Bondgenoten (Bundgenossen) was a term used by the first Anabaptists of Strasbourg and the Netherlands to designate their brotherhood. Karel Vos devoted a study to this subject, and came to the conclusion that the term then signified covenanters in a league, i. e., persons bound together in the expectation of the imminent millennium. In this fashion the transition to revolutionary Anabaptism was easily made, so that "Bondgenoten" became synonymous with "Münsterites" and later, about 1544, with "Batenburgers," after which time the term died out.
This explanation has been found to be a very one-sided interpretation of the word. There were, to be sure, Münsterites and revolutionary Anabaptists who called themselves Bondgenoten, and the Batenburgers were referred to as "the Bondgenoten of the sword." But a statement made by Jan Paeuw (beheaded at Amsterdam, 6 March 1535) at the time of his trial, "that the covenant is nothing other than that they (the Anabaptists) promise (i.e., to God) to walk in the ways of God, and without departing therefrom," indicates an entirely different viewpoint and does not have anything to do with a revolutionary persuasion. The term "Verbondt" as used by Melchior Hoffman (which was to be found in his book, Van de Ordinance Gods, BRN V) may have opened the door for the declaration that "Bondgenoten are persons who have a yearning outlook for a complete change in the social order" (Vos); but when Menno Simons in his tract against Jan van Leyden also called himself a Bondgenoot, and contrasted the false Bondgenoten (those who employ violence) with the true, and said that many peaceful Mennonites after him were likewise called Bondgenoten, then we can see that the term cannot be used exclusively to designate the revolutionary Anabaptists.
The expression rather has its origin in 1 Peter 3:21 where baptism is viewed as a matter of good conscience (the Dutch Bible has a word meaning "covenant") toward God. In this sense the peaceful leader of the congregation at Strasbourg, Jacob Grosz, as early as 1527 refered to baptism as the covenant of a good conscience toward God, i.e., in the same sense in which Menno Simons and Dirk Philips later used the term. The term then meant those who had accepted the sign of the covenant, namely, the baptism of conversion. The emphasis was not placed so much on being bound together with each other in expectation of a new social order, but rather being bound with God, of which baptism was the sign. This was shown by the fact that many martyrs confessed that they were members of 't verbondt, i.e., the brotherhood.
Cramer, Samuel and Fredrik Pijper. Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica, 10 vols. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1903-1914: v. V, 155-156.
Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1917): 82-90.
Hulshof, A. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden te Straatsburg van 1525 tot 1557. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: J. Clausen, 1905.
Krahn, Cornelius. Menno Simons, 1496-1561: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte und Theologie der Taufgesinnten. Karlsruhe i. B. : H. Schneider, 1936.
Leendertz, W. I. Melchior Hofmann. Haarlem : de Erven F. Bohn, 1883.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 385-386. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: van der Zijpp, Nanne. "Bondgenoten." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B6667.html.
APA style: van der Zijpp, Nanne. (1953). Bondgenoten. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B6667.html.