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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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Or FLAGELLANTES, a sect of wild fanatics, who chastised and disciplined themselves with whips in public. It had its rise in Italy in the year 1260: its author was one Rainer, a hermit; and it was propagated from hence through almost all the countries of Europe. A great number of persons, of all ages and sexes, made processions, walking two by two, with their shoulders bare, which they whipped till the blood ran down, in order to obtain mercy from God, and appease his indignation against the wickedness of the age. They were then called the Devout; and having established a superior, he was called General of the Devotion. Though the primitive Whippers were exemplary in point of morals, yet they were joined by a turbulent rabble, who were infected with the most ridiculous and impious opinions: so that the emperors and pontiffs thought proper to put an end to this religious frenzy, by declaring all devout whipping contrary to the divine law, and prejudicial to the soul's eternal interest.

However, this sect revived in Germany towards the middle of the next century, and, rambling through many provinces, occasioned great disturbances. They held, among other things, that whipping was of equal virtue with baptism, and the other sacraments; that the forgiveness of all sins was to be obtained by it from God without the merits of Jesus Christ; that the old law of Christ was soon to be abolished, and that a new law, enjoining the baptism of blood to be administered by whipping, was to be substituted in its place: upon which Clement VII. by an injudicious as well as unrighteous policy, thundered out anathemas against the Whippers, who were burnt by the inquisitors in several places: but they were not easily extirpated. They appeared again in Thuringia and Lower Saxony in the fifteenth century, and rejected not only the sacraments, but every branch of external worship; and placed their only hopes of salvation in faith and whipping, to which they added other strange doctrines concerning evil spirits. Their leader, Conrad Schmidt, and many others, were committed to the flames by German inquisitors, in and after the year 1414.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Whippers'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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