Imbroich, Thomas von (1533-1558)
Thomas von Imbroich (Imbroek) was an Anabaptist martyr, also known as Thomas Drucker or Thomas of Truden, b. 1533 probably in the village of Imgenbroich, Germany, five hours from Aachen, hence his name Imbroich. By trade he was a printer of books, came to Cologne in 1554, joined the Anabaptists there, and became an outstanding leader of the Mennonites of the Lower Rhine area. On 23 December 1557 he was arrested and after repeated cross-examination, cruel torture, and vain attempts to convert him was beheaded on 5 March 1558, at the age of 25 years (not 5 May as stated in van Braght's Martyrs' Mirror).
In prison Thomas wrote a confession of his faith to make his belief clear to the judges of the Inquisition. A copy of his manuscript was smuggled out to his brethren, and was apparently immediately printed and widely circulated in the next years. The "confession" deals primarily with baptism, and is unusually rich and deep in its exposition of the Scriptures opposing infant baptism. It reveals its author as thoroughly familiar with Menno Simons, under some influence of Melchior Hoffman, and acquainted with the Church Fathers as well as some more recent literature. He was not willing to accept the theological explanations of the Protestant leaders nor of the Catholic scholastic writers, but accepted as truth only the words of the Gospel. His logical clarity made his book an important weapon in the great struggle of the Anabaptists with the state churches.
Felix Reichmann has made a careful study of the printing of the confession in "An Early Edition of Thomas von Imbroich" (Mennonite Quarterly Review) in which he holds that the first edition was printed between 1560 and 1600, probably in Alsace, though it might have been in Cologne. The Duke of Jülich published an edict against Anabaptist books, dated 9 March 1560, which Heinrich Bullinger, in a letter of 1562, states was directed specifically against the Imbroich book. Bullinger refers to the great influence of Thomas, which must have been continued through the publication of his confession.
The full title of this first edition of the Imbroich Confession is as follows: Ein schőne bekanntnus eines frommen und Gottliebenden Christen samt etlichen Sendbrieffen und Christliche Ermanungen auss heiliger Schrift seiner Hausfrauen und Brűdern auss der Gefängnus geschrieben. Mit kurtzem und doch wahrhafftigen anzeigungen wie er seinen Glauben durch krafft Gottes (zu Cőlln am Reyn) Anno 1558. den 5. Mertz beständig mit seinem blut bezeugt hat allen Christen und Gottesfűrchtigen gantz nűtzlich und trőstlich zu lesen und zu hőren. Esaje am 59. Cap. . . . n.p., n.d. (copy in the Landis Valley Museum, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; an early reprint in the Mennonite Historical Library (Goshen, Indiana). A Dutch translation was published at Ghent in 1579 (copy in Amsterdam Mennonite Library). The Martyrs' Mirror of 1660 contains a partial reprint. Gűldene Aepfel in Silbern Schalen (European editions 1702, 1742; Ephrata, Pennsylvania, edition in 1745) contains the confession and the epistles complete. The Ausbund, beginning with the 1742 Germantown edition, contains a brief condensation of the confession. This brief form was reprinted as a tract about 1922 by an unknown Amish publisher.
Thomas also wrote seven epistles (Sendbriefe), some of which are quite extensive, which were published with his confession. They bear witness to a rare confidence in God and a willingness to die, and contain a wealth of Biblical admonition. Hymn No. 23 in the Ausbund, "Would you hear what happened in the year fifty-seven," tells the story of Thomas and his martyrdom in 25 stanzas, but was probably not written by him. It appeared at least as early as between 1563 and 1565 in a Mennonite hymnbook, entitled Ein schon Gesangbuchlein Geistlicher Lieder. It appeared first in the Ausbund in the 1583 edition. Wolkan (Lieder, 99) says it was translated from a Dutch original which he found in the Hamburg Stadtbibliothek, and was written by a Dutch Mennonite. It does appear, however, in the first edition of the German book containing Thomas' confession, ca. 1560, as "Ein New Lied."
Bax, Willem. Het protestantisme in het bisdom Luik en vooral te Maastricht. s-Gravenhage: Nijhoff, 1937-1941: 303-306.
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: Part I, 402-407; Part II, 196-200.
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: 367-371, 378-382. Available online at: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/index.htm
Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1898): 108.
Haeghen, Ferdinand van der., Thomas Arnold and R. Vanden Berghe. Bibliographie des Martyrologes Protestants Néerlandais. II. Receuils. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1890: I, 193-203.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 409.
Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1972: 104.
Reichmann, Felix. "An Early Edition of Thomas von Imbroich." Mennonite Quarterly Review 6 (1942): 99-107.
Rembert, Karl. Die "Wiedertäufer" im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899: 439 ff.
Scheibler, Walter. Geschichte der Evangelischen Gemeinde Monschau, 1520-1939. Aachen [West Germany]: G. Rehnisch, 1939: 22-24.
Schirokauer, Arno. "Der Druckort der Schriften des Thomas von Imbroich." Modern Language Notes (1943): 346-350.
Wolkan, Rudolf. Die Lieder der Wiedertäufer. Berlin, 1903. Reprinted Nieuwkoop: B. De Graaf, 1965: 48, 99.
Cite This Article
Neff, Christian. "Imbroich, Thomas von (1533-1558)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1958. Web. 24 Mar 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Imbroich,_Thomas_von_(1533-1558)&oldid=145479.
Neff, Christian. (1958). Imbroich, Thomas von (1533-1558). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Imbroich,_Thomas_von_(1533-1558)&oldid=145479.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 12-13; vol. 4, p. 1145. All rights reserved.
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