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Tevilah Jewish Water Baptism

In the Mosaic law there are many requirements such as animal sacrifices, the Sabbath, and washing. In order to understand Christianity and everything that happened and happens we have to go back to the Jewish religion, because there we will find many of the example we need to understand this spiritual journey. Water baptism (immersion) was not originally a Christian act. All through the tanakh (old testament), the children of Israel, whenever they would have to come before God, would cleanse themselves. The old covenant is only a shadow of the new covenant that we Christians should be under (Colosians 2:17). The sacrificed lambs represented Jesus the perfect lamb. The old covenant is the physical parallel to our spiritual covenant. In order to understand baptism we have to look into the mosaic law, many Christians today think that water baptism is something that began when Christianity began or with John the Baptist, but water baptism has deep roots in Judaism. Ancient mikvahs dating from before the late first century can be found through out the land of Israel as well as in historic communities of the Jewish diaspora. Although the term “baptism” is not used to describe the Jewish rituals, the purification rites (or mikvah-ritual immersion) in Jewish law and tradition have many similarities to water baptism that are almost identical, and the two have been linked in the Jewish Bible and other Jewish texts, immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of “ritual purity” in specific circumstances. But Gentiles were also familiar with this and would have not seen immersion as a foreign concept. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia further states, “Baptism, as an initiatory rite, was no less familiar to Gentile converts who had no acquaintance with the Jewish religion. The baptisms, like the baptism of proselytes were immersions for purification. We see that immersion in water was not a new concept being taught in the New Testament. In fact, not only the Jews but also the Gentiles knew the reasoning and purpose for being immersed in water. Immersion was done for purification or to be ceremonially cleansed. All water baptism of the new testament have their beginnings in these ancient mikvah cleansing, purification washing of the Jews. Water baptism was essential to becoming Jewish in olden times and just like baptism of the Holy Spirit is essential to being a Christian today. Any teaching that does not study the importance of the Jewish ceremony immersions will not really understand the Holy Spirit Baptism today.

Description of mikvah

Ritual washing, or ablution, takes two main forms in Judaism: tevilah, full body immersion in a mikvah and netilat yadayim, washing the hands with a cup. The Jewish law is filled with many required washing, for many different reason. The mikvah tradition has been an important part of the Judaism since its beginnings. In order to have a proper cleaning as prescribed in the Tanakh you had to be immersed in water which is Tevilah (immersion) we will concentrate on the tevilah performed in the mikvah which is full body immersion in water. Mikvah is a gathering of water, the world’s natural bodies of water–its oceans, rivers, wells, and spring-fed lakes–are mikvahs in their primal form (Genesis 1:10) The jews did not understand these washes to be taking out of a scrub brush and taking the filth off the body. Nor did they understand these washes to be a simple sprinkling of water. The jews believed that immersion in water was necessary and that the water much touch every part of the body to become ritually clean (Science and the Bible; National Geographic Channel). This explains why Jerusalem had so many pools available to the people.

The construction itself of the mikvah is also very important it has to be supervised by a Rabbi and has to be according to the traditional regulations. It must contain enough water to cover the entire body of an average-size person; based on a mikvah with the dimensions of 3 cubits long, 1 cubit wide, and 1 cubit deep, the necessary volume of water was estimated as being 40 seah of water. The water has to be “living water” for example from springs or groundwater wells. Many measures have been taken in order to secure that the water gathered in a mikvah made by men filled this requirements. The mikvah is so important to the Jews that an Orthodox community is required to construct a mikvah before building a synagogue, and must go to the extreme of selling Torah scrolls or even a synagogue if necessary, to provide for the construction.

Mikvah=gathering of water (has to be “living water”)

Genesis 1:9-10
Exodus 30:18; 40:30
Leviticus 11:36
Numbers 19:9
1 Kings 7:38
How is tevilah in mikvah performed?

The Jewish law is very strict in this ceremony, when a person does a mikvah they have to remove anything that would be an obstacle between the body and the water. For example all clothes has to be removed, jewelry, and women have to remove braids, hair accessories, make-up, nail polish, anything has to be removed is just the body and the water.

Jewish law requires at least three witnesses made up of qualified leaders to be present for certain immersions. Ordinarily an Elder, a member of Sanhedrin performed the act of observing proselyte immersions. But in case of necessity others could do it. Secret tevilah (immersions) were not acknowledged as valid. The systems of laws first showed how to recognize the various violations of purity. Then the priest examined the situation to confirm the presence of impurity and he provided instruction for cleansing. Later, after the physical cleansing was completed and after the impurity was eradicated, additional rituals were performed for ceremonial cleansing. When all of this was completed, the priest could finally declare that cleanliness had been re-established. The Torah requires full immersion for the cleansing ceremony to valid.crownheights.info

Who does Tevilah and Why?
In ancient Judaism mikvah was used when a gentile converts to Judaism, for a women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation and childbirth by Jewish men to also achieve ritual purity and for priest before performing ceremonies. This ceremony has deep meaning to the Jews. Traditionally, the mikvah was used by both men and women to regain ritual purity after various events, according to regulations laid down in the Torah and in classical rabbinical literature. The Torah requires full immersion. Its main uses nowadays are still: by Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth by Jewish men to achieve ritual purity as part of a traditional procedure for conversion to Judaism for utensils used for food.

The Jews went beyond the teachings of Moses concerning ritual washing and required those who converted to Judaism to also be immersed in water. For the Jews required three things of strangers who declared themselves to be converts to the Law of Moses: circumcision, baptism, and to offer sacrifice if they were men the two latter if they were women: For example, Jews who (according to the Law of Moses) became ritually defiled by contact with a corpse had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Holy Temple. We have usually recognized the need for converts to Judaism to be circumcised if they were males. But immersion and sacrifice were also needed to be part of Judaism. This also explains why there were so many pools in Jerusalem in the early centuries. Therefore we see that the Jews were very familiar with the need to immersed in water. Immersion is required for converts to Judaism as part of their conversion. In the Torah there are also many commandment for priest to cleanse themselves through immersion, they had to cleanse before coming before God and entering the temple.

God wanted his people to be clean when they came to His presence. God commanded His people to cleanse themselves. Mikvah is performed because God commanded it, and the reason why God commanded this was to be pure and free from illnesses and filthiness. The mikvah was used for several different washing. Immersion in the mikvah has offered a gateway to purity ever since the creation of man. In order to become a Jew one has to go through, to clean a person from any impurity that he or she might bring and in order to be accepted into the community of God the new convert had to repent and clean themselves. The mikvah provided a way to clean their bodies and to be healthy. The system of laws first showed how to recognize the various violations of purity. Then the priest examined the situation to confirm the presence of impurity and he provided instructions for cleansing. Later, after the physical cleansing was completed and after the impurity was eradicated, additional rituals were performed for ceremonial cleansing. When all of this was completed, the priest could finally declare that cleanliness had been re-established, according to regulations laid down in the Torah and in classical rabbinical literature.

Apart from ritual purification, the Jewish people have always regarded bathing and physical cleanliness as implicitly important because, as Hillel taught, the human body reflects the divine image of God. Going through mikvah has a deep meaning for the Jews. Before you go into the water or mikvah, you should know why go into the water. You don’t go into the mikvah to join a synagogue. You are not submerged to join a church. You go into the water as an outward manifestation of an inward work that’s happened in your life, a change in your life. That day it was to be for repentance. The tevilah is practiced at conversion, before marriage, after a women’s menstrual cycle, and for the cleansing of the diseased. For the priest it was extremely important to cleanse before going into the temple (God’s presence), they had to be pure before performing anything in the temple.

Priest Washing

Exodus 29:4
Exodus 30:19-20
Exodus 40:12
Leviticus 8:6
Leviticus 16:24
Numbers 8:5-7
Numbers 8:15
Numbers 8:21
Numbers 19:7
Nehemiah 13:30

Israelite Washing

Numbers 18:11
Numbers 18:13
Numbers 19:8
Leviticus 22:7

Skin Disease and Body Emissions Washing

Leviticus 13:34-37
Leviticus 14:8-9
Leviticus 15:7-11
Leviticus 15:13
Leviticus 15:16-18
Leviticus 16:28
Deuteronomy 23:10-11

Gentile Washing

Leviticus 16:24
Leviticus 17:15-16

Women Washing

Leviticus 15:21-22
Leviticus 15:27-28

Contact with Corpse Washing

Numbers 19:11; 14

Clothes Washing and Belongings Acquired in War

Exodus 19:10
Exodus 19:14
Leviticus 13:58-59
Numbers 19:10
Numbers 31:21-24

Hand and Feet Washing

Exodus 29:18-21
Exodus 30:19
Exodus 40:30-32

Why the Word Baptism is not in the Old Testament?

The word “baptism” will not be found in the Old Testament because the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. But we have to look at the meaning of baptism: from Greek baptizo: immersing, performing ablutions ritual washing, a rite of washing as a sign of religious purification and consecration. Now if we look at the definition of tevilah: full body immersion in a mikvah, is the biblical act of immersing oneself in a natural water source, ritual washing in water.

Both definitions of baptism and tevilah are described by the same word immersing and washing from there we can conclude that tevilah and water baptism are the same act different language use. Water baptism were being performed in the Old Testament. The Jewish understanding of “wash” was to go and immerse in “living water”

Now many churches will have the contradictory argument that water baptism was not part of the Mosaic Law. But nothing in Christianity is new to Christianity it was already give to Israelites, God devoted a lot of time explaining with symbolism, what it was going to be but the only difference now is that is through grace not law Romans 6:14. But the insistence of many churches to live under law (in order to water baptize for salvation) makes them not realize that they put themselves in a contradictory position because absolutely nothing done in Christianity was new to it, it had already been performed in the law. Now if it was new only to Christianity why did God not devote more time explaining it giving us more symbolic examples of something that is absolutely necessary for salvation? But God did explain the Physical counterpart (Tevilah) of the Holy Spirit Baptism which is necessary for salvation. Everything is a parallel, everything in the new covenant can find their physical counterpart in the old testament.


Comments on: "Tevilah Jewish Water Baptism" (15)

  1. From my reading of your blog, it seems to me that you are trying to draw a parallel between “tevilah” and Holy Spirit baptism – “tevilah” being the shadow or type and HS baptism being the real thing or the antitype – and so you conclude that water is unnecessary for Christian baptism today.
    However, Jesus said you must be born of water and Spirit (John 3:3-5). The Apostle Paul was told to submit himself to baptism so that he could have his sins washed away (Acts 22:16). This same Paul wrote “he (God our Savior) saved us…through the washing of rebirth and the renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Peter also uses the word water to describe baptism and maintains it is not just a ritual washing of the body, but the pledge of a good conscience towards God i.e. repentance (cf. 1 Peter 3:18-22).
    The Jewish rite of “tevilah” and the Christian rite of baptism only have one difference – the element of the Holy Spirit. He, the Holy Spirit, was not available to the common Israelite of the OT, but He was made available to all in the NT (cf. Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21). This is also the only difference that I see between John the Baptist’s baptism and Christian baptism. Both were an immersion of repentance for the remission (forgiveness) of sins (cf. Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38). For the Jew, “Tevilah” carries the concept of repentance, new birth and a commitment to a new life. So does Christian baptism.
    During the time of the NT Jews were submitting themselves to water baptism and had no problem with it…as you said, immersion in water (baptism) is not new to Christianity. It was something they were very familiar with and a concept they understood very well.
    One more important thing I need to say: I do not believe in baptismal regeneration i.e. there is power in the water. I believe the power of forgiveness is in the blood of Christ and the power to live the new life in Him is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who is given to us at baptism (cf. Romans 6:3-5). When one submits to baptism, one is being obedient to God and so He blesses the individual with His promise of making them His children by wiping the slate of the past clean, and empowering them with His Spirit to live the Christian life.

    • Thanks for reading my blog. I would encourage to keep reading most of your disagreement arguments, I have approached so if you are interested enough to keep reading I would encourage to keep reading. As I did approach the question of wether “born of water” means water baptism. May God bless you.

    • Livingonaprayer said:

      When you say this in your comment above, it sure sounds like baptismal regeneration:
      “When one submits to baptism, one is being obedient to God and so He blesses the individual with His promise of making them His children by wiping the slate of the past clean, and empowering them with His Spirit to live the Christian life.”

      Also, when water is used figuratively, it refers to renewal or spiritual cleansing, especially when used in conjunction with “spirit”. Jesus makes reference to the spiritual washing or purification of the soul, accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the word of God at the moment of salvation.

  2. […] 1Tevilah Jewish Water Baptism « quakergirl SUBMIT […]

  3. Livingonaprayer said:

    Good article. Perhaps Jesus is making a contrast to the living water he provides with the living water that the Jews use for purification.

    John 3:25 – Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.

    John 4
    1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
    7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” ( For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

    John 7
    Rivers of Living Water
    37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as[f] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

    Matthew 3:11
    11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

    Mark 1:7-8
    7And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

    Luke 3:16
    16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

    John 1:26-28
    26John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing

    Acts 1:4-5
    4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

    Act 13:24-25
    24Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

    18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
    a. Matthew 28:19 Or into

    1 Corinthians 6
    11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    • John baptized with water. John said his was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins
    • John said he was not the Christ
    • John came baptizing in water so that Jesus would be revealed to Israel
    • John bore witness that Jesus is the Son of God (He on whom the Spirit descended on and remained)
    • Jesus’ authority was established at his baptism
    • John said the one coming after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit
    • John contrasted his baptism with the baptism that Jesus would perform
    • John’s baptism took place before Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection

    • is with the Holy Spirit spiritual “living water”
    • is with fire
    • gives the promise of the Father

    • to fulfill all righteousness
    • so that Jesus would be revealed to Israel
    • so that John could bear witness that Jesus is the Son of God
    • shows that he on whom the Spirit descends and remains is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit

  4. I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thank you, I’ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your site?

  5. […] is Something About “Dirty” That God Does Not Like « johnchapter171Tevilah Jewish Water Baptism « quakergirl […]

  6. Dr. Onier said:

    Your article are right on the button.

    Many believe, that water baptism comes from Books of Act, but it is the big mistake.

    I agree with you a great deal.

    Most people so not understand Old Testament, and therefore developed very wrong Church Doctrines.

  7. lynne kabaso(zambia) said:

    I love discovering God through the light of Jewish knowledge; its beautiful, it improve my knowledge about God.

  8. God told Noah that he would save him by an ark. God gave Noah the blueprint for that ark that Noah had to follow. The same is with salvation. Jesus did the work, but he has also given us a blueprint. ACTS 2:38 WE must Repent, be baptized in only JESUS NAME! (Not pagan trinity. There is only one God and His name is JESUS. He is not in any way a “separate” part of God. Acts 4:12 (No other name will save you) And you will be filled with Jesus Spirit in you!!! BAPTISM OF HOLY GHOST!

    Old covenant believers circumcised (symbolized the heart) and partook of the Mikvah! New covenant believers are baptized in Jesus name and filled with the Holy Spirit! (circumcision of the heart) This is how we are born of water and Spirit (John 3:5

    • I would recommend that before you keep commenting you would read the rest of the blogs about this topic, since your comment is clearly out context.
      Thank you for reading my blog. May the Holy Trinity bless you!

  9. […] also provided a link to an article about baptism in the Old Testament, along with a disclaimer that he disagrees with many of the conclusions, but appreciates the list […]

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