Amsdorf, Nicolaus von (1483-1565)

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Nicolaus von Amsdorf. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Nicolaus von Amsdorf was born in 3 December 1483 in Torgau, Germany, and died 14 May 1565 in Eisenach. He was the reformer of Magdeburg, was Luther's trusted friend and zealous co-worker, and a harsh character, as was shown especially in his controversy with Melchior Hoffman. It is unlikely that the two met in Wittenberg in 1525. Friedrich Otto zur Linden states in his book, Melchior Hofmann, that Hoffman, on his second journey to Wittenberg (1527), looked Amsdorf up in Magdeburg in order to receive from him an oral explanation of his eschatological views, which Amsdorf had already sent him in writing. Following the advice of Luther, Amsdorf gave him a very unfriendly reception, and after a violent exchange of words showed him the door. At the same time he wrote a coarse polemic against Hoffman: Eine Vermahnung an die von Magdeburg, dass sie sich vor falschen Propheten zu hüten wissen (1527). Hoffman replied to his opponent "with all love," although he felt that Amsdorf was to blame for his imprisonment in Magdeburg, on his return from Wittenberg. When Amsdorf replied with a pamphlet filled with new attacks, Hoffman was content to send it to Luther with a complaint.

A year later strife flared up again. In Hamburg Amsdorf became acquainted with Hoffman's chiliastic writings, and turned against him with a pamphlet: Das Melchior Hoffmann ein falscher Prophet und seine hehre vom Jüngsten Tag unrecht, falsch und wider Gott ist; an alle Heilige und Gläubige an J. Chr. zu Kiel und im ganzen Holstein (1528). Hoffman replied with an unusually violent lampoon: Dass Nicolaus Amsdorf, der Magdeburger Pastor, ein Lügenhafter falscher Nasengeist sei, öffentlich bewiesen durch Melchior Hoffmann, Prediger zu Kiel im Land zu Holstein (Kiel, 1528). This pamphlet created a great stir. Luther sided with his friend. The latter seems to have answered in similar vein, but there is no trace of the pamphlet. Hoffman's reply, Dass Nic. Amsdorf, der Magdeburger Pastor, nicht weiss, was er schreiben oder schwätzen soll, has been preserved.

In the violence of his quarrel, Amsdorf throws the Anabaptists and Zwinglians into one group. In the church regulations of Goslar (1531) drawn up by him he said, "Every pastor shall confess openly that he believes and holds that the Zwinglian and Anabaptist doctrine of the sacrament, an external word and sign, is wrong, false, a lie and heresy; therefore he shall teach and vow never to teach their doctrine, but with all his power to fight, teach, and strive against it" (Richter's Kirchen-Ordnungen,154ff.). In his Positiones wider die Wiedertäufer und Sacramentierer (336), he wrote, "The Anabaptists and sacramentalists impress all Germany now with their sanctity, as formerly the monks impressed the whole world; not that they have true sanctity, but vaunt themselves with a pretended one." In a similar vein he expressed himself on 18 December 1532 in a letter to the council of the city of Soest, warning them of Joh. Campanus and Melchior Hoffman.


Amsdorf, Nicolaus von. Schlussreden wider die Wiedertäufer und Sacramentierer. Magdeburg, 1535. Reprinted in J. G. Walch, D. M. Luthers sämmtliche Schriften, XX. St. Louis, Missouri, USA): 1890: Col. 1742-1751.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 58.

Krohn, N. B. Geschichte der fanatischen und enthusiastischen Wiedertäufer, vornehmlich in Niederdeutschland. Leipzig, 1758.

Linden, F. O. z. Melchior Hofmann, ein Prophet der Wiedertäufer. Haarlem, 1885.

Pressel, Theodor. Nicolaus von Amsdorf: nach gleichzeitigen Quellen. Elberfeld: R. L. Friderichs, 1862.

Rembert, Karl. Die Wiedertäufer im Herzogtum Jülich: Capitel II und III : Inaugural-Dissertation . . . Münster: Johannes Bredt, 1893. 191.

Wolf, Gustav. Quellenkunde der deutschen Reformationsgeschichte. Gotha : F. A. Perthes a.-g., 1915-23: II, Part 2: par. 93, p. 12.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Date Published 1955

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MLA style

Neff, Christian. "Amsdorf, Nicolaus von (1483-1565)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 24 Nov 2020.,_Nicolaus_von_(1483-1565)&oldid=144709.

APA style

Neff, Christian. (1955). Amsdorf, Nicolaus von (1483-1565). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 November 2020, from,_Nicolaus_von_(1483-1565)&oldid=144709.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 100. All rights reserved.

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