Sabbatarian Anabaptists

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The question of the relevance of the Old Testament was solved in one aspect by a small group of Anabaptists by saying that the Ten Commandments were still valid; hence they observed the Sabbath. The most prominent leader of this group was Oswald Glait, who along with Andreas Fischer and Hans Bünderlin was active in Silesia about 1528. When Glait published his Entschuldigung at Nikolsburg in 1527 he was not yet a Sabbatarian (as point 7 of the booklet shows) and there is no clue to indicate why he became one. He left Nikolsburg after Hubmaier's martyrdom in May 1528, and while in Silesia working with Andreas Fischer met both Valentin Crautwald and Caspar Schwenckfeld. Shortly after this encounter, Glait wrote a booklet in which he defended Sabbatarian views, to which booklet Crautwald replied. Neither of these books is extant. Glait then asked Andreas Fischer to reply to Crautwald. Fischer was of the Anabaptist congregation at Linz, but had been a missionary and overseer at Passau, Obernberg, and Wels. At Nikolsburg he adopted the Sabbatarian beliefs of Glait. Fischer's reply to Crautwald is not extant, but Crautwald's second treatise is preserved and bears the title: Bericht und anzeigen wie gar one Kunst und guotten verstandt, Andreas Fischer, vom Sabbath geschrieben ... (manuscript copy of printed book is in Schwenckfelder Library at Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, USA).

The Sabbatarian movement upset Leonhard von Liechtenstein; so he wrote a letter to Capito enclosing a copy of Glait's book on the Sabbath and requesting a critique of it. Capito, burdened with work, turned the task over to Schwenckfeld, who wrote a reply (Vom Christlichen Sabbath und Unterschied des A.T. und N.T., 1532), which has been preserved and published in the Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum (IV, 444-518).

That the Sabbatarian movement did not die out at once is evident from Luther's concern with it in his Brief wider die Sabbather (Erlangen Ausgabe XXI, 416). That it continued for some time is evident from the mention of the Sabbatarians in George Eder's Evangelische Inquisition (1573), in Christoph Erhard's history of the Münsterite Anabaptists (1588), as well as in Stredovsky's (about 1600) and Varotto's (1567) list of Anabaptist sects. In a letter to the Swiss Brethren (wrongly dated 1531?) Pilgram Marpeck discusses the Ten Commandments and goes into some detail in his discussion of the third commandment. He rejects any legalistic application of this commandment, and concludes by saying, "That is in short against those who wish to reinstitute the physical Sabbath. Jesus Christ is Lord over all ceremonial laws of the Old and New Testament" (Kunstbuch, fol. 46b, 38b).


DeWind, Henry A. "A Sixteenth Century Description of Religious Sects in Austerlitz, Moravia." Mennonite Quarterly Review 24 (1955): 44-53.

Letter of Schwenckfeld to Leonhard von Liechtenstein, Jan. 1, 1532, Corpus Schwenckfeld 4, Leipzig, 1914: 444-518.

Wiswedel, Wilhelm. "Oswald Glait von Jamnitz." Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 56 (1937): 550-564.

Author(s) William Klassen
Date Published 1959

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Klassen, William. "Sabbatarian Anabaptists." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 25 Jul 2024.

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Klassen, William. (1959). Sabbatarian Anabaptists. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 July 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 396. All rights reserved.

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