Lemke (16th century)

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Lemke (Lemken, Lemmeken), an elder in the High German Anabaptist congregation, was probably a native of Upper Gelre. He was married to Fyken Gerlacx van Megen. He was a deacon at Illikhoven about 1550 and after the martyrdom of Theunis van Hastenrath in 1551 took over the eldership in Jülich. He was apparently identical with a man called Lemken Bruerren, a maker of bags, also called Cremers (peddler), who was a resident of Maastricht, a Dutch province of Limburg, and arrested there in March 1533 because he had received "Lutherans," i.e., heretics, obviously Anabaptists, into his house. Lemken then was pardoned and did penance. In 1538 he is said to have left the city. In 1545 he was present at the baptism of the martyr Liisken at Visschersweert; he then lived in this hamlet until 1547, when his house was razed by the officials of the duchy of Jülich because it was the house of a heretic and had harbored forbidden meetings. He then moved to the neighboring hamlet of Illikhoven. About this time Menno Simons stayed at his home in Illikhoven. He was very active in both preaching and baptizing; e.g., at Lichterwald in 1553, Susteren 1557, Born 1558, and also at Aachen, where he had a number of followers.

With Zylis, Herman van Tielt, and Hans Sikken, he went to Wüstenfelde in May 1556 and held a two-day discussion with Menno Simons and other elders on the application of the ban in marriage. After the others had left, Lemke remained and explained to Menno Simons that he was in complete agreement with him, but did not wish to admit this in the presence of the brethren, because he was afraid of losing his influence. But he made up his mind to conquer the resistance of his brethren against the ban in marriage, and if he succeeded he wanted one or two Dutch elders to come to them, and introduce the ban among them. But this did not take place; Lemke sided entirely with Zylis, who rejected the ban in marriage as an abomination.

Menno Simons complained that Lemke denied having ever "fraternised" with him, and that he answered all the pleas of the elders with the "very unfriendly and stubborn words," that he "had not come for their sake."

After the Strasbourg conference in 1557 Zylis and Lemke wrote a friendly letter urging peace and unity (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1894, 47-53). Menno Simons replied on 11 June  1558, in a pamphlet, Grondelijk: Onderwijs ofte bericht van de excommunicatie, rejecting their plea. Thereupon Zylis and Lemke wrote an extremely violent reply, in which Lemke boasted that aside from the doctrine of church discipline he differed from Menno in three or four additional articles, and that he would rather be excommunicated by the Dutch elders than to grant that they were right. Then Menno put the High German preachers under the ban and published his Antwoort aan Zylis and Lemmeken, in which he repudiated brotherhood with them. Nothing more is known of Lemke.

In a letter found in van Braght's Martyrs' Mirror (D 329, E 690) written by Matthias Servaes  to Heinrich Krufft, Servaes warns him of a brother named "L." If this brother is Elder Lemken, as Bax supposes, he was still living in 1565.


Bax W.Het Protestantisme in het Bisdom Luik 1. The Hague, 1937: 142, 302.

Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doopsgesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, 1685: II, 329.

Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only upon Confession of Faith and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus Their Saviour . . . to the Year A.D. 1660. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1951: 690. Available online at: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/index.htm.

Cramer, Samuel and Fredrik Pijper. Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1903-1914: VII, 56, 61, 87, 207, 222.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1890): 55, 61; (1894): 36 f., 42, 44 f., 51 f., 58, 60 f.  

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 637.

Krahn, Cornelius. Menno Simons. Karlsruhe, 1936: 94-97.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de Zestiende Eeuw. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink, 1932: I, 323-25, 327

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

Author(s) Christian Neff
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Neff, Christian. "Lemke (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 25 Jul 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lemke_(16th_century)&oldid=145699.

APA style

Neff, Christian. (1957). Lemke (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 July 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lemke_(16th_century)&oldid=145699.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 320. All rights reserved.

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