Luke 12:50 (NKJV)

50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!

I believe Christ had already undergone John's baptism when he spoke the above text, so to which baptism was he referring to in Luke

  • See Matthew 20:22-23 and Mark 10:38-39. I trust that the meaning will become evident. – Lucian Aug 8 '17 at 7:37

The noun βάπτισμα and the verb βαπτίζω in the New Testament corpus most often refer to being immersed in water.

On the Greek verb βαπτίζω, Joseph Henry Thayer (translating Christian Gottlob Wilke) wrote,1

II. In the N. T. it is used particularly of the rite of sacred ablution, first instituted by John the Baptist, afterwards by Christ’s command received by Christians and adjusted to the contents and nature of their religion (see βάπτισμα, 3), viz. an immersion in water, performed as a sign of the removal of sin, and administered to those who, impelled by a desire for salvation, sought admission to the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom; [for patristic reff. respecting the mode, ministrant, subjects, etc. of the rite, cf. Soph. Lex. s. v.; Diet, of Chris. Antiq. s. v. Baptism].

However, in both clasical Greek and the New Testament, it is also used in the sense of “to overwhelm” (active voice) and “to be overwhelmed” (passive voice).

Thayer wrote,2

  1. metaph. to overwhelm, as ἰδιώτας ταῖς εἰσφοραῖς, Diod. 1, 73; ὀφλήμασι, Plut. Galba 21; τῇ συμφορᾷ βεβαπτισμένος, Heliod. Aeth. 2, 3; and alone, to inflict great and abounding calamities on one: ἐβάπτισαν τὴν πόλιν, Joseph. b. j. 4, 3, 3; ἡ ἀνομία με βαπτίζει, Is. 21:4 Sept.; hence βαπτίζεσθαι βάπτισμα (cf. W. 225 (211); [B. 148 (129)]; cf. λούεσθαι τὸ λουτρόν, Ael. de nat. an. 3, 42), to be overwhelmed with calamities, of those who must bear them, Mt. 20:22 sq. Rec.; Mk. 10:38 sq.; Lk. 12:50,

Accordingly, the noun βάπτισμα would be something that overwhelms.

Thayer wrote,3

  1. used trop. of calamities and afflictions with which one is quite overwhelmed: Mt. 20:22 sq. Rec.; Mk. 10:38 sq.; Lk. 12:50, (see βαπτίζω, I. 3).

In the case of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was referring to his impending death and perhaps all commentaries concur on this matter.

In his commentary on Mark 10:38, Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer wrote,4

The presents πίνω and βαπτίζομαι picture the matter as being realized. The cup and baptism of Jesus represent martyrdom. In the case of the figure of baptism, however (which latter Matthew by way of abridgment omits; it is alleged by Baur that Mark has taken it from Luke 12:50), the point of the similitude lies in the being submerged, not in the purification (forgiveness of sins), as the Fathers have apprehended the baptism of blood (see Suicer, I. p. 627), which is not appropriate to Jesus. Comp. the classical use of καταδύειν and βαπτίζειν, to plunge (immergere) into sufferings, sorrows, and the like (Xen. Cyrop. vi. 1. 37; Wesseling, ad Diod. I. p. 433). On the construction, comp. Ael. H. A. iii. 42: ὁ πορφυρίων λούεται τὸ τῶν περιστερῶν λουτρόν, al. See in general, Lobeck, Paralip. p. 520.


Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Gospel of Mark and Luke. Trans. Wallis, Robert Ernest. Ed. Dickson, William P. New York: Funk, 1884.

Wilke, Christian Gottlob. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Trans. Thayer, Joseph Henry. Ed. Grimm, Carl Ludwig Wilibald. Rev. ed. New York: American Book, 1889.


1 p. 94, βαπτίζω
2 ibid.
3 idem, βάπτισμα
4 p. 135–136

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