Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Preface
The distinctive literature of the Mennonite church, limited though it is, includes a number of efforts at a complete statement of doctrines to be held and taught in the church. These were issued at different times and under various circumstances; sometimes perhaps in an apologetic spirit, intended as a defense either before civil and ecclesiastical authorities or against those holding divergent views; but mostly with the laudable desire, not always achieved, of bringing about a closer union where differences of opinion and disputed questions of faith disturbed the harmony and threatened disruption.
The work that is here given in an English translation, owes its origin in the first place to the desire for a reunion, on an enduring basis, of once separated factions in a local Mennonite community. It was afterward developed into its present dimensions in order to widen its scope of usefulness in the same line.
Though the hope of the author for ultimate adoption of these Articles by Mennonites in general as the authoritative confession of faith of the church was not realized, and while neither they nor any other similar articles ever written and adopted in any portion of the Mennonite church carry with them the same weight of ecclesiastical authority as do the confessions of faith in some other churches, yet such a reverent and withal masterly effort in the way of a systematic statement of the essential teachings of the Bible is worthy of a careful study and will prove very helpful in the imparting of doctrinal instruction in the church.
Originating in the Netherlands, these articles were written in the language of that country. In order to make the work accessible to the Mennonites in Germany and in America the late Carl J. van der Smissen made a German translation in 1849. A similar motive prompted the present translation into English. There is a great need in this country of more literature of this kind being offered to the constantly increasing English reading portion among our church members, to our children, and to many others to whom a better knowledge of the teaching of our church will be no harm. The General Conference recognized the need, and at its triennial meeting in 1902 authorized this publication.
It may be well to say a word in reference to the translation. It is made, not from the original Dutch, but from the German version of van der Smissen. The difficulty of transmitting the exact shade of thought at every point is greatly increased, by such a circuitous route. There has been no attempt at literalness in the translation but rather to give the thought in idiomatic English; and wherever the language in the German was taken from the Bible, the corresponding verses or parts of verses from the English Bible were incorporated in the translation. In doing this the Revised Version was mostly used, this version generally agreeing more nearly with the German of Luther than the King James version.
Some of the proof texts indicated in the German were found in the English to lack application and were therefore omitted. In a few instances others were substituted.
With these explanations we commend these Articles of Faith in their English dress to all to whom they are thus made accessible. We prize this work, with others of a similar character, for what they bring to us of the thought and teaching of the forefathers in our church, being moved with gratitude to God for the grace given them in such a deeply spiritual apprehension of revealed truth. We recognize in these works a blessed heritage come to us out of the past when men's faith was tried as in a crucible. As a guide in our own study and teaching we value them, not as an ultimate or conclusive statement of doctrines, but as an introduction simply to the devout study of the Scriptures, the inspired Word of God, which is the one conclusive and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice, the fountain-head of revealed truth to be believed and taught.
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APA style: (1766). Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Preface. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M4637ME.html/m4637me_pref.