Benes Optát, "On Baptism and the Lord's Supper":

An Utraquist Reformer's Opinion of Pilgram Marpeck's



     The Utraquist priest Benes Optát (d. 1559) was a prominent advocate of reform within the Utraquist Church in Moravia. Theologically, he formed part of a regional Sacramentarian-Spiritualist movement that blended radical traditions of the Bohemian ("Hussite") Reformation with elements of Erasmian biblical humanism and the Swiss-Upper German Reformation. In "On Baptism and the Lord's Supper" (1556-1559), which is an expert opinion on the Vermahnung (anonymously published by Pilgram Marpeck), Optát sharply condemns the persecutors of the Anabaptists and any use of force in matters of faith, candidly compares the Anabaptist positions with those of the Swiss-Upper German reformers and suggests a practical compromise between infant baptism and baptism of believers. This contribution places Optát's treatise, written at the request of a Moravian magnate, in the context of religious tolerance in early modern Moravia and argues that the tolerant attitude of the Moravian nobility towards the Anabaptists and other religious minorities, was, on a theological level, influenced by Spiritualist concepts that were propagated in the Margraviate by Optát and others.

     The aristocratic dominions in the southern part of the Margraviate of Moravia formed one of the few regions in sixteenth-century Europe where the Anabaptists enjoyed tolerance and protection. This tolerance was the result of specific political and economic conditions, and of a specific religious attitude of Moravian aristocracy, or, more exactly, of a group of its most influential representatives. Whereas the political and economical backgrounds of tolerance in early modern Moravia have been the subject of many studies,[1]  the religious aspect has been described only vaguely. Recently, Josef Válka and Thomas Winkelbauer identified a "supra-denominational Christianity" as the rationale of the tolerant religious politics of the Moravian nobles, but remained reluctant to assign a positive theological content to the term.[2] 

      The tolerant practice on many Moravian dominions was a matter of permanent conflict between the Moravian estates and their Catholic overlords, especially King Ferdinand I (ruled 1527-1564), who insisted on the suppression of the Anabaptists and other minorities. The estates repeatedly answered the king by arguing that faith is an immediate gift of God and cannot be forced by humans, simply because faith cannot be given by any outward means (implying that persecuting religious dissenters contradicts God's sovereignty). To quote only two instances: In 1538, the Moravian diet agreed on the formula that "people can not be forced to believe, for faith is nothing else than a gift of God, and cannot be given by anybody else than by God himself."[3]  One year later, the influential Lord Jan z Pernstejna (Johann von Pernstein, d. 1548) wrote to the king: "Faith, most gracious king, is a gift of God, and nobody can give it to those who do not receive it from God."[4] 

      The formula shows a high degree of theological reflection. Where is its place in the context of the competing strands of Reformation theology? Luther had uttered similar thoughts in 1523.[5]  But the way the argument was applied by the Moravian estates in 1538-1539 was certainly not "Lutheran." The formula, rather, shows an affinity to a Spiritualist concept of faith, and it can actually be found, in very similar wording, in the writings of several Moravian Spiritualists, or rather Sacramentarians,[6]  who may have exercised influence on politics by their writings and by theological expert advice. Indeed, the quotation from 1538 noted above is part of a protest resolution by the Moravian estates against the confinement of a Sacramentarian leader, the knight Jan Dubcansky ze Zdenína. The historical context suggests that the "supra-denominational" rationale of religious tolerance in Early Modern Moravia, as phrased in the quoted texts, may be characterized as a political application of a Spiritualist understanding of faith. It is difficult to produce an overall proof of this thesis, because there are not enough sources to quantify the influence of Spiritualist concepts among the Moravian nobles: perhaps there were only few among them who were aware of the theological implications of the formula to which they had subscribed.

      The present essay is limited to an individual case study of a direct Spiritualist-Sacramentarian influence on politics. At some point between 1556 and early 1559 a magnate and politician, Lord Vojtech z Pernstejna (Adalbert von Pernstein, 1532-1561), son of Jan z Pernstejna, requested from Benes Optát, a Utraquist priest and prominent Sacramentarian, an expert opinion on the Anabaptists. For this purpose, Pernstein sent a copy of the Vermahnung (published anonymously in 1542, but ascribed to Pilgram Marpeck by modern research)[7]  to Optát. In his answer, "On Baptism and the Lord's Supper," Optát did his best to give the Anabaptists a fair treatment and sharply condemned their persecution. On the basis of the irrelevance of external rituals, he even envisaged the possibility of a coexistence of both infant baptism and baptism of believers within one "latitudinarian" worshipping community.


     Before dealing with the text, its little known author deserves an introduction. Benes Optát (Benedictus Optatus) was one of the most prolific theological writers of the early Reformation in Moravia.[8]  Born in Teltsch (Telc) in Moravia during the 1480s, he was enrolled at the University of Vienna in 1501. Besides Czech and Latin, he knew German and had some knowledge of Greek. Optát/Optatus seems to be the latinized form of a vernacular family name, according to the fashion of the humanists. Optát was an ordained priest and served as a Utraquist pastor. Between 1522 and 1526 he was pastor at Groß-Meseritsch (Velké Mezirící). In 1522 or 1523, the runaway Würzburg canon Paulus Speratus, later a Lutheran bishop in Prussia,[9]  had introduced Lutheran preaching in the nearby German-speaking, Catholic town Iglau (Jihlava). When the Catholic bishop of Olmütz (Olomouc) accused Speratus of heresy, Jan z Pernsteina, Vojtech's father, sought to protect Speratus by accommodating him for some time in Optát's parsonage. The fact that Optát was entrusted with this delicate case indicates, together with other sources, that he enjoyed the respect and the trust of the leading Moravian politicians as early as 1522.

      Speratus's visit gave Optát the opportunity to learn about Luther's teachings and to send some questions about the Lord's Supper to Luther himself. Optát was puzzled by the problem of the real presence in the sacrament, which, drawing on radical Hussite traditions, he increasingly doubted. Still in 1522, Optát published his catalogue of questions, Luther's evasive answer[10]  and another answer by Speratus. The booklet (preserved only in a manuscript copy) was the first Reformation pamphlet Flugschrift that originated in Moravia. The answers of the two German Reformers did not satisfy Optát. His later references to Luther show that he saw little difference between the Lutheran understanding of the sacraments and the traditional Catholic doctrine of the sacraments as the means of salvation.

      Optát's theology was rooted in the intensive eucharistic piety of late medieval Utraquism, the faith of the majority of Czech-speaking inhabitants of Moravia. Ardent and politicized controversies on the eucharist had been connected with Hussitism from its beginnings. On the basis of the words of institution and John 6:53, communion in both kinds was understood by many Utraquists as the prerequisite for salvation, whereas communion in one kind, or the sacrament of baptism when not followed by communion, was regarded as insufficient. Consequently, bread and wine were being administered even to infants immediately after infant baptism. At the same time, the strong emphasis on communion in both kinds also fueled discussions about the mode of Christ's presence in the elements. Many Utraquists rejected the Catholic doctrine of concomitance[11]  and believed that the consecrated bread is the body and the consecrated wine is the blood, but neither contains the whole Christ. But if the sacrament is an addition of two things that by nature cannot be divided in a living body, can it then be Christ's real and living body? If the Apostolic Creed confesses Christ's bodily presence in heaven from Ascension until the Day of Judgment, and if corporality necessarily implies limited extension in space, how can His real and natural body be in every consecrated host? Based on these and other arguments against the real presence, the Taborites, and, in the late fifteenth century, the Bohemian Brethren (or Unity of Brethren), developed sacramental doctrines according to which one must differentiate between several modes of Christ's presence. According to His natural and true body, Christ is present in heaven until His return at the end of time. Spiritually, He is present in the hearts of His believers. Only in a third and lowest "sacramental" mode is Christ present in the sacraments. The famous theologian of the Bohemian Brethren, Brother Luke of Prague (d. 1528), brought this doctrine into an elaborate, highly complicated system that on one side excludes the "magical" sacramental realism of the Catholics and the conservative Utraquists, but on the other side tries to retain the notion of an effective presence of Christ in the sacraments.[12] 

      In 1525, a German member of the Bohemian Brethren, the future Anabaptist Johann Zeising, started a discussion among Bohemian Brethren clergy that soon also aroused the interest of reform-minded Utraquists and Catholics. Zeising argued that the assumption of three modes of Christ's presence has no biblical foundation. He declared that scripture knows only two modes of Christ's presence: According to His true and natural body, Christ is in heaven from ascension until his return. On earth, He is spiritually present in the hearts of the believers. Employing traditional Taborite arguments and Zwingli's eucharistic writings of 1524-1525, Zeising argued that the sacraments (he dealt only with baptism and Lord's Supper) are nothing but external, material signs that signify inward, spiritual things, but do not contain any power in themselves. What made Zeising's criticism of the Bohemian Brethren theology so appealing to contemporaries was its sharp distinction between inward and outward, spirit and matter, a distinction that corresponds with the dualistic ontology of Neoplatonism, which was in one way or another omnipresent in humanist thought.

      Like Zeising (but in contrast to Zwingli), Optát did not take the words "eating" and "drinking" in John 6: 53-56 as mere metaphors for "believing." According to Optát, Christ's flesh is truly a food, and nobody can be saved unless he eats this food. He came to the conclusion that one has to strictly separate the spiritual participation of the believer in the heavenly, eternal food and drink (i. e., the true flesh and blood of Christ) from the external, bodily communion (i. e., the commemorative eating and drinking of bread and wine at the Table of the Lord). Optát excluded infants and all who did not confess the inner experience of rebirth (John 3: 3) from communion. The emphasis on John 6 and the concept of a substantial participation in Christ's heavenly flesh as man's only access to salvation, which is being repeated again and again in virtually all of Optát's writings, strongly resembled the early stage of Caspar Schwenckfeld's and Valentin Crautwald's eucharistic theology.

      At least for a short time, the Sacramentarian movement was quite influential among Moravian clergy and nobility. At the Colloquy of Austerlitz (Slavkov u Brna) on March 14, 1526, reform-minded clergymen and nobles of both Utraquist and Catholic backgrounds met to agree on a merger on the basis of a reform program that included the affirmation of a symbolic understanding of the sacraments and the necessity of inward, spiritual communion. The Catholic participants were invited by the Catholic suffragan bishop (and future Anabaptist), Martin Göschl. A pamphlet about the colloquy was published by the Catholic priest (and future Anabaptist), Oswald Glaidt. However, the Austerlitz Colloquy had no lasting practical results, in part because of the arrival of Anabaptism in Moravia in the summer of 1526, which attracted some of the reform-minded Catholics in Nikolsburg (Mikulov). Other German-speaking Catholic reformers, especially in Iglau (Jihlava), turned more decisively Lutheran. One of the most active lay representatives of the Sacramentarian movement, the knight Jan Dubcansky ze Zedenína, lost hope for a general reform in Moravia and established his own small "Zwinglian" denomination, the Habrovanites. Dubcansky's influential friend, Lord Vilém Kuna z Kunstátu, discovered Schwenckfeldianism for himself and translated some of Schwenckfeld's writings into Czech. Even more discouraging than these internal theological splits of the early reform movement in Moravia was the religious policy of the new Bohemian king, Ferdinand I, who in early 1527 assumed rule over Moravia and at a diet of April 1528 took measures to suppress any public criticism of the traditional doctrine of the sacraments.[13] 

      Optát withdrew from the pulpit for some years. At least until 1535, he was instructor of the sons of Lord Václav z Lomnic at Námest and Oslavou. The stay at the castle of Námest granted Optát the leisure to exercise his humanist interests. In 1533, he published a Czech New Testament, which he had translated, together with Petr Gzel from Prague, from the Latin version of Erasmus of Rotterdam. Optát's translation is extraordinary because of its style, which was at the same time elegant and remarkably close to the contemporary spoken language. The beautiful text appeared in a small printing shop at Námest that had been established especially for Optát's publishing activities. The New Testament was dedicated to Johanka z Boskovic, former abbess at Alt-Brünn and patroness of the Anabaptist communities in Auspitz.[14]  Also in 1533, Optát published a Czech grammar, and in 1535 a textbook of grammar and mathematics for elementary schools. Both books were reprinted several times even until the mid-seventeenth century. Besides these once-famous works of vernacular humanism, he composed Czech poems in classical meters and hymns on biblical subjects and on the "heavenly bread."

      After several years in Lord Václav's service, Optát resumed his priestly office and served as an Utraquist pastor in the village of Wiese (Louka), near Iglau. In 1546, he is mentioned respectfully as a leader of a group of reform-minded Utraquist priests in the correspondence between Heinrich Bullinger and the Zwinglian preacher Leonhard Soërin (who had to leave the Znaim [Znojmo] in 1546, moved to Ulm and later became preacher in Basel).[15]  Two extensive collections of sermons, one being a postill on the Gospel pericopes of the whole year, the second a collection of expositions of all Pauline epistles continuously read during daily prayer meetings throughout the year, apparently originated during Optát's ministry in Wiese. Later, around 1551, he served as parson on the estates of the Lords of Pernstein near Proßnitz (Prostejov), where he died at an old age in 1559 in the village Mostkovice. Optát retained throughout his life the habit of a clergyman and lived in celibacy. A vivid report of the young Bohemian Brethren priest Jan Blahoslav, who visited Optát in 1551, depicts in a most favorable way the amiability, modesty and distinguished manners of the fine old man.[16] 

      Optát's Sacramentarianism eclectically draws on the native theological traditions of the radical wing of the Bohemian Reformation (the Taborites and the Bohemian Brethren), on the biblical humanism of Erasmus of Rotterdam, and on the Swiss and Upper German Reformation. Optát never mentioned Schwenckfeld, but have may have been familiar with some Schwenckfeldian doctrines; at least we find Optát's sermons and treatises in one manuscript copied together with the Czech translation of a Schwenckfeldian catechism.[17]  Optát's Sacramentarianism can be described as something like a simplified version of Schwenckfeldianism without Schwenckfeld's peculiar Christology. According to Optát, human salvation is accomplished by God through the Holy Spirit and can neither be yielded by the external word (preached or written), nor by external ceremonies, nor by meritorious works. In his sermons, he calls the sinner to convert to Christ, knowing that not all are capable of the Gospel, which is nothing but a mortal letter and outward sound to those who are not drawn by the Father. Nobody can become a Christian without rebirth, which is described as an ethically effective inner renewal. The new man is fed by a spiritual food, Christ's heavenly flesh and blood. The church, undividable and invisible by its very nature (hence Optát avoids using the term "church" for any of the rivaling denominational bodies of his time), is understood as the spiritual unity of believers. Besides this, the assembled local congregation can well be called a visible church. There are true Christians in all denominational bodies, or at least in those that refrain from obvious idolatry.

     Starting with the traditional doctrine of the sacraments, in which he saw utmost idolatry, Optát criticized all human institutions with the philological fervor of a learned humanist, and pleaded for a spiritualized and practical-ethical piety independent of any outward rituals. However, in spite of his Spiritualism, he did not call for the suspension of the outward signs, arguing that the outward performance of water baptism and the Lord's Supper are commandments of Christ himself. For the sake of love and unity, he even approved retaining some of the post-biblical liturgical traditions, which he considered as adiaphora.

     While harshly polemical against Catholics, conservative Utraquists and sometimes also against Lutherans, Optát lamented the split of the reform movement into a multitude of rivaling sects. He identified the improper ascription of spiritual significance to outward rituals and ordinances as the origin of all schisms. Since faith cannot be forced by men, Optát vehemently rejected the use of violence against heretics.


     Located in the folio volume MS. XXVI A 2 of the Prague National Library, copied in Prague in 1600, the treatise has twenty-eight pages (fol. 241a-254b). It is incomplete in the end.[18]  Its subtitle reads: "Priest Benedict Optát to the illustrious lord, Lord Vojtech z Pernstejna of Tovacov, declaring his opinion about the German booklet which was sent to him for careful studying."

      Since Lord Vojtech became owner of Tovacov (Tobitschau) only in 1556,[19]  we can date the text between 1556 and Optát's death in the spring of 1559. Optát does not render the exact title of the "Anabaptist booklet," but the extensive quotations show beyond doubt that it was the Vermahnung. Optát obviously did not know about the authorship of Pilgram Marpeck, who had died in 1556 in Augburg. Our paraphrase of the unpublished Czech text is intended to give the reader an impression of Optát's diction and argumentation:

     [1. Baptism: 1.1 The Anabaptists' definition of baptism.] In a short opening address, Optát notes that he read the German booklet twice, carefully and slowly, in spite of a painful headache. The booklet has two parts, the first dealing with baptism, the second with the Lord's Supper. The brethren, who are commonly known as Anabaptists but who call themselves Brethren of the Covenant of Christ,[20]  declare that baptism was instituted by Christ in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).[21]  They acknowledge baptism only if performed according to this evangelical order and institution of Christ (i. e., if it is preceded by instruction through the preaching of the Gospel).[22]  Those who are thus led to repentance and faith shall themselves renounce the devil and all evil, confess their faith and then be baptized. This true baptism is, according to the brethren, completely perverted in the so-called Universal (Catholic) Church.[23]  The brethren sharply attack infant baptism and the institution of godparents.[24] 

     [1.2 Two kinds of infant baptizers.] The brethren distinguish between two kinds of infant baptizers: The first ones (the Swiss and Upper German theologians) do not teach that water baptism is the indispensable prerequisite for salvation, but contend that infant baptism, if performed with good intention, does not harm. The brethren object to this first kind of infant baptizers, that their baptism is inane and useless. The second kind of infant baptizers (the Catholics) are those who insist that water baptism is indispensable for salvation. They claim that through water baptism the infant becomes a true Christian, that he is reborn and receivers the Holy Spirit. This kind of infant baptism is, according to the brethren (Optát agrees in this point), utterly idolatrous and blasphemous.[25]  Further, the brethren condemn the ridiculous liturgical embellishments[26]  of this idolatrous form of infant baptism (and so does Optát). Optát adds: These sacrificuli ("shavelings") even dare to pretend that they can breathe the Holy Spirit into the infant, though they obviously have no share in the Spirit themselves, being full of all kinds of vices. Hence, the brethren (and with them Optát) beseech all good-hearted men to abstain from this idol, and not to follow the blind leaders and their seduction.[27]  This is the sum of the content of the first part of the booklet, however, the brethren write about all this at great length.

     [1.3 Digression: Optát condemns those who persecute the Anabaptists.] The second, impious infant baptizers (the Catholics) persecute the poor Anabaptist brethren with frightening cruelty. They will face God's judgment as murderers with blood on their hands, and God will punish them when he will call all evildoers to account for all innocent blood that has been shed from the killing of Abel on.

     [1.4 The Reformers' arguments in favor of infant baptism.] As in every dispute, one must consider the arguments of both sides. Those infant baptizers who perform infant baptism without idolatry (the Swiss and Upper German theologians) have several scriptural reasons to do so. According to them, the order of baptism as instituted in the Great Commission applies only to the missionary situation during the time of the apostles, when the Gospel was being preached to unbelieving nations. And even until today the evangelical order of baptizing after preaching, instruction, repentance and confession is undoubtedly valid in the case of an adult Jew or when a pagan asks for baptism. But among nations that already belong to Christ and His Church, this order is superseded. Since Christ did not issue any explicit command or prohibition concerning infants, which even the Anabaptist brethren must admit,[28]  the infant baptizers revert to the figure of circumcision and conclude that circumcision, the initial sacrament or sign of the Old Covenant, is replaced in the New Covenant by baptism, which analogously shall be administered to infants. The Anabaptist brethren reject this typology, but without sufficient reason.[29]  Some scriptural texts are completely distorted and arbitrarily quoted by the brethren. Their interpretation of original sin is strange.[30] 

     [1.5 Digression: The proper distinction between the outward sign and the internal spiritual truth of a sacrament.] An especially weak point is that the Anabaptist brethren sometimes speak about water baptism as a merely symbolical outward sign (which is Optát's own understanding), but in other places ascribe to it an improperly high significance.[31]  They confuse inward baptism and water baptism and say that through baptism one is being incorporated into the Church, the body of Christ.[32]  This is certainly absurd, since the Church is a spiritual body and humans can become part of it only spiritually (i. e., by spiritual baptism, which must be strictly distinguished from the outward, material ritual performed with water). The meaning of water baptism can only be the outward admission into the outward community of the Church. The brethren even say that baptism is the door to the kingdom of heaven,[33]  but this door is alone Christ himself. Salvation comes to humans without any outward ceremonies.[34] 

     [1.6 The Reformers' arguments in favor of infant baptism, continued.] The Anabaptist brethren object to the analogy between baptism and circumcision, saying that according to this analogy only male infants should be baptized.[35]  This is ridiculous, because in Christ there is neither man nor woman.[36]  Besides that, the figures of the Old Testament generally do not match in all features with their New Testament counterparts. The similarity usually consists in only one point of comparison. The promise of the kingdom of heaven does not only apply to believing and repenting adults, but also to infants, in particular to those who are children of believers and hence, according to 1 Corinthians 7:14, are sanctified. Another error of the brethren is the sharp distinction that they draw between the baptism of John and the baptism of Christ and the apostles.[37]  John baptized in the name of the coming Christ; the apostles baptized in the name of Christ after he had appeared.[38]  Another point is that Acts 2 does not report that each of the listeners of Peter had already sufficiently repented and confessed his faith, but nonetheless Peter told them to be baptized. This proves that not only John, but also the apostles, baptized people not exclusively on the basis of their present and publicly confessed faith, but sometimes also on the basis of their future faith. Another argument in favor of infant baptism is that the apostles baptized whole houses,[39]  which certainly includes the children. Because of these and other reasons, the infant baptizers claim that infant baptism is not at all an invention of the popes. Further, Origen witnesses that infant baptism was already practiced by the apostles.[40]  The Anabaptist brethren may counter that false doctrine existed already "in the time of the apostles," but this does not invalidate Origen's witness who speaks explicitly about the apostles themselves and not just about their time.[41]  The first heresies did not originate among the apostles but only among some of their disciples. The apostles themselves had received the first fruit of the Holy Spirit, which enabled them to understand the institutions of Christ correctly.

     [1.7 Optát recommends a compromise.] Such are the arguments of both sides. Both have a scriptural foundation. Optát humbly admits that he is too simpleminded to resolve a controversy over which the most learned and pious men of his time are divided. Yet there are some learned and pious men who keep the middle way. They retain outward ceremonies, on which salvation does not depend, in a simple and pious manner and without idolatry, in order to uphold the substantial things, on which salvation does depend.[42]  One of the substantial things is love. Love fulfills the entire law and exceeds all outward ceremonies. David, and Christ Himself, are examples that one may make exceptions from, or change, not only human, but even divinely instituted, ceremonies for the sake of love and mercy (cf. Matt. 12:4). Good advice was given by Martin Bucer who commented (on Mark 3:6) that baptism should be set aside for the sake of love: To children of believing parents infant baptism should administered if the parents wish so, but nobody should be forced to have his infant baptized.[43]  For it is true-and truth is immortal-that baptism is far more meaningful and useful when it is administered to adults who have heard the Gospel and have achieved the inner meaning of baptism (i.e., repentance and faith), who themselves renounce evil, who themselves voluntarily confess their faith in the Gospel and themselves enter a covenant with God in order to live according to His will.[44]  Those who receive baptism in such manner are not merely being counted into the outward community of the Church, but to them the outward sign of the New Covenant is truly a testimony of mercy and salvation. However, even this form of baptism can be misused by hypocrites like Simon Magus. But such persons seduce and harm only themselves; the one who baptizes is not guilty.[45] 

     [1.8 Godparents.] In a concluding section, Optát deals with the institution of godparents. This custom is not of apostolic origin, but is a human institution introduced by Pope Hyginus in 144 AD.[46]  It is foolish to promise something that is not in one's own power. Such is the godparents' promise that the child will become a Christian. But there are certain congregations (Optát speaks of the Bohemian Brethren) within the Catholic Church that use that custom in a pious manner. In these congregations, the godparents do not take upon themselves a lifelong obligation, but only promise to oversee the Christian education of the child until the twelfth year. At that age the youth are publicly presented to the minister so that they can voluntarily enter the covenant with God, renounce evil and confess their faith. Those who refuse are admonished and excluded and cannot be reaccepted unless they show repentance.[47]  Erasmus of Rotterdam recommended a similar practice.[48]  On the contrary, the traditional practice (of the Catholics and the conservative Utraquists) is useless, childish and blasphemic. These impious people rightly call themselves "Baptism-People" (i.e., krestané, the common Czech word for "Christians"), because they trust in the outward water baptism they received as infants (krest, "baptism"), instead of calling themselves "Christ-People" (i.e., krystiani, Czech transcription of the Latin Christiani, a new coinage that Optát used in his writings instead of the usual term krestané), which is the proper name for those who belong to Christ. One can understand the fervor of the Anabaptist brethren if one looks at the results of the practice of godparents among impious people who are full of vices and do not fear God. But if this more pious practice of catechization and confirmation came into more general use, there would be far less reason for the Anabaptist brethren to be so furious and to condemn all infant baptizers in such indiscriminate manner.

     [2. Lord's Supper: 2.1 The Anabaptists' definition of the Lord's Supper.] Optát continues: The second part of the German booklet deals with the Lord's Supper. The Anabaptist brethren base their opinion first on the account of its institution by Christ,[49]  then on the typology of the Old Testament figure (Ex. 12);[50]  third, they demonstrate that their opinion is congruent with the practice of the Early Church.[51]  In the institution of the Supper, Christ did not promise, introduce or command anything else but only his remembrance. The same is witnessed by Paul who writes that, by the eating and drinking at the table of the Lord, Christ's death shall be proclaimed for the sake of commemoration and thanks. Further the community of believers at the table shall witness and confess the community that they have among each other and their participation in the true spiritual body of Christ and in his redemption. Anyone who receives communion without a preceding self-examination (therefore unworthily), is guilty not only of the material sign of bread and wine, but of the natural and true body and blood of Christ.[52]  The so-called universal Church has completely perverted the true meaning of the Lord's Supper.[53]  Again, the Anabaptist brethren passionately rebuke this abuse.

     [2.2 Two kinds of abuse of the Lord's Supper.] The Anabaptist brethren distinguish two kinds of those who abuse the Lord's Supper. The first ones are the Papists, who distorted the Supper into a sin offering or, as they foolishly say with a Hebrew word, into a mass.[54]  They understand it as a sacrifice for the living and the dead, because they do not believe that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross suffices once for all. (Here, Optát laments the distortion of the Supper by the Papists and conservative Utraquists with a lot of witty detail.) By this obvious idolatry they seduced the majority of Christendom.[55]  The second kind are those who take the bread for the true natural body of Christ and teach consubstantiation, even though they do not call the Supper a sacrifice and reject the Mass (the Lutherans and the lutheranized Evangelical Utraquists).[56]  Their opinion is that the bodily communion prompts eternal life and forgiveness of sins. This clearly contradicts the witness of Christ that whatever goes into the mouth can neither defile nor cleanse the soul (cf. Matt. 15:11). For our souls do not need any bodily food, but they need the permanent spiritual feeding that is given by God alone and administered by Christ, the eternal heavenly high priest. The Anabaptist brethren argue in their booklet at much length against the doctrine of a bodily reception of the true body of Christ and beseech all good-hearted people to refrain from the abuse of the Lord's Supper.[57] 

     [2.3 Futility of arguments in favor of real presence.] Again one should also consider the arguments of the opposing side. Those who teach a bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper base their opinion on no other scripture than on the words of institution, and not even on its complete wording, but only on the words "This is my body" and "This is my blood" without the context.[58]  For Christ continued ". . . which is given for you" and ". . . which is shed for you," which cannot refer to the bread and wine the disciples had just received, because blood and wine did not die for us on the cross.[59]  Rather, the words refer to Christ's body present at the table and are a prediction of his death. In their folly (which Optát depicts with polemic wit) they do not want to understand that one must study the context and the synoptic parallels from which it is clear that Christ spoke these words only after the disciples had eaten (so at the very institution of the Lord's Supper there was no consecration of the elements before communion)! Therefore, the words of institution do not substantiate the doctrine of the real presence and even less that of concomitance. In addition to the words of institution, some of these people pray a prayer in which they beg for the "impanation" of Christ's true body (Optát refers to the epiclesis on the elements) and as soon as they have created their idol they command the congregation to kneel down and adore it. Such popish and idolatrous prayer contradicts Scripture and the Apostles' Creed (where it is stated that Christ according to his natural body sits at the right hand of the Father until the last judgment).

     [2.4 The Anabaptist way to celebrate the Lord's Supper.] The Anabaptist brethren celebrate the Lord's Supper in the following laudable manner: First their teacher reads from the word of God and preaches a sermon on the death and merit of Christ. Then the plain words of institution are spoken and their meaning is explained in a paraphrase to make it clear that Christ commanded the eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine by no other reason than for the sake of his remembrance.[60] 

     [2.5 Anabaptist arguments against real presence.] According to the Anabaptist brethren, it is a significant argument that 1 Corinthians 11:26 does not speak about the eating of the body but of the bread, and not about the drinking of the blood but of the chalice. Paul had received the explanation of the words of institution that he gives in 1 Corinthians 11:26 from the Lord himself in the third heaven. Paul's explanation has always been accepted by the whole Church, so it cannot be called heretical.[61]  Further, they see a proof for their opinion in the fact that the first Church at Jerusalem called the Lord's Supper "breaking of the bread" (and not "of the true body"), a term that was also used by Erasmus and many other scholars.[62]  Thus the Anabaptist brethren are convinced that their teaching agrees with that of the Early Church.[63] 

     [2.6 Anabaptists agree with the Swiss Reformers on the Lord's Supper.] The Anabaptists also discuss and approve the interpretations of Zwingli, Oecolampadius and other Swiss and Upper German theologians. According to the theologians, the words "This is my body" do refer to the bread, but must not be taken literally, but rather figurally or symbolically or metonymically.[64]  In like manner the lamb was called "the pass-over of the Lord" (Ex. 12:11), even though it just symbolizes the passing by or going over.[65]  Even the Papists who serve communion in one or both kinds (the Catholics and the conservative Utraquists between which Optát polemically sees little difference) involuntarily testify to the true meaning of the Supper by calling it the "sacrament" of the body and the blood of the Lord. The sacrament of the body cannot be the body itself, because a sacrament is a sign of a holy thing and not the thing itself. . . .[66]  [The rest of the manuscript is missing.]


     We do not know who the Anabaptists were who passed along the copy of the Vermahnung to Pernstein.[67]  Since we know that Optát wrote his opinion between 1556 and early 1559 in Mostkovice near Proßnitz, on the dominion of Plumenau (Plumlov), we can assume that the whole issue was somehow connected with Lord Vojtech's ecclesiastical ambitions on his estates. The situation of Moravian Utraquism, then in the state of an uncoordinated transition to Protestantism, was confusing.[68]  Apparently, there was no central ecclesiastical administrative structure.[69]  Liturgy, theology, education of the clergy and standards of clerical discipline varied from parish to parish. Clergy was hired and dismissed by the local aristocratic patrons. A frequently quoted contemporary proverb said: "Every miller another bushel, every parson another faith."[70] 

      Lord Vojtech, a young man with a personal interest in theology, sought to bring order and unity into that situation by introducing a "latitudinarian" Evangelical Church Order in his territory in 1556 that tried to formulate a compromise acceptable for all believers and was intended not only for the Utraquist parishes but also for the minority denominations.[71]  The success of the experiment was limited, and after Vojtech's death in 1561 it apparently ended.

      One source from the archive of the Bohemian Brethren relates that the priests of "Lord Vojtech's new Church" introduced a number of customs of the Bohemian Brethren, "imitating the Brethren like the monkeys," and urged everybody to join the new territorial church.[72]  But the Bohemian Brethren at Proßnitz vehemently refused to unify their worship with that of the parish congregation.[73]  The source relates further that the introduction of the church order was preceded by intensive consultations between Vojtech von Pernstein and the elder of the small Sacramentarian denomination of the Habrovanite Brethren.

      Although neither Optát nor the Anabaptists are mentioned by the Brethren chronicler, it seems possible that Pernstein also wanted to make himself acquainted with the teachings of the Anabaptists in order to integrate them or elements of their doctrine into his project of a unified public worship. Optát's proposal to allow the coexistence of infant baptism and believer's baptism within one worshipping community points in this direction. We do not hear, anyway, about any attempts to accomplish this part of Optát's proposal. Only the second part of his recommendation-the introduction of an obligatory catechization and confirmation of the youth or of all who wished to receive communion-was actually included in the Proßnitz Church Order.[74] 

      In contrast to his own, distanced position in earlier writings, Optát speaks relatively sympathetically of baptism of believers in "On Baptism and the Lord's Supper," even though he still retains the possibility of infant baptism. Optát's suggestion to practice a compromise between both concepts of baptism comes as a surprise, but it must be seen in the context of the Czech theological traditions in which criticism of infant baptism and the practice of baptism of believers had had a long prehistory. Some splinter groups completely rejected infant baptism, and the Bohemian Brethren had practiced rebaptism of converts besides infant baptism for the children of members from their beginnings until 1535.[75]  Thus, the demonizing of rebaptism by the German reformers was foreign to Optát's mind.


     Compelled to give a condensed summary of the lengthy Vermahnung, Optát selected a limited number of points from the Anabaptists' argumentation and hence produced a text that is concentrated on his own theological interests. He was a benevolent and sincere reader who did not consciously distort the Anabaptist opinions, but he sometimes misunderstood the Vermahnung from a specifically Czech perspective. We shall mention only three examples: First, Optát did not try to investigate the characteristic use of the term "covenant" in the Vermahnung. He obviously connected the term somehow with the Bohemian Brethren practice of confirmation, or reception of the youth into the fellowship of communicants, which was called "entering the covenant."[76] 

      Second, Optát was irritated by Marpeck's affirmation that the sacraments are "external work and essence of the Son."[77]  Optát's whole theology is based on the assumption that the divine work in humans is carried out only inwardly. An expression like "the external essence of the Son,"[78]  which must be understood as an expression of Marpeck's emphasis on the role of Christ's humanity in soteriology, was an intolerable contradictio in adiecto, not only for the Spiritualist Optát, but for other reform-minded Czech theologians as well, who widely agreed that essential things are by definition internal and spiritual. Even though many of them would affirm (in contrast to Optát) that the external sacraments contribute to man's salvation, they would not characterize that synergism as "essential," but as "serving" (sluzebny). Hence Optát's judgment that the Anabaptists sometimes "confuse" the basic notions of the whole issue. What Optát apparently took as a symptom of the simple Anabaptists' lack of theological education was in reality a matter of subtle christological discussions within the Marpeck circle, directed against the Spiritualists.[79] 

      Third, Optát took it for granted that the concept of real participation in Christ's heavenly flesh and blood (i.e., the permanent inward eating and drinking of the soul completely detached from the outward ceremony) must follow necessarily from a rejection of real presence in the Lord's Supper (based on John 6: 53). Since he found the latter in the Vermahnung, he supplemented the concept of spiritual fruition[80]  in his report, whereas he virtually overlooked the stress on brotherly love as positive content of the Supper, which is quite central to the Vermahnung. Optát took the occasion to propagate once more his own understanding of the eucharist. He saw no basic difference between the Anabaptists' and his own positions, so that he even recommended to Lord Vojtech the Anabaptist way to celebrate the Supper.


     Although Optát noticed that the tendency of the Vermahnung is opposed to Spiritualism, he did not know that this tendency was intentional. Rather he ascribed it to a lack of theological subtlety on the part of the Anabaptists. Optát obviously did not know of Schwenckfeld's Judicium, the Silesian nobleman's polemic response to the Vermahnung.[81]  We are not even sure whether Optát knew about Schwenckfeld at all, although theologically he had quite a lot in common with an early stage of Schwenckfeld's thought. But the analogies are limited. The differences between Optát's and Schwenckfeld's Spiritualisms become obvious when we compare Optát's treatise with Schwenckfeld's Judicium. Several critical points that Optát made against the Vermahnung can be found in very similar form in Schwenckfeld's Judicium.[82]  This was not the case, though, with the distinction between the baptism of John and Christian baptism. For Marpeck, Christian baptism was instituted only by the resurrected Christ in the Great Commission. Optát argued (with the Swiss Reformers) that no such distinction is necessary, while Schwenckfeld agreed on this point with the Vermahnung.[83] 

      The latter detail leads to the observation that the discussion of christological questions, theologically the most important topic of Schwenckfeld's Judicium, is virtually absent in Optát's treatise: Optát does not mention the question of faith and salvation of the church fathers, which is the topic of a long digression in the Vermahnung; Schwenckfeld, on the other hand, devoted a lengthy discussion to this question in his Judicium. Optát does not discuss the relation of the Old and New Testament, which Marpeck connected with the topic of incarnation and Christ's humanity. Nor did Optát regard the term "sign" in the Vermahnung, or the positive evaluation of the "outward" aspects of the sacraments- which according to Marpeck corresponded with the role of Christ's humanity for salvation-as points of critical discussion.

      That Optát was not very interested in Christology is also obvious from the rest of his oeuvre. It is certainly a weakness and inconsistency in Optát's thought that he does not discuss the christological questions that arise from his dualistic stress on the spirit as opposed to the flesh, and from his soteriology of "real participation" in Christ's celestial body: If salvation is mediated exclusively in a spiritual manner, why did Christ need to be incarnated? Was salvation available before Christ's incarnation and death (i. e., when Christ existed already according to his divinity, but not according to his humanity)? What is the relation between Christ's earthly-historical and celestial bodies? Optát probably never faced controversies that forced him to develop his doctrine with systematic coherence. His Sacramentarianism remained on the level of a "latitudinarian" eclecticism. By contrast, Schwenckfeld's speculative mind engaged intensively with christological issues, partly by analytically criticizing Marpeck's Christology. Not surprisingly then, Schwenckfeld had a more exact understanding than Optát of what Marpeck was talking about.

* * *

     The treatise "On Baptism and the Lord's Supper" is noteworthy in two respects. On the one hand, it is a rare witness of the reception of Marpeck's Vermahnung, a book that apparently had very limited circulation outside the Anabaptist communities. Even more startling than the fact that a Utraquist priest read the Vermahnung is the sympathetic way in which he read it, in spite of several substantial theological objections. His expert opinion on Anabaptist sacramental theology is a fine witness of early modern tolerance, a small mosaic stone that illustrates once again the contribution of sixteenth-century Spiritualism to the emergence of early forms of religious liberty.

[*] Martin Rothkegel, an independent scholar, has participated in research projects on sixteenth-century Anabaptism sponsored by the Ruprecht Karls University in Heidelberg. 1. Cf. Frantisek Hruby, Die Wiedertäufer in Mähren. Sonderdruck aus dem Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte Jahrgang XXX-XXXII (Leipzig: Heinsius, 1935), esp. 37ff; Jarold K. Zeman, "The Rise of Religious Liberty in the Czech Reformation," Central European History 6 (1973), 128-147; Thomas A. Fudge, "The Problem of Religious Liberty in Early Modern Bohemia," Communio Viatorum 38 (1996), 64-87; Jaroslav Pánek, "Religious Liberty and Intolerance in Early Modern Europe: the Wiedertäufer in Moravia, the Predecessors of the North American Anabaptists," Historica. Historical Sciences in the Czech Republic 2 (1995), 101-121. Return to Text

[2] . Cf. Josef Válka, "Die 'Politiques': Konfessionelle Orientierung und politische Landesinteressen in Böhmen und Mähren (bis 1630)," in Ständefreiheit und Staatsgestaltung in Ostmitteleuropa. Übernationale Gemeinsamkeiten in der politischen Kultur des 16.-18. Jahrhunderts, ed. Joachim Bahlcke (Leipzig, 1996), 229-241; Thomas Winkelbauer, "Überkonfessionelles Christentum in der 2. Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts in Mähren und seinen Nachbarländern" in Dejiny Moravy a Matice moravská. Problémy a perspektivy, ed. Libor Jan (Brno: Matice moravská, 2000), 131-146. Return to Text

[3] . "Lidé motcí k víre prinucováni byti nemohú, ponevadz víra není nezli dar Bozí a zádnému od zádného jiného nez od Boha samého dána byti nemuoze," quoted from: Frantisek Kamenícek, Zemské snemy a sjezdy moravské, 3 (Brno: Zemsky vybor, 1905), 303, n. 1. Return to Text

[4] . "Fides autem, rex clementissime, donum est Dei et, cui a Deo non datur, ab hominibus minime potest dari," quoted from: Archiv cesky 20 (Praha 1902), 86, Nr. 196. Return to Text

[5] . Cf. WA 11:263f. Return to Text

[6] . Cf. Martin Rothkegel Mährische Sakramentierer. Matej Poustevník, Benes Optát, Johann Zeising (Jan Cízek), Jan Dubcansky z Zdenína und die Habrovaner (Lulcer) Brüder. Bibliotheca dissidentium, Répertoire des non-conformistes religieux des seiziŐme et dix-septiŐme siŐcles, ed. André Séguenny, 24 (Baden-Baden & Bouxwiller: Koerner, 2005). Return to Text

[7] . The text is published in Christian Hege, "Pilgram Marbeck's Vermahnung: Ein wiedergefundenes Buch," in Gedenkschrift zum 400jährigen Jubiläum der Mennoniten oder Taufgesinnten, 1525-1925 (Ludwighafen: Konferenz der Süddeutschen Mennoniten, 1925), 178-282. English translation in: The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck, eds. and trans. William Klassen and Walter Klaassen (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1978), 159-302 [hereafter cited as WPM]. Cf. Frank Wray, "The 'Vermahnung' of 1542 and Rothmanns's 'Bekentnisse,'" Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 47 (1956), 243-251; William Klassen, Covenant and Community. The Life, Writings and Hermeneutics of Pilgram Marpeck (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmanns, 1968), 45-47, 136-145; Stephen B. Boyd, Pilgram Marpeck. His Life and Social Theology (Durham, N.C.: Duke University, 1992), 118-122. Return to Text

[8] . Besides Rothkegel Mährische Sakramentierer, cf. the concise article on Optát in Jirí Opelík, ed., Lexikon ceské literatury. Osobnosti, díla, instituce, 2: M-R (Praha: Academia, 2000), 685f (Jaroslav Kolár). A well-documented survey of the early Reformation in Moravia in English is included in Jarold Knox Zeman, The Anabaptists and the Czech Brethren in Moravia 1526-1628: A Study of Origins and Contacts (Paris: Mouton, 1969). Return to Text

[9] . Cf. now Martin Brecht, "Erinnerung an Paul Speratus (1484-1551), ein enger [sic!] Anhänger Luthers in den Anfängen der Reformation," Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 94 (2003), 105-133. Return to Text

[10] . Cf. WA 2: 559-562, Nr. 509. Return to Text

[11] . According to Catholic doctrine, communion in both kinds is unnecessary since both elements contain the complete Christ according to humanity and divinity, body and soul, flesh and blood. Return to Text

[12] . Cf. Erhard Peschke, Die Theologie der Böhmischen Brüder in ihrer Frühzeit, Bd. 1: Das Abendmahl, Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Geistesgeschichte 5 (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1935). Return to Text

[13] . Ferdinand's court historian, Caspar Ursinus Velius, reports that severe measures were taken against Anabaptists as well as Sacramentarians at the Moravian diet of Znaim, April 1528: "Deinde agitatum negotium religionis propter ritus sacrorum impie abolitos aliosque foede inductos. Decretum est ante omnia, ut anabaptismus, res perniciosi exempli, tolleretur ... Praeterea severissimo decreto cautum, ne quis impio furore impulsus eucharistiae sacramento fidem abrogaret. Qui tantae ac tam nefariae impietatis comperti essent, in eos atrocissime animadverteretur."-Adamus Franciscus Kollár, ed., Casparis Ursini Velii De bello Pannonico libri decem, ex codicibus manu exaratis Caesareis nunc primum in lucem prolati (Vindobonae, 1762), 61. Return to Text

[14] . Cf. Werner O. Packull, Hutterite Beginnings. Communitarian Experiments during the Reformation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1995), 218. Return to Text

[15] . The letters exchanged between Bullinger and Soërin were carried from Znaim to Zürich and Ulm by Wilhelm Reublin, one of the first Swiss Anabaptists, who then lived at Znaim ? a fact that reminds us that the world of the sixteenth century was quite small.-Leonhard Soërinus to Heinrich Bullinger, Ulm, Aug. 5, 1546. Zürich, Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich, E II 356, 57-60 (original, Latin). Photocopies supplied by courtesy of Dr. Hans Ulrich Bächtold, Zürich. Return to Text

[16] . Cf. Joseph Theodor Müller, Geschichte der Böhmischen Brüder, Bd. 2: 1528-1576 (Herrnhut: Missionsbuchhandlung, 1931), 262. Return to Text

[17] . Praha, Knihovna národního muzea (Prague, National Museum Library), II G 12 (dated 1577), fol. 60a-78b: Katechysmus nowy prawy krystyansky [translation of: Johann Sigmund Werner, Ein neuer recht christlicher Katechismus, 1546, cf. Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum 9: 731-756, Nr. 529]. Return to Text

[18] . Praha, Národní knihovna Ceské republiky, MS. XXVI A 2 (olim: Zittau, Ratsbibliothek, MS. A 150), cf. Emma Urbanková, Bedriska Wizdálková, Bohemika z Mestské knihovny v Zitave ve fondu Státní knihovny CSR-Universitní knihovny. Soupis státního daru Nemecké demokratické republiky (Praha: Státní pedagogické nákladatelství, 1971), 7 (Nr. I). Return to Text

[19] . Cf. Petr Vorel, Páni z Pernstejna. Vzestup a pád rodu zubrí hlavy v dejinách Cech a Moravy (Praha: Rybka, 1999), 210-213, 246. Return to Text

[20] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 186 (WPM 163), 187 (WPM 164), 281 (WPM 301). Return to Text

[21] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung. 197f (WPM 180f). Return to Text

[22] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 216 (WPM 207f). Return to Text

[23] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 212 (WPM 201), 214 (WPM 204). Return to Text

[24] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 220f (WPM 214f), 222f (WPM 217f). Return to Text

[25] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 251 (Optát renders this passage very exactly); cf. also 200 (WPM 183), 202f (WPM 187f), 215f (WPM 206f), 218 (WPM 210). Return to Text

[26] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 215 (WPM 206), 224 (WPM 219). Return to Text

[27] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 212 (WPM 201f), 252 (WPM 260). Return to Text

[28] . Cf. e. g. Oecolampad, Vnderrichtung von dem | Widertauff (Basel: Andreas Cratander, 1527), 10f, 52f, 77-79. I thank Olaf Kuhr (Northeim, Germany) for courteously supplying information about some Oecolampad prints that are not available in Prague. Return to Text

[29] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 225-238 (WPM 222-241). Return to Text

[30] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 215 (WPM 206), 216 (WPM 208), 241f (WPM 245f), 250-252 (WPM 257-261). Return to Text

[31] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 206-209 (WPM 193-197). Return to Text

[32] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 210 (WPM 198f), 212 (WPM 201). Return to Text

[33] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 201 (WPM 186), 210-212 (WPM 199-202), 220 (WPM 214) Return to Text

[34] . Optát's objections are not fully justified since the Vermahnung contains the statement that God's grace is not tied to any element but is received by faith through the Holy Spirit, e. g. id. 204 (WPM 189f). Return to Text

[35] . There is no such statement in the Vermahnung, but it is reported as an argument of the Anabaptists by Bucer in his commentary (1527/30) on Mark 3:6, which is used by Optát. The relevant passage from Bucer is reprinted in A. Lang, Der Evangelienkommentar Martin Butzers und die Grundzüge seiner Theologie, Studien zur Geschichte der Theologie und der Kirche II 2 (Leipzig: Dieterich, 1900), 411-432 (= Bucer on Mark 3:6, ed. Lang, there cf. 428). Return to Text

[36] . Cf. Bucer on Mark 3:6, ed. Lang 428f. Return to Text

[37] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 193-196 (WPM 173-177). Return to Text

[38] . Cf. Bucer on Mark 3:6, ed. Lang 423f. Return to Text

[39] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 248 (WPM 254f). Return to Text

[40] . Cf. Origen, Commentary on Romans, Migne PG 14: 1047. The passage was used against the Anabaptists by Zwingli-ZW 4:623f; Oecolampad-Ein gesprech etlicher predicanten | zu Basel . . . (Basel: Valentin Curio, 1525, fol. 3); and Bullinger, cf. Adolf Laube, ed., Flugschriften vom Bauernkrieg zum Täuferreich, 1528-1535 (Berlin: Akademie, 1992), 2:1093, n. 63. Return to Text

[41] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 247f (WPM 253f); see also Vermahnung, 197 (WPM 179). Return to Text

[42] . The doctrine of faith, hope and love (1 Cor. 13: 13) as the three essential things that are necessary for salvation occurs very often in Optát's writings and is central to the theology of the Bohemian Brethren, cf. Peschke, Die Theologie der Böhmischen Brüder 1/1, 199-203, 277-243. Return to Text

[43] . Cf. Bucer on Mark 3:9, ed. Lang, 431f. Also Oecolampadius deliberated at some point on the possibility of allowing parents to delay baptism.-cf. Ernst Staehelin, Das theologische Lebenswerk Johannes Oekolampads (Leipzig: Heinsius Nachfolger, 1939), 390f. Return to Text

[44] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 216 (WPM 207). Return to Text

[45] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 213 (WPM 203), where the example of Ananias and Sapphira is used in a similar sense. Return to Text

[46] . It seems that Optát took this piece of information (based on Decr. Grat. pars II De consecr. dist. IV c. 100, Friedberg 2: 1394) from Sebastian Franck, Chronica (Ulm: Johann Varnier, 1536; rpt. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1969), III, fol. 18a. Similar use of the Decretum passage had been made earlier by Christoph Freisleben, Vom warhafftigen | Tauff Joannis / Christi vnd der Aposteln (Speyer: Jakob Schmidt, 1528), (rpt. in Laube, Flugschriften 2: 862-882, 866). Cf. also Hege, Vermahnung, 247 (WPM 254). Return to Text

[47] . On the confirmation ("covenant") as practiced by the Bohemian Brethren.-cf. Müller, Geschichte der Böhmischen Brüder, vol. 1: 1400-1528 (Herrnhut: Missionsbuchhandlung, 1922), 477f, 481-484. Return to Text

[48] . Cf. Erasmus, Tomvs Primvs PA=|raphraseon D. Erasmi Roterodami. | in nouum Testamentum . . . (Basel: Joh. Froben, 1523), fol. a6b-a7a (January 14, 1522). On Erasmus's proposal to introduce catechetical instruction for the youth followed by a renewal of the baptismal vow, cf. Bjarne Hareide, Die Konfirmation in der Reformationszeit. Eine Untersuchung der lutherischen Konfirmation in Deutschland 1520-1585 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1971), 62-73; Linus Hofmann, "Ratifizierung der Taufe? Zu einer pastoralen Anregung des Erasmus von Rotterdam," in Zeichen des Glaubens. Studien zu Taufe und Firmung Hans Fischer zum 60. Geburtstag, eds. Hansjörg auf der Maur and Bruno Kleinheyer (Zürich: Benziger, 1972), 95-107. Abraham Friesen, Erasmus, the Anabaptists, and the Great Commission (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998) underlines the influence of this and similar statements by Erasmus on the emergence of Anabaptism. Return to Text

[49] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 253f, 260-264 (WPM 262, 271-278). Return to Text

[50] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 272f (WPM 289f). Return to Text

[51] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 265-267 (WPM 278-282). Return to Text

[52] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 254-262, 264 (WPM 263-274, 277f). Return to Text

[53] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 255f (WPM 265). Return to Text

[54] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 267 (WPM 281). An explanation of the term missa from Hebrew is not found in the Vermahnung, but various such etymologies were common in the sixteenth century (cf. e. g. Confessio Augustana XXIV [XII] §§ 78-88). Optát probably alludes here to a polemical etymology based on the word Maozim (understood as proper name) in Dan. 11: 38 ("deum autem Maozim in loco suo venerabitur, et deum quem ignoraverunt patres eius colet auro et argento et lapide pretioso rebusque pretiosis"), which was used especially by Hubmaier, cf. Gunnar Westin, Torsten Bergsten, ed., Balthasar Hubmaier, Schriften (Gütersloh: Mohn, 1962), 276, fn. 13. See also 298f (Mäoßpfaffen), 318 (Maoziten, Meeßpfaffen). Return to Text

[55] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 270; WPM 286f. Return to Text

[56] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung; 270f.; WPM 287. Return to Text

[57] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 268f (WPM 284). Return to Text

[58] . Cf. Cornelius Hoen's Epistle, ZW 4: 513: "Quod autem Christus quotidie impanatur (ut ita loquar) in manibus cuiusvis sacrificuli, neque a prophetis est praedictum neque ab apostolis praedicatum, illo solo fundatur, quod Christus dixit [Luc. 22, 19]: Hoc est corpus meum, hoc facite in mei commemorationem." Optát's direct use of Hoen's letter is very probable because he employs not only similar arguments, but also inserts into his Czech texts Hoen's peculiar Latin expressions sacrificulus and impanatio. Return to Text

[59] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 273 (WPM 290). Return to Text

[60] . There is no such description of the celebration of the meal in the Vermahnung. Optát explicitly quotes a written Anabaptist source that contains an expository paraphrase of the words of institution. Maybe he is referring to Hubmaier's "Form des Nachtmahls," Bergsten,, Hubmaiers Schriften, 355ff. Return to Text

[61] . Again, it is not clear to which passage in the Vermahnung Optát refers. Probably he alludes to another Anabaptist text, not identified. Return to Text

[62] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 266f.; (WPM 281f). Return to Text

[63] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 265-267 (WPM 278-282). Return to Text

[64] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 271f (WPM 287-289). Return to Text

[65] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 272f (WPM 289f). Optát probably chose to mention the argument based on Ex. 12: 11 because of its popularity in the Czech tradition. Zwingli used it the first time in Subsidium sive coronis de eucharistia (August, 1525), where he reports that it was revealed to him in a dream on Apr. 13, 1525, cf. ZW 4: 482-484. However, from the first half of the fifteenth century on, the same argument had been one of the proof texts of the Taborites against transsubstantiation, cf. Jan Sedlák, ed., Taborské traktáty eucharistické (Brno, 1918), 6 (Johann von Saaz), 26 (Peter Payne). Return to Text

[66] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 190-191 (WPM 169-172), 254 (WPM 262f), 272 (WPM 289). Return to Text

[67] . In 1553, just a couple of years before Optát read the Vermahnung, Marpeck himself had sent twenty copies to befriended congregations in Moravia, cf. WPM, 554 and note 6, on the date cf. Boyd, Pilgram Marpeck, 145, n. 113.?The Vermahnung was esteemed among various Anabaptist groups in Moravia, even the Hutterites, cf. Robert Friedmann, Die Schriften der Huterischen Täufergemeinschaften. Gesamtkatalog ihrer Manuskriptbücher, ihrer Schreiber und ihrer Literatur 1529-1667, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, philosophisch-historische Klasse, Denkschriften, Bd. 86 (Wien, Graz, Köln: Böhlau, 1965), 50. Return to Text

[68] . Sixteenth-century Utraquism in Moravia is poorly researched. On the situation in Bohemia, cf. Zdenek V. David, "Bohemian Utraquism in the Sixteenth Century. The Distinction and Tribulation of a Religious 'Via Media,'" Communio Viatorum 34 (1992), 195-231; along with his "The Strange Fate of Czech Utraquism: The Second Century, 1517-1621," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 46 (1995), 641-668; and his "Utraquists, Lutherans, and the Bohemian Confession of 1575," Church History 68 (1999), 294-336. Return to Text

[69] . On the problem of the administrative structures of Moravian Utraquism see now Milos Kouril, "Prehled dejin církevní správy na Morave od husitství do josefinskych reforem (Übersicht der kirchlichen Verwaltung in Mähren vom Hussitismus bis zu den josefinischen Reformen)" in Vyvoj církevní správy na Morave, XXVII. Mikulovské sympozium 9.-10. ríjna 2002, eds. Emil Kordiovsky and Libor Jan (Brno: Moravsky zemsky archiv, 2003), 21-30 Return to Text

[70] . Cf. Josef Spilka, ed., Matej Cervenka, Jan Blahoslav: Ceská prísloví (Praha: Odeon, 1970), 48. Return to Text

[71] . The Proßnitz Church Order of 1556 was printed in 1558 and is preserved only in a manuscript copy (Státní ústrední archiv v Praze, Acta Unitatis Fratrum, IX, fol. 190b-191b). The document avoids denominational doctrinal statements and tries to define a basis acceptable for all non-Catholics, starting with nine articles on worship, including that (1) only the pure word of God be preached without any human additions and human inventions; (2) doctrine and administration of the sacraments be according to the institution of Christ; (3) the elevation of the host (traditionally practiced as a manifestation of the real presence and as an occasion for eucharistic adoration) be forbidden; (4) the Lord's Supper must not be administered to anybody without preceding individual confession of faith and instruction; (6) infants and noncatechized be excluded from the Supper; (7) baptism be administered without human additions and only to those who desire it because of faith and not because of the general custom; (8) both sacraments be administered only to people who are able to give an account of catechism. The following articles (10-15) concern the discipline of the clergy. Logic seems to imply that (7) and (8) exclude infant baptism, but the other sources clearly show that this was not the intention of the formulations. Return to Text

[72] . Státní ústrední archiv v Praze, Acta Unitatis Fratrum VIII 188b; IX 190a-196a; X 2a-4b. The manuscript volumes of the Acta Unitatis Fratrum that were brought to Prague in 1945 are property of the Moravian Archives, Herrnhut, Germany. Return to Text

[73] . The result was an attack of the priests against the Brethren, published in the name of Vojtech z Pernstejna: Prijciny niekteré nesrownánij mého s Bratrijmi / genz Waldensstij slowau (Prostejov: Kaspar Aorg, 1557); answer of the Brethren: [Matej Cervenka] Oswiedczenij A Oczysstienij se Gednoty Bratrské zákona Kristowa (Prostejov: Alexander Aujezdecky, 1558), both prints in Praha, Knihovna Národního musea (Prague, National Museum Library), 36 D 10. Cf. Jan V. Novák, "Spor Bratrí s p. Vojtechem z Pernstejna v Prostejove r. 1557 a 1558," Casopis Musea království ceského 65 (1891), 43-56, 197-208; Gustav Adolf Skalsky, "Spor Bratrí s Vojtechem z Pernstejna r. 1557," Casopis Musea království ceského 83 (1909), 16-25; Müller, Geschichte der Böhmischen Brüder 2: 285-288. Return to Text

[74] . On the Bohemian Brethren, Erasmus, Bucer, the Anabaptist criticism of infant baptism, and their possible influences on the novel ritual of Protestant confirmation, cf. Hareide, Konfirmation, 109-150; Amy Nelson Burnett, "Martin Bucer and the Anabaptist Context of Evangelical Confirmation," MQR 68 (Jan. 1994), 95-122; and Burnett's "Confirmation and Christian Fellowship: Martin Bucer on Commitment to the Church," Church History 64 (1995), 202-217. The thesis of a Bohemian Brethren influence on the emergence of Protestant confirmation was recently reaffirmed by David R. Holeton, "The Fifteenth Century Bohemian Origins of the Reformation Understanding of Confirmation" in J. Neil Alexander, ed., With Ever Joyful Hearts: Essays on Liturgy and Music Honouring Marion J. Hatchett (New York: Church, 1999), 82-102. Return to Text

[75] . Cf. Amedeo Molnár, "La mise en question du baptłme des enfants par les hussites radicaux" in Anabaptistes et dissidents au XVIe siŐcle. Actes du Colloque international d'histoire anabaptiste du XVIe siŐcle tenu ů l'occasion de la XIe Conférence Mennonite mondiale ů Strasbourg, juillet 1984, eds. Jean-Georges Rott and Simon L. Verheus, Bibliotheca dissidentium 3 (Baden-Baden & Bouxwiller: Koerner, 1987), 35-51. Molnár's treatment of the subject is far from exhaustive. Return to Text

[76] . Cf. above, note 47. Return to Text

[77] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 207 (WPM, 195). Return to Text

[78] . Cf. Hege, Vermahnung, 208 (WPM, 195). Return to Text

[79] . Cf. Neal Blough, Christologie anabaptiste. Pilgram Marpeck et l'humanité du Christ (GenŐve: Labor et Fides, 1984), 155-168. Return to Text

[80] . Which is not found in the Vermahnung, but was accepted by Marpeck elsewhere, cf. Johann Loserth, ed., Pilgram Marbecks Antwort auf Kaspar Schwenckfeld Beurteilung der Bundesbezeugung von 1542, Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der oberdeutschen Taufgesinnten im 16. Jahrhundert (Wien & Leipzig: Fromme, 1929), 563. The passage is discussed by John D. Rempel, The Lord's Supper in Anabaptism. A Study in the Christology of Balthasar Hubmaier, Pilgram Marpeck, and Dirck Philips (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press), 140-142. Return to Text

[81] . Cf. Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum 8: 168-214; Loserth, ed., Pilgram Marbecks Antwort; Torsten Bergsten, "Pilgram Marbeck und seine Auseinandersetzung mit Caspar Schwenckfeld," Kykohistorisk Ćrsskrift (1957), 39-100, (1958), 53-87 (offprint paginated 39-135); Klassen, Covenant and Community, 165-176; Blough, Christologie Anabaptiste, 145-201. Return to Text

[82] . Schwenckfeld and Optát agree in their objections against the statements of the Vermahnung that baptism (instead of Christ himself) is the door to Church/heaven (cf. Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum 8: 184, 186f); the lack of proper distinction between inward and outward baptism, spirit and matter, God and creature (cf. id. 170, 188f); the use of the term "essence" instead of "sign" for baptism (cf. id. 179-185); the treatment of original sin (cf. id. 189-194); and the offensive way the Vermahnung speaks of those who do not agree with its baptismal theology (cf. id. 168f, 186). Return to Text

[83] . On the debate on the baptisms of John and Christ see David C. Steinmetz, "The Baptism of John and the Baptism of Jesus in Huldrych Zwingli, Balthasar Hubmaier and Late Medieval Theology," in Continuity and Discontinuity in Church History. Essays Presented to George Huntston Williams on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday, Studies in the History of Christian Thought 19, eds. F. Forrester Church and Timothy George (Leiden: Brill, 1979), 169-181; for Schwenckfeld, see also Gottfried Seebaß, "Caspar Schwenckfeld's Understanding of the Old Testament," in Schwenckfeld and Early Schwenkfeldianism, ed. Peter C. Erb (Pennsburg: Schwenkfelder Library, 1986), 87-101, esp. 99, n. 11. 380 The Mennonite Quarterly Review 387 Optát's Opinion of Marpeck's Vermahnung 359 MQR 79 (July 2005)