Mar 2, 2009

Baptism the Antitupon

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure (Greek 'antitupon') whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." (I Peter 3: 18-22 KJV)

How does baptism "save" the Christian? How does Christian baptism relate to Noah's baptism? How do Noah's baptism and Christian baptism relate to Christ's baptism into sufferings, to his death, burial, and resurrection, and to salvation? What is meant by water baptism being called an "antitupon"? Does it mean "antitype" or rather a "corresponding type" or "like figure"?

When there are various and sundry types or figures of a certain thing, they are called "like types," or "corresponding figures," or "similar symbols" because they each depict or otherwise represent the same thing.

Thus, we may say of several biblical baptisms that they are types; so, the baptism of Noah and his family, and of the Israelites when "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (I Corinthians 10: 2), and other typical Old Testament baptisms (Hebrews 6: 2; 9: 10), may be called similar types, in that they each point to salvation through the work of Christ. It would be incorrect to say of any one of these typical baptisms that they were intended to represent each other rather than each representing the one thing they all point towards.

It is argued by Campbellites and other believers in baptismal remission or regeneration, that Noah's baptism in the flood waters was intended by God to become a figure of Christian baptism. By this interpretation Noah's baptism becomes the type and Christian baptism the antitype. But, this is a grievous error and one that is easily disproved, at least to the honest intelligent mind.

It is quite a different thing to say that these various Old Testament baptisms are like each other versus saying they are symbols of each other. Certainly the baptisms of Noah and the Israelites are like Christian baptism, but it is denied that they were intended to be types of Christian baptism, thus making Christian baptism the "antitype" of those baptisms, rather than the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and of salvation.

The Greek word "antitupon," according to W. E. Vine, in his "New Testament Words," as used in I Peter 3: 21, is "an adjective, used as a noun," and denotes, in the NT, "a corresponding type," being "said of baptism." "The circumstances of the flood, the ark and its occupants, formed a type, and baptism forms "a corresponding type" (not an antitype), each setting forth the spiritual realities of the death, burial, and resurrection of believers in their identification with Christ. It is not a case of type and antitype, but of two types, that in Genesis, the type, and baptism, the corresponding type."

This is exactly correct, both from the Greek and the syntax, but also from the only other place where the same word is used, in Hebrews 9: 24.

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures (antitupa) of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." (Hebrews 9: 24 KJV)

Notice how the Greek word "antitupa" (plural form) are the figures or types, not antitypes. If the heavenly temple is the antitype (the thing to which the type points), then the earthly temples can only be types of it. Heaven is the "true," that is, the heavenly temple is the antitype, the real thing, not merely a symbol of it.

If "antitupon" or "antitupa" meant "antitype," then we would have a tautology which says "which are antitypes of the antitype," or "which are true of the true" or "real of the real." Obviously the Greek word "antitupa" is set in opposition to the word "true." Thus, since "true" and "antitype" are synonyms, antitupon cannot mean "antitype."

Here is a tabernacle or earthly temple. It is a copy or figure of the heavenly tabernacle, the "true," "real," or "antitypical" tabernacle. Here is another tabernacle over here that is also a picture or symbol of the heavenly tabernacle. What can we say of both of these earthly tabernacles? Why, simply, that they are "like figures," or "antitupa," but not "antitypes."

When Peter says "the like figure," or "the antitupon," he is referring to Christian baptism, not directly to Noah's baptism! He is not saying that Noah's baptism is, by itself alone, a "tupon," but is saying specifically that Christian baptism also is a "tupon," and thus is an "antitupon," and also by implication, that Noah's baptism also is a figure. Peter is saying that Christian baptism has something in common with Noah's baptism. What is that common feature? They are both types of the same thing! They are both types of salvation through Christ's death and resurrection.

Noah was saved by the ark "through (via) water." Water was not the means of their salvation, but the ark. The ark is what both delivered and preserved them, the two aspects of "salvation." Their "salvation" was typical of the salvation promised to the Christian. It pictured it. So also does Christian baptism picture salvation and reveal, symbolically, the gospel.

Baptism saves the Christian in a "figure" just as the Lord's Supper saves him also in a figure.

What does Peter mean when he says of Christian baptism that it

1) does not remove the filth of the flesh?
2) is the answer of a good conscience towards God?

That will be addressed in a future posting.

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