Eckhard Schnabel, «The Meaning of Baptizein in Greek, Jewish, and Patristic
Literature.», Vol. 24 (2011) 3-40
The treatment of the Greek term Baptizein in the standard English lexicons is unsystematic. The use of the English term ‘to baptize’ for the Greek term Baptizein in English versions of the New Testament is predicated on the assumption that the Greek verb has a technical meaning which warrants the use of a transliteration. Since the first fact is deplorable and the second fact is unsatisfactory, an investigation into the meaning of the Greek term in Greek, Jewish, and patristic literary and documentary texts is called for in order to define the meaning of the term in classical and Hellenistic Greek with more precision than usually encountered in New Testament research, with a view to construct a more helpful lexicon entry for Baptizein.
24 Eckhard J. Schnabel
Strabo, Geographica 16.2.42: μηδὲ βαπτίζεσθαι τὸν ἐμβάντα ἀλλ’ ἐξαίρεσθαι
(“and no person who walks into it59 can immerse himself either, but is raised afloat”;
H. L. Jones) (I) (cf. sense 1d).
Strabo, Geographica 16.4.10: ἀπὸ τῶν δένδρων ἰδόντες ἀγέλην διὰ τοῦ δρυμοῦ
φερομένην τῇ μὲν οὐκ ἐπιτίθενται, τοὺς δ’ ἀποπλανηθέντας ἐκ τῶν ὄπισθεν
λάθρᾳ προσιόντες νευροκοποῦσι: τινὲς δὲ καὶ τοξεύμασιν ἀναιροῦσιν αὐτοὺς
χολῇ βεβαμμένοις ὄφεων (“When from trees they first see a herd of elephants mov-
ing through the forest they do not then attack them, but stealthily follow the herd
and hamstring those that have wandered from the rear of the herd. Some, however,
kill them with arrows dipped in the gall of serpents; H. L. Jones) (I) (cf. sense 1f).
Heraclitus, Allegoriae 69.16: Ποσειδῶν δ’ ἐστὶν ὁ ῥυόμενος παρ’ Ἡφαίστου
τὸν Ἄρη πιθανῶς, ἐπειδήπερ ἐκ τῶν βαύνων διάπυρος ὁ τοῦ σιδήρου μύδρος
ἑλκυσθεὶς ὕδατι βαπτίζεται καὶ τὸ φλογῶδες ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας φύσεως κατασβεσθὲν
ἀναπαύεται (“Poseidon plausibly represents the force that rescues Ares from
Hephaestus, because, when the mass of iron is withdrawn red-hot from the furnace,
it is plunged into water, and its fire is extinguished and laid to rest by the special
nature of that element”; D. A. Russel / D. Konstan) (i).
Plutarch, Artaxerxes 22: ∆ιὸ καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους Σπαρτιάτας ἀεὶ βδελυττόμενος ὁ
Ἀρτοξέρξης, καὶ νομίζων, ὥς φησι ∆είνων, ἀνθρώπων ἁπάντων ἀναιδεστάτους
εἶναι, τὸν Ἀνταλκίδαν ὑπερηγάπησεν εἰς Πέρσας ἀναβάντα. καί ποτε λαβὼν ἕνα
τῶν ἀνθινῶν στεφάνων, καὶ βάψας εἰς μύρον τὸ πολυτελέστατον, ἀπὸ δείπνου
ἔπεμψε τῷ Ἀνταλκίδᾳ, καὶ πάντες ἐθαύμασαν τὴν φιλοφροσύνην (“And therefore
Artaxerxes, though always abominating other Spartans, and looking upon them, as
Dinon says, to be the most impudent men living, gave wonderful honour to Antal-
cidas when he came to him into Persia; so much so that one day, taking a garland of
flowers and dipping it in the most precious ointment, he sent it to him after supper,
a favour which all were amazed at”; J. Dryden) (i).
Plutarch, Caesar 49: τρίτον δὲ περὶ τῇ Φάρῳ μάχης συνεστώσης, κατεπήδησε μὲν
ἀπὸ τοῦ χώματος εἰς ἀκάτιον καὶ παρεβοήθει τοῖς ἀγωνιζομένοις, ἐπιπλεόντων
δὲ πολλαχόθεν αὐτῷ τῶν Αἰγυπτίων, ῥίψας ἑαυτὸν εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἀπενήξατο
μόλις καὶ χαλεπῶς. ὅτε καὶ λέγεται βιβλίδια κρατῶν πολλὰ μὴ προέσθαι
βαλλόμενος καὶ βαπτιζόμενος, ἀλλ’ ἀνέχων ὑπὲρ τῆς θαλάσσης τὰ βιβλίδια, τῇ
ἑτέρᾳ χειρὶ νήχεσθαι: τὸ δ’ ἀκάτιον εὐθὺς ἐβυθίσθη (“The third danger was in
the battle by sea, that was fought by the tower of Phars where meaning to help his
men that fought by sea, he leapt from the pier into a boat. Then the Egyptians made
towards him with their oars on every side: but he, leaping into the sea, with great
Strabo describes in 16.2.42 Lake Sirbonis, which he evidently confuses with Asphal-
tites Lacus (the Dead Sea).