Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The first Anabaptist baptisms
These two photos are the locations of the first baptisms among Anabaptists. The nondescript street is Neustadtgasse, where Felix Mantz lived. We don't know where he lived exactly, but it was on this street near the Grossmuenster, or cathedral. Mantz was the illegitimate son of the canon of the cathedral.
Mantz gathered at his home with Conrad Grebel, George Blaurock and others to decide what to do after the Zurich council had declared that everyone must have their children baptized. They decided to start baptizing each other based on their confession of faith. So this happened on January 21, 1525.
The Hutterite Chronicle tells the story: "After prayer, George Blaurock stood up and asked Conrad Grebel in the name of God to baptize him with true Christian baptism on his faith and recognition of the truth. With this request he knelt down and Conrad baptized him. Then the others turned to George in their turn, asking him to baptize them, which he did."
The second picture is of a house in Zollikon, once a farming village outside of Zurich, now a suburb. I travelled there by boat, though it is also accessible by train.
The Anabaptists were evangelistic from the start. The very next day Johannes Broetli baptized someone in Zollikon at this Rudi Thomann home. A wave of baptisms swept the area. There is a plaque on the house, though it can no longer be read because the owner has allowed that bush to grow over it. Perhaps there is some frustration with tourists snapping photos? I don't know.
Anyway, from Sam Wenger's Swiss Anabaptist tour book I know that it says, in English translation: "The concept of the believers' church was first realized in Zollikon by Anabaptists. In this house on January 25, 1525, one of their earliest meetings was held.
I want to mention that my source for the beginnings of Anabaptism in Zurich, Zollikon, Hallau, Waldshut, etc., is the recent essay by C. Arnold Snyder called "Swiss Anabaptism: The beginnings, 1523-1525" found in A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism, 1521-1700, edited by John D. Roth and James M. Stayer, 2007. The book itself is a great resource for getting up to date on the state of Anabaptist studies.