Early Years

  • Tom Scott


Thomas Müntzer’s early years are utterly obscure. Nothing is known of him until he went to study at the university of Frankfurt an der Oder in late 1512. There he was inscribed as ‘Thomas Muntczer Stolbergensis’. Upon that solitary fact hinges the reconstruction of his entire youth and early career. He was, by his own attestation, a native of the small town of Stolberg in the Harz mountains,1 which lay in the diocese of Halberstadt on the western fringes of Saxony. Only a few miles to the east, in Eisleben, Martin Luther, subsequently his most vehement opponent, had been born in 1483. Unlike Luther’s, Muntze’s birthdate is unknown. Reckoning back from his first appointment as a chantry priest in Brunswick in 1514, we can estimate that he must have been born no later than 1491, since the lowest age for ordination was customarily twenty-four. 1489 has been most frequently suggested as his year of birth, since Müntzer is supposed to have studied in Leipzig from the winter semester of 1506 onwards, and that university’s statutes precluded admission to the bachelor of arts degree before the age of seventeen.


Early Career Fifteenth Century Western Fringe Winter Semester Church Father 
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  1. 2.
    Ulrich Bubenheimer, ‘Thomas Müntzer in Braunschweig’, part I, Braunschweigisches Jahrbuch, LXV (1984), 37–48; part II, ibid., LXVI (1985), 79–114. Here part II, 112.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    CW 6 f. For the dating of the letter to 25 July 1515, rather than 1517, cf. Ulrich Bubenheimer, ‘Thomas Müntzer und der Anfang der Reformation in Braunschweig’, Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis, LXV (1985), 3.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Václav Husa, Tomáš Müntzer a Čechy (Rozpravy československé Akademie Věd, Řada společenskych věd, Rŏcník LXVII, Sešit 11) (Prague, 1957), 13.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Siegfried Bräuer, ‘Thomas Müntzers Beziehungen zur Braunschweiger Frühreformation’, Theologische Literaturzeitung, CIX (1984), 637.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Ulrich Bubenheimer, ‘Luther — Karlstadt — Müntzer: soziale Herkunft und humanistische Bildung. Ausgewählte Aspekte vergleichender Biographie’, Amtsblatt der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche in Thüringen, XL (1987), 66–7; idem, Thomas Müntzers Wittenberger Studienzeit’, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, XCIX (1988), 178–92; idem (ed.), Thomas Müntzers Nachschrift einer Wittenberger Hieronymusvor-lesung’, ibid., 214–37.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Cf. Steven E. Ozment, Homo Spiritualis. A comparative study of the anthropology of Johannes Tauler, Jean Gerson and Martin Luther in the context of their theological thought (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, VI) (Leiden, 1969).Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Abraham Friesen, ‘The intellectual development of Thomas Müntzer’ in Rainer Postel and Franklin Kopitzsch (eds), Reformation und Revolution. Beiträge zum politischen Wandel und den sozialen Kräften am Beginn der Neuzeit. Rainer Wohlfeil zum 60. Geburtstag (Wiesbaden, 1988).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Tom Scott 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom Scott
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolUK

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