The Waldenses: Sabbath Keepers or not?
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
In recent years, a bit of a controversy has surfaced regarding the Waldenses. Some people have denied that they ever kept the Sabbath. The modern Waldenses deny any connection to Sabbath observance. At the same time, a modern denial does not erase the pages of history.
We also know from history that the Catholic Church has worked hard to exterminate anyone who opposed their agenda. If the Waldenses were not that much different from the Catholic Church, then why did they vigorously hunt them down? The pages of history will clarify the situation for us. Below we have some primary source quotes describing this fascinating group.
In the 1100s-1200s AD, we learn about the Waldenses that “…They say that Pope Sylvester was the Anti-Christ of whom is made mention in the Epistle of St. Paul as being the Son of Perdition, who extolls himself above everything that is called God, for, from that time, they say, the church perished…He lays it down also as one of their opinions, that the Law of Moses is to be kept according to the Letter and that the keeping of the Sabbath, circumcision, and other legal observances ought to take place. They hold also that Christ the Son of God is not equal with the Father and that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost these three persons are not One God and one substance….” (Peter Allix, Ecclesiastical History of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont. London: 1689. Page 154).
In the 1400s, Louis XII of France sent people to learn more about them. He wanted to find fault so he could persecute them. Here is the eye witness account that his scouts brought back: “…they found no images, nor signs of the ornaments belonging to the mass, nor any of the ceremonies of the Romish church; much less could they discover any traces of those crimes with which they were charged. On the contrary, they kept the Sabbath-day, observed the ordinance of baptism, according to the primitive church, instructed their children in the Christian faith and the commandments of God. The king having heard the report of his commissions, said with an oath that they were better men than himself or his people” (William Jones, Jones Church History, 1832, Page 348; In the 1824 version, it is found in Vol. 2, page 68).
Robinson, in his Ecclesiastical Researches, quotes two primary sources that identify the Waldenses as Sabbath keepers. Gretzer, a German Jesuit who accused the Waldenses in the late 1500s/early 1600s, and Bishop Usher from Ireland (same time period) are in agreement. Both say that the Waldenses were also called Insabbati or Sabbati because they honored the Jewish Sabbath, fashioning Saturday for the Lord’s Day (Robinson, Robert, Ecclesiastical Researches, 1792: Cambridge, pp 303-304). [As an aside, Robinson refutes the idea that these people were called insabbati because of their foot wear; as he notes, the people of their region wore a different kind altogether]
When we read the historical record of the Waldneses, we can clearly see that at the very least there was a significant population of Sabbath keepers among them. This helps us to understand at least one reason why the Catholic Church despised this small group so much: they were a living testimony to the faith once delivered to the saints.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
You can follow Kelly on his website: www.kellymcdonaldjr.com