Posted by: Brad Beaman | May 5, 2012

Felix Manz

Felix Manz became the first Anabaptist Martyr and the first to die for believer’s baptism or baptism of adults. This baptism labeled by critics Anabaptist or re-baptism.

January 5, 1527, Anabaptist Felix Manz drowned

Felix Manz was born in Zürich in approximately 1498. He along with Conrad Grebel were the founders of the Swiss Brethren Church and the Anabaptist movement. Felix Manz became the first of many martyrs for both movements.

Manz was a scholar in Hebrew Greek and Latin and at the age of twenty years old Manz studied under Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli at Grossmünster. Manz and Zwingli agreed on many reformation principles such as Solo Scriptura, Solo Faith, Solo Grace. They also differed on some points of how quickly to end church mass and then particularly Manz position on believer’s baptism and separation of church and state.

Felix Manz died by drowning in the Limmat River in Zurich on 5 January 1527 for refusing to recant his beliefs. By this time co-founder of the Swiss Brethren church Conrad Grebal died of the Plague in the summer of 1526. Zwingli had refered to Grebal as the Coryphaeus or leader of the movement, but when Grebal died Manz had the weight of the movement on him.

 “Manz shall be delivered to the executioner,
who shall tie his hands, put him into a boat, take him to the
lower hut, there strip his bound hands down over his knees,
place a stick between his knees and arms, and thus push him
into the water and let him perish in the water…”

“Here in the middle of the River Limmat from a fishing platform were drowned Felix Manz and five other Anabaptists during the Reformation of 1527 to 1532. Hans Landis, the last Anabaptist, was executed in Zürich during 1614.”

From Church History Lesson……  Out of Zwingli’s faction sprang another distinct movement of  Protestantism: the Anabaptists mainly spearheaded by George Blaurock and Conrad Grebel, former disciples of Zwingli. They were very learned men who excelled in Greek and Hebrew. They had gathered around Zwingli when he was converted (1520) so that he could teach them the classics. They became converted under his teaching.

During a town-hall meeting (in 1523) with Zwingli and Zürich leaders, the matter of ending the mass was discussed. All agreed that the mass had to go. Zwingli wanted it to end by Christmas of that year. The leaders thought that was too soon. Zwingli was inclined to let the leaders decide.

George Blaurock stood up and asked that a date be set. Zwingli said that was for the leaders to decide. Another disciple of Zwingli stood  up and said that it was up to the Bible to decide, and that is should end immediately.

Zwingli sided with the leaders rather than go with his convictions. He had taught his followers to go with the Bible, but in the end he went another way.

 After this the disciples of Zwingli felt that they were sold out by him and they broke off to do their own studies.  These men began to study on their own in around 1524. They called  themselves “The Swiss Brethren.” 

One of their conclusions of study was that water baptism should not be administered to infants. They attempted to convince Zwingli, but he rejected it and turned against them. On Jan 18-19, 1525, they debated Zwingli publicly on this issue. The town leaders decided that Zwingli won, and that any who believed in “believer baptism,” or who had rejected infant baptism, had 8 days to repent or flee.

Rejecting infant baptism for believer-baptism they “re-baptized” themselves and their group on 21 January 1525. This act was tantamount to signing their own death warrants.

The First Anabaptist meetings of the Swiss Brethren were held at the home of the mother of Felix Manz.  When Felix Manz was about to be executed he stated that he would die for the truth. Some counseled him to recant but he heard his mother’s voice on the opposite bank admonishing him to be steadfast. Then Manz sang with a song in loud voice while he was being bound said, into thy hands I commit thy spirit (In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum) Manz was the illegitimate son of a Zürich priest. There is no record of where his Father was at the time of his execution. I hope his father did not sit on the Zürich Council that ordered his death.


References ________________________________________________________________________________________

Manz Plaque picture and translation  From Article

The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism  William R. Estep Third addition 1996

Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online                image used about of Felix Manz found here

Church History Lesson #4 Reformation


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