The Waldensians and Their Scandalous Book

This being Good Friday, let’s remember one thing: the only book that is truly a ‘treasure’ is the one that God has written. And He has written it just for you. It is the only book ever written with a message that can save you! I’ve loved so many books over the years, and still do: all the great classics; they are all my favorites. But I’ve never once found–nor expected to find–salvation in any of them. No, no! The Word of God stands alone in this. Trade everything else you have for this one! Empty your shelves if you must, but lay hold of this treasure and don’t let go:

“Thy Word is a light unto my path and a lamp unto my feet.” Psalm 119:105

I read the most interesting thing about the Bibles of those faithful, sweet-hearted Waldensians. Never heard of the Waldensians? Oh, you need to look into it! Long before Luther and Knox and the Reformation proper–about 300 years before, as a matter of fact!–these dear people were experiencing a ‘Reformation’ of their own. They had pulled away from the evils of a corrupt church to worship on their own in the spirit of the Scriptures. They weren’t trying to start a ‘movement’. They had no plans to force their views on all the world. They just wanted to be left alone to live and worship in peace among themselves. They did so, quietly, in Lyons, France for quite a while. Later they moved up into the Alps of southern France and northern Italy. But that didn’t stop the powers-that-be from viciously hunting them down and persecuting them; almost completely wiping them out.

Oh, but I was going to tell you about their Bibles. Yes. Perhaps 150 years before Wycliffe and others began translating the Bible into common tongues for the common man to read, the Waldensians had already done it. It was a controversial thing to do. It was one of the reasons why they were hounded so. The hierarchies of the church had strictly forbidden translations of any kind. The only sanctioned translation of the Bible was the Latin one, which only priests and scholars could understand. The common, ordinary Christian was not allowed to carry a Bible. In fact, Bibles in many of the cathedrals around Europe were chained to their pulpits and padlocked shut, and only the priests and the elite had the key.

But every Waldensian carried his Bible! It was only a New Testament actually, translated into the Romaunt tongue: the common language of Southern Europe back in Medieval times. Romaunt was the language of troubadours, poets, authors and playwrights and so, of course it was a great scandal.

Though there must have been hundreds–perhaps thousands–of these scandalous books at one time, there are now only six of them left in the world. They say there is a copy in Dublin, Lyon, Grenoble and Zurich and two copies in a museum in Paris. The scarcity of them today has only one explanation: these people wore them out!

Waldensian Bibles were humble little things. J. A. Wylie describes them well in his wonderful work, The History of the Waldensians.

“These were small, plain, portable volumes, contrasting with those splendid and ponderous folios of the Latin Vulgate, which were penned in characters of gold and silver, richly illuminated, their bindings decorated with gems, inviting admiration rather than study, and unfitted by their size and splendor for the use of the people.”

J.A. Wylie The History of the Waldensians, Cassell and Company, London 1860, p 15

“Small…plain…portable volumes…” Don’t you love it? Especially the ‘portable’ part!

You can tell an awful lot about a people, just by looking at their Bibles.

He is Risen! RAS

Categories: Books and Literature

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