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Testamenterleütterung (Testament Explanation) Erleütterung durch auszug aus Heiliger Biblischer schrifft/ tail vnd gegentail/ sampt ains tails angehangen beireden/ zu dienst vnnd fürderung ains klaren urtails/ von wegen underschaid Alts vnd News Testaments/ vnnd jre beder Sündtuergebung/ Opffer/ Erlösung/ Gerechtigkait/ Gnad/ Glauben/ Gaist/ Folck unnd anderm so grundtlich/ lautter vnd nutzlich nie ersehen/ genant Testamenterleütterung.

This book of over 800 pages is one of the fascinating Bible concordances which the Anabaptists published. They published topical concordances partly because of their devotion to the Bible and their need for this type of literature, and partly also, no doubt, because an Anabaptist book could not be so easily detected when it was written in the form of a concordance.

The Testamenterleütterung, published sometime between the beginning of 1544 and 6 May 1550, at Augsburg by the printing press of the Marpeck brotherhood, is, however, much more than simply a concordance. As the title indicates it consists of a series of excerpts from the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament (each cited an equal number of times) along with the "tail und gegentail." (These terms are related to debates, and might be translated "affirmative and negative.") In the preface the editor indicates that he will refrain from giving the position of those who insist that the Old and New Testaments are identical and that redemption was present already in the Old Testament. Since that position had received abundant publicity, the Testamenterleütterung tried to present the other side of the argument, and to show that there is a real difference. The plan of the book is simply to take a number of key concepts, such as the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, or peace, and amass Scriptural references to them, first under the heading "Yesterday," then under the heading "Today," then finally a section on "Promised Yesterday." Sometimes a section is also added entitled "Longed for Yesterday." This interesting division of history between yesterday and today, yesterday being defined as before the death and resurrection of Christ, today being defined as after these events, is a result of the Marpeck brotherhood's struggle with three opposing ideologies, (1) the Reformed position on the Old Testament, (2) the spiritualistic tendency to relegate everything to the inner man and thus also wipe out all historical progression, and finally (3) the perversion of power which had taken place upon the fringes of Anabaptism at Münster where the Old Testament was made the standard of life.

Four reasons motivated the writing of this book. First, the author wished to refute the commonly held opinion that Christ's suffering worked retroactively into the Old Testament period. To hold such a position is to deny the commonly accepted assertion in the Apostles' Creed that Christ descended into hell, for there would have been no need for Christ to proclaim redemption to the patriarchs if they had already had all the gifts of salvation. Secondly, the suffering and resurrection of Christ is slandered if it is projected into the Old Testament. Thirdly, since the New Testament is clear on the point that redemption came only through Christ, to be vague on the distinction between the Old and New Testaments means to lessen the authority of the Scripture and to imply that it contradicts itself. Fourthly, through a confusion of the relation of the two Testaments earthly power is perverted from its rightful use and used against God's divine purpose.

The abundant use made of this book by the writers of the Verantwortung as well as the testimony of Jorg Seifried at Augsburg in May 1550 indicates that the Testamenterleütterung was written by Marpeck and his associates. The preface begs the reader not to be too concerned about the author, and if the "Beireden" (explanations) do not suit him, to read only the Scripture passages. Gerhard Hein has suggested that Leupold Scharnschlager is primarily responsible for the book.

The influence of the Testamenterleütterung is seen by two references in 16th-century literature. Jacob Andrea warns his hearers of the Anabaptist book Today and Yesterday in his sermons at Esslingen, Württemberg (printed 1568). According to Jan Kiwiet a reference to it also occurs in Andreas Ambergius' Disputatio contra Anabaptistarum errores (Wittenberg, 1598), folio A 2. Within the Anabaptist brotherhood it is difficult not to see its influence in the Frankenthal disputation, where many days were spent on this precise subject of the relation of the Old and New Testaments. The Testamenterleütterung represents the finest attempt on the part of the Anabaptists to define the relationship of the Old and New Testaments without injustice to either. It is a monument to a brilliant attempt to arrive at a Biblical theology.

A number of copies of his concordance have survived to modern times. There are copies at Herzog-August-Bibliothek (Wolfenbüttel), Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin), Franckesche Stiftungen Bibliothek (Halle/Saale), Bibliotheks- und Medienzentrum Nordelbien (Hamburg), Bayrische Staatsbibliothek (Munich), Württembergische Landesbibliothek (Stuttgart) and in the Zürich Zentralbibliothek.


Andrea, Jacob. Drey und dreissig Predigen Von den furnemsten Spaltungen in der christlichen Religion. Tübingen, 1568: Part 4, Sermon 5, p. 101 ff.

Bergsten, Torsten. "Pilgram Marbecks Auseinandersetzung mit Kaspar Schwenckfeld." Kyrkohistorisk Arsskrift (1957 and 1958).

Kiwiet, Jan J. Pilgram Marbeck . . . Kassel, 1957: 77-80.

Loserth, Johann. Edited, edition "Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte des oberdeutschen Taüfertums." Vienna and Leipzig, 1929: 579-84 (Preface to Testamenterleütterung).

Wenger, John C. "The Life and Work of Pilgram Marpeck." Mennonite Quarterly Review XII. (1938): 160 ff.

Wiswedel, Wilhelm. "Die Testamenterleüterung." Blätter für Württembergische Kirchengeschichte XLI (1937): 64-76.

Wolff, Hans Heinrich. Die Einheit des Bundes. Das Verhältnis von Altem und Neuem Testament bei Calvin. 1942.

Additional Information

Testamenterleütterung Erleütterung durch auszug aus Heiliger Biblischer schrifft, . . . The copy at the Bayrische Staatsbibliothek is available in full electronic text at http://books.google.ca/books?id=ugM-AAAAcAAJ

Author(s) William Klassen
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Klassen, William. "Testamenterleütterung." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 26 Sep 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Testamenterle%C3%BCtterung&oldid=143458.

APA style

Klassen, William. (1959). Testamenterleütterung. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 September 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Testamenterle%C3%BCtterung&oldid=143458.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 699-700. All rights reserved.

©1996-2022 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.