This post comes from a request from a Catholic named Betty to explain the text of the Wisdom 2:12-20. The Book of Wisdom is written from the perspective of Solomon and the book’s intended audience are those in rulership. The first third of the book contrasts the righteous with the ungodly and compares their ultimate fate. It is in this context that I’ve chosen to compare it to the life and death—at the hand of Roman Catholic rulers—of Michael Sattler, one of the earliest and most influential Anabaptists.
“But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away and made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his company. For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves… [Wisdom 1:16-2:1]”
12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
“After his expulsion from the region, Sattler traveled north and engaged in missionary activity north of Zurich, gaining and baptizing new Anabaptist converts. [..] Sattler became one of the most important leaders of the South-German and Swiss Brethren. Thus, when the Anabaptists of the region decided to hold a conference at Schleitheim on February 24, 1527, Sattler was the natural figure to take the lead. At this conference, a group of Anabaptists drafted and produced the Schleitheim Confession, which outlined the Anabaptist position on several key issues. [..] Accordingly, not long after Sattler and his wife returned to Horb they were arrested along with some other Anabaptists by Count Joachim von Zollern, regent of Ferdinand of Austria who was “militantly Catholic.”
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
“The [Schleitheim] Confession dealt with issues brought on by attacks from without [..] It set forth Anabaptist distinctives and clarified various issues related to baptism, the ban, the breaking of bread, separation from the world, pastors, the sword, and the oath. The Confession was readily accepted as truth by most Anabaptists and heavily criticized by most mainline Reformers.”
and accuses us of sins against our training.
“The intensity of Sattler’s convictions continued to grow until he experienced a “crisis,” which could only be resolved by his renunciation of Roman Catholicism and his departure from the ways of monasticism. Thus, Sattler’s primary reason for leaving the monastery and eventually joining the Anabaptists was theological.”
13 He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord.
“Sattler sternly warns his congregation about “the wolves” among “the sheep of God” who threaten the church of Christ either by false teaching within or by merciless attacks from without. He urges, “Let no one shift your goal . . . which is sealed by the blood of Christ and of many witnesses of Jesus” so that they might “be found to be the humble, fruitful, and obedient children of God.”“
14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; 15 the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.
“Going into his trial, Sattler was not in a favorable position. Ferdinand thought Sattler did not even merit the semblance of a trial but should be immediately drowned in the Neckar, thus effecting the cruel irony of a “third baptism.””
“The Anabaptists were charged with 1) acting against imperial mandate, 2) teaching against transubstantiation, 3) teaching against infant baptism, 4) rejecting the sacrament of unction, 5) despising Mary and the saints, 6) rejecting oaths to the government, and 7) initiating a corrupt version of the Lord’s Supper. [..] After briefly consulting with his “brothers and sisters,” Sattler responded “fearlessly” to each of these charges by appealing to the logic of Scripture.”
16 We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean;
“Sattler recounts how he had come to despise the “pomp, pride, usury, and great fornication of the monks and priests” after reading the letters of Paul and hearing God’s call to “testify to His Word.””
he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father.
“For Sattler, those who knew the Father were led to this belief by the light of the Spirit. Further, the only way that they could hope to persevere in blamelessness would be to “walk the surefooted and living way of Christ” and be “purified through His blood.”62 Persecution should not trouble them because these temporary trials are like a father chastising a son in whom he delights.”
17 Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; 18 for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
“When the ropes that bound Sattler’s arms were burned up, he lifted them both with the first two fingers on each hand outstretched. This dramatic gesture was the symbol that he and his brothers had prearranged so that Sattler could signal to them that he was faithful even unto death.””
19 Let us test him with insult
“…as Sattler uttered these last words, most of the “judges laughed and shook their heads” as the Stadtschreiber of Ensisheim began to taunt and ridicule Sattler verbally.”
“Michael Sattler shall be committed to the executioner. The latter shall take him to the square and there first cut out his tongue, and then forge him fast to a wagon and there with glowing iron tongs twice tear pieces from his body, then on the way to the site of execution five times more as above and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic.”
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
“Eyewitnesses recount that during these procedures, Sattler continually prayed for those persecuting him and urged others to do the same.”
and make trial of his forbearance. 20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
“His tongue was cut out, and he was bound by chains to a cart where two pieces of his flesh were torn from his body with red-hot tongs. He was then driven to the place of execution by the gate where five more times the glowing iron tongs were applied to his body. [..] After he was thrown into the fire with a small sack of gunpowder tied around his neck and “one despaired of his still being alive,” Sattler would cry out “with a clear voice often and constantly to God in heaven.”
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
“He responded boldly, “God will judge rightly.” [..] they needed to “look out and repent” or else they would face eternal condemnation before “the judgment of God to eternal fire.” Not far from his own fiery death, Sattler remained concerned about the souls of his enemies.”
“Then the righteous will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have oppressed them and those who make light of their labors. When the unrighteous see them, they will be shaken with dreadful fear, and they will be amazed at the unexpected salvation of the righteous. They will speak to one another in repentance, and in anguish of spirit they will groan, and say, “These are persons whom we once held in derision and made a byword of reproach—fools that we were! We thought that their lives were madness and that their end was without honor. Why have they been numbered among the children of God? And why is their lot among the saints? [Wisdom 5:1-5]”