Fun Facts From Church History: The Rise of Anabaptism in Zurich

On January 21st, 1525 the Council forbade the private meetings of the Baptists and banished the foreigners among their members.

Up to this time the Baptists merely protested against infant baptism, but had not ventured upon baptising adults who had already been baptised in unconscious infancy. Now, in the village of Zollicon, on the north shore of the Lake, and six miles from the city, whither persecution drove them, they proceeded for the first time to take the logical step.

grebelConrad Grebel seems to have been the leader in this. He rightfully argued from their accepted premise: baptism should follow a confession of faith, that only those who understood what the rite meant should be baptised; and baptised the former monk George Blaurock, who, in turn, baptised fifteen others. This baptism was by pouring, not by immersion. The idea found quick acceptance and soon all their adherents were baptised. They all agreed that the “baptism” they had received in infancy was invalid. Yet because the entire Christian Church in all centuries up to that time, and with the exception of Baptists ever since, has proclaimed that infant baptism was valid the party got the name of Anabaptists, i. e., those who baptise again those previously baptised. One of the Baptists, Rudolph Thomann of Zollicon, examined by the Council of Zurich on February 7, 1525, thus described the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as observed in the Zollicon gatherings:

“He had eaten the Lord’s Supper with the old assistant (Brötli?), and him from Witikon (Röubli), and had invited them into his house.… There many had assembled so that the apartment was full; there was much speaking and long readings. Then stood up Hans Bruggbach of Zumicon, weeping and crying out that he was a great sinner and asking all present to pray God for him. Whereupon Blaurock asked him if he desired the grace of God and he said ‘Yes.’ Manz then arose and said, ‘Who will hinder me from baptising him?’ Blaurock answered, ‘No one.’ So Manz took a dipper of water and baptised him in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Jacob Hottinger arose and desired baptism; and Felix Manz baptised him also.… Seeing the loaf on the table, Blaurock said: ‘Whoever believes that God has redeemed him with His death and rosy-coloured blood, comes and eats with me from this loaf and drinks with me from this wine.’ Then each one present ate and drank as invited.”*

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*Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (Heroes of the Reformation; New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 244–246.