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1957 Article

Nazarene is the name of a Christian denomination founded about 1840 in Hungary, whose adherents also called themselves "Disciples of Christ" and "Believers in Christ." The origin of the name Nazarenes can no longer be ascertained. Although the first men of the group were John Denkel and John Kropatchek, who were converted and baptized by Samuel Fröhlich in Zürich in the summer of 1839, Louis Hencsey can be considered as the real founder of this religious movement. He was baptized 8 May 1840 at Hauptwyl, canton of Thurgau, Switzerland. What he received here by way of religious life he proclaimed with fiery zeal in his native Hungary, and soon won numerous adherents. When he died in 1844 his brother and other gifted men like Joseph Bela and Stephan Kalmar continued his work. Kalmar founded the most influential Nazarene congregation in Pacser. The Nazarene group is identical with the Apostolic Christian Church. It has no connection with the Church of the Nazarene in the United States.

The Nazarene doctrine is simple. The Bible is their only and absolute norm of religious knowledge. The reading of the Scriptures is considered an unquestioned duty; fulfilling its commands is the way of salvation. The principal command is to bear the cross for Christ's sake, and to practice self-denial and love. Absolute nonresistance, patient bearing of all insults, rejection of military service and the oath, and abstention from cursing, are among their principles. They baptize by immersion after the age of 18 years. The offices of the church consist of bishops, who draw no salary but depend entirely on voluntary offerings, evangelists, presbyters, teachers, singers, managers whose duty is to take care of the material aspects of church life, secretaries, and deacons who have charge of the care of the poor. On all of these points they are very close to the Mennonites. Direct contacts can, however, not be shown.

In 1848-78 the Nazarenes suffered severe persecution in Hungary. Since 1895 they have been tolerated in principle, although they were never granted exemption from military service and their young men were constantly sent to prison. Strife within the brotherhood led to its decline. In 1935 they numbered about 25,000 members. Their chief location was formerly near Szegedin in South Hungary, but they were also found in Transylvania, Austria, Yugoslavia, and Rumania. A few came to the United States locating in Ohio. Bela himself came to America in 1850. Information concerning their status in 1956 was not available. -- Christian Neff, Harold S. Bender

1990 Update

Following World War II many Nazarenes left Eastern Europe for Germany, Austria, North America, Brazil, Argentina, and Australia. Military service continued to be required in all European lands. Those who refused military service served long prison sentences. During the 1980s the Nazarenes in Hungary were given the possibility of civilian alternative service. In Romania worship services are discouraged by the authorities. In 1986 there were ca. 7,000 Nazarene members in Romania, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. Of these ca. 3,000 were in Hungary, ca. 3,000 in Yugoslavia and ca. 800-1,000 members in Romania. -- Bernhard Ott, Albert Märki

See also Apostolic Christian Church


Brock, Peter "19th century Nazarenes in Hungary." Mennonite Quarterly Review 54 (1980): 53-63; vol. 57 (1983): 64-72.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1891): 67; (1904): 160 ff.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 201.

Mennonitische Blätter (1903): 55, where interesting letters are mentioned.

Nazarenes in Jugoslavia. Syracuse, 1928. This is the English edition of a booklet prepared by C. Stäubli of Pfäfflikon-Zürich in March 1928, telling of the persecution of the Nazarenes in Yugoslavia in 1924-28 because of their refusal to accept military service.

Ruegger, Hermann Sr. Apostolic Christian Church History I. Chicago 1949. This is the English edition of his Die Evangelisch Taufgesinnten. Zürich, 1948.

Schwalm, G. Jahrbücher fur protestantische Theologie. (1890).

Author(s) Christian, Harold S. Bender, Bernhard Ott Neff
Albert Märki
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Neff, Christian, Harold S. Bender, Bernhard Ott and Albert Märki. "Nazarenes." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 16 Jul 2024.

APA style

Neff, Christian, Harold S. Bender, Bernhard Ott and Albert Märki. (1987). Nazarenes. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 July 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 815; vol. 5, p. 621. All rights reserved.

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