11. Baptism for the Dead.—Paul, in 1 Cor. xv. 29, glances at this as an established practice familiar to those whom he addresses. Three explanations are possible: (1) The saints before they were quickened or made alive together with Christ, were dead through their trespasses and sins. In baptism they were buried with Christ and rose, like Him, from the dead. We can, therefore, paraphrase v. 29 thus: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for their dead selves?” &c. It is in behalf of his own sinful, i.e. dead self, that the sinner is baptized and receives eternal life. (2) Contact with the dead entailed a pollution which lasted at least a day and must be washed away by ablutions, before a man is re-admitted to religious cult. This was the rule among the Jews. Is it possible that the words “for the dead” signify “because of contact with the dead”? (3) Both these explanations are forced, and it is more probable that by a make-believe common in all religions, and not unknown in the earliest church, the sins of dead relatives, about whose salvation their survivors were anxious, were transferred into living persons, who assumed for the nonce their names and were baptized in their behalf, so in vicarious wise rendering it possible for the sins of the dead to be washed away. The Mormons have this rite. The idea of transferring sin into another man or into an animal, and so getting it purged through him or it, was widespread in the age of Paul and long afterwards. Chrysostom says that the substitutes were put into the beds of the deceased, and assuming the voice of the dead asked for baptism and remission of sins. Tertullian and others attest this custom among the followers of Cerinthus and Marcion.
12. Use of the Name.—In Acts iv. 7, the rulers and priests of the Jews summon Peter and inquire by what power or in what name he has healed the lame. Here a belief is assumed which pervades ancient magic and religion. Only so far as we can get away from the modern view that a person's name is a trifling accident, and breathe the atmosphere which broods over ancient religions, can we understand the use of the name in baptisms, exorcisms, prayers, purifications and consecrations. For a name carried with it, for those who were so blessed as to be acquainted with it, whatever power and influence its owner wielded in heaven or on earth or under the earth. A vow or prayer formulated in or through a certain name was fraught with the prestige of him whose name it was. Thus the psalmist addressing Jehovah cries (Ps. liv. 1): “Save me, O God, by Thy name, and judge me in Thy might.” And in Acts iii. 16, it is the name itself which renders strong and whole the man who believed therein. In Acts xviii. 15, the Jews assail Paul because he has trusted and appealed to the name of a Messiah whom they regard as an overthrower of the law; for Paul believed that God had invested Jesus with a name above all names, potent to constrain and overcome all lesser powers, good or evil, in heaven or earth or under earth. Baptism then in the name or through the name or into the name of Christ placed the believer under the influence and tutelage of Christ's personality, as before he was in popular estimation under the influence of stars and horoscope. Nay, more, it imported that personality into him, making him a limb or member of Christ's body, and immortal as Christ was immortal. Nearly all the passages in which the word name is used in the New Testament become more intelligible if it be rendered personality. In Rev. xi. 13, the revisers are obliged to render it by persons, and should equally have done so in iii. 4: “Thou hast a few names (i.e. persons) in Sardis which did not defile their garments.” (See Consecration.)
13. Origin of Christian Baptism.—When it is asked, Was this a continuance of the baptism of John or was it merely the baptism of proselytes?—a distinction is implied between the two latter which was not always real. In relation to the publicans and soldiers who, smitten with remorse, sought out John in the wilderness, his baptism was a purification from their past and so far identical with the proselyte's bath; but so far as it raised them up to be children unto Abraham and filled them with the Messianic hope, it advanced them further than that bath could do, and assured them of a place in the kingdom of God, soon to be established—this, without imposing circumcision on them; for the ordinary proselyte was circumcised as well as baptized. For the Jews, however, who came to John, his baptism could not have the significance of the proselyte’s baptism, but rather accorded with another baptism undergone by Jews who wished to consecrate their lives by stricter study and practice of the law. So Epictetus remarks that he only really understands Judaism who knows “the baptized Jew” (τὸν βεβαμμένον). We gather from Acts xix. 4, that John had merely baptized in the name of the coming Messiah, without identifying him with Jesus of Nazareth. The apostolic age supplied this identification, and the normal use during it seems to have been “into Christ Jesus,” or “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” or “of Jesus Christ” simply, or “of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul explains these formulas as being equivalent to “into the death of Christ Jesus,” as if the faithful were in the rite raised from death into everlasting life. The likeness of the baptismal ceremony with Christ's death and resurrection ensured a real union with him of the believer who underwent the ceremony, according to the well-known principle in sacris simulata pro veris accipi.
But opinion was still fluid about baptism in the apostolic age, especially as to its connexion with the descent of the Spirit. The Spirit falls on the disciples and others at Pentecost without any baptism at all, and Paul alone of the apostles was baptized. So far was the afflatus of the Spirit from being conditioned by the rite, that in Acts x. 44 ff., the gift of the Spirit was first poured out upon the Gentiles who heard the word preached so that they spoke with tongues, and it was only after these manifestations that they were baptized with water in the name of Jesus Christ at the instance of Peter. We can divine from this passage why Paul was so eager himself to preach the word, and left it to others to baptize.
But as a rule the repentant underwent baptism in the name of Christ Jesus, and washed away their sins before hands were laid upon them unto reception of the Spirit. Apollos, who only knew the baptism of John (Acts xviii. 24), needed only instruction in the prophetic gnosis at the hands of Priscilla and Aquila in order to become a full disciple. On the other hand, in Acts xix. 1-7, twelve disciples, for such they were already accounted, who had been baptized into John's baptism, i.e. into the name of him that should follow John, but had not even heard of the Holy Spirit, are at Paul's instance re-baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Paul himself lays hands on them and the Holy Ghost comes upon them, so that they speak with tongues and prophecy. Not only do we hear of these varieties of practice, but also of the laying on of hands together with prayer as a substantive rite unconnected with baptism. The seven deacons were so ordained. And this rite of laying on hands, which was in antiquity a recognized way of transmitting the occult power or virtue of one man into another, is used in Acts ix. 17, by Ananias, in order that Paul may recover his sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Saul and Barnabas equally are separated for a certain missionary work by imposition of hands with prayer and fasting, and are so sent forth by the Holy Ghost. It was also a way of healing the sick (Acts xxviii. 8), and as such accompanied by anointing with oil (Jas. v. 14). The Roman church then had early precedents for separating confirmation from baptism. It would also appear that in the primitive age confirmation and ordination were one and the same rite; and so they continued to be among the dissident believers of the middle ages, who, however, often dropped the water rite altogether. (See Cathars.) More than one sect of the 2nd century rejected water baptism on the ground that knowledge of the truth in itself makes us free, and that external material washing of a perishable body cannot contribute to the illumination of the inner man, complete without it. St Paul himself recognizes (1 Cor. vii. 14) that children, one of whose parents only is a believer, are ipso facto not unclean, but holy. Even an unbelieving husband or wife is sanctified by a believing partner. If we remember the force of the words ἅγιος ἁγιάζω (cf. 1 Cor.