Taufreden, Hutterite baptismal instructions, since ca. 1560-70 standardized and strictly regulated. Baptism for the brethren has always been a most solemn event, preparing the candidate for his life's pledge to the "narrow path," and thus the instructions preceding this event have always been given much attention (see Catechetical Instruction). The procedure of instruction, baptismal examination, and the ritual itself has been preserved to the last detail almost unchanged. The standardized text of these instructions (see Sermons, Hutterite) is also known from old codices and recent copies.
Ever since the "Golden Age" of the Hutterites (1560-90) books had been written containing the baptismal agenda and the instructional sermons or Taufreden, which afford a good insight into the doctrine and Bible exegesis of the Brethren. Very few of the baptismal candidates were newly won converts; most of them had grown up on the Bruderhofs, and were between 20 and 23 years of age, mature enough to weigh the obligation involved in their baptism.
The oldest known codex containing the famous Taufreden is of 1599 (in Bratislava); since its title page is missing, Beck called it Codex Ritualis. Two more or less identical codices containing these Taufreden, written in 1643 and 1652, are in the library of Esztergom, Hungary; an 18th century copy was formerly found in the library of the Moravian Brethren, Herrnhut, Saxony. The text of the Taufreden probably goes back to the time of Peter Walpot, ca. 1570.
Up to recent times it was the custom among the Brethren to assemble the candidates on Friday and Saturday preceding the Sunday of the baptismal ritual, usually two hours before the regular evening prayer meeting for preparatory instruction. On Friday the First Taufrede (described below) was read, which treated Genesis 1-19. Then followed a lengthy prayer by the group, and a sermon (called Lehr) dealing with inner rebirth (John 3:3). On Saturday the Second Taufrede was read, followed by a penitential sermon and lengthy prayer, after which came the second Lehr, this time on Romans 6. On Sunday morning came the Third Taufrede, treating the church and its principles. After a prayer the meeting was concluded by the third Lehr on Matthew 28:16-20 (baptism). This ended the worship hour. Then the candidates were examined before the congregation, answering the standardized questions with a simple yes, after which they were baptized. The Hutterites of today follow the same procedure, with the exception that the instruction is now spread over a week.
The text of the Taufreden is of very high order. The first Taufrede is an exposition of the first book of the Bible, especially the first 19 chapters: Creation, fall, and man's very beginnings. The second Rede shows the difference between the Christian way of living and the secular way. The theological elements of this sermon are to a large extent borrowed from Peter Riedemann's Rechenschaft, e.g., such topics as What Sin Is, Concerning Original Sin, and God Punishes Those Who Are Disobedient to His Word. Christians, we read, are not baptized to become poor sinners but to enter a new life (Romans 6). The third Rede makes it clear that Christ is and ever will be our Mediator, Redeemer, and Reconciliation. "True faith is nothing but an attachment of the heart to God and Christ. He who believes from the heart is assured and sealed by the Holy Spirit [here Ezekiel 36 is quoted as a reference!]. He receives strength from above to do the good which he could not do before, and to hate the evil he could not hate before." The candidate is to become aware of what is expected of him, namely, regret for his former sins, penitence, and readiness for a new, committed life, in which the old Adamic man has died away. All this leads to separation from the world, to Christian resignation (Gelassenheit); and to full communion of goods.
The text of these three Taufreden, together with the traditional agenda of the ritual, will be published in Vol. II of Glaubenszeugnisse as item No. 21. It is a very good illustration of the Hutterite sermon technique and gives an insight into the Anabaptist frame of mind as it reveals itself internally, that is, unobserved by the outside world.
Müller, Lydia and Robert Friedmann. Glaubenszeugnisse II. Gütersloh, 1960.
Wiswedel, Wilhelm. "Die alten Täufergemeinden und ihr missionarisches Wirken. III. (a). Die Ausrüstung der Sendboten." Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte XLI (1948): 116-18.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 686-687. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Friedmann, Robert. "Taufreden." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/T3818.html.
APA style: Friedmann, Robert. (1959). Taufreden. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/T3818.html.