Anabaptists - History - The Low Countries

The Low Countries

Melchior Hoffman is credited with the introduction of Anabaptist ideas into the Low Countries. Hoffman had picked up Lutheran and Reformed ideas, but on 23 April 1530 he was "re-baptized" at Strasbourg and within two months had gone to Emden and baptized about 300 persons. For several years Hoffman preached in the Low Countries until he was arrested and imprisoned at Strasbourg, where he died about 10 years later. Hoffman's apocalyptic ideas were indirectly related to the Münster Rebellion, even though he was "of a different spirit." Obbe and Dirk Philips had been baptized by disciples of Jan Matthijs, but were opposed to the violence that occurred at Münster. Obbe later became disillusioned with Anabaptism and withdrew from the movement in about 1540, but not before ordaining David Joris, his brother Dirk, and Menno Simons, the latter from whom the Mennonites received their name. David Joris and Menno Simons parted ways, with Joris placing more emphasis on "spirit and prophecy," while Menno emphasized the authority of the Bible. For the Mennonite side, the emphasis on the "inner" and "spiritual" permitted compromise to "escape persecution," while to the Joris side, the Mennonites were under the "dead letter of the Scripture." Due to persecution and expansion, many of the Low Country Mennonites emigrated to Prussia, and from there to the Ukraine (which at the time was part of Russia). In the late 1800s, many of the Russian Mennonites emigrated to the Prairie States and Provinces of the U.S. and Canada, and also to Mexico, Belize, and South America (Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil) where thousands of them still live in colonies.

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