Works and Significance
The extant works of Conrad Grebel consist of 69 letters written by him from September 1517 to July 1525, three poems, a petition to the Zürich council, and portions of a pamphlet written by him against infant baptism, as quoted by Zwingli in his counterarguments. Three letters written to Grebel (Benedikt Burgauer, 1523; Vadian, 1524; and Erhard Hegenwalt, 1525) have been preserved. The majority of the 69 letters written by Grebel are from his student years, however, and shed little light on his ministry as an Anabaptist.
Though his entire life was less than 30 years, his Christian ministry was compressed into less than four years, and his time as an Anabaptist was only about a year and a half, Conrad Grebel's impact earned him the title "the Father of Anabaptists". Grebel performed the first known adult baptism associated with the Reformation, and was referred to as the "ringleader" of the Anabaptists in Zürich. Zwingli complained of no major differences with Grebel on cardinal points of theology, and minimized Grebel's differences as "unimportant outward things, such as these, whether infants or adults should be baptized and whether a Christian may be a magistrate." Yet these differences reveal a deep division of thought on the nature of the church, and the relationship of the church and the Christian to the world. The beliefs of Conrad Grebel and the Swiss Brethren have left an impression on the life and thought of Amish, Baptist, Schwarzenau Brethren/German Baptist, and Mennonite churches, as well as numerous pietistic and free church movements. Where others only longed for restitution or shrank from too much reform, Grebel and his group acted decisively and at great personal risk. Freedom of conscience and separation of church and state are two great legacies of the Anabaptist movement initiated by these Swiss Brethren.
With Petr Chelčický (1390–1460) of Bohemia, Conrad Grebel is considered one of the first nonresistant Christians of the Reformation.
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