The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism

The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism

The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism

The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism

Excerpt

The history of Anabaptism belongs to the category of "Now it can be told" stories. Perhaps there is no group within Christian history that has been judged as unfairly as the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century. Theirs has been the lot of the widely misunderstood, deliberately misrepresented, or completely ignored. With the exception of the present generation all but a handful of competent historians have joined in a "thumbs-down treatment" of four centuries' duration.

There are several factors which explain this otherwise baffling and inexcusable situation. The first of these is hostile polemics. Scholars of preceding generations have leaned heavily upon the highly partisan and quite unreliable accounts of sixteenth-century Anabaptism in the writings of Ulrich Zwingli, Justus Menius, Heinrich Bullinger, and Christoph Fischer, to say nothing of the milder but just as erroneous accounts of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. Other problems have been

1. Beginning with the works of C. A. Cornelius and Ludwig Keller in
Europe, and John Horsch in America there has been a noticeable improvement
in both materials available for study to students of the sixteenth-century Anabap
tist movement and in treatment of Anabaptist history by non-Mennonite histo
rians. Symbolic of this change is the publication of The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision, ed. Guy F. Hershberger (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1957), in which
appear chapters by interested scholars of many different communions.

2. The most offensive of these were Heinrich Bullinger's Der Widertäufferen

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