Few figures have generated more scholarly attention among historians of Anabaptism in the past twenty years than the Swiss/South German theologian and civil engineer Pilgram Marpeck (c1495-1556). Although he never established an enduring movement that bore his name, Marpeck's rich legacy of theological writings helped to shape the trajectory of the Swiss Brethren church during the second half of the sixteenth century. His writings on baptism, hermeneutics, the Incarnation, pacifism and the Lord's Supper offered German-speaking Anabaptists-many of them self-educated-a sophisticated theological framework that informed both their debates with magisterial authorities and ongoing conversations within the movement. Above all, Marpeck seemed to offer Anabaptists in the late sixteenth century a via media between literalist and spiritualist readings of scripture, between a perfectionist ethic and subjective individualism, between a concern for civil order and the peace witness of the gathered church. Despite the somewhat convoluted-and occasionally self-contradictory-nature of his arguments, Marpeck also seems to offer contemporary Anabaptist-Mennonites a theological perspective relevant to the concerns of our own day. The discovery, and subsequent translation, of many of Marpeck's writings in the past several decades has only enhanced his reputation.
The four essays on Pilgram Marpeck that make up the heart of this issue were first presented at the conference "Pilgram Marpeck: From Strasbourg to New York," a gathering held in New York City on June 7-8, 2002, that sought to explore the implications of Marpeck's thought for contemporary theological and social issues.
William Klassen, perhaps the most prolific author on Marpeck and his theology, opens the issue with a historiographical review of Marpeck scholarship. Klassen's essay serves as a useful introduction to Marpeck's writings and their scholarly reception. His concluding bibliographies offer newcomers to the field a convenient entre into the literature. Neal Blough follows with an article that demonstrates the relevance of Marpeck's theology for current ecumenical conversations, especially with Catholics. Blough notes parallels between Marpeck's understanding of the Incarnation and Catholic understandings of the church as a "sign" or a "sacrament." He concludes by extending the comparison to the recent work of John Milbank, highlighting especially how Marpeck's ecclesiology can anchor a nonviolent ethic in a postmodern context. Thomas Finger follows with a detailed analysis of Marpeck's view of the atonement, demonstrating many similarities between Marpeck's understandings and the Christus Victor model of the atonement that has gained a significant hearing among contemporary theologians. Finally, Steven Siebert offers readers a critique of Marpeck's theology based on a fresh reading of his extant writings. Siebert affirms Marpeck's creative, provocative challenge to both Spiritualism and rationalism, but argues that, in the end, Marpeck reintroduces many of the same problems-e.g., essentialism; disembodied forms of rationalism; a rejection of Jews for their "carnality"-that he sought to reject.
In the following essay, Urs Leu, director of the rare books division at the Zentralbibliothek of Zurich, has transcribed and edited a 1535 memorandum by the Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger on how civil authorities-specifically the city council of Zurich-should deal with the Anabaptists. Written as a response to the Anabaptist threat in the wake of the debacle at Mnster, the document offers a fascinating point of comparison with a similar memorandum composed by Philip Melanchthon at the request of Landgrave Philip of Hesse (reprinted in MQR 76 [July 2002], 315-335). Leu's extensive analysis provides a helpful context for understanding this little known document.
Public fascination with the revolutionary impulses within the Anabaptist movement continues unabated. In this issue Jacob Jost reviews a recent novel titled Q that traces the tumultuous history of the Radical Reformation from the dual perspectives of an Anabaptist sympathizer and his nemesis, a spy in the service of the counter-reformer Giovanni Pietro Carafa. The book-written by an anonymous team of four Italian anarchists-is intended as a morality tale on the perils of globalization and the universal authority exerted by consumer capitalism.
This issue also marks a number of important transitions in our MQR staff. The preceding "In Memoriam" recognizes the recent passing of J. Howard Kauffman, stalwart friend of MQR and supporter of the Mennonite Historical Society for some 56 years. During much of the past half-century, Howard has served as the treasurer of both the Society and the journal. We will miss his good cheer and steady competence. We also welcome Steve Nolt, professor of history at Goshen College, as our new Book Review Editor. Nolt replaces Tom Meyers who served ably in that position as a volunteer for nearly a decade. As noted in the October issue, Ervin Beck recently retired from his position as MQR copy editor. I am pleased to welcome Duane Stoltzfus, professor of communication at Goshen College, into this role. Both Nolt and Stoltzfus bring a wealth of experience and expertise to their positions; I am grateful to count them among my colleagues.
- John D. Roth, editor