Vogel, Wolfgang (ca. 1500-1527)
Wolfgang Vogel (ca. 1500-1527), an Anabaptist martyr, born in Reutlingen, Swabia; he joined the reform movement of Nürnberg at an early age. Around 1523-24 there was in this city a group of "evangelical-minded men" who found themselves in open conflict with the budding Lutheran movement. The poet Hans Sachs is said to have belonged to this group, and Vogel apparently shared its "radical" outlook. In 1524 as pastor in Bopfingen and in 1525 as pastor in Eltersdorf, he tried to introduce the Reformation. In early 1526 he also became acquainted with Hans Hut, who was then a bookseller in Nürnberg, and it is probable that Hut won him for the new, still more radical ideas of Anabaptism.
Hearing that Bopfingen had dismissed his successor (a like-minded preacher), Vogel addressed a missive to the citizens of that city, called Tröstlicher Sendbrief und christliche Ermahnung zum Evangelio, an den ehrbaren Rat und die ganze Gemeinde zu Bopfingen (1526), a pamphlet, printed without naming the printer or the place of publication (today only two copies of it are known: one in the Mennonite library at Amsterdam, and the other in the archives of Nürnberg). The Bopfingen council was embarrassed and offended by this somewhat aggressively prophetic pamphlet, a true penitential sermon, and decided to forward it to the Nürnberg council for advice and action. Lazarus Spengler, a leading councilman and censor of Nürnberg, called Vogel from Eltersdorf to account for this tract, and warned him not to indulge further in such "liberties." Although it dismissed him, the council soon discovered that Vogel was an Anabaptist. Upon examination he admitted having been baptized by Hut and also having baptized others. Since there was as yet no Anabaptist church organization Vogel seems to have acted as an isolated individual. Vogel, under the jurisdiction of the Nürnberg council, was imprisoned and the case reported to Kasimir, Margrave of Brandenburg (Bayreuth-Ansbach); but before it could receive an answer it decided to make an example of Vogel. Thus a sham trial was held, complete with torture, and an argument was trumped up that Vogel intended rebellion. On 26 March 1527, he was beheaded without opportunity to defend himself. The trial records no longer exist and may have been destroyed to obscure the situation.
The most important aspect of this story (a first in the long epic of Anabaptist persecutions) is the Sendbrief of 1526, which profoundly reflects the spirit of this first decade of both the Reformation and Anabaptism. Wiswedel gives an elaborate summary of its contents (pp. 162-69). Not unlike Haug's Christliche Ordnung of 1524, this Sendbrief is less typically Anabaptist than non-Lutheran. It is a forceful call to repentance addressed to the citizenry of Bopfingen and to authorities in general, "kings, princes, and lords." The old theme of "reason and obedience" occupies a central place in his arguments. The cross is inevitable for those who obey God's Word: like gold in fire so also must man be tried by tribulation and persecution. One can easily understand that the council members of both Bopfingen and Nürnberg were baffled by this letter; they simply interpreted it as a voice of rebellion.
In 1717, two hundred years later, in the days of flowering Pietism , Dr. J. D. Herrnschmidt, professor of theology in Halle, by chance discovered a copy of this Sendbrief, perhaps in the archives of Bopfingen, where he had been a superintendent, and re-edited it in 1717 as a devotional tract for his congregation in Halle. What once had caused martyrdom for its author was now welcomed and applauded, even though there is good reason to assume that the pamphlet was reinterpreted in the mild and rather harmless way of 18th-century Pietism.
Friedmann, Robert. Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries. Goshen, 1949: 26 f.
Ottius, J. H. Annates Anabaptistici. Basel, 1672.
Schornbaum, Karl. Quellen zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer II. Band, Markgraftum Brandenburg. (Bayern I. Abteilung). Leipzig: M. Heinsius Nachfolger, 1934.
Wappler, Paul. Die Täuferbewegung in Thüringen von 1526-1584. Jena: Gustav Fisher, 1913: 245.
Wiswedel, Wilhelm. Bilder and Führergestalten aus dem Täufertum, 3 vols. Kassel: J.G. Oncken Verlag, 1928-1952: v. I, 152-69.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 841. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: Friedmann, Robert. "Vogel, Wolfgang (ca. 1500-1527)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/vogel_wolfgang_ca._1500_1527.
APA style: Friedmann, Robert. (1959). Vogel, Wolfgang (ca. 1500-1527). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/vogel_wolfgang_ca._1500_1527.