Washing - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


baptismos (G909) Washing
baptisma (G908) Baptism
Baptismos and baptisma are exclusively ecclesiastical terms, as are baptistes (G910) and baptisterion (baptismal font). None of these terms are used in the Septuagint or in classical Greek. They occur only in the New Testament and in writings dependent on it. Each of these terms is lineally descended from baptizein (G907), which rarely occurs in classical Greek, though it is used frequently in later writers such as Plutarch, Lucian, and others.
Before proceeding further, let us examine the relation between words of one family that are distinguished by the endings -ma and -mos, words like kerygma (G2782) and kerygmos, diogma and diogmos (G1375), degma and degmos, and many others. Only infrequently are both forms of such pairs found in the New Testament. More frequently, the New Testament writers selected words that end in -ma over their counterparts, which end in -mos, for example, apaugasma but not apaugasmos, sebasma but not sebasmos, bdelygma but not bdelygmos, rhegma but not rhegmos, perikatharma but not perikatharmos. Less frequently, the New Testament writers selected words that end in -mos over their counterparts, which end in -ma, for example, harpagmos but not harpagma, apartismos but not apartisma, katartismos but not katartisma, hagiasmos but not hagiasma. Sometimes, though rarely, both forms occur, for example, miasma and miasmas, and this is true of baptisma and baptismos, the words presently under discussion. Occasionally, though not in the New Testament, there is a third form. For example, sebasma, sebasmos, and sebasis;apartisma, apartismos, and apartisis; harpagma, harpagmos, and harpasis; and in Josephus baptisma, baptismos, and baptisis. It is not difficult to assign each individual form its proper meaning, though in actual use the words deviate from such assignments. For example, words that end with the active termination -mos constantly drift into a passive sense, as is the case with basanismos (G929), hagiasmos, and others. Although the converse is not as common, it occurs frequently.
Baptisis is the act of baptism viewed as a baptizing. Baptismos is the same act viewed not only as a baptizing but as a completed act, as a baptism. And baptisma does not refer to the act at all but to the abiding fact that results from the act, a baptism. Baptisis embodies the transitive sense of the verb, baptismos the intransitive, and baptisma the result of the transitive sense. Therefore the last word is the one best suited to refer to the institution of baptism in the church as an abstract idea, or as an ever-existing fact. This is only an approximation of the usage of baptismos in the New Testament, however, since baptismos is not used there to refer exclusively to the dignified concept of Christian baptism. In the New Testament, baptismos refers to any ceremonial washing or lustration, either ordained by God (Heb. 9:10) or invented by men (Mark 7:4, 8). In neither instance does baptismos possess any central significance, though baptisma refers to the Christian sense of baptism, though not so strictly as to exclude the baptism of John. This distinction between baptismos and baptisma primarily is preserved in the Greek ecclesiastical writers. Augusti incorrectly affirmed that the Greek fathers habitually used baptismos to refer to Christian baptism. It would be difficult to find a single example of this in Chrysostom or in any of the great Cappadocian fathers. In the Latin church, baptismus and baptisma were used to refer to Christian baptism, but this is not the case in ecclesiastical Greek, which remained faithful to the New Testament distinction.
The distinctions between baptismosand baptismaare maintained so consistently in the New Testament that every explanation of Hebrews 6:2 that assumes that Christian baptism is intended breaks down. Additionally, this explanation fails to account for the use of the plural baptismon. If we understand baptismoi in this passage in its widest sense as any type of baptism that the Christian has anything to do witheither by rejecting or by making them his ownthen a "doctrine of baptisms" would refer to teaching young converts that Christ abolished Jewish ceremonial lustrations, that John's baptism was preparatory and provisional, and that the baptism of Christ is eternally valid. Because all of these acts were washings, they could be included under the one term baptismoi, without encroaching on the exclusive use of baptisma to refer to the "washing of regeneration," which is the exclusive privilege of the church of Christ.

Trench's New Testament Synonyms Topics