Adam Pastor: Unitarian Mennonite

In 1546 an unnamed Flemish anti-Trinitarian visited the colony of radical Anabaptists who had taken refuge in Poland. G. H. Williams¹ surmises that this may well have been the unitarian Mennonite, Adam Pastor (b. ca. 1510). Pastor, who on joining the Anabaptists had changed his name from Rudolph Martens, was a former Roman Catholic priest. He had thrown in his lot with the Anabaptists in 1533, probably in Munster. He was ordained as an evangelist and soon distinguished himself by opposing the spiritualism of David Joris. At this stage of his career Pastor worked closely with Menno Simons and Dietrich Philips. In 1547, however, it became apparent that Pastor differed sharply from the Melchiorite Christology of Menno. The Melchiorites believed that even the flesh of Christ was not derived from Mary, but had descended from heaven. For Pastor this belief seemed plainly to threaten the humanity of Christ. Pastor declared himself a unitarian, holding that Christ did not exist as the Son of God before his conception, and that his divinity was derived from the fact that God dwelt in him, not because of an “eternal generation.” A meeting to discuss these differences was held at Emden in 1547, and the following year, at Goch, Simons and Philips officially excommunicated Pastor for his unorthodox Christology.

Dietrich Philips himself held to a form of subordinationist Christology with his belief that the Son had been given a body by the Word sometime before the birth of Christ. Pastor rejected the notion of personal preexistence in any form and espoused what Raymond Brown² appropriately calls “conception Christology.” It should be noted that G.H. Williams’ reference to Pastor’s Christology as “adoptionism”³ is not strictly accurate. Adoptionism, as generally defined, posits that Christ became the Son of God at his baptism. “Conception Christology” describes the belief that Jesus’ miraculous conception in Mary brought him into being as Son of God. It therefore rejects as unscriptural the Chalcedonian and Athanasian belief in the “eternal generation” and preexistence of the Son.

The “conception Christology” of Adam Pastor corresponds with what Raymond Brown maintains is the Christology of Matthew and Luke:

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Author: Anthony Buzzard

Keywords: Radical reformation, Mennonites, Menno, Menno Simons, Christology, Trinity, Triunity, Three in one, God the Son, Preexistence, Pre-existence, Christ's preexistence, Christ's pre-existence, Christ preexisted, Christ pre-existed, Jesus preexisted, Jesus' preexistence, Jesus' pre-existence, Jesus pre-existed, Preexistence of Jesus, Preexist, Pre exist, Jesus was the Word, The Word was Jesus, Word was God, Messiah, Deity of Christ, Deity of Jesus, Jesus's preexistence, Jesus preexisted before he was born, Spirit of Messiah, Jewish preexistence, Jewish concept of preexistence, Jewish concept of pre-existence, Jewish understanding of pre-existence, Jewish understanding of preexistence, Jewish understanding of preexistence of Messiah, Unitarian, Adoptionism

Bible reference(s): Deut. 6:4, Matthew 16:15, Mar 8:27, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:18, Luke 9:20, John 1:1-3, 1 Cor. 8:4-6, 1 Tim. 2:5

Source: “Adam Pastor,” A Journal from the Radical Reformation, Spring 1994, Vol. 3, No. 3.

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