- Grebel, Conrad
- (c. 1498-1526)Protestant martyr and advocate of adult baptismA writer and religious activist in Zurich, Switzerland, at the very start of the Reformation, Conrad Grebel was one of the first advocates of adult baptism; he helped lay the groundwork for the Radical Reformation. Grebel was born around 1498 into a prominent family of Zurich. He was educated at Basel, vienna, and Paris, where he studied the humanities. In 1522, following a religious awakening, he aligned himself with Ulrich Zwingli, leader of the Reformation in his hometown.Grebel was among a small group of Bible students who concluded that the Reformation should oppose the practice of infant baptism. Baptism, Grebel argued, should be reserved for adults who make a profession of faith. In January 1525, at a small meeting at the home of Felix Manz in Zurich, Grebel baptized George Blaurock, who then baptized the others present. Following a public disputation held shortly thereafter, the city council ordered the brethren to either conform or go into exile. Grebel left Zurich. Later, during the summer, Grebel, Blaurock, and Manz were arrested in Grüningen and returned to Zurich, where following two trials they were sentenced to life imprisonment for rebelling against the state's authority.in March 1526, the three escaped from their cell in the tower of Zurich. in the meantime, Zurich had instigated the punishment of drowning for their crime. When recaptured, Manz was drowned, but Grebel took ill with the plague and died before he could be captured.The more radical phase of the Reformation is generally dated from Grebel's baptism of Blaurock. Grebel is also acknowledged as the intellectual leader of the original Anabaptists, who articulated the ideal of a free church consisting exclusively of those who freely commit themselves to living a godly life. His views would have led to the abandonment of a state church, a concept quite foreign to most Reformation leaders. Grebel's approach survives primarily in the Men-nonite Church. His chief literary legacy is a set of letters that were published in the 20th centuryFurther reading:■ Harold Bender, Conrad Grebel: The Founder of the Swiss Brethren, Sometimes Called Anabaptists (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1950)■ Conrad Grebel, The Sources of Swiss Anabaptism: The Grebel Letters and Related Documents, ed. by Leland Harder. Classics of the Radical Reformation (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1985)■ C. Arnold Snyder, Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction (Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 1995)■ J. Denny Weaver, Becoming Anabaptist: The Origin and Significance of Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism (scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1987)■ George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation (Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth Century Journal, 1992).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.