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βαπτίζω – That Baptism of Jonah, or “to dip/plunge.”

The term “βαπτίζω” (baptízō) primarily means “to dip” or “to plunge.” Here is an explanation and translation of its various uses:

  1. Literal Dipping or Plunging:
    • To dip, plunge:
      • “ξίφος εἰς σφαγήν” (a sword into slaughter) – Josephus, “Jewish War” 2.18.4.
      • “σπάθιον εἰς τὸ ἔμβρυον” (a small sword into the embryo) – Soranus 2.63.
    • Passively:
      • Of a trephine (a surgical instrument), in Galen 10.447.
      • “βάπτισον σεαυτὸν εἰς θάλασσαν” (plunge yourself into the sea) – Plutarch, “Superstition” 2.166a.
      • “β. Διόνυσον πρὸς τὴν θάλασσαν” (dip Dionysus into the sea) – Aetius, “Physica” 914d.
  2. Metaphorical and Extended Uses:
    • To be drowned:
      • “ἐβάπτισαν τὴν πόλιν” (flooded the city), metaphorically referring to the crowds flocking into Jerusalem at the time of the siege – Josephus, “Jewish War” 4.3.3.
    • To sink or disable ships:
      • Polybius 1.51.6, 16.6.2 (Passively).
    • To be drenched:
      • “ὡς ἐκ τοῦ βεβαπτίσθαι ἀναπνέουσι” (as if breathing after being drenched) – Hippocrates, “Epidemics” 5.63.
      • “Eubulus 68” (soaked).
    • Metaphorically, to be overwhelmed or soaked in something:
      • “βεβαπτισμένοι soaked in wine” – Plato, “Symposium” 176b.
      • “ὀφλήμασι βεβαπτισμένοι” (over head and ears in debt) – Plutarch, “Galba” 21.
      • “γνοὺς βαπτιζόμενον τὸ μειράκιον” (seeing that the youth was getting into deep water) – Plato, “Euthydemus” 277d.
      • “β. εἰς ἀναισθησίαν καὶ ὕπνον” (to be plunged into insensitivity and sleep) – Josephus, “Antiquities” 10.9.4.
      • “ὁ τῷ θυμῷ βεβαπτισμένος καταδύεται” (he who is submerged in passion) – Achilles Tatius 6.19.
      • “ψυχή βεβαπτισμένη λύπῃ” (a soul drenched in sorrow) – Libanius, “Orations” 64.115.

These various usages show how “βαπτίζω” can be applied both literally, to mean dipping or immersing in a physical sense, and metaphorically, to describe being overwhelmed or fully immersed in an abstract concept such as debt, passion, or sorrow. This word, like many others under the influence of ritualistic and religious bias, came to mean “baptize” as a rite of passage into a “belonging.” Such biases ended up shifting or “repurposing” the meanings of every day words into specialized words for religious practice. Many words were redefined. Some words used in the NT related to Greek mythology where more or less covered up such as

  • Χάρις (Charis) Grace. Charites were goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility
  • Αἰών (Aion) Age. A deity representing eternity or the age.
  • Ἅδης (Hades) Hades is the god of the underworld in Greek mythology, and by extension, the term Hades refers to the underworld itself, the abode of the dead.
  • Τάρταρος (Tartarus). Tartarus in Greek mythology is a deep abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering.
  • Δαίμων (Daimon) demon/spirit. In Greek mythology, daimons were supernatural beings, often considered lesser deities or spirits that could be either benevolent or malevolent.

The question and debate, then, is not the definitions or meanings of these words, but rather, what was the purpose intended for using them?

Cf. “Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon” (LSJ) entry for βαπτίζω.