Bernhard Rothmann
Bernhard Rothmann (c. 1495, Stadtlohn
Stadtlohn is a town in the north-west of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, part of the district Borken. The Berkel river flows through it on its way to the Netherlands.-Division of the town:Stadtlohn consists of 9 districts:* Almsick* Büren* Estern...

, Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

 – c. 1535) was a 16th century Reformer and an Anabaptist
Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites....

 leader in the city of Münster
Münster is an independent city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located in the northern part of the state and is considered to be the cultural centre of the Westphalia region. It is also capital of the local government region Münsterland...

 (modern Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

). He was born in Stadtlohn
Stadtlohn is a town in the north-west of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, part of the district Borken. The Berkel river flows through it on its way to the Netherlands.-Division of the town:Stadtlohn consists of 9 districts:* Almsick* Büren* Estern...

 around 1495.


In the late 1520s Bernard Rothmann became the leader for religious reform in the city of Münster. In his sermons he condemned Catholic doctrines such as purgatory and the use of images, as well as the low morals of the priests. He suffered censure of the Catholic bishop in 1531, and afterwards denied the authority of the Catholic Church and openly aligned himself with the Reformed faith. In January 1532, he published an evangelical creed, and gained the backing of the city authorities. In the treaty of 14 February 1533, Münster was recognized as a Lutheran city. In the summer of 1533, Rothmann was converted by the Anabaptist disciples of Melchior Hoffman
Melchior Hoffman
Melchior Hoffman was an Anabaptist prophet and a visionary leader in northern Germany and the Netherlands.-Life:Hoffman was born at Schwäbisch Hall in Franconia before 1500...

 to "anti-pedobaptism". He began to preach against infant baptism from his pulpit at St. Lambert's church. Though censured by the city council, he remained safe through his popularity with the craft guilds. Rothmann strengthened his standing by gaining more converts to his position.

When Melchior Hoffman was imprisoned in Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

, Jan Matthys
Jan Matthys
Jan Matthys was a charismatic Anabaptist leader, regarded by his followers as a prophet....

 took over the Anabaptist leadership roll in the Low Countries. He declared Münster to be the place to which Jesus Christ would return and set up his kingdom. In January 1534, Matthys sent disciples to Münster to declare the city as the "New Jerusalem", and quickly baptized numerous converts, including Bernhard Rothmann. Rothmann was baptized on 5 January 1534.

Matthys arrived in Münster in February 1534. His "rule" of the city set the stage for the events usually called the Münster Rebellion
Münster Rebellion
The Münster Rebellion was an attempt by radical Anabaptists to establish a communal sectarian government in the German city of Münster. The city became an Anabaptist center from 1534 to 1535, and fell under Anabaptist rule for 18 months — from February 1534, when the city hall was seized and...

. While Matthys was the prophet and leader, Rothmann was probably the most important "theological voice". Matthys died in a failed military attempt on Easter Sunday 1534. John of Leiden
John of Leiden
John of Leiden , was an Anabaptist leader from the Dutch city of Leiden. He was the illegitimate son of a Dutch mayor, and a tailor's apprentice by trade.-Life:...

 thereafter became King of Münster until its fall in June of 1535. Rothmann may have died fighting during the reconquest of Münster, or may have escaped during the turmoil. His body was not identified, but he was apparently not among the only group of surviving Anabaptist fighters — a small band around Heinrich Krechting — that contemporary sources attest to, and unlike Krechting's men, Rothmann was never heard from again.


Unlike many of the 16th century Anabaptists, Rothmann held immersion to be the proper mode of baptism. According to historian Darren T. Williamson, "He based his position primarily on three arguments: first, he argued along grammatical lines, interestingly not Greek grammar but Dutch/German. He contended that the meaning of the Dutch translation of baptism must be taken literally. Fortunately, the Dutch words doepen and dumpelen meant literally to immerse or 'dunk in water'. It is important to note that although Rothmann was technically correct on this point of grammar, it was also as commonly understood that there was a long standing theological exception as practiced by the church, namely sprinkling. Second, the Scriptural explanations of baptism in such passages as Rom 6:3-4 (baptism = burial), Col 2:11-13 (baptism = burial), and 1 Pet 3:21 (baptism = washing of the body, or bath) graphically describe an immersion. Third, he cited a few ancient authorities, Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

, Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

, Gratian
Gratian (jurist)
Gratian, was a 12th century canon lawyer from Bologna. He is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Franciscus Gratianus, Johannes Gratianus, or Giovanni Graziano. The dates of his birth and death are unknown....

's Decretum
Decretum Gratiani
The Decretum Gratiani or Concordia discordantium canonum is a collection of Canon law compiled and written in the 12th century as a legal textbook by the jurist known as Gratian. It forms the first part of the collection of six legal texts, which together became known as the Corpus Juris Canonici...

, and Beatus Rhenanus (by which he meant collections of ancient texts edited by Rhenanus, a contemporary of Rothmann), who at least to some degree supported directly or indirectly adult baptism and immersion."


Rothmann accepted the entire Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 as the word of God. In his Restitution he wrote, "The divine, unquestionably Holy Scriptures which are called the Bible alone have the fame that they are needful and sufficient for teaching reproof, correction and for instruction in righteousness for which purpose also almighty God has given them in order that the man of God be without error and equipped for every good work. Since the apostasy first began through human writing and teaching by means of which the divine Scriptures were darkened the Almighty has among us provided that all writings both new and old which are not biblical should he destroyed so that we should cling only to the Holy Scriptures."


The Christology
Christology is the field of study within Christian theology which is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus' nature and person with the nature...

 that Rothmann held was the "celestial flesh" idea of Kaspar Schwenkfeld and Melchior Hoffman (and later of Menno Simons
Menno Simons
Menno Simons was an Anabaptist religious leader from the Friesland region of the Low Countries. Simons was a contemporary of the Protestant Reformers and his followers became known as Mennonites...

). See Theology of Anabaptism.


Rothmann believed the church to be a congregation of only baptized believers. In his Confession he wrote, "The church of Christ is a gathering of the believing children of God who praise the name of God. No one else belongs in it...The Scriptures richly testify that faith comes from hearing the Word and that the holy church be built only of those who believe. It cannot be denied that the true proclamation of the holy gospel started the holy church...The second thing through which the holy church is built is holy baptism. Baptism is the entry and gateway to the holy church; therefore according to God's order no one may be allowed into the church except through baptism."


Rothmann initially opposed the polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 introduced to Münster by John of Leiden
John of Leiden
John of Leiden , was an Anabaptist leader from the Dutch city of Leiden. He was the illegitimate son of a Dutch mayor, and a tailor's apprentice by trade.-Life:...

, but would later write in theological defense of the idea. He wrote, "God has restored the true practice of holy matrimony amongst us." "Marriage is the union of man and wife - 'one' has now been removed - for the honor of God and to fulfill his will, so that children might be brought up in the fear of God
Fear of God (religion)
The fear of God or fear of the is an attitude to religious practice advocated primarily in the Abrahamic religions. Since the term "of God" is singular, rather than plural "of the gods," the term implies monotheism.-Judaism:...

." "This was true of the biblical fathers until the time of the Apostles, nor has polygamy been forbidden by God," he said. Rothmann based the legitimacy of the practice on a greater emphasis on the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 than was common among most Anabaptists, as well as the Anabaptist view of marriage for the purpose of procreation.


Rothmann influenced the south German Anabaptists through Pilgram Marpeck
Pilgram Marpeck
Pilgram Marpeck , also Pilgram Marbeck or Pilgrim Marpeck, was an important South German Anabaptist leader in the 16th century.-Biography:...

, who borrowed some of his Vermanung from Rothmann's Bekenntnisse of 1533. He was part of the earliest movement, as a disciple of Melchior Hoffman, that laid the foundations of Anabaptism in the Netherlands and northern Germany. Rothmann's view of the incarnation would be the predominant view among Dutch Anabaptists in their first century of history (though Hoffman is much more the source).


  • A Confession of Faith and Life in the Church of Christ of Münster (1534)
  • A Restitution of Christian Teaching, Faith, and Life (October 1534).
  • Concerning Revenge (December 1534)

External links

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