He was born in Roermond, and was a pupil of Alexander Hegius von Heek in Deventer. From 1496 to 1500 he was at the University of Cologne. Then with the support of Rudolph von Langen he was brought in as assistant head of the cathedral school at Münster. After friction with the head, he moved to another school there, reforming textbooks and promoting the teaching of Greek. Pupils travelled from distant parts of Europe to study with him.
He was then school rector in Alkmaar from 1513, where he insisted his pupils had a good reading knowledge of parts of the Bible. The marauding Arumer Zwarte Hoop sacked Alkmaar in late June 1517, leaving Murmellius destitute. Nowadays, a school in Alkmaar is named after him as the Murmellius Gymnasium.
He moved on to Zwolle, briefly working under Gerardus Listrius, and then to a position at Deventer. He died suddenly in early October 1517, giving rise to an unsubstantiated rumour that Listrius had poisoned him.
Around 50 works of his are known, mostly written with pedagogical intent.
- Peter G. Bietenholz, Thomas Brian Deutscher, Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation (2003), p. 470.
- Alastair Duke, Reformation and Revolt in the Low Countries (2003), pp. 13-3.
- Lodi Nauta, A Humanist Reading of Boethius's Consolatio Philosophiae, p. 318, in Lodi Nauta, Arie Johan Vanderjagt (editors), Between Demonstration and Imagination: Essays in the History of Science and Philosophy Presented to John D. North (1999).
- Dietrich Reichling (1880, reprinted 1963), Johannes Murmellius: sein Leben und seine Werke