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Baptism by fire

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The phrase baptism by fire or baptism of fire is a phrase originating from the words of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11.

Matthew 3:11 "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire"
King James Version 1611

The phrase also occurs in Luke 3:16 and it might be taken as a reference to Dante's Inferno or perhaps the fiery trial of faith which endures suffering and purifies the faithful (Mark 10:38, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 4:12).

See also Dante's Purgatory 27:10-15.


Many Christian writers, such as John Kitto, have noted that it could be taken as a hendiadys, the Spirit as fire, or as pointing out two distinct baptisms - one by the Spirit, one by fire. If two baptisms, then various meanings have been suggested for the second baptism, by fire - including trial and testing of disciples, or the destruction by Christ of his enemies.[1] Of this expression, J. H. Thayer commented: "to overwhelm with fire (those who do not repent), i.e., to subject them to the terrible penalties of hell".[2] W. E. Vine noted regarding the "fire" of this passage: "of the fire of Divine judgment upon the rejectors of Christ, Matt. 3:11 (where a distinction is to be made between the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the fire of Divine retribution)".[3] Arndt and Gingrich speak of the "fire of divine Judgment Mt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16".[4] Finally, as J. W. McGarvey observed, the phrase "baptize you ... in fire" cannot refer to Pentecost, because there was no "baptism of fire" on that day. Parted "tongues," which were merely "like as of fire ... sat upon" each of the apostles. Those brothers were not "overwhelmed with fire" on that occasion.[5]


In Mormonism the term relates to Confirmation (Latter Day Saints) and the phrase "baptism of fire" or "baptism by fire" appears several times in Latter-day Saint canonized scripture, including: Doctrine and Covenants 20:41; Doctrine and Covenants 33:11; Doctrine and Covenants 39:6; and 2 Nephi 31:13-17.

Military usage

The Catholic Encyclopedia, and writers such as John Deedy, state that the term in a military sense entered the English language in 1822 as a translation of the French phrase baptême du feu.[6] From military usage the term has extended into many other areas in relation to an initiation into a new role - for example the directorship of an arts festival.[7]

See also


  1. Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature - Volume 1 - Page 640 John Kitto 1865 John McClintock, James Strong - 1871 "Whether this be taken as a hendiadys = the Spirit as fire, or as pointing out two distinct baptisms, the one by the Spirit, the other by fire ; and whether, on the latter assumption, the baptism by fire means the destruction by Christ of his enemies"
  2. Thayer 1958, p. 94
  3. Vine 1991, p. 308
  4. Arndt & Gingrich 1967, p. 737
  5. McGarvey 1875, p. 38. As quoted in: Jackson, Wayne, "What Is the Baptism of Fire?", Christian Courier (Christian Courier Publications), ISSN 1559-2235, 
  6. John G. Deedy The Catholic book of days 1990- Page 21 "Another incidental piece of religious history connected with that war: it provided the term "baptism of fire" its particular modern application; namely, a soldier's first experience in battle. baptized martyrs who died at the stake thus experienced a "
  7. Tribune - Volume 71 - Page 31 2007 "ANYONE seeking a practical definition of the term "baptism of fire" should have been in Edinburgh last month, when Hannah McGill made her debut as artistic director of the city's International Film Festival. Edinburgh's film festival has been ..."
  • This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Arndt, William; Gingrich, F. W. (1967), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago .
  • McGarvey, J. W. (1875), Commentary on Matthew and Mark, Des Moines, IA: Eugene Smith .
  • Thayer, J. H. (1958), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark .
  • Vine, W. E. (1991), Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Iowa Falls, IA: World .

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Baptism by fire. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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