Kolb, Andreas and Katharina (d. 1530)
Andreas and Katharina Kolb, a married couple, suffered death for their faith. With several like-minded persons they were baptized at Zella Sankt Blasii, Ohrdruf district of Sachsen-Gotha, Germany on 7 June 1528 by Volkmar of Hildburghausen. Volkmar at this service prepared them for future suffering: whoever would be a true Christian must leave everything he has and suffer persecution unto death. His predictions were promptly fulfilled. The authorities set up a vigorous search for those who had been baptized in Zella. Most of them were young married couples. They fled, leaving their children with relatives. But after only a few weeks some were discovered and brought back. An official list of arrests with its sober figures gives a shocking picture of the suffering that broke upon these families. There were six couples, who had left 16 children behind, the oldest of whom was 13 years old and blind. Their names were Andreas Kolb and wife, two children aged one and five; mayor Hans Fock and wife, one child aged two; Balthasar Armknecht and wife, four children aged two, three, five, and nine; Georg Unger (called Bader) and wife, four children aged four, ten, twelve, and thirteen; Kaspar Komel and wife, four children aged one, three, five, and seven; and Kunz Eigeler and wife with one child.
Andreas Kolb was the first arrested. He was sent to Reinhardsbrunn (a former monastery, and later a resort palace of the dukes of Sachsen-Gotha) near Gotha; Elector John of Saxony was notified of the arrest. Kolb confessed that he had been baptized, and at his urging his wife had also been baptized. He asked for instruction; if he had erred he would return to the church. By recanting he won his release, but later returned to the Anabaptists; his wife likewise.
A year later both were again arrested with seven other Anabaptists and taken to Reinhardsbrunn. Here each one was informed on 10 January 1530 that he had forfeited his life and goods, since he had not kept his word to abstain from false doctrine.
After these admonitions they were given time to reflect and to receive further instruction. Andreas Kolb declared that he would stand by his faith. His wife, who had decided to recant, was unable to move him, and withdrew her own recantation. Christoph Ortlep and three women, Elsa Kunz, Barbara Unger, and Katharina König, also remained steadfast. One week later, on 18 January 1530, they were put to death at Reinhardsbrunn. Only two men, Valentin Unger and Balthasar Armknecht, and one woman, Osanna Ortlep, probably some of them related to the above, begged for mercy and recanted (Wappler, Kursachsen, 12, 133-137).
The sentence of death passed on four women and two men who valued their faith above their life stirred up much comment, and resulted in the Wittenberg theologians taking a definite position in regard to the forcible suppression of the Anabaptists. Not only in letters did they express their views, but also in books.
The Gotha superintendent, Friedrich Myconius, had some doubts, because the condemned prisoners had not been convicted of sedition. He wrote to Philip Melanchthon about it, who was at that time making a conspicuous change, “a gradual letting go of the impression of the commands of the Sermon on the Mount” (Lüthje, 518). Melanchthon replied (February 1530) to Myconius that he was in full sympathy with the Reinhardsbrunn verdict. “Anabaptists, even though they are otherwise blameless, reject some of their civic duties. But even if they have no seditious, but obviously blasphemous articles, it is my opinion that it is the duty of government to kill them” (Wappler, Kursachsen, 14). This view was shared by Luther now too. In his exegesis of Psalm 82, two months after the verdict of Reinhardsbrunn had been carried out, he said emphatically that heresy should be punished by the government.
Shortly after this event Myconius and Justus Menius, the general superintendent of Eisenach, decided to refute the Anabaptist teachings in a book. The manuscript was presented to Luther for his opinion; on 12 April 1530 he expressed the desire to add a paragraph on the call to preach. The book appeared soon afterward under Menius’ name with the title, Der Widdertauffer lere und geheimnis aus heiliger Schrifft widderlegt; it contained a foreword by Luther and a dedication to Philip of Hesse, dated 4 May 1530.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 519 f.
Lüthje, H. "Melanchthons Anschauung über das Recht des Widerstandes gegen die Staatsgewalt." Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 47 (1928).
Wappler, Paul. Die Täuferbewegung in Thüringen von 1526-1584. Jena: Gustav Fisher, 1913: 185, 303 f.
Wappler, Paul. Die Stellung Kursachsens und des Landgrafen Philipp von Hessen zur Täuferbewegung. Münster: 1910.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 214-215. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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