Mark 1:4: New World Translation

Criticism: "Baptism of repentance" changed to "baptism [in symbol] of repentance. " -Mark 1:4 New World Translation. Nothing in the original Greek text justifies the insertion of "in symbol." The revision undermines the significance of John the Baptist's ministry, the Jewish meaning of baptism and the Christian sacrament of baptism in contrast to the more regimented JW baptism requirements."

After quoting the New World Translation at Luke 3:3: "[John came]preaching baptism in symbol of repentance for forgiveness of sins" the encyclopedia Insight on the Scriptures goes on to quote from other translations such as:

The New Testament in the Langauge of the People(Charles B. Williams,1937)

"baptism conditioned on repentance"

The Holy Bible: A Translation From the Latin Vulgate in the Light of the Hebrew and Greek Originals(R.Knox, 1955)

"baptism whereby men repented, to have their sins forgiven"

The New English Bible(1961, 1970)

"baptism in token of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (see also the Revised English Bible, 1989)

Todays English Version(1976)

"Turn away from your sins and be baptised, and God will forgive your sins."

and then remarks: "These rendering make plain that the baptism did not wash away their sins, but the *repentance and changing of their ways did*, and of this, baptism was a symbol."(Vol.1, WTB&TS 1988 p.249. asterisks and italic ours) The following works will support this:

The Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words in discussing the word BAPTIW/BAPTIZW in regard to John's baptism states that is was in the first instance "an expression of repentance."(Volume 1, p.537)

The NIV Theological Dictionary of NT Words under BAPTIZW and in reference to John's baptism remarks

"The baptism of John. John's baptism, which was a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins"(Mark 1:4), had two focal points: It marked the "turn"(repentance)of a Jew to God, associating a person with the penitent people and assuring that person of forgiveness and cleansing...Isa. 4:2-5 and Mal. 3:1-6 suggest that this messianic baptism was a symbol of a universal judgement that would refine God's people..."-p.203.

Norval Geldenhuys writes:

"[Luke 3:3]...Luke gives a particularly brief summary of John's work in the words: "he preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." This means that he called the people to repentance and then baptized those who confessed their sins and gave indications that they desired to lead a different and better life, in the assurance that God grants pardon to those who sincerely repent. So the baptism is the outward sign and seal that God has forgiven their sins. John himself could not impart this forgiveness; God alone can give it, and only to true penitents. The baptism is merely the outward symbol of the washing away of sin through forgiveness." -Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, p.136,137.(The English Text with Introduction Exposition and Notes, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, 1977 edition)

The scholarly work A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome Biblical Institute Press, 1981, Unabridged, Revised Edition in One Volume, Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor)says:

"[Mark 1:4] baptisma m[etanoias][lit; baptism of-repentence] i.e. a baptism which *symbolized* or expressed repentance." (asterisks ours)

In agreement with this A Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament states:

"[Matthew 3:6]EBAPTIZONTO imp[erfect] pass[ive] BAPTIZW to baptize, originally to dip under. ....Baptism symbolizes the putting off of the old life and the identification with the new life.."- Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers,© 1976, 1980 by The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan. (italics ours)

The Translator's New Testament(1973) says in it's 'Glossary' under the words 'Baptism, baptize, Baptizer':

"But generally in the NT the word is used as a religous term, describing a symbolic act. As practiced by John the Baptist it was a rite of repentance. After the death of Jesus, it became the Christian sacrament of initiation. The form in which baptism was practiced derived symbolic meaning from the original associations of the word but in the NT it is the symbolic meaning itself which lends it new and unique character."-p.555 (italics ours)

The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version (Editor Robert J. Miller, 1994) translates Mark 1:4:

"So John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness calling for baptism *and* a change of heart *that lead to* forgiveness of sins." (italics and asterisks ours)

William Barclay's translation reads:

"..John the Baptizer emerged in the wilderness announcing a baptism, which was a sign of the repentance which leads to forgiveness of sins."(The New Testament, A Translation by William Barclay, 1969. (italics ours)

Finally, A Theological Word Book of the Bible says:

"Baptize, Baptism.....In NT, John is called 'the Baptizer'(Mark 1:4, 6, 14, 24)...Crowds 'were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins'(Mark 1:5). He preached 'the baptism of repentance'(Mark 1:4). 'The baptism of John'(Mark 11:30)was well known enough to be discussed between Jesus and the Pharisees. John's b[aptism] therefore is presented as a washing in Jordan, symbolic of, and accompanied by, repentance. ...It was a prophetic, symbolic act,..."-SCM Press, 19th impression, 1988, p.27. Edited by Alan Richardson. (italics ours)

Clearly then, all the foregoing not only supports the New World Translation at Mark 1:4 and comparative places, but it also shows that the above quoted criticism of the NWT/Jehovah's Witnesses(found on the www)at/on Mark 1:4 is in no way well founded, and, in fact, is in itself warranted in being criticised for misleading some who may believe it when it says that there is nothing in the original Greek text that justifies the 'insertion' of "in symbol." The above proves otherwise!

Perhaps then those who have published the above criticism of the New World Translation here at Mark 1:4 ought to acquire some basic learning in NT Greek? As the book Learn New Testament Greek by John H. Dobson points out in his course for beginners:

"In Mark 1.4, we should not translate [BAPTISMA METANOIAS] as "a baptism of repentance" (AV, RSV, NJB, NIV) since repentance is not something that can be baptised. We need a translation more like "a baptism in token of repentance"(NEB) or "baptism for those who repented."-©John Dobson, British & Foreign Bible Society, 1992 Revised editon, Lesson 39, "the genitive case," p.197. italics ours.

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