Bible

What Does an Ancient Pickle Recipe Teach Us About Baptism?

Baptism is a sacrament of the Christian faith that is associated with the public declaration that an individual has renounced his or her old ways and has entered into a new life in Christ Jesus. Water is an essential element of the practice. A person is typically baptized through immersion under water, although many practices permit pouring and sprinkling water onto the person’s head. The water represents the spiritual cleansing that takes place through the forgiveness of sin.

To the uninitiated, seeing a baptismal service for the first time could be confusing. Hearing about the cleansing power of baptism could cause a person to suspect there is nothing more going on than a quick bath. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that trying to explain the difference between a quick dip in the bathtub and a true spiritual transformation could put a person in a real pickle.

Fortunately, there is an answer, and you don’t have to wade through a lot of wordy theological texts to find the answer. The best way out of this pickle, in fact, can be found in a cookbook about pickles.

The New Testament uses two different words when discussing something or someone being placed in water. One can be found in Luke 16. Jesus tells the story of the wealthy man who was suffering in Hades. He asked Abraham to send his servant Lazarus over to dip his finger in the water to cool his tongue. The word that is translated as “dip” is βαπτω (Bapto).

The other word appears in Romans 6:3 — “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” That word is βαπτιζω (baptizo).

Why are there two different words, and what is the difference between them?

The clearest explanation for this theological conundrum can be found in a cookbook. Nicander of Colophon was a Greek poet and physician who lived around 200 B.C. His writings included a recipe for how to make pickles, and it uses both of the words in question.

Nicander tells us that the first step in making a pickle is to take the vegetable and dip (bapto) it into boiling water so it will be outwardly clean. The next step is to immerse (baptizo) the vegetable into the vinegar solution. The first dipping results in removing the dirt. The second type results in an inner transformation, changing a vegetable from a cucumber to a pickle. In other words, one is temporary; the other is permanent.

Presumably, that new, permanent change of life should also have the effect of transforming your face so you don’t always look like you’ve been weaned on a pickle.


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