The Cathars and Waldenses

In the beginning of the twelfth century, there was a revitaliza-tion of the Truth with the raising up of the next phase of the Church under the leadership of Peter de Bruys in southeastern France. This stage in church history is characterized by the Church at Thyatira in Revelation 2. The Piedmont valleys of southeastern France were described by Pope Urban II, in 1096, as being "infested with heresy." It was from one of these valleys, the Valley Louise, that Peter de Bruys arose in 1104 and began to preach repentance. He gained many followers among the Cathars, initially, and later among the general public.

The Cathars (meaning "puritans"), among whom de Bruys originally preached, were remnants of earlier Bogomil settlements. However, by this time, most had accepted a variety of new and strange doctrines and were quite divided among themselves. His preaching, and that of his successors, brought about a revitalized Church during the first half of the twelfth century in the valleys of southeastern France. De Bruys professed to restore Christianity to its original purity. At the end of a ministry of about 20 years, he was burned at the stake. In rapid succession after him, there arose two other strong ministers, Arnold and Henri.

After the death of Henri in 1149, the Church languished and seemed to go into eclipse. A few years later a wealthy merchant in Lyons, Peter Waldo, was struck down by an unusual circumstance and began preaching the Gospel in 1161. After being shocked into contemplating the real meaning of life as a result of the sudden death of a close friend, Waldo obtained a copy of the Scriptures and began studying God's Word. He was soon amazed to find that the Scriptures taught the very opposite of much of what he had learned during his Catholic upbringing.

Historian Peter Allix, quoting from an old Waldensian document, The Noble Lesson, tells us: "The author upon supposal that the world was drawing to an end, exhorts his brethren to prayer, to watchfulness.. He repeats the several articles of the law, not forgetting that which respects idols" (Ecclesiastical History of Ancient Churches of Piedmont, pp. 231, 236-237).

Elsewhere, Dr. Allix writes that the Waldensian leaders "declare themselves to be the apostles' successors, to have apostolic authority, and the keys of binding and loosing. They hold the church of Rome to be the whore of Babylon" (Ecclesiastical History, p. 175).

Peter Waldo made Lyons, France, the center of his preaching from 1161 until 1180. Then, because of persecution, he relocated to northern Italy. From about 1210 until his death seven years later, Waldo spent his time preaching in Bohemia and Germany. "Like St. Francis [of Assisi], Waldo adopted a life of poverty that he might be free to preach, but with this difference that the Waldenses preached the doctrine of Christ while the Franciscans preached the person of Christ" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed.).

What were some of the other doctrines taught by the Waldenses? Is there evidence that the early Waldenses were Sabbath-keepers? One of the names by which they were most anciently known was that of Sabbatati! In his 1873 work, History of the Sabbath, historian J. N. Andrews quotes from an earlier work by Swiss-Calvinist historian Goldastus written about 1600. Speaking of the Waldenses, Goldastus wrote: "Insabbatati [they were called] not because they were circumcised, but because they kept the Jewish Sabbath" (Andrews, p. 410). Dr. Andrews further refers to the testimony of Archbishop Ussher (1581-1656) who acknowledged "that many understood that they [the names Sabbatati or Insabbatati] were given to them [Waldenses] because they worshipped on the Jewish Sabbath" (p. 410). Clearly even noted Protestant scholars at the end of the Middle Ages were will ing to acknowledge that many Waldenses had observed the seventh-day Sabbath.

In his 1845 work, The History of the Christian Church, William Jones wrote:

"Investigators made a report to Louis XII [reigned 1498-1516], king of France, that they had visited all the parishes where the Waldenses dwelt. They had inspected all their places of worship. but they found no images, no sign of the ordinances belonging to the mass, nor any of the sacraments of the Roman church.. They kept the Sabbath day, they observed the ordinance of baptism according to the primitive church, instructed their children in the articles of the Christian faith and the commandments of God..

The Waldenses could say a great part of the Old and New Testaments by heart. They despise the sayings and expositions of holy men [Roman Catholic Church fathers], and they only plead for the test of Scripture.. The traditions of the [Roman] church are no better than the traditions of the Pharisees, and that greater stress is laid [by Rome] on the observance of human tradition than on the keeping of the law of God. They despise the Feast of Easter, and all other Roman festivals of Christ and the saints" (A Handbook of Church History, pp. 234, 236-237).

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