The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Jul 24, 2017

Trying to Solve a Canonical Mystery: The Anabaptists and Wisdom of Solomon

Though the connection between German, Swiss, and Dutch Anabaptists and the 16th-17th century English Separatist Baptists is not quite crystal clear, most of us who definitely trace our lineage to the latter also see some kind of affinity to the former (who, after all, taught believer's baptism, the authority of Scripture alone, and separation of church and state). Consequently, I'm excited that for the first time in my life I'm doing serious research on the Anabaptists in preparation for presenting a paper at the Bible Faculty Summit.

I am actually trying to solve a mystery that's been bothering me for about 9 years! In 2008, my first full class for the ph.d. at Southeastern was "NT Canon" with L. Scott Kellum. In the process of writing my paper (on a more-or-less unrelated subject), I noticed that the Anabaptists actually continued to quote from the Apocrypha while their "colleagues" from the "less-radical" Reformation had long left the Apocrypha in the dust.  This is not sporadic, either; the Apocrypha seems to be quoted as Scripture across quite a broad swath of Anabaptist characters, not just the main players, but also many of the lesser known characters that were martyred or at least imprisoned. For the former, see for example Conrad Grebel, his "Letter to M√ľntzer" (Zurich, September 5, 1524), where he argues that children below the age of accountability are saved and makes his defense "on the basis of the following Scriptures," followed by a list that includes Wisdom 12 (by which he means Wisdom 12:19). For the latter, Lenart Plovier (1560), in "A Testament," uses the formula "it is written" to introduce a direct quote of Wisdom 11:1. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Quoting Apocrypha as Scripture was quite common for the Anabaptists.

So what's with this canonical anomaly? So far I've only come across one other article anywhere on the topic (and it was on the Anabaptists and 4 Esdras), so this seems like an fruitful avenue of research. I have a theory, which will be tested today as I research at the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College.


  1. Could you post your conclusions?

    1. Hi, David, good to hear from you!
      Based on my research and feedback from the Bible Faculty Summit, I kind of think it was a combination of factors.
      First and foremost was their hermeneutic, which was both very Christ-centered (i.e., how does the OT or whatever speak of Christ; ironically the Anabaptists added to the Canon for exactly the same reason Luther was subtracting from the Canon) and sort of touchy-feely (which isn't all bad, of course), i.e., "how does this text speak to me in the midst of my persecution by others"? So Wisdom of Solomon, for example, is cited mostly for its Christological value and for what it says about the persecution and ultimate vindication of others. I think along with that is the fact that they didn't have the opportunity (due to persecution) to develop a real "Biblical Theology"--they were heavy prooftexters.
      That's the main one: Hermeneutics. I'm still thinking through some other factors, like their desire to be different from the Protestants of the Magisterial Reformation, etc.
      At the end of the day, we owe a lot to the Anabaptists (like our ecclesiology, separation of church and state, etc.), but we still need to be honest with ourselves when we examine their heritage: respectful critical examination, understanding that the fact they were being persecuted by other so-called Christians probably explains a lot.