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In Christianity, the sacrament of admission to the church, symbolized by the pouring or sprinkling of water on the head or by immersion in water. The ceremony is usually accompanied by the words I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, Christians believe that after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and commanded them to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the teaching of St. Paul, it signifies the wiping away of past sins and the rebirth of the individual into a new life. Judaism practiced ritual purification by immersion, and the Gospels report that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Baptism was an important ritual in the early church by the 1st century, and infant baptism appeared by the 3rd century. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and most Protestant churches practice infant baptism. The Anabaptist reformers insisted on adult baptism after a confession of faith; modern Baptists and the Disciples of Christ also practice adult baptism.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on baptism, visit Britannica.com.