Total Immersion Only Baptism

& The Book of Judith

Editor's Note: Because this essay uses the symbol font, the reader may want to view it in the Internet Explorer browser.  Firefox does not support symbol font.

Dear friends in Messianic Israel and Sacred Name Movements:

I write to you concerned that our sacred and primitive faith is yet contaminated with a number of false teachings held as revealed truth in Evangelical Christianity and Dispensational Eschatology, including (as e among many) adult-only, total immersion-only (TIO) water baptism.  The following short essay deals with the word “baptize” as it is presented in pre-Christian settings, before it came to be the intractable dogma of Anabaptist churches and contemporary, Anabaptist-like messianic movements.  Though this be only a few words, we ask that you seriously consider them, since we both are seeking to be honorable and one-minded in all things having to do with righteousness.

Elder Dr. Jackson Snyder

Netzari Yahadim

Vero Beach, Florida, USA

1| The word baptize[1] remains untranslated in the New Testament, brought into English directly from Greek, and interpreted by the various sects to conform to their revealed views and practices.  In the Primitive[2] faith, new believers were washed in water to cleanse their flesh from sin, and to thus fulfill a requirement for entry into the community of faith.  Wesley’s (and Whitfield’s) Methodism – as an intentional return to the first-century faith, a revolt against Catholicism, a rejection of the Reformation, and a revival of true Anglicanism – provides an extraordinary example of reclaiming and reigniting the lively faith and earliest fellowship of the yahad,[3] including the intimacies of baptisms, sacred meals, and accountability groups.[4] As one of the few authentic practices retained from ancient Nazorean Judaism, baptism is still practiced in nearly all Messianic (i.e. Christian & Jewish) sects.  And regarding baptism: as a (primitive) Methodist who looks back with thankfulness to both the Wesleyan and the Nazorean reformations, it is clear to me that sprinkling, pouring, dipping & dunking were all employed by the Primitives in the rite of baptism – the mode depending on the availability of water; none of these methods were rejected as being improper.[5] 

The Reformation produced washing cults (such as Anabaptists) in which total immersion of the adult-only candidate was considered the only mode valid for salvation.  Total Immersion Only (TIO), a symbolical burying into the dark grave of the Martyr, the rising out of the water symbolic of resurrection, is even now the mainstay of Baptist, Quasicostal & Evangelical churches.[6] 

2| I am concerned about Sacred Name assemblies who want to recapture the beliefs and practices of the Primitives, yet carry over the dogma and ritual of fundamentalist & Quasicostal[7] churches.  Numerous fundamentalist preachers who have sought leadership positions in some “Hebrew Roots Movement” have brought popular Dispensationalist eschatology and post-sacramental practices into the movement, including TIO.[8]  It is the purpose of this paper to point out to Sacred Name leaders that TIO baptism is neither primitive nor Scriptural, and therefore to implore them to abandon the comfortable innovations of fundamentalist and Reformed Protestantism, considering again what history and Scripture prove to be correct in regards to baptism.

3| To do so, it is essential to discover pre-first century instances of Greek word-root baptiz- within robust Scriptural context.  We do discover an occurrence – in Judith[9], a book that is recognized as being used routinely among the Primitives; another is in Isaiah.

Judith is a righteous Hebrew widow.  Her hilltop town of Bethulia is surrounded by the armies of Assyria – oppressors conquering their way toward the spoiling of Jerusalem.  With YHWH’s help, Judith intends to seduce Holofernes, the Assyrian commander, and then somehow overcome him – all this without breaking the Torah’s purity ordinances. The beautiful and rich Judith is able to find her way into the enemy camp and establish a rapport with Holofernes.  In the enemy’s camp three days, Judith remains chaste, but now must leave the camp for a short time to find running water then fulfill a cleanliness ordinance of the Torah.

We take up the story (12:7-9 LXX[10]):

Then Holofernes commanded his guard that they should not keep her; thus she stayed in the camp three days, and went out in the night into the valley of Bethulia, and washed (ebaptizeto) herself in a water fountain (phghV tou udatoV) by the camp. And when she came out (anebh), she besought YHWH, Elohim of Israel (kuriou qeou israhl), to direct her way to the raising up (anastema) of the children of her people. So she came in clean (kaqara), and remained in the tent, until she ate her food at evening.[11]

Had this paragraph appeared in the New Testament, it would be translated as, “she stayed in the camp three days, went out in the night . . . and baptized herself in a water fountain.”  Judith’s availed herself of a water-spring (phghV) for a ritual cleansing consisting of pouring, splashing, or sprinkling, assisted by her maid.  Is this instance of baptism totally removed from all the others in Greek biblical literature? Or may we understand this instance in the same context of early Nazorean and Christian baptism, which was neither adult-only or total-immersion-only. 

4| The New Jerusalem Bible, a Roman Catholic translation, perceives the contradiction between this instance of -baptiz- and Roman theology, translating ebaptizeto as purified herself while leaving all New Testament instances of ~baptiz~ untranslated (as in Matthew 3:5,6 below) .[12]

5| Next we return to Judith and discover an example of what may be total washing and perhaps immersion.  In preparation for initially going forth to meet her enemy, she prepares in this way:

Judith (10:1) called on the Elohim of Israel. When she had finished praying, 2. she got up from the floor, summoned her maid and went down into the rooms that she used on Sabbath days and festivals.[13]  3. There she removed the sackcloth she was wearing and, taking off her widow's dress, she washed her body all over with water (perieklusato[14] to soma udati), anointed herself plentifully with perfumes, dressed her hair, wrapped a turban round it and put on the robe of joy she used to wear when her husband Manasseh was alive. (Modified NJB)

The Greek expects that Judith has a home miqvah (often the case for the well-to-do).  She is going down – as in a festival.  She removes her clothes.  Primitive baptism in some circles required nakedness.[15]  And the translator renders a double preposition + luo (loose, destroy) as wash (dissolve?).  If this is an immersive washing (as it certainly appears to be), should not the Greek read baptize here since this is a total washing?

6| So my conclusion regarding baptiz / baptism in an inspired[16], pre-New Testament, gospel-like Judaic text accepted by Primitives as inspired are that, according to

Judith 10, immersion is not baptism, and, according to

Judith 12, washing at a fountain is baptism.

If we regard this exercise as indicative of the meaning of baptism in the short period of time leading up to ur-Mark[17], we must modify our understanding and practice of baptism from Total Immersion Only to include means of washings less severe but every bit as effective (depending upon the faith and obedience of the new, true believer) – i.e. sprinklings, pourings and immersing.

7| One other short but telling passage in the prophet of the Septuagint includes a baptism. 

Isaiah 21:4:

Transgression overwhelms me (anomia me baptizei). (Brenton)

Remarkably, the Brenton Septuagint informs us in the footnote that that the literal translation of the passage is “Transgression baptizes me.”  Let this prophetic text speak for itself.

End of Essay

[1] Baptize (Gr. Baptzw).

[2] Primitive = adj. / noun = the Essene / Nazorean faith and practice of Yahusha ben Maryah (Jesus) and his family, the terminal point in time being the middle of the second century.

[3] Yahad (H.) = group of likeminded individuals who come together periodically for worship, study & accountability.

[4] It can be said that Wesley broke ground for Schweitzer’s Quest a hundred years later.

[5] Acts 8:36 – the abundance of water was the requisite for baptism.

[6] Some sects require two of three-fold dunking.

[7] Quasicostal = Pentecostal, neo-Pentecostal, Charismatic & Free Spirit groups.

[8]TIO = Total Immersion Only = religious groups that insist that total immersion dunking in water is required for eventual salvation, disdaining and negating sprinking, pouring and dipping.

[9] Though not yet found at Qumran, Judith is in the middle canon, dated to c. 150 BC.  Whether one considers Judith `canonical or not, it contains a rare pre-first century biblical instance of baptizw that clearly defines the word by the context.

[10] LXX = the ancient Septuagint, written in the same language as the New Testament.

[11] Could this periscope be a foreshadowing of the resurrection of Israel? The book is dated to the apocalyptic age of Daniel (c. 180), the Divine name is covered up (kuri-), there is a fountain (phghV), a raising (anastema), repentance (kaqara), and the children of Israel (‘uiwn tou laou autou – sons-of the throng of-her).

[12] For instance, Regarding John the Forerunner, Matthew 3:5,6 has – Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised (ebaptizonto) by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. As Josephus reports, John’s was a baptizo- employed ritualistically to cleanse the sins of the flesh.

[13] A near parallel with Luke 3:21,22: . . . and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the holy spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven . . .

[14] perieklusato = = peri = around / about; ek = out;  luV-, dissolve (?). to soma udati = the body (with) water. Would the body (soma) not require full immersion to perieklusato / dissolve?

[15] Gospel of Thomas 38: His disciples said, On what day will you appear to us, and on what day will we see you?  Y. said, When you undress yourselves and are not ashamed, and take your clothing, and lay them under your feet, like little children, and tread on them; then you will become sons of the living one and you will have no fear.  (Translation by Grant & Freedman)  Removing clothes was a prelude to baptism and ‘sonship.’

[16] By the first century AD the Septuagint had already been accepted as inspired and in circulation for 200 years.  Was accepted and studied by such diverse sects as the Ebionites of James the Just to the disciples of Philo of Alexandria, the Greek Jewish scholar.  Yet again, whether the text is accepted as inspired or not doesn’t have any bearing on the usage of its language or similarity to the quasi-historical works of middle Judaisms.

[17] Ur-Mark = the source document of the Gospel of Mark which, in these latter days, has been duly reckoned as being recorded much earlier than recognized in the 20th century.  With the astounding work of bold exegetes such as Martinez, Thiede etc., we have been able to place Mark and other Nazorean letters among the scrolls of Cave 7 – the scroll repository physically nearest the settlement at Secaca (Qumran).




Codex Sinaiticus

New Testament:

from the famed discovery


The earliest, oldest New Testament text has finally been released to the public.  You may read the Codex Sinaiticus online - but only if you know Greek!  To read it inCodex Sinaiticus New Testament H T Anderson English English, you need the only English translation we know.  The H. T. Anderson English Translation of the Codex Sinaiticus, with the three extra early New Testament books and the Sonnini Manuscript of Acts 29 included, and the original absences of certain verses (put in there later by the 'church') is now available only at here.  

THIS IS NOT A CHEAP, SCANNED-IN FACSIMILE. This is a first edition of the text published in easy-to-read Georgia font with plenty of room between verses for your notes.2 points between verses, hard or soft cover.


The Nazarene Acts
of the Apostles

Also known as
The Recognitions of Clement

Ever wonder why PAUL and not PETER received the mission to the lost tribes?  Wasn't Peter the stone upon which the "church" was to be built?  In this new translation of the Nazarene Acts, we follow Kefa (Peter) as he itinerates from Jerusalem and up the Mediterranean coast up to Tripoli, as recorded in the journals of his successor, Clement of Rome (Phi 4:3).  Every message Kefa preached, the company he kept, and the great works of faith the the Almighty accomplished through him are herein recorded.  This 300 page volume has been 'hidden' in the back of an obscure volume of the "Church Fathers" all this time.  Could it be that, in establishing the Gentile 'church' by pushing away from Judaism, this history was purposely hidden?



Contact All

Snyder Bible

Netzari Yahadim

Books & Translations


Secret Sayings of the Savior