Menno Simons’ and Martin Luther’s Interpretative Approaches in the Protestant Hermeneutical Horizon

Keywords: Radical Reformation, Menno Simons, Martin Luther, community interpretation, self-interpretation of text, hermeneutics


The paper compares the hermeneutical strategies of the radical and magisterial branches of Reformation. The author detects the peculiarities of the hermeneutical principles and ways of understanding the biblical text which were offered by Menno Simons, a recognized Anabaptist leader, and compares these principles and ways with their counterparts practiced by Luther and other figures of the classical Reformation. Although the radical reformers did not create a holistic theology, their interpretative strategy is quite significant for understanding the phenomenon of the “Protestant hermeneutics.”

Menno Simons’ interpretative system is rarely mentioned in the contemporary historical/philosophical and theological discussions. The author of this article argues that such omission is caused by the domination of one-dimensional stereotypes: the overwhelming majority of the researchers who speak about the Protestant hermeneutics tend to present this area as narrowed and somewhat impoverished as they reduce it to the hermeneutics of Luther and Calvin.

The article demonstrates that Menno Simons developed an applied interpretative strategy borrowed from some examples found in the Gospels. This hermeneutical system was founded upon the theocentric idea of personal Revelation and living Presence and thus inevitably led to: (1) “the Bible interprets itself” principle; (2) the search for “the clear meaning of the Scripture” – something that could be different from the original meaning. An interpretative model developed as the result was based on: (a) a holistic approach, (b) applied hermeneutics, (c) corporate hermeneutics, (d) hermeneutics of obedience. Thus it is possible to speak about an independent approach that has an important place in the history of the Protestant hermeneutics.

Author Biography

Sergii Sannikov, National Pedagogical Dragomanov University, Ukraine

PhD in Philosophy, Senior Research Fellow at The Center for the Study of Religions


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How to Cite
Sannikov, S. (2018). Menno Simons’ and Martin Luther’s Interpretative Approaches in the Protestant Hermeneutical Horizon. Sententiae, 37(1), 87-109.