Hoffmann (or Hofmann), Melchior
Hoffmann (or Hofmann), Melchior one of the most celebrated Anabaptist (q.v.) prophets, born at Hall, in Suabia, originally a furrier, went to Livonia about the time of the Reformation, and became a Protestant. His enthusiasm for the cause of the Protestants led him to preach at Wolmar. On account of the great opposition which he there encountered, he went to Dorpat, where the opposition against him was no less great, and he became so embittered against the Roman Catholic priests that he sought to influence the people in favor of destroying all paintings in churches, and all monasteries. This course estranged from him even his own friends, and he left in 1525 for Wittenberg to consult with Luther and Bugenhagen, who encouraged him to return to Dorpat, admonishing his friends, at the same time, to harmonious action. But his success was no better than before, and he soon after left for Reval. Later we find him at Stockholm. In 1527 the king of Denmark appointed him preacher at Kiel, but his determination to explain the Bible apocalyptically, and his deviation from the Lutheran doctrine of the sacraments, made Luther and his followers opponents of Hoffmann, and, after a stay of only two years, a conference to examine his doctrines was appointed. He was condemned for heresy, deposed from his position, and ordered to leave the country. He now went to Strasburg, and next to Emden, where he allied himself with the Anabaptists, and soon became one of their principal leaders. At the latter place he so infatuated his followers that they took him for the prophet Elias, and announced the Day of Judgment as coming in 1536. From Emden he returned to Strasburg, but the disturbances which he provoked occasioned the calling of a synod (June, 1533), which condemned him and caused his imprisonment. He died in prison in 1542. On the person of Christ. Hoffmann, with many other Anabaptists, and like the Valentinians of the early ages, held that our Lord's birth was a mere phantom, laying great stress upon ἐγένετο (Joh 1:14); that the Logos did not merely assume our nature, but he became flesh — hence his blasphemous expression, "Maledicta sit caro Mariae" (Smith's Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, 2, 349; comp. also Tuchsel, p. 34, 35). On the Eucharist he differed, as we have already stated, from Luther in his doctrine of the real (spiritual) presence, holding that the bodily bread is a seal, sign, and token in memory of the body; the body, however, is received in the word by an unwavering faith in our heart; the word is spirit and life; the word is Christ, and is partaken of by faith. Thus he thought it possible, while considering the bread only as a symbol, to adhere to the symbol of the real spiritual presence of Christ. The followers of Hoffmann, who took the name of their leader, flourished for a short time after his death near Strasburg and Lower Germany, but finally joined the other Anabaptist sects, from which Hoffmann, while alive, had kept distinct. Fuhrmann (Handwörterb d. christl. Religions ü.
Kirchengesch. 2, 325) says that a number of this sect went to England in 1535, and that there also they suffered greatly from persecutions; twenty- two of them were even imprisoned. Under Edward VI. (1548) they fared somewhat better, but after Mary's accession to the throne they were obliged to flee the country. Under the reign of Elizabeth they again ventured to reside in England, but in 1560 they were finally banished the country. A full account of Hoffimann and his sects is given by Krohn, Gesch. d. fanat. u. enthus. Wiedert'ufer in Niederdeutschland (Lpz. 1758, 8vo, containing, also, a complete list of the writings of Hoffmann, which were mainly apocalyptical); Herrmann, Sur la vie et les ecrits de M. H. (Strasburg, 1858). See also Schröckh, Kirchengesch. s. d. Reformat. 4, 442 sq.; Cunitz, in Herzog's Real-Encyklop. 6, 191 sq.; Bayle, Histor. Dict. 2, 480; Niedner, Lehrb. d. Kirchengesch. p. 64; Möller, Cimbria litterata, 2, 347 sq.; Rihrich, in Zeitschr. f. histor. Theol. (1860, p. 3 sq.); Gass, Gesch. d. Dogmat. 2, 73; Baumgarten-Crusius, Dogmengesch. p. 628. (J. H.W.)