Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #55

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

A short respite from the debate with Matthew Janzen on whether or not Jesus is God. He is out of town or some such thing and probably will not have a response to my last email until at least sometime next week. So, this week’s newsletter will be another Q&A.


The two questions in this newsletter have to deal with: 1) Baptism – by immersion only? 2) An email that is frequently circulated claiming certain “facts” about the middle of the Bible.

In the first answer below, I mention that the website, www.newadvent.org, has a number of the writings of the Early Church Fathers (just click on the “Fathers” tab to see them). I highly recommend that you go to that site and occasionally read some of what the Fathers had to say, and that you recommend these readings to any non-Catholic friends and family members. It just might plant some seeds with them.



I grew up a Mormon. The one thing I have been unable to find an answer for is about Baptism. I was taught as a child and from the other Christian churches that baptism must be by immersion, but the Catholics sprinkle. I see nowhere in the Bible (that I can find) where it specifically states there is a certain way to be baptized, just that is says “by water”. Can you tell me if there is any material on the matter or is that an “open to interpretation” thing?



You need to buy a copy of a book called “Early Christian Writings,” published by Penguin Books. In it is a copy of one of the earliest, if not the earliest, non-scriptural Christian writings, called the “Didache.” In the Didache, written anywhere from the latter part of the 1st century to the early part of the 2nd century, it talks about Baptism. Quote: “The procedure for baptizing is as follows: after repeating all that has been said, immerse in running water ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’. If no running water is available, immerse in ordinary water. This should be cold, if possible; otherwise warm. If neither is practicable, then pour water three times on the head ’In the name of the Father….” (Note: You can also read it online by going to www.newadvent.org, and clicking on the “Fathers” tab. This gives the writings of many of the early Church Fathers. The Didache is down towards the bottom under “Miscellaneous”.)

Again, this is not Scripture, but this is a window into the practices of the early Christians…those who learned directly from the Apostles and those appointed by the Apostles to leadership roles within the Church. They were baptizing folks by immersion and by pouring, or sprinkling.

And listen to Ezek 36:25-27, “I will SPRINKLE clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you…and I will put My Spirit within you…” What do you think is being talked about here? Water…a new spirit…cleansed of your uncleannesses? Baptism…by sprinkling.

Also, nowhere in the Bible does it say one has to be immersed in order to be “officially” baptized. If you read all four of the accounts of Jesus’ baptism side-by-side, you can make a very strong case for when it says, Jesus “came up out of the water," that it doesn’t mean He came up from under the water, but rather that it means He came up out of the river. If you had a child swimming in a pool and you called to them and they “came up out of the water,” what would that mean? That your child was still in the pool but he had come up from under the water, or that he had come out of the water altogether? I say the latter meaning.

Another thing, words can be used in different ways and given different meanings. So, even if the word “baptizo” actually meant “immersion” in its original form, so what? Eucharist, for example, means “to give thanks,” yet it came to mean early on in the Church the actual Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. Well, does it mean to give thanks or does it mean Jesus’ Body and Blood? Or, does it not in fact mean both? In Matthew 23, it says that the scribes and Pharisees sit on the “chair” of Moses. Now, does that mean they were sitting on an actual chair owned by Moses, or does it mean that they were sitting in the place of authority that was established by Moses? By saying that the Greek word used here, “cathedra,” means chair, therefore, it absolutely has to mean they were sitting on a chair owned by Moses, is not the correct way to read the Bible. So, to say that the word “baptizo” means “immersion” and that’s all it can mean and therefore one absolutely has to be immersed, doesn’t really hold water.

One last thing. In 1 Cor 15:29, Paul notes that there were folks baptizing on behalf of the dead. And, he doesn’t repudiate the practice. So, the Scripture tells us that there were Christians baptizing folks on behalf of the dead and nowhere does the Scripture say this shouldn’t happen…Paul himself offers no criticism of the practice. Why then does anyone believe that baptizing on behalf of the dead is not an acceptable Christian practice? Why? Because of the authority of the Church to decide such matters. Just as the Church can say that baptism on behalf of the dead is not acceptable, in spite of it clearly being practiced by Christians in Scripture, so the Church can decide on the method of baptism. It has Christ’s own authority to bind and loose on earth. And, what it binds and looses on earth, is bound and loosed in Heaven.

By the way, one can always elect to be fully immersed when baptized into the Catholic Church, and I know of folks who have done so. In other words, immersion is not a practice that is forbidden by the Church, it is just one that is not used as often as pouring.




Have you ever seen the e-mail that gets passed around about the # of chapters in the Bible? It says something about Psalms 118 being the center of the bible and there are 594 chapters before and after Psalms 118 and 594+594=1188 and the very center verse in the bible is Psalms 118:8. It all sounds pretty neat until you bring the Catholic Bible into play and this little numbers game does not work. Does this even deserve a response and if so, what would it be?


Steve C.


I have seen it…didn’t bother to check out whether or not it was accurate in terms of the number of chapters before and after, etc. Didn’t bother because it doesn’t matter. I did respond to the gentleman who sent me the email, he was Catholic, and informed him that the Bible actually has 73 books in it and also that the chapters and verses are not in the original, but that they are arbitrary human inventions. A Catholic bishop added the chapters in the 12th or 13th century, I think. And then a publisher, I think he was Catholic but not absolutely sure on that, added the verse numbering two-three hundred years or so after that. In other words, the chapter and verse divisions are not actually part of the inspired Scripture…they are human inventions.

Now, if someone says, “Well, God worked through those folks to make it so.” Maybe, but then you have to believe in inspiration from God 1000 years plus after the death of the last Apostle. Plus, you have to believe that God inspired a Catholic bishop to make the chapter divisions as they are, because there was no such thing as a Protestant at the time. And, if there was no such thing as a Protestant at the time, there was no such thing as a Protestant Bible. So, the first time it would have been possible for anyone to even notice this “fact,” would have been in the 16th century, after Martin Luther threw out seven books of the Bible…in other words, Psalm 118 could not have been the middle of the Bible, until the Protestant Bible came along some 1500 years after the death of Christ.

In other words, all the stuff in that email may be true of the Protestant bible, but it is not true of the bible that the early Christians used and that the vast majority of Christians have used for the last 2000 years.

God bless!

John Martignoni

In Conclusion

Comments are welcomed and will all be read. Hope you have a great week!

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Apologetics for the Masses