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Melchiorites, the followers of Melchior Hoffman after his conversion to Anabaptism in 1530 in Strasbourg, Alsace. Among them baptism was performed as a sign that the adult convert was forsaking the world, the flesh, and the devil, and entering into a covenant with God. Members called themselves "Bundesgenossen" or (Dutch) "Bondgenoten" (Covenanters). Hoffman transplanted the movement to northwest Germany and the Netherlands. There were also some Melchiorites in England. Hoffman's chiliasm and allegorical interpretation of the Bible, particularly the book of Revelation, as well as the prevalent social, political, and religious conditions, were the factors that determined the chiliastic, revolutionary form adopted by the movement after Hoffman's imprisonment in Strasbourg. Basing their view on Revelation they considered it their obligation to set up the kingdom of God and destroy the ungodly. A group of Melchiorites attacked the Oldeklooster monastery near Bolsward, Friesland. Jan van Geelen stormed the Amsterdam city hall on 10 May 1535. With the fall of Münster on 25 June of that year, the radical form of the movement soon lost most of its followers. With Jan van Batenburg, the group of Melchiorites known as "Covenanters of the Sword" disappeared, although there was occasional revolutionary Anabaptist activity until 1544.

But the spirit of the original Bundesgenossen in Strasbourg was not extinct. Such Melchiorites could now be called "Covenanters under the Cross." They had always protested against the radical form of the movement, as early as 1533 when it first appeared. Among them were men like Jan Volkertsz Trypmaker, Jacob van Campen, and Obbe and Dirk Philips . After the catastrophe of Münster it was the special merit of Menno Simons that the peaceful Melchiorites were gathered together and were able to withstand the severe persecution. The earlier names were now replaced by such designations as Obbites, Dirkites, Mennists, and finally Doopsgezinden. It appears that small groups of Melchiorites persisted in Middle Germany as late as 1560 and after.


Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1919): 198 et passim.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 69 f.

Hulshof, Abram. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden te Straatsburg van 1525 tot 1557: Academisch proefschrift . . . .Amsterdam : J. Clausen, drukker van het Amsterdamsch studentencorps, 1905.

Leendertz, Willem. I. Melchior Hofmann. Haarlem : de Erven F. Bohn, 1883.

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

Mellink, Albert F. De Wederdopers in de noordelijke Nederlanden 1531-1544. Groningen: J.B. Wolters, 1954: passim.

Vos, Karel. "Kleine bijdragen over de Dooper-sche beweging in Nederland tot het optreden van Menno Simons." Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1917).

zur Linden, F. O. Melchior Hofmann. Haarlem, 1885.

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius. "Melchiorites." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 28 Feb 2024.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius. (1957). Melchiorites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 February 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 565. All rights reserved.

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