Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"baptizo"

I have long been persuaded that we English-speaking Christians do ourselves a great disservice by translating the word baptizo into "baptize." It's not even really a translation. It's just a semantic warping to make the word sound more English than it really is.

The problem is that, in translating baptizo as "baptize," we obfuscate the full meaning of the word. Whereas, we might readily define "baptize" as "to administer Christian Baptism," baptizo really only barely approximates such a definition. The anglicized version of baptizo only calls to mind already assumed meanings of the word - one is more likely to consult their church's confessional document before they would pick up a Greek lexicon.

It's not that baptizo has nothing to do with the Christian religious rite. It does, but in terms of literal meaning, the word itself corresponds primarily to the experience of baptism, rather than to the objective act itself. Baptizo is about being "overwhelmingly covered in cleansing water" [source]. If the difference is unclear, think about it this way: It's like the difference between saying "John got married." and "John was joined in holy matrimony to a lovely wife." Baptizo pertains more to the latter than the former, and I think by choosing to ignore that, passages like Acts ii, 41 loose some of the depth of their meaning.

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