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Judicium was a polemic written by Caspar von Schwenckfeld in reply to Pilgram Marpeck's Vermahnung, which had appeared anonymously in 1542. Marpeck's booklet, called the Taufbüchlein, since it is an exposition and guide to the churches for the proper observance of baptism and communion, rejects all mystical interpretation of these two signs of union, but demands the highest standards of faith and life on the part of the members. The Vermahnung, of which only two copies exist, in libraries in London and Stuttgart, but which was reprinted in the Gedenkschrift zum 400-Jährigen Jubiläum der Mennoniten oder Taufgesinnten (Ludwigshafen, 1925, 178-282), was used by Schwenckfeld in attacking Anabaptist teaching. (He had for many years been in friendly intercourse with them.) He presented his views in a writing to the Anabaptists which contains 100 "talks" and carries the title, Über das neu Büchlein der Taufbrüder im 1542 Jahr ausgangen Judicium; there is a manuscript copy in the library at Wolfenbuttel.

In Anabaptist circles the Judicium produced great disquiet. Marpeck said it contained untrue charges, false interpretations and inferences, "as if we did not properly understand and observe communion with Christ, baptism, ban, and communion, did not know God nor Christ, made a god of the creature and a creature of God, confused one thing with another, and finally did not know ourselves where we stand." These charges created deep concern among the Anabaptists with their striving for holiness; to the external pressure of persecution by church and state was added misunderstanding on the part of hitherto like-minded circles. The seriousness of this worry is indicated by Walpurga of Pappenheim, who said 30 years later that "Schwenckfeld had caused great anxiety among the believers."

The Judicium discusses dogmatic questions on which the views of the Anabaptists, now in written form, differed from those of Schwenckfeld; they did not agree on the Incarnation, baptism, or church organization. Schwenckfeld was of the opinion that believers no longer had the power to keep unity in the Holy Spirit, in baptism, ban, discipline, and communion, but that the sending of a prophet was needed; also that the Old Testament fathers, the patriarchs, prophets, etc., had also been Christians. On other questions previous discussions had already proved fruitless.

Lutheran divines also took note of the Judicium. Matthias Flacius Ola wrote a reply to it with the title Matthiae Flacii Antwort auf das Stenckfeldische Büchlein, Iudicium genannt, a copy of which is said to be in the library of Count Palatine Ottheinrich (Schottenloher, 38).

The opposite conceptions of these questions, which had not been so clearly evident until they were written down, led the elders of the South German and Swiss Brethren under the leadership of Pilgram Marpeck to reply in a comprehensive statement, which circulated among the Brethren in manuscript form, a copy also being given to Schwenckfeld. He did not reply. The Verantwortung, as Pilgram Marpeck called this reply, is still extant in various libraries (Munich, Zurich, and Olomuce) and was published in 1929 by Johann Loserth (in Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der oberdeutschen Taufgesinnten im 16. Jahrhundert). It had previously been only occasionally mentioned in the literature. It is today considered the most important source for the evaluation of the doctrine and views of the High German and Swiss Brethren in the middle of the 16th century


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 440.

Author(s) Christian Hege
Date Published 1957

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Hege, Christian. "Judicium." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 25 Oct 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Judicium&oldid=145549.

APA style

Hege, Christian. (1957). Judicium. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 October 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Judicium&oldid=145549.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 125; vol. 4, p. 1146. All rights reserved.

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