Philippites, an Anabaptist group named after Philipp Plener, existing as an independent group from ca. 1527 to the middle of the 1540s. Its origins go back to Plener's activities around Bruchsal in southwest Germany. In 1527 Plener came to Moravia and in 1529 established his own Bruderhof at Auspitz (apparently on a communal pattern), made up in the main of brethren from Plener's home area, Württemberg and Baden. In 1531 Blasy Kühn arrived with the remnants of the old Bruchsal congregation, Kühn becoming Plener's assistant. There were now three groups in Moravia living communally: the Gabrielites, mostly Silesians, in Rossitz, the Philippites, and the Tyroleans (under Schützinger, both living in Auspitz). A smaller Bruderhof of the Philippites existed also at Pulgram, Moravia, which united with the Hutterites in 1538. The Auspitz Philippite' group attracted many newcomers and ca. 1535 numbered some 400 members. The names of some of these members are recorded in the Hutterite Chronicle and some in the Passau documents, to be discussed below. There were Adam Schlegel and Hans Both, both of whom had shifted from the Hutterites to the Philippites; Hans Haffner, the author of a remarkable tract; Hans Gentner, who turned Hutterite in 1538 and thereafter became quite prominent in this group, and two well-known hymn writers, Hans Betz of Eger and Michael Schneider of Bruchsal.
When persecutions set in in Moravia in 1535 and the brethren were unable to find any place of abode, Plener decided that the entire brotherhood (with the possible exception of the Pulgram people) should return to Germany. Actually the records show that there now existed three different groups 1535-ca. 1545.
One group arrived safely in the former home area: the triangle Heilbronn-Worms-Strasbourg, with Bruchsal (in the Kraichgau) roughly in the center. Of this group some facts are revealed in epistles by Peter Riedemann. Hans Gentner visited them several times 1540-1543. Apparently due to a lack of vigorous leadership the group faded out, most likely fusing with the "Swiss Brethren" of that area. This is all the more probable since endeavors toward the unification of all the different Anabaptist groups in the Strasbourg-Worms area were afoot time and again (compare Pilgram Marpeck's activities in the 1550's).
Another group in Upper Austria (see Austria) is indicated in certain Riedemann epistles and other Hutterite sources. In Steyr, Linz, and Gmunden small brotherhoods existed 1534-1541 called "Philippites"; they were presumably the result of Philippite mission work there before 1535. Later Riedemann felt a concern for their spiritual welfare and wrote them many epistles. One name becomes conspicuous in this group; namely, Wolf Brandhuber (Chronik, 176), doubtless the son of the leader of the old Linz congregation, Wolfgang Brandhuber, martyred in 1529. Some of these Upper Austrian Philippites later joined the Hutterites in Moravia, but the majority "turned worldly" and thus disappeared as a distinct group. The Hutterites had not been able to provide them with any leadership outside Moravia. Practically all of these Upper Austrians were urban.
The best-known group is the Passau group, 1535-1540. Back in Moravia in 1535, Plener in a last act as bishop had ordained Michael Schneider of Bruchsal as the leader (Vorsteher) of a group of about 60 persons (mostly from Bruchsal) who planned to reach their former homes via the Danube route. Catholic authorities, having been alerted, caught the entire group in August and September 1535 around Passau and imprisoned them in the dungeons of the Passau castle (belonging to the bishop of that city). Some were tortured, but no death penalty was imposed. Some of these brethren died in the following years; some recanted and were set free; of the rest nothing is known. Wolkan in his Lieder gives the best account of this group, using the "Passauer Religions Akten" of Munich. This source gives the names of some 50 Anabaptists, their origin, and in part their story. The 52 hymns of the oldest part of the Ausbund (numbers 81-129) were composed by these Philippite Brethren in Passau. Since some of them later joined the "Swiss Brethren," it is easily understandable that they brought these hymns along from prison and allowed them to be printed (first edition in 1564) as "hymns of the Swiss Brethren." Of Michael Schneider (the leader) 11 hymns are thus preserved, of Hans Betz 17 (only 11 bearing his signature). One hymn by Betz is also found in the Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder, 75-77.
The most remarkable spiritual document coming from the Philippites is the tract Concerning a True Soldier of Christ, written ca. 1533-1535 by Hans Haffner, of Riblingen near Schwäbisch-Hall. It is a study of what constitutes the proper mental equipment of a disciple: besides love, faith, and hope Haffner emphasizes in particular "Gelassenheit" or inner surrender to God. Comparing this tract with the Ausbund hymns, one easily discovers a great unity of the genius of both, discipleship, resignation, and love being the main ideas stressed, likewise the inevitability of the cross. Once the principle of community of goods was abandoned (in 1535), it was not too difficult for these brethren to merge organically with the Swiss Brethren of south west Germany.
Friedmann, Robert "Concerning a True Soldier of Christ." Mennonite Quarterly Review V (1931): 87-99.
Friedmann, Robert "The Philippite Brethren: Chapter in Anabaptist History." Mennonite Quarterly Review XXXII (1958): 270-97.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 367 f.
Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder. Scottdale, 1914.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Die Lieder der Wiedertäufer. Berlin, 1903. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. De Graaf, 1965.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder: Ein Sprachdenkmal aus frühneuhochdeutscher Zeit. Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1943.
Cite This Article
Friedmann, Robert. "Philippites." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 22 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Philippites&oldid=119769.
Friedmann, Robert. (1959). Philippites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Philippites&oldid=119769.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 166-167. All rights reserved.
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