Eleutherobios, Stoffel and Leonhard (16th century)

Jump to: navigation, search

Stoffel and Leonhard Eleutherobios, two 16th-century humanists from Upper Austria (Linz and Wels), whose real name "Freisleben" they translated according to the humanistic fashion of the day into Greek ("Eleutheros" means "frei," i.e., "free"; "bios" means "Leben," i.e., "life"). They belonged to the circle around Bünderlin, with interests both in the Anabaptist way of life and the world of the "spiritual reformers" (like Hans Denck and Sebastian Franck). They were active in the 1520s. Later they drifted into other directions, mainly Catholic. Their influence upon Anabaptist thinking can be traced in many Anabaptist tracts, mainly where humanist scholarship was needed (church history).

Christoph (Stöffel) Freisleben

Christoph (Stöffel) Freisleben (d. after 1528) in the records was sometimes called the "schoolmaster of Wels." He had some humanistic education, most likely at the University of Vienna, was then a follower of Erasmus, and also had some correspondence with the latter. In his religious life he went through all stages: Catholic, Lutheran, Zwinglian, Anabaptist, and again Catholic. In Austrian court records of the 1520s (Nicoladoni, 208) we hear that he was "the beginner and leader" of an Anabaptist group in Wels, Upper Austria, and that also his wife, son, and daughter belonged to this brotherhood. It is most likely that he was won by Hans Hut, who in 1527 was most active all over Upper Austria, and who had also baptized his brother Leonhard (Nicoladoni, 31-33). He now began an intensive activity himself between Linz, Wels, and Passau. Around the turn of 1527-28 Stoffel left his home, perhaps together with Bünderlin, and went to Bavaria and beyond. In 1528 he had a book of his printed in Speyer, entitled Vom warhafftigen Tauff Joannis Christi vnd der Aposteln Wenn vnd wie der kindertauff angefangen vnd eingerissen hat (16 leaves, 4°). A copy of the second edition of 1550 is found in the [[Amsterdam Mennonite Library (Bibliotheek en Archief van de Vereenigde

Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Amsterdam)|Amsterdam Mennonite Library]].) It was a book much read among the Anabaptists, supplying them with good arguments, both historical and otherwise, against infant baptism, in this respect almost equaling Hubmaier's tracts on the same subject (excerpts in Rembert, 469-471). Thomas of Imbroich quotes it and in handwritten form we find it in no less than five Hutterite codices. A careful study proves that it was of definite Anabaptist character. The fact that another print was necessary in 1550 (when its author no longer cared for his earlier work) shows its continuing popularity among the brethren.

In 1530, Stoffel had found his way back to the Catholic Church; he taught the school of St. Mauritius in Augsburg. Later he returned to Vienna, where he became a syndicus of the University, and in 1547 an official of the bishop of Vienna, said to have been the very soul of the latter's government.

Leonhard (Linhart) Freisleben

Leonhard (Linhart) Freisleben; his brother, in the records was sometimes called "the schoolmaster of Linz." Like his brother he must have had some humanistic education (Vienna?); in 1524 he published a German translation of Bugenhagen's Latin booklet, Was und welches die Sünde sei in den Heiligen Geist . . . die nicht vergeben wird, . . . (Nicoladoni, 13-14). Three years later he also joined the Anabaptists. He admitted later on that Hans Hut had baptized him and his wife at Hut's lodging in Linz, in 1527. Soon hereafter we find him in Regensburg, now baptizing and preaching in genuine Anabaptist fashion. On 15 November 1527 he, his wife, and his sister stood before the Regensburg authorities and made a full confession. Afterwards he was expelled from that "Free City," but his later fate is not known. Most likely he followed the steps of his brother.


Bergfried, U. Verantwortung als theologisches Problem im Täufertum des 16. Jahrhunderts. Wuppertal-Elberfeld, 1938.

Bossert, Gustav, Sr. "Zwei Linzer Reformations-Schriftsteller." Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für die Geschichte des Protestantismus in Osterreich. (1900): 131 ff.

Freisleben, Christoph.Vom Warhafftigen Tauff Joannis, Christi Vnd Der Aposteln: Wenn, Vnd Wie Der Kindertauff Angefangen Vnd Eingerissen Hat. Speyer: Jakob Schmidt, 1528. Available in facsimile at http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/bsb00029688/image_1

Friedmann, Robert. Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte (1931): 238 f.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 551.

Hillerbrand, Hans J. Anabaptist Bibliography 1520-1630. St. Louis: Center for Reformation Research, 1991: 2335-2336.

Laube, Adolf, Annerose Schneider, Helmut Claus, and Ulman Weiss. Flugschriften Vom Bauernkrieg Zum Täuferreich (1526-1535). Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1992: 862-895.

Nicoladoni, A. Johannes Bünderlin von Linz und die oberösterreichischen Täufergemeinden 1525-1531. Berlin, 1898.

Rembert, Karl. Die "Wiedertäufer" im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899: 469 ff.

Schornbaum, Karl. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer, V. Band (Bayern, II. Abteilung) Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1951. ("Regensburg," ed. by L. Theobald)

Additional Information

In the original volume II article Neff and Friedmann write" In 1528 he [Christoph Friesleben] had a book of his printed in Strasbourg, entitled Vom wahrhaften Tauff Joannis, Christi und der Apostlen/ Wann und wie der Kindertauff angefangen und eingerissen hat/ Item wie alle Widerreden der Widerchristen wider den Tauff sollen verantwortet werden./ (15 leaves, 4°). (A copy of the 1528 edition may be found in a Sammelband of the University of Utrecht; a copy of the second edition of 1550 is found in the  [[Amsterdam Mennonite Library (Bibliotheek en Archief van de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Amsterdam)|Amsterdam Mennonite Library]].) 

Later scholarship has discounted the Strasbourg printing. See Laube for a review of the print history and the full text of the pamphlet.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Robert Friedmann
Date Published November 2011

Cite This Article

MLA style

Neff, Christian and Robert Friedmann. "Eleutherobios, Stoffel and Leonhard (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2011. Web. 26 Sep 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eleutherobios,_Stoffel_and_Leonhard_(16th_century)&oldid=144988.

APA style

Neff, Christian and Robert Friedmann. (November 2011). Eleutherobios, Stoffel and Leonhard (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 September 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eleutherobios,_Stoffel_and_Leonhard_(16th_century)&oldid=144988.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 183-184. All rights reserved.

©1996-2018 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.