The imagery is iconic: a person enters the water, and a pastor lowers them under.
They emerge, rejoicing, to the cheers of their church family.
Or maybe there’s a baby in a white gown, two well-dressed parents, and a member of the clergy sprinkling water on the baby’s head.
Either way, baptism has become a mainstay of the Christian religion.
But how did baptism come about? What elements have changed, and what has remained the same?
Read on to learn more!
Judaism and Sacrifices
To trace baptism back to its roots, we have to go several millennia back in time.
But we’re not starting with early Christianity. Instead, we’re beginning with ancient Judaism.
Christians understand Judaism to be a sort of mother religion. In fact, some of the books of the Bible are the same as some books in the Jewish Torah.
In ancient Judaism, people believed their sins caused a separation from God. Their sin made them too unholy to enter the most inner part of the temple unless they were priests from the tribe of Levi.
Priests also had to undergo purification rituals that involved water.
In order to atone for their sins, everyday people would bring sacrifices to the temple, where the priest would kill it. People believed that their sins made them worthy of death, and the animal’s death would both express their penitence and absolve them.
Of course, they also pointed forward to Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice: his death on the cross.
Jesus and Early Baptism
Many people believe Jesus originated baptism, but this isn’t true. In fact, Jesus’s distant relative, John the Baptist, was practicing baptisms before Jesus died.
He would baptize Jewish people as a symbol of their sins being washed away.
Jesus did away with the need for sacrifices and defeated the death caused by sin when he died on the cross and rose again 3 days later.
Christians view Jesus’s death as the ultimate atonement for their sins and believe that a person only needs to have faith in Jesus to be spared from spiritual death.
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Jesus himself put forward this belief. He even said that the people who follow his teachings have metaphorically died, leaving sin behind and arising into a new, purified life.
Not long after Jesus walked the earth, Christians began commemorating their newfound life with baptism. Being lowered into the water came to be associated with both death and purification, and being lifted out symbolized resurrection.
Depending on a Christian’s denomination, baptisms may look very similar or very different from what they did 2,000 years ago.
Some denominations, such as Catholicism, have popularized infant baptism, which marks a child as a believer from the start of their life. It also indicates the intent of the parents to raise the child in the faith.
Other denominations baptize people once they have made the decision to become Christians. These baptisms look a bit more like the ancient ones, with a minister fully submerging the person.
Are you getting baptized or planning a baptism celebration? If so, then use these free baptism invitations!
Want to Learn More About Christianity?
Christianity is a vast religion with a rich historical context.
Baptism is just one of its primary rites and practices, and even it has different variations among the denominations. There are many other practices, such as communion and holiday observance, that stem from a long history.
Read the rest of the articles on this website to learn more!