Felbinger, Klaus (d. 1560)
Klaus Felbinger (also called Schlosser, meaning "Locksmith," after his trade), an outstanding Hutterite martyr, died in 1560 in Landshut, Bavaria, Germany. We know nothing of his origin and earlier life. The Hutterite chronicles give his name for the first time when he was chosen Diener des Worts (preacher) in Moravia in 1558. Soon afterwards he was sent out as a missionary to Bavaria, most likely his native country, together with a brother. But in 1560 the two men were seized near Neumarkt in Lower Bavaria, and soon thereafter brought in chains to Landshut, a well-known fortress and castle. Here they were kept in the dungeon for over ten weeks. The Catholic clergy vainly tried all means of persuasion to make him recant. Then he was racked to the point where even the executioner pleaded for him. But Felbinger still remained firm in his faith. From prison he sent two extensive epistles (Sendbriefe) home to the brotherhood in Moravia, in which he gives a detailed report of his many debates with the clergy and other officials, and from these documents we learn his extraordinary knowledge of the Bible and his skill in defending his position. His opponents were obviously amazed. Two learned clergymen came expressly from Munich to convert him, but it was to no avail. Their rational theology was one thing, his living faith in Christ and His commandments another. At the end we read in one of his epistles the following episode: "You cannot convince me," said Felbinger to his inquisitors, "for you do not stand in the Truth, and therefore I intend to stay in the simplicity of Christ." To this the chancellor answered, "I do not think that you are so simple. [Note that the word 'simplicity' is here used in a double meaning. Felbinger means plainness, absence of sophistication, while his opponent thinks of ignorance.] I think there is not one in a hundred who could defend himself as well as you do. For I do not think of you as a fanatic (Schwärmer) as are found everywhere and have no reason for their beliefs." To this Felbinger added, "God made him admit this, a comfort for me" (Loserth, 309-310, Chronik, 402). Felbinger had also drawn up a brief tract, his Confession of Faith (or Rechenschaft) which he submitted to the lords of Landshut. But they were not willing to deal leniently with sectarians. The mandates were applied, and on 19 July 1560, he was beheaded in Landshut, together with his brother-companion.
His confession as well as his epistles circulated widely among the brethren and did not fail to strengthen them in their faith. When the Hutterite brother Veit Grünberger was examined in Salzburg in 1573, he had this to say: "They may do with us as they wish. We will bear it with endurance, for I have carefully read the Rechenschaft of Claus Felbinger and of Hans Mandel, more than once, so that I know that our faith is well founded in God's Scriptures."
We have from Felbinger these two epistles: (a) Sendbrief an Leonhard Sailer, 1560 (published by Loserth, "Zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer in Mähren," Zischt f. Allg. Gesch. I, 1884, 451-54); (b) Ein Sendbrief Klaus Felbingers geschrieben aus seiner Gefenknus an die Gemein Gottes in Mähren im 1560. Jahr (published by Loserth in "Der Communismus der mährischen Wiedertäufer," Arch, f. österr. Gesch. LXXXI, 1894, 292-310). This epistle contains the details of his debates, and is strongly dogmatic. There exists also his confession, Abgeschrift des Glaubens welchen ich, Klaus Felbinger, zu Landshut den Herrn daselbst für mich und statt meines mitgefangenen Bruders zugestellt habe (this is his Rechenschaft oder Verantwortung). This document has been published, and exists in several Hutterite codices.
Felbinger is also the author of five well-known hymns, four of which are published in the Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder (Scottdale, 1914) 647-649, and (out of place) 441-446. The fifth hymn is known only from European codices.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doopsgesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, …, 1685: II, 274.
Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only upon Confession of Faith and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus Their Saviour . . . to the Year A.D. 1660. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1951: 643. Available online at:. Van Braght must have known both the Hutterite chronicle and also the Sendbrief, since he gives excerpts from both.
Ehrenpreis, Andreas and Klaus Felbinger. Brotherly Community--the Highest Command of Love: Two Anabaptist Documents of 1650 and 1560. Rifton, N.Y.: Plough Pub. House, 1978.
Felbinger, Klaus. The Church and the World: Confession of Faith Addressed to the Council of Landshut, 1560. Espanola, Wash: Paul S. Gross, 1963.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon., 4 v. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: I, 142, 637.
Die Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder: Gesangbuch darinnen viel und mancherlei schöne Betrachtungen, Lehren, Vermahnungen, Lobgesänge und Glaubensbekenntnisse, von vielen Liebhabern Gottes gedichtet und aus vielen Geschichten und Historien der heiligen Schrift zusammengetragen, allen frommen Liebhabern Gottes sehr nützlich zu singen und zu lessen. Scottdale, Pa. : Mennonitisches Verlagshaus, 1914. Reprinted Cayley, AB: Hutterischen Brüdern in Kanada, 1962.
Loserth, Johann. "Der Communismus der mährischen Wiedertäufer im 16. and 17. Jahrhundert: Beiträge zu ihrer Lehre, Geschichte and Verfassung." Archiv für österreichische Geschichte 81, 1 (1895): 292-310.
Loserth, Johann. "Zur Geschichte der Wiedertäufer in Mähren." Zeitschrift für allgemeine geschichte I (1884): 451-454.
Winter, V. A. Geschichte der bayrischen Wiedertäufer im 16. Jahrhundert. Munich, 1809: Still valuable.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Geschicht-Buch der Hutterischen Brüder. Macleod, AB, and Vienna, 1923.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Die Lieder der Wiedertäufer. Berlin, 1903. Reprinted Nieuwkoop: B. De Graaf, 1965: 228-129.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder: Ein Sprachdenkmal aus frühneuhochdeutscher Zeit. Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1943: 402.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 320-321. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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APA style: Friedmann, Robert. (1956). Felbinger, Klaus (d. 1560) . Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/felbinger_klaus_d._1560.