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Hebrews 6:1-3

Posted by Matt Postiff January 5, 2011 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Dispensationalism  Bible Texts 

I just got a copy of David L. Allen's Hebrews commentary in NAC. I was interested in his take on Hebrews 6:1-3 since that is where I am preaching on Sunday. What caught my interest was his interpretation of the plural "baptisms" at verse 2.

NAC Hebrews volume

Allen lists the following interpretations of the "baptisms" on pages 341-343:

  1. Jewish ritual ablutions.
  2. Differences between Jewish and Christian baptism.
  3. Multiple events of people being baptized.
  4. Purification ceremonies of a Jewish sort that probably would have been employed by Jewish Christians as well.
  5. Teaching about the difference between Christian baptism and ritual washings.
  6. Baptism of blood, that is, martyrdom.

Allen notes that in the early church, the fathers interpreted the passage as a reference to Christian baptism. In the modern era, commentators broaden the reference to Christian baptism and other washings.

I have interpreted the passage in a way different than all the options Allen lists. It seems to me most natural to interpret the plural baptisms to refer to the two important Christian baptisms given attention in the New Testament: water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism.

The normal emphasis in Christian teaching today is placed on water baptism. But the NT gave Spirit baptism at least as high of a place, if not higher. Note its important placement in texts such as Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16, 1 Corinthians 12:13, and Galatians 3:27. Both baptisms, their meaning, and the distinction between them, would have been taught by the apostles to their converts. I could see the teaching also including the contrast with the baptism of John or other ritual Jewish baptisms, but primarily the two key Christian baptisms are in view.

Maybe I'm just weird to hold an interpretation that is not too common. I am a dispensationalist, so that might explain most of the weirdness!

Full disclosure: I have not read the whole commentary and cannot render an opinion on it.

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