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By Jared L. Olar

As someone who was born and raised in the Seventh-Day Sabbatarian Worldwide Church of God (WCG), I was taught that Christians who worshipped Jesus on the first day of the week were violating God's commandments. I believed that the majority of Christians were nothing less than apostate-for true Christians, I was told, should follow the example of Jesus and the original Christians by resting on the Sabbath day and observing the seven annual festivals described in Leviticus 23.

The WCG used to teach that this terrible apostasy began to take shape in the first century A.D., even during the lifetime of the original apostles. In this interpretation of early Church history, though most Christians went astray, God preserved a faithful remnant of Sabbath-keeping Christians who endured persecution at the hands of ``the False Church.'' Through the centuries, the faithful remnant were known by various exotic names, such as Nazarenes, Ebionites, Quartodecimans, Paulicians, Petrobrusians, Passigenes, Lollards, or Sabbatarians. We claimed that in the High Middle Ages and the late medieval era, most true Christians were called Waldenses. 1

However, as an ardent student of history, my studies eventually revealed that the version of Church history I'd learned in the WCG was gravely flawed in many different ways. As this article will show, history fails to substantiate the belief that the Waldenses (or even some of the Waldenses) were Seventh-Day Sabbatarians. Neither can history support the belief that the Waldenses were ancestral to English and American Seventh-Day Sabbatarians in the 1600s.

The Waldenses of Sabbatarian Legend:

In the mid-1800s, Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, wrote a chapter about the Waldenses in her book The Great Controversy, where she said:

``In lands beyond the jurisdiction of Rome there existed for many centuries bodies of Christians who remained almost wholly free from papal corruption. They were surrounded by heathenism and in the lapse of ages were affected by its errors; but they continued to regard the Bible as the only rule of faith and adhered to many of its truths. These Christians believed in the perpetuity of the law of God and observed the sabbath of the fourth commandment . . . But of those who resisted the encroachments of the papal power, the Waldenses stood foremost . . . The faith which for centuries was held and taught by the Waldensian Christians was in marked contrast to the false doctrines put forth from Rome . . . Through ages of darkness and apostasy there were Waldenses who denied the supremacy of Rome, who rejected image worship as idolatry, and who kept the true Sabbath. Under the fiercest tempests of oppositions they maintained their faith.''

But the Seventh-Day Adventists were not alone in claiming the Waldenses as spiritual and historical antecedents. That same view of the Waldenses is widespread in the publications of the Sabbatarian movement. Here is the way the WCG characterised the Waldenses in their Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 51, published in 1968:

``The Waldenses recognized that they were the true successors of the apostolic church. They kept the Sabbath, also the yearly Passover. And each September or October (in God's seventh month-see Lev. 23), they held at the headquarters church a great `conference.' As many as 700 persons attended from afar. New students were chosen, ministerial assignments were made, and crowds gathered daily to listen to sermons. What could this gathering have been but the Feast of Tabernacles! . . . But in 1194, Alphonse, king of Aragon, Barcelona and Provence decreed these `Waldenses, Zapatati or Inzabbati [keepers of God's Sabbath] who otherwise are called the Poor Men of Lyons' worthy of any punishment short of death or mutilation.'' (ACBCC p.11)

In this account, the Waldenses were presented not only as Seventh-Day Sabbatarians, but as observers of the seven annual holy days of the Hebrew calendar-not coincidentally, just like the pre-1995 WCG. It is also probably not a coincidence that this account describes the life and activities of Peter Waldo, founder of the Waldenses, in terms remarkably similar to the way the WCG was formerly wont to describe itself and its founder, former businessman Herbert W. Armstrong:

``Then Christ acted. The man He chose to become His apostle was a wealthy merchant in Lyons, . . . Christ saw by his actions that Waldo was in earnest. His mind began to be opened to the truth that had formerly meant nothing to him . . . Waldo brought the same practical common sense that had made him successful as a businessman to the organization and Work of the Church. He had the education and experience which so few in God's Church had (I Cor. 1:26). Jesus Christ probably guided that experience, unknown to Waldo, long before his conversion. As he preached, others united themselves and their efforts to his. They became, as it is said, `as many co-workers for him.' They dedicated their lives and their property to the spread of Christ's gospel. This little group became known as the `Poor Men of Lyons.' But that was not the name of the Church. They called themselves the Church of God, or simply Christians.'' (ACBCC p.6)

Further on we will see just how far off the mark this depiction of Peter Waldo was In fact, Waldo and Armstrong had little in common.

The Waldenses of Protestant Legend:

Seventh-Day Sabbatarians are not alone in claiming the Waldenses as spiritual and historical ancestors. Historically speaking, the Seventh-Day Sabbatarian movement evolved from the wider Baptist and Puritan movements. Like their spiritual cousins the Sabbatarians, Baptists have often insisted that their churches trace back to the Apostles through a succession of non-Catholic sects such as the Montanists, Donatists, Paulicians, Albigensians, and Waldenses. This is essentially the same point of view that informs such publications as Herman L. Hoeh's old booklet A True History of the True Church (1959) and Ivor C. Fletcher's aptly-named Incredible History of God's True Church (1984), both of which were written by followers of WCG founder Herbert W. Armstrong.

This interpretation of Church history is known as Baptist Successionism, or ``Landmarkism''-from the principle that a Baptist could recognise historical ancestors of the Baptist churches by looking for sects that had certain doctrinal traits and practices, called ``landmarks.'' Baptists looked for baptistic traits, while Seventh-Day Sabbatarians have sought Sabbatarian traits. The classic presentation of Landmarkism was the old Baptist work The Trail of Blood, but it has appeared as recently as 1994, in Dave Hunt's A Woman Rides the Beast:

``The truth is that Roman Catholicism did not represent Christ and was not His Church. For at least a thousand years before the Reformation the true church was composed of multitudes of simple Christians who were not part of the Roman system. That such believers existed, refused to be called `Catholics,' and worshipped independently of the Roman hierarchy is history. It is a fact that they were pursued to imprisonment and death since at least the end of the fourth century.''

Now, as a matter of fact, beginning as early as the 1500s, it has been common for Protestants to see the Waldenses and other non-Catholic groups of the Middle Ages (like the Albigenses, Lollards, or Hussites) as proto-Protestants or evangelicals, forerunners of the Protestant Reformation. Of course, the Waldenses did choose to ally themselves with the Protestant Reformers, and the Waldenses today are doctrinally and theologically similar to the Methodists. The Italian Waldenses of modern times are even formally affiliated with the Italian Methodists in a federation. Thus, it should be no surprise that even Waldensian historian Giorgio Tourn's 1989 book You Are My Witnesses-The Waldensians Across 800 Years would describe the early Waldenses as:

``a slender band of twelfth century evangelicals, harassed and excommunicated by the Church . . . engaged in rediscovering the Bible and circulating it in their native tongue, in preaching and making common cause with the poor . . .'' (Tourn p.11)

Nevertheless, the absorption of the Waldenses into the Protestant movement was a later development. As we shall see, the early Waldenses were neither evangelicals nor Sabbatarians, nor is it possible to trace a lineage from the Waldenses to later non-Catholic groups that arose after the Protestant Reformation.

The Waldenses of History:

The very same year that Dave Hunt asserted his successionist model of Church history, Baptist historian James Edward McGoldrick published a definitive debunking of successionism entitled Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History. In the preface, McGoldrick writes:

``Although no reputable Church historians have ever affirmed the belief that Baptists can trace their lineage through medieval and ancient sects ultimately to the New Testament, that point of view enjoys a large following nevertheless. It appears that scholars aware of this claim have deemed it unworthy of their attention, which may account for the persistence and popularity of Baptist successionism as a doctrine as well as an interpretation of church history. Aside from occasional articles and booklets that reject this teaching, no one has published a refutation in a systematic, documented format.'' (McGoldrick p. iv)

McGoldrick's book includes a chapter in which he considers whether the Waldenses could be considered spiritual and historical ancestors of the Baptists. Coupled with the information in Giorgio Tourn's You Are My Witnesses, McGoldrick's book presents a picture of the early Waldenses that bears little if any resemblance to the picture presented in Seventh-Day Sabbatarian literature.

Here is McGoldrick's account of how Peter Waldo (Old French ``Valdes,'' Latin ``Valdesius'') made the radical changes in his life that led to the founding of the Waldensian movement:

``Little is known about Waldo's life, but it is clear that he was a prosperous merchant in Lyons who suddenly divested himself of his wealth in order to pursue a life of `evangelical perfection,' which, to medieval Catholics, meant following the example of Christ, including the Savior's poverty. Waldo's decision to alter his life so radically came about 1176, soon after he had witnessed the sudden death of a prominent citizen of Lyons. The sources indicate that Waldo became impressed with his need to follow Christ when he heard a minstrel relate the legend of St. Alexis, who had renounced riches and separated from his wife to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Waldo also accepted counsel from a priest who told him of Christ's command to a rich inquirer who had come to him seeking the way to eternal life. Jesus said: `If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' (Matthew 19:21)'' (McGoldrick p.70)

This is the way Giorgio Tourn's You Are My Witnesses narrates the same events:

``Valdesius, it was said, after Mass on a certain day came upon a minstrel who was singing the story of St. Alexis, the rich and spoiled member of a noble family who all of a sudden, on his wedding night, left his bride and family to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There, as a result of his saintly life and sufferings, he became so disfigured that, upon his return to his old city, no one recognized him. Ignored and left to die under an old staircase, he was identified only after his death . . . Valdesius, so the story goes, was deeply touched and invited the minstrel to his home to play the song again. As he listened, Valdesius began to believe that he should follow Alexis' example and renounce completely his previous life.

``Another account has it that as a rich merchant in the midst of poverty he was troubled in conscience and sought counsel at the cathedral from a priest. The two were said to have engaged in such prolonged and earnest conversation that at last the priest read to Valdesius the passage from Matthew 19, in which Jesus tells the rich young man to sell all his goods, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow him.

``There is yet another version. Valdesius was said to have been extremely upset over the sudden death of a friend who was taken in a seizure in the course of a banquet. He is supposed to have asked himself, `If death should overtake me, would my soul be ready for the journey?' After weeks of uncertainty, this tale goes, he decided to give up his former way of life and begin anew.'' (Tourn p.13)

In light of what McGoldrick and Tourn have said, the flaws and inaccuracies of the WCG's version of events are obvious. Compare their accounts to that of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 51:

``As always it began again in the very smallest way. The world scarcely noticed. Waldo began to preach in 1161. Yet the three Catholic writers who attempt to explain the origin of his work know nothing of the first 12 to 15 years. By that time a notable work was being done. They do relate that a friend's sudden death at Waldo's side shocked him into serious consideration of the meaning of life.

``Note here a contrast. Martin Luther, when a friend at his side was similarly struck by lightning, fled in terror of God to the life of a monk. He endured physical and mental agony, until, years later, he worked out his 'faith alone' theology to escape the harsh God he assumed the Bible taught. Waldo, on the other hand, knew of God as a God of love. Obviously, he had not been reared as a Catholic . . . . In the district of Walden, his family must have known of God's Church.

``Seeking completely to follow Christ, Waldo began to give away the bulk of his money. It was his enemy, he said, which had kept him from God . . . .'' (ACBCC p.6)

The Early Waldenses and Catholicism:

The WCG's version of events gives little or no hint of what the medieval sources recorded about Peter Waldo's Catholic beliefs, habits, and attitudes. Far from it being ``obvious'' that ``he had not been reared as a Catholic,'' in fact Waldo went to Mass, sought the advice of priests, and sought to follow the ascetical example of St. Alexis. Needless to say, such things would have been unthinkable to a disciple of Herbert Armstrong.

According to McGoldrick, after Waldo underwent his conversion experience, ``Waldo developed a sense of urgency to become learned in the scriptures, and to that end he paid two scholars to translate the Gospels and other portions of the Bible into his vernacular tongue.'' (McGoldrick p.71) That is the kind of impulse that evangelicals or Seventh-Day Sabbatarians can truly appreciate. However, medieval sources clarify that this translation came about when he asked some Catholic priests to translate the four Gospels, some books of the Bible, and some of the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose of Milan, and Pope St. Gregory I.

Not surprisingly, the WCG never mentioned that the Waldensian vernacular Bible translation was the work of Catholic priests, that it was not a translation of the entire Bible, and that Waldo was apparently just as devoted to the study of the writings of significant Church Fathers as he was to the study of Holy Scripture. Also, Waldo's commissioning of a vernacular translation of parts of the Bible is just one of many historical examples that undermine the widespread myth that the medieval Catholic Church refused to allow the common people to read the Bible in their own language, or that the Bible was deliberately locked up in a language only a few priests and bishops could read. History provides numerous examples of medieval Catholics from all over Europe preparing vernacular translations of the Bible in whole or in part, and doing so with approval of the Church authorities. Waldo's behavior was unexceptional in that regard.

Others in Lyons were attracted to Waldo's notable piety and devotion, and before long a movement of lay Catholics had taken shape, calling itself ``the Poor'' and looking to Waldo as unofficial leader. But this was not a separate, free-standing church with non-Catholic teachings. ```The movement did not seek to alter Catholic dogma and was not intended to be a separatist church . . . . Waldo hoped to gain papal approval for his movement.'' (McGoldrick pp.71, 76)

Obviously, this is not a historical continuation or outgrowth of some earlier non-Catholic church or sect such as the Paulicians, Petrobrusians, or Henricians. Rather, this is the genesis of a movement within the Catholic Church, a movement to encourage pious asceticism, spiritual renewal, and concern for the poor. In fact, the early Waldenses bore a far closer resemblance to the Franciscan Order than to any Protestant church, let alone any Seventh-Day Sabbatarian church. Indeed, the Waldenses and Franciscans both arose in part as a reaction against the lives of luxury of far too many Catholic prelates of that era. Also, just as St. Francis of Assisi and his followers encountered trouble and opposition from Catholic authorities, so too did Waldo and the Poor of Lyons. But where the Franciscans succeeded in winning the approval and support of the Catholic Church, the Waldenses eventually became a separatist or schismatic group who viewed themselves as the only genuine Christians on earth.

Conflict with the Catholic Church:

We have already begun to see that the WCG's picture of the Waldenses was gravely flawed and erroneous. Note now their description of the way the Waldenses came into conflict with the Catholic Church:

``Persecution was also raised by the archbishop at Lyons. About 1176, he forbade the `Poor Men' to preach. `We must obey God rather than men,' they replied (see Acts 4:18-19; 5:28-29).

``When they persisted, they were cited to appear before Pope Alexander III. Now it was no longer just a question of preaching at Lyons. The issue at stake was whether God's Work anywhere could continue. For archbishops and popes exercised civil power in that age.

``Striving to be wise as serpents yet harmless as doves, Waldo himself went boldly to Rome in late 1178. He put forward the Bible translation into Provencal-which could be understood all over southern France and adjoining parts of Italy and Spain-and urged the common people's need for it. Doctrine was kept in the background.

``The pope appeared willing at first to accede to Waldo's demands, but left the decision to the Lateran Council of 1179. Two of Waldo's associates appeared before the council. They were virtually condemned. `You can preach,' they were told, `but only if the local priest asks you to!' The reason given? `The Roman Church cannot endure your preaching!''' (ACBCC p.7)

Compare that account to the way McGoldrick relates the reasons Waldo and his movement fell afoul of the Catholic Church:

``The bishops at first would have found nothing about which to object had not the Waldenses assumed the right to preach. It was unauthorized preaching in public places that aroused suspicion and led the Archbishop of Lyons to attempt to stop them.

``In 1179 a small delegation of Waldenses appeared at Rome during the Third Lateran Council and asked Pope Alexander III (1159-81) for his approval of the Waldenses' ministry. At that time the Waldenses gave the pope a copy of their Bible translation. The pope and council recognized the Waldenses' right to practice evangelical perfection but denied them the right to preach.'' (McGoldrick pp.71-72)

In the WCG's version, Waldo and the Poor Men of Lyons were non-Catholics who wanted the Catholic Church not to interfere in their ministry, so they acted in a duplicitous, dishonest manner to downplay doctrinal differences. However, McGoldrick's account presents the Waldenses as Catholics who began to preach without first obtaining permission from their priests and bishop. Told to stop preaching by their bishop, they appealed their case to the pope to obtain official sanction for their movement. Far from making ``demands,'' the Waldenses had actually petitioned or requested relief. This is hardly the behavior of non-Catholics who do not recognise papal authority.

But why did the Catholic Church refuse to grant the Poor Men of Lyons permission to preach? In the WCG's version, the only ``reason'' given was that ``the Roman Church cannot endure your preaching.'' But that is no reason at all. It's merely a confirmation of the original verdict of the Archbishop of Lyons. To explain why they were forbidden to preach, we should examine Walter Map of England's description of his encounter with the Waldenses at the Third Lateran Council:

``We have seen these Waldensians at the Council called by Pope Alexander III; they are simple and unlearned people who take their name from their leader, Valdes, a citizen of Lyons on the Rhone. They presented the pope with a book written in Gallic, containing texts and commentaries on the Psalms and other books from the scriptures.

``They insisted that they be granted authorization to preach, judging themselves to be experts, while in fact they were merely conceited, like those birds that are unable to see snares and believe they are free . . . Two of the Waldensian leaders were brought before me. They had come to dispute the faith, not to search for truth in love . . .

``The presiding prelate ordered me to proceed in my questioning . . . . To begin, I put to them elementary questions . . .

```Do you believe in God the Father?' They replied, `We do.'

```And in the Son?' They replied, `We do.'

`` `And in the Holy Spirit?' They replied, `We do.'

``Then I added, `And in the Mother of Christ?' And once more they answered, `We do.'

``At this last response a roar of derision went up and they withdrew, confused, and rightly so, because they had no one to guide them. And yet these same people expect to lead others.'' (Tourn pp.19-20)

Walter Map's exercise demonstrated that the Waldenses lacked theological schooling. Indeed, many Waldenses were illiterate, and committed whole books of the Bible to memory through oral repetition. The two Waldenses that Map interviewed at the Lateran Council couldn't understand why their affirmation of belief in the Mother of Christ elicited laughter and mockery. Far from being non-Catholics who rejected Catholic doctrine, they saw themselves as good Catholics and had a deep devotion to Jesus' Mother-they readily confessed belief in the Virgin Mary. Indeed, Waldo himself is said to have taken his vow of poverty on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

Where they went wrong was in unintentionally implying that Mary was the fourth Person of the Godhead. The traditional Creeds only apply the words ``I believe'' to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, never to Mary. Also, in unwittingly approving of a title for Mary-``Mother of Christ''-that was associated with the ancient Nestorian heresy, their words implied a denial that Jesus Christ is simultaneously true God and true Man. Nestorians rejected the title ``Mother of God'' because of their denial of the Incarnation, saying that Mary was only ``Mother of Christ'' and nothing more. The Waldenses certainly didn't mean to espouse Nestorianism-it was an innocent mistake of the unlearned. And that was Map's whole point: the Waldenses should obtain a solid grounding in the teachings of the Catholic Church before asking for permission to preach.

Recall as well that the Waldenses first got into trouble with the Catholic Church by preaching in public without first asking their bishop for permission. The reason the Catholic Church "could not endure" their preaching was not only that they were uneducated and apt to fall into classic theological traps in their attempts to explain Catholic doctrine, but also that their preaching conflicted with the hierarchical nature of the Catholic Church. As early as 110 A.D., Catholic bishops have claimed primary responsibility for preaching the Gospel, saying that it was committed to the Twelve Apostles and their successors the bishops, who could in turn delegate the duty of preaching to priests and deacons, and even to laymembers from time to time. The conflict first arose when Guichard, Archbishop of Lyons, refused to give Waldo and his followers permission to preach-doctrinal matters were not an issue at this point.

Disobedient, not Heretical:

Waldo and his movement were very disappointed that they would not be officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church, so they made a fateful decision. McGoldrick describes their reaction in this way:

``Waldo and his disciples were ordered to submit to the bishops. To render unqualified submission would, however, have meant the end of their preaching, so the Waldenses disobeyed and brought upon themselves a barrage of clerical criticism. As of yet the Waldenses had issued no pronouncements which could have been rightly construed as heresy, and in 1180 Waldo signed a statement of faith dictated by a papal legate in which the popular exponent of apostolic living subscribed to all of the major tenets of traditional Catholicism.''(McGoldrick p.72)

Take special note of the fact that at this early stage, the disagreements were not doctrinal, but rather had to do with obedience to Church authorities and the license to preach. To show just how fundamentally Catholic the beliefs of Peter Waldo and his original followers were, here are lengthy excepts from the statement of faith that Waldo gave when he met with the papal legate Henri de Marci in the Languedoc in 1180:

``In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and of the Blessed and Ever-Virgin Mary: Be it noted by all the faithful that I, Valdesius, and all my brethren, standing before the Holy Gospels, do declare that we believe with all our hearts, having been grasped by faith, that we profess openly that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons, one God, and that the divine Trinity in full is one essence and substance, eternal and omnipotent, and that the single Persons of the Trinity are fully . . . one God as affirmed in the Creed . . . .

``We firmly believe and explicitly declare that the incarnation of the Divinity did not take place in the Father and the Holy Spirit, but in the Son alone, so that he who was the divine Son of God the Father was also true man from his Mother . . . In Him co-existed two natures, God and Man in one person, . . . and He ate, drank, grew weary, and rested after His journeys . . .

``We believe in our hearts and confess with our lips one Church, Catholic, Holy, Apostolic and Immaculate, apart from which no one can be saved.

``We accept the sacraments celebrated in the Church through the invisible and incomprehensible power of the Holy Spirit, even though administered by priests who sin . . .

``We firmly believe and affirm that the sacrifice, that is, the bread and wine, after its consecration, is the body and blood of Christ; in this sacrifice the good priest adds nothing more and the wicked priest in no way diminishes the sacrifice.

``We believe that those sinners who repent in their hearts, confess with their lips and give satisfaction with their works, according to the scriptures, can receive God's forgiveness . . .

``We firmly believe in the judgment to come, and in the fact that each man will receive reward or punishment according to what he has done in this flesh. We do not doubt the fact that alms, sacrifice, and other good works benefit the dead.

``And since, according to the Apostle James, faith without works is dead, we have renounced this world and have distributed to the poor all that we possess, according to the will of God, and we have decided that we ourselves should be poor in such a way as not to be anxious for the morrow, and to accept from no one gold, silver, or anything else, with the exception of raiment and daily food. We have set before ourselves the objective of fulfilling the Gospel counsels as precepts.

``We believe that anyone in this age who keeps to a proper life, giving alms and doing other good works from his own possessions and observing the Lord's commandments, can be saved. Brothers, we make this declaration in order that if anyone should come to you affirming that he is one of us, you may know for certain that he is not one of us if he does not profess this same faith.'' (Compiled from Tourn pp.20-21 and McGoldrick pp.76-77)

Such a strongly Catholic statement of faith would never have come from the lips of Herbert W. Armstrong, who rejected the Trinity as a satanic, pagan teaching, and denounced the Catholic Church as ``the False Church,'' ``Babylon the Great,'' and ``the Great Whore.'' Also, as we saw earlier, Giorgio Tourn presented the early Waldenses as ``twelfth century evangelicals.'' Thus, it is understandable that at one point Tourn seems to try to explain (if not downplay) Peter Waldo's belief in those teachings of the Catholic Church with which evangelicals disagree. Tourn wrote:

``The pope's representative proceeded to interrogate Valdesius so as to check his orthodoxy, and then required him to sign a formal declaration of adherence to the Catholic faith. Valdesius' stand was so `Catholic' that he did not hesitate to affix his signature. It is worth noting that Valdesius inserted in the text a significant expression of his own. For him and his companions, the call to a life of poverty was in consequence of obedience to the command of God . . . .'' (Tourn p. 18)

This resembles McGoldrick's words quoted above, ``Waldo signed a statement of faith dictated by a papal legate.'' But there is no good reason to believe his statement of faith had been dictated by Henri de Marci, with only an addendum on Christian poverty being of Waldo's own authorship. From beginning to end, the statement of faith reads as though it were the expression of Waldo's own faith-an attempt to make clear to the Catholic Church what he and his movement stood for. Waldo probably did more than affix a signature to a statement that had been dictated for him. If anything, Waldo may have dictated the statement to Henri de Marci. And this was not the only time that Waldo affirmed his adherence to Catholic teaching:

``In a statement of faith submitted to the bishop of Albano, Peter Waldo affirmed his belief in transubstantiation, prayers for the dead, and infant baptism.'' (McGoldrick p.77)

From Disobedience to Heresy:

Though Waldo and his movement did not start out with the intention to separate from the Catholic Church and to renounce many Catholic doctrines, that is nevertheless what eventually came to pass.

``While Waldo and his followers had no doctrinal quarrel with Rome, their defiance of episcopal prohibitions against preaching led in 1184 to their condemnation by a synod of bishops meeting in Verona. Much to their dismay, the Waldenses were excluded from the Church and declared to be heretics.

``In 1207 Durand of Huesca abandoned the Waldenses and returned to the Catholic Church. He asked Pope Innocent III to authorize an order of `Catholic Poor,' a move that would be completely submissive to the hierarchy. St. Dominic Guzman had assisted Durand in recruiting small bands of Waldenses who agreed to return to Rome. Later, clerical opposition to the Catholic Poor hindered their work badly, and in 1254 Pope Innocent IV directed the Poor Catholics to merge with the Augustinian Hermits.

``Exclusion from the Church caused the Waldenses to re-examine dogma. . . The drift away from Catholic dogmas was relatively slow and uneven, and some segments of the sect became more radical than others.''(McGoldrick pp.72-73)

Waldo does not seem to have approved of everything his followers were beginning to do. In any event, due to pressure and persecution from ecclesiastical and civil authorities, the Waldenses adopted a strategy of outwardly behaving as orthodox Catholics while secretly spreading their views. As an underground sect, they gathered for worship with a version of the Lord's Supper that was modeled on Christ's miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Consequently, the underground Waldensian Eucharist included bread, wine, and fish. While regularly going to Mass in order to avoid detection, they would however only confess their sins to their own elders rather than to a Catholic priest.

All the same, their views were still closer to Catholicism than to Protestantism. The chief differences between Catholic and Waldensian teaching were an insistence on a strictly literal interpretation of Christ's teachings regarding riches, oaths, vows, and the taking of human life (the Waldenses became pacifists, and rejected the use of the death penalty). As mentioned before, only after the Protestant Reformation did the Waldenses become evangelical Protestants. However, well before the 1500's, the Waldenses did come to identify themselves as the only true Christians, believing that the Pope was antichrist and that the Catholic Church had departed from the true faith in the time of Pope St. Sylvester I and Emperor Constantine. In that way they certainly resembled many Protestants, especially Seventh-Day Sabbatarians.

Never Sabbatarians:

Just as the early Waldenses were not evangelicals, so too they had little, if anything, in common with Seventh-Day Sabbatarians. Though Sabbatarians have frequently believed the Waldenses included Christians who observed the seventh-day Sabbath, there is simply no historical evidence for that belief.

We saw above that the Waldenses were sometimes called Zapatati or Inzabbati, names which the WCG formerly interpreted as ``keepers of God's Sabbath.'' In fact, those names had nothing to do with any sort of Sabbatarian belief. Rather, they referred to the Waldenses' preferred footwear. In a 2002 newsletter, Seventh-Day Adventist historian Dr. Samuele Bacchiochi pointed out certain errors in the writings of Ellen G. White. In his newsletter Bacchiochi wrote:

``What [Adventist scholars] have found in some documents are references to the insabbati, a common nickname for the Waldenses. In the past some uninformed readers have taken this term to mean that the Waldenses were Sabbath-keepers. . . Unfortunately the term insabbati has no connection to Sabbath-keeping. As Adventist Church Historian Daniel Augsburger explains in the symposium The Sabbath in Scripture and History, the Waldenses were often called insabbati, not because they kept the Sabbath, but because they wore sandals. `The Latin word for sandals is sabbatum, the root of the Spanish zapato and the French sabot. The sandals were an outward sign of their being imitators of the apostles in living the vita apostolica and the justification of their preaching the gospel.' In other words, the Waldenses were often called insabbati- sandal-wearers-because many of them wore sandals cut away at the top in their itinerant ministry of preaching the Gospel.''

Furthermore, although the WCG once tried to identify the Waldenses as observers of the annual holy days of Leviticus 23, there is even less reason to link them to such customs than there is to link them to Seventh-Day Sabbatarianism. True to their Catholic origins, the Waldenses celebrated Easter or Pascha-``Passover''-but they were not in any way Quartodecimans. Their Paschal festival was not timed to start on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew sacred calendar, but instead simply followed the Catholic Church's calculation. As for the annual Waldensian conference in September and October, far from an attempt to celebrate the autumnal Feast of Tabernacles, its timing resulted from the fact that certain Catholic feasts and saints' days especially loved by the Waldenses happened to fall in the autumn.

It is clear, then, that the medieval Waldenses could not in any way be either spiritual or historical ancestors of Seventh-Day Sabbatarianism. The conclusion of McGoldrick's chapter on the Waldenses applies not only to Baptists, but also to Sabbatarians, and indeed to most of Protestantism:

``At no time in their history were the Waldenses Baptists, despite some beliefs, such as the concept of a free church, which the two groups have held in common. Neither Waldo nor his early disciples could have subscribed to any historic Baptist confession of faith, and those doctrines that are peculiarly baptistic would have been unacceptable to Waldenses in any period of their history. Although successionists have hailed them as Baptists, medieval Waldenses were quite similar to the Catholic Franciscans, those of the Reformation were akin to Presbyterians, and those of today have become Methodists.'' (McGoldrick p.83)


1The Worldwide Church of God no longer holds these erroneous views. A chart detailing WCG's actual historical roots in the Puritan and Millerite movements can be found at the end of the book Transformed by Truth by Joseph W. Tkach, Jr. (Multnomah Books, Sisters, Oregon, 1997).

Issue 14


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