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Bohemian Brethren

(Moravian Brethren).

1. The Unitas Fratrum (Union, or Unity of the Brethren, usually referred to as Boh. Brethren), was founded 1457 in Boh. by men whose conscience could not find certainty of salvation in the Utraquist Ch., whose priests were giving the sacraments and thus “assurance of salvation” to anyone who requested them, regardless of any evidence of repentance. The Brethren had been influenced by the radical but pacifist Peter Chelcicky,* most original of Hussite* theologians. Following his ideas and those of Utraquist preacher John Rokycana, the Brethren left Prague to escape corruption of ch. and city life. They retired to a village under leadership of Gregory the Tailor and pastoral care of the strict local Utraquist priest. In 1467 they broke off from the Utraquist communion and est. their own ministry. Priests and bp. obtained their call through casting of lots and their “ratification” through laying on of hands by their local priest “authorized” by a Waldensian “senior.” Group expanded by attracting other dissatisfied Utraquists and former Taborites (see Hussites). Priests were expected to live in apostolic poverty, to teach “in simplicity” according to “God's Law” (the NT), and to exercise strict pastoral discipline over their flock. Brethren were to avoid the “world” of secular offices, military service, and commerce. They lived in close fraternal community.

2. The 2d generation overthrew the old regime, feeling that the perfectionist expectations of the fathers overlooked God's grace and human realities. Secular offices, military service, and commerce were permitted and educ. encouraged. Above all, ch. discipline was modified, though still retained and emphasized. Lack of discipline in the early Luth. chs. prevented a rapprochement between Luke* of Prague, the Brethren's greatest theol., and Luther. But after Luke's death the Brethren became widely exposed to world Reformation currents, at first Lutheran (see also Bohemia, Lutheran Theology in), then Calvinist. A leader in the latter period was Jan Blahoslav.*

3. Brethren's excellent schools and tr. of the Bible, the Bible of Kralice, and rich hymnody were significant contribution to the wider Christian ch., including Luths. Their last bp., Comenius,* was pioneer of modern educ. The Counter* Reformation saw the suppression of the Unitas in Bohemia and its dissolution abroad. The Moravian* Church is a later attempt at a renewal of the Unitas. See also Bohemia, Lutheran Theology in; Czechoslovakia.

P. Brock, The Political and Social Doctrines of the Unity (The Hague, 1957); M. S. Fousek, “The Perfectionism of the Early Unitas Fratrum,” Church History, XXX (December 1961), 396–413. J. T. Mueller, Geschichte der Brüderunität, 3 vols. (Herrnhut, 1922–23); R. Rícan and A. Molnár, Dejiny Jednoty bratrske´┐Ż (Prague, 1957), tr. B. Popelár, Die Böhmischen Brüder (Berlin, 1961). MSF

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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