Landmarkism or Trail of Blood
One of the 4 theories of the history of the Baptist Church has been labeled the ‘Trail of Blood’. It asserts that there is an unbroken succession of Baptist Churches from the time of Jesus’ apostles to the present day. Adherents claim Baptists have existed since the time of John the Baptist.
This view was put forth in a pamphlet in 1931 entitled ‘Trail of Blood’. It was written by J. M. Carroll. He looked through church history and concluded that since Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “. . . I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” this meant that there would be a church holding to Baptist beliefs throughout all of history.
The Landmark Baptists claim some of the well known churches in history as their predecessors. Of these predecessors there are: the Montanists, the Cathari, the Albigenses, the Paulicians, the Waldensians, the Novatians, and the Anabaptists.
A summary and evaluation of the Trail of Blood
I would vehemently disagree with these conclusions for one significant reason ALL but one (the Waldensians) were not only labeled heresies by the church but they taught unbiblical theologies.
The Montanists believed they were direct recipients of words of faith from the Holy Spirit (when one spoke in their trance they were speaking the exact words of the Spirit); The Albigenses were an offshoot of the Cathari and both believed in a cosmological dualism (there are 2 equal gods: one good and one evil, who continuously fight for supremacy over the world), the Paulicians also held to many Manichean theologies like the aforementioned dualism; and the Novatians believed that the lapsed (those who denied Christ under persecution, or knowingly sinned) were not allowed to reenter their church, for they wanted a pure church.
I would affirm there have been people and sometimes groups of Christ followers who believed what was understood as true biblical truth for their time, but I deny that there is an unbroken line of ‘Baptists’ throughout history. But this is one of the theories as to the origin of the Baptist Church.