Mathesius, Johannes (1504-1565)
Johannes Mathesius was a Lutheran theologian, and pastor of the miners at Joachimsthal in northern Bohemia from 1545 until his death. He was one of the most zealous literary opponents of Anabaptism in the second half of the 16th century. Approximately 1500 of his sermons have been handed down in manuscript, among them 17 sermons on Luther's life. These sermons were delivered in 1562-1564, and represented one of the first biographies of Luther. However, because of the intermittent nature of his connections with Luther, not all of the material on the reformer was derived from personal experience as was formerly generally assumed, or from his notes on Luther's table talks (Tischreden, delivered in the summer and fall of 1540). Rather he adapted to his records numerous transcripts from other manuscripts and "changed not only the text but also the content of Luther's speeches; indeed on occasion he even perverted them to a contrary meaning" (Volz, 148).
In these sermons on Luther he also enlarged in a derogatory way on the Anabaptists, whose suffering he had observed in 1526-1527 as private tutor at the Odelzhausen castle between Augsburg and Dachau on the Glon River in Bavaria, and also in 1528-29 with Zacharia Weixner, a pastor in Bruck on the Amper. He labeled their doctrine as "Turkish and devilish madness" and their ministers as "apostles of the devil. It is as if the devil has stirred up an ungodly and seditious rabble." These characterizations indicated his manner of fighting. He did not bother to gather evidence for his defamations. In addition he charged the most prominent Anabaptist leaders, Balthasar Hubmaier and Hans Denck, with teaching revolt and horrible unchastity. Other preachers he accused of monkish hypocrisy and witchcraft, through which they deluded the common man, as he had seen in numerous examples on the Lech and on the Glon. There the rabble allowed themselves to be rebaptized and "drowned in droves." He gives the knowledge and abilities of the Anabaptists no mean testimonial, when he says, "The bishops and their scholars, and those who hold to Antichrist, were much too weak and unlearned to refute the Anabaptists with definite Scripture and show the people the right way."
On the historiography of the Anabaptists Mathesius exerted a malicious influence through his false assertions, since his writings on Luther were widely circulated. His representation was copied uncritically by later historians (see Anabaptistcum) and for centuries greatly injured the reputation of the Mennonites. Not until 20th century research was developed could his unfounded accusations be refuted.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon., 4 v. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: III, 58 f.
Loesche, G. Johannes Mathesius, Ausgewählte Werke III; Luthers Leben in Predigten. 2d ed., Prague, 1906.
Volz, H. Die Lutherpredigten des Johannes Mathesius. Leipzig, 1930.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 537. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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APA style: Hege, Christian. (1957). Mathesius, Johannes (1504-1565). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M381.html.