Images de page

besought him to dine with him; and he went in and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed (ebaptisthē) before dinner." Here, also, the inconvenience of an immersion is supposed to require a different sense of the word-an objection which overlooks the difference between the dress and customs of Oriental life and those in the Western world. A bath would have required little time or trouble. Here Jesus had been in a crowd composed of all classes, and the possible defilement extended to the whole body. The washing of hands, therefore, would not have sufficed; but, as in the previous case (Mark vii. 3, 4), Jewish tradition required a complete immersion, for which, doubtless, the Pharisee's house furnished abundant means, as the better class of Oriental houses do now. Meyer comments on this incident: “They expected that he would first purify himself by an immersion—that is, by a bath (comp. on Mark vii. 3, 4)-before the meal." If the Pharisee himself would not eat after coming from a crowd without bathing (as is shown in Mark), it was certainly natural that he should expect so distinguished a rabbi as Jesus would not do so, and should express his surprise at the omission.

Acts ii. 41 : “ Then they that gladly received his word were baptized : and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." It is here supposed that the immersion of three thousand at Jerusalem in one day is wholly improbable, if not impossible. But it should be observed the text does not affirm that three thousand were baptized on that day, but only that this number were added to the church.” How they were added is not stated. It is surely not impossible that many who had already been baptized by John the Baptist, and by the apostles during the ministry of our Lord,



were among those who publicly united with the church on that day, and these needed no further baptism. But, not to insist on this, if we suppose the actual baptism of three thousand, there was no difficulty in immersion, as the following considerations show:

1. As to administrators. If we restrict the administration to such as had a ministerial commission, the twelve were certainly there; and of the "seventy" know some were present, for one of them had just been chosen to the apostleship. These had all been commissioned by Christ himself to preach and baptize; and if all of them were present, it would be less than thirtyseven candidates to each administrator.

2. As to time. It is a mistake to suppose that immersion requires of necessity much more time than sprinkling or pouring; for in either method of administering the rite, the formula must be pronounced and the act performed in the case of each person separately. It must be remembered, also, that the dress and customs of Orientals require far less elaborate preparations for immersion than with us; especially would this be the case at the time of the Pentecost, occurring in the hot season of the year.

3. As to water. The supposition is certainly not necessary that all assembled at one time and place for baptism ; it is, perhaps, hardly probable. But even were this necessary, an immersion would present no difficulty, for Jerusalem has in all ages been distinguished for its immense supply of water. Strabo's brief description of the city is : "Jerusalem, a rocky, well-enclosed fortress; within, well watered ; without, wholly dry.” It is a remarkable fact that in all the sieges through which the city has passed, though it has often been reduced to fearful straits from hunger, it has never suffered from lack of water. Dr. Robinson, after describing "the immense cis


terns now and anciently existing within the area of the temple,” says: “In addition to these, almost every private house in Jerusalem, of any size, is understood to have at least one or more cisterns, excavated in the soft limestone on which the city is built. The house of Mr. Lanneau, in which we resided, had no less than four cisterns; and as these are but a specimen of the manner in which all the latter class of houses are supplied, I subjoin the dimensions :

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]


Most of these cisterns,” he adds, “have undoubtedly come down from ancient times; and their immense extent furnishes a full solution of the question as to the supply of water for the city."

Besides these private tanks, there were at least six immense public pools accessible, any one of which was adequate for the immersion of three thousand. The dimensions of these pools are given by Dr. Robinson as follows : *





Pool of Bethesda.......
Upper Gihon.........
Lower Gihon.........
Pool of Hezekiah....
Pool of Siloam....
The King's Pool.....



Feet, 130

200 to 218 18 at the ends.
245 to 275 35 to42at the ends



* Researches, vol. i. pp. 323–348, ed. of 1856. See, also, Sufficiency of Water for Baptizing in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Palestine, by G. W. Samson, D.D. American Baptist Publication Society.

Besides these, a reservoir of vast extent exists under the temple area, while within and around the city are the ruins of many others, not here named, which in the Apostolic age were in use. That these public pools are used for bathing, the visitor at Jerusalem may have ample ocular proof any day—and this was, without doubt, the custom anciently-while the gradually-descending sides of some of them, by successive platforms, afford convenience for bathing or baptism. Indeed, the Mosaic law required so much use of water for ceremonial ablutions, and the traditions of the elders so greatly increased the demand that the most extensive bathing accommodations must always have existed. Josephus affirms that from one to two hundred thousand stranger Jews, from all parts of the world, were wont to gather in and around the Holy City at the passover, crowding its sacred precincts and covering with their tents "the mountains round about Jerusalem.” Most of these must have contracted ceremonial uncleanness on their journey, each of whom must needs “ wash his clothes and bathe himself in water” before entering the temple. Surely, in the presence of such facts, the objection made to the immersion of the three thousand at the Pentecost, based on the lack of water, is simply absurd; it implies singular ignorance alike of the Holy City and of the Old Testament.

Bishop Ellicott's Commentary on the New Testament, edited in Acts by Professor E. H. Plumptre, D.D., says on Acts ii. 41: “The largeness of the number has been urged as rendering it probable that the baptism was by affusion, not immersion. On the other hand, (1.) Immer

, sion had clearly been practised by John and was involved in the meaning of the word, and it is not likely that the rite should have been curtailed of its full proportions at the very outset. (2.) The symbolic meaning of

[ocr errors]

the act requires immersion, in order that it might be clearly manifested, and Rom. vi. 4 and 1 Pet. iii. 21 seem almost of necessity to imply the more complete mode. The swimming-baths of Bethesda and Siloam, or the socalled Fountain of the Virgin, near the temple enclosure, or the bathing-places within the Tower of Antonia (Jos., Wars, v. 5, 8), may well have helped to make the process


Heb. ix. 10: “Divers washings," diaphorois baptismois. These different baptisms are supposed by some to refer to different forms of ceremonial purification among the Jews, and thus to furnish ground for supposing that there were different forms of the Christian rite. But it is far more natural to refer it to the different occasions on which ablution was required than to a difference in the form of ablution. The different occasions on which the law required ablution are explained (Lev. xv. 16; xxvi. 28; Num. xix.). Professor Stuart comments: “ Most evidently baptismois refers to the ceremonial ablutions of the Jews which were concerned with external purification." Thus all respectable commentators. Maimonides, the celebrated rabbi, speaking of Jewish ablutions, as quoted by Lightfoot, says: “Wheresover in the law washing of the garments or body is mentioned, it means nothing else than the washing of the whole body; for if any wash himself all over except the very tip of his little finger, he is still in his uncleanness."

Fifth : The baptisms of the New Testament, in the circumstances attending them, furnish proof that the ordinance was an immersion.

John baptized chiefly "in the Jordan," "in the river Jordan," a stream which, according to Lieutenant Lynch,* has a width varying from seventy-five to one hundred

* See Lynch's Expedition to the Jordan and Dead Sea.

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »