Episode 33 – The Rebellious Spirit of Thomas Müntzer

A Rebellious Spirit

When Thomas Müntzer was installed as the Evangelical preacher at the Lutheran church in the small town of Allstedt, nobody could have predicted how things would progress over the next two years. By the time everything was settled, thousands would be dead and wounded in one of the most violent uprisings in Europe.

Müntzer wasn’t alone. Many people were ready for revolution. There were revolutionaries in the Black Forest, Bavaria, Thuringia, and Swabia. There were even nobles who supported the revolutionary cause.

Even though he wasn’t alone in his appeal for revolution, Müntzer was unique in his mixing of theology with the revolutionary call, a powerfully toxic amalgamation of teachings that he perfected while he preached in Allstedt. His preaching left the commoners believing they were doing God’s work, even as they pillaged and murdered those who stood against them.

Background

In 1522, people were tired of the excesses of the rich and powerful. Revolution was in the air.

There was the revolution in Spain. The Revolt of the Comuneros, which was a revolt in Castile against Charles V.

There were characters like Franz von Sickingen, who proclaimed himself to be a sort of military-style Robin Hood, attacking the powerful on behalf of the weak.

There’s a lot going on at the same time here, so we’re going to use this episode to catch up with another revolutionary, Thomas Müntzer. In episode 30, we left off with Thomas Müntzer and the Zwickau Prophets being run out of Wittenberg by Martin Luther. We also covered Müntzer’s Prague Manifesto, where he outlines his apocalyptic vision.

This episode picks up when Müntzer shows up again in April of 1523 in Allstedt, a small village of about 600 people about 120 km (75 mi) southeast of Wittenberg.

Beer break

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People Wanted Change

The medieval world hadn’t heard the last of Thomas Müntzer. In many ways, his teachings were in line with the spirit of the times. The peasantry was excited about the changes that were being brought about by Luther and the Reformation, but they were unwilling to wait for the work of the Spirit. They wanted change now and were ready to take matters into their own hands.

Thomas Müntzer, with his unique apocalyptic vision, gave the peasants the kind of leader they were looking for.

We’ll be getting back to Müntzer and his leadership of the peasants as things ramped up to full out revolution in episode 35, but first, we’re going to use the next episode to take a look at Luther’s response as the revolution became violent.

 

Thanks and Recognitions

Thanks to Josh Yagley, our sound engineer

James Kittelson – Luther the Reformer

Scott Hendrix – Martin Luther, The Man and His Vision

Matthias Riedl – Thomas Müntzer’s Prague Manifesto – A case study in the secularization of the apocalypse.

Eric W. Gritsch – Thomas Müntzer: A tragedy of errors

Wikipedia

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