Balthasar Hubmaier and the Clarity of Scripture: A Critical Reformation Issue

By Graeme R. Chatfield

A study of the 16th-century Anabaptist theologian Balthasar Hubmaier, particularly his work on the key doctrine of the accessibility of the Scriptures.

ISBN: 9780227174180


During the sixteenth century, many Reformers echoed Erasmus’s claim that the message of the Scriptures was clear, could be understood by even the lowliest servant, and should be translated into the vernacular and placed in the hands of all people. People did not require the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church to correctly interpret the meaning of the Scriptures. However, within a few short years, the leaders of the Magisterial Reformers, Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli, had created their own Protestant versions of the magisterium.

This work traces how the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture found expression in the writings of Balthasar Hubmaier, admirer of Erasmus and Luther, and associate of Zwingli. As Hubmaier engaged in theological debate with opponents, one-time friends, and other Anabaptists, he sought to clarify his understanding of this critical reformation doctrine. Chronologically tracing the development of Hubmaier’s hermeneutic as he interacted with Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli, and Hans Denck provides a useful means of more accurately understanding his place in the matrix of the sixteenth-century Reformations.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 420

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Graeme R. Chatfield is Associate Dean of the Australian College of Theology, Sydney. He taught Church History at Morling College from 1996-2007, and since 2008 has taught intensive courses in Church History and Historical Theology with TCMII in Vienna, Austria.


Foreword by Diarmaid MacCulloch

1. Research Questions and Method
2. Biographical Sketch of Balthasar Hubmaier
3. Balthasar Hubmaier: Anabaptist Enigma
4. The Plumb Line of Holy Scripture
5. The Bright and Clear Word of God
6. Against Those who Mutilate the Word of God
7. Making a Patchwork of Scripture
8. Judge Me According to the Word of God
9. Hubmaier’s Hermeneutic: “Truth is Unkillable”

Name Index
Scripture Reference Index


Endorsements and Reviews

The interpretation of Scripture was a major issue in the sixteenth-century Reformations, separating Roman Catholic scholars, the magisterial reformers, and the radicals. A key theologian in this debate was Balthasar Hubmaier, whose contribution, and those of his friends and opponents, is skillfully and helpfully set out in a detailed study that chronologically follows the development and progression of his thought on this central doctrine for all Christian traditions and eras. Chateld’s research is a valuable and welcome addition to scholarship.
Anthony R. Cross, Faculty of Theology and Religion, Oxford University

Very well-written and clearly organized, allowing for effortless comprehension and resulting in an efficient presentation of the research data … Chatfield deftly interweaves relevant components of historical context that shaped Hubmaier’s hermeneutical approach and agenda … The author also displays a sophisticated and intimate knowledge of each of Hubmaier’s works, allowing him more accurately to parse the various nuanced components of Hubmaier’s hermeneutic … Chatfield’s study is a welcome addition to the increasing interest in Balthasar Hubmaier among historians and theologians alike and should become the undisputed standard on his understanding of Scripture and the development of his hermeneutical sensibilities.
Andrew P. Klager, in Journal of Theological Studies, Vol 66, Issue 1

Future researches will find in this volume an important orienting guide to Hubmaier’s corpus.
Stephen Chester, in Theologische Literaturzeitung, No 140, Heft 3

This work adds significantly to our knowledge of Hubamaier’s theology and will serve to advance the debate about Hubmaier’s place in the early Anabaptist movement.
Geoffrey Dipple, in Ecclesiology, Vol 13, 2017