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THE ANABAPTIST STORY. AN INTRODUCTION TO SIXTEENTH-CENTURY ANABAPTISM
BY WILLIAM R. ESTEP
SUBMITTED TO DR. STEVEN GUEST
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COMPLETION OF CHHI 525B,
DECEMBER 2, 2010
In the book, The Anabaptist Storv, by William R Estep, the author takes the position that
indeed the movement oI the Anabaptists was not iust another part oI the ReIormation, but was a
movement that Iorever shaped evangelical Christianity. The author takes the stance that
Anabaptist oI the 16
Century have been seen in the wrong light and that no other group has
been more uniustly iudged (1). Estep was one oI Iour oI the Ioremost authorities on the
Anabaptist movement. He taught Church History Ior Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Irom 1954 until he retired in 1990. He still continued to teach Ior another Iour years Iollowing
The position oI this review is to show that Estep is correct in his position that the
Anabaptists have been unIairly iudged as heretics and this is a book that every church historian
should have when it comes to understanding the 16
The Iirst seven chapters oI the book describe the history oI how Anabaptists` came into
existence. One oI the greatest strengths oI this book is that Estep goes into great detail explaining
the background oI the Anabaptists, not only Iocusing upon the maior people oI the movement but
some oI the lesser known ones like WolIgang Ulimann and Hans Neidermaier (74). The book
depicts the Iounders oI Anabaptism in great detail in chapter 1. Estep shows the inIluence that
Zwingli had on the early brethren (12) and how it was this inIluence that caused the separation oI
the three men Irom Zwingli (15-17).
Another huge emphasis that the author places in this book is what he reIers to as the
hallmark oI the Anabaptist Iaith: martyrdom (57). He uses chapters 2 and 3 to draw the
distinctions between Anabaptists and the other reIormers. Estep shows that it was Zwingli`s
Obituary, 'Baptist Standard,¨ Baptist Standard,
http://www.baptiststandard.com/2000/724/pages/estep.html (accessed December 2, 2010).
hesitation in Zurich concerning the Mass that caused these early Swiss Brethren to depart Irom
In chapters 8-11, the author deals with speciIic doctrine oI the Anabaptists. He deals with
the issue oI why the Anabaptists were considered heretics (178). Estep deals with the issues oI
Solo Scriptura and JustiIication by Faith showing that the Anabaptists have always believed in
these two points even to the point oI standing against inIant baptism (197). He shows that the
Anabaptists were simply dealing with the inconsistency they perceived between Luther`s stance
upon Iaith alone and his support oI inIant baptism. The Anabaptists were simply taking the
teachings oI Luther to the next level. They truly saw a problem with the church and state
relationship. Each time they were in conIlict they chose the church over the state. Estep shows
the connection that Anabaptist`s saw between baptism and discipleship. Estep does this by
detailing the writings and debates oI Balthasar Hubmaier (207). Estep concludes the book by
showing the inIluence that the Anabaptist`s had upon the early Baptists.
One oI the strongest Ieatures oI this book is the detail that Estep goes into and the amount
oI Iootnoting that he includes. He not only details the events but allows the reader to do Iurther
study on the issue by comprehensive Iootnotes. An example oI this can be seen in the discussion
on the Iounder oI Anabaptists (38). Another example oI this can be seen in his dealings with the
Schleitheim ConIession (66). Throughout the book Estep gives detailed accounts in the text and
Iootnotes. One issue that I have with this book was Iound in the last chapter where the author
seems to place Anabaptism and the Anabaptists upon a pedestal in the statement 'Rather it is the
prized possession oI every Iree society oI the twentieth century world¨ (305). This statement is
certainly open to debate among scholars and laymen alike.
This reviewer would say that the
Anabaptist` have had proIound impact upon the twentieth century, but every Iree society does
not owe the Anabaptists Ior that Ireedom. There are other Iactors that have had their impact upon
Ireedom and again this reviewer would see the Anabaptists as an example oI the cost oI Ireedom
oI religion but simply not the sole cause. Another issue that this reviewer and others have seen as
a problem is that Estep Iails to deal with the radical movement oI Anabaptists.
It would have
added to the book had Estep dealt with some oI the more radical Iactions, but this reviewer
would say that Estep lost perspective because he did not include it.
This book by Estep is a well thought through and one that indeed has many reIerences
and explanations behind the Anabaptists. As was pointed out in the summary, the detail alone
that the author uses to explain the movement coupled with the extensive Iootnotes and
bibliography make this book a great resource. It is the reviewer`s opinion that this book would
make a great addition to any pastor`s or scholar`s library.
Walter Klassen, 'The Anabaptist Story,¨ Mennonite Quarterlv 42, no. 2 (1968): 156-57.
Everett Ferguson, 'The Anabaptist Story,¨ Restoration Quarterlv 21, no. 2 (1978): 123-24.
Estep, William Roscoe. The Anabaptist Storv. An Introduction to Sixteenth-Centurv Anabaptism.
3 Rev Sub ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996.
Ferguson, Everett. 'The Anabaptist Story.¨ Restoration Quarterlv 21, no. 2 (1978): 123-24.
Klassen, Walter. 'The Anabaptist Story.¨ Mennonite Quarterlv 42, no. 2 (1968): 156-57.
Obituary. "Baptist Standard." Baptist Standard.
http://www.baptiststandard.com/2000/724/pages/estep.html (accessed December 2,