What About Baptism on the Day of Pentecost?

By Wayne Jackson

Two arguments frequently offered by those who accept “sprinkling” as a mode of “baptism,” are grounded in Acts 2. The first suggests that the twelve apostles could not have immersed 3,000 people in a single day. The second alleges that there was insufficient water in Jerusalem for the immersion of so many people. But the argument is based upon inaccurate data.

The Number Immersed

The careful Bible student will observe the following:

  1. The Scriptures do not specify how many were immersed on Pentecost. The 3,000 (Acts 2:41) may embrace the number baptized; it is also possible, however, that the 3,000 figure may have included disciples immersed earlier by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1ff), and the Lord’s disciples (John 4:1-2) — these being set in the church automatically on that day.
  2. Nothing in New Testament doctrine demands that the apostles themselves did all of the immersing that day. Others may have been involved as well.
  3. If only the apostles did the immersing, and supposing further that the full complement of 3,000 were immersed, the chore could have been accomplished in just over four hours, if each baptism consumed only a minute or so.

The Water Supply

The fact is there were many pools in Jerusalem, some significantly large. J.W. McGarvey carefully investigated this matter in 1879. Consider the following:

  1. The Virgin’s pool was about 132 feet square and some 3 feet deep.
  2. The pool of Siloam occupied approximately 800 square feet and was more than three feet deep.
  3. Lower Gihon covers more than 3 acres and can be as much as 40 feet deep.
  4. Upper Gihon is about one and a half acres and can hold a depth of some 20 feet of water.
  5. In addition, McGarvey surveyed several other sizable pools. He also noted that most houses had cisterns that collected water in the rainy season (Lands of the Bible, Philadelphia: Lippencott, 1881, p. 201).

The “sprinkling-Jerusalem” argument, therefore, does not hold water! For further information, see my book, “Biblical Studies in the Light of Archaeology”, pp. 54-56.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.