From Academic Kids

Montanism was an early Christian sectarian movement of the mid-2nd century A.D., named after its founder Montanus. Although the mainstream Christian church prevailed against Montanism within a few generations, this sect persisted in some isolated places into the eighth century. Some people have drawn parallels between Montanism and Pentecostalism (which some call Neo-Montanism). The most widely known Montanist was undoubtedly Tertullian, who is sometimes called the "Father of the Western Church".



Shortly after Montanus' conversion to Christianity, he began travelling among the rural settlements of Asia Minor, preaching and testifying, accompanied by two women, Prisca and Maximilla, who also purported to be the embodiments of the Holy Spirit that moved and inspired them. He claimed to have received a series of direct revelations from the Holy Spirit and to be the paraclete of the Gospel of John 14:16. 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 the 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.

The divisive movement was partly inspired by a gnostic reading of the Gospel of John— "I will send you the advocate [paraclete], the spirit of truth" (Heine 1987, 1989; Groh 1985); the response to this continuing revelation split the Christian communities, and the episcopal hierarchy fought to suppress it. Bishop Apollinarius found the church at Ancyra torn in two, and he opposed the "false prophesy" (quoted by Eusebius 5.16.5).

Priscilla claimed that the Christ had appeared to her in female form. When she was excommunicated, she exclaimed "I am driven away like the wolf from the sheep. I am no wolf: I am word and spirit and power."

The most widely known defender of Montanists was undoubtedly Tertullian, a champion of orthodox belief, who believed that the new prophecy was genuinely motivated and began to fall out of step with what he began to call "the church of a lot of bishops" (On Modesty). Irenaeus, who visited Rome during the height of the controversy, in the pontificate of Eleuterus, returned to find Lyon in dissension, and was inspired to write the first great statement of the mainstream Catholic position, Adversus Haereses.

Although the mainstream Christian church prevailed against Montanism within a few generations, inscriptions in the Tembris valley of northern Phrygia, dated between 249 and 279, openly proclaim their allegiance to Montanism. A letter of Jerome to Marcella, written in 385, refutes the claims of Montanists that had been troubling her [1] ( This sect persisted into the eighth century, and some of its emphasis on direct, ecstatic personal presence of the Holy Spirit bears resemblance to all forms of Pentecostalism.

Differences between Montanism and Catholicism

The beliefs of Montanism contrasted with mainstream Catholicism in the following ways:

  • The belief that the Trinity consisted of only a single person, similar to Sabellianism, but in contrast to the Catholic view that the Trinity is one God of three persons.
  • The encouragement of ecstatic prophesying and speaking in tongues, contrasting with the more sober and disciplined approach to theology dominant in mainstream Catholicism at the time and since.
  • The view that Christians who fell from grace could not be redeemed, also in contrast to the Catholic view that contrition could lead to a sinner's restoration to the church.
  • The prophets of Montanism did not speak as messengers of God: "Thus saith the Lord," but described themselves as possessed by God and spoke in his person. "I am the Father, the Word, and the Paraclete," said Montanus (Didymus, De Trinitate, III, xli); This possession by a spirit, which spoke while the prophet was incapable of resisting, is described by the spirit of Montanus: "Behold the man is like a lyre, and I dart like the plectrum. The man sleeps, and I am awake" (Epiphanius, "Hreses", xlviii, 4).
  • A stronger emphasis on chastity, the avoidance of sin, and church discipline than in mainstream Catholicism.

See also

External links


Further reading

  • Groh, Dennis E. 1985. "Utterance and exegesis: Biblical interpretation in the Montanist crisis," in Groh and Jewett, The Living Text (New York) pp 73 – 95.
  • Heine, R.E., 1987 "The Role of the Gospel of John in the Montanist controversy," in Second Century v. 6, pp 1 – 18.
  • Heine, R.E., 1989. "The Gospel of John and the Montanist debate at Rome," in Studia Patristica 21, pp 95 – 100.
  • Pagels, Elaine, 2003. Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas ISBN 0375501568, contains a brief introduction to Montanism, with notes in chapter "God's Word or Human Words?"
  • Trevett, Christine, 1996. Montanism: Gender, Authority and the New Prophecy (Cambridge University Press)de:Montanismus

fi:Montanolaisuus fr:Montanisme it:Montanismo nl:Montanisten ja:モンタノス派 no:Montanisme sv:Montanism


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