Olivi, Petrus (1248-1298)
Petrus Olivi (1248-1298), a leader of the Franciscan Spirituals, an offshoot of the great Franciscan order with strong spiritual and apocalyptic tendencies, which finally led to a break with the papacy and subsequent persecution by the Catholic Church. In 1295-1296 Olivi wrote his Postil on the Apocalypse (an exposition of the Book of Revelation), which began to circulate after his death and soon became a widely used devotional book. In general it follows the eschatological ideas of Joachim de Floris. The papacy is to Olivi the "antichrist," the woman on the beast, etc. Under Pope John XXII, who resided in Avignon, the grave of Olivi was defaced and his bones burned (1318).
Strangely enough, these facts are mentioned in the early part of the Hutterite Chronicle, apparently because the Hutterites were familiar with this strange Postil. Its story is, however, shrouded in darkness. No German translation of the book has become known, but it is assumed that the book had a wide circulation, both in Latin and in German, among medieval sectarians such as the Spirituals and the Waldenses. Since both were severely persecuted, they kept their books secret. Perhaps by way of the Waldenses in Upper Austria (Steyr ?) the book reached the Moravian Anabaptists by about 1530. Caspar Braitmichel mentions it expressly in his introduction to the Chronicle. Even though the Brethren were not strongly interested in the Book of Revelation, they were apparently attracted by the Postil. The Postil has been preserved in at least one old Hutterite codex of 1593 (now in Esztergom, Hungary), called Auslegung der Ofjenbarung Johannes in 22 Kapiteln. When the Brethren came to America they brought a copy with them (now unknown), from which Elias Walter made several copies (about 1900).
The story of this book has some significance in view of the question of continuity of the "old evangelical brotherhoods". Here, apparently, a book exists which was handed down from Franciscans to Waldenses and thence to the Anabaptists, thus proving contacts of more than superficial nature; it does not, however, prove full continuity and dependence.
Benz, E. Ecclesia Spiritualis. Stuttgart, 1934.
Friedmann, Robert. "A Hutterite Book of Medieval Origin." Mennonite Quarterly Review XXX (1956): 65-71.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder: Ein Sprachdenkmal aus frühneuhochdeutscher Zeit. Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1943: 39.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 1113. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Friedmann, Robert. "Olivi, Petrus (1248-1298)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/olivi_petrus_1248_1298.
APA style: Friedmann, Robert. (1959). Olivi, Petrus (1248-1298). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/olivi_petrus_1248_1298.