Just two years old, the Swiss Brethren movement in 1527 seemed about to be stamped out. Internally, there was confusion and no clear authority from the Zurich Brethren, two of whom were already dead. Either the "Brethren in Christ" could fall into step, or they could rally and take a separate stand. In February 1527 in the Swiss-German border town of Schleitheim a small group of Anabaptists met. This meeting and resulting document has sometimes been considered to be the real birth of Anabaptism. What resulted was not a complete...
items tagged with anabaptists
Death of Menno Simons. This gentle Anabaptist leader will give his name to the Mennonites. Surprisingly, considering the rewards on his head, he dies a natural death.Authority for the date:
Simons, Menno. Complete Writings of Menno Simons.
Anabaptists come into being in Zurich when Conrad Grebel baptizes George Blaurock.Authority for the date:
Bender, Harold S. Conrad Grebel. Scottsdale, PA: 1971.
Anabaptist preacher Leonhard Schiemer is beheaded and burned in Austria. Dreading death, he strengthens himself with the thought, “If I did not place all my confidence in the Lord I would fall; but the Lord is my comfort and my confidence; he forsakes none who trusts him.” During his ministry, he had made about seventy converts in Rattenberg. In prison he had written letters that were held in high regard by other Anabaptists.Authority for the date:
Dyck, Cornelius J. An Introduction to Mennonite History. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1993.
Tjard Reynders is executed for sheltering the gentle and holy Anabaptist leader Menno Simons.Authority for the date:
Simons, Menno. Complete Writings of Menno Simons.
Felix Manz becomes the first Anabaptist martyr, drowned in the Limmat River for rebaptizing Christians as adults.Authority for the date:
Shelly, Bruce. Church History in Plain Language.
Execution by fire of Hans Bret, a young Anabaptist Protestant in Antwerp. He had been tortured for months in an attempt to force him to deny his faith but kept such a bold testimony his persecutors clamped and seared his tongue so that he could not preach to the crowd when taken to the stake.Authority for the date:
IN 1536, when Menno Simons (c. 1496–1561) became an Anabaptist, he joined a movement in peril. Almost all of its initial leaders were dead, either by disease (Conrad Grebel) or execution (Felix Manz, Michael Sattler, Hans Hut, Hans Denck, Balthasar Hubmaier, Georg Blaurock, Jakob Hutter). Melchior Hoffman (1495–1533), the leader responsible for introducing Anabaptism to the Low Countries (modern Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg), was in prison, discredited for prophecies that had not come true.
no new Jerusalem for now
A 1534 coup in...Read More
“Anabaptist” was a dirty name in sixteenth-century Christian Europe; it was deemed a dangerous movement, a call for violent destruction of Europe’s religious and social institutions.
The name simply means, in Greek, “one who baptizes again,” but this tiny group aroused opposition from all sides. Rulers and theologians, whether Protestant or Catholic, regarded early Anabaptist success with a mixture of fear and anxiety. They were thought to be political revolutionaries bent on destroying the unity of the faith. Some even argued that they...Read More
The Zwingli you never knew
As a youth Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531), leader of the Swiss Reformation, learned violin, harp, flute, dulcimer, hunting horn, and lute. He amused children from his congregation by playing the lute for them, and enemies called him “that evangelical lute-player and fifer.” Yet he opposed instrumental music in worship (as well as choral music and chanting) and presided over breaking up the great organ in his church in Zurich. Open to congregational singing, he wrote at least three hymns.
As a chaplain with Swiss...Read More
STARTING YEARS FOR VARIOUS DENOMINATIONS
1708 GERMAN BAPTIST BRETHREN
1780 RIVER BRETHREN
1860 OLD ORDER AMISH
1860 AMISH MENNONITES
1862 BRETHREN IN CHRIST
1872 OLD ORDER MENNONITES
1881 OLD GERMAN BRETHREN
1883 BRETHREN CHURCH
1907 OLD ORDER AUTOMOBILE
1907 OLD ORDER HORSE
1926 DUNKARD BRETHREN
1939 GRACE BRETHREN
1960 NEW ORDER AMISH
OLD WORLD ORIGINS
1525 Conrad Grebel rebaptizes George Blaurock as the first convert to Anabaptism
1527 Swiss leaders draw up the Schleitheim Confession, identifying...
A lthough the Anabaptists have valued humility and privacy highly, they have attracted a lot of attention from curious tourists and serious students alike. In whichever category you may fall, you will find in the following resources a wealth of carefully researched information and interpretation on the Anabaptists.
Anyone interested in learning about the origins of Anabaptism would do well to start with William Estep’s The Anabaptist Story (3rd edition, Eerdmans, 1996). Estep covers the heady days of the Radical Reformation in engaging...Read More
UNDER THE COVER of a dark September night in 1889, three children of Martin W. and Anna Zimmerman crawled into the newly constructed Lichty Mennonite Meetinghouse in Eastern Pennsylvania. Sent by their parents, they quietly tore out a newly installed pulpit and replaced it with a traditional small preacher’s table, constructed by their father. Their mischief remained hidden for nearly nineteen years until Martin’s wife Anna confessed their sins ten years after his death.
Meanwhile, the pro-pulpit and anti-pulpit factions boiled with anger....Read More
A WOODCUT in the 17th-century Anabaptist Martyrs Mirror shows Dirk Willems, an early Dutch Mennonite, saving the life of a “thief-catcher” who has fallen through the ice on a lake. The “thief-catcher” had been pursuing Willems at a burgomaster’s behest, to bring him to trial and execution for his Anabaptist beliefs. After his act of mercy, Willems was nonetheless recaptured (over the protests, the Mirror notes, of his rescued pursuer) and burned at the stake.
This story is intimately familiar to most Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren (the...Read More
THE PREMISE of “Amish in the City,” a recent TV reality show, is simple. Ask a group of Amish youth to move into a Los Angeles “party house” with some hip urban teenagers and watch what results from the ensuing cultural clash.
The Amish these days have become positively chic—fascinating cultural anomalies in a world obsessed with high-tech gadgetry, marketing hype, and the ever-shifting tastes of fashion. How is it possible that a group who has lived in the United States for nearly two centuries continues to practice a way of life that...Read More
WHEN WRITER PHEBE GIBBONS caught a train to Lancaster County in 1871 to visit a Brethren love feast, she prepared herself to enter what she thought would be a strange world. As a reporter for a major magazine she intended to write about what would no doubt be an odd, perhaps even bizarre practice by an obscure religious sect.
What she experienced was the equivalent of a three-day slumber party.
Surprised by love
The love feast was quite different from other religious practices of the day. It stemmed from the peculiar theological synthesis...Read More
OUR CONGREGATION gathered for worship on a beautiful September Sunday morning at the Conley farm in western Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This was the fourth of a series of weekend meetings we call “love feast"—the high point of our church year. An intense spiritual experience, the series culminates on Saturday evening as the plainly dressed, bearded brothers and the sisters in their capes, aprons, and snow white head coverings wash one another’s feet. Then, positioned around long wooden tables, they exchange the kiss of peace and pass...Read More
IT IS OCTOBER 1683. In a temporary cave-dwelling on the high banks of the Delaware, a German Mennonite family and several German Quaker families cast lots for parcels of land. The settlement they are founding—Germantown—will play a crucial role in the early history of the American Anabaptists.
The Germans’ “other holy experiment”
A wave of German immigrants began landing at the port city of Philadelphia in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. William Penn, the colony’s Quaker proprietor, did not intend to establish a Quaker commonwealth...Read More
Trail of blood
The Martyrs Mirror (1660), an Anabaptist martyrology, has as its full title The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only Upon Confession of Faith, and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus, Their Saviour, From the Time of Christ to the Year A.D. 1660 .
A-Fording them a higher profile
By the 1980s, annual visitors to Lancaster County’s “Amish country” numbered above 4 million. The 1985 Harrison Ford film Witness increased the flood even further (though not doubling it as...Read More
TOURISTS in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania tend to assume that they are at the center of the Anabaptist world (not true—more Amish live in Ohio today than in Pennsylvania) and that the Amish are the largest and most significant group of Anabaptists (also not true—Mennonites and Brethren are actually more numerous than the Amish). As a service to the uninitiated, here are some key distinctives of these groups.
Conceived in a dispute between Swiss Anabaptist leaders in the 1690s, Jakob Ammann’s following is in many ways the most...
NOTHING RESTORES one’s sanity like a little peace and quiet. As my colleague Steve Gertz and I rode through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the car of our host Steve Scott, the peacefulness of “Amish Country” refreshed us like a tonic.
Granted, faced with the near-perfect tranquility of the rolling fields, neat houses, and slow-moving black buggies, I did begin to get fidgety—looking around for a manuscript to edit or a layout to proof. But the sensation of being away from the “shot-out-of-a-cannon” life of publishing in the Chicago...Read More
In the year 1569 a pious, faithful brother and follower of Jesus Christ, named Dirk Willems, was apprehended at Asperen, in Holland, and had to endure severe tyranny from the papists. But as he had founded his faith not upon the drifting sand of human commandments, but upon the firm foundation stone, Christ Jesus, he, notwithstanding all evil winds of human doctrine, and heavy showers of tyrannical and severe persecution, remained immovable and steadfast unto the end. . . .
Concerning his apprehension, it is stated by trustworthy persons,...Read More
THE YEAR IS 1530. Protestant thought sweeps like a tornado across a European terrain that has altered little for a thousand years. Caught in the storm, the influential town of Strasbourg (now in France) is gripped by the same fears rampaging through Germany and the Netherlands. The stage is set for revolution. Melchoir Hoffman, a furrier, mounts the pulpit to preach another of his fiery apocalyptic sermons. The New Revelation is about to be unleashed.
Earlier that year, the popular preacher had spontaneously started rebaptizing adults. His...Read More
ON A JANUARY EVENING in 1525, in the Zurich rooms of Felix Manz, one of the city’s most promising Hebrew scholars, a remarkable event took place. An upper-class theology student named Conrad Grebel turned to a rough-hewn priest from the Tyrol, George Cajacob, and baptized him. Then, along with the other men gathered in the room (on this occasion there seem to have been no women present), Grebel received baptism from Cajacob. ‘In the high fear of God’ and with a deep bond of ‘togetherness', the brothers then solemnly committed themselves to...Read More
From the Archives: Concerning the Drawings of the Early History of Anabaptism in Zurich and on Hutterian Missionaries in Switzerland
Since in Switzerland no original drawings or paintings picturing any of the early Anabaptists or what they experienced have been known up to now, the presentation of the colored drawings in this issue deserves a short comment. The manuscript codex in which the drawings have been found has been preserved in the Central Library of Zürich and bears the signature Ms B 316. It contains the reformation history...Read More
This broadside has never before appeared in print. It was found in a sixteenth-century file of materials collected by a contemporary who was convinced that the world was coming to an end and considered it his business to amass the clues of that end. This version was written very near the actual event; the same story, with some important differences, also appears over a hundred years later in Martyrs’ Mirror .
Miriam Usher Chrisman, Ph.D., who found and translated this broadside, is professor of history at the University of Massachusetts,...Read More
Anabaptists are the originators of the “free church.” Separation of church and state was an unthinkable and radical notion when it was introduced by the Anabaptists . Likewise their defense of religious liberty was regarded as an invitation to anarchy.
In the court records of 16th century South and Central Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, only 12,522 Anabaptists can be counted. Their numbers were never very large, yet they managed to populate 2088 towns and villages of that region!
Protestantism did not make inroads without the backing of...Read More
WITH THIS ISSUE Christian History makes the transition from an “occasional” publication to a regularly scheduled quarterly. This step is taken as a result of the enthusiastic reader response received to the first issues. We sincerely thank you who encouraged us to expand our efforts.
Our hope for this publication is that it will deepen appreciation for your own specific heritage when the subject matter deals directly with your particular tradition and that it will broaden awareness of and respect for the heritage of others when the subject...Read More
Early Anabaptist Writings
Walter Klaassen, ed., Anabaptism in Outline (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, 1981).
Thieleman J. van Braght, Martyrs’ Mirror (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, 1977).
George H. Williams and Angel M. Mergal, ed., Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers (The Library of Christian Classics; The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1957).
General History, Biography, and Mennonite Belief
Cornelius J. Dyck, An Introduction to Mennonite History (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, 1967).
William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story (William B....Read More
SINCE HIS ENGLISH FATHER was no longer living and his brother Daid had gone to England, Hans Bret was the sole support for his mother. They lived in Antwerp in the Netherlands, his mother’s homeland. Hans worked in a confectionery with a baker, who like him and his mother was also an Anabaptist.
From the age of twenty-one Hans had distinguished himself as a serious student of the Bible. He spent his Sundays instructing recent converts and preparing them for baptism. Many sought him out for the privilege of studying with him because of his...Read More
Erasmus kindled it with his Greek New Testament and translations of the Church’s greatest thinkers. Luther struck the match. From Wittenberg to Zurich, Strassburg, Basel, and Bern the fire swept. It was a fire meant to cleanse the Church of greed and corruption—a fire to restore Christianity. But it did more than that. It changed the map of Europe. It changed lives. Princes gained ground from it; artisans and peasants gained power. It took religion out of the monastery and into the marketplace. It made of Christendom competing factions and...Read More
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Come along with us as we explore the events set in motion in October 1517Read More