/bap"tiz euhm/, n.1. Eccles. a ceremonial immersion in water, or application of water, as an initiatory rite or sacrament of the Christian church.2. any similar ceremony or action of initiation, dedication, etc.3. a trying or purifying experience or initiation.4. Christian Science. purification of thought and character.[1250-1300; ME < LL baptisma < Gk bapt(ízein) to BAPTIZE + -isma -ISM; r. ME bapteme < OF < LL, as above]Syn. 2. induction, admittance, introduction.
* * *In Christianity, the sacrament of admission to the church, symbolized by the pouring or sprinkling of water on the head or by immersion in water.The ceremony is usually accompanied by the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Indeed, Christians believe that after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and commanded them to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the teaching of St. Paul, it signifies the wiping away of past sins and the rebirth of the individual into a new life. Judaism practiced ritual purification by immersion, and the Gospels report that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Baptism was an important ritual in the early church by the 1st century, and infant baptism appeared by the 3rd century. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and most Protestant churches practice infant baptism. The Anabaptist reformers insisted on adult baptism after a confession of faith; modern Baptists and the Disciples of Christ also practice adult baptism.
* * *a sacrament of admission to the Christian (Christianity) Church. The forms and rituals of the various churches vary, but Baptism almost invariably involves the use of water and the Trinitarian (Trinity) invocation, “I baptize you: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The candidate may be wholly or partly immersed in water, the water may be poured over the head, or a few drops may be sprinkled or placed on the head.Ritual immersion has traditionally played an important part in Judaism, as a symbol of purification (in the mikvah, a postmenstrual or ritual bath used by women) or as a symbol of consecration (in rituals of conversion, accompanied by special prayers). It was particularly significant in the rites of the Essenes. According to the Gospels, John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Jesus Christ). Although there is no actual account of the institution of Baptism by Jesus, the Gospel According to Matthew (Matthew, Gospel According to) portrays the risen Christ issuing the “Great Commission” to his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20). Elsewhere in the New Testament, however, this formula is not used. Some scholars thus doubt the accuracy of the quotation in Matthew and suggest that it reflects a tradition formed by a merging of the idea of spiritual baptism (as in Acts 1:5), early baptismal rites (as in Acts 8:16), and reports of Pentecostalism after such rites (as in Acts 19:5–6).Baptism occupied a place of great importance in the Christian community of the 1st century, but Christian scholars disagree over whether it was to be regarded as essential to the new birth (salvation) and to membership in the Kingdom of God or to be regarded only as an external sign or symbol (religious symbolism and iconography) of inner regeneration. The Apostle Paul (Paul, the Apostle, Saint) likened baptismal immersion to personal sharing in the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3–4). By the 2nd century, the irreducible minimum for a valid Baptism appears to have been the use of water and the invocation of the Trinity. Usually the candidate was immersed three times, but there are references to pouring as well.Most of those baptized in the early church were converts from Greco-Roman paganism and therefore were adults. Both the New Testament and the Church Fathers of the 2nd century make it clear that the gift of salvation belongs to children, however. Tertullian seems to have been the first to object to infant Baptism, suggesting that by the 2nd century it was already a common practice. It remained the accepted method of receiving members in the Eastern (Eastern Orthodoxy) and Western churches, except in the case of adult converts.During the Reformation (Protestantism) the Lutherans (Lutheranism), Reformed (Calvinism), and Anglicans (Anglicanism) accepted the Catholic (Roman Catholicism) attitude toward infant Baptism. The radical Reformers, however, primarily the Anabaptists (Anabaptist), insisted that a person must be sufficiently mature to make a profession of faith before receiving Baptism. In modern times the largest Christian groups that practice adult rather than infant Baptism are the Baptists (Baptist) and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
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