Joan Bocher - Anabaptist (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Joan Bocher - Anabaptist

Q1 : Read the introduction. Why did the Anabaptists emerge soon after the publication of the Bible in German?

A1 : The Catholic Church attempted to stop the Bible published in languages other than Latin. As a result, most people had to rely on priests to tell them what was in the Bible. After the publication of the Bible in German and English at the beginning of the 16th century, people began to question Church teaching. This included the Anabaptists.

Q2 : Study source 2 and explain why most Anabaptists were pacifists (a person who believes that war and violence are unjustifiable).

A2 : Anabaptists read the Bible and came to the conclusion that Jesus was a pacifist. This included passages such as "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God." "Do not use force against an evil man.. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." "He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword."

Q3 : Read sources 3, 4 and 5 and then explain the beliefs of the Anabaptists.

A3 : The Anabaptists were (a) opposed to infant baptism (source 3 and 5); (b) denied the divinity of Christ (source 3); goods should be owned by the people in common (source 3 and 5); pacifists (source 4); kept their hats on before magistrates and superior officials (source 4); refused to swear oaths (source 4).

Q4 : Read source 7. Why was Elizabeth writing a letter to her daughter, Janneken, when she was only a few months old.

A4 : Elizabeth was about to be executed. She wrote the letter at this time so that later her daughter would discover why her mother and father died.

Q5 : Study sources 1 and 6. How did governments in Europe punish Anabaptists in the 16th century? Why did they use this particular form of execution?

A5 : Sources 1 and 6 show Anabaptists about to be burnt at the stake. The government selected this form of punishment because it was considered the most painful way to die. It was done in public because they wanted to warn people what would happen if they were found guilty of heresy.

Q6: According to Joan Bocher, how many Anabaptists were there in London in 1550?

A6 : Joan Bocher claimed that there were a thousand Anabaptists living in the diocese of London.

Q7 : Read source 9. Why did John Foxe try to stop Joan Bocher from being burnt at the stake? How did John Rogers defend the punishment. Did Foxe's forecast come true?

A7 : John Foxe had been horrified at the burning of Protestant heretics by Henry VIII, and was very distressed that Joan Bocher was now to be burned under the Protestant government of Edward VI. He disagreed with Anabaptist beliefs but thought it was too cruel to burn people to death. He suggested that another form of execution should be used. Rogers replied that burning alive was gentler than many other forms of death. Foxe took Rogers' hand and said: "Well, maybe the day will come when you yourself will have your hands full of the same gentle burning."

Queen Mary came to the throne in July 1553. She brought back the Catholic religion and ordered the leading Protestants to be executed. John Rogers was burnt at the stake on 4th February, 1555.