Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

In Memoriam: Samme Zijlstra, 1953-2001

Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

In Memoriam: Samme Zijlstra, 1953-2001

Article excerpt

THE MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW regrets to announce the sudden death of Samme Zijlstra, a leading scholar of Anabaptist history who died by accident on November 10 in Leeuwarden, Friesland. In 1983 Zijlstra completed his PhD under A. F. Mellink at the University of Groningen. His dissertation, "Nicolaas Meyndertsz. van Blesdijk. Een bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van het Davidjorisme" (Assen, 1983), was a masterpiece of research that reappraised the reputation of not only Blesdijk, but also Blesdijk's father-in-law and teacher, the Anabaptist/spiritualist David Joris. Zijlstra's study broke new ground on several fronts, firmly establishing Joris' standing as the principal Anabaptist leader in the Netherlands between 1535 and the early 1540s. It also revealed many of Blesdijk's motivations for eventually leaving Joris' side and becoming one of his profoundest critics.

Through several influential articles on Joris, Anabaptism, Menno Simons, Mennonites and religious tolerance, Zijlstra enjoyed a growing repute as an important and productive historian of the Dutch Reformation, epitomized most recently by his position as editor-in-chief of the Doopsgezinde Bijdragen, the major Dutch journal for studies of Anabaptist and Mennonite history. Fittingly, it was Zijlstra who completed the editing job of the seventh volume of the Documenta Anabaptistica Neerlandica, on the later Anabaptist court records of Friesland and Groningen (to 1601), left unfinished at the death of his mentor, Mellink.

A quiet, unassuming person, Samme was ideally suited to the research environment. In 1990 he began his affiliation as senior researcher with the Fryske Akademy, Leeuwarden, working on various funded research projects, including an impressive book on the history of higher education in Friesland (1380-1650), Het geleerde Friesland--een mythe? …

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