And they went down both into the water - This passage has been made the subject of much discussion on the subject of baptism. It has been adduced in proof of the necessity of immersion. It is not proposed to enter into that subject here (see the Editors' Notes at Matthew 3:6, Matthew 3:16). It may be remarked here that the preposition ̓ eis , translated "into," does not of necessity mean that they went "into" the water. Its meaning would be as well expressed by "to" or "unto," or as we should say, "they went "to" the water," without meaning to determine whether they went "into" it or not. Out of "twenty-six" significations which Schleusner has given the word, this is one, and one which frequently occurs: John 11:38, "Jesus, therefore, groaning in himself, cometh to ̓ eis the grave" - assuredly not "into" the grave; Luke 11:49, "I send them prophets," Greek, "I send to ̓ eis them prophets" - "to" them, not "into" them, compare Romans 2:4, I Corinthians 14:36; Matthew 12:41, "They repented at ̓ eis the preaching of Jonas" - not into his preaching; John 4:5, "Then cometh he "to" ̓ eis a city of Samaria," that is, "near to it," for the context shows that he had not yet entered "into" it, compare Acts 7:6, Acts 7:8; John 21:4, "Jesus stood "on" ̓ eis the shore," that is, not "in," but "near" the shore. These passages show:
(1)That the word does not necessarily mean that they entered "into" the water. But,
(2)If it did, it does not necessarily follow that the eunuch was immersed. There might be various ways of baptizing, even after they were "in" the water, besides immersing. Sprinkling or pouring might be performed there as well as elsewhere. The most solemn act of baptism that I ever saw performed was, when I was a boy, in the river on the banks of which I was born, where the minister and the candidate went both of them "into" the Myer, and, when near to the middle of the river, the candidate kneeled down in the water, and the minister with a bowl "poured" water on his head. Yet if the fact had been stated, in reference to this case, that "they went both down "into" the water, and came up out of the water," and it had been hence inferred that the man was "immersed," it would have been wholly a false inference. No such immersion occurred, and there is, from the narrative here, no more evidence that it occurred in the case of the eunuch. See ́ baptizō .
(3)It is incumbent on those who maintain that "immersion" is the only valid mode of baptism to Proverbs that this passage cannot possibly mean anything else, and that there was no other mode practiced by the apostles.
(4)It would still be incumbent to show that if this were the common and even the only mode then, in a warm climate, that it is indispensable that this mode should be practiced everywhere else. No such positive command can be adduced. And it follows, therefore, that it cannot be proved that immersion is the only lawful mode of baptism. See the Editors' Notes at Matthew 3:6, Matthew 3:16.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Acts 8:38:
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