Münzer, Thomas

Münzer or Müntzer, Thomas tōˈmäs münˈtsər [key], c.1489–1525, radical German Protestant reformer. During his studies at Leipzig (1518) Münzer fell under the influence of Martin Luther. On Luther's recommendation he became pastor of Zwickau (1520) but was soon ousted. By the time he was made pastor of Allstedt (1523) Münzer's position had diverged considerably from Luther's as he became increasingly radical in his views, siding with the peasants and working classes whom he saw as the instruments of divine will. Convinced that God willed the overthrow of the old social order, he promoted the establishment of a new egalitarian society which would practice the sharing of goods. Münzer's revolutionary rhetoric was accompanied by a thoroughgoing spiritualism: only the Spirit-filled, those who had taken on the cross of the “bitter Christ” in the depth of their souls, could correctly understand Scripture. For Münzer and his followers the inner baptism of the Spirit replaced the outer baptism through water. After the Peasants' War (1524–25) broke out Münzer and the radical priest Henry Pfaiffer succeeded in taking over the Mühlhausen town council and set up a communistic theocracy in its place. Upon the defeat of the peasant party, Münzer was beheaded. Münzer's fiery rhetoric influenced the Anabaptists with whom he is sometimes identified, although he rejected the practice of baptism altogether. Marxists have looked to him as a precursor in the struggle for a classless society.

See studies by E. W. Gritsch (1989) and A. Friesen (1990).

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