There is a great deal of confusion concerning “baptism”, many have confused the Jewish ritual of T’VILLA for repentance from sin, with that which accompanies circumcision when a Gentile becomes a proselyte Jew.
Water immersion or “baptism” is called in Judaism "t'villa".
BTW the word MIKVAH in Hebrew is a noun referring to the body of water used in a T’VILLA. The verb is T’VILLA “immerse”.
There are several types of water baptism or T’VILLA in historical Judaism.
T’VILLA OF RITUAL PURITY
The Mosaic Torah requires "washings" for "uncleanness" (Lev. 13-15)
And as also taught in the Talmud:
[LAWS OF] LEVITICAL CLEANNESS.
But they are written [in Scripture]! — It refers only to the
measure of a ritual bath, which is not stated in Scripture. For it
is taught: And he shall bathe in water, [this means] in water of
a ritual bath; all his flesh: [this means in] water which covers
all his body. And how much is this? A cubit by a cubit to the
height of three cubits; and the Sages fixed the measure of the
ritual bath water at forty se'ahs.
T’VILLA OF REPENTANCE FROM SIN
King David was aware of this "washing" for cleansing from sin (Ps. 51:2, 7).
The Qumran community are known to have engaged in this type of “washings” as a ritual immersion as early as 150 B.C.E.:
None of the perverse men is to enter purifying waters
used by the Man of Holiness and so contact their purity.
(Indeed, it is impossible to be purified without first
REPENTING of evil, inasmuch as impurity adheres to all
who transgress His word.)
(Man. Disc. 5:13-14)
Ceremonies of atonement cannot restore his innocence,
neither cultic waters his purity.
He cannot be sanctified by baptism in oceans and rivers,
nor purified by mere ritual bathing.
(Man. Disc. 3, 4-5)
About purification by water. A man may not wash himself
in water that is filthy and too shallow to make a ripple.
(Dam. Doc. 10, 10-11)
John the Baptist also taught this immersion (Mt. 3:6, 11; Mk. 1:4-5; Lk. 3:2-3, 7; Acts 19:3-4). The first century Jewish historian Josephus recorded that John:
...commanded the Jews to exercise virtue,
both as to righteousness towards one another,
and piety towards one another, and piety towards God,
and so to come to baptism for that the washing would
(Josephus; Ant. 18:5:2)
Note that this was a Jewish ritual being participated in by Pharisees and Saducees (Mk. 1:5; Mt. 3:5-7 with Lk. 3:7).
T’VILLA TO INITIATE PRIESTS
(and later Rabbis) (Lev. 8:6)
T’VILLA FOR CONVERSION TO JUDAISM
(This T’VILLA accompanied circumcision.)
Immersion for conversion is also a practice of the Oral Torah as taught by the Talmud:
Our Rabbis taught: ‘If a proselyte was circumcised
but had not performed the prescribed ritual ablution,
R. Eliezer said, ‘Behold he is a proper proselyte; for so we find
that our forefathers were circumcised and had not performed
If he performed the prescribed ablution but had not been
R. Joshua said, ‘Behold he is a proper proselyte; for so we find
that the mothers had performed ritual ablution but had not been
The Sages, however, said, ‘Whether he had performed ritual
ablution but had not been circumcised or whether he had been
circumcised but had not performed the prescribed ritual
ablution, he is not a proper proselyte, unless he has been
circumcised and has also performed the prescribed ritual ablution.
T’VILLA FOR THE DEAD
Dead bodies undergo a ritual washing before burial. This is the “baptism for the dead” referenced in 1Cor. 15:29.
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