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The Ausbund (Paragon in German) is the oldest Anabaptist hymnal and one of the oldest Christian song books in continuous use. It is used today by North American Amish congregations.
A hymnal or hymnary is a collection of hymns, usually in the form of a book, called a hymnbook. Hymnals are used in congregational singing.
Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. Depending on the specific denomination of Christianity, practices may include baptism, Eucharist, prayer, confession, confirmation, burial rites, marriage rites and the religious education of children. Most denominations have ordained clergy and hold regular group worship services.
The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships with Swiss German Anabaptist origins. They are closely related to, but distinct from, Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.
The core of the Ausbund is based on fifty-one songs written by Anabaptists from Passau, Bavaria. Eleven of these songs were written by their leader, Michael Schneider. Twelve others may have been written by Hans Betz. The hymns were composed in the dungeon of Passau Castle, where the Anabaptists were imprisoned between 1535 and 1540 because of their convictions. Some—among them Hans Betz—did not survive the imprisonment. Many of these imprisoned Anabaptists were martyred.
Passau is a town in Lower Bavaria, Germany, also known as the Dreiflüssestadt because the Danube is joined there by the Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north.
Bavaria, officially the Free State of Bavaria, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, occupying its southeastern corner. With an area of 70,550.19 square kilometres, Bavaria is the largest German state by land area. Its territory comprises roughly a fifth of the total land area of Germany. With 13 million inhabitants, it is Germany's second-most-populous state after North Rhine-Westphalia. Bavaria's main cities are Munich and Nuremberg.
Hans Betz is a German rower. He competed in the men's eight event at the 1952 Summer Olympics.
The collection was printed in 1564. A copy of this first printing is found at the Mennonite Historical Library of Goshen College, bearing the title Etliche schöne christliche Gesäng wie dieselbigen zu Passau von den Schweizer Brüdern in der Gefenknus im Schloss durch göttliche Gnade gedicht und gesungen warden. Ps. 139 (Several Beautiful Christian Songs Which Were Written and Sung Through God's Grace by the Swiss Brethren in the Passau Castle Prison).
The Mennonite Historical Library (MHL) is considered the world's most prominent and complete collection of resources and artifacts pertaining to Mennonites and related Anabaptist groups. It is housed in the Harold and Wilma Good Library on the campus of Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana. The specialty library was founded in 1906 under the guidance of Harold S. Bender and Ernst Correll. Historian John D. Roth is the current director.
Goshen College is a private liberal arts college in Goshen, Indiana. The institution was founded in 1894 as the Elkhart Institute of Science, Industry and the Arts, and is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. U.S. News and World Reports ranks Goshen as a top-tier regional college in the Midwestern United States.
The printed hymnal must have been widely circulated. By the Frankenthaler Colloquiums (1571) it was already used as a source of criticism by opponents of Anabaptism.
Another edition of the hymnal with eighty more songs appeared in 1583. This is the first edition where the word Ausbund appears on the title page: Ausbund. Das ist etliche schöne christenliche Lieder, etc. Allen und jeden Christen, welcher Religion sie seien, unpartheyisch nützlich.
Later editions included 137 (Europe) and 140 (North America) songs. In all there are eleven known European editions of the Ausbund. In the 16th and 17th centuries the hymnals were published in Cologne and the Rhineland. In the 18th and 19th centuries new editions appeared in Basel und Strasbourg. The last European edition was printed in Basel in 1838. The first American Ausbund appeared in 1742 and was printed at Christopher Saur's Germantown press. Mennonite Bishop Henry Funck was the publisher of this hymnal, which was used until the end of the 18th century by the Swiss Mennonite churches. It was replaced by Die kleine geistliche Harfe and Unpartheyisches Gesangbuch of 1804, both from Pennsylvania.
Cologne is the largest city of Germany's most populous federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and its 1 million+ (2016) inhabitants make it the fourth most populous city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. The largest city on the Rhine, it is also the most populous city both of the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Region, which is Germany's largest and one of Europe's major metropolitan areas, and of the Rhineland. Centred on the left bank of the Rhine, Cologne is about 45 kilometres (28 mi) southeast of North Rhine-Westphalia's capital of Düsseldorf and 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of Bonn. It is the largest city in the Central Franconian and Ripuarian dialect areas.
The Rhineland is the name used for a loosely defined area of Western Germany along the Rhine, chiefly its middle section.
Basel is a city in northwestern Switzerland on the river Rhine. Basel is Switzerland's third-most-populous city with about 180,000 inhabitants.
The Ausbund is now exclusively used in Amish worship, preserving the unique spirit of the 17th-century Anabaptists. A number of the hymns have been translated into English both in book reference form and also set to music as found in the Christian Hymnary where it is used in many Conservative Mennonite worship services.
The oldest songs from the Ausbund are mainly about the suffering church in a hostile environment. At the center stand those serious Christians who are prepared to die for their faith. They reflect not only grief and despair, but also the understanding of God's presence. There are always more reasons to thank God as one pours out their troubles. Among others, song number 131, O Gott, Vater, wir loben dich und deine Güte preisen wir (O God, Father, we praise you and your kindness we praise), today is sung at beginning of each Amish worship service.
The first song of the Ausbund is from the pen of Sebastian Franck. The song teaches that Christians should sing in spirit and truth, pray and praise God with Psalms. The second song is an adaptation of the Athanasian Creed.
Songs 6, 7 and 8 are written by Felix Manz, Michael Sattler and Hans Hut, all Anabaptist martyrs. Other martyr songs are by Leonhard Schiemer, Hans Schlaffer, George Blaurock and Hans Leupold, who were among the victims of the first great persecution of Anabaptists.
Hans Büchl, participant in the Frankenthaler Colloquiums, is the writer of five Ausbund songs. Eleven songs are of Dutch origin. The Dutch Anabaptists wrote another eleven songs. Five songs are from the Bohemian Brothers.
Many of Ausbund songs have a teaching character: Bible lessons, the Anabaptist views on believers baptism, the Lord's Supper and a focus on eschatology. Songs in this last topic include Büchl's (Nr. 46): Ain new christelich Lied von der gegenwardig schröcklichen letzten Dagen, in welchen so vil verschieden secten, auffrührerisch und falsche Propheten erschainen, auch blutdirstige tyrannen (A new Christian song from the current terrible last days, in which many different sects, rebellious and false prophets and bloodthirsty tyrants appear).
Until 1809 the European Ausbund was distributed with no indication of location or publisher. From 1692 the government of Bern forbade the distribution or possession of this hymnal and ordered its confiscation under threat of severe punishment.
The American edition contains the confession of faith of Thomas von Imbroich (1558) entitled Wahrhaftigen Bericht über die große Trübsal, die die Geschwister rund um Zürich für ihre Glaubenssache zwischen 1635 und 1645 zu erleiden hatten (a collection of martyr stories).
From a literary viewpoint the content of the Ausbund is of limited quality, yet witnesses of a deep religious belief and sacrificial devotion of the believers.
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the Reformation era
The Ausbund contains no notes; most of the songs were sung to popular melodies. According to the research of G. P. Jackson, some melodies came from folk and love songs and others from chorales and hymns. The oldest melodies are from the 13th and 14th centuries. As with most Christian hymnbooks, the Amish normally use the Ausbund only in church. Their traditional melodies are called "slow tunes", but they put other melodies on the words during singing. Author Joseph Yoder compared the slow tempo of the music as it is sung today to Gregorian Chant, but this was not always the case. The Amish slow tunes of the 20th century are probably descended from tunes that the original Anabaptists knew. But over time, and with neither written notation nor musical instruments to keep the beat, the tunes have slowed down and ornamentation has been added in.
Leonhard Schiemer:Dein heilig statt
Dein heilig statt hond sie zerstört, / dein Altar umbgegraben, / darzu auch deine Knecht ermördt, / wo sie's ergriffen haben. / Nur wir allein / dein heuflein klein, / sind wenig uberbliben, / mit schmach und schand / durch alle land / verjaget und vertriben.
Wir sind zerstrewt gleich wie die schaf, / die keinen Hirten haben, / verlassen unser hauß und hooff / und sind gleich dem Nachtraben, / der sich auch offt / hewlt in steinklufft. / In Felsen und in klufften / ist unser gmach, / man stellt uns nach, / wie Vöglein in der lufften.
Wir schleichen in den Wälden umb, / man sucht uns mit den Hunden, / man führt uns als die Lemlein stum / gefangen und gebunden. / Man zeigt uns an vor jedermann, / als weren wir Auffrürer, / wir sind geacht / wie Schaf zur schlacht / als Ketzer und verführer.
Vil sind auch in den Banden eng / an ihrem leib verdorben, / ettliche durch die marter streng / umbkommen und gestorben / on alle schuld; / hie ist gedult / der Heiligen auff erden. / (..........?)
Man hat sie an die bäum gehenkt, / erwürget und zerhawen, / heimlich und öffentlich ertrenckt / vil Weiber und jungfrawen. / Die haben frey / ohn alle schew / der warheit zeugnuß geben, / dasz Jesus Christ / die wahrheit ist, / der weg und auch das leben.
Noch tobt die Welt und ruhet nicht, / ist gar unsinnig worden, / vil lügen sie auff uns erdicht, / mit brennen und mit morden / thut sie uns bang. / O Herr, wie lang / willtu dazzu doch schweigen? / Richt den hochmut, / der heiligen bluth / laß wer dein Thron auffsteigen!
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