Denk Johann

Denk Johann, an Anabaptist of the 16th century. Nothing is known of his early years. In 1521 he was in Basle, and in 1523 at Nirnberg, as rector of the school of St. Sebaldus. He rejected infant baptism, and promulgated and trinitariaus ideas. He was brought before the council of Nurnberg, and, being unable to defend himself, was expelled from the city for life. We next find him in Augsburg in the year 1525, where he wrote and edited his book vom Gesetze Gottes. In 1526 he came to Strasburg, where he seems first to have become acquainted with Louis Hetzer (q.v.). Their connection resulted in the publication of an edition of the Old Testament prophets. It was published in 1527 at Worms, and Luther speaks favorably of the translation as such. Denk's theological errors soon became known, and he was cited to a public disputation by the clergy of Strasburg. Bucer was his principal opponent, and based his charge, that Denk's teaching made sin a mere empty sound, upon the book vom Gesetze Gottes. Denk was defeated and driven from the city. After a few months spent in traveling, during which he ventured to revisit Nürnberg, he went to Basle, where he died of the plague in November, 1527. In his doctrines he was Anabaptist and trinitarian, and the following dogmas were peculiar to him. He taught an internal word which, as the power of the Highest, produces knowledge and love in man; that salvation is not connected with the Holy Scriptures; the law, under which he comprehends the entire Scriptures, is opposed to the spirit; the sacraments are of a subordinate and superfluous character to believers; the wicked are finally to be saved, etc. Ranke (Reformation, 3, 559, cited by Hardwick, Ch. Hist. 2, ch. 5) gives the following statement of Denk's views: "The basis. of his doctrine is, that God is love, which, he said, flesh and blood could never have understood had it not been embodied in certain human beings, who might be called divine men, or the children of God. But in one of them love was supremely exemplified in Jesus of Nazareth. He had never stumbled in the path marked out by God; he had never lost his unity with God; he was a Savior of his people, for he was the forerunner of all those who should be saved. This was the meaning of the words that all should be saved by Christ." His followers were called Daemoniaci, because they named seven evil spirits to their candidates for baptism, which they were supposed to possess, and which must be given up, while seven good spirits were to be received in their stead. — Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 19:403; Trechsel, Protest. Antitrinitarier, 1:17 sq.; Theol. Stud. u. Kritiken, 1851, p. 121, 412.

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