As I teach a short series on the sacraments at church, I recently happened across a fascinating historigraphical statement by Francis Turretin about the way in which certain theologians have calculated the numerous types of baptisms in the pages of Scripture. Setting out the various views, Turretin ultimately listed eight events or experiences that may properly be considered to be baptisms. He wrote:
“The ancients enumerate various kinds of baptism: some three, others six (as John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4.9* [NPNF2, 9:78–79; PG 94.1123]). The first is of “the universal flood” destroying sinners, which Peter says was a figure of baptism (1 Pet. 3:21). Tertullian calls it “the baptism of the world” (On Baptism 8 [ANF 3:673; PL 1.1317]). The second is “the baptism by the sea and the cloud” referred to in 1 Cor. 10:1, 2, when Moses passed through the Red Sea, where the sea was the type of the water of baptism and the pillar of the cloud (which shone before them in the night) of the Holy Spirit (Cyprian, Letter 75, “To Magnus” [ANF 5:402] and Chrysostom, Homily 23, Homilies on First Corinthians [NPNF1, 12:133]). The third is “the legal baptism” by which the unclean washed themselves and their garments according to the Mosaic Law. The fourth is “the baptism of John,” introducing (eisagōgikon) the baptized to repentance alone and not as yet wholly spiritual (oupō de holon pneumatikon). The fifth, the wholly spiritual baptism (holon pneumatikon) of our Lord Jesus Christ, either by which he (not needing baptism) was himself baptized for our sake by John or by which he baptizes us with water and with the Spirit. The sixth, the really painful (ontōs epiponon) baptism of “penitence and of tears.” The seventh, “of blood and of martyrdom.” The eighth, the not saving, but deadly baptism of eternal punishments, by which sinners are plunged into the glowing fires of the Tartarean flood to eternal destruction.
This is one of the richest biblical-theological observations on baptism I’ve come across. It does, of course, need some unpacking. I seek to do that in a recent talk on the biblical theology of baptism in the theology of the sacraments series.
1. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 3 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997), 379–380.