Balthasar Hubmaier

Balthasar Hubmaier

Balthasar Hubmaier (c. 1480 – 10 March 1528), was an influential German/Moravian (Schwertler) Anabaptist leader. He was one of the most well-known and respected Anabaptist theologians of the Reformation.

Early life and education

He was born in Friedberg, Bavaria (about five miles east of Augsburg) around 1480. Information on his parentage is lacking.[1]:24-25 In 1524, he married Elizabeth Hügline of Reichenau.

He attended Latin School at Augsburg, and entered the University of Freiburg on May 1, 1503.[1]:27 Insufficient funds caused him to leave the university and teach for a time at Schaffhausen. He returned to Freiburg in 1507 and received both a bachelor's and a master's degree in 1511. In 1512, he received a doctor's degree from the University of Ingolstadt under John Eck,[2]:329 and became the university's vice-rector by 1515. Hubmaier's fame as a pulpiteer was widespread.[1]:35 He left the University of Ingolstadt for a pastorate of the Catholic church at Regensburg in 1516. In 1521 he went to Waldshut.

Reformer and Anabaptist

In 1522 he became acquainted with Heinrich Glarean, (Conrad Grebel's teacher) and Erasmus at Basel. In March, 1523, in Zürich, Hübmaier met with Huldrych Zwingli, and even participated in a disputation there in October of that same year. In the disputation, he set forth the principle of obedience to the Scriptures, writing, “In all disputes concerning faith and religion, the scriptures alone, proceeding from the mouth of God, ought to be our level and rule.”[1]:59 It was evidently here that Hübmaier committed to abandoning infant baptism, a practice he could not support with Scripture.

Anabaptist Wilhelm Reublin arrived in Waldshut in 1525, having been driven out of Zürich. In April Reublin baptized Hübmaier and sixty others. In Waldshut, Hübmaier's increasingly Anabaptsist views gained him the disfavor of Prince Ferdinand.[1]:76 It was that rivalry that would eventually lead to Hübmaier's martyrdom. Hübmaier initially went to Schaffhausen in order to find protection against the Prince.[1]:81-83

In December 1525, Hübmaier again fled to Zürich to escape the Austrian army. Hoping to find refuge, Zwingli instead had him arrested. While a prisoner, Hubmaier requested a disputation on baptism, which was granted. The disputation yielded some unusual events. Ten men, four of whom Hübmaier requested, were present for the disputation. Within the discussion, Hubmaier proceeded to quote statements by Zwingli in which he asserted that children should not be baptized until they had been instructed. Zwingli responded that he had been misunderstood. Hübmaier's criticism went further by placing Zwingli's reversal on the issue against Zwingli's reform against the Catholics. Hübmaier wrote, “If you do not [demonstrate infant baptism from Scripture], the vicar will complain that you have used against him a sword that you now lay aside.”[1]:119n

Despite Hübmaier's arguments, the council sided with the native Zwingli and ruled in Zwingli's favor. The bewildered Hübmaier agreed to recant. But before the congregation the next day, he attested the mental and spiritual anguish brought on by his actions and stated "I can and I will not recant." Back in prison and under the torture of the rack, he did offer the required recantation.[1]:138–140 With this, he was allowed to leave Switzerland and journeyed to Nikolsburg in Moravia. This weakness troubled him deeply and brought forth his Short Apology in 1526, which includes the statements: "I may err—I am a man—but a heretic I cannot be... O God, pardon me my weakness".

Prison and death

In Nikolsburg, Hübmaier's preaching soon made converts to Anabaptism out of the group of Zwinglians who lived in the area.[2]:330 Political fortunes turned, however, and Ferdinand, with whom Hübmaier had already become an enemy while in Waldshut, gained control of Bohemia, thus placing Hübmaier once again in Ferdinand's jurisdiction. Hübmaier and his wife were seized by Austrian authorities and taken to Vienna. He was held in the castle Gratzenstain until March 1528. He suffered torture on the rack, and was tried for heresy and convicted. On March 10, 1528, he was taken to the public square and executed by burning. His wife exhorted him to remain steadfast. Three days after his execution, his wife, with a stone tied around her neck, was drowned in the River Danube.


On Government and the Sword

As a Schwertler Anabaptist, Hubmaier believed government to be an institution ordained by God. According to the view represented in his writings, Christians have a responsibility to support government and pay taxes. While Hubmaier may be considered a moderate pacifist, he clearly stated his beliefs regarding the government's responsibility to defend the righteous, the innocent, and the helpless, in his work, On the Sword. Moreover, he believed that Christians, if ordered to take up the sword for just cause by the ruling government, should indeed do so. This is the primary distinction between Schwertler Anabaptism and the total pacifism of Stabler Anabaptism.

On Baptism

Much of Hubmaier's work centered on the issue of baptism because of the polemical nature of the issue in distinguishing the emerging Anabaptist movement from Zwinglian or other magisterial reform movements. Hubmaier rejected the notion of infant baptism as unscriptural and was a proponent of believer's baptism, i.e. that baptism is an ordinance for those who respond to the gospel. The importance of this point in Hubmaier's theology is demonstrated by the first half of his catechism is reserved for clarification of the issue. He further rejected the Catholic doctrine of baptism insofar as it was ex opere operato and viewed the rite as a symbol of entrance into and accountability to the community of faith. It is not entirely clear what mode of baptism Hubmaier practiced, but it seems as though he continued practicing affusion as he had himself been baptized and that the mode of immersion among Anabaptists was a somewhat later development.

On Mary

Despite his break away from the Catholic Church, Hubmaier never abandoned his belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary and continued to esteem Mary as theotokos ("mother of God"). These two doctrinal stances are addressed individually in Articles Nine and Ten, respectively, of Hubmaier's work, Apologia.

On the Vernacular

Having a university education meant that Hubmaier would have been familiar with Latin, the language in which all official church communication was at that time conducted. Despite his familiarity with the language, he chose to communicate in the vernacular, which for him was German, for the purpose of communicating to the common people who would not have understood Latin. This is evidenced by the fact that his writings were written in German. Further evidence of this comes from this quote of his, "The death of the Lord should be preached after any land’s tongue… It is much better that a single verse of the psalms be spoken in every land after the language of the common people than five entire psalms be sung in a foreign language and not be understood in the church."

On Women

Hubmaier's writings dealt a little with the subject of women. He compared God's discipline of his children with a teacher whipping a student, or a man beating his wife. It is unknown if Hubmaier agreed with the practice of beating one's students or one's wife, for he did not elaborate in his work. As with any figure in antiquity, however, it would be quite unfair to judge precisely Hubmaier's view on women based on such a reference.[3]


  • Eighteen Articles (1524)
  • Heretics and Those Who Burn Them (1524)
  • The Open Appeal of Balthasar of Friedberg to all Christian Believers (1525)
  • The Christian Baptism of Believers (1525)
  • Twelve Articles of Christian Belief (1526)
  • On the Sword (1527).

All of his publications contained the motto Die warheit ist untödlich (Truth is Immortal).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Vedder , Henry Clay (2009) [First published 1905]. Balthasar Hubmaier: The Leader of the Anabaptists. LaVergne, Tennessee: Kessinger. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Qualben, Lars P. (1964). A History of the Christian Church (Revised ed.). New York: Thomas Nelson. 
  3. Hubmaier, Blathasar. "The Writings of Balthasar Hubmaier" translated by G.D Davidson. Microfilm of the type-script. Mennonite Library and Archives, North Newton, Kansas, 1939. pp. 75, 709, 710. Found in Wohlers, William Richard. The Anabaptist View of the Family in its Relationship to the Church. Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1976.

Further reading

  • Bergsten, Torsten. Balthasar Hubmaier: Anabaptist Theologian and Martyr. Translated and edited by Irwin Barnes and William Estep. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1978.
  • Bergsten, Torsten. Balthasar Hubmaier: Seine Stellung zu Reformation und Täufertum, 1521-1528. Kassel: J. G. Oncken Verlag, 1961.
  • Mabry, Eddie. Balthasar Hubmaier's Doctrine of the Church. University Press of America, 1994.
  • Pipkin, H. Wayne & John H. Yoder. Balthasar Hubmaier: Theologian of Anabaptism. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1989.
  • Potter, G. R. "Anabaptist Extraordinary: Balthasar Hubmaier, 1480-1528.” History Today 26, no. 6 (June 1976): 377-384.
  • Windhors, Cristof. Tatiferisches Taufverstandnis: Balthasar Hubmaiers Lehre zwischen Traditioneller und Reformatorischer Theologie. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1976.

External links

da:Balthasar Hubmaierfy:Balthasar Hubmaierro:Balthasar Hubmaier sv:Balthasar Hubmaier

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.