Balthasar Grasbanntner (16th century)
Balthasar Grasbanntner (Tischler) was a Moravian Anabaptist leader who belonged to the Marpeck Brotherhood, and being a joiner or cabinetmaker by trade is generally called Balthasar der Tischler. He probably served as elder of the church at Eibenschitz, for a Moravian chronicler calls him the Anabaptist "Vorsteher." He was a signatory of the important document in the Kunstbuch which constitutes a reply to Marpeck and expresses appreciation for Marpeck's work among the Moravian churches, signed by five men representing seven churches, and dated Sunday, 7 October 1553.
Jarrold Zeman, in his research on the Moravian Brethren and their relation to the Anabaptists, has found that Balthasar Grasbanntner is identical with Balthasar der Tischler who represented the Anabaptists in their second discussion with the Moravian Brethren regarding their differences. The meeting took place at the request of the Anabaptists on 17 April 1559, at Eibenschitz, moving to Znaim the next day. Zeman has shown the importance of this encounter and the relationship between these two groups. In the meeting at Eibenschitz the points presented by the Moravian Brethren were: (1) reception of church members; (2) church discipline and the three steps prescribed by Christ; (3) the Moravian Brethren basis for infant baptism; (4) relation to government and participation in the magistracy. Of the four points the third received most extensive and heated discussion. Then the Anabaptists replied to a few questions: (1) What procedure do you observe in obtaining elders? (2) How many Anabaptist sects are there? (3) How many Anabaptists are there? (4) Where and when did your group originate? Finally Balthasar was asked if he had ever belonged to any other group of Anabaptists, to which he replied that he had not. The reporter comments that after all this talk they departed as they had come; "And so we had worked three whole hours and caught nothing just as those [the disciples] worked a whole night without catching anything."
The background of this discussion is sketched in the article Hans Uhrmacher and is on the whole reliably (according to Zeman) given by Müller. Balthasar's desire to communicate with the Moravian Brethren is evidence that the Marpeck Brotherhood existed as a separate body in Moravia as late as 1559, and sought to foster the unity of the church there. The Moravian Brethren had moved so far away from the Anabaptist position on baptism that union with them was out of the question. Furthermore, the Anabaptists did not have the academic equipment (knowledge of church history and exegesis) to counter the arguments of their more learned opponents. Their attempt to compensate by quoting from Erasmus' Annotations irritated the Moravian Brethren. Nevertheless Balthasar's desire and initiative in conversing with the Moravian Brethren stands out clearly. Of all the known contacts with the Brethren this seems to have been the most extensive and significant. The date and manner of Balthasar's death are unknown.
Fast, Heinold. "Pilgram Marbeck und das oberdeutsche Täufertum." Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 47 (1956): 233.
Müller, J. Th. "Die Berührungen der alten und neuen Brüderunität mit den Täufern." Zeitschrift für Brüdergeschichte 4 (1910): 197-207.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 1062-1063. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Klassen, William. "Balthasar Grasbanntner (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B35778.html.
APA style: Klassen, William. (1959). Balthasar Grasbanntner (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B35778.html.