Jobst Möller (Müller), an Anabaptist martyr from Schönau near Zwickau, Germany, was baptized with his brother Georg Möller in the home of Georg Knobloch (Knoblauch) at Halberstadt on 10 July 1535, by Heinz Kraut. Three weeks later Möller married Ursula Wedekind, a daughter of the martyr Greta Knobloch from her first marriage. Ursula's first husband had been executed in 1534 in Frankenhausen. (Thüringen, 127.) The marriage was of short duration. On 20 November 1535 Jobst and Ursula were taking part in a meeting of Anabaptists in the home of the miller Hans Peissker at Kleineutersdorf near Orlamünde in Saxony, which was disbanded by Peter Wolfram, bailiff of the Leuchtenburg. As the catchpolls closed in on them the little group began to sing the Luther hymn, "Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist," and cried to God to help them to be firm. Sixteen persons were taken to the Leuchtenburg, including Jobst Möller and his wife, Hans Peissker, Heinz Kraut, Heinrich Möller and his wife, and Georg Knobloch. On the way to prison they sang religious songs and called to the curious onlookers in the villages they passed through to repent. In the Leuchtenburg they were at once cross-examined. When asked what they thought of the sacrament (communion) all the prisoners said they did not agree with the Lutheran doctrine.
Since the prison was not large enough for 16, and a guard of 12 men would have been required, the men were divided between Jena, Kahla, Neustadt on the Orla, and the Arnshaugk castle, while the women remained at the Leuchtenburg. Jobst Möller, Heinz Kraut, and Lorenz (Hilarius) Petsch were taken to Jena. Here they were questioned on 1 and 6 December in the presence of the mayor and several members of the city council by Philip Melanchthon, Kaspar Cruciger, and the city pastor Anton Musa concerning their doctrinal position, including the Trinity, communion, forgiveness of sin, and baptism, as well as on civil matters such as community of goods, government, oath, and marriage. They said they had had no connections with the Münsterites, and could therefore say anything, either good or bad, about them.
Lorenz Petsch, who stemmed from Emseloh near Sangerhausen, and, as Melanchthon reported, had lived in villages where the Gospel was not preached and had consequently received no instruction, was separated from the rest. He had not yet been baptized and was from the beginning of the examination inclined to recant; he escaped from prison the day before the others were put to death.
The statements made by Jobst Möller, Heinz Kraut, and Hans Peissker have been published from the court records in Corpus Reformatorum II. Though the brief summary does not always correctly interpret the meaning, it nevertheless affords an insight into the principal doctrines of the Anabaptists in Saxony.
Concerning the doctrine of the Trinity they said, according to the text of the court record: "God the Father must be seen in omnipotence, the Son in righteousness, and the Spirit in kindness. Likewise they confess the eternal Deity of Christ together with the humanity He assumed, in which He suffered; they say nothing wrong about the two natures in Christ; but they say they are not educated and cannot talk much on these high articles." On the question as to how they had received pardon for their sin, the record gives their reply, "They must sincerely ask for forgiveness and must thereafter walk in righteousness, believe and trust God's Word, do the will of the Father, and the sins would be forgiven. In short, one must practice truth and righteousness." "Concerning the sacrament of baptism they say, infant baptism is not commanded, and all children are saved, whether of Christians, heathen, or Turks. God is not such a God that He would damn an infant on account of a little water; for all His creatures are good. And they deny original sin in children, for they have not willed to sin, but only when man is grown and sins voluntarily does original sin become valid. . . . The children are of the kingdom of heaven . . . and even if they sin it does not harm them, for they do not yet know what is good or what is bad" (Corp. Ref. II, 995, 999, and 1000).
Melanchthon at once reported to John, Elector of Saxony, the results of the examination, but does not quite do justice to their statements on civil matters. The brief summary of these statements gives the impression that Heinz Kraut and his companions rejected all government and taught that "Christians should have no government at all except the preachers" (Corp. Ref., 1004), and "a Christian can not be a ruler, who punishes with the sword," while according to the court record Heinz Kraut declared that "if the government deprived him of his faith he must not obey it. For he had only one Lord, God alone. He left his former government because it had interfered with his conscience. But he recognized government that rewards the good and punishes the wicked, and gives it whatever it requires. But neither he nor his brethren could assume the responsibility of government. To preach the Gospel no government permission is needed, but only the consent of his brethren and those who accept the Word" (Corp. Ref. II, 1000 f.). The statements of the prisoners on property rights are quoted in Melanchthon's report as a rejection of all personal possession and the requirement of complete community of goods (op. cit., 1004), whereas the court records show that they had no common possessions. "But a Christian must part from his possessions and his lands which he does not need for himself and his family" (op. cit., 998). On marriage it was their belief that no marriage could exist if the partners were not of the same faith, but the dissolution of the marriage should be postponed for a time until the erring partner has had an opportunity to place himself under God's Word, which should be a matter of prayer to God (op. cit., 1001).
Since the prisoners showed no inclination to give up their faith, the elector on 9 January 1536, ordered that the records be presented to the doctors of law then in the city of Jena for their official opinion on the method of punishment, "in order that this seductive sect be eradicated" (Thüringen, 404).
The cross-examination of the prisoners at Kahla and Leuchtenburg was reported to John of Saxony by Melanchthon on 19 January 1536, together with suggestions on punishment. Concerning the wavering father of a family he wrote, "With this one I beg you not to hasten punishment. For I hope that when his master Heinz Kraut, who lies in Jena, and a few other stubborn ones are executed, he will let himself be instructed. On the obstinate ones it is necessary to inflict serious punishment. And even though some may not be otherwise untractable, nevertheless this harmful sect must be resisted, in which there are so many terrible, dangerous errors. But with the poor obstinate women I think it is not necessary to hurry, but first deal earnestly with their husbands." John wrote a letter on 23 January concurring with Melanchthon's opinion (Corp. Ref. III, 16 f.).
The jurists of Jena wished to have the prisoners questioned further on a few points before giving their opinion, first in kindness, and then if they made no statements, on the rack. This was done on 26 January 1536. The instruments of torture produced no statements beyond what they had already said. On the next day they were condemned to death and beheaded.
The death sentence gives as the reasons for inflicting this penalty that the prisoners had allowed themselves to be baptized a second time, contributed to the spread of their ungodly, seditious doctrine, and held meetings at Kleineutersdorf. They had also, in spite of the application of much zeal and Christian teaching, not yielded their erroneous faith, but always said they would persist in it. Of Heinz Kraut it was said that he had participated in the revolt of Frankenhausen (Thüringen, 409-14).
The women held in the Leuchtenburg, the wives of Jobst and Heinrich Möller, were naturally crushed by the news of the execution, as Melanchthon hoped. On 13 January they had still resisted his attempts to convert them, and were described by Melanchthon as stubborn (Corp, Ref. III, 21). But now the widows were incapable of further resistance and yielded to pressure. They were joined by Ursula Meurer, a girl of 16 years. On 3 March 1536 the elector ordered that the women should make a public recantation in the church at Kahla (Thüringen, 423).
The execution of the three Möller brothers illustrates how the families of religious minorities in both Catholic and Protestant countries were torn apart, merely because they refused to join the state church. It is also evidence of the impression made on pious natures by steadfastness and suffering of believing Christians. The courage of Greta Knobloch, the mother-in-law of Jobst and Heinrich Möller, "was most highly praised by the populace, so that much annoyance to the preachers resulted from it and they were compelled to preach against it openly from the pulpits several rimes" (Thüringen, 109).
The martyrdom of the Möller brothers and their companions brought new converts to the Anabaptist movement. Hans Hamster, a young man of 33 and a brother-in-law of the Möller brothers, who had not yet been baptized, was now heart and soul in the cause (Inquisition, 100). He gave up his previous position because the lord of the place would not tolerate Anabaptists and moved away, but was seized in August 1538 on Saxon territory and was put through four cross-examinations. Each time he refused to make the required recantation, and finally said that he would willingly suffer and die for his faith. John sent his confession to the court in Wittenberg on 25 September. The court apparently hesitated to pronounce a verdict, for John sent a reproof on 14 October. It is not definitely known that Hamster shared the fate of his brothers-in-law, for the pertinent Zwickau records have disappeared (Inquisition, 114-17).
While these trials were in progress in Jena, Melanchthon planned to have a public warning against the Anabaptists issued. On 19 January 1536, he wrote John in connection with his report on the answers of the prisoners, "Perhaps it would be advisable for your Excellency to have a public writing issued, which would show what coarse, seditious, and dangerous articles the Anabaptists have, wherefore such earnest measures must be taken against them" (Corp. Ref. III, 17). The elector agreed with the proposal and assigned the composition to Melanchthon, asking him to send it to him and his brother for approval (Thüringen, 407). Then in February Melanchthon drew up a guide for pastors, with the title, Des Herrn Philipp Melanchthons Widerlegung auf etliche aufruhrische Artikel so die Wiederteufer treiben und verteidigen, which presents the teachings of the Anabaptists, in somewhat distorted form, and refutes them. At the end he says, "We also command that in all places the pastors and preachers shall give the people a thorough and clear report of these and other erroneous articles" (Corp. Ref. III, 28-34).
Since the execution of these persons who had been seized at an evening service of worship at Kleineutersdorf within the homeland of the Reformation caused great excitement, Melanchthon felt it necessary to defend the severe sentence pronounced against them in another booklet. It was published in Wittenberg in 1536 (without date) and had the title, Verlegung etlicher vnchristlicher Artikel; welche die Widerteuffer furgeben (38 pp.). In the preface Melanchthon says that on account of these articles, which all Anabaptists hold in common, several had recently been punished in these lands. With the exception of infant baptism the pamphlet deals not so much with questions of dogma as with questions of civil right, as the Anabaptist position on government, property, and divorce, imputing motives to them that are in many instances incompatible with the earnest character of the Anabaptists of Saxony. At the close he writes, "The Anabaptists have in addition more errors on both sacraments and their practice, and on other articles, of which others have already written before, and which cannot all be discussed here for lack of time." A second edition of this pamphlet appeared in Zwickau in 1536 without naming Melanchthon as the author.
Melanchthon's report to John on the statements of the martyrs executed in Jena found an echo in the mandate of 10 April 1536, in a warning reference to me executions, "that everyone may know how to guard himself against such blasphemous and seditious sects and that kind of seditious punishment."
In view of the fact that princes, theologians, and jurists were occupied for months with the religious confessions made by the condemned prisoners, it is appropriate to inquire what Anabaptist wing the Saxon group adhered to. Melanchthon noted in his pamphlets that "the Anabaptists are not alike." The jurists of Jena wanted to know definitely whether sedition could be charged against Jobst Möller, Heinz Kraut, and Hans Peissker, before giving their official opinion. The question was therefore to be asked the prisoners, whether they had any connections with the Münsterites; the answer was negative in both examinations, even with the application of torture. Melanchthon was also well aware that this was not the case; for he added to his account the statement that among the Münsterites more and worse errors were found.
That these Anabaptists had not the remotest idea of revolt is clear from their statement that only such persons were admitted to membership as would pledge themselves to commit no civil crime, but would obey God's command. Heinz Kraut demanded sincere penitence and devotion to God before he baptized anyone. Georg Kohler said on 4 September 1535, as recorded in the official report of the trial at Sangerhausen, "When one wishes to be baptized he comes to the baptizer and says kneeling: Dear Brother, I desire the bond of a good conscience with God and request baptism. The baptizer then says, And do you believe that Christ is the only begotten Son of God and is eternal, will you submit yourself entirely to Him alone, be obedient to Him as to a God and Lord, and if necessary die for His sake? If the answer is yes, the brother appointed to the task performs the sacred act, repeating first the baptism of John word for word. Then he wets his finger three times in the water, draws three crosses on the head and brow of the candidate, and says, I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He then earnestly admonishes the brother to follow the covenant, be obedient to God, avoid sin, and yet always consider himself a sinner in the sight of God" (Jacobs, 470).
This serious conception of discipleship coincides with the doctrine and thought of the High German Anabaptists, whose representatives met on 20 August 1527, in the Martyrs' Synod at Augsburg. That there were contacts between the Saxon and Upper German Anabaptists is known, for the Synod sent Hans Mittermaier, of Ingolstadt, as a missionary to Saxony in 1527.
Corpus Reformatorum II and III.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon., 4 v. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III: 149-152.
Jacobs, Eduard. "Die Wiedertäufer am Harz." Zeitschrift des Harz-Vereins für Geschichte und Altertumskunde 32 (1899).
Thomas, Chr. Philipp Melanchthon, Verzeichnis von den Wiedertäuffern, so in Jena gefangen gesessen und Anno 1536 enthauptet worden. Melanchthonis Articul wieder die Wiedertäuffer, die damals zu Weimar, Leuchtenburg und Jena gefangen gesessen, auch damit die meisten zu rechte gebracht 1536. Halle, 1693.
Wappler, Paul. Inquisition und Ketzerprozesse in Zwickau zur Reformationszeit: Dargestellt im Zusammenhang mit der Entwicklung der Ansichten Luthers und Melanchthons über Glaubens- und Gewissensfreiheit. Leipzig : M. Heinsius, 1908.
Wappler, Paul. Die Täuferbewegung in Thüringen von 1526-1584. Jena: Gustav Fisher, 1913.
Cite This Article
Hege, Christian. "Möller, Jobst (d. 1536)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 24 Jan 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%B6ller,_Jobst_(d._1536)&oldid=92903.
Hege, Christian. (1957). Möller, Jobst (d. 1536). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 January 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%B6ller,_Jobst_(d._1536)&oldid=92903.
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