The Jews baptize their converts in living (flowing) water through use of a mikveh or natural body of water. Living water has symbolic significance just like full immersion. Since the early church probably baptized in this way would it be necessary for us to baptize others in living water? Of course other issues would have to be raised as well since the Jews had particular rules about using a mikveh like nudity which perhaps the early church did not require. If Christians should be baptized in living water some people would have to be rebaptized then. — Vicki Lui (Canada)
A mikveh did not necessarily contain running water, though I know in some cases where mikvaoth did. I have been in a number of [dry] mikvaoth, and I can assure you plumbing was not necessarily part of the plan. Keeping the water fresh, or at least keeping the ceremonially polluted section separate from the ritually cleaner section (as by having separate staircases one descending and one ascending), was a key principle.
Nor do I believe that Jewish immersions were only for the unclothed. (This is certainly a minority view!)
There is nothing in the NT to suggest baptisms were performed only in flowing water. On the other hand, the Didache (2nd century BC) did recommend baptism in running water if possible. (No hint of “rebaptism” otherwise!) As for nudity, by the 3rd century, in at least some places baptisms were performed this way, but the idea did not stick.
Anyway, the bottom line: We should not build theological cases on probability.
This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only. © 2006. Reprints or public distribution is prohibited without the express consent of Douglas Jacoby.