Marbach, Johann (1521-1581)

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Johann Marbach, a German Lutheran theologian, studied at the University of Wittenberg, was called to Strasbourg in 1545, made professor of theology and president of the church convention in 1553, and died there on 17 March 1581. He was a zealous Lutheran and was often engaged in dispute with Johann Sturm, with Zanchi, the rector of the University, as well as with the Reformed clergy of the city.

Marbach made it his particular task to fight the Schwenckfelders and the Anabaptists. Against the former  he  preached seven successive sermons in 1556; the latter he tried to convert through church inspections. According to his statement, five councilmen met to deal with the Anabaptists pointed out by the inspectors. These councilmen, known as the Wiedertäuferherren (Anabaptist Committee), were chosen annually. Usually one or two preachers met with them. "Marbach generally came alone. Sometimes he had with him something the sectarians had written, in order to refute their doctrine. The sectarian was then given a definite period to repent; at its termination he was summoned; if he did not recant, he was banished from the city; if he returned, he was imprisoned" (Horning, 16; Hulshof, 232).

Marbach was present at the trial of the Anabaptists Veit Heilgenstein of Saarbrücken and Johannes Novesianus; because they persisted in their error they were expelled from the city. The same fate met Johannes Schlaf of Neuss (Records of the council, I and II, 1556).

In 1556 Marbach was invited by Palatine Elector Otto Heinrich to head a church inspection in his domain. It was reported that in the Neustadt Amt there were many Anabaptists and Schwenckfelders throughout the mountains, who met in woods and remote places. In Edenkoben the inspecting group converted an Anabaptist, and in Kreuznach two. In Dirmstein they disputed in vain with two Anabaptists, in Heppenheim with one who had gone to Moravia and had returned with a commission to the local brethren. At Stromberg six Anabaptists were in prison; they declared that they had left the church only because they did not believe that the immoral and ignorant local preachers possessed the Spirit of God.

In August 1557 Marbach conducted the disputation with the Anabaptists at Pfeddersheim. He also took part in the colloquium at Worms (11 September to 7 October 1557), and signed the document which the Protestant theologians issued after this debate, titled Prozess, wie es soll gehalten werden mit den Wiedertäufern durch etliche Gelehrten, so zu Worms versammelt gewesen, gestellt (Hege, 93 ft).

The official opinion which he formulated for Landgrave William of Hesse on 1 September 1569 concerning the unbaptized children of the Anabaptists, states that it is obligatory upon the state to baptize such children forcibly, even against the wishes of the parents. The marginal notes made by the landgrave on this document, however, repudiate the use of force in matters of faith (Hochhuth, 213-220).

In 1557 Marbach was instrumental in banishing three Anabaptists, Niklaus Fuchs, Wendel Harnan, and the wife of Martin Spanner, when they refused to accept the Lutheran faith. Again in 1558 three Anabaptists were brought before the Anabaptist Committee and expelled. Church inspections revealed the presence of Anabaptists at four localities in the country. At "St. Oswald" Marbach learned that the Anabaptists held monthly meetings on the Murhof or in the forest of Eckbolsheim or on Lichtenberg, "numbering 50, sometimes 200, indeed, a year ago 600." The inspection of 1579 found David Zoller at Barr, Andreas Maurer at Heiligenstein, and two others at Wasslenheim (Horning, 22).

In spite of all his efforts Marbach did not succeed in eradicating Anabaptism from Strasbourg and its vicinity. His suggestion to conduct a house to house inspection in the city was rejected by the city council. Until the middle of the 19th century there was a Mennonite congregation in Strasbourg

See Alsace


Hege, Christian. Die Täufer in der Kurpfalz: ein Beitrag zur badisch-pfälzischen Reformationsgeschichte. Frankfurt am Main: H. Minjon, 1908.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: III, 24 f.

Hochhuth, K. W. H. "Mitteilungen aus der Protestantischen Secten-Geschichte in der Hessischen Kirche." Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie (1859): 213-220.

Horning, Wilhelm. Dr. Johann Marbach: Pfarrer zu St. Nikolai, Münsterprediger, Professor und Präsident des luth. Kirchenconvents in Straßburg, 1545-1581; Beiträge zu dessen Lebensbild mit Bezugnahme auf die Reformatoren Zell, Butzer, Hedio u. Capito. Straßburg : Vomhoff, [1887]

Hulshof, Abram. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden te Straatsburg van 1525 tot 1557. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: J. Clausen, 1905.

Schmidt, C. F., ed. Der Anteil der Strassburger an der Reformation in der Churpfalz. Strasbourg: Schmidt, 1856.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Date Published 1957

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Neff, Christian. "Marbach, Johann (1521-1581)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 22 Sep 2023.,_Johann_(1521-1581)&oldid=146611.

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Neff, Christian. (1957). Marbach, Johann (1521-1581). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 September 2023, from,_Johann_(1521-1581)&oldid=146611.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 475-476. All rights reserved.

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