Henry Bullinger on the apostles and infant baptism

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The language from this translation of Henry Bullinger is rather antiquated (the editor did try to update it a bit), yet his arguments are useful. I am only posting an extract here, yet the whole blog post is worth reading if you have time:

The sixth argument shall be taken out of the manifest and express testimonies of the apostles. The apostles did baptise all whole households and families, ergo they did baptise children also, for the children are in the number of the family or household. This we do prove by the xvii of Gene. For Abraham doth circumcise all the male children that were in his house. For he understood the promise of God, that saith. I shall be thy God, & the God of thy seed. Likewise in the new Testament, when the goodman of the house, had herd & believed the gospel, that is to say, that God was his God, & the God of his seed also, he caused all them that were in his house both great and small, to be baptized.

Thus the apostles did baptize whole households and families. That the children do pertain unto the father’s household & family, it is plain & manifest by the xii. of Exodus & ii. of the Acts: this do I inculcate & beat the oftener into men’s heads, because that I see the Anabaptists to be at this point that they do exclude the children from the family & household. for they can not deny but the whole households were baptized by the Apostles. But who doth not see, that this cometh of mere contention?

For though they could prove that there were no children at all in the families & households, that the apostles did baptise, yet had they not proved that all families or households were, or be without children: wherefore we do make again our argument after this manner. The Apostles baptized all whole households, ergo, they did baptise children, saith the children are the principal & chief part of the family & household. ...

For more, see Henry Bullinger on the apostles and infant baptism.
 

Ulsterscot

Puritan Board Freshman
"For though they could prove that there were no children at all in the families & households, that the apostles did baptise, yet had they not proved that all families or households were, or be without children:"

This is important.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Even as a Baptist I've always said determining what Luke and Paul intended to convey about these households shouldn't revolve around speculating on the possible age breakdown of the members of these households. We simply aren't told.

What is important to account for is that which we are in fact told about these household baptisms. Those being referenced "all heard the message and received the holy Spirit" (Acts 10:44); "all rejoiced" (Acts 16:34); "they were converts devoted to the service of the saints" (1 Cor. 1:16, 16:15). So the stated theme regarding these household accounts is consistent and plain enough (cf. Acts 18:8). It wasn't the age of those being talked about that we are invited to consider, but rather their spiritual state.

Can the term oikos include children in some contexts? Sure. But that doesn't seem to be what scripture intends to convey in these passages.
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
Even as a Baptist I've always said determining what Luke and Paul intended to convey about these households shouldn't revolve around speculating on the possible age breakdown of the members of these households. We simply aren't told.

What is important to account for is that which we are in fact told about these household baptisms. Those being referenced "all heard the message and received the holy Spirit" (Acts 10:44); "all rejoiced" (Acts 16:34); "they were converts devoted to the service of the saints" (1 Cor. 1:16, 16:15). So the stated theme regarding these household accounts is consistent and plain enough (cf. Acts 18:8). It wasn't the age of those being talked about that we are invited to consider, but rather their spiritual state.

Can the term oikos include children in some contexts? Sure. But that doesn't seem to be what scripture intends to convey in these passages.
But you know as a Calvinist that "all" often does not mean every single individual, but a certain class of individuals. The children were baptized upon their parents' profession of faith.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
But you know as a Calvinist that "all" often does not mean every single individual, but a certain class of individuals.
Sure, but I believe my take is exegeting from the specific, contextal facts that those passages provide. To give them further meaning seems more eisegetical, given the fact that the age-makeup of the housholds is simply not given. In another place Luke did give a more demographic breakdown regarding the recipients of baptism, which again seems more in line with what I see (Acts 8:12).

Anyway, I'm mainly trying to remind people that Baptists don't just ignore these pasasges, but rather have reasonable grounds for not seeing them as either indicating or vindicating infant baptism. Nor am I supposing that I will convince those already persuaded otherwise to change their minds.
 
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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
What is important to account for is that which we are in fact told about these household baptisms. Those being referenced "all heard the message and received the holy Spirit" (Acts 10:44); "all rejoiced" (Acts 16:34); "they were converts devoted to the service of the saints" (1 Cor. 1:16, 16:15). So the stated theme regarding these household accounts is consistent and plain enough (cf. Acts 18:8). It wasn't the age of those being talked about that we are invited to consider, but rather their spiritual state.

The fact that Acts 2:38-40 centered around verse 39 includes the genealogical principle after Christ's death. I think many Baptists will focus on the repent/believe portion of verse 38. Some have argued this only is inclusive of the gentiles but it certainly says "For the promises is for you and for your children." Infants and young children are under the headship of the father and are baptized into Christ to live as Christians in the same way male babies were under Israel. Its an visible and invisible distinction.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
"For the promises is for you and for your children.
I guess I see this as being a gracious release from the generational indictment the Jews imposed on themselves (Matt. 27:25, cf. Luke 23:18-23; Acts 2:36-37). In any case, the promise in Acts 2:38 is twofold, belief and baptism, and as such seems to do little in making a case for immediate infant baptism, in my opinion.

EDIT: I have corrected some of the scripture references that I previously typo-ed.
 
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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
I guess I see this as being a gracious release from the indictment the Jews imposed on themselves (Matt. 27:25, cf. Luke 23:18-23; Acts 2:36-37).

My take on this is that it was directed to the "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem" who were mainly Jewish from the context (Acts 2:14). But since he also said "you crucified" it has to be directed to the Jewish people themselves (Acts 2:24). So the promise to be one of God's people is still in force by faith like Abraham. It was a promise to their seed repeated in Acts 2:39 after Christs death. This language would have stood out to them. The bible speaks as the promise seed (singular) being Jesus (Gal 3:16), but also points to being a generational blessing to children of believers (Gen 17:7) as an everlasting covenant. This language of repenting and being baptized is a continual act of selflessness represented in Baptism in order to be raised to a new life (1 Peter 3:21).
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
This language would have stood out to them.
I know this argument, yet I think it non-conclusive in this context for the reason I stated. A similar "the Jews would surely have assumed this connection" argument is also used with regard to there being a direct indication that physical circumcision has been replaced with water baptism in places like Colossians 2, except that epistle is mainly directed to Gentiles whom it seems would likely not have assumed such automatic correlations.

I've always seen a good plausibility for covenant infant baptism, but for the reasons I've been indicating, among others, I think it falls short of necessary.

Anyway, I think we're drifting a bit far from the household topic of the OP, and have other immediate duties, so I will bow out of the discussion at this point. Pax.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Here are a few perspectives on Acts 8:26-40 from the Reformation on households and infant baptism from the passage with the Ethiopian Eunuch:

BAPTISM COMES LAST IN THE ETHIOPIAN’S CONVERSION. BALTHASAR HUBMAIER: The treasurer of Queen Candace of Egypt will say …, “Philip instructed me in faith in the chariot. After that I desired water baptism according to the order of Christ. But Philip did not want to baptize me before I had publicly affirmed my faith with my mouth. As soon as I did that and confessed that Jesus is Christ, Son of the living God, only then did Philip command the chariot to stop and baptize me in water.” See, if we had no other Scriptures than these, they would be enough to prove that baptism should be given to believers and not to young children—until they also have been instructed in the Word of God and faith, confessing and expressing the same with their mouths. OLD AND NEW TEACHERS ON BELIEVER’S BAPTISM (1526)

BAPTISM FOLLOWS FAITH, BUT THIS DOES NOT TOPPLE INFANT BAPTISM. JOHN CALVIN: A general rule is to be adopted from the fact that the eunuch is not admitted to baptism without professing his faith, that is, that those who have previously been outsiders should not be received into the church before they have testified that they believe in Christ. For baptism is, so to speak, the appendix of faith and therefore subsequent in order. Second, if it is given without faith, of which it is the seal, it is an impious and extremely gross profanation. But fanatics stupidly and wrongly attack infant baptism on this pretext. Why was faith bound to precede baptism in the case of the eunuch? It is because those who are to be baptized must be engrafted into the church, because Christ distinguishes only the members of the family of the church with this sign. But as it is certain that adults are engrafted by faith, so I say that the children of the godly are born children of the church and are numbered among the members of Christ from birth, because God adopts us on the principle that he is also the Father of our children. Therefore even if faith is required in the case of adults, it is wrong to carry this over to children, since the pattern for them is quite different.
Again, certain great men have made wrong use of this evidence when they wish to prove that faith has no confirmation from baptism. For they used to argue in this way: the eunuch is ordered to bring complete faith to baptism; therefore, nothing could be added. But Scripture often takes “the whole heart” to mean “sincere” and “not false.” So there is no reason for us to imagine that those who believe “with all their heart” believe completely, since it will be possible for faith that is weak and thin to exist in a person whose mind will yet be sound and free of all pretense. That is the proper way to explain David’s statement that he loves the Lord with his whole heart. Philip had indeed baptized the Samaritans before, and yet he knew that they were still far from the goal. Therefore the faith of the whole heart is that which has living roots in the heart and yet desires to increase every day. COMMENTARY ON ACTS 8:37.

I never heard this before but its something I noticed in a commentary from Beza.

ACTS 8:37 IS MISSING IN SOME MANUSCRIPTS. THEODORE BEZA: I discovered that this whole verse is missing in five codices, and even in the Complutensian edition, as well as in the Syriac and Arabic translation. Although this verse is missing, I think it has been expunged. For it contains a clear summary of the formula of confession which was required from baptized adults, truly used in apostolic times, and it openly declares what it is to be baptized in the name of Christ. ANNOTATIONS ON ACTS 8:37.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
For me, the very usage of the term "household" itself suggests that we are dealing with a paradigm different from the individualistic, Baptistic one that I used to hold. Otherwise, why the focus and emphasis on "households" instead of individuals?

And naturally, this language most clearly recalls OT narratives of salvation/judgment coming upon households without too much fretting about the age of recipients or, frequently, the ultimate destiny of those participating.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
What a breathe of fresh air this thread is. Reminds me of the good all days when important points of theology were debated among brothers and sisters on the PB. The community here needs more of these threads today. :cheers:
 
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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
For me, the very usage of the term "household" itself suggests that we are dealing with a paradigm different from the individualistic, Baptistic one that I used to hold. Otherwise, why the focus and emphasis on "households" instead of individuals?

And naturally, this language most clearly recalls OT narratives of salvation/judgment coming upon households without too much fretting about the age of recipients or, frequently, the ultimate destiny of those participating.

Some have said to me this is a stretch but it's the natural conclusion of using the word household. 1 Tim 3:4 presupposes that households include children when outlining Elder requirements.

1 Tim 3:4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
I don’t think household requires the presence of infants, but would certainly include them if present. And it’s certainly natural to use household language for the covenantal position. It’s unnatural, surprising, and requires qualifications for the credo position (although when I was a credo I had all those arguments and explanations ready at hand!).
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
There is a correlation between the OT households (as distinguished from individuals) and the NT households; in Acts 2:39 – "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." – and what Moses says in Deut 30:6 – "And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live."

The mutual relationship and equivalence between the OT promise to the household (thine heart and the heart of thy seed) and the NT promise (unto you, and to your children) is the promise of salvation through the saving work of the Holy Spirit upon the elect adults and children.

And I agree with what was said above, that although the NT mention of household baptisms did not specify any children within, they did specify households, which could and often did include children.
 
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