Mark 1:4

John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins.

(World English Bible)

My pocket Bible (a Revised English Bible) says:

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism in token of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins.

Generally I’m not going to try and hunt down the “perfect” translation.

Baptism seems to be an immersion or a washing in water. Perhaps a metaphor for the washing away of sins.

Does the ritual symbolise a process that is then complete? Your sins have been washed away, and now you’re free of sin for the rest of your life, with no need to worry about it. That doesn’t sound right, but on the other hand people (even in the New Testament) seem to be baptised just once.

If temptation and sin are always with us, then repentance and forgiveness are always needed, and baptism makes more sense (to me) as a regular thing. Baptism then becomes a symbol of a continuing process of washing and cleansing as one approaches the light.

So who can baptise who? Nowadays it seems anyone can baptise anyone else. To baptise you just have to be a priest, which is just a job; to be baptised you just have to go somewhere where they’re dishing them out. But the question isn’t really about who can participate in a formal ritual.

Perhaps baptism presupposes some kind of relationship between baptiser and baptisee. Further, the baptiser must have some kind of “real” authority (from God? But how would you know?). Most of all, the baptisee must recognise that authority, and participating in the ritual must be an outward mark of something that is really going on inside.

Finally, can one baptise oneself? For example, when I wash in the morning, as well as physical cleansing, can I take that as a spiritual refreshing, ready to start a new day repented and forgiven? And would that be a kind of baptism? When I wash in the evening (sometimes I even get washed during the day!) can I take that as a spiritual soothing, washing (repenting and forgiving) the sins of the day, ready to face the night calmly? Or am I just being silly?

1 Comment

  1. […] Matthew, I thought, “What is the point of going over all this again?” I think only Mark 1:4, where Mark gives an explanatory comment about baptism, stood out to […]

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