Trail of Blood: Do Baptists Have a Claim to the Original Church?

by Steve Ray on January 18, 2013

Cover of the "mythical" booklet "Trail of Blood"

What is the history of Baptists? Can they trace their roots back to the 1st century? Many ”fundamentalist” Baptists believe they can. Are they correct?

There is a booklet that is very popular among this fundamentalist crowd. It is entitled “The Trail of Blood”. The booklet claims that Catholics persecuted the true Christians — the Baptists — leaving behind a trail of blood.

I used to believe this premise and now that I have looked more carefully I wrote an article about this booklet and this the idea Baptists are the true Christians that have survived Catholic attempts to destroy them. Here is how my article begins:

“When Baptists attempt to discover the origins of their tradition they are faced with a historical dilemma. The search for Baptists roots hits a dead end in the sixteenth century. Most acknowledge that Baptist tradition is a tributary flowing out of the Protestant Reformation, but others attempt to discover a line of historical continuity, of doctrine and practice, back to Jesus and even John the Baptist. These Baptists are commonly referred to as “Baptist Successionists”. . . “

-For my full article on the Trail of Blood, click here (pdf).
-For other articles and references, click here.
-For more such articles and letters, click here.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan January 30, 2012 at 10:13 PM

I am only vaguely familiar with church history, but I have a few questions about the Trail of Blood version of church history.

1. Do you think that those who wrote this information truly believed what they wrote, in spite of the twists, turns and omissions for which they would have had to account to make this viewpoint believable?
2. If they did believe this, how much did they have to stretch history to make their viewpoints convincing to themselves and others?
3. If they did not truly believe this, what was their motivation for developing this story? Were they trying to address arguments that supported the validity of the Catholic Church and felt it acceptable, perhaps even necessary and in service to the Gospel, to distort historical facts? Were they that concerned about people being duped into joining the “terrible” Roman Catholic Church?

I guess I wonder how much of this the writers of these booklets and the preachers who promulgated these viewpoints actually believed them.

Thanks and may God continue to bless you, your family and your ministry.

Dan

shannon monteiro May 12, 2012 at 12:50 PM

This should be interesting .. The PDF file is available for download.

Though the Protestant Reformers of the 16th to the 18th centuries demanded religious liberty from the Roman Catholic Church, in many cases they did not give liberty to others. That they persecuted Baptists and others who differed from them is a fact rarely told in church histories and therefore little known, but it is a fact that we document in this book. We first examine the roots of the doctrine of persecution in the teaching of Jerome and Augustine, then document its ugly exercise by Calvinists, Lutherans, and Anglicans in England, Europe, and America.

http://www.wayoflife.org/free_ebooks/downloads/Protestant_Persecution_of_Baptists.pdf

Steven Speray June 28, 2012 at 12:25 AM

I wrote a history of the Baptist churches and dealt directly with the Trail of Blood which is published and distributed in the city right next to my hometown. You can read my article which totally debunks the booklet here: http://stevensperay.wordpress.com/the-history-of-the-baptist-churches-in-a-nutshell/

One day, I would like to speak with you about the Catholic Church. You’ll find on my website where I stand and why. I’d be most gracious if you emailed me sometime.

Thank you.

JP Valenzuela July 4, 2012 at 12:04 AM

Hello,

I was born and raised a Catholic but I just would like to know when I die will I go to heaven?

Thank you.

Alan Almeida July 7, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Dear J P Valenzuela:

Yes you can know. God gives his promise in 1 John 5:13 – “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. ”

Today you can be saved and have eternal life, and the sure peace of knowing you are. That is God’s promise!

God Bless,
Alan Almeida
(alanalmeida777@yahoo.com)

Anil Wang August 25, 2012 at 9:28 PM

Alan Almeida,
Yes and no. Be sure to read 1 John 5:13 in context, namely read what came before 1 John 5:1-5 ( http://biblia.com/bible/esv/1%20John%205.1-5 )

It’s not as simple as just believing and it is possible to fall away as several parts of the New Testament tell us.

However, our trust is not in a legal contract (just say the words and you’re saved), it’s in a relationship. Our trust and our faith is in God. As long as you do your best and ask God to help you when you faulter, God will honor your desire to be with him and help you bridge the gap, either in this life or the next.

dan morgan stanley September 5, 2012 at 5:26 AM

The thing is that people are always discrediting other peoples religion, but never start by crediting their own. It is not that the Baptist believe that the name Baptist has a running lineage, but that the beliefs the Baptist have can be traced back to the days of Jesus and the disciples.

I understand now that you think you have disproven the lineage of the Baptist. How does that prove the doctrines of the Catholic church. Such as the Sacraments, or relics?

Steve Ray September 5, 2012 at 6:54 AM

You are wrong Dan, sorry to say. Most people do not criticize other religions which is a problem since we are all becoming relativists – accepting everything as equal. And, this critique of Baptists is not me attacking someone else’s religion – it was me criticizing my OWN religion, the religion of my birth. It was me explaining why my birth religion was wrong and my new one correct. Not all are equal. 2 + 2 = 4 not 6.

Next, Baptists who espouse the Trail of Blood do not just say they have the same teachings; rather, they actually think there is a traceable lineage back through the centuries. They call it Baptist Successionism. They want what the Catholics actually have (a traceable heritage, like a chain with no links missing back to the beginning), but they don’t have a continuity back to the first century. They fail miserably in their attempt.

Finally, they do not believe what the early Church believed and taught. Baptists believe in Bible Alone and Faith Alone which are two things you will never find in the primitive church, not until the Protestant Rebellion in the 16th century.

In this article I did not attempt to prove the Catholic Church as the fullness of the faith. I discredited the Baptist Successionism argument but did not prove the Catholic Church. That I have done elsewhere. You may want to check out my book Crossing the Tiber. Sacraments and relics are very biblical, you just have to understand the Bible more carefully and remember it was a book collected and codified by the bishops of the Catholic Church.

KURT JAMES LOPEZ September 10, 2012 at 1:19 AM

hi Steve, i heard you on catholic answers live . I’m from the Philippines and I’m a convert from baptist, though i was born as a catholic .how can baptist say that they have the right bible and that is the king james bible ? is it really the most purified version of the bible as my math teacher told me so ? please respond . i’m only 17 … and i do not have the capability to refute this as a catholic .

De Maria January 18, 2013 at 10:22 PM

JP Valenzuela July 4, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Hello,

I was born and raised a Catholic but I just would like to know when I die will I go to heaven?

Thank you.

That is a question only God can answer.
Scripture says:
1 Corinthians 4:3-5
King James Version (KJV)
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

Therefore, we live in hope, according to the Teaching of St. Paul:
Romans 8:23-25
King James Version (KJV)
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

So, then, wait patiently, Christ is coming:
Revelation 22:12-15
King James Version (KJV)
12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria January 18, 2013 at 10:30 PM

Alan Almeida July 7, 2012 at 3:04 PM
Dear J P Valenzuela:

Yes you can know. God gives his promise in 1 John 5:13 – “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. ”

Look at the context of that verse. He says, “These things I have written unto you….” What are “these things”? Well, let’s see:
1 John 5
King James Version (KJV)
5 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

So, tell me. Do you keep the Commandments? If you KNOW that you keep the Commandments, then you can know if you are saved. These are some of “these things” that St. John was talking about.

Today you can be saved and have eternal life, and the sure peace of knowing you are. That is God’s promise!M.b>

You can claim to save yourself and teach others to claim they save themselves all you want. But the truth is that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ:
Romans 14:10
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

And God will be the judge of your salvation. Not you, not I, not anyone else.

God Bless,
Alan Almeida

May God bless you as well.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria January 18, 2013 at 10:57 PM

dan morgan stanley September 5, 2012 at 5:26 AM
The thing is that people are always discrediting other peoples religion, but never start by crediting their own. It is not that the Baptist believe that the name Baptist has a running lineage, but that the beliefs the Baptist have can be traced back to the days of Jesus and the disciples.

Only those doctrines that Baptists hold in common with the Catholic Church can be traced back to Jesus and the Disciples.

I understand now that you think you have disproven the lineage of the Baptist.

It really goes without saying. The Baptists did not come into being until well after the Protestant Revolution. The group did not exist before that time.

How does that prove the doctrines of the Catholic church. Such as the Sacraments, or relics?

I’m not really sure what you mean. But from the context of the conversation, I think you mean, “How does that prove that the doctrines of the Catholic Church are from Jesus and the Apostles? There are many ways to do so. One way is to trace them through the Early Church Fathers. They will take you through the centuries to the beginning of Christianity and the Teachings of the Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

Another way is to find them in Scripture. The two examples you mention are found in these verses:

The Sacraments –
Hebrews 6:2
Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, ….

All the Sacraments are effusions of the Holy Spirit and therefore can all be described as Baptisms of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism-
Ephesians 5:26
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

The Baptism ritual can be described as the washing of water by the word.

Acts 22:16
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

And of course, in the Sacrament of Baptism we wash away our sins calling on the name of the Lord.

Confession:
2 Corinthians 5:18
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

Is also known as the ministry of reconciliation.

Hebrews 13:17
King James Version (KJV)
17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

And it is in the Sacrament of Confession that we give account of our sins to our priests and we submit to and obey their recommendations for our penance to make satisfaction for our sins and to repent and avoid those sins in the future.

Confirmation:
Acts 8:14-17
King James Version (KJV)
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

This is an example of the Sacrament of Confirmation being applied to baptized Christians in Scripture.

1 Corinthians 11:27
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

This proves that the Apostles were already partaking of the Eucharist in Apostolic times.

Anointing:
James 5:14
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

Presbytery:
1 Timothy 4:14
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

Relics:
Acts 19:12
So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

Now, please provide support for Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide from Scripture. Either one will do. I will show you how the pillars of the Baptist sect contradict Scripture.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria January 18, 2013 at 11:16 PM

KURT JAMES LOPEZ September 10, 2012 at 1:19 AM
hi Steve, i heard you on catholic answers live . I’m from the Philippines and I’m a convert from baptist, though i was born as a catholic .how can baptist say that they have the right bible and that is the king james bible ? is it really the most purified version of the bible as my math teacher told me so ? please respond . i’m only 17 … and i do not have the capability to refute this as a catholic .

First of all, the Bible is the word of God. Therefore it can’t be “purified”. The word of God is without error.

However, I suppose that your math teacher may consider it the “best English” translation. That is a matter of “opinion”, or “personal preference” and can’t be disproved. I prefer the Douay Rheims in English.

Habla español?

En primer lugar, la Biblia es la palabra de Dios. Por lo tanto, no puede ser “purificada”. La palabra de Dios es sin error.

Supongo que tu profesor de matemáticas puede considerar que sea la “mejor traducción en Inglés”. Ese es un asunto de “opinión” o “preferencias personales” y no puede ser refutado. Yo prefiero el Douay Rheims en Inglés.

De Maria

gary June 11, 2013 at 8:33 PM

I am the son of a fundamentalist Baptist preacher. I was taught that there have always been Baptists (the true Christians) ever since the Apostles. They were hiding out in caves for 1,500 years. Catholics destroyed all evidence of their existence.

Nonsense!

Baptists and evangelicals are absolutely correct…there is no SPECIFIC mention in the New Testament that the Apostles baptized infants. There are references to entire households being converted and baptized, but we orthodox cannot prove, just from Scripture, that these households had infants, and neither can Baptists and evangelicals prove, just from Scripture, that they did not.

One interesting point that Baptists/evangelicals should note is that although there is no specific mention of infant baptism in the Bible…neither is there a prohibition of infant baptism in the Bible. Christians are commanded by Christ to go into all the world and preach the Gospel and to baptize all nations. No age restrictions are mentioned. If Christ had intended his followers to understand that infants could not be baptized in the New Covenant, in a household conversion process as was the practice of the Jews of Christ’s day in converting Gentile households to the Covenant of Abraham, it is strange that no mention is made of this prohibition.

So, the only real way to find out if Infant Baptism was practiced by the Apostles is to look at the writings of the early Christians, some of whom were disciples of the Apostles, such as Polycarp, and see what they said on this issue.

And here is a key point: Infant Baptism makes absolutely no sense if you believe that sinners can and must make an informed, mature decision to believe in order to be saved. Infants cannot make informed, mature decisions, so if this is the correct Doctrine of Justification/Salvation, Infant Baptism is clearly false teaching. But the (arminian) Baptist/evangelical Doctrine of Justification/Salvation is unscriptural. Being forced to make a decision to obtain a gift, makes the gift no longer free. This is salvation by works.

Baptism is a command of God. It is not a work of man. God says in plain, simple language, in multiple locations in the Bible, that he saves/forgives sins in Baptism. We orthodox Christians accept God’s literal Word. We take our infants to be baptized because God says to do it. Our infants are not saved because we perform the act of bringing them to the baptismal font…they are saved by the power of God’s Word pronounced at the time of the Baptism. Christians have believed this for 2,000 years!

There is no evidence that any Christian in the early Church believed that sinners are saved by making a free will decision and then are baptized solely as a public profession of faith. None.

Gary
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

Mike October 24, 2013 at 7:17 PM

WHERE do they think the Bible canon came from? It really doesn’t get any easier than this, folks. The modern Bible canon wasn’t settled until the Council of Rome in 382, led by Pope Damasus I (though back then, there was not nearly the same level of importance attached to the Bible as Protestants have today. To this day, the Orthodox Churches continue this tendency of favoring Tradition over Scripture, which is why their canons differ from See to See). Different Church Fathers had different opinions until the Council of Rome; some advocated including the Shepherd of Hermas, others excluded books like Hebrews, 2 Peter and Revelation. St. Athanasius indeed provided a list of books for the New Testament identical to the modern NT canon, but his Old Testament included Baruch and excluded Esther. Was he infallible on one and not the other? You will not find a list of the 27 books of the New Testament along with the 39 books of the Protestant Old Testament anywhere in early Church history, let alone any evidence of a primitive Baptist Church to go all Sola Scriptura over it. Protestants got their New Testament from Catholics and their Old Testament from a Jewish council that condemned Christians as heretics and declared every one of the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament non-canonical. Are the Pharisees really to be trusted over the Church Fathers?
Not to mention that some of the sects Baptist Succeessionists identify with are not even close to modern Baptist doctrine. Catharists were Duotheists. The three different groups that identified as Anabaptists believed a huge swathe of things, some even going so far as to reject the Trinity; others actually accepted infant baptism (but regarded non-Anabaptist baptisms as invalid, and thus would “re”baptize converts).
Conspiracy theories. To be a Baptist Succeessionist, you must accept an appalling number of conspiracy theories as true, and reject the obvious evidence.
For the sake of your souls, guys, enter communion with the Holy Catholic Church, Christ’s bride and body on earth, which shall never fall to the gates of Hell.

AUGUSTINE D`AMORA November 19, 2013 at 1:59 PM

DEAR BROTHER STEVE, THOUGH PROTESTANT, I BELIEVE MOST OF CATHOLIC DOCTRINE IS TRUTH AND IS BIBLICAL. MY ONLY QUESTION WOULD BE ON THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY. SINCE JESUS IS THE ONLY ONE WITH IMMORTALITY IN HIS RESURRECTED GLORIFIED BODY, IS MARY ALSO IN THAT SAME STATE OF BEING IMMORTAL IN BODY. I CAN ACCEPT THAT SHE MIGHT HAVE BEEN RISEN AS WAS ENOCH AND ELIJAH IN NATURAL MORTAL BEING,BUT NOT AS JESUS IS IN HIS BEING
IMMORTAL IN HIS RESSURECTED BODY.
GODS RICHES BLESSING TO YOU, REALLY THINK I AM BEING DRAWN BACK TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND ITS TRADTIONS THAT ARE SCRIPTURAL,
PEACE, AUGUSTINE

Julie LaBrecque May 23, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Augustine – Mary’s assumption is in the Bible. Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant – Psalm 132:8 “Arise, O Lord, come to your resting place, you and the ark of they strength”. Rev 11:19 through all of chapter 12 evidences that Mary, the woman of Genesis 3:15, is also the Ark, she is wearing a crown (Queen Mother of the Davidic King).

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