Anabaptists

Greek: ana, again; baptizo, baptize: rebaptizers

A Protestant sect of the Reformation period which appeared in 1521 at Zwickau. The principal tenets were:

(1) rejection of baptism of infants as unscriptural, and its restriction to adults as a sign of Christian belief;

(2) restoration of what they considered primitive Christianity, abolition of capital punishment, oaths, and the magistracy;

(3) scripture as a rule of faith;

(4) foundation of a new kingdom of God on communistic grounds.

They were of two types, the sober or moderate and the fanatical type. The former originated in Zwingli’s reformation in Switzerland, when a portion of his followers at Zurich seceded in 1522. The civil authorities compelled them to have their children baptized under penalty of banishment, and their meetings were prohibited. The moderates flourished in the Netherlands and adopted their new name, Mennonites, from a former Catholic priest, Menno Simonis, who assumed their leadership. The fanatical Anabaptists were active in Saxony, Thuringia, and other parts of Germany, and were the so-called “Zwickau Prophets.” Luther drove them from Wittenberg, but their leader, Storch, continued his propaganda, particularly in Thuringia where he was one of the principal legislators of the Peasants’ War. Their later excesses, communism, polygamy, community of women, led to their suppression in 1535. The Anabaptist tenets regarding infant baptism were adopted by the Baptists, the lineal descendants of the sober Anabaptists.