Word of Life, Word of God, Jesus, Jerusalem
The life story about the truth-seeking martyr.
Balthasar Hübmaier was born in Friedberg near Augsburg around 1480. As a youth he showed interest in the Christian faith and his parents gave him the chance to study theology. He earned a doctor of theology in 1512 and worked as a professor at the University of Ingolstadt and Freiburg University. In 1521 he became pastor at Waldshut, in southern Germany near the border of Switzerland.
While in Waldshut, Hubmaier came across the writings of Martin Luther and he read these with great interest. He began to study the Bible both in Greek and Hebrew to check whether Luther preached what was consistent with God’s own Word. This led to a spiritual crisis and later a powerful repentance.
Hubmaier could see that much in the Catholic Church was not according to the Word of God. This all occurred right before a crucial election. His family’s financial security and his personal reputation were at stake. Yet Hubmaier chose to be obedient to God. He chose to give God’s Word priority. On this basis, he took part in a debate in 1523.
The dispute in Zurich in 1523.
The 26 – 28 October 1523 attended Balthasar Hubmaier a great dispute. About 800-900 priests and laymen participated. The theme included the Catholic mass. (Wrong doctrine that Jesus’ sacrifice is repeated in the Eucharist, the bread and wine becomes physically transformed into Jesus’ body and blood).
Already on the first day was Hubmaier active in the discussion. He was both erudite and eloquent. He taught God’s Word to be normative for the kind of learning we should have in the churches. Hubmaier proclaimed what would become his motto: What built on the Word will be forever. It is impossible to kill God’s Truth. Truth is immortal!!!
The city council in Zurich and Zwingli, was agreed that the Catholic Mass was a heresy that had no support in the Bible. But no one dared to point out the direction that was the way forward. 28th of October Hubmaier grip the word and presented a biblical understanding of the Eucharist as a memorial meal. Zwingli believed that the city council of Zurich had to decide. The radicals, including Hubmaier, pointed out that no secular authority could have authority over God’s Word.
The revival in Waldshut
Hubmaier returned to Waldshut, where he preached boldly. In the timeline of 3-4 years were virtually the entire city won for Jesus. The radical preaching of the gospel grip the people. Around the farms grew up Bible schools. Luther’s German Bible translation had already arrived in the 12th edition. Unlearned laymen dedicated their lifes to God’s Word. They taught and inspired each other to believe in Jesus, living the Christian way in the everyday life. The revival broke out with much confessions of sins, tears, prayer and repentance. As the revival broke through, came the greater resistance visible.
Balthasar Hubmaier was not among the first brothers who were baptized in the biblical way. Yet the revival in Waldshut was more than the Catholics could accept. The bishop of Constance sent a notice to Hubmaier. But it was synonymous with death to obey such summons. Hubmaier refused to go. City Council Waldshut also refused to betray and bring Hubmaier. In October 1524 the emperor threatened to send an army of 12,000 men to Waldshut, but no one gave after. “The whole” Waldshut stood with Hubmaier. More than ever before, the people gathered around his pulpit.
In the spring of 1525 did Hubmaier get a visit of Brother Reublin, a former Catholic priest who was baptized in the biblical way, in Zurich. Hubmaier then took another step of faith and was baptized along with apporoximately 100 members of his congregation. Later baptized Hubmaier more than 300 people. This was too much for the Catholics. The 6th of December they did send an army against Waldshut. They took the city, but Hubmaier they could not find. The city council had helped him escape from the city. But within a week was Hubmaier and his wife Elsbeth tracked down and arrested in Zurich .
Catholics would force them to withdraw. But none of them would deny the truth of God’s Word. Therefore the torture applied. Hubmaier was first established in tensile bench. But despite excruciating pain there was no recalling. Later they broke his arms backwards, blood gushed from his mouth. A finger was crushed in a vise. But Hubmaier did not deny faith in the Word of God.
A few months later he was tied to the floor. The stomach was pumped full of water. Hubmaier swelled up to the ropes cut into his body. The water trickled out through any opening in the body. He was close to losing consciousness, but did not recall . Only when a red-hot iron was drilled into his thigh, he cried out : “I recall”.
Zwingli insisted that the recall would happen in public, in Zurich’s Cathedral. First Zwingli spoke scornfully about Hubmaiers lack of persistence, then Hubmaier faltering was led to the pulpit. He was still marked by torture. With gentle voice began Hubmaier reading from a note : “I , Balthasar Hubmaier … “
Suddenly, God’s power came over him. He cries out, “I recall nothing.” From the pulpit he then preached what he believed. The entire hall boiled. Hubmaier was brutally torn down from the pulpit and taken back to prison.
Hubmaier and his wife were deported in April 1526. They traveled in southern Germany, around Hubmaiers home town. As soon as he was able to stand up and make a speech, he resumed his bold proclamation of Jesus and the truths of God’s Word. A church was started in Augsburg. In the summer of 1526 Hubmaier went on to Mahren, in the present Czech Republic.
Revival in Nikolsburg
Balthasar and Elsbeth Hubmaier settled down in Nikolsburg in Mahren, in english Moravia. In a short time many were won for Jesus. They were baptized and added to a free church. Around 15,000 people belonged to the baptizers, around the city Nikolsburg and region. Hubmaier also worked in St. Gallen. There, he won the 6000 souls for Jesus. In this time Hubmaier wrote several books .
Appenzell, a simultaneous Canton, described the extent of the revival: Thousands were saved and baptized within a few months. Large open air meetings were held, people were baptized in rivers and streams. At these meetings there were strong spiritual manifestations. Power of the Spirit worked mightily in people’s lives. None dared beginning to stop the revival because it had such strong roots among the people.
But it would not take long time before the Catholics raged. On 1st July 1527 soldiers sent by the Austrian authorities took the couple Hubmaier prisoner. They were taken to a prison in Vienna. Here, the couple was torn apart. The last Elsbeth shouted after her husband was: “Rather die than revoke, Balthasar”. It failed to make Hubmaier recall.
The 10th of March 1528 was a sad procession through the streets of Vienna. In the middle went Hubmaier. They had dressed him in devil costume. In front of him was a crowd of monks with muttered prayers, the sides went soldiers with hard faces and lances in their hands.
Hubmaier was pale and went with half-closed eyes. His lips moved in slow prayer. Now and then he opened his eyes to heaven. When he did it was like a transfigured light on his face. He did not care about the mob clamor around him.
Arrived at Martyr Square, they tied his hands and the fire was lit. The wind drove the smoke away and torment made worse, else he would have been quickly choked. They tortured muscles caught in the ropes and he moaned Then he heard a voice that said, “Balthasar, we shall forget our anguish when we get home.” He recognized the voice. It was his wife calling. Shortly after Hubmaier exhaled.
Three days later his wife was thrown into the river, some distance away: She was taken out of prison, and a stone was laid on her neck before they threw her into the river. Then they took her dead body and burned it.
They died for the truth. Truth is immortal. God’s Word is truth.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.”
1480 Balthasar Hubmaier is probably born.
1503 Balthasar Hübmaier begins his studies at the University of Freiburg.
1512 Balthasar Hübmaier begins studies at the University of Ingolstadt at the urging of Johann Eck.
1512 Balthasar Hübmaier receives Doctor of Theology degree from Ingolstadt.
1516 Balthasar Hübmaier becomes cathedral preacher at Regensburg.
1519 Balthasar Hübmaier expels the Jews from Regensburg during Lent.
1521 Balthasar Hübmaier becomes preacher at Waldshut.
1523 Balthasar Hübmaier begins to enact reforms in Waldshut.
1523 December, Austrian officials enter Waldshut and demand the Balthasar Hübmaier be arrested. The town resists and soon becomes involved in the Peasants’ War.
1524 Balthasar Hübmaier writes On Heretics and Those Who Burn Them.
1524 April, Balthasar Hübmaier organizes a disputation in Waldshut.
1525 Balthasar Hübmaier writes On the Christian Baptism of Believers.
1525 Balthasar Hübmaier marries Elsbeth Hügline.
1525 April 15, Balthasar Hübmaier and sixty others receive baptism by Wilhelm Reublin in Waldshut.
1525 December, Balthasar Hübmaier flees from Waldshut to Zurich.
1526 Balthasar Hübmaier begins productive ministry in Nikolsburg.
1527 July, Balthasar Hübmaier is arrested in Nikolsburg and taken to Vienna.
1528 March 10, Balthasar Hübmaier is burned at the stake in Vienna.
1528 March 13, Elsbeth Hübmaier is drowned in the Danube.