Friday, February 13, 2015

Anna Jansz and the Sheep and Goats parable (part 2)

Ausbund, Hymn 6 (by Felix Manz)

Unfortunately, I could not find a photo of Hymn 18 in the Ausbund, so I included the above photo of Hymn 6. You can read about it here.

The song connected to Anna Jansz and her execution is the 18th Hymn in the Ausbund, and it is sung to the tune of “Come Here to Me, says God’s Son.” The first two stanzas set the stage for Anna’s testament to her son just before her death by noting the joy that parents receive from instructing their children to follow God’s teaching. “Annelein” (i.e., Anna) however, now receives one final chance to instruct her young son Isaiah before she follows “on the path of the prophets” to martyrdom; they all follow the ultimate example of Jesus:

I am going on the path of the prophets,
The martyrs’ and apostles’ way;
There is none better.
They all have drunk from the cup.
Even as did Christ Himself,

As I have heard and read (stanza 3; all quotes are from Snyder and Hecht 1996: 345).

The hymn notes that Annelein now understands that all “the priests of the King” travel on this path alone and demonstrate that they indeed are “God’s true sons and children” (stanza 4). At this stage, the hymn domesticates the apocalyptic fervor evident in Anna’s own works; it still employs the imagery of Revelation 6:9-11, but now the perspective expands and softens. This persecution is felt by “all the priests of the King,” and the delight in vengeance, while still present, is moderated:
They cried out to God: O Lord!
Righteous and Truthful One,
How long until you bring order to the earth
Among people everywhere?
And take revenge on only those
Who with great insolence (stanza 6)

Have shed blood everywhere,
Murdering innocent people?
Are you willing to punish them
So they no longer cause dishonour,
Driving your own out of the land,

Continuing in their sin? (stanza 7)
Once again, the hymn expands this persecution to all believers (e.g., “God gives to all [His children] a white robe”), but it also assures its readers/singers/hearers that God’s wrath will be calmed “once the number is fulfilled” (stanza 11).

The hymn’s reflection on the implications of Revelation 6:9-11 ends with stanza 11, and it switches to portraying Anna’s advice to her son for how he should therefore live. He should join with those who are despised, rejected, and persecuted:
Therefore my dearly beloved son,
May you wish to do my will,
And follow my teaching.
If you know a people who spurn every luxury
And pleasure of this world,
May you wish to join them (stanza 12).

They are despised and rejected
By the wretched world.
They must carry Christ’s cross,
And have no secure place
Because they keep God’s word.
They are often hunted down (stanza 13).

God lives with such people,
Who are mocked by the world.
Keep company with them.
They will show you the true way,
Lead you away from the path of evil,

Guide you away from hell (stanza 14).
Anna urges her son to live up to the “dear price” paid by the death of Jesus to deliver him “from the eternal fire.” Here is where the hymn turns to the parable of the Sheep and Goats to illustrate what following this “pure teaching” actually means in one’s life:
Share your bread with the hungry,
Leave no one in need
Who professes Christ.
Also clothe the naked,
Have pity on the sick.

Do not distance yourself from them (stanza 17).
 Note that these actions of love seem to extend only to those in need who “profess Christ,” although that limitation is not explicitly stated in the other sections about the naked, sick, or imprisoned:
If you cannot always be with them,
Show your good will.
Comfort the imprisoned,
Welcome guests cheerfully into your home,
And don’t let anyone drive them out.

Then your reward will be greatest (stanza 18).
The hymn then connects this exhortation to identify with and help those in need with Jesus’ prophetic proclamation of liberation in Luke 4:16-21.
Both your hands should be ready
To do the works of mercy,
To give twofold offerings;
This is spiritual and worldly work:
To set the prisoners free, strengthen the weak;

Then you will truly live (stanza 19).
The hymn concludes Anna’s testament to Isaiah with the an exhortation “to give always to God’s people” (stanza 20) and with the assurance that God will reward him if he follows her counsel:
God also will reward you
In His Kingdom in the other world.
He will bestow it twofold;

There should be no doubt of this (stanza 21).
Stanza 22 provides a concluding exhortation that praises Anna as a “beautiful model” of what Christians should be:
On the one thousand five hundredth
And thirty-first year
Annelein paid with her life,
Which in virtue soft and mild
Was for Christians a beautiful model,

Given in death as well as in life.

That finishes the posts on Anna Jansz, and I'm not sure what I will discuss next. Next week I will give an update on the Honors Seminar, though, and then decide which direction to head next. Perhaps John Calvin's sermons on some parables.


  1. This stuff is really hard to take. It's hard to imagine Christians being murdered at the hands of other Christians over differences in doctrine. Very sad.

    1. Yes, indeed. Fortunately, I am writing about Roger Williams (ca. 1603-1683) who, over a century before Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Rhode Island Baptists about the "wall of separation," argued for religious liberty, toleration, and the separation of church and state. Here are a few paragraphs from my chapter draft that deals with his work, The Bloody Tenent . . . (still working on it):

      Williams disagreed strongly with identifying anything but the church with a “New Israel,” and the church is commanded to utilize not physical weapons (e.g., a sword) but spiritual weapons (e.g., Scripture, prayer, and persuasion). The turning point occurred with Jesus, because he, unlike during the old covenant, refused to use violence. The new covenant means that neither the state nor the church could use violence or religious coercion (Williams 2008: 29).

      The parable of the Wheat and Tares played a major role in their [Williams and John Cotton] debates, because Williams believed this passage not only was central to Jesus’ advocacy of religious liberty but that the parable had been tragically misinterpreted over the centuries to justify the persecution of those believed to be heretics (Byrd 2002: 88) and misapplied so that there had been “spilling of the blood of thousands” (Williams 2001: 55).
      . . .
      Williams argued that any such persecution is a perversion of the teachings of Jesus. Jesus says that the field represents the world, not the church, and the tares clearly symbolize all sorts of dissenters, separatists, and even non-believers in society. Jesus is clearly warning against civil persecution of those deemed to be heretics, because it is impossible in this fallen world always to distinguish between God’s people and those opposed to God. The “weeds” will be collected when Jesus returns, and then they will receive the punishment they deserve at the hands of God, not by the hands of other human beings. Like Jesus commands, it is better to allow the wheat and the tares to coexist in the world until he returns than to risk the damage that uprooting the sin would create.
      . . .
      Chapter 19 begins a closer examination of the text of the parable, and Williams begins by arguing that “tares” signifies all sorts of people, including those evil ones who “with perverse and evil doctrines labor spiritually to devour the flock, and to draw away disciples after them.” Williams agrees that their “mouths must be stopped” [i.e., with prayer and persuasion] but stipulates that, as Jesus taught, “no carnal force and weapon to be used against them; but their mischief to be resisted with those might weapons of the holy armory of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Yet, until Jesus returns at the end times, all such (evil) people must be tolerated. Williams writes, “this parable urges the toleration: Let them alone until the harvest.”

      And so on . . . .


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