Monday, February 9, 2015

Anna Jansz and the Sheep and Goats parable (part 1)

The Ausbund
As victims of persecution and ostracism themselves, Anabaptists could identify with the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:31-46). Like Jesus’ parable, Anna’s moving testament to her son focuses on where the kingdom is found—among the poor and those despised by the world—and how a person of faith should act in order to be a member of that kingdom:
See, my son, this way has no retreats; there are no roundabout or crooked little paths; whosoever departs to the right or to the left, inherits death: Behold, this is the way which is found by so few, and walked by a still far smaller number; for there are some who well perceive that this is the way to life; but it is too severe for them; it pains their flesh . . . . But where you hear of a poor, simple, cast-off little flock (Luke 12:32), which is despised and rejected, by the world, join them; for where you hear of the cross, there is Christ; from there do not depart. Flee the shadow of this world; become united with God; fear Him alone, keep His commandments, observe all His words, to do them; write them upon the table of your heart, bind them upon your forehead . . . . Whatever you do, do it all to the praise of His name. Honor the Lord in the works of your hands, and let the light of the Gospel shine through you. Love your neighbor. Deal with an open; warm heart thy bread to the hungry, clothe the naked, and suffer not to have anything twofold; for there are always some who lack (Matt. 26:11). Whatever the Lord grants you from the sweat of your face, above what you need, communicate to those of whom you know that they love the Lord (Genesis 3:19; Ps. 112:9); and suffer nothing to remain in your possession until the morrow, and the Lord shall bless the work of your hands, and give you His blessing for an inheritance (Deut. 28:12) (
Another development in the tradition occurred in the 1670 edition of Het Offer des Heeren: the testament was reworked by an anonymous poet into a song of fourteen stanzas. Finally, an even more expanded version of the song—in German with twenty-two stanzas—was published in the 1583 German Ausbund, the oldest Anabaptist hymnal (first published in 1564). The hymn shows how the tradition developed—it even gives the incorrect year for her martyrdom—into a martyrology that domesticated the apocalyptic elements and helped edify the faithful and foster their “sense of history and identity” (Snyder and Hecht 1996: 342).   

The song is the 18th Hymn in the Ausbund, and it is sung to the tune of “Come Here to Me, says God’s Son.” The next post will discuss the developments of that song and elements in it.

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