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Bchan  •  Link

According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia (1908):

(Gr. ana, again, and baptizo, baptize; rebaptizers).

A violent and extremely radical body of ecclesiastico-civil reformers which first made its appearance in 1521 at Zwickau, in the present kingdom of Saxony, and still exists in milder forms.


The name Anabaptists, etymologically applicable, and sometimes applied to Christian denominations that practise re-baptism is, in general historical usage, restricted to those who, denying the validity of infant baptism, became prominent during the great reform movement of the sixteenth century. The designation was generally repudiated by those to whom it was applied, as the discussion did not centre around the question whether baptism can be repeated, but around the question whether the first baptism was valid."


Patrick W. Conner  •  Link

The old Catholic Encyclopedia, in spite of its many excellencies, is not a good source for the various protestant parties and reforms. The Church, both then and now, cannot be objective about the various groups who attempted either to reform or to make irrelevant the Church of Rome.

The Anabaptists were the forerunners of the Mennonites, who are more or less identical with the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch in the USA. The greatest leader of the Anabaptists was Menno Simons (1492-1559), from whom the Mennonites took their name. For twenty-five years he shepherded the scattered Anabaptist societies in Germany and the Netherlands. In 1608 some men of Puritan views who had left the Church of England fled from persecution to Holland. Some of them later were the Pilgrims to Plymouth Plantation in New England. Others came under the influence of Mennonites and adopted their views, being referred to as Anabaptists. About 1611 some of these latter founded in London the first Anabaptist or Baptist church of England. Other early English Baptists were in association with Dutch Mennonites. From these first English Baptists have come the Baptist churches of the English-speaking world. The Mennonite name is still borne by churches in Germany and by churches of German origin in Russia and America. I have taken much of this from http://www.anabaptists.org/history/anastory.html

Emilio  •  Link

[At least as of April 1660, their reputation seems to have been more decisive than their actual intentions in determining how Montagu and other outsiders treated them.
This posted by kvk for the 1 Apr, 1660 entry:
http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1660/04/01/#c3632 ]
After Monck announced his intention to oppose Lambert, he began purging ‘Anabaptists’ and Fifth Monarchists from his army. The term Anabaptists is applied somewhat loosely at this point - to General and Particular Baptists, for instance - but it’s not a general term for zealots. It carries implications of extreme radicalism and subversion, primarily because of the lingering memory of the Munster community of the 1530s (Munster was mentioned frequently in civil war pamphlets). The Baptists have not been doing much lately, but in uncertain times Monck and others aren’t willing to extend trust to a group that has been a traditional source of fear.
This Baptist history page mentions some of the suspicions floating around at this time:
“Many spoke of what the “Anabaptists” in the Army were about to do. The old stories of M

Alicia  •  Link

Patrick Conner said above, The Anabaptists were the forerunners of the Mennonites, who are more or less identical with the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch in the USA."
Well, this is sort of true, but not really - kind of like saying "Church of England members, who are more or less identical with the so-called English." Lots of English people are not members of the CoE, as I understand it, and the same is true of the Pennsylvania Dutch. This term describes the large numbers of Germans (it actually is Pennsylvania Deutsch) who settled central and south-central Pennsylvania. Many were Mennonites, or an offshoot of the Mennonites called the Amish, and many were of other faiths entirely. Similarly, there are many Mennonites, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the US, who have no relationship to the Pennsylvania Dutch. So while the groups have overlap, they actually are quite different.
I am part Pennsylvania Dutch, but not at all Mennonite or Amish (my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors were Lutheran.)
Sorry if this is too much of a tangent ...

John  •  Link

What Alicia says is certainly true and I might add that many Mennonites who settled in PA (and many, like my paternal Loyalist Mennonites who were hounded out of the country because of their loyalty to the Crown at the time of the American Revolution, subsequently settled in what is now Ontario in Canada)were originally from German-speaking Switzerland.

Also part of the Anabaptist world were the Quakers and in fact it was partly because of the similarity of beliefs that William Penn conducted 3 recruiting drives amongst the Mennonites and offshoots in Germany to persuade them to move to his new persecution-free "colony".

Alicia will recognise my Overholt surname as a good Pennsylvania Dutch one as also may some rye whiskey drinkers!

Las Vegas Baptist Church  •  Link

The problem with the child baptism is that the child didn't CHOOSE it. Pretty simple. You can't choose salvation (or in the case of baptism, to be marked for Christ) for someone else. Not complicated.

Christian baptism was solemnly appointed by the risen Christ, prior to His entering into the state of glory by His ascension.

Matthew 28:18-20 and its parallel Mark 16:15-16 are the principal texts of Scripture on which the church in all ages has based every essential point of her teaching regarding this ordinance. The host of other baptismal texts of Scripture expand and illustrate the contents of these two texts.

The Bishop  •  Link

Las Vegas, you're missing the point that in the reformed church of England of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the basic theology was Calvinist, and therefore it was denied that human choice had any role in salvation. Since people could not choose to be saved, it made sense to go ahead and baptise everyone, and it was easiest to do this when they were babies.

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

I may be misremembering this, but wasn't it also thought by Catholics before this period that the souls of unbaptised babies would not go to Heaven?

Grahamt  •  Link

This was a period of high infant mortality. As Jenny Doughty says, it was thought that unbaptised children's souls went to purgatory as they inherited the "original sin", though innocent themselves. The Council of Florence (1438) decreed:
"unless we be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, we can not enter into the kingdom of Heaven"
Baptism by water, ritually washed away the sin, so was done as soon after birth as possible, especially if the child was sickly and unlikely to survive for long.
As an aside, right up until the 1960's, British catholic children were being taught that protestants' souls went to purgatory.

Laura Brown  •  Link

Actually, the Catholic Church's teaching was (and is) that just about *everyone* will spend some time in purgatory. Purgatory is the process of purifying the soul of sin, and is a preparatory step to the soul's entering heaven.

I believe Jenny and Graham are actually thinking of the popular Catholic belief in limbo, a sort of neutral area whose inhabitants were cut off from God but did not suffer eternal punishment. It was here that unbaptised babies were thought to end up. However, this was strictly a folk belief and was NOT Church doctrine. (Neither is the thing about Protestants going to purgatory, though I'm sure some ill-informed teachers did propagate it.)

Olwen Hufton's book 'The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe, 1500-1800' contains a long and heart-rending discussion of both Catholic and Protestant beliefs about children who died without baptism.

Anyway, to get back to the Anabaptists: Another prolific 17th century diarist, the Puritan turner Samuel Wallington, recorded in 1646 that 'a most obstinate Anabaptist' in Dover beheaded her baby son 'and having severed the head ... did present the dismal spectacle to her husband and bid him baptise him then if he would.' (Paul S. Seaver, 'Wallington's World: A Puritan Artisan in 17th-Century London', Stanford University Press 1985). I don't know whether this was true -- to me it sounds more like the 17th-century equivalent of an urban legend -- but it does show how Anabaptists were viewed by other Christians in England.

Laura Brown  •  Link

Here's an interesting site with some primary documents about the Anabaptists of the 16th and 17th centuries:


Also, just for the benefit of anyone who'd like to explore Wallington's life or writings further -- his first name was actually Nehemiah, not Samuel. Clearly, I still had 'our Sam' on the brain!

Tim Nafziger  •  Link

On Anabaptists in Britain:

"On Easter Sunday 1575 a group of 26 Anabaptists, all apparently refugees from The Netherlands, were arrested while meeting near Aldgate. Over the next months they were imprisoned in severe conditions, both in solitary confinement

Tim Nafziger  •  Link

More on the use of "Anabaptist" in sixteenth-century England:

"To be sure, the epithet "anabaptist" was freely bandied about to describe Protestant radicals generally. The term, however, was intended as an insult. It was shot through with suggestions of the fanaticism at M

Benaiah  •  Link

John Thomas MD an English doctor wrote an article entitled Anabaptism in 1834 in his publication Apostolic Advocate. vol.1, no.6. This in connection with the issue of rebaptism for those coming over (from the Baptists) to the so called 'Reformation' led by Alexander Campbell. He referred to their persecution in the reign of Elizabeth 1. This inqiry led to further scriptural investigation into:
1. the mortality of man,
2. the promises God madeto Abraham

Pedro  •  Link


For a BBC podcast that may be of interest…

“Melvyn Bragg and guests Diarmaid MacCulloch, Lucy Wooding and Charlotte Methuen discuss the Siege of Münster in 1534-35.

In the early 16th century, the Protestant Reformation revolutionised Christian belief. But one radical group of believers stood out. The Anabaptists rejected infant baptism and formal clergy, and believed that all goods should be held in common. They were also convinced that the Second Coming was imminent.”


Bill  •  Link

ANABAPTISTS, a Sect whose Tenet is, That Persons ought not to be baptized till they are able to give an Account of their Faith.
---An Universal Etymological English Dictionary. N. Bailey, 1675.

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