Gross, Jakob (16th century)

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Jakob Gross (Jakob von Waldshut), a furrier of Waldshut, South Germany, a very successful Anabaptist leader. According to his statements in his cross-examination (Meyer, 245 f.), he received from Conrad Grebel, whom he called "the student from Zürich," his first suggestion to join the Anabaptists. Balthasar Hubmaier baptized him. He at once went out as an Anabaptist missioner. He was expelled from Waldshut because he refused to support the peasants of Zell in military service. (This he himself said in his trials at Zürich and Strasbourg.)

In autumn of 1525 Gross was in the Grüningen district of the canton of Zürich, Switzerland, and baptized about 35 in one day. Expelled from there in early 1526 he went to the canton of Bern, preaching at Zofingen, Brittnau, and Aarau, baptizing many, until he was imprisoned at Brugg. He skillfully defended Anabaptist doctrine. Devils are driven out of children, said he, although they do not have any, Zwingli and his theologians he reproached with keeping comfortable and rich prebends instead of going out as messengers of God to proclaim the Word and direct the erring to the right way. But those who proclaimed the Word of God without salary, content with mere food, were hunted, arrested, and subjected to all kinds of misery (Egli, 45).

In Lahr, where he soon continued his work, Gross was again imprisoned and then expelled. From Lahr he went to Strasbourg in the summer of 1526. But here he baptized hardly more than three, one of them the furrier Matthis Hiller. His meetings were poorly attended. They were opened with a prayer to ask the presence of God, that He might give strength to bear the cross with patience. Then one of the brethren rose to explain a portion of Scripture, to warn against sinful living, to admonish the hearers not to violate God's commands, to love their neighbors and feed their enemies.

Nevertheless Jakob Gross ranked with Hubmaier and Reublin as one of three most influential in founding the Strasbourg Anabaptist congregation. He was prevented from a more successful ministry by his arrest soon after his arrival. During his cross-examination, 9 August 1526, he expressed some surprise that the Gospel had had so little effect after four years of preaching in Strasbourg. He complained that he was put into prison without a hearing or an admonition. But he was not afraid; for against God's will they could not injure a hair of his head. Even if the life of a Christian might be nothing but persecution and cross-bearing, which was also the lot of the apostles, that should not injure his faith, and if it was God's will he would sacrifice his life, as he had already given up his possessions. Against the Catholic doctrine that baptism washes away original sin he cited the Scripture, "Baptism, not putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God" (1 Peter 3:21). He would have nothing to do with infant baptism; for baptism is nothing but a change in living, a dying to sensual flesh; and since a little child is not yet master of its flesh it cannot kill the flesh. Furthermore, the Lord's command, Matthew 28, refers only to baptism after confession. In the end everybody must decide for himself whether to be baptized or not; this a child cannot do. Obedience to the government is a duty; for the sword is given it to punish the evil and protect the good. For himself, he wanted to obey all its commands; he would serve as a guard, put on armor, take the sword; but he would refuse to kill anyone, for that was not commanded by God. He would also refuse to swear an oath on the basis of Jesus' command in Matthew 5.

From Strasbourg Jakob Gross went to Augsburg. He may have taken part in the well-known Anabaptist synod here, which took place 20 August 1527 and is known as the martyrs' synod. On 15 September 1527 he was seized with Hans Hut at an Anabaptist meeting in Augsburg. Almost four years he languished in prison, until he recanted, 22 June 1531.


Bender, Harold. S. Conrad Grebel, c. 1498-1526: the founder of the Swiss Brethren sometimes called Anabaptists. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1950: 152.

Cornelius, C. A. Geschichte des Mün­sterischen Aufruhrs. Leipzig, 1860: II.

Egli, Emil. Die Züricher Wiedertäufer zur Reformationszeit: nach den Quellen des Staatsarchivs. Zürich: Friedrich Schulthess, 1878.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 187 f.

Hulshof, Abraham. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden te Straatsburg van 1525 tot 1557. Amsterdam: J. Clausen, 1905: 18-22.

Meyer Chr. Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Schwaben und Neuburg (1874): 213 ff.

Muralt, Leonhard von and Walter Schmid. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer in der Schweiz, I. Band: Zürich. Zürich: S. Hirzel, 1952: 107, 261, 202.

Röhrich, F. W. Zeitschrift für historische Theologie 30 (1860): 33 ff.

Roth, Friedrich. Augsburgs Reformationsgeschichte. München: Theodor Ackermann, 1901.

Roth, Friedrich. Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Schwaben und Neuburg 28 (1901): 4 ff.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Date Published 1956

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Neff, Christian. "Gross, Jakob (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 5 Dec 2023.,_Jakob_(16th_century)&oldid=145343.

APA style

Neff, Christian. (1956). Gross, Jakob (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 December 2023, from,_Jakob_(16th_century)&oldid=145343.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 598-599. All rights reserved.

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