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Listed below are a summary of a few of the lesser known non-Catholic groups. Some of these may be considered heretics, while some are Christians who were simply labeled as heretics by their persecutors. Many of these groups arose because of the debauchery in the Catholic Church, so while Christians who pride themselves on their orthodoxy may feel justified in pointing to these groups as heretics, it likely was hypocrisy in the established Church that sparked the creation of these groups over the years.
Ecumenical Councils and Schisms
The Persian Church, 431 A.D.
The Persian Church, or Nestorian Church, was isolated after 431 A.D., and holds to the first two councils only.
The Coptic and Syrian Church, 451 A.D.
The Church in Egypt split into two groups following the Council of Chalcedon, over a dispute about the relation between the divine and human natures of Jesus. Those who disagreed with this council are known today as the Coptic Orthodox Church. There was a similar split in Syria resulting in the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Eastern Orthodox Church, 1000 A.D.+
In the 11th century, the Great Schism separated The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The main issue was the "filioque clause" and the authority of the Roman Pope. While the Catholic Church is led by the Pope, the Eastern Orthodox Church is led by the Patriarch of Constantinople (although both consider themselves a “first among equals" rather than a leader).
Irish Monks (500 A.D. +)
Inspired by Patrick and Columba, the Irish Monks would spread the Gospel by sending twelve men into an area where they would build up a Christian town. These men would be carpenters, teachers, preachers, etc., and all would be very well versed in the Word of God and Holy living. This small town would soon be surrounded by students and their families in their own homes, learning the Bible and preparing to go out and serve the Lord as missionaries, leaaders, and preachers. Though the men were free to marry, many did not in order to serve God better. They remainted free from state help, stayed free of politics, and were completely independant of Rome and the Catholic Church.
Paulicianism (650 A.D. +)
Prevalent in Anatolia and Armenia. They called themselves Christians (called Paulicians by others), accepted both the old and new testaments, denied the Trinity, and baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ. The empress Theodora killed, drowned or hanged no fewer than 100,000 Paulicians in Grecian Armenia. This sect was founded by Constantine-Silvanus, who was stoned to death by order of the emperor. Simeon-Titus, the court official who executed the order, was himself converted, and was later burned to death in 690.
In 970 the emperor John Tzimisces, himself of Armenian origin, transplanted no less than 200,000 Armenian Paulicians to Europe and settled them in the neighbourhood of Philippopolis in Thrace. In 1650, the Roman Catholic Church gathered them into its fold.
Some historians believe that the Paulicians may have been much more ancient than presented in the writings of their enemies. In fact, they may have been the descendants of the "Old Believers" of Syrian/Armenian origin.
Bogomilism (900 A.D. +)
The name of this movement was called "bulgarus" in Latin (meaning "Bulgarian"). This quickly became boulgre, later bougre in Old French meaning "heretic, traitor". It entered German as Buger meaning "peasant, blockhead", and went on to English as bugger. The French term also entered old Italian as buggero and Spanish as bujarrón, both in the meaning of "sodomite", since it was supposed that heretics would make sex (just like everything else) in an "inverse" way.
Bogomilism arose in the first quarter of the 10th century in the area of today’s Plovdiv (Philippopolis). Each community had its own twelve "apostles," and women could be raised to the rank of "elect." The Bogomils wore garments like mendicant friars and were known as keen missionaries, travelling far and wide to propagate their doctrines. Healing the sick and exorcising the evil spirit, they traversed different countries and spread their apocryphal literature along with some of the books of the Old Testament, deeply influencing the religious spirit of the nations, and preparing them for the Reformation. They accepted the four Gospels, fourteen Epistles of Paul, the three Epistles of John, James, Jude, and an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which they professed to have. They rejected the authority of the Catholic church.
Adherents of the church called themselves simply Krstjani ("Christians"). Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches persecuted the Bosnian Church, which they considered heretical, and it disappeared before the Turkish conquest in 1463. The Bosnian church denied the Trinity and the veneration of crosses (remember at this time the worship of icons and crosses was a significant point of division between the Roman Church and the Byzantine Church).
The Bosnian Church was mainly composed of monks in scattered monastic houses. It had no territorial organization and it did not deal with any secular matters other than attending people's burials. It did not involve itself in state issues very much.
Cathars (1000 A.D. +)
Much of our existing knowledge of the Cathars is derived from their opponents, the writings of the Cathars having been destroyed because of the doctrinal threat they posed to Christian theology. They raised a continued protest against the claimed moral, spiritual and political corruption of the Catholic Church. They claimed their own Apostolic Connection to the early founders of Christianity and saw Rome as having betrayed and corrupted the original purity of the message.
The persecution of the Cathars began in earnest when the crusader army, under the command of the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury. The last known Cathar perfect in Languedoc, Guillaume Bélibaste, was executed in 1321. After the suppression of Catharism, the descendants of Cathars were, in some southern French towns, required to live apart from the main town and its defenses. They thus retained a certain Cathar identity, although they became Catholic in religion.
The Poor Men of Lyons (1173 A.D. +)
Later known as Waldenses, they proclaimed the Bible as the sole rule of life and faith. They rejected the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and the mass, and laid great stress on gospel simplicity. Worship services consisted of readings from the Bible, the Lord's Prayer, and sermons, which they believed could be preached by all Christians as depositaries of the Holy Spirit. Their distinctive pre-Reformation doctrines are set forth in the Waldensian Catechism (c.1489). The doctrine included absolute poverty and non-violence.
Vaudois (1184 A.D. +)
Similar in some respects to the Cathars or to 16th-century Calvinism, may have numbered 20,000 members. They sent forth pairs of missionaires to many lands, and were persecuted savagely in France, Italy and especially Spain. They refused the sacraments and the efficacy of the cult of Saints, and they established their own clergy. The Vaudois were excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1184.
Lollards (1350 A.D. +)
The Lollards had no central belief system and no official doctrine. Likewise, being a decentralized movement, Lollardy neither had nor proposed any singular authority. Believing the Roman Catholic Church to be perverted in many ways, the Lollards looked to Scripture as the basis for their religious ideas. Believing that more attention should be given to the message in the scriptures rather than to ceremony and worship, the Lollards denounced the ritualistic aspects of the Church such as transubstantiation, exorcism, pilgrimages, and blessings. The Conclusions also rejected pilgrimages, ornamentation of churches, and religious images because these took away from the true nature of worship: focus on God. Also denounced by the Lollards were war, violence, and even abortion.
Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury. King Henry IV passed the De heretico comburendo in 1401, not specifically against the Lollards, but prohibiting the translating or owning of the Bible and authorising the burning of heretics at the stake. Lollards were effectively absorbed into Protestantism during the English Reformation,
Religious Expansion in North America