Kautz, Jakob (1500-1532?)

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Jakob Kautz (1500-1532?), for two years a Lutheran preacher at Worms, Germany, joined the Anabaptists in 1526. In his later public work he expressed some ideas similar to Hans Denck's. In the spring of 1527 Denck and Ludwig Haetzer finished translating the Prophets from Hebrew to German at Worms, a task which had not yet been done because of linguistic difficulties. Thus Kautz had a considerable period of contact with Denck beginning in January 1527. Denck did not appear in public in Worms, but after his expulsion from Strasbourg used this retirement to devote himself to his scholarly work.

In the free imperial city a lively religious movement was in progress, the consequence of the struggles of the citizenry with the bishop. The courage and eloquence of the gifted young preacher Kautz had soon won a considerable following. He urged a spiritual Christian life, and union with God, placing no value on cult forms. He felt himself akin to Wolfgang Capito, who also laid the chief stress on the spirit, and who, of all the reformers, was most like the Anabaptists in position. Thus it is easy to understand Denck's influence on him.

Kautz at first worked quietly for the movement. In January 1527, his colleague Hilarius joined the Anabaptists. For a while they continued to practice infant baptism, so that the government would have no cause for action against the parents. But on 27 January 1527 the Elector Palatine, Louis V, to protect the rights of his brother, the bishop of Worms, demanded that the council take steps against these two preachers. The council hesitated, urging the bishop instead to have the pure Gospel preached in the churches; then peace and quiet could be kept among the citizens.

The elector, however, insisted, and on 31 March 1527, Kautz and Hilarius had to answer before the council. Kautz refused to preach contrary to his convictions, and continued to preach them. His following increased from day to day. Karl Hagen says one hundred peasants, followers of Kautz, were executed because they would not recant. On Thursday, 13 June, he challenged his opponents to a public disputation. He outlined his views in seven theses (Mennonitisches Lexikon I, 158), and attached them to the door of the Predigerkirche in Worms. In them he stresses the inner life, which forms the core of religious striving. The "external," which for him includes the written and spoken word, communion, and infant baptism, has no power to comfort the inner man or assure him of salvation. Even the physical suffering of Christ would not be a true reconciliation with God without inner obedience. The Christian must be a disciple and follow the Father's commands like the Son.

Fr. Zorn, the chronicler of Worms, says Haetzer, Denck, and Melchior Rink were invited to participate in the disputation, but their names are not given in any publications (zur Linden, 174); the replies to the seven theses also name only Kautz as their author. Nor do the Kautz views as a whole coincide with Denck's. Denck's statements on these points, where they are found in his writings, are clearer and more mature. It is therefore most unlikely that Denck co-operated in drawing up the theses, or even that he gave his consent to their publication (Hege, 38-42).

Kautz's theses brought an immediate response. The two Lutheran preachers in Worms, Ulrich Preu and Johann Freiherr, wrote seven counter theses, which they posted on the church doors and put into print at once. At the advice of Johann Cochlaeus, who was also replying to some theses published in both Latin and German, the council decided on 1 July 1527 to banish the two preachers from the city. On 2 July the Strasbourg reformers issued a publication titled, Getrewe Warnung der Prediger des Evangely zu Strassburg vber die Artickel, so Jakob Kautz, Prediger zu Wormbs, kürtzlich hat lassen aussgehen, concerning which Röhrich says the preachers here defend "several of the debated doctrinal statements with arguments that careful exegesis would hardly consider valid; and other reasons are presented so strikingly and convincingly that they would not be without effect on the less prejudiced" (Röhrich, Reformation I, 339).  Zwingli also attacked the Kautz theses.

After his expulsion from Worms, Kautz sought refuge in South Germany. He seems to have gone first to Rothenburg on the Tauber, where he worked with Wilhelm Reublin. Then he went to Augsburg, where on 22 June a new edition of the translation of the Prophets had just come off the Ottmar press. He took part in the martyrs' synod on 20 August 1527 (Keller, Reformation, 427). In June 1528 he went to Strasbourg (Cornelius, II, 274). Here the reformers tried again to convert him. He left the city, but returned in August, and was seized on 22 October 1528, at a meeting, with Wilhelm Reublin and other attendants. In prison he had frequent talks with the reformers, but his request for a public debate was denied when the council learned that Worms had expelled him (Röhrich, "Strassburgische Wiedertaufer," 43). Kautz and Reublin now drew up a statement of their faith: they knew only adult baptism; infant baptism was not in accord with Christ's command; they compared the Strasbourg theologians to unskilled carpenters, who tear down more than they can build up (Röhrich, 44). In prison Kautz and Reublin again complained that they were not permitted to present their teaching openly or to the magistrate. The magistrate still refused public debate; they must limit themselves to written expression (Röhrich, 47). Not much is known of the content of their written statements, for they are lost (see Bucer; Schiess, I, 169).

The authorities asked the advice of various preachers and councilors as to how to proceed with the prisoners. One opinion has been preserved; it recommends the death penalty for Kautz and exile for the others (Hulshof, 84).

In prison Kautz became ill and declared himself willing to renounce Anabaptism. He was expelled, and then attached himself to Peter Schöffer, the printer who had published several editions of the translation of the Prophets by Denck and Haetzer in 1527 and 1528 (Hege, 22-31). In the same year, 1529, Kautz published the first complete German Bible based on the original text, five years before Luther's Bible. The Worms Bible was built on Luther's, as far as it had appeared. The rest is based on the Zürich Bible. The apocryphal books are attributed to Kautz, who made use of Leo Jud's translation of 1529 (Metzger, 75).

Kautz tried to earn a living as a tutor. Seriously ill, he sought (14 October 1532) medical aid in Strasbourg; but the magistrate refused him entry on the ground that it was not clear that he had renounced Anabaptism, and asked the opinion of the Strasbourg reformers (Cornelius, 279). In a second petition for toleration Kautz, broken in body and spirit, wrote that he had renounced it in prison, and now "knew nothing but Jesus the Crucified, that He is Lord; but no lover of God can abstain from proclaiming the virtue of Him who has called us to His wonderful light" (Röhrich, "Strassburgische Wiedertaufer," 63). His petition for toleration in the city was denied on the counsel of the reformers on 16 October (Röhrich, 60; Cornelius, 277).

Little is known of Kautz's further fate. He died soon afterward, and his wife seems to have followed him in death a little later. His father's brother Peter took care of their children in Worms.

According to Calvary, Mitteilungen aus dem Antiquariate I (1870, supplement 5, 6, p. 52), the following works by Kautz have appeared: Von der evangelischen Mess. Mit schönen christlichen Gebetten vor und nach der entphahung der Sacramente (Hagenau, 1524), and Wie man die Krankken und sterbenden Mensehen ermanen . . . sol (n.p., 1574).


Baring, Georg. "Die Wormser Propheten" (reprint from Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 31 (1934): 23-41

Baring, Georg. Another article with the same title in Deutsches Bibelarchiv, Dritter Bericht. Potsdam, 1933.

Böshenz, J. "Jacob Kautz, ein Grossbockenheimer Volksprediger der Reformationszeit." Neue Leininger Blätter 1 (October 1926)

Brecher, A. "Jakob Kautz," in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie XV: 510-511.

Cornelius, C. A. Geschichte des Munsterischen Aufruhrs. II Leipzig, 1860.

Hege, Christian. Die Täufer in der Kurpfalz. Frankfurt, 1908.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 476-478.

Hegler, A. "Jakob Kautz," in Herzog, J. J. and Albert Hauck, Realencyclopedie für Protestantische Theologie and Kirche, 24 vols. 3. ed. Leipzig: J. H. Hinrichs, 1896-1913: v. 10, 192-194.

Hulshof, A. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgez. te Straatsburg van 1525 tot 1557. Amsterdam, 1905.

Keller, Ludwig. Die Reformation und die älteren Reformparteien. Leipzig, 1885.

Linden, F. O. zur. Melchior Hofmann, ein Prophet der Wiedertäufer. Haarlem, 1885.

Metzler, J. J. Geschichte der deutschen Bibelübersetzungen in der schweizerisch-reformierten Kirche. Basel, 1876.

Röhrich, T. W. Geschichte der Reformation in Elsass I. Strasbourg, 1830.

Röhrich, T. W. "Zur Geschichte der Strassburgischen Wiedertäufer." Zeitschrift für die Historische Theologie (1860).

Author(s) Christian Hege
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hege, Christian. "Kautz, Jakob (1500-1532?)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 24 Sep 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kautz,_Jakob_(1500-1532%3F)&oldid=144217.

APA style

Hege, Christian. (1957). Kautz, Jakob (1500-1532?). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 September 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kautz,_Jakob_(1500-1532%3F)&oldid=144217.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 159-160. All rights reserved.

©1996-2023 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.