Mennonite Israel: The Woman in the Wilderness

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See, I have taught you laws and right rulings, as YAHUAH my Elohim commanded me, to do thus in the land which you go to possess. And you shall surely guard and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding before the eyes of the peoples who hear all these laws, and they shall say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” Deuteronomy 4:5-6

Edited by Abraham Rempel

2007

Mennonite Israel: The Woman in the Wilderness

And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. (Rev. 12:14) 

This woman is the nation of Israel that gave birth to the promised Messiah. “And she shall give birth to a Son, and you shall call His Name Yeshua for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) 

She gave birth to a son, a male child, and the one who will rule all the nations with a staff of iron. But her child was snatched up to Elohim and His throne and she fled into the desert, where she has a place prepared by Elohim so that she can be taken care of for 1,260 days. (Rev. 12:5-6) 

The 1260 days referred to in the Book of Revelations comes from the prophecy given to Daniel in Daniel chapters 9 and 12. Who would have guessed that this prophecy includes the original history of the Mennonite people? This booklet proves it by quoting many ancient and modern sources. Our Mennonite history is much more profound than we ever thought. 

The Council of Nicaea, in 325 A.D., drove the true congregation of Israel into the wilderness for 1,260 days/years. A prophetic day is often a literal year according to Scripture references such as Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. The period encompassing the Council of Nicaea and the Protestant Reformation was 1260 years long. During this time, the very ones who were privileged to be the nation birthing the Messiah and given the responsibility to take this light to the nations, found themselves denied of their apostolic origins, and branded heretics by the pagan gentiles who began to assume the name of “Christ” for themselves, apart from keeping the commandments of Yahweh exemplified by the life of the Messiah Himself. And so the “woman” fled into the wilderness where she was, “nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.” 

“We shall now especially consider heretics who… call themselves Nazarenes; they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews, for they do not forbid the books of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, so that they are approved by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the Law and to the customs of the Jews, except they believe in Messiah…. They preach that there is but one God and His Son Yeshua the Messiah. But they are very learned in the Hebrew language, for they, like the Jews, read the whole Law, then the Prophets…. They differ from Jews because they believe in Messiah and from Christians in that they are this day bound to Jewish rites, such as circumcision, the Sabbath, and other ceremonies. They have the good news according to Matthew in it’s entirety in Hebrew. For it is clear that they preserve this, in the Hebrew alphabet, as it was originally written…. Otherwise, this sect of Nazarenes thrives most vigorously in the state of Berea, in Coele-Syria, in Decapolis, around Pella, and in Bashan…. After they departed from Jerusalem, they made their start from here, as all the disciples dwelt in Pella, having been admonished by Christ to depart Jerusalem and emigrate because of imminent danger.” Epiphanius (church father), Panarion 29, 390 A.D. 

“The Jewish converts, or as they were afterwards called, the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundations of the church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes, that from all the various religions of polytheism enlisted under the banner of Christ… The Nazarenes retired from the ruins of Jerusalem to a little town of Pella beyond the Jordan, where that ancient church languished above 60 years in solitude and obscurity.” Gibbons, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, V. 1, Ch.15. 

A great gulf between Judaism and Christianity began to grow with the rise of Constantine, who formally announced the willful separation, calling all Christians under the Roman Empire to consider the Jews to be “enemies of God and man.” 

“Let us then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries. Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected, in order that we may no more have anything in common with the parricides, and murderers of our Lord.” Constantine, Council of Nicaea, 325 A.D. 

At Constantine’s Council of Nicaea, all Jewish believers in the Messiah were banned from attending and everything Jewish – that is anything Scriptural – was thrown out. Constantine declared it unlawful for Jewish believers to continue to worship in their Hebraic traditions and forbade them from meeting together even in the privacy of their own homes. 

“For as much, then, as it is no longer possible to bear with your pernicious errors, we give warning by this present statute, that none of you henceforth presume to assemble yourselves together. We have directed, accordingly, that you are deprived of all the houses in which you are accustomed to hold your assemblies; and we forbid the holding of your superstitious and senseless meetings, not in public merely, but in any private house or place whatsoever. Take the far better course of entering the Catholic Church, that any other place be confiscated to the public service, and no facility whatsoever be left for any future gathering, in order that from this day forward none of your unlawful assemblies may presume to appear in any public or private place. Let this edict be made public.” Eusibius, Life of Constantine, Book 3. 

Contrary to the Church history taught in the “Bible classes” of churches and colleges today, Constantine was not devoted to the One True Elohim – the Elohim of Israel – but, his devotion was completely to the ancient religion of sun worship, the mystery religion of Babylon with its false messiah, Nimrod, whose general representation was that of a sun-god. 

“Constantine’s devotion was peculiarly directed towards the genius of the Sun, and he was pleased to be represented with the symbols of the god of Light and Poetry. The Sun was universally celebrated as the invincible guide and protector of Constantine.” Gibbons, The Triumph of Constantine, p. 309. 

In line with Constantine’s worship of the sun, he proclaimed the “venerable day of the sun” to be the day of rest in the Roman Empire. The Sun Day law was enacted in 321 A.D. In 363, the Council of Laodicea added a law banning the Scriptural 7th day of rest, requiring all to now work on it. The Jewish believers had to leave the populous areas of Asia Minor to flee into the wilderness, where they would live for over 1000 years. 

It is well known in the days of Constantine the Great, that some assemblies of Jewish Christians, being persecuted in Rome because they persisted in obedience to the Law of Moses, wandered off into the valleys where their descendants remain today. Pope Gregory VII, (papal reign from 1073-1085). 

Throughout the centuries these believers were hidden for the most part from the rest of the world and were often called by many different names by those who came in contact with this peculiar people devoted to the commandments of Yahweh. The Nazarenes were called Waldenses because they lived in valleys in the formidable Northern Italian Alps. Variations of this name are wallensesvaldesivaudoisvaldes and valdenses. They have also been called passagiipasaginipassaginians and passageros to name a few more. They have been accused of Judaism and were always considered one with the traditional rabbinic Jews by their enemies because they kept the Law of Moses, the Sabbath and the feasts of Yahweh. 

“They occupy a mountain district… and yet from this secluded spot, have they disseminated doctrines, whose influence is felt over the most refined and civilized part of Europe…. They speak the same language, have the same patriarchal habits, simple virtues, and retain the same religion, which was known to exist there more than a 1000 years ago. They profess to constitute the remains of the pure and primitive Christian Church, and those who would question their claims cannot show either by history or tradition that they were subscribed to the popish rituals, or bowed down before any of the idols of the Roman Church… in short, there is no other way of explaining the political, moral, and religious phenomenon, which the Vaudois (Waldenses) have continued to display from so many centuries, than by ascribing it to the manifest inter positions of Providence, which has chosen in them, the weak things of this world, to confound the things that are mighty.” Gilly, Excursions to Piedmont, p. 259.

Jonathon Edwards, 1703-1758, a scholar in Latin, Greek and Hebrew wrote of the Waldenses: 

“Some of the popish writers themselves own that the people never submitted to the Church of Rome. One of the popish writers, speaking of the Waldenses, says, “the heresy of the Waldenses, is the oldest heresy in the world.” It is supposed that this people first betook themselves to this desert, secret place among the mountains, to hide themselves from the severity of the heathen persecutions, which were before Constantine the Great, and thus the woman fled into the wilderness, from the face of the serpent (Rev. 12:6,14). The people being settled there, their posterity continued from age to age, and being, as it were by natural walls, as well as by God’s grace, separated from the rest of the world, they never partook of the overflowing corruption.” Edwards, History of Redemption, period 3, part 4, sect. 2. 

The apostolic Waldenses, those Jewish believers who escaped the destruction of Jerusalem, were among the greatest of all threats to Constantine’s new world order and new religion as their mere existence denied the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and it’s claims to apostolic origin. Modern Catholic writers have tried to ascertain Peter of Waldo, a convert to the Waldensian faith, as the author of the movement in their attempts to maintain their Catholic authority throughout the ages. But Peter of Waldo was brought to faith in the Messiah through the witness of the Waldenses, and then Peter developed his own church and community modeled after the Waldenses. 

“Roman Catholic writers try to evade the apostolic origin of the Waldenses so as to make it appear that the Roman Church is the only Apostolic Church, and that all the others are later novelties. And for this reason, they try to make out that the Waldenses originated with Peter Waldo of the 12th C…. Some Protestants, on this occasion, have fallen into the snare that was set for them…. It is absolutely false that these churches were ever founded by Peter Waldo… it is a pure forgery…. It is not true that Waldo gave this name to the inhabitants of the valleys. They were called Waldenses or Vaudois, before this time, from the valleys in which they dwelt.” Dr. Peter Allix, Ancient Church of Piedmont, p. 192. 

Despite the Roman Catholic attempt to extinguish all evidence of the Messianic Jews that have existed throughout all time, their own records tell of these people that they persecuted. The Council of Verona in 1184 records against the Passaginians. The name comes from the Latin word passagium, meaning “passage,” because of the “wandering, unsettled life of these people.” The Roman Church “hunted them down like wild game.” They were also called “circumcisi.” It was considered heresy to be a Jewish believer in the Messiah and worthy of death. 

“Passagii and Passagini, or the inhabitants of the passes, from the Latin word passagium, is one of the names given by ancient authors to the Waldenses.” Gilly, Waldensian Researches, p. 61. 

“In Lombardy, which was the principal residence of the Italian heretics, there sprung up a singular sect, now, for what reason I cannot tell, by the denomination of Passaginians, and by that of the circumcised. Like the other sects already mentioned, they had the utmost aversion to the dominion and discipline of the church of Rome, but they were at the same time distinguished by two religious tenets which were peculiar to themselves. The first was the notion that the observance of the Law of Moses in everything except the offering of sacrifices was obligatory on all Christianity. In consequence of which they circumcised their followers, abstained from those meats the use of which was prohibited under Mosaic economy, and celebrated the Jewish Sabbath. The second tenet that distinguished this sect was advanced in oppositions to the doctrine of three persons in the divine nature.” Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History, Century 12, part 2, Ch. 5. 

Neander, a German historian born of Jewish parents in 1780, writes of the Messianic Jewish roots of the Passaginians: 

“May not this word (Passaginian) be regarded as an index, pointing to the origin of the sect as one that came… out of intercourse with Palestine (Israel)? May we not suppose that from very ancient times a party of Judaizing Christians had survived of which this sect must be considered an offshoot?” Neander, Church History, p. 404. 

The modern day Messianic Jewish movement teaches that all Jewish believers either gave up the faith in Yeshua and went back to rabbinical Judaism or were assimilated into the pagan gentile Christian church of Rome by the 4th century. This lie was perpetuated by the Roman Catholic Church and is disproved by their own records of Inquisitions. Throughout all time these people have existed and have been a testimony to the eternal Word of Yahweh, and to Yeshua, the living Torah. 

“There still remains the sect of the Pasagini. They teach… that the Old Testament festivals are to be observed, circumcision, distinctions of foods, and in nearly all other matters, save the sacrifices. The Old Testament is to be observed literally as the New; circumcision is to be kept according to the letter.” Gregorius of Bergamo, about 1250. 

“Let those who are not yet acquainted with them, please note how perverse their belief and doctrine are. First, they teach that we should obey the Law of Moses according to the letter; the Sabbath, the circumcision, and the legal precepts still being in force. They also teach that Christ the Son of God, is not equal with God (John 14:28). Furthermore, to increase their error, they condemn and reject all the Church Fathers, and the whole Roman Church.” Bonacurcus, Against the Heretics, 13th C. 

“And these so-called ‘Judaizing Christians’ were none other than the Nazarenes mentioned by Cardinal Humbert… the true Israel of God, who, amid all the persecution through which they had passed, bore the reproach of Christ more than any other Christian party, wandering about as ‘pilgrims and strangers’ to preach the faith of Jesus and the commandments of God.” Andrews and Conradi, History of the Sabbath, p. 547. 

Theodore Beza, 1519-1605, an associate and successor of John Calvin claimed that the Waldensian Scriptures came directly from Judea and was translated into Old Latin by 157 A.D. Beza believed that the community held these Scriptures as early as 120 A.D. The Waldensian Scriptures were definitely older and purer than the Catholic version. The Waldenses not only had the Scriptures in Old Latin, but also in Hebrew and Greek, and translated them into many other languages for the purpose of evangelizing. Their libraries in the Italian Alps which contained many books in Hebrew and Greek, were burned down in the Middle Ages by their Roman Catholic persecutors. They were very literate in the Word of Yahweh during a time when the rest of the world was in the dark ages and the Roman Church banned the Scriptures. There had been scholars outside the Waldensians that wished to translate the Scriptures into the common language of the people, but the Pope, Church Councils and individual bishops prohibited it. The Church of Rome would burn at the stake anyone caught reading or possessing the Scriptures, deeming him or her as a heretic. The majority of Europeans were peasants trapped in a feudal system that considered them to be mere “beasts of the field” and were kept as ignorant and uneducated as possible. Should they have been afforded the opportunity to read and have access to the Scriptures they would have realized the fallacies of the Church of Rome. 

It is interesting to note that several copies of the Book of Matthew written in the original Hebrew language have been discovered in Italy. The most famous version, the DuTillet, has been preserved on microfiche in a museum in Paris. The DuTillet text obviously underlies the Greek text of St. Matthew’s Gospel which is proven by studying the syntax of the language, revealing that it is in the original Hebrew form and not a translation from the Greek. The DuTillet version was taken from the Jews in Rome in 1553, on August 12, at the petition of Pietro Cardinal Caraffa, the Inquisitor General. Pope Julius III had signed a decree banning the Talmud in Rome and anything looking like Hebrew was confiscated from Jewish homes and synagogues. Jean DuTillet, Bishop of France was visiting Rome at the time and noticed the Hebrew manuscript of Matthew among the other confiscated Hebrew manuscripts deposited in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris where it remained as Hebrew MS. # 132. 

In 1927, scholar Hugh Schonfeld wrote the book, An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew’s Gospel, where he proves that the Hebrew text underlies the Greek and that there are several renderings in the Greek that may be due to a misread in the Hebrew original. Schonfeld states his research of the text and comparisons show that the DuTillet text is not a translation of any known Greek or Latin version, and although the paper and ink of the manuscript may date only to the Middle Ages, the text contained on the paper reaches back to the most ancient of times. It is closely related to the Old Syria Aramaic text and it is not evident yet which one came first. 

Numerous ancient church fathers testify that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew: 

Matthew put down the words of the Master in the Hebrew language. Others have translated them as best as possible. Papas, Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, 120 A.D. 

Matthew indeed produced his Gospel written among the Hebrews in their own Hebrew dialect. Iranaeus, Bishop of Lyon, France 120 A.D. 

Matthew had first preached to the Hebrews and when he was about to go to others, he transmitted his Gospel from his native Hebrew language. Eusibius, Bishop of Cesarea, 325 A.D. 

The first Gospel composed in the Hebrew language was written by Matthew for those who came to faith from Judaism. Origen, 200 A.D. 

The Jews have the entire Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew. Epiphanus, 390 A.D. 

The Waldenses were known for their intense study and memorization of the Word of Yahweh. 

“They can say a great part of the Old and New Testaments by heart. They despise the decrees, and the sayings and expositions of holy men, and they only cleave to the text of Scripture…. They say that the doctrine of Christ and his apostles is sufficient to salvation, without any church statutes, and ordinances, that the traditions of the church are no better than the traditions of the Pharisees, and that greater stress is laid on the observation of human traditions than the keeping of the Law of God. “Why do you transgress the Law of God by your traditions?” They condemn all approved ecclesiastical customs which they do not read of in the Gospel, as the observation of Candlemas (Christmas), Palm Sunday, the reconciliation of penitents, the adorations of the cross, of Good Friday. They despise the feast of Easter and all other (Roman) festivals of Christ and the saints, because of their being multiplied to that vast number… and work upon holy days (of the Roman Church) where they can do it without being taken notice of…. They declare themselves to be the apostles’ successor, to have apostolic authority, and the keys of binding and loosing. They hold the Church of Rome to be the Whore of Babylon, and that all who obey her are damned, especially the clergy that are subject to her since the time of Pope Sylvester…. They hold that none of the ordinances of the church that have been introduced since Christ’s ascension ought to be observed, being of no worth; the feasts, the fast, orders, blessings, offices of the church, and the like, they utterly reject.” Peter Allix, Ecclesiastical History of the Ancient Piedmont Church, p. 209, 216, 217, London, 1690. 

These apostolic successors were bold in denouncing the heresies introduced by the Catholic Church. The Waldensians believed that those who submitted to any one of these heresies were submitting to the authority of the Beast. The Protestant Church was considered to be under the rule of Rome as they continued in much of the doctrine invented by the Catholic Church. 

The Key of Truth was a doctrinal book written in the 800’s that gave great detail to the teachings of the persecuted church. It was discovered in 1828 and interpreted by Dr. Coneybeare. These “Jewish” believers were against the use of the cross in worship and religion, calling it a cursed implement, they condemned warfare, rejected the Catholic definition of the Godhead, the Trinity, rejected purgatory, rejected the saints intercession, and were against anything that the Catholic Church invented. 

“They preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, that they believed the church was founded not only upon Jesus Christ, but also upon the apostles and Prophets (Eph. 2: 20), that they baptized by immersions, that they laid on hands for the reception of the Spirit, they not only continued to keep the Passover on the 14th of Nissan, but they also observed the Sabbath and the festival of unleavened bread…. They were probably the remnant of the old Judeo-Christian Church….” Dr. Coneybeare, Key of Truth, Oxford, 1898. 

“Probably the remnant of the old Judeo-Christian church?” The Elohim of Israel is well able to sustain His people throughout the ages. To what purpose would He allow His people, the ones commissioned to be the light to the world, to be thoroughly extinguished by either martyrdom or assimilation? How would the Light of His Word continue without living in a people to preserve it? The Apostolic writings record the foundations of the church being laid by Jewish evangelists, Jewish missionaries, Jewish pastors, Jewish teachers, and Jewish prophets. The Jews were the ones entrusted with the Word of Yahweh and the message of salvation. The true congregation in the wilderness exhibited the same Jewish love and appreciation of the Scriptures. It had been their focus to study and learn the Scriptures, to painstakingly and accurately preserve and to translate the Scriptures into other languages to evangelize the nations. They sought to uphold the understanding and obedience to the Scriptures as their Hebrew ancestors had for thousands of years. 

The Dominican monk, Reinerus, ca.1230, says of the Waldenses: 

“The heretics have more schools than the theologians and more auditors; they hold public disputations and convoke the people to solemn discussions…. They have translated the Old and New Testaments into other tongues. I myself have seen and heard a clownish layman who could repeat the whole of the book of Job by heart and many who were perfectly acquainted with the whole of the New Testament. They reject whatever is not demonstrated by a text in the New Testament.” W.A. Jarrel, Baptist Church Perpetuity, p. 271-262, 1894. 

Investigators made a report to Louis XII, the king of France (reigned 1498-1516) 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 viewed the Roman Catholic Church as the Babylonian Whore and the papal rule as the Antichrist. They saw the Romanish system as a counterfeit of the true assembly of Yahweh. The “mark of the beast” was literally the stamp of authority of the Roman Catholic church in mandating a change from the 7th day Scriptural Sabbath to the 1st day of the week Sunday Sabbath. It was this switching of the Sabbath that affected buying and selling and had forced the Jewish believers into the wilderness and out of the world’s economy. The Roman Catholic Church still proudly and arrogantly boasts today of how they changed the Sabbath, not according to any Scriptural mandate, but because they had the power to do so. 

“The Waldenses were often accused of the heresy of Manichaeism, a teaching of “dualism”, that there is a battle between good and evil forces; they taught that, since there were two forces at odds in the universe (good and evil), that the devil had his own church, bible, preachers, ministers, apostles, and congregations (2 Cor. 11:1-4).” Peter Ruckman, The History of the N.T. Church, 2 Volumes, 1982. 

In 1551 at the University of Paris, “The faculty of Theology at Paris declared before the assembled parliament that ‘religion was undone, if the study of Greek and Hebrew was permitted.’” Also, Conrad of Heresback writes in the 16th C. concerning a monk who says, “they (the Waldenses) have invented a new language, which they call Greek; you must be carefully on your guard against it, it is the mother of all heresy. I observe in the hands of many persons a book written in that language, which they call the New Testament. It is a book of daggers and poison. As to the Hebrew, my dear brethren, it is certain that all those who learn it immediately become Jews.” William Jones, History of the Waldenses, Vol. 2, p. 285. 

It is obvious by these quotes that the monks knew no Greek, no Hebrew and considered anything “biblical” to be ancient heresy. Also, the Waldenses apparently had many Greek New Testaments and the Scriptures in Hebrew. 

“No people of modern times exhibit so much analogy with the ancient Jewish people as the Vaudois (Waldenses) of the Alps of the Piedmont. No history has more abounded in marvels than theirs, and no church has abounded more in martyrs than theirs.” Alexis Muston, Israel of the Alps. 

For over 1000 years the Waldenses lived in Northern Italy (Piedmont). Some spread across the near border into Southern France, and some even went into Spain, until heavy persecution in the late 13th century drove the few survivors into Northern Germany-Switzerland, Holland, and Bohemia-Moravia-Austria. These Waldenses always lived in their own communities, had their own distinctive simple dress (they often wore gray or black, and avoided being ostentatious), had their own distinct language, were proficient in the knowledge of the Scriptures in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and their own language, required their children to memorize long portions of Scripture, and sent out missionaries as traveling salesmen-peddlers to minister to people who were open to the truth. 

While they were usually called Waldenses or Pasagini in Italy, their enemies began to call them by new names. The Waldenses in Holland were called Lollards in the 1300’s. “Lollard” comes from the Flemish word lollen or lullen, which means to mumble or speak softly. The Waldenses in Holland gained this name from outsiders as a result of the habit they practiced of memorizing and repeating the Scriptures to themselves and others in a mumbling sort of way. By the 1500’s, they were called Mennonites after Menno Simmons, a convert to the movement, who became a strong leader and coordinator among the Waldensian congregations in Holland. The Waldenses in Moravia-Bohemia were soon called Picards, and by the 1500’s they were called Hutterites, after Jakob Hutter, a convert, who successfully organized the people into communities where they shared all things in common, including material possessions. According to Mennonite history, the Austrian government in May 1529 seized Jakob Hutter’s establishment because they had heard news of a “synagogue” forming. He was reported to have been seen baptizing ten men in a river. A few years later, Jakob Hutter became a martyr in the faith. (The Mennonite Encyclopedia, The Mennonite Publishing House, 1972). The Waldensians that fled into Switzerland were called Amish by the 1700’s, after Joseph Amman, a major leader and organizer among the Swiss Community. 

The Waldenses were also called Anabaptists because from the beginning they rejected the Catholic notion of infant baptism, declaring it invalid and stating that those recipients would need to be baptized again as adults. According to Thomas Armitage in his, A History of the Baptist, 1886, Anabaptism was not a 16th Century invention; it was already listed among the two or three heresies subject to the highest penalties in the 6th C. under the civil law code of Justinian. 

Ana means to do again, but in reality the “Anabaptists” did not baptize twice. More correctly, they should have been called Catabaptists, which means, “one who submerges.” All Catholic and Protestant baptisms then involved sprinkling water on infants. 

Today’s history books date the Anabaptist movement as having originated in the 1600’s, but earlier records show the antiquity of the movement. It also appears that many of today’s Anabaptists- Mennonites would rather assimilate into the Protestant Movement and avoid as much persecution as possible unlike their ancestors who were willing to die for their faith. They have become ashamed of the Elohim of Israel who has sustained and preserved His people for thousands of years, and many have forgotten the very Commandments that separated them from the pagan Christianity of Rome. 

“Before the rise of Calvin and Luther there lay secreted in almost all of the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of modern Dutch Baptists…. The origin of the denomination called Anabaptists, is hid in the remote depths of antiquity…. The Anabaptists not only consider themselves descendants of the Waldenses, who were so grievously oppressed and persecuted by the despotic heads of the Romanish Church, but pretend moreover, to be the purest offspring of respectable sufferers, being equally exposed to all principles of rebellion on one hand, and all suggestions of fanaticism on the other.” Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptist, p. 304, 1886. 

Ulrich Zwingli a reformer (1484-1531) says, “The institution of the Anabaptists is no novelty, but for 1300 years has caused great disturbance in the church, and has acquired such a strength that the attempt in this age to contend with it appears futile for a time.” 

The King of Holland hired Dr. Ypeij and Reverend J.J. Dermout, and gave them a royal commission to prepare a history of the Dutch Reformed Church to present unto the King. In the official document, they state: 

“We have now seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses and have long in the history of the church, received the honor of that origin. On this account, the Baptists may be considered the only Christian Community which has stood since the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrine of the gospel throughout the ages…. The Mennonites are descended from the tolerably pure evangelical Waldenses, who were driven by persecution into various countries, and who during the latter part of the 13th C. fled into Flanders, and into the provinces of Holland and Zealand, where they lived simple and exemplary lives, in the village as farmers, in the towns by trades, free from the charge of any gross immoralities, and professing the most pure and simple principles which they exemplified in a holy conversation. They were in existence long before the reformed church of the Netherlands.” Dr. Ypeij and Rev. J.J. Dermout, History of the Dutch Reformed Church, Vol. 1, 1819. 

“The origin of the sect, who from their repetition of baptism received in other communities, are called Anabaptists, but are also denominated Mennonites, from the celebrated man to whom they owe a large share of their present prosperity, is involved in much obscurity (or is “hidden in the remote depths of antiquity” as another translation puts it)…. The modern Mennonites affirm that their predecessors were the descendants of the Waldenses.” Mosheim, Institute of Ecclesiastical History, p. 200, 1755. 

Roman Catholic Van Gent writes in a letter in the year 1521: 

“I am dealing with the Mennonites or Anabaptists, who pride themselves as having apostolic succession, that is, the mission and the extraction from the apostles, who claim that the true Church is found no where, except among themselves alone and their congregations, with them alone remains the true understanding of the Scriptures. If one charges them with the newness of their sect, they claim that the “true church” during the domain of the Catholic Church was hidden in her (the Mennonites).” Cramer and Pyper, Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica VII, p. 50. 

Venema, a Dutch theologian and scholar quotes: 

“The immediate origin of the Mennonites is, in my judgment, more justly to be traced to the Waldensians and to those of the Anabaptists who wished a renewal of the innocence and purity of the primitive church, and that the reformation of the church should be carried farther than Luther and Calvin had arranged it. The Waldensians, apart from the question as to the origin of Christ’s human nature, in the chief articles had in almost all things like view with the Mennonites, as is evident from their history as I stated, it in the 12th C…. To find other sources as the source of Mennonism is needless, much less those invidious ones, placing them in fellowship with the men of Munster, and other like fanatics. From these they cleared themselves, both in old time and now, and through a long space of years have so vindicated and justified themselves, in life and institutions, that longer to confound them with that class can be done only by notable injustice and gravest insult…. In Holland where Anabaptists grew, the Waldenses were held to be the first propagandists of Anabaptist views on Holland soil. Also some of the oldest Mennonite families in Holland had names of Waldensian origin and claimed to be progeny of such exiled fathers.” William R. Williams, Lecture on Baptist History, p. 127-128. 

William R. Williams also recorded that in the 16th century the Anabaptists-Mennonites continued to use the same ancient Swiss- German Scriptures brought by Waldensian influences. 

Various historians have been able to make the connection between the Anabaptist-Mennonites and their ancestors who were known as Waldenses. 

“To speak my mind freely, if their (Waldensian) opinions and customs were to be examined without prejudice, it would appear that among all the modern sects of Christians, they had the greatest resemblance to that of the Mennonites or Dutch Baptists.” Limborch, The History of the Inquisition, London, 1731. 

“It is a curious and instructive fact that the Anabaptist churches of the Reformation period were most numerous precisely where the Waldenses of a century or two previous had most flourished, and where their identity as Waldenses had been lost…. That there was intimate relation between the two movements few doubt who have studied this period and it’s literature. The torch of truth was handed on from generation to generation, and though it was often smoldered and was even apparently extinguished, it needed but a breath to blaze up again and give light to all mankind.” Henry Vedder, A Short History of Baptists, p. 128, 1907. 

“Bohemia was once the headquarters of those Waldenses who had been driven from the valleys by persecution. Later it became the main head quarters for the Swiss Baptists, namely Hutterites (Mennonites).” Peter Ruckman, History of the N.T. Church I, p. 407. 

The Scriptural Sabbath practice of the Waldenses in the Italian Alps continued among the Anabaptists in the 16th century. 

Erasmus (1466-1536) wrote of the Sabbatarians in Bohemia early in the Reformation: 

“Descendants of the Waldenses in Bohemia and Holland formed material for Sabbath keeping churches, which appeared with the dawn of the Reformation.” Andre Dugger and Clarence Dodd, The History of True Religion, p. 196, 1968, Jerusalem. 

“Already around the year 1530, Sabbatarians emerged in Bohemia who, ‘regarded the Sabbath rest with such painstaking accuracy that they would not even remove something accidentally caught in the eye in this day’. Sabbatarians or Judaizers also arose soon thereafter in Silesia, Poland and Russia; in the latter where they were frequently confused with the Jews in the second half of this century and remain until today. We meet similar sects around 1545 among the Quakers in England. Several leaders and preachers of the Puritans imbued with the Old Testament spirit, likewise, raise the issue of reinstating the day of rest from Sunday to Saturday, and even demanded that the Law of the Old Testament be recognized as the law of the State. The Christian Jews, who emigrated in the year 1661, partially to Germany, and established themselves in the proximity of Heidelberg, likewise emerged in England and probably believed in Jesus, whom they admired as Redeemer. However, they celebrated the Sabbath and observed the food-laws of the Old Testament and even the rite of circumcision.” Dr. Samuel Kohn, Chief Rabbi of Budapest, Hungary, Sabbatarians in Transylvania, 1894. 

Rabbi Kohn also described in his book the hymnal used by the Sabbatarians in Transylvania in the late 1500’s, a hymnal which consisted of 102 hymns; 44 for Sabbath, 5 for New Moon, 11 for Passover and Unleavened Bread, 6 for the Feasts of Weeks, 6 for Tabernacles, 3 for the New Year, 1 for Atonement, and 26 for everyday purposes. Kohn also noted how these same believers lived the original and true Christianity from Judea, in that they accepted and practiced Jewish religious customs and statutes which the Old Testament prescribes and were observed by original Christianity, the Nazarenes, but were later discarded by the gentile Church. 

“The Anabaptists not only rejected the traditional feast days as Catholic inventions, but also advanced strange views concerning Sunday. Anabaptists in Franconia, Thuringia, the Tirol and SW Germany, and the Hutterites (Mennonites) maintained that there was no difference between Sunday and the other days of the week.” Closue, Anabaptism, p. 148. 

That is to say that the Anabaptist-Mennonites did not believe there was a Scriptural mandate to respect Sunday as the Sabbath; they felt no need to abstain from work on that day. “They who maintain the Saturday Sabbath to be in force, comply with the Anabaptists.” Dr. Francis White, Treatise on the 7th Day, p. 132. 

This quote meant that many, if not all, of the Anabaptists of the Reformation period observed the Scriptural Sabbath. 

Sadly today, many Mennonite-Hutterite-Amish communities have forgotten the Scriptural Sabbath, probably because of the history of the many Sunday laws in various countries prohibiting work and business operations on the first day of the week upon penalty of prison, costly fines, and in some places, death. These laws concerning the observation of Sunday as the Sabbath were strictly enforced even among the New England colonies in early America, so much so that “Sabbath” police would knock on doors to ensure that all inhabitants were attending a Sunday service. One man found chopping firewood on Sunday as the weather had suddenly chilled was fined a years wages. Throughout Europe in the 17th century many states imposed mandatory church attendance also. Often Sabbatarians would send one member of the family to the state church as a token. There were also severe laws banning the Scriptural 7th day observance, leaving observant Sabbatarians to worship in secret. Contemporary Mennonite scholar Daniel Liechty has written on the history of Anabaptists and upon his research became a Sabbatarian himself. He has written on how the principle and practice of the 7th day Sabbath keeping was renewed and accepted in the earliest years of the Reformation by the Anabaptists-Mennonites. 

There are few historians today that have thought to compare the commonalities between the Anabaptists, the original Nazarenes from Judea, the physical and spiritual descendants of the apostolic Jewish believers, with their contemporary traditional rabbinical Jewish counterpart, the Jews of Europe. 

“In an essay published in the same year as Sorkin’s comments about context and comparison, Daphne Winland argued that there are parallel structures in modern Mennonite and Jewish historiographies and sociologies. This observation begs a further question: can we find parallel structures in Anabaptist and Jewish history and society? To consider comparative questions like this one seriously is the best antidote to the perpetuation of a patriarchal vision in Mennonite studies…. The 16th C. was a period of sudden and traumatic reorientation of Jewish and Christian cultures…. Jewish and Anabaptists contemporaries suffered and reacted in similar ways to similar pressures….” Michael Driedger, Crossing Max Weber’s Great Divide: Comparing Early Modern Jewish and Anabaptist Histories, 1999. 

Anabaptists and Jews shared in physical and verbal persecution and among Protestants and Catholics was the belief that they were in league together…. “The suspicion rose in all quarters that the Anabaptists were so thoroughly contaminated by Judaism that they now denied the validity of the sacraments of the New Testament.” Heiko A. Oberman, The Roots of Anti-Semitism; in the Age of Renaissance and Reformation, 1984. 

Martin Luther states, “Thus all other religious tendencies act, aside from the true doctrine of Scriptures, as Mohammed of the Turks, the Talmud of the Jews, as also our Anabaptists, are almost the same; all forsake and abandon the true works and life God’s Word requires and urges…” Luther goes on to state, “the fanatical revilers of the sacrament (Anabaptists) were for all practical purposes indistinguishable from the Jews…” Luther writes Against the Sabbatarians in 1538 and accuses the Anabaptists of circumcision and partaking in Jewish ritual. 

Luther was less tolerant of the Anabaptists than Jews since they “insinuate themselves upon the church and at the same time refuse to submit to its authority…” Luther also signed a memo in 1536 assessing the death penalty to all Anabaptists. 8th Sunday After Trinity, Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. 4. 

(Reader take note of the language and sincerity of Martin Luther. He genuinely believed that the Anabaptists were against, “the true works and life God’s Word requires and urges.” See John 16:2.) 

According to Martin Luther’s comments, the Anabaptists-Mennonites were in all ways exhibiting a Jewish lifestyle, again showing that there have been Messianic Jews (Nazarenes) throughout all history. The Mennonites were at odds with Luther because he taught Sola Fide (justification by faith alone). The Anabaptists-Mennonites were considered a threat to the Reformation because they rejected the central Reformation tenets and believed that, as a result of faith in the grace of Yahweh, a set-apart lifestyle was the expected consequence. The majority of Anabaptists believed that the life and teachings of Messiah were a literal rule to live by and they were opposed to the Christianity which taught the Messiah only as a Savior. The Anabaptists did not uphold the so called “Pauline teaching” of grace without works; that is, a life without set- apartness. 

(“One of the curiosities as well as a distinction of our Anabaptist- Mennonite past is in regard to the teaching about a truly converted life. Menno Simons, and Anabaptists generally, did not accept Martin Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone. They saw that doctrine as an impediment to the true doctrine of a living faith which results in works and detected a tendency toward antinomianism (lawlessness) in the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith. Even now, critics of Anabaptists and Menno Simons point to this distinction with suspicion, suggesting that it leaves people to devise a righteousness of their own based on Law. Nevertheless, Menno Simons believed that works do justify and were the proof of a truly converted life.

The Anabaptists who greatly voiced their beliefs during the Reformation were, however, not a product of the Reformation, but a long succession of the apostolic community that existed before the Church of Rome. 

“We shall afterwards show that the rise of the Anabaptists took place prior to the reformation of the Church of England, and there are also reasons for believing that on the continent of Europe, small hidden Christian societies who have held many of the opinions of the Anabaptists, have existed from the time of the apostles. In the sense of the direct transmission of divine truth, and the true nature of spiritual religion, it seems probably that these churches have a lineage or succession more ancient than that of the Roman Church.” Robert Barclay, The Innerlife of the Societies of the Commonwealth, p. 11-12, 1876. 

Although the names that their enemies called them by had changed, they did not cease to exist as a people and continued in the traditions of their forefathers who were known as Waldensians. 

“The Anabaptists continued observing many of the same external points as the Waldensians, such as they viewed the Old Testament of great importance, retained the Waldensian translations of the Bible, which had the epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans, continued to worship using the same forms of prayers and hymns, the same observations of the (Passover) once a year, the same view towards congregation buildings free from idols and crosses, simple plain dress… all showing that the 16th C. Anabaptists descended from the Waldensians.” John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, Vol. I Ch. 7 and 8. 

“Of the Baptists (Anabaptists) it may be said that they are not reformers. These people are entirely distinct and independent of the Roman and Greek churches and have an unbroken continuity from the apostolic days down through the centuries. Throughout this long period, they were bitterly persecuted for heresy, driven from country to country, disfranchised, deprived of their property, imprisoned, tortured, and slain by the 1000’s, yet they swerved not from the New Testament faith, doctrine, and adherence.” W.C. King, Crossing the Centuries, 1912. 

“If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and boldness of which a man of any sect shows suffering, then the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and more sure than the Anabaptists since there have been none for these 1200 years past, that have cheerfully and steadfastly undergone, and even offered themselves to the most cruel sorts of punishment than these people…. Were it not that the Baptists (Anabaptists) have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past 1200 years, they would swarm in greater numbers than all the reformers.” Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius, 1504-1579. 

And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth (Rev. 12:16). Time and again, the Elohim of the true Israel would preserve His people, most often by hiding them in obscure places. 

Ancient church historians and popes have by their own confessions admitted that Jewish followers of the Messiah have existed in communities throughout the centuries maintaining the doctrine and lifestyle of the apostolic congregation of Judea. This “woman” was hidden in the “wilderness” when she obeyed the Messiah’s warning to flee Jerusalem before the coming destruction. For over 1200 years she was kept until the enemy’s fury was unleashed again and the Church of Rome attacked and massacred the majority of Waldenses in the Italian Alps during the 13th Century. The remnants escaped into Holland, Austria-Hungary, and Switzerland… the very area in which the Anabaptist-Mennonites of the Reformation period were found… in effect where the Nazarene-Waldenses had reappeared. 

Our Mennonite brethren have generally held themselves to be a product of the Protestant Reformation. Yet these quotations prove that our roots go back much further – to the Waldensians – and ultimately to the Nazarenes of Pella and Acts 24:5. In actual fact, the Mennonite people have been assimilated into Protestantism, the very movement from which they originally kept themselves aloof. Hence, we no longer see ourselves as the “Woman in the Wilderness”, but rather as pillars in the established religious community. Those of us who would like to deny this rather obvious condition should ask themselves two very simple questions: “How do we differ from mainstream Christianity?” and, “In what way are we persecuted today?”. A third question would be, “In what way do we feel connected with the Nazarene-Waldensians of the past?”. The honest answer is that, as profound as it is, we have lost touch with our true history and identity. 

Acknowledgments

Abraham Rempel would like to thank Colleen Hellesvig for her research and compilation in the making of this booklet. Her prayer is that “Our people will understand where they have come from and pick up the torch their ancestors carried.” May Yahuah, the Elohim of Israel, answer her prayer mightily. 

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By Abraham