Zwingli on Infant Baptism in the OT

The early Reformer Huldreich Zwingli wrote a helpful treatise against early baptists.  The title of this treatise (which made me chuckle at first) is Refutation of the Tricks of the Catabaptists.  Though Zwingli isn’t always the best to read, in my opinion, this tract is more than worthwhile.

For example, he uses Paul’s discussion in 1 Cor 10.1-2 (our fathers were under the cloud, passed through the sea, and baptized into Moses) to refute the anabaptists.  The anabaptists had rejected Zwingli’s assertion that at least some “family baptisms” in the NT included infants, so Zwingli went with Paul to the OT to prove his point.

“…There were infants also under the cloud, yet no individual mention is made of them.  All crossed the sea.  Yet the infants could not have crossed.  Therefore they crossed who did not, but were borne (carried) by those who did. …All were baptized unto Moses…therefore, not only adults, but infants also, were baptized unto Moses.  For if they who were infants at the crossing of the Red Sea were not baptized, the apostle did not speak correctly in saying: All were baptized unto Moses, for they were, as I have just said, the fathers of their posterity.”

“The Hebrew children were all baptized in the cloud and in the sea, just as are ours.  Paul, in the passage cited, tends in no other direction than to prove that they are as much initiated by our sacraments as we ourselves.  It follows therefore, first, that in Paul’s time it was the custom of the apostles to baptize infants; second, if anyone contradicts it he vitiates the opinion of Paul.”

This is great!  Paul clearly says that in the OT, infants were “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”  To say that “our fathers” were only those of age who could make a decision is to wrest the meaning of Paul from his own pen.  Every Israelite who crossed the Red Sea under the Cloud was baptized – even the little baby who was crying to be nursed, even the little toddler who was frightened as he felt the spray of the parted sea on his skin.  

The above quote and context can be found on; Zwingli’s Works (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1901), 159-161.

shane lems
sunnyside wa

5 Replies to “Zwingli on Infant Baptism in the OT”

  1. There is a Zwingli quote from a book (not sure the title) ON Baptism or OF baptism??? but it’s something like ” from the early fathers till now all have been in error…” Do you have any insight as to the real name of the book and or location of the quote?
    God Bless


    1. Sorry, Ralph – if you’re asking me, I’m not the “Zwingli Dude” who knows a ton about him. I’ve just read some of his stuff. Anyone else?



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