Julius Lober was a South German Anabaptist preacher; little is known about his work. We have only his statements as given in the records of his trial in 1531, which are however important, because they form the basis for theological and legal opinion concerning the punishment of Lober and his fellow prisoners. They are important for an evaluation of the Anabaptist movement in Franconia, for their examination corrected many false assertions. For example, the Anabaptists of that region had been considered revolutionary and it was thought that they had their women in common; but this was out of the question in view of the strictness of the South German Anabaptist morals. They had been put on a plane with the "Puschenhamern," a small group of misguided people who based their manner of living on the dreams of their leader Hans Schmied, and practiced divorce and remarriage as well as community of goods (Wiswedel). They did not baptize persons joining their circle (TA). Nevertheless they were counted Anabaptists. This furnished a legal basis, in addition to religious separation, for the suppression of the Anabaptist movement. In his cross-examinations Lober was therefore expressly questioned on these points. But there was no evidence of the truth of these charges.
Thanks to Lober an important document has been preserved for Anabaptist history which was taken away from him at the time of his arrest; viz., a list of the places in which Anabaptists had been executed for their faith in 1527-1531 along the Rhine and the Danube. It gives the number of martyrs for a series of towns and is one of the few sources which give summarizing information about Anabaptist martyrdoms, though it cannot be considered exhaustive (reprinted in Beck; see also Palatinate).
Lober was a tailor in Zürich. In Strasbourg he came in contact with the Anabaptists, when a journeyman reproved his sinful life and instructed him from the Bible. After several years of association with the Brethren he was baptized by Wilhelm Reublin. Then he went to Bruchsal, an Anabaptist center in the Kraichgau. Here Lober was chosen leader of the congregation of about 500 members. But he led them only a short while. Five members of his congregation had already died as martyrs. Many families were planning to move to Moravia. Lober had been there previously and was sent by his congregation to visit the Brethren in Moravia with a letter in 1531. On the way he visited Anabaptists in Franconia. His wife during this time stayed in the home of Ulrich Hutscher in Tief (Oberntief) and was imprisoned with him at Hoheneck near Windsheim. When Lober learned this he went there on 8 April to find out the reason for the seizure. The bailiff Albrecht Gailing questioned him and arrested him too.
On 10 April 1531 the bailiff reported the case to George, Margrave of Brandenburg, and on 16 April the prisoners were cross-examined by three clergymen, by Andreas Althamer, who had already attacked the Anabaptists in several widely distributed pamphlets, by Sigmund Schneeweis, and by Johann Rürer. The main topic of discussion was infant baptism. Lober could not be convinced that it was Scriptural; nor did he accept the statements of the theologians that a child could believe. He declared that he would stay by his conception of baptism which had been administered to him as an adult. Nor could he accept Luther's teaching on communion; the body of Christ had come for his comfort, and through the blood of Christ he had been saved from his sins. Obedience and taxes are due the government. But he could not swear an oath. Of community of women he knew nothing. "If anyone should teach him such a thing he would say that this doctrine was of the devil and not of God." Nor did he advocate community of goods, but he was ready to aid his brother who was in need, without compulsion, from brotherly love. The punishment of the wicked belongs only to God.
After the conclusion of the cross-examination and the attempts to convert them Lober stated that he would not desist from his faith; likewise spoke his fellow prisoner Ulrich Hutscher. An additional attempt by the clergymen to make the prisoners yield their faith was fruitless, whereas the third prisoner, Bernhard Weik of Bruchsal, begged for mercy and declared that he was ready to join the state church (TA).
Margrave George was undecided as to the further steps to take with these prisoners, and asked advice of Nürnberg. The theologians and jurists of Nürnberg, of whom the council had requested an opinion, were unanimous "that this sect of the Anabaptists is doubtless a public error and a seduction," but they did not agree on the punishment. The lenience of the theologians' opinion is surprising. But as Jörg pointed out it was based on regard for the emperor and the imperial cities. Since it was impossible to punish Catholic error, as Andreas Osiander explained to the council, it would "be unbecoming to punish one part with the sword and the other part not at all; for it is well known and badly spoken of what the papists do in the corners, one knows it and yet will not punish it" (Jörg).
The opinion of the theologians, dated 29 April 1531, advised that error in the Christian faith should be wiped out through indoctrination in the Word of God and not with the sword. The government should not interfere in matters of faith unless there is sedition in addition to false doctrine. Some of the theologians were also of the opinion that the imperial laws and the regulations of the Swabian League against the Anabaptists were in many points contrary to the Word of God and too tyrannical. Community of goods was no reason for inflicting severe punishment on the Anabaptists, since it could be carried out in a Christian spirit and had even been introduced by the apostles for the alleviation of distress. If the Anabaptists act as they say, their words would be blameless. But if they should attempt compulsory sharing of goods, then it would be the duty of the government to interfere. Lober and Hutscher should be banished from the country as obstinate and separated members of the church. Several theologians also favored detaining them for a while longer and giving them opportunity to be converted. But the other theologians did not consider prison a means to compel return to the church; knowledge of the truth must come freely and without terror, alone through the Word. Imprisonment would make these people more obstinate.
The jurists said the imperial law which prohibited Anabaptism on penalty of death was much too sharp for Christians, but the government could decree lifelong exile. If one then returned, he could be punished corporally for transgression of the law. Lober, because he was a priest and practiced community of goods which would certainly give rise to revolt and civil war, and likewise Hutscher, should be asked on the rack who their brethren were, where they lived, what they thought of possessions, whether they should be shared forcibly, and whether they did not believe that the government should be destroyed. If they had that kind of opinions they should be punished accordingly. But if they did not, they should still be branded with some kind of physical sign, either with an iron or by having their ears cut off and be driven out of the country with a lash. Longer imprisonment was not recommended.
The Ansbach (margravate) government was not adverse to the counsel of the Nürnberg lawyers. Lober and Hutscher were questioned again. Religious questions were scarcely touched. An attempt was made to charge them with sedition, and to make them say that it was their goal to lead the people into "a false appearance of a pretended good life, to form a big army, and to destroy all government" (TA).
On 6 May 1531 Lober was confronted with ten questions relating to these points. He denied having deviated from the pure teaching of the Gospel. They reproached him with misunderstanding the commandment of Christ to baptize and demanded that he desist from his "error," but he refused. Then the charge was made, that behind the "favorable and hypocritical front" something else lurked, namely, the elimination of all government and the communizing of all goods, which Lober denied. There must be governments, he declared; one must obey the state whether good or bad. He would undertake nothing against the government; only in matters of faith it was better to obey God than man. To the question, who their heads were, he answered that he knew of no head but God in heaven; those who teach them the Word of God they call shepherds, teachers, preachers, and leaders; they are considered no different from other brethren and among them there was no respect of person.
Since Lober refused to recant he "was tortured three times." The records say that he prayed God to give him grace to overcome the torture and to be true to his belief. His tormentors apparently pitied him, for he called out to them that they should continue to carry out their orders; for their superiors did not know what they were doing (TA).
On 12 May he was told that Christ had not taught baptism, but repentance; he replied that he had repented, and been baptized upon his faith, adopted a life meet for repentance and now he was in God's mercy. Luther and other Christian preachers did not preach baptism as it had been taught at the time of the apostles; nor did they carry out apostolic discipline, since they did not apply the ban and tolerated the wicked in the church. He would not desist from his faith. He knew that he could stand before God only if he relied on Christ the Lord and not on men (TA).
The Ansbach government then asked Nürnberg for another opinion on the punishment of Lober and Hutscher. The theologians taking part in formulating this opinion were Friedrich Pistorius, Georg Pesler, Hektor Pomer, Dominicus Schleuper, Andreas Osiander, Blasius Stöckel, and Sebastian Fürnschilt; and the jurists were Dr. Scheurl, Dr. Hepstein, Dr. Gugel, Dr. Mullner, Christoph Coler, and Hans Rider. The theologians called attention to the wide dissemination of Anabaptism. Therefore they urged caution. The consultations dealt only with questions of faith. If they wanted to act in accord with the Word of God, they must consider the prisoners as persons "who had temporarily erred and had committed no other deeds." They should be instructed kindly, since they neither understood nor interpreted the Bible correctly. They were not guilty of sedition. But if they should not be amenable to instruction, but persisted in their error, they should be expelled from the country, since in that case they would be openly resisting the government. Osiander considered it questionable to punish these poor people whose intentions were of the best; but on the other hand this error could not be tolerated.
The lawyers also dealt only with questions of faith and stated that there could be no talk of sedition or of the suppression of the government. Scheurl declared that the prisoners had "let themselves be baptized against the command of God." Since they persisted in their error, they had also "acted to the offense of the government and of Christian love." One could therefore say with a good conscience that they had forfeited their life. But because this error was greatly on the increase it was necessary to treat these prisoners accordingly. If they could be made to recant, they should be branded on the cheek or forehead because of disregard for the transgression of the law, and then be expelled from the country. Gugel and Mullner concurred in this opinion. As a punishment for rebaptism they recommended branding or cutting off the ears. Mullner states that since Lober did not reject the government nor did the Anabaptists wish to compel anyone to give up his goods, the prisoners should be penalized only as misguided, erroneously baptized persons (TA). On the same day the mayor and the council of Nürnberg wrote to Ansbach that it was difficult to take action against the Anabaptists. If they were only misguided Nürnberg would, if the case were theirs, punish them by exile.
The Ansbach government was not satisfied with Nürnberg's advice. Now the Schmalkaldian League meeting, which was about to be held at Frankfurt, was to make the decision. The Ansbach emissaries tried to secure a resolution which would forbid the toleration of Anabaptists in the regions under its jurisdiction and which would leave it open to each government to penalize Anabaptists who after instruction by the clergy would not desist from their faith. But the League declared itself on 9 June 1531, not authorized to give advice on the punishment of Anabaptists. Finally the case was taken under advisement by the Landtag committee of Brandenburg. In a decision at Kosten on 21 March 1532, they agreed on exile; "only the very obstinate should be punished" (Schornbaum, Politik).
What the Ansbach government finally did with Lober is not known. Nor do we hear anything more of him.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 675-677.
Jorg, J. E. Deutschland in der Revolutions-Periode 1522-1526. Freiburg, 1851: 706.
Schornbaum, Karl. Quellen zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer II. Band, Markgraftum Brandenburg. (Bayern I. Abteilung). Leipzig: M. Heinsius Nachfolger, 1934: 217-229.
Schornbaum, Karl. Zur Politik des Markgrafen Georg von Brandenburg. Munich 1906.
Wiswedel, Wilhelm. Bilder and Führergestalten aus dem Täufertum. Kassel: J.G. Oncken Verlag, 1928-1952: II, 31.
Zeitschrift fur die Geschichte des Oberrheins: LVIII, 81.
Cite This Article
Hege, Christian. "Lober, Julius (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 28 Feb 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lober,_Julius_(16th_century)&oldid=118434.
Hege, Christian. (1957). Lober, Julius (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 February 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lober,_Julius_(16th_century)&oldid=118434.
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