Smell? What Smell?

By William V. Beasley

During a brush-arbor meeting some years ago, a preaching farmer endeavored to show that sprinkling was an acceptable form of baptism. He proved it, to his own satisfaction, in spite of the apostle Paul saying, “we are buried with him by baptism” (Romans 6:3). Later that week when the farming preacher’s goose dies, his son was given the task of burying her behind the barn. The boy, remembering dad’s sermon on baptism, reasoned, as dad had, that sprinkling would suffice for a burial. Less than a week later the nld goose was ripe. She was odiferous.

Today’s dictionaries, which merely reflect current usage, support the farming preacher’s use of the word “baptism.” The current usage, “sacrament of dipping a person into water, or sprinkling water on him as a sign of the washing away of sin and of admission into the Christian church,” does not, in this instance remain true to the original definition of the Greek word. Unfortunately, for our preaching farmer, there is no other support available for contending that baptism can be accomplished by sprinkling.

Joseph Henry Thayer, prince of the Greek, scholars, Secretary of the New Testament Company of the American Committee of Revision that produced the Revised Version of the Bible (commonly called the American Standard Version), defines “baptism” (Gr., Baptisma), “immersion, submersion” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 94). All reputable Greek scholars, without exception, are in complete agreement with Mr. Thayer on this point. Turning from the Greek Lexicons to Origins A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English we read, under the heading of “baptism,” “The effectual origin lies in Gr baptizein, a modified form of baptein (s bapt-, r bap-), to dip in water, akin to ON (Old Norse, wvb), to dive . . . .” (Eric Partridge, p. 38).

Our preaching farmer might be excused for not knowing the Greek or even the etymology of the word. The strongest proof, readily available to all, is not to be found in Greek scholarship or in etymological studies, but in the New Testament. “John the Immerser” (Matt. 3:1, The Emphasized New Testament: A New Translation, J. B. Rotherham) baptized “in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23). When Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, “they both went dower into the water, both Philip ant the eunuch; and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38, ASV). Yes, we are “buried with him in baptism” (Col. 2:12).

What did our preaching farmer do about the old dead goose? I do not know. But if he was determined to sprinkle and was also consistent, he may have continued to work around the barn asking himself, “Smell? What smell?”

Truth Magazine XIX: 13, p. 205
February 6, 1975