Mark 7:4

Mark 7:4

And when they come from the market
In Beza's most ancient copy, and in one of Stephens's, it is read as we supply, "when they come": wherefore this respects not things bought in the market, a sense favoured by all the Oriental versions, for many of them could not be washed; but the persons of the Scribes and Pharisees, who when they came from market, or from any court of judicature, immersed themselves all over in water, according to the true sense of the word (baptizw) , here used: for,

``if the Pharisees touched but the garments of the common people, they were defiled, all one as if they had touched a profluvious person, (hlybj Nkyruw) , "and needed immersion";''

and were obliged to it F21: hence, when they walked the streets, they walked on the sides of the way, that they might not be defiled by touching the common people F23:

wherefore, except they wash, they eat not,
or immerse themselves in water, as well as used, (Mydy tlybj) , "immersion of the hands", or washing of the hands by immersion; and which, if only intended, is sufficient to support the primary sense of the word, "baptizo":

and, many other things there be which they have received to hold;
by tradition from their elders;

as the washing of cups and pots, brazen, vessels, and of tables:
and here the word (baptismov) , "baptism", is rightly used in its proper and primary signification; for all these things were, according to the traditions of the elders, washed by immersion:

``in a laver, (they say F24) which holds forty seahs of water, which are not drawn, every defiled man dips himself, except a profluvious man; and in it (Nyamjh Mylkh lk) (ta Nylybjm) , "they dip all unclean vessels";''

"as cups, pots, and brazen vessels": very particularly brazen vessels are mentioned, because earthen ones that were unclean, were to be broken F25; which were all washed before eaten in, even on a sabbath day, and that by dipping F26:

``"dishes", in which they eat at evening, (i.e. of the sabbath,) they wash them, to eat in in the morning; in the morning they wash them, to eat in at noon; at noon they wash them, to eat in at the "minchah"; and from the "minchah", and forward, they do not wash again: but "cups", and "jugs", and "pots" they wash, and it goes through all the day; for there is no fixed time for drinking.''

All such vessels, whether had of a Gentile, or an Israelite, or even a wise man, were to be immersed before used F1.

``He that buys a vessel for the use of a feast, of Gentiles, whether molten vessels, or glass vessels--(Nlybjm) , "they dip them", in the waters of the laver; and after that they may eat and drink in them: and such as they use for cold things, as "cups", and "pots", and "jugs", they wash them, (Nlybjmw) , "and dip them", and they are free for use: and such as they use for hot things, as "cauldrons" and "kettles", ("brazen vessels",) they heat them with hot water, and scour them, (Nlybjmw) , "and immerse them", and they are fit to be used: and things which they use at the fire, as spits and gridirons, they heat them in the fire till the crust (the covering of rust, or dirt) falls off, (Nlybjmw) , "and dip them", and they may be lawfully made use of. This is the immersion with which they immerse vessels for a feast, bought of Gentiles; and after that they are free for eating and drinking; for the business of uncleanness and purification is only from the words of the Scribes--and none are obliged to this immersion, but molten vessels for a feast, bought of Gentiles; but if he borrows of Gentiles, or a Gentile leaves in pawn molten vessels, (made of cast brass, or iron,) he washes, or boils, or heats in the fire, but need not immerse them; and so if he buys vessels of wood, or vessels of stone, he washes, or boils them, but need not dip them; and so earthen vessels need not be immersed; but those that are covered with lead, are as molten vessels, (hlybj Nykyruw) , "and need immersion".''

And not only such that were bought of Gentiles, but even that were made by Jews, and scholars too, were to be immersed in water.

``Vessels, (they say F2,) that are finished in purity, even though a disciple of a wise man makes them, care is to be taken about them, lo! these ought to be immersed:''

and also "tables", at which they eat; and because their posture at them were lying, reclining, or leaning: hence the word (klinwn) , is used for them here: these were capable of defilement in a ceremonial sense, according to the traditions of the Jews: one of their rules is this F3;

``every vessel of wood, which is made for the use of vessels, and of men, as, (Nxlwvh) , a "table", a bed receive defilement.''

And there were several sorts of tables, which, by their laws, were unclean, or might be defiled by the touch of unclean persons, or things: so they say F4,

``a table, and sideboard, which are made less, or covered with marble, if there is a space left, in which cups may be set, they may be defiled. R. Judah says, if a space is left, in which may be put pieces, i.e. of bread or flesh: a table of which the first of its feet is taken away is clean; if the second is taken away it is clean; if the third is taken away it may be defiled.''

Again F5, every vessel of wood, that is divided into two parts, is, clean, excepting a double table, i.e. a table which consisted of various parts, and were folded together when it was removed: and these were washed by covering them in water; and very nice they were in washing them, that the water might reach every part, and that they might be covered all over; that there might be nothing which might separate between them and the water, and hinder its coming to them: as for instance, pitch being upon a table, whether within or without, divided between that and the water; and when this was the case, it was not rightly washed F6: but to washing tables by immersion, there is no objection; wherefore, to perplex this matter, and give further trouble, it is insisted on that the word should be rendered "beds"; and it must be owned that it is so rendered in the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions, (in the Arabic version the clause is omitted,) and in many modern translations: and we are contented it should be so rendered. And these beds design either the couches they lay, or leaned upon at meals; or the beds they slept in at nights: these were capable of being polluted, in a ceremonial sense; for of such pollution, and such washing, are we to understand these traditions: for those things regard not the bare washing of them when naturally unclean, when they ought to be washed; and it is the custom of all people to wash them when this is the case. A bed, and bedstead, are capable of such pollution as soon as they are shaved with a fish skin, or are completed without polishing F7; that is, as soon as they are finished; and there are several ways by which they are defiled. A bed is defiled, (tm amj) , "by one that is defiled with the dead" F8; that is, who has touched a dead body, and he sits upon the bed, or touches it, he defiles it. Again, a bed that is made to lie upon, is defiled, (ordm) , "by treading" F9; that is, it is defiled if a man, or a woman, that has a "gonorrhoea", or a menstruous woman, or one in childbirth, or a leper, should sit, stand; lie, hang, or lean upon it; yea, if any thing should touch it, which has been touched by any of these. Also, a bed which is not made for to lie upon, but to lay a dead body on, is defiled in the same way; and so are even the pillow and bolster F11. Now these were to be washed when they had received any defilement, and that by immersion. Their canons run thus:

``(hjm) , "a bed", that is wholly defiled, if (hlybjh) , "he dips" it, part by part, it is pure F12;''

again F13,

``(hjmh ta wb lybjh) , "if he dips the bed in it", (the pool of water,) although its feet are plunged into the thick clay (at the bottom of the pool), it is clean.''

If it should be insisted upon, that it ought to be shown and proved, that the very bolsters and pillows on which they lay and leaned, were washed in this way, we are able to do it:

``(ytokhw rkh) , "a pillow", or "a bolster" of skin, when a man lifts up the ends, or mouths of them, out of the water, the water which is within them will be drawn; what shall he do? (Nlybjm) , "he must dip them", and lift them up by their fringes F14.''

In short, it is a rule with the Jews, that

``wheresoever, in the law, washing of the flesh, or of clothes, is mentioned, it means nothing else than the dipping of the whole body in water--for if any man wash himself all over, except the top of his little finger, he is still in his uncleanness F15.''

So that the evangelist uses the words (baptizw) and (baptismov) , most properly, without departing from their primary and literal sense; nor could he have used words more appropriate and fit. Various rules, concerning these things, may be seen in the treatises "Celim" and "Mikvaot". Hence it appears, with what little show of reason, and to what a vain purpose this passage is so often appealed to, to lessen the sense of the word (baptizw) , "baptizo"; as if it did not signify to dip, but a sort of washing, short of dipping; though what that washing is, is not easy to say, since vessels and clothes are in common washed by putting them into water, and covering them with it: this passage therefore is of no service to those who plead for sprinkling, or pouring water in baptism, in opposition to immersion; nor of any disservice, but of real use to those who practise immersion, and must confirm them in it. Nor need they have recourse to a various reading, which one of the manuscripts in the Bodleian Library furnishes with, which is, unless they are sprinkled; which reading must be wrong, not only because, contrary to all other copies, but also to the usages of the Jews in the washing of themselves.


F21 Maimon. in Misn. Chagiga, c. 2. sect. 7.
F23 Ib. Hilch. Abot Tumaot, c. 13. sect. 8.
F24 Ib. Hilch. Mikvaot, c. 9. sect. 5.
F25 Maimon. Hilch. Mikvaot, c. 1. sect. 3.
F26 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 118. 1. Vid. Maimon. Hilch. Sabbat, c. 23. 7.
F1 Maimon. Hilch. Maacolot Asurot, c. 17. sect. 3, 5, 6.
F2 Maimon. Hilch. Abot Hatumaot, c. 12. sect. 6.
F3 Ib. Hilch. Celim, c. 4. sect. 1.
F4 Misn. Celim, c. 22. sect. 1, 2.
F5 Ib. c. 16. sect. 1.
F6 Misn. Mikvaot, c. 9. sect. 5. Maimon. Hilchot Mikvaot, c. 8. sect. 2.
F7 Misn. Celim, c. 16. sect. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Celim, c. 5. sect. 1.
F8 Maimon ib. c. 27. sect. 8.
F9 Misn. Celim, c. 18. sect. 5, 6. & c. 24. sect. 8. Maimon. ib. c. 27. sect. 7.
F11 Misn. Celim, c. 23. sect. 4.
F12 Maimon. Hilch. Celim. c. 26. sect. 14.
F13 Misn. Mikvaot, c. 7. sect. 7.
F14 Ib. sect. 6. & Celim, c. 16. 4.
F15 Maimon. Hilch. Mikvaot, c. 3. 2.