Gichtelianer was a brotherhood founded by Johann Georg Gichtel (1638-1710). He was educated at the University of Strasbourg, studying theology and jurisprudence, became a lawyer in Speyer, Germany, and later in Regensburg, where his receptive religious sense was deeply stimulated by the Hungarian Baron Justinian Ernst von Weltz. He accompanied Weltz to the Netherlands, and in Zwolle made contact with Friedrich Breckling, a mystical Lutheran pastor. This was the turning point of his life. He became involved in extreme, mystical, theosophist thought. He waited in prayer for hours to find God's will. Outward religious services he considered a hindrance to inner communion with God. He felt himself called to denounce the false worship of the Lutheran Church, in which he felt a lack of earnest self-denial. He was in consequence barred from practicing law in Regensburg, deprived of his citizenship and possessions, and expelled from the city.
After a short residence in Gernsbach, Baden, Germany, and in Vienna, Austria, Gichtel returned to Zwolle. Here he was also banished and, at odds with Breckling, went to Amsterdam via Kampen. He became acquainted with Jakob Boehme's writings and lived entirely in the world of Boehme's ideas, which he sought to develop in speculation and to transfer into practical living. He developed a rigid asceticism, rejecting marriage.
Peculiar to Gichtel was the idea of the priesthood of Melchizedek. "God had given him and his followers the power to present one's soul to God as a sacrifice for other lost. souls through prayer and concentration on the blood and death of Christ." To him this was a continuation of the high-priestly work of Christ, "the evidence of full communion with Him, the highest point of experience of the love of God, and the symbol of the most intimate contact with wisdom" (HRE VI, 660). GichteHs adherents were scattered through Holland, Hamburg-Altona, Berlin, and South Germany; but they were not numerous and soon died out. He himself had not intended to form a separate group and took no part in related religious phenomena. He sharply attacked the Mennonites, and was answered by Galenus Abrahamsz and other Mennonites (Hylkema, 125, 428). Conrad Beissel had some contacts with Gichtel.
Among the Mennonites of Russia a brotherhood was organized in Felsenthal, who had some peculiar points of contact with the Gichtelians. The famous Jan Luiken must also have been influenced by Böhme and Gichtel (ML II, 700).
Friesen, Peter M. The Mennonite Brotherhood in Russia (1789-1910), trans. J. B. Toews and others. Fresno, CA: Board of Christian Literature [M.B.], 1978, rev. ed. 1980.
Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga", 1911: 133.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 112, 700.
Herzog, J. J. and Albert Hauck, Realencyclopedie für Protestantische Theologie and Kirche. 24 v. 3. ed. Leipzig: J. H. Hinrichs, 1896-1913: VI, 660.
Hylkema, C. B. Reformateurs: Geschiedkundige studiën over de godsdienstige bewegingen uit de nadagen onzer gouden eeuw. Haarlem : H. D. Tjeenk Willink & zoon, 1900-1902: 133.
Nieper, Friedrich. Die ersten deutschen Auswanderer von Krefeld nach Pennsylvanien: ein Bild aus der religiösen Ideengeschichte des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. Neukirchen, Kreis Moers : Buchhandlung des Erziehungsvereins, 1940: 153, 169.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 515. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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