[Nuremberg]: n.p., ca. 1560.
Quarto: 19.5 x 15 cm.  p. Collation: A-D4. Final leaf D4 (p. 31-2), blank and present.
One of twelve printings, most of which appeared in Nuremberg, all printed between 1558 and 1561.
Bound in modern paste-paper wrappers. Lightly browned, title slightly stained, a few marginal tears, some repaired, without loss of text. Large title page woodcut illustrating the text (see below.).
The Bohemian Brethren are a pacifist sect, established in eastern Bohemia sometime in 1457 or 1458, that emerged from the Hussite movement. They faced persecution almost immediately, especially from 1467 to 1471 (the year in which this pamphlet’s tale is set). This pamphlet tells the story of a fearless and witty Bohemian peasant who embarrassed his inquisitors in a dispute over papal power, the sacrament of the altar, the mass, giving the chalice to the laity, etc. The woodcut shows the peasant, his hands bound, arguing with three clergymen. The title page states that the work has been “translated from the Bohemian language” by the songwriter Martin Paeonius (cf. Goed. II, 187, 50).
The Bohemian Brethren’s founder, a young admirer of Jan Hus named Gregory (called ‘Patriarch’ by the Brethren), had been inspired by the writings of the Peter Chelčický (d. 1458), who as a young man had heard Hus himself preach in southern Bohemia.
“Chelčický drew upon the Waldensian idea of there being six smaller (or stricter) commandments of Christ found in the Sermon on the Mount: do not respond to violence with violence, do not divorce your spouse, do not swear oaths, do not be angry without cause, do not look lustfully at someone, and love your enemies… [He] argued that the early church had no pope, no king, no lords, no tithes, no inquisition, no crusades, and no pretense of being part of pagan society. It was a community of mutual love where each was brother and sister and the only Lord was Christ. The solution to corruption in the church is to remove the secular power and wealth of the church…
“Like Hus and most Catholic theologians, the Brethren taught that humans are saved by faith completed in love. This was the medieval doctrine fides caritate formata and must be distinguished from the Protestant principle of justification by faith. Redemption changes how one treats other human beings. Redemption moves people from violence, greed, and intimidation to generosity, humility, and peacefulness. Love of God included a rejection of worldly delights and willing obedience to the Law of Christ revealed in the Sermon on the Mount. Christ’s law was evidenced most dramatically in the ability to love one’s enemies. The Unity promoted Augustine’s understanding that grace is the work of the Holy Spirit that allows sinful humans to understand what God requires of them, recognize their own imperfection, and grow into the type of person that God expects them to be (Fousek 1961, p. 401). Unlike Luther in the 16th century, the Bohemian Brethren were not looking for freedom from the law; they wanted a stricter discipline than provided in the state church. ‘The Brethren’s connecting a justified hope of salvation with the presence of church discipline in a community shows that they thought of the discipline as being primarily an instrument of the saving activity of God, as a means of grace.’ (Fousek 1961, p. 397). Church discipline was intended to bring about repentance rather than to punish the sinner. It should be administered in a spirit of mutual love…
“For the Brethren in the 16th century, there are six essential things. Three are works of God (creating, redeeming, and sanctification) and three-fold human response of faith, love, and hope. True faith was expressed in obedience to the Law of Christ, especially the commandment to love one’s neighbors and one’s enemies; therefore, ethics remained a central part of the Unity’s doctrine (Štrupl 1964, p. 281). Hope is the consequence of belief, obedience, and genuine love for God and one’s neighbor. It was hope for heaven and the vindication of the righteous rather than hope for better times in this life. True hope brings blessedness even in the midst of a difficult and threatening world because it is rooted in the trust that God will do what God promised (Müller 1922, p. 218). In short, the Unity rejected outward signs of religiosity in favor of inner disposition and ethical behavior: ‘deeds flowing from the depths of a believing and repentant heart, suffering for Christ, and the life of self-denial were seen as evidence of genuine faith for which they expected as their reward salvation and eternal joy.’ (Říčan 1992, p. 56)…
“Soon after the Disputation at Leipzig, Luther became acquainted with the writings of the Brethren, particularly Luke of Prague’s Defense of Sacred Scripture, which he read in 1519. He decided that the Brethren were faithful to Scripture and the doctrine of the early church; it was the papacy that was heretical. In 1520, he publicly endorsed the practice of communion in both kinds, using the arguments of the Utraquists and pointing to their example for support (Peschke 1981, pp. 185–89). Soon, reformist propaganda was widely distributed that depicted Luther and Hus together serving the chalice to the laity and preaching from the Bible (Scribner 1994, pp. 220–27). In 1520, Luther wrote to George Spalatin, ‘Without being aware of it, I have until now taught and held the whole doctrine of Jan Hus. In short, we are all Hussites without knowing it. Even Paul and Augustine are really Hussites.’ Luther, who had once been too frightened to say the words of consecration at the Eucharist, had aligned himself with the most feared heretics in history.”(Atwood, ‘The Bohemian Brethren and the Protestant Reformation’).
VD 16, L 3294 and ZV 9964; Kuczynski 592; Goed. II, 274,77; See Hohenemser 4019; cf. Catalogue of Books Relating To, Or Illustrating the History of the Unitas Fratrum, p. 336, no. 39 (another ed.)