Theunisz, Jan (ca. 1569-1637?)

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Jan Theunisz (Tonissen, Anthonisz), who called himself also Joannes Antonides, a Dutch Mennonite, born at Alkmaar ca. 1569, died 1637(?) at Amsterdam. This highly gifted but turbulent man is one of the most remarkable personalities among the Dutch Mennonites. With his fiery eyes, his protruding nose, and his long beard reaching to his belt he was a conspicuous figure. He married four times: first to N. N., then to Metgen Claesd., thereupon (1603) to Trijntgen Adriaans van Alckmaer, and finally (1612) to Swaentien Hillebrants of Amsterdam. At first a thread twister, he settled at Leiden as a book printer ca. 1599, at the same time operating a bookshop, which was transferred to Amsterdam in 1604, where he soon added his own type foundry. From 1606 he also ran a well-known inn, called "D'os in de Bruyloft," also called "de Menniste Bruiloft" (wedding-party). This inn was an unusual place; it was provided with many curiosities and objects of art; musical performances were given there, attended by the upper ten of Amsterdam; among the regular visitors were Joost van den Vondel and the Waterlander preachers Wybrandsz, Hesseling, and Anslo. Another business of this man was the distilling and sale of brandy. But first and foremost Jan Theunisz was a man of learning. Though a self-made man, he knew many languages, not only German and French, and probably also English, but also Latin and Greek, and even Hebrew, Arabic, and Ethiopian. Among the books he printed and published were Verscheyden Schriftuerlijcke Liedekens (Scriptural hymns) (1603), a book by the Flemish Elder Claes Claesz, a number of books by Coornhert, Coolhaas, and other liberal theologians, a kind of newspaper, but also books which he translated from the Hebrew, the first in this language ever published in the Netherlands. The pamphlets and poems he wrote were usually anonymous, bearing the devices "Jaecht nae't Beste" (Strive for the best) or "een liefhebber der waerheyt" (a friend of the truth). In 1612 he was appointed professor of Arabic at the Leiden University, but already in 1613 he had to give up his professorship because it was considered improper to tolerate a Mennonite in the university; in 1617-26 he taught Hebrew at the "Duytse Academie" at Amsterdam.

Jan Theunisz was a member of the Amsterdam Waterlander congregation, but he was a troublesome member and the church board had much to do with him. In 1612 he was censured for some unknown dissension; again in 1613 because he had offended his brother-in-law contrary to 1 Corinthians 6:4, 6; in 1615 because of a quarrel with his wife. But this was only a prologue to what followed: from 1621, when a conflict arose in the congregation between Nittert Obbes and the other preachers, Theunisz sided with Obbes. He published the polemic drawn up by Obbes, gave it the offensive title of Raegh-besem (1625). On 21 December 1625, Jan Theunisz disturbed the communion service in the Waterlander "Groote Spijker" meetinghouse, causing much offense by his foolish conduct; thereupon he was banned (25 January 1626). He attacked the Amsterdam preachers in a number of pamphlets, and also the Waterlander leader Hans de Ries, who defended them against Obbes. Among these publications were Der Hanssijtsche Mennisten Socinianismus, and Der Hanssijtsche Menniste Gheest-drijveren Historie, both in 1627 at Amsterdam. On 17 December 1634, Theunisz became reconciled with the church, confessing his guilt "in that he had done wrong in word and with writing."


Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: v. II, Nos. 1206, 1225.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden in Nederland II. 1600-1735 Eerste Helft. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon n.v., 1940, passim.

Wijnman, H. F. "Jan Theunisz alias Joannes Antonides . . . " Jaarboek Amstelodamum XXV (1928): 29-123.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Theunisz, Jan (ca. 1569-1637?)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 29 Nov 2023.,_Jan_(ca._1569-1637%3F)&oldid=123819.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Theunisz, Jan (ca. 1569-1637?). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 November 2023, from,_Jan_(ca._1569-1637%3F)&oldid=123819.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 709-710. All rights reserved.

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