- 1 Introduction
- 2 Controversial Historical Literature (1530-1740)
- 3 Beginnings of Scholarly Historiography
- 4 A Century of Historiography (1840-1940)
- 5 The Origin of Anabaptism
- 6 General and Local History
- 7 Biographies and Genealogies
- 8 Characteristics and Principles
- 9 Libraries and Archives
- 10 Cite This Article
Anabaptism in the Low Countries began predominantly as a movement among the lower classes of the cities. In the Netherlands the Mennonites shunned the "world" more consistently and extremely than anywhere else, but being mainly urban and sharing the wealth and opportunities of the Golden Age of the country, the more progressive factions of Dutch Mennonitism gradually become secularized. They began to take part in all the functions of the social, cultural, economic, and political life of the country. Soon we find among them men like the great writer Joost van den Vondel, and the poet and painter Carel van Mander. Thus it is not surprising that scholarly inquiry into the beginnings of their own history could grow and develop.
When a movement originates in struggle and persecution there is little time for retrospection and objective description of facts. This was especially true in the case of the Dutch Anabaptists, who for a long time were persecuted, gradually tolerated, and finally granted freedom. The early literature relating to them, as during the first centuries of the Christian church, was produced by both friend and foe. Controversy is the characteristic of all historic literature of this period. And Anabaptism had to struggle not only with the foe outside the flock but also the foe within the brotherhood. The attempt to establish a church "without spot or wrinkle" caused the internal controversy. Accordingly, before entering the field of modern historiography, it is necessary to follow the highlights of this controversial literature as far as it has value for the historian of Mennonitism.
Controversial Historical Literature (1530-1740)
1. External Controversy
Before Menno Simons withdrew from the Catholic Church and became the leader of the Dutch Anabaptists he wrote "a very clear and explicit" pamphlet against Jan van Leiden, the king of the New Jerusalem (1535). But Menno Simons was involved in religious discussions with more worthy opponents than Jan van Leiden. John á Lasco, reformer of East Friesland, had a religious debate with Menno Simons in Emden in 1544, after which Menno presented to him his confession of faith (Opera omnia, 517-542; Complete Writings, 419-454). A Lasco replied to this (J. á Lasco, Opera, ed. A. Kuyper I, 1866, 1-60). Gellius Faber, who had participated in the debate, wrote a pamphlet against the Anabaptists in which he denied the proper calling of the Anabaptist minister (Eine antwert . . . vp einen bitterhönischen breeff der Wedderdöper, Magdeburg, 1552). In answering this challenge Menno gives the most detailed and valuable information concerning his development as a priest and consequent conversion to Anabaptism (Een klare beantwoordinge over een schrijt Gellii Fabri, Opera, 225-324; Complete Writings, 623-781).
An early and outstanding Catholic opponent of Menno Simons and the Anabaptists was M. Duncanus (Anabaptisticae haereseos confutatio et vere Christiana baptismi ac potissimum paedobaptismatis assertio, adversus M. Simonis Frisii virulentas de baptismo blasphemias 1549). The strongest attack by a representative of the Reformed Church of this time was made by Guido de Bray (La racine, source et fondement des anabaptistes ou rebaptisez de nostre temps, 1561). A number of reprints of a Dutch translation appeared, and an English translation at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1668. The great Reformed theologian Dathenus was not only the chief opponent of the Anabaptists at the Frankenthal debate (1571) but also a writer against them. Gerhard Nicolai translated Heinrich Bullinger's Adversus anabaptistas into the Dutch and added a refutation of Dutch Anabaptism (Inlasschingen in het vertaalde werk v. Bullinger: "Teghens de Wederdoopers," Emden, 1569, reprinted in Bibliotheca Reformatoria NeerlandicaVII). The complete record of the religious debate held at Emden (1578) between representatives of the Reformed Church and the Mennonites continuing through 124 sessions (see Emden Disputation) was published. A similar debate consisting of 156 sessions, held at Leeuwarden in 1595 (see Leeuwarden Disputation), was also published. Pieter van Keulen was the outstanding Mennonite representative at both places.
J. P. van der Meulen wrote the Successio Apostolica (1600) to prove that the Anabaptist church was in direct lineal descent from the Apostolic Church. A Catholic priest (Simon Walraven) answered this in the Successio Anabaptistica (1603), which proved to be an important source for Mennonite history, and was reprinted by Samuel Cramer (Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica VII). H. Faukelius, a Reformed minister, wrote Babel, die in Verwerringhe der Wederdooperen onder malkanderen (1621), in an attempt to produce evidence of the weakness and heresy of Anabaptism because of its numerous divisions. This was answered by A. Roscius, among others, in Babel, die in Verwerringe der Kinderdooperen onder malcanderen (1626). He pointed out that on the same grounds the believers in infant baptism must be guilty of greater heresy, since there were more divisions among them than among the Anabaptists. J. Cloppenburch was another minister who wrote against the Anabaptists (Gangraena Theologiae Anabaptisticae, 1645). A well-known source on Anabaptism is Grouwelen der voornaemster Hooft-Ketteren . . . (1623) which was originally published in Latin and translated into German and Dutch (Catalogus Amsterdam, 7). J. Hoornbeek, a Reformed theologian, wrote numerous books concerning the Anabaptists, among which Summae controversarium Religionis (1658) is outstanding. His colleague F. F. Spanheim also participated in this controversy. His book, Selectarum de religione controversiarum elenchus (1687), was answered by the Mennonite minister Engel Arendszoon van Dooregeest, in Brief aan den Heer F. Spanhemius Professor der H. Godsgeleertheyt en der Historien tot Leyden. Another outstanding defender of the Mennonite cause was the well-known physician and minister of the Mennonite Church at Amsterdam, Galenus Abrahamsz de Haan, in his Verdediging der Christenen die Doopsgezinde genaamd worden, beneffans korte grondstellingen van hun gelove en leere (1699). Among the many books of devotional, controversial, and historical character written by Pieter Jansz Twisck we mention in this connection his Chronijck van den Onderganc der Tijrannen (2 vols., 1619-1620).
About the middle of the 18th century a revival of controversy occurred, when the Mennonites were accused by their Reformed neighbors of harboring Socinian beliefs. This accusation centered mainly around the gifted Mennonite minister, Johannes Stinstra. A case similar to Stinstra's was that of A. van der Os. A detailed account of this controversy was given in Chr. Sepp's Johannes Stinstra en zijn tijd (2 vols., Amsterdam, 1865-1866); W. J. van Douwen's Socinianen en Doopsgezinden (Leiden, 1898); W. J. Kühler's Het Socinianisme in Nederland (Leiden, 1912); and J. C. van Slee's De Geschiedenis van het Socinianisme in de Nederlanden (Haarlem, 1914). (For further literature on it, see Catalogus Amsterdam, 109-146.) The article "De Nederlandsche gereformeerde synoden tegenover de Doopsgezinden (1563-1620)" by F. S. Knipscheer (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1910 and 1911) discusses the attitudes of the Reformed synods to the Mennonites. The proceedings of the Reformed synods were published by Reitsma and van Veen in Acta der Provinciale en Particuliere Synoden (I-VII, 1892-98).
2. Internal Controversy
Historical source material can be found in both devotional and controversial literature. Furthermore, in some instances it is hard to distinguish between the two types, since a given book may have both purposes. A number of books by Menno Simons and Dirk Philips deal with matters of internal controversy. Outstanding are questions of church discipline, that is, excommunication and shunning. A valuable account of the origin and the divisions among the early Anabaptists was written by Obbe Philips (Bekenntenisse, 1584, reprinted in Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica VII). He had baptized Menno Simons and his own brother Dirk Philips, but later withdrew from the brotherhood. A similarly significant source is Het beginsel en voortganck der geschillen, scheuringen, ein verdeeltheden . . . (1659, reprinted in Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica VII).
The outstanding contribution of the Anabaptists of the 16th century to the field of devotional and historical literature was the compilation and publication of Het Offer des Heeren (1562), the first edition of the famous collection of biographies, testimonies, and songs of Anabaptist martyrs (reprinted in Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica II). Hans de Ries, the prominent writer and leader of the more liberal Mennonites (Waterlanders), enlarged this collection considerably and had it published in 1615 under the title Historie der Martelaaren. P. J. Twisck, a voluminous writer and representative of the more conservative Mennonites (Old Frisians), edited a reprint of this edition for his churches and added a confession of faith (1617). The resulting controversy brought forth a significant description of the inner conditions of the Mennonite church during the latter part of the 16th and early 17th centuries in Hans Alenson's Tegen-Bericht op de voor-Reden van 't groote Martelaer Boeck der Doops-Ghesinde, 1630 (Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica VII).
Better known is the enlarged edition of the Martyrs' Mirror edited by Tieleman Jansz van Braght under the following title: Het Bloedigh Tooneel der Doops-gezinde en Weereloose Christenen, die om het getuygenisse Jesu . . . geleden hebben en gedoodt zijn, v. Christi tijt af, tot dese onse laeste tijden toe. Mitsgaders een beschrijvinge des H. Doops en stucken . . . Begrepen in twee boecken. Zijnde een vergrootinge vande voorgaenden Martelaers-Spiegel (1660). The second edition (1685) was illustrated by the Mennonite artist and poet Jan Luyken. Van Braght's book is not merely a compilation of facts and biographies concerning the Anabaptist martyrs, as the previous edition had been, but an attempt to interpret history. In tracing the history of the martyrs from the Apostolic Church down to the Anabaptist persecution he concludes that the true Christian church has always had its martyrs. He also includes a history of baptism in his book proving that adult baptism was practiced during the first centuries of the Christian church and was later replaced by infant baptism (see Martyrology).
Until the middle of the 17th century the internal controversy in Holland centered mainly around questions of the degree of rigidity and strictness of church discipline and the attitude of the church toward the world. This divided the Mennonites into numerous factions such as Waterlanders, Frisians, Flemish, and others, which in turn were again subdivided. Then a great new upheaval overshadowed the former divisions and caused the formation of two main wings. This was caused by the rationalistic-pietistic movement of the Collegiants and the Socinians, mentioned above in connection with the discussion on the external controversy of the Mennonites.
Galenus Abrahamsz de Haan, a brilliant physician and minister of the Flemish Mennonite Church of Amsterdam, became the central figure of the Collegiant movement in the Netherlands. His chief opponent was his colleague, Samuel Apostool, also a physician and minister in the same church. The latter represented the conservative Mennonite groups, while the former, influenced by modern trends and thought of his time, advocated a liberal reformation of his church. Being an outstanding and influential leader he had a large following. The controversy resulted in a split in the Amsterdam church in 1664 which gradually spread throughout the country. The followers of Galenus were known as "Lamists" and those of Apostool as "Zonists" from the names of their respective meetinghouses in Amsterdam. From the flood of pamphlets and writings which resulted from this controversy only a few typical titles will be given here. Theodore van der Meer wrote Het Gekraay van een Socianiaanse Haan, onder Doopsgezinde Veederen (1663). An outstanding anonymous pamphlet was Lammerenkrijgh (1663). Most recently this era and controversy has been treated by H. W. Meihuizen in Galenus Abrahamsz (1954).
Beginnings of Scholarly Historiography
During the first half of the 18th century the historiography of the Dutch Mennonites became more scholarly. It was, however, not the liberal wing that made the first contribution of this type. To be sure, they had founded a theological seminary at Amsterdam in 1735, but their main interest centered around current problems, such as the relationship of religion to natural science, philosophy, etc. The spirit of unlimited tolerance and increasing indifference which was spreading among them was not conducive to appreciation and study of their past; hence this progressive wing of the Mennonites could not at this time make any significant scholarly contributions in this field. At the threshold of modern historiography in the Netherlands there are representatives of the conservative "Zonists" like Herman Schijn, Gerardus Maatschoen, and Marten Schagen.
Schijn's first book, Korte historie der protestante Christenen, die men Mennoniten of Doopsgezinden noemt . . . (1711), was written for the general public. Encouraged by the fact that scholars abroad made wide use of it, he wrote a Latin version of his book (Historia Christianorum qui in Belgi Foeder, inter Protestantes Mennonitae appellantur, 1723), which was followed by a second volume (Historiae Mennonitarum plenior deductio, etc., 1729). M. van Maurik translated these two volumes into Dutch (1727 and 1738). Maatschoen, like Schijn, a minister and physician at Amsterdam, made another translation and added a preface, annotations, illustrations, and a third volume (Geschiedenis dier Christenen, welke in de Vereenigde Nederlanden onder de Protestanten Mennoniten genaamd worden, 1743-1745). Although these men were not scholarly historians in the modern sense of the term, they produced a significant piece of work in compiling much valuable material. They viewed past and present controversial matters objectively and encouraged others to continue along these lines. Another ardent collector of Anabaptistica and the author of a book on the Waldenses was Marten Schagen, linguist, book dealer, and minister. He was the translator of F. S. Rues's Aufrichtige Nachrichten von dem gegewärtigen Zustande der Mennoniten . . . (Jena, 1743) into Dutch (Tegenwoordige Staet der Doopsgezinden of Mennoniten, in de Vereenigde Nederlanden, 1745), to which he added material of his own. The extent of the libraries owned by Rues and by Maatschoen, as revealed in the printed catalogs, indicates their extraordinary interest and knowledge in this new field of study. Non-Mennonite writers who should be mentioned in addition to Rues are Jakob Mehrning (S. Baptismi Historia: Das ist, Heilige Tauff-Historia . . . ), the Remonstrant historian Geeraert Brandt (Historie der Reformatie, 4 volumes, 1671-1704), A. Moubach and B. Picard (Naaukeurige Beschryving der uitwendige Godstdienst-plichten, 6 volumes, 1727-1738).
The second half of the 18th century is marked by a general indifference and decline in Dutch Mennonite church life. Both numerically and spiritually the group reached its lowest level at the end of the century. To be sure, in 1778 the noted Teyler Theological Association (Teyler's Godgeleerd Genootschap) of Haarlem was founded and has contributed, especially of late, to the promotion of research in the field of Anabaptistica. At that time, however, in accordance with the general spirit of the age, the relationship of religion to the natural sciences and philosophy was the main concern of the organization. Thus Mennonite historiography received a setback from which it did not recover until the beginning of the 19th century.
A Century of Historiography (1840-1940)
The beginning of the 19th century marks a new era in the history of Dutch Mennonites. The most sincere and loyal among them realized the necessity of uniting the scattered churches and the divided forces of the small brotherhood. After a number of local unions had been formed, the Dutch Mennonite conference, Algemeene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit (ADS), was organized in 1811, which included nearly all the Mennonite congregations of the Netherlands and the adjacent German Mennonite churches. The general and main purpose of this organization was to care for the spiritual and economic welfare of the churches and to prevent further decline. To accomplish this the newly established ADS accepted the supervision of the Mennonite Theological Seminary at Amsterdam, which had thus far been taken care of by the local Amsterdam congregation, and gave financial support to small churches which could not provide for themselves.
The revived church life as well as the newly established church unions aroused historical interest. From this time on the Mennonite Theological Seminary of Amsterdam was the center of Mennonite historical research. Efficient professors and librarians collected and preserved, in the library and archives of the Mennonite Church of Amsterdam, what is now known as the best collection of Dutch Anabaptistica. The first of the professors to pioneer in this field was Samuel Muller. He introduced a course in Mennonite history at the seminary and founded and edited the Jaarboekje voor de Doopsgezinde Gemeenten in Nederland (1837-1850). In addition he wrote numerous articles and collected much material. Furthermore, he inspired his students in theology to continue his work. A. M. Cramer wrote the first comprehensive biography of Menno Simons (Het leven en de verrigtingen van Menno Simons, 1837). S. Blaupot ten Cate was the author of an extensive and scholarly history of the Mennonites of the Netherlands which is indispensable even today, Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland (1839); Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Groningen, Overijssel en Oost-Friesland (1842), Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht en Gelderland (1849). J. G. de Hoop Scheffer, professor and librarian at Amsterdam, was editor of the Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (published 1861-1919) and a pioneer historian. Christiaan Sepp also carried on extensive research in the field of Anabaptist history. (Geschiedkundige Nasporingen, 3 vols., 1872-1875; Johannes Stinstra en zijn tijd, 2 vols., 1865-1866.)
The Origin of Anabaptism
The relationship between the Münsterite Anabaptists and Dutch Mennonitism had always been a touchy subject for the earlier Mennonite writers. From the time of the writings of Menno Simons against Jan van Leyden and Menno's Fundamentboek until the history of the Mennonites was written by Schijn-Maatschoen, the main object was defense. The opponents emphasized the similarities which pointed to a common origin with the fanatical elements in Anabaptism, while the Mennonite writers denied or minimized this and attempted to prove the Biblical character of their church, which they traced back, hypothetically, to the Apostolic Church. The interpretation of the history of the Mennonites by T. J. van Braght in the Martyrs' Mirror has been mentioned. In this theory of the Successio Apostolica the Waldenses furnished a welcome link. Outstanding among those who did research in the history of the Waldenses and their supposed connection with the Anabaptists was A. M. Cramer in his book on Menno Simons (1837). Neither he nor S. Blaupot ten Cate found any definite evidence of a direct lineage from the Waldenses to the Anabaptists. J. H. Halbertsma based his theory of historical connection on the similarities between the Waldenses and the Anabaptists (De Doopsgezinden en hunne herkomst, 1843). This proved to be a challenge for further research in that field. Blaupot ten Cate wrote Geschiedkundig onderzoek naar den Waldensischen oorsprong van de Nederlandsche Doopsgezinde (1844), while others made contributions of lesser importance to this field. However, even after the Dutch Mennonite historians had given up this theory, a staunch advocate arose in the German historian and archivist Ludwig Keller. In his numerous writings, he advocated the theory of the direct descent of the Anabaptists from what he called the pre-Reformation Old-Evangelical Brethren Churches. In this chain of evangelical churches, the Waldenses formed an important link (Die Reformation und die älteren Reformparteien, Leipzig, 1885, and other publications).
It must be noted that it was the research of the Catholic scholar C. A. Cornelius which changed the approach to the problem radically (Berichte der Augenzeugen über das Münsterische Wiedertäuferreich, Münster, 1853; Geschichte des Münsterischen Aufruhrs, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1855-1860). From that time on both Catholic and Protestant scholars gradually gave increasingly unprejudiced consideration to the Anabaptist movement of the 16th century.
The manner in which the assertion of a connection between the Mennonites and the Münsterite Anabaptists was revived in the 20th century is an irony of history. This time it was not a debate between an "orthodox" Catholic or Protestant and a "heretic" Anabaptist, but a lively and lengthy discussion between the two leading Dutch Mennonite historians, viz., Karel Vos, minister and historian, and W. J. Kühler, professor in the Mennonite Theological Seminary and the University of Amsterdam. In 1917 Vos published (in Doopsgezinde Bijdragen) "Kleine bijdragen over de Doopersche beweging in Nederland tot het optreden van Menno Simons." Influenced by the materialistic and socialistic interpretation of the Münster incident, Vos does not hesitate to consider the chiliastic and revolutionary element of Anabaptism, as it found its most extreme expression in the "kingdom" of Münster, as genuine original Dutch Anabaptism. According to this interpretation, the Biblicist peaceful element became dominant after the Münster catastrophe by falling from one extreme to another. Kühler replied to this in his article, "Het Nederlandsche Anabaptisme en de revolutionnaire woelingen der zestiende eeuw" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1919). This in turn was answered by Vos in "Revolutionnaire Hervorming" (De Gids, LXXXIV, 1920). Kühler concluded the controversy with his "Het Anabaptisme in Nederland" (De Gids, 1921). In his article, as well as in his subsequently published history of the Mennonites in the Netherlands, Kühler emphasizes that the Biblicist peaceful type of Anabaptism, without the practicing of adult baptism, existed in the Netherlands before the preaching and baptizing by Melchior Hoffman in 1531 (in the Sacramentist movement, the Brethren of the Common Life, etc.). Hoffman and his preachers were reaping without sowing. After Hoffman's arrest the Anabaptist movement split into two groups: the left wing of Münster, and the right wing of Obbe and Dirk Philips, Menno Simons, and others. No doubt Kühler came closer to the historical truth than Vos, even though he probably overemphasized the independence of the reformatory movement in the Netherlands. One of the studies that have since appeared dealing with this subject is A. F. Mellink's De Wederdopers in de Noordelijke Nederlanden 1531-1544 (1954), which follows the Vos-Kautzky line, whereas N. van der Zijpp thoroughly criticized Vos' thesis in "Menno en Munster," in Stemmen (1953).
General and Local History
In addition to these histories on the origin of the Dutch Anabaptists some earlier and some recent monographs and studies of a general character deserve mention. The Mennonite historians of the 19th century, Samuel Muller, de Hoop Scheffer, Samuel Cramer, and others, furnished a number of articles on the Mennonites, Menno Simons, etc., for the internationally known encyclopedias of different countries. De Hoop Scheffer's article, "Körte geschiedenis der Mennoniten en Doopsgezinden" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1882), translated from the second edition of the Real-Encyclopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche (see also Chr. Sepp, Bibliotheek, 387-389), and Cramer's article, "Mennoniten," in the third edition of this work, deserve special mention. The latter also wrote, among other contributions, a significant study, "De Doopsgezinde Broederschap in de negentiende eeuw" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1901), and a survey of Dutch Mennonite statistics of the 19tii century (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1902). The most significant history of the Mennonites of the Netherlands, after that by S. Blaupot ten Cate, was Anna Brons's Ursprung, Entwickelung und Schicksale der altevangelischen Taufgesinnten oder Mennoniten in kurzen Zügen übersichtlich dargestellt (1884), which covers the history of all Mennonites in all countries.
The need for a scholarly Dutch history of the Mennonites of the Netherlands grew more and more urgent. W. J. Kühler published Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de zestiende eeuw (Haarlem, 1932), which was continued in 1940 when the first half of the second volume appeared, now entitled Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden in Nederland (Tweede deel, 1600-1735, eerste helft). After Kühler's death one chapter of Vol. II, Part 2, "Gemeentelijk leven," appeared (Haarlem, 1950). N. van der Zijpp published the first modern complete history in Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Nederland (1952). A general survey of early Anabaptism, including the Dutch, was written in England by R. J. Smithson entitled The Anabaptists, Their Contributions to our Heritage (London, 1935), and in America by H. E. Dosker, The Dutch Anabaptists (Philadelphia, 1921). C. Henry Smith's Story of the Mennonites (1941) and John Horsch's Mennonites in Europe (1942) give major attention to the history of Anabaptism in Europe, particularly in Holland, and later Dutch Mennonite history.
A. L. E. Verheyden has published considerable material on the Anabaptists in Flanders in addition to his major work, Het Mennisme in Vlanderen, which awaits publication in English or Dutch. Among his publications are Doopsgezinden te Gent (1943), and Anabaptist Martyrologes for Bruges (1945), Ghent (1945), and Courtrai-Brussels (1950). Most valuable is Bibliographie des Martyrologes Protestants Néerlandais (2 vols., 1890) and Jean Meyhoffer, Le Martyrologe Protestant des Pays Bas 1523-1597 (1907). For further literature consult the Catalogus of the AML (146-155, 287-297).
The Lower Rhine and Northwest Germany until recent time were culturally in close contact with the Netherlands. Besides the works of Goebel (1848) and Rembert (1899), an outstanding contribution is the series of articles by Ernst Crous in Der Mennonit, May-August, 1956, "Von Täufern zu Mennoniten am Niederrhein."
Biographies and Genealogies
Melchior Hoffman was the medium through which Anabaptism was spread from South Germany to the Low Countries. He expounded his teachings in a number of books. For these reasons considerable literature about him is available. Teyler's Godgeleerd Genootschap awarded prizes for two biographies and published them. One was written by W. I. Leendertz entitled Melchior Hoffman (1883), and the other by F. O. zur Linden entitled Melchior Hofmann, ein Prophet der Wiedertäufer (1885). Samuel Cramer's edition of Melchior Hoffman's writings, with a valuable introduction, was published in 1909 as Volume V of Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica. A more recent publication was Melchior Hofmann als religiöser Denker by Peter Kawerau (1956). A biography which listed all the literature by and about David Joris, who for a while lived and worked in the Netherlands, is written by Roland H. Bainton and entitled David Joris Wiedertäufer und Kämpfer für Toleranz im 16. Jahrhundert (Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, Ergänzungsband VI, Leipzig, 1906).
Throughout the century of Mennonite historiography no other leader was the object of as many studies as Menno Simons. A. M. Cramer pioneered in this field by presenting a thorough study, Het leven en de verrichtingen van Menno Simons (1837), on the occasion of the third centennial of Menno Simons' conversion. Of those who made special contributions in this field we mention J. G. de Hoop Scheffer, "Eenige opmerkingen en mededeelingen betr. Menno Simons" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1864, 1865, 1872, 1881, 1889, 1890, 1892, 1894); G. E. Frerichs, "Menno's taal" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1905); "Menno's verblijf in de eerste jaaren na zijn uitgang" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1906), and Karel Vos, Menno Simons,1496-1561, Zijn leven en zijne reformatorische denkbeelden (Leiden, 1914), which is well documented and gives evidence that the author is the best authority on the sources in that field. Two years later, John Horsch published Menno Simons, His Life, Labors, and Teachings (Scottdale, 1916).
About 1848 two German biographies of Menno Simons appeared. B. C. Roosen wrote Menno Simons den evangelischen Mennoniten-Gemeinden geschildert (Leipzig, 1848) and C. Harder Das Leben Menno Symons (Königsberg, 1846). On the fourth centennial of the conversion of Menno Simons, Cornelius Krahn presented his study, Menno Simons (1496-1561), Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte und Theologie der Taufgesinnten (Karlsruhe i.B., 1936). The first part was a biography of Menno Simons and the second an interpretation of the theology of the Anabaptists as compared with that of the reformers of the sixteenth century. More recent American brief biographies were Menno Simons, Apostle of the Nonresistant Life (Berne), by C. Henry Smith, and Menno Simons' Life and Writings (Scottdale, 1936), by Harold S. Bender and John Horsch. In this connection "De portretten van Menno Simons (Met 12 afbeeldingen)" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1916) by G. J. Boekenoogen should be mentioned. Menno Simons' writings have been published in the Dutch, German, and English languages. However, a scholarly edition of the original writings of Menno Simons had not yet been published in 1955. The Mennonite Publishing House of Scottdale, Pennsylvania, published in 1956 in a revised translation, The Complete Writings of Menno Simons edited by J. C. Wenger, the first absolutely complete edition in any language.
The writings of Obbe Philips (S. Cramer in Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica VII, 1910), Dirk Philips (F. Pijper in Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica X, 1914), and Adam Pastor (S. Cramer in Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica) have been edited by S. Cramer and F. Pijper, who wrote introductions which contain the best available information concerning their lives. A. H. Newman wrote "Adam Pastor, Antitrinitarian Antipaedobaptist," in Papers of the American Society of Church History V (1917). Complete biographies of these and other co-workers of Menno had not yet been written in 1955.
More than 30 biographies, partly illustrated, of the great Mennonite leaders of the first century are given in the second and third volumes of Schijn-Maatschoen's previously mentioned history of the Mennonites. K. de Wit published 30 pictures of leading men in Verzaameling van de afbeeldingen van veele voornaame mannen en leeraaren (Amsterdam, 1743), each illustration accompanied by a short poem written by men like J. van den Vondel and Adr. Spinniker. The biography of Galenus Abrahamsz de Haan (1622-1706) was presented by H. W. Meihuizen (Haarlem, 1954). Important material about Mennonite Collegiant connections is found in van Slee, De Rijnsburger Collegianten (Haarlem, 1895), and C. B. Hylkema, Reformateurs (2 vols., Haarlem, 1900 and 1902).
Characteristics and Principles
We shall not attempt to mention all of the literature which deals with Mennonite tenets, beliefs, teachings, and principles, but merely name a few outstanding titles of the past and present centuries. J. H. Scholten's De Leer der Hervormde Kerk, in which he characterized the Anabaptists, was the reason for the writing of D. S. Gorter's Onderzoek naar het kenmerkend beginsel der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden (1850) and S. Hoekstra's Nog iets over het eigenlijke wezen van den Doopsgezinden Christen (1851). All this was just a prelude to the most significant work written on this subject by a Dutch theologian, viz., Beginselen en leer der oude Doopsgezinden, vergeleken met de overige Protestanten (1863), by Sytse Hoekstra Bz. Hoekstra, the author of numerous books in systematic theology, made a thorough comparative study of the Mennonite and other Protestant teachings and principles.
We shall not here attempt to present the interpretations of the essential principles of Anabaptism as they are given by the well-known historians, Albrecht Ritschl, Ludwig Keller, Karl Holl, Ernst Troeltsch, Max Weber, Walther Köhler, and others, but will merely mention a few significant recent publications in this field. An outstanding treatise is Ethelbert Stauffer's "Märtyrertheologie und Täuferbewegung" (Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, XV, 1933, 545-98; English also in Mennonite Quarterly Review XIX, 1945, 179-214), which presents the outstanding characteristic of Anabaptism as the willingness to suffer for the Lord. The martyrs went through a threefold baptism—with the spirit, with the water, and with the blood. The willingness to suffer, which the Dutch call "lijdzaamheid," finds expression in the principle of nonresistance. How this principle was given up by the Dutch Mennonites is described by J. Dyserinck in "De Weerloosheid volgens de Doopsgezinden," in the journal De Gids I (1890) 104-161 and 303-342, by S. Cramer in "Hoe een van onze vroegere kenmerken is te niet gegaan" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1898), and by Vos in De Weerloosheid der Doopsgezinden (1916). A later Dutch study of this field was made by N. van der Zijpp in De vroegere Doopsgezinden en de krijgsdienst (1930). The most thorough study based on Dutch sources is Die Wehrfreiheit der Altpreussischen Mennoniten (Marienburg, 1863) by W. Mannhardt.
N. van der Zijpp published the only general study on Dutch confessions: De Belijdenisgeschriften der Nederlandse Doopsgezinden (1954); English translation in Mennonite Quarterly Review XXIX (1955) 171-187.
The most detailed Dutch account of the development of modes of baptism was given by J. G. de Hoop Scheffer in his "Overzicht der Geschiedenis van den Doop bij Onderdompeling" (Verslagen en Mededeelingen der Koninklijke Academie van Wetenschappen, Afd. Letterkunde, 2.reeks, dl. XII, Amsterdam, 1883). Karel Vos wrote "De doop bij overstorting" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1911).
Menno Simons and his followers shared the peculiar conception of the incarnation of Christ held by Melchior Hoffman. Krahn in "Der Gemeindebegriff Mennos im Zusammenhang mit seiner Lehre von der Menschwerdung Christi" (Menno Simons, 1936) attempts to point out the connection between this doctrine and their conception of a church "without spot and wrinkle." Irvin E. Burkhart wrote "Menno Simons on the Incarnation" (Mennonite Quarterly Review IV, 1930, VI, 1932). A later treatment of this question was presented by H. J. Schoeps in Vom Himmlischen Fleisch (Tübingen, 1951).
Regarding the Mennonite principle of nonconformity a few titles deserve special mention. P. Langendijk gives an account of the complaints of the Swiss Mennonites who settled in the Netherlands about the worldliness of their Dutch brethren (De Zwitsere Eenvoudigheid, klagende over de bedorvene Zeden veeler Hollandse Doopsgezinden, 1713; see also Mennonite Life X, July 1955). C. N. Wybrands portrays the cultural and ethical standards of the past conservatism of the Dutch Mennonites in Het Menniste Zusje (1913).
F. S. Knipscheer wrote an exhaustive study concerning the controversy on silent and audible prayer in "Geschiedenis van het stil en het stemmelijk gebed bij de Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1897, 1898, Catalogus Amsterdam, 188). In "Reizen naar de Eeuwigheid" (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1896) J. J. Honig Jz. makes a study of one of the most popular devotional books entitled Wegh nae Vredenstadt (1625) by Pieter Pietersz. The most complete study of this subject was made by Robert Friedmann in Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries (Goshen, 1949). Books in the field of devotion and theology are listed in the Catalogus, pp. 212-239, 306-310. Sermons are found on pp. 239-256 and 310-324. The extensive literature in the field of religious education is given on pp. 256-265 and 324-329.
The Dutch Mennonites had their own Bible translations. Samuel Muller wrote on this subject the article "Het onstaan en het gebruik van Bijbelvertalingen onder de Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden" (Jaarboekye voor Doopsgezinde gemeenten, 1837). Also the article Bible Translations gives information along these lines. Pieter Jansz Twisck, one of the most prolific Mennonite writers of the seventeenth century, wrote a Bible concordance entitled Concordantie der Heyligher Schriftvren enz. (Hoorn, 1615), which was generally used. He added a second volume, Bybelsch Naem-ende Chronyck-boeck (Hoorn, 1632).
Libraries and Archives
The most complete collection of books and documents on Dutch Anabaptistica is to be found in the [[Amsterdam Mennonite Library (Bibliotheek en Archief van de Vereenigde
Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Amsterdam)|Library and Archives of the Mennonite Church of Amsterdam]]. Smaller collections are located in the libraries of the universities of Amsterdam, Leyden, Groningen, and Kiel, the Royal Library at the Hague, the British Museum, and certain church and private libraries among the Mennonites of the Netherlands and Germany. Most of the archives have been microfilmed by the Historical Committee of the General Conference Mennonite church. The microfilms are located in the Mennonite Library and Archives, North Newton, Kansas.
The collections of Dutch Mennonitica in America are growing. Special efforts are being made to preserve and collect everything in connection with the history of the Mennonites, including the Dutch, by the Mennonite historical libraries of Bethel College and Goshen College. These two libraries have, next to the Library of the Mennonite Church of Amsterdam, the largest collections of Dutch Mennonitica.
Cite This Article
Krahn, Cornelius. "Historiography: Netherlands." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 24 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Historiography:_Netherlands&oldid=95268.
Krahn, Cornelius. (1956). Historiography: Netherlands. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Historiography:_Netherlands&oldid=95268.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 758-764. All rights reserved.
©1996-2017 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.