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The Anabaptist movement traces its beginnings to early 16th-century Europe, near the outset of the Protestant Reformation. Dissatisfied with the pace and extent of Protestant reform, the Anabaptists pushed for more radical reform measures, including adult baptism.


The Anabaptists drew upon widespread critiques of the medieval church, including those cited by Martin Luther. But the Anabaptists also drew upon critiques leveled by more radical evangelical reformers, including Andreas Karlstadt, Thomas Muntzer, and Casper Schwenckfeld.


Due to Anabaptism's disparate origins, the movement's founders cannot be easily identified. Most scholars, however, point to three centers of early Anabaptist ferment: in Zurich, led by Felix Mantz and Conrad Grebel; in south Germany, led by Hans Hut and Hans Denck; and in north Germany and Holland, led by Melchior Hoffman.

Sacred Texts

Anabaptists view the Protestant canon, which includes the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, as uniquely authoritative. Most Anabaptist groups have given greater attention to the Gospels than other parts of the Christian scriptures.

Historical Perspectives

Early Anabaptist historiography was characterized by insider-outsider debates over Anabaptism's Christian orthodoxy. More recently, questions of essence have dominated insiders' historical discussions: what was the essence of the founders' visions, and which Anabaptist groups have most effectively maintained that essence?