Blogging through the Gospels: Mark 1: 1-8

Immersion in Christ – Mark’s Gospel

I discuss the Bible in a couple of Yahoo Groups, one in particular.  I have learned an enormous amount in the 3 years I have been on this list especially but the same topics seem to be discussed ad infinitum.  I have some quite different views from many on the list and I enjoy presenting my views and interacting with the list members, some of whom are close friends and I consider them mentors (even if we don’t have identical perspectives).

Recently as some of my views have changed, I have been reading Christian blogs more, searching for different approaches that make sense to me and that I can accept intellectually as well as spiritually.  As one of my favourite bloggers, Michael Spencer – the Internet Monk, said in a post today:
I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot recently, but I’m far more interested in a person coming to a position of honesty and integrity than I am in maintaining labels that aren’t working. The choice between a phony Christian profession and honest doubt is not a hard one for me.

I can’t maintain the label of “strictly evangelical” any longer.  However, some of my friends see my change of perspective as the beginning of a slippery slope towards a loss of faith. This is far from the truth – my journey is towards a more authentic faith where I am not forced to try to reconcile interpretations which I cannot accept.   I was challenged to spend as much time in the gospels as I do in the blogs. Now this is a fair comment (I spend too much time blog reading and not enough in the Word) and one I have taken to heart.  I need to feed on spiritual bread and drink of the living water. I have been inspired by Nick Gill’s commitment to blogging his way through the Bible and decided to blog my way through the Gospels. I will post in my group (Berean Spirit) as well as here. And as my blog is networked to facebook, it will post there too.

For various reasons I have decided to stick with looking at one gospel at a time. (Some in Berean Spirit  suggested a chronological study of Jesus’ life). It is more manageable, and I don’t want to commit to something I have neither the time, the discipline nor the skills to complete. Immersion in one gospel at a time (pun intended) will enable us to discern the intent and voice of that author and it’s message for us. I chose Mark to begin with for a few reasons. It’s most likely the first gosepl that was written. It has more of Jesus’ deeds and less of his teachings than Luke and Matthew do, so it might make sense to look at Jesus’ teachings later after looking at a framework of his life in Mark first. And, I don’t want the discussion to go offtrack by being distracted by the genealogies in those gospels (I have different views on the historicity of the genealogies to many in Berean Spirit) or discussion of the virgin birth. Plus the profundity of the Sermon on the Mount scares me – I need to work up to discussing that. And Mark is the least “literary” of the gospels so I have spent less time in Mark than the other gospels so far. This will address that lack.

I am going to post my comments after reading, prayer and reflection. I am not intending to make this an indepth study so will try not to get distracted (as I am wont to do) by commentaries or tangents. I’m using the ESV to paste here (thanks Biblegateway) but am reading the NIV, TNIV, ESV and NLT each day before commenting. And I will make each post short so it’s more manageable.

Mark 1 (English Standard Version)
1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,(A) the Son of God.[a]

The gospel is ongoing beyond Mark’s account (into Acts and beyond). The gospel not limited to a written account or to this account. My Bible tells me that the Son of God was added later. Is that significant? Probably not… it doesn’t contradict anything.

2(B) As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,[b]

(C) “Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3(D) the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
(E) ‘Prepare[c] the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'”

Mark indicates that Jesus is the fulfilment of Israel’s prophecies in quoting here from Isaiah and Malachi. A reminder that Jesus cannot be understood in isolation but in the context of the whole of God’s story.

4(F) John appeared, baptizing in(G) the wilderness and proclaiming(H) a baptism of(I) repentance(J) for the forgiveness of sins. 5And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan,(K) confessing their sins.

We should not be limited to “this” baptism. We need to embrace baptism in all it’s richness and spiritual complexity. If we limit baptism to the “remission of sins” we miss much of what Jesus is all about.

Note that “all” is used here in a hyperbolic sense, not literally. It is obvious (from the rest of the gospel story) that not everyone in Jerusalem and Judea were baptized by John.

6Now John was(L) clothed with camel’s hair and(M) wore a leather belt around his waist and ate(N) locusts and wild honey.

Does this description have echoes of the 40 years the Jews spent in the wilderness? I know it links John to Elijah and other prophets.

7And he preached, saying,(O) “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.

John’s foreshadows the servant leadership of Jesus.

The poetic language of the prophets Isaiah and Malachi and John contrasts with the prosaic language of Mark.

8(P) I have baptized you with water, but(Q) he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The importance of Holy Spirit baptism. Water baptism is insufficient unless we are immersed in the Holy Spirit too. We need to base our theology of baptism on the gospels and the whole canon of Scripture, not just Acts 2:38.

I was wondering how this line would be translated with immersion instead? (Berean Spirit group has been discussing how the Greek word baptidzo should best be translated into English – by the transliteration baptism or immersion.

8 I have immersed you in water, but he will immerse you in the Holy Spirit.”

It loses something, I think.  Baptism is much more than immersion.

**************************************************

Verse 3 makes me want to sing.  Handel’s Messiah is one of my favourite pieces of music.

I invite your comments.  And your prayers for my perseverance with immersion in Jesus.

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9 Responses to “Blogging through the Gospels: Mark 1: 1-8”

  1. Kelli Says:

    Thank you Wendy. I look forward to following your journey & hearing your perspective.

  2. kent Says:

    1.

    I agree that not “all” in Judea and etc were immersed, but I find it interesting that the thief on the cross who was promised paradise had enough insight to realize that Jesus’ death on a cross would not stop him from establishing his kingdom.

    Seems to me that this thief had some deeper understandings than did the average professional scribe/priest. I can’t help but wonder if the thief had a life-long interest in the things of God, but merely got caught up in events that led to his crucifixion.

    As a student of God-things, there’s a good chance he had been immersed by John in these early days.

    In other words, there’s more (circumstantial) evidence that this thief had been immersed than that he wasn’t.

    I just find that interesting; wouldn’t try to push it.

    2.

    If the word means “immersed”, it should be translated “immersed”.

    How does “baptism” mean “much more”? And does that “much more” come from the Bible, or from your cultural baggage? (We all have cultural baggage, me included.)

    As I understand it, the word “baptize” did not exist in English until it was transliterated from the Greek; in such a case, any meaning we’ve ascribed to it other than the meaning it has in Greek is man-made.

    It should be translated so we know what it meant, not transliterated so we can apply our own meanings to it.

  3. brian Says:

    hey this is great, keep it up. looking forward to future installments

  4. Mary Says:

    Well done Wendy. I see so much of our accepted Christian teaching/philosophies and so-called “christian living” as being at odds with Christ’s teaching and example as we see it in the gospels.

  5. wjcsydney Says:

    Kent, or the thief had been exposed to much of Jesus’ teachings.

    2. Baptism means much more than immersion. It means a covenant ceremony, a sacrament, a proclamation of faith, et al. Those meanings would be diluted if we reverted to “immersion” now. Perhaps if baptidzo had been translated as “immersion” then those meanings would have been retained. Yes, my baggage is cultural. I grew up in a Christian tradition where baptism was not practised by immersion.

    Mary, I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts. The more we delve into what Christ modelled and taught, the more we realise how far we are from being mature disciples. Well, I do anyway!

  6. Kent Says:

    wjcsydney writes:
    “Baptism means much more than immersion.”

    But does “baptidzo” mean much more than immersion? That’s the question. If not, then “baptism” is a bad translation.

    On the flip-side, “baptism” does not mean “immersion”, whereas “baptidzo” does, so again it’s a bad translation.

    IOW, “baptism” doesn’t mean what “baptidzo” means, and does mean what “baptidzo” may not mean.

    But I’m certainly not going to fight over it. I’m content to let you think how you think, but I’m pleased that you allow me to express how I think.

    RE: the thief; yes, I didn’t mean to imply his education only came from John; I merely meant that there was a good chance he had been immersed, contrary to the usual claims that he is a prime example of someone who was saved who was not baptized. I wouldn’t press the point too hard; I just find it an interesting observation. I find your observation that he might have actually been exposed to Yahshua’s teachings directly even more fascinating; I don’t believe I had actually taken my thoughts to that point about it before (having no need to really think it all through, merely needing to hit the highlight that he may not have been un-baptized).

  7. Tim Archer Says:

    Hi Wendy,

    I’m late to the party, but I thought I’d join in. Your thoughts on the impact of the words “baptism” and “immersion” are interesting; got me to thinking as well, which is always a good thing.

    For me, the experience went the other way. You see, I grew up thinking Holy Spirit baptism meant what happened on Pentecost, that is, tongues of fire and speaking in tongues. I thought of baptism as a ceremony or a rite, rather than picturing it as being immersed in something.

    Later I learned that the baptism of the Holy Spirit corresponded with the outpouring of the Spirit (you’ve probably heard the explanation, God “outpours” and we are immersed). I learned that Jesus would sink me into the depths of the Holy Spirit, that He would live in me and I would live in Him. For me, immersion had so much more emotional impact than an artificial word like baptism.

    Good luck on the journey! (I just did some work out of Ecclesiastes, so I’m allowed to use the word “luck”) I’ll follow along as best I can.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  8. Ralph Bass Says:

    I wrote a book on this subject called BAPTIDZO. Here is an excerpt from it.

    History of Baptism

    Envelopment without Influence
    At this point in the history of Baptism, we will study the use of BAPTIDZO in cases where the baptized object remains, for the most part, uninfluenced by the baptizing agent. By uninfluenced, we mean there was no significant change to the element baptized other than the fact that it may have become wet. In the history of Baptism, this is the more primitive use of the word BAPTIDZO, what we might call the primary meaning or BAPTIDZO1. As we do this research, look for the mode of baptism in these passages; see how many different ones are in these texts. Also, very interestingly, notice how often mode is simply ignored, not addressed at all! Even in this primitive use BAPTIDZO does not address mode. Mode must be found in its context, not the word itself. Let us consider these illustrations from Classic Greek to see how this word was used by the anchients.

    “They say that the Phoenicians inhabiting the region called Gadira, sailing beyond the Pillars of Hercules, with an easterly wind, four days, reach to certain desert places full of rush and seaweed; which when it is ebb tide are not baptized (BAPTIDZO); but when it is full tide are flooded.” Aristotle , Wonderful Reports, 136

    The history of Baptism provides this ancient text by Aristotle in which we read of a baptism of “places full of rush and seaweed.” And what is the mode of the baptism? It is the flowing and flooding of the tide over the “rush and seaweed” that produces the baptism. Several things can be noticed from this. 1) The beach was not dipped in and taken out of the sea. The beach didn’t move; the sea moved. 2) The mode or act of baptism was “flowing” which resulted in the beach being “flooded.” We are told by some that a baptism can only be by dipping. Clearly you don’t have to go far to prove that false.

    The great Baptist scholar John Gale comments on this passage saying, “…, the word BAPTIDZO, perhaps, does not so necessarily express the action of putting under water, as, in general, a thing’s being in that condition, no matter how it comes so, whether it is put into the water, or the water comes over it; tho’ indeed to put into water is the most natural way and the most common, and is, therefore, usually and pretty constantly, but it may be not necessarily required.” It would appear that Dr. Gale has given away the farm with this statement. What is left to concede? This is the very point we made from the beginning, BAPTIDZO refers to condition, result, state, or an effect accomplished brought about by any one of several possible acts.

    **********

    “I found Cupid among the roses, and holding him by the wings I baptized (BAPTIDZO) him into the wine, and took and drank him.” Julian , Egypt, Cupid, 223

    Through some mode not revealed to us, Cupid was baptized in the wine. He may have been placed into the wine, or pushed into the wine, or plunged into the wine, or enticed to jump in the wine. One thing is certain, however, he was not dipped into the wine, for he stayed in the wine and was thereby swallowed down (through the influence of the wine Julian fell in love). In our study of the history of Baptism, this is the nature of BAPTIDZO; it places in while making no provision to take out. It commonly engenders a result or change of condition. In this case the result was falling in love. Julian was neither the first nor the last to fall in love by means of the consumption of wine.

    **********

    “But when the Sun had baptized (BAPTIDZO) himself into the Ocean flood.” Orphei , Argonautica, 512

    To all appearances, the Ocean enveloped the Sun. Perhaps the writer viewed the Sun as diving or plunging or dropping into the Ocean, but he certainly did not view it as dipping into and out of the Ocean. Inherent in the word dip is a momentary time element. But this was a long-term baptizing, reversing itself only after many hours and even then 180 degrees and thousands of miles from the point of entry. Not many prospective Baptist converts will be encouraged by this mode of baptism. Indeed, if embraced, it would represent the setting sun of the whole movement. To preserves lives, it is best to stick with dip notwithstanding it is never the mode of BAPTIDZO.

    **********

    “A bladder, thou may be baptized (BAPTIDZO); but there is no decree for thee to sink.” Plutarch , Theseus, xxiv

    Like a bladder filled with air and pushed down or forced under water for some period of time, so the city of Athens was for a while under the oppression of a foreign power. However, as it is not the nature of an air filled bladder to permanently sink, so Athens will recover from the subjection of her enemies.

    Now the question is this: is an air filled bladder forced under water for some considerable period of time the model of a Christian baptism? I think not. I do not believe that Baptists push down or force their converts under the water, to be held there for as long as possible—as did the Persians to Athens. Yet that is the mode of baptism illustrated here.

    **********

    “And dying they filled the lake with dead bodies; so that to the present many barbaric arrows, and helmets, and pieces of iron breastplates and swords, baptized (EMBAPTIDZO) in the marshes, are found.” Plutarch, Sylla, xxi

    You will notice that this ancient weaponry is not put into and then taken out of the marshes—dipped. No, it has apparently lain there for years. For Plutarch, baptizing was not a dipping. It was instead 1) a condition of envelopment 2) for an undetermined period of time. How that envelopment occurred is not a point he is discussing. This lack of interest in mode of baptism is typical of Greek literature.

    **********

    “Alexander falling upon the stormy season, and trusting, commonly, to fortune, pressed on before the flood went out, and through the entire day the army marched baptized (BAPTIDZO) up to the waist.” Starbo , xiv, 3, 9

    In looking for the mode of baptism in this passage we find that it is “marched.” Now some will find a marching baptism to be beyond their capacity to grasp. That is understandable; if you are told all your life that baptizing is dipping and dipping is baptizing then surely this passage will throw you. But if baptism is a state of envelopment, well here is a whole army enveloped up to the waist by the mode of marching. And notice that it is not necessary for the whole body to be under water for a baptism to take place. Baptists often fret over such things as a hand, arm or part of a head that did not get fully under the water, wondering if that was then a valid baptism. The Greeks would have simply scratched their heads in confusion at such a conversation—or laughed.

    In this study of the history of Baptism we must ask: Did these ancient Greeks understand Greek? Certainly that is not the problem. Closer to home, do those that say a baptism is a dipping understand Greek?

    **********

    “Being innocent, he advances, unhesitatingly, having the water to the knees; but when guilty, proceeding a short distance he is baptized (BAPTIDZO) up to the head.” Porphyry , Abstinence, 282

    In our study of the history of Baptism, we here come across a case of baptism by “advances,” presumably by walking or marching. But if baptism is only a dipping then how is this a baptism, for the author mentions no dipping at all? It would appear that the only conclusion possible is that baptism is by any number of acts or modes—the act being irrelevant, the condition resulting from the baptism the only relevant factor. It might be added that the guilty are drowned, that is—baptized. Because baptism is for an undetermined period of time, it generally drowns those that have their head baptized.

    **********

    “Although the spear should fall out into the sea, it is not lost; for it is constructed out of both oak and pine, so that the oaken part being baptized (BAPTIDZO) by the weight, the rest is floating and easily recovered.” Polybius , xxxiv, 3, 7

    It would appear that the portion of the spear that was baptized was baptized by dropping, or falling, or sinking, without the removal of the object baptized from the water, which are perfectly normal modes of baptism to the Greeks although frowned upon by Baptists, insisting that the word means to dip and nothing but dip. The only reason the spear did not stay baptized was because a part of the spear floated allowing its retrieval at some time after the baptism. Note: it was not the retrieval of the spear that was the baptism; the baptism was the envelopment of the spear by water. If it had never been retrieved, it would be baptized to this day. Baptism does not make provision for retrieval, in fact, the retrieval un-baptized the spear. Think about that!

    **********

    “To one throwing down a javelin, from above, into the channel, the force of the water resists so much that it is hardly baptized (BAPTIDZO).” Strabo , xii, 2, 4

    What we have here is a fast flowing channel that resists the force of the javelin entering the water. In fact, the force is so great that the javelin can hardly be baptized, enveloped by water.

    So, to our example list of baptism acts found in this history of Baptism, we can now add “throw down.” Can you imagine the consternation of young converts when they discover that “throw down” into the water is a legitimate mode of baptism; but even worse, “pick up” from the water is not mentioned even once!

    A conclusion to this History of Baptism

    There are many modes of baptism illustrated in these passages: flowing, placed, pushed, plunged, jump, setting, dropping, marched, advances, falling, sinking, push down, force under, and throw down. But in the history of Baptism, the only one not present is dip!

  9. Roberta Celestina Tecla Says:

    As a website owner I believe the subject matter here is reallywonderful. I appreciate it for your hard work. You should keep it up forever! Good Luck..

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