EBERLIN, JOHANN: One of the most important popular writers of the time of the Reformation; b. at Günzburg (30 m. w.n.w. of Augsburg), Bavaria, c. 1465; d. at Wertheim (20 m. w. of Würzburg), Baden, c. 1530. His youth is obscure. He was already priest of the diocese of Augsburg when he was matriculated at Basel in 1489. Here he became master of arts, and later entered the monastery of the Franciscans at Heilbronn. In the second decade of the sixteenth century he entered the monastery of Tübingen, developing a remarkable activity as a preacher in the town and its neighborhood, where he became involved in disputes with the theologians of the University of Tübingen. Subsequently he went to Ulm and in 1520 seems to have been in the monastery of the Franciscans at Freiburg in the Breisgau where he became acquainted with Luther's works, which he studied with great zeal. The result of his studies showed itself in his Lent-sermons, preached in Ulm after his return to that city, as a consequence of which he was persecuted and compelled to leave (1521). At this time he conceived the plan of writing a cycle of popular works under the title Fünfzehn Bundesgenossen, in which fifteen prominent people should give utterance to the wrongs of the nation, one after the other expressing his opinion in a special treatise. The work appeared at Basel, 1521, and shows the influence of Luther. Eberlin's propositions of reform were most radical; his main attacks were directed against monastic affairs, but he touches almost every question of ecclesiastical, religious and social life. In the later Bundesgenossen Eberlin was influenced by the radical tendencies of Carlstadt, and his ideas undoubtedly contributed to the revolutionary tendencies of the lower classes which found expression in the Peasants' War. Eberlin shows himself in this work a popular writer of the first rank, original and striking in his way of treating matters in popular and blunt language. Friend and foe testify to the great sensation caused by this collection of treatises. In the mean time Eberlin had gone north. After a short stay at Leipsic he went to Wittenberg where like many older men he became a student at the University (1522). Under the immediate influence of Luther and Melanchthon his radicalism sobered down, as appears from his treatise Vom Misbrauch christlicher Freiheit (1522) and from later writings in which he recalled not a few of his former demands. In 1523 he visited the South and preached at Basel, Rheinfelden, Rottenburg-on-the-Neckar and Ulm, returning before the close of the year to Wittenberg. In the spring of 1524 he went to Erfurt where he received a position as preacher, but lost it in the following year in the disturbances caused by the Peasants' War. Afterward he found a permanent position as first preacher of Count George II. of Wertheim, which he held until his death. Besides the works mentioned Eberlin wrote a famous tract entitled Mich wundert, dass kein Geld im Lande ist in which he tried to show the causes of impoverishment and advocated honest and dignified labor, and Wie sich ein Diener Gottes Worts in all seinem Thun halten soll …(1525), a kind of pastoral theology highly esteemed by August Hermann Francke.

(T. Kolde.)


Bibliography: selected writings of Eberlin, ed. L, Enders, are in Neudrucke deutscher Literaturwerke, nos. 139-141, Halle, 1896. Consult: B. Riggenbach, J. Eberlin ... und sein Reformprogramm, Tübingen, 1874 (cf. W. Schum,: in GGA, 1875, pp. 801-802); M. Radlkofer, .J. Eberlin … und ... Hans Jacob Wehe, Nördlingen, 1887.