The Gabrielites were an early Anabaptist group in Moravia and Silesia, led by Gabriel Ascherham. It began in 1527, merged later with related groups in Moravia (Philipites and Hutterites), broke away again, and entered into many an unpleasant controversy, mainly with the Hutterites, whose practice of community of goods they opposed. The story of this group up to the death of their leader in 1545 is told in the article Ascherham, which also reports that toward the end of his life more and more brethren fell away from his spiritualistic leadership, apparently seeking closer ties with the genuine Anabaptist way of life. His minimizing of adult baptism and all the other orders or regulations of a disciplined brotherhood were obviously not to the liking of these less sophisticated brethren. At the end of his life Ascherham is said to have been a "shepherd without sheep."
After Ascherham's death (1545) the group disintegrated. Those who had fled to East Prussia in 1535-1540 seem to have united with the Mennonites of that area. Those in Silesia most likely joined with the Schwenckfelders, with whom they had many tenets in common. But the greater part of the Silesians returned to Moravia and joined the Hutterites. In Moravia proper some settlements had existed since 1533 (if not earlier) and had weathered the severe persecutions of 1535. At first Ascherham prevented any negotiations with the Hutterites, whom he detested; but when he died, the way was opened to an organic unification of the two Anabaptist groups. Of this the Hutterite chronicles give us a detailed story (Geschicht-Buch, 195-200). They report how several Gabrielite brethren had come to the Hutterites to find out about their teachings and the reason for the erstwhile division. "They asked for information about our main tenets (Hauptartikel) and received a declaration of five points, concerning (a) baptism, (b) community of goods, (c) marriage, (d) authorities or (e) false brethren and separation from the world" (text in the Geschicht-Buch). After studying these articles and talking them over, the Gabrielite visitors joined the Hutterite community on 16 January 1545, and submitted to the discipline of the entire brotherhood. Still more followed this example; from Silesia alone 300 brethren are said to have come to join with the same group.
Only three Gabrielite groups in Moravia remained independent: in Kreuz near Göding, in Znaim, and in Eibenschitz. In the latter place a debate took place in 1559 with representatives of the Moravian or Bohemian Brethren (from Bunzlau) with a view to possible unification. But these talks eventually failed because the Gabrielites insisted upon adult baptism while the Moravians defended the practice of infant baptism. In 1565 the last three groups also joined the Hutterite brotherhood, and as such ceased to exist as a separate group.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 24 f.
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).
Müller, Joseph Theodor. "Die Berührung der alten und neuen Brüderunität mit den Täufern." Zeitschrift für Brüdergeschichte (1910). A very important research study.
Wiswedel, Wilhelm. "Gabriel Ascherham und die nach ihm benannte Bewegung,"Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte (1931): 100.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Geschicht-Buch der Hutterischen Brüder. Macleod, AB, and Vienna, 1923.
Cite This Article
Friedmann, Robert. "Gabrielites." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 20 Nov 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gabrielites&oldid=87635.
Friedmann, Robert. (1956). Gabrielites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 November 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Gabrielites&oldid=87635.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 429. All rights reserved.
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