mikvah

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Instructions About Washings

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings…

Hebrews 6:1-2 (ESV)

Hebrews 6:1-3 identifies “instructions about washings” as one out of six fundamental, elementary teachings about the Messiah. Does this refer to Baptism? Learn about the Jewish practice of immersion in a mikvah and discover evidence of early, apostolic-era catechism prior to immersion.

Includes a short introduction to the Didache.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Twenty-one: Instructions About Washings
Originally presented on June 22, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

Instructions about washings (plural). After a brief summary of the first two elementary principles, “Repentance from dead works” and “Faith toward God,” Lancaster continues with the third, “Instructions about washings”. This is often considered in normative Christianity to refer to baptism and easily dismissed as such. The King James Version of the Bible even renders the phrase as “the doctrine of baptisms,” but…

The translators of the English Standard Version, like many Bible scholars, recognized that the Greek word “baptismon” does not sound as if it’s talking about Christian baptism, because it appears in the plural form, whereas Christians are baptized only once. Furthermore, in other places in the New Testament, the word “baptismos” refers to ceremonial purification rituals of immersion in a mikvah. Several scholars looked at this passage and said, “I don’t think he’s talking about Christian baptism. I think he’s talking about Jewish purity rituals.”

-D. Thomas Lancaster
“Chapter 5: Instruction About Washings,” pg 64
Elementary Principles: Six Foundational Principles of Ancient Jewish Christianity

This book leverages much of the material from Lancaster’s sermons on these elementary principles from his “Hebrews” series and is a good companion to use with these audio recordings.

Here we learn that it is highly likely that these “immersions” mentioned in Hebrews 6:2 do not reference the modern Christian concept of baptism, since a Christian is only baptized once and the Greek word used in the text is clearly plural. It is more likely that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews is talking about Jewish ritual purity rites using the mikvah, since the writer (according to Lancaster) is a Jew writing to other Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua.

Lancaster presents some historical and archeological information regarding ancient immersion pools in the late Second Temple period to illustrate that it was extremely common for Jews to immerse on any number of occasions for the purpose of ritual purity, including participation in Temple sacrifices.

He also takes this opportunity to go on a small “rant” about how Christianity has fundamentally misunderstood the nature and character of baptism, and he ran through a litany of things that he believes the Church has gotten all wrong (he was talking too fast for me to take notes, so if you want to hear his reasons, you’ll have to listen to the recording). I don’t think Lancaster was trying to “diss” the Christian Church so much as he was being passionate about what he sees as the truth of the early history of Jesus-believing Judaism and how it’s been distorted by subsequent Gentile Christianity.

mikvahAs an aside, Lancaster has been lobbying to build a mikvah at Beth Immanuel for the last seven years (eight years as of this writing) but there hasn’t been much of a response. That reminded me of something I just read in Sue Fishkoff’s book The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch. Often, when a Chabad family moves into an area without an Orthodox Jewish presence, their first and overriding priority is to build a mikvah, particularly for the use of the Rabbitzin in relation to the laws of ritual family purity. The reaction from the local Jewish community to the Chabad’s fundraising efforts to build a mikvah (and they’re not cheap) is just as lukewarm. What does Lancaster and the Chabad know about the mikvah that the rest of us don’t, or is that a sad question to ask as connected to “elementary principles” of our faith?

So, what were these “instructions about immersions?” How to build a mikvah? The mechanics of how to baptize? At one point, Lancaster might have said “yes”, but then he realized how “dumb” an answer that was…a typical “Goy” answer.

Jews would have been already well acquainted with the rituals surrounding the mikvah, the occasions when one had to engage in ritual purity rites and so forth. This wasn’t a mystery. While Gentiles may have needed those sort of instructions, they would have been less than useless to the Jewish believers.

Lancaster shared his own revelation. When reading a commentary on this part of the Book of Hebrews, he learned that these instructions about immersions could be referred to as “Catechetical Instructions for Conducting the Baptismal Rite.”

When I was a pre-teen and into mid-teens, my parents regularly took me to a Lutheran church. Lutheran churches, like Catholic churches, put their young people into a two-year Confirmation class where we studied Catechism, which according to Wikipedia is “a summary or exposition of doctrine and served as a learning introduction to the Sacraments traditionally used in catechesis, or Christian religious teaching of children and adult converts.”

That’s what Lancaster thinks these “instructions about immersions” are. Not directions on how to immerse or baptize, but the very basic instructions a new believer had to know before being immersed in the name of the Messiah as a full disciple.

Lancaster than referenced the best known ancient “catechism” we have access to: the Didache.

Last fall, I read and wrote about First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) Toby Janicki’s article “The Didache: An Introduction” published in Messiah Journal. Since then, I purchased a copy of the Didache along with a commentary and wrote several blog posts on the topic which can be found here.

While Lancaster isn’t saying the Didache we have is the actual set of instructions being referred to in Hebrews 6:2, they may very well be related. It’s clear that the Didache was written for new Gentile “novices” in Yeshua-discipleship in order to prepare them to be immersed into Messiah by being initiated in the teachings of the Master. These instructions may have begun as oral instructions that accompanied the delivery of the Acts 15 “Jerusalem Letter” to the various Jesus-believing Gentile communities in the diaspora.

Didache CodexI should mention here that as Lancaster correctly states, the Didache’s initial discovery prompted accusations of forgery and fraud, since the document didn’t match the theology and doctrine of any Christian denomination and was seen as “too Jewish”. But today, most Christian scholars admit that the document most likely originated within one or two decades of the destruction of Herod’s Temple, written probably by Jewish disciples of Jesus for newly minted Gentile disciples. As I mentioned though, these written instructions could well have been preceded by an oral equivalent and could possibly have first come from the apostles themselves.

However, the Jewish disciples may have required a similar, parallel set of instructions to familiarize them with the teachings of Messiah and what it is to be a Jew preparing for a lifelong commitment to “take up their cross” and follow Moshiach, even unto death.

So look at it like this.

The newly initiated Jewish believers were first taught the very elementary principles of Yeshua-faith starting with repentance from dead works (sin) and then faith toward God as specific to Messianic devotion. Once they had mastered those first two principles, they were ready for the third, the basic instructions required for them to prepare to be immersed into the name of Messiah, which constitutes a vow of eternal fidelity.

Jewish people would immerse in the mikvah an untold number of times over the course of a lifetime, so immersing for ritualistic reasons was hardly novel. However, John specifically practiced an immersion of repentance (Matthew 4:17, Acts 19:4) and the Master commanded another specific immersion:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (emph. mine)

Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)

The immersion in the name of Messiah fits in perfectly with what the Church calls “the Great Commission” but put back into a Jewish context, the ritual immersion in Messiah’s name makes a great deal more sense.

Jewish ConversionFor Lancaster, and I agree with him, a serious time of preparation must have been thought necessary before formally becoming a disciple of the Master. This was probably quite similar to the proselyte ritual process Gentiles experienced when converting under other Jewish sects. Even today, a Gentile converting to Judaism, particularly Orthodox Judaism, undergoes a time of intense preparation and study under the supervision of a Rabbi, and must past several tests before becoming circumcised (for males) and immersing in the mikvah as the final rite in becoming a Jew.

It seems very reasonable to believe that in ancient Yeshua-faith, the Gentile “converts” were required to undergo a similar procedure, although I’m sure there were exceptions (Acts 8:25-40, Acts 10:44-48).

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?

Luke 14:17-28 (NASB)

What Did I Learn?

Actually, I felt there were things Lancaster only hinted at in his sermon. If he believes the Christian Church has gotten baptism all wrong, particularly as far as only being baptized once, what other applications might there be for immersion among the body of believers? I’m sure that Messianic Jewish disciples of the Master could and would immerse for the same reasons as other observant Jews, but what about the “Messianic Gentiles?” If we immerse in the name of Messiah once, on what other occasions should Gentiles enter the mikvah?

It had never occurred to me to apply Matthew 28:19-20 to Hebrews 6:2 but now it makes a great deal of sense to connect the two scriptures. I’m sure an entire study could be done applying what we think of as “baptism” in Christianity to ancient and modern concepts of immersion in the mikvah.

This also made me think of my own immersion. In August 1999, my entire family was immersed, under the auspices of a local Hebrew Roots congregational leader, in the Boise River. The following month, my life started to dramatically fall apart in such a spectacular manner that it would take years for me and my family to recover.

My interpretation is that God takes immersion into the name of Messiah quite seriously, even if the people being immersed don’t know what they’re doing (and I certainly didn’t). God delivered the consequences of my ill-conceived decision directly into my lap and it wasn’t pleasant at all. A lot of re-writing of my script had to be done and it’s not finished yet, not by a long shot. The finger of God is still writing on my heart and slowly converting it from a thing of stone to a heart of beating flesh and blood.

How many churches prepare their people with a dedicated set of instructions and tutelage before determining they are ready for this level of life-long commitment? I know in the church I attend there is some sort of formal preparation, but I fear for the sake of the children, some age nine and younger, who are deemed ready to understand what it is to count the cost, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus, even unto death. How could you be nine years old and possibly comprehend who you’re vowing to obey and what the consequences will be?

child baptismLancaster says he believes our churches are filled with “false converts,” people, like me, who consent to being baptized without any real idea of what that truly means. We have very few formal vows in Christianity left. The one you most likely think of is the wedding vow, but the staggering divorce rate in the Church indicates even that one is not well understood.

When we consent to being immersed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit of God, we had better know what we’re doing, and if we haven’t been prepared adequately for the commitment, then even though we are acting out of ignorance, God will hold us accountable.

Lancaster believes we should return to instructing new believers in the elemental principles of our faith which might include some familiarity with the Didache or something patterned after it. I think he’s right. People declare Christ as Lord and Savior and are baptized in his name far too casually in our day. I think thousands upon thousands of people in the Church are in a lot of trouble and don’t even realize it.

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34 thoughts on “Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Instructions About Washings”

  1. Baptism is not the same thing as the mikvah. The only thing in common between the two is water. When a convert converts to Judaism the mikvah is never utilized as a way of being given or receiving forgiveness of sins but rather it marks the converts intention to follow the Torah both written and oral a significant crossroads in the life of the convert in joining the Jewish people.

  2. This is just a review, and whether I agree or not with Lancaster’s take on what the “immersions” mentioned in Hebrews 6 means, if you have an opinion on how he interprets those verses relative to a mikvah, you should probably first listen to the audio of his sermon (about 40 minutes) and then contact him with your response.

  3. Does Lancaster discuss at all the notion of a continuing usage of the mikveh, beyond the initial immersion of repentance and identification with the Jewish Messiah? The summary of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (cif: Eph.4:5) doesn’t necessarily mean a single instance of immersion, but rather it could mean one interpretation of immersion (a specific kavanah) or one kind of immersion.

  4. He only seems to hint at it and I mentioned in my blog post that I wish he’d have expanded on that part of his message. I have to assume (though I’ve been wrong before) that he may not want to completely blow away his audience by going that far.

  5. “How many churches prepare their people with a dedicated set of instructions and tutelage before determining they are ready for this level of life-long commitment?

    Obviously I cannot speak for all denominations, but within the Southern Baptist church I grew up in, baptism is taught as an act of obedience and it is stressed that the water neither saves you nor “cleanses” you from your sin, which only God can do–rather it’s an outward sign of an inward decision. And it is definitely taught that the candidate must have first: 1. come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, (which means they realized they’re a sinner, repented from from their sin, and asked God to forgive them and for Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of their lives.) and 2. chose to be baptized. Therefore, the Pastor meets with the candidate to be sure all this is understood and they know what they’re committing to.

    … I fear for the sake of the children, some age nine and younger, who are deemed ready to understand what it is to count the cost, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus, even unto death. How could you be nine years old and possibly comprehend who you’re vowing to obey and what the consequences will be?

    I dunno James, I agree that it shouldn’t be done willy nilly, but for me, I felt dramatically drawn to God–as a toddler– in an unbelieving home. I begged for us to “be the kind of people who go to church” because I craved Him and wanted to learn His ways. It was a no go.

    I also remember when I was finally able to read (my mom said I was an early reader, so I was still quite young) and read John 3:16 sitting on the end of my bed begging God to believe me, accept me, help me to believe and trust in Him. The point is, I literally knew nothing else about Him, and my mother refused to allow me to get baptised while I lived under her roof.

    God has used that early conversion experience in my life as sort of a leash (I can’t get into the specifics) and He has never let me drift very far from Him even in the many years that I was ignorant of His ways and surrounded by non-believers who were antagonistic toward my faith in God. Due to my understanding of baptism from the SB culture, had I been baptized young, it wouldn’t have changed anything.

  6. I don’t know if Lancaster mentioned this in his sermon, but in the related chapter of his book Elementary Principles, he writes how he delayed becoming baptized as a teen, even though his father was an Evangelical Pastor, because he knew the seriousness of the act.

    While you may have been ready at an early age, I wonder how many of the kids I have watched being baptized really knew what they were doing and if the Pastoral staff comprehends the level of commitment a baptism represents. We sort of take it for granted that being saved is just a sort of mental acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior, but when you really dig into Lancaster’s sermon/chapter, there’s a lot more actually going on. It’s something that I think, like the gospel message itself, that organized Christianity has tended to truncate over time.

  7. “It’s something that I think, like the gospel message itself, that organized Christianity has tended to truncate over time.

    Well, I cannot argue with that and of course, since we’ve drifted so far from a Judaized Jesus and the early, fully Jewish movement that his disciples started, we have to do a lot of digging to discover things that would have been very basic for the first gentiles joining “the Way.”

  8. Lol, well, take it from a fairly fundamental evangelical, it is quite shocking. 🙂

    However, I will say that the panic many experience when they do find out is tragic, in my opinion, and leads them to way over correct, which creates a lot of spiritual spinouts.

    The Church has undeniably been a source of great beauty, courageous cultural reform, rescue for millions, and an essential aspect of making our world a far better place; it has gotten more right than it has gotten wrong.

    As controversial as it may be to say, neither Christianity nor Judaism are operating from a pure and “undefiled” (by human additions) place.
    i.e., Christianity is not holding to or practicing what Jesus and Peter (supposedly the first Pope) lived and taught any more than Judaism is holding to everything that Moses and the prophets lived and taught.

    My “take away” is that we must notice God’s sovereignty and amazing goodness as we read through the scriptures–allowing them to speak for themselves. He says that in spite of their unfaithfulness and great sin He is going to re-gather the descendants of Jacob, re-espouse them, and give them new hearts; He loves them dearly.

    Now, if He worked so closely with them, showing great signs, giving great blessings including the Torah, Prophets, and writings, and yet they were unable to maintain fidelity, how could we not make errors too?

    His promises to Israel give me great confidence that He is also merciful to the Church (of course this is not possible in a RT paradigm)

  9. James, I gave a copy of Lancaster’s book to a local pastor. He sent me a message saying he enjoyed it and wants to meet with me sometime soon to discuss it. If this subject of baptisms in the plural comes up I’m pretty sure of his interpretation. Since he is a Pentecostal pastor I feel like he will say this refers to water baptism and being “baptized in the Holy Spirit” which is one of the main doctrines of Pentecostalism. I probably need to go back and listen to Lancaster’s sermon to see if he refers to this. But I’m curious as to what you and your readers would think of that interpretation.

  10. Quoted above: “The translators of the English Standard Version, like many Bible scholars, recognized that the Greek word “baptismon” does not sound as if it’s talking about Christian baptism, because it appears in the plural form, whereas Christians are baptized only once.”
    __________________
    Scripture speaks of baptism in water AND baptism in the Holy Spirit.

    Even before the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist announced “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

    How important are BOTH of these different baptisms, especially the latter which refers to what JESUS does?

    A good indication is to consider how controversial both have become – how much ignorance and argument has arisen around them, as if someone (an enemy) wants the truth obscured.

  11. In one of his sermons (might not have been this one), Lancaster addresses the common Christian understanding of “baptisms” or “immersions” (plural) as water and Spirit and generally discounts them as a later Christian interpretation. He believes (if I understand him correctly) that a Jewish writer penning a sermon/letter to Jewish believers near the end of the second-temple period would have had a more traditional Jewish interpretation of immersions to mean the different occasions upon which a Jew would immerse in the mikvah for ritual purity.

    He did stress that the “instructions on immersions” was the teachings provided to novice disciples, the minimum knowledge required before taking the commitment of immersing in the name of the Messiah and taking a permanent vow to become a disciple of Moshiach, but he also seemed to say that there would be other reasons for a Jewish (and Gentile) believer to immerse. This would be especially relevant if the Temple was still standing and the Jewish disciples were required (as was anyone who wanted to participate in the Temple rituals) to undergo purification by mikvah immersion before entering the Temple with a sacrifice.

    The link to the recording of this sermon is near the top of the page. Rather than me trying to recreate Lancaster’s exact words, anyone with questions can listen to what he actually said.

  12. James said: “Lancaster addresses the common Christian understanding of “baptisms” or “immersions” (plural) as water and Spirit and generally discounts them as a later Christian interpretation. ”

    But what does SCRIPTURE say?

    Without speculation and “interpretation”.

    How does it relate to what is said in the rest of scripture ? Does the rest of scripture address baptismS (plural) as foundational aspects of the believer’s life?

    One suggestion would be to look at the response to Peter’s speech on the day of pentecost:

    “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
    Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

  13. No, the rest of scripture doesn’t address baptisms as plural, thus we have reason to believe this scripture isn’t addressing baptism as we commonly understand it.

  14. To pre-empt any objections to my previous comment, should anyone say Peter wasn’t referring to “baptism in the Spirit” in the quote I gave earlier – we see later that he associated the experience at Pentecost and what happened to Cornelius and his household WITH the promise that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

    “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

    And James for you to say: “No, the rest of scripture doesn’t address baptisms as plural, thus we have reason to believe this scripture isn’t addressing baptism as we commonly understand it.”; you are blatantly denying the very clear fact given in John the Baptist’s statement that there is a baptism in water and a baptism in the Spirit.

  15. And there would be other reasons for a Jewish (and possibly a Gentile) believer to immerse. Lancaster doesn’t say the “immersions” referenced in Hebrews 6 are “baptism” and immersions can encompass a wider body of ritual immersions.

    Tim, if you’re going to argue with me just because I wrote a review of a sermon, why don’t you take forty minutes of your time and at least listen to the sermon. Maybe I’ve got Lancaster all wrong. You can’t (reasonably) reject to material you haven’t heard. The link’s near the top of the page.

  16. James, I’m not arguiing with you, I argued against the statements attributed to Lancaster (that you later agreed with) that deny a plurality of baptisms.

    John the Baptist clearly didn’t agree with that view.

  17. I know you won’t agree with this, but this debate seems to be a classic example of taking a specific verse or two out of the Bible while ignoring the larger context of the whole Bible (the “Hebraic” vs. “Hellenistic” viewpoint) and what else the Bible has to say about immersions. It effectively deletes any prior (Old Testament) understanding of the functioning of immersions and replaces it with an Evangelical interpretation based on certain New Testament verses. It also ignores historical context relative to the Didache and the likelihood (the Didache was almost canonized) that it was an instruction book for new Gentile disciples used in the early days of “the Church.”

  18. I just listened to Lancaster’s 40-minute teaching that you linked, and it seems to me that he wrapped himself a little too tightly into justifying one particular type or purpose of immersion, which we might call a discipleship initiation immersion. While I think he was right to illuminate and focus attention on this one critical type that provides a corrective to common Christian views of baptism, it seems to me that this cannot be the sole interpretation of teaching about multiple or plural “immersions”. At the same time, the metaphorical uses of the notion of immersion as “baptism by fire” or “baptism in the spirit” were not ceremonial immersions of the sort that were (or should have been) so commonly understood by this Jewish readership. Immersion in the fire of HaShem’s spiritual motivation and empowerment is not an activity that one may plan for or control as a ceremony, whereas immersion in a mikveh for various (also spiritual) purposes is so; and it is so basic as to be described suitably as the milk of mere babes. Repentance, especially before subsequently bringing a corresponding “shlemah” offering to the Temple (or an even more serious ‘heta-ah) would be one additional purpose for immersion. Taharah before welcoming the Shabbat would be another. We also mustn’t neglect the monthly taharah of women, and the frequent occasional taharah of men after seminal emission. All of these would have been familiar and fundamental observances to the Torah-observant Jewish readership of the Hebrews sermonic letter. All of them also carry some implication for the ritual purity demanded for access to the earthly Temple; and how much more so for access to the heavenly one where Rav Yeshua is envisioned as serving in a Melchitzedekian capacity? I suspect there may have been some instructions pertaining to a messianic perspective on these immersions as well.

  19. Right you are, Steve, and it ranks up there right along with removing the impurity of seminal emission. The tumah that results from dealing with death is also an impediment to spiritual concentration, kavanah in prayer, and in general the attitudes and mood that are fitting for approach to HaShem the Author of Life. This is why one would be baptized/immersed “for” or “because of” the dead (i.e., friends or family members for whom one has an obligation to pay one’s last respects, and possibly to participate personally in the “kadishah” process of preparing the body for burial). After such experience, one really needs relief from this depressing exposure to tumah.

  20. PL, I don’t doubt that Lancaster’s perception of immersions as referenced in Hebrews 6 and elsewhere may not be perfect, but it does stimulate conversations such as this one, and brings to light further insights. I think the last several exchanges in this dialogue have established how Christianity has presented immersions in a far too narrow view, and that we need to take a look at how they are addressed in the entire Bible, as well as examine what we know from historical and archeological sources. That way, we can attempt to construct a more complete model of what immersions were like “back in the day” and thus how we should be immersing in the present age.

    I think this is the reason Lancaster has been lobbying for the building of a mikvah at Beth Immanuel for so long.

  21. Yes, there’s a lot to be learned from a practical demonstration that just doesn’t hit home in a theoretical presentation. Of course, the picture isn’t complete without the companion impact of the Temple and the effect of being able or unable to approach HaShem therein.

  22. “…The picture isn’t complete without the companion impact of the Temple and the effect of being able or unable to approach HaShem therein.”

    I have been very attracted to the concept of mitzvah spaces and am still interested in the idea of designing them. Yet, is “demonstration” sufficient reason?

    And is that how it’d be taken?

    Also, in current Judaism, it kinda seems like the special place to go indoors or secluded for this is so that it will work with the person being nude. I tried to share my mitzvah experience with someone, and she would really not listen after she asked if I’d had clothes on. Now. I hope were not going to try to claim this is what John (the “Baptist”) or the disciples of Jesus did. It’s all very beautiful, but different. [My setting, incidentally, was a body of water that had a flow to it, but not in Israel.]

  23. @Marleen — When I invoked the notion of “demonstration”, I was considering the reflexive impact on the individual as he or she entered into the mindset of mikveh along with its visceral experience. The experience serves to enhance the ability to apprehend the theory of it. I suspect Yohanan’s audience was likely entirely male, and first century Israeli views of nudity in such circumstances were not inhibited like modern Western views. Separate areas were reserved, however, for women to perform periodic mikveh, and this would likely apply also to any women who might have been moved by Yohanan’s message. Was your friend put off by the notion of nudity for mikveh? I’ve occasionally wondered what sort of design I would recommend constructing for privacy in an outdoor mikveh setting, such as a set of tarpaulin curtains to form privacy partitions, or even a floating tent; but since mikveh has primarily moved indoors during the rabbinic period, with separate times for men and women, the privacy and modesty issues are now pretty much resolved, and individuals may concentrate on the renewal mindset associated with mikveh.

  24. A different friend (who I met just a few years ago), one who grew up Catholic and converted to Judaism about the time she got married, said she was in this separate area for women when she was in the mikveh for completion of the process. Then, she suddenly heard these male voices responding to what she was saying. I highly doubt people thousands of years ago were less concerned about such things. I’d guess more.

  25. “…I felt there were things Lancaster only hinted at in his sermon.”

    I got that sense, too, when I listened to a series from FFOZ something like two years ago. It’s the only series from them I’ve listened to though [and don’t remember the name of the series right now]. My Messianic input (long before I ever heard of this particular group in the boonies [Boonville is in MO — I’m originally from MO — as is one of Daniel Boone’s homes] somewhere) has been from some old-timers. But some of the things I say are not what anyone taught me directly. I’m thankful many Messianic pioneers showed us how to read without historic Christian shackles.

  26. Said James — “However, John specifically practiced an immersion of repentance (Matthew 4:17, Acts 19:4) and the Master commanded another specific immersion:

    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (emph. mine)

    -Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)

    “The immersion in the name of Messiah fits in perfectly with what the Church calls “the Great Commission” but put back into a Jewish context, the ritual immersion in Messiah’s name makes a great deal more sense.

    “For Lancaster, and I agree with him, a serious time of preparation must have been thought necessary before formally becoming a disciple of the Master. This was probably quite similar to the proselyte ritual process Gentiles experienced when converting under other Jewish sects. Even today, a Gentile converting to Judaism, particularly Orthodox Judaism, undergoes a time of intense preparation and study under the supervision of a Rabbi, and must pas[s] several tests before becoming circumcised (for males) and immersing in the mikvah as the final rite in becoming a Jew.

    “It seems very reasonable to believe that in ancient Yeshua-faith, the Gentile “converts” were required to undergo a similar procedure, although I’m sure there were exceptions (Acts 8:25-40, Acts 10:44-48).

    “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?

    -Luke 14:17-28 (NASB)”

    The “specific immersion” commanded by “the Master” might have been something involving water or might have been referring to baptism of the Spirit (facilitated by recognition of the Son and, as always, the Father).

    I agree with PL that baptism of the Spirit is not a ceremony or “an activity that one may plan for or control as a ceremony” (while some believers seem to think it is and should happen with water baptism). Yet, said receiving of the Spirit (via Father and Son) would be the goal of making disciples. {And I’m not making any statement that I think that’s in disagreement with PL, only saying I do agree with what I said I did/do.}

    Meanwhile, it does make sense that the water baptism had a specifically Jewish context… was a matter of acceptance in community.

  27. I think there’s a baptism or immersion specifically into the name of the Messiah signifying that we formally declare ourselves as disciples of the Master, but I think Lancaster also sees the mikvah as having other applications within the Messianic community similar to what we see in Orthodox Judaism. That’s probably where he stopped short in his sermon and his book, since that’s a rather controversial thought for most people.

  28. @Marleen — If we look at Shimon Kefa’s experience as recorded in Acts, in order to infer any generalizable principles, we can note what he observed: that the metaphorical immersion of “baptism in (or by) the Spirit” happened spontaneously — after which he deemed it only fitting that these whose repentance HaShem had just recognized should complete their cleansing with water immersion. Presumably, this was deemed also to constitute a “discipleship initiation immersion” such as was described above. We may also clarify an aspect that Menashe Dovid raised early in this discussion, which is that “removal of sins” was actually only a secondary effect of mikveh. The underlying concept of mikveh is a transition from one state to another. It was to be viewed as transitioning from a state of tumah into a state of purity, or a state of metaphorical death into life. In the case of a convert into Judaism, it marks the creation of a new Jewish soul. In the case of a purified non-Jew, who is not to be circumcised for the sake of Jewish conversion, it must represent a dedication to pursue a path of life that remains clear of former idolatries and other sins. In any case, the transition from impurity to purity does represent a removal of the prior “sins” that cause one or another kind of tumah, though it does also remove tumah of the accidental or incidental kinds that were not caused by sin. It is a very useful technique, this mikveh process.

  29. Likely more controversial than many applications of water mikvah is any idea Messianic Jews could recognize Jewish souls, James. Nevertheless, I don’t think every Messianic is a Jewish soul.

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