Marpeck, Pilgram (d. 1556)

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Pilgram Marpeck (Marbeck): author and leader of the South German Anabaptists, 1530-1556; concerning the life and work of this man, the most important of the German Anabaptists in the middle of the 16th century, little was known until very recently. This is understandable, for the great Geschicht-Buch of the Hutterian Brethren did not record his name, nor do the abundant hymns of the Anabaptists name him favorably, although more recent investigation has revealed numerous contacts between Marpeck's circle and the Hutterites in Moravia. Indeed Marpeck's great work, the Verantwortung, his reply to Schwenckfeld's Judicium, which in turn was a reply to Marpeck's Buch der Bundesbezeugung, or Vermahnung, was first found and noted by them, and as was proved very recently, they even used Marpeck's book as the basis for decision in debatable questions. What a pity it is that this work in the ensuing time was to sink away into oblivion, so much the more so since it is precisely this work that has called to attention the existence of a third great Anabaptist book of the same period, the knowledge of which had likewise vanished from the later Anabaptists. The book referred to is the Testamentserläuterung, which is one of the most important of the works preceding Marpeck's great work and was probably written under his leadership and supervision by a close circle of fellow believers.

As a result of recent research the Anabaptist world of today is the recipient of three Anabaptist books that have been hitherto almost unknown; first the Bundesbezeugung, which will be briefly referred to in this article as the "Baptism booklet" of 1542; second the Testamentserläuterung (Testament Explanation); and third the Verantwortung (Answer) to Schwenckfeld's Judicium (Critique) concerning the baptism booklet. We become acquainted with these men who collaborated with Marpeck in his work, and who after its completion subjected it to a critical survey, after which it was released for general use ("to each and all who will have it"). These men were Pilgram Marpeck, Leopold Scharnschlager, the leader of the Swiss Brethren in the Grisons, Sigmund Bosch, Martin Blaichner, Valentin Werner, Antoni Muller, and Hans Jacob, several of whom are also known as the authors of hymns.

Marpeck's Origin and Education

Pilgram Marpeck was a native of Tyrol, Austria. This could be gathered from his language and way of writing even if there were no record in the Tyrol court records. His family lived in prosperity at Rattenberg on the Inn in the 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries. Records in the government archives show that Jakob Marpeck, who is mentioned under the date of 23 November 1489 as a judge at Rattenberg, was a member of this family. Likewise under 10 August 1494, a Heinrich Marpeck is named as judge at the same place, who served until 1502. He was in the city council, in 1511 was the mayor, and in 1514 was still in the council. The family coat-of-arms shows a bird on a sphere.

Pilgram Marpeck attended the Latin school in Rattenberg. Thus he received a "scholarly education," which can be discerned in his writings, which contain not only numerous Latin words but also a Latinized sentence construction. He united with the miners' brotherhood of Rattenberg as one of the last to do so, as is shown by an old notation of 26 February 1520, which also records that he was married by that time. This disproves the assumption by Gerber that he had been a cleric. The Tyrolese authorities would not have given him the office of mining judge, to which he was called on 20 April 1525, if he had been a renegade monk or cleric. Two years previously, on 24 February 1523, he had been a member of the Rattenberg outer council and after 11 June 1525, also a member of the inner council.

In the 1520s Marpeck had the reputation of being a competent mechanic or engineer in the mines of the lower Inn Valley. His annual salary as mine judge amounted to 65 pounds, and he received an additional 3 pounds for court dress. As a private contractor in the mining business he delivered ore from Schneeberg and Gossensass to Kitzbühel in 1520. When he received the office of mine judge, he loaned to the state treasury the sum of 1,000 guilders, which were put to his credit. This indicates that he was in good financial circumstances. He owned two houses, which were assessed for a tax of 3 florins for the "Turkish Tax," as was also his daughter's property. The Gilg (Egidius) Marpeck who on this occasion was taxed 2 florins and according to Josef Beck was also an Anabaptist was doubtless a close relative.

His good financial status put Pilgram into a position to undertake the education of three orphan children and to make journeys to South Germany.

When Marpeck became an Anabaptist is not clear, but on 28 January 1528 he was removed from his position as mine judge; the reason was certainly that he refused to "investigate" (aid in catching) Anabaptists as requested by the authorities in Innsbruck. The Anabaptist preacher Leonhard Schiemer had been executed in Rattenberg as a martyr two weeks earlier, and Hans Schlaffer likewise on 4 February of that year. It seems most probable that Marpeck was influenced by these missionaries, although he had probably previously attended some Anabaptist meetings conducted by a certain Paul in nearby Kitzbühel and in the Münichau Castle, whose owner, Helene von Freyberg, favored the movement (Marpeck later had connections with her). This could have been in November and December of 1527, since a report of such meetings was given to the authorities in Salzburg on 9 December of that year. But although there is no evidence as to Marpeck's baptism, he must have been an Anabaptist at least in conviction when he fled from Rattenberg soon after his dismissal from his office, which he turned over to his successor on 3 February, for his property was confiscated. But it is possible that he was not baptized until he was in Augsburg.

Marpeck's sacrifice of his position must certainly be connected with his ideas about the office of judge. He himself reported concerning his religious experiences thus (paraphrased): "Educated in the papacy by God-fearing parents, he turned from this and became a proclaimer of the Wittenberg Gospel. But when he found that in the places where God's Word was preached in Lutheran terms a carnal freedom was felt, it disinclined him somewhat, so that he could not find rest with the Lutherans. At that time he accepted baptism as a testimony of his faith, in this looking only upon God's Word and command."

It is known that this was in general the course of Anabaptist development in Tyrol. When Marpeck became suspected of being an Anabaptist who could not be tolerated in the country, he found it advisable to leave his home, leaving behind all his possessions. In 1529 he received his inheritance. His property, in accord with the mandate of 1 April 1528, which stipulated that the possessions of people of other creeds who "had left and become fugitive," must be confiscated into the state treasury, was inventoried and the order given to the authorities at Rattenberg to confiscate all of Marpeck's property; it was in the first place to be used for the education of the three orphans. But this was not done; for soon afterward it was transferred to Christoph Philip von Liechtenstein, the manager of the castle and the bailiff of Rattenberg, who valued it at 400 guilders, whereas it had been valued by other persons at 3,500 guilders.

Marpeck's Residence in Strasbourg. Connection with the Lutheran and Reformed Churches

Johannes Walch, who was deacon in Nürtingen in 1578 and was later removed from his office on account of inclinations to Anabaptism, reported that Marpeck first went to Augsburg after his expulsion. In May 1528 he arrived at Strasbourg; very soon he became the leader of the Anabaptists there. Here there was a strong church movement. Men of various religious parties collected here (though not all at one time), including Caspar Schwenckfeld, who later became Marpeck's opponent, Melchior Hoffman, Sebastian Franck, whose Paradoxa were popular, Johannes Bünderlin of Linz, once a leader of the Anabaptists of that place, Jakob Kautz, Wilhelm Reublin, Jakob Wiedemann of Memmingen, personalities who had a good reputation in Anabaptist circles. They held their meetings in the home of the notary Fridolin Meiger and in the houses of Lukas Hobelmacher and Klaus Bruch. Foreign and native Anabaptists assembled here, of whom the former group was supported by the common treasury. Marpeck had first settled in Steintal, where he worked for a salary in the city forest, about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Strasbourg, just south of Schirmeck. He lived here with his wife, and in his house Anabaptist meetings were held. He became a citizen in July 1528.

In 1530 (possibly 1528) he moved into the city: here he had numerous friends, patrons, and followers who honored him like a god (numinis instar). An excellent intellect, blameless Christian conduct, acquaintance with the Scriptures, an earnest character who did not regard temporal possessions, he in the beginning became a ward of Capito, Bucer, Zell, and Blaurer. The Strasbourg clergy were full of his praise and lauded his intellectual gifts. His courageous zeal was proved in many situations. The total citizenry of Strasbourg profited from his presence; for he built for the city the extraordinarily complex water system and wood floating flumes in the valleys of the Ehn and Brerisch (Steintal) in Alsace, and of the Kinzig and Murg in Baden, whereby Strasbourg, which was poor in wood, had access to the wealth of the Black Forest.

To be sure, public opinion soon changed. Marpeck was inconvenient to the clergy. He contradicted them and boldly expressed his opinions. Then they accused him of having led many good hearts into error by his violence, of being unfit for the office of Christian preaching and for the management of a church for the sanctity of which he was working, indeed of being unusable, a stiff-necked heretic, who like all sectarians was lacking in love, to which the Holy Scriptures admonish so urgently. On 17 August 1531 Bucer wrote to Blaurer that this Pilgram was intent on his own pleasure and his own supposed knowledge; otherwise he and his wife were of unblamable conduct.

Known to the government as an obstinate heretic, namely, as an opponent of infant baptism (which he called a sacrifice to Moloch, a robbery of souls and murder) and then as a man who, according to reports, was misleading the good citizens and to whom well-meant arguments meant nothing, Marpeck was imprisoned. Capito's intercession, and probably still more the fact that he was needed for the city's water works engineering, restored to him his freedom, without his having given the required oaths to renounce Anabaptist company and doctrine.

At the beginning of December 1531 Marpeck requested of the council permission for a public debate with the clergy, but he was granted only a colloquium before the assembled council and the "committee of twenty-one," the public being excluded. The date set was 9 December 1531. In 23 articles Marpeck presented his doctrine, corresponding to the two booklets which he had previously published, but which were suppressed by the council on the suggestion of the censors. Bucer was his opponent. Marpeck defended adult baptism vigorously. Only he who received it (he argued) might be a member of the kingdom of God; among the Catholics on the one side, and the Bucer following on the other, more dissension and envy were felt than divine zeal. He accused Bucer and his followers, "that they did not preach freely under the Cross of Christ but under the protection of the princes and cities." One should therefore not be surprised that the Word of God was bearing no fruit; even at that day there was no Christian order in Strasbourg.

Bucer replied with more loquacity than thoroughness and was repeatedly criticized by Marpeck, especially when he admitted that he had called upon the government for support and when he compared circumcision with baptism (Zwingli's "symbol of initiation"). The decision of the council was that it had perceived from the charge of the clergy that Pilgram was mistaken in this matter and therefore commanded that if he persisted in his opinion and was planning to overthrow infant baptism, which the council did not consider unchristian, and to set up a separate church, this must not be permitted; in this case he must leave this city and region not to return unless he abjured his error; in the contrary case he would be dealt with in a manner that one would rather escape. The document bears the date of 18 December 1531.

Two days later Marpeck notified the council that he would leave the region. But if, impelled by the Spirit of God, he should be led thither again he would endure what God would send him. Since he would not be able to sell his little household in a short time he asked for a period of grace of three or four weeks, then requested the payment of the credit that he still had with the council for the wood floating from Einbach (Black Forest). He was then granted a period of four weeks to prepare for his departure, but at the same time it was made clear to him that the council was displeased by his saying "that infant baptism is not proved with divine Scripture." Therefore Pilgram left, but not without having asked the people of Strasbourg to reflect on the things of God, in order that the city might be preserved in the future from the shedding of blood in matters of faith, that it might therefore end the persecution of these pitiable people who had no place of refuge. He finally gave the council a copy of Bucer's talk at the disputation and his reply, in order that they could see that it was not his, but God's will that was bidding him leave. The city informed Countess Elisabeth of Fürstenberg on 18 December 1531 that they had dismissed Pilgram Marpeck, her overseer in the forestry at Einbach, "on account of obstinate insistence on his erroneous opinion," and had put in his place two men skilled in trade and in forestry. To be sure, they were also suspected as Anabaptists, but since they kept their convictions to themselves and did not disturb anyone with them, she might tolerate the two.

A third disputation with Marpeck was held before a special commission of the Council on 18 January 1532, but the verdict remained unchanged: Marpeck had to go. Thus Marpeck left Strasbourg in January 1532. Bucer and Blaurer expressed themselves with very frank satisfaction over this fact. Blaurer wrote to Bucer on 24 January, "Your report concerning Marpeck will be dear and useful to all our people, but still more your earnest reply to his nonsense. Share it with us. An evil of this kind usually sticks obstinately with people who have once been spotted by it, but superstition knows how to deceive simple people by a pious bearing." On 2 February Bucer replied to Blaurer's words with flattery. Not all of Blaurer's friends were happy with Marpeck's withdrawal. His own sister Margarete had taken a deep interest in him and Bucer was now zealously engaged in changing her opinion.

It might have been expected that Marpeck, like so many of his Tyrol countrymen, would go to Moravia. Perhaps, however, the unfavorable reports that he had received from there a year earlier kept him away. In the Moravian Anabaptist group there had been violent dissension in the winter of 1530, which threatened its very existence and resulted in a division into two wings. It was Wilhelm Reublin who allegedly rebelled against the elders "on account of offensive misconduct of the ministers (Diener)," and left Austerlitz with his following, going to Auspitz. On 26 January he wrote a long report about this to Marpeck. Apparently there were older connections between the two. Reublin spoke of the love which he had always had for Pilgram, and mentioned a writing by his brother-in-law Kaspar Schueler which he had sent to Pilgram. These statements by Reublin must always be compared with the corresponding statements of the Hutterite Geschicht-Buch, to get at the real truth. Reublin did not leave a good memory in Moravian Anabaptist circles. Whether his reports affected Marpeck or not, the Geschicht-Buch does not show any incidents that imply any later connections with Marpeck.

Until recently the whereabouts of Marpeck from the time he left Strasbourg in 1532 until his controversy with Schwenckfeld in 1542-1544 was unknown. The discovery of the Kunstbuch codex (see below) containing numerous letters of Marpeck and his circle has cast considerable light on his movements. He apparently traveled widely. In 1534 he was back in Strasbourg but had to flee again. On 4 December 1540 he wrote a letter from near Ilanz in the Grisons (Switzerland) to the "dear ones" near Strasbourg in the Kinzig and Leber valleys. In 1541 he probably made a trip to Moravia to visit the Hutterites. On 25 August 1544 he wrote a letter from Chur in the Grisons to the churches in Württemberg. Most likely he spent at least 1540-1544 in the Grisons, and possibly some of the time 1532-40. In late 1544 he moved permanently to Augsburg. Kiwiet and Fast believe that the Vermahnung (1542) and the first part of the Verantwortung (1542-44) were written in the Grisons.

Marpeck and Schwenckfeld: Schwenckfeld's Attitude to the Anabaptists

Marpeck's connections with the Silesian nobleman Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig extend back to the time when both lived in Strasbourg. Schwenckfeld expressed himself very differently at different times concerning the life and teaching of the Anabaptists. His views are found in the excellent book by Ecke. Only the most important ought to be stated here. In the 1550's Schwenckfeld wrote, "What horrible errors I have heard from the Anabaptists when I was among them I would rather tell you by mouth than in writing" (Ecke, 203). He named the leaders and told only evil things about them; i.e., about Ludwig Haetzer, Balthasar Hubmaier, and others whom he knew personally. But the intimate contact which he himself had in Strasbourg and probably also later with Marpeck, whose frank Anabaptist opinions he knew, proves that he thought differently about Anabaptism and the Anabaptists at that time and therefore took them under his protection.

Something of the earlier friendly relationship between the two is echoed in the open letter which Marpeck wrote 1 January 1544 to Schwenckfeld (Verantwortung, 55). Mindful of the old friendship he vigorously expressed his displeasure concerning the present unexpectedly hostile attitude of Schwenckfeld toward him. He wrote, "I would not have thought it of you that you would behind my back send letters into the world against me, and without asking or informing me would make charges against me, since you in the earlier days dealt with me so much in matters of faith. You are now doing it too since the first letter I sent you from Ulm. Now you have composed a whole book against me and selectively edited in particular 38 articles 'how I shall hold them concerning Christ,' and sent them out everywhere so that I must defend myself about them toward many who know my teaching."

Marpeck complained further that Schwenckfeld had associated with Valentin Ickelsamer and that the two had worked against him. Ickelsamer is known not only as a religious polemicist but especially also as one of the oldest German grammarians. Entangled in the quarrel between Karlstadt and Luther he later adhered to Schwenckfeld, and in 1542, when Schwenckfeld's polemics with Marpeck were beginning, he published a letter which Schwenckfeld had sent to him during a severe illness: His (Schwenckfeld's) prayer had saved his life. It is necessary to consider this grammarian here because Marpeck speaks of him in his large book. As far as Schwenckfeld is concerned his procedure against Marpeck was so much the more spiteful because Marpeck had in earlier days supported him. Marpeck wrote that he was not aware that in all his life he had ever done an evil deed to Schwenckfeld, much rather he had wished and done him all kinds of good.

Concerning the origin of Schwenckfeld's hostility to Marpeck there is information in an Olmütz (Olomuce) manuscript (Sign. III 19), which refers to a letter that Marpeck wrote to Helena Streicher in Ulm and which greatly excited Schwenckfeld. It reveals, as do also allusions found in Marpeck's Verantwortung, that Schwenckfeld had expressed a negative opinion of the Anabaptists in Anabaptist circles (Schwenckfeld's propaganda against the Anabaptists is also seen from his 54th Rede in Marpeck's Verantwortung, 171-173). Thus it is learned that the zealous Anabaptist Magdalena Marschalk von Pappenheim was "tempted with unfathomable things" by "false prophets," with writings that contained untruths and slander of the Anabaptists and especially of one of their brethren. It is probably safe to assume that Marpeck is meant. Helena Streicher, Schwenckfeld's friend, expressed herself similarly. She sent to Marpeck a writing that contained a number of charges which had been made by their opponents against the Anabaptists, charging that the Anabaptists held to externalities instead of holding to the spirit of Christ's teaching, "whether it be baptism or whatever it may be." Under such circumstances the Anabaptist brotherhood proceeded to place into the hands of its members a confession of faith which gives the testimony of their doctrine in 25 large sections, the Vermahnung.

Marpeck's Vermahnung

Marpeck's Vermahnung (called the Bundesbezeugung or baptism booklet of 1542). In 1542 a book of 200 pages appeared, which in accord with the custom of the time bore the somewhat longwinded title: Vermannung; auch gantz klarer gründtlicher un(d) unwidersprechlicher bericht zu warer Christlicher . . . puntssvereynigung allen waren glaubigen frummen und gutthertzigen menschen zu hilff und trost mit grund heyliger schrifft durch bewerung warer Tauff und Abendmals Christi sampt mitlauffung und erklärung irer gegensachen and Argumenten wider alle vermeynte Christliche Pündtnus so sich bissher un(d) noch under dem nammen Christi zutragend. Neither the author nor the place of its publication is named. The document is signed by "the believing (christgläubig) comrades of the covenant of the tribulation that is in Christ." In Marpeck's Verantwortung, the last of the three Anabaptist writings which are closely interrelated, this writing is also called the "booklet of the sign (Bezeugung) of the covenant" or briefly the Baptism booklet, probably mostly because most of it deals with the problem of baptism.

In our day this book has been a bibliographical rarity, for only two copies were known, one in the British Museum and the other in the Württemberg state library in Stuttgart. Christian Hege performed a valuable service when he published it in the book commemorating the fourth centennial of the founding of the Mennonites (1925), since this booklet by Marpeck for reasons stressed in the introduction to the edition of Marpeck's larger work, the Verantwortung, was the first one for a long time in which the South German Anabaptists defended their teaching in print. That it was also of great significance for its content is clear from the sharp condemnation it was given by its opponents. Even though the author's name is not stated in the book, the contemporaries had no doubt about who it was. Caspar Schwenckfeld thought there were two authors; one was undoubtedly Pilgram Marpeck, who was probably assisted by Leopold Scharnschlager.

The modern publisher of the Taufbüchlein has described its contents and importance with the following words (paraphrased): "The Vermahnung is an exposition and a suggestion for the congregations on the right use of baptism and communion. It, however, rejects all supersensory (übersinnliche) meaning, but it makes the highest demands of its members in respect to their position of faith and their moral conduct. With baptism Marpeck demands a penitent frame of mind, a believing submission to God through Christ, obedience to the will of God. Communion is simply a memorial meal and is held 'for the renewal, strengthening and comfort of the soul, and for nothing else.' The members are to examine themselves earnestly to see whether they stand in the right love toward friend and foe and whether their love for Christ is strong enough that they would be able to give up their lives for Him. Partaking of the Lord's Supper with open sinners is unworthy, if they have not been rebuked with a brotherly rebuke, since otherwise the innocent partakes of the sin of the guilty. The Anabaptists always kept referring to his concept of a pure church, when an attempt was made by the state church to compel them to transfer their membership. Their objections often had the consequence that the Protestant clergy decided to introduce 'church discipline'" (Gedenkschrift, 182).

Marpeck's argumentation, Hege adds, is evidence of a thorough knowledge of the Bible and a keen thought process, and is in many cases supported by excellent figures of speech. The language of the book is gentle, and contrasts strongly with the harsh tone found in the works of most of the reformers. The impression it made in its own circles must have been so much the more significant, since even an opponent like Schwenckfeld, though against his will, is compelled here and there to give it recognition. Although the problem of baptism is treated with particular detail, the chapter on infant baptism and the treatment of original sin should also be pointed out. He expounds his views as follows: After Peter (page 215) had admonished the people they grew anxious in heart and asked, What shall we do? Be converted, he replied, be sorry for your sins and let each one be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sin, and thus you shall receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Because the children who cannot talk are still unknowing and cannot be converted and have also not yet been perverted by their own carnal reason, they cannot receive any forgiveness of their sins in baptism, because they do not have any knowledge or guilt concerning their sins, either before God or in themselves. Therefore the baptism of infants is a mere work of mockery before God.

Schwenckfeld's Judicium Concerning the Baptism Booklet of 1542 and Marpeck's Reply

About Schwenckfeld's attempt to win favor for his own teaching in Marpeck's circles there is information in this reply which Pilgram Marpeck addressed to Helena Streicher, Schwenckfeld's friend, and hitherto probably also Marpeck's friend, which is now printed as a supplement to the first part of Marpeck's Verantwortung to Schwenckfeld's Judicium (pp. 179-88).

Helena Streicher, entirely taken in by Schwenckfeld's teaching, wrote to Marpeck, "Since Christ's word and teaching are spirit and life, one must rise to it and must not make earthly elements, baptism or anything else, a condition for salvation." Marpeck referred her to the Scripture, that no Christian may refuse a demand of the Lord. Since Christ has commanded baptism the believer must hold himself to the command. We need "the physical elements" according to the Word and command of Christ, without denying the inward working of the Spirit. The true believer knows only of one baptism, namely, the baptism of the Lord, of the washing away of sins in the blood of Christ, i.e., through spirit, water, and blood, "which serve as one." "Of course where spirit and life do not follow in this physical use of the elements, the elements probably will remain only mere elements"; here Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 3 applies, "Neither he who waters nor he who plants is anything, but he who gives the growth. The external should not be separated from the inward, as it is imagined today."

These words are a rejection of Schwenckfeld's doctrine as shared by Helena Streicher, and thus also of other opinions of Schwenckfeld's, suggesting that the Anabaptists had no true knowledge of Christ. In conclusion Marpeck wrote to her, "Please accept this my writing out of a sincere intention; I could not leave my opinion unrevealed to you. You told me that you could not be of our opinion. Know that I cannot accept yours either." This letter, said Walpurga Marschalk von Pappenheim, was sent by her Aunt Magdalena to Mrs. Streicher in Ulm. When it reached Schwenckfeld, Walpurga wrote, he became heated and wrote against "Brother Pilgram and Miss Magdalena." In the Judicium is found what moved him. It is probably to be expected that Schwenckfeld would not leave Marpeck's booklet on baptism without a critical faultfinding, but it was not to be expected that this would turn out to be so bitter and hate-filled as is the case. First it must be said, that the Judicium also makes an attempt to distinguish between the Anabaptists (concerning whom many good things are granted) and their leaders.

The Judicium attack on the baptism booklet has been passed down in two forms. First in the Wolfenbüttel manuscript (V, 33), "Uiber das new Büchlein der Taufbrüder im 1542 Jare ausgangen Judicium," and second in those extracts with which Marpeck preceded his 100 answers (Schwenckfeld's Reden).

In Marpeck's circles the Judicium was very disturbing, for Schwenckfeld's opinions were clearly revealed. This can also be gathered from Schwenckfeld's instruction to see to it that the Judicium would not fall into other hands than those of the Anabaptists, "so that it may be of benefit to them and that they can accordingly correct their errors; for I hope that many finally will come to the truth and become better acquainted with Christ, the reigning king of heaven."

The propaganda of this document did not remain concealed from the Anabaptists; it induced them to issue an immediate reply, the writing of which was also taken in hand at once and of which at first only the first part, finished by 1 January 1544, was given to the public. In it only the first of the seven points charged against them by Schwenckfeld is treated. Therefore Marpeck also apologized at the end of the first part, "that they had allowed this one part without the completion of the other to be issued; this happened on account of the haste, so that our fellow members and other goodhearted people will not be overtaken by such false erroneous spirits and be prejudiced or taken unawares, and if one of them might already be entangled he could loose himself from the entanglement." The second part would then produce what was still lacking. For each of the 100 Reden by Schwenckfeld there is a reply by Marpeck, of which replies 54 come in the first part, which is 206 manuscript pages in length, about one fourth of the entire book.

Marpeck preceded his work with an open letter to Schwenckfeld which contains really bitter comments about people who play themselves up as removers of splinters without seeing the beams in their own eyes. He wished for Schwenckfeld a knowledge of himself, without which any other knowledge is vain. After the dealing they had with him and the warnings sent to him they had not expected such a proceeding against them, and now he had even forged together 39 articles, "as I allegedly had them from Christ, so that I must apologize to all who know my confession of faith. It is this that compels me to reply."

And now Marpeck proceeds with the individual points. First he defends himself against the charge of incompetence; that the composers of the baptism booklet were much too presumptuous, that they considered all who did not agree with their baptism as not being Christians. We say: that those who are not baptized according to the order of the Lord we do not have to judge or condemn. As they are outside they do not concern us. Every true believer, however, must obey the commands of the Lord, even in detail. We confess the baptism of Christ as a baptism of a rebirth and the washing away of sins. It issues from the teaching, "No baptism without preceding teaching, without the accompanying Gospel and faith."

With the 17th Rede Schwenckfeld begins the condemnation of the baptism booklet, which he finds fault with in almost all its parts. The whole contrast in the concept of the problem of baptism Marpeck crystallized in his prayer in his reply in the 34th Rede of Schwenckfeld: "O Lord, see how this generation attempts to destroy your own baptism. . . . You command baptism and so it is reasonable to keep it for the sake of your command as well as for the sake of the one for whom it is commanded. With their reason, which you have condemned, they separate your water bath into parts, the water from the word, in order to do away with your command under the pretext of not permitting the external water to be made a requirement for salvation. Even if we did not understand why you have commanded baptism we would obey for the very reason that you have commanded it, just as Peter once did when he let you wash his feet." The 46th Rede contains the texts where all the Bible citations are assembled which speak against Schwenckfeld. There is sharp antithesis between the demands of the Gospel and what Schwenckfeld does. When Schwenckfeld speaks of baptism he separates indivisible baptism into parts, accuses it of being a water baptism thought up by man, and accuses us of calling the element that is water the narrow gate to the kingdom of heaven, whereas we mean the whole inward and outward work of the only baptism, to which all matters ordained of the Lord belong and wherein they have their origin through true faith.

The Second Part of the Verantwortung and the Testamentserläuterung

Before the contents of the second part of the Verantwortung are considered it should be once more stated that the first part was worked out hastily and that therefore some details had to be supplemented and especially a stronger apparatus of Biblical proof citations for single points had to be assembled. So it happens that the second part of the Verantwortung in its entire presentation bears a different face than the first. Not only does it go more deeply into individual points and treat anew what Marpeck had already said, but it also has a much greater amount of proof material from the Holy Scriptures.

In the study of the two parts with regard to their sources it must be obvious that in the second part when it deals with Bible citations, they often refer to the Testamentserläuterung, where one may find many more citations on a matter than his presentation contains, whereas in a similar case in the first part not a single reference is made to this source, not even where one should have unquestionably expected it. For this no other explanation can be found, but that in the years 1542-1544 when they were just working on a refutation of Schwenckfeld's accusations this book "called the Testamentserläuterung" was not available and was not to be finished until the conclusion of the first part, and indeed was prepared for the purpose of creating a broader area of defense. From the citations which are made in the second part of the Verantwortung the existence of the book could be ascertained. It is in fact still extant in two libraries, in Zürich and in Berlin. Its full title is Testamenterleutterung. Erleutterung durch ausszug aus Heiliger Biblischer schrifft. tail und gegentail sampt ains tails angehangen beireden zu dienst und fürderung ains klaren urtails von wegen underschaid Alts und News Testaments unnd ire beder Sündtvergebung, Opffer,Erlösung, Gerechtigkait, Gnad, Glauben, Gaist, Folck unnd anderm, so grundtlich lautter und nutzlich nie ersehen genant Testamenterleutterung. No place and year of publication are given. It is an octavo volume with over 800 pages of text, and a further 11 pages with title, preface, and index. Kiwiet has now shown that it was finished in May 1550 (dissertation, p. 77).

The foreword announces the purpose of the book: Since there are widely divergent views on the question of the distinction between the Old and New Testaments, between the Mosaic assembly and the new church, some saying that the sufferings of Christ are retroactive into the Old Testament and also had already delivered a forgiving of sins to eternal life in the Old Testament as it is now in the New (which agrees with Schwenckfeld's preaching), but others (like Marpeck and his circle) deny this and say that this (reconciliation to salvation, redemption, comfort, etc.) is found in the Old Testament only figuratively, but not in essence; neither is the spirit of divine promise for eternal life there, but all this was only promised. The Fathers, i.e., the believers in the old covenant hoped to receive all this only through the Incarnation of Christ, His suffering, His death, and His resurrection; therefore the Testamentserläuterung presents the total material from the pure text of the Holy Scripture, in order that each one who hungers for the truth may form a judgment for himself. What reason would there have been, say those on one side, for Christ after His death to have had to descend to hell and proclaim the Gospel there among the dead and the spirits, if "the [Old Testament] Fathers" had already had possession of forgiveness to eternal life?

Thus the foreword presents further motives which we find again collectively in the Verantwortung. All the citations concerning forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, redemption, salvation, comfort, etc., are presented from the Bible and indeed first from the old and then from the new covenant, wherein now a hungry man "may refresh himself as in a garden of roses or on a flowery meadow in the splendor of colour." And here the foreword goes on to say, the period before Christ's Incarnation is designated with the word "yesterday" and those of the new covenant with "today." The foreword then explains the word "Wesen" and "wesentlich" (essence and essential); to the Anabaptists these words mean that "yesterday" prefigured, but the "today" accomplished, things for eternal life which were not present "yesterday" but were to be expected only in the future, as Paul says in Colossians 2: "These things are a shadow of that which was to come, but the 'Wesen' is Christ."

Finally there are in the foreword explanations as to possible understandings of certain individual verses: "And it is to be noticed where 'yesterday' and `today' 'Wesen' is promised. One should pay attention to the words which are 'today' and which cannot be figures and thus refer to 'yesterday's time. There are also promises for 'tomorrow,' that is,for Christ's return from heaven. Consider these places in the Old Testament which speak of future affairs as of the present as if they had already happened, which were of course still to be fulfilled." The author promises himself great benefit from the book, because here matters of revelation are explained with clear judgment and understanding of the Scripture.

The name of the author of the Testamentserläuterung is not given: We discover that several persons took part in composing it. They conceal its authorship, because many people ask more about the author than about the truth and consider further whether he is of high [Schwenckfeld] or low [Anabaptist] rank, or they ask what faith he is, and accordingly buy the books. The author therefore has referred the reader only to the Word of God and left his own name unstated partly also for this reason that he did not "collect" the book without co-operation.

The very fact of the unusually frequent citation [92 citations by name] of the Testamentserläuterung by Marpeck when it was a matter of proving something, leads to the conclusion that the book originated in Anabaptist circles. The citation never occurs in a polemic intention, but always in agreement. For example when Red und Antwort 73 says: "Our testimony is this, also especially in the book called the Testamentserläuterung . . ." or in Red und Antwort 79: "We have a great collection of right clear Scripture against it; for this one may merely read in the Testamentserläuterung . . ." In Red und Antwort 81: "More is proved in the Testamentserläuterung; in that same book one should also read all the articles concerning 'today's' Wesen.'" Briefly stated: the assemblage of Bible citations corresponds exactly with the trend of the Verantwortung. The Testamentserläuterung, like it, always refers to it as a source book for proving and strengthening a fact, as a work that stands immediately after the Bible and which one cites as one wants to draw more Bible verses, as if one wanted to say, "There our proofs are found." Finally the numerous citations of the Testamentserläuterung agree verbatim with the Verantwortung. They formed an essential preparatory work for the second part of the Verantwortung.

In the light of the above it is clear that the second part of the Verantwortung was written after May 1550. Kiwiet's careful study has shown that it had two authors, having been begun by Marpeck (d. 1556) and finished by Scharnschlager, the date of finishing being March 1558. The transition from Marpeck to Scharnschlager is clearly evident in the difference in style and structure, as well as in the fact that Marpeck cites various sources, while Scharnschlager cites only Schwenckfeld. The Scharnschlager section occupies pp. 409-578 in the printed Verantwortung; it was without doubt written after Marpeck's death in 1556. The second part of the Verantwortung was delayed in circulation among the brethren (it was never printed, only copied) because of the necessity (following the unity achieved among the Anabaptists at the Strasbourg conference of 1555) of securing the approval of the brethren "in all lands" so that it might stand as their common testimony. A copy, for instance, was sent to Moravia. Kiwiet holds (p. 79 f.) that it was not released for general circulation until 1571.

Schwenckfeld's Judicium Concerning the Second Part of the Taufbüchlein and Marpeck's Reply

Pilgram Marpeck had sent the first part of his Verantwortung, which he had just finished, to Schwenckfeld (Verantwortung, 50); "but," says a notice in the Zürich manuscript, "concerning it he, Schwenckfeld, never gave an answer. And so he has died." The date "1571" is struck out. But in his Judicium Schwenckfeld had after all shown the way that Marpeck must go. We now wish, says Schwenckfeld (Verantwortung, 129), to look at the other points also and see what they write about original sin and especially about the Word of God, the church, communion, and sonship to God, also about the faith and spirit of the patriarchs and prophets, and we want to give our best judgment to them about these points.

Concerning original sin, says Schwenckfeld, they do not hold, as the church teaches in agreement with the Holy Scriptures, that "it is a corruption of human nature since Adam's fall in which all men are conceived and born, but rather that sin has its origin and inheritance in the knowledge and the understanding of the good; but that the inheritance becomes effective only when they can distinguish between good and evil, which Schwenckfeld calls an old Pelagian error long since refuted by the church. Marpeck rejects this view on the basis of the Bible and the example of Christ: original sin becomes effective only in the understanding of good and evil which became a part of human nature in Adam and Eve only after they had eaten of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil contrary to the prohibition of God. In this sense all men inherited it, but neither original sin nor real sin are reckoned so by God until the knowledge of good and evil is present, so that man out of his fleshly nature forsakes the good and does the evil." One should let the children live upon the promise of Christ until one can teach them and they can believe, confess, and desire it. The Lord did not give in vain the sayings of Christ that we should become like children. Accordingly, says Marpeck, the Moravian congregation included the following declaration in the 16 articles which they adopted several years back, namely, that children before the age of reason have no sin except the inherited tendency to sin, which does not affect the salvation until it breaks out in actual sin. Therefore baptism is not ordained for them.

Schwenckfeld denies that men become children of God by faith and consequent baptism. But, answers Marpeck, if that is so then Paul (Galatians 3) would be condemned, who attributes the sonship of God to faith and baptism, as also the Lord Himself says, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." But who will be saved if not the children of God? If Schwenckfeld gives consideration to what sonship means, we have long ago considered it. We call him a child of God who believes the Gospel from his heart and experiences the working of the Holy Spirit so that he desires baptism. And if Schwenckfeld says that the Anabaptists had no conception of the Word of God, we answer that we stand on 1 Peter 1 and on the Saviour who has Himself and through His apostles proclaimed the Gospel word. He who hears these words and believes them he will be born as a child of God, and such words will become spirit and live in him by faith and by the Holy Spirit.

In the 71st section Schwenckfeld laments, without going into detail, "that no Christian can be a magistrate or worldly ruler, nor can assume authority over cities or countries or people since such authority belongs to earthly rulers and not to true Christians." In answer Marpeck first gives the correct statement of the Anabaptists as follows: that since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world no true Christian dare have authority over cities, countries, and people (as earthly rulers), nor exercise defense or use force, since this belongs to the earthly and temporal rulers and can only lead to results such as happened in the Peasants' War. Our understanding is that true Christians have no commandment in the Gospel to exercise any power such as that of the worldly arm in the kingdom of this world. We should like to know, says Marpeck, "on what basis in the Evangelical Scriptures and the Christian conscience he would advise a true Christian to frivolously enter into such worldly government or office, and whether, after he is not such, he should conduct the affairs of this world according to God's commandment without abuse, and how long his conscience would keep him in such governmental office if he would not desire to suffer damage to his soul." Marpeck's teaching clearly is not directed in any way against the worldly authority, as the opponents of the Anabaptists claimed.

In the matter of the church, as discussed in this connection, there is no fundamental exposition of the concept of the church but rather a fixing of the foundation on which it stands, and this is not Peter, as Schwenckfeld accuses the Anabaptists of saying, but the Lord Himself who produced in Peter his confession.

A favorite topic of Schwenckfeld is his teaching concerning the men of the old covenant, the patriarchs and prophets, who he claims were already Christians. He says that the Anabaptists are guilty of a serious error in that they will not admit that the fathers, patriarchs, and prophets are Christians, children of God, and friends of God, like us. Against this teaching of Schwenckfeld Marpeck teaches, in harmony with the statements and references in the Testamentserläuterung, that the fathers who believed the promises of God died in hope of the incarnation of Christ and went to Hades, received there from the Lord grace, comfort, salvation, peace, and redemption, and were reconciled (Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Peter 3:4). The faith of the fathers included the future incarnation of Christ, but they were not because of this Christians.

Schwenckfeld introduces the discussions of the communion with the statement that here, as in the matter of baptism, one must ask whether the Anabaptists have the right understanding of it and the right practice. He denies both. Marpeck takes up the debatable interpretation of the words of institution of the communion which is given by Luther, Zwingli, and others and says, we have written about this in our testimonies so clear and without any fog or darkness that all of those who are taught of the Spirit agree with us. If, however, Schwenckfeld writes that our communion service is based upon works not its use of bread and wine, like water and baptism, and a commitment to obedience, we answer: Christ gave His disciples bread to eat and wine to drink and would not command them to dispute about it. Our understanding of the Lord's words is that everything depends upon the inter-working, making alive, and making pious by the Holy Spirit. What the pious believers produce by their faith is God's work. Bread and wine and water are and remain material elements and are not a part of the essence, but are only commanded to be used and so it can not be shown (as we are accused) that we make the creature into God and God into a creature. We confess that the Lord gives food and drink to the soul and the inner man by His holy flesh and blood, and that the nourishment of our spirit and our soul must be only spiritual. Bread and wine cannot be food and drink for the soul, but are used as a memorial for proclaiming the death of Christ and as a thanksgiving to Him. How can Schwenckfeld accuse us of not knowing anything about the spiritual food? We will not obscure the secret of a communion but rather reveal it, but without the hair-splittings of this Judicium.

Schwenckfeld's own writings refute his attitudes. For this purpose the Verantwortung gives extensive extracts from Schwenckfeld's writings in five chapters, dealing with the following subjects: "von der leiblichen Steil," of the knowledge of Christ, of the worship of Christ, of the communication of Christ, of the word and creaturehood of Christ, of a clear report, after such extracts from Schwenckfeld's book against Bucer had already been given as an appendix to the 89th Red und Antwort.

The question which receives the most thorough discussion is the incarnation of Christ. While Schwenckfeld presents Jesus primarily as the Saviour in His glorification, Marpeck emphasizes the Ecce homo. The suffering Redeemer had died for mankind, but he emphasizes that the two aspects are not to be separated. If one should separate the humanity of Christ from His deity, all comfort and hope for humankind would be gone, "since He is to be our faithful Mediator, High Priest, and merciful Advocate." "And so they say that the humanity (flesh) of Christ, which is now in and with the Word of God, is our refuge, yea of all sinners. Without this no man could be saved or come to the eternal God."

In the latter portions of the Verantwortung Marpeck treats again the doctrine of the communion and the essence of the church and gives an overview of everything, not without once more touching upon the basis of Schwenckfeld's bitter attempt, who does not want to be considered to be Anabaptist, since he sees how such people are slandered, persecuted, and crucified. But for this very reason his teaching is not from God nor from His Word and he therefore cannot be a servant of God.

Herewith the polemic between the two men comes to an end, of whom the one presents Christ chiefly in His glory, the other crowned with thorns, smitten and hanging on the cross as the Saviour of mankind, of the poor and the oppressed. Marpeck apparently did not expect a reply to his book, although he calls out to Schwenckfeld, "Just write the world full of books against us." This Schwenckfeld did not do. He had difficulty, indeed, to meet the arguments of the Anabaptists, who had anchored themselves in the words of the Bible by the use of Testamentserläuterung. In Schwenckfeld's extensive correspondence Marpeck's name appears only rarely, and then only in such fashion as to indicate clearly his bitterness against this Anabaptist leader.

Effects of the Verantwortung

The most recent studies of Marpeck's book have shown that it was not given to the public without the testing of the elders of the entire church. Only after the approval by the elders, whose names have been preserved through the attentiveness of a noble lady, Walpurga von Pappenheim, could believers secure copies. Because of the size of the book probably not many were able to take advantage of the privilege. But the larger congregations, even beyond South Germany, very likely possessed it. And when uncertainty or difference of opinion about some point of doctrine arose among the members of the church, the Verantwortung was called upon for the decision on which one could take his position. A proof of this is found in the Olmütz manuscript, which also contains the text of the Verantwortung. Two brethren of the church in 1571 disagreed concerning the question "about the Holy Scriptures and the dead letter through which spirit and life come." On this occasion a number of Anabaptists were called in and given an explanation of the matter from the pen of the former (by then dead) co-worker of Marpeck, Leupold Scharnschlager. The document was the "Unterscheid," in which the following appears: "Dear Brethren, I think you have noticed in the 4th chapter of the 96th Antwort of the book of the Verantwortung against Schwenckfeld's Judicium, how this passage is used against Schwenckfeld. It is my opinion that the word 'letter,' as it is used in Romans and in II Corinthians, refers to the Old Testament, and not to the New, which contains the spirit which is able to make alive and the grace through faith. For this reason it behooves us not to give the name 'dead letter' to the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament, since such Scripture, which calls itself the Holy Scripture which speaks, according to 2 Peter 1, of the holy man of God and of the holy Gospel, is written and inspired by the Spirit of God. The Holy Scripture itself is the spoken word of God, and for this reason I would not call it a dead letter, but would call it the Holy Scriptures, as it calls itself." Now if we look in the 4th chapter of the 96th Antwort (concerning the Word of God) we find the following: "That the invisible spiritual content, meaning understanding and sense of the Holy Scriptures and of the outwardly preached word . . . is the word to which the Holy Scripture gives honor and power as God's natural almighty word, which is spirit and life, yea God Himself."

Marpeck's Later Years and Death

From 1544 until 1556 Marpeck's name appears on the tax books and the building records of the city of Augsburg in Bavarian Swabia. There he secured employment as an engineer. His first assignment was the improvement of the city water system, the aqueducts. He built waterways for the floating of rafts of wood (Pilgerholz). From 1546 until his death his salary as a city employee (Stadtwerckmeister) was 150 florins per year. From as early as 1545 Marpeck's activities as an Anabaptist elder were a matter of annoyance to the city authorities, and he was sent a number of warnings to desist therefrom. But somehow he managed to retain his position until his death in 1556. Known warnings to Marpeck, either from the mayor of Augsburg or the Council, are dated 16 July 1545, 6 May 1550, 26 September 1553, and 25 September 1554. Marpeck was paid quarterly on the Ember days. The first three payments for 1556 are entered in the Baumeisterbuch in a normal manner, but under the payment date of 16 December 1556, for Marpeck is the notation, "Is dead." -- Johann Loserth, John C. Wenger

Marpeck and His Group in the Light of the Newly Discovered Kunstbuch Codex

An entirely new light was thrown on Marpeck's role in the history of Anabaptism by the discovery in July 1955 in the Bürgerbibliothek in Bern, Switzerland, of a large manuscript codex of 370 pages, copied for the most part by Jörg Maler, who finished it on 4 September 1561, and gave it the title Kunstbuch. It contains 42 documents originally written between 1527 and 1555 (only seven written before 1540, and all of these in 1527 except one early 1528 and one in 1530). All but two of the 37 documents of 1540-1555 were written either by Marpeck (16) or Leopold Scharnschlager (6) or members of the Marpeck circle. A complete analysis of the contents of the documents was given by Heinold Fast in Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, the abstract of which is herewith presented in full as a quotation:

"The earliest writings of the collection do not belong to the Marbeck circle, but they seem to have had an influence on it. Some of them are known from other sources and published by Lydia Müller in her Glaubenszeugnisse oberdeutscher Taufgesinnter (Leipzig, 1938). The authors are Hans Hut, Lienhart Schiemer, Hans Schlaffer, and others. Their theological thinking centered around the discipleship under the cross which led them to martyrdom. Fast derives the main themes of this piety from Thomas Müntzer, though he is aware that it was not the war-waging Müntzer who found his followers among the Anabaptists, and that his spiritualism and eschatology were strongly moderated by them. It is probable that Marbeck was converted to Anabaptism by the impression made by the martyrdom of Schiemer and Schlaffer in the vicinity of his home town in the Tyrol. Fast raises the question how far this may indicate an influence of their theology on Marbeck. The presence of a letter by Hans Has suggests an influence also by Lutheran ideas. And a tract by Christian Entfelder, a pupil of Hans Denck, leads to the question of Marbeck's dependence on mystical thinking. The paper does not intend to give definite answers to these questions. After it has sketched the theological thinking of Marbeck in part four, it repeats it in detail in part five. The stress lies on part three and its survey of Marbeck's activities in striving for the unity of the different Anabaptist groups.

"The survey follows the places to which Marbeck paid his visits or wrote his letters: Strassburg and its surroundings, the Grisons, Württemberg, Appenzell, St. Gall, Moravia, and Augsburg. Everywhere the Anabaptists had been split into parties shunning and fighting one another. The Marbeck circle seems to have been a separated group, too. It is not always clear when the separation began and how long it existed. But in the forties it is most definitely to be seen in Appenzell as well as in Moravia. In Appenzell the Marbeck group opposed the so-called Swiss Brethren, in Moravia the Hutterites. The questions at stake were the ban and community of goods. Marbeck advocated a less rigorous attitude with respect to both. In his view the radicalism of the Swiss Brethren in Appenzell and of the Hutterites did not agree with the freedom of the gospel. It was also the cause for the splitting of the Anabaptist movement. Marbeck consistently fought for a reunion of the separated groups. His success was limited to winning smaller circles for his own party. Among them was Jörg of Augsburg, called Maler, the later transcriber of the codex. The Anabaptist synods at Strassburg 1554/55 seem to have shown better results in uniting the movement. They also must have grown out of the endeavors of Marbeck. The new material does not refer to these events, but the author points to other publications (Kiwiet) which make the relationship probable."

Kiwiet's study has led him to the conclusion that Marpeck and his followers constituted a distinct group among the German Anabaptists, differing from the Swiss Brethren. On the other hand, they also differed clearly from the Spiritualists. Kiwiet claims an origin for the Marpeck group independent of the Swiss Brethren with Hans Denck as their founder. He also claims that Denck was not a Spiritualist and thus rehabilitates Denck as a full Anabaptist. His conception of the Marpeck group and of Marpeck's role in Anabaptist history can best be given in his own words (from a paper scheduled to appear in Mennonite Quarterly Review for October 1957):

"Until recently the only possible distinction between Anabaptists seemed to be the radical and the moderate type of an Anabaptist. With such a division Denck was usually grouped among the radicals, while Marbeck was put together with the Swiss Brethren among the moderates. These categories prevented a clear insight into Anabaptist history. Another questionable point was the eschatological and spiritual (in distinction from spiritualistic) tendencies among many Anabaptist groups. Mennonite scholars had no explanation for these tendencies as they clearly were not present among the Swiss Brethren. Because of these just mentioned tendencies some church historians still persisted in claiming a dependence of the Anabaptists on Thomas Müntzer. A study of Marbeck and Hans Denck gives the explanation of the other type of Anabaptist, which also originated free of Müntzer, although it shared with him the eschatological and spiritual interest which was common to many theologians in South Germany.

"Within the field of Anabaptist history it is very interesting to notice the origin and development of these two main movements within Anabaptism, one having the Scriptures as its principle, the other having love and obedience as its center. Both discovered the free church from a different angle, one from Bible study and the other from theological considerations. These two types of Anabaptists provide a Scriptural as well as a theological foundation for the free church principles.

"Within the ecumenical discussion about the meaning of the church Marbeck provides very valuable material. He not only gives an exposition of a free church theology, but he also has related his teaching to that of the Catholics, the Lutherans, and the Spiritualistic circles. In all three of these areas the discussion is still very relevant; the discussion with Rome, the discussion about the value and future of the state churches, and the problem of ever rising free circles who incline to give up all historic church forms. As far as I know, Marbeck is the only one in church history who has presented us a thorough free church theology."

Another significant recent discovery is that by Frank Wray (first published in Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 1956), who has shown that much of the Vermahnung is in fact a translation (from the Low German) and revision of a significant part of Bernhard Rothmann's Bekenntnisse van beyden Sacramenten, Doepe unde Nachtmaele der predicanten tho Munster (8 November 1533). That this pre-Münsterite writing could be used and accepted by the Marpeck group proves on the one hand that the pre-Münsterite Anabaptists in Westphalia were good Anabaptists, and also that there was some literary exchange between the Middle German and South German groups. -- Harold S. Bender

1987 Update

Recent archival research has shed more light on Marpeck's background and activity. Having moved from the Bavarian town of Rosenheim, Marpeck's father, Heinrich, served Rattenberg, Austria, as a councilman, mayor, and district magistrate. After the death of his first wife, Sophia, with whom he had one daughter, Margareth, Pilgram Marpeck married Anna and adopted three foster children. Professionally, he worked in the city hospital, organized the city's crossbow competition, and acted as purchasing agent for the mining guild's infirmary before entering office as mining magistrate in 1525. Politically, he served on the outer and inner city councils and as mayor (1522), taking an active role in regulating the city's craftsmen; negotiating the release of the reform-minded preacher, Stephan Castenbaur (Agricola); and hiring a priest to fill the pastoral office in the city's parish church. As mining magistrate, Marpeck was required by Archduke Ferdinand to hand over miners who, like he, were sympathetic to the Anabaptist preachers Leonhard Schiemer and Hans Schlaffer. After initial consent, Marpeck resigned his office a few days after Schiemer's execution. From Rattenberg he traveled to Bohemia and Moravia, where he most likely received baptism and a commission as an Anabaptist elder.

After joining the Strasbourg gardener-wagoner guild and buying citizenship in 1528, Marpeck led a communal group of Anabaptists and social radicals, for which he was arrested and released sometime before 1530. From 1530 to his expulsion in 1532, he served the city as lumbering supervisor, overseeing the cutting and delivery of wood from the city forest near Hausach on the Kinzig river. During this time he led a group of Anabaptists, most closely associated with the Swiss Brethren, and contributed to the differentiation among the city's Anabaptist groups by criticizing the spiritualistic tendencies of Hans Bünderlin and Christian Entfelder and the apocalyptic speculations of Melchior Hoffman.

From 1532 to 1544, Marpeck resided in Switzerland and traveled to Tyrol, Moravia, South Germany, and Alsace where he established congregations and had contact with the Hutterites and Swiss Brethren. This was the period of his major controversy with Caspar Schwenckfeld.

By 1544 he was working in Augsburg's city forest near Füβen. Later, as city engineer in Augsburg, Marpeck supervised this lumbering activity and contributed to the renovation and extension of the city's water works. Although warned three times to desist from Anabaptist activity, he participated in the leadership of a group which met in his home on public property. He continued significant correspondence with Anabaptist groups in Switzerland, Alsace, South Germany, and Moravia.

In recent years, four anonymous works have been attributed to Marpeck. William Klassen argues that he wrote two booklets, Clare verantwurtung . . . (1531; "Clear Response") and Ain Klarer/vast nützlicher unterricht . . . (1531; "Clear and Useful Instruction"), contributing to the differentiation of Marpeck's group from Strasbourg's spiritualistic radicals, the apocalyptic Melchiorites, and an extremely separatist Swiss group. Walter Klaassen believes that, during the same period, Marpeck authored Aufdeckung der babylonischen hürn . . . ("The Exposure of the Babylonian Whore"), a provocative tract in which he criticizes the Protestant reformers and Schwenckfeld for justifying the use of the civil sword in the cause of Christ as a disguise for the advancement of their own economic interests. Fast argues that Marpeck also produced a Bekenntis (ca. 1535-1539; "Confession") that was submitted to Jan von Pernstain, a Moravian governor, on behalf of an Anabaptist congregation that had been accused of denying Christ's divinity.

Recent research has focused on the importance and implications of the incarnation for Marpeck's christology, soteriology (salvation), ecclesiology, ethics, sacramental theology (communion), and hermeneutics. (Influences on Marpeck's theology are suggested in parentheses.) In his arguments with Schwenckfeld, Entfelder, and Bünderlin, Marpeck affirmed the divinity of Christ, but stressed Christ's historical, physical humanity. The "unconstraining Spirit," poured out in Christ's death, gathered those who willingly received it into the "unglorified body" of Christ on earth, which awaited union with his "glorified body" in heaven. The reception of the Spirit, justification, which is sealed by baptism, the "covenant of good conscience" (Sebastian Franck, Bernhard Rothmann, Schiemer and Schlaffer), progressively reordered one's life (Schwenckfeld, Theologie Deutsch), affected sanctification, and led to a commitment to justice, not only internally before God, but also externally before humanity. Because of the un-constraining nature of Christ's Spirit, Marpeck criticized the pursuit of that justice by means of either the civil sword (e.g., his arguments against Protestant and Catholic theologians) or coercive legalism (e.g., his objection to these tendencies among the Hutterites and Swiss Brethren). Due to the decisive character of the incarnation, he insists that the Old and New Covenants must be distinguished (Schwenckfeld) and that the Bible is properly understood only in the context of and by the whole community of believers. -- Stephen B. Boyd


Works by Marpeck

Klassen, William and Walter Klaassen, eds. and trans. The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck. Classics of the Radical Reformation 2. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1978.

Original copies of Marpeck's Taufbüchlein, the Vermanung of 1542, are in the British Museum, the Budapest University Library, and the Stuttgart State Library. This book was reprinted in Gedenkschrift zum 400jährigen Jubiläum der Mennoniten oder Taufgesinnten, 1525-1925. Ludwigshafen, [Germany] : die Konferenz, 1925.

Original copies of Marpeck's Testamentserliiuterung are in the Zentralbibliothek of Zurich, and in the Preussische Staatsbibliothek, Berlin (now Marburg). This work has never been republished. Manuscript copies of the Verantwortung, the reply to Schwenckfeld, are in the Zurich Stadtbibliothek, in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at Munich, and in the Studienbibliothek of Olmütz, Czechoslovakia.

Loserth transcribed and published the Verantwortung in Quellen u. Forschungen zur Geschichte der oberdeutschen Taufgesinnten im 16. Jahrhundert. Pilgram Marbecks Antwort auf Kaspar Schwenckfelds Beurteilung des Buches der Bundesbezeugung von 1542. Vienna and Leipzig, 1929.

There is only one known copy of the Clare verantwurtung . . . (Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart, R16 ver. 2, formerly Theol. oct. 18515) and of the Ain klarer/vast nützlicher unterricht . . . in the British Museum (no. 3906 a 77).

Translations of both are found in Klassen, William and Walter Klaassen, eds. and trans. The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck. Classics of the Radical Reformation 2. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1978:43-106.

There are extant copies of two editions of the Aufdeckung der babylonischen hürn . The only copy of one edition is bound with the copy of the Clare verantwurtung found in Württembergische Landesbibliothek (see above); the two copies of another edition are in the Bayerische Staatsbibiliothek, Munich (4o Polem. 3342 [21]) and the Augsburg Stadtbibliothek (4o ThH 190).

Also the photostatic reproduction of the Augsburg copy in Hillerbrand, Hans J. "An Early Anabaptist Treatise on the Christian and the State." Mennonite Quarterly Review 32 (1958): 29-47.

The only known copy of the "Bekenntnis Mr Jan von Pernstain" is found in manuscript in the Regensburg Stadtarchiv (Eccl. I, 52, 74), published by Hans Hillerbrand, "Ein Tauter Bekenntnis aus dein 16. Jahrhundert." Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 50 (1959): 40-50. It will also be included in Heinold Fast's critical edition of the Kunstbuch, the book of devotional writings from Marpeck's circle.

Secondary Works

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Baum, Johann Wilh. Capito und Butzer : Strassburgs Reformatoren. 2., unveränd. Aufl.Elberfeld, 1860. Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1967.

Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.

Bender, Harold S. "Pilgram Marpeck: Anabaptist Theologian and Civil Engineer." Mennonite Quarterly Review 38 (1964): 231-265.

Bergsten, Torsten. "Pilgram Marpeck und seine Auseinandersetzung mit Caspar Schwenckfeldv" Kyrkohistorik Arsskrift (1957 and 1958): 39-100, 53-87.

Blough, Neal. Christologie Anabaptiste: Pilgram Marpeck et l'humanité de Christ. Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1984.

Bossert, Jr., Gustav. "Nebenkirchliche Bewegung." Blätter für württembergische Kirchengeschichte. Stuttgart (1930): 1-41.

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Kiwiet, Jan J. "Pilgram Marbeck, sein Kreis und seine Theologie." Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Zurich, 1955.

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Klaassen, Walter. "Church Discipline and the Spirit in Pilgram Marpeck." De Geest in bet Geding, ed. Irvin B. Horst, A Jong, D. Tjeenk. Willink: Tjeenk, 1978: 169-80.

Klaassen, Walter. "Investigation into the Authorship and Historical Background of the Anabaptist Tract Aufdeckung der Babylonischen Hum." Mennonite Quarterly Review 61 (1987): 251-61.

Klaassen, Walter and William Klassen. Marpeck: A Life of Dissent and Conformity. Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History Series 44. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2008.

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Klassen, William. "Pilgram Marpeck: Freiheit ohne Gewalt." in Radikale Reformatoren, ed. H.-J. Goertz. München: C. H. Beck, 1978. Translated in Profiles of Radical Reformers, ed. Goertz and Walter Klaassen. Scottdale, 1982: 168-177.

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Author(s) Johann Loserth
John C. Wenger
Harold S. Bender
Stephen B. Boyd
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Loserth, Johann, John C. Wenger, Harold S. Bender and Stephen B. Boyd. "Marpeck, Pilgram (d. 1556)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 19 Aug 2022.,_Pilgram_(d._1556)&oldid=166258.

APA style

Loserth, Johann, John C. Wenger, Harold S. Bender and Stephen B. Boyd. (1987). Marpeck, Pilgram (d. 1556). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 August 2022, from,_Pilgram_(d._1556)&oldid=166258.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 491-502; vol. 4, p. 1146; vol. 5, pp. 538-539. All rights reserved.

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