Why do paintings done centuries ago show Jesus baptized by water being poured over the head?

I have heard from fundamentalist Christians that baptism only by full immersion is valid because that is the way Jesus was baptized. If this is true, then why do most historic paintings show that he is standing in the river with water being poured over His head?











Only modern paintings show Jesus being immersed.

Paintings done centuries ago show that the common belief centuries ago was that Jesus was baptized by having water poured over his head. This is consistent with what is in the Bible. The Bible says that Jesus came up out of the water. If he was standing in the water and stepped onto the banks, he "came up out of the water."


Paintings reflect the beliefs of the people.

Update 2:

Mimjoy, you should talk to some fundamentalist Christians if you think it does not matter how baptisms are done. To them, if it is not done by immersion, it is not valid

10 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    In the Didache. Early writings of the Apostles before the Bible

    Didache 7:1

    But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living (running) water.

    Didache 7:2

    But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water; and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm.

    Didache 7:3

    But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


    For many centuries many have insisted baptizo, the word transliterated baptize, means "to immerse." However, in Mark 7.4 we read, ". . .and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, bronze kettles and tables" (Mark 7.4). Here the word baptizo is used and translated "washed." Now, one might argue that cups and pots are immersed when they are washed, but how many sinks will hold a whole table? No, the word baptizo cannot mean immerse, it means to cleanse, clean, or wash.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I'd say the paintings are just as valid as any pictures of immersion. We simply don't know how it was done, it's not explicitly stated. I prefer to think that Jesus was immersed, while His followers would be sprinkled, in keeping with His taking on a "full immersion" of our sins, while we only receive a sprinkling in our own redemption. This is consistent with Peter's account of Noah, in an anti-type of baptism, full-immersion for those who drowned, while he received a smattering of rain.

    But pouring out is consistent with the work of the Holy Spirit, who descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. That also fits. And you're right, coming up out of ankle-deep water would be reasonable if a river could sweep one away if it got too deep. The amount of water is not really the issue. The fact of his baptism, is the issue!

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago


    after lots and lots of historical study on this,it appears that immersion wasnt always the mode in which followers were baptized.

    immersion, and by affusion and sprinkling; and the same word, "washings" (Hbr 9:10,13,19,21) or "baptisms," designates them all.

    In the New Testament there cannot be found a single well-authenticated instance of the occurrence of the word where it necessarily means immersion. Moreover, none of the instances of baptism recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (Act 2:38-41; 8:26-39; 9:17,18; 22:12-16; 10:44-48; 16:32-34) favours the idea that it was by dipping the person baptized, or by immersion, while in some of them such a mode was highly improbable.

    i have read were it needs to be "living water"as in a river or lake.

    Source(s): non-denominational
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  • 1 decade ago

    Baptism by pouring had been practiced by the early Christians even before the Bible was compiled. Paintings as early as the 3rd century proves this.


    To Matt D.

    The link provided alleges that the Catholic Church changed the method of Baptism from immersion to sprinkling in 1311 AD. This is clearly a lie being propagated by agents of Satan (fundies).

    Early Christian art dating to 3rd century AD shows that baptism by pouring was already practiced. The Didache likewise present methods of baptism other than immersion, including pouring and sprinkling (see tebone's answer). At present the Catholic Church (Latin rite) prefer the method by pouring and not by sprinkling. The eastern rite Catholics Iin communion with the Pope) prefer immersion. Immersion, pouring and sprinkling are valid.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I've never heard that Jesus was not baptized by full submersion, but to answer your question, it is called "Artist's rendition." Often, artists take certain liberties with the situation they are painting. Davinci, for example, painted the last supper at a more traditional dinner table that would not have been found in Jesus' time. At the time of Jesus, the table was ground level and you would lay on your side rather than sit in a chair.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Honestly, the most important part of baptism is that it remits sins.

    And to use the proper matter (water), which is poured such that it touches at least the forehead of the initiate, and who, while pouring, sprinkling, or immersing,

    Finally, to use the words "I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

    Baptism is not a work of man; it is a work of Christ, an act of His grace.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Baptism was changed for the sake of church tradition in the 14th century.

    Paintings afterwards are obviously going to reflect the cultural norm just as they do today with Jesus looking more like a Norman or an Englishman. Art though are a reflection of the culture and time period. It does not draw solely from history and surely not sound doctrine.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Not a christian, so I don't really care. However:

    a. Paintings? If you talked about photos of jesus being sprinkled I'd say you were right, but saying that in 2000 we think that but in 1900 we thought differently isn't much of an argument.

    b. came UP

    c. Eastern orthodox christians have always performed baptism by immersion. "Always" here being 2000 years, not a couple of centuries.

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  • 1 decade ago

    A lot of those links show both. Jesus standing in H2O while John poors water on him. Honestly, I think it's because the Catholic church didn't really practice immersion, so the artists didn't really know how to draw it. It's one frame, how do you draw that anyway, lol? It's the best representation of what they could do.

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  • mimjoy
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    no one can be sure who he was baptized but as it was in a river it is likely je went under. the painting were probably done by catholics who had never thought about it that much and really it does not mater how it was done or what the paintings show.

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