Blesdijk, Nikolaas Meyndertsz van (ca. 1520-1584)
Nikolaas Meyndertsz van Blesdijk, b.ca. 1520 in Blesdijk, Dutch province of Overijssel, attached himself early (1536) to Menno Simons and adhered zealously to his Christian doctrine. Ten years later he joined David Joris. He was an educated man and thus became not only a warm partisan and admirer, but also the best qualified and effective defender of this remarkable Anabaptist leader; he clung for a long time to the conviction that Joris "was wakened by God, and that his writings came from the divine Spirit, that, indeed, no person could be compared to him" (Nippold, 537). Nippold's idea that he is identical with Meynert von Emden is incorrect, for he was much younger than the latter (Vos, 66).
In 1544 Blesdijk already had to defend his master's cause. He attempted to save the Jorisite martyr Jurjen Ketel by writing a summary of Davidian doctrine to the Deventer council and offering to defend it in every city beyond imperial jurisdiction. His step was ignored. In 1544 he wrote Billijcke Verantwoordinge ende Eenvoldige wederlegginghe op eenen Scheltlasterighen Brief door Dr Hier. Wilhelmi . . . teghens die heylsame leere D. J. aen weylandt Joncker Karel van Gelder geschreven. It was printed in 1640 without naming the place of printing. Of greater significance was his appearance at the Lübeck disputation held in 1546, which was to be a debate between the Mennonites and the Jorisites. Besides Menno Simons and Blesdijk there were present Dirk Philips, Leenaert Bouwens, Gillis van Aken, and Adam Pastor, in addition to several adherents of David Joris. Blesdijk debated with Gillis four hours. They argued principally about infant baptism; but instead of union, greater tension and hostility was the result.
In answer to Menno Simons' letter "to some persons who formerly agreed with me, but now think otherwise," Blesdijk wrote in 1546 Christelijcke Verantwoordinghe, Ende billijcke nederlegginge des valschen onghegrondeden Oordeels, Lasterens ende Scheldens by Menno Symonsz, in eenen Sendtbrief wtgegeven . . . , printed in 1607 without naming place. This book includes three articles (Nippold, 534-544) and gives an unusually interesting view into the controversy and the points of opposition between the Mennonites and Jorisites.
In the same year (1546) Blesdijk published another book, Weder-antwoort op zekeren Brief by Gellium onderteeckent, waer in hy sijne meyninge unde oordeel stell op eenich Trachtaet geintituleert Een Christelijcke verantwoordinghe unde billijcke wederlegginghe (published without place in 1607). In this book Blesdijk defends the action of the Jorisites in having their children baptized in the Reformed Church in order to be as inconspicuous as possible.
In the following year (1547) Blesdijk published a new book, Eenvuldighe unde Christelijcke Berichtinghe op vijf Vraghen by eenighe van Men. Sym. gesintheyt voorgestelt (without place in 1607), in which he answers these five questions in succession. The most important of these are, "Why does one not observe communion in the brotherhood?" and "Why is baptism, which is a command of the Lord, now neglected?" Blesdijk explains these signs of the covenant as outward ceremonies which have lost their meaning in the age of perfection which David Joris was called of God to proclaim.
Of particular importance is his book published in the same year (1547) with the title, Hooft-Somma unde Gront van't gene wy wt die Leere D. J. hebben connen verstaen (published without place in 1607). Here he gives a systematic presentation of the doctrine of David Joris (Nippold, 553-556).
Not long after the publication of these books Blesdijk went to Basel, where David Joris was living in concealment under the name of Jan van Bruges. He married Joris' eldest daughter, Susanna, in 1550 or 1551. For some years he remained closely connected with his father-in-law. But gradually increasing doubts concerning the genuineness and significance of the revelations of the fanatical Anabaptist leader and the purity of his moral conduct began to alienate him. This is shown in the letters of Joris to his son-in-law, especially the one dated 1556 (Nippold, 591).
As yet there was no open dissension between them; but the defection of his most important adherent must have been a deep shock to Joris. His failing health could not withstand this blow. He died 25 August 1556. Now Blesdijk expressed his opposition toward his father-in-law. In four tracts which he published in January, February, April, and May 1557, he attacked his teaching and especially his claim that his revelations were above those of the Bible. This is indicated by the verbose titles of these tracts, which have themselves been lost. (The titles are found in Nippold, 606.) Two of the four tracts were addressed to individual followers of Joris.
But even these polemics did not cause a complete split between Blesdijk and the Jorisites; this did not occur until two years later. Betrayal by a servant led to the discovery of the Jorisites. This created a great stir in Basel. Nobody thought or suspected that the highly respected family of Jan van Bruges belonged to the accursed sect of Anabaptists. Joris' corpse was exhumed and burned at the stake for heresy. His family and his adherents were imprisoned and subjected to a severe cross-examination, then dismissed upon the promise to make a confession of the true faith in the church and condemn the doctrine of the sect of the Anabaptists and have no more fellowship with them or their adherents. On 6 June 1559 they performed this penance.
Blesdijk escaped with a trifling loss. His books were confiscated while he was traveling to Holland to enlighten his fellow believers there and in North Germany. When he returned he immediately went to the preachers of the city and confessed to them his former error and his present belief. He was then placed in custody, but was on the whole leniently treated. He had presented the principal tenets of the Jorisites in 13 points, which were handed to the government and furnished it with a highly welcome foundation for both legal action and especially for the formulation of the refutation of Jorisite doctrine, which was drawn up in 11 points (Nippold, 615).
Soon afterwards Blesdijk moved to Freinsheim in the Palatinate as a Reformed preacher; he died there in 1584. Before his departure from Basel he composed his famous biography of David Joris (1559 and 1560), which he calls a part of a larger work on Anabaptism, which has unfortunately been lost. But this biography of Joris is our most important source for his teaching and life; it is written in Latin and has the title, Davidii Georgii Holandi haeresiarchae vita et Doctrina (Basel, 1559). There are translations of this book in German (Basel, 1559) and French (Basel, 1560), and a new edition was printed in Latin in 1642 with the title, Historia vitae, doctrinae ac rerum gestarum Davidis Georgii Haeresiarchae. Conscripta ab ipsius genero Nicolae Blesdikio. Nunc primum prodit in lucem ex musaeo Jacobi Revii, Daventriae 1642.
In Freinsheim Blesdijk maintained friendly connections with his wife's relatives living in Basel. But his hostility to David Joris increased, as is eloquently shown in the refutation of the fallacious teachings of his father-in-law written in 1576 in behalf of the Palatine Church Council. The book itself is lost; we know of it only by Ubbo Emmius' mention of it. According to him this was the sharpest accusation published against Joris. It is possible that the pamphlet printed in Stade 1582 in Dutch translation, Die gantsche Leeringhe van David Joriszoen int corte begrepen, tot nut van de onpartevdighen, is a translation of this Palatine booklet.
Bainton, Roland H. David Joris, Wiedertäufer und Kämpher für Toleranz im 16. Jahrhundert. Leipzig : M. Heinsius Nachfolger, 1937.
Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1864): 130, 136; (1906): 3, 48.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 235 f.
Nippold, Friedrich. "David Joris von Delft, Sein Leben, seine Lehre and seine Sekte." Zeitschrift für historische Theologie (1863-1864).
Vos, Karel. Menno Simons, 1496-1561, zijn leven en werken en zijne reformatorische denkbeelden Leiden: Boekhandel en drukkerij voorheen E. J. Brill, 1914.
Zijlstra, S. Nicolaas Meyndertsz. van Blesdijk: een bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van het Davidjorisme. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1983.
Cite This Article
Neff, Christian. "Blesdijk, Nikolaas Meyndertsz van (ca. 1520-1584)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 21 Apr 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Blesdijk,_Nikolaas_Meyndertsz_van_(ca._1520-1584)&oldid=91147.
Neff, Christian. (1953). Blesdijk, Nikolaas Meyndertsz van (ca. 1520-1584). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 April 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Blesdijk,_Nikolaas_Meyndertsz_van_(ca._1520-1584)&oldid=91147.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 360-361. All rights reserved.
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