Dachser, Jakob (1486-1567)
Jakob Dachser was an elder of the Augsburg Anabaptists in 1527. Though his work covered only a brief period, yet under his and Siegmund Salminger's leadership the congregation grew rapidly, reaching in a short time eleven hundred members and including a large part of the population of the city.
He was born in Ingolstadt (according to the chronicle of Clemens Jäger), served as a Catholic priest in Vienna, and was compelled to flee because he had defended Luther's writings, whereupon he returned to Ingolstadt and in 1523 acquired his Master's degree there. He was arraigned before the court of the Duke of Bavaria for improperly disputing and defending Lutheran ideas, and was cross-examined by several professors. The cross-examination revealed that he shared Luther's views on the Mass and fasting. On the duke's orders he was taken in chains to the bishop of Eichstätt, and after a period of imprisonment was expelled from the diocese. In 1526 he found refuge in Augsburg, earning his living by teaching. He was baptized here by Hans Hut in February 1527, and was appointed assistant head of the Augsburg Anabaptist congregation, and served with true devotion and increasing success. He baptized the preacher Hans Leopold, who was martyred at Augsburg on 25 April 1528. The rapid growth of the congregation aroused the malice of the Lutheran clergy, who persuaded the council to suppress the Anabaptists. In the fall of 1527 numerous individual arrests were made, religious meetings forcibly broken up and the participants arrested. Dachser escaped capture, but not wishing to desert his congregation he presented himself to the mayor; he was so thoroughly convinced of the legality of his teachings and acts that he did not consider the possibility of danger in a Protestant city after an explanation of his position to the council. But on 25 August 1527, five days after the Martyrs' Synod, in which he had participated, he was arrested. The Lutheran preachers Rhegius, Frosch, Agricola and Keller disputed long with Dachser and his fellow prisoners Hut, Gross and Salminger, but were unable to make them forsake their convictions. To make them more amenable they were put into the dungeon. Voices were heard in the council recommending capital punishment. It was finally decided to leave them in prison until they recanted out of sheer physical exhaustion.
Dachser's wife Ottilie, who entered the service of Margrave George of Brandenburg soon after his arrest, interceded for his release. The margrave sponsored her petition before the council, but always received the reply that there was no possibility of release for Dachser unless he recanted. Ulrich Heckel, who later became a master of the weavers' guild, also presented petitions to the council, stating that before his arrest Dachser had served faithfully as a teacher in Augsburg, "whose equal will not soon be found; of this I have many honest witnesses at Augsburg among the rich and the poor." When "some of the Anabaptists asserted themselves, prophesied and held peculiar opinions he counseled against it; thus he acquired such disfavor among them that they wished to excommunicate him."
The council was relentless. Finally after confinement of more than three years Dachser yielded to the incessant entreaty of his wife and the persuasion of the clergymen Wolfgang Musculus and Bonifacius Wolfhart, who had been called from Strasbourg, and on 16 May 1531, five weeks after Salminger's recantation, he recanted. It was done in Latin on a weekday, at a time when few persons were present. Because of his "physical exhaustion and the need to earn a living" he requested permission to remain in the city. He would "seek his bread by industrious and faithful instruction of the children of the city in Christian discipline and doctrine as he had done before," and cooperate in the conversion of the Anabaptists. The council consented and appointed him as an assistant at St. Ulrich's Church.
Doubts on the part of the clergy concerning his dogmatic position prevented Dachser from obtaining a regular preaching appointment, though there was no cause for distrust. Dachser avoided the questions for which he had suffered so long, and occupied himself in a field that had thus far received little attention in the Protestant churches, namely, in verse for church singing. In this field he deserves more recognition than he has thus far been given. Even before his imprisonment he had as an Anabaptist preacher composed hymns and must therefore be considered one of the first evangelical poets and hymn writers.
His poems were very early circulated far beyond Anabaptist circles. While he was languishing in the dungeon, some of his songs were published in 1529 in the Augsburg hymnal, Form und Ordnung Gaystlicher Gesang und Psalmen, and are among the best in the collection. The second edition, published in 1532, after his release, was the product of at least his cooperation, if not of his sole editorship. The foreword states that Dachser versified several psalms of David (Psalm 54, Psalm 103, Psalm 116, Psalm 138, Psalm 142, Psalm 143, published in Wackernagel). In the hymnal published in 1537 by Sigmund Salminger (Der gantz Psalter, das ist alle Psalmen Davids, an der zal 150, . . .), there are 42 psalms translated by Dachser into German for church singing; in addition there are several of his songs that had been published in the earlier collection.
In the following year at the request of many friends Dachser published the psalms with notes, titled Der gantz psalter Davids nach Ordnung und anzahl aller Psalmen. Several psalms, he remarks in the foreword, which had been previously rewritten, including two by Martin Luther, he left unchanged except to correct them. The greatest significance of Dachser's hymnal lies in the fact that an appendix contains songs written by him for church holidays and ceremonies, making it the first practical Protestant hymnal. When the Augsburg clergy in 1555 published a Gsangbüchlin (new enlarged edition in 1557), not only all the psalms, but also the appendix of Dachser's book were included.
At this time Dachser was no longer in Augsburg. In August 1552 he and two other preachers (Johann Flinner and Johann Traber) were ordered by Charles V to leave the city, "because they spoke, acted, and practiced all sorts of things that might lead to sedition, revolt, and all mischief"; the fact that one of these preachers "had been an Anabaptist" would be sufficient reason for distrust. Dachser's wife was permitted to remain in Augsburg because of age and ill health; but the Bishop of Arras made the stipulation "that she practice nothing at all with anybody, and hold no meetings in her house." Dachser betook himself to Pfalz-Neuburg; he died in 1567 at the age of nearly eighty-one. His name is in the Index of Venice. According to Schottenloher, Dachser is the author of the anonymous publication, Eine göttliche und gründliche Offenbarung von den wahrhaftigen Wiedertäufern, mit göttlicher Wahrheit anzeigt (1527). This booklet was for a long time ascribed to Eitelhans Langenmantel. It was printed by the clandestine Augsburg printer (Winkeldrucker) Philipp Ulhart, and was refuted by Urban Rhegius in Notwendige Warnung wider den neuen Taufforden . . . (1527). Dachser also published in Augsburg in 1526 a medieval mystical writing, Aus was Grund die Lieb entspringt, to which he wrote the preface. Copies of this booklet as well as Rhegius' Notwendige Warnung are in the Mennonite Historical Library (Goshen, Indiana).
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Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 1-2. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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