There was no baptism in the OT. Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born of the water and spirit, but the water baptism came in Acts. What was Jesus referring to when he said washed? Was it being cleansed or baptised?

John 3:5 KJV

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

  • The word "water" in John 3:5 has attracted questions in the past on this site. eg: 'What is the "water" in John 3:5?' is marked as a "duplicate". Do check these out and if you are bringing something new to the debate that's great. Welcome to BH!
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 16:48
  • It is untrue that Baptism came in Acts - it appears much earlier such as Matt 3:6, 11, 16, Mark 1:4, 8, 9, 10:39, Luke 3:12, 21, 7:29, John 1:26, 28, 3:23, 4:2, etc.
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 20:05
  • With all due respect, the question that Stephanie asked is NOT the same as "What does it mean to be born of water?" What she is asking is whether baptism was first introduced in the New Testament. Please consider reopening the question unless you find a different question that addresses whether baptism was practiced prior to the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. Thank you.
    – Dieter
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 1:57

2 Answers 2


Welcome to the forum, Stephanie!

You wrote, "There was no baptism in the OT." I believe that there was and it was recorded in the Tanakh. Here's why.

John, the cousin of Jesus, is called “the Baptist.” The Greek word that's used, baptistés, means “one who immerses,” and this Greek word was assimilated into the English language by way of Latin and Old French.

Historically, the Israelites practiced ritual immersion for ceremonial cleansing and dedication (see also what Elisha commanded Naaman the Syrian in 2 Kings 5:14). They immersed themselves in water from natural sources such as from rain, a spring, or a river. These natural sources are called "living water." For people who accepted the teachings of John the Immerser, this ceremony demonstrated their repentance, spiritual cleansing, and consecration, committing themselves to turn away from of their personal sins.

Solomon's Temple included 10 shallow basins (1 Kings 7:38) and a large bronze "sea" for the priests to wash in (2 Chronicles 4:6). The custom of ritual immersion is also currently practiced among people of the Jewish faith, who use the Hebrew word, mikvah (spellings vary) rather than the Greek word, baptizó (Strong's Greek 907).

You might also contrast immersion with the time when Jesus washed his disciples' feet, especially noting what Jesus told Peter in John 13:10, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you."

Hope this helps.


Jesus basically told Nicodemus that being a Jew is not enough. Even today, the rabbis teach that every Jew has a share in the World to Come.

Every Jewish soul that ever lived will be resurrected. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1127537/jewish/Who-Will-Be-Resurrected.htm

Being born of water means the Exodus.

1 Corinthians 10:1-2

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

Faith in Jesus unites both the believing Jews and the believing gentiles and transforms them into the new people of God, the true spiritual Israelites.

Galatians 6:15-16

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.

2 Corinthians 5:14-17

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The unbelieving Jews are only the Israelites according to the flesh and have to be born of the Spirit.

Romans 9:3

For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Galatians 4:21-31

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

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