Eder, Georg (1523-1586)

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Georg Eder, a Catholic jurist and humanist, one of the radical champions of the Counter Reformation in Austria and Bavaria during the second half of the 16th century. He was six times the "rector" of the University of Vienna, and rose high in the Austrian bureaucracy. His radical fight against all Protestant parties of the Reformation, but above all against the Lutherans, began at the time when the rather lenient Emperor Maximilian II (see Hapsburg) came to power (1564). He opposed the idea of conciliation with the Protestants, and worked for their total destruction. Since the emperor did not favor this line, Eder came into repeated conflicts with the government. Henceforth he leaned more heavily toward Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria, the actual prime mover of the South German Counter Reformation. His correspondence with the duke (published in 1904) reveals most impressively the spirit of that entire movement, which gained momentum also in Austria after the death of Maximilian in 1576.

Of the many polemical writings of Eder two are of greater significance to us, the Evangelische Inquisition, published 1573 by the Jesuit press of Dillingen, Bavaria (second edition at Ingolstadt in 1580), and the somewhat more restrained Malleus Haereticorum (Hammer of the Heretics). In both books Eder tries to justify himself for writing about such a subject in spite of being a jurist. Yet, he declares, he is writing not as a theologian but as a politician who is concerned with the general condition of the country both civic and religious. Church life has deteriorated, he laments, and all obedience to the authorities has nearly vanished, even in Vienna, the seat of the government, in spite of apparent faithfulness externally.

The Evangelische Inquisition is dedicated to two Hapsburg archdukes and was presented personally to the emperor. Nevertheless the imperial government reprimanded him for his attacks on the Lutherans, tried to confiscate all copies available, and forbade him to write further concerning such religious subjects. Since the emperor died only three years later (1576), this order was of little effect, and the book was soon republished (1580). A second volume was also planned but never published, perhaps due to the death of the author in 1586.

The title of this book runs as follows: Evangelische Inquisition wahrer und falscher Religion, wider das gemeine unchristliche Klaggeschrei, dass schier niemand mehr wissen könnt wie oder was er glauben soll (500 pages). Part I describes "the present condition of the churches and the general unchristian polemic" (Klaggeschrei), including also a Ketzertanz of 48 tables or charts. Part II discusses more of the heretical clamor "concerning the false repute of the new-fangled Gospel." Of all the Protestant groups the Anabaptists receive Eder's most acid attacks. In the "Fourth Table" (pp. 57-160) he enumerates not less than 38 different Anabaptist sects, mainly in Moravia (Erhard later repeats this list, enlarging it to 40 names), rather arbitrarily and without solid factual knowledge. Concerning the origin of Anabaptism, Eder claims that it derives somehow from Luther and his teachings. Most of what Eder writes is hear-say; mingled with a few correct statements is much fancy. In general the book is intended to be a defense of Catholicism against charges by the Lutherans.

Also the Malleus Haereticorum at many places mentions the Anabaptists, whose teachings and institutions are allegedly nothing but repetitions of errors revealed as such long before by the Roman Church. One of his sources here is Luther's well-known Brief an zwei Pfarrherrn of 1528, a tract likewise known to have little factual information. Yet in general this work is less vitriolic than the Evangelische Inquisition.

Both books were of great influence upon Christoph Erhard, the parish priest of Nikolsburg, Moravia, who continued the fight against both Lutherans and Anabaptists in his area, with about the same arguments. He, too, makes Luther responsible for the rise of Anabaptism, but is somewhat better informed than Eder. Very little is known about Eder's influence and success in the great fight he undertook.

See Counter Reformation


Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. 56 v. Leipzig, 1875-1912: V, 642.

Eder, Georg. Eine Briefsammlung: als Beitrag zur Geschichte der Gegenreformation in Niederösterreich. Karl Schrauf, ed. Wien : Holzhausen in Komm., 1904.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 504 f.

Author(s) Johann Loserth
Robert Friedmann
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Loserth, Johann and Robert Friedmann. "Eder, Georg (1523-1586)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 1 Aug 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eder,_Georg_(1523-1586)&oldid=144092.

APA style

Loserth, Johann and Robert Friedmann. (1956). Eder, Georg (1523-1586). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 August 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eder,_Georg_(1523-1586)&oldid=144092.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 147. All rights reserved.

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