By AMBS staff
The Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary community celebrated the publication of a new book, Later Writings of the Swiss Anabaptists 1529–1592, edited by C. Arnold Snyder, during a special break on Oct. 26. Snyder was a guest speaker at the event.
Published by Pandora Press, Kitchener, Ontario, the book is volume 13 in the Classics of the Radical Reformation series of the Institute of Mennonite Studies (IMS), the research agency of AMBS in Elkhart, Indiana. It is also volume 4 in the Anabaptist Texts in Translation series of the Institute of Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies, which is part of Conrad Grebel University College (CGUC) in Waterloo, Ontario.
According to Snyder, professor emeritus of history at CGUC, the volume contains a selection of writings that were being copied and circulated among the later Anabaptists in Switzerland. The text that dominates the present collection — both in terms of length and complexity — is the 466-page Codex 628, copied in 1590 and containing a wide sampling of material considered significant by the Swiss Anabaptists at the end of the century.
“With these writings in hand, we can fill in a few new chapters between the first baptisms in Zürich in 1525 and the final expulsion from Switzerland in the 17th century of almost all remaining Anabaptists,” Snyder said.
Snyder first conceived of the idea for the book during a full-year sabbatical from CGUC in 1993–94, during which he spent time in the state archives in Zürich. There he discovered some surviving late 16th-century Anabaptist writings that had not yet been explored at that time. Snyder said he did the first transcriptions of these archival documents in 1994, the translations of which appear in the book.
He also highlighted during the Oct. 26 event that the writings of the later Anabaptists included pleas to magistrates for religious tolerance — even quoting early writings of Martin Luther — in contrast with the early Anabaptists, who had advocated for “an uncompromising separation” from the world and society.
“These later Swiss Anabaptists argued instead that they should be included in society as good citizens who were no threat to the social order, and whose Jesus-centered reading of the Bible should be tolerated, even if it didn’t agree with the Reformed interpretation of Matthew 5,” he said.
He noted that these leaders, when faced with a new political and religious situation in the Swiss Protestant states, “could articulate again the Anabaptist biblical point of view and also could speak against the growing coercion of individual consciences by the state and its churches.”
Jamie Pitts, associate professor of Anabaptist studies at AMBS and IMS director, said he values how the new volume shows that the strict separation outlined by the Schleitheim Brotherly Union in 1527 did not have the last word in Swiss Anabaptist circles.
“Separation remained important to them, but so did positive interactions with their neighbors, which explains in part why they pled for tolerance so often,” he said. “By expanding our understanding of early Swiss Anabaptist theology and practice, the book expands our own repertoire of faithful interaction with our surroundings.”
“I’m especially pleased for the seminary to be involved with the publication of this book through IMS and the Classics of the Radical Reformation series,” Pitts added. “The book facilitates our commitment to telling Anabaptist stories with scholarly rigor and pastoral sensitivity.”
Later Writings of the Swiss Anabaptists 1529–1592 can be purchased by emailing [email protected]. Canadians can purchase it directly from Pandora Press. ISBN: 978-1-926599-57-1. Retail price: $53. 607 pages (paperback).
Founded in 1958, IMS promotes and administers avenues for dialogue, scholarship and publication on topics and issues vital to Mennonite congregations and the Anabaptist faith tradition. To learn more about IMS or see a catalog of IMS books, visit www.ambs.edu/ims.
C. Arnold Snyder shares about the significance of the writings of the later Anabaptists at a special break to celebrate the release of his new book, Later Writings of the Swiss Anabaptists 1529–1592 (Pandora, 2017). The event was held Oct. 26 at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)