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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


1. Terminology

2. Proselyte Baptism

3. Greek Usage

4. New Testament Usage

5. The Didache

6. Baptismal Regeneration




This article is not a discussion of the whole subject, but is merely a presentation of the Baptist interpretation of the ordinance. The origin and history of the ordinance, as a whole, do not come within the range of the present treatment.

I. Meaning of Baptism.

1. Terminology:

The verb used in the New Testament is (baptizo). The substantives baptisma and baptismos occur, though the latter is not used in the New Testament of the ordinance of baptism except by implication (Hebrews 6:2, "the teaching of baptisms") where the reference is to the distinction between the Christian ordinance and the Jewish ceremonial ablutions. Some documents have it also in Colossians 2:12 (compare Hebrews 9:10, "divers washings") for a reference purely to the Jewish purifications (compare the dispute about purifying in John 3:25). The verb baptizo appears in this sense in Luke 11:38 (margin) where the Pharisee marveled that Jesus "had not first bathed himself before breakfast" (noon-day meal). The Mosaic regulations required the bath of the whole body (Leviticus 15:16) for certain uncleannesses. Tertullian (de Baptismo, XV) says that the Jew required almost daily washing. Herodotus (ii.47) says that if an Egyptian "touches a swine in passing with his clothes, he goes to the river and dips himself (bapto) from it" (quoted by Broadus in Commentary on Matthew, 333). See also the Jewish scrupulosity illustrated in Sirach 34:25 and Judith 12:7 where baptizo occurs. The same thing appears in the correct text in Mark 7:4, "And when they come from the market-place, except they bathemselves, they eat not." Here baptizo is the true text. The use of rhantizo ("sprinkle") is due to the difficulty felt by copyists not familiar with Jewish customs. See also the omission of "couches" in the same verse. The couches were "pallets" and could easily be dipped into water. It is noteworthy that here rhantizo is used in contrast with baptizo, showing that baptizo did not mean sprinkle. The term baptismos occurs in Josephus (Ant., XVIII, v, 2) in connection with John's baptism (compare also Irenaeus 686 B about Christ's baptism). In general, however, baptisma is the substantive found for the ordinance. The verb baptizo is in reality a frequentative or intensive of bapto ("dip"). Examples occur where that idea is still appropriate, as in 2 Kings 5:14 (Septuagint) where Naaman is said to have "dipped himself seven times in the Jordan" (ebaptisato). The notion of repetition may occur also in Josephus (Ant., XV, iii, 3) in connection with the death of Aristobulus, brother of Mariamne, for Herod's friends "dipped him as he was swimming, and plunged him under water, in the dark of the evening." But in general the term baptizo, as is common with such forms in the late Greek, is simply equivalent to bapto (compare Luke 16:24) and means "dip," "immerse," just as rhantizo, like rhaino, means simply "sprinkle."

If baptizo never occurred in connection with a disputed ordinance, there would be no controversy on the meaning of the word. There are, indeed, figurative or metaphorical uses of the word as of other words, but the figurative is that of immersion, like our "immersed in cares," "plunged in grief," etc. It remains to consider whether the use of the word for a ceremony or ordinance has changed its significance in the New Testament as compared with ancient Greek

It may be remarked that no Baptist has written a lexicon of the Greek language, and yet the standard lexicons, like that of Liddell and Scott, uniformly give the meaning of baptizo as "dip," "immerse." They do not give "pour" or "sprinkle," nor has anyone ever adduced an instance where this verb means "pour" or "sprinkle." The presumption is therefore in favor of "dip" in the New Testament.

2. Proselyte Baptism:

Before we turn directly to the discussion of the ceremonial usage, a word is called for in regard to Jewish proselyte baptism. It is still a matter of dispute whether this initiatory rite was in existence at the time of John the Baptist or not. Schurer argues ably, if not conclusively, for the idea that this proselyte baptism was in use long before the first mention of it in the 2nd century. (Compare The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Div ii, II, 319; also Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus, appendix, xii, Baptism of Proselytes). It matters nothing at all to the Baptist contention what is true in this regard. It would not be strange if a bath was required for a Gentile who became a Jew, when the Jews themselves required such frequent ceremonial ablutions. But what was the Jewish initiatory rite called proselyte baptism? Lightfoot (Horae Hebraicae, Matthew 3:7) gives the law for the baptism of proselytes: "As soon as he grows whole of the wound of circumcision, they bring him to Baptism, and being placed in the water they again instruct him in some weightier and in some lighter commands of the Law. Which being heard, he plunges himself and comes up, and, behold, he is an Israelite in all things." To this quotation Marcus Dods (Presbyterian) HDB adds: "To use Pauline language, his old man is dead and buried in the water, and he rises from this cleansing grave a new man. The full significance of the rite would have been lost had immersion not been practiced." Lightfoot says further: "Every person baptized must dip his whole body, now stripped and made naked, at one dipping. And wheresoever in the Law washing of the body or garments is mentioned, it means nothing else than the washing of the whole body." Edersheim (op. cit.) says: "Women were attended by those of their own sex, the rabbis standing at the door outside." Jewish proselyte baptism, an initiatory ceremonial rite, harmonizes exactly with the current meaning of baptizo already seen. There was no peculiar "sacred" sense that changed "dip" to "sprinkle."

3. Greek Usage:

The Greek language has had a continuous history, and baptizo is used today in Greece for baptism. As is well known, not only in Greece, but all over Russia, wherever the Greek church prevails, immersion is the unbroken and universal practice. The Greeks may surely be credited with knowledge of the meaning of their own language. The substitution of pouring or sprinkling for immersion, as the Christian ordinance of baptism, was late and gradual and finally triumphed in the West because of the decree of the Council of Trent. But the Baptist position is that this substitution was unwarranted and subverts the real significance of the ordinance. The Greek church does practice trine immersion, one immersion for each person of the Trinity, an old practice (compare ter mergitamur, Tertullian ii.79 A), but not the Scriptural usage. A word will be needed later concerning the method by which pouring crept in beside immersion in the 2nd and later centuries. Before we turn directly to the New Testament use of bapti zo it is well to quote from the Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods by Professor E. A. Sophocles, himself a native Greek. He says (p. 297): "There is no evidence that Luke and Paul and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greeks." We expect therefore to find in the New Testament "dip," as the meaning of this word in the ceremonial sense of an initiatory Christian rite. Thayer's Lexicon likewise defines the word in this ceremonial Christian use to mean "an immersion in water, performed as a sign of the removal of sin."

Baptists could very well afford to rest the matter right here. There is no need to call for the testimony of a single Baptist scholar on this subject. The world of scholarship has rendered its decision with impartiality and force on the side of the Baptists in this matter. A few recent deliverances will suffice. Dr. Alfred Plummer (Church of England) in his new Commentary on Matthew (p. 28) says that the office of John the Baptist was "to bind them to a new life, symbolized by immersion in water." Swete (Church of England) in his Commentary on Mark (p. 7) speaks of "the added thought of immersion, which gives vividness to the scene." The early Greek ecclesiastical writers show that immersion was employed (compare Barnabas, XI, 11): "We go down into the water full of sins and filth, and we come up bearing fruit in the heart." For numerous ecclesiastical examples see Sophocles' Lexicon.

4. New Testament Usage:

But the New Testament itself makes the whole matter perfectly plain. The uniform meaning of "dip" for baptizo and the use of the river Jordan as the place for baptizing by John the Baptist makes inevitable the notion of immersion unless there is some direct contradictory testimony. It is a matter that should be lifted above verbal quibbling or any effort to disprove the obvious facts. The simple narrative in Matthew 3:6 is that "they were baptized of him in the river Jordan." In Mark 1:9, 10 the baptism is sharpened a bit in the use of eis and ek. Jesus "was baptized of John in (eis) the Jordan. And straightway coming up out of (ek) the water, he saw." So in Acts 8:38 we read: "They both went down into (eis) the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they came up out of (ek) the water, the Spirit. caught away Philip." If one could still be in doubt about the matter, Paul sets it at rest by the symbolism used in Romans 6:4, "We were buried therefore with him through bapti sm into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life." The submergence and emergence of immersion thus, according to Paul, symbolize the death and burial to sin on the one hand and the resurrection to the new life in Christ on the other. Sanday and Headlam (Church of England) put it thus in their Commentary on Romans (p. 153): "It expresses symbolically a series of acts corresponding to the redeeming acts of Christ. Immersion = Death. Submersion = Burial (the ratification of death). Emergence = Resurrection." In Colossians 2:12 Paul again says: "having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead." The same image is here presented. Lightfoot (Church of England) on Colossians (p. 182) says: "Baptism is the grave of the old man, and the birth of the new. As he sinks beneath the baptismal waters, the believer buries there all his corrupt affections and past sins; as he emerges thence, he rises regenerate, quickened to new hopes and new life."

There is nothing in the New Testament to offset this obvious and inevitable interpretation. There are some things which are brought up, but they vanish on examination. The use of "with" after baptize in the English translation is appealed to as disproving immersion. It is enough to reply that the Committee of the American Standard Revision, which had no Baptist member at the final revision, substituted "in" for "with." Thus: "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance" (Matthew 3:11; compare also Mark 1:8). The use of both "with" and "in" in Luke 3:16 is a needless stickling for the use of the Greek en with the locative case. In Mark 1:8 en is absent in the best manuscripts, and yet the American Revisers correctly render "in." In Acts 1:5 they seek to draw the distinction between the mere locative and en and the locative. As a matter of fact the locative case alone is amply sufficient in Greek without en for the notion of "in." Thus in John 21:8 the translation is: "But the other disciples came in the little boat." There is no en in the Greek, but "the boat" is simply in the locative case. If it be argued that we have the instrumental case (compare the instrumental case of en as in Revelation 6:8, "kill with sword"), the answer is that the way to use water as an instrument in dipping is to put the subject in the water, as the natural way to use the boat (John 21:8) as an instrument is to get into it. The presence or absence of en with baptizo is wholly immaterial. In either case "dip" is the meaning of the verb The objection that three thousand people could not have been immersed in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost is superficial. Jerusalem was abundantly supplied with pools. There were 120 disciples on hand, most of whom were probably men (compare the 70 sent out before by Jesus). It is not at all necessary to suppose that the 12 (Matthias was now one of them) apostles did all the baptizing. But even so, that would be only 250 apiece. I myself have baptized 42 candidates in a half-hour in a creek where there would be no delay. It would at most be only a matter of four or five hours for each of the twelve. Among the Telugus this record has been far exceeded. It is sometimes objected that Paul could not have immersed the jailer in the prison; but the answer is that Luke does not say so. Indeed Luke implies just the opposite: "And he took (took along in the Greek, para) them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized." He took Paul and Silas along with him and found a place for the baptism, probably, somewhere on the prison grounds. There is absolutely nothing in the New Testament to dispute the unvarying significance of baptizo.

5. The Didache:

Appeal has been made to the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which may belong to the first half of the 2nd century. Here for the first time pouring is distinctly admitted as an ordinance in place of immersion. Because of this remarkable passage it is argued by some that, though immersion was the normal and regular baptism, yet alongside of it, pouring was allowed, and that in reality it was a matter of indifference which was used even in the 1st century. But that is not the true interpretation of the facts in the case. The passage deserves to be quoted in full and is here given in the translation of Philip Schaff (Presbyterian) in his edition of the Didache (pp. 184): "Now concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first taught all these things, baptize ye into (eis) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, in living water. And if thou hast not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm (water). But if thou hast neither, pour water thrice upon the head in (eis) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." There is thus no doubt that early in the 2nd century some Christians felt that baptism was so important that, when the real baptism (immersion) could not be performed because of lack of water, pouring might be used in its place. This is absolutely all that can be deduced from this passage. It is to be noted that for pouring another word (ekcheo) is used, clearly showing that baptizo does not mean "to po ur." The very exception filed proves the Baptist contention concerning baptizo. Now in the New Testament baptizo is the word used for baptism. Ekcheo is never so used. Harnack in a letter to C. E. W. Dobbs, Madison, Ind. (published in The Independent for February 9, 1885), under date of January 16, 1885 says:

(1) Baptizein undoubtedly signifies immersion (eintauchen).

(2) No proof can be found that it signifies anything else in the New Testament and in the most ancient Christian literature. The suggestion regarding `a sacred sense' is out of the question.

This is the whole point of the Baptists admirably stated by Adolph Harnack. There is no thought of denying that pouring early in the 2nd century came to be used in place of immersion in certain extreme cases. The meaning of baptizo is not affected a particle by this fact. The question remains as to why this use of pouring in extreme cases grew up. The answer is that it was due to a mistaken and exaggerated estimate put upon the value of baptism as essential to salvation. Those who died without baptism were felt by some to be lost. Thus arose "clinic" baptisms.

6. Baptismal Regeneration:

(For the doctrine of baptismal regeneration see Justin Martyr, First Apology, 61.) Out of this perversion of the symbolism of baptism grew both pouring as an ordinance and infant baptism. If baptism is necessary to salvation or the means of regeneration, then the sick, the dying, infants, must be baptized, or at any rate something must be done for them if the real baptism (immersion) cannot be performed because of extreme illness or want of water. The Baptist contention is to protest against the perversion of the significance of baptism as the ruin of the symbol. Baptism, as taught in the New Testament, is the picture of death and burial to sin and resurrection to new life, a picture of what has already taken place in the heart, not the means by which spiritual change is wrought. It is a privilege and duty, not a necessity. It is a picture that is lost when something else is substituted in its place.


II. The Subjects of Baptism.

It is significant that even the Teaching of the Twelve apostles with its exaggerated notion of the importance of baptism does not allow baptism of infants. It says: "Having first taught all these things." Instruction precedes baptism. That is a distinct denial of infant baptism. The uniform practice in the New Testament is that baptism follows confession. The people "confessing their sins" were baptized by John (Matthew 3:6). It is frankly admitted by Paedobaptist scholars that the New Testament gives no warrant for infant baptism. Thus Jacobus (Congregationalist) in the Standard Bible Dictionary says: "We have no record in the New Testament of the baptism of infants." Scott (Presbyterian) in the 1-vol HDB says: "The New Testament contains no explicit reference to the baptism of infants or young children." Plummer (Church of England), HDB, says: "The recipients of Christian baptism were required to repent and believe." Marcus Dods (Presbyterian), DCG, says: "A rite wherein by immersion in water the participant symbolizes and signalizes his transition from an impure to a pure life, his death to a past he abandons, and his new birth to a future he desires." It would be hard to state the Baptist interpretation in better terms. Thus no room is found in the New Testament for infant baptism which would symbolize what the infant did not experience or would be understood to cause the regeneration in the child, a form of sacramentalism repugnant to the New Testament teaching as understood by Baptists. The dominant Baptist note is the soul's personal relation to God apart from ordinance, church or priest. The infant who dies unbaptized is saved without baptism. The baptized individual, child (for children are often baptized by Baptists, children who show signs of conversion) or man, is converted before his baptism. The baptism is the symbol of the change already wrought. So clear is this to the Baptist that he bears continual protest against that perversion of this beautiful ordinance by those who treat it as a means of salvation or who make it meaningless when performed before conversion. Baptism is a preacher of the spiritual life. The Baptist contention is for a regenerated church membership, placing the kingdom before the local church. Membership in the kingdom precedes membership in the church. The passages quoted from the New Testament in support of the notion of infant baptism are wholly irrelevant, as, for instance, in Acts 2:39 where there is no such idea as baptism of infants. So in 1 Corinthians 7:14, where note husband and wife. The point is that the marriage relation is sanctified and the children are legitimate, though husband or wife be heathen. The marriage relation is to be maintained. It is begging the question to assume the presence of infants in the various household baptisms in Acts. In the case of the family of Cornelius they all spake with tongues and magnified God (Acts 10:46). The jailer's household "rejoiced greatly" (Acts 16:34). We do not even know that Lydia was married. Her household may have been merely her employes in her business. The New Testament presents no exceptions in this matter.

III. The Present Obligation.

The Baptists make one more point concerning baptism. It is that, since Jesus himself submitted to it and enjoined it upon His disciples, the ordinance is of perpetual obligation. The arguments for the late ecclesiastical origin of Matthew 28:19 are not convincing. If it seem strange that Jesus should mention the three persons of the Trinity in connection with the command to baptize, one should remember that the Father and the Spirit were both manifested to Him at His baptism. It was not a mere ceremonial ablution like the Jewish rites. It was the public and formal avowal of fealty to God, and the names of the Trinity properly occur. The new heart is wrought by the Holy Spirit. Reconciliation with the Father is wrought on the basis of the work of the Son, who has manifested the Father's love in His life and death for sin. The fact that in the acts in the examples of baptism only the name of Jesus occurs does not show that this was the exact formula used. It may be a mere historical summary of the essential fact. The name of Jesus stood for the other two persons of the Trinity. On the other hand the command of Jesus may not have been regarded as a formula for baptism; while in no sense sacramental or redemptive, it is yet obligatory and of perpetual significance. It is not to be dropped as one of the Jewish excrescences on Christianity. The form itself is necessary to the significance of the rite. Hence, Baptists hold that immersion alone is to be practiced, since immersion alone was commanded by Jesus and practiced in the New Testament times. Immersion alone sets forth the death to sin, and burial in the grave the resurrection to new life in Christ. Baptism as taught in the New Testament is "a mould of doctrine," a preacher of the heart of the gospel. Baptists deny the right of disciples of Jesus to break that mould. The point of a symbol is the form in which it is cast. To change the form radically is to destroy the symbolism. Baptists insist on the maintenan ce of primitive New Testament baptism because it alone is baptism, it alone proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus, the spiritual death and resurrection of the believer, the ultimate resurrection of the believer from the grave. The disciple is not above his Lord, and has no right to destroy this rich and powerful picture for the sake of personal convenience, nor because he is willing to do something else which Jesus did not enjoin and which has no association with Him. The long years of perversion do not justify this wrong to the memory of Jesus, but all the more call upon modern disciples to follow the example of Jesus who himself fulfilled righteousness by going into the waters of the Jordan and receiving immersion at the hands of John the Baptist.


The Greek Lexicons, like Suicer, Liddell and Scott, Sophocles, Thayer, Preuschen; the Biblical Dictionaries; the Critical Commentaries on the New Testament; books of antiquities like Smith's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities; the new Sch-Herz; Binghara's Antiquities of the Christian Church; Schaff's Creeds of Christendom; Neale's History of the Holy Eastern Church; Lives of Christ, like Edersheim's LTJM, or a survey of the customs of the Jews like Schurer's HJP; books on John the Baptist like Reynolds' John the Baptist, Feather's Last of the Prophets, Robertson's John the Loyal; special treatises on Baptism like Wall's History of Infant Baptism, Stanley's Christian Institutions, Dargan's Ecclesiology, Conant's Baptizein, Mozley's Review of the Baptismal Controversy, Christian's Immersion, Broadus' Immersion, Frost's The Moral Dignity of Baptism, Whitsitt's a Question in Baptist History, Lofton's The Baptist Reformation, Lambert's The Sacraments of the New Testament, Dale's Classic Baptism and Christian and Patristic Baptism, Kirtley's Design of Baptism, Forester's The Baptist Position, Frost's Baptist Why and Why Not, Ford's Studies in Baptism.

A. T. Robertson



1. General Principles:

Is a generic term and may refer to any work of literature. Referred specifically to the sacred Scriptures, the science of interpretation is generally known as hermeneutics, while the practical application of the principles of this science is exegesis. In nearly all cases, interpretation has in mind the thoughts of another, and then, further, these thoughts expressed in another language than that of the interpreter. In this sense it is used in Biblical research. A person has interpreted the thoughts of another when he has in his own mind a correct reproduction or photograph of the thought as it was conceived in the mind of the original writer or speaker. It is accordingly a purely reproductive process, involving no originality of thought on the part of the interpreter. If the latter adds anything of his own it is eisegesis and not exegesis. The moment the Bible student has in his own mind what was in the mind of the author or authors of the Biblical books when these were written, he has interpreted the thought of the Scriptures.

The interpretation of any specimen of literature will depend on the character of the work under consideration. A piece of poetry and a chapter of history will not be interpreted according to the same principles or rules. Particular rules that are legitimate in the explanation of a work of fiction would be entirely out of place in dealing with a record of facts. Accordingly, the rules of the correct interpretation of the Scriptures will depend upon the character of these writings themselves, and the principles which an interpreter will employ in his interpretation of the Scriptures will be in harmony with his ideas of what the Scriptures are as to origin, character, history, etc. In the nature of the case the dogmatical stand of the interpreter will materially influence his hermeneutics and exegesis. In the legitimate sense of the term, every interpreter of the Bible is "prejudiced," i.e. is guided by certain principles which he holds antecedently to his work of interpretation. If the modern advanced critic is right in maintaining that the Biblical books do not differ in kind or character from the religious books of other ancient peoples, such as the Indians or the Persians, then the same principles that he applies in the case of the Rig Veda or the Zend Avesta he will employ also in his exposition of the Scriptures. If, on the other hand, the Bible is for him a unique collection of writings, Divinely inspired and a revelation from the source of all truth, the Bible student will hesitate long before accepting contradictions, errors, mistakes, etc., in the Scriptures.

2. Special Principles:

The Scriptures are a Divine and human product combined. That the holy men of God wrote as they were moved by the Spirit is the claim of the Scriptures themselves. Just where the line of demarcation is to be drawn between the human and the Divine factors in the production of the sacred Scriptures materially affects the principles of interpreting these writings (see INSPIRATION). That the human factor was sufficiently potent to shape the form of thought in the Scriptures is evident on all hands. Paul does not write as Peter does, nor John as James; the individuality of the writer of the different books appears not only in the style, choice of words, etc., but in the whole form of thought also. There are such things as a Pauline, a Johannine and a Petrine type of Christian thought, although there is only one body of Christian truth underlying all types. Insofar as the Bible is exactly like other books, it must be interpreted as we do other works of literature. The Scriptures are written in Hebrew and in Greek, and the principles of forms and of syntax that would apply to the explanation of other works written in these languages and under these circumstances must be applied to the Old Testament and New Testament also. Again, the Bible is written for men, and its thoughts are those of mankind and not of angels or creatures of a different or higher spiritual or intellectual character; and accordingly there is no specifically Biblical logic, or rhetoric, or grammar. The laws of thought and of the interpretation of thought in these matters pertain to the Bible as they do to other writings.

But in regard to the material contents of the Scriptures, matters are different and the principles of interpretation must be different. God is the author of the Scriptures which He has given through human agencies. Hence, the contents of the Scriptures, to a great extent, must be far above the ordinary concepts of the human mind. When John declares that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to redeem it, the interpreter does not do justice to the writer if he finds in the word "God" only the general philosophical conception of the Deity and not that God who is our Father through Christ; for it was the latter thought that was in the mind of the writer when he penned these words. Thus, too, it is a false interpretation to find in "Our Father" anything but this specifically Biblical conception of God, nor is it possible for anybody but a believing Christian to utter this prayer (Matthew 6:9) in the sense which Christ, who taught it to His disciples, intended.

Again, the example of Christ and His disciples in their treatment of the Old Testament teaches the principle that the ipse dixit of a Scriptural passage is to be interpreted as decisive as to its meaning. In the about 400 citations from the Old Testament found in the New Testament, there is not one in which the mere "It is written" is not regarded as settling its meaning. Whatever may be a Bible student's theory of inspiration, the teachings and the examples of interpretation found in the Scriptures are in perfect. harmony in this matter.

These latter facts, too, show that in the interpretation of the Scriptures principles must be applied that are not applicable in the explanation of other books. As God is the author of the Scriptures He may have had, and, as a matter of fact, in certain cases did have in mind more than the human agents through whom He spoke did themselves understand. The fact that, in the New Testament, persons like Aaron and David, institutions like the law, the sacrificial system, the priesthood and the like, are interpreted as typical of persons and things under the New Covenant shows that the true significance, e.g. of the Levitical system, can be found only when studied in the light of the New Testament fulfillment.

Again, the principle of parallelism, not for illustrative but for argumentative purposes, is a rule that can, in the nature of the case, be applied to the interpretation of the Scriptures alone and not elsewhere. As the Scriptures represent one body of truth, though in a kaleidoscopic variety of forms, a statement on a particular subject in one place can be accepted as in harmony with a statement on the same subject elsewhere. In short, in all of those characteristics in which the Scriptures are unlike other literary productions, the principles of interpretation of the Scriptures must also be unlike those employed in other cases.

3. Historical Data:

Owing chiefly to the dogmatical basis of hermeneutics as a science, there has been a great divergence of views in the history of the church as to the proper methods of interpretation. It is one of the characteristic and instructive features of the New Testament writers that they absolutely refrain from the allegorical method of interpretation current in those times, particularly in the writings of Philo. Not even Galatians 4:22, correctly understood, is an exception, since this, if an allegorical interpretation at all, is an argumentum ad hominem. The sober and grammatical method of interpretation in the New Testament writers stands out, too, in bold and creditable contrast to that of the early Christian exegetes, even of Origen. Only the Syrian fathers seemed to be an exception to the fantasies of the allegorical methods. The Middle Ages produced nothing new in this sphere; but the Reformation, with its formal principle that the Bible and the Bible alone is the rule of faith and life, made the correct grammatical interpretation of the Scriptures practically a matter of necessity. In modern times, not at all prolific in scientific discussions of hermeneutical principles and practices, the exegetical methods of different interpreters are chiefly controlled by their views as to the origin and character of the Scriptural books, particularly in regard to their inspiration.


Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, New York, 1884. Here the literature is fully given, as also in Weidner's Theological Encyclopedia, I, 266.

G. H. Schodde






1955. epilusis -- a release, an interpretation
... a release, an interpretation. Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: epilusis
Phonetic Spelling: (ep-il'-oo-sis) Short Definition: solution, explanation ...
// - 7k

2058. hermeneia -- interpretation
... interpretation. Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: hermeneia Phonetic
Spelling: (her-may-ni'-ah) Short Definition: translation, interpretation ...
// - 6k

1421. dusermeneutos -- hard of interpretation
... hard of interpretation. Part of Speech: Adjective Transliteration: dusermeneutos
Phonetic Spelling: (doos-er-mane'-yoo-tos) Short Definition: difficult to ...
// - 6k

Strong's Hebrew
6591. peshar -- interpretation
... 6590, 6591. peshar. 6592 . interpretation. Transliteration: peshar Phonetic
Spelling: (pesh-ar') Short Definition: interpretation. ...
/hebrew/6591.htm - 6k

6623. pithron -- interpretation
... 6622, 6623. pithron. 6624 . interpretation. Transliteration: pithron Phonetic
Spelling: (pith-rone') Short Definition: interpretation. ...
/hebrew/6623.htm - 6k

6592. pesher -- solution, interpretation
... 6591, 6592. pesher. 6593 . solution, interpretation. Transliteration: pesher
Phonetic Spelling: (pay'-sher) Short Definition: interpretation. ...
/hebrew/6592.htm - 6k

7667. sheber -- a breaking, fracture, crushing, breach, crash
... 3), collapse (1), crash (1), crashing (1), crushed (1), crushes (1), destruction
(17), disaster (2), fracture (3), injury (2), interpretation (1), ruin (3 ...
/hebrew/7667.htm - 6k

4426. melitsah -- satire, a mocking poem
... interpretation, taunting. From luwts; an aphorism; also a satire -- interpretation,
taunting. see HEBREW luwts. 4425, 4426. melitsah. 4427 . Strong's Numbers
/hebrew/4426.htm - 6k

6622. pathar -- to interpret
... interpreted. Word Origin a prim. root Definition to interpret NASB Word Usage
interpret (4), interpreted (5). interpretation,. A primitive ...
/hebrew/6622.htm - 6k

6590. peshar -- to interpret
... Word Origin (Aramaic) a prim. root Definition to interpret NASB Word Usage give
interpretations (1), interpretation (1). make interpretations, interpreting. ...
/hebrew/6590.htm - 6k


Inspiration and Interpretation
Inspiration and Interpretation. <. Inspiration and Interpretation John William
Burgon. Table of Contents. Title Page. TO THE REVEREND. PREFACE. ...
// and interpretation/

The Interpretation
... A MEMORABLE SENTENCE, THE INTERPRETATION. Of the Little Book, or, of the other System
of Apocalyptical Visions, according to the Rule of the Apocalyptical Key. ...
// key to the apocalypse/the interpretation.htm

The Interpretation of this Fact.
... Chapter Three The Fact of the Redeemer's Return 2. The Interpretation
of this Fact. This third great fact which is presented to ...
/.../pink/the redeemers return/2 the interpretation of this.htm

History of the Interpretation.
... HISTORY OF THE INTERPRETATION. 1. AMONG THE JEWS. This History, as to its essential
features, might, a priori, be sketched with tolerable certainty. ...
/.../hengstenberg/christology of the old testament/history of the interpretation.htm

Elements of Prophetic Interpretation.
fulfilled in accordance with the grammatical interpretation of its language. ...
/.../a brief commentary on the apocalypse/elements of prophetic interpretation.htm

On the Meanings and Interpretation of the Holy Scriptures
The legitimate and genuine sense of the holy Scriptures ...
/.../arminius/the works of james arminius vol 2/disputation ix on the meanings.htm

Interpretation of the Details in the Narrative. Application ...
... Book XI. 6. Interpretation of the Details in the Narrative. Application
Thereof to All Disciples. And then the disciples "having ...
/.../origens commentary on the gospel of matthew/6 interpretation of the details.htm

The Interpretation of the Articles.
... 81. The Interpretation of the Articles. ... The Arminian interpretation of the
Article under consideration is an anachronism and a failure. ...
/.../ 81 the interpretation of.htm

The Simpler Interpretation of the Promise About not Tasting of ...
... Book XII. 31. The Simpler Interpretation of the Promise About Not Tasting
of Death. "Verily I say unto you there be some of them ...
/.../31 the simpler interpretation of.htm

The Interpretation of the Early Narratives of the Old Testament
The necessary basis for intelligent interpretation]. ...
/.../xiv the interpretation of the.htm

ATS Bible Dictionary

Revealing the true meaning of supernatural dreams, Genesis 41:1-57 Daniel 2:4, unknown tongues, etc., 1 1 Corinthians 12:12,30 14:5,13.

For the right interpretation of the word of God, the chief requisites are, a renewed heart, supremely desirous to learn and do the will of God; the aid of the Holy Spirit, sought and gained; a firm conviction that the word of God should rule the erring season and heart of man; a diligent comparison of its different parts, for the light they throw upon each other; all reliable information as to the history and geography, the customs, laws, and languages, the public, domestic, and inner life of Bible times. Thus to study the Bible for one's self is the privilege and duty of every one.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
1. (n.) The act of interpreting; explanation of what is obscure; translation; version; construction; as, the interpretation of a foreign language, of a dream, or of an enigma.

2. (n.) The sense given by an interpreter; exposition or explanation given; meaning; as, commentators give various interpretations of the same passage of Scripture.

3. (n.) The power or explaining.

4. (n.) An artist's way of expressing his thought or embodying his conception of nature.

5. (n.) The act or process of applying general principles or formulae to the explanation of the results obtained in special cases.

Interpretation (45 Occurrences)
... 1. (n.) The act of interpreting; explanation of what is obscure; translation; version;
construction; as, the interpretation of a foreign language, of a dream ...
/i/interpretation.htm - 57k

Interpret (27 Occurrences)
... Daniel 2:4 Then spoke the Chaldeans to the king in the Syrian language, O king,
live forever: tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation...
/i/interpret.htm - 15k

Mene (2 Occurrences)
... As the only authority that we have for the reading is that of Daniel, it seems but
fair that the interpretation of the terms be left to the person who gave us ...
/m/mene.htm - 11k

Upharsin (1 Occurrence)
... As the only authority that we have for the reading is that of Daniel, it seems but
fair that the interpretation of the terms be left to the person who gave us ...
/u/upharsin.htm - 11k

Tekel (2 Occurrences)
... As the only authority that we have for the reading is that of Daniel, it seems but
fair that the interpretation of the terms be left to the person who gave us ...
/t/tekel.htm - 11k

Belteshaz'zar (8 Occurrences)
... hath answered and said to Daniel, whose name 'is' Belteshazzar, 'Art thou able to
cause me to know the dream that I have seen, and its interpretation?' (See RSV ...
/b/belteshaz'zar.htm - 9k

Belteshazzar (8 Occurrences)
... Daniel 2:26 The king answered Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Are you able
to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation? ...
/b/belteshazzar.htm - 10k

... 1. Chronology Uncertain: According to the ordinary interpretation of the genealogical
tables in Genesis 5 the lives of the antediluvians were prolonged to an ...
/a/antediluvians.htm - 11k

Inscription (18 Occurrences)
... The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whoever shall read this writing,
and show me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple, and have a ...
/i/inscription.htm - 12k

Magicians (16 Occurrences)
... in the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers; and I told
the dream before them; but they did not make known to me its interpretation. ...
/m/magicians.htm - 12k

Bible Concordance
Interpretation (45 Occurrences)

John 1:42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is by interpretation, Peter).

John 9:7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Acts 9:36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

Acts 13:8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn aside the proconsul from the faith.

1 Corinthians 12:10 and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages.

1 Corinthians 14:26 What is it then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up.

Hebrews 5:11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing.

Hebrews 7:2 to whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace;

2 Peter 1:20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation.

Genesis 40:5 They both dreamed a dream, each man his dream, in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were bound in the prison.

Genesis 40:12 Joseph said to him, "This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days.

Genesis 40:16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said to Joseph, "I also was in my dream, and behold, three baskets of white bread were on my head.

Genesis 40:18 Joseph answered, "This is its interpretation. The three baskets are three days.

Genesis 40:22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.
(See NIV)

Genesis 41:11 We dreamed a dream in one night, I and he. We dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.

Genesis 41:12 And there was with us there a young man, a Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret.

Judges 7:15 It was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and its interpretation, that he worshiped; and he returned into the camp of Israel, and said, "Arise; for Yahweh has delivered the army of Midian into your hand!"

Proverbs 1:6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

Ecclesiastes 8:1 Who is like the wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.

Daniel 2:4 Then spoke the Chaldeans to the king in the Syrian language, O king, live forever: tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.

Daniel 2:5 The king answered the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if you don't make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.

Daniel 2:6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honor: therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.

Daniel 2:7 They answered the second time and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.

Daniel 2:9 But if you don't make known to me the dream, there is but one law for you; for you have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, until the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.

Daniel 2:16 Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would appoint him a time, and he would show the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and said thus to him: Don't destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show to the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus to him, I have found a man of the children of the captivity of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:26 The king answered Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?

Daniel 2:30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but to the intent that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.

Daniel 2:36 This is the dream; and we will tell its interpretation before the king.

Daniel 2:45 Because you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what shall happen hereafter: and the dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.

Daniel 4:6 Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.

Daniel 4:7 Then came in the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers; and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known to me its interpretation.

Daniel 4:9 Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no secret troubles you, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation.

Daniel 4:18 This dream I, king Nebuchadnezzar, have seen; and you, Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.

Daniel 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was stricken mute for a while, and his thoughts troubled him. The king answered, Belteshazzar, don't let the dream, or the interpretation, trouble you. Belteshazzar answered, My lord, the dream be to those who hate you, and its interpretation to your adversaries.

Daniel 4:24 this is the interpretation, O king, and it is the decree of the Most High, which is come on my lord the king:

Daniel 5:7 The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whoever shall read this writing, and show me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Daniel 5:8 Then came in all the king's wise men; but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation.

Daniel 5:12 because an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of dark sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.

Daniel 5:15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known to me its interpretation; but they could not show the interpretation of the thing.

Daniel 5:16 But I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations, and dissolve doubts; now if you can read the writing, and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple, and have a chain of gold about your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered before the king, Let your gifts be to yourself, and give your rewards to another; nevertheless I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.

Daniel 5:26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God has numbered your kingdom, and brought it to an end;

Daniel 7:16 I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.



Interpretation of Foreign Tongues

Interpretation of Tongues

Related Terms

Interpret (27 Occurrences)

Mene (2 Occurrences)

Upharsin (1 Occurrence)

Tekel (2 Occurrences)

Belteshaz'zar (8 Occurrences)

Belteshazzar (8 Occurrences)


Inscription (18 Occurrences)

Magicians (16 Occurrences)

Explain (30 Occurrences)

Allegory (6 Occurrences)

Libertines (1 Occurrence)

Enchanters (9 Occurrences)

Preparation (28 Occurrences)

Conjurers (7 Occurrences)

Astrologers (9 Occurrences)

Habakkuk (3 Occurrences)

Azazel (3 Occurrences)

Parable (52 Occurrences)



Meaning (41 Occurrences)

Immanuel (3 Occurrences)

Nehushtan (1 Occurrence)

Fee (5 Occurrences)


Arioch (6 Occurrences)

Rewards (26 Occurrences)

Accommodation (1 Occurrence)

Gifts (144 Occurrences)

Dreamer (4 Occurrences)

Spiritual (42 Occurrences)

Songs (100 Occurrences)

Praetorian (2 Occurrences)

Figure (19 Occurrences)

Difficult (31 Occurrences)

Precious (128 Occurrences)


Stones (244 Occurrences)

Genealogy (29 Occurrences)

Dream (82 Occurrences)

Inasmuch (42 Occurrences)


Devils (48 Occurrences)

Demons (54 Occurrences)

Knots (2 Occurrences)

Necklace (9 Occurrences)

Witch (2 Occurrences)

Interpretations (2 Occurrences)

Translation (2 Occurrences)

Translated (15 Occurrences)

Rudiments (5 Occurrences)

Rainbow (6 Occurrences)

En-dor (3 Occurrences)

Eluzai (1 Occurrence)

Explanation (9 Occurrences)

Endor (3 Occurrences)

Dark (234 Occurrences)

Desolation (131 Occurrences)

Dreamed (20 Occurrences)

Diviners (14 Occurrences)

Doubts (15 Occurrences)


Problems (3 Occurrences)

Perplexed (16 Occurrences)

Keys (2 Occurrences)

Baskets (20 Occurrences)

Baker (11 Occurrences)

Astonied (12 Occurrences)

Ar'i-och (4 Occurrences)

Abiram (9 Occurrences)

Affright (10 Occurrences)

Sayings (134 Occurrences)

Solve (3 Occurrences)

Search (186 Occurrences)

Soothsayers (16 Occurrences)

Scriptures (25 Occurrences)

Sweat (3 Occurrences)

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