The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


II. Brute Makes Defense on Basis of Bible Prophecies

WALTER BRUTE (or Britte), fourteenth-century British or Welsh layman and Lollard scholar, perhaps the most conspicuous prophetic expositor among Wyclif’s followers, was a graduate of Oxford. 32 His stand against the Papacy was occasioned by the conflict between the rival popes, Urban VI and Clement VII, and the condemnation of his companion Swinderby. 33 In 1391 a process was served against Brute by John, bishop of Hereford. Among “sundry other” items of accusation, Article VI stated: PFF2 74.5

“Item, The said Walter hath oftentimes said, and commonly avouched, that the Pope is Antichrist, and a seducer of the people, and utterly against the Law and life of Christ.” 34 PFF2 75.1

In thus speaking Brute was declared to have blasphemed the high priest of Christendom. A student of the prophetic Word, Brute declared that the pope answered to Paul’s prophesied Man of Sin, the chief of the false christs prophesied by Christ, with Rome as the Beast, Babylon, and Harlot of the Apocalypse. He contended that the time for the unmasking of the mystery had come. PFF2 75.2

Little has been recorded of the life of this learned Welsh man. But the account of his pleadings before the bishop of Hereford in 1391-92 shows how fully the basic doctrines of Wyclif-the supremacy of Scripture, Christ’s sole headship of the church, and the figurative character of the Lord’s supper- had taken root. Brute’s interpretation of the prophecies how ever, went beyond Wyclif. 35 More than those of any others of the time, his writings show the determining place the prophecies had in governing relationships to the church, and in the battle with Rome, under such serious circumstances as ecclesiastical trial for heresy. PFF2 75.3

When he was brought to trial Brute was denounced as a “child of Belial.” He made answer by a brief “exhibit” or defense, which was declared by the bishop of Hereford to be “too short and obscure.” So Brute, familiar with Wyclif’s Bible, set forth the Biblical and prophetic grounds, submitting an extended defense on “divers Scrouls of paper,” which fill seventy-three printed pages. 36 This Foxe gives from original sources. After he had presented the written exhibit, Brute was cited to appear October 3, 1393, in the cathedral church of Hereford before numerous prelates, abbots, monks, and doctors for oral examination. The hearing continued three days. He made a hazy statement of submission to the gospel and to the church without specifically recanting any of his points of doctrine. From his writings the papal doctors drew up thirty-seven articles and sent them to the University of Cambridge to be confuted. There is no record of what finally became of Brute. 37 PFF2 75.4

Before the detailed expositions of Brute are considered, it will be well to have a brief preview of the leading positions he set forth. Then part will fit into part. PFF2 76.1


Brute lays stress on the fact that the gospel came direct to Britain from the East, 38 not by way of Rome. He contends that the “woman” of Revelation 12, or the church, had fled to Britain in the early centuries, where for the 1260 prophetic days or literal years (elsewhere expressed as forty-two months, or three and a half times), the true faith had been maintained 39 PFF2 76.2

Concerning Antichrist, Brute dwells on the futility of the long-received papal ideas of Antichrist, which he had formerly shared—such as the view that Antichrist is to be an individual born in Babylon of the tribe of Dan, and ultimately to seduce Christendom for three and a half literal years. Vain, too, was the thought of 1290 days as the number of literal days Antichrist should be worshiped in God’s temple—with the forty-five additional days, totaling 1335, for the repentance of those who have worshiped Antichrist. Similarly futile was the idea of the beast with seven heads and ten horns signifying a yet future Antichrist. PFF2 76.3

The sixty-two weeks, Brute contends, were weeks of years; and so were the 1290 days, which he dates from Hadrian’s placing an idol, or “abomination,” in the holy place—a desolation which in Brute’s time had continued for nearly 1290 years, and which he thought was to continue to the full revealing or exposure of Antichrist. He adopts the year-day principle for all prophetic time periods. The first beast of Revelation 13, Brute interprets as pagan Roman emperors, for the woman of Revelation 17—seated thereon—was Rome, the city of the seven hills. Its power was to be for 1260 years, just as the ten days of Diocletian’s persecution were ten years, and the five months, or 150 days, of the locusts of Revelation 9 were 150 years. PFF2 76.4

The bishop of Rome is then identified as the chief of the false christs, as he claims to be both high priest and king, using force as his law against both infidel and Christian. He is also the chief of the false prophets. The pope’s law-giving judicial sentence of death and exciting crusading wars against heretics, and changing times as well as laws—was contrary to Christ’s doctrine. Then Brute argues against the doctrine of the keys, auricular confession, transubstantiation, a sacrificing priesthood, and the practice of selling prayers and pardons. He stresses justification by faith, quoting in advance Luther’s favorite text. 40 The second beast of Revelation 13 he expounds as being the popes with their assumed kingly and priestly powers. They allow none in the church to sell spiritual merchandise unless he have the mark of the beast. The number of the name of the beast, Brute declares to be “Dux Cleri” (Captain of the Clergy), “and that name is six hundred and sixty-six.” He concluded with a warning and appeal. 41 PFF2 77.1