By Bro. Dan Jahn
At the outset I wish to excuse this extensive abbreviation of an extremely rich historical era. Our project is to move rather quickly to that time in history that fostered the beginnings of our denomination. This issue will spend some time on the very moving and inspirational stories of the early martyrs, stories that would be well worth ones personal research and reading.
30 - 70 A.D.
During the era of the apostles, Christianity spread both geographically and in its influence. In the last words that Jesus spoke before his ascension (Acts 1:8) he said that his disciples would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and then to the ends of the earth.
This "prophecy" quickly came to pass, precipitated by the martyrdom of Stephen. Immediately there began a severe persecution of the "church" in Jerusalem and the disciples were scattered into Judea and Samaria where they did become the witnesses of Jesus. Chief among the persecutors was Saul, who in time experienced a dramatic conversion and as Paul became the most energetic early missionary, spreading the "gospel" into Syria, Asia Minor (Turkey), Macedonia, Greece and then Rome.
In 70 A. D., the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, an action which not only dispersed the inhabitants, but also ended the central role that Jerusalem held for early Christianity and encouraged the increasing separation between Christianity and Judaism. By 185 A.D., this dynamic, along with the increasing spread and growth of Christianity saw Christian groups established in most of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. These included those mentioned above and also North Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Italy and Gaul (France).
Christianity from its beginnings was perceived as a subversive element. The "new" teachings of the Incarnation and Resurrection polarized Christianity from its Judaic roots. Christianity was not only seen as a threat to Judaism, but the Christian acknowledgement of only one sovereign God also put it at direct odds with the sovereign claims and "cult of imperial divinity" of the Roman Empire. This situation manifested itself in persecutions that continued for 250 years.
There were periods of peace for Christians during the reigns of some of the Roman emperors. But, many Christians perished under the most horrible of circumstances, being blamed for "burning Rome," were held responsible for natural disasters, insurrections, and were faulted for not sacrificing to the Roman gods. The annals of this era contain many stories of the trials and martyrdom of those who remained faithful to their Christian convictions as portrayed in the following examples.
The following story is from the Martyrs Mirror.
"Simon Cleopas was a cousin of our Lord Jesus and one of the seventy disciples of Christ. He was accused by some wicked men before Atticus, the governor of Emperor Trajan, of being a Christian, yea a near relative of Christ. On this account he was dreadfully beaten for many days with scourges and sharp rods, so that everyone who saw him, had to lament and wonder, the judge himself being astonished, that a man of such great age, 120 years old, was able so long to endure such intolerable torturing.
Finally, as he remained steadfast in his confession, he became conformed in suffering unto his Lord, whom he confessed, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion in the tenth year of Emperor Trajan, which corresponds to 109 A.D."
Christian men and women, regardless of age, rank or social stature were persecuted. The most notable martyr was Ignatius who also died during the reign of Trajan. Another notable was Polycarp who when asked to renounce Christ and swear by Caesar, refused saying that he could not blaspheme the one whom he served for eighty-six years. The recorded sufferings of faithful women are almost too horrific to be believed. At one point it was said that "The prisons bulged. Executioners became weary ... Beasts overly gorged on human flesh turned away. For a time this ended."
In 306, Constantine became the ruler in the West, namely Gaul, Spain and Britain, and by 312 A.D. had conquered Rome. In 313, the "Edict of Milan" was issued which proclaimed that Christians were to be allowed to practice their religion as they wished and that all property that had been seized or taken would be restored. The church had now become an accepted and favoured institution. By 323, Constantine had conquered the entire empire and had made its capital Constantinople (present day Istanbul), leaving the West to be shaped by the rapidly developing church in Rome. On his death bed in 337, Constantine was baptized. By 380, Christianity was enforced as the only official religion of the empire.
A Period of Significant Events and Changes for Christianity
During the fourth and early fifth century there were a number of church councils which met to try to understand and agree on the human and divine nature of Christ. At this time there were those who promoted a subordinated understanding of Christ. It was necessary to address these issues not only for religious reasons but also for political reasons as these controversies were also causing political instability.
Councils held in Nicea and Constantinople (both cities in what is modern day Turkey) addressed these issues and proclaimed as heretical those who did not teach the equality and co-eternity of the ‘Three Persons’. The conclusions these councils reached and which become orthodoxy for Christianity, was the understanding that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit existed in a relationship that was then called or named, the Trinity.
Also ‘set’ in this period was the ‘canon’ or agreement as to which ‘writings’ were to be included in the New Testament. From this era we have at least 15 different lists or catalogues of those ‘sacred’ writings that various individuals felt should properly be the authoritative scriptures for Christianity. A letter from Athanasius in 367 included the first existing list of those scriptures that are in the New Testament we (Western Christians) use today.
This period also marked the decline of the Roman Empire, the collapse generally being caused by ‘internal decadence’ and invasions. As the Huns (nomadic Asian warriors) moved towards the West and pressured the pagan Germanic tribes (Goths, Vandals, Franks), all these groups at various times also fought against the Empire and at one point even captured Rome. With the collapse of the Roman Empire we see the emergence of what was to become the ‘Holy Roman Empire’.
As political authority declined, the Church emerged as an institution that had the strength to survive. Also emerging at this time was the understanding that the Church of Rome and it’s bishop was the dominant institution. Due to the influence of Leo the Great (d. 461) the power of the Papacy and the Church grew to include the authority of civil government along with it’s religious authority. The claim was that since Peter was the bishop of Rome and was in authority over the other bishops, this authority was transferred to the subsequent bishops of Rome. The word ‘pope’ had been used in the past for bishops of major churches but with Leo the Great it began to gather special connotations.
It was also during this period that the Western Church (Latin Christianity) began to lose contact with Eastern Church (Greek Christianity). As can be seen, this period of the ‘Early Middle Ages’ was a major turning-point in the history of Christianity.
The Middle Ages
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire two major centres of Christianity developed, one in Rome under the guidance of the Pope and the other in Constantinople (present day Istanbul in Turkey) under the leadership of the Patriarch. For a time the patriarch appeared to be the more powerful of the two since he presided over the richer remnants of those remaining elements of the Eastern Roman Empire. Eventually the Patriarch became subservient to the Eastern Emperors who ran both the state and the church.
The Spread of Islam
By the 8th century the great Church of the East in North Africa was lost in the face of a new and dynamic religious movement: Islam. Since the founding of this religious movement following the activities of Muhammad in the 7th century, this movement quickly moved from its original base in Arabia. The Muslim faith spread very quickly throughout the Middle East, central Asia, North Africa, and by the 8th century had penetrated as far as south central France where it was checked by the Emperor Charlemagne.
Decline of the Church in the West
In the West, some regions in central and western Europe were evangelized by missionary/monks from England and Ireland but for the most part the Christian church largely stagnated for a period of about five hundred years. During this period the leaders of the Christian church were not only battling the Muslim influence but were also battling for control of the institutional church with the various emperors.
Much of the energy and activities of the popes were directed at these political concern and the spiritual concerns sorely lacked from attention. By the 10th century Western Christianity had reached a low point of spiritual prestige and power.
Renewal of the Church through Monasticism
Monks are men who live in communities apart from the world, take religious vows and follow the "rule" or prescribed set of guidelines for living. This renewal began at a monastery (community of monks) at Cluny in central France. The Clunian movement attempted to go back to the purity of the monasteries in previous centuries. Where many monastics attempted to separate themselves from society, the Clunians attempted to integrate monasticism and society. They became the focal point of a new reform movement.
Among many other things, this reform movement wanted to end the practice of buying and selling church offices (known as simony), re-establish the requirement of a celibate clergy, and eliminate corruption from the church. These reforms were to be effected from the top downwards by a reformed pope who shared these goals of reform.
The monastery at Cluny followed the Benedictine rule. Many other monastic orders were founded with the intention of promoting spiritual renewal and church reform. Some of these were Cistercians, the Franciscans who followed Francis of Assisi, and the Dominicans. All these movements served to raise the spiritual level of those who professed Christianity in Western Europe and led to a new missionary thrust. Missionaries now moved out into Scandinavia, Russia, the areas of present day Poland and Hungary, and the Slavic lands. They also started serious mission efforts among the Muslims. The outreach by the West to Russia marked the beginning of the Russian Orthodox Church who at one point claimed to be the true successor of Rome and Constantinople.
Challenges, Decline and Decay in the Middle Ages
Even though the era of renewal that was initiated during the 10th century brought many positive changes to the Church, there were a number of challenges. Perhaps the greatest challenges were from within the Church which now found itself facing a number of anti-clerical and anti-hierarchical movements. The Medieval Catholic Church reacted to these movements in a number of ways and the most obvious one was repression. Many devout Christians allied themselves with the so-called heretics having similar concerns for spirituality that were not to be easily found in an institutional church that was increasingly becoming embroiled in the affairs of the temporal world.
The contributions of Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas in the 12th and 13th centuries probably marked the zenith of the cultural, theological and political peak of the institutional church before its decline and decay in the 14th and 15th centuries. At this time missionary zeal dissipated, and hollowness of scholasticism took hold, and the institutional church was embroiled in internal strife. Many Christians now turned to The Bible and began to long for a Reformed Catholicism.
If you recall, in the introduction to this series on Christian history, it was stated that we (Apostolic Christians - Nazareans) are not Protestants. This installment will discuss the Reformation, the Counter Reformation and the Radical or "left-wing" of the Reformation. By explaining and defining these various terms we will try to understand why we are not Protestants, but are the progeny of the Radical Reformation and more specifically of the Anabaptists. (Those of you who have spent any time reading the work of Bro. Samuel Froehlich will be familiar with the distinction and his numerous "sermons" against the teaching of the Catholic Church and the Protestants).
The introduction to this series also mentioned that we would be discussing a document that was written some 450 years ago in the town of Schleitheim near the Swiss-German border. What is so interesting about this document is that it is so similar to the points of doctrine and practice that are emphasized and taught to new converts of the Apostolic Christian Church. The similarities are remarkable. This document is a foundational work in the development of the Anabaptist tradition and theology. We will be examining its development and contents in some detail.
The call for reform was begun much earlier than the 16th century. Early reformers were Peter Waldo (the Waldensians), John Wycliff (was the first to translate The Bible into English - 14th century) and John Hus, whose preaching and calls for reform were most instrumental in ushering in the Reformation some 100 years later.
Martin Luther - Symbolically, the date for the start of the Reformation is October 31, 1517. It was on this date that Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, nailed a list of theses to the door of the church in the town of Wittenburg in Germany. This list of theses was a response to the practice of selling indulgences - or the pardon of one's sins in return for specific sums of money. This practice was questioned by many at the time, but the Church took no actions against it because it was such a good source of revenue. Luther was particularly incensed at the claims of Johnnes Tetzel who raised this practice to an art-form. Tetzel is famous for proclaiming that "When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." (A "coffer" is a collection plate. "Purgatory" is a place where one is purged or spiritually cleansed before entering heaven; a sort of halfway point to heaven where those who do not merit direct access to heaven must go to suffer or be punished before entering heaven. This is a teaching of the Catholic Church that is not as emphasized today.)
Martin Luther's "breakthrough" came as he read Romans 1:17. He now understood that man is justified by faith in Christ, not by good works. Luther at this time still thought of himself as a loyal Catholic and had not the slightest intention of leaving the Catholic Church but his response to the practice of selling indulgences and the desire for other reforms led to his departure from the Catholic Church. Luther's protests in a way opened up the flood-gates of dissent and many now turned away from the Catholic Church and many of its doctrines.
Luther is known as a reformer, theologian, preacher, writer, poet and musician. He produced a very influential translation of The Bible into German and two of his more well known hymns are "A Mighty Fortress is our God" and "Away in a Manger."
The term Protestant was first given to a group of German princes who supported Luther and his reforms. These princes were the first protestors or "Protestants." Eventually the term was applied to those who disagreed with and left the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church responded to this dissent with actions that have been called the Counter Reformation. There were some half-hearted attempts at reform, but for the most part the Catholic response was to attack the dissenters and maintain the status quo.
Swiss Brethren and the Schleitheim Confession: Anabaptism in Switzerland
The Reformation in Switzerland was unlike that of the northern Germany in that there was no city like Wittenburg that served as a centre of the movement. The major South German and Swiss cities functioned as independent states with their own laws and religious interests. There was considerable diversity among those 'reformers' who lived in these regions and who spoke against the Roman Catholic church and civil authorities. The strongest and most respected voice among the early reformers was Ulrich Zwingli.
Zwingli was a popular priest and preacher in the Church in Zurich. He began to demand radical reform of the Catholic Church and eventually left priesthood (1522). He was immediately reinstated to his old position by the civil government of Zurich, but he was also now under their authority. This action by the civil government marked the beginning of the Swiss Reformation and of the State Church (we are referring to the Reformed Church of John Calvin, this is the church that Bro. Samuel Froehlich disagreed with and left).
Zwingli spoke against the taking of "interest" (tithes as opposed to usury) and also wanted to replace the traditional Catholic mass with an evangelical communion service. The city council was opposed to Zwingli's teaching against interest because the council did not want to lose this source of revenue. They were also concerned that any change in the mass might seem sacrilegious to other Swiss cantons (states) and could jeopardize the economic and political relationships they currently enjoyed with them.
When the city council delayed any changes to the mass, Zwingli accepted the delays in order to preserve his working relationship with the council. A number of Zwingli's disciples were not nearly as inclined to allow the city council to determine how and at what pace the Reformation was to be carried out.
By 1524, there was much dispute over the issue of 'infant baptism' and Zwingli was instructed by the council to meet with those who were opposed to the practice in an attempt to resolve the issue. Zwingli had agreed that infant baptism was not necessary but he did not wish to create a disturbance.
The council felt that agitation around the question of infant baptism would lead to social and civil problems so it ruled that children must be baptized and that any parents who refused would be expelled from Zurich. This proclamation in January of 1525 meant that force would now be used in persecuting religious minorities in this area.
Those who insisted on adult baptism were given one week to comply, after which they were to be expelled. A group led by Felix Mantz and Conrad Grebel met on January 21, 1525 to consider what they ought to do (you may have heard of Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo, Ontario - A Mennonite College). At this meeting, Grebel baptized those who attended and this act marked the creation of a new church group that was distinct from both the Roman Catholic Church and emerging Protestantism.
The Swiss Brethren
The members of this group were soon called the Anabaptists or 're-baptizers' even though they preferred to be called simply 'brethren'. The Brethren did not attempt to resist the decree of the council but instead made plans to share their convictions with others. The first church meeting was a missionary meeting where each of those who was forced to leave the city of Zurich made commitments to return to some area where they were known and could expect people to listen to their preaching and testimony.
As the Anabaptists gained new converts, they were also persecuted. The threat of banishment from Zurich had been announced in January of 1525 and by February, Anabaptists were being imprisoned, fined and tortured. Similar measures were employed by civil authorities in other areas where Anabaptism became known. As a result of this persecution, those whose enthusiasm for Anabaptism had been superficial soon returned to the official church. Those who were persecuted and remained committed to the movement became stronger, and were stricter than other Anabaptists. Some became very radical, (like the militant Munsterites). Many stories of the persecution of the Anabaptists can be found in the book entitled "Martyrs Mirror."
By 1527, the Zurich Anabaptist movement was being threatened with disintegration. Conrad Grebel had died of illness, Felix Manz had been executed and other leaders were scattered. As a result of the continuing pressures of persecution, the movement was threatened from without and from within, and differences in faith and life continued to emerge among the various Anabaptist groups.
There were some who were sympathetic to the Anabaptist message and especially to the criticisms of the established churches but were not willing to suffer for their convictions. The argument was that true faith is spiritual and not bound by outward forms. This way they could give inner ascent to Anabaptist teachings without having to suffer for them. The pressure of persecution and religious enthusiasm pushed others into moral excesses that were justified in the name of special revelation.
It was recognized that there was a great need for drawing boundaries more precisely and giving guidance to the sincere Brethren groups that wished to be congregations of faithful Christian disciples. There seemed to be a need for very clear principles and strong discipline. In response to these needs a group of Anabaptist leaders met in the Swiss village of Schleitheim on February 24, 1527. A result of this meeting was the writing and subsequent publication of what is known as the Schleitheim Confession.
The Schleitheim Confession
Traditionally, the authorship of the Schleitheim Confession is ascribed to Michael Sattler who was born in Germany in 1490. After studying at monastery schools, Sattler took vows at 'St. Peter's of the Black Forest' and eventually rose to the office of prior, which was second in authority only to that of the abbot of the monastery. Sattler took his vows seriously but eventually became so disenchanted with the immorality and hypocrisy of others in his order that he left the monastery. Sattler had studied the Scriptures in light of what he had heard of Martin Luther's reformation and this also influenced his decision to leave the monastery.
By 1525, Sattler was associating with the Swiss Brethren in Zurich and was arrested with a group of their leaders. After agreeing to renounce Anabaptism he was banished from the area. Shortly afterwards Sattler made a firm decision about his faith and in 1526 he joined the Swiss Brethren.
Sattler moved to Strassburg (the same city where Froehlich spent his final years) and after some disagreements with reformers there, he left and settled in Hoenberg. While living there he was involved in the publishing of a number of Anabaptist tracts which articulated some of the concerns that Sattler had voiced to the Strassburg reformers. Five tracts were published and the treatment of some of the subjects was very similar to parts of the Schleitheim Confession which appeared a short while later.
The Schleitheim Meeting
Apparently Sattler drew up the draft of a document which included some of the divisive Anabaptist issues along with concerns he had discussed with the reformers of Strassburg.
After discussion and some changes the document was accepted by those who attended the Schleitheim meeting in February of 1527. The document was originally called Brotherly Union of Some Children of God Concerning Seven Articles but eventually became known as the Schleitheim Confession.
Scholars have been divided about the primary focus of the meeting. Some state that the focus was upon threats from within the Anabaptist movement. The supposed intent was to address a range of differences from the broader minds of some leaders in Germany to some of the more rigorous discipline of the Swiss Brethren. This particular interpretation comes not as a result of the content of the 'Seven Articles' themselves but is understood from the cover letter of the Confession.
Another interpretation suggests that rather than being like a balanced catechism or creed, the Confession concentrated on those points at which the Brethren differed from the rest of Protestantism. This sort of interpretation is supported by the content of the 'Seven Articles' themselves.
The Schleitheim Confession was not intended to be a doctrinal formulation and there are no strictly theological concepts directly asserted in it. Topics such as God, anthropology, the Bible, salvation (soteriology), the church, and eschatology (the end of time) are not even discussed.
The Confession was more like a manual for church development that concentrated on disputed points. It dealt mainly with matters of faith that were questioned not only by leaders of the state church but also by some who were regarded as being a part of the Anabaptist movement.
The Document and its Contents
The Schleitheim Confession is not a lengthy document. An introductory section of about 550 words is followed by the body of the document which is approximately four times longer and concludes with a section of about 340 words. The Confession treats seven topics: baptism, the ban (excommunication), the Lord's supper, separation from the world, pastors, non-resistance, and swearing of oaths.
The first three articles help to clarify the meaning of church membership through agreement on Baptism, the ban and the Lord's Supper. The section on Baptism begins with the following:
"Baptism should be administered to all those who have been instructed regarding repentance and the amendment of life, who truly believe that their sins are taken away through Christ and who desire to walk in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ..." And a few lines further we read: "This excludes all infant baptism, the highest and chief abomination of the pope."
The ban or excommunication, is for believers who at times fall into error or sin. They are to be admonished secretly and again for a second offense, but on the third occasion they are to be disciplined openly before the entire congregation and possibly excommunicated according to the commands found in Matthew 18.
The Lord's Supper was to be a celebration of those who were in full unity with the fellowship: "Whoever had not been called by God to one faith, to one baptism, to one Spirit, to one body, with all the children of God's church cannot be made one bread with them..."
The fourth article was on separation from the world, "A separation shall be made from evil and wickedness which the devil has planted in the world." And this separation was specified: "all popish and anti-popish [Protestant] works and idolatrous services, gatherings, church attendance, winehouses, civic affairs, commitments made in unbelief and other such things that are held in high regard by the world but are practised in flat contradiction to the commands of God..."
The fifth article described the local church leadership. The pastor was to have a good reputation among those outside of the faith. His function in the congregation was to read, admonish, teach, warn, discipline and lead the communion service. During the persecutions many Anabaptist leaders were arrested and others took on missionary assignments. The Confession stated that "...from that very hour another should be ordained in his place so that the little flock and people of God not be destroyed but rather through admonition be sustained and comforted."
The last two articles deal with the relations between the Christian and the state. Article 6 discussed the use of the 'sword'. At a time when the 'sword' was often used to quiet religious dissenters, some were confused as to the role of force in the church. The Confession confirmed that only the ban was to be used for admonishment in the church.
A Christian was also not to accept a position as a magistrate since "They wished to make Christ king, but he fled and did not view it as the arrangement of his Father. Thus shall we do as he did...and ...the Christians' weapons are spiritual... The worldlings are armed with steel and iron but the Christians are armed with the armour of God"
The seventh and last article prohibits the taking of oaths. In the Scripture "it is forbidden to swear by heaven, earth, Jerusalem and our head." We are not able of our own ability to keep any promise that we make since we "...are not able to make one hair white or black." We are simply to state in all honesty whether or not we intend to do this or that and we are to always tell the truth. "Let your communication be Yea, Yea: Nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than those cometh of evil."
The Schleitheim meeting saved the Anabaptist movement in a number of ways. That this meeting was even able to take place successfully and define a position against conformists and fanatics made Anabaptism a body that could confront problems and survive. "...the position defined here was simple, biblical, complete, and consistent enough that a simple Christian could understand it, testify to it, and suffer for it."
In conclusion - Even though the Schleitheim Confession was the first Anabaptist "faith confession" it is remarkable how this so closely approximates the convictions and beliefs that are still emphasized by many Apostolic Christians. One only has to read the many other Christian "confessions" or creeds to understand why this similarity is so amazing.
It is the issue of the baptism of infants that was center stage in the distinction between Protestants and Anabaptists. Protestants such as Martin Luther and John Calvin in Switzerland still subscribed to the notion of infant baptism. (Calvin was the first systematic theologian of Protestantism - Calvin wrote "The Institutes of the Christian Religion").
The Radical Reformers were those who felt that Luther and Calvin had not gone far enough with their reforms. Among these "Radical Reformers" were those who pejoratively were named the Anabaptists. These were Christians who insisted that baptism was only for adults who were capable of understanding the meaning of faith and baptism. Those who have read Froehlich are well aware that this theme is addressed by him probably more than any other.
We have for the most part concerned ourselves with Latin or Western (Western European) Christianity. Christianity actually began and initially spread through those areas that are now strong-holds of Eastern or Greek Christianity. This includes the areas encompassed by the "near" and "middle East," including North Africa and the lands where we now find Orthodox Christianity (Russia, some of Eastern Europe, Turkey as well as areas around the Mediterranean Sea, etc.). The "Great Schism" [between Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) Christianity] as it has been called, occurred almost 950 years ago and until recently there has been little contact other than confrontation between the traditions.
In terms of Reformation history (16th century), we have very briefly looked at Martin Luther. John Calvin has been only mentioned in passing and the Reformation in the English speaking countries was not even addressed. Hence we have not discussed Lutheranism, Calvinism (the Reform tradition) and Anglicanism (English Catholicism). These are all the progeny of the Reformation, whose development deserves discussions that are not possible in this short forum. There are numerous other historical characters in religious and secular life that were very active during this era and served to shape society as we know it today. Once again, we do not have the time and space to examine them.
Previously, we examined the role of Anabaptism in the Reformation and how Anabaptism differed from Protestantism. We also surveyed the articles of the first Anabaptist "statement of faith," the Schleinheim Confession, noting the similarity of this work with the tenets of our doctrine today.
< h3=""></span></p> <p>From the beginning of the Anabaptist movement in the 1520's, those who refused to have their children baptized or attended Anabaptist meetings were persecuted. Some were fined, others were imprisoned and even tortured while many were killed as a result of not compromising their faith. Some of the stories of these early martyrs are recorded in a volume published by a Mennonite minister in 1660 and entitled "Martyrs Mirror." This book contains two parts: accounts of martyrs from the time of Christ until the 1500's, and a record of Anabaptist martyrs until the date of publication. This book has gone through several editions and translations and is still in print today.
As Anabaptist ideas spread among the German and Dutch speaking peoples of Europe, they were developed by a number of different leaders and took a number of forms. For our purposes we will view two broad streams of Anabaptism, namely the Anabaptists who originated in Northern Germany and the Netherlands and then those of Southern Germany and Switzerland. (Froehlich and the Evangelical Baptists were from Switzerland). We will also include short surveys of the Hutterites and Amish.
We will examine Mennonites since quite a number of early converts to the Evangelical Baptists came from Mennonites (about 1832) who resided in the area of Emmental in Switzerland. The Swiss Mennonites were quite influential in shaping the doctrines and theology of the early movement of our denomination.
It is fair to say that a sizable portion of the early converts in America were of Amish and Mennonite background. In fact the earliest contacts of the Evangelical Baptists of Switzerland with North America occurred when someone wrote to Samuel Froehlich to ask him for help to settle some problems among the Amish Mennonites in New York State.
The Mennonites, or as they were known earlier, the Mennists or Mennonists were an Anabaptist movement that followed the leadership of Menno Simons. Menno Simons was a Roman Catholic priest who became an Anabaptist about ten years after the first baptism of the Anabaptist movement in Zurich in 1525.
Note: Names: In Switzerland our denomination is known as the Evangelical Baptists; in fact there are still a few congregations of the "sister" church in the USA who still use that name. The name Apostolic Christian was adopted by the North American churches in about 1917-1918. Earlier in this century (about 1906-1907), there was a split among the Evangelical Baptists in America and the denomination divided into two groups. One group eventually became known as The Apostolic Christian Church of America. We refer to this group as the "sister" church. Our "side" is of course known as the Apostolic Christian Church (Nazerean).
The following is a short bibliography of the historical reference material that has been used for this series.
Dowley, Tim. gen. ed. Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978.
Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.
Livingstone, E.A. ed., The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Manschreck, Clyde L., A History of Christianity in the World. New Jersey: Prentice-Hill, 1985.
Tyson, Joseph B. The New Testament and Early Christianity. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.
Woodbridge, John D. gen. ed. Great Leaders of the Christian Church. Chicago: Moody Press, 1988.