Hostname: page-component-5db6c4db9b-qvlvc Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-25T20:36:33.052Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Proselyte Baptism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2009

T. F. Torrance
Proselyte Baptism


By three things did Israel enter into the Covenant, by circumcision, and baptism and sacrifice. Circumcision was in Egypt, as it was written, ‘No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof’ (Exod. xii. 48). Baptism was in the wilderness just before the giving of the Law: as it is written, ‘Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes’ (Exod. xix. 10). And sacrifice, as it is said, ‘And he sent young men of the children of Israel which offered burnt offerings’ (Exod. xxiv. 5). And so in all ages when a Gentile is willing to enter into the Covenant, and gather himself under the wings of the Shekinah of God, and take upon him the yoke of the Law, he must be circumcised and be baptized and bring a sacrifice. As it is written, ‘As you are, so shall the strangerbe’ (Num. xv. 55). How are you? So likewise the stranger (or proselyte) through all generations: by circumcision and baptism, and bringing of a sacrifice. And what is the stranger' sacrifice? A burnt offering of a beast, or two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, both of them for a burnt-offering. And at this time when there is no sacrificing, they must be circumcised and be baptized; and when the Temple shall be built, they are to bring the sacrifice. A stranger that is circumcised and not baptized, or baptized and not circumcised, is not a proselyte till he be both circumcised and baptized: and he must be baptized in the presence of three…. Even as they circumcise and baptize strangers, so do they circumcise and baptize servants that are received from the heathen into the name of servitude…. The Gentile that is made proselyte and the slave that is made free, behold he is like a child new born.

Short Studies
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1954

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Isure Biah, 13 and 14.Google Scholar

2 See the English edition of the Babylonian Talmud by the Soncino Press, edited by Epstein, I.; and the edition of the Jerusalem Talmud, translated into French by M. Schwab, Paris; and The Mishnah, translated by Danby, H., Oxford.Google Scholar For discussions of the evidence see also the following: Moore, G. F., Judaism, vol. I, pp. 323 if.;Google ScholarSchürer, E., A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, vol. 11, pp. 323ff.;Google ScholarStrack-Billerbeck, , Kommentar z. N. T. aus Talmud u. Midrash, vol. I, pp. 102ff.; vol. III, pp. 353, 763;Google ScholarEdersheim, A., The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Appendix XII; Kittel, Theol. Wörterbuch. N.T., Bd. I, pp. 533ff.; The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol.11, pp. 499f.; vol. x, pp. 222f.;Google ScholarLightfoot, J., Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae, on Matt. iii and Luke iii; Harmony on the N. T., on Luke iii.Google Scholar

3 Yebamoth 46 b (Soncino edit., vol. r, pp. 303f.); Kerithoth 9a, cf. Philo, De Decalogo ii. 11.Google Scholar

1 Op. cit. 47b (Soncino edit. p. 331).Google Scholar

2 Op. cit. 46b, 47b; Kerithoth 9a ‘Abodah Zarah 57a; Shabbath 135a; Jer. Kiddushin iii. 14, 54d.Google Scholar

3 Gerim vii. 8. The expression for ‘in the name of God’ is be-shem shamaim, which was apparently a technical term much used. Cf. also Pesahim 50 b; Sanhedrin 105 b; Nazir 23b; Aboth ii. 2, 12; iv. II. All solemn baths of purification involved a three-fold immersion, but only during the bath of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement was the name Jahweh used three times. See below.Google Scholar

4 Cf. I Pet. iii. 21.Google Scholar

5 A detailed description of the ritual is given in Yebamoth 47ab. Cf. Moore, , Judaism, vol. I, pp. 333f.Google Scholar

6 Philo, De Poenitentia, 1; cf. Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, cxxi f.Google Scholar

7 Yebamoth 48b, where the expression is referred back to Ruth ii. iz. See Isa. liv. i (LXX).Google Scholar

8 Yethuboth II; Erubin 15; see also Yebamoth 47a.Google Scholar

9 Yebamoth 47b (Soncino edit. p.311).Google Scholar

10 Yebamoth 46a; 47b; Jer Yebamoth viii. I (see Schwab edit. vol. vii, p. iii).Google Scholar

11 Cf. Mishnah, Mikwaoth, edit, by Danby, pp. 732ff.Google Scholar

12 Yebamoth 46a (Soncino edit. pp. 301 if.; see also pp. 623, 673f.); Jer. Yebamoth viii. i (Schwab edit. p. 113).Google Scholar

13 Ketuboth, i. 2, 3, 4; iii. 1, 2.Google Scholar

1 Genesis Rabbah 39 (cited by The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. II, p. 500).Google Scholar

2 Yebamoth 48 b, 22 a, 62 a; Jer. Yebamoth 4a; Bekoroth 47a; Jer. Bikkurin 65 b. See Strack-Billerbeck, op. cit. vol. iii, pp. 353, 763.Google Scholar

3 Yebamoth 48b (Soncino edit. p. 320 n. 6).Google Scholar

4 Mishnah, Yebamoth xi. 2; Yebamoth 22 a, 62 a, 97 b, 98 a, 98 b; Jer. Yebamoth 4a; Jer. Bikkurin, 64 a.Google Scholar

5 Yebamoth 22a; Sanhedrin 58b.Google Scholar

6 Yebamoth 47a.Google Scholar

7 The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. x, p. 224. Cf. John xx. 29.Google Scholar

8 Exod. i: Num. 9; Josh. 5.Google Scholar

9 Pesahim vi. 2 (edit. by Danby, p. 143).Google Scholar

10 Pesahim viii. 8; Eduyoth v. 2. See Jer. Pesahim, loc. cit. (Schwab edit. pp. 133f.); and Kiddushin 70a.Google Scholar

11 Judaism, vol. 1, p. 330 n. 4. For a contemporary Christian account of the relation between the Passover and the Christian Eucharist, and Baptism, see the Homily of Melito of Sardis (c. A.D. 150),Google Scholar edit, by Bonner, Campbell, Studies and Documents, vol. xii (1940). Contrary to the Jewish custom Christian baptism was frequently administered in the night before Easter.Google Scholar

1 Cf. I Sam. vii. 6: ‘They drew water and poured it out before the Lord and said, We have sinned against the Lord’, and Lam. ii. i: ‘Pour out thine heart like water before the Lord.’ Cf. Targum and Midrash on I Sam. vii. 6; and Jer. Taanith ii. 7, 65a.Google Scholar

2 That is clear also in John vii. 37f. The same applies also to the feast of Dedication and Illumination. See particularly II Macc. i. i8ff. and ii. 1ff.Google Scholar

3 Sanhedrin a; cf. Matt. iii. ii; and Luke iii. 16; Mark i. 8; John i. 27.Google Scholar

4 There was a whole tractate about this in the Mishnah, Mikwaoth (see edit, by Danby, pp. 732ff.). An interesting statement occurs in Mikwaoth v.: ‘All seas are valid as an Immersion-pool (Mikweh), for it is written, And the Mikweh of the waters called He Seas.’ The same words come in Parah viii. 8, again with reference to Gen. 1. 10. This thought plays an important role in the N.T. Apocalypse and in the Early Fathers.Google Scholar

5 See Danby, op. cit. p. 172.Google Scholar

6 Surely this is the significance of IJohn iii.: ‘And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure’ spoken in a powerful eschatological context.Google Scholar

7 Danby, loc. cit. Cf. also The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 51, p. 499: ‘To receive the Spirit of God, or to be permitted to stand in the presence of God (His Shekinah), man must undergo Baptism (Tan., Meora', 6, ed. Buber, p. 46), wherefore in the Messianic time God will Himself pour water of purification upon Israel in accordance with Ezek. xxxvi. 25 (Tan., Mezora', 9–17, 18, ed. Buber, pp. 43, 53).’Google Scholar

8 II Kings v. 10.Google Scholar

9 Cf. Moore, , Judaism, vol. II, pp. 358 if.; and The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. II, pp. 499f.Google Scholar

10 Cited from The Jewish Encyclopedia, loc. cit.Google Scholar

1 That is evident from the discussions between the Rabbis, Hillel and Shammai, Eliezer and Joshua, etc. See Pesahim viii. 8; Yebamoth 46.Google Scholar

2 De Baptismo v. 5.Google Scholar

3 Dialogue with Trypho, cxxii, cxxiii.Google Scholar

4 Pesahim viii. 8; ‘Eduyoth v. 2. See Moore, op. cit. vol. III, pp. 109f.Google Scholar

5 See The Biblical Archaeologist, vol. xiii (Sept. 1950), ‘A Comparison of the Covenanters of the Dead-Sea Scrolls with Pre-Christian Jewish Sects’, by Brownlee, William H..Google Scholar

6 Moore, op. cit. p. 110.Google Scholar