The origin of baptism

I can’t find any mention of baptism in the Old Testament yet right at the beginning of all 4 gospels John the Baptist is baptizing people. The Pharisees seem to question his authority to baptize but not baptism itself. It seems odd to me that suddenly God followers are participating in a very important spiritual practice without any previous or prophetic mention of it. What am I missing here?


Hi, @Ter! That is a great question! You are correct that there is not any mention of baptism in the Old Testament. This is because the specific word “baptism” is actually a Greek word–and the Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew. The noun, baptism (baptisma), if memory serves me correctly, means a dipping or immersion, and it is referring to a ceremonial cleansing. Although the word “baptism” does not show up in the Old Testament because of its Greek origin, ceremonial cleansings do. In the Old Testament, ceremonial cleansings were everywhere! In the New Testament, when John the Baptist baptizes, it is a ceremonial washing expressing repentance that prepared people for the true cleansing from sin that only comes through Jesus. When people get baptized in Jesus’ name, it is an outward expression of an inward conversion and commitment to follow Christ. It represents newness of life. Paul says in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life” (NKJV).

Here is an article that expounds upon this a little more:

The ceremonial washings in the Old Testament showed that before a holy God, we fall short. All our righteousness is like filthy rags, and we are in need of cleansing by and through one with a righteousness greater than ours. “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (NKJV).


Good info Lindsey, I appreciate your input. Thankbyou


Hey Terina!

I found the below article on “The Jewish Roots of Baptism” from OneForIsrael Ministry helpful. I hope it helps!

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This is a very interesting article, it makes sense as to why no one in the NT was questioning there practice. I really appreciate you sharing. Thank you.

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