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ὃ καὶ ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σώζει βάπτισμα, οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν, δι' ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

1 Peter 3:21 (Westcott and Hort 1881)

and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

1 Peter 3:21 (NIV)

What is the basis for translating ἀντίτυπον as "symbol" in 1 Peter 3:21?

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    It would seem that mention of "removal of dirt from the body" is direct reference to literal water. The idea, however, is that authentic baptism is the cleansing of the conscience by the living water of the Holy Spirit. Thus the terminology of the "symbol" of literal water referring to something invisible. – Joseph May 12 '16 at 4:47
  • Joseph, I agree. Water baptism can't save us. The living water, the Holy Spirit himself, is the cleansing agent through which new birth and new life are experienced (cf. Titus 3:5). – Radz Matthew C. Brown May 12 '16 at 6:32
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    Why import the assumption that 'water baptism can't save us' into the text? The NT makes plenty of references identical to this - for the Apostolic church, baptism was the method of repentance and salvation as described in Acts and the Letters. It is the normal and given method of making a "pledge of a clear conscience towards God", according to the text. Yes it's by the blood of Jesus and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but why not consider baptism as the normative method of that salvation for the NT church? – Steve Taylor May 12 '16 at 9:45
  • @SteveTaylor, The Greek word ἐπερώτημα in 1 Peter 3:21 is translated into English as "answer" (KJV). Thus, water baptism is the reply of the believer to God for having a clean conscience. In 1 Peter 3:16, the believer is already having a clean conscience (KJV). It has nothing to do with the salvation of the soul. As the NIV translation puts it, water baptism is a mere "symbol" of the deluge that saves Noah and his family. – Radz Matthew C. Brown May 13 '16 at 11:12
  • It's interesting you've imported the word 'clean' rather than its actual word ἀγαθῆς, "good". It's an appeal made in good conscience (similar to how you might do in court - we'd now typically say "of sound mind"). The straightforward reading of the passage is that a person of good conscience appeals to God in baptism, which 'now saves you also... by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.' What's the point of Peter saying the resurrection saves you in baptism if you're already clean? Do you not need a resurrection either then? – Steve Taylor May 13 '16 at 11:26
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We need to consider more of the passage, I think, to understand what the word ἀντίτυπος means in context:

1 Peter 3:20–21 (NIV)

... to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also ...

The English word "antitype", though somewhat obscure, would have been the literal translation here of ἀντίτυπος - antitypos. A more literal translation is found in the Orthodox New Testament:

... who once were disobedient, when the long-suffering of God was waiting in [the] days of Noah, while an ark [was] being constructed, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by means of water. There is also an antitype which now saveth us - baptism ...

The water of the flood, explains Peter, is an Old Testament type (typos) - a foreshadowing - of the later antitype of baptism.

John Breck, former Professor of New Testament studies at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary, writes of the use of types and antitypes in Scripture in his book, Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and Its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church (p.22):

Within the framework of salvation-history, select events that occur in the experience of a people, particularly the Hebrew people, constitute "types" (typoi) or prophetic figures of persons, events and institutions to come, that will be fulfilled in the messianic age. The relation between the two Testaments is a "typological" relationship in which God's promises of salvation, expressed by events in Israel's history as well as by oracles of the prophets, will be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ and in the life of the Chruch.

The Old and New Testaments represent a unified witness to salvation-history. The relation between the two Testaments is that of Promise and Fulfillment. An inner, organic unity exists between the two, such that key persons and events of the Old Covenant find their ultimate meaning in those of the New. This relationship of Promise to Fulfillment, inherent in the historical process itself, can be described as a relation of type to antitype.

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