Questions From Readers

Is complete immersion in water required if a person wants to be baptized but has a severe handicap or is in very poor health, which would make immersion difficult?

The word “baptizing” is derived from the Greek verb baʹpto, meaning “to dip in.” (John 13:26) In the Bible, “to baptize” is the same as “to immerse.” Concerning the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch performed by Philip, The Emphasised Bible, by Rotherham, states: “They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch,​—and he immersed him.” (Acts 8:38) Thus, the person being baptized is actually dipped under water.​—Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10.

Jesus directed his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Accordingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses arrange for baptisms in pools, lakes, rivers, or other places where there is enough water for complete immersion. Since baptism by complete immersion is a Scriptural requirement, humans have no authority to exempt someone from baptism. Thus, a person should be baptized even when unusual steps are necessary because of his condition. For example, baptisms in large bathtubs have been helpful to those of advanced age or those with especially frail health. The tub water could be warmed, the baptism candidate could calmly and gradually be placed in the water and, once acclimatized to it, the actual baptism could occur.

Even people with severe handicaps have been baptized. For instance, individuals who have had a tracheotomy and, as a result, have a permanent hole in the throat, or those who need to use a mechanical respirator have been immersed. Of course, for all such baptisms thorough preparations would need to be made. It would be wise to have a trained nurse on hand or a doctor if available. However, when special care or precautions are taken, in almost all cases, baptisms can be performed. Therefore, every reasonable effort should be made to baptize a person in water if this is the individual’s sincere desire and if he wishes to accept the risks involved.