Klaasz, Jan (d. after 1702)

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Jan Klaasz, (Klaaszen, Claessen) also called Jan Klaasz van Grouw, because he lived at Grouw, or Jan Claesen Backer, apparently because he was a baker, was a Mennonite preacher of the congregation at Grouw, Dutch province of Friesland, where he served 1680 until at least 1702. He was a man of fragile health but of a strong spirit, and notwithstanding his poor education he was versed in theological problems. Jan Klaasz was a champion of rather liberal ideas and is not without reason called a Socinian. He enthusiastically participated in the meeting of the Collegiants in his home town, where he met Mennonites, Reformed, and non-church men, all of a liberal trend. In his home church his ideas caused a schism; a group of more conservative members in 1696 separated from the main body and founded a congregation, called the Flemish congregation. The other and larger group was at first called the Jan Claesen congregation, later mostly the Waterlander congregation. Jan Klaasz's ideas are best known from his book De Leere der Doopsgezinden verdedigd (Amsterdam, 1702). The gist of his theological ideas is the view that the Holy Scriptures are secondary to the immediate action of the Spirit of God in the heart of the believers. Only when enlightened by the Spirit of God can one truly read the Scripture. Though Jan Klaasz does not deny the deity of Christ, he is more interested in His example than in His death. The doctrine of salvation by the satisfactory death of Christ is not a substantial part of his doctrines. With an astonishing knowledge of the old Mennonite literature he shows that among the early Anabaptists personal faith as a trust in God was more emphasized than the creed of the congregation; the well-known confessions are not to prescribe the faith, as is the opinion of some Mennonites, but they are merely directives for the members of the church. In these ideas of Jan Klaasz one will easily recognize the spiritualistic teachings of Galenus Abrahamsz, and indeed Galenus greatly influenced the preacher of Grouw, but the latter goes further and admits that some of his ideas agree with those of Socinus, which Galenus never did.

Not only in his home congregation but also elsewhere Jan Klaasz's opinions were opposed. Sometimes this happened in a peaceful way as in the correspondence which Jan Klaasz conducted with E. A. van Dooregeest after 1695.

Klaasz's book, De Leere der Doopsgezinden, was directed against the "strange and false notions" (vreemde misduidingen) of Douwe Feddriks, Mennonite preacher of Harlingen, who had called him an irascible troublemaker, breaker of peace, Socinian, Arian, and Spinozist, but who, according to Jan Klaasz, had more likeness to a Reformed (Calvinistic) than to a Mennonite preacher.

Some of his members at Grouw in 1695 lodged a complaint of Socinianism against him with the Reformed Classis at Leeuwarden, but apparently it did not result in a trial.


Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839: 193, 226, 235 f.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: II, No. 2946.

Meihuizen, H. W. Galenus Abrahamsz. Haarlem, 1954: 183 f., 186.

Pasma, F. H. De Doopsgeszinden te Grouw (1930): 8-11 with a facsimile of a letter of Jan Klaasz.

Pasma, F. H. Groningen: I, 189.

van Sice, J. C. De Rijnsburger Collegianten. Haarlem, 1896: 216 f.

Visscher, H. and L. A. van Langeraad. Het protestantsche vaderland: biographisch woordenboek van protestantsche godgeleerden in Nederland, 8 vols. Utrecht, 1903-1918: II, 56 f.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Klaasz, Jan (d. after 1702)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 19 Apr 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Klaasz,_Jan_(d._after_1702)&oldid=119320.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1957). Klaasz, Jan (d. after 1702). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 April 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Klaasz,_Jan_(d._after_1702)&oldid=119320.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 190. All rights reserved.

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