Lüneburg was an area of Braunschweig (Brunswick) in the former Prussian province of Hanover, Germany, with Celle as its capital, which was made Protestant by resolution of the Landtag on 18 April 1527. At the head of the church system Duke Ernest placed Urban Rhegius in 1531, as superintendent general, an office which had not previously existed in the Lutheran Church. Rhegius had been called to Celle in September 1530 from Augsburg, where he had just finished a severe struggle with the Anabaptists and had finally had them suppressed by force. In Lüneburg the movement had not won a foothold, but Rhegius used the influence of his position to injure them in other countries.
In an opinion delivered to Philipp of Hesse by the Lüneburg clergy on 5 June 1536, on the question "whether it was fitting that a government compel Anabaptists and other heretics to accept the true faith, and to punish with the sword those who persist in their heresy," they advocated capital punishment. They compared the task of the government with that of a physician who cuts off a bad limb when medicine fails to cure, lest it contaminate the entire body. Secular authority could with a good conscience put to death all persistent heretics, just as it has power to kill adulterers, thieves, murderers, and revolutionaries. As evidence several Old Testament Scriptures were cited.
Philipp did not follow these suggestions, but many theologians found the arguments convenient. Bullinger, for instance, used them in a letter to Calvin on 12 June 1554, to weaken the opposition to the burning of Servetus (Paulus, 221). The opinion was widely read. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was reprinted several times under Rhegius’s name; in 1537 at Hamburg, 1538 Strasbourg, 1562 Nürnberg in Die Deutschen Bücher von Urban Rhegius (Vol. IV, pp. 211-215); and 1608 in Frankfurt, in J. Bidenbach, Consiliorum theologicorum Decas (Vols. III and IV, pp. 201-218). (Hochhuth, 266-578.)
In 1555 Lüneburg joined in the decision of the Hansa cities to prevent Menno Simons from baptizing among his brethren in the Baltic Sea region (Mannhardt, 84).
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 701 f.
Hochhuth, K. W. H. "Mitteilungen aus der protestantischen Sekten-Geschichte in der hessischen Kirche." Zeitschrift für historische Theologie (1858).
Mannhardt, H. G. Jahrbuch der Mennoniten-Gemeinden in Ost- und Westpreussen. 1883.
Paulus, N. Protestantismus und Toleranz im 16. Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1911.
Uhlhorn, Gerhard. Urbanus Rhegius: Leben und ausgewählte Schriften. Elberfeld: Friderichs, 1861.
Warns, Johannes. Die Taufe. Cassel: Oncken, 1922.
Cite This Article
Hege, Christian. "Lüneburg (Niedersachsen, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 9 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=L%C3%BCneburg_(Niedersachsen,_Germany)&oldid=92496.
Hege, Christian. (1957). Lüneburg (Niedersachsen, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 9 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=L%C3%BCneburg_(Niedersachsen,_Germany)&oldid=92496.
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