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The Nicene Creed declares: “We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” However, while doing research into this subject, I found this quote from the Lion Book of Christianity regarding Acts 2:38 which said “We acknowledge one baptism unto remission of sins.” (pp 158-169)

My Collins English Dictionary explains that the preposition 'unto' is an archaic word for 'to'.

I have searched various Christianity Stack questions about baptism and the Nicene Creed but can’t find anything to address whether the original wording should be “unto” or “for.”

https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/44565/how-do-credo-baptists-explain-baptism-in-the-nicene-creed

https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/46428/was-the-nicene-creed-of-ad-381-an-update-of-the-nicene-creed-of-ad-325?rq=1

Please be aware that this is NOT a question about credo-baptism or the remission of sins. Neither is this about whether there is a “right” or a “wrong” interpretation. I would like to know if the original wording of the Nicene Creed says “unto remission of sins” or not. There may be an important distinction between saying “for the remission of sins” and “unto remission of sins”. I don’t want to restrict this question to any particular denomination but seek scholarly insights from anyone who can shed light on the original words used in this one part of the Creed. Thank you.

  • This is a question about the English language. You could start by looking up "unto" in an English dictionary. It has nothing to do with the negative prefix un-. – fdb Dec 15 '19 at 15:12
  • Thank you and I note your point about 'un'. However, my question is primarily focused on the Nicene Creed and if there is any documentary evidence to suggest that the original wording (no doubt in Latin) was changed at some point or if the English translation was changed from "for" to "unto". – Lesley Dec 15 '19 at 15:18
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    Good question (+1). This is a question about the Greek preposition εἰς Strong 1519 which is used in multiple places in scripture regarding the remission of sins in the context, particularly, of repentance. I would suggest that the focus of the question should be scripture rather than the creed, perhaps Matthew 26:28. – Nigel J Dec 17 '19 at 17:18
  • This absolutely needs to be edited to focus on something in the Bible, not the creeds, or else moved to Christianity. – curiousdannii Dec 18 '19 at 14:54
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    @curiousdannii - noted and question edited accordingly. – Lesley Dec 18 '19 at 16:01
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I went straight to Daniel B Wallace's 'Beyond the Basics' Greek grammar, which is where I often end up in difficult situations with Greek. Sadly, on the subject of εἰς, eis (in relation to baptism xxx the forgiveness of sins) he comes to no conclusion - which is very unusual for Daniel B Wallace, it has to be said.

I am not going to copy his full two pages, but it is notable that he spends his entire section, on this particular preposition, discussing the controversy regarding Acts 2:38 :

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. [KJV]

Notably, Young's Literal Translation has 'to' the remission of sins in this place.

The controversy upon which Daniel Wallace focuses is whether εἰς can be viewed as causative. That is to say, Is the forgiveness of sins caused by baptism or is it coincidental to baptism (meaning it coincides with baptism and they co-exist together) or does one follow the other in terms of a progressive process ?

Daniel Wallace lists eight different concepts expressed (he says) by εἰς.

  • Spatial ........into, toward
  • Temporal........for, throughout
  • Purpose.........for, in order to, to
  • Result..........so that, with the result that
  • Reference.......with respect to
  • Advantage.......for
  • Disadvantage....against
  • In the place of the very versatile preposition εν en

It is notable that in the KJV, where εἰς, eis, appears in the original, the translators have used the following :

against (25) among (16) at (20) for (91) in (131) into (571) that (30) on (57) to (282) toward (32) unto (208) upon (25) and some others . . .

To, toward, unto and into (Daniel Wallace's primary categories) therefore account for almost 1,200 of those occasions and the other translations (Daniel Wallace's secondary categories) about 350.

Those 1,200 occasions, I think, give an indication of what we should generally expect from εἰς, eis, in the majority of contexts.


'To' 'toward' or 'unto' agree with Young and agree with the majority translation (of the KJV) in respect of the preposition εἰς, eis.

All of this leads me, personally, to agree with the quote in the question :

“We acknowledge one baptism unto remission of sins.”

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The original Greek of the Nicene Creed says, "ὁμολογοῦμεν ἓν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν" which means "we confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins." The word εἰς can be translated either way as "unto" or "for," since both in English in this context mean the same thing.

Acts 2:38

Πέτρος δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς Μετανοήσατε, [φησίν] καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐν / ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν, καὶ λήμψεσθε τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος·

And Peter said to them: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

What is baptism "unto?" The forgiveness of sins. What is baptism "for?" The forgiveness of sins. Two valid translations of the Greek εις. The Latin version also has "Confitemur unum baptismum in remissionem peccatorum" which is absolutely identical in meaning.

Without this linguistic quibbling, the function of baptism was undisputed in Christianity from the beginning, and in every century viewed as the instrumental cause of justification. Even in Peter's Epistle: "...eight souls were saved through water: which typifies baptism, which now saves you also" (1 Pet. 3:21). It was a much later concept that baptism was in any way optional for justification.

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