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Radicals vs. Protestants – An Attack on Religious Claims to Temporal Authority (1530)

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But just as the Jews or Anabaptists may not tell a Christian secular government how it shall order its worship or whom it should have for teachers, so also the government should not forcibly impose preachers, ceremonies, or doctrines upon the Jews or Anabaptists.

This alone should be the government’s office: if in its principality or territory anyone among the Jews, Christians, or Anabaptists resorts to force or crime, as for example if one party forcibly invades the synagogue or church of the other in order to establish its worship there, to attack the doctrines or disturb the ceremonies of the other, the government should not suffer this but administer penalties and restore peace.

Similarly, if a sect has dismissed a preacher or minister who nevertheless attempts to occupy and exercise his office* in the place from which he has been dismissed, or if a preacher attempts to preach where he does not have an appointment, then the government should, on the complaint of the injured group, step in and restore peace in such a way that every faith or sect, in such cases or in others that might arise, may have peace and quiet in its worship, doctrine, and ceremonies, as otherwise in secular affairs, just as hitherto peace was everywhere maintained for the Jews in their synagogues.

At the same time, the government should not prevent a preacher dismissed from one faith from being received into another, as for example from the Christian faith into the popish or Anabaptist faith. Nor should it prevent any of its subjects from going from one kind of worship to another in order to observe and learn, provided only that they not mock the doctrine and worship in any church or synagogue or cause any tumult or disorder, as hitherto Christians have visited Jewish synagogues.

Thus you have, along with the previous memorandum,** my full and complete opinion, unless Osiander’s memorandum,*** or one by you or someone else, has something new to say to me.

* It is entirely possible that the correct translation of this passage should be “a preacher...who nevertheless attempts to exercise his office and collect his pay....” It depends on whether one reads “soldt einnemen” as “sollte einnehmen” (should occupy) or “Sold einnehmen” (collect pay).
** i.e., the memorandum here translated.
*** cf. the first sentence of this letter, where the name of the author of one of the Nürnberg counter-memoranda was deliberately excised. The inclusion of Osiander’s name here was undoubtedly an oversight on Spengler’s part.

Source of original German text: Johannes Brenz, Frühschriften, edited by Martin Brecht, Gerhard Schäfer, and Frieda Wolf. Volume 2. J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck): Tübingen, 1974, pp. 517-28.

Source of English translation: Whether Secular Government Has the Right to Wield the Sword in Matters of Faith. A Controversy in Nürnberg over Freedom of Worship and the Authority in Spiritual Matters, translated by James M. Estes. Toronto: Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 1994, pp. 41-54.

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