Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius and the alleged Baptist quote


When Baptists attempt to maintain their descent from the time of the Apostles, they often will bring up a purported statement of Cardinal Hosius from the sixteenth century, which “proves” so they think, that the Baptists have been around from the beginning, so they are the true Christian church. That this statement was supposedly made by Hosius, who was a papal legate at the Council of Trent, is sure to cause doubts as to its authenticity, except among those who would like to believe it`s genuineness. It is the purpose of this essay to show the evidence for the inauthenticity of this statement, and to show also what Cardinal Hosius really did have to say about anabaptists in his writings.

A little about Hosius

Born 5.May.1504 in Krakow, Poland, of German parents.
Died 5.August.1579 in Capranica (near Rome).
Cardinal from 1561. Bishop of Ermland from 1551 to 1579.
Legate for Vienna 1560; papal legate for Council of Trent 1561-1563; legate for Poland 1566.
Fought entry of Protestants into Poland. In 1564 he called the Jesuits into Poland for that purpose.
Wrote the “Confessio”, a famous catechism, in 1577
Complete works published Cologne 1584.

More info at Catholic Encyclopedia: Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius

PART I. Cardinal Hosius and that infamous “statement”: Is it genuine?

The statement reads as follows:

“Were it not that the baptists have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past twelve hundred years, they would swarm in greater number than all the Reformers.” (Hosius, Letters, Apud Opera, pp. 112, 113.)” Quoted in the “Trail of Blood” by J. Carroll.

Does this statement exist in his complete works? No.


The complete works of Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius were published in two volumes in 1584 in Cologne, under the title “Opera Omnia”. The complete title reads as follows:


“Opera Omnia in Duos divisa tomos, quorum primus ab ipso auctore plurimus subinde in locis, integris & dimidijs paginis sic auctus & recognitus, ut novum opus fere censeri possit. Secundum autem totus novus, nuncque primus typis excusus.”

Apud Maternum Cholinum

The purported statement is nowhere to be found in the letters of Cardinal Hosius

  • There is no section titled “Apud Opera” among Hosius‘ complete works. And there is no letter of that name. So the reference “Letters, Apud Opera” is apparently meaningless. Similarly, I could find no publication of his with this title.
  • I decided to check all of Cardinal Hosius‘ letters for references to the Anabaptists. The section in his “Opera Omnia” entitled “Liber Epistelarum” contains all of Cardinal Hosius‘ letters, 277 in total, written in Latin. I have read through all of these letters, and in only 12 of them (letters XXVIII, XLI, XLIII, CV, CXVI, CXXVIII, CXXIX, CXXXIV, CL, CLVII, CLVIII, and CLX) is there any mention of the Anabaptists. In none of them is to be found the statement cited at the top. To all intents and purposes, this statement appears to be a fake.
  • Nowhere in the letters of Hosius are the “reformers” referred to as such. Rather, they are referred to as “Lutherani”, “Calvinisti”, “Zuingliani” and, especially in his other works, “haeretici”. The purported statement of Hosius uses language he never uses in his “Opera omnia”, and so its authenticity must be called into question.
  • The citation by various Baptist websites of two completely different purported statements by Cardian Hosuis, both given the same page reference, adds to the doubt about the genuineness of either. (The second purported statement is quoted in Note 1 below). The said statements are purported to be found on pages 112, 113 of “Apud Opera”. However, only one statement can be found crossing over from page 112 to 113. How can you get two different statements, both starting on page 112 and both ending on page 113? (The only possibility would be if one statement were embedded in the other, but that is clearly not the case here.)


———–PART II: What Cardinal Hosius DID have to say about the “Anabaptists”.

Cardinal Hosius meant by the term “Anabaptist” a general term for any kind of re-baptizing sect. We see the proof of this in his assertion that the Donatists were Anabaptists. But we know, of course, that the Donatists had completely different beliefs from modern day Baptists (or even 16th century Anabaptists). For example, they only believed in re-baptism for those Christians who had apostasized under persecution and later returned. Thy did not say infant baptism was wrong, they did not day baptism must be by immersion only, they did not say baptism was merely a symbol. So it is absolutely wrong for modern-day Baptists to suggest that Cardinal Hosius testifies to their existence at the time of Augustine!

See Catholic Encyclopedia: Donatists


a) The following is an extract from “Liber Primus De Haeresibus Nostri Temporis” found in “Opera Omnia” on page 432 of the Cologne, 1584 edition. It shows clearly how the Anabaptists of the time of Hosius could not agree among themselves, just as the anabaptist groups of Augustine’s time were also likewise hopelessly disunited.
(Note: original Latin will be shown in italics)

( Margin heading: Anabaptistae inter se dissecti)
“But this sect of Anabaptists is greatly divided. For they neither agree on the main doctrines among themselves ..”( Est autem & haec Anabaptistarum secta valde dissecta: Neque enim doctrine capitibus inter se conveniunt. ) It has also been in Augustines century, (fuit etiam Augustini seculo, & ficut aliae pleraeque omnes haereses) all heresies immediately from the beginning divided into many parts (sic & haec statim ab initio multas in partes fuit divisa).

b) Cardinal Hosius then goes on to list some of the anabaptist heretical groups of Augustine’s time. This is significant, because among other things it shows that Hosius regarded the Donatists as „anabaptists“ or re-baptizers. However, since we know exactly what the Donatists believed (and it certainly wasn’t what Baptists believe) we see that Hosius used the term “anabaptist” as a generic term for sects which re-baptized. Here is his quote:
(Nam alij vocabantur Donatistae, alij Rogatistae, alij Maximianistae, Circenses alij, qui conversi tandem sunt a factione Donatistarum ( hoc enim nomen caeteris erat celebrius) ad Ecclesiae Catholicae societatem. )
(„For some are called Donatists, others Rogatists, other Maximinianists, othere Circenses, which at length are changed from the faction of the Donatists to the Catholic Church“)

c) And he continues by listing some of the sects of the sixteenth century.

“Muncerani, alij Orantes, alij Silentes, Somniantes, pueris similes, Synceri, Impeccabiles a Baptismo, Liberi, Binderliani, Sabbatarii, Maderanii, Hoffmannici, & post eos exorti Circumcisi: fortassis & Adamitae ad Anabaptistarum sectam pertinent.”

So it is clear from this that Hosius grouped all re-baptising sects together under the heading “Anabaptists”. This is very important to note, for it destroys conclusively any notion that the Baptists of today can trace their lineage back to the time of Augustine.

d) A quote from letter CLVII “Carolo Archiduci Austriae” (from “Opera Omnia”, Liber Epistolarum)

“Nonne videmus a Lutheranismo ad Calvinismum, a Calvinismo ad Anabaptismum, ab Anabaptismo ad Trideismum, a Trideismi ad Atheism iam esse ventum? “
(“Do we not already see the wind to be from Lutheranism to Calvinism, from Calvinism to Anabaptism, from Anabaptism to Trideism, from Trideism to Atheism?”).

Proof again, if it were needed, that Cardinal Hosius certainly didn’t see the Anabaptists of his time being in any way descended from the groups at the time of Augustine.

e) Letter CL “Alberto Bavariae Duci” (ibid.): in this letter we do have a reference to Anabaptists from 1,200 years earlier (“quos ante mille ducentos annes haeretisos”), however as we have seen, this refers to sects such as the Donatists, who did not reject infant baptism or baptism by sprinkling, they merely insisted that apostates should be “re-baptized”, hence their status as “ana-baptists”.

Nam & alterius Principis edictum non ita pridem legi, qui vicem Anabaptistarum dolens, quos ante mille ducentos annes haeretisos, capitalique supplicio dignos esse pronunciatos legimus, vult, ut audiantur omnino, nec indicta causa pro condemnatis habeantur.”

f) Finally note the following reference. Again Hosius is goruping the Donatists as anabaptists:

Page 436 “Liber Primus De Haeresibus Nostri Temporis” (ibid.)

Neque vero tantum Augustini seculo tales fuerunt: Ante quadringentos etia annos, quibus Bernardus vixit, fuerunt Anabaptistae non minus vitae prodigi, quam Donatistae.”
(“Not only in the time of Augustine were they as such. 400 years ago, during which Bernard lived, there have been anabaptists no less prodigious of life than the Donatists.”)
(Refs Augustus epist. 50 “Donatistae mortis oppetendae cupidi”; Bernardus. sermo 66 in cantic.)

Once again, there is absolutely no connection in Hosius’ mind between the groups of the time of Augustine and those of the sixteenth century.


———–In summary:

We have shown that (i) it is almost certain that Cardinal Hosius never made that remark which is attributed to him, for reasons given in section I above, and (ii) that Cardinal Hosius certainly did not regard the Anabaptists of his time as being in any way descended from the sects of the time of Augustine.

An understanding of the general nature of the term “anabaptist” as simply meaning “re-baptizer” will clarify why Hosius says they existed as early as Augustine`s time. Note that in contrast, the term “Catholic” has always meant something quite specific, union with the See of Peter in the universal Church. For this reason, the Catholic Church of today CAN and DOES claim continuity from the time of the Apostles.

As a final comment, it is well to note that the Catholic Church has much more ancient testimony than anything the Baptists can come up with. Just read the Early Church Fathers on Baptism, the Eucharist, the Primacy of Peter etc. See for example or
The Baptists cannot provide any kind of support of this kind for their position.


———–Catholic Encyclopedia Links:

The following are some links to Catholic Encyclopedia articles relating to pre-reformation heretical sects. The casual reader will note that the teachings of these groups vary widely and can in no way be seen to be doctrinally consistent with modern-day Baptists!



———–Note 1.

The Landmark Independent Baptist Church website cites the following quotation:

“If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and boldness of which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and surer than that of the Anabaptist since there have been none for these twelve hundred years past, that have been more generally punished or that have more cheerfully and steadfastly undergone, and even offered themselves to the most cruel sorts of punishment than these people. (Cardinal Hosius, Letters, Apud Opera, 112-113).” Baptist Magazine CVIII, 278. May, 1826)

Obviously, this is very different quote from the one quoted earlier. Yet they both have the same reference (Letters, Apud Opera, 112-113).


———–Note 2.

The list of contents for Cardinal Hosius‘ Complete Works (Colonia, 1584 edition) reads as follows:
Operum Tomi Primi
Confessio catholica fidei Christiana folio 1
Confutation Prolegomenon Brentij. 419
De expresso Dei verbo libellus 611
Dialogues de communione sub utraq. specie

  • de Sacerdotum coniugio
  • de Missa vulgari lingua celebranda

Iudicium & censura de adoranda Trinitate 669
Stanislai Orechouij Epistola ad Stanislaum Hosium Cardinalem 708
Stanislaj Hosij Cardinalis, ad eundem de loco, & auctoritate Romani Pontificis in Ecclesia, & in Concilijs 711
Fabiana Quadrantini Recantantiones 719.

Operum Tomi Secundi
De oppresso Dei verbo libellus 1
De Actis cum diversis Haereticis 61
Liber Epistelarum 145
Examen siue exiussio Confederationis Hareticorum 454
Altera exiussio eiusdem Confederationis 459
Orationes funebres duae, in Exequijs duorum Regum Poloniae Sigismundi primi & secundi recitatae 462.469
Eiusdem auctoris Testamentum ex manuscriptus adversarijs excerptum 483
Epistola Stanislai Rescij, de transitu Cardinalis Hosij 485
Eiusdem Ode lugubris 495.


4 responses to “Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius and the alleged Baptist quote

    • Thank you for the link Sandra. However it does not add anything to the story. I also quoted from Hosius’ De origine haeresium nostri temporis
      in my article which covers exactly the same material in that link, but once again highlighting the uncomfortable fact for Baptists that the anabaptist sects of earlier centuries are in no way related to the Baptists of recent times, and specifically in regard to baptismal regeneration. So the link you provide only serves to hammer another nail in the coffin of Baptist supposed successionism.

      God be with you,
      Sean Hyland.

  1. Your point is understood by many of us. While I do not agree with the Cardinal’s position, I must acknowledge that no “Apud Opera” can be found in an honest search. Unless others had information we know not of, you certainly are right. Much of Hosius’ other statements do however, indicate his position of Baptists being present 1200 years prior. No greater sign exists in history that suggests the persecution than the fact that Baptists had a difficult time being together and unifying their principles. I would say your assumptions of the Donatists are not adequate to build truth upon.
    I would add that we who are trying to understand the history of the Catholic Church would agree that they existed from the time of Christ. HOWEVER, the doctrinal position of that time was greatly different as we notice from the Holy Scriptures. Like all denominations the move is always from right to left. from rightness to compromise. To say less is to miss the truth. The great degree to which Catholic system changes among SOME of it’s followers is evidence of it’s attempts to cover it’s history. Their are certainly well meaning Catholics as well as divinely saved ones. That is not the issue here. Denying history and attempting to change the same is.
    with sincerity,

    • Thank you for your comments. When you say

      “No greater sign exists in history that suggests the persecution than the fact that Baptists had a difficult time being together and unifying their principles”

      you admit that your argument is based on silence, a wel-worn logical fallacy. The reason the “Baptists” had a difficult time being together and unifying their principles was because there were no Baptists!

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