Section 8B ... Controversial Issues - Baptism

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Baptism - Part I

Carol Brooks
It does not say much for your conversion if your very first act is disobedience, that is of course, provided you have understood that baptism was commanded by our Lord.

    Also See Martin Luther
    There is no question that Martin Luther's refusal to bow down to the dictates of the Catholic Church let the genie out of the bottle. His reforms helped empower peasants, gave rise to Protestantism as we know it and even, in the long run, contributed to democracy and changed the course of Western civilization. On the other hand, not many Martin Luther devotees seem to be aware that his idea of Grace and Faith Alone differed from ours, and that several Catholic doctrines remained firmly entrenched in his belief system. And that is not all. All too many Christians tend to gloss over the fact that Luther slandered everyone he disagreed with. He made strident and offensive verbal attacks against both the papacy and the Anabaptists, while his violent polemics against the Jews are appalling examples of extreme anti-Semitism.




    Baptism - The Literal and Figurative Meanings
    A ceremonial ablution that a symbolizes a believer's union with Christ and...

    Baptism - The How, Why and When
    The questions we need answered from Scripture

    The Case For Immersion Vs. Other Methods
    The Greek words Bapto and its derivative, Baptizo
    The primary verb bapto, means to whelm

    Proof Texts Proffered To Show Baptism Was Performed By Methods Other Than Immersion
    Mark 7 - When Baptizo Meant 'Wash' - Or Did It?
    Titus 3:5-6 and Hebrews 9:19 - Inaccurately Used
    Acts 2:41 - Three Thousand Were Sprinkled on Pentecost Because of A Lack of Water?

    The Jewish Mikvah (Cleansing Immersion Bath)

    Jesus' Baptism
     The ‘why’ puzzles many people
    John The Baptist’s importance can hardly be overstated.

    The How - The Greek word anabaino

    Dip and Dye
    A secondary line of supporting evidence

    When Immersion is Not Possible
    Baptism by immersion is sometimes impossible.

    The Reasons For Baptism
    Why Should We Be Baptized?
    A four word answer

    Is Baptism A Requirement For Being Saved ?
    Verses That Speak of Salvation Through Faith - With No Mention of Baptism
    Verses That Appear to Link Salvation And Baptism

    Salvation Before, or Even Without, Baptism
    Several examples of people who were saved before or without being baptized.

    We Are Asking The Wrong Question
    Simply because conversion and baptism are irrefutably linked

    Part II - Infant Baptism

    While the things of God are sometimes beyond our complete understanding, everything that pertains to the salvation of man is relatively simple. The Father sent  His Son to earth to die an agonizing death to pay for our sins and save as many people as possible. In light of which it would make absolutely no sense if He then cloaked what is a life and death issue for every human being alive in incomprehensible jargon and abstruse mystery understood by only a miniscule number of people. Man accomplished that all by himself.. pontificating on and writing tomes about matters that Scripture to the point and very clear (or says absolutely nothing) about. An example of the last is the Vatican's opening statements on the fate of infants who dies without baptism. Footnote I

    One would imagine that the simple act of dipping another human being into water would escape the controversies of more complicated topics in Scripture. Unfortunately that has never been the case. Baptism is, and always has been, one of the most controversial subjects in all of Christendom. At times, the disagreement stirred emotions to such a fever pitch that those who believed a different way were branded as heretics. As an example of how far this went, John Calvin had a hand Michael Servetus being burnt at the stake because he had the guts to point out the flaws (there were many besides infant baptism) in Calvin's theology . (This however, was not the only example of Calvin's ruthlessness. See Calvinism

    They were apparently a vicious blood thirsty lot in those years - Calvin and Luther fitting right in. While Luther never had anyone killed his Did these so called leaders of the church never once read and take to heart how Paul handled heretics in Galatians?

    Martin Luther believed that because God Himself instituted baptism, it was not one of our works that achieved nothing towards salvation. However, being God's work, it was part of His grace and necessary for salvation. Luther violently opposed the Anabaptists who, at best, considered infant baptism a waste of time and were re-baptized as adults. Luther said they were "not men possessed by demons, but demons themselves possessed by worse demons".  In 1536, he published "The Duty Of Civilian Authorities To Oppose Anabaptists With Corporeal Chastisements" - far from the only example of his terribly violent attitude towards people he considered enemies of the faith. (See Martin Luther)

    So what does the Bible say about the rite of Baptism?

    Baptism - The Literal and Figurative Meanings
    In the New Testament baptism is not for forgiveness of sin, but a ceremonial ablution that a symbolizes a believer's union with Christ in His death and resurrection and our death to sin and new life in Christ. It implies turning to Christ and away from the old life, consecrating oneself - body and soul - to God.

      Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (Gr. baptizo) into Christ Jesus have been baptized (Gr. baptizo) into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism (Gr. baptizma) into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, (Romans 6:3-5 NASB)

    Note: The Greek word baptizo was never translated into English. Instead it was transliterated, i.e. the Greek words were simply written in the English alphabet, creating new English words... baptize, baptism etc. used both literally and non literally.

    John the Baptist physically baptized people, including Christ (Matthew 3), in the waters of the Jordan. However, in the first quotation below, he used baptizo in first its literal and then its figurative sense when he addressed the crowds that were coming to him. In the second verse, Jesus used the non-literal meaning when He told His disciples they would be 'baptized' (overwhelmed - overcome?) by the Holy Spirit. In verses 3 and 4, one cannot possibly imagine baptizo or baptisma meaning 'immersion in water' .

      1) As for me, I baptize (Gr. baptizo) you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize (Gr. baptizo) you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11 NASB)

      2) for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized (Gr. baptizo) with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. (Acts 1:5 NASB)

      3) But I have a baptism (Gr. baptisma) to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!  (Luke 12:50 NASB)

      4) But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism (Gr. baptisma) with which I am baptized (Gr. baptizo)?" They said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized (Gr. baptizo) with the baptism (Gr. baptisma) with which I am baptized (Gr. baptizo). (Mark 10:38-39 NASB)

    Paul clearly used baptizo in its figurative sense when he spoke about Moses and the Israelites.

      and all were baptized (Gr. baptizo) into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (1 Corin[09thians 10:2-4 NASB)

    In the above instance baptizo cannot be understood as a religious rite administered by man simply because water baptism was unknown at the time. However, although the waters of the sea parted to allow the entire nation to get to the other side without getting wet (Exodus 14:21-31), the act of passing through the Red Sea identified the Israelites with Moses, leader, mediator of the Old Covenant and guide to Canaan - the Promised Land.

    Similarly, by passing through water Christians are identified with Jesus Christ, our leader, mediator of the New Covenant and our only hope for getting to the Promised Land. 

    It should be noted that the 'baptism' of the Israelites took place after they came out of Egypt and began to follow Moses to Canaan. Similarly our baptism should take places after we come out of the bondage of Egypt and, with Christ in the lead, set our faces towards the Promised Land.

    See What and Where is  Heaven ?
    Christians who believe they will spend an eternity in "heaven", seem to have little or no idea where this heaven is, what it will look like, or what they will do there. Either they have fleeting, half formed ideas about some ethereal place 'out there', or resort to pious phrases that amount to little more than spiritual gobbledy gook. If this is the best we can do then it is little wonder that non Christians are not in the slightest bit interested in our "heaven", and Christians themselves so rarely seem to look forward to the coming of the day of God. Luckily...

    Baptism - The How, Why and When
    The person to be baptized either stands or sits in a large enough body of water so that another Christian can lower the person under the water and then bring them back up.

    However, not everyone follows the procedure outlined above, preferring instead to sprinkle water on people instead of immersing them. Yet others have the candidate stand in water up to the hips or thereabouts, then pour water on the upper half of the body. In fact, there are those that claim that the focus of baptism should be on the spiritual significance of being baptized, not on the mode used.

    This may be true to a very large extent but in the matter of baptism as well as in all other Scriptural issues, we need to remember that the Bible, and only the Bible, must determine what we practice. Regardless of who they are, someone else's thoughts on the matter is their opinion, not infallible doctrine.

    Unfortunately, it is often the case that individuals or organizations reference certain Scriptural verses in order to provide support for their point of view but, when looked at closely and in context, those verses often do no such thing. The questions we need answered from Scripture are,

      Under normal circumstances, are any of the various modes of baptism acceptable? Did the New Testament baptizers used immersion and how much, if at all, do the methods used matter?

      What does baptism symbolize? Is it a requirement for salvation?

      Various denominations have their own thoughts and practices that their members adhere to. Some baptize infants or very young children putting forth various reasons for the practice. For example,  a) the water sprinkled on infants brings salvation, b) they can have faith at that age, c) the faith of the parents speaks for the child who is too young to have explicit faith of his/her own. Again we need to ask if infants were ever baptized in the New Testament. This subject is in Part II on the next page.

    The Case For Immersion Vs. Other Methods

    The Greek words Baptizo and Bapto
    Baptizo is a derivative of the primary verb bapto, which means to whelm - to submerge or cover with water.

    While baptizo is used some 80 times in the New Testament, bapto has been used a mere four times - all of which clearly indicate being 'dipped'. Thus the literal meaning for baptizo is invariably listed as "to dip, immerse, or wash".

      And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip (Gr. bapto) the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' (Luke 16:24 NASB)

      Jesus then answered, "That is the one for whom I shall dip (Gr. bapto ) the morsel and give it to him." So when He had dipped (Gr. bapto ) the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. (John 13:26 NASB)

      He is clothed with a robe dipped (Gr. bapto) in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  (Revelation 19:13 NASB)

    Proof Texts Proffered To Show Baptism Was Performed By Methods Other Than Immersion

    Mark 7 - When Baptizo Meant 'Wash' - Or Did It?
    The only instance in the New Testament, in which baptizo could mean 'wash' is in Mark 7. These verses are among those referred to by the Lutheran church to show that in the early church, Baptism was performed by methods other than immersion [01]. People returning from market or guests that one had invited to one's home would be expected to just wash their hand, not fully immerse themselves. Yet Mark used the Greek word baptizo.

      The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash (Gr. nipto) their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse (Gr. baptizo) themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing (Gr. baptizo) of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" (Mark 7:1-5 NASB)

    However, since water was not piped into homes until many centuries later, it is extremely likely that the ceremonial washing of hands was done by immersing ones hands in a large bowl of water. This would be similar to the laver that Aaron and his sons were instructed to use before entering the tent of meeting,

      "You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. "Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the Lord. "So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations." (Exodus 30:18-21 NASB)

    Note: What is interesting is that, in the verses from Mark, the first instance of 'wash' has been translated from the Greek nipto also used in the context of the blind man whose eyes Jesus covered with clay and then told to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. It is also used in various verses connected with Christ washing the disciples feet. In other words, nipto does not indicate a ceremonial washing but is strictly a physical act.

    The second two instances of 'wash' were translated from the Greek baptizo.  A careful reading of the verses shows that this was not just physical washing (nipto) necessary for hygiene but, as the underlined portion of both verses show, it was also ceremonial - a spiritual cleansing (baptizo). Unwashed hands were not only dirty but "impure" as well.

    Titus 3:5-6, Hebrews 9:19
    The Lutheran church also refers to Titus 3:5-6, Hebrews 9:19, Acts 22:16 etc. to show that in the early church, immersion was not the only method used for baptism. [02] However, NONE of these verses hold water.

    Acts 22:16 has absolutely nothing to do with the method of baptism. Titus 3:5-6 and Hebrews 9:19 are very inaccurately used but, because the notes are fairly long, I have put them in Footnote II and FootnoteIII respectively.

    Acts 2:41- Three Thousand Were Sprinkled on Pentecost Because of A Lack of Water?
    One other point put forth is that "three thousand were baptized on Pentecost in Jerusalem, where no river exists and no mention is made of other large quantities of water that would or may have been used." [03] Unfortunately, this discounts more than one body of water that might have been used.

    The Pool of Siloam
    the Pool of Siloam (also known as the Shiloah pool)was a rock-cut pool on the southern slope of Jerusalem fed by the waters of the Gihon Spring.  During Herod the Great's time, the pool was enlarged, and several arches built around it. Not only did poor and sick people come to the Pool of Siloam to bathe, it was also used for ritual purification.

    After Jesus anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay and spittle, He instructed him "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" . The blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing. (John 9:6-7)

    The Bethesda pool
    In John 5, the pool is described as having five porticoes (a roof supported by columns at regular intervals) which many took to mean it was an odd five-sided pool. However, excavations shows that it was a rectangular pool separated by a wall which accounts for the five porticoes.

      The archaeological evidence shows that the southern basin had broad steps with landings, indicating that it was indeed a mikveh. The northern basin provided a reservoir, or otzer, to continually replenish and repurify the mikveh with fresh water flowing south through the dam between them. [04]

    In John's Gospel, it was said that the first person who could get into the water after an angel stirred them would be healed. The paralytic who could never get into the water soon enough was healed by Christ..

      Note: Although we can be certain of Jesus’ part in healing the lame man, there seems to be more to the story of the angel stirring the waters of the pool than meets the eye. The events strongly indicates that God is not the only one that can heal. DETAILS

    Private Mikvahs?
    Additionally, the converts might have had access to some of the many Mikvahs found in the area.

    Although we do not know when exactly the first Mikvahs were constructed, they have been uncovered all over Israel. Not only have some 200 ancient Mikvahs been found in Jerusalem, but "of these, fully 50 of them are located near the Temple Mount".  [05]  One 2,000 year-old bath has recently been discovered under the floorboards of a family home in Jerusalem. See

    So what is a Mikvah?  (I have heard it pronounced mik-vay by an Israelite and mik-ve by someone else -  in both cases the emphasis was on the first syllable)

    The Jewish Mikvah (Cleansing Immersion Bath)
    The essential concept of spiritual cleansing through immersion in water predates Christianity.

    The Torah specified that men can be rendered unclean in various ways such by normal (semen emissions), abnormal bodily discharges which the KJV renders as "a running issue out of his flesh". Women are unclean during their menstruation (Leviticus 15). Other factors that would defile a person were leprosy, coming into contact with the carcass of an unclean beast or a dead person (Numbers 19:16), eating an animal which dies or is torn by beasts (Leviticus 17:5), etc. In these cases, ritual cleansing was usually accomplished in a few different ways - water and time almost always involved. See, for example, Leviticus 15.

    Additionally, Aaron could not enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur until he fulfilled certain requirements - one of which was bathing in water (Leviticus 16:4). Similarly the man who released the scapegoat, and the one who burned the bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering also had to bathe.

    The word 'bathe' brings to the western mind images of shower stalls, shampoo and various kinds of 'scrubby' things. However, this was not exactly what took place in ancient Israel. The chances are that the cleansing bath took place by immersion in a large body of water, which eventually led to the construction of the Mikvah -

      a ritual pool of water, used for the purpose of attaining ritual purity. Immersion in a Mikvah is used in connection with Repentance, to remove the impurity of sin. And in connection with Conversion, "because the convert has taken upon himself or herself to adopt the lifestyle of the Jew, that is based on the recognition of G-d as King of the Universe and on the obligation to perform the commandments of the Torah". [06]

    They are part of a building and dug into the ground. Stairs lead down into the water, which is usually chest hight and maintained at a comfortable temperature. Mikvahs are so important to Judaism that "Jewish law states that constructing a mikveh takes precedence even over building a house of worship. Both a synagogue and a Torah scroll, Judaism's most venerated treasure, may be sold to raise funds for the building of a mikveh. In fact, in the eyes of Jewish law, a group of Jewish families living together do not attain the status of a community if they do not have a communal mikveh. [07]

    In today's world, observant Jews use the mikveh many times during their lives, some even before every Sabbath. However, "The most widely practiced are immersion by a groom on his wedding day and by every man before Yom Kippur.... But the most important and general usage of mikvah is for purification by the menstruant woman" [08].  What few are aware of is that "the mikvah is also used to immerse new pots, dishes and utensils before they are utilized by a Jew. [09]

    Jesus' Baptism - The Why
    Since baptism is an outward sign of a new life in Christ, identifying us with Jesus' death and resurrection, surely the most important factor is how Jesus was baptized.

    But first, why Jesus had to be baptized puzzles many people.

    Even John the Baptist was taken aback when Jesus approached him. John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark. 1:4) and although he did not have a clear understanding of exactly who Christ was, he knew Christ had no need of repentance.

      Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him. (Matthew 3:13-15 NASB)

    What happened next was the Father's public announcement of Jesus' identity - the Son of God Himself.

      After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17 NASB)

    After which John could legitimately testify - "This is the Son of God" (John. 1:34).

    John The Baptist's Role
    John the Baptist's importance can hardly be overstated.

    Jesus Himself said, "For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John (Matthew 11:13). In other words, John the Baptist's public appearance in Israel signalled the end of an era. When a king or other dignitary visits a foreign country or even another city, extensive preparations are made before his arrival. However, the arrival of the "King of kings" and the "Lord of lords" was heralded by a single voice - that of John the Baptist sent as an envoy to prepare Christ's way.

    John's announcement was that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy and his was the voice crying in the wilderness, 'make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!" (Matthew 3:2-3). His message "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Luke 3:17) obviously touched a chord in many hearts. Although the Jews were only used to ceremonial washings when they were defiled by something specified in the Torah, people from all around went out to confess their sins and be baptized by John (Matthew 3:5-6). This is not surprising considering that as the angel told Zacharias, John would

      "... turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:16-17 NASB)

    However, although John's baptism was connected with Jewish ritual cleansing, it was also unique.

    Just as John can be seen as the bridge between the Old and New Testaments, his baptism can be looked upon as a bridge between the Old Testament cleansing ritual and the New Testament's baptism into Christ. While both are outward signs of renewal and cleansing, there is nothing to suggest that there were any changes in how it was accomplished.

    And there was even more to Jesus' baptism by John.

    We have to remember that Jesus had a double role. He was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins - the Lamb of God who bore the sins of many. And, at the same time, He was the priest who offered the sacrifice. 

    Jesus as The Ultimate Sacrifice For Sin
    In the Old Testament, one of the main responsibilities of the priests was to offer the God ordained animal sacrifices for the sins of the people. It was called the Levitical Priesthood because all the High Priests were to be descendants of Aaron who belonged to the tribe of Levi. As we know, the Levitical system was a 'type' that prefigured Christ's one time sacrifice for sin.

    However, what is truly interesting is that John was a direct descendant of Aaron through both his parents.

      In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. (Luke 1:5 NASB)

    In other words, a Levite and a descendant of the first high priest was chosen to present to the world God's ultimate and permanent sacrifice for sin. Shortly after Christ's death and resurrection the sacrifices and all other rituals were done away with when the Temple was destroyed. 

      The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  (John 1:29 NASB)

      Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" (John 1:35-36 NASB)

    Jesus as Our Eternal and Ultimate High Priest
    Because Christ offered Himself for our sins, He was (and is) the High Priest. 

    In the Old Testament, the consecration of priests involved several formalities before they could begin their duties. Apart from the presentation of various items, Aaron and his sons had to be washed in water. (Exodus 29:1-4)

    Additionally, Aaron could not enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur until he fulfilled certain requirements - one of which was bathing in water (Leviticus 16:4). "He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and the linen undergarments shall be next to his body, and he shall be girded with the linen sash and attired with the linen turban (these are holy garments). Then he shall bathe his body in water and put them on.  (Leviticus 16:4 NASB)

    As our High Priest, Jesus too was ritually consecrated with water before He embarked on His mission.

    Jesus' Baptism - The How
    However, relevant to this article is the question of what method John used to baptize the many people who heard and believed his message and flocked to him. Let us not forget that when all is said and done, John was a Jew. Therefore it stands to reason that, in accordance with how ceremonial cleansing was practiced by the Jews of the day, John must have completely immersed those he baptized. Also, the fact that we are specifically told that the reason John was baptizing in a particular place was because there was much water there also supports immersion.

    The Bible also tells us that

      After being baptized, Jesus came up (Gr. anabaino) immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him. (Matthew 3:16 NASB)

    The Greek word translated 'came up' is anabaino, always used in the context of going upwards - ascending a mountain (Mark 3:13), going up to Jerusalem (Mark 10:33), climbing up on a roof (Luke 5:19) and a mustard seed growing up out of the ground. (Mark 4:32) Thus, in order for Jesus to come up out of the water, He had to have been under or in it.

    And let us not ignore the symbolism. Jesus was literally 'buried' in the water of the Jordan, as He would be buried in a tomb a short time later. His coming up out of the waters was a visual representation of his resurrection from the dead three days after He was buried. 

    The only other description of an actual baptism is in the book of Acts. Using the same Greek word, the Bible describes both Philip and the eunuch coming up out of the water.

      [And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up (Gr. anabaino) out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:37-39 NASB)

    Also note, in both instances the text does not say that the one being baptized came up out of the river. It says they came up out of the water.

    Dip and Dye
    There is a secondary line of supporting evidence that is worth bearing in mind.

    People have used natural dyes to color textiles since ancient times - wool dyeing was established as a craft in Rome as early as 715 BC. In the words of Otis Q. Sellers of Seed & Bread Ministries

      Since most dyeing was done by dipping the material into a liquid dye, the word bapto came to mean "to dye".  In the ancient East, the work of dyeing was quite prominent and important. And since most dyeing was done by dipping the material into a liquid dye, the word bapto came to mean "to dye," as can be seen in numerous examples from Classical Greek, Koine Greek, and the Papyrus manuscripts. [10]

    Additionally, the translators of the Septuagint rendered the Hebrew word tâbal as both dip and dye in the following instances.

      Then went he down, and dipped (Heb. tâbal ) himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.  (2 Kings 5:14 KJV) [11]

      Girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed (Heb. tâbal ) attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity:  (Ezekiel 23:15 KJV) [12]

    When cloth is dipped into dye, it became a permanent and very important part of the fabric. So much so that in ancient days, the cloth was no longer called wool, silk, or linen, but was called purple or scarlet by those who dyed it and those who wore it. In Acts 16:14, Lydia, a convert from Philippi, was described as "a seller of purple" with no indication as to what the material was. The "purple" which she sold was the cloth that had been stained with a dye obtained from rock snails that was expensive, difficult to produce and undoubtedly a prized commodity.

    It is this change in the intrinsic nature of the fabric that is possibly be why the New Testament writers used the word baptizo.

    When Immersion is Not Possible
    Negative Implications Of The Doctrine 
    There are probably many, many situations where baptism by immersion can not be carried out. For example, it would be sheer lunacy to immerse anyone who is very ill, has recently had surgery, been burned, or has a communicable disease.  Adding to the difficulty is the fact that it may not be wise for many of these people to delay being baptized until circumstances are more favorable. To put it bluntly... we don't want them to die without being baptized.

    Apart from health issues, there could be other difficulties.

    If, as some people believe, baptism is a requirement for being saved then it follows that people can be saved only if

      1) There is enough water to perform a baptism. Unsaved people in areas with little water cannot receive salvation. And unless one has access to a lot of heated water those living in the coldest regions of our planet cannot be immersed.

      2) There is a Christian available to baptize the person. How much faith a person has counts not at all if there are no Christians around to baptize them - they are simply flat out of luck.

      3) There is enough time to baptize the person. Unsaved people in life-threatening situations cannot receive salvation if there is not enough time to baptize them before their deaths or, as mentioned, their medical condition precludes immersion in water.

      4) In certain hostile countries it is possible that baptisms must be done in secret which may prelude immersion.

     Under circumstances of this sort the person can and should be sprinkled provided, of course, they fulfill all the other requirements.

    If a situation arises in which there is no other Christian around to perform the baptism and, for some reason, it would not be prudent to put it off, you would not be the first person to baptize themselves. If circumstances improve you can always be re-baptized at a later time. Even deathbed conversions are wholly legitimate without water baptism -  if the faith in God is genuine.

    The point is God is not standing over us with a big stick, just waiting for one of us to step slightly out of line. I find it ludicrous to even imagine Him barring from His kingdom someone who has had tremendous faith in Christ, obeyed His commandments, and lived a righteous life, but was not 'correctly' baptized. Nor can anyone imagine the Father not welcoming someone who turned to Christ in the final hours of their life.

    The Reasons For Baptism

    Why Should We Be Baptized?
    The short answer is because Jesus commanded it.

    John 4:2 states that Jesus Himself didn't baptize people, but did so only through his disciples. And, quite evidently, He intended the practice to continue. After His death and resurrection and before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gathered his disciples together and gave them instructions, which has since come to be known as the Great Commission...

      And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20 NASB)

    We know these instructions were closely followed by the apostles, since the book of Acts records numerous baptisms, including the 3,000 odd people in Jerusalem who were baptized on Pentecost after hearing the Gospel, . (Acts 2:41).

     Which bring us to whether or not Baptism is a prerequisite for salvation.

    Is Baptism A Requirement For Being Saved ?
    One of the most nagging questions in Christianity is whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation. The Catholic church believes that  baptism is indispensable for salvation since men can be saved only within the Church, to which baptism is the only entrance.

    Verses That Speak of Salvation Through Faith - With No Mention of Baptism
    There are numerous Scriptural passages that speak of receiving forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life etc. through faith in Christ, but do not even mention Baptism. Here are a few examples.

    On more than one occasion, Paul stressed man was justified and saved through faith - without mentioning Baptism. On the Sabbath day Paul and Barnabus went into the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch.. When asked if they had  any word of exhortation, part of what Paul said was

      "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. (Acts 13:38-39 NASB)

    When asked what he had to do to be saved, Paul and Silas told the jailer

      "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:30-31 NASB)

    In his letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, he wrote

      nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Galatians 2:16 NASB)

       For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)

    In fact, Paul rarely baptized anyone. In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote,

      I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel ... " (1 Corinthians 1:14-17 NASB)

    If baptism was a necessary prerequisite for salvation, what good would it have been for Paul to preach the gospel, but not baptize? No one would have been saved unless there was someone trailing him with a large tank of water.

    In the book of Acts Peter and John healed the lame man at the Temple gate. In his address to the crowd that gathered, Peter told them to "....repent and return", so that their sins may be wiped away, and times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19 NASB)

    When he presented the Gospel to Cornelius and company, Peter said "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:43 NASB)

    On both occasions, he made absolutely no mention of baptism, which would have been a terrible omission if baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sin


      "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  (John 3:18 NASB)

      "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36 NASB)

      "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24 NASB)

      "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day... "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.  "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. (John 6:40, 46-47 NASB)

      Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 NASB)

    On the other hand, there are the

    Verses That Appear to Link Salvation And Baptism
    When people discuss whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation, the tendency is to focus on a few passages of Scripture that seem to link baptism and salvation. The most commonly cited one is

    Mark 16:16
    "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.  (Mark 16:16 NASB)

    There are two parts to this verse -  a) He who believes and is baptized will be saved, and b) He who does not believe will be condemned.

    Regarding the second half of the verse - we should, by now, know beyond a shadow of a doubt that belief is a requirement for salvation and it is quite obvious that someone who does not believe is not going to be baptized.

    However, in reference to the first half of the verse - we need to remember that the Bible is an integrated whole, and from cover to cover represents the 'whole counsel of God'. Sound doctrine cannot be based on isolated proof texts, but can only be developed within the framework of the total teaching of Scripture - we simply cannot base our beliefs and practices on on stand alone verses.

    In this case we have to take into consideration the many verses in the Bible that only mention belief and faith in connection with salvation.  Some examples above.

     Besides which, the last few verses in Mark have long been the subject of much controversy, many scholars strongly convinced they are a later addition to the Bible. As said by Bruce Metzger - professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, Greek scholar, and Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society.

      "Today we know that the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to Mark (xvi. 9-20) are absent from the oldest Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian manuscripts, and that in other manuscripts asterisks or obeli mark the verses as doubtful or spurious." [13]

    Therefore, it is best not to base a key doctrine on anything from Mark 16:9-20 unless it is supported by other Scriptures.

    Acts 2:38
    At Pentecost Peter told those who grasped his message that they needed to "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38 NASB)

    His emphasis was on repentance first, without which there is no salvation. Consider too that, in the very next chapter, Peter spoke about repenting and having our sins wiped out, without saying anything about baptism...

      "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;  (Acts 3:19 NASB)

    Acts 22:16
    Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.' (Acts 22:16 NASB)

    The speaker was Ananias -  a devout Jew who came to Paul after his encounter on the Damascus road and restored his sight. (Acts 22:12-13)

    However, as usual, we have to examine the context before deciding what to believe. To cut a fairly long story short, Paul who, as Saul of Tarsus, was known for persecuting Jews who had converted - that is until he was blinded by a light and heard the Lord's voice while on his way to Damascus. When Saul asked what He should do, the Father told him to go into Damascus and there he would be further informed.

    Enter Ananias, who was not a Christian as one might expect, but an orthodox Jew "devout by the standard of the Law and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there" (Verse 12). The reason that Ananias' credentials were specified was because it shows that Paul was introduced to Christianity by a  deeply religious Jew approved of by even the most inflexible among them.

    Ananias healed Paul's sight and then said

      'The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 'For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 'Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.' (Acts 22:14-16 NASB)

    I find it fascinating that Ananias knew exactly what Paul's role was to be - God's witness to all men of what he have seen and heard. Ananias then added 'Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name', which was quite something for an orthodox and highly respected Jew to say.

    God had already appointed Paul as a witness to Him, which means that Paul was already converted. Not only did Saul receive salvation on the road to Damascus, but he was commissioned as an apostle at that time. This is emphasized in Acts 26, when Paul told King Agrippa what had happened

      "And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' "And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 'But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:14-18 NASB)

    And then there is,

    1 Peter 3:21
    Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21 NASB)

    However, this is out of context. One has to look at the surrounding verses to see what Peter was talking about.

      For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:18-21 NASB)

    The word translated "corresponding" was translated from the Greek word antitupon, used only one other time in the New Testament. Antitupon means an antitype and has been translated as such in Young's Literal Translation. (Note: The CLV says 'representation' - the KJV uses the word 'figures'... All of which mean exactly the same). thing.

    So the ark was a "type" or a "foreshadowing" of baptism. But Peter is careful to point out that it isn't the actual water washing of baptism that saves us. His words "but an appeal to God for a good conscience" shows that it is not the ritual of baptism but the believer's attitude toward God that saves. Similarly, the phrase "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" shows that salvation is in Jesus' resurrection, not the water.

    Salvation Before, or Even Without, Baptism.
    There are also several examples of people who were saved before or without being baptized.

      a) The paralytic man whose sins Jesus forgave (Matthew 9:2-8)

      b) The woman who was a sinner but showed tremendous repentance and when she kissed and anointed Jesus' feet which caused Jesus to say tell her that her sins were forgiven and her faith had saved her (Luke 7:37-50)

      c) The thief on the cross to whom Jesus said "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)

    The opposing argument is that 1) the New Covenant only came into being at Christ's death, and 2) that the three persons mentioned above could not have been baptized because Jesus did not command water baptism until after He was resurrected.

    Both true!

    However, Jesus post resurrection instruction to make disciples and baptize all nations (Matthew 28:19 NASB) was only instructing the disciples to continue what they had already been doing.

      Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were) (John 4:1-2 NASB)

    This also brings up the question of how the stalwarts of the Old Testament (Ex. Abraham, and David, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, Ezra etc. etc. etc.) achieved salvation. Since we can be pretty sure they were saved despite never having undergone immersion, it stands to reason that if even one non-baptized person was ever acceptable to God, then water baptism cannot be an absolute requirement for salvation.

    In any case, in the fourth chapter of Romans, Paul very effectively made the case that Abraham was counted as righteous by faith not surgery. There was then (in Abraham's time) and is now only one way to get right with God, faith and obedience to His commands, not physical action be it baptism or circumcision. Circumcision of the heart always was the sole requirement for salvation.

      For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."  (Romans 4:3 NASB)

      For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 NASB)

    Additionally, one has to consider the circumstances surrounding the conversion of Cornelius and his relatives and close friends after Baptism had been commanded by Christ. The book of Acts tells us that,

      While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. (Acts 10:44-48 NASB)

    Since the gift of the Holy Spirit does not come on the unsaved, we can safely assume that these people were saved before they were baptized.

    So if baptism is not necessary for salvation, why is there sometimes a link made between the two?

    We Are Asking The Wrong Question
    Simply because, without any shadow of doubt, conversion and baptism are irrefutably linked. It does not say much for your conversion if your very first act is disobedience, that is of course, provided you have understood that baptism was commanded by our Lord. In the words of James Patrick Holding...

      "We will see that the answer to the question, "Is baptism necessary for salvation?", is that the question is out of order. If there is any question that needs to be asked, it is this: "If you are saved, and you know what baptism means and that it was commanded by Christ, why would you not be baptized?" One does not become baptized to be saved; one is saved and is therefore baptized. Faith that is true inevitably manifests itself in obedience, and being that baptism is the first act declared for the believer by Christ, the true believer will gladly undergo baptism.

      Baptism is just one part of that behavior is inextricably linked to repentance and salvation. Does the lack of the behavior mean one is not saved? No, but one does have to ask why anyone would not produce the validating behavior. Do they understand the command? Are they hydrophobic? Why would they refuse baptism if they knew that Christ had commanded it? Can we picture someone hearing the preaching of Peter and saying, "Peter, that's good news, I'll repent as you say, but I'm definitely not being baptized, even though I know it was commanded by the one I now call Lord." ?

      Baptism, like any validating behavior, is "essential to salvation" only in the sense that if you don't want to go through with it, and there is no barrier to understanding, then it is clear that you do not possess salvation. Thought and action are expected, under the Semitic Totality paradigm, to correspond. The conversion and the baptism are regarded as one process, not because the latter is required for salvation, but because it is expected in light of salvation. (Hence it is off the mark to make much of that Peter commanded the baptism, and thereby conclude that baptism is a "necessity" rather than an inevitable result. A command is often needed simply because the person being commanded has no idea what they should do next ... [14]

    Continue On To Part II - Infant Baptism. HERE

    Footnote I
    The International Theological Commission has studied the question of the fate of un-baptised infants, bearing in mind the principle of the "hierarchy of truths" and the other theological principles of the universal salvific will of God, the unicity and insuperability of the mediation of Christ, the sacramentality of the Church in the order of salvation, and the reality of Original Sin. [15]

    I have no idea what the rest of the document states. I never got past these first few lines. "International Theological Commission" indeed!

    Footnote II - Titus 3:5-6
    He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing (Gr. loutron) of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (Titus 3:5-6 NASB)

    Most believers assume that 'washing' is a reference to water baptism. Washing = water. Hmmm! Must be baptism.

    Why have we forgotten that neither a physical act nor any material agency can produce spiritual result. Jesus Himself taught this in Matthew 15:1-20 in which he said (Vs 11)

      "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man...  Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. "These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man." (Matthew 15: 11, 17-20 NASB)

    It is the Word - and only the Word that cleanses, sanctifies and regenerates.

      "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. (John 15:3 NASB)

      "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:17 NASB)

       So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 NASB)

    The physical act of baptism - in fact of any kind of washing or immersion in water is, and always has been, symbolic. In of itself, being sprinkled is unlikely to take  dust off a person, much less cleanse them of 'filthiness'..

      For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. (Ezekiel 36:24-25 NASB)

    The only other use of the Greek word loutron is in Ephesians 5:26.

      Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing (Gr. loutron) of water with (Gr. en) the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27 NASB)

    We have to bear in mind that nothing is spiritually cleansed by washing. Also, since that this entire section of Ephesians 5 (Vs. 22-33) compares the union of husband and wife to that of Christ and the church, it is probably best to see these verses as a reflection of the bridal bath commonly practiced in the first century. Before their weddings Jewish women immersed themselves in the mikvah to symbolically cleanse themselves. Prenuptial cleansing was in fact practiced in other cultures..

    Christ sanctifies and cleanses the church by means of the Word. Water, the one element necessary for washing, is used symbolically.

    Footnote III - Hebrews 9:19
    For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,  (Hebrews 9:19 NASB)

    It is admittedly rather perplexing that this incident was never mentioned in the Old Testament. What is even more interesting is that although there is no question that every aspect of the Old Testament sacrificial system involved blood in some way or another, the goat was always used for a sin-offering and oxen was a peace offering. However, it is impossible that all the events connected with ancient Israel could be preserved in a few short chapters. Thus one can only assume that the source of Paul's information was tradition which the Jews carefully preserved.

    Moses' sprinkling of blood had absolutely nothing to do with baptism, but a type of Jesus' blood sacrifice on the cross. In Matthew 26, at His last Passover when He instituted the Lord's Supper, Jesus partially quoted Moses' words

      Moses: For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "this is the blood of the covenant which god commanded you." (Hebrews 9:19-20 NASB)

      Jesus: for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.  (Matthew 26:28 NASB)

    It is entirely possible, probable even, that sprinkling the blood on the book of the covenant, signified that the covenant itself was ratified by the blood.


    End Notes

    [01] LCMS The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.lcms.org/about/beliefs/faqs/doctrine#baptism

    [02] ibid.

    [03] ibid.

    [04] Biblical Archaeology Society Staff. The Bethesda Pool, Site of One of Jesus' Miracles. 08/26/2017.

    [05] Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am.. On the Mikveh Trail, follow the rugged path of Jerusalem's ancient pilgrims. The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/on-the-mikveh-trail-follow-the-rugged-path-of-jerusalems-ancient-pilgrims/

    [06] Orthodox Union. https://www.ou.org/judaism-101/glossary/mikvah/

    [07] Rivkah Slonim. The Mikvah. Chabad.org http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm

    [08] ibid.

    [09] ibid.

    [10] Otis Q. Sellers, Bible Teacher. The Word Of Truth Ministry. http://www.seedandbread.org/seedandbread/SB135BAPTIZOMeaning.pdf

    [11] http://qbible.com/brenton-septuagint/2-kings/5.html

    [12] http://qbible.com/brenton-septuagint/ezekiel/23.html

    [13] Bruce Metzger. The Canon of the New Testament: its Origin, Development, and Significance. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), pp. 269-270

    [14] James Patrick Holding. Tekton Education and Apologetics Ministries. Was This Dip Really Necessary?

    [15] International Theological Commission.. The Hope Of Salvation For Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised


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