Montanism

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Montanism was an early Christian movement of the early 2nd century, named after its founder Montanus. It originated at Hierapolis where Papias was bishop and flourished throughout the region of Phrygia, leading to the movement being referred to as Cataphrygian (meaning it was "from Phrygia") or simply as "Phrygians". It spread rapidly to other regions in the Roman Empire at a time before Christianity was generally tolerated or legal. Although orthodox Nicene Christianity prevailed against Montanism within a few generations, labeling it a heresy, the sect persisted in some isolated places into the 8th century. Some people have drawn parallels between Montanism and modern Pentecostalism (which some call Neo-Montanism). The most widely known Montanist was undoubtedly Tertullian, who was the foremost Latin church writer before he converted to Montanism.

Contents

History

Scholars are divided as to when Montanus first began his prophecy, having chosen dates varying from c. AD 135 to as late as AD 177.[1] Montanus traveled among the rural settlements of Asia Minor after his conversion, and preached and testified what he purported to be the Word of God; however, his teachings were regarded as heresy by the orthodox Church for a number of reasons. He claimed to have received a series of direct revelations from the Holy Spirit. In some of his prophecies Montanus spoke in the first person as God. Many casual readers and even many uninformed scholars such as church father Cyril of Jerusalem have misinterpreted this as Montanus claiming to be God or the Holy Spirit. However, scholars of Montanism agree that these words of Montanus exemplify the general practice of religious prophets to speak as the passive mouthpieces of the divine, and to claim divine inspiration (similar to modern prophets stating "Thus saith the Lord"). That practice occurred in Christian as well as in pagan circles with some degree of frequency (Pelikan 101, Tabernee 93). Montanus was accompanied by two women, Prisca, sometimes called Priscilla, and Maximilla, who likewise claimed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As they went, "the Three" as they were called, spoke in ecstatic visions and urged their followers to fast and pray, so that they might share these personal revelations. His preachings spread from his native Phrygia (where he proclaimed the village of Pepuza as the site of the New Jerusalem) across the contemporary Christian world, to Africa and Gaul.

It is generally agreed that the movement was inspired by Montanus' reading of the Gospel of John— "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor [paraclete] to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth" (NIV), as well as some books now rejected as scripture by European Christianity such as 4 Esdras. The response to this continuing revelation split the Christian communities, and the more orthodox clergy mostly fought to suppress it. Bishop Apollinarius found the church at Ancyra torn in two, and he opposed the "false prophesy" (quoted by Eusebius 5.16.4). But there was real doubt at Rome, and Pope Eleuterus even wrote letters in support of Montanism, although he later recalled them (Tertullian, "Adversus Praxean" c.1, Trevett 58-59).

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