1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Haetzer, Ludwig

HAETZER, or Hetzer, LUDWIG (d. 1529), Swiss divine, was born in Switzerland, at Bischofszell, in Thurgau. He studied at Freiburg-im-Breisgau, and began his career in a chaplaincy at Wadenswil, on the Lake of Zürich. At this time his attachment to the old faith was tempered by a mystical turn, and by a devotion to the prophetical writings of the Old Testament, which he studied in the original. By 1523 we find him in Zürich, where he published, at first anonymously and in Latin (Judicium Dei), later with his name and in German (Sept. 24, 1523), a small tract against the religious use of images, and bearing the motto attached to all his subsequent works, “O Got erlösz die (or dein) Gefangnen” (“O God, set the prisoners free”). An attempt to give effect to the teaching of this (frequently reprinted) tract was followed by a public religious disputation, of which Haetzer drew up the official account. In 1524 he brought out a tract on the conversion of the Jews, and published a German version of Johann Bugenhagen’s brief exposition of the epistles of St Paul (Ephesians to Hebrews); in the dedication (dated Zürich, June 29, 1524) he undertakes to translate Bugenhagen’s comment on the Psalter. He then went to Augsburg, bearing Zwingli’s introduction to Johann Frosch. Here he came for a time under the influence of Urbanus Regius, and was for a short time the guest of Georg Regel. Returning to Zürich, he was in intercourse with leading Anabaptists (though his own position was simply the disuse of infant baptism) till their expulsion in January 1525. Again resorting to Augsburg, and resuming work as corrector of the press for his printer Silvan Ottmar, he pushed his views to the extreme of rejecting all sacraments, reaching something like the mystical standpoint of the early Quakers. He was expelled from Augsburg in the autumn of 1525, and made his way through Constance to Basel, where Oecolampadius received him kindly. He translated into German the first treatise of Oecolampadius on the Lord’s Supper (in which the words of institution are taken figuratively), and proceeding to Zürich in November, published his version there in February 1526, with a preface disclaiming connexion with the Anabaptists. His relations with Zwingli were difficult; returning to Basel he published (July 18, 1526) his translation of Malachi, with Oecolampadius’s exposition, and with a preface reflecting on Zwingli. This he followed by a version of Isaiah xxxvi.-xxxvii. He next went to Strassburg, and was received by Wolfgang Capito. At Strassburg in the late autumn of 1526 he fell in with Hans Dengk or Denck, who collaborated with him in the production of his opus magnum, the translation of the Hebrew Prophets, Alle Propheten nach hebraischer Sprach vertuetscht. The preface is dated Worms, 3 April 1527; and there are editions, Worms, 13 April 1527, folio; Augsburg, 22 June 1527, folio; Worms, 7 Sept. 1527, 16º; and Augsburg, 1528, folio. It was the first Protestant version of the prophets in German, preceding Luther’s by five years, and highly spoken of by him. Haetzer and Denck now entered on a propagandist mission from place to place, with some success, but of short duration. Denck died at Basel in November 1527. Haetzer was arrested at Constance in the summer of 1528. After long imprisonment and many examinations he was condemned on the 3rd of February 1529 to die by the sword, and the sentence was executed on the following day. His demeanour on the scaffold impressed impartial witnesses, Hans Zwick and Thomas Blaurer, who speak warmly of his fervour and courage. The Dutch Baptist Martyrology describes him as “a servant of Jesus Christ.” The Moravian Chronicle says “he was condemned for the sake of divine truth.” His papers included an unpublished treatise against the essential deity of Christ, which was suppressed by Zwingli; the only extant evidence of his anti-trinitarian views being contained in eight quaint lines of German verse preserved in Sebastian Frank’s Chronica. The discovery of his heterodox Christology (which has led modern Unitarians to regard him as their proto-martyr) was followed by charges of loose living, never heard of in his lifetime, and destitute of evidence or probability.

See Breitinger, “Anecdota quaedam de L. H.” in Museum Helveticum (1746), parts 21 and 23; Wallace, Antitrinitarian Biography (1850); Dutch Martyrology (Hanserd Knollys Society) (1856); Th. Keim, in Hauck’s Realencyklopädie (1899).  (A. Go.*)