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”)
Exodus 30:18; 40:30
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.
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.
Skin Disease and Body Emissions Washing
Contact with Corpse Washing
Numbers 19:11; 14
Clothes Washing and Belongings Acquired in War
Hand and Feet Washing
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.