Gesprächbüchlein. Ein christliches vnd trosthafftiges, so mit etlichen der Widertauffer öbristen Rabonen oder Vorsteher gehalten. Darin gantz Christlich von allen Artickeln, so vor je wider den Kinder Tauff sein angezogen worden gehandelt würt den heiligen Kinder Tauff damit zu erhalten und der Gottlosen falsche Heuchlerey zu erlegen, by Jobst Kinthis (Freinsheim, 1553?). The only known copy is in the Speyer (Palatinate) Landes-Bibliothek; the date 1553 is stamped on the binding. It is dedicated to Frederick II, elector Palatine, who is called upon in the foreword to exterminate "all false devilish and idolatrous teaching and rebellious heresy."
The brief condemnation of Anabaptism at the beginning of the book is strange and disappointing; it offers new evidence of the confused ideas current about the movement. The author correctly points out the great differences in the various kinds of Anabaptists, distinguishing six different branches: "Some, are in agreement with Balthasar Hubmaier, Melchior Rinck, Hans Denck, Hans Hut, and Ludwig Haetzer on baptism and the preacher's calling. These do not want an interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, but build alone on the printed letter; they have the four Gospels, the epistles of Paul, James, and Peter, and the Acts and Revelation. All other writings such as Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, and Bernard they consider human work." This is, on the whole, correct, but applies more specifically to the Swiss Brethren than the Anabaptists of South Germany, whose leaders named here rather insisted on a spiritual interpretation of Scripture and attacked adherence to the letter.
"The others boast of the third David, have much in common with Mahomet Ismanelita, perhaps arisen under Heracletus A.D. 612. They have many wives like the Münsterite king Johan van Leiden, A.D. 1534. These boast of Hoffman, who calls his church the New Jerusalem." In a similarly incomprehensible manner points three and four lump the Anabaptists with the Wicliffites, the Lamperian (?) sect, and with Thomas Müntzer and his following. The author does not state his sources.
Of greatest interest to us are the final characterizations of the Anabaptists. "The fifth stay around St. Gall in Switzerland and Appenzell. . . . These have attached many of this country to them, but not a sect. For the Swiss consider it far more unchristian than our people do. I have made a collection of their opinions." If this information is reliable, it has great historical value. We gather from it that Anabaptism in the Palatinate is of Swiss origin. It is surprising that the emissaries to the Palatinate were from St. Gall and Appenzell.
"The sixth kind are those who boast of Michaei Sattler, Jörg Wagner, and Leonhard Kaiser, perhaps the most pious and Christian of them all. Concerning their sect . . . one finds information in the small concordances. The leader (Vorsteher) of this brotherhood requires two things: First, the separation of their ordained . . . pastors in their parishes; likewise non-participation in all the sacraments, all association or neighborliness, wedding ... on penalty of the ban; likewise to speak disrespectfully and defiantly to all authorities and other persons, show no honor, consider themselves alone holy and all the rest ungodly. The second, their leader forbids the brethren to reveal to anyone outside their sect concerning their faith, doctrine . . . , also not to name their preachers and leader; requires to flee our church order, preaching, and the practice of the sacraments as ungodly work because they are idol houses made with human hands, wherein God does not dwell; also our clergymen, do not teach or preach right, nor conduct services right, and are themselves sinners since they preach but do not perform, and the common people will not mend their ways therefrom because of their great avarice. But Christ commands that we shall beware of such hypocrites as of false prophets (Matthew 7) and we shall prove the spirits, whether they be of God or not." This description is accurate from the point of view of an opponent; it is apparently based on personal acquaintance. It is only puzzling that the author presents the Swiss Brethren and Michael Sattler's group as two distinct branches; they cannot have been separate groups in the Palatinate. The Swiss Brethren also carried out separation rigorously. Grouping Sattler with Jörg Wagner and Leonhard Kaiser does not agree with historical facts. Kaiser was a Lutheran martyr, and Wagner was more closely related to Denck than to Sattler.
Now Kinthis lists "the leading articles of the Anabaptists." There are 13 of them: (1) rejection of infant baptism; (2) rejection of the true deity of Christ; (3) rejection of the true humanity of Christ, to the extent that He did not receive human nature from Mary; (4) rejection of the merits of Christ; (5) rejection of the sacramental character of the holy communion; (6) they break marriages for "insignificant cause"; (7) rejection of military service; (8) chiliasm; (9) rejection of government office; (10) "some agree widi the Donatists and say that preaching and the sacrament are naught if the minister is not upright and holy"; (11) "some believe that before the end of the world the church will be as in the days of Noah"; (12) rejection of original sin and the assertion that those who fall after receiving baptism will not be forgiven, a doctrine they have in common with the Novatians and Cathars; (13) "some of them believe (like Origen) that in the end the devil will be saved with all the ungodly." Kinthis makes not the slightest reference to their rejection of the oath.
The Gespräch (conversation), in the form of statement (Anabaptist) and counter statement (Kinthis), has four divisions, and constitutes a comprehensive defense of infant baptism; but it rarely touches the root of the matter. The Anabaptist always insists on the simple meaning of Scripture; his statements are agreeably short and logical, whereas his opponent unfolds a long-winded dialectic skill. He presents the customary evidence for infant baptism and explains at great length that even very young infants also have faith, which God Himself works in them. There are very few historical facts in the book. Once Kinthis sharply attacks emigration to Moravia.
Concerning the author's personality not much is revealed. He says specifically, "I am not a theologian, but a simple layman without understanding." But he shows an extraordinary knowledge of theology. He is especially familiar with the works of the Church Fathers; he also knows the writings of Brenz, Bucer, Bullinger, and Pellikan. Luther he calls "our beloved honorable father . . . in Christ"; but he shows some Calvinism (?) in confessing himself to be a Predestinarian. "God has in His eternal counsel already determined which child shall be saved or damned." The Anabaptist is also a learned theologian, with a command of Latin and a knowledge of the Church Fathers. On one occasion Kinthis accuses him, "You learned that in the University of Brno." This indicates that the Anabaptist was a Hutterite missionary on a mission in the Palatinate; he shared the opinion common among the Anabaptists of that time, that infant baptism was introduced by Pope Nicholas I, and that children should not be baptized before about 12 years of age.
In the fifth section Kinthis discusses the question whether children who are born dead are saved; and in the sixth section he answers the question affirmatively, saying that God in His mercy imparts faith to them.
In the epilogue the author briefly states the occasion for writing the book. Because some fanatics had settled in the Palatinate who criticized the holy baptism of infants, seduced the populace, and moved away with wife and child, thus creating dissension and disorder, he felt called to write, in order that these people might be persuaded to return to the true church.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: 103 f.
Cite This Article
Neff, Christian. "Gesprächbüchlein." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 21 Mar 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gespr%C3%A4chb%C3%BCchlein&oldid=146445.
Neff, Christian. (1956). Gesprächbüchlein. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 March 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gespr%C3%A4chb%C3%BCchlein&oldid=146445.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 508-509. All rights reserved.
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