RE: Mark 7:4

From: Harold R. Holmyard III (
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 18:04:32 EDT

Dear Bill,
     You discount a connection of washing with the idea of baptism in Acts
22:16 because of 1 Pet 3:21:


1 Pet 3:21 (KJV): The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save
us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a
good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

There is no need to interpret 1 Pet 3:21 as contradictory to the idea of
baptism as a washing. What Peter denies is that baptism is a washing of the
flesh. What Ananias in Acts 22:16 speaks of is a washing away of sins, that
is, a cleansing of the conscience. The whole idea of a baptism was a
ceremonial washing, as we have already seen in Mark 7:4. It seems
unfruitful to ignore that aspect of the meaning of baptism in Acts 22:16,
especially when it explains the presence of the word "wash" in the context.
Let me quote a piece of my paper on 1 Pet 3:18-4:6:

Peter's short excursus on the nature of baptism is a reminder of the
starting point of the Christian life; Christians should preserve through
right behavior the good conscience which they sought by baptism.40 The
word "flesh" is emphatically forward, for "baptism" in Greek often implied
a bath purifying the flesh.41 Yet the defining characteristic of saving
baptism (1 Pet 3:21), the "thing asked" (EPERWTNMA) of God by converts, is
instead a purified "conscience."42 The reading can be: "baptism, not (a
baptism) of flesh, a putting away of filth, but (a baptism) of a good
conscience, a thing asked unto God."43
     The contrast between "flesh" and "conscience" also occurs in Heb
9:9-10 and 9:13-14, where the former passage additionally mentions
"baptisms." According to Heb 9:13-14 the basis of contrast between the two
kinds of baptism in 1 Pet 3:21 would be the nature of the cleansing:
physical washings of the Law as against spiritual cleansing found in
Christ's atonement.44 Although Christian baptism has respect to inward
change, a conscience which no longer testifies to uncleansed sins (Heb
10:1-2) is not simply the consequence of repentance; a divine application
of Christ's blood (Heb 9:14; 1 John 1:7) is necessary. And since God has
promised salvation to those who repent and are baptized, as Peter spoke at
Pentecost (Acts 2:38-40), obedient immersion that symbolizes a washing away
of sins (Acts 22:16) serves as a formal request that God act on the
believer's behalf.45

If you need the footnotes, please ask, and I will give them to you. They
are very long and not computerized due to a glitch.

                                Harold Holmyard

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