Bünderlin, Johannes (1499-1533)

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Johannes (Hans) Bünderlin (Johannes Wunderl, 1499-1533), a teacher and friend of Sebastian Franck, and like him a spiritual reformer, at first joined the Anabaptists, but later left them and attacked them in speech and in writing. He was born in Linz in Upper Austria. On 19 September 1515 he was matriculated as an auditor at the University of Vienna. In 1519 he left the city. He may then, as Nicoladoni assumes, have wandered about as a traveling scholar. Gustav Bossert (Jahrbücher für Protestantismus in Oesterreich XV, 36) established his identity with Hans Fischer, the former secretary of Baron Bartholomäus von Stahremberg. He acquired this name from his father's occupation. Nicoladoni still treats the two as separate individuals.

Very likely Bünderlin went to Augsburg in the spring of 1526. Here he became acquainted with Hans Denck, who exerted the greatest influence on his religious views, and perhaps induced him to join the Anabaptists. In Augsburg he was baptized, as he states in his trial at Strasbourg 16 March 1529. From here he was probably sent to his home town of Linz as an “apostle of the Anabaptists,” where he appeared in 1526. He accepted the secretarial position of von Stahremberg and was very active as the leader of the Anabaptists in Linz and Wels. But he had to flee and went to Nikolsburg in Moravia, where the lords of Liechtenstein offered the Anabaptists a haven. Perhaps he participated in the disputation between Hubmaier and Hut, which was attended by a throng of Anabaptist preachers. As persecution by the Austrians became increasingly violent he had to flee from here too. At the beginning of 1528 he was in Strasbourg. He was imprisoned twice (Nicoladoni, 118). His second arrest took place in the house of the boatman Klaus Bruch, at a meeting which he had called and where a portion of a booklet he had written was read aloud. From this it is known that he was actually an "apostle" of the Anabaptists; for meetings of this kind were usually held only upon their arrival at places where there were Anabaptists.

In 1529 he left Strasbourg for Konstanz, where Johannes Zwick, the reformer of the city, received him in his house as an opponent of the Anabaptists. Zwick's colleagues warned him of his "dangerous" guest. He therefore inquired of Oecolampadius for information about the visitor. Oecolampadius sharply condemned Bünderlin and his writings as "dark and accursed." This caused Zwick to insist on Bünderlin's departure from the city. He apparently next went from Konstanz to Prussia, perhaps under the direction of Caspar Schwenckfeld. Bossert (Jahrbücher XIII, 54) proves that Bünderlin was expelled from Prussia in August 1532. At this point all trace of him is lost. Nicoladoni surmises that he was captured in May 1533 in Litium (?) and there executed as a heretic.

Nor is there more information on Bünderlin's connection with Schwenkfeld. But Sebastian Franck speaks enthusiastically about Bünderlin in a letter to Joh. Campanus in 1531. He calls him "a learned, amazingly pious man, quite dead to the world." "I also wish to be baptized with the same baptism as he received." "He was indeed a man firm and strong in the Scriptures and gifted with a serene and especial understanding, mightily to entangle and overcome his enemies. But for the sake of the faith he did not wish to be involved in strife or dissension; for it was his view that a Christian is not a sower of discord, but should have his example only in Christ and His first church. He knew all the reasons in the Scriptures, and knew, why a thing was said, and explained it according to the spirit, and not according to the letter like the scribes, especially Luther. He did not know whether Bünderlin was his brother in the faith, but he was a pleasant and desirable guest, frank and—speaking honestly—much more learned and pious than he himself, miserable man. He could therefore do much more in many matters than he; he could also be more open and free; for he had neither wife nor child" (Nicoladoni, 125f.).

Nicoladoni gives the principal contents of four books by Bünderlin (132-55):

  1. Ein gemayne Berechnung über der Heiligen Schrift Inhalt, aus derselben natürlichen Verstand (mit Anzeigung ihres Missverstands, Grund und Ursprung) einzuleiten, durch etlichen Punkten Gegensatz Erklärung, dabei man die andern, so vielfältig in der Schrift verfasst sind, auch abnehmen mag. In vier Teyl durch Joanem Bünderlin von Lyntz gestellet.Prüfet alles und behaltet das gut. I. Thess. 5. Urteilet nit vor der Zeit (Strasbourg, 1529).
  2. The second book of Bünderlin appeared under the title, Aus was Ursach sich Gott in die Nyder gelassen und in Christo vermenschet ist, durch welchen und wie er des menschen Fall in ihm selbs durch den gesandten Messiah versunnt und widerpracht hat. Röm. 11: Denn aus in und durch in und in in sein alle Dinge. At the end,”Durch Joh. Bünderlin von Lyntz” (Strasbourg, 1529).
  3. In 1530, without stating the place of publication, a new work by Bünderlin appeared, titled Erklärung durch Vergleichung der biblischen geschrifft, dass der Wassertauf sampt anderen äusserlichen Gebräuchen in der Apostolischen Kirchen geübet, on Gottes befelch und zeugniss der Geschrifft von etlichen dieser Zeit wider eefert wird. Sintemalen der Antichrist die-selben allzehand nach der Apostel abgang verwüst hat. Welche Verwüstung dann bis an das ende bleibt. Dan. 11. Joh. 4—Gott ist ein Geist und die in anbettend, die müssen in geist und in der warheit eeren und anbeten.
  4. Ein gemyne einlayttung in den aygentlichen Verstand Mosi und der Profeten, wie man sie lesen und in Allegorien mit dem neuen Testament vergleichen und auslegen soll. Ann vilen und den notwendigen Punkten gemehret, gebessert und von newem corrigirt. Mit Dannenthuung der letzten Clausulen, so aus unverstand vorhin dran gehenkt ist. I. Thess. V. Den Geist lescht nit auss. Weissagung verachtet nit. Prüfet alles und das gut behaltet. MDXXIX.

The royal library of Dresden contains a copy of the first three Bünderlin writings, including the tract on baptism which has hitherto been used only in a single copy found in the library of the University of Utrecht

In these writings we become acquainted with a pantheistic-mystical, speculative-theosophist and subjectivistic-rationalistic viewpoint of the author, who ranks among the most liberal theologians of his day. The first book reveals a dependence on Hans Denck. With warm words he champions tolerance in matters of faith, emphasizes the inner Word, which he places above the outer, and demands a purely spiritual worship with the absence of all outward ceremony. Christ's work of redemption consists in our acknowledging God's love in His mission and in becoming His disciples. The third book is the most important; it shows clearly that his ideas are not based on Anabaptist principles. Only those are the blessed who adhere to no outer party or sect. Only the inward devotion of the heart is true worship, which makes the outward unnecessary. Baptism should not be made a burden on the conscience of sinful man. Christians do not need baptism, for as Christians they do not assemble for battle, but each clings to God in spirit and serves God, without the attention or motivation of others, and nobody needs to be concerned as in the external Israel as to who is or remains a Christian.

We can understand that the Biblicistic Anabaptists rejected and opposed his teaching. Pilgram Marpeck wrote a refutation against Bünderlin under the title, Ain Clarer vast nützlicher Unterricht, wider etliche trück und schleichendt geister, so jetzt in verborgener weis ausgeen dadurch vil frommer hertzen verirrt und verführt werden, kürzlich, getreuer warnung wegn herfürgebracht 1. betreffend das apostel ampt, 2. das bischoffampt, 3. die Ceremonien Christi, 4. Unterschiedt der Gottheit und menschheit Christi, 5. die Sendung und Wort eenes newen propheten, 6. gebet ein gut werk Corneli. Prov. XXI. Es ist dem gerechten ein freud zu tun was recht is, aber ein forckt der übelthäter. Nit was, sonder das. MDXXXI. (Hulshof, 99.) This book was unfortunately lost in the fire of 1870 in Strasbourg; it might have given interesting information on Bünderlin's relation to the Anabaptists.


Bossert, Gustav. "Hans Bünderlins Vorgeschichte." Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für die Geschichte des Protestantismus in Oesterreich (1890): 161.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 298.

Hulshof, A. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden te Straatsburg van 1525 tot 1557: Academisch proefschrift ... Amsterdam: J. Clausen, drukker van het Amsterdamsch studentencorps, 1905.

Jones, Rufus. Spiritual Reformers of the Sixteenth Century. London 1914: Chapter III.

Köhler, W. "Hans Bünderlin." Die Religion in Geschichte and Gegenwart, 2. ed., 5 vols. Tübingen: Mohr, 1927-1932: v. I, col. 1345.

Monatshefte der Comenius-Gesellschaft (1893): 199; (1894): 96, 103; (1895): 59.

Nicoladoni, Alexander. Johannes Bünderlin von Linz und die oberösterreichischen Täufergemeinden in den Jahren 1525-1531. Berlin: R. Gaertner, Hermann Heyfelder, 1893.

Rembert, Karl. Die "Wiedertäufer" im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899.

Stadelmann, Rudolf. Vom Geist des ausgehenden Mittelalters: Studien zur Geschichte der Weltanschauung von Nicolaus Cusanus bis Sebastian Franck. Halle/Saale: Max Niemeyer, 1929.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Date Published 1953

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MLA style

Neff, Christian. "Bünderlin, Johannes (1499-1533)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 9 Aug 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=B%C3%BCnderlin,_Johannes_(1499-1533)&oldid=144031.

APA style

Neff, Christian. (1953). Bünderlin, Johannes (1499-1533). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 9 August 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=B%C3%BCnderlin,_Johannes_(1499-1533)&oldid=144031.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 469-470. All rights reserved.

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