Obbenites

A 16th-century Anabaptist group, known for its early contributions to the Mennonite tradition and connections to Menno Simons.


Obbenites were a member of an Anabaptist group that arose in the 16th century, closely related to the broader Mennonite movement. The term ‘Obbenites’ comes from the name Obbe Philipszoon, a Dutch religious leader prominent in the 16th century. The group, while relatively obscure, played a significant role in the early development of Anabaptist theology and practices.

Origins and Early History

The Anabaptist movement, to which the Obbenites belonged, emerged as part of the broader Protestant Reformation. Anabaptists distinguished themselves from other reform movements with their radical approach to baptism and church-state separation. Unlike mainstream Protestantism, which practiced infant baptism, Anabaptists insisted on adult baptism, arguing that baptism should be a conscious choice made by individuals old enough to understand its significance. This stance often put them at odds with both Catholic and Protestant authorities.

The Obbenites, specifically, formed part of this broader Anabaptist tradition. They are named after Obbe Philipszoon, an influential figure in early Anabaptism. Philipszoon, a Dutchman, initially followed the Catholic faith but later converted to Anabaptism, becoming one of its early leaders. He played a crucial role in shaping the doctrines and practices of the group that bore his name.

Beliefs and Practices

The core beliefs of the Obbenites centered around key Anabaptist principles, particularly adult baptism and non-resistance. Adult or believer’s baptism was a hallmark of their faith, signifying a voluntary commitment to Christian life and rejection of infant baptism, which they viewed as non-Biblical. This practice reflected their emphasis on personal faith and conscious choice in religious matters.

Non-resistance, another central tenet, meant that the Obbenites, like many Anabaptists, refused to participate in military service or engage in any form of violence. This principle extended to a rejection of taking oaths and participating in government, stemming from their belief in the separation of church and state and the view that earthly authorities should not override spiritual convictions.

Relationship with Menno Simons and the Mennonite Movement

Menno Simons, a former Catholic priest who became a key Anabaptist leader, is closely associated with the Obbenites. In 1536, Simons united with the Obbenites, significantly influencing their development. Under Simons’ leadership, the group returned to the original Anabaptist principles as practiced in Zurich, focusing on the restoration of an apostolic congregation as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. This association led to the followers of Simons, including the Obbenites, being called Mennists or Mennonites, a term that eventually evolved into the modern-day Mennonite denomination.

The Mennonites, as spiritual descendants of the Obbenites and other Anabaptist groups, continued to uphold key doctrines such as adult baptism, non-resistance, and simplicity in worship and lifestyle. These beliefs were manifest in various practices like plain dress, rejection of oaths, and a focus on community and mutual aid, elements that remain characteristic of many Mennonite communities today.

Persecution and Legacy

The Obbenites, like other Anabaptist groups, faced severe persecution throughout their existence. Their rejection of infant baptism and refusal to bear arms or swear oaths were seen as radical and threatening to both religious and secular authorities. This persecution often led to martyrdom, with many Anabaptists, including Obbenites, paying the ultimate price for their beliefs.

Despite the challenges, the legacy of the Obbenites lives on, primarily through the Mennonite tradition. Their emphasis on voluntary faith, community, and non-violence has had a lasting impact on Christian theology and practice, influencing not only Mennonites but also other Christian groups that emphasize pacifism and believers’ baptism.