Jewish Origin Of Baptism

Q. I’ve done some research/reading about Jewish baptism with interest. Especially the concept of “living water” used for a proper baptism. However, where in the OT is that practice instituted by God?

A. The Jewish mikva, or ceremonial bath, is the origin of the Christian baptism. A mikva could not be done in a tub or pool of stagnant water. It had to be flowing through the mikva pool. Flowing water sustains life, and often gurgles and bubbles as it flows giving it a “voice”. Thus it was also said to be “living” water. Stagnant water stifles life.

Jewish tradition holds that the first instance of ceremonial cleansing occurred just prior to the giving of the covenant at Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 19:10 The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments.” They believe that the consecration and the washing of the garments being mentioned together indicates that both the people and the garments were washed.

For the Jewish people the mikva is done as an act of preparation. The Church uses the baptism as a ceremonial act to confirm that the person being baptized has already met the Lord and been cleansed.

A mikva had to be performed over and over to restore a person’s ceremonial cleanliness each time before entering into the presence of God. For example it’s common for an observant Jew to take a mikva before each Sabbath. In contrast, we’re washed in the Blood of Jesus, once for all time, and have been cleansed forever.

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