Alexander Mack

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Alexander Mack
Church Schwarzenau Brethren (German Baptist)
Ordination Minister, elder
Personal details
Born 27 July 1679
Schriesheim, Palatinate, Germany
Died 19 January 1735(1735-01-19) (aged 55)
Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Buried Upper Burying Ground, Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States[1]
Nationality German Palatine
Denomination Protestant Christian, Pietist Anabaptist
Residence Schriesheim, Palatinate; East Friesland; and Schwarzenau, Bad Berleburg, Germany and Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Parents Johann Phillip Mack (father) and Christina Fillbrun Mack (mother)
Spouse Anna Margarethe Kling
Children Johann Valentine, Johannes, and Alexander Mack, Jr. (sons) and Christina and unnamed infant (daughters)
Occupation Composer, elder and minister, philanthropist, theologian
Profession Miller
Signature {{{signature_alt}}}

Alexander Mack (c. 27 July 1679[a] – 19 January 1735) was the leader and first minister of the Schwarzenau Brethren (or German Baptists) in the Schwarzenau, Wittgenstein community of modern-day Bad Berleburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Mack founded the Brethren along with seven other Radical Pietists in Schwarzenau in 1708. Mack and the rest of the early Brethren emigrated to the United States in the mid-18th century, where he continued to minister to the Brethren community until his death.

Early life and founding of the Brethren[edit]

Mack's baptism alongside seven other Radical Pietists in the Eder marks the inauguration of the Brethren

Mack was born in Schriesheim, Palatinate in contemporary Baden-Württemberg, Germany, where he worked as a miller. He was born the third son to miller Johann Phillip Mack and his wife Christina Fillbrun Mack and baptized into the local Reformed church on 27 July 1679.[2] The Macks remained in Schriesheim throughout the Nine Years' War, intermittently seeking refuge in the hill country because of violence.[2] Upon finishing his studies, Mack took over the family mill and married Anna Margarethe Kling on 18 January 1701.[2] By 1705, the Macks became moved by the Pietist movement locally led by Ernst Christoph Hochmann von Hochnau and started to host an illegal Bible study and prayer group at their home.[2]

In the early 1700s, Graf (Count) Henrich Albrecht Sayn-Wittgenstein provided refuge to religious dissenters from other German states and elsewhere. Many were settled around the small village of Schwarzenau, including Mack and his followers. The era of toleration for radical Pietism lasted only until ~1740, but had few precedents at the time and was denounced by the rulers of most other German states.[3] Schwarzenau is now part of the town of Bad Berleburg in the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein in the state of Nord Rhein Westfalen. The school (now closed) in Schwarzenau was named in honor of Alexander Mack.[4]

The initial group that became known as the Schwarzenau Brethren were inaugurated by Mack as a Bible study with four other men and three women. In 1708—having become convinced of the necessity of Believer's baptism—the group decided to baptize themselves, using a lottery system to choose who would baptize one another in the Eder.[5]

Emigration to the United States[edit]

Mack and several other Brethren emigrated to East Friesland because of pressure within the interfaith community in Schwarzenau in 1720.[6] They stayed until 1729, when the impoverished community found it impossible to sustain itself. In 1719, a different Brethren group led by Peter Becker had already emigrated to Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States for religious freedom.[6] Mack and his followers sailed for Germantown to establish a community in the New World.

Teachings and writings[edit]

Prior to the formation of any strict doctrine, the Schwarzenau Brethren espoused several fundamental tenets that would define the Brethren movement, including a rejection of any coercion in religion (such as infant baptism), viewing Christian rites and ordinances as a means of grace, and the New Testament as the only creed and Rule of Faith.[6] Mack was a Universalist[7][8][9] and strict pacifist.


  • ^ Some sources (e.g. Schulz) cite this as Mack's birthday, others (e.g. Eberly; Willoughby, p. 1) refer to this as his date of baptism.

Works cited[edit]

  • Grebe, Ursula (1965) "Warum Alexander-Mack-Schule?" in Wittgenstein Volume II. Pages 36–41. Fritz Krämer (editor). Balve, Germany.
  • Lückel, Ulf (2009) "Die Anfänge des radikalen Pietismus in Wittgenstein" in Von Wittgenstein in die Welt: Radikale Frömmigkeit und religiöse Toleranz. Pages 41–68. Johannes Burkardt and Bernd Hey (editors). Bielefeld, Germany. ISBN 978-3-7858-0452-0.
  • Mack, Alexander (1991) [1708–1720], William R. Eberly, ed., The Complete Writings of Alexander Mack (1st ed.), Winona Lake, Indiana, United States: BMH Books, ISBN 0-936693-12-6 
    • "The Life of Alexander Mack" by William G. Willoughby, from The Complete Writings of Alexander Mack, pp. 1–6
  • Schulz, Lawrence W. (1954), Schwarzenau Yesterday and Today (1st ed.), Winona Lake, Indiana, United States: Light and Life Press 
  • Stoffer, Dale R. (1989), William R. Eberly, ed., Background and Development of Brethren Doctrines 1650–1987, Brethren Encyclopedia Monograph Series, 2 (1st ed.), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States: Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., ISBN 0-936693-22-3 


  1. ^ "Brethren Historical Library and Archives". Retrieved 13 Sep 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Willoughby, p. 1
  3. ^ Lückel
  4. ^ Grebe
  5. ^ Schulz, p. 21
  6. ^ a b c Schulz, p. 31
  7. ^ Bowman, Carl (1995). Brethren Society: The Cultural Transformation of a Peculiar People. Johns Hopkins University Press
  8. ^ Rev. John McClintock and James Strong "Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature", Volume 10, 1895, pp. 109-33, s.v. "Universalism",
  9. ^ European Origins of the Brethren, Donald F. Durnbaugh)

Further reading[edit]

  • Counting the Cost: The Life of Alexander Mack, 1679–1735, William G. Willougby (1979), Brethren Press ISBN 087178159X

External links[edit]