Der Widertoufferen vrsprung, fürgang, secten, wäsen, fürnemme vnd gemeine jrer leer artickel, ouch jre gründ und warumb sy sich absünderind, vnnd ein eigne kirchen anrichtind, mit widerlegung vnd antwort vff die vnd yede jre griind und artickel, sampt Christenlichem bericht vnd vermanen, dass sy jres irrthumbs vnd absünderens abstandind, und sich mit der kirchen Christi vereinigind, abgeteilt in VI Bücher, und beschriben durch Heynrichen Bullingern dienern der kirchen zu Zürych. Was in disen Büchern gehandlet sye, wirst hienach in einem kurzen Register vff die Vorred finden. So ist zum end gethon der Töuffern Büchli, mit dem sy vrsach anzeigend, warumb sy nit zur kirchen gon wöllind (2nd ed., Zurich, 1561), pp. 28, 231. The last section mentioned in the title covers pp. 214-31, under the title Verantwortung etlicher die man Töuffer nennt, vff die fragen warumb sy nit zuo kjrehen gangind, though the folio lines read Der Töufferen verantwortung Irer von der kirchen absünderung. This is the title of the second book against the Anabaptists by Heinrich Bullinger, written between 24 November 1559 and 8 March 1560, in print (first edition) in March 1560, introduction signed 15 March. The history of its beginnings is a rather long one.
After the first book, Von dem unverschampten fräfel, had been so great a success, Bullinger planned to write a new version dealing with the further development of the Anabaptist movement. He took the first step in 1542. For some years he had corresponded with the preacher Hermann Aquilomontanus in Oldersum, East Friesland, who twice a year traveled to the book fair in Frankfurt and served as a messenger between North Germany and Switzerland. Urged by the North German friends Bullinger in 1542 wrote the Latin draft of a systematic refutation of Anabaptism entitled Contra anabaptistas consignata quaedam. It was never published; the manuscript lies in the Central Library in Zurich. It is not known why he discontinued the work for 17 years, but when he took it up again in 1559 his experiences, his interests, and the occasion, had changed. With great sorrow Bullinger saw the disunion between the Lutheran and the Zwinglian churches. Not only was it in his eyes un-Biblical, it was also politically a great disadvantage to the Reformation. Bullinger was particularly incensed by the Lutheran charge identifying the Swiss churches with the Anabaptists and calling them "Schwärmer" or sacramentists. Indefatigably he affirmed that the Zwinglian church had nothing to do with such "heresies," that it was orthodox and could never be looked upon as a sect. This was the purpose of his second book against the Anabaptists.
The volume has more than 500 pages and is divided into six "books" and an appendix. However, the following outline is more helpful. (A) The origins of Anabaptism in Saxony, and its rise and history in Switzerland to 1532 (f. l-17a); (B) The Anabaptist groups - (1) the "general Anabaptists," and (2) the "special Anabaptists" (f. 17a-75); (C) The refutation of the "general Anabaptists" (f. 76-236); (D) Appendix, with comments on an Anabaptist tract on separation from the state church (f. 237-56; Verantwortung etlicher, die man Töuffer nennt).
Though parts (C) and (D) comprise most of the book they are the least important, because they are largely repetitive of his first book. The historical parts (A) and (B), however, are new and of great significance. Bullinger here claims that the origin of Anabaptism was due to the activity of Nicolaus Storch and Thomas Müntzer in Saxony, and that Zürich Anabaptism was only an offspring of the Middle German radical movement. Its rise in Zürich was the result of some rebellious elements whom Ulrich Zwingli had tried in vain to pacify. On this view and on many other historical details Bullinger was soon considered the authoritative witness, and, though he was not the first to advocate the theory mentioned, he was the most influential one.
Bullinger intended his historical portrayal of Anabaptism to prove the main thesis of the book, that the Zwinglian Reformation originally had nothing to do with Anabaptism. This very intent casts doubt on the historical construction. Bullinger's trustworthiness must be seriously called into question for another reason. He did not record the beginnings of Anabaptism as an eyewitness, although he had seen many things himself. Instead he rather uncritically depended on what other authors had written on the subject before him, deviating only where he could underline his main theory. In most cases not Bullinger, therefore, but his sources must be examined and evaluated. Where, however, firsthand sources contradict Bullinger's account neither he nor his predecessors can claim reliability. Such is the case with his theory on the dependence of Zürich Anabaptism on Müntzer.
The first edition of the book was sold within a few months. Bullinger himself sent it to 98 persons, of whom the most prominent were Duke Christoph of Württemberg, Elector Friedrich III of the Palatinate, Prince Philipp of Hesse, King Maximilian II of Bohemia, and Queen Elizabeth of England. In his still extant letters of dedication he recommends the Swiss churches as being orthodox and peaceful followers of the Gospel and supporters of the magistracy. The second German edition appeared with hardly any alterations in January 1561. By August 1560 a Latin translation by Josias Simler had been printed in Zürich: H. Bullingeri adversus anabaptistas libri VI. . . . During the same year also a Dutch translation was begun; it did not, however, appear until 1569, in Emden (q.v.); Teghens de Wederdoopers, ses Boecken Henrici Bullingeri. . . . The translator was Gerard Nicolai, a Reformed preacher in Emden and Norden, who also inserted valuable comments on the history of Anabaptism in the Netherlands and Northern Germany (see Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica VII, where Nicolai's Inlasschingen are reprinted). This translation was issued a second time in 1617 in Amsterdam. In 1665 the appendix appeared as a separate print at the same place. Plans even were made to translate the book into French, but nothing is known of such an edition.
Harold S. Bender has made a careful study of Bullinger's deliberate and false reconstruction of the history of the origins of Anabaptism in Conrad Grebel (Goshen, 1950).
Bucher, A. Die Reformation in den Freien Aemtern und in der Stadt Bremgarten (bis 1531), Supplement of the Jahresbericht der Kantonalen Lehranstalten Sarnen (1949/50. Ph.D. diss. University of Freiburg, Switzerland, pp. 136-42, "Die Taufer in den Freien Aemtern").
Bender, H. S. "Die Zwickauer Propheten, Thomas Müntzer und die Täufer." Theologische Zeitschrift. VIII (Basel, 1952): 262-78.
Correll, E. H. Das schweizerische Täufermennonitentum. Tübingen, 1925.
Cramer, Samuel and Fredrik Pijper. Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1903-1914: VII.
Fast, H. Heinrich Bullinger und die Täufer, Ein Beitrag zur Historiographie und Theologie im 16. Jhdt. Weierhof, 1959.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 291-94.
Schulze, W. A. "Die Lehre Bullingers vom Zlns." Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte. XLVIII (1957): 225-29.
Yoder, J. H. Täufertum und Reformation in der Schweiz I. Weierhof, 1959.
Cite This Article
Franzen, Henry. "Widertoufferen vrsprung, Der." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 30 May 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Widertoufferen_vrsprung,_Der&oldid=96826.
Franzen, Henry. (1959). Widertoufferen vrsprung, Der. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 May 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Widertoufferen_vrsprung,_Der&oldid=96826.
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