Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Baptism on the Day of Pentecost: The Temple authorities

Let's continue thinking about the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

We've established that there's a maximum 9 hour span of time in order for the baptisms in Acts 2 to occur: between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. I think the time span would be somewhat shorter than that (St. Peter's sermon doesn't begin until around 9 a.m., but I'll allow a possibility of a 9 hour span there).

This would mean that a bare minimum of 333 individuals were baptized per hour. Cut an hour off the time (say, guessing that the baptisms didn't begin until around 10 a.m.) and the number rises to 375 individuals per hour.

We've also established that there's a limited number of water sources in the city. The most probable source of large bodies of water (something that might be suitable for immersion baptisms) were public baths.

I stress again that any discussion of Greco-Roman-type public baths in first century Jerusalem is hypothetical. There's no documentary evidence (biblical or otherwise) and the archeological evidence of public baths dates far later than the first century. But it's always possible that there were some there. However, there probably wouldn't have been a lot of them, given the probable 25,000 population of Jerusalem at that time.

There is one other source of large bodies of water in the city: the Temple pools and other ritual bathing facilities. Here's a picture of what is thought to be the pool of Siloam, mentioned in John 9, as well as pictured above.

Ritual pools are at least a possible source of large bodies of water for immersion. But let's look at the reality there in Jerusalem.

Temple authorities had judged and crucified Jesus just over 40 days before. And we're expected to believe that they would have allowed the Apostles to use the ritual pools on Pentecost for a Trinitarian baptism for 3,000 new believers in the way whose leader they had had killed a little over a month before? This boggles the mind.

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