This collection of fourteen articles, edited by C. Arnold Snyder a colleague of Werner Packull's, recognizes Packull's more than thirty years of university teaching, nineteen at Conrad Grebel University College. The first two articles, written by Edmund Pries and Gary K. Waite, former students whose doctoral theses he supervised, provide personal reflections on Packull's life. The remaining twelve consist of new studies of various themes and persons in sixteenth and seventeenth century Anabaptism. The book concludes with a list of Packull's publications.
Edmund Pries, in "Life as a Journey of Redemption," provides reflections on Packull's family history, as well as his educational pilgrimage. Packull was born in East Prussia in 1941, experienced the horror of World War II including the loss of father and uncles in the war, fled westward from the advancing Soviet army, escaped miraculously to Denmark, relocated to West Germany, and eventually settled in Canada. According to Pries, Packull's loss of his father and uncles during the war created in him a deep love and appreciation for family. His immediate and extended family meets frequently, and the meetings " always include the singing of many hymns, and retelling the family refugee story" (21) .
Packull's educational experiences began in West Germany where he was routed into a vocational school against his wishes, to high school in Prairie Bible Institute, Alberta, to a university education in Ontario, and a doctoral degree at Queens University in 1974 under the direction of James Stayer(20). Along the way he also completed a B.Th. at Emmanuel College.
Both Pries and Gary Waite comment about Packull's significant and extensive scholarly contribution to the study of sixteenth century Anabaptism, and the related fields of "the social history of the Reformation, the image of the 'common man,' and interpretations of the Peasants' War"(24). Packull was (and still continues to be) a historian of great integrity and humility. Both are effusive in their praise of the quality, depth, and influence of his scholarship. Packull, they observe, combines excellent scholarship with a deep commitment to the Lutheran Church, and is interested in the attempts to integrate faith and life.
The remainder of the book consists of two groups of articles. The first group of five articles is entitled "Perspectives on Reformation and Tradition." It begins with Hans-Jürgen Goertz's article on understanding the beginning of the modern era from the perspective of apocalypse. The sixteenth century Reformation was caught between two eras, sharing characteristics with the Middle Ages and anticipating the modern age. Goertz discusses the various ways in which the events of the sixteenth century can be seen as apocalyptic portents of the coming age, even though never fully participating in them.
This section continues with an article by James Stayer in which he attempts to identify the number of Anabaptists in the various regions of Europe, and points out some of the problems in this endavour. Douglas H. Shantz studies two Pietist historical writers, Gottfried Arnold and Johann Henrich Reitz, and notes that Pietist historical writings shaped Mennonite self-understanding much more significantly than has so far been acknowledged. Michael Driedger proposes that an article on the Enlightenment in the Netherlands should have been included in the Mennonite Encyclopedia since the connection between Mennonites in Europe and the Enlightenment is much greater than Mennonite scholarship has so far recognized. The section concludes with A. James Reimer's discussion of contemporary understanding of law, conscience, and civil responsibility based on Pilgram Marpeck's writings. He feels that Marpeck had a more positive view of institutional life than did many other Anabaptist leaders, and his views can become a helpful starting point for Mennonites today as they discuss these issues.
The second section of seven articles is entitled "Perspectives on Anabaptist History." Walter Klaassen has a fascinating discussion of seven Anabaptist laymen whom he calls "Kleine Hansen." All were called "Hans," and together they express the lay character of much of the Anabaptist movement. Gary Waite discusses David Joris the artisan, and C. Arnold Snyder looks at recent studies whose redefinition of mysticism hold promise for reinterpreting Anabaptism as one phase in a much longer development of mysticism.
Three very helpful articles are written by somewhat lesser known scholars in Mennonite circles: Geoffrey Dipple on Pilgram Marpeck, Martin Rothkegel on Peter Riedemann, and Astrid von Schlachta on community of goods. The latter two studies on communitarian Anabaptism in Moravia directly address themes which have preoccupied Packull in his recent works. The last article in this section is by John D. Roth on the limits of confessionalization in Zurich, 1580-1620. Roth studies the execution of Hans Landis, and argues that his beheading does not represent the Zurich church's success in forcing Anabaptists back into the state church, but rather "illustrates the profound limits of the state and church officials to control the religious life of the people"(282).
The book concludes with an exhaustive listing of writings by Werner Packull, including books, chapters in books, articles in referred journals, articles in encyclopedias, translations, reviews, and special lectureships.
This book is a very fine tribute to Werner Packull's long teaching and research career. The tributes are warm and generous. The twelve scholarly articles (not thirteen as the back cover indicates) contribute creatively to the on-going study of sixteenth century Anabaptists and their descendants.
John J. Friesen
Professor of History and Theology
Canadian Mennonite University