Proto-Protestantism

Proto-Protestantism, also called pre-Protestantism or pre-Reformation movements,[1] refers to individuals and movements that propagated ideas similar to Protestantism before 1517, which is usually considered the starting year for the Reformation era. Major representatives were Peter Waldo (c. 1140 – c. 1205), John Wycliffe (1320s–1384), Jan Hus (c. 1369 – 1415) and the movements they started.

Peter Waldo and the Waldensians[edit]

In the early 1170s, Peter Waldo founded the Waldensians. He preached for strict adherence to the Bible, for simplicity and poverty, against Catholic dogmas, like the purgatory and transubstantiation which led to conflicts with the Roman Catholic Church. He initiated, and contributed to, a translation of the New Testament into the vernacular, the Arpitan (Franco-Provençal) language.

The Waldensians had adopted ideas that in the late 1130s, Arnold of Brescia, an Italian canon regular, had developed in a first attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church. His teachings on apostolic poverty gained currency among Arnoldists. By 1215, the Waldensians were declared heretical and subject to persecution.

John Wycliffe and the Lollards[edit]

John Wycliffe (1320s–1384) was an English theologian and professor at the University of Oxford who developed many ideas similar to those later promoted in the Reformation. He rejected papal authority over secular power, translated the Bible into vernacular English, and preached anticlerical and biblically-centred reforms. Wycliffe's teachings were spread by his followers, known as Lollards.

Jan Hus and the Hussites[edit]

Beginning in the first decade of the 15th century, Jan Hus, a Czech Catholic priest and professor who was influenced by John Wycliffe's writings, founded the Hussite movement. He was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1415. After his execution, a revolt erupted. Hussites defeated five continuous crusades proclaimed against them by the Pope.

Later on, theological disputes caused a split within the Hussite movement. Utraquists maintained that both the bread and the wine should be administered to the people during the Eucharist. Another major faction were the Taborites, who opposed the Utraquists in the Battle of Lipany during the Hussite Wars. There were two separate parties among the Hussites: moderate and radical movements. Other smaller regional Hussite branches in Bohemia included Adamites, Orebites, Orphans and Praguers.

Less influential early reformers[edit]

Throughout the Middle Ages, there were many Christian sects, cults and movements whose teachings foreshadowed later Protestant movements.[2] Some of the main groups were:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Barnett, S. J. (1999). "Where Was Your Church before Luther? Claims for the Antiquity of Protestantism Examined". Church History. Cambridge University Press. 68 (1): 14–41. doi:10.2307/3170108. ISSN 0009-6407.
  • Stephen D. Bows: Reform before the Reformation : Vincenzo Querini and the religious Renaissance in Italy, Leiden [et al.], 2002.
  • Walter Rügert: John Wyclif, Jan Hus, Martin Luther: Wegbereiter der Reformation Konstanz, 2017.
  • E. H. Broadbent: The Pilgrim Church, Pickering & Inglis, 1937.