Geistliches Blumengärtlein, a rare devotional book published anonymously in Amsterdam 1680, which contains reprints of a number of Anabaptist and half-Anabaptist tracts and also a lengthy doctrinal work entitled Schriftmässiger Bericht und Zeugnis betreffend die rechte christliche Taufe, Abendmahl, Gemeinschaft, Obrigkeit, und . . . Ehestand, samt einer Bekentnis der Artikeln des christlich-apostolischen Glaubens. Erstlich geschrieben anno 1526 von H.D. Between its articles II and III a Danklied is inserted which has Hans Hut as its author, while as conclusion a hymn is printed which is a versification of the Apostles' Creed, said to have either Peter Riedemann or Siegmund Wiedemann as its author.
It is certainly surprising that all of a sudden such a number of Anabaptist writings should be published in Amsterdam, in the German language, at the end of the 17th century when Anabaptism in its classical form had practically died out. The only explanation could be that a pietistically minded author discovered somewhere in Amsterdam old pamphlets or perhaps a Hutterite manuscript book, as we know that the Mennonite Library of Amsterdam has at least one such Hutterite codex, and more of them must have been in circulation in Holland, due to Dutch relief work among the Hutterites. Searching for new devotional material the author gladly took hold of this unknown and fresh literature. Now he offered it to the reader quite harmlessly as a pietistic devotional book under the popular title of Geistliches Blumengärtlein (Spiritual Flowergarden; concerning this title see Geistliches Lustgärtlein). The once obnoxious connotation of "Anabaptist" origin had long since been lost, and the devout reader could meditate on these ideas without becoming too aware that these tracts contain much more than mere edification. In fact one is surprised to find in this volume (in the Bericht) an article defending community of goods and another defending nonresistance, doctrines which must have appeared to Pietists almost as revolutionary. Yet by 1680 the mood of Protestantism had changed to such an extent that Anabaptist writings were actually welcomed as an enrichment of available devotional literature, in the same way as Mennonites of all branches now zealously read Lutheran, Calvinist, and Schwenckfeldian writings for their own enjoyment and edification (Friedmann, Mennonite Piety, 25).
The Blumengärtlein contains writings by Hans Denck, Hans Hut, Jörg Hauck von Juchsen, Eitelhans Langenmantel, plus the afore-mentioned Schriftmässiger Bericht, and two hymns. The unknown editor did not know how to identify the last-mentioned tract, and—apparently merely guessing—put down, "For the first time written by H.D. in 1526" (the initials standing for Hans Denck). In 1891, Ludwig Schwabe published this doctrinal tract in the Zeitschrift f. Kirchengeschichte (XII, 466-93), attributing it to "Hans Denck," who thus became a teacher of the ideal of communistic living. The existence of this Hutterite practice was then (1891) very little known, whereas Hans Denck had become popular through the writings of Ludwig Keller. In 1931 Robert Friedmann identified this Bericht as an abridged version of the great Article Book of the Hutterian Brethren, dating from about 1547; as far as is known it had never been published in print, hence the editor must have used a Hutterite manuscript book. It is even possible that all the other tracts were also taken from the same codex, as we know that the Hutterites had the custom of such combination books. In any case, the transformation of a genuine 16th-century collection of Anabaptist tracts into a pietistic devotional reader deserves our greatest attention.
The Schrift-massiger Bericht, however, fits no other known version of the "Article Book," and for that reason is a valuable addition to our knowledge of Anabaptist literature and its manifold recasting. Its nearest model is an Anabaptist codex in Wolfenbüttel of 1582, which suggests the approximate date of the original copy of our tract. It goes without saying that Hans Denck had nothing to do with it, never taught community of goods, and is quite foreign to the entire genius of this remarkable doctrinal writing. The Geistliches Blumengärtlein, however, apparently never became very popular— perhaps it was yet too strong a drink for that rather soft period. The main significance of the book, however, rests in the fact that it is a testimony to.a certain kinship, external though it seems to be, between Anabaptist and pietistic writings. While their genius is different, a mutual appreciation was nevertheless possible, particularly at a time when the original Anabaptist thought had almost completely died away. Copies of the Blumengärtlein are to be found in Göttingen, Munich, Berlin, and Dresden.
Friedmann, Robert. "Eine dogmatische Hauptschritt der Hutterischen Täufergemeinschaften in Mähren." Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 28 (1931): 80 ff.
Friedmann, Robert. Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries: its Genius and its Literature. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1949. Reprinted Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1976: 25 f.
Schwabe, L. "Ueber Hans Denck." Zeitschrift für Kirchen-geschichte 12 (1891): 466-493.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 446-447. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Friedmann, Robert. "Geistliches Blumengärtlein." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/G4456.html.
APA style: Friedmann, Robert. (1956). Geistliches Blumengärtlein. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/G4456.html.