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By Eerdmans / 1996–1998/
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Five centuries ago the Anabaptist movement was launched with the inauguration of believer’s baptism (as opposed to infant baptism) and the formation of the first congregation of the Swiss Brethren in Zurich, Switzerland. They emphasized piety, good works, and nonviolence, and had a strong aversion to state-run churches. Although they were part of the Reformation movement, they would come to experience severe persecution not only from the Roman Catholic Church, but from their fellow Protestants. Believing that they must work out their salvation in fear and trembling, the Anabaptists attempted to commit their communal living to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. They emphasized peaceful living, justice making, and the voluntary sharing of goods. Judged unfairly through several centuries, misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented, ignored and, of course, persecuted, William Estep believes the Anabaptists deserve a fresh look. Abraham Friesen has used the latest research to promote the idea that Erasmus and his famous paraphrase of Christ’s Great Commission were instrumental in establishing early Anabaptist thought. Today we know the Anabaptists primarily as the Amish, Mennonites and the Church of the Brethren.