"Baptism"--A Real Word?

© 1997 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.

Acts 8:12 (KJV) But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

The "Interactive Bible's" web site claims that the KJV's translation of the word "baptism" and "baptize" in verses such as the above is an "undisputable" error, and that "immersion" is the proper rendering; "because sprinkling was the mode of baptism in 1611AD," according to this site, the KJV translators "jellyfished out and transliterated the Greek 'baptizo' but refused to translate it."

As a matter of fact, "baptize" and "baptism" had been English words since at least the beginning of the 14th century, as examples in the Oxford English Dictionary demonstrate. Every important English translation from Tyndale onward renders "baptizo" as "baptism/baptize," and the fact that the English words were well understood in the time of the KJV translators appears from their usage in the works of Shakespeare:

Are we seriously to believe that the average playgoer of Shakespeare's day would have needed a Greek dictionary to have understood Romeo's "Balcony Scene" lines quoted above, because he was using "baptized"--which, we are told, was only a transliteration rather than a true English word?

Furthermore, if the KJV is to be criticized for its translation, the objector should be sure to use a modern version which does not also "jellyfish out" in the same way the KJV allegedly does, but which renders "baptizo" as "immerse"! (He will look long and hard to find one, however; every modern version I have ever seen quite contentedly employs "baptism/baptize" for the Greek "baptizo.")

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