Foundation and Plain Instruction of the Saving Doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ

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A Foundation and Plain Instruction of the Saving Doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ; Dutch: Dat Fundament des Christelycken leers op dat alder corste geschreuen (n.p., 1539) is the most important, though not the first book of Menno Simons, comparable in significance to the Enchiridion (1564) of Dirk Philips.

After addressing himself in his preface to the "pious government and all people," he expresses the confidence that they will find his writings in accordance with the Scriptures. He treats "The Time of Grace," "True Repentance," "Concerning Faith," "The Apostolic Baptism," "The Lord's Supper," "Separation from the World," "The True Ministers," and concludes with an appeal to the government, the scholars, the common people, the heretics, and the bride of Christ. The Foundation-Book was one of the most important instruments for gathering the true, peaceful, and Biblical Dutch Anabaptists—after the Münster catastrophe—into a body of believers, a church of Christ, which soon became known as Mennonites. In simple language he presents the basic doctrines and ethical standards based on the New Testament to a bewildered, seeking group, who found in the book the guide they needed and were looking for.

Only a few copies of the first edition have survived. They can be found in the Mennonite Library of Amsterdam (two copies); the University Library of Amsterdam; Royal Library of The Hague; British Museum, London; Municipal Library, Hamburg. In 1616 a new edition of the 1539 Foundation-Book appeared under the title Dat Fundament der Christlycken leere. Door Menno Simons op dat alder correckste geschreven/ ende wtghegheven/ Anno M.D.XXXIX. Ende nu nae het alder outste exemplaer wederom herdruckt/ Anno 1616. The earlier assumption that this edition was published by the Frisian Reformed Synod is hardly tenable. It must have been published by followers of Menno Simons rather than opponents. Copies of the edition can be found in the Mennonite Library, Amsterdam; C. P. van Eeghen Jr. private library, Amsterdam; University Library of Leiden; Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary, Rochester, N.Y.; Union Theological Seminary, New York; Mennonite Historical Library (Goshen); and Schwenckfelder Library, Pennsburg, Pennsylvania.

The first writing of the Foundation-Book was in a dialect with an "Oosters coloring," that is, Menno adapted his Dutch to the new environment of the provinces of Groningen and East Friesland where he had found temporary shelter (see Oosters Coloring and Dialect). About 1554 an edition followed in the Oosters dialect, which was linguistically even more adapted to the environment in which Menno was now living. Menno refers to this book as the Fondament-Boeksken (Opera, 1681, p. 235). It bore the title Ein Fundament vnd klare Anwisinge, van de heylsame vnd Godtsellyghe Leere Jesu Christi, vth Godes woort mit gueder corte veruatet, und wederumme mit grooter vlyte auerghelesen vnde ghebetert. This edition was printed by B. L. around 1554, very likely in Lübeck or Wüstenfelde, where Menno had a place of refuge. Menno was probably busy preparing a larger collection of his writings when he died in 1561. In 1562 the Foundation-Book appeared in a somewhat revised Dutch edition, considerably enlarged, under the following title: Een Fondament ende clare aenwijsinghe van de salichmakende Leere Jesu Christi, wt Gods Woort int corte begrepen, ouergeset wt dat Oosters, in dese onse Nederlantsche sprake. The following books had been added: "Concerning the True Christian Faith," "Concerning Regeneration or the New Creature," "A Consolation Regarding Suffering, the Cross, and the Persecution of the Saints," "Meditation on the Twenty-Fifth Psalm," "Concerning the Spiritual Resurrection," "Concerning Excommunication, Ban, and Avoidance," ". . . How Pious Parents Should Train Their Children. . . ." It is this combined edition of the Foundation-Book, reprinted repeatedly in Dutch (1565, 1567, 1579, 1583, and 1613), which found its way into the complete works of Menno Simons (1600, 1646, and 1681), and was translated into German, appearing first in 1575. All German editions in Europe (also the von Riesen edition of Danzig) and the various American editions are based on the 1562 Dutch edition which appeared after the death of Menno Simons. Only slight variations are noticeable.

European German editions include an undated reprint of the 1575 edition and one of 1834-1835, published by Peter von Riesen primarily for distribution in Russia, but printed in Danzig(?). Six American German editions appeared in 1794 (reprint of the 1575 edition), 1835, 1849, 1851, 1853, and 1876. All 19th century English editions (1835, 1863, 1869) were published for the Herrites (Reformed Mennonites), who emphasized their loyalty to Menno Simons, and contain a preface by John Herr.

No other Mennonite author has ever written a book which found such an immediate widespread acceptance and so specifically met a need as the Foundation-Book of Menno Simons. It was one of the most significant factors in gathering "the sheep without a shepherd" and giving a Scriptural basis and much courage to a group of believers and thus preventing their disintegration.

See also Menno Simons


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 17, 84-86

Krahn, Cornelius. "Menno Simons' Fundament-boek of 1539-1540." Mennonite Quarterly Review 13 (October 1939): 221-232.

Krahn, Cornelius. Menno Simons. Karlsruhe, 1936: 52-55.

Vos, Karel.  Menno Simons, 1496-1561, zijn leven en werken en zijne reformatorische denkbeelden. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1914: 272, 296.

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius. "Foundation and Plain Instruction of the Saving Doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 11 May 2021.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius. (1956). Foundation and Plain Instruction of the Saving Doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 11 May 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 358. All rights reserved.

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