‘Kill The Dragon!’

That’s one of a number of things that the crowd that assembled outside Zwingli’s house on the 15th of June, 1525 said of him.  They bombarded his house with eggs and stones and the government had to step in to squelch the escalating violence.

Who were these ‘peace loving’ Christians?  The adherents of the Anabaptist sect of course.  As they marched to his house from the Zurich suburb of Zollikon they shouted ‘Woe, woe, woe to Zurich, and as Jonah said, in 40 days the city will be destroyed’.  ‘The dragon must be slain’ (the tale of which is nicely related by Oskar Farner in his stunningly thorough biography of Zwingli).

Of these radicals Schaff notes

The Radical movement began in Zurich in 1523, and lasted till 1532. The leaders were Conrad Grebel, from one of the first families of Zurich, a layman, educated in the universities of Vienna and Paris, whom Zwingli calls the corypheus of the Anabaptists; Felix Manz, the illegitimate son of a canon of the Great Minster, a good Hebrew scholar; Georg Blaurock, a monk of Coire, called on account of his eloquence “the mighty Jörg,” or “the second Paul;” and Ludwig Hätzer of Thurgau, chaplain at Wädenschwyl, who, with Hans Denck, prepared the first Protestant translation of the Hebrew Prophets, and acted as secretary of the second Zurich disputation, and edited its proceedings. With them were associated a number of ex-priests and ex-monks, as William Reubli, minister at Wyticon, Johann Brödli (Paniculus) at Zollicon, and Simon Stumpf at Höng. They took an active part in the early stages of the Reformation, prematurely broke the fasts, and stood in the front rank of the image-stormers. They went ahead of public opinion and the orderly method of Zwingli. They opposed the tithe, usury, military service, and the oath. They denied the right of the civil magistracy to interfere in matters of religion. They met as “brethren” for prayer and Scripture-reading in the house of “Mother Manz,” and in the neighborhood of Zurich, especially at Zollicon.

He then observes, very correctly,

Zwingli could not follow the Anabaptists without bringing the Reformation into discredit with the lovers of order, and rousing the opposition of the government and the great mass of the people. He opposed them, as Augustin opposed the schismatical Donatists. He urged moderation and patience. The Apostles, he said, separated only from the open enemies of the gospel, and from the works of darkness, but bore with the weak brethren. Separation would not cure the evils of the Church. There are many honest people who, though weak and sick, belong to the sheepfold of Christ, and would be offended at a separation. He appealed to the word of Christ, “He that is not against me, is for me,” and to the parable of the tares and the wheat. If all the tares were to be rooted up now, there would be nothing left for the angels to do on the day of final separation.

It is my own view that had the Anabaptists been reasonable, rational, theologically educated, and more concerned with real reform than a mere break with Rome, they could have contributed positively to the developments of the 16th century Reformation. Instead, their paths led to the disaster of Münster and the lunacy of the Peasants War.

‘Peaceful’ Anabaptists? Not So Much

S. Macauley Jackons writes

In September, 1525, Zwingli’s windows were broken by two drunken fellows; but the offence was magnified until it seemed as if Zwingli’s life were in danger, because underneath the drunken conduct was deep hatred of Zwingli’s teaching. But that so trivial an offence should have caused such a stir is a plain indication that Zwingli lived a very quiet and secure life.

And indeed he did.  In a letter he wrote on September 22, Zwingli wrote to one of his friends only briefly mentioning the event but this was followed up by an explanatory letter from one of Zwingli’s closest associates Georg Binder, who described what happened as follows:

Es sind zwen zellen, einer ein wäber, der ander ein metzger, bym wynn eins worden (also hatt der ein am seil veriähen) unnd einandren bracht, sy wellind dem Zwingli die fenster inwerfen, nimirum gratificaturi quibusdam, quibus Zuinglius semper adversus est.

Unnd nach der 9. stund sind sy an die Kilchgasß kommenn unnd habend angefangen, dem custor Heinrico Utingero heruß rueffen, sprächende: wo bist? gang heruß, du langer ketzer! du bist ein zwölfpot wie Iudas etc. Darnach eim andren, gotlosen pfaffen ein ägersten im keffy gestreyt unnd zerrissen. Demnach an Zwinglis thür gestossen unnd geruefft: gang heruß, du rotten Uoly! das dich gotz ertrich schend als ketzers, du dieb, chuegehyer, Glarner chuegehyer, weltverfuerer! das dich gotz schend etc.;

tam crudeliter omnia, ut Erynnes ac Furias ab inferis excitatas esse credideris, immo crudelius: wo ist din kleiner huff? Es gat dir wie den teufferen; wir wend die ketzer all töden Omnia autem simulata voce, ita ut omnino agnosci non possent, etc.

In dem stuond Zwingli uff zuo sim schwert, luogt, ob man im nit inß huß gestigen wer. Als er aber nieman fand, hatt er nieman wellen weken; gedacht wol, was für ein uffruorworden were, wo er oder ieman geschrüwen hett. Also wurdend im die fenster alle zerworffen.

Do sprach er zuo inen: ir mörderschen böswicht, habend ir etwas an mir zuo sprechen, worumb suochend ir mich nit tags?

Sprach einer: ich wand, du furchtist dir nit. Sprach er: ich fürcht dich ja nit, wen ich by dir in eim finstern wald were. Sprach diser: so kum herab! Sprach Zwingli: wenn du frumm werist, ich wolt zuo dir. Also wurffend sy für und für mit großen schwueren unnd unmenschlichen worten: o we, we, der dieb hatt nut gantzes me, etc. – das nit müglich ist, ze schryben.

In dem was kein nachpur, der ützid sprech; dann es sind fast all pfaffen und eins teils krank lüt, also das niemans herfür wolt. Ich hatt ouch min harnasch unnd schwinspieß an, gedorfft aber allein ouch nit heruß; daran mir fast we gschach; denn sy sprachend: wo hast din kleinen huffen? Also schiedend sy by langem mit irem gschrey unnd ungestuemy hinweck, das niemans ander gedacht hett, es were ein hinderhuot vorhanden.

The civic authorities took the violence seriously not only because it was a threat against Zwingli’s person but because it was a pattern of behavior.  Zwingli was threatened on a number of occasions by Anabaptists who even rioted against him, marching through the city, throwing eggs  at the Reformer’s house (along with rocks).  They even called for him to be killed.

So much, then, for the myth of the ‘peaceful’ Anabaptists.  Violence was a major part of their ‘toolbox’ when it came to their dealings with Zwingli.

Fun Facts From Church History: The ‘Establishment’ of the ‘New Jerusalem’

anabaptistsOn the 9th of February, 1534, the Anabaptists of Münster seized the city hall and proclaimed the town the ‘New Jerusalem’ where they lived in absolute debauchery, sharing their wives and proclaiming themselves the only true believers.  Their ‘kingdom’ would be destroyed within 18 months and their leaders killed- but for 18 months the city lived in utter misery thanks to the cruelty and insanity of their spiritualist leaders.

Among the leaders and followers on the peasant side in the Peasants’ war which desolated Germany in 1525, were those who held antipedobaptist views. After the war Strasburg became the center of the Anabaptists and, after 1529, when it was visited by Melchior Hoffmann, “the evil genius of the Anabaptists,” it was the center of their propaganda. Hoffmann united to the usual Anabaptist views, belief in himself as the inspired interpreter of prophecy and as inspired leader generally. He declared that he was one of the “two witnesses” of Rev. xi. 3; that Strasburg was to be the New Jerusalem, and the seat of universal dominion; and that non-resistance might be given up. These views he preached with great effect through East Friesland and the Netherlands, and his followers called themselves “Melchiorites.” After he had been thrown into prison (1533) Jan Matthys, a baker from Haarlem, appeared in Strasburg and claimed to be the other “witness” of the Apocalypse; but he altered the programme by transferring the capital of the kingdom of the saints to Münster, and advocating force in maintaining it. After sending four apostles, one of whom was the notorious John of Leyden, he came thither himself (Feb., 1535), and led a successful revolt against the magistracy and bishop of the city. In Apr., 1535 he was killed and was succeeded by John of Leyden who caused himself to be proclaimed king, and declared polygamy to be the law of the kingdom. Meanwhile the city was besieged by the expelled bishop aided by the neighboring princes and by the imperial troops. If half that is said to have gone on within the city be true (the reports come from very prejudiced sources), fanaticism was there the order of the day. Hence the defense was lax, owing to dependence on divine power to work deliverance. Nevertheless, the siege lasted many months, and treachery within rather than assaults without at last opened the gates on June 25, 1535 (see Münster, Anabaptists In). The fanatical Anabaptists were universally taken as typical, and to this day when Anabaptism is mentioned it is supposed to be the equivalent of absurd interpretation of Scripture, blasphemous assumption, and riotous indecency. Münster was, however, only the culminating point of fanaticism engendered by persecution, and Anabaptism in itself, strictly interpreted, is not responsible for it.*

Happy anarchy day (for the Anabaptists out there).  Grab your neighbor’s wife and celebrate your ‘honorable’ heritage.

__________________________
*http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc01.html?term=anabaptists

It’s ‘Take an Anabaptist to the Lake’ Day…

Ok not really and it’s right mischievous of me to say so- but it was, in fact, on this day in 1527 that the notorious Felix Manz was taken to the lake, in Zurich, and dropped to the bottom.  It was the government’s way of saying ‘alright, if you want water, we’ll give you water Felix’.  The deed was recorded in art-

Felix_Manz_drowning1

That’s Mr Manz, being put in the boat- chained.  The decision of the Council was reached after a good deal of debate, and a good deal of pleading from Zwingli to Manz that he amend his ways before the government took matters into its own hands.

There’s an interesting historical footnote to the affair here, which you ought to read.  It has to do with an apology by the authorities of Zurich in 2004 given to the descendants of the Anabaptists for their poor treatment.

There’s also a very fine essay by Gottfried Locher in Zwingliana titled Felix Manz’ Abschiedsworte an seine Mitbrüder vor der Hinrichtung 1527: Spiritualität und Theologie. Die Echtheit des Liedes «Bey Christo will ich bleiben».‘  Enjoy.

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Genesis 1-11

My copy arrived in the mail today so while I was thumbing through it I came to the timeline at the back of the volume.  I was more than a little surprised to discover there a tremendous error.  Here’s a photo of the snippet-

Note- it says that the first Anabaptists were beheaded (!) in Zurich (!!) in 1527 (!!!). None of those things are accurate. Philip Schaff relates the facts:

Six executions in all took place in Zurich between 1527 and 1532. Manz was the first victim. He was bound, carried to a boat, and thrown into the river Limmat near the lake, Jan. 5, 1527.

So the commentary has it wrong in the method of execution of the first Anabaptist victim of Zurich persecution. It also has it wrong to suggest any Anabaptist was beheaded in Zurich in the 1500’s. None were, as Schaff makes clear-

The last executions took place March 23, 1532, when Heinrich Karpfis and Hans Herzog were drowned. The foreigners were punished by exile, and met death in Roman Catholic countries.

In other Cantons, things were different-

Blaurock was scourged, expelled, and burnt, 1529, at Clausen in the Tyrol. Haetzer, who fell into carnal sins, was beheaded for adultery and bigamy at Constance, Feb. 24, 1529.

Take note- the first Anabaptist beheaded was Haetzer and he was beheaded not for being an Anabaptist but for being an adulterer and a bigamist. And that beheading took place in Constance, NOT Zurich.

Schaff continues-

Other Swiss cantons took the same measures against the Anabaptists as Zurich. In Zug, Lorenz Fuerst was drowned, Aug. 17, 1529.

It wasn’t until 1529, then, that an Anabaptist was beheaded for being an Anabaptist-

In Appenzell, Uliman and others were beheaded, and some women drowned. At Basle, Oecolampadius held several disputations with the Anabaptists, but without effect; whereupon the Council banished them, with the threat that they should be drowned if they returned (Nov. 13, 1530). The Council of Berne adopted the same course.

Christian Moser kindly informs me that the last Anabaptist executed in Zurich, in 1614, was one Hans Landis who was, in fact, beheaded.   He, it seems, was the only one to suffer that fate in the city and that not until the 17th century.

The new commentary will doubtless be excellent in many respects. In respect, however, of its correct date and place of at least this event, it has it altogether wrong. And I am compelled to point it out.

UPDATE:  Christian Moser’s comment about Landis prodded me to look further for information and I discovered an entire chapter on him in Urs B. Leu’s Die Zürcher Täufer 1525-1700.  It has been on my shelves for a while and I’ve read many of the essays in it, but not this one by Barbara Bötsch-Mauz, Täufer, Tod und Toleranz.  Der Umgang der Zürcher Obrigkeit mit dem Täuferlehrer Hans Landis.

The Wisdom of Zwingli’s Methodology of Reform

S. Jackson writes

Deutsch: Kupferstich Leo Jud (1482-1542); Schw...

Caution was Zwingli’s characteristic. He would move no faster than public sentiment approved. Yet he did his best to form such sentiment. He prepared the way for the change and then quietly let things come to a crisis. So it was with the radical matter of using the vernacular for the Church services; Zwingli advocated it, but Leo Jud, in the baptism of a child in the Great Minster, August 10, 1523, first introduced it, and then when Zwingli found it was popular, he proceeded to reform the liturgy and unfold his novel teaching respecting it.

The reason for Zwingli’s caution and for his allowing others to put into practice Reforms that were necessary was simply that he considered it wise to allow Reform to unfold naturally, from ‘the bottom up’, as it were. When change is forced, it’s wildly resented. When it’s a natural process, an evolutionary movement forward, there may be offended souls but they will be a minority.

It was this easy pace which so annoyed the Anabaptists. They wanted change shoved down the throats of the citizens of the Canton and they wrongly imagined that Zwingli wanted the same thing. They were wrong. He was wise, and they were foolish.

Zwingli’s caution shouldn’t be seen as weakness, but rather as real strength.  If everything is ‘my idea’ I’ll get very little done but if I can plant the seeds of change and then allow others to harvest the fruit, it becomes ‘our Reformation’.  The egomaniacal are incapable of that viewpoint.  Such were Grebel and Manz and Hubmaier.

Who Were the Earliest Anabaptists?

A rather colorful (read weird) bunch really. Samuel Simpson remarks

English: German Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier ...

Luther on his return to Wittenberg had practically succeeded in suppressing the Anabaptist movement in Germany. Thomas Münzer, the leader, was compelled to leave Saxony, and when driven out he sought an asylum in Switzerland. Here he fell in with Conrad Grebel, a young man descended from one of the best families of Zurich, brother-in-law of Vadian, and a former friend of Zwingli. He was a man of fine scholarship, having studied at the universities of Paris and Vienna; morally, however, his career had been anything but creditable. At school he had led a life of such wild dissipation as to ruin his health and squander a considerable fortune.

To be precise, Grebel picked up the ‘Parisian’ disease as it was called in polite company. That is, syphilis. As to his wasting of his family’s money, he was finally cut off from the family funds because they grew tired of him and his continuous purchase of prostitutes.

Felix Manz, the son of a canon, and a fair Hebrew scholar, also became one of the number. These men rather expected that Zwingli would find positions for them as teachers in the cathedral schools, but this Zwingli could not honorably do, nor had he such confidence in them as to be inclined to help them had the way been open.

Zwingli didn’t trust them- and rightly. They were the sort of people who were friends so long as they had a use for Zwingli. As soon as he wasn’t willing to do as they wished, they turned on him, proving true the words of Jesus – ‘do not give pearls to swine for they will only take it and turn to tear you to shreds’.

Defeated in one quarter, they sought to gratify their ambition in another. Several others joined their number, prominent among them Simon Stumpf, of Honegg, and George Blaurock, a monk, of Coire. In November of this year (1524), Andrew Carlstadt, Luther’s quarrelsome and erratic opponent at Wittenberg, came to Zurich. Münzer and he visited Balthasar Hubmaier, pastor of Waldshut, and in the course of the interview completely won him over to their views. Together they set to work to effect some sort of organization. It was decided to make rebaptism the distinguishing mark of the new society. … “It surprised us much,” remarks Zwingli, “that they were so zealous against [infant baptism], but at length we observed that it was for the reason that, on infant baptism being rejected, they might have a pretext for organizing their church under the banner of rebaptization.”

In other words, and Simpson is correct in this: the Anabaptists used baptism as nothing more than a reason to dissent because they were angry that they weren’t granted academic positions. They could just as easily have chosen cowls or the church calendar. They were looking for any reason to play the dissidents. That they latched on to baptism is simply incidental. So much, then, for real theological differences- their fragmenting themselves from the Reformation was only about power and their quest for control.

Fun Facts From Church History

Of all the Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was the Anabaptists who were most vociferously anti-intellectual and anti-education.  Anabaptists derided learning and claimed that their possession of ‘the spirit’ alone equipped them to speak of and for God.

All Christian anti-intellectualism in the modern church can trace its roots to the Anabaptists; despisers of learning in the Church unknown before their movement.

Luther: On Solitude

“The papists and Anabaptists teach: If you wish to know Christ, try to be alone, don’t associate with men, become a separatist. This is plainly diabolical advice which is in conflict with the first and the second table for the Decalogue]. The first table requires faith and fear [of God]. According to the second commandment, this is to be preached and publicly praised before men and is to be discussed among men. One must not flee into a corner. So the second table teaches that one must do good to one’s neighbor.

We ought not to isolate ourselves but enter into companionship with our neighbor. Likewise it [this notion] is in conflict with marriage, economic life, and political existence and is contrary to the life of Christ, who didn’t choose solitude. Christ’s life was very turbulent, for people were always moving about him. He was never alone, except when he prayed. Away with those who say, ‘Be glad to be alone and your heart will be pure.’ ”

Menno Simons and Other Anabaptist Heretics…

Ok that makes them sound horrible doesn’t it?  They weren’t really as awful as Luther and Zwingli and Calvin thought (though the loons at Munster sure were more awful than imaginable).

Anyway, Logos is offering 17 volumes of Menno and other Anabaptists for a low $40- and that’s a bargain for the Church History buff (whether Anabaptist or not).  It even includes stuff by the waffler Hubmaier!

Right!  Mr ‘I can’t make up my mind so I’ll tell you what you want to hear’ has some pretty good stuff to say, actually.

So take a look.  The collection might interest you.  It does me.

Luther: On Deceptive ‘Preachers’

Of the Anabaptists Luther writes

Even if these infiltrators were otherwise faultless and saintly through and through, still this one fact (that they sneak about unbidden and uncommissioned) sufficiently proves that they are the devil’s messengers and teachers. For the Holy Spirit does not come with stealth. He descends in full view from heaven. The serpents glide unnoticed. The doves fly. You can be sure that this secretiveness is characteristic of the devil.

The same could be said of today’s self-appointed ‘preachers’.

The Beginning of the Rift Between Zwingli and the Anabaptists

The Anabaptists were displeased with the pace of Reform in the Cantons and they vented their displeasure at Zwingli and the other clergy of Zurich. The situation came to a head on the 17th of January in 1525 when the City Council ordered a public disputation.

Philip Schaff picks up the story-

Grebel was opposed to it, but appeared, together with Manz and Reubli. They urged the usual arguments against infant baptism, that infants cannot understand the gospel, cannot repent and exercise faith. Zwingli answered them, and appealed chiefly to circumcision and 1Co 7:14, where Paul speaks of the children of Christian parents as “holy.” He afterwards published his views in a book, “On Baptism, Rebaptism, and Infant Baptism” (May 27, 1525).  Bullinger, who was present at the disputation, reports that the Anabaptists were unable to refute Zwingli’s arguments and to maintain their ground.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of the trouble-making. So, as Schaff continues

Another disputation was held in March, and a third in November, but with no better result. The magistracy decided against them, and issued an order that infants should be baptized as heretofore, and that parents who refuse to have their children baptized should leave the city and canton with their families and goods.  The Anabaptists refused to obey, and ventured on bold demonstrations. They arranged processions, and passed as preachers of repentance, in sackcloth and girdled, through the streets of Zurich, singing, praying, exhorting, abusing the old dragon (Zwingli) and his horns, and exclaiming, “Woe, woe unto Zurich!”

This sort of anarchy didn’t sit well with the magistrates, so

The leaders were arrested and shut up in a room in the Augustinian convent. A commission of ministers and magistrates were sent to them to convert them. Twenty-four professed conversion, and were set free. Fourteen men and seven women were retained and shut up in the Witch Tower, but they made their escape April 5.

More than likely, I’ll add, they were allowed to ‘escape’ with the assurance that they would never return to the city. Unfortunately for themselves, though,

Grebel, Manz, and Blaurock were rearrested, and charged with communistic and revolutionary teaching. After some other excesses, the magistracy proceeded to threaten those who stubbornly persisted in their error, with death by drowning. He who dips, shall be dipped, — a cruel irony.

They did in fact continue in their ‘error’. And they suffered the consequences.

It is not known whether Zwingli really consented to the death sentence, but he certainly did not openly oppose it.
Six executions in all took place in Zurich between 1527 and 1532. Manz was the first victim. He was bound, carried to a boat, and thrown into the river Limmat near the lake, Jan. 5, 1527. He praised God that he was about to die for the truth, and prayed with a loud voice, “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!” Bullinger describes his heroic death. Grebel had escaped the same fate by previous death in 1526.

Grebel mercifully had succumbed to the syphilis which he had contracted as a student in Paris…

The last executions took place March 23, 1532, when Heinrich Karpfis and Hans Herzog were drowned. The foreigners were punished by exile, and met death in Roman Catholic countries. Blaurock was scourged, expelled, and burnt, 1529, at Clausen in the Tyrol. Haetzer, who fell into carnal sins, was beheaded for adultery and bigamy at Constance, Feb. 24, 1529.

Haetzer, like many of the Anabaptists, went nuts. Driven by the ‘spirit’ (just not the Spirit of God) his ilk were responsible for the Muenster disaster and the denunciation of the Re-Baptizers all across Europe. This fringe element is exactly why the Anabaptists had nothing but a bad reputation in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Huebmaier, who had fled from Waldshut to Zurich, December, 1525, was tried before the magistracy, recanted, and was sent out of the country to recant his recantation. He labored successfully in Moravia, and was burnt at the stake in Vienna, March 10, 1528. Three days afterwards his faithful wife, whom he had married in Waldshut, was drowned in the Danube.

Hubmaier was the worst of the lot- a man without conviction and a coward to boot.

Just think, it all started with a disputation which the Anabaptists lost in 1525, on the 17th of January. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Berchtold Haller and the Pseudobaptists

1525 was the year of conflict in Zurich featuring the attempts of the anabaptists to persuade Zwingli and the other Clerics to speed up the pace of reform.

Zwingli was too smart to rush headlong into changes too fast but his opponents (oddly the very people who were formerly his friends) were hell bent on proceeding.

Towards the end of that busy year Zwingli’s friend Berchtold Haller wrote him a letter in which he used the interesting term ‘pseudobaptists’ to describe the anabaptists.

Opportunissime misisti, frater et praeceptor candidissime, libellum  tuum contra pseudobaptistas, nimirum non minus pro nostra quam tua  sollicitus ecclesia. Nam ad diem dominicum proximum Actorum  caput 18. et 19. [Act. 18. 8, 19. 1 ff.] cum prae manibus habeam, quid  mihi tua interpretatione, quae plane tua non est, sed eius, qui per te  omnia agit [1. Cor. 12. 6], clarius accidere potuit? Utcunque et Thomas  et ego delati simus aput te, eo tamen insanię nunquam devenimus,  ut puerorum baptismum negaremus.

Those more eager than Zwingli managed to nearly derail Reform and had to be evicted from the city under the order of the Great Council to spare it civil war.

Wanting to do things scripturally means also wanting to do things ‘decently and in order’.  It was this which the Anabaptists, or in Haller’s term, the Pseudobaptists, refused to do.

Today with Zwingli: Antwort über Balthasar Hubmaiers Taufbüchlein

Woodcut by Hans Asper (ca. 1499 – 1571) ...

Zwingli published his Antwort über Balthasar Hubmaiers Taufbüchlein on the 5th of November, 1525.

Hubmaier was the most intellectually gifted of the ‘Anabaptists’ but he was a man given to waffling.  When faced with the prospect of expulsion from Zurich he suddenly came to agree with Zwingli on the subject of baptism and then his conscience got the better of him and he recanted his recantation.

So he was locked up.  And then expelled.

Zwingli’s ‘Answer’ is a fine example of an excellent and yet ultimately unpersuasive defense of infant baptism.  And that primarily for one reason- baptism isn’t like circumcision.  Baptism is an act undertaken by believers.  Circumcision was an act performed upon newborns.

The analogy Zwingli and other defenders of infant baptism cling to – i.e., that just as circumcision served as a sign of the covenant for Israel so too does baptism for Christians – is false.  They are incomparable.

Still, Zwingli being wrong about baptism only means one thing: he wasn’t always right. But even given his disagreement with Hubmaier, his tone is extremely civil (a gift Luther completely lacked) –

Balthazarnn Hübmer, doctorn zuo Waldshuot, enbüt Huldrych Zuingli gnad und frid von gott. Lieber Balthazar! Du solt dich gentzlich zuo mir versehenn, das ich dyn schryben hette lassen (als man spricht) für oren gon, wenn ich nit gsehen hette, daß die einvaltigen din böggenwyß uß seltzamem baaren gern hettind angehebt ze fürchten. Da muoß ich inen ye den butzen harußsagen, das ist: anzeygen, das du mit geplerr umbgangist, damit die schlächten nit wänind, du lupfist unnd wägist an eim trottboum, sunder klarlich sehind, daß es ein strowhalm sye, damit du so übelzyt hast. Wiewol nun das by den ufruerischen gmueten groß gemacht wirt: “sich, wo söllend wir hin, wir armen einfaltigen? Der herr doctor zuo Waldshuot ist mit dem Zuingli spänig, und sind aber in hoffnung gewäsen, sy wurdind das rych Israels widerumb ufrichten” [cf. Dan. 2. 44]. Denen danck gott, das sy so wol könnend von ‘n sachen reden; denn mich dunckt, sy wöltind das rych gottes gern ufrichtenn, wie das israelisch rych ufgericht ist. Denocht wolt min frouw Sarah nit lyden, das Ismael mit irem sun Isaac fräfenlich schimpfete und inn verspottete [cf. 1. Mos. 21. 9-12].

Read it all- it’s really quite enjoyable.

Today With Zwingli: The Zurich Disputation of 1525

Huldrych Zwingli

With the appearance of the ‘re-baptizers’ in Zurich in the early 1520’s, need arose for clarification of the Reforming position.  The City Council required discussions and on the 17th of January, 1525, those discussions commenced.  As Schaff notes

At first Zwingli tried to persuade them in private conferences, but in vain. Then followed a public disputation, which took place by order of the magistracy in the council hall, Jan. 17, 1525. Grebel was opposed to it, but appeared, together with Manz and Reubli. They urged the usual arguments against infant baptism, that infants cannot understand the gospel, cannot repent and exercise faith. Zwingli answered them, and appealed chiefly to circumcision and 1 Cor. 7:14, where Paul speaks of the children of Christian parents as “holy.” He afterwards published his views in a book, “On Baptism, Rebaptism, and Infant Baptism” (May 27, 1525). Bullinger, who was present at the disputation, reports that the Anabaptists were unable to refute Zwingli’s arguments and to maintain their ground. Another disputation was held in March, and a third in November, but with no better result. The magistracy decided against them, and issued an order that infants should be baptized as heretofore, and that parents who refuse to have their children baptized should leave the city and canton with their families and goods.

And further

The Anabaptists refused to obey, and ventured on bold demonstrations. They arranged processions, and passed as preachers of repentance, in sackcloth and girdled, through the streets of Zurich, singing, praying, exhorting, abusing the old dragon (Zwingli) and his horns, and exclaiming, “Woe, woe unto Zurich!”

The Magistrates saw this as a demonstration of an anarchic spirit and they cracked down. Hard. Indeed, they were right to. The early Anabaptists weren’t peace loving Yoder-ians. They were – for all intents and purposes – anarchists bent on overthrowing not just the Church but the State. It was the political dimension of their protests which drew Government ire and resulted in the violence leveled against them. And it all started on January 17, 1525, when they rejected persuasion and determined to have it their way no matter the consequences.

More on Balthasar Hubmaier

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Since I earlier referenced Hubmaier, I thought I’d also mention a fine essay in Zwingliana from back in 1993 which compares the Anabaptists of Zurich with the Anabaptists of Munster.  Martin Haas is the author and the essay is here.

Haas astutely observes

Die schweizerische und die münsterische Richtung der Täufer sind aber keineswegs bloß im Lichte der erwähnten spätmittelalterlichen Bewegung zu sehen. Vergleicht man die Erscheinungsformen ihres Gemeindelebens mit Kult und Hierarchie der Katharer, so erkennt man, daß auch die heute skizzierten Extremformen desTäufertums ohne Reformation undenkbar gewesen wären. Ich weise nur auf die Radikalität des Biblizismus für die Gemeindeorganisation hin. Es würde jedoch unsern Rahmen sprengen, wollten wir auf den Unterschieden zu den Katharern insistieren.

I commend the whole publication.