RE: Why isn't BAPTIZW translate

Stephen C. Carlson (
Thu, 19 Sep 1996 10:20:28 -0400

At 02:38 9/19/96 EDT, KULIKOVSKY, Andrew wrote:
>I think you should take a closer look at some of the occurences. The
>following instances don't have any ritualistic sense (Jewish or
>Rom. 6:3
"were baptized into Christ Jesus"
"b. into his death"
>1 Cor 10:2
"b. into Moses"
>1 Cor 12:13
"... b. by one Spirit into one body"
>Gal 3:27
"b. into Christ"

I frankly don't see how these are counterexamples. These are all
religious, non-secular, and metaphorical upon the ritual sense.

>In fact, many of the references simply mention baptism or baptize
>with no suggestion of the sense in the context. To say that these
>have a ritual sense is begging the question:

A lot of the contexts are like: "many of the Corintians who heard
him believed and were baptized." (Ac18:8) They didn't just take
a bath.

>BAPTIZW is a technical term in the NT with a ritual sense. It occurs
>80 times in the NT with this sense, therefore it must be technical term!

I tried very hard to avoid the circularity. I looked for possible
examples of the secular meaning of BAPTIZW and found that the word
BAPTW was used instead.

>It is exactly this kind of reasoning that Carson warns against.

Carson's warning against the "technical term" fallacy is that one
should not assume that all uses of a *technical term* have its
technical sense. Your argument is quite different: you are denying
that BAPTIZW has a technical sense. The problem with that denial is
that BAPTIZW is overwhelmingly used in a religious sense rather than
secular where BAPTW is preferred. I think that the roughly 80
examples of usage in a restricted semantic domain is good evidence
that it is a technical term. It is not necessary that all of term's
occurrences be so restricted to establish that it may be a technical
term, but it was nice that it happened.

However, I should take Carson's warning seriously and not necessarily
jump to the conclusion that it must mean the Christian rite of
initiation in every use. In fact, your examples above show its
use in metaphorical situations (yet quite removed from its original,
secular meaning of being plunged into a liquid).

>For it to be classified as a technical term, it would have to be shown
>unambiguously that every occurrence is used in pretty much the
>same way and that this usage has a slightly different shade of
>meaning to the standard meaning. This can't be done in the NT.

This is an impossible standard and I think misses the thrust of
Carson's discussion of the "technical term" fallacy.

We have gotten way from the original topic, whether BAPTIZW should
be "transliterated" or not. I replied that it appears to be a
technical term, and so a translation into a well-established
technical term in English is quite appropriate. The New Testament
was written by Christians for Christians, all of whom would readily
understand that technical term.

If, however, you are translating the Bible to be more accessible
to non-Christians, who are unfamiliar with the terminology, then
by all means feel free to make your translation as clear as you
can possibly be. This may involve using "immerse" or "wash" (so
Andy Gaus, THE UNVARNISHED NEW TESTAMENT) instead of "baptize."
The context would be enough to inform the reader that this is no
ordinary "washing."

Stephen Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson                   : Poetry speaks of aspirations,              : and songs chant the words. :               -- Shujing 2.35