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Some aspects of the teachings of Hans Hut (c. 1490-1527). A study of the origins in South Germany and their influence on the Anabaptist movement, 1526-1531. Klassen, Herbert Cornelius

Abstract

Hans Hut has usually been considered a revolutionary chiliast who stirred up the South German peasants against the civil and religious authorities. Because he was associated with the Anabaptists the last year and a half of his life the character of Anabaptism and its relation to Protestantism have been called into question. My task has been to determine from Hut's tracts and confessions and from the testimonies of his friends and enemies what Hut taught in the general areas of church and state. In studying the origins of his teachings it was necessary to consider the influence of two men: Thomas Muentzer, a Spiritualist and leader in the Peasants' Revolt, and Hans Denok, a Humanist scholar and partner in the South German Anabaptist movement. Tracing Hut's influence on the South German Anabaptist movement from 1526 to 1531 involved a study of the writings of Ambrosius Spittelmayr, Austrian university student from Linz, Hans Schlaffer, former Catholic priest from Upper Austria, Leonhard Schiemer, student for the priesthood in Vienna and Franciscan monk for six years, Wolfgang Brandhuber, pastor at Linz; Peter Ridemann, shoemaker from Silesia, Leupold Scharnschlager, a teacher from the Tyrol, Jörg Probst Rothenfelder, a painter from Switzerland, and Pilgram Marpeck, a civil engineer from the Tyrol. Hut conceived of the church as a covenant community of disciples following after Christ, going the way of the cross and suffering, baptized on confession of faith, practicing sharing of goods, and sent to preach the Gospel to all men. Hut was convinced that Christ would soon return to establish His Kingdom and bring the world to an end; until then obedience to the authorities was expected of all Christians. Although the influence of Thomas Muentzer on Hut can be traced in common terminology and some teachings about the Christian life, he did not cause Hut to take a revolutionary position once he took up the cause of Anabaptism. Hut's view of discipleship, the covenant, and the nature of the church are quite foreign to Muentzer. Hans Denck's contribution to the Anabaptist movement lay in his struggle with, and clarification of some of the theological presuppositions of Anabaptism. Denck was concerned about the problems of man’s free will and God's sovereignty, the relationship of the ceremonies of Old and New Testament, the role of the Spirit and faith in understanding the Scriptures, and the tension between sin and righteousness, law and Gospel, love and discipleship, church and world. Hut's concern about the nature of the church and its missionary task did not contradict with Denck's teachings so the two men were able to cooperate as co-founders of the South German Anabaptist movement. When Hut's eschatology caused friction he agreed to refrain from propagating his ideas. Through his influence on Hans Schlaffer, Wolfgang Brandhuber, and Peter Ridemann, Hut contributed to the origins and the teachings of the Moravian Anabaptists, later called Hutterian Brethren. Hut's emphasis on community and sharing prepared the soil for communal living and Christian communism. His concept of the missionary apostolate was carried on more effectively by the Hutterites than any other Anabaptists of the sixteenth century. Hut's general view of discipleship and the nature of the church are also reflected in Hutterite writing and practice. Hut's influence on Leonhard Sohiemer and, through him and other apostles, on Pilgram Marpeck and Leupold Scharnschlager contributed to the origins and teachings of the South German Anabaptist movement that centered in Strassburg and Augsburg. The common position (Gemeindetheoiogie) represented by South German Anabaptist codices makes it difficult to determine who is responsible for specific Anabaptist ideas and concepts but since Hut was one of the earliest writers and leaders of the South German brotherhood it is not out of question to suggest that the items which appeared first in his writings arid reappear in later writings, constitute part of his contribution to the South German Anabaptist movement. Among these are his emphasis on the covenant, on suffering and the cross, on rebirth, the imminent return of Christ, and the need for unity in the church. Hut's teachings challenged the totalitarian character of church and state in his day and contributed, on the one hand, to the crumbling of the corpus christianum, and on the other hand, to the erection of the principles of the separation of church and state and religious freedom.

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