Immersion in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, washing of the body is seen of the priests before they enter into the temple to do service and to make sacrifice.
From Leviticus 8:4-6: “4 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; and the assembly was gathered together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 5 And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the LORD commanded to be done. 6 And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.”
And from Numbers 8:21-22: “And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them. 22 And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them.”
All of Numbers chapter 8 describes the cleansing of the Levites. Aside from these passages concerning the priests, or certain occasions where people are instructed in what to do upon exposure to diseases or corpses, or certain other circumstances, there is no other ritual cleansing of the body required.
The Immersion of John
Remember the words of Yahweh in Malachi chapter 3, “and he shall purify the sons of Levi”:John the Baptist was also a Levite, so he could fulfill the priestly role of cleansing which Moses the Levite had done first, long before him. It is apparent, that Yahshua coming to be the final ritual sacrifice for the children of Israel, the prophecy and baptism of John – for the sons of Levi – was also symbolic of the Old Testament law. That is why John was sent to baptize the sons of Levi – so that Christ could be properly sacrificed. Now Israel has been cleansed of all their sins by Christ Himself, as foretold by the prophets, and they have no need of any further cleansing.
The Immersion in the Death of Christ
At Luke 12:50 Christ exclaims “Now I have an immersion to be immersed in, and how am I constrained until when it should be completed!”
He could not have been talking about the baptism of John, which had already transpired long before. Rather, He was talking about the baptism of His death. At Mark 10:38-40 we see this discourse between Christ and the apostles: “38 So Yahshua said to them: 'You do not know what you ask! Are you able to drink the cup which I shall drink or to be baptized in the baptism which I am baptized?' 39 Then they said to Him 'We are able!' So Yahshua said to them: 'The cup which I drink you shall drink and the baptism which I am baptized in you shall be baptized, 40 but to sit at My right or left land is not Mine to give, but for those whom it has been prepared.'”
Paul clarifies this, at Romans 6:3 where he asks “Or are you ignorant that as long as we are baptized in Christ Yahshua, into His death we are baptized?”
At Ephesians 4:5 Paul states that we have “One Lord, one faith, [and] one baptism”.
That baptism is in the death of Christ: in His Word and what He did for the children of Israel. Only the children of Israel are baptized – cleansed – in His death. It is the Gospel that cleanses, and therefore do not let any man pretend to baptize you in water. It took even the apostles some time to understand this. The Book of Acts describes a transition from the Old Covenant rituals to the New Covenant faith. Therefore Luke records this statement of Christ at the beginning: of the book of Acts: “Iohannes baptized in water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit ”
John the Baptist's Agreement
Matthew 3:11 "Indeed I immerse you in water for repentance, but He coming after me is more powerful than me, of whom I am not worthy to carry the sandals. He shall immerse you in the Holy Spirit, and in fire! 12 Of whom the winnowing fan is in His hand, and He shall purge His threshing-floor and He shall gather His grain into His storehouse, but the chaff He shall burn with unquenchable fire!”
John says that he immerses in water, but that is not the mission of the Christ. This is also expressed in Acts chapter 1, verse 4 where it says “Iohannes immersed in water, but you shall be immersed in the Holy Spirit ”. This last statement is parallel to the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares found in Matthew chapter 13. The phrase “the winnowing fan is in His hand” means that judgement belongs to Christ, however that was not the purpose of His first advent.
Immersion in the Wider Society
However Baptism was also a pagan ritual. One could assert that in the Christian era, the pagan idea has been brought into Christianity. In Christianity, the priests were cleansed before the sacrifice, not the people, and John the Baptist fulfilled that. We have taken the power to cleanse our sins which belongs to the sacrifice – which is what Yahshua is – and we have wrongly transferred it to the priests themselves, who merely conducted the ritual! We are cleansed through Yahshua's sacrifice, and not through the rituals of the priests. There are many ancient documents revealing baptism to be a pagan ritual. Here I will show that baptism was employed by our pagan ancestors in four of our own ancient cultures, Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, and Germanic.
From Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton University Press, J. Pritchard, editor, 1969:
Page 437, from an Akkadian inscription entitled “I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom”, which dates before 700 B.C., there is an exclamation that reads: “In the Gate of the Purifying Waters I was sprinkled with purifying waters”, which certainly describes a ritual. The exclamation is accompanied by others describing sacrifices and libations and incense-offerings in supplication to gods.
Page 495, from an Egyptian papyrus believed to date to the 12th dynasty, the time of Abraham, from a list of good and bad activities: “plunging into the river – good: it means cleansing from all evils”.
From The Poetic Edda translated by Lee M. Hollander, University of Texas Press:
From p. 121, from the Rígsþula, or The Lay of Ríg, stanza 7:
“Gave Edda birth to a boy child then, in clouts she swathed) the swarthy - skinned one. Thrall they called him, and cast on him water, (dark was his hair and dull his eyes).”
From The Sayings of Hár, or Hávamál, at stanza 158 we seem to have the baptism rite connected to the idea of eternal life. From The Poetic Edda, p. 39:
“That thirteenth I know if a thane’s son I shall wet with holy water: never will he fall, though the fray be hot, nor sink down, wounded by the sword.”
From the ancient play Eumenides, by the fifth-century B.C. Greek poet Aeschylus, his character Orestes says at lines 448-452:
“It is the law that he who is defiled by shedding blood shall be debarred all speech until the blood of a suckling victim shall have besprinkled him by the ministrations of one empowered to purify from murder. Long since, at other houses, have I been thus purified both by victims and flowing streams.” (Loeb Library edition of Aeschylus).
Here we see that the Greeks believed that one may be cleansed of sin either by baptism (“flowing streams”) or by the blood of sacrifice, for which we shall compare Heb. 9:13-14:
“ 13 For if sprinkling those who are defiled with the blood of goats and bulls and ashes of a heifer sanctifies for purity of the flesh, 14 by how much more shall the blood of the Christ, who through the eternal Spirit has offered Himself blameless to Yahweh, purify our consciences - apart from dead rituals - for which to serve Yahweh who lives? ”