Archaeology has revealed large "baptistries" ("mikveh") around the Temple; people who were entering the Temple would go down the steps on one side of these baths, into the water, immerse themselves as a purification ritual, and then come out up the steps on the other side so as to not mix the pure path with the unpure path (ex., http://www.generationword.com/.../39-mikvah-ritual-baths...).
The Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8 would have been
witness to these Jewish baptisms all week long while he was in Jerusalem
during Passover Week, wishing he could be baptized, sorrowful that he
could not be part of God's community because of his status as an eunuch
(Lev 21:18-20; Deut 23:1). Philip preached Jesus to him starting at
Isaiah 53:7-8, and when they got three chapters further in (56:3ff), the
Eunuch was excited that he might could now be part of God's community.
When they came to some water, the eunuch's question was, "What's to keep
me from being baptized?" And after he was baptized, he went on his
way rejoicing that he could now be part of God's community.
had told the disciples that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem,
then in all Judea and Samaria, then to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:7).
Luke shows this progression in his writing: conversion begins in
Jerusalem, and includes the "Judean" (that is, full-blooded) Jews (Acts
2); then the half-Jews of Samaria (first half of Acts 8); then the
disenfranchised, like eunuchs (second half of Acts 8); then the
non-Jewish Gentiles who were favorable to the Jewish religion (Acts 10);
then the somewhat-interested-in-Judaism Gentiles (Acts 13); then the
pagans (Acts 14); more of the disenfranchised, like women and those
working for the hated Roman government (Acts 16); then the snobbish
elite heathen philosophers (Acts 17); then the king of the world himself
and his worldly government (Acts 21-28). Luke is not trying to teach us
that when Jesus is preached, baptism is part of that process (the
eunuch was already familiar with baptism, albeit probably not the
baptism of Jesus, which Philip would of necessity had to then explain,
I'm confident); rather, he's developing his theme that those who were
formerly excluded from the kingdom of God, such as the eunuch, are now
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