Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Baptism in Mark 7

Mark 7:1-4 (ESV) Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, [2] they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. [3] (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, [4] and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) When the Pharisees make their appearance in a gospel text I know there is going to be something good there. Jesus has to clash with them. He can’t help not to. His idea of righteousness is so at odds with theirs. Unfortunately this isn’t always true of Christians today. Too often Christians align themselves with the Pharisees, over such fundamental things as the forgiveness of sins, and baptism. (A side note, the other day a friend bid me watch a Christopher Hitchens video, in which he weakly impugned the idea of forgiveness saying it lets us off the hook. As I write this, it strikes me that Christopher Hitchens, Pharisees, and Baptists, all seem to have the same hang up here, and by extension the same religion. ) But you see this passage is about baptism, and what it does. Jesus, he was righteous. He knew it, and so was unconcerned with traditions of men, made up to give a person the appearance of righteousness. These many hand washings etc. are nothing more than religious make up. So many these days treat Baptism today, they abuse it with false notions. It works despite them, but you only need it once, and repetitive baptisms are nothing more than religious make up. I’ll return to that tomorrow as I pull in the second half of this section of scripture. I cut it short here though, because the word baptism makes an appearance here, and goes to the very notion and definition of baptism. There are two words in this passage that are translated wash, Nipto and Baptizo in the Greek. Verse four actually has them baptizing couches. But I think the main thing here is that Nipto and Baptizo are used interchangeably for wash. Baptism simply does not have the notion of immersion, though one could immerse to wash, one does not need to.

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