19 Comments

  1. TARA

    Fascinating! I served 5 months of my mission in Liege, and I never heard of this. I’d love to go back and see it sometime.

  2. Thanks for this post. Recently as I participated in baptisms in the London temple, I sat back and admired the font carried on the backs of twelve oxen and its placement in the baptistry. It had a profound effect on me that this post summons once again.

  3. If you ask me, although the twelve oxen are interesting, the most interesting thing is that it was clearly designed for baptism by immersion.

  4. You are right Jon.

    In addition to the fact that it was clearly for full immersion baptisms, traditionally biblical scholars would say that the molten sea was used in Old Testament times only for washings and purification rites. It is interesting here that a group brought it back from antiquity for use in full immersion baptisms.

  5. I’ve got a picture of myself as a missionary holding Talmage’s The Great Apostasy behind that font :)

    It’s not big enough to do immersion baptisms in, being maybe 2.5 feet in diameter. Perhaps immersion baptisms of infants, but you’d have to be a small 8-year old or tiny adult. I don’t think the molten sea in the OT was for baptisms either…

  6. Lol… ok so maybe not big enough for immersion baptisms. ;) Although if they had built it to scale following the OT specs it would have been 15 feet across and 7.5 feet deep – almost a swimming pool. (Why did the Israelites need it that big?)

    It’s also interesting that the moldings of the various figures around the circumference of the font all show adults being baptized in fonts. It looks like they are sitting (crouching) in them.

  7. jondh, there is plenty of other evidence that many of the early Christian and even Catholic churches believed in and practiced baptism by immersion. The Catholic Encyclopedia even acknowledges and discusses it.

  8. I showed a photo of an early Christian baptismal font in one of my posts a couple weeks ago. You can see it here. It appears to have steps down into it and is large enough for baptism by immersion, which is what I believe the early Christians were practicing.

  9. Bethany Klick

    In response to why the old testament dimensions were so large (15 ft.) it is possible that they did multiple baptisms at a time…?

  10. Baptisms, in the traditional sense that we think about them, were not performed in the Old Testament times. But it was a basin for washing, cleansing, and purifying in order to perform the rites of the Tabernacle.

  11. Bethany Klick

    sorry, that’s what I meant, that they could have multiple people performing such rights at a time. Especially at large Jewish holidays where the cities and temples were packed with Jews that came from miles around. I expect that they would be running the temple at full steam through those times, with sacrifices and such, wouldn’t they?

    and if it were shallow, well that would make sense for the purposes they used it for…

  12. I took the picture mentioned above at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and I can attest to it not having 12 oxen (there were 10).

  13. Susan J.

    FYI- When the Bible was translated into English, the words “baptize” and “baptism” were placed in the text as Greek words, rather than being translated for their true meaning, which is “to immerse” (see Strong’s Exhaustive Condordance of the Bible). So why use the Greek rather than just translating them into English like the rest of the text? Because by then sprinkling was the method used, not the proper full immersion practiced in the primitive church. Some apologists will claim sprinkling was used in the Bible, but it almost always in connection with blood, or oil- water is mentioned only with ceremonial purification of Levites and the sick.

  14. Anthony D.

    I find what is depicted on the font in the picture to be most interesting. From what I can tell it is representing the baptism of Jesus Christ? You can see what seems to be the head of God the Father above the one being baptized, and the dove, symbolic of the Holy Ghost descending. Given the halo around the head of the one officiating in the ordinance, he must have been a person of some significance, John the Baptist perhaps? Also you see the same with the one being baptized from what I can see, which leads me to think it may be the Baptism of Christ being depicted. One could also see symbolism in the trees, perhaps the clothing as well and what appears to be some kind of garment or cloth being presented to the one being baptized.

  15. James W. (Jim) Hunt

    Why are the fonts on the back of ox’s. Why did they choose that animal?

  16. from the Ensign, March 1993, 54-55

    At the dedication of this structure, commonly called “the tabernacle,” the leaders of each tribe presented a variety of gifts and offerings. Among them were six wagons drawn by twelve oxen for the proper transport of the tabernacle. (See Num. 7:2–8.)

    In ancient Israel, the ox, “bull,” “wild bull,” (or “unicorn,” as it is rendered in the King James Version) was a type or symbol of strength and power. (See Num. 23:22, n. 22a; Num. 24:8.) In addition, the bull and wild bull symbolize the people of Joseph as represented by his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. (See Deut. 33:17, n. 17b.)

    Thus, we can see that the twelve oxen represent the tribes of Israel and also signify the strength and power on which God has established his work for the children of mankind. Those who are obedient and faithful to their covenants are the covenant family chosen to accomplish God’s purposes. They are the ones upon whom his work “rests,” just as the temple fonts rest upon the backs of the oxen.

  17. Bob Stringham

    We just arrived home from a short trip to Belgium. I served there as a Missionary from 1961 to 1964. I had heard of the font but never took the time while I was posted in Liege to go see it. This time my wife and I made a point to hunt it down and were successful. Too small for youth or adult baptisms but still a moving sight.

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