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Oct. 1973–Jan. 1974 · Vol. 2 No. 4 · pp. 157–58 

Book Review

The Legacy of Michael Sattler

trans. and ed. John Howard Yoder. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1973. 191 pages.

Reviewed by Peter J. Klassen

First in a series, “Classics of the Radical Reformation,” this volume presents the most important writings of Michael Sattler. In addition, some selections are of uncertain authorship, but arise from the Sattler circle.

Herald Press and the Institute of Mennonite Studies are to be commended for this impressive production. Sattler, as a major figure in early Anabaptism, deserves to be more widely read and understood. Professor Yoder has presented precisely the kind of study needed to bring this early reformer to the attention of the wider reading public.

Yoder provides a brief sketch of the life of Sattler, reviews the history of the publication of Sattler’s works, and supplies highly informative introductions to the individual writings. Included in this volume are Sattler’s conciliatory but firm letter to the Strasbourg reformers Bucer and Capito, the Schleitheim “Brotherly Union,” practical guidelines for the {158} f a congregation, and a pastoral letter from prison. The latter document in particular shows that, even in prison, Sattler was chiefly concerned about the well-being of his fellow-believers. Several accounts of Sattler’s trial and martyrdom are given; the reader will be interested to note that considerable opposition was aroused by Sattler’s treatment: the city council at Horb, where he was eventually executed, refused to take action against him; the Strasbourg reformer Capito urged the council to be lenient toward Sattler’s associates. Two moving letters, included in this volume, give poignant testimony to Sattler’s reputation.

Yoder has also included several short doctrinal studies which come from Sattler or his circle. Among these are “On Divorce,” “On the Satisfaction of Christ,” “On Two Kinds of Obedience,” and “On False Prophets and Evil Overseers.” Two hymns attributed to Sattler are included, and the volume ends with a tract on Anabaptist hermeneutics.

The volume is enriched through the judicious use of photographs. On p. 69, the date for the death of Sattler should read 1527. This volume deserves high praise. Yoder has included a most helpful, extensive series of footnotes and useful indices. Some readers may feel that occasionally, in his attempt to be faithful to the original, the translator has been excessively literal, perhaps wooden, e. g., p. 87, “what we basically argued. . .” Nonetheless, no one who has serious interest in Sattler or in Anabaptism generally can afford to be without this excellent book. Yoder has, in his usual manner, combined penetrating scholarship with compelling empathy.

Peter J. Klassen
Pacific College

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