THE GREEK WORD BAPTIZO
A Defense of the word Baptize in the KJV Bible
By Caswell A. Reeves
Bible Fundamentalists were once men known as ardent defenders of the Word of God. They were correctly called Biblicists standing clearly in defense of Bible principles and practices. They courageously fought against those who opposed the inspiration and preservation of the scriptures. Today in the circles of Fundamentalism a new breed of men has arisen denying Gods supernatural preservation of scripture. Some even go as far as casting dispersion on the biblical doctrine of inspiration. This new breed has clearly drawn the line by casting doubts upon the King James Version of the Bible attacking its very trustworthiness. One of those areas under attack is that of casting doubt on Gods preservation of the word baptizo transliterated baptize. They call this a mistranslation or poor rendering because it was not translated with the word immerse. This paper attempts to set forth a defense for the use of the word baptize in the KJV Bible.
BAPTIZO - Preserved in the English word BAPTIZE
The doctrine of inspiration demands the perfect preservation of all scripture (2Tim.3:16). Because God is holy, every inspired word is pure and absolutely perfect. In Psalm 12:6,7: God has promised that He would preserve His Word and because of that promise He is bound by his holiness to preserve every word perfectly (Mat.24:5). It is an absolute that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Thus, when God commanded the church to teach or disciple all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), He also advanced the doctrine of preservation to include the translation of His words from the original languages into other languages of other nations. It is God that preserves His words in other languages enabling the church to carry out the Lords great commission. Therefore one must conclude as a matter of faith, if God superintends the preservation of His words from the original languages when they are being translated into another language, that the English word baptize in the KJV Bible is the word that God in His wisdom has chosen. Thus one recognizes that God is the one who has allowed the translators to use the word baptize in order to preserve the original and inspired Greek word baptizo.
BAPTIZO - Should it have been Translated Baptize or Immerse?
When one believes in the ability of God to preserve His words perfectly from one generation to the next (Psa.12:6,7) and from one peoples language to another (Mat.28:18-20) one must accept the fact that God has chosen to preserve the Greek word baptizo by transliterating it with the English word baptize in the KJV Bible. This is a perfectly acceptable practice in the translating of words from one language to another in order to preserve the whole or fuller meaning of the word. It is done when the word in the original language has a greater meaning than a translated word in the new language. Such is the case for the transliterated word baptize in the KJV Bible. Therefore the transliteration of the word baptizo to baptize instead of the translation to immerse should not be considered a mistranslation or a flawed rendering, but rather the choice of a word carrying with it a fuller and richer meaning of the preserved word baptizo.
The Greek word baptizo means to dip, to immerse, to submerge. This word baptizo is the word, which describes the N.T. local church ordinance of baptism and identifies the act of submerging or immersing one under water. It is first recorded in the Bible as being practiced by John and his disciples in Matthew 3:6. Also, Jesus submitted to water immersion in Matthew 3:15,16 and stated that it was a becoming act.
However, to limit the meaning of baptizo to only the mode of immersion is to miss the full biblical meaning of the use of this word in the New Testament. The word baptizo also has an identifying meaning in that it pictures a burial or death by the placing of one under the water and a resurrection unto a new life as one comes up out of the water (Romans 6:3-5). The word baptizo not only speaks of the mode, but as a picture, it also identifies the Believers relationship with his Saviors death and resurrection. The transliteration to the English word baptize rather than the translation to the word immerse should be looked upon as a more perfect choice, which focuses not only on identifying the mode of baptism, but also on identifying the believers new relationship with Christ. It reveals a fuller and more excellent representation of baptizo than does the word immerse, which mainly focuses upon the mode. Therefore, rather than one referring to it as a mistake, mistranslation or a poor rendering one should see it as the best possible and most excellent rendering.
BAPTIZO - The Fallacious Argument
Some scholars have positioned themselves and have argued against the transliteration of the word baptizo to baptize alleging that the translators had to transliterate this word for political expediency. This arose from the Protestants and Roman Catholics use of sprinkling, which had become a more popular meaning for the mode of baptism. Anabaptists, called re-baptizers, a minority group held to immersion as the mode of baptism. The problem and political dilemma the translators faced was should they translate baptizo with immerse and offend the majority or transliterate baptizo with baptize and appease the majority. King James settled the issue. He commanded the word baptize to be used. This has lead many scholars to conclude that the word baptize is a mistake, a mistranslation or a faulty rendering and that the word immerse should have been used instead.
The problem with arguing from this position should be obvious to a fideist. It is an argument based on human reasoning. Believers should not embrace what wicked men think and do about the Word of God. They continually misrepresent Gods truths with their own ideas, twists and definitions. Natural men are not spiritual and are unable to discern Gods words (1 Cor.2:15). However, just as God used men in the process of inspiration so God used men in the process of preservation. This truth was also evident in the translating process of the KJV Bible. Regardless of the Kings intentions or the translators intentions, faith recognizes Gods providential preservation of His word baptizo in the English word baptize. It is the most excellent rendering for the biblical meaning of baptizo. Thus, Believers need to be careful not to trust in a faulty type of human rationalism that discounts the work of God in preservation, but simply receive, believe and submit to Gods Word for their final authority, trusting in God to preserve His words perfectly and forever (Ps.119:152; Mat.24:35). Believers should act by faith, setting aside the wisdom of men and siding, rather, with the wisdom of God.
The doctrine of Believers baptism and the doctrine of preservation are two cardinal teachings of the Scripture. Casting doubt upon the veracity of either one of these two doctrines is to cast doubts upon both. There are three reasons why the English word baptize is the preserved Greek word baptizo. First, is Gods superintending over the preservation of His words. Second, is Gods holy character in concert with the inspiration of scripture. And third, is Gods demand that faith in His Word be the measure of Truth and not the reasoning ability of men. The fideist clearly recognizes that God has chosen the word baptize rather than the word immerse. The new breed of Fundamentalists are wrong. It is absolutely incorrect to refer to the word baptize as a mistake, a mistranslation or a poor rendering. The word baptize is clearly Gods choice to preserve His inspired word baptizo in the KJV Bible.
April 16, 2006