Half-Anabaptists, people (mainly of Switzerland) who sympathized with the Swiss Brethren and supported them without, however, themselves ever joining their brotherhood. "Great is the number of those who are suspended between heaven and earth, and know not what to do," writes a Bernese observer around 1690. As is well known, the Swiss authorities harshly persecuted the Brethren throughout the country, in particular in the canton of Bern. These persecutions, however, were by no means popular, as it was widely known that the Brethren were as good, if not better, Christians than the majority. Thus many people helped them, gave them food and shelter, and shielded them against the official "Anabaptist hunters" (Täuferjäger), often endangering themselves. Bernese mandates expressly condemned and threatened these "sympathizers."
The Brethren themselves were split in their attitude toward these friends, or "true-hearted people" (the Treuherzigen) as they called them. In the Amish split of 1693 the Reist people contended that the "true-hearted ones" would be saved, while Jakob Ammann in his unyielding sternness denied this (MQR 1937: 244, note 29). In contemporary literature these Half-Anabaptists are occasionally mentioned. George Thorman's Probierstein des Täufertums (Bern, 1693), though it was a polemical book against the Anabaptists, still had to admit that the Brethren were highly thought of by the population at large. "They [the Half-Anabaptists] remain with us," he writes, meaning with the established church, "but they are fully persuaded that it would be better for them to cast their lot with the Anabaptists." If they refrained from doing so, it was because of fear, as they were not ready to accept suffering and tribulation.
Around 1700 Hans Reist, the leader of the milder branch of the Swiss Brethren, composed and published a prayer, Das Gebätt, in which we read, "We also pray to Thee on behalf of all those people who do so much good unto us with food and drink and house and shelter, and who produce and show unto us great love and loyalty" (Friedmann, Mennonite Piety, 185). Again we read in the Ernsthafte Christenpflicht, the first complete Mennonite prayerbook of 1739, several such prayers for the Half-Anabaptists, "the goodhearted people who love us and do good unto us and show mercy, but have little strength to come into the obedience of God" (ibid., 191-212). Such supplications are made at six places.
That in spite of all the superhuman hardships the Brethren were never completely exterminated in Switzerland is at least in part due to the efforts of these Half-Anabaptists.
Friedmann, Robert. Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries. Goshen, 1949: 185, 191.
Gascho, Milton. "The Amish Division of 1693." Mennonite Quarterly Review 11 (1937): 244.
Gratz, Delbert L. Bernese Anabaptists and their American descendants. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1953. Reprinted Elverson, PA: Old Springfield Shoppe, 1994: 49.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 234.
Horsch, John. "The Half-Anabaptists of Switzerland." Mennonite Quarterly Review 14 (1940): 57-59.
Cite This Article
Friedmann, Robert. "Half-Anabaptists." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 28 May 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Half-Anabaptists&oldid=145380.
Friedmann, Robert. (1956). Half-Anabaptists. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 May 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Half-Anabaptists&oldid=145380.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 634. All rights reserved.
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