Schleitheim Confession (Anabaptist, 1527)
Brotherly Union of a number
of children of God concerning Seven Articles (The Schleitheim Confession)
The Cover Letter [Introductory]
May joy, peace, mercy from our Father, through the atonement1 of the blood of
Christ Jesus, together with the gift of the Spirit -- who is sent by
the Father to all believers to [give] strength and consolation and constance
in all tribulation until the end, Amen, be with all who love God and
all children of light, who are scattered everywhere, wherever they might
have been placed2 by
God our Father, wherever they might be gathered in unity of spirit in
one God and Father of us all; grace and peace of heart be with you all.
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord; first and primordially we
are always concerned for your consolation and the assurance of your conscience
(which was sometime confused), so that you might not always be separated
from us as aliens and by right almost completely excluded,3 but that you might
turn to the true implanted members of Christ, who have been armed through
patience and the knowledge of self, and thus be again united with us
in the power of a godly Christian spirit and zeal for God.
It is manifest with what manifold cunning the devil has turned us aside,
so that he might destroy and cast down the work of God, which in us mercifully
and graciously has been partially begun. But the true Shepherd of our
souls, Christ, who has begun such in us, will direct and teach4 the same unto
the end, to His glory and our salvation, Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters, we who have been assembled in the Lord at
Schleitheim on the Randen5 make
known, in points and articles, unto all that love God, that as far as
we are concerned, we have been united6 to stand fast
in the Lord as obedient children of God, sons and daughters, who have
been and shall be separated from the world in all that we do and leave
undone, and (the praise and glory be to God alone) uncontradicted by
all the brothers, completely at peace.7 Herein
we have sensed the unity of the Father and of our common Christ as present
with us in their Spirit. For the Lord is a Lord of peace and not of quarreling,
as Paul indicates.8 So
that you understand at what points this occurred, you should observe
and understand [what follows]:
A very great offense has been introduced by some false brothers among
several have turned away from the faith, thinking to practice and observe
the freedom of the Spirit and of Christ. But such have fallen short of
the truth and (to their own condemnation)10 are given over
to the lasciviousness and license of the flesh. They have esteemed that
faith and love may do and permit everything and that nothing can harm
nor condemn them, since they are "believers."
Note well, you members11 of
God in Christ Jesus, that faith in the heavenly Father through Jesus
Christ is not thus formed; it produces and brings forth no such things
as these false brothers and sisters practice and teach. Guard yourselves
and be warned of such people, for they do not serve our Father, but their
father, the devil.
But for you it is not so; for they who are Christ's have crucified their
flesh with all its lusts and desires.12 You understand
me13 well, and [know]
the brothers whom we mean. Separate yourselves from them, for they are
perverted. Pray the Lord that they may have knowledge unto repentance,
and for us that we may have constance to persevere along the path we
have entered upon, unto the glory of God and of Christ His Son. Amen.14
The Seven Articles
The articles we have dealt with, and in which we have been united,15 are
these: baptism, ban, the breaking of bread, separation from abomination,
shepherds in the congregation, the sword, the oath.
I. Notice concerning baptism.
Baptism shall be given
to all those who have been taught repentance and the amendment of life
and [who] believe truly that their sins are taken away through Christ,
and to all those who desire to walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ
and be buried with Him in death, so that they might rise with Him; to
all those who with such an understanding themselves desire and request
it from us; hereby is excluded all infant baptism, the greatest and first
abomination of the pope. For this you have the reasons and the testimony
of the writings and the practice of the apostles.16 We
wish simply yet resolutely and with assurance to hold to the same.
II. We have been united as follows concerning the
The ban shall be employed with all those who have given themselves
over to the Lord, to walk after [Him]17 in
His commandments; those who have been baptized into the one body of Christ,
and let themselves be called brothers or sisters, and still somehow slip
and fall into error and sin, being inadvertently overtaken.18 The
same [shall] be warned twice privately and the third time be publicly
admonished before the entire congregation19 according to
the command of Christ (Matthew 18).20 But this
shall be done according to the ordering of the Spirit of God before the
breaking of bread.21 so that
we may all in one spirit and in one love break and eat from one bread
and drink from one cup.
III. Concerning the breaking of bread,
we have become
one and agree22 thus:
all those who desire to break the one bread in remembrance of the broken
body of Christ and all those who wish to drink of one drink in remembrance
of the shed blood of Christ, they must beforehand be united23 in
the one body of Christ, that is the congregation of God, whose head is
Christ, and that by baptism. For as Paul indicates,24 we cannot be
partakers at the same time of the table of the Lord and the table of
devils. Nor can we at the same time partake and drink of the cup of the
Lord and the cup of devils. That is: all those who have fellowship with
the dead works of darkness have no part in the light. Thus all those
who follow the devil and the world, have no part with those who have
been called out of the world unto God. All those who lie in evil have
no part in the good.
So it shall and must be, that whoever does not share the calling of
the one God to one faith, to one baptism, to one spirit, to one body
together with all the children of God, may not be made one loaf together
with them, as must be true if one wishes truly to break bread according
to the command of Christ25.
IV. We have been united concerning the separation
that shall take place from the evil
and the wickedness which the devil
has planted in the world, simply in this; that we have no fellowship
with them,26 and
do not run with them in the confusion of their abominations. So it is;
since all who have not entered into the obedience of faith and have not
united themselves with God so that they will to do His will, are a great
abomination before God, therefore nothing else can or really will grow
or spring forth from them than abominable things. Now there is nothing
else in the world and all creation than good or evil, believing and unbelieving,
darkness and light, the world and those who are [come] out of the world,
God's temple and idols. Christ and Belial, and none will have part with
To us, then, the commandment of the Lord is also obvious, whereby He
orders us to be and to become separated from the evil one, and thus He
will be our God and we shall be His sons and daughters.27
Further, He admonishes us therefore to go out from Babylon and from
the earthly Egypt, that we may not be partakers in their torment and
suffering, which the Lord will bring upon them.28
From all this we should learn that everything which has not been united29 with our God
in Christ is nothing but an abomination which we should shun.30 By this are
meant all popish and repopish31 works and idolatry,32 gatherings,
winehouses, guarantees and commitments of unbelief,34 and
other things of the kind, which the world regards highly, and yet which
are carnal or flatly counter to the command of God, after the pattern
of all the iniquity which is in the world. From all this we shall be
separated and have no part with such, for they are nothing but abominations,
which cause us to be hated before our Christ Jesus, who has freed us
from the servitude of the flesh and fitted us for the service of God
and the Spirit whom He has given us.
Thereby shall also35 fall away from
us the36 diabolical weapons
of violence--such as sword, armor, and the like, and all of their use
to protect friends or against enemies--by virtue of the word of Christ: "you
shall not resist evil."37
V. We have been united as follows concerning shepherds
in the church of God.
The shepherd in the church shall be a person according
to the rule of Paul,38 fully
and completely, who has a good report of those who are outside the faith.
The office of such a person shall be to read and exhort and teach. warn,
admonish, or ban in the congregation, and properly to preside among the
sisters and brothers in prayer, and in the breaking of bread,39 and
in all things to take care of the body of Christ, that it may be built
up and developed, so that the name of God might be praised and honored
through us, and the mouth of the mocker be stopped.
He shall be supported, wherein he has need, by the congregation which
has chosen him, so that he who serves the gospel can also live therefrom,
as the Lord has ordered.40 But
should a shepherd do something worthy of reprimand, nothing shall be
done with him without the voice of two or three witnesses. If they sin
they shall be publicly reprimanded, so that others might fear.41
But if the shepherd should be driven away or led to the Lord by the
the same hour another shall be ordained43 to
his place, so that the little folk and the little flock of God may not
be destroyed, but be preserved by warning and be consoled.
VI. We have been united as follows concerning the
The sword is an ordering of God outside the perfection of Christ.
It punishes and kills the wicked and guards and protects the good. In
the law the sword is established44 over
the wicked for punishment and for death and the secular rulers are established
to wield the same.
But within the perfection of Christ only the ban is used for the admonition
and exclusion of the one who has sinned, without the death of the flesh,45 simply
the warning and the command to sin no more.
Now many, who do not understand Christ's will for us, will ask; whether
a Christian may or should use the sword against the wicked for the protection
and defense of the good, or for the sake of love.
The answer is unanimously revealed: Christ teaches and commands us to
learn from Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart and thus we shall find
rest for our souls.46 Now
Christ says to the woman who was taken in adultery,47 not
that she should be stoned according to the law of His Father (and yet
He says, "What the Father commanded me, that I do")48 but
with mercy and forgiveness and the warning to sin no more, says: "Go,
sin no more." Exactly thus should we also proceed, according to
the rule of the ban.
Second, is asked concerning the sword: whether a Christian shall pass
sentence in disputes and strife about worldly matters, such as the unbelievers
have with one another. The answer: Christ did not wish to decide or pass
judgment between brother and brother concerning inheritance, but refused
to do so.49 So
should we also do.
Third, is asked concerning the sword: whether the Christian should be
a magistrate if he is chosen thereto. This is answered thus: Christ was
to be made king, but He fled and did not discern the ordinance of His
Father.50 Thus we
should also do as He did and follow after Him, and we shall not walk
in darkness. For He Himself says: "Whoever would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."51 He
Himself further forbids the violence of the sword when He says: "The
princes of this world lord it over them etc., but among you it shall
not be so."52 Further Paul
says, "Whom God has foreknown, the same he has also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son," etc.53 Peter also says: "Christ
has suffered (not ruled) and has left us an example, that you should
follow after in his steps."54
Lastly, one can see in the following points that it does not befit a
Christian to be a magistrate: the rule of the government is according
to the flesh, that of the Christians according to the Spirit. Their houses
and dwelling remain in this world, that of the Christians is in heaven.
Their citizenship is in this world, that of the Christians is in heaven.55 The weapons
of their battle and warfare are carnal and only against the flesh, but
the weapons of Christians are spiritual, against the fortification of
the devil. The worldly are armed with steel and iron, but Christians
are armed with the armor of God, with truth, righteousness, peace, faith,
salvation, and with the Word of God. In sum: as Christ our Head is minded,
so also must be minded the members of the body of Christ through Him,
so that there be no division in the body, through which it would be destroyed.56 Since
then Christ is as is written of Him, so must His members also be the
same, so that His body may remain whole and unified for its own advancement
and upbuilding. For any kingdom which is divided within itself will be
VII. We have been united as follows concerning the
The oath is a confirmation among those who are quarreling or making
promises. In the law it is commanded that it should be done only in the
name of God, truthfully and not falsely. Christ, who teaches the perfection
of the law, forbids His [followers] all swearing, whether true or false;
neither by heaven nor by earth, neither by Jerusalem nor by our head;
and that for the reason which He goes on to give: "For you cannot
make one hair white or black." You see, thereby all swearing is
forbidden. We cannot perform what is promised in the swearing, for we
are not able to change the smallest part of ourselves.58
Now there are some who do not believe the simple commandment of God
and who say, "But God swore by Himself to Abraham, because He was
God (as He promised him that He would do good to him and would be his
God if he kept His commandments). Why then should I not swear if I promise
something to someone?" The answer: hear what the Scripture says: "God,
since he wished to prove overabundantly to the heirs of His promise that
His will did not change, inserted an oath so that by two immutable things
we might have a stronger consolation (for it is impossible that God should
the meaning of the passage: God has the power to do what He forbids you,
for everything is possible to Him. God swore an oath to Abraham, Scripture
says, in order to prove that His counsel is immutable. That means: no
one can withstand and thwart His will; thus He can keep His oath. But
we cannot, as Christ said above, hold or perform our oath, therefore
we should not swear.
Others say that swearing cannot be forbidden by God in the New Testament
when it was commanded in the Old, but that it is forbidden only to swear
by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and our head. Answer: hear the Scripture.
He who swears by heaven, swears by God's throne and by Him who sits thereon.60 Observe:
swearing by heaven is forbidden, which is only God's throne; how much
more is it forbidden to swear by God Himself. You blind fools, what is
greater, the throne or He who sits upon it?
Others say, if it is then wrong to use God for truth, then the apostles
Peter and Paul also swore.61 Answer:
Peter and Paul only testify to that which God promised Abraham, whom
we long after have received. But when one testifies, one testifies concerning
that which is present, whether it be good or evil. Thus Simeon spoke
of Christ to Mary and testified: "Behold: this one is ordained for
the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will
be spoken against."62
Christ taught us similarly when He says:63 Your speech
shall be yea, yea; and nay, nay; for what is more than that comes of
evil. He says, your speech or your word shall be yes and no, so that
no one might understand that He had permitted it. Christ is simply yea
and nay, and all those who seek Him simply will understand His Word.
The Cover Letter
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord; these are the articles which
some brothers previously had understood wrongly and in a way not conformed
to the true meaning. Thereby many weak consciences were confused, whereby
the name of God has been grossly slandered, for which reason it was needful
that we should be brought to agreement65 in the Lord,
which has come to pass. To God be praise and glory!
Now that you have abundantly understood the will of God as revealed
through us at this time, you must fulfill this will, now known, persistently
and unswervingly. For you know well what is the reward of the servant
who knowingly sins.
Everything which you have done unknowingly and now confess to have done
wrongly, is forgiven you, through that believing prayer, which is offered
among us in our meeting for all our shortcomings and guilt, through the
gracious forgiveness of God and through the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Watch out for all who do not walk in simplicity of divine truth, which
has been stated by us in this letter in our meeting, so that everyone
might be governed among us by the rule of the ban, and that henceforth
the entry of false brothers and sisters among us might be prevented.
Put away from you that which is evil, and the Lord will be your God,
and you will be His sons and daughters.66
Dear brothers, keep in mind what Paul admonished Titus.67 He says: "The
saving grace of God has appeared to all, and disciplines us, that we
should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live circumspect righteous
and godly lives in this world; awaiting the same hope and the appearing
of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave
himself for us, to redeem us from all unrighteousness and to purify unto
himself a people of his own, that would be zealous of good works." Think
on this, and exercise yourselves therein, and the Lord of peace will
be with you.
May the name of God be forever blessed and greatly praised, Amen. May
the Lord give you His peace, Amen.
Done at Schleitheim, St. Matthew's Day,68 Anno MDXXVII.
Since the almighty eternal and merciful God has made His wonderful light
break forth in this world and [in this] most dangerous time, we recognize
the mystery of the divine will, that the Word is preached to us according
to the proper ordering of the Lord,70 whereby
we have been called into His fellowship. Therefore, according to the
command of the Lord and the teachings of His apostles, in Christian order,
we should observe the new commandment,71 in
love one toward another, so that love and unity may be maintained, which
all brothers and sisters of the entire congregation should agree to hold
to as follows:
1. The brothers and sisters should meet at least
three or four times a week, to exercise themselves,72 in the
teaching of Christ and His apostles and heartily to exhort one another
to remain faithful to the Lord as they have pledged.
2. When the brothers and sisters are together, they
shall take up something to read together.73 The
one to whom God has given the best understanding shall explain it,74 the
others should be still and listen, so that there are not two or three
carrying on a private conversation, bothering the others. The Psalter
shall be read daily at home.75
3. Let none be frivolous in the church of God, neither
in words nor in actions. Good conduct shall be maintained by them all
also before the heathen.76
4. When a brother sees his brother erring, he shall
warn him according to the command of Christ,77 and shall admonish
him in a Christian and brotherly way, as everyone is bound and obliged
to do out of love.
5. Of all the brothers and sisters of this congregation
none shall have anything of his own, but rather, as the Christians in
the time of the apostles held all in common, and especially stored up
a common fund, from which aid can be given to the poor, according as
each will have need,78 and
as in the apostles' time permit no brother to be in need.
6. All gluttony shall be avoided among the brothers
who are gathered in the congregation; serve a soup or a minimum of vegetable
and meat, for eating and drinking are not the kingdom of heaven.79
7. The Lord's Supper shall be held, as often as
the brothers are together,80 thereby
proclaiming the death of the Lord, and thereby warning each one to commemorate,
how Christ gave His life for us, and shed His blood for us, that we might
also be willing to give our body and life for Christ's sake, which means
for the sake of all the brothers.
Note: click on the footnote number in the text to bring the footnote
into this window.
- A most significant concept in the thought of Michael Sattler is that of
Vereinigung, which, according
to the context, must be translated in many different ways. In the title we render it "Union"; here in the
salutation it can most naturally be translated "reconciliation" or "atonement"; later in the text, in the
passive participle form, it will mean "to be brought to unity." Thus the same word can be used for the
reconciling work of Jesus Christ, for the procedure whereby brothers come to a common mind, for the
state of agreement in which they find themselves, and for the document which states the agreement to
which they have come. Heinold Fast suggests that here, in connection with "the blood of Christ,' the meaning
might be "fellowship"; cf: 1 Corinthians 10:16.
- Or, literally, "ordered"; the rendering of J. C. Wenger, "scattered everywhere as it has been ordained
of God our Father," is a good paraphrase if "ordained" may be understood without sacramental or
- This term "aliens" or "foreigners" was interpreted by Cramer
BRN, 605, note 1, in the geographic or
political sense, as referring to non-Swiss. Kiwiet, Pilgram Marpeck, Kassel, 1959, p. 44, takes for
granted the same meaning and says more sharply that at Schleitheim the Swiss Anabaptists broke
communion with the German ones. This understanding is impossible for several reasons:
There was no such strong sense of national identity, divided on clear geographic lines, in the 1520s;
Sattler and Reublin, leaders in the meeting, were not Swiss;
The libertines whom Schleitheim had in mind, although Denck (or Bucer) might have been included,
were (if Anabaptist) surely mostly Swiss; namely, the enthusiasts of St. Gall (H. Fast "Die Sonderstellung
der Täufer in St. Gallen and Appenzell," Zwingliana XI, 1960, pp. 223 ff.), and Ludwig Hätzer.
This term has a quite different reference; it is an allusion to Ephesians 2:12 and 19, testifying to the
reconciling effect of the gospel on men who previously had been alienated by unbelief.
- "Direct" and "teach" have as their object "the same," i.e., the "work of God partially begun in us."
Wenger's paraphrase, "direct the same and teach [us]" is smoother but weakens the striking image of a
"work of God" within man which can be "partially begun," "cast down," "directed," and "taught." There
is, however, ground for Böhmer's conjecture that the original may have read
keren (guide) rather than
- The "Langer Randen" and the "Hoher Randen" are hills overlooking Schleitheim and not, as a modern
reader might think, a reference to the fact that Schleitheim is near the (contemporary, political)
The original reads "Schlaten am Randen." A good halfdozen villages in southern Germany bear the
names Schlat, Schlatt, or Schlatten. One, near Engen in Baden, also is identified as "am
until recently was held by some to have been the place of origin of the Seven
Articles. The evidence,
now generally accepted, for Schleitheim near Schaffhausen, is easily surveyed:
J. J. Rüger, a Schaffhausen chronicler, writing around 1594, identifies Schleitheim with the
In the local dialect, the equivalent of ei in modern German is long a as in
Schlaten, whereas the other
villages Schlatten or Schlat have a short a;
Being subject to overlapping jurisdictions and therefore hard to police, the
Klettgau, and Schleitheim
on its edge, were relatively safe and accessible for Anabaptists and thus a most fitting meeting place
linking the major centers in southwest Germany and northeast Switzerland. This was the first area
where Sattler's colleague W. Reublin had been active after his expulsion from Zürich early in 1525.
This juridical situation continued through the century; Anabaptism was still alive in the Kühtal above
Schleitheim as late as Ruger's writing.
Professor F. Blanke reviews the question of place in Z, VI, pp. 104 f.; cf. also Werner
Entstand das Bekenntnis von 1527?" MGB, V, 1940, pp. 20 f.
- According to Bohmer, one line of print was misplaced in imprint A. The text seems to say literally,
"we were assembled in points and articles." The verb here is again "vereinigt." The "points and articles"
may well have stood elsewhere in the sentence in the original text: "we have been united in points and
articles" or "to stand fast in the Lord in these points and articles." Wenger's translation, "we are of one
mind to abide in the Lord" is the best paraphrase but sacrifices the passive verbal construction which
is important to the writer.
- Beginning with the parenthesis "(the praise and glory be to God alone)," the closing phrases of this
paragraph refer not simply to a common determination to be faithful to the Lord, but much more
specifically to the actual Schleitheim experience and the sense of unity (Vereinigung) which the
members had come to in the course of the meeting. "Without contradiction of all the brothers" is the
formal description and "completely at peace" is the subjective definition of this sense of Holy Spirit
guidance. Zwingli considered the very report that "we have come together" to be the proof of the
culpable, sectarian, conspiratorial character of Anabaptism (Elenchus, Z, VI, p. 56).
- 1 Corinthians 14:33.
- Ds. H. W. Meihuizen has recently asked with great thoroughness "Who were the `False Brethren'
mentioned in the Schleitheim Articles?" (MQR, XLI, 1967, pp. 200 ff.). Meihuizen s method is to survey
the entire Reformation scene, Anabaptists of all shadings as well as Reformers, especially those at
Strasbourg whom Sattler had recently left. Comparing the known theological positions of these men
with the Schleitheim statements, Meihuizen concludes that Schleitheim must have been aimed against
Denck, Hubmaier, Hut, Hätzer, Bucer, and Capito. One can agree with this description of the positions
in question, without being convinced that the meeting was this clearly directed
against a few particular men who were specifically not invited. If any one person was meant, if would
most likely be Hätzer, whom Sattler had just been with in Strasbourg, and who was the only one of
these who could be accused of libertinistic leanings. For present purposes, i.e., in order to understand
the meaning of this document, it suffices to be clear from the internal evidence (in agreement with
That some persons previously attached to some of the positions condemned were present at
Schleitheim in order to be participants in the event of "being brought to unity"; the "false brothers"
referred to by the cover letter were therefore not only state-church Reformers but at least some of
them were within Anabaptism;
That the greatest emphasis in the Seven Articles themselves falls on those points of ultimate
theological separateness from the Reformed: baptism, relation between ban and the supper, sword,
oath. Here the list is so parallel to the document from Strasbourg that one surmises that Sattler may
have been developing his outline already when he was at Strasbourg;
That in the juxtaposition of the cover letter and the Seven Articles, Sattler affirms an inner linkage
between the positions of the marginal Anabaptists and Spiritualists who differed from the
Zurich-Schleitheim stream, and those of the evangelical Reformers.
- H. W. Meihuizen reads the phrase "to their own condemnation" as meaning that the Schleitheim
assembly took action to excommunicate the libertines whom the text here refers to. "The Concept of
Restitution in the Anabaptism of Northwestern Europe," MQR, Vol. XLIV, April 1970, p. 149. This is not
possible. The verb ergeben refers to the libertines' abandoning themselves to lasciviousness, not to
the Anabaptists' action. In order to enable this interpretation Meihuizen must omit the parentheses
which are in the original.
- "Glieder" (members) has in German only the meaning related to the image of the body; the
overtone of "membership" in a group, which makes the phrase "members of God" unusual in modern
English, is not present in the original.
- Galatians 5:24.
- The use of the first person singular here is the
demonstration that the introductory letter was written,
probably after the meeting, by an individual.
- This is the conclusion of the introductory letter and of
the epistolary style. The "cover letter" is not in the Bern
manuscript, and the Seven Articles probably circulated most
often without it.
- With one exception, every article begins with the
same use of the word vereinigt as a passive participle, which
we have rendered thus literally as a reminder of the meaning of Vereinigung for Sattler.
- Here the printed version identifies the following
Scripture texts (giving chapter number only): Matthew
28:19; Mark 16:6; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:36; Acts 16:31-33; 19:4.
- Nachwandeln, to walk after, is the nearest approximation in the Schleitheim text to the concept of discipleship
(Nachfolge) which was later to become especially current
- Two interpretations of this phrase are possible. "To be
inadvertently overtaken" might be a description of falling
into sin, parallel to the earlier phrase "somehow slip and
fall." This would mean that sin is for the Christian disciple
partly a matter of ignorance or inattention. Cramer, BRN, p.
607, note 2, and Jenny, p. 55, seek to explain that all sin is
somehow inadvertent; i.e., that at the time of a sinful decision one is deceived and not fully aware of its gravity. Calvin
(with some grounds in the phrasing of the French translation) misunderstood this text to mean that the Anabaptists
would distinguish between forgivable and unforgivable sins,
with only the inadvertent ones being within the scope of the
congregation's reconciling concern. Or the reference may be
to the way the guilty person was discovered.
- The printed version inserts" or banned."
- This reference to Matthew 18 is the only Scripture
reference in the earliest handwritten text. "Rule of Christ"
or "Command of Christ" is a standard designation for this
text. Cf. J. Yoder: "Binding and Loosing," Concern 14,
Scottdale, 1967, esp. pp. 15 ff. Other Scripture allusions
identified in the footnotes are not labeled in the text. This
abundant citation of scriptural language without being concerned to indicate the source of quotation is an indication of the fluency with which Anabaptists thought in biblical vocabulary; it is probably also an indication that they
thought of those texts as expressing a meaningful truth
rather than as "proof texts."
- At this point Walter Köhler, the editor of the printed
version, suggests the text Matthew 5:23. If "the ordering of
the spirit" relates specifically to "before the breaking of
bread" and means to point to a Scripture text, this could be
a likely one; or 1 Corinthians 11 could also possibly be
alluded to; but "ordering of the spirit" is not the usual way
in which the Anabaptists refer to a Bible quotation. The
phrase can also mean a call for a personal and flexible attitude, guided by the Holy Spirit, in the application of the
concern for reconciliation.
- This is the one point at which the word vereinigt is not
used at the beginning of an article, presumably because it
occurs later in the same sentence.
- Vereinigt: here the word has none of the meanings
detailed above, but points to still another; to the work of
God in constituting the unity of the Christian church.
- 1 Corinthians 10:21. Some texts have here "Saint
- Most ecumenical debate about the validity of sacraments focuses upon either the sacramental status of the officiant or the doctrinal understanding of the meaning of the
emblems. It should be pointed out that the Anabaptist
understanding of close communion refers not to the sacrament but to the participants. It is invalidated not by an
unauthorized officiant or an insufficient concept of sacrament, but by the absence of real community among those
- Note the shift from "world" to "they." "The world"
is not discussed independently of the people constituting the
- 2 Corinthians 6:17.
- Revelation 18:4 ff. Some texts read "which the Lord
intends to bring upon them."
- The printed version adds "and flee."
- The prefix wider can mean either "counter" or "re-" (modern
wieder-). Both meanings of course apply to the Reformation churches of Strasbourg and the
Swiss cities, which are meant here; they are both anti-popish (having broken with the Roman
communion) and re-popish (having retained or reinstated certain characteristics of Catholicism).
Earlier translations have chosen the rendering "papist and anti-papist," but the other reading carries a
greater pointedness of meaning and is supported by Zwingli's translation. Thus the claim that the new
Protestant churches are at some points copies of what was wrong with Catholicism is already taken for
granted in early 1527.
- Götzendienst. The Bern manuscript and the early prints read
Gottesdienst ("worship"); but Zwingli,
who had other manuscripts as well, translated "idolatry." Since the next two words both deal with
church attendance, "idolatry" is less redundant. "Idolatry" was a current designation in the whole
Zwinglian movement for the place of statues and pictures in Catholic worship.
- Kirchgang, literally meaning church attendance, has no
congregational dimension to it but refers
to the conformity to established patterns of those who, while perhaps sympathizing with the
Anabaptists, still avoided any public reproach by regularly being seen at the state church functions.
- The Bern manuscript reads Burgschaft, i.e., a guarantee or security supporting a promise, and
belongs in the economic and social realm. If "unbelief" here refers to a lack of sincerity, then the
"guarantees and commitments of unbelief" would mean such matters as signing notes and mortgages
and affidavits in less than good faith. Martin Luther held strongly that such guarantees, even in good
faith, were not only unwise but immoral since the guarantor puts himself in the place of God. ("On
Trading and Usury, 1524," in Works of Martin Luther, Muhlenburg, Philadelphia, 1931, Vol. IV, pp. 9 ff).
His argument is thus very parallel to that of the Anabaptists on the oath. A more likely view is that
"unbelief" is synonymous with "worldly," and the reference is rather to guilds and social clubs. Zwingli
translates with foedera, "covenants." Bullinger bears out this interpretation by reprimanding the
Anabaptists at length (Von dem unverschampten Fräfel. . . , pp. cxxi to
cxxviii) for their opposition to associations and societies (pündtnussen and
gselschafften), concord and
friendship (vertrag unnd früntschafft) with unbelievers, and seemly temporal joy
fröud). The later printed text changed Burgshaft to Bürgeschaft (citizenship), which is less in place in
Art. IV. In April 1527 Zwingli was unsure what it meant but leaned toward "serving as a guarantor" (Z,
IX, p. 112); by August when he wrote the Elenchus he interpreted it as "citizenship," perhaps as
referring to the Anabaptists' refusal to perform the citizen's oath. But if Bürgerschaft should mean
citizenship, the "commitments of unbelief" still must mean some kind of involvement, legal, economic,
or social, with unbelievers (Z, VI, p. 121). Luke 16:15's reference to "abominations" may be alluded to.
- The printed version adds "doubtless."
- The printed version reads "unchristian and."
- Matthew 5:39.
- 1 Timothy 3:7. Interpreters are not clear where the focus of Art. V lies. Its first thrust is a call for
the shepherd to be a morally worthy person, i.e., a critique of the practice of his being appointed on
the grounds of his education or social connections without regard to moral stature. Zwingli's
translation moves the accent by translating "the shepherd should be one from the congregation," i.e.,
not someone from elsewhere. As Zwingli knew, the Anabaptists also rejected the naming of a minister
to a parish by a distant city council, and he let that knowledge influence his translation.
- The printed version adds, "to lead the brothers and sisters in prayer, to begin to break bread ...."
- 1 Corinthians 9:14.
- The change in number here from "a shepherd" to "if they sin" is explained by the fact that this
sentence is a quotation from 1 Timothy 5:20.
- "Cross" is already by this time a very clear cliché or "technical term" designating martyrdom.
- Perhaps "installed" would be less open to the sacramental misunderstanding. Verordnet has no
- "Law" here is a specific reference to the Old Testament. Significantly the verb here is not
but merely geordnet; conveying even less of a sense of 27
permanence or of specific divine institution. It should be noted that in this entire discussion "sword"
refers to the judicial and police powers of the state; there is no reference to war in Art. VI; there had
been a brief one in Art. IV.
- "Without the death of the flesh" is the clear reading of the earliest manuscript. Zwingli, however,
understood it "toward the putting to death of the flesh," a possible allusion to 1 Corinthians 5; the
difference in the original is only between a and o.
- Matthew 11:29.
- John 8:11.
- John 8:22.
- Luke 12:13.
- Two interpretations are possible for "did not discern the ordering of His Father." This may mean
that Jesus did not respect, as being an obligation for Him, the service in the state in the office of king,
even though the existence of the state is a divine ordinance. More likely would be the interpretation
that Jesus did not evaluate the action of the people wanting to make Him king as having been brought
about (ordered) by His Father.
- Matthew 16:24.
- Matthew 20:25.
- Romans 8:30.
- 1 Peter 2:21.
- Philippians 3:20.
- Here the printed version adds Matthew 12:25: "For every kingdom divided against itself will be
- Matthew 12:25.
- Matthew 5:34-37.
- Hebrews 6:7 ff.
- Matthew 5:35.
- Zwingli's translation fills in the argument here: "if it is bad to swear, or even to use the Lord's name
to confirm the truth, then the apostles Peter and Paul sinned: for they swore. "
- Luke 2:34.
- The difference in tense between "taught" and "says" is in the original; it results from the fact that
Scripture references are always given in the present: "Christ says," "Paul says," "Peter says."
- This concludes the Seven Articles.
- A second reference to 2 Corinthians 6:17.
- Titus 2:11-14.
- February 24.
- This document has no title; the title chosen here
reflects the label given it in the (modern) table of contents of the
volume of archival materials UP 80 in the State Archive of Bern. No
earlier full translation into English has been published; the text has
been digested by Delbert Gratz, Bernese Anabaptists, Scottdale,
1953, p. 25, and by Robert Friedmann, Mennonite Quarterly Review, 1955, p. 162. Jean
Seguy published a translation and commentary in Christ Seul
(journal of the French Mennonites) No. 1 (p. 13) and No. 2 (p. 5),
1967. The text seems to be in the same hand as the copy of the Seven
Articles so that it may be assumed to have circulated together
with them and been seized at the same time.
- May mean either: "in the providence of God
the Word is preached to us," whereby "Ordnung" would
refer to the workings of God in bringing about Reformation and gospel
preaching; or "the Word of God is preached according to the
divine pattern," with the emphasis on the rediscovery of the true
divinely willed church order. The following "whereby" may
accordingly refer either to the preaching or to the proper ordering.
- 1 John 2:8.
- Sich üben: perhaps includes an element of
rote learning of gospel narrative and teaching, since literacy and the
possession of Bibles was still rare.
- "Read" includes exposition.
"Readings" had been one of the earliest names given to the
study meetings held in Zürich and St. Gall prior to the foundation of
- "The one to whom God has given the best
understanding shall explain it" may mean that, for every
particular passage, whoever understands its meaning should speak up.
Then we would have a picture of a meeting with no settled leadership,
with no controlling role for the "shepherd" who was called
for by Schleitheim Article
V. Then one might infer, as does Jean Seguy, that this text
testifies to a time before the Schleitheim decisions, when
congregations functioned without a named leader. It is, however, also
possible that "the one to whom God has given the best
understanding" may be a circumlocution for a spontaneously
recognized leader in the local group.
- This "reading" may well be rote
recitation. This reference to the Psalter is one of the very rare
early Anabaptist references to non-congregational devotional
exercises. It may be a further trace of an inheritance from
- 1 Timothy 2:8.
- Matthew 18:15, cf. above note 20.
- The common fund is seen here as a special purse
for specific needs, not as a total communism of consumption such as
was established not much later in Moravia. It is significant that the
non-Hutterian Anabaptists also considered themselves to be following
the economic example of the early Jerusalem Christians.
- Romans 14:17. The assumption that the congregation
would frequently gather around a simple meal may be linked to their
avoidance of social clubs and guilds (Art. IV.)
- The Lord's Supper, specifically identified as
such, is evidently distinguished from the rest of the meal, even
though both were practiced as often as the brothers met. (Cf. Art. 1).
Augsburger, Myron S. Pilgrim aflame. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press,
The story of Michael Sattler and the Schleitheim Meeting written in fictionalized form, but based on
the historical data.
Bender, Harold S. The Anabaptist vision. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press, 1944 (many reprints).
The classic interpretation of sixteenth-century Anabaptism by a great scholar.
"Brüderlich Vereinigung." Mennonite Encyclopedia. Scottdale, Pa. : Mennonite Publishing House, 1955-59, v. 1, 447-448.
An account of the Schleitheim Confession, its background and significance, written by J. C. Wenger.
Burkholder, John Richard, and Redekop, Calvin (eds.), Kingdom, cross, and
community: essays on
Mennonite themes in honor of Guy F. Hershberger. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press,
An attempt to test the winds and discern the Mennonite vision and direction during the 1970s in those
areas where disciple meets disciple, and church meets world. A companion volume to the
distinguished classic, The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision (see listing below under "Hershberger" ),
both of which are consciously based upon a common faith and experience.
Friedmann, Robert, "The Schleitheim Confession (1527) and other doctrinal
writings of the Swiss
Brethren in a hitherto unknown edition," Mennonite Quarterly Review,
16 (April 1942), 82-98.
Friedmann was one of the first North American scholars to recognize the true value of the Schleitheim
Confession: J. C. Wenger soon followed with an English translation of the Confession three years later
(MQR, 19 [October 1945], 244-253).
Good, Merle. These people mine. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press, 1973.
Within a handful of beautiful vignettes, the author sketches poetically and dramatically the whole
spectrum of Anabaptist and Mennonite history. One vignette is an eloquent testimonial, "The Birth at
Gospel herald (22 February 1977).
A special section on "Schleitheim" prepared in cooperation with the Mennonite Historical Committee.
Hershberger, Guy F. (ed.). The recovery of the Anabaptist vision. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press, 1957.
This volume contains a strong set of interpretive essays on the historical significance of Anabaptism
and the meaning of this movement for the present time.
Martyrs mirror (edited by Thieleman J. van Braght). Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press,
Contains the story of Michael Sattler (pp. 416-420). Van Braght's inclusion of the Sattler story in this
Dutch work would suggest some influence of Sattler-and of the Schleitheim Confession-upon Low
Country Mennonitism. (Indeed, the Schleitheim Confession was translated and published into the Dutch
language in 1560, and again in 1565 another clue to the significance of the Schleitheim Confession
for Dutch and North German Mennonitism. See above, "Brüderlich
Vereinigung," for this documentation.)
"The Radicals." Worchester, Pa. : Gateway Files-Vision Videos,
Video based on Myron Augsburger's Pilgram aflame. Produced by
Sisters and Brothers, Inc., a small Mennonite film company. 99 minutes.
"Sattler, Michael." Mennonite Encyclopedia. Scottdale, Pa. : Mennonite Publishing House,
1955-59": v. 4, 427-434.
This lengthy account is a moving story of the life and significance of Sattler for the development of the
"Schleitheim." Mennonite Encyclopedia Scottdale, Pa. : Mennonite Publishing House,
1955-59: v. 4, 460-461.
This essay presents the background material to the meeting itself of those who created what later
would become known as the Schleitheim Confession.
Snyder, C. Arnold. The life and thought of Michael Sattler. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald
The standard biography on Michael Sattler. It includes analysis of the
Wenger, J.C. Conrad Grebel's Programmatic Letters of 1524. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press, 1974.
Here is the first synthesis of Anabaptist thought, containing the kernel ideas of what later would be
incorporated into the Schleitheim Confession.
Yoder, John H. The Legacy of Michael Sattler. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press,
Contains excellent background information to the Schleitheim Confession, which places this most
important Confession in its historical and theological setting (see especially pp. 27-34 and 47-48 for
an appraisal of how the Schleitheim Confession has been interpreted historically and theologically
over the centuries). Also includes other writings of the significant Anabaptist thinker and martyr,
Michael Sattler. The volume is central in understanding the idea and setting of the Mennonite faith.
Published by permission of Herald Press,
Scottdale, Pennsylvania. All rights reserved. Translated and edited by John Howard Yoder. Reprinted from
The Legacy of Michael Sattler (Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press, 1973)
For information on ordering
print copies of the book or this statement visit the Herald Press
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
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