Hans Hotz, an Anabaptist martyr, was a native of the Grüningen district of the canton of Zürich. He was probably baptized by Georg Blaurock. It is possible that Hotz was converted in 1525, during Blaurock's successful missionary activity in Grüningen. From that time on Hotz was an inspired defender of Anabaptism. Through the work of such men as him and Jakob Falk and Heini Reimann, the movement continued to gain ground in Grüningen so that great numbers of people flocked to hear them preach.
Meanwhile the Zwinglian church had established itself as a state institution and attacked "corner preaching and rabble-rousing," which had grown to considerable proportions in Grüningen. The council of Zürich also decided to put an end to the "Anabaptist mischief" in the Zürich Oberland. The leaders of the movement were arrested, tried, and sentenced. It is not definitely known that Hans Hotz was one of those sentenced by the council of Zürich on 7 March 1526. It is nevertheless safe to assume that in 1526 he was still in prison with Georg Blaurock; for in the court records of a later trial is found the following statement: "Hans Hotz in the Ketzerturm says: 'Blaurock first taught him and also strengthened him, likewise Felix Manz. Thus they all encouraged one another in the tower. He holds infant baptism to be an error, and rebaptism right.'"
As soon as the prisoners were released from the Ketzerturm they renewed their missionary work. It cannot be definitely determined when Hotz was again arrested. In August 1528 he was cross-examined with several other brethren, after an imprisonment of nearly one and one-half years. Hans Hotz confessed that infant baptism was the false baptism and was not right; he had once called infant baptism right, but was now very rueful; nor did he want to hear the preachers. All the others likewise repented having called infant baptism right; it is an abomination before God, and baptism on faith is a command of God.
All the prisoners confessed that in prison they had strengthened and encouraged each other, well or sick, to be steadfast. They were therefore isolated in the various towers and monasteries in the city. For two weeks they were kept on bread and water. The leaders Falk and Reimann were then sentenced to death by drowning and were executed on 5 September 1528. At a further trial the others were urged to be converted and return to the pastor in the church, to hear the Word of God and to recognize infant baptism. Probably the following undated notice in the records refers to this trial: "Hans Hotz said he considers the baptism with which he was baptized in his youth, as wrong and useless; but the other baptism that he received was right, and he does not suppose that he has done wrong. Nor did he want to go to church to hear words of idolatry." Those who refused to be converted and like Hotz persisted in Anabaptism should be kept in the tower on bread and water another month to think it over, and should then be tried again and sentenced. The final verdict concerning Hotz is not known. But it is certain that in spite of long incarceration he held fast to his faith.
But Hans Hotz did not share the severe struggles of the Anabaptist brotherhood only in his own community, his activity extended far beyond the borders of this canton. In the disputation at Zofingen, 1-9 July 1532, as well as that in Bern, 11-17 March 1538, Hotz was the spokesman of the Swiss Brethren. The adamant character of this warrior was so developed by experience and suffering that he became a quick-witted opponent of the church party. Unfortunately the records of these debates rarely name the speaker. One of the most important points the Brethren had to answer in Zofingen was "the divine call to the office of preaching." The preachers had charged the Brethren that their commission to preach the Gospel was not of God. No wonder that they answered their opponents that because they were not sent according to apostolic custom, their mission was not of God! Hans Hotz placed special emphasis on his belief that before a preacher could proclaim the Word he must experience a conversion or renewal of heart and he must then also be found blameless in his life. Those who were divinely called were called by a believing brotherhood and not by a government.
Hans Hotz adroitly discussed the question of baptism. He admitted that baptism is the sign of a Christian people, with which we are received into the church of God. But this does not belong to little children, but only to those who experience salvation through faith. Hotz said, "It has not yet been proved that those shall also be received who do not have the faith; for baptism is always the sign of the renewed man, buried in the death of Jesus Christ, and always a certain announcement or testimony of resurrection through the death of Jesus Christ."
In the same tone Hotz defended baptism on faith in the disputation in Bern in 1538. The court record says, "This confession of Hotz was read to them, and then the presidents questioned the Anabaptists one by one. They all were satisfied and confirmed it; no one rejected it." After further debate Hotz said, "Therefore we hold baptism in the Christian brotherhood ... as taught by Christ and practiced by the apostles. If anyone can prove otherwise by Scripture, we will wait for it."
Apparently the authorities were not pleased with the outcome of this disputation. The council decided that the nonresidents (of whom Hotz was one) should be escorted over the border, subject to death by beheading if they crossed it again, because they were "leading people astray." Nothing is known of Hotz's life after this disputation.
Egli, Emil. Die Züricher Wiedertäufer zur Reformationszeit: nach den Quellen des Staatsarchivs. Zürich: Friedrich Schulthess, 1878.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 351 f.
Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop: B. de Graaf, 1972.
Muralt, Leonhard von and Walter Schmid. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer in der Schweiz. Erster Band Zürich. Zürich: S. Hirzel, 1952.
Cite This Article
Geiser, Samuel. "Hotz, Hans (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 27 May 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hotz,_Hans_(16th_century)&oldid=82264.
Geiser, Samuel. (1956). Hotz, Hans (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 May 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hotz,_Hans_(16th_century)&oldid=82264.
Herald Press website.
©1996-2015 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.