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A research symposium Menno Simons, The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden: When and why was it written?

Abstract: Menno Simons, the sixteenth-century Catholic priest-turned-radical-reformer, played a formative role in helping Dutch Anabaptism re-establish its theological footing following the debacle of the "Anabaptist Kingdom in Minister" of 1534-1535. In the aftermath of the failed experiment at Munster, Menno helped steer the movement in a more moderate and peaceful direction. But the story of Menno's conversion to Anabaptism, including the date of his baptism and the nature of his relationship to the apocalyptic visionaries at Munster, has been the focus of much scholarly debate. This research symposium--an exchange of perspectives by three scholars of Dutch Anabaptism, with some interspersed critical commentary by Piet Visser, the dean of Dutch Anabaptist scholarship--summarizes a debate regarding when Menno wrote The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden and what theological influences led him to write the treatise. The symposium both summarizes the state of current scholarship and introduces several new--sharply contested--arguments by Willem de Bakker.

According to Irvin B. Horst, in his careful and accurate Bibliography of Menno Simons (1962), The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden, a polemic against the infamous leader of the Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster long attributed to Menno, was published for the first time ("nooyt voor desen ghedruckt") in 1627 with Menno's name but without any indication of publisher or place, probably at Hoorn. The text was included in Menno's Complete Works of 1646 and 1681. (1) In the late nineteenth century, however, a controversy about the work's authenticity arose between two Dutch scholars, Christiaan Sepp and J. G. de Hoop Scheffer. Sepp denied that the work was Menno's while de Hoop Scheffer contended that it was indeed an authentic work by Menno. (2) De Hoop Scheffer, who pioneered the notion of an early Sacramentarian phase of the Dutch Reformation before its Mennonite and Calvinist periods, (3) was the more prestigious scholar of the two. He demonstrated that, both in its peculiar Frisian dialect and in its style of expression and argument, the Blasphemy is similar to other works of Menno; but he could not find any references to the Blasphemy in Menno's authentic works.

The Blasphemy purports to be written during Jan van Leiden's kingship in Minister from September 1534 to June 1535. In its content it attacks Jan's claims to be the new, warlike David promised in Scripture to precede the second coming of Christ, the peaceful Solomon. Hence, it would seem to be a response to the pamphlets of Bernhard Rothmann, the propagandist of the Munster Anabaptist kingdom, particularly in A Consoling Message of Vengeance (December 1534) and The Mysterious Message of Scripture (February 1535), which circulated Jan's claims to be the promised David throughout Westphalia and the Netherlands. (4)

In Rothmann's previous writings, including the Restitution (October 1534), which asserted such characteristic parts of the program of Anabaptist Munster as community of goods and polygamy, the author held to the traditional Christian biblical exegesis according to which the messianic David of Old Testament prophecy prefigured Jesus Christ. In his Vengeance of December 1534, however, Rothmann broke away from the traditional way of reading the prophets, deeming it an error to confuse David with Christ: "We know that for a long time David was interpreted to be Christ, but this makes no sense and is totally incorrect, because not David but Solomon prefigures Christ." Now Rothmann was arguing that the prophecies about the universal rule of Christ in the End Times were not yet fulfilled. They must instead be fulfilled by a warrior king, David, before Christ could assume his throne as the universal Prince of Peace. Jan van Leiden, the warrior king of Munster, was to be the fulfillment of these prophecies who would crush all of Christ's enemies. As in the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, the warrior David would prepare the way for the peaceful Solomon. Hence the king of Munster became a precursor to Christ-Solomon.

King Jan's mission was supposedly to vanquish the enemies of God with the sword. The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden, on the contrary, denounced the claims of the usurper in Munster to be "a joyous king over all, the joy of the disconsolate." (5) "Greater antichrist there cannot arise than he who poses as the David of promise. This David is Christ as the Scriptures testify abundantly." (6)

If Menno Simons was indeed the author of The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden, he was here exposing the ruler of Anabaptist Munster as an antichrist. The calumny of the Mennonites' enemies, that they were the offspring of the Munster rebellion, was accordingly shown to be baseless.

The problem, obviously, was that The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden seemingly appeared first in 1627, long after Menno's death and about a century after the beginning of Anabaptism. It sounded like Menno, to be sure, but he never referred to it in his authentic writings. Might it not have been a clever forgery, as Sepp suggested, constructed to wash the Mennonites clean of the stain of Munster? De Hoop Scheffer argued that the Blasphemy was obviously patterned on Rothmann's Vengeance, and that Rothmann's tract was lost from shortly after its first appearance in December 1534 until it was rediscovered in the middle of the nineteenth century. Therefore, an early seventeenth-century forgery would have been impossible. Still, such a forgery would have been very opportune for the Mennonites, who suffered severe persecution from the Habsburg government in Brussels in the decades preceding the sixteenth-century Dutch revolt against Spain, but were now enjoying toleration and winning increasing respectability and prosperity in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. In 1962 Irvin B. Horst, bibliographer of Menno's printed works, summarized the issues in the following terms: despite substantial internal evidence for Menno's authorship, the facts "that the book was unknown in the sixteenth century and the lack of an extant manuscript raise rightful doubt about genuineness." (7)

Recently two scholars, Helmut Isaak and Willem de Bakker, have re-examined The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden in very different ways. Their work follows.

Helmut Isaak

"Why The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden is a Genuine Work by Menno, Written in the Fall of 1534"

Menno would be deeply troubled knowing that scholars in the past and still today are spending so much time and energy debating the authenticity of the Blasphemy and the time of its writing. This is especially odd since Menno considered this tract as belonging to the time when he was still living as a Catholic priest in "Babylon," when all his thinking and doing was conditioned by selfishness and hypocrisy and he was dedicating all his efforts to create a great name for himself. In his Meditation on the 25th Psalm, a confession written in 1536 or 1537 after leaving the priesthood, Menno wrote that, when he got to know himself, he discovered his total corruption. (8) This is the first reason why he later made no direct reference to the earlier tract. As he described it, Menno had been a prince in Babylon, living in darkness whose truths were lies, whose righteousness was sin, whose religion was idolatry, and whose life was certain death. Moreover, the tract had completely failed to stop the Munsterite debacle.

Second, in his response to Gellius Faber of 1551, Menno mentioned that he had warned his parishioners against the Munsterite abomination already during his time in the papacy. (9) In that text he claimed to have opposed the Munsterites for more than seventeen years--that is, from the beginning in 1534--both by mouth and pen, in public and in secret. (10)

Third, the author of the Blasphemy identified himself as one of the "true brothers and Covenanters," (11) a fellow brother of the Covenant. If this was a clever forgery such an identification would have linked Menno too closely to the Munsterites and would have exposed him to severe persecution. After leaving "Babylon and entering Jerusalem" Menno would never again use the term "brothers of the Covenant." W. J. Kuhler remarked that: "The break was so complete that Obbenites and Melchiorites no longer wanted to bear the name of 'Coventanter,' which had been tarnished by the revolutionaries. We encounter this name very seldom after 1536." (12) Thus, it seems evident that the text originated before 1536, likely in 1534 before the events in Munster had become extreme.

Moreover, like the Blasphemy, Menno's first tract from 1534, the Spiritual Resurrection, reveals Menno's great knowledge of Scripture, which was evident even before he left the priesthood. Even if the Blasphemy did not appear in print before the collapse of the Munsterite Kingdom or during his lifetime, it reveals to us the characteristic content and style of Menno's sermons and teachings against the Munsterite heresy. This fact then justifies the scholarly research dedicated to these early writings.

In a brief period of a year or two, from 1534 to 1535, Menno, still a Catholic priest, accepted the Melchiorite doctrine of incarnation, was baptized, and became a fellow member of the brothers of the Covenant. In his response to a Lasco in 1544 he wrote that for days and weeks he was deeply troubled by the Melchiorite doctrine of incarnation, even before and after his baptism. (13) Thus, there is no question that Menno must have received this doctrine already in 1534, when Munster became Anabaptist and was proclaimed to be the New Jerusalem. Since baptism with the sign of Tau--the seal of the 144,000 elected of the End Times from Revelation 7--was the absolute precondition of salvation, Menno as a spiritual Christian who had already rejected the sacraments of the Catholic Church could have accepted this as well.

It is also worth noting that for Menno, as a spiritual Christian and evangelical priest, the rituals and ceremonies of the Catholic Church, including the sacraments, no longer held much importance. By the late 1520s he had come to the point that the written Word of God, as revealed in Scripture, was his only authority. Based on his own study of Scripture he rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation already in 1528; and in 1531 he recognized that child baptism was not biblical. In his Meditation on the Twenty-Fifth Psalm (ca. 1537) he called baptism and the Lord's Supper signs (tekenen) that honest Christians would observe in obedience to the Word of God. (14) "Already during my time in the papacy," claimed Menno in his 1556 tract against Martin Micron, "I came to understand that Christ, the son of God, could not be a man of human flesh." (15) Thus, according to his own testimony, Menno not only became acquainted with this doctrine during his time as a Catholic priest, but was also baptized in the same process. (16)

After the collapse of the Munsterite Kingdom, Menno never used the concept of the "Covenant" again in his writings; nor did he address his fellow believers as "brothers of the Covenant." (17) Baptism now became the sign of dying to sin and rising again with Christ for triumphal life. (18) He now understood that believers came together as "assemblies" to celebrate the Lord's Supper. This was a celebration of unity and joy, where the believers sing and dance for joy. (19) In this congregation of God there was no enforced community of goods, but all the believers voluntarily shared everything they have and they are. (20) In the New Birth (ca. 1539) the born again believers are now to be baptized into the body of Christ; (21) in his Christian Baptism (ca. 1542) Menno called the believers the assembly of the righteous, or the community of the saints. (22)

The expectation of the immediate Second Coming of Christ for the final judgment and the beginning of the millennium was common all over Europe. When the Strasbourg Prophets identified Melchior Hoffmann as the Elijah of the End Times and Cornelius Polderman as the Enoch, and corresponding signs and wonders were happening throughout the Holy Roman Empire, there was great joy among the Melchiorites in the Netherlands and in Northern Germany. Soon Christ would come again and start the millennium. All poverty, hunger, injustice, and persecution would come to an end and the 144,000 elect described in Revelation 7 would rule the world together with Christ. Obbe Philips, who baptized and ordained Menno Simons (23) but later deserted the Anabaptist movement, wrote in his confession: "Now when these teachings and consolations with all the fantasies, dreams and visions daily occurred among the brethren, there was no little joy and expectation among us, hoping all would be true and fulfilled." (24) Since baptism with the seal of Tau was the absolute precondition for salvation, many accepted this seal as the servants of God from Revelation 7:3 without proper preparation and, as a consequence, had to face the death penalty by the Empire for their rebaptism. In this context, Anabaptist Munster now became the safe haven for all the Anabaptists in northern Germany and the Netherlands. Again there was great joy in Munster and among the Anabaptists, because the End Times had already begun. Even Menno's parishioners of Witmarsum not only accepted baptism with the sign of Tau but also, under the influence of the messengers from the New Jerusalem, left for Munster.

Menno never criticized this first phase of Anabaptist Munster under the leadership of Jan Matthijs and Bernhard Rothmann. A Christian nation with a Christian government always was part of Menno's vision of the anticipation of the kingdom of God. In such a nation the Christian government would defend its citizens against the aggression of any evil enemy. (25)

But a red flag went up for Menno in August of 1534 when Jan van Leiden was proclaimed as "joyous King over all, the joy of the distressed." This was putting Jan van Leiden in the place of Christ, which for Menno was the ultimate blasphemy. (26) The Munsterites, by contrast, greeted this claim with great joy. Bernd Knipperdollink reported: "Dear brothers and sisters, God has revealed to me that I should announce to you great joy." (27) The prophet Hendricus received the revelation: "You shall proclaim great joy to my people." (28) Heinrich Gresbeck reported that during the celebration of the Lord's Supper King Jan and his Queen encouraged the participants to "rejoice in the Lord." So did the preachers. They should "sing and praise the Lord," to which the participants responded by singing psalms. (29) When in his Consoling Message of Vengeance from December 1534 Rothmann referred to "great joy," he merely put this prevailing Melchiorite and Munsterite feeling into its proper theological context. (30) Since Jan van Leiden had become the "joyous King of the disconsolate," it was Rothmann's task to provide the theological framework for the new ideological developments of the apocalyptical kingdom of Anabaptist Munster.

But Menno was now forced to take immediate action. His own parishioners did not want to be accountable to him anymore (31) because he did not live and practice his own teachings; (32) he was therefore forced to write, because as a priest Menno cared for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of his parishioners. Menno was also deeply offended because of his loss of influence, control, and stature as an evangelical priest. Had he not defeated the Munsterite delegations in private and in public debates? (33) How could his parishioners now simply ignore him? Jan van Leiden was now his opponent, (34) and Menno needed to defeat him in order to regain the respect and spiritual control of his parishioners. And the sooner this happened the better.

Traditional scholarship has always claimed that Menno wrote his Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden in response to Rothmann's Restitution and Consoling Message of Vengeance. (35) Evidence from the Blasphemy, however, does not confirm this assumption. (36) For example, Menno never addressed the basic tenets of Rothmann's Restitution and Consoling Message of Vengeance--such as the new timetable, which went beyond the revelations of the Old Testament and New Testament, or the dependence of the Munsterite Kingdom upon radical new revelations--neither in the Blasphemy nor in his later writings. It was Rothmann who needed to correct the misunderstanding of King David as the Messiah in his Message of Vengeance: "We know that for a long time David was interpreted to be Christ, but this makes no sense and is totally incorrect, because not David but Solomon prefigures Christ." (37) Jan van Leiden was not the Messiah, according to Rothmann, but the third David, called to destroy all the enemies of God, in order to prepare the way for the peaceful kingdom of the millennium of Jesus Christ. The fact that Rothmann needed to correct the misunderstanding of Jan van Leiden as the new Messiah even in December 1534 shows us how prevalent this "blasphemy" still was among the "brethren of the Covenant."

With clear scriptural references Menno demonstrated in the Blasphemy that Christ was the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament. With Christ's life, death, and resurrection the kingdom of God had already been established. Christ is already the Lord of heaven and earth. He conquered his Kingdom with peace and with suffering love, and not with the sword of vengeance. His Second Coming is not for the establishment of the millennium, but for the final judgment. There is no sword in the Kingdom of Christ. The "born from above" believers follow Christ in his way of life and are willing to bear the cross as well.

The assembled internal evidence strengthens the argument that Menno wrote the Blasphemy as an immediate response to the proclamation of Jan van Leiden as the "joyous king over all the disconsolate" in August 1534 and before Rothmann's Restitution and Consoling Message of Vengeance in October and December, respectively, of the same year. If Munster up until then had been the refuge for the persecuted Anabaptists where justice, equality, and community of goods were practiced, it now became the apocalyptic kingdom of vengeance where Jan van Leiden ruled as the new Messiah of the apocalyptical kingdom of wrath. As a good biblicist, this was not only unacceptable to Menno, but something he considered to be the ultimate "blasphemy."

There is no known evidence that Menno ever published this tract during his lifetime and he never mentions it in his later writings. His amillennialistic understanding of the End Times even raises questions about whether he ever really became a fellow brother of the Covenant of the Munsterite Kingdom, since the movement still represented many different theological orientations, including the peaceful Melchiorites and spiritual biblicists like Menno. But the fact that Menno repeated the same argument with the same scriptural references against the messianic kingship of Jan van Leiden and the use of the sword in his later writings--as in the Meditation on the Twenty-Fifth Psalm from 1536-1537, the New Birth from 1539, his first edition of the Foundation Book from 1539-1540, and the revised edition from 1558--identify him as the author of the Blasphemy. (38)

The sign of Tau also changes its meaning in Menno's writings. For the Munsterites the sign of Tau was the seal of the covenant with God of the 144,000 elected of the End Times. In the Spiritual Resurrection Menno refers to baptism as the sign of Tau: "They have received the sign of Tau on their foreheads by which the servants of God are marked." They are not yet the brethren of the Covenant, but the servants of God. (39) By contrast, in his A Kind Admonition from 1558 Menno stated that because we have been born again, we have become brothers and sisters in Christ, recreated into the image of God, and so "we have been marked on our foreheads with the sign of Tau. Ezekiel 9." (40)

Menno never denied having been baptized with the same baptism as the Munsterites. In the revised edition of the Foundation Book he stated: "We do confess, dear lords, that some of the false prophets have been baptised externally in appearance with the same baptism as we." (41) This statement is missing in the first edition from 1539-1540.

Thus, according to his own writings, Menno was baptized already in 1534 or early 1535 with the sign of Tau. While still a Catholic priest he became a member of the Covenant and was well informed about the different developments in Munster. In this, Menno simply was one of many other priests and humanists who had Erasmus as their empowering example and knew Scripture well, but spiritualized their faith to such a degree that it did not change their everyday life. (42) Menno's first tract on the Spiritual Resurrection fits well into this period in his life. Many of these humanist spiritual Christians never left the Catholic Church.

After the violence at Oldeklooster created by the Munster Anabaptists, however, this was no longer possible. Thereafter, Menno left the priesthood and, in his own words, was "converted in a new way," or "new sense, or new mind." (43) Menno already was a born-again spiritual Christian; but with the departure from the Catholic Church his conversion finally became complete. He fled from Babylon and entered Jerusalem. Whatever he wrote or preached during his time in "Babylon" was tainted by selfishness, ambition, and hypocrisy. For this reason he never made any direct reference to the Spiritual Resurrection or to the Blasphemy. And he never revised them in order to have them printed. But he carried the manuscript of the Blasphemy with him all his life, repeating the basic argument from it against Jan van Leiden in his later writings. (44)

Willem de Bakker

"Menno Wrote The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden ... But After 1538 in Response to David Joris"

I agree with Helmut Isaak that during the Anabaptist rule of Munster, Menno Simons, priest of Witmarsum, became a fellow traveling "Covenanter" in the apocalyptic crusade of the Munsterites. However, unlike Isaak, who assumes that Menno's conversion and theological development were essentially complete by September 1534, I argue here that Menno's conversion and emergence as prophet (45) of peaceful Anabaptism came somewhat later as a direct response to the trajectory of the theology of Bernhard Rothmann. (46)

In Rothmann's early work, the Confession of Both Sacraments (1533), he articulated a classical Anabaptist theology and eschatology in which all Old Testament prophecy pointed to Christ. This changed in the Consoling Message of Vengeance and the Mysterious Message of Scripture of late 1534 and early 1535, when Rothmann depicted a vengeful David ruling Munster who would carry out God's wrath and prepare the way for the Second Coming of the peaceful Christ-Solomon.

In Rothmann's last writing, Of Earthly and Temporal Power, following the failed attempts to relieve Anabaptist Munster with uprisings at Oldeklooster and Amsterdam in spring 1535, he expressed the conviction based on Daniel and Revelation that the Heavenly New Jerusalem would be restored after a forty-two-month interlude of rule by the Beast. That dream was taken up after the fall of Munster on June 25, 1535, above all by David Joris, leader of an Anabaptist congregation in Delft. Joris and his followers hoped that Delft would become the scene of the restoration of a Heavenly New Jerusalem. The alarmed government of the city, fearing an Anabaptist uprising, dispersed David's congregation at the end of 1538. David Joris escaped, but twenty-seven of his followers were executed in 1539.

The failure of David Joris, and his chief lieutenants, Meyndert van Emden and Anneke Jansz, to raise up the New Jerusalem at Delft on Christmas Day 1538, marked the final disintegration of the Munster movement as an episode in Dutch Reformation history. It was only at this point that Menno Simons assumed leadership of the disillusioned and discouraged Melchiorites.

As the priest of Witmarsum, Menno had observed the various permutations of Rothmann's apocalyptic theology; following the disaster of Delft late in 1538 he returned to Rothmann's theological starting point--the Confession of Both Sacraments, the dogmatic epitome of Dutch Anabaptist beliefs that Pilgram Marpeck also appropriated around the same time. In this sense Menno's first dated tract, the Foundation Book of 1539, although clearly based on Rothmann's Restitution, represents the recovery of an earlier Anabaptist consensus, which, as Menno notes, was not Melchiorite in origin. (47) The Foundation Book was also an extended warning against false sects, particularly the sect led by David Joris. I argue here that Menno wrote the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden a few months before the Foundation Book, and that the real target of Menno's concern was not Jan van Leiden but the renewed messianic pretensions of David Joris.

The implication of this interpretation of Rothmann as the ideologue and propagandist of the Munster New Jerusalem is that his writings simultaneously reflected and transformed the eschatological convictions of his Dutch audience who were the "Melchiorites" of Friesland and Holland. These constituted a particular textual community of zealous Bible readers for whom a fragment of a line of text could precipitate a whole pattern of text associations. This associative Biblicism was the peculiar domain of lay prophets who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, would confute the proud but blind scholars who could not "see" the mystery or hiddenness (Verborgenheit) of Christ.

Melchior Hoffman was one of these lay prophets. He billed himself as Elijah--not the Elijah who slaughtered the priests of Ahab, but rather the Elijah mentioned in Malachi 4:5 who was the messenger called to return Jacob, the people of Israel, to the covenant of life and peace and the way of obedience (Malachi 2:5). This covenant of life and obedience was the theological heart of Rothmann's Confession of Both Sacraments, articulated in his particular case with reference to baptism defined as a "covenant of a good conscience" as per the 1534 Luther Bible translation of I Peter 3:21. The use of the word "covenant" for this particular passage is unique to the Luther Bible and proves that Rothmann had this translation in front of him when he composed the Confession of Both Sacraments. In 1530 the eschatological conviction of Luther was deepening to the effect that the Gospel would never triumph unless the papal antichrist was eradicated. Luther's conviction about this was illustrated by his foreword to Daniel in the 1534 edition and especially by the remarkably Maccabean "Cranach" illustrations of the Book of Revelation in that same edition. These illustrations reflect how the early Protestant laity read Daniel and Revelation as a cosmic struggle against Rome, the whore of Babylon.

The most astonishing thing about Rothmann's Confession of Both Sacraments is that there is not a single direct reference to I Maccabees in his entire corpus, not even to I Maccabees 2:51-60, where Mathias appeals to the covenant as a legitimation to take up arms. There are, however, dozens of references to, and extensive quotes from, 4 Esdras, which collectively underpin what Alastair Hamilton described as the "Apocryphal Apocalypse." (48) The critical translation of Rothmann unambiguously shows that the eschatology of the Mysterious Message of Scripture was based on 4 Esdras 6:18-28 and that Menno derived his lifetime slogan "no other foundation" directly from this writing of Rothmann. (49)

The same dependence on 4 Esdras can be found in the writings of Anneke Jansz, in particular in a crucial letter she wrote to David Joris in 1536 in which she proclaims Joris to be the legitimate Davidic successor to Jan van Leiden. She made the pronouncement after Joris returned from a meeting in Boeckholt earlier that year in which Melchiorite Anabaptist leaders of various persuasions tried to resolve their doctrinal differences on the sword and polygamy in the aftermath of the fall of Anabaptist Munster. Supposedly Joris played a major role in its deliberations. The first paragraph of Jansz's letter is a direct quote of 4 Esdras 8: 20-23; the second paragraph ties Joris to the Elijah of Malachi 3:1 and 4:5 who would prepare an acceptable people so that the Lord would quickly come to His temple. (50)

On the basis of my translations, as I will demonstrate further on, I am quite sure that Menno had both Rothmann's Consoling Message of Vengeance and Mysterious Message of Scripture in front of him when he wrote the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden, and that he actually wrote the tract against David Joris at some period after the Boeckholt meeting of 1536, when David Joris was claiming to be the anointed heir to the vacant Davidic throne of the New Jerusalem that was to be resurrected at the end of 1538.

The essential issue between Christiaan Sepp and J. G. de Hoop Scheffer was not so much whether the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden was actually written by Menno but whether or not it could be used to cleanse Menno of his Munsterite associations before he emerged as a spokesman for peaceful Anabaptism with the publication of the Foundation Book in 1540. (51) Sepp, on the basis of his early study of the Rothmann writings, had come to the conclusion that Menno had never been a Munsterite but that this could not be proven on the basis of The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden. Sepp alleged that the tract was either a pious, if clumsy, forgery or, if authentic, it was a product of Menno's later years when the eschatological expectations of the Melchiorites for an earthly New Jerusalem had still not yet entirely died out. (52) This second part of Sepp's thesis, universally ignored in the subsequent debate, turned out to be the correct assessment of the situation.

On the basis of my translation I have concluded that the Blasphemy is both a genuine work of Menno written during his post-1536 Groningen period, and a tract that was slightly but significantly altered for apologetic purposes in the 1627 printing. Rather than being printed in 1627 from an original manuscript found by Menno's daughter as legend would have us believe, the textual evidence--specifically, the presence of didactic margin comments, or "nota," in the text proper and the odd text reference to I Corinthians 3: 13 for Menno's lifetime slogan on the title page--suggests that the 1627 printing was actually made from a transcript of an earlier printing of the Blasphemy from before 1550, possibly as early as 1539-1540.

A close reading of the 1627 printing of the Blasphemy makes it clear that the tract was written against a "false Pashur" (53) with enough power in the Melchiorite movement to prevent Menno from refuting his errors on the basis of Biblical arguments. (54) But this could not have applied to Menno's situation in Witmarsum in 1534 where he had his own pulpit. Apparently this Pashur was repeating the "most abominable and greatest blasphemy of Jan van Leiden," which was to claim that he was "the joyous king ruling over all, who had put himself in place of God." (55) But this reading of Jan van Leiden by Menno simply does not fit the historical Jan van Leiden. (56) There is not a shred of evidence either in Rothmann or in Gresbeck that Jan van Leiden had ever imagined himself to have been anything more than a preparatory Davidic king ruling the world from his throne on Mount Zion in Munster. (57) On the other hand, Menno's charge that Jan van Leiden had put himself in place of God (58) applies much more appropriately to David Joris who, in the aftermath of the meeting at Boeckholt in August 1536, had himself declared the legitimate pretender to the Davidic throne by Anneke Jansz, and whose notion of self-divinization confused the different roles of the messenger of the covenant and the Lord himself, suddenly coming into his temple in Malachi 3:1. (59)

The contention here is that Menno went to Groningen as a result of a secret meeting with one or two of the principal Munsterite leaders "in a vain attempt to save their souls." (60) The cryptic wording of Menno's reference to these two leaders--he says that they had been "defeated by God's Word in the affair they had just been pursuing"--ties the meeting to the violent upheaval at Oldeklooster in the spring of 1535. Menno's decision to openly preach the Gospel in the aftermath of Oldeklooster cost him his benefice and forced him, like Gellius Faber, to seek a pastorate elsewhere.

Menno could not have gone to Groningen to minister among the chastened Melchiorites without fully understanding and accepting all their core beliefs. (61) These included Melchior Hoffman's doctrine of the incarnation and the unshakable conviction derived from Rothmann's Of Earthly and Temporal Power that the fallen New Jerusalem would rise again in three and a half years. (62) Menno, like Bernhard Rothmann and David Joris, was forced to accept the Melchiorite view of the incarnation, the very slogan of Anabaptist Munster, as a condition of being credible to rank-and-file Melchiorites. (63) Menno stated emphatically that he had been troubled about this doctrine both before and after his baptism. His polemic against Gellius Faber shows that his baptism took place on "the day set thereto in Scripture," namely, Pentecost of 1537. This is consistent with the assertions of W. H. Meihuizen that the Meditation on the 25th Psalm, written in 1536-1537, is Menno's true conversion document. (64)

The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden, written after Menno's baptism and call to leadership, was addressed to "all true brothers and Covenanters in the dispersion." It was thus. The phrase seems to have been a conscious rewording of the salutation in Rothmann's Consoling Message of Vengeance, which was addressed to "all true Israelites and Covenanters united in Christ in the dispersion." This salutation to "brothers and Covenanters united in Christ," which Marpeck also inserted into his Admonition of 1542, signaled an important shift in emphasis in the meaning of the words "covenant" and "vengeance" away from crusading and back to resigned suffering. (65) Covenanter (Bondgenoot) carries the meaning of military allies and occurs in that sense only a few times in the early Bible translations an then mostly in Maccabees. In this sense, the term "Covenanter" was used by early Reformed theologians to legitimate their refusal to obey rulers when they ordered them to disobey God. Covenanter in the original Anabaptist sense, however, meant a participant in the "covenant" of a good conscience. This use of covenant was unique to the Luther translation of 1 Peter 3:21 and denoted someone who examined his conscience, who agreed to follow Christ in everything, and who trustingly left the retribution for wicked behavior and the restoration of the original world order to God.

Rothmann's most notorious pamphlet, A Consoling Message of Vengeance, was written at the request of an outside party to provide a legitimation for the Melchiorites in Holland and Friesland to take up the sword in defense of Munster. The purpose of the argument was to overcome the scruples and fears of the Melchiorites about taking up the sword and, like Matthias in 1 Maccabees, to present military force as a legitimate and righteous expression of God even if there was no scriptural warrant for such action.

We know from Blesdijk that a party of Hollanders and Frisians were sent out after the first "Waterland" meeting, undoubtedly organized by Meyndert van Emden and attended by David Joris, to request a more powerful argument for armed intervention than that contained in Restitution. We also know that the party was led by Jan van Geel, that Rothmann wrote the pamphlet in a few days, and that upon their return the party dispersed after an argument at Wesel--Jan van Geel went on to Amsterdam; the Frisians went to Groningen and Bolsward. How many copies of Rothmann's Consoling Message of Vengeance survived the trip to Amsterdam with Jan van Geel is unknown. There is no record of wide dispersion in Holland. Nobody in authority seems to have known of it. Neither did it figure in the correspondence of Philip of Hesse with Anabaptist Munster. We know from Blesdijk that the Frisian emissaries dispersed a few copies in Groningen and in Bolsward. No printer would have reprinted it in Friesland, and there is no record that it was widely dispersed prior to the uprising at Oldeklooster in the spring of 1535. Almost certainly Menno could not have seen a copy of the Consoling Message of Vengeance prior to Oldeklooster, and he clearly did not warn his parishioners against taking up arms in defense of Munster. Nevertheless, it is certain that Menno had a copy of the treatise in front of him when he wrote the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden. When and where did he get it?

On the basis of my translation of Rothmann's Writings, I have concluded that the 1663 transcription of the Consoling Message of Vengeance, made available to scholars in a critical edition by Stupperich, could not have been based on the original Munster printing of December 1534. The original Munster printing, like most early Reformation pamphlets, was printed as a broadsheet in quarto format. But the 1663 reprint, as evidenced by a note from the transcriber, was made from "an emblem book printed in octavo." (66) This emblem book was probably similar to the "illustrated book full of fantastic visions of becoming king" that was found with the followers of David Joris in Delft and Friesland in 1538 and 1541. (67)

The 1627 printing of the Blasphemy appears to consist of two separate parts, each originally provided with its own title. The first part is a christological tract consistent with the title, "A clear proof that Jesus Christ is the true David of the Spirit." This part of the Blasphemy is directed against a "false Pashur" seducing the faithful with false promises of future happiness. Unable to confront him in open debate, Menno says that he was therefore "forced to write," presumably with the intent to publish. Menno's argument in this first part develops the theme that Christ is the true Melchisedek, King of Peace. Melchisedek had no genealogy and had been used by Rothmann in Restitution to argue that the Melchiorite doctrine of the incarnation was consistent with Scripture. The use of Melchisedek in the Blasphemy is clear evidence that Menno had read Rothmann and had, like David Joris, on this defining issue at least, become a Melchiorite Anabaptist. (68)

The second part of the Blasphemy, I argue, was a later addition to the christological tract which, consistent with the second title on the title page, was directed "Against the horrible and greatest blasphemy of Jan van Leiden." Its focus is on a once true Covenanter who was now promoting the use of the sword to advance the Kingdom. In this part Menno made the point that God wants obedience, not martyrdom, as a sign of discipleship. The reference to martyrdom and the abusive tone of the second part suggest that this part was written after the events at Delft around Christmas of 1538 had again unleashed a whirlwind of persecution over the movement.

A strong indication that Menno had Rothmann's Consoling Message of Vengeance in front of him while writing the Blasphemy--thereby dating the Blasphemy at least to 1535 or later--lies in the repetition by Menno of the single hardest word to translate in the entire Consoling Message of Vengeance. The word occurs in the phrase "to leave the apostolic weapons in the Valle." (69) After failing to find the word in any Middle Dutch dictionary, I concluded that it must mean Valpoort, or "sally gate," and that it was a word coinage peculiar to the author of the Consoling Message of Vengeance. (70)

The theory that the first part of the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden was written against David Joris before the events at Delft of Christmas 1538 and the second part in early 1539 is supported by the many margin comments in the Blasphemy marked "NOTA." Marginal comments are added to a manuscript at first printing. An unprinted original manuscript simply would not contain marginal comments. The absence of verse references and the great number of exclamatory references also characteristic of Jorist material suggests that the existing 1627 first printing of the Blasphemy was in fact an exact reprint of an earlier printing dating from the early to late 1540s.

Before 1539 Menno had no access to a printer. After 1540 he was printed by a clandestine printer who likely also printed for David Joris (71) and who could not afford to compromise his distributing channels by a war of words between Joris and Menno. In both the first edition of the Foundation Book and in Reasons Why I Do Not Cease Teaching, Menno avoided open polemics against David Joris. Yet he clearly regarded Joris as a false prophet. Therefore, rather than alienating the printer, Menno directed his polemic against Jan van Leiden though the real target of his critique was David Joris, the most recent incarnation of the spirit of Jan van Leiden.

The most convincing evidence that the 1627 printing of The Blasphemy was based on a previous printing is the fact that the text of Menno's signature passive voice quote of I Corinthians 3:11 on the title page of The Blasphemy is referenced as "l.Corinth.3.13 [sic]." (72) We know that Menno first used the quote from I Corinthians 3:11 in the Foundation Book of 1539. Translated from the Dutch, Menno's slogan reads: "No other Foundation may be laid than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." That is not a literal quote of I Corinthians 3:11 ("No other Foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ") but a passive voice paraphrase of the verse. The Meditation on the 25th Psalm, also printed in 1539 but dating from around 1537, included the verse from I Corinthians 3:11 as an exact quote in Latin from the Vulgate. Thus, there must have been some reason for the shift to the passive voice between 1537 and the appearance of the Foundation Book in 1539.

The most probable explanation is that the manuscript version of The Blasphemy carried the full quotation of I Corinthians 3:11-13, which Menno got from Rothmann in the Mysterious Message of Scripture, as an emblematic synopsis of what it was about. (73) Read as an emblematic motif of a sermon, the quotation contains the message that Christ is the only foundation of the true Church and that no one may build on another foundation lest his work be found out in the fire and consumed. The emblematic quotation is thus an admonition, a warning against verbal seduction by false prophets that remained the center of Menno's pastoral concerns for the rest of his career.

There was no verse division in Dutch Bibles until after 1560. The emblematic quotation on the manuscript would thus have originally been referenced by Menno to I Corinthians 3. It was probably first printed in 1539-1540 when Menno had acquired a printer but still had not openly attacked David Joris. In 1627, when David Joris had been largely forgotten but Menno's reputation as an early opponent of Munsterite violence was still seriously questioned by the Reformed, there was a second printing, based on a handwritten transcription of the first printing. In this printing the quotation on the title page was shortened to the passive voice paraphrase referenced to I Corinthians 3:13, leaving everything else including the layout on the title page, exactly the same. (74) It may be that the printers of 1627, misled by the fact that they had a transcription in front of them, thought that they had a print-ready original manuscript and added the comment "never before printed" to the title page.

James M. Stayer

Concluding Remarks

I find myself in the same position as I. B. Horst in 1962. Helmut Isaak outlines a good case that the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden was a genuine work of Menno Simons. Willem de Bakker, however, without intending it, leads me to consider more sympathetically the contention of Christiaan Sepp that the work was a forgery. Least plausible is de Bakker's contention that the work was really aimed not at Jan van Leiden but at David Joris.

De Bakker's demonstration of Menno's reliance on the theological writings of Bernhard Rothmann, something emphatically rejected by Isaak, is convincing. De Bakker insists upon Rothmann's formative influence upon Menno, above all through his Confession of Both Sacraments of 1533, an early theological work that also had a formative influence upon Pilgram Marpeck's Admonition of 1542. However, de Bakker overreaches himself in picturing Rothmann as the author of a Mennonite consensus of a sort that would be recognizable to Mennonites in the twenty-first century. Menno was not only a Rothmannite--at least in a modified sense, since Rothmann was all over the place theologically, as a consequence of his responding to quickly changing threats in the sixteen-month siege of Minister--he also was a Melchiorite, unlike Pilgram Marpeck, a point that Isaak underscores more emphatically than de Bakker. Pastors in the Netherlands in the 1520-1540 period found themselves changing their understanding of the Lord's Supper, of baptism, and of Christology. The fact underscored by de Bakker that Menno Simons and David Joris changed their sacramental doctrines before they changed their Christologies does not mean that they had sincere beliefs about the Lord's Supper and believer's baptism but merely pandered to their following in accepting Melchior Hoffman's heterodox Christology. As Isaak states with particular clarity, Menno was also a Melchiorite in his recognition of Christian government. The Seven Articles of Schleitheim arrived in the Netherlands, in connection with the publication of Michael Sattler's martyrology, at the time of Menno's death. But there was no nonresistant consensus Mennoniticus, uniting the theologies of Menno Simons and Pilgram Marpeck, based on the 1533 pre-Melchiorite theology of Bernhard Rothmann, as de Bakker seems to imagine. Here de Bakker exaggerates the implications of statements about Rothmann's influence on Menno by H. W. Meihuizen.

Nevertheless, following the whole previous scholarship, and elaborating upon it, de Bakker makes a convincing argument that the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden relied textually on Rothmann's Consoling Message of Vengeance of December 1534 (according to de Bakker, in a doctored reprint by David Joris). He also produces a closely reasoned case for the existence of a print version of Blasphemy from before 1560 (he speculates about a first printing in 1539-1540), thus antedating the 1627 printing, which was thought to be the earliest publication of the work.

Because of these Rothmann references, I think Isaak's dating of Blasphemy to the first proclamation of Jan van Leiden's kingship in August or September 1534 is too early. His demonstration that the scriptural references from Blasphemy appear in Menno's later writings does suggest the authenticity of the work. However, if we accept de Bakker's arguments for a printing of Blasphemy as early as 1539 or 1540 and an earlier, Jorist second edition of the Consoling Message of Vengeance, J. G. de Hoop Scheffer's argument against the possibility of a forgery becomes much less compelling.

If the Blasphemy was indeed written by Menno it must have been a response to the confident apocalypticism of Rothmann's writings in late 1534 and early 1535, the Consoling Message of Vengeance and the Mysterious Meaning of Scripture. Here the real blasphemies were expressed--that the Old Testament prophecies of a David carrying out divine punishment referred to Jan van Leiden, not Jesus Christ. In other words, Menno would have written The Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden when he was still a priest in Witmarsum, just as Isaak contended, but a few months later than he argued. It would have been quite reasonable for Menno to denounce Jan van Leiden in that period. In this he would have been representing a near consensus among the Covenanters outside Munster after Jan Matthijs' prophecy that Christ would return on April 5, 1534, had proved to be a suicidal delusion. Anabaptist Munster gradually lost credit after that not only with Menno's flock but with Batenburgers and Davidjorites. This was why the Munster Anabaptists did so poorly with the effort of the Consoling Message of Vengeance to raise support in the Burgundian Netherlands in late 1534 and early 1535.

So what is to be said about de Bakker's argument that Menno's Blasphemy was written after the discovery of David Joris's followers in Delft in December 1538, and that it was a denunciation of David Joris as a new Spiritualist, Nicodemite "Jan van Leiden"? First, there is a certain plausibility in this hypothesis, because, as de Bakker notes, both Bernhard Rothmann and Jan van Leiden himself, in the last declining phase of the siege of Minister, saw Anabaptist Munster as a foreshadowing of the apocalypse that would take place in the forty-two months foretold in Daniel and Revelation, therefore at the end of 1538. Karl-Heinz Kirchhoff found ample evidence of such expectations among Anabaptist survivors in the rural areas surrounding Munster; and David Joris certainly had these particular apocalyptic expectations, which were the basis of his self-identification as the promised David. So, why, if Menno was writing against David Joris in early 1539, did he not identify him by name? De Bakker's answer seems to be that Menno and David Joris were relying on the same printer, so Menno had to disguise his polemic against David Joris by calling him Jan van Leiden. For me, this hypothesis is more dubious than dismissing the Blasphemy as a forgery. It falls victim to Ockham's razor: the simplest explanation is the best. If Menno truly wrote the Blasphemy, the "Jan van Leiden" referred to was indeed Jan van Leiden himself.

Helmut Isaak

Concluding Remarks

In my repeated reading of Menno Simons's writings I have not found reasons to question his statement that, after consulting Luther, Bullinger, and Bucer, and after studying Scripture, he "obtained a view of baptism and the Lord's Supper through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, through much reading and pondering of the Scriptures, and by the gracious favor and the gift of God; not by the instrumentality of erring sects as it is reported of me." (75) But then he does give Luther credit for setting him free from the fear of men, and admits that others might have assisted him in the formation of his theological tenets, for which he is thankful. (76) Menno already dismissed the Mass in 1528 and child baptism in 1531 as unbiblical, well before the publication of Rothmann's Confession of Both Sacraments in 1533. The similarity in their theology reflects the fact that both of them were exposed more and more to Anabaptist and Melchiorite theology.

In his Blasphemy Menno never addressed the heresies of polygamy, a new eschatological timetable, or a radical new revelation that rendered Scripture obsolete, all of which Rothmann presents in his Restitution and the Consoling Message of Vengeance. Knowing Menno's love for debates and polemical writings--including his detailed refutation of any and all arguments made by his opponents--the only explanation is that Menno did not know Rothmann's Restitution and Vengeance when he wrote the Blasphemy. He responded only to the scandalous proclamation of Jan van Leiden as "joyous king of the disconsolate/' the new Messiah of the Munsterite Kingdom. Even in his later writings Menno never made any reference to a new timetable or to new revelations that supersede the Old Testament and the New Testament. Thus, Menno must have written the Blasphemy before Rothmann could develop the theological framework for Jan van Leiden's messianic kingship in November and December of 1534.

A publication of the Blasphemy in 1538 to refute the messianic pretensions of David Joris and the Battenburgers would clearly have been unwise. This interesting hypothesis lacks any hard evidence, but we are following the new developments in the research of the Blasphemy with great interest.

Willem de Bakker

Concluding Remarks

I am not sure Ockham's razor is a good argument for resurrecting the forgery thesis of Christiaan Sepp about the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden. In the first place, the postulate of forgery requires the secondary postulate of a very stupid forger who destroyed the credibility of his document by referring to Menno as a "Covenanter" (Bondgenoot) at a time when that term had already come into opprobrium and by annotating Menno's emblematic paraphrase to I Corinthians 3:13 at a time when everybody knew it referred to I Corinthians 3:11.

In the second place there is ample evidence that Menno in 1540 chose not to name any of the false prophets against whom he was fulminating in the Foundation Book. The real issue is whether the Blasphemy was written before the events at Oldeklooster in the spring of 1535, immediately after Oldeklooster, or during Menno's sojourn in Groningen in the years following 1536. I think all the textual evidence points to Groningen. What needs to be explained is why Mennonite historians still point to Reply to Gellius Faber (1554) as Menno's conversion document, when it is an obvious self-justifying apologia. They should focus instead on The Meditation on the Twenty-fifth Psalm, a true conversion document in the manner of the Confessions of St. Augustine.

My interpretation follows that of H. W. Meihuizen's intellectual biography of Menno of 1961, (77) which holds that Rothmann's Confession of Both Sacraments was a short "dogmatic" of the Anabaptist movement in the northern regions. A few years later, when Meihuizen completed the only critical edition of Menno's Foundation Book, he concluded unambiguously that "there was something tragic in the fact that the only more or less complete summary of Anabaptist ideas which was provided up to the moment of Menno's conversion to Anabaptism, at least in those areas over which he would extend his care, originated from Munster: namely [Rothmann's] Restitution... ." Meihuizen went on to argue that the Foundation Book was simply a rewrite of Restitution, minus polygamy and minus the use of the sword in the propagation of the Kingdom. (78)

Whether or not one agrees with this judgment, the fact remains that there is nothing in the Foundation Book that Menno could not have written three years previously except for the extended warning against the false prophets. These he characterized as an "antichrist, a homosexual criminal, and a popish merchant." (79) Further on, he fulminated against the same false prophet who went around proclaiming that "to the pure everything [is] pure." (80) Clearly, this latter prophet was David Joris. Despite Menno's outrage against this deceiving antichrist, hypocrite, and pervert, he did not identify him in so many words, although everyone must have known he was writing against the false prophets of seduction and error who had previously been legitimate teachers in the movement. (81) Not naming Joris in the Blasphemy as the "false Pashur" repeating the blasphemy of Jan van Leiden seems to fit the pattern of Menno's other publications of 1540.

James Stayer's more important objection is that my shifting the date of the Blasphemy to 1538-1540 implicitly posits a nonresistant "consensus Mennoniticus" based on Rothmann's pre-Melchiorite Confession of Both Sacraments that would be recognizable to Mennonites in the twenty-first century. Indeed, I do think there was such a consensus and it hinges on the fact that the original discussion on child baptism in Munster originated with the Wassenbergers, not Rothmann. All of the Wassenbergers were active in the Schelde-Meuse region more or less on the line between Antwerp and Cologne. Historically, this was an area of Rhineland mysticism and a natural corridor for the spread of spiritual-reformed ideas, including the idea of restitution. The idea of restitution as formulated by the Hebrew scholar Johannes Campanus was already part of the Wassenbergers' intellectual vocabulary before they came to Munster. (82)

The discovery of the central importance of 4 Esdras in both Rothmann and Anneke Jansz puts to rest the notion of "revolutionary" Anabaptism at the cost of incorporating the apocrypha back into the canon used by the earliest Anabaptists. The discovery that Menno moved from a posture of nonviolent real politics (lijdzaamheid) to pacifist separatism (weerloosheid) in the years after 1540 in the course of his conflict with the Calvinists, who had articulated the right of armed resistance in 1534, is something to be further explored within the context of the Dutch Reformation. (83) One can be fairly confident, however, that the Anabaptist ideas picked up by the Wassenbergers in the Meuse-Schelde region in 1531 were broadly consistent with the ideas circulating around Strasbourg at that time and that the "consensus Mennoniticus" on the topic of nonresistance was built after Munster to cleanse all Anabaptists from the stain of Munster.

Rothmann's Confession of Both Sacraments is a Reformed-Anabaptist dogmatic. Its central thesis is not about sacraments as a means of grace, but sacrament as a mystery of Christ's experiential presence in the church and as the church. The culminating thesis, the heart of Reformed-Anabaptism, is the covenant of obedience, the statement that the mystery of Christ is in the midst of those who fear him and that his covenant will be known only to them.

Helmut Isaak is quite correct that Menno discovered this in verse 14 of the "Many Good and Christian Lessons drawn from the Twenty-fifth Psalm by way of Prayer." (84) Psalm 25 is a meditation in the form of a Hebrew alphabetic acrostic. The summary and conclusion of the meditation is always given in the last, or Tau, verse. Thus, in verse 22, the Tau verse, Menno sets out his mission as Anabaptist teacher. The rest of the psalm is a walk toward that mission. At the time he wrote, Menno had clearly left Babylon and considered the Mass an idolatrous abomination (verse 15). He had not yet, however, embraced apolitical nonresistance, and was still affirming the classical position on the incarnation--that is, Jesus was of the seed and lineage of Abraham and David (verse 19). The most interesting verse of the Meditation, however, is verse 14, in which Menno defined a Covenanter as someone who can see the Mystery of Christ.

For purposes of dating Menno's conversion, it is important to note that the Meditation seems to have been reworked from an original version based on the Vulgate--some of the psalm numbers in the margin follow the Vulgate numbering--and then changed to the wording of the Protestant Liesvelt Bible. The work seems to have been based on Menno's own melding of the Vulgate and Liesvelt. It is clear that verse 14 is based on the Liesvelt and that the wording has been changed from the Latin--from "the Lord is a firm foundation for those who fear him and he makes his covenant known to them" to "the mystery of the Lord is with those who fear him and he makes his covenant known to them." This, I believe, is the moment of Menno's conversion, his rebirth from a priest who talked about God to an evangelical Covenanter who talked with God.

Menno's Meditation on the Twenty-Fifth Psalm is somewhat difficult to date, but there is no reason to change my conclusion that Menno was baptized and ordained as a bishop on Pentecost 1537. There is also no reason to contest Abraham Friesen's contention that at the time of his conversion Menno was still very ambivalent on the doctrine of the incarnation. Around 1540, when he published the Meditation on the Twenty-Fifth Psalm, Menno still affirmed the classical incarnation doctrine. He illustrates this by using the figure of Melchisedek (straight out of the canon of the Mass) in verse 18 of the Meditation, and also as the central christological image in the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden.

The late dating of the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden reopens the question as to who introduced the notion of pacifist nonresistance (iveerloosheid) as a third litmus of normative Anabaptism in the Netherlands--the other two being baptism on confession of faith and discipleship. The idea to leave vengeance to God first occurs in the three-part Apologia published by David Joris in 1539. This Apologia was cast in the form of a tribute in praise of the witnesses to Christ offered at Delft as articulated by David Joris's great love, Anneke Jansz, who follows St. Stephen and Michael Sattler as the first Anabaptist martyrs listed in the 1560 version of Het Offer des Heeren and whose story was later incorporated, illegitimately many would argue, in the second edition of the Martyrs Mirror published in 1685.

Werner Packull, in his seminal article on Anneke Jansz as a legitimate Anabaptist heroine worthy of incorporation in the Martyrs Mirror, discussed the apparent dissonance between her Trumpet Song and Testament to Isaiah, which form parts one and two of Joris's Apologia of 1539. (85) He concluded that Anneke Jansz joined the Melchiorite movement under the influence of Meyndert van Emden, "who baptized her and functioned as spokesman for Rothmann's ideas on restitution and vengeance." (86) Packull discussed the Testament and Trumpet Song of Anneke Jansz in great detail but ignored Part Three, which, at first blush, appeared to be a letter titled Praise of the Witnesses of Jesus Sacrificed at Delft.(87) This letter, allegedly from Joris, was addressed to a "brother Joris" and to a certain Jacob, identified as the "beloved of the Lord." It was only when I saw that "Jacob, the beloved of the Lord" meant the people of Israel, that I realized that the letter purportedly written by Joris was in fact an imaginary letter from heaven written by Anneke Jansz and textually a midrash on Psalm 94 in the same way that her Trumpet Song, also included in the Apologia, was a midrash on Psalm 68, which concluded Rothmann's Mysterious Message of Scripture. The first line of Psalm 94 is "O Lord, you God of vengeance, you God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth, give to the proud what they deserve!" This sounds like Rothmann in the Consoling Message of Vengeance except that in the Jorist midrash on this psalm the people of Jacob are explicitly instructed to leave the vengeance to God. In Joris's Apologia the two psalms also contextualize the message of the Testament to Isaiah, which is suffering endurance, coupled with the command from 4 Esdras to "flee the shadow of the world and ... bear open witness to the Lord." Thus, the Joris Apologia of 1539 has to be read in conjunction with the 1536 letter in which Anneke Jansz, following the Convent at Boeckholt, described David Joris as "the Lord's anointed, the most godly among those whose names are written, the noblest among the three to satisfy the King's pleasure." (88)

What does this mean? Who are "the three to satisfy the King's pleasure"? Given the circumstances under which the letter was written, the three Davidic kings preceding the Second Coming can only be King David of Israel; Jan van Leiden, the first regent king of the Munster New Jerusalem; and the Davidic king "eagerly expected by all," David Joris himself. (89)

If this is how Anneke Jansz thought of Jan van Leiden in 1536, undoubtedly this is how David Joris thought of himself in the blank verse section of the reprinted Consoling Message of Vengeance. (90) The Consoling Message of Vengeance describes the Davidic King as "the King expected by all," in contrast to "the King ruling over all" as it stood in Restitution. The candidates for the Davidic king expected by all Melchiorites in the period 1536-1538 were David Joris and Jan van Batenburg. The story of their rivalry, given in the Extraordinary Biography of David Joris, argues that after the capture and execution of Batenburg in early 1538 Joris reprinted Rothmann's Consoling Message of Vengeance in order to recruit the Batenburger followers to his cause.

There is sufficient evidence in the sources to suggest that the Joris reprint of the Consoling Message of Vengeance circulated in Groningen and Friesland as well as in South Holland before Christmas 1538. Menno, therefore, almost certainly had a copy in front of him when he reacted to the news that the attempt by David Joris, Anneke Jansz, and Meyndert van Emden to reestablish the Munster New Jerusalem at Delft had precipitated a whole new wave of persecution of the Anabaptists in the Netherlands. Almost apoplectic with rage because of the persecution unleashed by Joris's actions, Menno charged him with being a false prophet and with repeating the blasphemy of Jan van Leiden that he was the expected Messiah.

If, as is argued here, Menno's intensely personal polemic against David Joris in the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden was continued in the Foundation Book of 1539-1540, it can be inferred that Menno's target audience for both tracts was the diffuse group of post-1538 Covenanters, whose predecessors Gellius Faber in 1552 identified as the "Tau people" who, in 1538, had threatened to hang preachers "who should have known better" in their own doorways. (91) On this reading of the Blasphemy the use of the word "Tau" as an identifying tag for Melchiorite Anabaptists had not dropped from general use in 1539 as Helmut Isaak asserted, but remained current since Joris had inserted it into his rewrite of the Consoling Message of Vengeance. (92) That is the charge to which Menno was responding in his Reply to Gellius Faber. (93)

One potential problem with a relatively late date for the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden is that it reopens the issue of Menno's baptism. He could not have called himself a "Covenanter" without being baptized; (94) yet if, as Helmut Isaak argued, the word "Covenanter" dropped out of use in 1536, why would Menno be using it in 1539? But "Covenanter" had not dropped out of use in 1539. Indeed, Menno continued to call himself a "Covenanter of good conscience" after 1540, as did Pilgram Marpeck who, after all, addressed his rewrite of Rothmann's Confession of Both Sacraments to exactly the same group of "brothers" and "Covenanters" that Menno addressed in the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden. (95) Among the Hutterites Marpeck's Admonition was known as The Book of Covenant Affirmation. (96) Thus, if both Marpeck and Menno got their dogmatics from Rothmann, there was indeed a Mennonite consensus on the core of their faith, which was "the covenant of a good conscience," a phrase that Marpeck repeats several times on the same page in his foreword to the Admonition. (97) Since the term does not appear in the Zurich Bible used by the South German Anabaptists, Marpeck, like Menno, he must have gotten it from Rothmann's Confession of Both Sacraments.

Ultimately the importance of determining the date of composition of the Blasphemy of Jan van Leiden lies in the fact that the tract marks the end of the Munster movement within Dutch Anabaptism and the beginning of Menno's break with David Joris. The issue in post-1540 Dutch Anabaptism was not so much the repudiation of the sword--on this point both Menno and David Joris were agreed--but the degree to which the movement was to be spiritualized and withdrawn from the world.

To summarize: the form and substance of the 1627 "first printing" suggests that Menno composed it in two stages over the course of 1538 when, after the death of Batenburg, David Joris sought to recruit followers to his cause. It is possible that Menno indeed circulated an initial draft in manuscript form before the events at Delft at Christmas 1538 and wrote the second part as a violent response to David Joris's Apologia published in 1539. The use of the passive voice paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 3:11 referenced as 1 Corinthians 3:13 on the title page of the 1627 printing corroborates a composition date of the manuscript between 1537 and 1540 and suggests there may have been a much earlier printing.


(*) James M. Stayer is professor emeritus of Queens University, Kingston, Ontario. Helmut Isaak received a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Amsterdam in 1972 and has taught Anabaptist history and theology at numerous schools in Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, and Canada. Willem de Bakker, a former student of James Stayer at Queens University, received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1987. He is now retired and completing a translation of the writings of Bernhard Rothmann.

(1.) Irvin B. Horst, A Bibliography of Menno Simons (Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1962), 33-40, 117-118; Opera Omnia Tfxeologica, of alle de godtgeleerde Wercken van Menno Syntons, ed. H. J. Herrison (Amsterdam, 1681), fol. 619-631; The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, c. 1496-1561, ed. John Christian Wenger (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1956), 31-50.

(2.) Christiaan Sepp, Uit het Predikantenkven van Vroegere Tijden (Leiden: Brill, 1890), 1-19; J. G. de Hoop Scheffer, "Eenige Opmerkinge en Mededeelingen Betreffende Menno Simons," Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1892), 1-29.

(3.) De Hoop Scheffer, Geschiedenis der Kerkhervorming in Nederland van haar ontstaan tot 1531 (Amsterdam: Funke, 1873).

(4.) Willem de Bakker, Michael D. Driedger, and James M. Stayer, Bernhard Rothmann and the Reformation in Munster, 1530-35 (Kitchener, Ont: Pandora Press, 2008), 185-201; Die Schriften der Munsterischen Tdufer und ihrer Gegner, I: Die Schriften Bernhard Rothmanns, ed. Robert Stupperich (Munster: Aschendorf, 1970), 294. [hereafter: Rothmann Schriften].

(5.) Blasphemie van Jan van Leyden (1627), titlepage.

(6.) Ibid., lOr; Complete Writings of Menno Simons, 37; Opera Omnia, 624a.

(7.) Horst, Bibliography, 117-118.

(8.) "Menno Simon's Meditatie op de 25e Psalm," ed. H. W. Meihuizen, Doperse Stemmen 2 (1976), 24, 36. Menno wrote this "confession" in 1536-1537.--Ibid., 7.

(9.) Menno Simons, Opera Omnia, 257b.

(10.) Ibid., 497a.

(11.) "Waren Broeders ende Bondtgenooten,"--Ibid., 621a.

(12.) W. J Kuhler, Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de zestiende eeuw (Haarlem, 1932), 205, 206.

(13.) Opera Omnia, 525a.

(14.) "Menno Simon's Meditatie op de 25e Psalm," 39.

(15.) Documenta Anabaptistica Neerlandica III: Marten Mikron. Een waerachtigh Verhaal der t'Zamenspekinghen Tusschen Menno Simons ende Martinus Mikron van der Menschzverdinghe Jesu Christi (1556) (Leiden: Brill, 1981), 100.

(16.) Piet Visser responds: Whether Menno was baptized before or after his break with the Catholic Church is a disputed point, of course. More important is the fact that there is no reference whatsoever to Melchiorite Christology in the Blasphemie. On the contrary, the text states that Christ was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh to overcome sin: "vnde heft zynen Soon gesonden in de gedaente eens sondighen vleisches, vnd heft de sonde door de sonde verdoemt" (14v) and further, "Godt heft Jesum van Nazareth gesalft mit den Hilligen Geest vnde Cracht" (15v).

(17.) Opera Omnia, 621a.

(18.) Menno Simons, Dat Fundament des Christelycken Leers, opnienw uitgegeven en van een engelse inleiding voorzien, ed. H. W. Meihuizen (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967), 42. [hereafter: Meihuizen, Fundamentboek]

(19.) Ibid., 87.

(20.) Ibid., 82-83.

(21.) Opera Omnia, 128a.

(22.) Ibid., 399.

(23.) Piet Visser responds: If Obbe indeed baptized Menno, then when (and where) did this happen? Was it before 1535? Sometime in the middle of 1535--meaning that Menno was a crypto Anabaptist, yet still a servant of Rome? Or in early 1536 immediately after Menno's renunciation of his priesthood? And was the baptism carried out by Obbe or others, like Bartholomeus Boekbinder, Dirk Kuyper, or Pieter Houtzager? On these uncertain matters, see Christoph. Bornhauser, Leben und Lehre Menno Simons': Ein Kampf um das Fundament des Glaubens (etwa 1496-1561) (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1973), 28-29, fn9; W. Bergsma and Sjouke Voolstra, "Uyt Babel ghevloden, in Jeruzalem ghetogen: Menno Simons' verlichting, bekering en beroeping," Doperse Stemmen 6, 30-31; James M. Stayer, "Oldeklooster en Menno," Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 5 (1979), 56-76, esp. 72-73, and James M. Stayer, "Oldeklooster and Menno," Sixteenth Century Journal 9 (1978), 51-67. And was his ordination in the middle of 1536 or sometime in 1537?--Cf. Bornhauser, Leben und Lehre, 31, fnl5.

(24.) Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, ed. George H. Williams and Angel M. Mergel (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957), 213.

(25.) Helmut Isaak, Menno Simons and the New Jerusalem (Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press, 2006), 105.

(26.) Opera Omnia, 622-624.

(27.) Carl Adolph Cornelius, Berichte der Augenzeugen fiber das Munsterische Wiedertauferreich (Munster, 1853), 102.

(28.) Ibid., 94-95.

(29.) Ibid., 109.

(30.) Rothmann Schriften, 294.

(31.) Piet Visser responds: This probably needs more nuance. Were all of Menno's parishioners crypto-Munsterites? What are the sources for this?

(32.) Opera Omnia, 621b-622a.; cf. also Isaak, Menno Simons and the New Jerusalem, 124n 42.

(33.) Piet Visser responds: This calls for more precision. What delegations? Or were they simply a few Munsterite enthusiasts? What kind of and how many debates took place? See, Meihuizen, Fundamentboek, 199, note a.

(34.) Piet Visser responds: Did Jan van Leyden have the same attitude toward Menno? It actually seems quite unlikely that he would have even heard of this priest from Witmarsum.

(35.) Isaak, Menno Simons and the New Jerusalem, 34-36.

(36.) Ibid., 38-40.

(37.) Rothmann Schriften, 294.

(38.) Isaak, Menno Simons and the New Jerusalem, 113-116.

(39.) Opera Omnia, 183a.

(40.) Ibid., 636a.

(41.) Ibid., 55a.

(42.) Piet Visser responds: I have doubts about this reconstruction of Menno's Nicodemism. Erasmus's humanism did not match with the Munsterite atrocities in either its intellectual or its moral effects. Moreover, already from the time of the proclamation of the New Jerusalem in Munster in February 1534, it was clear that the besieged city had to be taken and defended by force and violence, including knives, lances, and bows, which the travelers to this holy city were instructed to bring with them. Menno must have known this; he must have seen the Munster sympathizers among his parishioners. So it is hard to believe that it was only--or even primarily--the violence at Oldeklooster that prompted Menno's renunciation. Oldeklooster was only the final step in an accumulation of atrocities.

(43.) Opera Omnia, 258b.: "in eenen niuewen sinn bekeert."

(44.) Isaak, Menno Simons and the New Jerusalem, 113-116.

(45.) Piet Visser responds: It is worth noting that Menno himself never claimed to be a prophet.

(46.) "The Almighty God shall raise a Jeremiah [i.e., the author of the Blasphemy] to punish the seducers of the people."--Blasphemie, 4v

(47.) Cf. Meihuizen, Fundamentboek, xu.

(48.) Alastair Hamilton, "The Apocryphal Apocalypse. 2 Esdras and the Anabaptist Movement," Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis 68 (1988), 5-7. Hamilton was I. B. Horst's successor at the Faculty of Theology at Amsterdam.

(49.) Rothmann Schriften, 358-359. Karl Vos thought Menno derived his slogan from the Confession of Both Sacraments.--Menno Simons, 1496-1561: Zijn leven en werken en zijne reformatorische denkbeelden (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1914), 26.

(50.) An English translation of the acclamation letter is appended to Werner O. Packull, "Anna Jansz of Rotterdam, a Historical Investigation of an Early Anabaptist Heroine," Archivfur Reformationsgeschichte 78 (1987), 171-172.

(51.) Christiaan Sepp, "De veelgenoemde en weinig bekende geschriften van den wederdooper Bernt Rothmann," Geschiedkundige Nasporingen 1 (Leiden, 1872), 128.

(52.) Ibid., 134.

(53.) Pashur, the son of Malchiah, was a priest sent by king Zedekiah to Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord regarding the impending attack of King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon (Jer. 21:1). In Jeremiah 38:1-6, this Pashur was also one of four men who advised Zedekiah to put Jeremiah to death for his prophecies of doom but who ended up throwing him into a cistern.

(54.) Wij hadden des schijven wol ontslagen gewest dan die noot dringet ons tho schrijven ... want men ons nicht wU tho woorden staen noch sulcke verleydinge ja veel meer grouwlijke ketterie van den beloofde David ttnde meer anderen mit Bibelschen schriften verdegenen."--Blasphemie 4 r. ["We would not have felt compelled to write if it were not that they refuse us a hearing as well as the opportunity to refute such seduction and the even more gruesome heresy of the promised David and several more with Biblical scripture"]. Piet Visser responds: I cannot follow this interpretation. Nowhere in the text is there any suggestion of Menno being silenced from expressing his views. This misreading of the "lying Pashur" (Jer. 20:1) then leads to an unwarranted conclusion that, because this could not apply to Menno's situation in Witmarsum, the text of the Blasphemy is not directed against the historical Jan van Leyden, but against the "other Jan van Leyden," the lying Pashur, or David Joris.

(55.) Piet Visser responds: In fact, the Dutch text reads in translation: "where now is Jan van Leyden, oh terrible blasphemy of God" (6v), followed by "Jan van Leyden is saying that he has become the joy of [those in] misery, which is the biggest blasphemy of God ever spoken by man" (7).

(56.) Piet Visser responds: This conclusion raises questions about how de Bakker is interpreting the following quotes from Rothmann's Von Verborgenheit der Schrift, (Stupperich, 366): Nu wo dat belde [image] in Dauid vnd Salomon verloipen [expired] is, dat is apenbaer ghenokh... . Also belauet nu [promises now] de Heer ... he wylle eynen Dauid erwecken, de sal ein ewich Rike ... anfangen [he shall create a David who will start an eternal realm, kingdom]. Rothmann then explains how to understand this Kingdom of David and yegenwordigen Regiment [the present rule (of Munster)] vnd werender handt der Christen [and the armed hand of the Christian]. First the Lord dealt with David's Kingdom in preparation of the Temple and humiliated the enemies of Israel. Then came Solomon who sat on his father's chair and triumphed in great glory. Dyt is eyn belde geivesen. [This was a figure, an image (a forshadowing)] Alsuss heeft de Here eynen Dauid wedderbelauet, dar mede he de warheit vthrichten mil vnde den alssdan de rechte Prince des fredes, einn Furste der thokommender werll, de gesaluede Gades ... volgen sal [In this way the Lord has promised again a David (another, a new David) with whom he wants to execute the truth, and subsequently the true prince of peace, a King of the coming world, the Lord's Anointed ... will follow]. In other words: first the new David [= Jan van Leyden] prepares the Temple for Solomon in order to realize the reign of the Anointed [=Jesus Christ]. I am convinced that these passages are crucial for a right understanding of my view that Jan van Leyden is being considered the new David as promised again by God.--Rothmann Schriften, 367. De Bakker seems to ignore or misinterpret this explicit promise in Rothmann's text.

(57.) Cornelius, Augenzeugen, 158. The exact term is "Die solde so sein ein koningk over al die welt und solde sein negst Got." "Negst Got" means accountable only to God, not to other kings. It emphatically does not mean that Jan van Leiden ever considered himself to be Christ. Compare the message in Consoling Message of Vengeance, Rothmann Schriften, 294: "De hertoch unde Furste is schone hervoer getreden ...ein koning alle gebedende ...und naest Godt godt is en alrede sin dienst bereit" [emphasis added].

(58.) Piet Visser responds: The Blasplwmie does not actually state this: Vnde dat meer is, dusse Ian van Leyden laat zick nicht genoegen daer an, dat hi] sick wtgift voor een blide Coninck over al, der elender vroude geworden, dan hy beroemet sick oock te syn, de beloofde Davidt. [And what is more, this Jan van Leyden is not satisfied to present himself as a happy king ruling all (mankind) who became the joy of the miserable, but he is also boasting to be the promised David] (9-9v). This matches the interpretation given by Rothmann in his Verborgenheit der Schrift.

(59.) "They show them the way to the perfect wisdom of God in which they grow onto a perfect man in Christ Jesus our Lord."--Packull, "Anna Jansz of Rotterdam," 171.

(60.) Meihuizen, Fundamcntboek, 199 note a. The Dutch reference to the "one or two" leaders he met with is very ambiguous. Mellink in 1978 had already undermined the long held scholarly conviction that the leaders of the attack on Oldeklooster were Jan van Geel and Peter Simons.--A. F. Mellink, Amsterdam en de wederdopers in de zestiende eeuw (Nijmegen: Socialistiese Uitgeverij Nijmegen, 1978). Cf. James M. Stayer, "Oldeklooster and Menno," The Sixteenth Century Journal 9 (April 1978), 56, n31. Piet Visser responds: the text in the Fundamcntboek is actually very clear: want ick niet meer ken dan twe ... met welcken [plural] ick hier voormaels eens, twe mael gehandelt hebbe [since I do not know more than two (representatives) ... with whom I dealt previously once, or twice].

(61.) Piet Visser responds: This is speculation. As I have noted earlier, I can find no trace of the Melchiorite incarnation theology in Blasphemy.

(62.) In Restitution, Rothmann conflated the Melchiorite doctrine of the incarnation with the figure of Melchizedek (Rothmann Schriften, 228, line 32) which stands central in the Christology of the Blasphemy.--Blasphemie 7v.

(63.) Rothmann Schriften, 228; Joris: Gottfried Arnold, ed. "David Joris sonderbare Lebensbeschreibung aus einem Manuscripto" in Unparteusche Kitchen- und Ketzerhistorie (Frankfurt 1729: facsimile edn. Hildesheim: Olms, 1967), 707b ("welche sie damals sehr fleissig und ncithig trieben"); Menno, Opera Omnia 525a (" ook na den ontvangen doopsel").

(64.) Meihuizen, "Menno Simons' Meditatie op de 25e Psalm," 7-13. Piet Visser responds: Meihuizen does not actually say this. Instead, he describes the Meditation as Menno's most "personal tract, full of warmth of life" (13) and also as "an abridged program of the Anabaptist movement" (11).

(65.) Cf. Writings of Pilgram Marpeck, ed. Walter Klaassen and William Klassen (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1978), 161-168. Not all changes from Rothmann are italicized in this section. Marpeck also writes of "Ahabic" prophets who cry "covenant" but deny the Lord.

(66.) Rothmann Schriften, 284. The margin comment reads "juxta exemplar typis in forma octava ut vocant excussum descripsi" ("I made this transcription from a copy 'printed as they say' in octavo format"). "Printed as they say," sometimes also expressed as "Excussum [sic]," was a common seventeenth-century designation for printing intaglio as opposed to letterpress so as to allow for illustrations in emblem books. Piet Visser responds: The Latin phrase "ut vocant excussum" appears frequently in books from this era, but not as referring to illustrated books, let alone emblem books.

(67.) H. ten Boom, De Reformatie in Rotterdam 1530-1585 (Ph.D. Diss., Utrecht, 1986), 92. In any event, David Joris was known at this time to be making emblem books and was being chased for this by the Stadholder of Friesland when he took refuge in Groningen in January 1539.--Documenta Anabaptistica Necrlandica, I: Friesland en Groningen (1530-1550), ed. A. F. Mellink (Leiden: Brill, 1975), 21, 62. Piet Visser responds: Both the editor Mellink and the 1541 source speak only about "tboeck, txvelck ... bij David Joriszoon gemaeckt is. The source for a reference to emblems is not clear.

(68.) Abraham Friesen, "Present at the Inception: Menno Simons and the Beginnings of Dutch Anabaptism," Mennonite Quarterly Review 72 (July 1998), 371.

(69.) Rothmann, Schriften, 287.

(70.) Piet Visser responds: I think this is an incorrect translation. The phrase in the Blasphemy reads: p. 23v: soo moeten de Apostousche wapenen anghelogen werden, wide dat Hams Davidts moet in der valle ligghen (23v) [therefore the Apostolic weapons should be applied (= the peaceful Word of God, as extensively explained earlier in the text), whereas David's suit of armor must be left in the closet], Val, or its homonym valle, has at least two dozen different meanings. Here it refers to both "fall" or "descend" and "trap."

(71.) Piet Visser responds: The printer was responsible for only two of Menno's writings. For more on this, see Paul Valkema Blouw, Dutch Typography in the Sixteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 460-461. 1539/1540 is the most likely year.

(72.) Piet Visser responds: It is also possible that this was merely a typesetter's error.

(73.) Menno derived his emblematic motto from Rothmann in the context of an argument in the Mysterious Message of Scripture about the day of the Lord. In the Mysterious Message of Scripture the Rothmann quote is bracketed by 4 Esdras 7 and by a very large quote from 4 Esdras 6:18-28. Rothmann Schriften, 358-359. Piet Visser responds: How then should one interpret Rothmann's reference: Einen anderen grant twaren nummant leggen, behalucn den, de gelacht is, welcker is Jesus Christus?--Rothmann Schriften, 358? I see this sentence also as an active form, in past tense however (t war en nummant [te] leggen). In the two contemporary Dutch Bibles this verse reads: Want een ander fundament en mach nyemant leggen, dan dat geleyt is, dat is Christus Iesus (Liesveldt 1526) and Want een ander fundament en mach nyemant leggen, behaluen datter gheleyt is: dwelck is Iesus Christus (Vorsterman 1528), so there does not seem to be a basis for linking this passive/active voice shift to Rothmann. Semantically, there is no essential difference in Dutch between "een ander fundament en mach niemant leggen " and "daer en mach geen ander fundament ghelecht worden." Finally, why would Menno have opted for fundament instead of grondt/grant? Menno frequently took liberties in quoting Bible verses. This explanation seems at least as plausible as an argument for direct dependence on Rothmann.

(74.) Piet Visser, "De Opera Omnia Theologica of de 'affecten en voornemens' van Menno's tekstbezorgers," Doopsgczinde Bijdragen n.r. 22(1996), 132.

(75.) Opera Omnia, 256b; Complete Writings, 669.

(76.) Ibid.

(77.) H. W. Meihuizen, Menno Simons, ijveraar voor het herstel van de Nieuwtestamentische gemeente, 1496-1561 (Haarlem, 1961), 97. In the same discussion (p. 25) Meihuizen makes the point that Spiritual Resurrection, the Meditation on the 25th Psalm, and the New Creature (all with a publishing date of 1539 on the frontispiece) repeat opinions and arguments derived from the Confession of Both Sacraments. Meihuizen, shortly before his death, urged that critical editions be prepared of Menno's early pastoral works, so that the textual issues could be resolved and scholars could get some insight into Menno's views in the early years. It is inexplicable that this was never done. Cf. H. W. Meihuizen, "A New Edition of Menno Simons' Writings," in The Dutch Dissenters, A Critical Companion to their History and Ideas, ed. Irvin B. Horst (Leiden: Brill, 1986), 190.

(78.) Meihuizen, Fundamentboek, xu-xui.

(79.) Ibid., 87.

(80.) Ibid., 147-150.

(81.) Ibid., 89.

(82.) Karl Rembert, Die "Wiedertdufer" im Herzogtum Julich: Studien zur Gcschichte der Reformation, besonders am Niederrhein (Berlin, 1899), 265.

(83.) This applies particularly with respect to the role of Petrus Datheen, who, it seems to me, is the real heir of Rothmann. This may suggest a direct line between Rothmann's On Vengeance of 1534 and the Placard of Abjuration of 1581. Piet Visser responds: But Calvin himself started his work in Geneva only in 1536. The earliest traces of Calvinism in the Low Countries date from the late 1540s and early 1550s.

(84.) There is no critical transcription of the original 1539 printing of the Meditation on the Twenty-fifth Psalm. In making his 1976 translation of the Meditation ["Menno Simons' Meditate op de 25e Psalm," Doperse Stemmen 2 (1976)] Meihuizen did not carry over the textual observations that in the original all of Menno's marginal notes were in Latin, that the emblematic was in Latin, and that some of the psalm numbering followed the Vulgate. Nor did he point out that the Meditation was upon an alpha acrostic psalm used for that purpose in the Mass, or that Psalms 111 and 112, which bracket the Eucharistic section of the Confession of Both Sacraments, are also alpha acrostic psalms. The theological substrate of the Confession of Both Sacraments clearly derives from the current of Tau mysticism in the Southern Netherlands.

(85.) Packull, "Anna Jansz of Rotterdam," ARC 78 (1987), 163-167.

(86.) Ibid., 169.

(87.) Because the Apologia seemed to contain two contradictory writings of Anneke Jansz, it was never republished as an integral whole. This means that the writings of Anneke Jansz were always approached without taking note of the eschatological context given by Psalm 94. The original Letter in Praise of the Witnesses of Jesus Sacrificed at Delft is found in Karel Vos, "Kleine Bijdragen over de Doopersche beweging in Nederland tot het optreden van Menno Simons," Doopsgezinden Bijdragen 54 (1917), 163-167. An English translation is given in Gary K. Waite, The Anabaptist Writings of David joris (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1994), 264-267.

(88.) Packull, "Anna Jansz of Rotterdam," 171.

(89.) There is no possible way that Anneke Jansz would have described Jan van Batenburg, the great rival of David Joris, as either godly or the noblest of those satisfying God's pleasure. As a baptisand of Meyndert van Emden she would, however, have described Jan van Leiden as a legitimate Davidic king "ruling over all" in the time of Restitution, exactly what she hoped David Joris would become. In Restitution Jan van Leiden is described as "the King ruling over all and eradicating everything not planted by the Father."--Ein Kbninck de ouer se alle gebeide) Rothmanti Schriften, 273. In the version of the Consoling Message of Vengeance that we now possess, the coming new Jan van Leiden is described as "a King expected by all."--Em Konninck alien gebedende) Rothmann Schriften, 294. This section of the Consoling Message of Vengeance also contains the spontaneously written blank verse poetry foreign to Rothmann but typical of David Joris.

(90.) The blank verse is a product of automatic writing typical of Joris and utterly unlike anything else in Rothmann. It is also the part of the Consoling Message of Vengeance that underlies Menno's reference on the title page of the Blasphemy to "the joyous king whose advent brings comfort to the disconsolate."--Rothmann Schriften 294.

(91.) Opera Omnia, 282b.

(92.) The term "Tau" occurs only once in Rothmann. The reference to Tau in the Consoling Message of Vengeance appears in the almost untranslatable section about leaving the apostolic weapons in the "valle" or sally port and eradicating everything that has not been marked with the sign of TAU.--Rothmann Schriften, 287. On purely translation grounds this section is unlike anything else in Rothmann's writings.

(93.) Opera Omnia, 282b. According to Meihuizen, Menno had excised the term "Tau" from the Foundation Book because it was used by David Joris.--Meihuizen, Fundamcntboek, 136 note a. Cf. also, Werner O. Packull, "The sign of Thau: The Changing Conception of God's Elect in Early Anabaptist Thought," Mennonite Quarterly Review 61 (1987), 372-374.

(94.) Piet Visser responds: It is worth noting that Bondtgenoot does not necessarily refer to the Covenant of God. It also had the general meaning of someone being likeminded, sympathetic with others, a friend, etc. In the sixteenth-century context, baptism by water or by the sign of Tau would not have been a necessary prerequisite for identifying oneself as a "Covenanter."

(95.) The German salutation of the Admonition reads: "Allen Glaubigen und gutthertzigen liebhabern der warheyt, wunschen wir bundgenossen und bruder der eynigkeits des glaubens in Christo gnad von Gott und ware erkantnus Christi im heiligen geyst." The approximate English equivalent is: "We, the covenanters and brothers in the unity of faith in Christ, wish to all believers and sincere lovers of truth, grace from God and true experiential knowledge of Christ in the Holy Spirit."--Cf. Klaassen and Klassen, Writings of Pilgram Marpeck, 163.

(96.) Ibid., 159.

(97.) In the Klaassen and Klassen translation the term "covenant of a good conscience" is repeated four times on p. 167. On p. 166, Marpeck notes that he sent the Admonition out into the world as a confession of faith purged of all errors.
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Author:Stayer, James M.; Isaak, Helmut; De Bakker, Willem
Publication:Mennonite Quarterly Review
Article Type:Report
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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