Christian History Timeline: Anabaptists

Erasmus kindled it with his Greek New Testament and translations of the Church’s greatest thinkers. Luther struck the match. From Wittenberg to Zurich, Strassburg, Basel, and Bern the fire swept. It was a fire meant to cleanse the Church of greed and corruption—a fire to restore Christianity. But it did more than that. It changed the map of Europe. It changed lives. Princes gained ground from it; artisans and peasants gained power. It took religion out of the monastery and into the marketplace. It made of Christendom competing factions and gave powers of speech to “even women and simple folk.” It was a fire of ideas that occupied the attention with as much intensity as man’s walk on the moon in this century. To those called heretics (or Anabaptist) it gave the “mark of Christ”—confidence to give one’s own life like a brand to fuel the fire of the “true gospel.”

Reformation World

1516 Erasmus’ edition of Greek New Testament published

1517 Martin Luther posts 95 theses

1517 Erasmus publishes anti-war tract

1518 Luther summoned to Augsburg but refuses to recant

1519 Zwingli becomes People’s priest in Zürich

1520 Luther burns papal bull for his arrest

1521 Carlstadt celebrates first Protestant communion at Wittenburg

1521 Muntzer publishes Prague Manifesto justifying violence in the elect

1522 Luther introduces German liturgy in Wittenburg

1522 Muntzer marries and germanizes services in Allstedt; Zwingli secretly marries

1523 Zwingli holds Zürich disputations

1523 Reformer Martin Bucer arrives in Strassburg; German services introduced

1524 Storm on images in Zürich

1524 Planets align in sign of the Fish; widespread expectation of evil

1524 Carlstadt puts aside priestly vestments to become a “new layman”; declines to baptize infants

1524 Erasmus publishes tract on free will

1525 Luther marries

1526 Erasmus publishes the works of St. Augustine

1527 Urbanus Rhegius publishes anti-Anabaptist “Nikolsburg Articles”

1528 Reformation established in Bern

1529 Reformation becomes official in Basel

1529 Diet of Speyer—Luther’s followers name Protestants

1529 Luther and Zwingli convene at Marburg

1531 Bullinger succeeds Zwingli and publishes first book against Anabaptists

1536 William Tyndale, English reformer, burned at stake

1540 Pope recognizes order of Jesuits; will make them the chief agents of Counter Reformation

1541 John Calvin establishes theocracy in Geneva

1541 John Knox establishes Calvinist Reformation in Scotland


1521 Hubmaier comes to Waldshut, becomes friend of Zwingli

1522 Stump and Reublin challenge paying of tithes

1523 Hubmaier introduces German services in Waldshut, marries

1523 At Second Zürich Disputation radical followers break with Zwingli

1524 Manz brings Carlstadt’s tracts on infant baptism and Lord’s Supper to Zürich

1524 Swiss Brethren write to Muntzer, Carlstadt, and Luther

1524 Reublin and Brotli refuse to baptize infants

1525 January 17—First Zürich disputation with those opposed to infant baptism

January 21—First believer’s baptism in Zürich; Denck banished from Nuremberg for views on Lord’s Supper and living personal faith

January 21–29—First Anabaptist congregation of 35 converts established in Zollikon

February—First imprisonment of Anabaptists occurs in Zürich; they escape

Easter—Hubmaier establishes Anabaptism as state faith

May—Bolt Eberle executed in Schwyz, becomes first Protestant and first Anabaptist martyr

November—Third Baptismal Disputation in Zürich held in Grossmünster to accommodate the crowd

1526 Grebel dies

1527 Schleitheim Brotherly Union

1527 Denck and Hatzer publish first German translation of O.T. prophets

1527 Manz drowned in Zürich

1527 Sattler burned in Rottenburg

1527 Denck dies of plague in Basel

1527 Hut dies in Augsburg prison

1528 Hubmaier burned in Vienna

1529 Tyrolean Anabaptists flea homeland for Moravia

1529 Hoffman meets Anabaptists in Strassburg

1529 Blaurock burned in Tyrol

1530 Hoffman baptizes 300 Anabaptists in Emden and sends lay preachers to Netherlands

1530 Confession of Augsburg—Protestant form Schmalkaldic League against Emperor Charles V

1533 Hutter joins Moravian group who become known as Hutterites

1533 Baker Jan Matthijs claims Anabaptist leadership in Amsterdam and sends out 12 disciples in pairs

1533 Hoffman goes to prison in Strassburg to await Second Coming

1534 Jan van Leiden crowned king in Münster

1534 Matthijs moves to Münster; Anabaptists win local election and attempt by force to set up Kingdom of God

1535 Siege of Münster; falls. Persecution begins.

1535 Melchiorite Jan van Geelen storms Amsterdam’s city hall

1536 Jan van Leiden executed; his remains swinging in cage from church serve as reminder into 20th century

1536 Menno Simons breaks with Rome; becomes Anabaptist leader in Netherlands

1539–40 Simons publishes the Foundation Book of Anabaptist faith

1541 Peter Riedeman writes Hutterite Confession of Faith

The Government

1591 Charles V succeeds Maximilian as Holy Roman Emperor

1520 Suleiman I the Magnificent becomes Turkish ruler

1521 German princes back Luther at Diet of Worms

1521 Pope Leo X calls King Henry VIII “Defender of the Faith” for anti-Luther tract

1524 In May peasants’ revolt breaks out in southern Germany

1525 March 6—Peasant’s Twelve Articles drawn up against lords

1525 April 15—Defeat of peasants at Frankenhausen; Müntzer captured and executed

1526 Archduke Ferdinand becomes Margrave of Moravia

1527 Sack of Rome by German troops

1527 Basel orders corporeal punishment and confiscation of property for adult baptism and sheltering Anabaptists

1528 Swabian League authorizes military division of 400 horsemen to scout for Anabaptists

1529 Diet of Speyer restores death penalty for rebaptizing

1529 Turkish siege of Vienna

1534 Henry VIII establishes himself as Supreme Head of Church and Clergy of England

1534 Strassburg decrees that Anabaptists must leave the city

1535 Charles V conquers Tunis and frees 20,000 Christian slaves

1538 Landgrave Philip of Hesse arranges debate between Anabaptists and Bucer; results in Hessian Anabaptists returning to state church and state church deciding to excommunicate immoral Christians

1541 Henry VIII assumes titles of King of Ireland and Head of Irish Church

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #5 in 1985]

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