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Marpeck and the later Swiss Brethren, 1540–1700

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Chapter Summary

The rapid growth of the Anabaptist movement during the 1520s and 1530s, combined with the persistent pressures of persecution and a congregationally-oriented ecclesiology, contributed to the somewhat blurred character of Anabaptism in early years of the Reformation. The history of the Swiss Brethren in the second half of sixteenth century is therefore a narrative of identity formation a process that unfolded precisely in the contested space between the Spiritualist option proposed by Franck and the pressures to conform to a uniform public faith advocated by Bullinger. The first known appearance of the term “Swiss Brethren” occurs in a letter from Pilgram Marpeck, likely dating to 1541 or 1542. This chapter traces the emergence of a distinctive ecclesiological identity among Swiss Brethren Anabaptists in the German-speaking regions of the Swiss Confederation, the upper Rhine and the territories of southwest Germany, and the survival and transmission of that identity, between 1540 and 1700.

Keywords: Anabaptist movement; ecclesiological identity; Marpeck; reformation; Spiritualist; Swiss Brethren



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