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The Narrative of Noah's Baptism

The Narrative of Noah's Baptism

The story of Noah is one of the most well-known of Biblical stories. It has a pronounced start (sinful man leads to rain drops) and an ironic end (wine drops Noah). But lodged in the middle are fascinating events that link Noah with the original Adam and the last Adam. These events affirm the typology of baptism in the Old Testament and build the New Testament theology of baptism as a union of Spirit and water.

The Narrative

The primary link to Adam and Jesus Christ occurs mid-flood. It is a crucial bridge throughout the Scriptures between the original creation and new creation found in Jesus Christ's resurrection. This link is Noah's "new creation,"

1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen. - Genesis 8:1-5

There is a lot here so it is important to start with the Spirit focused elements. Perhaps missed in English, the inclusion of the Holy Spirit is more evident when this passage is read in Hebrew. Genesis 8:1 reads "God made a spirit blow over the earth." Read this way, this verbs links to the creation account more cleanly (Gen 1:2). When English includes "a" before the word "wind" the misnomer can confuse readers. Broken down more literally, the sentence simply reads “God (noun) passed over (verb) spirit (direct object) the earth (indirect object).” But the grammatical argument is merely part of the link. The greater argument is the symbolic context surrounding the earth's judgment and Noah’s deliverance.

Destruction of all sinful flesh has occurred under the judicial weight of the flood. The world is once again "formless" and once again it is covered in water. Genesis 1:2 is played out yet again as God's Spirit moves across the water and brings to fruition life-bearing land (Gen 8:5). The waters are brought together once again in the heavens and under the earth and slowly the great mountains of the earth show themselves. It is on this mountain that the ark rests. Throughout the Bible God meets with His people upon mountains. The word for mountain (H2022) is used extensively in Exodus to refer to God's meeting with Moses and Israel. This symbol takes on a spiritual life of its own throughout the Psalms as God's holy hill, His holy city, and His holy temple. Throughout the Scriptures God redeems, sanctifies, and meets His people on mountains. In another place, the baptism of Jesus Christ has been connected to new creation and so here too Jesus is the realization of this "new land." He is represented by the mountain that reveals itself because of the hovering of the Holy Spirit.

New creation has appeared. Noah is a re-casting of Adam and he is bestowed with a new creation. Already this story is highlighting the Holy Spirit and water. Once again both water and Spirit in union point to the creation account and to the work of Jesus Christ. Events surrounding the flood also interconnect with the baptism of Jesus. The first is the timing of the parting of the heavens,

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. – Genesis 7:11-15

The opening of the heavens only occurs once the full number of animals and people are within the ark. It is at the conclusion of their inclusion that the Lord Himself closes the door to the ark (Gen 7:16). So also Luke’s description of Christ’s baptism comes at the inclusion of “all the people” (Luke 3:21). The heavens open up at the baptism of Jesus Christ and the Lord speaks. The pronouncement of the Lord with Noah is a closed door. The pronouncement with Christ is that He is the open door. The Trinitarian involvement does not stop there. The typology of Noah's sending out of the dove is also a pertinent link to this story's link to the baptism of Jesus,

8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore. - Genesis 8:8-12

Any argument from this passage may border on allegory for many modern readers. But the dove of Christ's baptism makes sense of the gospel writers’ tie to the Old Testament baptismal stories. This woven symbolism is intended to tie together the Scriptures in a time where listening to the text was more common. This tied theme could be to the general idea of peace that is associated with doves. However, the context of baptism and makes the baptism of Noah an easier link. For through Christ, new creation is founded and new life is granted to His church. The seven days between flights and the total number of three flights are surely symbolic of Christ's work but they do not build up or diminish the two-fold link found in Noah's flood to the first Adam and last Adam.

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