Было ли крещение в Израиле?
А на американском контитненте?
Insights from Margaret Barker’s Temple Themes in Christian Worship: Part IV
In this post I will be looking at Chapter 5 of Temple Themes, entitled “Baptism and Resurrection.” In this chapter, Barker gives evidence that shows how Christian baptism was not simply an imitation of contemporary Jewish conversion rites, but had its roots in the much more ancient traditions of the royal high priesthood and the temple.
Modern Jewish Mikvah (Ritual Bath) at Chabad-Lubavitch of Greater Boynton, FL
On the History of Ritual Washing
According to Barker (p. 101), baptism (immersion) was a purification ritual required by the law of Moses, and eventually became part of the initiation into Judaism. It is extremely difficult, however, to pin down when Jews first started using baptism as an initiatory rite. Some have concluded that because John the Baptist was performing baptisms, the baptism of proselytes must have been a pre-Christian Jewish practice. Barker disputes such notions, informing us that there is no good evidence that shows that Jews practiced baptism for initiation at the time of Jesus, and, therefore, there is no proof that Christians adopted an existing Jewish custom for the initiation of converts. The first real evidence for Jews baptizing converts doesn’t come until 70 A.D. (p. 102).
Ritual washing, on the other hand, was a part of daily Jewish life. Cleanliness and purity was a big issue for Jews. Washing was necessary before eating, before and after touching the the sacred texts, before worship and entering the temple. There were deep baths, called mikvaoth in which both unclean people and vessels were immersed in order to purge them from uncleanliness, and to prepare them for contact with the sacred. According to Barker, there were dozens of mikvaoth around the Temple in Jerusalem. These places of immersion are found throughout the Jewish world, both ancient and modern. Although some forms of ritual washing involved washing only certain parts of the body, such as the hands and feet, other occasions required full immersion. The High Priest was to fully immerse himself several times before entering the Temple (Mishan Yoma 3.3).
The mikvah represented the sea, the gathered waters of creation from which life sprang forth. The “bronze sea” was set outside the Temple so that the priests could be cleansed before entering. The Temple, and more specifically, the Holy of Holies, of course, represented Heaven. This fact is interesting in light of the Jewish tradition that the awaited Son of God was expected to rise up from the waters (Dan 7:2, 13-14; 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 13:2-5, 26, 32) (pp. 104-105).
Christian baptism was not the same as Jewish ritual washing. As Barker notes, it “was not a regular cleansing ritual but marked the moment of initiation” (p. 105). For Christians, baptism was much more than becoming clean, whether physically or spiritually. Barker explains:
The effects of baptism were described in various ways: as the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38); as spiritual birth that gave access to the Kingdom of God (John 3:5); as the washing of regeneration and renewal (Titus 3:5); as enlightenment (Heb 6:5; 10:32); as sharing the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:4-5; Col 3:1); as putting on a new nature (Col 3:10); as becoming a son of God (Rom 8:14). The Christian passed from darkness to the Kingdom of the beloved Son (Col 1:13); was called from darkness to light as the royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9); was renewed in his mind (Eph 4:23) (p. 105).
All these various themes that surrounded Christian baptism are striking and are not necessarily a part of Jewish ritual cleansing, especially not at the time of Jesus. Some have interpreted these several images as simply the diverse ways in which Christians viewed the meaning of baptism. Barker, on the other hand, sees these themes as all part of the same rite. She proclaims: “The little that can be recovered about the initiation of the ancient royal high priests suggests that this was the origin of Christian baptism” (p. 105).
Anointing and Clothing: Part of Christian Baptism?
One of the elements that I initially had a hard time with in this chapter was the fact that Barker goes to great lengths to connect Christian baptism to, as mentioned above, the temple initiation of the ancient royal (Melchizedek) high priests. She mentions the Christian practice of anointing, clothing, feeding with bread and wine, giving a new name, etc., in conjunction, or as part of, baptism. The reason I couldn’t get my head around this is because for many Christians, including Latter-day Saints, these practices are not a part of our baptism. For Latter-day Saints, we would recognize many of these themes as part of our Temple initiatory rites. Why, then, does Barker try to make a connection between baptism and these themes? It is because they actually were (at least eventually) a part of Christian baptism.
Traditional Catholic and Orthodox baptism involves not only baptism with water, but also, among other things:
anointing with holy oil/chrism on the head and also signing with the cross on the brow, ears, eyes, nostrils, mouth, breast, and between the shoulders (anointing, or chrismation, is also called confirmation and seen as necessary to the reception of the Holy Spirit)
the giving of a baptismal/new name (usually the name of a saint)
clothing with a white robe (often substituted now by a white veil on the head)
The Baptism of St. Vladimir–St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral (Кафедральный собор Святого Владимира, Владимирский собор)
I became somewhat confused by the inclusion of these practices in some Christian baptisms and the insistence of Margaret Barker on connecting Christian baptism with ancient priesthood initiation. I assumed that there must have been some mixing of practices by early Christians in the first centuries after Christ. I was much relieved when Bryce Haymond, of templestudy.com, shared the following quote from BYU professor John Tvedtnes in a comment here. According to Tvedtnes:
In early Christianity, following the apostasy, temple initiation eventually merged with the baptismal initiation, which included both washing and anointing with oil, along with donning of white clothing and sometimes the reception of a new name. (”Early Christian and Jewish Rituals Related to Temple Practices,” FAIR 1999 Conference)
It is no wonder, then, that Barker so adeptly picked up on the connection between these practices and the ancient priesthood initiation. Certainly, the washing, anointing, clothing, and other related rituals that were merged with baptism can be seen, as she states it, as “restoring the rites of the older temple” (p. 123).
With this understanding in mind, we are ready to explore the amazing insights that Barker provides regarding the initiatory rites performed in conjunction with the ancient Temple and Melchizedek Priesthood, as well as how the knowledge of these rites helped form Christian thought.
(To be continued…)