Early Bibles and the History of the Waldenses and John Calvin

Source: the book Which Bible?
Published: 1930 Author: Benjamin G. Wilkinson



The Bible Adopted by Constantine and the Pure Bible of the Waldenses

Constantine became emperor of Rome in 312 A.D. A little later he embraced the Christian faith for himself and for his empire. As this so-called first Christian emperor took the reins of the civil and spiritual world to bring about the amalgamation of paganism and Christianity, he found three types of manuscripts, or Bibles, vying for supremacy: the Textus Receptus1 or Constantinopolitan, the Palestinian or Eusebio-Origen, and the Egyptian or Hesychian.2 The adherents of each claimed superiority for their manuscript. Particularly was there earnest contention between the advocates of the Textus Receptus and those of the Eusebio-Origen text.3 The defenders of the Textus Receptus were of the humbler class who earnestly sought to follow the early church. The Eusebio-Origen text was the product of the intermingling of the pure Word of God and Greek philosophy in the mind of Origen. It might be called the adaptation of the Word of God to Gnosticism.

As the Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity, it became necessary for him to choose which of these Bibles he would sanction. Quite naturally he preferred the one edited by Eusebius and written by Origen, the outstanding intellectual figure that had combined Christianity with Gnosticism in his philosophy, even as Constantine himself was the political genius that was seeking to unite Christianity with pagan Rome. Constantine regarded himself as the director and guardian of this anomalous world church, the director and guardian of this anomalous world church, and as such he was responsible for selecting the Bible for the great Christian centers. His predilection was for the type of Bible whose readings would give him a basis for his imperialistic ideas of the great state church, with ritualistic ostentation and unlimited central power. The philosophy of Origen was well suited to serve Constantine’s religio-political theocracy.

It is evident that the so-called Christian Emperor gave to the Papacy his endorsement of the Eusebio-Origen Bible. It was from this type of manuscript that Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate which became the authorized Catholic Bible for all time.

The Latin Vulgate, the Sinaiticus, the Vaticanus, the Hexapla, Jerome, Eusebius, and Origen, are terms for ideas that are inseparable in the minds of those who know. The type of Bible selected by Constantine has held the dominating influence at all times in the history of the Catholic Church. This Bible was different from the Bible of the Waldenses, and, as a result of this difference, the Waldenses were the object of hatred and cruel persecution, as we shall now show. In studying this history, we shall see how it was possible for the pure manuscripts, not only to live, but actually to gain the ascendancy in the face of powerful opposition.

A Channel of Communication from the Churches in Judea Carried Pure Manuscripts to the Primitive Christians in Western Lands

Attentive observers have repeatedly been astonished at the unusual phenomenon exhibited in the meteoric history of the Bible adopted by Constantine. Written in Greek, it was disseminated at a time when Bibles were scarce, owing to the unbridled fury of the pagan emperor, Diocletian. We should naturally think that it would therefore continue long. Such was not the case.

The echo of Diocletian’s warfare against the Christians had hardly subsided, when Constantine assumed the imperial purple. Even as far as Great Britain, that far had the rage of Diocletian penetrated. One would naturally suppose that the Bible which had received the promotion of Constantine, especially when disseminated by that who was the first to show favor to that religion of Jesus, would rapidly have spread everywhere in those days when imperial favor meant everything. The truth is, the opposite was the outcome. It flourished for a short space. The span of one generation sufficed to see it disappear from popular use as if it had been struck by some invisible and withering blast. We turn with amazement to discover the reason for this phenomenon.

This chapter will show that the Textus Receptus was the Bible in use in the Greek Empire, in the countries of Syrian Christianity, in northern Italy, in southern France, and in the British Isles in the second century. This was a full century and more before the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus saw the light of day.4 When the apostles of the Roman Catholic Church entered these countries in later centuries they found the people using the Textus Receptus; and it was not without difficulty and a struggle that they were able to displace it with their Latin Vulgate. This chapter will likewise show that the Textus Receptus belongs to the type of these early apostolic manuscripts that were brought from Judea, and its claim to priority over the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus will be established.

Early Greek Christianity – Which Bible?

First of all, the Textus Receptus was the Bible of early Eastern Christianity. Later it was adopted as the official text of the Greek Catholic Church. There were local reasons which contributed to this result. But, probably, far greater reasons will be found in the fact that the Received Text had authority enough to become, either in itself or by its translation, the Bible of the great Syrian Church; of the Waldensian Church of northern Italy; of the Gallic Church in southern France; and of the Celtic Church in Scotland and Ireland; as well as the official Bible of the Greek Catholic Church. All these churches, some earlier, some later, were in opposition to the Church of Rome and at a time when the Received Text and these Bibles of the Constantine type were rivals. They, as represented in their descendants, are rivals to this day. The Church of Rome built on the Eusebio-Origen type of Bible; these others built on the Received Text. Therefore, because they themselves believed that the Received Text was the true apostolic Bible, and further, because the Church of Rome arrogated to itself the power to choose a Bible which bore the marks of systematic depravation, we have the testimony of these five churches to the authenticity and the apostolicity of the Received Text. The following quotation from Dr. Hort is to prove that the Received Text was the Greek New Testament of the East. Note that Dr. Hort always calls it the Constantinopolitan or Antiochian text:

"It is no wonder that the traditional Constantinopolitan text, whether formally official or not, was the Antiochian text of the fourth century. It was equally natural that the text recognized at Constantinople should eventually become in practice the standard New Testament of the East."5

Early Syrian Christianity – Which Bible?

It was at Antioch, capital of Syria, that the believers were first called Christians. And as time rolled on, the Syrian-speaking Christians could be numbered by the thousands. It is generally admitted that the Bible was translated from the original languages into Syrian about 150 A.D.6 This version is known as the Peshitto (the correct or simple). This Bible even today generally follows the Received Text.7

One authority tells us this – "The Peshitto in our days is found in use amongst the Nestorians, who have always kept it, by the Monophysites on the plains of Syria, the Christians of St. Thomas in Malabar, and by the Maronites, on the mountain terraces of Lebanon.8

Having presented the fact that the Bible of early Greek Christianity and early Syrian Christianity was not of the Eusebio-Origen or Vaticanus type, but the Received Text, we shall now show that the early Bible of northern Italy, of southern France, and of Great Britain was also the Received Text.

The type of Christianity which first was favored, then raised to leadership by Constantine was that of the Roman Papacy. But this was not the type of Christianity that first penetrated Syria, northern Italy, southern France, and Great Britain.9 The ancient records of the first believers in Christ in those parts disclose a Christianity which is not Roman but apostolic. These lands were first penetrated by missionaries, not from Rome, but from Palestine and Asia Minor. And the Greek New Testament, the Received Text they brought with them, or its translation was of the type from which the Protestant Bibles, such as the King James in English, and the Lutheran in German, were translated. We shall presently see that it differed greatly from the Eusebio-Origen Greek New Testament.

Early England – Which Bible

Onward then pushed those heroic bands of evangelists to England, to southern France, and northern Italy. The Mediterranean was like the trunk of a tree with branches running out to these parts, the roots of the tree being in Judea or Asia Minor, from whence the sap flowed westward to fertilize the distant lands. History does not possess any record of heroism superior to the sacrifices and sufferings of the early Christians in the pagan West. The first believers of ancient Britain nobly held their ground when the pagan Anglo-Saxons descended on the land like a flood. Dean Stanley holds it against Augustine, the missionary sent by the Pope in 596 A.D. to convert England, that he treated with contempt the early Christian Britons.10 Yes, more, he connived with the Anglo-Saxons in their frightful extermination of that pious people. And after Augustine’s death, when those same pagan Anglo-Saxons so terrified the papal leaders in England that they fled back to Rome, it was the British Christians of Scotland who occupied the forsaken fields. It is evident from this that British Christianity did not come from Rome. Furthermore, Dr. Adam Clarke claims that the examination of Irish customs reveals that they have elements which were imported into Ireland from Asia Minor by early Christians.11

Since Italy, France, and Great Britain were once provinces of the Roman Empire, the first translations of the Bible by the early Christians in those parts were made into Latin. The early Latin translations were very dear to the hearts of these primitive churches, and as Rome did not send any missionaries toward the West before 250 A.D., the early Latin Bibles were well established before these churches came into conflict with Rome. Not only were such translations in existence long before the Vulgate was adopted by the Papacy, and well established, but the people for centuries refused to supplant their old Latin Bibles by the Vulgate. "The old Latin versions were used longest by the western Christians who would not bow to the authority of Rome – e.g., the Donatists; the Irish in Ireland, Britain, and the Continent; the Albigenses, etc."12

God in His wisdom had invented these Latin versions by His Providence with a charm that outweighed the learned artificiality of Jerome’s Vulgate. This is why they persisted through the centuries. A characteristic often overlooked in considering versions, and one that cannot be too greatly emphasized, needs to be pointed out in comparing the Latin Bible of the Waldenses, of the Gauls, and of the Celts with the later Vulgate. To bring before you the unusual charm of those Latin Bibles, I quote from the Forum of June, 1887:

"The old Italic version into the rude Low Latin of the second century held its own as long as Latin continued to be the language of the people. The critical version of Jerome never displaced it, and only replaced when the Latin ceased to be a living language, and became the language of the learned. The Gothic version of Ulfilas, in the same way, held its own until the tongue in which it was written ceased to exist. Luther’s Bible was the first genuine beginning of modern German literature. In Germany, as in England, many critical translations have been made, but they have fallen stillborn from the press. The reason of these facts seems to be this: that the languages into which these versions were made, were almost perfectly adapted to express the broad, generic simplicity of the original text. Microscopic accuracy of phrase and classical nicety of expression may be very well for the student in his closet, but they do not represent the human and Divine simplicity of the Scriptures to the man of those for whom the Scriptures were written. To render that, the translator needs not only a simplicity of mind rarely to be found in companies of learned critics, but also a language possessing in some large measure that broad, simple, and generic character which we have seen to belong to the Hebrew and to the Greek of the New Testament. It was partly because the Low Latin of the second century, and the Gothic of Ulfilas, and the rude, strong German of Luther had that character in a remarkable degree, that they were capable of rendering the Scriptures with a faithfulness which guaranteed their permanence."13

For nine hundred years, we are told, the first Latin translations held their own after the Vulgate appeared.14 The Vulgate was born about 380 A.D. Nine hundred years later brings us to about 1280 A.D. This accords well with the fact that at the famous Council of Toulouse, 1229 A.D., the Pope gave orders for the most terrible crusade to be waged against the simple Christians of southern France and northern Italy who would not bow to his power. Cruel, relentless, devastating, this war was waged, destroying the Bibles, books, and every vestige of documents telling the story of the Waldenses and Albigenses.

Since then, some authorities speak of the Waldenses as having their Bible, the Vulgate. We regret to dispute these claims. When we consider that the Waldenses were, so to speak, in their mountain fastnesses, on an island in the midst of a sea of nations using the Vulgate, it is no wonder that they knew and possessed the Vulgate. But the Italic, the earlier Latin, was their own Bible, the one for which they lived and suffered and died. Moreover, to the east was Constantinople, the center of Greek Catholicism, whose Bible was the Received Text; while a little farther east was the noble Syrian Church which also had the Received Text. In touch with these, northern Italy could easily verify her text.

It is clearly evident that the Latin Bible of early British Christianity was not the Latin Bible (Vulgate) of the Papacy. Furthermore, it was at such variance with the Vulgate as to engender strife. The following quotation from Dr. Von Dobschutz will verify these two facts: "When Pope Gregory found some Anglo-Saxon youths at the slave market of Rome and perceived that in the North there was still a pagan nation to be baptized, he sent one of his monks to England, and this monk, who was Saint Augustine, took with him the Bible and introduced it to the Anglo-Saxons, and one of his followers brought with him from Rome pictures showing the Biblical history, and decorated the walls of the church in the monastery of Wearmouth. We do not enter here into the difficult question of the relations between this newly founded Anglo-Saxon church and the old Iro-Scottish church. Differences of Bible text had something to do with the pitiful struggles which arose between the churches and ended in the devastation of the older one."15

Famous in history among all centers of Bible knowledge and Bible Christianity was Iona, on the little island of Hy, off the northwest coast of Scotland. Its most historic figure was Columba. Upon this island rock, God breathed out His Holy Spirit and from this center, to the tribes of northern Europe. When Rome awoke to the necessity of sending out missionaries to extend her power, she found Great Britain and northern Europe already professing a Christianity whose origin could be traced back through Iona to Asia minor. About 600 A.D. Rome sent missionaries to England and to Germany, to bring these simple Bible Christians under her dominion, as much as to subdue the pagans. D'Aubigne has furnished us this picture of Iona and her missions:

"D’Aubigne says that Columba esteemed the cross of Christ higher than the royal blood which flowed in his veins, and that precious manuscripts were brought to Iona, where a theological school was founded and the Word was studied. ‘Ere long a missionary spirit breathed over this ocean rock, so justly named "the light of the Western world." ‘ British missionaries carried the light of the gospel to the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany, yea, even into Italy, and did more for the conversion of central Europe than the half-enslaved Roman Church."16

Early France – Which Bible?

In southern France, when in 177 A.D. the Gallic Christians were frightfully massacred by the heathen, a record of their suffering was drawn up by the survivors and sent, not to the Pope of Rome, but to their brethren in Asia Minor.17 Milman claims that the French received their Christianity from Asia Minor.

These apostolic Christians in southern France were undoubtedly those who gave effective help I carrying the Gospel to Great Britain.18 And as we have seen above, there was a long and bitter struggle between the Bible of the British Christians and the Bible which was brought later to England by the missionaries of Rome. And as there were really only two Bible – the official version of Rome, and the Received Text – we may safely conclude that the Gallic (or French) Bible, as well as the Celtic (or British), were translations based on the Received Text. Neander claims as follows, that the first Christianity in England, came not from Rome, but from Asia Minor, probably through France:

"But the peculiarity of the later British church is evidence against its origin from Rome; for in many ritual matters it departed from the usage of the Romish Church, and agreed much more nearly with the churches of Asia Minor. It withstood, for a log time, the authority of the Romish Papacy. This circumstance would seem to indicate that the Britons had received their Christianity, either immediately, or through Gaul, from Asia Minor – a thing quite possible and easy, by means of the commercial intercourse. The later Anglo-Saxons, who opposed the spirit of ecclesiastical independence among the Britons, and endeavored to establish the church supremacy of Rome, were uniformly inclined to trace back the church establishments to a Roman origin; from which effort many false legends as well as this might have arisen.19

The Waldenses in Northern Italy – Which Bible?

That the messengers of God who carried manuscripts from the churches of Judea to the churches of northern Italy and on, brought to the forerunners of the Waldenses a Bible different from the Bible of Roman Catholicism, I quote the following:

"The method which Allix has pursued, in his History of the Churches of Piedmont, is to show that in the ecclesiastical history of every century, from the fourth century, which he considers a period early enough for the enquirer after apostolical purity of doctrine, there are clear proofs that doctrines, unlike those which the Romish Church holds, and conformable to the belief of the Waldensian and Reformed Churches, were maintained by theologians of the north of Italy down to the period when the Waldenses first came into notice. Consequently the opinions of the Waldenses were not new to Europe in the eleventh or twelfth centuries, and there is nothing improbably in the tradition, that the Subalpine Church persevered in its integrity in an uninterrupted course from the first preaching of the Gospel in the valleys."20

There are many earlier historians who agree with this view (Allix, Leger, Gilly, Comba, Nolan). It is held that the pre-Waldensian Christians of northern Italy could not have had doctrines purer than Rome unless their Bible was purer than Rome’s; that is, their Bible was not of Rome’s falsified manuscripts.21

It is inspiring to bring to life again the outstanding history of an authority on this point. I mean Leger. This noble scholar of Waldensian blood was the apostle of his people in the terrible massacres of 1655, and labored intelligently to preserve their ancient records. His book, the General History of the Evangelical Churches of the Piedmontese Valleys, published in French in 1669, and called "scarce" in 1825, is the prized object of scholarly searchers. It is my good fortune to have that very book before me. Leger, when he calls Olivetan’s French Bible of 1537 "entire and pure," says:

"I say ‘pure’ because all the ancient exemplars, which formerly were found among the Papists, were full of falsifications, which caused Beza to say in his book o Illustrious Men, in the chapter on the Vaudois, that one must confess it was by means of the Vaudois of the Valleys that France today has the Bible in her own language. This godly man, Olivetan, in the preface of his Bible, recognizes with thanks to God, that since the time of the apostles, or their immediate successors, the torch of the gospel has been lit among the Vaudois (or the dwellers in the Valleys of the Alps, two terms which mean the same), and has never since been extinguished."22

The Waldenses of northern Italy were foremost among the primitive Christians of Europe in their resistance of the Papacy. They not only sustained the weight of Rome’s oppression but also they were successful in retaining the torch of truth until the Reformation took it from their hands and held it aloft to the world. Veritably they illustrated the prophecy of Revelation concerning the church which fled into the wilderness where she hath a place prepared of God (Revelation 12:6, 14). They rejected the mysterious doctrines, the hierarchal priesthood and the worldly titles of Rome, while they clung to the simplicity of the Bible.

The agents of the Papacy have done their utmost to calumniate their character, to destroy the records of their noble past, and to leave no trace of the cruel persecution they underwent. They went even further – they made use of words written against ancient heresies to strike out the name of the heretics and fill the blank space by inserting the name of the Waldenses. Just as if, in a book, written to record the lawless deeds of some bandit, like Jesse James, his name should be stricken out and the name of Abraham Lincoln substituted. The Jesuit Gretser in a book written against the heretics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries put the name Waldenses at the point where he struck out the name of these heretics.23

In the fourth century, Helvidius, a great scholar of northern Italy, accused Jerome, whom the Pope had empowered to form a Bible in Latin for Catholicism, with using corrupt Greek manuscripts. How could Helvidius have accused Jerome of employing corrupt Greek manuscripts if Helvidius had not had the pure Greek manuscripts? And so learned and so powerful in writing and teaching was Jovinian, the pupil of Helvidius, that it demanded three of Rome’s most famous fathers – Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose – to unite in opposing Jovinian’s influence. Even then, it needed the condemnation of the Pope and the banishment of the Emperor to prevail. But Jovinian’s followers lived on and made the way easier for Luther.

History does not afford a record of cruelty greater than that manifested by Rome toward the Waldenses. It is impossible to write fully the inspiring history of this persecuted people, whose origin goes back to apostolic days and whose history is ornamented with stories of gripping interest. Rome has obliterated the records. Dr. DeSanctis, many years a Catholic official at Rome, some time official Censor of the Inquisition and later a convert to Protestantism, thus reports the conversation of a Waldensian scholar as he points out to others the ruins of Palatine Hill, Rome:

" ‘See,’ said the Waldensian, ‘a beautiful monument of ecclesiastical antiquity. These rough materials are the ruins of the two great Palatine libraries, one Greek and the other Latin, where the precious manuscripts of our ancestors were collected, and which Pope Gregory I, called the Great, caused to be burned.’ "24

The destruction of Waldensian records beginning about 600 A.D. by Gregory I, was carried through with thoroughness by the secret agents of the Papacy.

"It is a singular thing," says Gilly, "that the destruction or rapine, which has been so fatal to Waldensian documents, should have pursued them even to the place of security, to which all, that remained, were consigned by Morland, in 1658, to the library of the University of Cambridge. The most ancient of these relics were ticketed in seven packets, distinguished by letters of the alphabet, from A to G. The whole of these was missing when I made inquiry for them in 1823. "25

Ancient Documents of the Waldenses

There are modern writers who attempt to fix the beginning of the Waldenses from Peter Waldo, who began his work about 1175. This is a mistake. The historical name of this people as properly derived from the valleys where they lived, is Vaudois. Their enemies, however, ever sought to date their origin from Waldo. Waldo was an agent, evidently raised up of God to combat the errors of Rome. Gilly, who made extensive research concerning the Waldenses, pictures Waldo in his study at Lyon, France, with associates, a committee, "like the translators of our own Authorized Version."26 Nevertheless the history of the Waldenses, or Vaudois, begins centuries before the days of Waldo.

There remains to us in the ancient Waldensian language, "The Noble Lesson" (La Nobla Leycon), written about the year 1100 A.D. which assigns the first opposition of the Waldenses to the Church of Rome to the days of Constantine the Great, when Sylvester was Pope. This may be gathered from the following extract:

"All the popes, which have been from Sylvester to the present time."27

Thus when Christianity, emerging from the long persecutions of pagan Rome, was raised to imperial favor by the Emperor Constantine, the Italic Church in northern Italy –later, the Waldenses – is seen standing in opposition to papal Rome. Their Bible was of the family of the renowned Itala. It was that translation into Latin which represents the Received Text. Its very name, ""Itala," is derived from the Italic district, the regions of the Vaudois. Of the purity and reliability of this version, Augustine, speaking of different Latin Bibles (about 400 A.D.) says:

"Now among translations themselves the Italian (Itala) is to be preferred to the others, for it keeps closer to the words without prejudice to clearness of expression."28

The old Waldensian liturgy which they used in their services down through the centuries contained "texts of Scripture of the ancient Version called the Italick."29

The Reformers held that the Waldensian Church was formed about 120 A.D., from which date on, they passed down from father to son the teachings they received from the apostles.30 The Latin Bible, the Italic, was translated from the Greek not later than 157 A.D.31 We are indebted to Beza, the renowned associate of Calvin, for the statement that the Italic Church dates from 120 A.D. From the illustrious group of scholars which gathered round Beza, 1590 A.D., we may understand how the Received Text was the bond of union between great historic churches.

As the sixteenth century is closing, we see in the beautiful Swiss city of Geneva, Beza, an outstanding champion of Protestantism, the scholar Cyril Lucar, later to become the head of the Greek Catholic Church, and Diodati, also a foremost scholar. As Beza astonishes and confounds the world by restoring manuscripts of that Greek New Testament from which the King James is translated, Diodati takes the same and translates into Italian a new and famous edition, adopted and circulated by the Waldenses.32

Leger, the Waldensian historian of his people, studied under Diodati at Geneva. He returned as pastor to the Waldenses and led them in their flight from the terrible massacre of 1655.33 He prized as his choicest treasure the Diodati Bible, the only worldly possession he was able to preserve. Cyril Lucar hastened to Alexandria where Codex A, the Alexandrian Manuscript,34 was lying, and laid down his life to introduce the Reformation and the Reformers’ pure light regarding the books of the Bible.

At the same time another group of scholars, bitterly hostile to the first group, were gathered at Rheims, France. There the Jesuits, assisted by Rome and backed by all the power of Spain, brought forth an English translation of the Vulgate. In its preface they expressly declared that the Vulgate had been translated in 1300 into Italian and in 1400 into French, "the sooner to shake out of the deceived people’s hands, the false heretical translations of a sect called Waldenses." This proves that Waldensian Versions existed in 1300 and 1400. So the Vulgate was Rome’s corrupt Scriptures against the Received Text; but the Received Text the New Testament of the apostles, of the Waldenses, and of the Reformers.

That Rome in early days corrupted the manuscripts while the Italic Church handed them down in their apostolic purity, Allix, the renowned scholar, testifies. He reports the following as Italic articles of faith: "They receive only, saith he, what is written in the Old and New Testament. They say, that the Popes of Rome, and other priests, have depraved the Scriptures by their doctrines and glosses."35

It is recognized that the Itala was translated from the Received Text (Syrian, Hort calls it); that the Vulgate is the Itala with the readings of the Received Text removed.36

Waldensian Bibles

Four Bibles produced under Waldensian influence touched the history of Calvin: namely, a Greek, a Waldensian vernacular, a French and an Italian. Calvin himself was led to his great work by Olivetan, a Waldensian. Thus was the Reformation brought to Calvin, that brilliant student of the Paris University. Farel, also a Waldensian, besought him to come to Geneva and open up a work there. Calvin felt that he should labor in Paris. According to Leger, Calvin recognized a relationship to the Calvins of the Valley of St. Martin, one of the Waldensian Valleys.37

Finally, persecution at Paris and the solicitation of Farel caused Calvin to settle at Geneva, where, with Beza, he brought out an edition of the Textus Receptus – the one the author now used in his college class rooms, as edited by Scrivener. Of Beza, Dr. Edgar says that he "astonished and confounded the world" with the Greek manuscripts he unearthed. This later edition of the Received Text is in reality a Greek New Testament brought out under Waldensian influence. Unquestionably, the leaders of the Reformation – German, French, and English – were convinced that the Received Text was the genuine New Testament, not only by its own irresistible history and internal evidence, but also because it matched with the Received Text which in Waldensian form came down from the days of the apostles.

The other three Bibles of Waldensian connection were due to three men who were at Geneva with Calvin, or when he died, with Beza, his successor, namely, Olivetan, Leger, and Diodati. How readily the two streams of descent of the Received Text, through the Greek East and the Waldensian West, ran together, is illustrated by the meeting of the Olivetan Bible and the Received Text. Olivetan, one of the most illustrious pastors of the Waldensian Valleys, a relative of Calvin, according to Leger,38 ad a splendid student, translated the New Testament into French. Leger bore testimony that the Olivetan Bible, which accorded with the Textus Receptus, was unlike the old manuscripts of the Papists, because they were full of falsification. Later, Calvin edited a second edition of the Olivetan Bible. The Olivetan in turn became the basis of the Geneva Bible39 in English which was the leading version in England in 1611 when the King James appeared.

Diodati, who succeeded Beza in the chair of Theology at Geneva, translated the Received Text into Italian. This version was adopted by the Waldenses, although there was in use at that time a Waldensian Bible in their own peculiar language. This we know because Sir Samuel Morland, under the protection of Oliver Cromwell, received from Leger the Waldensian New Testament40 which now lies in the Cambridge University library. After the devastating massacre of the Waldenses in 1655, Leger felt that he should collect and give into the hands of Sir Samuel Morland as many pieces of the ancient Waldensian literature as were available.

It is interesting to trace back the Waldensian Bible which Luther had before him when he translated the New Testament. Luther used the Tepl Bible, named from Tepl, Bohemia. This Tepl manuscript represented a translation of the Waldensian Bible into the German which was spoken before the days of the Reformation.41 Of this remarkable manuscript, Comba says:

"When the manuscript of Tepl appeared, the attention of the learned was aroused by the fact that the text it presents corresponds word for word with that of the first three editions of the ancient German Bible. Then Louis Keller, an original writer, with the decided opinions of a layman and versed in the history of the sects of the Middle Ages, declared the Tepl manuscript to be Waldensian. Another writer, Hermann Haupt, who belongs to the old Catholic party, supported his opinion vigorously."42

From Comba we also learn that the Tepl manuscript has an origin different from the version adopted by the Church of Rome; that it seems to agree rather with the Latin versions anterior to Jerome, the author of the Vulgate; and that Luther followed it in his translation, which probably is the reason why the Catholic Church reproved Luther for following the Waldenses.43 Another peculiarity is its small size, which seems to single it out as one of those little books which the Waldensian evangelists carried with them hidden under their rough cloaks.44 We have, therefore, an indication of how much the Reformation under Luther as well as Luther’s Bible owed to the Waldenses.

Waldensian influence, both from the Waldensian Bibles and from Waldensian relationships, entered into the King James translation of 1611. Referring to the King James translators, one author speaks thus of a Waldensian Bible they used: "It is known that among modern versions they consulted was an Italian, and though no name is mentioned, there cannot be room for doubt that it was the elegant translation made with great ability from the original Scriptures by Giovanni Diodati, which had only recently (1607) appeared at Geneva."45

It is therefore evident that the translators of 1611 had before them four Bibles which and come under Waldensian influences: the Diodati in Italian, the Olivetan in French, the Lutheran in German, and the Genevan in English. We have every reason to believe that they had access to at least six Waldensian Bibles written in the old Waldensian vernacular.46

Dr. Nolan, who had already acquired fame for his Greek and Latin scholarship and researches into Egyptian chronology, and was a lecturer of note, spent twenty-eight years to trace back the Received Text to its apostolic origin. He was powerfully impressed to examine the history of the Waldensian Bible. He felt certain that researches in this direction would demonstrate that the Italic New Testament, or the New Testament of those primitive Christians of northern Italy whose lineal descendants the Waldenses were, would turn out to be the Received Text. He says:

"The author perceived, without any labor of inquiry, that it derived its name from that diocese, which has been termed the Italick, as contra-distinguished from the Roman. This is a supposition, which receives a sufficient confirmation from the fact, - that the principal copies of that version have been preserved in that diocese, the metropolitan church of which was situated in Milan. The circumstance is at present mentioned, as the author thence formed a hope, that some remains of the primitive Italick version might be found in the early translations made by the Waldenses, who were the lineal descendants of the Italick Church; and who have asserted their independence against the usurpations of the Church of Rome, and have ever enjoyed the free use of the Scriptures."

"In the search to which these considerations have led the author, his fondest expectations have been fully realized. It has furnished him with abundant proof on that point to which his inquiry was chiefly directed; as it has supplied him with the unequivocal testimony of a truly apostolical branch of the primitive church, that the celebrated text of the heavenly witnesses47 was adopted in the version which prevailed in the Latin Church, previously to the introduction of the modern Vulgate."48

How the Bible Adopted by Constantine Was Set Aside

Where did this Vaudois Church amid the rugged peaks of the Alps secure these uncorrupted manuscripts? In the silent watches of the night, along the lonely paths of Asia Minor where robbers and wild beasts lurked, might have been seen the noble missionaries carrying manuscripts, and verifying documents from the churches in Judea to encourage their struggling brethren under the iron heel of the Papacy. The sacrificing labors of the apostle Paul were bearing fruit. His wise plan to anchor the Gentile churches of Europe to the churches of Judea provided the channel of communications which defeated continually and finally the bewildering pressure of the Papacy. Or, as the learned Scrivener has beautifully put it:

"Wide as is the region which separates Syria from Gaul, there must have been in very early times some remote communication by which the stream of Eastern testimony, or tradition, like another Alpheus, rose up again with fresh strength to irrigate the regions of the distant West."49

We have it now revealed how Constantine’s Hexapla Bible was successfully met. A powerful chain of churches, few in number compared with the manifold congregations of an apostate Christianity, but enriched with the eternal conviction of truth and with able scholars, stretched from Palestine to Scotland. If Rome in her own land was unable to beat down the testimony of apostolic Scriptures, how could she hope, in the Greek-speaking world of the distant and hostile East, to maintain the supremacy of her Greek Bible?

The scriptures of the apostle John and his associates, the traditional text – the Textus Receptus, if you please – arose from the place of humiliation forced on it by Origen’s Bible in the hands of Constantine and became the Received Text of Greek Christianity. And when the Greek East for one thousand years was completely shut off from the Latin West, the noble Waldenses in northern Italy still possessed in Latin the Received Text.

To Christians such as these, preserving apostolic Christianity, the world owes gratitude for the true text of the Bible. It is not true, as the Roman Church claims, that she gave the Bible to the world. What she gave was an impure text, a text with thousands of verses so changed as to make way for her unscriptural doctrines. While upon those who possessed the veritable Word of God, she poured out through long centuries her stream of cruel persecution. Or, in the words of another writer:

"The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation, they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution.… Here for a thousand years, witnesses for the truth maintained the ancient faith…. In a most wonderful manner it (the Word of Truth) was preserved uncorrupted through all the ages of darkness."

The struggle against the Bible adopted by Constantine was won. But another warfare, another plan to deluge the Latin West with a corrupt Latin Bible was preparing. We hasten to see how the world was saved from Jerome and his Origenism.

The two great families of Greek Bibles are well illustrated in the work of that outstanding scholar, Erasmus. Before he gave to the Reformation the New Testament in Greek, he divided all Greek manuscripts into two classes: those which agreed with the Received Text and those which agreed with the Vaticanus manuscript.50

The King James from the Received Text has been the Bible of the English-speaking world for 300 years. This has given the Received Text, and the Bibles translated from it into other tongues, standing and authority. At the same time, it neutralized the dangers of the Catholic manuscripts and the Bibles in other tongues translated from them.


1 The title "Textus Receptus" was first given to the Traditional Text by Elzevir in 1633. In these chapters the name is given to the whole body of documents which preserve substantially the same kind of text.

2 H.B.Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, pp. 76-86

3 Hort, Introduction, p. 138.

4 Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 27.

5 Hort, Introduction, p. 143. See also Burgon, Revision Revised., p. 134

6 Ibid. P. 27, note.

7 Ibid.

8 Burgon and Miller, The Traditional Text. p. 128.

9 T. V. Moore, The Culdee Church, Chapters 3 and 4

10 Stanley, Historic Memorials of Canterbury, pp. 33, 34; quoted in Cathcart, Ancient British and Irish Churches, p. 12.

11 Clarke, Commentary on Matthew, 1:18.

12 Jacobus, Catholic and Protestant Bibles Compared, p. 200, n. 15.

13 Fulton, Forum, June, 1887.

14 Jacobus, Catholic and Protestant Bibles, p. 4

15 Von Dobschutz, The Influence of the Bible on Civilization, pp. 61, 62.

16 J. N. Andrews and L. R. Conradi, History of the Sabbath, pp. 581, 582.

17 See Cathcart, Ancient British and Irish Churches, p. 16.

18 Ibid. p. 17.

19 Neander, History of the Christian Religion and Church, Vol. 1, pp. 85, 86.

20 Gilly, Waldensian Researches, pp. 118, 119.

21 Comba, The Waldenses of Italy, p. 188.

22 Leger, General History of the Vaudois Churches, p. 165.

23 Gilly, Waldensian Researches, p. 8, note.

24 DeSanctis, Popery, Puseyism, Jesuitism, p. 53.

25 Gilly, Waldensian Researches, p. 80.

26 Comba, The Waldenses of Italy, p. 169, note 596.

27 "Que tuit li papa, que foron de Silvestre en tro en aquest." Gilly, Excursions to the Piedmont, Appendix II, p. 10.

28 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Christian Lit. Ed., Vol. II, p. 542

29 Allix, Churches of Piedmont, 1690, p. 37.

30 Ibid., p. 177.

31 Scrivener, Introduction, Vol. II, p. 43.

32 "Waldenses," McClintock and Strong, Encyclopedia.

33 Gilly, Waldensian Researches, pp. 79, 80.

34 Cyril Lucar presented this manuscript to King Charles I of England in 1628. Because of his devotion to the Reformed Faith Lucar was hounded by the Jesuits, who brought about his death in 1638.

35 Allix, Churches of Piedmont, pp. 288, 11.

36 Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, pp. 169, 170.

37 Leger, History of the Vaudois, p. 167.

38 Ibid.

39 The Geneva New Testament in English appeared in 1557, and the complete Bible in 1560.

40 A copy was presented to the Pope at the Lateran Council of 1179. The Council of Toulouse condemned the version in 1229, and many copies were destroyed. The copy given to Morland was one of the few to survive. In many places this Romaunt version agrees with the old Italic against the Vulgate.

41 Comba, The Waldenses of Italy, p. 191.

42 Ibid., p. 190.

43 Ibid., p. 192.

44 Ibid., p. 191, note 679.

45 Benjamin Warfield, Collections of Opinions and Reviews, Vol. II, p. 99.

46 Including Dublin MS A4. No. 13, once the property of Archbishop Ussher, presented by King Charles II of England to the University of Dublin.

47 I John 5:7.

48 Frederick Nolan, Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, pp. xvii, xviii.

49 Scrivener, Introduction, Vol. II, pp. 299, 300.

50 Nolan, Inquiry, p. 413.

Make a free website with Yola