Pilgram Marpeck and his Swiss Brethren Connection

Most that knows me or had conversations with me regarding my Anabaptist studies know that I primarily focus on the 16th century Swiss Brethren and the Hutterites more so than any other group classified as Anabaptists. Depending on the subject, it is sometimes problematic to find any material where these assemblies discussed certain issues. This is especially true concerning the Swiss Brethren because (1) they did not even desire to address the matter because they were more interested in applying Christianity than reflecting on theological categories than Rome and Protestantism. (2) Their material is episodic for the reason that many things are just lost to time. (3) The documents exist in German since I do not read and or write in German and no English translations exist as of yet thus I cannot possibly access it. (4) I simply cannot afford the work at this time so I have to wait until I am able to amass the necessary funds nor can I find the material online anywhere.

However, something has come to my attention recently that could assist me in filling in some of the blanks as it where regarding my study into the beliefs of the Swiss Brethren in addition to those that for the most part held the same beliefs as with the Hutterian Brethren. This apparent source of information is found in Pilgram Marpeck (ca. 1495-1556). When I first began to delve into Anabaptistica I never really paid attention to him due to the fact that when I first encountered the Swiss Brethren I was drawn to them immediately. It was not until recently I saw the intimate connection the Hutterites had with them and now it has come to my attention that Marpeck and later his Circle (a group of like-minded Anabaptists in which Marpeck collaborated on many writings) paralleled the Swiss Brethren in belief.

In times past it was felt by Anabaptist scholars that Marpeck did not have any connection with the Swiss Brethren because of some epistles he “wrote to the Swiss Brethren at Appenzell distancing himself from the rule-based legalism and literalistic interpretations of Scripture that he had apparently witnessed there”.[1]  His disagreement with the Swiss Brethren related to their use of the “ban” and by extension, he also contended with the Hutterites regarding their communitarian practices. He felt that the Swiss employed the ban too frequently and the Hutterites was too coercive in their insistence that all who joins them relinquish all their material belongings. Yet even light of that Marpeck’s differences with those groups especially the Swiss Brethren was comparatively small, “Marpeck’s letters critical of the Swiss Brethren at Appenzell were fraternal admonitions intended as correctives within a theological tradition that he himself largely shared.”[2]

Regarding themes such as “adult baptism, the visible church, nonresistance, church discipline, and the role of pastors or shepherds, Marpeck’s thought was fully consistent with the central themes on Swiss Brethren theology. To be sure, Marpeck is virtually silent on the oath and somewhat equivocal about the church dualism that was so prominent in early Swiss Anabaptism.”[3] In the end, he felt that the Swiss Brethren were his treasured brothers and sisters. It is also believed the “Pilgramites” that is those that followed Marpeck was eventually merged with the Swiss Brethren sometime after 1556 following Marpeck’s death.

In light of this, I have a new source that I need to take advantage of even though the price of the English translations of Marpeck and his Circle’s writing can get pricey. The following is the works that I am going to attempt to purchase sometime in the near future.




[1] Stayer et al., A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism, 1521-1700, ed. John D. Roth and James M. Stayer (Boston: Brill, 2007), 362.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 362-3.


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