Coornhert, Dirk Volkertsz (1522-1590)

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Dirk Volkertsz Coornhert Source: Wikipedia Commons

Dirk Volkertsz Coornhert, born 1522 at Amsterdam, died 29 October 1590, at Gouda, was a Dutch scholar versed in many fields of science and art, an outstanding figure of the Renaissance in Holland, versatile and talented. Though he never actually left the Catholic Church, he nevertheless opposed it and went his own independent way. It was his aim to hold to "the clear meaning of Christ"; the center of evangelical doctrine is love to God and one's neighbor. Man must strive to be perfect as Christ of the Gospels and he is able to achieve this (perfectionism). Coornhert was a typical individualist. No one church can be the true church. Church reform, dogma, and confessions of faith are the work of men; if one has Christ in one's heart one does not need these things. Kühler called him the "Sebastian Franck of the Netherlands." This Coornhert, who found violent opponents among the Calvinists and was severely attacked by Calvin himself, had considerable influence on the Dutch Mennonites, especially on the Waterlander branch, who like Coornhert laid much stress on uprightness of life and were inclined "to have no assurance that their church was the visible church of God." During the time when Coornhert was notary and city secretary of Haarlem (1577-1588) he had many contacts with the Waterlanders.

Coornhert was a close friend of Hans de Ries, the great Waterlander leader, who followed Coornhert in the doctrine of perfectionism. The regenerated person is able through the power of God in Christ living within him, to keep the commands of the Gospel perfectly. In 1580 Coornhert sent to "de Ries and his friends" a booklet on 't Overheyds Ampt (The Office of Government). He set a beautiful monument to the friendship which bound him "to God-loving Hans de Rijcke" (Ries) in the booklet, Opperste goedts nasporinghe.

When in 1587 dissension broke out in the Waterlander congregation in Haarlem, Coornhert, who was probably present at the meeting, managed to subdue it and prevent a division. Soon afterward, in November 1587, at a conference in Alkmaar, Coornhert had a debate with Jacob Jansz Scheedemaker, the elder of the Haarlem Waterlander congregation, in which, under Coornhert's influence, the audience came to the conclusion that persons who live a Christian life (keep God's commands) must also be considered as "dear fellow members of their congregations even though they have had neither baptism nor communion or other customary forms of worship." Of great significance was Coornhert's opposition to David Joris. He wrote against Joris the booklet, Kleyn-Munster, Des groot-roemigen David Jorisens roemrijke en wonder bare Schriften elckerlyck tot een proeve gestelt (1590).


Of the copious literature on Coornhert we will mention only:

Beeker, B. "Coornhert." Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek, P.C. Molhuysen and P. J. Blok. Leiden, 1911-1937: X (1927).

Bonger, H. Dierick Volckertszoon Coornhert: studie over een nuchter en vroom Nederlander. Lochem: Tijdstroom, 1941.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: I, Nos. 2311 f.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 370.

Kühler, Wwilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de Zestiene Eeuw. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink, 132: I, passim.

Lindeboom, J. Stiefkinderen van het Christendom. The Hague, 1929: 264-274.

Visscher, H. and L. A. van Langeraad. Het protestantsche vaderland: biographisch woordenboek van protestantsche godgeleerden in Nederland, 8 vols. Utrecht, 1903-1918: v. II, 212-249.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1953

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MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Coornhert, Dirk Volkertsz (1522-1590)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 27 May 2022.,_Dirk_Volkertsz_(1522-1590)&oldid=144955.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1953). Coornhert, Dirk Volkertsz (1522-1590). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 May 2022, from,_Dirk_Volkertsz_(1522-1590)&oldid=144955.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 709-710. All rights reserved.

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