Why Do Jewish People Fear Baptism?

Baptism was practised in ancient (Ḥasidic or Essene) Judaism, first as a means of penitence, as is learned from the story of Adam and Eve, who, in order to atone for their sin, stood up to the neck in the water, fasting and doing penance—Adam in the Jordan for forty days, Eve in the Tigris for thirty-seven days.

jordansiteIt is an ancient Eastern myth that Adam stood for forty-nine days up to his neck in the River Gihon. Likewise is the passage, “They drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day, and said, ‘We have sinned against the Lord'” (I Sam. vii. 6), explained as meaning that Israel poured out their hearts in repentance; using the water as a symbol according to “Pour out thine heart like water before the Lord.” Of striking resemblance to the story in Matt. iii. 1-17 and in Luke iii. 3, 22, is the haggadic interpretation of Gen. i. 2
“The spirit of God (hovering like a bird with outstretched wings), manifested in the spirit of the Messiah, will come [or “the Holy One, blessed be He! will spread His wings and bestow His grace”] upon Israel,” owing to Israel’s repentance symbolized by the water.
To receive the spirit of God, or to be permitted to stand in the presence of God (His Shekinah), man must undergo baptism wherefore in the Messianic time God will Himself pour water of purification upon Israel in accordance with Ezek. xxxvi. 25. In order to pronounce the name of God in prayer in perfect purity,the Essenes underwent baptism every morning “The Name must be guarded with purity”. Philo frequently refers to these acts of purification in preparation for the holy mysteries to be received by the initiated.

The real significance of the rite of baptism can not be derived from the Levitical law; but it appears to have had its origin in Babylonian or ancient Semitic practise. As it was the special service administered by Elisha, as prophetic disciple to Elijah his master, to “pour out water upon his hands” (II Kings iii. 11), so did Elisha tell Naaman to bathe seven times in the Jordan, in order to recover from his leprosy (II Kings v. 10).

The powers ascribed to the waters of the Jordan are expressly stated to be that they restore the unclean man to the original state of a new-born “little child.” This idea underlies the prophetic hope of the fountain of purity, which is to cleanse Israel from the spirit of impurity (Zech. xiii. 1; Ezek. xxxvi. 25; compare Isa. iv. 4). and that the living water in which man bathes is to cause his regeneration.

From the writings of Kaufmann Kohler and Samuel Krauss in theJewish Encyclopedia.com***********************************************

Joseph Smith’s plans for the temple included the design an unusual baptismal font in which they could perform their proxy baptisms. Historian M. Guy Bishop wrote:

Brazen Sea outside Solomon's TempleAt the Church’s October 1841 general conference, Joseph Smith shocked the gathered congregation by stating, “There shall be no more baptisms for the dead, until the ordinance can be attended to in the Lord’s House” (HC 4:426). The Nauvoo Temple project had been announced the previous January, but little progress had been made. In this instance Joseph Smith may have suspended the baptisms to motivate the Saints to press forward with the temple since it was just one month later that the baptismal font in the temple’s basement was finished and dedicated. The oval-shaped wooden font was to be temporary until it could be replaced with one of cut stone (Colvin 1962), but must have seemed elegant. (Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 92-3).


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