Martyr Synod Met in Augsburg

Dan Graves, MSL

Martyr Synod Met in Augsburg

The "Martyr Synod" was not a council to discuss martyrs. It was a council OF martyrs. Sixty Anabaptist leaders met in Augsburg on this day, August 20, 1527, to pin down their positions on such things as taking oaths and to plan a strategy for evangelizing Europe. Of those sixty men, all but three were dead within five years, most by persecution at the hands of other "Christians."

Among them were the famous Hans Schlaffer, Hans Hut and Hans Denck. The last two held some unusual views. Hut leaned toward communism, preached revolution and believed that the end of the world was at hand--expecting it as early as 1528. Denck held that our inner light is above Scripture. They had been working separately but now united in cooperation so that they could spread their views as rapidly as possible. To this end, they divided the German-speaking parts of central European between themselves and other pairs of missionaries so that evangelistic efforts would not be duplicated.

The Synod seems to have accepted the "Nikolsburg Articles" which stated that there was a three-fold baptism of the Spirit, water and suffering; and taught soul sleep--that the dead sleep until the resurrection. At the final judgment, they taught, all true believers will be vindicated and reign in righteousness. Any person who rejected the Inner Light while on earth will suffer torment. The earth will be purged of evil by fire, and thereby made ready for the descent of the Kingdom of God which consists of the poor in spirit (the humble).

Despite holding some interpretations unacceptable to most Christians in most ages, these men are sympathetic figures because they emphasized that salvation comes only through personal identification and union with Christ--and suffered for that belief.

When the Anabaptists left Augsburg, it was for the most part to go to their deaths. Long lists tell of those who perished. With so many of their trained leaders executed, laymen had to take over the work. Disillusioned by the collapse of their plans and the chaos of beliefs, Denck abandoned the Anabaptists and joined the Reformed church, although he continued to evangelize.


  1. "Augsburg." Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Vol. 1, p.89. [This source gives the date as the 24th]
  2. Clasen, Claus-Peter. Anabaptism - a social history, 1525-1618: Switzerland , Moravia, South and Central Germany. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1972, especially pp. 49-50.
  3. Good, Chris. "The Anabaptists and the Reformation."
  4. Littell, Franklin H. The Origins of Sectarian Protestantism. New York: Macmillan Co., 1964, especially p. 122.
  5. Wegner, John Christian. "The Heroic Witness of the Sixteenth Century Anabaptists."

Last updated June, 2007

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