James Beck opens this issue of The Mennonite Quarterly Review with an investigation into the Jewish roots of the Worms Prophets (Wormser Propheten)-a 1527 German translation of the Old Testament Prophets by Ludwig Hätzer and Hans Denck. Already in 1530 Martin Luther claimed that H„tzer and Denck's text betrayed a heavy Jewish influence; but to date no careful textual study has been done to assess that argument. In his essay, Beck concludes that the two Anabaptist scholars did indeed draw heavily on the expertise of local rabbis and on the rabbinic tradition in their work. The result was a translation more linguistically precise than anything previous and a work that muted Christological themes traditionally emphasized in scholarship on the prophetic literature of the Old Testament.
The standard reading of sixteenth-century Anabaptism has typically highlighted the stalwart, even stubborn, character of its early adherents. Yet Anabaptism in later centuries frequently proved itself capable of considerable flexibility and adaptation, particularly when confronted with relentless pressure from authorities in the form of interrogations, beatings, imprisonment, fines, expulsions and execution. Based on his systematic work in Swiss archival sources, independent scholar Mark Furner has identified a creative range of responses by the Swiss Brethren in the Emmental to the efforts of Bernese authorities to eradicate them in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In a previous MQR article (October, 1997) historian John Oyer opened up the question of Nicodemism among the Anabaptists in Württemberg. Here Furner takes the theme a step further by outlining in detail various strategies employed by the Swiss Brethren in their struggle for survival in the Emmental. We have chosen to retain large blocks of archival transcriptions in the footnotes of Furner's article, thereby giving readers a clearer sense of the source materials that form the basis for his rich descriptions of Swiss Brethren life.
In a somewhat related vein, historians Michaela Schmölz-Häberlein and Mark Häberlein of Freiburg, Germany probe local archival records to reveal new insights about Amish Mennonites living in the upper Rhine territory of Baden-Durlach in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In a pattern repeated throughout southwestern Germany, descendents of the Anabaptists found refuge in isolated hamlets and estates of the margravate largely because they had gained a reputation for being skillful and productive farmers. The price of their economic success, however, often came in the form of resentment by local guilds, corporations and villagers who resisted them less as religious deviants than as unwelcome economic competitors. In their essay, the Häberlein's track the influx of Amish Mennonite families into the region during the course of the eighteenth century and offer new insights into the mobility of various Anabaptist groups during the early modern era.
A great deal has been written about the attitudes of the major Protestant reformers vis-a-vis the Anabaptists during the opening decades of the sixteenth century. The positions of such luminaries as Luther, Melancthon, Bucer, Zwingli, Bullinger and Calvin are now relatively well-established. But very little has been published, by contrast, on the thought of the Scottish reformer John Knox in regards to the radical reformation. In this issue, historian Richard G. Kyle takes up that challenge. In his essay, Kyle reviews the various encounters Knox had with Anabaptists-most of them rather indirect-and summarizes the theological substance of his polemical writings against them.
Finally, we conclude the issue with a research note by John Derksen and an interesting range of book reviews. Derksen, who has written several earlier essays for MQR on the Anabaptists in Strasbourg, highlights the importance of the villages surrounding the city as a safe haven for religious dissidents when political and religious pressures in the city of Strasbourg became too intense. The book reviews that follow offer a sampling of the many rich and eclectic directions Anabaptist-Mennonite scholarship continues to take in the opening years of the twenty-first century.
We trust that this issue of MQR will offer something of interest to all of our readers.
- John D. Roth, editor