“Concerning Divorce Between Believers and Unbelievers” – An Early Hutterite Document

(This post may not interest most of my regular blog readers, but will be valuable for some historians.)

One of the most important writings of the early Hutterites was the “Article Book” of 1577, written by their bishop Peter Walpot. “It was one of their main doctrinal statements, used both within the community and also as a source when dealing with the outside “world” in order to demonstrate the biblical correctness of their particular teachings.”1

In my research I learned that this “Article Book” contains an article on called “Concerning Divorce Between Believers and Unbelievers.” This document is not the most important document for understanding the most widespread early Anabaptist beliefs about divorce and remarriage, but it provides an important and fascinating glimpse into early Hutterite beliefs and practices.

I was unable to locate an English translation of this work, but Kenny Woolman of the Hutterian Brethren Book Centre kindly emailed me a PDF of an unpublished translation by Elizabeth Bender, which he said he had gotten “from the Archives in Goshen, now Elkhart.” This translation leaves a few blanks for untranslated words and shows other evidence of being a rough draft, but conveys the general sense of the document clearly.

I have since learned that a condensed form of this article is printed in English translation in The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren (Vol 1) (ISBN: 9780874860214), but sharing Bender’s translation here makes the full document available for free online.

Jason Kauffman, Director of Archives and Records Management for the Mennonite Church USA Archives in Elkhart, Indiana, has given me permission to share it here.

“Concerning Divorce Between Believers and Unbelievers”

Article IV2 of Peter Walpot’s “Article Book” (A Beautiful and Pleasant Little Book Concerning the Main Articles of our Faith or The Five Articles of the Greatest Conflict Between Us and the World), translated by Elizabeth Bender.3

Source/permission: Used with permission of the Mennonite Church USA Archives, Elkhart, Indiana.

Citation: Leonard Gross Papers, 1530-2018. HM1-447, Box 17, Folder 18. Mennonite Church USA Archives. Elkhart, Indiana.


Hutterite Article Book - Article IV - E Bender translation


Feel free to leave a comment about this document below.

  1. Robert Friedmann, “Hutterite Article Book,” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. July 1, 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hutterite_Article_Book&oldid=121143 Note: Friedmann indicates the “Article Book” was published in 1547, but my understanding is that it was revised a number of times, with the final version (as shared here) produced in 1577.
  2. Friedmann says it is the fifth article, but his numbering appears confused, for he also describes an additional “fifth article” found in one codex. I am using the numbering that Elizabeth Bender used.
  3. Wife of Harold S. Bender, daughter of John Horsch.
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2 thoughts on ““Concerning Divorce Between Believers and Unbelievers” – An Early Hutterite Document”

  1. Brother Dwight,
    Up to this point I have been a silent reader on your posts about divorce and remarriage. First, I would like to bless you in being willing to tackle this subject. The following are a few questions that I am wondering if you would be willing to tackle, either personally, or in a future blog post. Sorry if I missed the answer to these in any previous posts.
    1. What is the Scriptural definition of ‘adultery’?
    2. What is the Scriptural definition of ‘fornication’
    3. What is a ‘harlot’ in Scripture?

    1. Thank you for your comment and questions here, Thaddaeus. I am sorry I did not find this until now.

      I like your questions. I have been pondering the first one, in particular. I may discuss it some in a future post, though I am focusing on Anabaptist history of interpretation first, as a backdrop for potential future posts dealing more directly with biblical interpretation of divorce and remarriage. If I get to the latter, then I will aim to include a discussion of at least your first question then. (And it may come up in passing earlier, as I discuss the history of Bible translations among Anabaptists.)

      Thanks for reading, and for praying for me as I study and write. Peace in Christ to you.

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