Welcome. Here you can learn the basic things that you need to know about baptism. This website was created not only for Christians but also for members of other religious sects, particularly those who want to learn more about baptism and other related religious traditions being practiced by Christian, why they are being done, and even how they are being executed. The focus of this resource will primarily be baptism. It is divided into several pages, each having one goal. For example, there are pages that merely explain the history of baptism; there is a dedicated page that explains the different modes and manners of baptism, and so on. The authors of this resource, together with all the people who contributed to this great work where Christians and non-Christians can learn more about baptism, hope that you, the readers, find this resource useful and informative. May it bring you closer to the Lord our God, enlighten you, and enhance your awareness about the Christian tradition of baptism.
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- Who we are and What we do
We are an independent non-government-related group with an aim of supporting early learning of religious education in and outside the classroom. Part of our aim is to revolutionize the way how people learn about things that are related to Christianity. Conventionally, people only learn about these things within the four corners of the classroom. With the help of our modern resources and practices, such as this resource and its maintenance, we are slowly but surely getting closer to ultimately fulfilling that goal. This website will only be one of the first religious education resources—for early learning, that we will release and publish. Religious education is not fully integrated in most countries’ educational system. This is one of the main reasons why a significant portion of the world’s population are unaware of certain facts about Christianity—some of which are members of the said religious sect themselves; and of the practices being done within the group. With this web resource, the gap between the current educational system in most countries and religious education and awareness that create religious ignorance will finally be bridged.
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- History of Baptism
There are different types of religious groups. Some are more established than the others. In the same manner, some have more or less members than the others. One common thing, although it does not apply to all religious groups one can research about, is the presence of rite of passage-related ceremonies or simply rite of adoption or admission. Christianity is one of the most prominent religious groups in the planet. In some cases, Christianity is being used interchangeably with Roman Catholicism, the current largest religious sect in the planet, at least in terms of the number of members. It is based on the life and teachings of Jesus, as how it (the life and teachings of Jesus) was portrayed from the beginning and on the last parts of the Holy Bible’s New Testament. With approximately 2.2 billion adherents and still counting, Christianity has long been the world’s largest religion. Baptism or the process of baptism is a common and often a required procedure that all individuals who want to be a part of a group of Christianity must undergo. In various books in the New Testament, it had been described how Jesus was baptized , which according to historical and theological literatures, is being considered one of the most significant historical events to which a high degree of certainty can be assigned . According to the principles of Christianity, there is more to the process of Baptism than just being a tradition or a requirement so that one can be an official member of the Christian Church. It is not just a tradition but a sacrament and ordinance mandated by Jesus himself.
- Etymology of Baptism
As mentioned earlier, Baptism is a required process that an individual who wants to be a part of the Christian Church must undergo, a rite of passage, or a requirement for admission or if the person is has been a previous member of another religious sect apart from Christianity, a requirement of adoption. The term Baptism is often confused with the term christening. In some Christian countries, the two terms (baptism and christening) are often used interchangeably to describe the process of baptism as how it has been defined from the beginning of this paper. This rule does not necessarily apply to all Christian countries as in some; the term baptism applies to individuals who have been members of another religious sect aside from the Christian Church before while the term Christening applies to newborns and babies, or those who will be fresh members of the Christian Church.
The term baptism is derived from the Greek word (a concept noun) baptisma which meant washing. The Greek word from which Baptism was derived was actually a newly-invented word during the timeframe of the New Testament. During which, it was used to describe the process of ritual washing as how it was described in Greek literatures related to Hellenistic Judaism published sometime during the Second Temple period. The Second Temple period was a period in Jewish history that lasted between the years 530 BCE (Before Common Era) and 70 CE (Common Era), during which the Second Temple in and of Jerusalem already existed; and the reign of the four major religious sects: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes . Later on the Greek word became complemented with the suffix –ism hence the term Baptism. Some sources suggest that the term was derived from the Greek word bapto (means to dip) , which was also where the verb baptizo was derived . Different historical literatures show conflicting claims as to exactly where or which words the term Baptism is really derived. At this point however, it can be asserted that it is derived from a Greek word. Exactly which word and whether that word is a noun, a pronoun, a verb, or a transitive verb is, even at this point in history, is still unclear.
- Baptism Today
Although Jesus, one of the main figures in the Christian world, was born in Jerusalem and was a Jew, there are certain aspects of Christianity that makes it distinct from traditional Judaism. Christianity has a very close relationship and similarities with Judaism. In fact, aside from Jesus, his 12 disciples, and majority of the individuals who wrote the books of the New Testament, plus the earliest members of the Christian church were all Jews. The separation between the early Christian church and Judaism when the first Christian council, formed mostly by the members of the 12 Apostles, started converting or baptizing individuals who were once Jews. One of the major differences between Christianity and Judaism during that time was that Christians were no longer required to practice a selected number of Jewish religious practices and traditions. Some evidences suggest that Baptism is the Christian church’s counterpart of the Jews’ Tvilah, an almost similar process wherein the subject gets immersed in water . It appears that Tvilah is also some kind of rite of passage that individuals who wish to be converted to Judaism had to undergo; aside from being a form of requirement for admission to Judaism, Tvilah is also a Jewish purification ritual. There is one striking difference between Tvilah and Baptism however and that is the latter can be performed repeatedly whereas the latter is only performed once and that is on the day of Baptism.
John the Baptist, one of the most prominent personalities in the early history of Christianity and Baptism declared Baptism as a sacrament of Christianity, which was during that time was perceived as a form of messianic movement . One important thing to take note about the early history of Baptism is the difference between the baptism ceremonies that was performed by John the Baptist and the ones performed in the name of Jesus. The latter was, in many ways, considered as a form of baptism used for repentance while the latter was considered as a sacrament that Jesus instituted to guide the spread of Christianity . Biblical scholars still argue and dispute whether Jesus intentionally instituted the sacrament of baptism to secure the existence of the Christian church for the hundreds of years to come or because of some other reason.
The earliest form of baptism was allegedly done by immersion as opposed to the most common form of baptism being performed today which is by partial immersion. Baptism, as how it was narrated in the Holy Bible, was done via complete immersion. In the bible, one requirement that John the Baptist had was the presence of deep spot of a river. With this in mind, it only makes sense why there are some biblical scholars who claim that the most common form of baptism during its earliest days was through complete immersion . There are also some sources that suggest the opposite—that other modes of baptism, such as through partial immersion or by bathing the subject with water, may have also been used even during the early part of Baptism’s history . According to historical recounts of baptism ceremonies, baptism through partial immersion became more easily adopted as the preferred mode over the more traditional baptism through complete immersion. By the beginning of the 3rd century of the Common Era, baptism ceremonies already involved the use of catechetical instructions as well as the execution of chrismation, laying on of hands, creed recitations, and exorcisms on selected cases. By the start of the middle ages, the number of the members of the Christian church had already grown exponentially. Baptism ceremonies were being performed in different locations. The preferred mode was still baptism through immersion, preferably complete. However, as infant baptism became more common, and often a cultural and religious norm in established Christian countries such as England and Rome, other methods of baptism aside from immersion became popular. Among those non-orthodox methods, at least during the early medieval period, baptism through Affusion was one of the most popular. Affusion is a mode of baptism wherein instead of immersing the subject into a body of water, the water is poured onto the head of the baptism subject . By the start of the 12th century, baptism through Affusion already became the normal mode of baptism.
Today, baptism is still being performed as a form or rite of passage for individuals who wish to be an official member of the Christian church. There are currently 4 modes how a baptism ceremony can be done: aspersion, immersion, dipping, and Affusion. We have already finished discussing the first two modes—the immersion and Affusion. Baptismal through dipping is actually similar to baptism through immersion only that the former is done by completely submersing the baptism subject in the water. Aspersion is a mode of baptism wherein the individual being baptized gets sprinkled with water on the head as opposed to Affusion wherein the subject gets poured with water on the head.
- Signs and Symbols of Baptism
In a Baptism ceremony, there are three symbols that are used to represent three things: The water, the light from the candle, and the sign of the cross. In a typical modern baptism ceremony, the person being baptized may either be immersed or dipped in water, partially or completely. He may also be baptized via Affusion or Aspersion. Nowadays, Aspersion is the preferred mode of baptism. The water symbolizes purity and having a new start, as in the process of Tvilah in Jews. Being purified allegedly enables Christians to leave their old wicked ways and be born again as one of God’s children. Jesus, when He was baptized by John the Baptist, started Baptism as a sacrament by serving as an example, even though he did not in any way, need any form of cleansing. As evidence to this statement, John the Baptist said that “it is YOU who should baptize me.” The light symbolizes the transition of the person being baptized from darkness towards the path of light. In some cases, the light may also symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit after being baptized. Now, in the Bible, it can be recalled that Jesus did not receive any lighted candle. It is however stated that the Holy Spirit descended upon him after He was baptized. Lastly, the sign of the cross made on the forehead of the person being baptized. Being marked with a cross using oil or water on the forehead only means that the person is now an official member of the Christian family as the cross symbolizes everything that Christ dead and taught during his life, and his death and resurrection. Again, Jesus was not marked with a cross during his baptismal. But it can be assumed that he had carried this cross throughout his life as evidenced by his accurate prediction that he would be persecuted, executed, and then rise again.
Baptism in itself is a symbol. It can be perceived as a symbol of an individual’s rebirth by water and the Spirit. In fact, during the early history of baptism, individuals were being baptized naked as a form of parallelizing the conditions during one’s original birth. Also, the removal of clothing just before the baptismal ceremony may symbolize the individual’s putting off his old self and deeds in exchange of a new one after he has been born again.
In modern baptismal ceremonies, individuals get baptized in front of an assembled community which is often comprised of the members and elders of the church. This may actually be perceived as a symbol of how the Christian family would look and feel like. What the baptismal subject would see is not just a congregation of random people but rather a community gathering to worship God and to witness and celebrate His death and resurrection.
During baptismal ceremonies, the parish priest may read scriptures from the bible that are related to baptism. These scriptures symbolize the world of God. His word symbolizes His presence in the assembly. And as the parish priest proclaims God’s word, it may even feel as if He is calling on the person being baptized to be one of His disciplines just like how he called on His first disciples.
Individuals being baptized are often required to wear a white garment. This white garment actually symbolizes the person’s new life, or his birth in Christ. In some cases, a bib or a baptismal gown may be used as a replacement. The important thing is that the garment should be white in color as it should symbolize the purity of a newborn.
- Summary of the Sydney Archdiocese
The Sydney Archdiocese or the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, its official name, is a Latin Rite metropolitan archdiocese located in Sydney, Australia . Its territories include South-Western Sydney, Canterbury-Bankstown, Inner West, Northern Suburbs in Sydney, Lower North Shore, Eastern Sydney Suburbs, St. George, Sutherland, and Northern McArthur Region. With an area coverage of at least 1,264 km and a total population of over 2 million, it is considered as one of the most established and largest Roman Catholic archdioceses. An archdiocese is basically a district that is under the supervision of a bishop. An archdiocese is further subdivided into parishes, except for the Church of England which is divided into both parishes and benefices, as stated in the principles of episcopal polity that outlines how the church should be managed. St. Mary’s Cathedral serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Sydney, the person who heads and supervises the Sydney Archdiocese. Currently, the archdiocese is under the supervision of Cardinal George Pell with his auxiliary bishops being Julian Charles Porteous, Terence Brady, and Peter Comensoli and his Emeritus bishops being David Cremin, Geoffrey Robinson, and Edward Bede Clancy.
- Baptism-related Passages
”And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3: 13-17
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
“John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water, but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaving like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.”
All of these bible passages basically describe how and why a baptismal ceremony used to be done during the time of Christ. They suggest that baptismal ceremonies are done to cleanse an individual and make him more spiritually worthy to face God and be one of His children, His Lambs.
- Spiritual Reflection of Baptism for Teachers
First and foremost, the Sacrament of Baptism entitles an individual to be a member of the family founded by Christ himself, the Christian family. According to the words of the 2nd Vatican Council itself it has been said that “All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church” .
A person’s character does not and cannot be changed merely by the process of baptism. It is the process of imparting a likeness to Christ that can inspire an individual to change. Through the process of baptism, an individual receives a permanent or indelible character or seal that is in part, like that of Christ.
As mentioned earlier, baptism, aside from being some form of a rite of passage, is also a process of purification. A person who has been baptized is removed of all the guilt of his sins enabling him to restore his title to heavenly glory.
When Adam and Eve committed their sin, humans lost its privilege to enjoy divine life. God decided to give mankind a second chance to have his rightful share of that divine or supernatural life through Jesus. It is the process of baptism that can entitle mankind with that supernatural life. The only condition to that entitlement is that a person should remain spiritually alive when his body expires.
Answering these three questions what the purpose of Baptism is, and why it is being done, and what one should expect after being baptized, should be more than enough for preachers of the Gospel and normal individuals to reflect on Baptism.
- Jesus’ Baptismal Art Project
- Suggested Activities
- Baptism Quiz Bee
- Baptism Re-enactment
- Baptism Charades
- Prayers about Baptism
On this day of new beginnings, bless thee with your grace and love, surround thee with your goodness, and may You guide his steps and keep him from harm.
Lord, smile upon thee, and through your teachings, and may he find contentment through your teachings and use them to do kind and thoughtful acts.
With the guidance and love of his parents and everyone around him, we pray that he will live and lead a life full of happiness, faith, and love for You and everyone.
This we pray, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
This prayer has been chosen because of two things. Firstly, it fulfills its purpose of delivering the message to God, which is to baptize the individual in His name. Secondly, it is simple and does not involve unnecessary phrases that which is not uncommon in writing prayers. Prayers are an important part of a Christian’s life. For individuals who wish to be baptized in the name of Christ, a baptismal prayer is often necessary. They do not have to be long or complicated. The important thing about a prayer is it should get the message across, nothing more and nothing less.
- Baptism Activity Evaluation Sheet
- Rationale for Baptism and Why it is Important
Baptism or having been baptized is one of the important milestones for an individual who wants to be a member of the Christian family. It symbolizes a lot of things aside from the fact that it is an adoption or admission requirement. In a baptismal ceremony, an individual’s soul gets purified, giving him the opportunity to leave and forget his old self and deeds and have a fresh start with God as one of His disciplines, with an ultimate goal of spreading the good news.
2nd Vatican Council. (n.d.). Baptism. 2nd Vatican Council.
BBC. (2012). Religion and Ethics - Converting to Judaism. BBC UK.
Cross, F., & Livingstone, E. (2005). Baptism. Oxford University Press.
Fanning, W. (2009). Baptism. Catholic Encyclopedia: Robert Appleton Company.
Guy, L. (2011). Introducing Early Christianity. Intervarsity Press, 225.
Guzik, D. (2005). Commentary on the Bible.
Harrington, D. (1991). The Gospel of Matthew. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 63.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Baptism. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
Liddell, H., & Scott, R. (2010). A Greek-English Lexicon at the Perseus Project. The University of Texas at Austin, College of Liberal Arts, Linguistics Research Cente.
Morris, L. (2008). Rome Reports.
Pickett, J. (2000). Baptism: the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Powell, M. (2005). Jesus as a figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. Louisville Knox.
Schreiner, B. (2007). Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ. 81.