Galenus Abrahamsz de Haan (1622-1706)

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Galenus Abrahamsz de Haan (Geleyn de Haen), physician and preacher of Amsterdam, was born 8 October 1622 and died 19 April 1706 at Zierikzee, Zeeland, the Netherlands. His parents were Abraham Geleynsz and Katrijntje Gillis, the latter a granddaughter of Gillis van Aken (von Aachen). In Zierikzee Valerius de Schoolmeester had died as an Anabaptist martyr, who in his book Proba Fidei (1568) asserted that man can contribute to his cleansing from sin toward an evangelical perfection. Galenus also later emphasized sanctification.

The Mennonite congregation of Zierikzee avoided taking sides in the controversy between the Flemish and Frisians and published a booklet along these lines: Een Christelijcke Proeve ende overlegginge ofte rekeninge, waerin dat allen Broeders ende Susters vermaendt worden tot een scherp ende neerstich ondersoec haers selfs (1570). Since they did not take sides they were called stilstaanders by the others and were banned both by Flemish and Frisians. Galenus also did not consider as Mennonites only those who subscribed to confessions of faith. He insisted that each had the freedom not to sign those articles of faith which are not prerequisite for salvation. The Zierikzee congregation had a specific way of life. One spoke little and deliberately and adhered to simplicity of dress and household furnishings. Galenus also emphasized a way of life of earnestness and simplicity. Francois de Knuyt, elder of the congregation, who wrote the book Corte Bekentenisse onses geloofs (1618?), taught young Galenus, who later concluded from this book that not every word of the Bible has the same value and that only the sayings of Christ are the Word of God.

After completing the Latin school Galenus went to Leiden in 1642 to study medicine. Here he met Pieter Jansz Moyer, elder of the Flemish church, who in 1626, when he was still a Mennonite minister in Amsterdam, had been the co-author of the Olive Branch, the confession which had united the Frisian, Flemish, and High German Mennonite groups. This contact must have strengthened Galenus' desire to see all Mennonites united. On 2 March 1645 he was graduated as Doctor of Medicine.

Early in 1646 Galenus began practicing medicine in Amsterdam, and on 16 September he married Saertghen Bierens, a daughter of Abraham Dircksz, who was also a co-author of the Olive Branch. In 1648 he was elected preacher by the United Mennonite Church which was meeting in the "Het Lam" church, the present Singelkerk. When he accepted the ministry, doubts had already arisen regarding his orthodoxy in matters pertaining to the doctrine of satisfaction. Galenus left the impression that the death of Christ was more a proof of the truth of his teaching than an act of satisfaction, which view had also been expressed by some martyrs.

One of the first tasks confronting the young minister was to reply to the Waterlanders, who were proposing closer cooperation between the two groups. They had suggested in 1647 that each group should retain the freedom to formulate its own beliefs, avoid disputes along these lines, but they would have unity through the Word of God in the Bible. Although such a proposal would have been acceptable for Galenus a few years later, he then, in March 1649, wrote a letter declining such an invitation. He must have done so because he still saw the Waterlanders through the eyes of the Flemish, who considered them too tolerant toward non-Mennonites.

Soon after this he was delegated to Texel to defend Elder Claes Arentsz, who in a dispute with the Reformed had aroused the anger of the Calvinists by speaking slightingly of infant baptism. This mission shows that he had the confidence of his co-ministers. In June of that year he was present at a meeting of the delegates of Flemish congregations at Haarlem which strongly opposed union with the Waterlanders. These experiences must have raised the question in Galenus to what degree elders and congregations may exercise authority. His doubt whether any human being or any human authority ever could determine what someone else had to believe was intensified through his association with the Collegiants. They formed a group in Amsterdam under the leadership of Adam Boreel, whom Galenus befriended, which did not recognize any church as the true church of Christ. Among the Collegiants, many of whom considered the "college," a voluntary organization of "interdenominational Christendom," above their own special church, were also Socinians. Those who thought that Galenus was also Socinian accused him in 1655 in a pamphlet Commonitio of this despised and feared heresy. In spite of the fact that on Easter Monday 1655 Galenus declared that not in a single issue in which the Anabaptists differed from the Socinians did he "fully" agree with the latter, the suspicion remained. A meeting of the ministers and deacons of the Lamist congregation became necessary.

Before this meeting took place Galenus and David Spruyt had on 11 January 1657 presented to their co-ministers the "Nineteen Articles," in which they discussed the question whether any church could claim to be the true church of the Lord. The authors denied this possibility and refused to bind the conscience of human beings to the authority of an office, whose bearers were fallible men, to definite doctrines formulated by men, and to ordinances which are always administered by men. These views were exactly the opposite of what a group of ministers of the Lamist congregation considered sacred. They thought that the confessions which had been written in the beginning of the 17th century were the exact summary of the faith which all Mennonites had confessed from the beginning. Galenus pointed out that the martyrs had not died for a faith in which there had been no deviation and that in the writings of Menno Simons a change in the concept of the church is noticeable. He preferred to use the Bible as the guide for faith and life and to let every man interpret it.

An attempt to solve the tensions caused by this development was made at a general conference of Mennonite congregations held in June 1660 at Leiden under the chairmanship of Thieleman Jansz van Braght, at which it was decided to ask Galenus and Spruyt to give up their views or to discontinue their ministry. The two accused men, however, refused to accept this verdict, believing that only their congregation could dismiss them and not a meeting of congregations. An attempt to have the ministers of the Amsterdam congregation deprive them of their office was unsuccessful since many members shared their views.

It seemed for a time that the Concept van Verdrag of 31 January 1662 had restored peace. However, two newly elected ministers caused a new outbreak of unrest. Pieter van Locren, who shared Galenus' views, preached on 1 October 1662 that in the Final Judgment the question would not be what man had believed, but what man had done. On 15 October Samuel Apostool, who represented the other side, stated that no one could ever do enough good works to be justified in the sight of God and that only faith in the satisfaction through Christ could save men. In the afternoon service Galenus warned against this "misleading" teaching which might cause people to stop wrestling with sin. The tumult which resulted from these discussions in the pulpit in Amsterdam spread throughout all Mennonite congregations in Holland, and even in foreign countries sides were taken for or against Galenus.

Laurens Hendricksz, a deacon of the Lam congregation and a strong opponent of Galenus, appealed to the court of Holland to have Galenus banned from the country because of Socinian views. This failed, as did other attempts to have him removed, because the majority of the members of the congregation favored Galenus. The final stage of the disagreement, which a contemporary satirically called the Lammerenkrijgh (War of the Lambs), centered around the Lord's Supper. Galenus was willing to admit everyone regardless of possible deviations in religious concepts as long as he lived an irreproachable life. His opponents refused to admit those who in their estimation did not fully believe in the vicarious death of Christ. There was also a difference of opinion regarding the support of widows and orphans of former ministers. When the burgomaster, who was asked to help straighten out the difficulty, did not succeed in restoring the peace, one fourth of the members of the congregation rented a building at the end of May 1664, which tliey arranged for a church.   On 22 June the first service was held in this church and thus a new congregation was organized. Since the building in which they worshiped was known as "de Zon," the group became known as Zonists. For a long time Galenus tried to win the Zonists back to his congregation. Since he did not succeed, there was now no reason why his congregation should not unite with the Waterlanders. They, like Galenus, considered the general confessions as human formulations of faith and practiced tolerance regarding deviating views which could be based on the Bible. Thus the Amsterdam Waterlander congregation which met at the "Toren" (Jan Rodenpoortstoren) united with the Lamist congregation on 1 June 1668. This example was followed by other Waterland and Flemish congregations.

The Zonists, too, eventually attracted some Waterlanders to them. On 18 July 1674 the Mennonite congregations which had sided with Apostool united in the Zonist Societeit, which was based on the Oprecht Verbondt van Eenigheyt of 1664. This Verbondt takes the general Mennonite confessions as a basis and states that no ministers who do not agree with them can be admitted to congregations of the Societeit. On 27 November 1674, a Lamist Societeit was also organized for mutual assistance in matters pertaining to vacancies and religious instruction. Galenus wrote the catechism for this Societeit, Anleyding tot de kennis van de Christelijke Godsdienst (1677).

Gradually all Dutch Mennonite congregations belonged either to the Zonists or Lamists. When the Lamist and Zonist congregations in Amsterdam finally united in 1801 the unity of the Dutch Mennonites of the middle of the 16th century was restored. This happened on the basis advocated by Galenus, that subscribing to a formulated confession of faith is unnecessary and that each congregation practice complete autonomy.

In 1680 the Lamist congregation of Amsterdam authorized Galenus to train preachers. In 1692 a training school for ministers was established, of which Galenus was instructor until his death (19 April 1706). This training school developed into the present Amsterdam Mennonite Theological Seminary. Outstanding students of Galenus were Abraham Verduyn, Joannes Houbakker, and Adriaen Spinniker.

The foundation of Galenus' basic beliefs is the Bible, in which the New Testament gets preference above the Old. The Bible is necessary for salvation and is the rule for faith and life. The human mind illuminated by God is in position to understand the true meaning of the Bible; obscure parts must be interpreted in accordance with the teachings of Christ, whose holy and blameless life is the foundation for faith. The Bible is also the source for his statement of the characteristics of God. Most important is the experience of God's fatherly love and for that reason the knowledge of God can never be purely intellectual. It must be coupled with trust, in fact even a sacred and pure "being in love" with God. Christ is the Son of God, but Galenus does not want to discuss His possible oneness with the Father, the relationship of His two natures, and the secret of His Incarnation, because Christ Himself was satisfied with the simple statement in Matthew 16:16. God anointed His Son with the Holy Spirit so that He could save the world through His teaching. His teaching includes claims and promises. Galenus strongly stresses the way of life required by God. He devoted the book Christelijke Zedekonst, which was published after his death, to this topic. God's promise is in harmony with His divine nature, which men can approach step by step. He elaborated on this in his exegesis on the Beatitudes entitled Acht trappen ter Saligheyd. This thought he likely borrowed from Coornhert. The potent means for achieving this is prayer which draws divine grace to the one who is praying. The experience of this grace is for him the center of spiritual life. To illustrate this he used selections from letters of the martyrs which he added to two of his books. His Verhandeling van de Redelijk-bevindelijke Godsdienst demonstrates how strongly he emphasized experience.

Galenus did not develop a special church concept. All who possess a genuine faith and obedience to God and are reborn through His Spirit belong to those whom Christ is gathering about Him. The best description of this he found in Erasmus' Ratio seu methodus compendiosa perveniendi ad veram theologiam (Opera V. Col. 84 b-d). The Mennonite congregations are to strive to attain this state. The leaders are to take a position of serving, and not ruling or certainly not of rank. It is the right and duty of every Christian to teach and preach after a reasonable preparation, upright living, practice of knowledge, and after an express call of the entire congregation, as he stated in a writing against Laurens Hendricksz. Through baptism, which is a publicly given proof of the acceptance of Christianity, one joins the general Christian Church and not any particular congregation. Water baptism is not necessary for salvation; the only prerequisite for that is baptism by the Holy Spirit, but it is helpful because it reminds the Christian that he has committed himself to lead a God-pleasing life. The Lord's Supper is not essential either but it aids in remembering the inexpressible love of God which was most gloriously revealed in the death of Christ on the cross. At the end of life the Christian expects judgment over what he has done during his life. The disobedient will receive punishment depending on the degree of unrighteousness. Those who have had unwavering faith shall through grace receive eternal life.

Galenus' writings appeared as follows: Negentien Artikelen with "Nader Verklaringe" and "Wederlegginge van Laurens Hendricksz" in 1659; Brief aan CS. (Claes Stapel), 1677; Anleyding tot de kennis van de Christelijke Godsdienst, 1677; Kort Begrijp, 1682; Beknopt vertoog van de gelijkluijdende Getuygenissen der Heilige Schrift, published in 1684, contains Bible references for the two previously mentioned writings. A dedicatory sermon which Galenus preached for the new church at Zaandam, Anspraak an de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Zaandam, to which he added Acht trappen ter Seligheyd and Tegens den Indrang van het Hedendaagze Pausdom (possibly written by Adam Boreel), was published 1687. His most important work is Verdédiging der Christenen, die Doopsgezinde genaamd worden, beneffens Korte Grondstellingen van hun gelove en leere, which appeared 1699. After his death three additional writings of his were published (in 1707) by Wilhem van Maurik; Veertien Predikatien over de gelijkenis van den Verloren Zoon, Christelijke Zedekonst, and Verhandeling van de Redelijk-bevindelijke Godsdienst.


Catalogus der werken over de Doopsgezinden en hunne geschiedenis aanwezig in de bibliotheek der Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. Amsterdam: J.H. de Bussy, 1919: 117, 133, 153, 207, 217, 230, 242, 257, 258.

Cramer, S. "De vereeniging der twee Amsterdamsche gemeenten in 1801."Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1898).

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1863): 137, 147; (1873): 142; (1875): 27 f.; (1884): 34; (1887) 121; (1888): 103 f.; 124; (1892): 104; (1900): 1 ff., 88; (1901): 119 ff.; (1902): 89, 94 ff.; (1909): 158; (1916): 148 ff., 158 ff.; (1918): 49 ff.

Doopsgezind Jaarboekje (1837): 45, 104, 107; (1840): 65 f.; (1850): 88 ff.

Doopsgezinde lektuur tot bevordering van christelijke kennis en godzaligheid (1858): 88 ff.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 26-29.

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: v. I, Nos. 667, 700, 701, 797; v. II, Nos. 780, 838, 905, 1185-1187, 1244, 1301, 1304, 1321, 1393-1394, 1398, 1403, 1522, 1762, 1764, 2043-2046, 2629, 2630, 2694, 2818; II, 2, Nos. 259, 588.

Hylkema, Cornelis Bonnes.. Reformateurs: Beschiedkundige studiën over de godsdienstige bewegingen uit de nadagen onzer Gouden Eeuw. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink en Zoon, 1900.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Het Socinianisme in Nederland. Leiden: Sijthoff, 1912.

Lindeboom, Johannes. Stiefkinderen van het Christendom. 's-Gravenhage: M. Nijhoff, 1929.

Meihuizen, H. W. Galenus Abrahamsz, 1622-1706 : strijder voor een onbeperkte verdgraagzaamheid en verdediger van het Doperse spiritualisme. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, 1954.

Meinsma, K. O. Spinoza und sein Kreis: historisch-kritische Studien über holländische Freigeister. Berlin: Karl Schnabel, 1909.

Roldanus, Cornelia Wilhelmina. Zeventiende-eeuwsche Geestesbloei. Amsterdam: P.N. van Kampen & Zoon, 1938.

Visscher, H. and L. A. van Langeraad. Biographisch Woordenboek von Protestantsche Godgeleerden in Nederland. Utrecht, 1903-    : III, 166-171.

Zijpp, N. van der Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Nederland. Arnhem, 1952.

Besides these see Catalogus der werken over de Doopsgezinden..., 113-133, for the collection of pamphlets.

Author(s) H. W Meihuizen
Date Published 1956

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Meihuizen, H. W. "Galenus Abrahamsz de Haan (1622-1706)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 2 Mar 2024.

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Meihuizen, H. W. (1956). Galenus Abrahamsz de Haan (1622-1706). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 March 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 431-433, 435. All rights reserved.

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