Question: "Who were the Taborites?"
Answer: As a faction of Hussites, the Taborites were a radical religious group that participated in the Bohemian Reformation and Hussite Wars of the fifteenth century. Following pre-Reformer Jan Hus’s execution, many different factions of his followers formed groups throughout Bohemia. Known derogatorily as the Picards, the Taborites believed strongly in Christ’s imminent return to set up His kingdom.
Named after Mount Tabor in the Bible (Joshua 19:22; Psalm 89:12), the Taborites built their city Tabor on a hill in Bohemia, modern-day Czechoslovakia, under the guidance of leader Petr Hromádka. Tabor soon became a theological and political center, and many Hussites flocked to city. Announcing the soon return of Christ, the Taborites declared that in the city there would be no more slaves or servants, that all land and property would be communal, and that there would no longer be any taxation. In a feudal society, the relinquishment of all land and property was extremely radical, as peasants were not typically seen as equal “brothers and sisters” with those who were wealthier and of different classes. No longer would the Hussites be associated with Prague, likened to Babylon the Great; by residing in Tabor, they were fleeing the coming punishment at Christ’s return (Revelation 18:4).
After the death of the original Taborite leader, Hromádka, Jan Žižka became the central leader of the Taborites and successfully defended the city from imperial attacks. Many military endeavors were carried out by the Taborites, both in defense and offense. Protecting themselves from imperial attacks by the Catholics, the Taborites were surprisingly successful in keeping their city, Tabor, intact while also taking other cities. Their military prowess continued until 1434 when the Taborites were defeated at the Battle of Lipany by Catholic and Utraquist forces (the Utraquists being a more moderate Hussite group). After their defeat, the Taborites were absorbed into another Hussite-influenced group, the Unity of the Brethren, otherwise known as the Moravians.
Although the way they applied Scripture regarding the second coming of Christ was peculiar, the Taborites taught doctrines that most modern Protestants believe. They upheld Jan Hus’s assertion that the Bible is the sole authority for belief and doctrine, and they believed that the only biblical sacraments are communion and baptism (Matthew 26:26–28; Galatians 3:27). The Taborites rejected the veneration of saints and Mary and refused the notion that clergy must be celibate. The Taborites placed a high value on reading and preaching the Bible in the people’s own language instead of in Catholic-prescribed Latin (see 2 Timothy 3:16–17). All Taborite clergy taught from Czech Bibles.
Despite their movement only lasting about 20 years, the Taborites made a great impact both politically and theologically. In a time when separation of church and state was nonexistent, the Taborites displayed great military power in the Hussite Wars. The Taborites held to many teachings that paved the way for the Protestant Reformation.