Drechsel, Thomas (16th century)

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Thomas Drechsel was one of the "Zwickau Prophets," who at the beginning of the Reformation attracted much attention and were mistakenly called Anabaptists in many of the older histories. Little is known of Drechsel's life. When Nikolaus Storch, who was to be given a hearing with 15 of his group at Zwickau, 16-17 December 1521, before the assembled clergy and other dignitaries because of erroneous opinions on marriage and baptism, left the city before the hearing took place and betook himself to Wittenberg, Thomas Drechsel and Marcus Stübner joined him. At Wittenberg they talked to Philip Melanchthon on 27 December, and told him that at Zwickau several persons had been imprisoned on account of their views on the baptism of children. Their arguments proving the unscripturalness of infant baptism made a deep impression on Melanchthon, a young professor of theology; neither he nor his colleague Nikolaus Amsdorf was able to answer their argument based on Mark 16:16. Stübner said that in the light of some wonderful conversations with God, he would preach only what God commanded. On that very day (27 December) Melanchthon wrote to Elector Frederick of Saxony concerning this visit and events in Zwickau, expressing a concern that God's Spirit should not be suppressed and, on the other hand, that Satan should not take them unawares.

Amsdorf, who did not feel capable of replying to the visitors from Zwickau, avoided meeting them, but on 28 December also wrote a letter to the elector, suggesting that they be countered only with reasonable and Scriptural arguments, for rebellion and revolt might follow violent suppression. Meanwhile the Zwickau men sought adherents in the city, Storch relating his wonderful visions and dreams in the homes of the craftsmen, Stübner dealing more with the students and professors, and Drechsel remaining somewhat in the background. Stübner made a lasting impression on Martin Cellarius, who at the time did not share the views of the other theologians on baptism.

The elector and Martin Luther, who had at once been informed of the presence of these men, were more reserved in judgment. To Luther the divine conversations of which they boasted seemed somewhat dubious. But he was also impressed by their objections to infant baptism, and now took pains to defend it anew, thereby developing further his view that through the work of the Holy Spirit faith is created which accepts the grace of baptism; faith is infused into the child. Let anyone who disagrees prove the opposite.

When Luther came to Wittenberg Drechsel paid him a visit. Luther was very short with him and warned him against playing with God's name. Drechsel left with an angry threat that in six weeks Wittenberg would perish, exclaiming, "Whoever does not say what Luther wishes must be a fool!"

Nothing is known of Drechsel's further activity. There is no evidence that he acted on his doubts concerning infant baptism. Neither he nor his companions Storch and Stübner were baptized on the confession of their faith, nor did they baptize others thus. Hence the Zwickau Prophets cannot be called representatives of Anabaptism.


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 472 f.

Wappler, Paul. Thomas Münzer in Zwickau und die "Zwickauer Propheten": wissenschaftliche Beilage zu dem Jahresberichte des Realgymnasiums mit Realschule zu Zwickau, Ostern 1908. Zwickau: Realgymnasium, 1908.

Author(s) Christian Hege
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Hege, Christian. "Drechsel, Thomas (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 4 Aug 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Drechsel,_Thomas_(16th_century)&oldid=120194.

APA style

Hege, Christian. (1956). Drechsel, Thomas (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 4 August 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Drechsel,_Thomas_(16th_century)&oldid=120194.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 98. All rights reserved.

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