Anneken Jans (d. 1539)
Anneken Jans, a Dutch Anabaptist martyr, also known as Anneken wt den Briel, because she once lived there, and also called Anneken van Rotterdam, because she suffered death by martyrdom there, was a follower of David Joris. According to Nippold (David Joris, 56), she had greatly influenced this Anabaptist preacher. As heiress of a considerable fortune, she sacrificed everything for her faith, and at the age of 24, as she herself said, was baptized with her husband, Arent Jans, by a Meynert in their home at Brielle in the Dutch province of South Holland. She fled to England in 1536, where her husband died, and in 1538 returned to Holland in order to settle her affairs and to meet David Joris in Delft. Because she was singing a hymn she was arrested in December 1538 at Rotterdam as she was about to step into the boat for Delft together with her traveling companion and sister in the faith, Christina. She was charged with sectarianism, openly confessed her faith, and at the age of 28 was drowned in Rotterdam on 24 January 1539. The Martyrs Mirror relates that on her way to the place of execution she addressed a petition to the crowd, asking that someone adopt her 15-month-old son Esaias (Isaiah), to whom she would give a full purse. A baker who had six children volunteered. At home he had to endure his wife's displeasure, but was richly blessed with earthly goods and left great possessions to his children. This Esaias de Lind, Anneken's son, became a brewer and mayor of Rotterdam (he was not Mennonite).
A letter dated 1538 (1536 according to Vos) is also given in the Martyrs Mirror, which Anneken wrote to D. J. (obviously David Joris), urging him with warm, inspiring words to faithful performance of his office. "For as the rain refreshes the earth and the dew refreshes the flowers of the field and gives them a fragrance dear to men, so your admonition, preaching, and instruction gives men life, food, and taste, though it contains no high wisdom, and shows them the way of the perfect wisdom of God, whereby they grow into the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus, our Lord. What beauty you have with others, and what goodness above others! Such as these increase in virtue more and more, until they approach God's perfectness and are openly seen with Him in Zion, for which we long with sighs to see the end of our faith." The letter closes with the words, "O thou sanctified of the Lord, be brave, let nothing dismay you; yet a little while, and He will come and show us a sample of His glory, for the judgment of the world, but to His and our glorification."
Still more important is Anneken's will addressed to her son Esaias, which was printed in 1539, the year of Anneken's death, and repeatedly thereafter; it is found in the oldest edition (1562) of the Dutch martyr book, Het Offer des Heeren, and in all the following martyr books, including the Martyrs Mirror. The city library of Hamburg has a copy of the first printing in 1539. J. G. de Hoop-Scheffer (in Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1870, 51), says of it, "The testament is one of those broadsides and short popular writings which, scattered among the people by the hundreds and thousands after 1520 have in part been destroyed and burned, but often carefully preserved and passed on from generation to generation as a precious heirloom. Some of them, like the above, have been collected by the Amsterdam Mennonite Library and saved from destruction." Nippold judged it to be "one of the most worthy witnesses of the self-denying, sacrificing, steadfast piety of the Anabaptists." We have here, indeed, a glorious confession of faith and evidence of faithful mother love, which deserves to be better known.
An unknown poet worked this confession into a beautiful song, which was admitted into the oldest hymnbooks of the Anabaptists, the Dutch Het Offer des Heeren and the German Ausbund (no. 18). Anneken was the author of a song that appeared early enough to be included in David Joris's Geestelyck Liedtboecxken (extant in the Royal Library in the Hague) and afterward included in other Mennonite songbooks. The song begins: "Ick hoer die Basuene blasen" (I hear the trumpet blow). This remarkable song is an exception in Mennonite martyr literature in that we find here in no mistaken terms the thought of vengeance, especially in the eleventh and twelfth stanzas. The saints are to wash their feet in the blood of the ungodly and are prompted to play a new song on their harps because God "comes to pay" (kumpt om te betalen), or punish the ungodly. This song is printed by Wackernagel in his Lieder der niederlandischen Reformierten aus der Zeit der Verfolgung im 16. Jahrhundert.
Dit Boec wort genoemt: Het Offer des Herren, om het inhout van sommighe opgheofferde kinderen Godts . . . N.p., 1570: 70-77. Available online at:.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doops-gesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, …, 1685: Part II, 48-50, 143-145.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only upon Confession of Faith and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus Their Saviour . . . to the Year A.D. 1660. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1951: 453. Available online at: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/index.htm.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 73.
Nippold, Fr. "David Joris von Delft." Zeitschrift für die historiche Theologie (1863).
Vos, Karel. "Anneken Jans." Rotterdamsch Jaarboekje (1918): 14-18.
Wackernagel, Philipp. Lieder der niederlandischen Reformierten aus der Zeit der Verfolgung im 16. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt: Hender & Zimmer, 1867. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1965: 82.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Die Lieder der Wiedertäufer. Berlin, 1903. Reprinted Nieuwkoop, B. De Graaf, 1965: 65, 129.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 126-127. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Neff, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Anneken Jans (d. 1539) ." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A5542.html.
APA style: Neff, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1953). Anneken Jans (d. 1539) . Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A5542.html.