, 25). It is not, of course, absolutely necessary that the common names Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be used, provided the Persons be expressed by words that are equivalent or synonymous. But a distinct naming of the Divine Persons is required and the form: "I baptize thee in the name of the Holy Trinity", would be of more than doubtful validity. The singular form "In the name", not "names", is also to be employed, as it expresses the unity of the Divine nature. When, through ignorance, an accidental, not substantial, change has been made in the form (as In nomine patriâ for Patris), the baptism is to be held valid.

The mind of the Church as to the necessity of serving the trinitarian formula in this sacrament has been clearly shown by her treatment of baptism conferred by heretics. Any ceremony that did not observe this form has been declared invalid. The Montanists baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and Montanus and Priscilla (St. Basil, Ep. i, Ad Amphil.). As a consequence, the Council of Laodicea ordered their rebaptism. The Arians at the time of the Council of Nicæa do not seem to have tampered with the baptismal formula, for that Council does not order their rebaptism. When, then, St. Athanasius (Or. ii, Contr. Ar.) and St. Jerome (Contra Lucif.) declare the Arians to have baptized in the name of the Creator and creatures, they must either refer to their doctrine or to a later changing of the sacramental form. It is well known that the latter was the case with the Spanish Arians and that consequently converts from the sect were rebaptized. The Anomæans, a branch of the Arians, baptized with the formula: "In the name of the uncreated God and in the name of the created Son, and in the name of the Sanctifying Spirit, procreated by the created Son" (Epiphanius, Hær., Ixxvii).

Other Arian sects, such as the Eunomians and Aetians, baptized "in the death of Christ". Converts from Sabellianism were ordered by the First Council of Constantinople (can. vii) to be rebaptized because the doctrine of Sabellius that there was but one person in the Trinity had infected their baptismal form. The two sects sprung from Paul of Samosata, who denied Christ's Divinity, likewise conferred invalid baptism. They were the Paulianists and Photinians. Pope Innocent I (Ad. Episc. Maced., vi) declares that these sectaries did not distinguish the Persons of the Trinity when baptizing. The Council of Nicæa (can. xix) ordered the rebaptism of Paulianists, and the Council of Aries (can. xvi and xvii) decreed the same for both Paulianists and Photinians.

There has been a theological controversy over the question as to whether baptism in the name of Christ only was ever held valid. Certain texts in the New Testament have given rise to this difficulty. Thus St. Paul (Acts, xix) commands some disciples at Ephesus to be baptized in Christ's name: "They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." In Acts 10, we read that St. Peter ordered others to be baptized "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ". Those who were converted by Philip. (Acts, viii) "were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ", and above all we have the explicit command of the Prince of the Apostles: "Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins (Acts, ii).

Owing to these texts some theologians have held that the Apostles baptized in the name of Christ only. St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and Albertus Magnus are invoked as authorities for this opinion, they declaring that the Apostles so acted by special dispensation. Other writers, as Peter Lombard and Hugh of St. Victor, hold also that such baptism would be valid, but say nothing of a dispensation for the Apostles. The most probable opinion, however, seems to be that the terms "in the name of Jesus", "in the name of Christ", either refer to baptism in the faith taught by Christ, or are employed to distinguish Christian baptism from that of John the Precursor. It seems altogether unlikely that immediately after Christ had solemnly promulgated the trinitarian formula of baptism, the Apostles themselves would have substituted another. In fact, the words of St. Paul (Acts, xix) imply quite plainly that they did not. For, when some Christians at Ephesus declared that they had never heard of the Holy Ghost, the Apostle asks: "In whom then were you baptized?" This text certainly seems to declare that St. Paul took it for granted that the Ephesians must have heard the name of the Holy Ghost when the sacramental formula of baptism was pronounced over them.

The authority of Pope Stephen I has been alleged for the validity of baptism given in the name of Christ only. St. Cyprian says (Ep. ad Jubaian.) that this pontiff declared all baptism valid provided it was given in the name of Jesus Christ. It must be noted that the same explanation applies to Stephen's words as to the Scriptural texts above given. Moreover, Firmilian, in his letter to St. Cyprian, implies that Pope Stephen required an explicit mention of the Trinity in baptism, for he quotes the pontiff as declaring that the sacramental grace is conferred because a person has been baptized "with the invocation of the names of the Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Ghost". A passage that is very difficult of explanation is found in the works of St. Ambrose (Lib. I, De Sp. S., iii), where he declares that if a person names one of the Trinity, he names all of them: "If you say Christ, you have designated God the Father, by whom the Son was anointed, and Him Who was anointed Son, and the Holy Ghost in whom He was anointed." This passage has been generally interpreted as referring to the faith of the catechumen, but not to the baptismal form. More difficult is the explanation of the response of Pope Nicholas I to the Bulgarians (cap. civ; Labbe, VIII), in which he states that a person is not to be rebaptized who has already been baptized "in the name of the Holy Trinity or in the name of Christ only, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (for it is one and the same thing, as St. Ambrose has explained)". As in the passage to which the pope alludes, St. Ambrose was speaking of the faith of the recipient of baptism, as we have already stated, it has been held probable that this is also the meaning that Pope Nicholas intended his words to convey (see another explanation in Pesch, Prælect. Dogm., VI, no. 389). What seems to confirm this is the same pontiff's reply to the Bulgarians (Resp. 15) on another occasion when they consulted him on a practical case. They inquired whether certain persons are to be rebaptized on whom a man, pretending to be a Greek priest, had conferred baptism? Pope Nicholas replies that the baptism is to be held valid "if they were baptized, in the name of the supreme and undivided Trinity". Here the pope does not give baptism in the name of Christ only as an alternative. Moralists raise the question of the validity of a baptism in whose administration something else had been added to the prescribed form as "and in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary". They reply that such baptism would be invalid, if the minister intended thereby to attribute the same efficacy to the added name as to the names of the Three Divine Persons. If, however, it was done through a mistaken piety only, it would not interfere with the validity (S. Alph., n. 111).


From the foregoing it is evident that not all baptism administered by heretics or schismatics is invalid. On the contrary, if the proper matter and form be used and the one conferring the sacrament really "intends to perform what the Church performs" the baptism is undoubtedly valid. This is also authoritatively stated in the decree for the Armenians and the canons of the Council of Trent already given. The question becomes a practical one when converts to the Faith have to be dealt with. If there were one authorized mode of baptizing among the sects, and if the necessity and true significance of the sacrament were uniformly taught and put in practice among them, there would be little difficulty as to the status of converts from the sects. But there is no such unity of teaching and practice among them, and consequently the particular case of each convert must be examined into when there is question of his reception into the Church. For not only are there religious denominations in which baptism is in all probability not validly administered, but there are those also which have a ritual sufficient indeed for validity, but in practice the likelihood of their members having received baptism validly is more than doubtful. As a consequence converts must be dealt with differently. If it be certain that a convert was validly baptized in heresy, the sacrament is not repeated, but the ceremonies which had been omitted in such baptism are to be supplied, unless the bishop, for sufficient reasons, judges that they can be dispensed with. (For the United States, see Conc. Prov. Balt., I.) If it be uncertain whether the convert's baptism was valid or not, then he is to be baptized conditionally. In such cases the ritual is: "If thou art not yet baptized, then I baptize thee in the name", etc. The First Synod of Westminster, England, directs that adult converts are to be baptized not publicly but privately with holy water (i.e. not the consecrated baptismal water) and without the usual ceremonies (Decr. xvi). Practically, converts in the United States are almost invariably baptized either absolutely or conditionally, not because the baptism administered by heretics is held to be invalid, but because it is generally impossible to discover whether they had ever been properly baptized. Even in cases where a ceremony had certainly been performed, reasonable doubt of validity will generally remain, on account of either the intention of the administrator or the mode of administration. Still each case must be examined into (S. C. Inquis., 20 Nov., 1878) lest the sacrament be sacrilegiously repeated.

As to the baptism of the various sects, Sabetti (no. 662) states that the Oriental Churches and the "Old Catholics" generally administer baptism accurately; the Socinians and Quakers do not baptize at all; the Baptists use the rite only for adults, and the efficacy of their baptism has been called in question owing to the separation of the matter and the form, for the latter is pronounced before the immersion takes place; the Congregationalists, Unitarians and Universalists deny the necessity of baptism, and hence the presumption is that they do not administer it accurately; the Methodists and Presbyterians baptize by aspersion or sprinkling, and it may be reasonably doubted whether the water has touched the body and flowed upon it; among the Episcopalians many consider baptism to have no true efficacy and to be merely an empty ceremony, and consequently there is a well-grounded fear that they are not sufficiently careful in its administration. To this may be added, that Episcopalians often baptize by aspersion, and though such a method is undoubtedly valid if properly employed, yet in practice it is quite possible that the sprinkled water may not touch the skin. Sabetti also notes that ministers of the same sect do not everywhere follow a uniform method of baptizing. The practical method of reconciling heretics with the Church is as follows:-- If baptism be conferred absolutely, the convert is to make no abjuration or profession of faith, nor is he to make a confession of his sins and receive absolution, because the sacrament of regeneration washes away his past offences. If his baptism is to be conditional, he must first make an abjuration of his errors, or a profession of faith, then receive the conditional baptism, and lastly make a sacramental confession followed by conditional absolution. If the convert's former baptism was judged to be certainly valid, he is only to make the abjuration or the profession of faith and receive absolution from the censures he may have incurred (Excerpta Rit. Rom., 1878). The abjuration or profession of faith here prescribed is the Creed of Pius IV, translated into the vernacular. In the case of conditional baptism, the confession may precede the administration of the rite and the conditional absolution be imparted after the baptism. This is often done as a matter of fact, as the confession is an excellent preparation for the reception of the sacrament (De Herdt, VI, viii; Sabetti, no. 725).


To complete the consideration of the validity of baptism conferred by heretics, we must give some account of the celebrated controversy that raged around this point in the ancient Church. In Africa and Asia Minor the custom had been introduced in the early part of the third century of rebaptizing all converts from heresy. As far as can be now ascertained, the practice of rebaptism arose in Africa owing to decrees of a Synod of Carthage held probably between 218 and 222; while in Asia Minor it seems to have had its origin at the Synod of Iconium, celebrated between 230 and 235. The controversy on rebaptism is especially connected with the names of Pope St. Stephen and of St. Cyprian of Carthage. The latter was the main champion of the practice of rebaptizing. The pope, however, absolutely condemned the practice, and commanded that heretics on entering the Church should receive only the imposition of hands in paenitentiam. In this celebrated controversy it is to noted that Pope Stephen declares that he is upholding the primitive custom when he declares for the validity of baptism conferred by heretics.

Cyprian, on the contrary, implicitly admits that antiquity is against his own practice, but stoutly maintains that it is more in accordance with an enlightened study of the subject. The tradition against him he declares to be "a human and unlawful tradition". Neither Cyprian, however, nor his zealous abettor, Firmilian, could show that rebaptism was older than the century in which they were living. The contemporaneous but anonymous author of the book "De Rebaptismate" says that the ordinances of Pope Stephen, forbidding the rebaptism of converts, are in accordance with antiquity and ecclesiastical tradition, and are consecrated as an ancient, memorable, and solemn observance of all the saints and of all the faithful. St. Augustine believes that the custom of not rebaptizing is an Apostolic tradition, and St. Vincent of Lérins declares that the Synod of Carthage introduced rebaptism against the Divine Law (canonem), against the rule of the universal Church, and against the customs and institutions of the ancients. By Pope Stephen's decision, he continues, antiquity was retained and novelty was destroyed (retenta est antiquitas, explosa novitas). It is true that the so-called Apostolic Canons (xlv and xlvi) speak of the non-validity of baptism conferred by heretics, but Döllinger says that these canons are comparatively recent, and De Marca points out that St. Cyprian would have appealed to them had they been in existence before the controversy. Pope St. Stephen, therefore, upheld a doctrine already ancient in the third century when he declared against the rebaptism of heretics, and decided that the sacrament was not to be repeated because its first administration had been valid, This has been the law of the Church ever since.


Theologians distinguish a twofold necessity, which they call a necessity of means (medii) and a necessity of precept (præcepti), The first (medii) indicates a thing to be so necessary that, if lacking (though inculpably), salvation can not be attained, The second (præcepti) is had when a thing is indeed so necessary that it may not be omitted voluntarily without sin; yet, ignorance of the precept or inability to fulfill it, excuses one from its observance. Baptism is held to be necessary both necessitate medii and præcepti. This doctrine is rounded on the words of Christ. In John, iii, He declares: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the kingdom of God." Christ makes no exception to this law and it is therefore general in its application, embracing both adults and infants. It is consequently not merely a necessity of precept but also a necessity of means. This is the sense in which it has always been understood by the Church, and the Council of Trent (Sess, IV, cap, vi) teaches that justification can not be obtained, since the promulgation of the Gospel, without the washing of regeneration or the desire thereof (in voto), In the seventh session, it declares (can. v) anathema upon anyone who says that baptism is not necessary for salvation. We have rendered votum by "desire" for want of a better word. The council does not mean by votum a simple desire of receiving baptism or even a resolution to do so. It means by votum an act of perfect charity or contrition, including, at least implicitly, the will to do all things necessary for salvation and thus especially to receive baptism, The absolute necessity of this sacrament is often insisted on by the Fathers of the Church, especially when they speak of infant baptism. Thus St. Irenæus (II, xxii): "Christ came to save all who are reborn through Him to God,infants, children, and youths" (infantes et parvulos et pueros). St. Augustine (III De Anima) says "If you wish to be a Catholic, do not believe, nor say, nor teach, that infants who die before baptism can obtain the remission of original sin." A still stronger passage from the same doctor (Ep, xxviii, Ad Hieron.) reads:"Whoever says that even infants are vivified in Christ when they depart this life without the participation of His Sacrament (Baptism), both opposes the Apostolic preaching and condemns the whole Church which hastens to baptize infants, because it unhesitatingly believes that otherwise they can not possibly be vivified in Christ," St. Ambrose (II De Abraham., c. xi) speaking of the necessity of baptism, says:" No one is excepted, not the infant, not the one hindered by any necessity." In the Pelagian controversy we find similarly strong pronouncements on the part of the Councils of Carthage and Milevis, and of Pope Innocent I. It is owing to the Church's belief in this necessity of baptism as a means to salvation that, as was already noted by St. Augustine, she committed the power of baptism in certain contingencies even to laymen and women. When it is said that baptism is also necessary, by the necessity of precept (praecepti), it is of course understood that this applies only to such as are capable of receiving a precept, viz. adults.

The necessity in this case is shown by the command of Christ to His Apostles (Matt., xxviii): "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them", etc. Since the Apostles are commanded to baptize, the nations are commanded to receive baptism. The necessity of baptism has been called in question by some of the Reformers or their immediate forerunners. It was denied by Wyclif, Bucer, and Zwingli. According to Calvin it is necessary for adults as a precept but not as a means. Hence he contends that the infants of believing parents are sanctified in the womb and thus freed from original sin without baptism. The Socinians teach that baptism is merely an external profession of the Christian faith and a rite which each one is free to receive or neglect. An argument against the absolute necessity of baptism has been sought in the text of Scripture: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you" (John 6). Here, they say, is a parallel to the text: "Unless a man be born again of water". Yet everyone admits that the Eucharist is not necessary as a means but only as a precept. The reply to this is obvious. In the first instance, Christ addresses His words in the second person to adults; in the second, He speaks in the third person and without any distinction whatever. Another favorite text is that of St. Paul (I Cor., vii): "The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband; otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy." Unfortunately for the strength of this argument, the context shows that the Apostle in this passage is not treating of regenerating or sanctifying grace at all, but answering certain questions proposed to him by the Corinthians concerning the validity of marriages between heathens and believers. The validity of such marriages is proved from the fact that children born of them are legitimate, not spurious. As far as the term "sanctified" is concerned, it can, at most, mean that the believing husband or wife may convert the unbelieving party and thus become an occasion of their sanctification. A certain statement in the funeral oration of St. Ambrose over the Emperor Valentinian II has been brought forward as a proof that the Church offered sacrifices and prayers for catechumens who died before baptism. There is not a vestige of such a custom to be found anywhere. St. Ambrose may have done so for the soul of the catechumen Valentinian, but this would be a solitary instance, and it was done apparently because he believed that the emperor had had the baptism of desire. The practice of the Church is more correctly shown in the canon (xvii) of the Second Council of Braga: "Neither the commemoration of Sacrifice [oblationis] nor the service of chanting [psallendi] is to be employed for catechumens who have died without the redemption of baptism." The arguments for a contrary usage sought in the Second Council of Arles (c. xii) and the Fourth Council of Carthage (c. Ixxix) are not to the point, for these councils speak, not of catechumens, but of penitents who had died suddenly before their expiation was completed. It is true that some Catholic writers (as Cajetan, Durandus, Biel, Gerson, Toletus, Klee) have held that infants may be saved by an act of desire on the part of their parents, which is applied to them by some external sign, such as prayer or the invocation of the Holy Trinity; but Pius V, by expunging this opinion, as expressed by Cajetan, from that author's commentary on St. Thomas, manifested his judgment that such a theory was not agreeable to the Church's belief.


The Fathers and theologians frequently divide baptism into three kinds: the baptism of water (aquæ or fluminis), the baptism of desire (flaminis), and the baptism of blood (sanguinis). However, only the first is a real sacrament. The latter two are denominated baptism only analogically, inasmuch as they supply the principal effect of baptism, namely, the grace which remits sins. It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that when the baptism of water becomes a physical or moral impossibility, eternal life may be obtained by the baptism of desire or the baptism of blood.

(1) The Baptism of Desire

The baptism of desire (baptismus flaminis) is a perfect contrition of heart, and every act of perfect charity or pure love of God which contains, at least implicitly, a desire (votum) of baptism. The Latin word flamen is used because Flamen is a name for the Holy Ghost, Whose special office it is to move the heart to love God and to conceive penitence for sin. The "baptism of the Holy Ghost" is a term employed in the third century by the anonymous author of the book "De Rebaptismate". The efficacy of this baptism of desire to supply the place of the baptism of water, as to its principal effect, is proved from the words of Christ. After He had declared the necessity of baptism (John, iii), He promised justifying grace for acts of charity or perfect contrition (John, xiv): "He that loveth Me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him and will manifest myself to him." And again: "If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him." Since these texts declare that justifying grace is bestowed on account of acts of perfect charity or contrition, it is evident that these acts supply the place of baptism as to its principal effect, the remission of sins. This doctrine is set forth clearly by the Council of Trent. In the fourteenth session (cap. iv) the council teaches that contrition is sometimes perfected by charity, and reconciles man to God, before the Sacrament of Penance is received. In the fourth chapter of the sixth session, in speaking of the necessity of baptism, it says that men can not obtain original justice "except by the washing of regeneration or its desire" (voto). The same doctrine is taught by Pope Innocent III (cap. Debitum, iv, De Bapt.), and the contrary propositions are condemned by Popes Pius V and Gregory XII, in proscribing the 31st and 33rd propositions of Baius.

We have already alluded to the funeral oration pronounced by St. Ambrose over the Emperor Valentinian II, a catechumen. The doctrine of the baptism of desire is here clearly set forth. St. Ambrose asks: "Did he not obtain the grace which he desired? Did he not obtain what he asked for? Certainly he obtained it because he asked for it." St. Augustine (IV, De Bapt., xxii) and St. Bernard (Ep. Ixxvii, ad H. de S. Victore) likewise discourse in the same sense concerning the baptism of desire. If it be said that this doctrine contradicts the universal law of baptism made by Christ (John, iii), the answer is that the lawgiver has made an exception (John, xiv) in favor of those who have the baptism of desire. Neither would it be a consequence of this doctrine that a person justified by the baptism of desire would thereby be dispensed from seeking after the baptism of water when the latter became a possibility. For, as has already been explained the baptismus flaminis contains the votum of receiving the baptismus aquæ. It is true that some of the Fathers of the Church arraign severely those who content themselves with the desire of receiving the sacrament of regeneration, but they are speaking of catechumens who of their own accord delay the reception of baptism from unpraiseworthy motives. Finally, it is to be noted that only adults are capable of receiving the baptism of desire.

(2) The Baptism of Blood

The baptism of blood (baptismus sanquinis) is the obtaining of the grace of justification by suffering martyrdom for the faith of Christ. The term "washing of blood" (lavacrum sanguinis) is used by Tertullian (De Bapt., xvi) to distinguish this species of regeneration from the "washing of water" (lavacrum aquæ). "We have a second washing", he says "which is one and the same [with the first], namely the washing of blood." St. Cyprian (Ep. lxxiii) speaks of "the most glorious and greatest baptism of blood" (sanguinis baptismus). St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, XIII, vii) says: "When any die for the confession of Christ without having received the washing of regeneration, it avails as much for the remission of their sins as if they had been washed in the sacred font of baptism." The Church grounds her belief in the efficacy of the baptism of blood on the fact that Christ makes a general statement of the saving power of martyrdom in the tenth chapter of St. Matthew: "Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven" (v. 32); and: "He that shall lose his life for me shall find it" (v. 39). It is pointed out that these texts are so broadly worded as to include even infants, especially the latter text. That the former text also applies to them, has been constantly maintained by the Fathers, who declare that if infants can not confess Christ with the mouth, they can by act. Tertullian (Adv. Valent., ii) speaks of the infants slaughtered by Herod as martyrs, and this has been the constant teaching of the Church. Another evidence of the mind of the Church as to the efficacy of the baptism of blood is found in the fact that she never prays for martyrs. Her opinion is well voiced by St. Augustine (Tr. lxxiv in Joan.): "He does an injury to a martyr who prays for him." This shows that martyrdom is believed to remit all sin and all punishment due to sin. Later theologians commonly maintain that the baptism of blood justifies adult martyrs independently of an act of charity or perfect contrition, and, as it were, ex opere operato, though, of course, they must have attrition for past sins. The reason is that if perfect charity, or contrition, were required in martyrdom, the distinction between the baptism of blood and the baptism of desire would be a useless one. Moreover, as it must be conceded that infant martyrs are justified without an act of charity, of which they are incapable, there is no solid reason for denying the same privilege to adults. (Cf. Suarez, De Bapt., disp. xxxix.)


The fate of infants who die without baptism must be briefly considered here. The Catholic teaching is uncompromising on this point, that all who depart this life without baptism, be it of water, or blood, or desire, are perpetually excluded from the vision of God. This teaching is grounded, as we have seen, on Scripture and tradition, and the decrees of the Church. Moreover, that those who die in original sin, without ever having contracted any actual sin, are deprived of the happiness of heaven is stated explicitly in the Confession of Faith of the Eastern Emperor Michael Palæologus, which had been proposed to him by Pope Clement IV in 1267, and which he accepted in the presence of Gregory X at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. The same doctrine is found also in the Decree of Union of the Greeks, in the Bull "Lætentur Caeli" of Pope Eugene IV, in the Profession of Faith prescribed for the Greeks by Pope Gregory XIII, and in that authorized for the Orientals by Urban VIII and Benedict XIV. Many Catholic theologians have declared that infants dying without baptism are excluded from the beatific vision; but as to the exact state of these souls in the next world they are not agreed.

In speaking of souls who have failed to attain salvation, these theologians distinguish the pain of loss (paena damni), or privation of the beatific vision, and the pain of sense (paena sensus). Though these theologians have thought it certain that unbaptized infants must endure the pain of loss, they have not been similarly certain that they are subject to the pain of sense. St. Augustine (De Pecc. et Mer., I, xvi) held that they would not be exempt from the pain of sense, but at the same time he thought it would be of the mildest form. On the other hand, St. Gregory Nazianzen (Or. in S. Bapt.) expresses the belief that such infants would suffer only the pain of loss. Sfondrati (Nod. Prædest., I, i) declares that while they are certainly excluded from heaven, yet they are not deprived of natural happiness. This opinion seemed so objectionable to some French bishops that they asked the judgment of the Holy See upon the matter. Pope Innocent XI replied that he would have the opinion examined into by a commission of theologians, but no sentence seems ever to have been passed upon it. Since the twelfth century, the opinion of the majority of theologians has been that unbaptized infants are immune from all pain of sense. This was taught by St. Thomas Aquinas, Scotus, St. Bonaventure, Peter Lombard, and others, and is now the common teaching in the schools. It accords with the wording of a decree of Pope Innocent III (III Decr., xlii, 3): "The punishment of original sin is the deprivation of the vision of God; of actual sin, the eternal pains of hell." Infants, of course, can not be guilty of actual sin.

Other theologians have urged that, under the law of nature and the Mosaic dispensation, children could be saved by the act of their parents and that consequently the same should be even more easy of attainment under the law of grace, because the power of faith has not been diminished but increased. Common objections to this theory include the fact that infants are not said to be deprived of justification in the New Law through any decrease in the power of faith, but because of the promulgation by Christ of the precept of baptism which did not exist before the New Dispensation. Nor would this make the case of infants worse than it was before the Christian Church was instituted. While it works a hardship for some, it has undoubtedly improved the condition of most. Supernatural faith is now much more diffused than it was before the coming of Christ, and more infants are now saved by baptism than were justified formerly by the active faith of their parents. Moreover, baptism can more readily be applied to infants than the rite of circumcision, and by the ancient law this ceremony had to be deferred till the eighth day after birth, while baptism can be bestowed upon infants immediately after they are born, and in case of necessity even in their mother's womb. Finally it must be borne in mind that unbaptized infants, if deprived of heaven, would not be deprived unjustly. The vision of God is not something to which human beings have a natural claim. It is a free gift of the Creator who can make what conditions He chooses for imparting it or withholding it. No injustice is involved when an undue privilege is not conferred upon a person. Original sin deprived the human race of an unearned right to heaven. Through the Divine mercy this bar to the enjoyment of God is removed by baptism; but if baptism be not conferred, original sin remains, and the unregenerated soul, having no claim on heaven, is not unjustly excluded from it.

As to the question, whether in addition to freedom from the pain of sense, unbaptized infants enjoy any positive happiness in the next world, theologians are not agreed, nor is there any pronouncement of the Church on the subject, Many, following St. Thomas (De Malo, Q. v, a. 3), declare that these infants are not saddened by the loss of the beatific vision, either because they have no knowledge of it, and hence are not sensible of their privation; or because, knowing it their will is entirely conformed to God's will and they are conscious that they have missed an undue privilege through no fault of their own. In addition to this freedom from regret at the loss of heaven, these infants may also enjoy some positive happiness. St. Thomas (In II Sent., dist. XXXIII, Q. ii, a. 5) says: "Although unbaptized infants are separated from God as far as glory is concerned, yet they are not separated from Him entirely. Rather are they joined to Him by a participation of natural goods; and so they may even rejoice in Him by natural consideration and love," Again (a. 2) he says: "They will rejoice in this, that they will share largely in the divine goodness and in natural perfections." While the opinion, then, that unbaptized infants may enjoy a natural knowledge and love of God and rejoice in it, is perfectly tenable, it has not the certainty that would arise from a unanimous consent of the Fathers of the Church, or from a favorable pronouncement of ecclesiastical authority.

[Editor's note: On this subject, the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allows us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism."]

We may add here some brief remarks on the discipline of the Church in regard to unbaptized persons. As baptism is the door of the Church, the unbaptized are entirely without its pale. As a consequence:

  • Such persons, by the ordinary law of the Church, may not receive Catholic funeral rites. The reason of this regulation is given by Pope Innocent III (Decr., III, XXVIII, xii): "It has been decreed by the sacred canons that we are to have no communion with those who are dead, if we have not communicated with them while alive." According to Canon Law (CIC 1183), however, catechumens "are to be considered members of the Christian faithful" as regard funeral rites. The Plenary Council of Baltimore also decrees (No. 389) that the custom of burying the unbaptized relatives of Catholics in the family sepulchers may be tolerated. [Editor's note: The 1983 Code of Canon Law excepts an unbaptized child of Catholic parents, if the parents had intended to have him baptized.]
  • A Catholic may not marry an unbaptized person without dispensation, under pain of nullity. This impediment, as far as illiceity is concerned, is derived from the natural law, because in such unions the Catholic party and the offspring of the marriage would, in most cases, be exposed to the loss of faith. The invalidity of such marriage, however, is a consequence only of positive law. For, in the beginning of Christianity, unions between the baptized and unbaptized were frequent, and they were certainly held valid. When, then, circumstances arise where the danger of perversion for the Catholic party is removed, the Church dispenses in her law of prohibition, but always requires guarantees from the non-Catholic party that there will be no interference with the spiritual rights of the partner of the union. (See IMPEDIMENTS OF MATRIMONY.)

In general, we may state that the Church claims no authority over unbaptized persons, as they are entirely without her pale. She makes laws concerning them only in so far as they hold relations with the subjects of the Church.


This sacrament is the door of the Church of Christ and the entrance into a new life. We are reborn from the state of slaves of sin into the freedom of the Sons of God. Baptism incorporates us with Christ's mystical body and makes us partakers of all the privileges flowing from the redemptive act of the Church's Divine Founder. We shall now outline the principal effects of baptism.

(1) The Remission of All Sin, Original and Actual

This is clearly contained in the Bible. Thus we read (Acts 2:38): "Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call." We read also in the twenty-second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles (v. 16): "Be baptized, and wash away thy sins." St. Paul in the fifth chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians beautifully represents the whole Church as being baptized and purified (v. 25 sq.): "Christ loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it: that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the washing of water in the word of life: that he might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." The prophecy of Ezechiel (xxxvi, 25) has also been understood of baptism: "I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness (inquinamentis), where the prophet is unquestionably speaking of moral defilements. This is also the solemn teaching of the Church. In the profession of faith prescribed by Pope Innocent III for the Waldensians in 1210, we read: We believe that all sins are remitted in baptism, both original sin and those sins which have been voluntarily committed." The Council of Trent (Sess. V., can. v) anathematizes whomsoever denies that the grace of Christ which is conferred in baptism does not remit the guilt of original sin; or asserts that everything which can truly and properly be called sin is not thereby taken away. The same is taught by the Fathers. St. Justin Martyr (Apol., I, Ixvi) declares that in baptism we are created anew, that is, consequently, free from all stain of sin. St. Ambrose (De Myst., iii) says of baptism: "This is the water in which the flesh is submerged that all carnal sin may be washed away. Every transgression is there buried." Tertullian (De Bapt., vii) writes: "Baptism is a carnal act in as much as we are submerged in the water; but the effect is spiritual, for we are freed from our sins." The words of Origen (In Gen., xiii) are classic: "If you transgress, you write unto yourself the handwriting [chirographum] of sin. But, behold, when you have once approached to the cross of Christ and to the grace of baptism, your handwriting is affixed to the cross and blotted out in the font of baptism." It is needless to multiply testimonies from the early ages of the Church. It is a point on which the Fathers are unanimous, and telling quotations might also be made from St. Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, St. Hilary, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and others.

(2) Remission of Temporal Punishment

Baptism not only washes away sin, it also remits the punishment of sin. This was the plain teaching of the primitive Church. We read in Clement of Alexandria (Pædagog., i) of baptism: "It is called a washing because we are washed from our sins: it is called grace, because by it the punishments which are due to sin are remitted." St. Jerome (Ep. Ixix) writes: "After the pardon (indulgentiam) of baptism, the severity of the Judge is not to be feared." And St. Augustine (De Pecc. et Mer., II, xxviii) says plainly: "If immediately [after baptism] there follows the departure from this life, there will be absolutely nothing that a man must answer for [quod obnoxium hominem teneat], for he will have been freed from everything that bound him." In perfect accord with the early doctrine, the Florentine decree states: "No satisfaction is to be enjoined upon the baptized for past sins; and if they die before any sin, they will immediately attain to the kingdom of heaven and to the vision of God." In like manner the Council of Trent (Sess. V) teaches: "There is no cause of damnation in those who have been truly buried with Christ by baptism . . . Nothing whatever will delay their entrance into heaven."

(3) Infusion of Supernatural Grace, Gifts, and Virtues

Another effect of baptism is the infusion of sanctifying grace and supernatural gifts and virtues. It is this sanctifying grace which renders men the adopted sons of God and confers the right to heavenly glory. The doctrine on this subject is found in the seventh chapter on justification in the sixth session of the Council of Trent. Many of the Fathers of the Church also enlarge upon this subject (as St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, and others), though not in the technical language of later ecclesiastical decrees.

(4) Conferral of the Right to Special Graces

Theologians likewise teach that baptism gives man the right to those special graces which are necessary for attaining the end for which the sacrament was instituted and for enabling him to fulfill the baptismal promises. This doctrine of the schools, which claims for every sacrament those graces which are peculiar and diverse according to the end and object of the sacrament, was already enunciated by Tertullian (De Resurrect., viii). It is treated and developed by St. Thomas Aquinas Pope Eugene IV repeats this doctrine in the decree for the Armenians. In treating of the grace bestowed by baptism, we presume that the recipient of the sacrament puts no obstacle (obex) in the way of sacramental grace. In an infant, of course, this would be impossible, and as a consequence, the infant receives at once all the baptismal grace. It is otherwise in the case of an adult, for in such a one it is necessary that the requisite dispositions of the soul be present. The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, c. vii) states that each one receives grace according to his disposition and co-operation. We are not to confound an obstacle (obex) to the sacrament itself with an obstacle to the sacramental grace. In the first case, there is implied a defect in the matter or form, or a lack of the requisite intention on the part of minister or recipient, and then the sacrament would be simply null. But even if all these essential requisites for constituting the sacrament be present, there can still be an obstacle put in the way of the sacramental grace, inasmuch as an adult might receive baptism with improper motives or without real detestation for sin. In that case the person would indeed be validly baptized, but he would not participate in the sacramental grace. If, however, at a later time he made amends for the past, the obstacle would be removed and he would obtain the grace which he had failed to receive when the sacrament was conferred upon him. In such a case the sacrament is said to revive and there could be no question of rebaptism.

(5) Impression of a Character on the Soul

Finally, baptism, once validly conferred, can never be repeated. The Fathers (St. Ambrose, Chrysostom, and others) so understand the words of St. Paul (Heb., vi, 4), and this has been the constant teaching of the Church both Eastern and Western from the earliest times. On this account, baptism is said to impress an ineffaceable character on the soul, which the Tridentine Fathers call a spiritual and indelible mark. That baptism (as well as Confirmation and Holy orders) really does imprint such a character, is defined explicitly by the Council of Trent (Sess. VII, can. ix). St. Cyril (Præp. in Cat.) calls baptism a "holy and indelible seal", and Clement of Alexandria (De Div. Serv., xlii), "the seal of the Lord". St. Augustine compares this character or mark imprinted upon the Christian soul with the character militaris impressed upon soldiers in the imperial service. St. Thomas treats of the nature of this indelible seal, or character, in the Summa Christian antiquity on the effects of baptism. Luther (De Captiv. Bab.) and Calvin (Antid. C. Trid.) held that this sacrament made the baptized certain of the perpetual grace of adoption. Others declared that the calling to mind of one's baptism would free him from sins committed after it; others again, that transgressions of the Divine law, although sins in themselves, would not be imputed as sins to the baptized person provided he had faith. The decrees of the Council of Trent, drawn up in opposition to the then prevailing errors, bear witness to the many strange and novel theories broached by various exponents of the nascent Protestant theology.


The Church distinguishes between the ordinary and the extraordinary minister of baptism. A distinction is also made as to the mode of administration. Solemn baptism is that which is conferred with all the rites and ceremonies prescribed by the Church, and private baptism is that which may be administered at any time or place according to the exigencies of necessity. At one time solemn and public baptism was conferred in the Latin Church only during the paschal season and Whitsuntide. The Orientals administered it likewise at the Epiphany.

(1) Ordinary Minister

The ordinary minister of solemn baptism is first the bishop and second the priest. By delegation, a deacon may confer the sacrament solemnly as an extraordinary minister. Bishops are said to be ordinary ministers because they are the successors of the Apostles who received directly the Divine command: "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Priests are also ordinary ministers because by their office and sacred orders they are pastors of souls and administrators of the sacraments, and hence the Florentine decree declares: "The minister of this Sacrament is the priest, to whom it belongs to administer baptism by reason of his office." As, however, bishops are superior to priests by the Divine law, the solemn administration of this sacrament was at one time reserved to the bishops, and a priest never administered this sacrament in the presence of a bishop unless commanded to do so, How ancient this discipline was, may be seen from Tertullian (De Bapt., xvii): "The right to confer baptism belongs to the chief priest who is the bishop, then to priests and deacons, but not without the authorization of the bishop." Ignatius (Ep. ad Smyr., viii): "It is not lawful to baptize or celebrate the agape without the bishop." St. Jerome (Contra Lucif., ix) witnesses to the same usage in his days: "Without chrism and the command of the bishop, neither priest nor deacon has the right of conferring baptism." Deacons are only extraordinary ministers of solemn baptism, as by their office they are assistants to the priestly order. St. Isidore of Seville (De Eccl, Off., ii, 25) says: "It is plain that baptism is to be conferred by priests only, and it is not lawful even for deacons to administer it without permission of the bishop or priest." That deacons were, however, ministers of this sacrament by delegation is evident from the quotations adduced. In the service of ordination of a deacon, the bishop says to the candidate: "It behooves a deacon to minister at the altar, to baptize and to preach." Philip the deacon is mentioned in the Bible (Acts, viii) as conferring baptism, presumably by delegation of the Apostles. It is to be noted that though every priest, in virtue of his ordination is the ordinary minister of baptism, yet by ecclesiastical decrees he can not use this power licitly unless he has jurisdiction. Hence the Roman Ritual declares: The legitimate minister of baptism is the parish priest, or any other priest delegated by the parish priest or the bishop of the place." The Second Plenary Council of Baltimore adds: "Priests are deserving of grave reprehension who rashly baptize infants of another parish or of another diocese." St. Alphonsus (n. 114) says that parents who bring their children for baptism without necessity to a priest other than their own pastor, are guilty of sin because they violate the rights of the parish priest. He adds, however, that other priests may baptize such children, if they have the permission, whether express, or tacit, or even reasonably presumed, of the proper pastor. Those who have no settled place of abode may be baptized by the pastor of any church they choose.

(2) Extraordinary Minister

In case of necessity, baptism can be administered lawfully and validly by any person whatsoever who observes the essential conditions, whether this person be a Catholic layman or any other man or woman, heretic or schismatic, infidel or Jew. The essential conditions are that the person pour water upon the one to be baptized, at the same time pronouncing the words: "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Moreover, he must thereby intend really to baptize the person, or technically, he must intend to perform what the Church performs when administering this sacrament. The Roman Ritual adds that, even in conferring baptism in cases of necessity, there is an order of preference to be followed as to the minister. This order is: if a priest be present, he is to be preferred to a deacon, a deacon to a subdeacon, a cleric to a layman, and a man to a woman, unless modesty should require (as in cases of childbirth) that no other than the female be the minister, or again, unless the female should understand better the method of baptizing. The Ritual also says that the father or mother should not baptize their own child, except in danger of death when no one else is at hand who could administer the sacrament. Pastors are also directed by the Ritual to teach the faithful, and especially midwives, the proper method of baptizing. When such private baptism is administered, the other ceremonies of the rite are supplied later by a priest, if the recipient of the sacrament survives.

This right of any person whatsoever to baptize in case of necessity is in accord with the constant tradition and practice of the Church. Tertullian (De Bapt., vii) says, speaking of laymen who have an opportunity to administer baptism: "He will be guilty of the loss of a soul, if he neglects to confer what he freely can," St. Jerome (Adv. Lucif., ix): "In case of necessity, we know that it is also allowable for a layman [to baptize]; for as a person receives, so may he give," The Fourth Council of the Lateran (cap. Firmiter) decrees: "The Sacrament of Baptism . . . no matter by whom conferred is available to salvation, " St. Isidore of Seville (can. Romanus de cons., iv) declares: "The Spirit of God administers the grace of baptism, although it be a pagan who does the baptizing," Pope Nicholas I teaches the Bulgarians (Resp, 104) that baptism by a Jew or a pagan is valid. Owing to the fact that women are barred from enjoying any species of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the question necessarily arose concerning their ability to bestow valid baptism, Tertullian (De Bapt., xvii) strongly opposes the administration of this sacrament by women, but he does not declare it void. In like manner, St. Epiphanius (Hær., lxxix) says of females: "Not even the power of baptizing has been granted to them", but he is speaking of solemn baptism, which is a function of the priesthood. Similar expressions may be found in the writings of other Fathers, but only when they are opposing the grotesque doctrine of some heretics, like the Marcionites, Pepuzians, and Cataphrygians, who wished to make Christian priestesses of women. The authoritative decision of the Church, however, is plain. Pope Urban II (c. Super quibus, xxx, 4) writes, "It is true baptism if a woman in case of necessity baptizes a child in the name of the Trinity." The Florentine decree for the Armenians says explicitly: "In case of necessity, not only a priest or a deacon, but even a layman or woman, nay even a pagan or heretic may confer baptism." The main reason for this extension of power as to the administration of baptism is of course that the Church has understood from the beginning that this was the will of Christ. St. Thomas salvation of souls, it is in accordance with the mercy of God, who wishes all to be saved, that the means of obtaining this sacrament should be put, as far as possible, within the reach of all; and as for that reason the matter of the sacrament was made of common water, which can most easily be had, so in like manner it was only proper that every man should be made its minister. Finally, it is to be noted that, by the law of the Church, the person administering baptism, even in cases of necessity, contracts a spiritual relationship with the child and its parents. This relationship constitutes an impediment that would make a subsequent marriage with any of them null and void unless a dispensation were obtained beforehand. See AFFINITY.


Every living human being, not yet baptized, is the subject of this sacrament.

(1) Baptism of Adults

As regards adults there is no difficulty or controversy. Christ's command excepts no one when He bids the Apostles teach all nations and baptize them.

(2) Baptism of Infants

Infant baptism has, however, been the subject of much dispute. The Waldenses and Cathari and later the Anabaptists, rejected the doctrine that infants are capable of receiving valid baptism, and some sectarians at the present day hold the same opinion. The Catholic Church, however, maintains absolutely that the law of Christ applies as well to infants as to adults. When the Redeemer declares (John 3) that it is necessary to be born again of water and the Holy Ghost in order to enter the Kingdom of God, His words may be justly understood to mean that He includes all who are capable of having a right to this kingdom. Now, He has asserted such a right even for those who are not adults, when He says (Matthew 19:14): "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such." It has been objected that this latter text does not refer to infants, inasmuch as Christ says "to come to me". In the parallel passage in St. Luke (18:15), however, the text reads: "And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them"; and then follow the words cited from St. Matthew. In the Greek text, the words brephe and prosepheron refer to infants in arms. Moreover, St. Paul (Colossians 2) says that baptism in the New Law has taken the place of circumcision in the Old. It was especially to infants that the rite of circumcision was applied by Divine precept. If it be said that there is no example of the baptism of infants to be found in the Bible, we may answer that infants are included in such phrases as: "She was baptized and her household" (Acts 16:15); "Himself was baptized, and all his house immediately" (Acts 16:33); "I baptized the household of Stephanus" (I Corinthians 1:16).

The tradition of Christian antiquity as to the necessity of infant baptism is clear from the very beginning. We have given many striking quotations on this subject already, in dealing with the necessity of baptism. A few, therefore, will suffice here. Origen (in cap. vi, Ep. ad Rom.) declares: "The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism also to infants". St. Augustine (Serm. xi, De Verb Apost.) says of infant baptism: "This the Church always had, always held; this she received from the faith of our ancestors; this she perseveringly guards even to the end." St. Cyprian (Ep. ad Fidum) writes: "From baptism and from grace . . . must not be kept the infant who, because recently born, has committed no sin, except, inasmuch as it was born carnally from Adam, it has contracted the contagion of the ancient death in its first nativity; and it comes to receive the remission of sins more easily on this very account that not its own, but another's sins are forgiven it." St.Cyprian's letter to Fidus declares that the Council of Carthage in 253 reprobated the opinion that the baptism of infants should be delayed until the eighth day after birth. The Council of Milevis in 416 anathematizes whosoever says that infants lately born are not to be baptized. The Council of Trent solemnly defines the doctrine of infant baptism (Sess. VII, can. xiii). It also condemns (can. xiv) the opinion of Erasmus that those who had been baptized in infancy, should be left free to ratify or reject the baptismal promises after they had become adult. Theologians also call attention to the fact that as God sincerely wishes all men to be saved, He does not exclude infants, for whom baptism of either water or blood is the only means possible. The doctrines also of the universality of original sin and of the all-comprehending atonement of Christ are stated so plainly and absolutely in Scripture as to leave no solid reason for denying that infants are included as well as adults.

To the objection that baptism requires faith, theologians reply that adults must have faith, but infants receive habitual faith, which is infused into them in the sacrament of regeneration. As to actual faith, they believe on the faith of another; as St. Augustine (De Verb. Apost., xiv, xviii) beautifully says: "He believes by another, who has sinned by another." As to the obligation imposed by baptism, the infant is obliged to fulfill them in proportion to its age and capacity, as is the case with all laws. Christ, it is true, prescribed instruction and actual faith for adults as necessary for baptism (Matt., xxviii; Mark, xvi), but in His general law on the necessity of the sacrament (John, iii) He makes absolutely no restriction as to the subject of baptism; and consequently while infants are included in the law, they can not be required to fulfill conditions that are utterly impossible at their age. While not denying the validity of infant baptism, Tertullian (De Bapt., xviii) desired that the sacrament be not conferred upon them until they have attained the use of reason, on account of the danger of profaning their baptism as youths amid the allurements of pagan vice. In like manner, St. Gregory Nazianzen (Or. xl, De Bapt.) thought that baptism, unless there was danger of death, should be deferred until the child was three years old, for then it could hear and respond at the ceremonies. Such opinions, however, were shared by few, and they contain no denial of the validity of infant baptism. It is true that the Council of Neocæsarea (can. vi) declares that an infant can not be baptized in its mother's womb, but it was teaching only that neither the baptism of the mother nor her faith is common to her and the infant in her womb, but are acts peculiar to the mother alone.

(3) Baptism of Unborn Infants

This leads to the baptism of infants in cases of difficult delivery. When the Roman Ritual declares that a child is not to be baptized while still enclosed (clausus) in its mother's womb, it supposes that the baptismal water can not reach the body of the child. When, however, this seems possible, even with the aid of an instrument, Benedict XIV (Syn. Diaec., vii, 5) declares that midwives should be instructed to confer conditional baptism. The Ritual further says that when the water can flow upon the head of the infant the sacrament is to be administered absolutely; but if it can be poured only on some other part of the body, baptism is indeed to be conferred, but it must be conditionally repeated in case the child survives its birth, It is to be noted that in these last two cases, the rubric of the Ritual supposes that the infant has partly emerged from the womb. For if the fetus was entirely enclosed, baptism is to be repeated conditionally in all cases (Lehmkuhl, n, 61). In case of the death of the mother, the fetus is to be immediately extracted and baptized, should there be any life in it. Infants have been taken alive from the womb well after the mother's death. After the Cæsarean incision has been performed, the fetus may be conditionally baptized before extraction if possible; if the sacrament is administered after its removal from the womb the baptism is to be absolute, provided it is certain that life remains. If after extraction it is doubtful whether it be still alive, it is to be baptized under the condition: "If thou art alive". Physicians, mothers, and midwives ought to be reminded of the grave obligation of administering baptism under these circumstances, It is to be borne in mind that according to the prevailing opinion among the learned, the fetus is animated by a human soul from the very beginning of its conception. In cases of delivery where the issue is a mass that is not certainly animated by human life, it is to be baptized conditionally: "If thou art a man."

(4) Baptism of Insane Persons

The perpetually insane, who have never had the use of reason, are in the same category as infants in what relates to the conferring of baptism, and consequently the sacrament is valid if administered.

If at one time they had been sane, baptism bestowed upon them during their insanity would be probably invalid unless they had shown a desire for it before losing their reason. Moralists teach that, in practice, this latter class may always be baptized conditionally, when it is uncertain whether or not they had ever asked for baptism (Sabetti, no. 661). In this connection it is to be remarked that, according to many writers, anyone who has a wish to receive all things necessary to salvation, has at the same time an implicit desire for baptism, and that a more specific desire is not absolutely necessary.

(5) Foundlings

Foundlings are to be baptized conditionally, if there is no means of finding out whether they have been validly baptized or not. If a note has been left with a foundling stating that it had already received baptism, the more common opinion is that it should nevertheless be given conditional baptism, unless circumstances should make it plain that baptism had undoubtedly been conferred. O'Kane (no. 214) says that the same rule is to be followed when midwives or other lay persons have baptized infants in case of necessity.

(6) Baptism of the Children of Jewish and Infidel Parents

The question is also discussed as to whether the infant children of Jews or infidels may be baptized against the will of their parents. To the general query, the answer is a decided negative, because such a baptism would violate the natural rights of parents, and the infant would later be exposed to the danger of perversion. We say this, of course, only in regard to the liceity of such a baptism, for if it were actually administered it would undoubtedly be valid. St. Thomas Holy See, as is evident from various decrees of the Sacred Congregations and of Pope Benedict XIV (II Bullarii). We say the answer is negative to the general question, because particular circumstances may require a different response. For it would undoubtedly be licit to impart such baptism if the children were in proximate danger of death; or if they had been removed from the parental care and there was no likelihood of their returning to it; or if they were perpetually insane; or if one of the parents were to consent to the baptism; or finally, if, after the death of the father, the paternal grandfather would be willing, even though the mother objected. If the children were, however, not infants, but had the use of reason and were sufficiently instructed, they should be baptized when prudence dictated such a course.

In the celebrated case of the Jewish child, Edgar Mortara, Pius IX indeed ordered that he should be brought up as a Catholic, even against the will of his parents, but baptism had already been administered to him some years before when in danger of death.

(7) Baptism of the Children of Protestant Parents

It is not licit to baptize children against the will of their Protestant parents; for their baptism would violate parental right, expose them to the danger of perversion, and be contrary to the practice of the Church. Kenrick also strongly condemns nurses who baptize the children of Protestants unless they are in danger of death.

(8) Baptism with the Consent of Non-Catholic Parents

Should a priest baptize the child of non-Catholic parents if they themselves desire it? He certainly can do so if there is reason to hope that the child will be brought up a Catholic (Conc. Prov, Balt., I, decr, x). An even greater security for the Catholic education of such child would be the promise of one or both parents that they themselves will embrace the Faith.

(9) Baptism of the Dead

Concerning baptism for the dead, a curious and difficult passage in St. Paul's Epistle has given rise to some controversy. The Apostle says: "Otherwise what shall they do that are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not again at all? Why are they then baptized for them?" (I Cor., xv, 29), There seems to be no question here of any such absurd custom as conferring baptism on corpses, as was practiced later by some heretical sects. It has been conjectured that this otherwise unknown usage of the Corinthians consisted in some living person receiving a symbolic baptism as representing another who had died with the desire of becoming a Christian, but had been prevented from realizing his wish for baptism by an unforeseen death. Those who give this explanation say that St. Paul merely refers to this custom of the Corinthians as an argumentum ad hominem, when discussing the resurrection of the dead, without approving the usage mentioned,

Archbishop MacEvilly in his exposition of the Epistles of St. Paul, holds a different opinion. He paraphrases St. Paul's text as follows: "Another argument in favor of the resurrection. If the dead will not arise, what means the profession of faith in the resurrection of the dead, made at baptism? Why are we all baptized with a profession of our faith in their resurrection?" The archbishop comments, as follows: "It is almost impossible to glean anything like certainty as to the meaning of these very abstruse words, from the host of interpretations that have been hazarded regarding them (see Calmet's Dissertation on the matter). In the first place, every interpretation referring the words 'baptized', or 'dead' to either erroneous or evil practices, which men might have employed to express their belief in the doctrine of the resurrection, should be rejected; as it appears by no means likely that the Apostle would ground an argument, even though it were what the logicians call an argumentum ad hominem, on either a vicious or erroneous practice. Besides, such a system of reasoning would be quite inconclusive. Hence, the words should not be referred to either the Clinics, baptized at the hour of death, or to the vicarious baptisms in use among the Jews, for their departed friends who departed without baptism. The interpretation adopted in the paraphrase makes the words refer to the Sacrament of Baptism, which all were obliged to approach with faith in the resurrection of the dead as a necessary condition. Credo in resurrectionem mortuorum. This interpretation -- the one adopted by St. Chrysostom--has the advantage of giving the words 'baptized' and 'dead' their literal signification. The only inconvenience in it is that the word resurrection is introduced. But, it is understood from the entire context, and is warranted by a reference to other passages of Scripture. For, from the Epistle of the Hebrews (vi, 2) it appears that a knowledge of the faith of the resurrection was one of the elementary points of instruction required for adult baptism; and hence the Scriptures themselves furnish the ground for the introduction of the word. There is another probable interpretation, which understands the words 'baptism' and 'dead' in a metaphorical sense, and refers them to the sufferings which the Apostles and heralds of salvation underwent to preach the Gospel to the infidels, dead to grace and spiritual life, with the hope of making them sharers in the glory of a happy resurrection. The word 'baptism' is employed in this sense in Scripture, even by our divine Redeemer Himself -- 'I have a baptism wherewith to be baptized', etc. And the word 'dead' is employed in several parts of the New Testament to designate those spiritually dead to grace and justice. In the Greek, the words 'for the dead', uper ton nekron that is, on account of or, in behalf of the dead, would serve to confirm, in some degree, this latter interpretation. These appear to be the most probable of the interpretations of this passage; each, no doubt, has its difficulties. The meaning of the words was known to the Corinthians at the time of the Apostle. All that can be known of their meaning at this remote period, can not exceed the bounds of probable conjecture" (loc. cit., chap. xv; cf. also Cornely in Ep. I Cor.).


(1) Baptistery

According to the canons of the Church, baptism except in case of necessity is to be administered in churches (Conc. Prov. Balt., I, Decree 16). The Roman Ritual says: "Churches in which there is a baptismal font, or where there is a baptistery close to the church". The term "baptistery" is commonly used for the space set aside for the conferring of baptism. In like manner the Greeks use photisterion for the same purpose -- a word derived from St. Paul's designation of baptism as an "illumination". The words of the Ritual just cited, however, mean by "baptistery", a separate building constructed for the purpose of administering baptism. Such buildings have been erected both in the East and West, as at Tyre, Padua, Pisa, Florence, and other places. In such baptisteries, besides the font, altars were also built; and here the baptism was conferred. As a rule, however, the church itself contains a railed-off space containing the baptismal font. Anciently fonts were attached only to cathedral churches, but at the present day nearly every parish church has a font. This is the sense of the Baltimore decree above cited. The Second Plenary Council of Baltimore declared, however, that if missionaries judge that the great difficulty of bringing an infant to church is a sufficient reason for baptizing in a private house, then they are to administer the sacrament with all the prescribed rites. The ordinary law of the Church is that when private baptism is conferred, the remaining ceremonies are to be supplied not in the house but in the church itself. The Ritual also directs that the font be of solid material, so that the baptismal water may be safely kept in it. A railing is to surround the font, and a representation of St. John baptizing Christ should adorn it. The cover of the font usually contains the holy oils used in baptism, and this cover must be under lock and key, according to the Ritual.

(2) Baptismal Water

In speaking of the matter of baptism, we stated that true, natural water is all that is required for its validity. In administering solemn baptism, however the Church prescribes that the water used should have been consecrated on Holy Saturday or on the eve of Pentecost. For the liceity (not validity) of the sacrament, therefore, the priest is obliged to use consecrated water. This custom is so ancient that we can not discover its origin. It is found in the most ancient liturgies of the Latin and Greek Churches and is mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions (VII, 43). The ceremony of its consecration is striking and symbolic. After signing the water with the cross, the priest divides it with his hand and casts it to the four corners of the earth. This signifies the baptizing of all the nations. Then he breathes upon the water and immerses the paschal candle in it.

Next he pours into the water, first the oil of catechumens and then the sacred chrism, and lastly both holy oils together, pronouncing appropriate prayers. But what if during the year, the supply of consecrated water should be insufficient? In that case, the Ritual declares that the priest may add common water to what remains, but only in less quantity. If the consecrated water appears putrid, the priest must examine whether or not it is really so, for the appearance may be caused only by the admixture of the sacred oils. If it has really become putrid, the font is to be renovated and fresh water to be blessed by a form given in the Ritual. In the United States, the Holy See has sanctioned a short formula for the consecration of baptismal water (Conc. Plen. Balt., II).

(3) Holy Oils

In baptism, the priest uses the oil of catechumens, which is olive oil, and chrism, the latter being a mixture of balsam and oil. The oils are consecrated by the bishop on Maundy Thursday. The anointing in baptism is recorded by St. Justin, St. John Chrysostom, and other ancient Fathers. Pope Innocent I declares that the chrism is to be applied to the crown of the head, not to the forehead, for the latter is reserved to bishops. The same may be found in the Sacramentaries of St. Gregory and St. Gelasius (Martene, I, i). In the Greek Rite the oil of catechumens is blessed by the priest during the baptismal ceremony.

(4) Sponsors

When infants are solemnly baptized, persons assist at the ceremony to make profession of the faith in the child's name. This practice comes from antiquity and is witnessed to by Tertullian, St. Basil, St. Augustine, and others. Such persons are designated sponsores, offerentes, susceptores, fidejussores, and patrini. The English term is godfather and godmother, or in Anglo-Saxon, gossip. These sponsors, in default of the child's parents, are obliged to instruct it concerning faith and morals. One sponsor is sufficient and not more than two are allowed. In the latter case, one should be male and the other female. The object of these restrictions is the fact that the sponsor contracts a spiritual relationship to the child and its parents which would be an impediment to marriage. Sponsors must themselves be baptized persons having the use of reason and they must have been designated as sponsors by the priest or parents. During the baptism they must physically touch the child either personally or by proxy. They are required, moreover, to have the intention of really assuming the obligations of godparents. It is desirable that they should have been confirmed, but this is not absolutely necessary. Certain persons are prohibited from acting as sponsors. They are: members of religious orders, married persons in respect to each other, or parents to their children, and in general those who are objectionable on such grounds as infidelity, heresy, excommunication, or who are members of condemned secret societies, or public sinners (Sabetti, no. 663). Sponsors are also used in the solemn baptism of adults. They are never necessary in private baptism.

(5) Baptismal Name

From the earliest times names were given in baptism. The priest is directed to see that obscene, fabulous, and ridiculous names, or those of heathen gods or of infidel men be not imposed. On the contrary the priest is to recommend the names of saints. This rubric is not a rigorous precept, but it is an instruction to the priest to do what he can in the matter. If parents are unreasonably obstinate, the priest may add a saint's name to the one insisted upon.

(6) Baptismal Robe

In the primitive Church, a white robe was worn by the newly baptized for a certain period after the ceremony (St. Ambrose, De Myst., c. vii). As solemn baptisms usually took place on the eves of Easter or Pentecost, the white garments became associated with those festivals. Thus, Sabbatum in Albis and Dominica in Albis received their names from the custom of putting off at that time the baptismal robe which had been worn since the previous vigil of Easter. It is thought that the English name for Pentecost -- Whitsunday or Whitsuntide, also derived its appellation from the white garments of the newly baptized. In our present ritual, a white veil is placed momentarily on the head of the catechumen as a substitute for the baptismal robe.


The rites that accompany the baptismal ablution are as ancient as they are beautiful. The writings of the early Fathers and the antique liturgies show that most of them are derived from Apostolic times. The infant is brought to the door of the church by the sponsors, where it is met by the priest. After the godparents have asked faith from the Church of God in the child's name, the priest breathes upon its face and exorcises the evil spirit. St. Augustine (Ep. cxciv, Ad Sixtum) makes use of this Apostolic practice of exorcising to prove the existence of original sin. Then the infant's forehead and breast are signed with the cross, the symbol of redemption. Next follows the imposition of hands, a custom certainly as old as the Apostles. Some blessed salt is now placed in the mouth of the child. "When salt", says the Catechism of the Council of Trent "is put into the mouth of person to be baptized, it evidently imports that, by the doctrine of faith and the gift of grace, he should be delivered from the corruption of sin, experience a relish for good works, and be delighted with the food of divine wisdom." Placing his stole over the child the priest introduces it into the church, and on the way to the font the sponsors make a profession of faith for the infant. The priest now touches the ears and nostrils of the child with spittle. The symbolic meaning is thus explained (Cat. C. Trid.) "His nostrils and ears are next touched with spittle and he is immediately sent to the baptismal font, that, as sight was restored to the blind man mentioned in the Gospel, whom the Lord, after having spread clay over his eyes, commanded to wash them in the waters of Siloe; so also he may understand that the efficacy of the sacred ablution is such as to bring light to the mind to discern heavenly truth." The catechumen now makes the triple renunciation of Satan, his works and his pomps, and he is anointed with the oil of catechumens on the breast and between the shoulders: "On the breast, that by the gift of the Holy Ghost, he may cast off error and ignorance and may receive the true faith, 'for the just man liveth by faith' (Galatians 3:11); on the shoulders, that by the grace of the holy spirit, he may shake off negligence and torpor and engage in the performance of good works; 'faith without works is dead' (James 2:26)", says the Catechism.

The infant now, through its sponsors, makes a declaration of faith and asks for baptism. The priest, having meantime changed his violet stole for a white one, then administers the threefold ablution, making the sign of the cross three times with the stream of water he pours on the head of the child, saying at the same time: "N___, I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." The sponsors during the ablution either hold the child or at least touch it. If the baptism be given by immersion, the priest dips the back part of the head three times into the water in the form of a cross, pronouncing the sacramental words. The crown of the child's head is now anointed with chrism, "to give him to understand that from that day he is united as a member to Christ, his head, and engrafted on His body; and therefore he is called a Christian from Christ, but Christ from chrism" (Catech.). A white veil is now put on the infant's head with the words: "Receive this white garment, which mayest thou carry without stain before the judgment seat of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that thou mayest have eternal life. Amen." Then a lighted candle is placed in the catechumen's hand, the priest saying: "Receive this burning light, and keep thy baptism so as to be without blame. Observe the commandments of God; that, when Our Lord shall come to His nuptials, thou mayest meet Him together with all the Saints and mayest have life everlasting, and live for ever and ever. Amen." The new Christian is then bidden to go in peace.

In the baptism of adults, all the essential ceremonies are the same as for infants. There are, however, some impressive additions. The priest wears the cope over his other vestments, and he should be attended by a number of clerics or at least by two. While the catechumen waits outside the church door, the priest recites some prayers at the altar. Then he proceeds to the place where the candidate is, and asks him the questions and performs the exorcisms almost as prescribed in the ritual for infants. Before administering the blessed salt, however, he requires the catechumen to make an explicit renunciation of the form of error to which he had formerly adhered, and he is then signed with the cross on the brow, ears, eyes, nostrils, mouth, breast, and between the shoulders. Afterwards, the candidate, on bended knees, recites three several times the Lord's Prayer, and a cross is made on his forehead, first by the godfather and then by the priest. After this, taking him by the hand, the priest leads him into the church, where he adores prostrate and then rising he recites the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. The other ceremonies are practically the same as for infants. It is to be noted that owing to the difficulty of carrying out with proper splendor the ritual for baptizing adults, the bishops of the United States obtained permission from the Holy See to make use of the ceremonial of infant baptism instead. This general dispensation lasted until 1857, when the ordinary law of the Church went into force. (See COUNCILS OF BALTIMORE.) Some American dioceses, however, obtained individual permissions to continue the use of the ritual for infants when administering adult baptism.


The name "baptism" is sometimes applied improperly to other ceremonies.

(1) Baptism of Bells

This name has been given to the blessing of bells, at least in France, since the eleventh century. It is derived from the washing of the bell with holy water by the bishop, before he anoints it with the oil of the infirm without and with chrism within. A fuming censer is then placed under it. The bishop prays that these sacramentals of the Church may, at the sound of the bell, put the demons to flight, protect from storms, and call the faithful to prayer.

(2) Baptism of Ships

At least since the time of the Crusades, rituals have contained a blessing for ships. The priest begs God to bless the vessel and protect those who sail in it, as He did the ark of Noah, and Peter, when the Apostle was sinking in the sea. The ship is then sprinkled with holy water.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
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