Friday, October 23, 2020

History of the Interpretation of Acts 19:4-5

I have engaged in some recent discussions of John’s baptism and Christian baptism (as in, whether the same or different). There are several ideas about the baptisms in Acts 19:1-7.

4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Several years ago, I read in John Gill’s (1697-1771; Particular Baptist) commentary concerning Acts 19:4-5. He introduced this idea, that those referred to being baptized in verse 5 are not the 12 in Ephesus, but the people who heard John. In other words, no “rebaptism” occurred in Acts 19:1-7. I considered this novel idea unique to Gill – I had never heard it before. I simply dismissed as odd. Recently I have noticed a few others who made this claim. First is the quote from the commentary of Gill.
Verse 4
Then said Paul,.... In reply to their answer, understanding them that they were baptized by John, he takes it up, and gives an account of John’s baptism: showing how agreeable it was, and that it was the same baptism with the baptism of Christ, being administered in his name:

John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance; which required repentance antecedent to it, and was a fruit and effect, and so an evidence of it:

saying unto the people; the people of the Jews, the common people, the multitude that attended on his ministry:

that they should believe on him, which should come after him, that is, on Jesus Christ; so that he preached faith in Christ, as well as repentance towards God; and made the one as well as the other a necessary prerequisite unto baptism; which shows, that his baptism and Christian baptism are the same.

Verse 5
When they heard this,.... That is, the people to whom John preached, his hearers; when they heard of the Messiah, and that Jesus was he, and that it became them to believe in him:

they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus; not the disciples that Paul found at Ephesus, but the hearers of John; for these are the words of the Apostle Paul, giving an account of John’s baptism, and of the success of his ministry, showing, that his baptism was administered in the name of the Lord Jesus; and not the words of Luke the Evangelist, recording what followed upon his account of John’s baptism; for then he would have made mention of the apostle’s name, as he does in the next verse; and have said, when they heard this account, they were baptized by Paul in the name of the Lord Jesus: the historian reports two things, first what Paul said, which lies in Acts 19:4 then what he did, Acts 19:6 where he repeats his name, as was necessary; as that he laid his hands upon them, which was all that was needful to their receiving the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, having been already baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus: which sense is the more confirmed by the particles μεν and δε, which answer to one another in verses 4 and 5, and show the words to be a continuation of the apostle’s speech, and not the words of the historian, which begin in the next verse. Beza’s ancient copy adds, “for the remission of sins”.
My curiosity became whether there is any history of this interpretation or if this is just someone’s odd claim that a couple of other people followed. I have found the following comments, which you may find interesting.

Horatio Balch Hackett (1808-1875; American Baptist clergyman)
Hackett claims that “older writers” maintained “that Luke records these words as a continuation of Paul’s remarks” in order to “rescue the passage from those who appealed to it, in order to justify rebaptism.” He concluded that, “No one, at present, contends for that interpretation.” (A Commentary on the Original Text of the Acts of the Apostles, H. B. Hackett, Boston, MA: John P. Jewett & Co., 1852, p. 266)
Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711; Dutch Second Reformation):
This misunderstanding is a result of separating the words of verse 4 from those in verse 5, and by acknowledging the words of verse 4 to be the words of Paul, but deeming the words in verse 5 to be those of Luke, the writer of this history—as if he were recounting what followed upon the instruction of Paul. This, however, would have to be proven. These words integrate very well when one conjoins verses 4 and 5, and considers them to be the words of the apostle Paul. He instructed the disciples in verse 4 about the manner in which John baptized and taught, and thereupon declared that all who heard it were obedient and believed John’s preaching, were baptized by him.
Francis Turretin (1623-1687; Reformed):
Acts 19:4-5 does not prove that the Ephesian disciples, who had John’s baptism, were rebaptized by Paul. For the words “when they heard they were baptized” (akousantes de ebaptisthēsan, v. 5) are not the words of Luke narrating what followed Paul’s discourse to them, but rather a confirmation of the Pauline oration to those Ephesians, by which he teaches that those who had received baptism from John, had been baptized in the name of Christ and so had no need of a new baptism.
William Attersoll (English clergyman, died 1640)
For first of all. the words in verse 5, And they which heard it were baptized: are not the words of Luke the writer, but of Paul the speaker, continuing his speach of John’s disciples and hearers, and are not to be understood of the twelve, as appeareth by the two Greek conjunctions, which are used by the makers of that tongue to join and to disjoin, having relation one to the other, and knitting together the parts of the sentence answering fitly each to other, as may be seen in many places, wherefore, Luke speaks not here of Paul’s baptism, but Paul speaks of John’s baptism. He sets down the office of John verse 3, then the prose cuts both the parts of it, mentioning his preaching verse 4. and his baptizing verse 5. Again, these twelve abiding at Ephesus dwelling far from the land of Judæa where John preached and baptized were living about 30. or 40, years after the death of John, could not hear his doctrine from his own mouth, or receive baptism at his hands. Now, whereas they are said to be baptized to John’s baptism, the meaning is, they embraced & professed the same doctrine which John preached by word, and sealed with his baptism.
Joannes Drusius, (1550-1616, Flemish Protestant clergyman, Quaestiones Ebraicae, lib. i. q. 8, 3., 1599)
Du Veil refers to Drusius observing on verse 5 “that this verse is taken, as if they were Luke’s words, which they are not. ‘The apostle Paul,’ saith he, ‘speaks of John’s baptism, which he proved to be the same with Christ’s baptism, partly by his doings, partly by his sayings, as being one that preached Christ to come, and baptized such as believed in him: and this is it which be saith, they were baptized in the name of Jesus; such as, to wit, while John preached, embraced the faith of Christ, of which number those disciples were; but because those believers had not as yet received the gifts of the Holy Ghost, therefore the apostle asks them, by who baptism they were initiated, and when he knew the matter, laid his hands upon them, and immediately the Spirit coming down upon them they began to speak with tongues and to prophecy, even as Luke mentions in the context of this history.” (A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, C. M. Du Veil, London: J. Haddon, 1851, p. 406; Charles-Marie Du Veil, ca. 1630-ca. 1690, was a 17th century Jew who converted to Catholicism, then later became a Baptist)
John Calvin (1509-1564; French Protestant Reformer)
Other some deny that baptism was repeated; because they were baptized amiss by some foolish enemy of John. But because their conjecture hath no color; yea, the words of Paul do rather import that they were the true and natural disciples of John, and Luke doth honorably call them disciples of Christ; I do not subscribe to this opinion, and yet deny that the baptism of water was repeated, because the words of Luke import no other thing, save only that they were baptized with the Spirit. (John Calvin’s commentary on Acts)
Arator (6th century Christian poet)
Hillier indicates Arator saw a “rebaptism” here when he discusses that the incident has not relevance to the church’s teaching on rebaptism because these were two baptism of a different nature. (Arator on the Acts of the Apostles: A Baptismal Commentary, Richard Hillier, Oxford: Clarendon press, 1993, p 26).
Cassiodorus (circa AD 490-ca. 583) in Complexiones
(Acts 19:1) And it came to pass, while Apollo was at Corinth, that Paul having passed through the upper coasts, came, etc. While Apollo was at Corinth, it came to pass that Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus, where, having found certain disciples, he asked if they had received the grace of the Holy Ghost when they were baptized. They declared that they were entirely ignorant of that name, but had been consecrated in John’s baptism. Paul baptized them while invoking the Trinity, and the Holy Ghost came upon them, making them able to prophesize in various tongues. Paul, staying there for three months, preached about the Lord Christ in his customary manner.
John Chrysostom (circa AD 347-407)
I am not sure I understand what Chrysostom is talking about much of the time, but it seems clear that he believes Paul baptized the 12 at Ephesus. (Homily 40 on the Acts of the Apostles)
Others any of you know about?

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