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Why Was Christ Baptized?
The Tennessee Baptist, 1856
By J. M. Pendleton
      A WRITER in the Presbyterian Herald of July 17, whose signature is "R.M." (which may in this instance well stand for Run Mad) says: That this baptism of John inducted Jesus into the priest's office is we think beyond a doubt, for he understood it himself and this was also conceded by his bitterest enemies - the chief priests and scribes.

      Now, if this is true, the controversy in regard to the design of Christ's baptism is ended. If he "understood it" as inducting him in the priest's office it did so induct him; for he could not misunderstand it. But where is the proof that he so understood it? The assertion of "R. M." is not proof. There is no proof that Jesus considered his baptism as the means of inducting him into the priest's office. There is no proof that the "chief priests and scribes" so considered it. I have read a thousand foolish things on theological subjects, but never before, so far as I can remember, did I read any where that the Savior's bitterest enemies" - that is the "chief priests and scribes" looked upon his baptism as an induction into the priestly office. But this same "R. M." in the Herald of July 24 says, "Other priests who were inaugurated into their office by sprinkling, and would Christ deviate from the law and break it in this one point when he followed in every other." It is here taken for granted that Christ would not deviate from Mosaic law. I hold "R. M." to this point. Now let him say how Christ, being of the tribe of Judah could be inducted into the priest's office without deviation from the law? The priesthood was confined to the family of Aaron of the tribe of Levi. Was there, Mr. "R. M.," a deviation from the law? You say there was not. Then, you being judge, Christ was not inducted into the priest's office by his baptism. Again, why was Christ baptized, (or, as you insist, sprinkled.) in the Jordan? Did the Mosaic law require it? When? Where? Never. Nowhere. And Christ, you say, would not deviate from the law! Were the priests consecrated to office at the door of the tabernacle or temple? Could the Jordan be inside the place of consecration without a departure from the law, and you base your reasoning on the fact that there is no deviation from the law. When Jesus was inducted into the priest's office, as "R. M." insists, I ask where were the "young bullock," the "two rams," the "unleavened bread," the "cakes tempered with oil," the sacerdotal "garments," the "mitre," the "holy gown," the "anointing oil," the "bonnets," the "blood" to be put on the "right ear," the "thumb of the right hand," the "great toe of the right foot," the sprinkling of blood, &c. &c. mentioned in the "perpetual statute," established when Aaron and his sons were consecrated? Every man can see if Jesus was inducted into the priest's office by his baptism, the law of Moses was deviated from in more than a dozen instances. The first deviation - his attempt to thrust himself into the Levitical priesthood - would have been fundamental and capital. It would have subjected him to death according to the law. And "R. M." says he would not deviate from the law. Then it follows that he was not made priest by his baptism.

      But this reckless writer tells us another thing - that John the Baptist was a "priest." Indeed! "When was he consecrated to office?" Luke, speaking of him, says: "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel." Strange place for a priest to live - deserts - a wilderness. Was he set apart to office in the deserts? Did not the duties of the priests require their presence at Jerusalem? - How, then, could they perform their duties in the wilderness?

      It is humiliating, in this enlightened age, to have to expose the miserable sophistry of Pedobaptists in regard to the baptism of Jesus. They assign as a reason why he was baptized, a thing of which neither prophet, apostle, nor evangelist gives the slightest information. Ask a well-instructed Sunday School scholar why Jesus was baptized and the answer will be "to fulfill all righteousness" - or as George Campbell renders the passage - "to ratify every institution." Pedobaptists know there was no such "institution" as John's baptism under the Mosaic law - it is plain it was the introduction of a new economy - and all they say about the baptismal consecration of Jesus to the priesthood by John is as far from the truth as from "the center thrice to the utmost pole."

      I wish Pedobaptists would look into this matter and understand it. Surely it is plain. I claim no special (blurred) in the article and yet I say that no intelligent, honest man, who will lay his prejudices aside and read it, can ever again believe that Jesus was inducted into the priest's office by his baptism. It is time to speak and write plainly. Men do not embrace the truth, either because they are not intelligent enough to understand it, or not honest enough to receive it

      Perhaps I ought to give a specimen of "R. M.'s" reasoning on the "mode of baptism." However, it is not original. He quotes from Mr. Newton, of Mississippi, as follows:

"If we say John cut a bee tree in the wilderness, the words - in the wilderness - designate the place where the "action" was performed. But if we say John cut a bee-tree with (blurred), we drop the question of place, and express the mode or manner by designating the means or instrument."
      Well done for Mr. N. endorsed as he is by "R. M."! Who can do any thing with a "bee-tree" illustration, sweetened as it must be with honey? What shall I say? I dislike to say what is now in my mind, but I will say it. Here it is: I question Mr. Newton's honesty, if he is a Greek scholar, as Presbyterian preachers profess to be. He knows that in the phrases, "in the wilderness," "in Jordan," "with water," in the third chapter of Matthew, the Greek preposition en is used. Now if en in its connection with wilderness and Jordan, denotes place, why does it not denote the same thing in its connection with water? It is as certainly said that John baptized in water as that he baptized in the wilderness or in Jordan. But enough for the present.

      Let those who wish to read the best thing that has been written on the baptism of Christ, procure President Crawford's Tract entitled "The Baptism of Jesus."
      J. M. P.


[ From the Tennessee Baptist, August 9, 1856, p. 2. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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