Schweiger (Silentes, i.e., Silent Anabaptists) were a group of unknown number and origin who apparently observed an absolute rule of silence. Several authors reported on this group, the earliest of whom was Sebastian Franck in his Chronica of 1531 (folio 446). It may be that all subsequent writers mentioning the group relied on Franck. At any rate the next reference to them occurs in the correspondence between Caspar Schwenekfeld and Sibilla Eisler concerning her maid who was apparently an Anabaptist and who refused to greet people or thank them. Sibilla asked Schwenckfeld's advice on the matter. Schwenekfeld pointed out that the maid's attitude was due to a faulty exegesis of Luke 10:4 ("Greet no one on the way"), but was uncertain of the relationship between the "Schweiger" and the Anabaptists. However, he called them Anabaptists and claimed that they rejected all external oral Christian teaching, and despised the Holy Scriptures and edifying books. He located them as a group in Allgau, a region south of Ulm toward the Bavarian Alps.
The Silentes are also mentioned in Gabriel Prateolus' De vitis, sectis et dogmatibus omnium haereticorum (Cologne, 1569). (See Nicoladoni.) The Schweiger are No. 15 in George Eder's list of 1573, and Erhard's list of 1589.
At the time when Franck was in Strasbourg writing his Chronica the Anabaptists had the practice of not greeting people on the street who were not a part of their fellowship. Bucer accused Marpeck of not speaking to him on the street, but wanting to discuss matters pertaining to the Christian faith behind closed doors in the council chambers. It may be that as a result of this practice some began to dub the Anabaptists "Schweiger," although it is also possible that a sect called "Schweiger" actually existed. If so, and if Schwenckfeld's description of them is accurate, it is clear that they did not belong to Anabaptism proper, for Anabaptism always placed a high value on preaching and the oral reading of the Word of God.
Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum, ed. by E. E. S. Johnson. Leipzig, 1907- ): v. XII, 24 ff.; 103 ff.
DeWind, Henry A. "A Sixteenth Century Description of Religious Sects in Austerlitz, Moravia." Mennonite Quarterly Review XXIX (1955): 44-53.
Nicoladoni, A. Johannes Bunderlin. Berlin, 1893: 120.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 487. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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