Was the Church Right to Condemn Montanism?
(I) A Brief History of Montanism
Montanism was one of the earliest heresies and splits
in the Christian Church. The Montanists believed that the Holy Spirit or
Paraclete was giving them new revelation, especially regarding Christian
morality. They adopted the name "New Prophecy" for their movement. This
expressed their deepest principle: the Paraclete is still uttering
direct revelation to His people, or, to put it differently, prophecy is
a criterion of authentic Christianity. Their Catholic opponents daubed
them the "Cataphrygians," expressing their place of origin, the
relatively backward and obscure region of Phrygia in Asia Minor, and
thus, no doubt, also expressing a little contempt. Not until Cyril of
Jerusalem (d. 386) do we have a record of their being called Montanists
(Catechetical Lectures 16.8),1 but since it has become
the common term it will be used here.
The name "Montanism" comes from its founder and
leading light, in its early years, Montanus. Eusebius of Caesarea, "the
Father of Church History," (d. 339) quotes a second century source,
dubbed "Anonymous," who tells us that Montanus as "a recent convert to
the faith ... gave the adversary access to himself ... and began to
speak and prophecy strange things" (Ecclesiastical History
5.16.7).2 Montanus' status as a novice is questioned by some,3
as is the claim of some of the church fathers that he occupied the
office of presbyter or possibly even bishop.4 Regarding
Montanus' location in Phrygia, we also face difficulties. Though the
sources frequently speak of three towns: Pepuza, Tymion and Ardabau, we
are not entirely sure of their sites. Christine Trevett has a helpful
discussion of this and opts for their being east of Philadelphia in
western Turkey (in today's terms).5
Montanus was not alone in the early leadership. He
had two prophetesses to help him in the work, Priscilla/Prisca and
Maximilla, both of whom left their husbands to serve the Lord. Of the
ten or eleven probable oracles of "the Three" that we can glean from the
writings of the church fathers, only four are ascribed to Montanus. Our
sources attribute excellent organizational skills to Montanus,
especially in collecting money (EH 5.18.2). Recently, one
feminist scholar has argued that Priscilla was the most important
prophet and that "Montanus was in fact the 'advocate' [i.e., supporter,
helper] of Prisca and Maximilla."6 Trevett, who is a milder
feminist, argues that we ought not assume that either Montanus or
Priscilla was the leader. Trevett proposes a more "egalitarian"
scheme, though she concedes that Montanus was the first to prophesy.7
Other key leaders in the history of Montanism include Theodotus, who,
like Montanus, was both a prophet and a trustee (epitropos; EH
5.16.14; 5.3.4), Themiso and Miltiades, who were among the leading
figures after the death of the Three (EH 5.18.5; 5.16.3; 5.17.1),
Alexander, Proclus and Praxeas.
Concerning the date of the beginning of Montanism,
there is also difference of opinion. According to the (internally
inconsistent) chronology in Epiphanius" account (d. 403) the New
Prophecy began in 156 or 157 (Medicine Box 48.1-2).8
With Eusebius a date of 171 or 172 can be calculated, though again his
various statements are not entirely harmonious. Though most scholars
favour the latter,9 Trevett has argued against this and
postulated a period between that presented by the two church fathers:
the decade of the 160s.10 Whatever the precise date—and it
has no great significance for the present study—we do know approximately
the time of its origin. It almost certainly began in the sixteen year
period from 156 to 172.
From Pepuza, Tymion and Ardabau in Phrygia, the New
Prophecy under Montanus, Priscilla and Maximilla and others spread to
various parts of Asia Minor.11 It reached Italy, and
especially Rome, and the hub of North Africa, Carthage. The martyrs in
Lyons and Vienne in southern Gaul (c. 177) may well have been Montanists
(EH 5.1.3-63; 5.3.2f.).
However, the spread of Montanism was not without
controversy and conflict. Anonymous states that, though some followed
Montanus when they first heard his prophecies, others
at that moment ... being irritated as at one who
is inspired by a devil and a spirit of error and is troubling the
multitudes, rebuked him and forbid him to speak, remembering the
command of the Lord and his warning to maintain an alert guard
against the coming of false prophets [cf. Matt. 7:15] (EH
Serapion of Antioch tells us of a bishop who
(unsuccessfully) tried to exorcize one of the prophetesses: "The blessed
Sotas in Anchilus wanted to cast out the demon of Priscilla, and the
hypocrites did not permit it" (EH 5.19.3). Eusebius records that
another bishop, Zoticus, sought to exorcize Maximilla (EH
When Anonymous arrived in Ancyra, and found it
"deafened" with this New Prophecy (or "false prophecy" as he preferred
to call it), he proceeded to teach against it. "With the Lord's help,"
he writes, "we lectured for many days in the Church both concerning
these very people and also on the particulars of the things put forward
by them." His work was not without success and his "opponents" and
"adversaries" were "repelled for the present." On his departure, the
elders requested him to write a book on the subject and send it to them
post haste (EH 5.16.4-6).
Claudius Apollinarius, Bishop of Hierapolis, in about
172, also composed a book against Montanism, as did another churchman
from Asia Minor, Apollonius, in about 210. Publius Julius, Bishop of
Dbeltum in Thrace and a large number of other bishops signed a public
letter condemning the heresy. Serapion, Bishop of Antioch (d. 211),
affirmed, "This false order of the so-called new prophecy has been
abhorred by the whole brotherhood through out the world" (EH
Clearly, excommunication was coming. Anonymous tells
The faithful in Asia met for this purpose [i.e.,
of examining Montanism] many times and in many places in Asia. They
examined the recent sayings [i.e., prophecies] carefully, declared
them to be profane, and rejected the heresy. So at length they were
thrust out of the Church and excluded from the fellowship (EH
Later, the synods of Iconium and Synnada in Eastern
Phrygia, meeting about the year 230, resolved that Montanist baptisms
were invalid and that converts from Montanism to the Church would have
to submit to Catholic baptism.
In the west, Montanism also caused problems but here
the issues seemed less clear cut. Some of the martyrs of Lyons and
Vienne mentioned earlier and two female martyrs of Carthage, Perpetua
and Felicitas, were probably (early) Montanists.12 They were,
however, members in the Church and esteemed very highly amongst
Catholics for their fortitude.13 Furthermore, in the west,
Montanism was not without the support of some significant church
Irenaeus of Lyon was sympathetic. In 177, Irenaeus
(then a presbyter) brought a letter from the Church in Gaul to
Eleutherus the Roman Bishop, advocating peace concerning Montanism (EH
5.3.4). Whether it was Eleutherus who counselled peace, we do know that
one Bishop of Rome was not ill-disposed towards it.14 In the
beginning of his work against Praxeas (a modalistic monarchian and an
anti-Montanist), Tertullian, the powerful advocate of Montanism, writes,
For the same man [i.e., Praxeas], when the bishop
of Rome at that time had already acknowledged the prophecies of
Montanus, Priscilla and Maximilla, and on the basis of that
acknowledgment had brought peace to the churches of Asia and
Phrygia, by making false assertions about the prophets themselves
and their Churches, and by bring forward the views of his
predecessors, forced him both to recall the letter of peace which
had already been sent and to desist from his intention of admitting
the gifts (Against Praxeas 1).
For the following years, "it may be reasonably
supposed" that at Rome the New Prophecy "remained in an ambiguous
position, disowned and yet not formally and officially condemned."15
The debate concerning the acceptability of Montanism continued to the
time of "pope" Zephyrinus (199-217). After a sharp controversy between
the Montanist, Proclus, and the churchman, Gaius, in which the two men
debated in writing, Montanism was officially rejected in Rome (EH
In Carthage, it would seem that Tertullian, who
joined the Montanist movement in the first decade of the third century,16
passed all his days in the Catholic Church. His writings as a
"spiritual" Christian (i.e., a Montanist) evince differences and debates
with the Catholics, even an element of animosity, but he and his
Montanist friends were rather an ecclesiola in ecclesia than a
schismatic church. How long it was after his death that separate
Montanist churches arose, we are not sure. That Tertullian was highly
regarded amongst them we do know, for in North Africa the Montanists
were known as Tertullianists.17
The church's stance towards Montanism became more
condemnatory and official over the ensuing years: Montanism took its
place in the increasingly long heresy lists. From Constantine on, the
Christian emperors enacted more and more legislation against the
Montanists. The movement itself degenerated somewhat, both in doctrine
and practice. Although Montanists in Asia Minor persisted at least as
late as 721-722, they were a spent force long before then.18
(II) The Doctrines of Montanism
(1) The Modern Consensus
William Cunningham's statement in 1870 that Montanism
was "justly separated from [the church's] communion" is
expressive of the old consensus, but many challengers to that view have
arisen.19 Although, as indicated above, scholars continue to
debate many aspects of Montanism, it is claimed that a consensus has
been reached regarding the unlawfulness of its rejection by the church.
Only two books have appeared in English on the
subject of Montanism. The first of these, Montanism and the Primitive
Church, was written by John de Soyres of Cambridge University in
1878. "Our conclusion," he states, "is that there was nothing [in
Montanism] opposite to an article of creed." He ascribes to Montanism
the diverse operations of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:6f.) and the fruit of
the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), before closing his book with the ominous
And where this Spirit shows itself in these
fruits, though Popes and Councils may anathematize, the Great
Judge will one day reverse their judgment.20
Christine Trevett of the University of Wales College
of Cardiff, in her 1996 study, Montanism: Gender, Authority and the
New Prophecy, appears to avoid the main issue: "The question of
devilish possession versus possession by the Spirit is not one I choose
to address." However, she adds, "I have also come to see in the
much-maligned utterances of the Three ... occasional glimpses of what
was once a rich heritage of prophecy and biblical exposition."21
At present, it is the particularly devout feminists
who are most forthright. Anne Jensen of Tubingen, Germany, in a 1993
monograph alleges, "Modern scholarship has demonstrated the essential
orthodoxy of the original Phrygian movement."22 In her 1997
article, Sheila E. McGinn of Ohio examines the sixteen or so oracles
attributed to Montanus and the Montanist prophets and prophetesses. She
concludes, "These few Oracles demonstrate the doctrinal orthodoxy of the
New Prophecy — a point which is now a matter of consensus among Montanist scholars."23 Interestingly, both these feminist
scholars claim that Montanist orthodoxy has been demonstrated.
This paper will seek to prove the opposite, as well
as—though more incidentally—point out that modern scholarship is not as
uniform on this point as these two ladies suggest. But for now it
remains to notice that the feminists are not alone in their acquittal of
It is easy to appreciate that Montanism not only
provides grist for the feminists,24 but also for the
Charismatics.25 What is perhaps more surprising is the
sympathy expressed by some Roman Catholic and evangelical scholars. A
Jesuit scholar, Walter J. Burghardt, writes, "I can find no persuasive
evidence that primitive Montanism was guilty of heresy."26
David F. Wright, the Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History at
Edinburgh University and the first editor of Themelios, the
leading evangelical journal for biblical and theological students in the
British Isles, states that the church's rejection of Montanism was
"damaging and regrettable:"
The reaction against Montanism brought upon the
church impoverishment more detrimental than the upset caused by the
unbalanced excesses of the New Prophecy.27
(2) The Fundamental Articles
At first, there seems to be something to the claims
of recent scholarship. Writing of his Montanist beliefs, Tertullian
The rule of faith, indeed, is completely one,
alone unalterable and irreformable, that is, in believing in one God
alone, omnipotent, creator of the world, and in his son Jesus
Christ, born of the virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate,
resurrected from the dead on the third day, received into heaven,
now seated at the Father's right hand, who will come to judge the
living and the dead by the resurrection of their flesh also (On
the Veiling of Virgins 1.4).
Hippolytus admitted, "They, like the Church, confess
that God is the Father of the universe and the creator of all things,
and they accept all that the gospel testifies about Christ."28
The fourth-century heresy-hunter Epiphanius gives a similar testimony,
"They use the Old and the New Testaments, and likewise say that there is
a resurrection of the dead" (Medicine
49.2; cf. 48.1.3). "They hold the same view of the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit as the Holy Catholic Church" (Medicine 48.1.4).
Strangely, Epiphanius later contradicts himself and
charges Montanus with equating himself with the Father: "Montanus says
he himself is the Father" (Medicine 48.11.9). Earlier Epiphanius
had quoted two of Montanus' oracles:
Neither angel nor envoy, but I the Lord God the
Father have come (Medicine 48.11.1).
I am the Lord God, the Almighty dwelling in man (Medicine
Pentecostal scholar, Eric Nestler, is to be followed
in his assessment that "probably we have here prophetic oracles without
[being preceded by] the so-called messenger formula 'thus says the
Lord.'"29 After all, Montanus also said,
Behold, man is like a lyre; and I flit about like
a plectron; man sleeps, and I awaken him; behold it is the Lord who
changes the hearts of men and gives man a heart (Medicine
If Montanus really tried to pass himself off as God,
the church would not have had as much trouble in exposing the movement;
and the fathers never would have made general remarks conceding its
orthodoxy regarding the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
It is true, however, as Hippolytus also points out,
that some Montanists fell into Sabellianism (Refutation 8.19;
10.26). Pseudo-Tertullian tells us that this group was under the
leadership of a certain Aeschinus (Against All Heresies 7).
However, both churchmen make it clear that this was only a section
of Montanism and this heresy did not obtain amongst the earliest
In fact, we have in Tertullian's excellent work
Against Praxeas the best refutation of Sabellianism made by any
Ante-Nicene Father. Neither did the early Montanists nor Tertullian
distinguish between the Spirit given to the apostles and the Paraclete
given to the New Prophets.31 It would seem then that on the
fundamental articles confessed then in the early church, Montanism must
be admitted as orthodox. However, as A. Daunton-Fear has well said, "The
fact that in doctrine the 'Paraclete' may have upheld the Church's 'rule
of faith' does not guarantee the truth of its other claims as
(3) Ecstatic Utterances
From the records we have, it appears that the
earliest charge against Montanists was its unorthodox means of
prophesying. Anonymous states that Montanus,
suddenly experiencing some kind of possession and
spurious ecstasy ... was inspired and began to speak and say strange
things, prophesying, as he pretended, contrary to the custom related
to the tradition and succession of the church from the beginning (EH
Priscilla and Maximilla also prophesied like
Montanus: "they spoke in a frenzied manner, unsuitably and abnormally" (EH
We can be one hundred percent sure that the
Montanists did indeed prophecy ecstatically. The Montanist Tertullian,
who wrote in Latin, states that the ecstasy (exstasis) of the New
Prophecy is a state of "being out of one's senses (amentia)" (Against
Marcion 4.22). Elsewhere he defines prophecy in terms of ecstasy:
But this [i.e., the gift of prophecy] only came
on him [i.e., Adam] afterwards, when God infused into him the
ecstasy, or spiritual quality, in which prophecy consists.33
All scholars acknowledge that the ecstatic utterances
did issue (always? usually?) in comprehensible and meaningful messages.
After all, we have a record of some of their oracles. The question
arises if the prophets were "speaking in tongues" like modern
Pentecostals. Most scholars think not.34 However, the
Pentecostal Nestler is much more open to this.35 This is a
dangerous argument for him though, since Anonymous clearly states that
it was contrary to the church's tradition from the beginning.
Anonymous quotes a certain Alcibiades to the effect that neither the Old
nor New Testament prophets nor the prophets who followed them—he refers
to Ammia in Philadelphia and Quadratus—delivered God's Word in this
Epiphanius' unidentified source gives a fairly
thorough treatment of ecstasy in biblical prophecy. Though the prophet
receiving "his utterance from the Holy Spirit" said "all things
vigorously," he spoke "in control of his powers and reasoning and
understanding" (Medicine 48.3.4). He appeals to Moses, Isaiah,
Ezekiel and Daniel in the Old Testament (Medicine 48.3.4-10).
He looks at biblical occurrences of ecstasy, pointing
out that "ecstasy has many different meanings." In Genesis 2, Adam"s
ecstasy was an "ecstasy of sleep ... not an ecstasy of his wits" nor an
"ecstasy of folly" like the Montanists (Medicine
48.4.6; 48.5.8). In Genesis 15, Abraham experienced an "ecstasy of
fear" (Medicine 48.7.8). Peter, in his vision of the sheet let
down from heaven containing the unclean animals (Acts 10), "experienced
ecstasy, not that he did not understand rationally, but that he saw
phenomena different from the everyday order among men" (Medicine
The argument in Epiphanius' Medicine Box
may not convince everyone on all points, but he does construct a
reasonably good case. It is a difficult task to go through all the Bible
and classify the different types of psychological and behavioural
experiences undergone by the different prophets of the Old and New
Testaments36 and then compare these to the ecstasies of the
Montanist prophets. "Most readers will feel that tradition and reason
includes the balance in Epiphanius' favour," writes Walter Klein. "For
all his skill, Tertullian cannot conceal the alien character of the
ecstasy to which he attaches so great a value."37
Daunton-Fear has also done some work in this area;
and has identified two types of ecstasy. The first is that of "visions
and out-of-body experiences" in which the bodily senses are dimmed but
the mind of the person remains conscious. The mind remains active and
participates in another world and is able to recall and relate to others
afterwards what it saw and heard. Daunton-Fear says that this is the
ecstasy experienced by Peter in Acts 10 and by Paul, when he was caught
up to the third heaven (II Cor. 12).38 One can think also of
Ezekiel's visions and other occurrences of this type of ecstasy in the
The second type of ecstasy is that of "possession."
In this type not only are the person's bodily senses curtailed but also
"usually the soul or mind is totally suppressed."
Another psychical entity takes over his body,
controlling speech or actions. The person is thus … (out of his
mind) during the trance and afterwards has no recollection of what
has been said or done.
This type of ecstasy has negative connotations.
Daunton-Fear places heathen prophets, mediums at séances and ...
in this category.39 He goes on to suggest that Montanus'
prophetic ecstasy "could well have come from the cult of Apollo [the
Greek patron of prophecy], widespread in Asia Minor."40
Though Daunton-Fear does not expressly say so, it would follow that
Montanus' inspiration was satanic, for what other "psychical entity"
could "control" him (cf. I Cor. 12:1-2)? This judgment would agree with that of the church
Some caveats might be lodged. First, can such a
clear-cut distinction of two ecstasies really be made? Daunton-Fear
himself seems to be struggling with this, for he says that the
"possession" type of ecstasy "usually" entails the total
suppression of the person's mind. Second, we have no evidence that any
of the Montanist prophets or prophetesses after their ecstasies had "no
recollection of what has been said or done."
Nevertheless, Daunton-Fear, like Epiphanius' source,
does appear to be on to something. Wright admits, "There can be little
doubt that the allegation of ecstasy, however loosely advanced, sticks
against the Montanists."41 Anonymous and Miltiades both
ascribe parekstasis not just
to the Montanists (the prepositional suffix para
usually denoting intensification).42 Nestler states,
"Not prophecy as such, but the ‘extreme and unnatural state of ecstasy’
is being disputed."
Nestler realizes that this type of prophecy is too
much for his less exuberant brand of Pentecostalism. To avoid the charge
of "demonic," he suggests that this intense ecstasy may have been due to
its origin in Phrygia, "whose people were known for the wild enthusiasm
in their pagan religions."43 But does not the Bible tell us
that the devil is worshipped in the heathen religions (cf. I Cor.
10:20)? We must conclude that these ecstatic utterances were certainly
not produced by the Spirit. They arose from the flesh and through the
wiles of the devil.
(4) The New Discipline
Now we must turn form the mode of Montanist
prophecy to its content. What exactly did their "Paraclete"
teach? Tertullian lists as the foremost function of the Paraclete: "to
direct discipline" (On the Veiling of Virgins 1.8; cf. On
Monogamy 2.1-4; 4.1).44 More specifically the New
Prophecy gave directives regarding martyrdom, remarriage, veiling of
virgins, fasts and forgiveness by the church.
First, we shall consider martyrdom. The early
church's critique of the Montanist teaching on this score was not all
that it might have been. For example, Anonymous' charge against the
Montanists was misguided: "Who, noble sirs, of these who began to speak
from Montanus and the women, is there who has been persecuted by the
Jews or slain by the lawless? Not one" (EH 5.16.12).
The principle underlying such a question is that
without martyrs a movement must be false. However, later he seems to
admit that the Montanists did have martyrs, though he adds that this is
no proof of its orthodoxy, since others have died for heresy (EH
5.16.20-22). Indeed, in the history of Montanism not a few were slain
for their beliefs.45 Anonymous' argument falls to the ground.
Yet the Montanists were in error on this subject. Two
of the sixteen or so recorded Montanist oracles concern martyrdom; both
occurring in Tertullian's Concerning Flight
9.4 (cf. On the Soul 55.5). The first reads, "Wish not to choose
to die in your beds, nor in miscarriages and mild fevers, but in
martyrdoms." Tertullian prefaces the other oracle: "Nearly all his words
[i.e., the Paraclete's] exhort to martyrdom not to flight"
Here their Paraclete is exposed as a false Spirit and
not the Spirit of Christ, for Jesus said, "But when they persecute you
in this city, flee ye into another" (Matt. 10:23).46 It is
amazing that the modern writers on Montanism let them off with this.
Wright notes, "Tertullian believed that the Paraclete summoned men to
martyrdom and condemned flight in persecution," but offers not one word
of rebuke.47 Strangely, it is Pentecostal scholar, Nestler,
who notes that this is "certainly" in "conflict with Biblical teaching."48
The Montanist view of marriage was also unscriptural.
What was the effect of the Paraclete coming upon Priscilla and
Maximilla? They left their husbands (EH 5.18.3)!49 In
the Bible, the Holy Spirit magnifies holy matrimony as the great picture
of the relation between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-33). The true
Spirit bonds the godly husband and his faithful wife together in
covenant communion, but the Montanist spirit immediately drives wives
from their husbands! This is not the activity of the Holy Spirit.
That these ladies occupied such a high position in
Montanism must have meant that their example was not without influence.
Apollonius makes the rather general condemnation: Montanus "taught the
dissolution of marriages" (EH 5.18.2). Some evidently learned
this lesson. Burghardt writes, "Without condemning marriage in itself,
the early Montanists exalted chastity and celibacy to such an extent
that some spouses separated by mutual agreement."50 Trevett
agrees: "It seems that the Prophecy could 'loose' and 'bind' (Matt.
16:19; 18:18) in respect of marriages."51
Here we must consider a prophecy by Priscilla:
"Purification produces harmony and they see visions" (Tertullian,
Exhortation to Charity 10.5). Apparently, sexual abstinence is an
aid to receiving visions. Should Montanist married couples then have
intercourse? Should Montanist young people marry at all? Should a widow
or widower remarry? In answer to the first two questions, we can
probably ascribe only an ascetic tendency to the Montanists.
Regarding the latter the issue is more serious.
Timothy Barnes observes that for Tertullian, "Second
marriage was nothing but a species of fornication."52
The Latin Father wrote, "What is our heresy if we condemn second
marriage [in series] as illicit, on par with adultery?" (On Monogamy
15.1). Of course, it all depends on your definition of heresy, but it is
clear that this teaching is directly opposed to the testimony of the
Bible (Rom. 7:3; I Tim. 5:11-14). Even worse, it appears that the
Montanists insisted on the unlawfulness of second marriage after the
death of one's spouse, by excommunicating "offenders" (Medicine
Sadly, the early church too was prone to extol unduly
both martyrdom and virginity and this served to weaken her witness
against Montanism's false teaching at these points.53
Nevertheless, as we have seen above, she did stand up against Montanist
legalism. Epiphanius' unknown source insists "the Word makes allowance
for man's condition and weakness," and points to "a degree of moderation
in the Gospel" (Medicine 48.9.4).
Regarding the veiling of virgins, we see the same
legalism at work in the Montanist spirit. Tertullian felt so strongly
about this subject that he even composed a brief treatise on it,
entitled On the Veiling of Virgins. Veiling was also a law for
them: "Those who have heard him [i.e., the Paraclete] prophesying even
to the present veil virgins" (On the Veiling of Virgins 1.11).
After telling us that Montanus "taught the
dissolution of marriages," Apollonius adds that he also "legislated (nomotheteo)
5.18.2). Hippolytus attacks the Montanists because they "appoint new and
unusual fasts" (Refutation 10.25) and "the eating of dry food (xerophagia)
and cabbage" (Refutation 8.19). Tertullian admits the orthodox
claims, as well as adding the exact nature of the fasting practices:
They [i.e., the Catholics] censure us  because
we keep our own special fasts,  because we frequently extend
fasting into the evening,  because we also practice the eating of
dry food (xerophagias),54 stripping our diet of
all flesh and all juice, and every succulent fruit, nor do we drink
anything that has the flavour of wine (On Fasting 1).
The church itself was beginning to observe more and
more appointed fasts. Thus it was not in the strongest position to
oppose Montanism, but as we have seen above, she did raise her voice in
protest.55 The church saw that the New Prophecy was going too
far and refused to be placed under the burdensome yoke of Montanism. Her
valiant fight for liberty of conscience against unscriptural discipline
is perhaps seen most clearly in the arguments she raised which are
contained in Tertullian's treatise On Monogamy.
Again most modern scholars fail to analyse Montanism
correctly. For example, Wright opines that their "extremism was shocking
but not impious."56 But what is impiety if it is not binding
the consciences of the people of God with unscriptural and
anti-scriptural laws? Nestler, however, comes to the defence of
Christian liberty, condemning the New Prophecy for its binding
obligations and laws.57
Philip Schaff's analysis bears repeating: Montanism "fell from
evangelical freedom into Jewish legalism; while the catholic church in
rejecting the new laws and burdens defended the cause of freedom."58
The legalistic errors of the New Prophecy—its
teachings on martyrdom, second marriage, etc.—were compounded by
another: it shut the kingdom of heaven against gross post-baptismal
sinners, even though they were penitent. Tertullian quotes the Paraclete
in the New Prophets: "The Church can pardon sin, but I will not do it,
lest they also commit other offences" (On Modesty
21.7).59 Evidently, this oracle was provoked by a perception
of too great a generosity to fallen church members. Against this "lax
mildness" Montanism protested; the Montanist was an advocate of the pure
church ideal: no tares must grow amongst the wheat.60
McGinn seeks to rationalize at this point:
 Sin must be avoided at all costs; 
withholding forgiveness for grave sins is a hard practice,  but
it is worth the price if it acts as a deterrent to others.61
We must analyse her argument carefully here.  is
true but it omits to add that the "all costs" must be scriptural.
 also is true but is, at very best, an understatement; for
withholding forgiveness to a penitent is not only "a hard practice" but
a sinful practice (II Cor. 2:10-11). With  we enter the realm
of outright falsehood, rather than "half-truths." Since  is a sinful
practice  is not "worth the price."
We must ask, What of the poor penitent pining away in
his sins (cf. Eze. 33:10)? Is there no clear ministerial witness of the
church regarding forgiveness of his sin? What of the proper
administration of the keys of the kingdom?62 Again the
church—though too severe in this area herself—opposed the cruelty of
It has already been suggested that the Montanists may
have been led to their moral rigorism, because of some laxity in
discipline in the church. Another factor is their eschatology. Of late,
their millenarianism has been the chief subject of debate in this area.
Schaff's affirmation reflects the old consensus: "The Montanists were
the warmest millenarians in the ancient church."64
But this has been challenged, particularly by Charles Hill.65
This debate, interesting as it is, does not
immediately concern us here, for we do know that the Montanists held to
an imminent coming of Christ, and that is sufficient for our purpose.
Maximilla declared, "After me there will no longer be a prophet but the
end" (Medicine 48.2.4).66 According to Anonymous,
Maximilla also prophesied of "wars and anarchy," which suggest Christ's
Olivet Discourse on the end times (EH 5.16.18). Trevett notes
that in another of Maximilla"s oracles she speaks of herself as a
"revealer, and interpreter of this suffering (ponos), covenant
and promise" (Medicine 48.13.1). She points out that this word is
only used three times in the Bible, and that all its occurrences are in
the apocalyptic book of Revelation (16:10-11; 21:4).67
Admittedly, belief in an imminent coming of Christ
was not peculiar to the Montanists. It was an error already opposed by
Christ and His apostles (e.g., Like 19:11 ; II Thess. 2:1f.; II Peter
3). However, one can appreciate how much
easier it was for them, with their direct words from the Paraclete, to
stir people up with this idea. Thus it helped motivate the Montanist
faithful to moral rigorism. One can see their reasoning: "Christ is
coming very soon and the Paraclete is giving us a new and higher
discipline, therefore let us attain to new heights of obedience to God."68
(5) New Revelation From the Paraclete
Having considered how and what the
Montanists prophesied, it remains to consider the fact, that they
prophesied. It is clear from the foregoing that the church did not, by
this stage, rule out prophecy as such, merely the ecstatic type
of prophecy practiced by the Montanists. At this time the church had not
yet clearly faced the issue of the canon of the New Testament
Anonymous tells us that he was hesitant to "compose a
treatise" against the Montanists, "lest in any way I appear to some to
add a new writing or add to the word of the new covenant of the gospel"
(EH 5.16.3). Gaius rejected the Book of Revelation because his
Montanist opponent Proclus relied heavily upon it.69
Apollonius makes the rather weak charge that Themiso "composed a general
epistle in imitation of the apostle" (EH 5.18.5). Probably
Themiso's letter was much the same sort of thing as the letters of
Clement, Polycarp and others in the early church.
Montanism was hard to nail down on this matter of
revelation. Yet the church was guided by an orthodox spirit right from
the start. Anonymous, as we have seen, though not entirely clear on the
issue, was aware of the danger that the Montanist claims to true
prophecy posed. "One who has chosen to live according to the gospel,"
states Anonymous, "can neither add nor subtract from that word [cf. Rev.
22:18-19]" (EH 5.16.3). Hippolytus refers to their "countless
books" which contain the oracles of their prophets (Refutation
8.19). Gaius in debate with Proclus at Rome attacked the Montanists for
"composing new scriptures" (EH
However, David Wright states, "It is immediately
obvious that [the Paraclete of Montanism] has nothing to do with
the rule of faith, or presenting new revelation."70 This
combination "immediately obvious" is an extremely strong statement of
perspicuity. Strangely, it seems that Wright has a much sharper
perception than the rest of us.
John de Soyres affirms the opposite: "Montanus and
his followers claimed to have received a revelation of God, of a nature
supplementary to that communicated by Christ and his apostles."71
Philip Schaff, another one not noted for blindness in the area of
ecclesiastical history, says that supplementation is exactly the issue.
Montanism, he writes, "is the first instance of a theory of development
which assumes an advance beyond the New Testament and the Christianity
of the apostles." For what is supplementation, if it is not an addition,
"an advance beyond"?
Schaff notes that Tertullian—and this holds for
Montanism in general—"gave the revelations of the Phrygian prophets on
matters of practice an importance which interfered with the sufficiency
of the Scriptures."72 Tertullian also erred regarding the
prophecies of the Paraclete and the perspicuity of the Scriptures. He
says that heresies are not without some apparent grounds in the
Scriptures. "Former ambiguities," however, are dispersed "with the plain
and clean proclamation of the complete mystery by the new prophecy which
is overflowing from the Paraclete" (On the Resurrection of the Flesh
Wright makes another misleading statement. He says
that the "Montanist rank and file may have been guilty of extravagant
reverence for the teachings of their prophetic leaders," clearly
implying that their leaders were not.73 This is contrary to
the express statements of Tertullian. For him and all Montanists, the
oracles were an object of faith, since they thought they were words from
God. Tertullian reasoned that the articles "of discipline and life admit
new revisions, since the grace of God continues to operate, of course,
and advance until the end" (On the Veiling of Virgins 1.5). Often
he alleges the Paraclete or specific oracles of the Paraclete either to
back up Scripture—as if it needed such a thing—or to promote a teaching
that "goes beyond" Scripture. For example, Tertullian writes, "for our
part a spiritual principle maintains by the authority of the
Paraclete, which prescribes one marriage" (Against Marcion
Thus Tertullian and the Montanists had a problem. No
matter how hard they tried, their appeals to the Paraclete necessarily
ended up in denying the Scriptures as the only sufficient, perspicuous
and authoritative Word of God. This necessarily followed from their
two-source theory of revelation: the Scriptures and the oracles
of the Paraclete. The Montanists, like the Roman Catholics (Scripture
and sacred tradition) and the Church of the Latter Day Saints
(Scripture and the Book of Mormon, etc.), were unable properly to
confess the Bible alone as the Word of God. In the very act of putting
sacred tradition, or the Book of Mormon, or Montanist
oracles, alongside the Scriptures, the Word of God is dishonoured and
the God of the Word is slighted.
We can go further. Not only is it wrong to put
anything on par with the Scriptures but it is impossible. The Scriptures
are the Word of God and nothing else is. Since the death of the
apostles and the closing of the New Testament canon, God has no longer
been speaking to man by new prophecies. The gift of (revelatory)
prophecy has ceased.74 This key point is sadly overlooked
(ignored? denied?) by most writers on Montanism.
T. V. Moore makes some fine remarks on the history of
the means of revelation. He observes that the three main dispensations
of the covenant of grace—Patriarchal, Mosaic and Christian—are generally
characterized by distinct forms of divine revelation, that is, different
modes of prophecy. The Patriarchal dispensation is theophanic;
God revealed Himself by visible appearances, theophanies. The Mosaic
dispensation is theopneustic; God revealed himself by inspired
men (theou logia). Whereas, the Christian dispensation is
theologic; God reveals Himself in the inspired Scriptures (theopneustoi;
I Peter 4:11).75
In II Peter 1:21, the apostle tells us that in the
former age (the Mosaic dispensation) "holy men of God spake
as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." It is the glory of the Christian
era that we have the complete inscripturated Word of God.76
It is the prophetic word not the prophetic office or
that is "a light that shineth in a dark place" (1:19). Moore also points
to other texts in I and II Peter "where this peculiar feature of the
Christian dispensation is set forth."77
Christians are indeed "the people of the Book!" This is also in
keeping with the nature of the New Testament dispensation, for only
written revelation can be truly universal.
Thus Moore concludes,
To leave the Word and fall back on the
revelations of the Spirit, supposed to be granted to inspired men,
would be to reproduce the essential characteristic of the Mosaic
dispensation … putting the Spirit above the letter, as they term it,
or the inspired man above the inspired word, if such man-inspiration
were conceded, would be a retrogression rather than a progression.78
A Montanist would doubtless object that the Paraclete
was not seeking to add to the "rule of faith," only to supplement the
Bible on moral matters, but this position is untenable. First, although
we can distinguish between faith and practice, we cannot
separate them.79 Second, as we have seen, the Paraclete
make proclamations about things other than discipline. It spoke of
eschatology and the power of the church (in forgiving sin). Third, the
Bible claims sufficiency in ethics as well as in doctrine. Both are
included in II Timothy 3:15-16, which emphasizes Scripture's sole
control over all of the Christian’s life.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and
is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be
furnished unto all good works.
Thus not only was the Montanist Paraclete a false
spirit because it prophesied in an unscriptural fashion and it delivered
statements contrary to the Bible, but it was also a wicked spirit
because it dared prophesy at all. When Montanus declared, "Neither
angel nor envoy, but I the Lord God the Father have come" (Medicine
48.11.1), whether he claimed to be divine does not really matter.
That he claimed to be bringing new revelation from God is sufficient to
condemn him. Montanus falls under the awesome condemnation of Revelation
22:18: "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him
the plagues that are written in this book" (cf. Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6).80
(6) Loose Ends
Since the Montanist spirit was not the Spirit of God,
we are not surprised that its mode and content of prophecy were
unbiblical. We would be surprised if they were. Similarly, it is no
shock to find unfulfilled Montanist prophecies; only that most
contemporary scholars allow them to get away with it.
Maximilla prophesied, "After me there will  no
longer be a prophet but  the end" (Medicine 48.2.4).
Epiphanius traces this oracle to the "serpent," since both predictions
have been falsified (Medicine 48.2.5-9).81 Regarding
, Wright makes the ridiculous excuse that she "presumably did not
exclude some interval before it ensued."82 She has had 1,800
years now. How much longer do you want? McGinn tries a more subtle form
of evasion. She says that the "me" might refer to the Paraclete not
Maximilla: "After me [i.e., the Paraclete] there will no longer be a
prophet but the end." McGinn adds, this prophecy is "not yet
fulfilled."83 To what lengths scholars will go to protect
charismatic errorists! Maximilla claimed to be speaking the Word of God;
she must be taken seriously and held to her word.
Maximilla also predicted  approaching "wars and
anarchy." Anonymous stated thirteen years after her death "there has
been neither a general nor a local war" (EH
5.16.18-19). She was wrong, therefore, on all three scores. Maximilla
was a false prophet (Deut. 18:22).
There is more in the way of false prophecy in
Montanism. Tertullian states that the New Prophecy predicted that an
image of the heavenly Jerusalem would appear in the sky in Judea. He
claims some travellers in the East reported such a thing (Against
Marcion 3.24). Many things could be said about this oracle, but we
will only note that this does not fit with another claim regarding the
New Prophecy (cf.  below). Epiphanius records a prophetess in Pepuza
 Having assumed the form of a woman, 
Christ came to me in a bright robe and put wisdom in me,  and
revealed to me that this place is holy,  and that it is here that
Jerusalem will descend from heaven (Medicine 49.1).84
Again this prophecy is manifestly false. First,
Christ, much to the chagrin of the feminists, never assumes "the form of
a woman" .85 Second, in New Testament days no place is
"holy"  (cf. John 4:21).86 Third, and most importantly,
the glorified Christ is robed in such majesty that those who see Him
fall down as dead (cf. Rev. 1). It is strange that the Montanists who
aspired after perfection should not realize the awesome holiness of the
exalted Head of the church.
This leads us to a consideration of the Christ of
Montanism. Clearly not only did they receive another spirit, but they
preached another Christ (cf. II Cor. 11:4). Mary Jane Kreidler observes,
"While there are two references to Christ in the Montanist oracles, his
place within that revelation does not seem necessary."87 The
other oracle that refers to Christ was uttered by Maximilla: "Hear not
me but hear Christ" (Medicine 48.12.4). In itself it sounds
pious. McGinn tries to make it look like a rich theological statement:
it "charges the hearer to listen to Christ alone," and it suggests "that
the direct voice of God in Christ is heard through prophecy."88
When we remember that Pope John Paul II, Benny Hinn, Charles Finney and
Charles Taze Russell have said similar things, we see that this prophecy
That is just the problem. Montanism had nothing to
say of any use. Hippolytus reckoned that their countless writings were
worthless, consisting of "errors and dreams, fables and silly tales" (Commentary
on Daniel 4.20). "We have demonstrated to all," he says elsewhere,
"that their many books and undertakings are nonsense, being weak and
deserving of no argument. Those who possess a sound mind need not pay
any attention to them" (Refutation 8.19).89 The
oracles we possess point to a similar conclusion. They are a
conglomeration of common places, falsehoods and nonsense.
What did Montanism have to add to the church? Many
scholars speak about its warm piety and moral earnestness.90
But the laws they were keeping were not those of Christ but of man. They
rave about their egalitarianism, but the Montanists had no appreciation
of the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.91
Wright points to The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas as a
model of Christian fortitude in dying for the gospel's sake. Yet there
was nothing more in their deaths than countless other Christian martyrs,
except it be in their visions, and in this they were wrong.92
In particular, Wright appeals to "the narrative’s
vivid sense of the immediacy of the power of the Spirit."93
We rejoice in the working of the Holy Spirit in God’s children; but as
for the Montanist spirit, its immediacy is a sign of God’s wrath.
Furthermore, is not the blessed Spirit spoken of in the Bible closer to
us than we can realize? And is it not the greatest manifestation of His
power that He breaks the dominion of sin in our hearts and enables us to
obey God’s law, out of thankfulness for Christ's redemption?
There is another understanding of Montanism that must
be rejected. The New Prophecy, some maintain, was merely an exaggerated
Christianity, one that happened to run to extremes. Philip Schaff may be
taken as a representative of this view. He speaks of Montanism as "a
morbid overstraining of the practical morality and discipline of
the church." He says it partook of "an excessive
supernaturalism and puritanism." "Its errors consist in a morbid
exaggeration of Christian idea and demands." "It is the first
example of an earnest and well-meaning, but gloomy and fanatical
hyper-Christianity, which, like all hyper-spiritualism, is
apt to end in the flesh."94
We must reply that the gospel of God is one thing of
which we cannot have too much, or into which we can ever go far enough.
Whatever is beyond Christianity is, by that very fact, not
While Montanism clung to elements of Christianity, to that extent it
possessed some semblance of truth, but everything peculiar to Montanism
itself was of its father, the devil. In short, Montanism had absolutely
no positive contribution to make to the church as such. This is not to
deny that there may have been believers who were caught up in it (at
least for a time),96 but it is to say that Montanism was
wedded to a false spirit, which led it further and further from the
We must now consider Montanism's oft-repeated claim
to be part of the fulfillment of Jesus' word in John 14-16. The
Montanists said that they possessed the prophesied Paraclete who would
reveal things to come, lead the church into the truth and glorify Christ
(John 14-16). We have seen its predictions to be false and its "truth"
to be lies; and it certainly did not glorify Christ. Montanism deemed
His mercy in receiving penitent Christians unwise; it rejected His
kingship by imposing man-made laws; and it falsely claimed to be
uttering His words. Worst of all it pointed to law and not to God's
grace coming to us through the cross of Christ. Epiphanius' unknown
source was correct in his judgment of Montanus (and Montanism):
He will be found to be outside the body of the
church, and outside the head of the whole, and not to be grasping
the head [cf. Col. 2:19] from which the whole body being fitted
together [cf. Eph. 4:16] will grow [cf. Eph. 2:21], according to
what has been written (Medicine 48.11.10).98
Hippolytus also attacked them for their denigrating
Christ and His Word:
They say that they have learned something more
through them than from the Law and the Prophets and the Gospels. And
they magnify those weak females above the apostles and every divine
gift, so that some of them dare say that something greater
has occurred in them than in Christ (Refutation 8.19).
Klein makes the valid point that if Montanism "had
triumphed [in the catholic church], there might have been no end to its
revelation and innovations."99 Thankfully, it did not come to
that. The church firmly rejected Montanism. Admittedly, the fathers
sometimes struggled to identify her errors and some showed greater
theological acumen than others. Sometimes one gets the impression that
the fathers were motivated largely by an orthodox instinct,
sensing that Montanism was wrong, without being able to put their finger
exactly on the problem. Some of the arguments they made were of little
value, while other proper criticisms could have been made more
trenchantly, and some important lines of attack they missed.
Thus not only was the church right to examine100
and expel Montanism, but she did so—on the whole—for the right reasons.
After Wright and Burghardt give Montanism a clean bill of health (though
admitting a tendency to enthusiasm) they are forced to look for a reason
why the church condemned them. Both attribute this to the sin of the
church and not the Montanists! Wright sees it as suffering "at the
hands of a church preoccupied with closing the ranks."101
Burghardt says the same thing: "The pressures of institutional success
demanded an authority structure dominated by responsible
establishmentarians, not erratic ecstatics."102
Even though they are going against the evidence from
the church fathers, neither offers a scrap of evidence for their
contention. Furthermore both Wright and Burghardt—and modern scholarship
in general—fail to analyse Montanism in the light of the Scriptures.
They do not bring the Word of God to bear on the movement; and therefore
their critique of Montanism is flawed.
Powell is much nearer the mark:
What reduced the pneumatic to a second-rate
factor in the life of the community [i.e., the church] was less the
episcopal claim to discern spirits than the canonization of the
Apostolic Writings as a New Testament, with its final reduction of
all non-apostolic prophecy.103
The struggle with Montanism had two healthy effects.
First, it helped the Church to come to a sharper view of Scripture.
While the Marcionites erred by defect, the Montanists erred by
supplementation, regarding the canon. The church steered a clear course
between Scylla and Charybdis. Second, it made her more sceptical of
claims to prophetic inspiration. One might have wished that the
Montanists had been involved in miraculous healings, that this too might
have been rejected with its all its other heresies.104
However, the Sovereign Lord has His perfect plan for His church and this
was not to be.
The church fathers, on the whole, could have been
clearer in rejecting continuing revelation in toto and affirming
the sole authority and sufficiency of Scripture. This, however, had to
wait until the sixteenth-century Reformation. Sadly, the errors
repressed in Montanism, such as legalistic fasting and revelatory
prophecy would later spring up in the church.105
(7) Montanism"s Attack on the One, Holy, Catholic
and Apostolic Church
From the preceding, it is clear that Montanism was a
heretical movement: it held false and vicious doctrines. It only remains
to consider the Montanist view of the church. Here its
erroneous notions meant that, even practically speaking, it could not
remain in the bosom of the one, holy and apostolic church.
Montanism destroys church unity by proposing two
types of Christian: those who are "spiritual" (the Montanists, who
acknowledge the Paraclete) and those who are merely "soulish" (the
catholics). This "two-tiered" Christianity imperils the common salvation
that all the saints have in Christ. In his treatise On Monogamy,
we see Tertullian attacking the soulish catholics for rejecting the
Paraclete and its new discipline. He speaks repeatedly of "us" and
"them;" and, from what we tell of the views of his catholic opponents,
the "us and them" outlook was mutual.
In On the Soul 9.4, Tertullian speaks of a
"sister among us" who "obtains instructions of healing for
those who want them," implying that not all in Tertullian's church
in Carthage desired her advice. This lady, Tertullian tells us, receives
"gifts of revelation which she experiences by ecstasy in the Spirit
in the Church at the Sunday service." It appears, though, that
Tertullian does not mean that she speaks during the meeting. He
relates how "after the religious service was completed, when the
people had been dismissed," she recounted, "according to her
custom," a vision she had seen of a soul "in bodily form"!
This after-church gathering of the "spiritual"
Christians, when the "psychics" had gone home, is clear evidence of an
ecclesiola in ecclesia. The tension this generates makes external
church unity hard to maintain. Just as, after the death of John Wesley,
the Methodists left the Church of England, so, when Tertullian died, it
is no surprise that the Montanists of North Africa formed their own
The holiness of the church was also endangered. Piety
in Montanism largely consisted in obedience to new (unbiblical) laws and
submission to their Paraclete. Godly marriage, which is at the heart of
the family and therefore vital in the church, was slighted. Christian
discipline was not enacted solely according to the rules found of the
gospel. The pure church ideal, which promotes a counterfeit holiness,
was espoused.106 Speaking of "inconsiderate zeal for
righteousness," Calvin warns, "this excessive moroseness is more the
result of pride and a false idea of sanctity, than genuine sanctity
itself and true zeal for it."107
The catholicity of the church was also imperilled by
the Montanists. Though the Montanist cause had advocates further west,
such as in Gaul, Rome and Carthage, its main centre was Asia Minor,
especially the region of Phrygia. As the Donatists would later be
assailed as the African church, so the Montanists were rightly
castigated by the church fathers as the "Cataphrygians." This
localization of the church contrasts with the Scriptural teaching of the
universal nature of the church. "The earth is the Lord’s, and the
fulness thereof," declares the Psalmist (Ps. 24:1); and so the Son of
God gathers, defends and preserves His church "out of the whole human
race."108 The Montanist view was an implicit denial of the
mystery of Christ in His catholic church (Eph. 3).
The apostolicity of the church was denied, since they
added to the Scriptures. Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the church is
"built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ
himself being the chief cornerstone." Since the Montanists added to the
foundation and thereby subverted it, the structure they sought to erect
was not the church but a synagogue of Satan (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). Thus the apostolic Christ
was set aside.
Thus it is absurd for Montanism (or modern
scholarship) to claim that the New Prophecy was a reformatory movement.
It is true that they wished their ideas to spread and sought first
toleration and then dominance (cf. Against Praxeas 1).109
After all, did they not have something additional to what the church
had? Did it not also come with the authority of Almighty God? But we
must ask, Where was true preaching in Montanism? Where was its holding
forth true church government? Where were its protests (from the Bible)
against the loss of the offices of elder and deacon in the early church?
Where were its noted dogmatic works?110
This reformatory spirit only compounded their sin,
for they sought to propagate their errors,111 indeed to
refashion the church on the basis of them. It also made their presence
in the church even more intolerable. As well as being errorists, they
were a constant nuisance to the church. As Tertullian wrote against the
psychics, "It remains for you to suppress him [i.e., the Paraclete]
completely, so far as you are able" (On Fasting 11).
That day was coming. In line with Tertullian’s
remark, the Montanists were excluded because they had another spirit
(II Cor. 11:4). This was the heart of the issue. Herein lies the great
irony of Montanism. The Montanists claimed superiority because they had
the Paraclete, the perfector of God’s revelation. "The fullness of the
prophetic charisma had not yet come with Christ or His apostles but only
with Montanus and his prophetesses."112 But their spirit was
a spirit that goes beyond the words of the Holy Spirit; a spirit which
inculcates new laws which are the way of a higher holiness; and a spirit
which betrays a discontent with the fullness of salvation found in Jesus
This—their shame—they declared as their glory. Since
Montanism's spirit is not the "one Spirit" (Eph. 4:4) of the holy,
catholic church, the sin of their separation lies wholly with the
Montanists; their heresy was the ground of the split. The expulsion of
Montanism by the church was wholly justified.
(III) Epilogue: Montanism Today?
Montanism died over 1,700 years ago (though its death
throes lasted for a while longer), far away from English-speaking lands.
It no longer exists and no one claims the name of "Montanist," so what
is its relevance for today?
In the words of the noted historian of dogma, K. R.
Hagenbach, Montanism was "the forerunner of all the fanaticism which
pervades the history of the church."114 Three major strands
of "Christian" enthusiasm are found in it: an imminent parousia,
a pure church ideal and continuing, extraordinary, spiritual gifts. Of
these three, it is the last that particularly concerns us, for it has a
striking contemporary manifestation in modern
Differences, however, certainly exist between the
two. Many sections of Pentecostalism show much less interest in an
imminent second coming of Christ, with its resultant ethical demands.
But in some Pentecostal churches, particularly of the Holiness variety,
there is a definite legalistic tendency. Charismaticism, unlike Montanism,
typically has little place for strenuous ethical requirements. While the New
Prophecy desired moral purity, the Charismatics generally have less interest in
obedience to laws, whether from Christ or man. Thus Charismatic churches are not marked by strict
discipline or (often) any discipline at all. It is rather religious
experiences that the Charismatic seeks. Membership in Pentecosal or Charismatic
churches is open to all who want to feel the presence of their "spirit."
Tongue-speaking and miraculous faith-healers are elements in
Pentecostalism and Charismaticism which were unknown or of much less significance in Montanism.
Having said all that, their similarities, first,
in their views of ongoing revelation, are striking. The Montanists
and the Pentecostals and Charismatics appeal to the same passages of Scripture. Most
important in the Montanist offensive was Christ’s promise of the coming
Paraclete in John 14-16. Their second key passage was Joel’s prophecy of
the outpouring of the Spirit, which would cause the church’s sons and
daughters to prophecy (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18). Paul’s discourse on
spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12-14 was another favourite. Concerning
biblical personages, appeal was made to the prophet Agabus (Acts 12:28;
21:10-11) and Philip’s four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9).116
In their twisting of these Scriptures, as if the extraordinary temporal
offices and gifts would continue after the apostolic age and the
completion of the canon of God's Word (II Cor. 12:12; Eph. 2:20; II
Peter 1:16-21), both the New Prophecy and
Pentecostalism attack the sufficiency of Scripture, the once-for-all
character of Pentecost and the fullness of Christ.
Second, both movements, because of their pneumatic
rather than biblical orientation, ascribe to women unlawful roles
in the church. We have already seen that two of the original trio of
leaders in Montanism were women. The Montanists also permitted women
deacons and even women presbyters and bishops. All offices were open to
them in Montanist churches.117 Some Pentecostal and
Charismatic churches have not gone so far, though the Pentecostal and
Charismatic movements are in the forefront of feminism in the church
Epiphanius informs us that the Montanists used
Galatians 3:28 in this regard: "in Christ there is neither male nor
female" (Medicine 49.2). As well as it being unbiblical to
use this verse (which speaks of male and female equality in salvation)
to counter texts which specifically forbid church office to women (I
Cor. 14:33-37; I Tim. 2:11-14), Powell points out "there is no patristic
parallel for such a use."118 Again, the Montanists and the
Charismatic feminists (and non-Charismatic feminists) appeal to the same
biblical texts and personages (Eve [!], Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna,
Philip’s four daughters) and with just as little validity. A few
examples of the extraordinary, temporary office of prophetess in
biblical times do not justify women in the ordinary, permanent offices
of pastor, elder or deacon contrary to express biblical teaching (I
Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-9). The church
fathers soundly defeated them on this score too.119
We come, third, to immorality. Though the Montanists claimed a higher-than-biblical morality, they were not
without scandals. Apollonius tells us that Priscilla wore gold, silver
and expensive clothes (EH 5.18.4). Themiso, one of their leaders,
who was arrested for his adherence to Christianity, bought his way out
of prison (EH 5.18.5). Alexander, with whom one of the Montanist
prophetesses lived (!),was guilty of gluttony, covetousness and theft.
Apollonius adds, "His own diocese whence he had come would not receive
him because he was a robber" (EH 5.18.6-10). He also speaks of a
Montanist prophet (!) who dyed his hair, painted his eyelids
and adorned himself with ornaments (EH 5.18.11).
Powell reckons that this all occurred some time after
the first flourishing of Montanism,120 but it is clear that
such laxity was already evident in the time of Priscilla and affected
even the "clergy." One wonders what happened to strict Montanist
discipline regarding these "spiritual" Montanist leaders. Were those
filled with the Paraclete beyond reproof? Certainly, Tertullian would
have been appalled. Contradictions and glaring inconsistencies were to
be found between the Montanist message and its messengers.
On the whole, Charismaticism is worse than Montanism on
this issue, especially as regards its most prominent,
popular and wealthy leaders, such as a Benny Hinn or a Paul
Crouch. Not only do their followers
tolerate their worldly behaviour, but they continue to flock to
and watch their meetings and contribute to their extravagant
A fourth parallel which exists between Charismaticism and Pentecostalism,
on the one hand,
and Montanism, on the other, is failed prophecy. This has already
been documented concerning Montanism but this feature is probably even
more appalling in modern Charismaticism. Year after year the prophecies
of the leaders fail and their followers allow them to get
away with it without effectual discipline (Deut. 18:22; Matt. 18:15-18; I Cor. 5:2-8). Thus they bring the Word of God into disrepute and prove
On the whole, Pentecostalism and Charismaticism, with their added
sins of "miraculous" healings and prominent tongue speaking, are
probably worse than Montanism. Yet the modern church world is unable to recognize
in it the same wicked spirit that the church rejected all those
centuries ago. This is deplorable not only because the modern church
neglects the lessons of church history but also because the development
of doctrine over the years makes it easier to recognize false spirits.
Pentecostalism exists not only in separate
denominations but it has also, as Charismaticism, infiltrated other churches and even some Reformed and Presbyterian bodies to various degrees. Needed again are churchmen like the early fathers, who
are strong in the Scriptures and able to warn the flock of Christ. The
same valiant, antithetical stand is required today. Like the
early church, the true church today must not shy away from denouncing
the Charismatic spirit as the spirit of the evil one. Only in this way
will she be able to defend the Reformation gospel, especially Christ alone and
1 All translations from the
church fathers, unless otherwise indicated, are those of Ronald E.
Heine. His compilation, The Montanist Oracles and Testimonia
(Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1989) is the fullest and most
recent work chronicling the references to Montanism in the early church.
2 Hereafter abbreviated
3 E.g., Christine Trevett:
"that may have been said to discredit him" (Montanism: Gender,
Authority and the New Prophecy [Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1996], p. 77).
4 John De Soyres,
Montanism and the Primitive Church (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell and
Co., 1878), p. 31.
5 Trevett, Op. cit.,
pp. 15-26. Some have even suggested that Ardabau, because it had a name
similar to a town in 4 Ezra, was only symbolic of the coming
millennium (cf. pp. 23-26).
6 Anne Jensen, "Prisca -
Maximilla - Montanus: Who was the Founder of ‘Montanism’?" in Elizabeth
Livingstone (ed.), Studia Patristica, vol. 26 (Leuven: Peeter's
Press, 1993), p. 148.
7 Trevett, Op. cit.,
8 Hereafter abbreviated
9 Douglas Powell is one of
its strongest advocates: "For the original appearance of the New
Prophecy in Phrygia, Eusebius' date of 172 is clearly to be preferred,
and Epiphanius' date of 156-7 can be disregarded" ("Tertullianists and
Cataphrygians," Vigiliae Christianae, 29, 41 ).
10 Trevett, Op. cit.,
11 E.g., Anonymous speaks of
their influence in Ancyra in Galatia (EH 5.16.4-5).
12 The Martyrdom of
Felicitas and Perpetua can be found, for example, in Alexander
Roberts and James Donaldson (eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, repr. 1986), pp. 697-706.
13 For the martyrs in Gaul,
see Trevett, Op. cit., p. 53; and for Perpetua and Felicitas, see
William Tabbernee, "Remnants of the New Prophecy: Literary and
Epigraphical Sources of the Montanist Movement," in Elizabeth
Livingstone (ed.), Studia Patristica, vol. 21 (Leuven:
Peeter's Press, 1989), pp. 195-196. Augustine, over two centuries later,
highly esteemed the two martyrs from Carthage.
14 Other scholars have
identified this irenic Roman bishop as Victor (189-198). Richard P.
McBrien, an expert on Roman Catholicism, opts for Eleutherus (Lives
of the Popes [San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997], p. 41).
15 De Soyres, Op. cit.,
16 Trevett affirms, "It is
generally agreed that Tertullian had migrated to the Prophecy by the
year 207 at the latest" (Op. cit., p. 71). It is difficult to
give a more precise date than this.
17 The position set forth in
this paragraph, regarding Tertullian's relation to the Catholic Church,
is that expressed in Douglas Powell's 1975 article, "Tertullianists and
Cataphrygians," which has generally been followed by Montanist scholars.
It is not clear whether the Tertullianists split from the main body of
Montanists or were merely Montanists who lived in North Africa (S. L.
Greenslade, Schism in the Early Church [London: SCM Press, 1953],
18 At this time, many
Montanists committed mass suicide rather than submit to Christian
baptism under the edict of the Byzantine emperor, Leo III (Trevett,
Op. cit., p. 230).
19 William Cunningham,
Historical Theology, vol. 1 (London: Banner, repr. 1969), p. 161;
20 De Soyres, Op. cit.,
pp. 132-133; italics mine.
21 Trevett, Op. cit.,
pp. 149-150; italics mine.
22 Jensen, Op. cit., 148.
23 Sheila E. McGinn, "The
"Montanist" Oracles and Prophetic Theology," in Elizabeth A. Livingstone
(ed.), Studia Patristica, vol. 31 (Leuven: Peeter"s Press, 1997),
p. 132. This statement follows McGinn's disproportionately long
treatment of the oracle which speaks of a vision of Christ "under the
appearance of a woman." When she goes on to speak of this "hard-won
consensus" (p. 132, n. 18), one wonders if it is not the feminist
implications of Montanism which has led her and others to seek its
24 For example, Elaine C.
Huber seeks to point out the relevance of Montanism and Anne Hutchinson
(the seventeenth century New England prophet) for contemporary
"Christian" feminists (Women and the Authority of Inspiration: A
Re-examination of Two Movements from a Contemporary Feminist Perspective
[USA: University Press of America, 1985]).
25 Of the material by
Pentecostals and Charismatics on this subject, especially noteworthy is
a study by Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., of Fuller Theological Seminary, on the
prophecy of the Montanists: Perpetua (probably) and Tertullian
(definitely), as well as the latter's successor, Cyprian (Prophecy in
Carthage: Perpetua, Tertullian, and Cyprian [Cleveland, OH: The
Pilgrim Press, 1992]). Interestingly, Robeck is not beyond making
certain criticisms of Carthaginian prophecy.
26 Walter J. Burghardt,
"Primitive Montanism: Why Condemned?" in Dikran Y. Hadidian (ed.), From
Faith to Faith: Essays in Honor of Donald G. Miller on his Seventieth
Birthday (Pittsburgh: The Pickwick Press, 1979), p. 340.
27 David F. Wright, "Why
were the Montanists Condemned?" Themelios, 2, 21-22 (1970).
28 Hippolytus, Refutation
of All Heresies 8.19; cf. 10. 25. Hereafter abbreviated
29 Eric Nestler, "Was
Montanism a Heresy?" Pneuma, 71 (Spring, 1984).
30 Montanus is not the only
one to use such imagery. Many Montanist scholars have noted similar
expressions in Athenagoras and Pseudo-Justin. Powell points out, though,
"The significance lies in the fact that the Apologists are talking about
past prophecy, the plenary inspiration of the canonical Old
Testament prophets" (Op. cit., 52; italics Powell's).
31 Cf. Powell, Ibid., 40.
32 A. Daunton-Fear, "The
Ecstasies of Montanus," in Elizabeth A. Livingstone (ed.), Studia
Patristica, vol. 17, part 2 (Great Britain: A. Wheaton & Co. Ltd.,
1982), p. 650; italics Daunton-Fear's.
33 Tertullian, A Treatise
on the Soul, 21.2; italics mine (The Ante-Nicene Fathers,
vol. 3, p. 201). Heine does not include this valuable insight on
Tertullian's view of prophecy in his compilation because it does
specifically mention Montanism.
34 E.g., Walter C. Klein,
"The Church and its Prophets," Anglican Theological Review, 44,
no. 1, 15 (Jan., 1962); Powell, Op. cit., 51.
35 Nestler, Op. cit., 69.
36 For a brief treatment on
ecstasy in the Bible, see David E. Aune, "Ecstasy," in Geoffrey W.
Bromiley (ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol.
2 (USA: Eerdmans, rev. 1982), pp. 14-16.
37 Klein, Op. cit., 15.
38 Daunton-Fear, Op. cit.,
40 Ibid., 650.
Daunton-Fear's article is dated 1982. It is clear that he is not part of
McGinn's "modern consensus."
41 Wright, Op. cit., 17.
42 It is Anonymous and
Miltiades who use the word parekstasis, not Alcibiades and
Miltiades, as Nestler wrongly asserts (Op. cit., 70).
43 Ibid., 70. The link
between Montanism and ecstatic Phrygian paganism has been much
questioned by recent scholarship (cf. Trevett, Op. cit., pp.
8-10). J. Massingberd Ford"s proposal relating Montanism to Judaism is
viewed even less favourably ("Was Montanism a Jewish Heresy?" Journal
of Ecclesiastical History, 17, no. 2, 145-158 [Oct., 1966]).
44 There may well have been
differences between Tertullian's teaching and that of Montanism in Asia
Minor. This is particularly likely regarding discipline, since the
puritanical Tertullian may have gone a bit further than other
Montanists. Cf. Trevett: "The extant oracles of the Prophets, the
sources of Eusebius, Epiphanius and the Roman Hippolytus suggest" the
same picture of Montanist asceticism. "But Tertullian told the story
more clearly and probably with some embellishment" (Op. cit.,
p. 120; italics Trevett's).
45 See, for example, the
references to Montanist martyrs in William Tabbernee, Montanist
Inscriptions and Testimonia: Epigraphic Sources Illustrating the History
of Montanism (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997).
46 McGinn admits that the
two oracles "certainly discourage flight from impending martyrdom" (Op.
47 Wright, Op. cit., 17.
48 Nestler, Op. cit., 71.
Nestler appeals to Matthew 10:23, as does the author of the article,
"Montanism" in McClintock and Strong (eds.), Cyclopedia of Biblical,
Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids,
Eerdmans, repr. 1969), p. 528.
49 Powell seeks to avoid
this conclusion by ascribing a different meaning to this passage, namely
that the women had already left their husbands before they
received the Paraclete (Op. cit., 42, n. 45). No one seems to be
following his reading of the Greek.
50 Burghardt, Op. cit., 343.
51 Trevett, Op. cit.,
52 Timothy David Barnes,
Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1971), p. 139.
53 Cf. Trevett, Op. cit.,
pp. 110-111, 128-129; De Soyres, Op. cit., pp. 85-86.
54 Later, Tertullian tells
us that the xerophagies lasted for two weeks in the year (On Fasting
55 I Timothy 4:1-3 is the
passage most often appealed to by the church fathers against Montanism:
"Now the Spirit speaketh
expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart (apostesontai;
apostatize) from the faith, giving heed to seducing
spirits, and doctrines of devils
... forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from
56 Wright, Op. cit., 21.
57 Nestler, Op. cit., 71. He
writes, "What had been voluntary in the church up to then [the
Montanists] made a duty" (73).
58 Philip Schaff, History
of the Christian Church, vol. 2 (USA: Hendrickson, repr. 1996), p.
425. N. Bonwetch also condemns Montanism for its assault on Christian
liberty ("Montanus, Montanism," in Samuel Macauley Jackson et al.
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 7
[New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1910], pp. 486-487).
59 For Tertullian, though
God could forgive members who committed any of the "seven deadly sins,"
the church could not proclaim their absolution. In one place, he
identifies the seven as "idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery,
fornication, false-witness and fraud" (Against Marcion
4.9, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 356).
60 Cf. Trevett, Op. cit.,
61 McGinn, Op. cit.,
62 Cf. Heidelberg
Catechism, Lord's Day 31.
63 See, for example,
Jerome's Epistle 41, To Marcella, 3.
64 Schaff, Op. cit.,
65 Charles E. Hill, "The
Marriage of Montanism and Millenialism," in Elizabeth A. Livingstone
(ed.), Studia Patristica, vol. 26 (Leuven: Peeter's Press, 1993),
pp. 140-146. The strongest argument against Hill's position is that
Montanist oracle in which Christ (allegedly) declares, "It is here
[i.e., Pepuza] that Jerusalem will descend form heaven" (cf. Medicine
49.1). The strongest argument Hill adduces is that none of the fervent
anti-chiliasts (e.g., Eusebius, Jerome or Augustine) ever mention it.
However, even Hill concludes, "We cannot entirely rule out the
possibility that the early Montanists were chiliasts" (p. 146).
66 However, Douglas Powell
declares, "there is no reason to suppose that [the original Montanism]
taught an imminent parousia" (Op. cit., 50). He had earlier quoted
Maximilla's oracle, and inferred that it must have been delivered late
in her life, while in the early days such teaching had no place in the
notions of the Trio (43f.). His reasoning is weak at this point.
67 Trevett, Op. cit.,
p. 102. Interestingly, the word "covenant" in Maximilla's oracle is not
diatheke (a unilaterally imposed covenant), the word used in the New
Testament, but suntheke (a contract between two parties), a word
not found in the New Testament.
68 "All these requirements
were made by the Paraclete because the last day was nigh"
(Bonwetch, Op. cit., 486; italics mine). Cf. Burghardt: the "Paraclete
was seen as providing a new revelation, a fresh outpouring of truth, a
definitive set of demands on the true Christian in the expectation of
the world's end and Christ's return" (Op. cit., 342; italics mine).
69 Wright, Op. cit., 20.
70 Ibid., 19; italics mine.
71 De Soyres, Op. cit.,
p. 58; italics mine.
72 Schaff, Op. cit.,
73 Wright, Op. cit., 19.
74 Cf. Westminster
"The whole council of God,
concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation,
faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by
good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture:
unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new
revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men."
75 T. V. Moore, A
Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Great Britain: Banner,
repr 1979), pp. 14-19. He points out,
"As the dispensations overlap and
make the transition gradually from one to another, so also do these
characteristics. But the several dispensations have obviously these
characteristics, and hence a form of the prophetic gift peculiar to
each" (p. 15).
76 Hence Peter argues that
having the Scriptures is of greater benefit than being with Christ on
the mount of transfiguration (II Peter 1:16-21).
77 Moore, Op. cit.,
p. 18 (I Peter 1:12, 23; 4:11; II Peter 3:2, 16).
78 Ibid., p.19. It is
significant that the spirit of Montanism did indeed promote law, the
characteristic of the Mosaic dispensation. We are not, here, trying to
trace the influence of Judaism, or paganism for that matter, on
Montanism—a difficult task, given our current state of knowledge on the
origins of Montanism—merely point out similarities.
79 Nestler makes similar
remarks (Op. cit., 67-68, 74-75).
80 Thus continuing
revelation is the most basic error of Montanism; not its
(probable) millennialism nor its rigorous discipline nor its feminism
nor its anti-clericalism
81 Concerning ,
Epiphanius notes that it denies the continual "existence of the
spiritual gift among them" (Medicine 48.2.9), though they
persisted in claiming to receive revelations from the Paraclete.
82 Wright, Op. cit., 20.
Powell merely mentions Maximilla's prophecy but utters no word of rebuke
(Op. cit., 43).
83 McGinn, Op. cit., 131.
84 McGinn (Ibid., 132) and
Powell (Op. cit., 45-46) seek to avoid the force of  by referring it
to realized prophecy: it speaks not of a future descent of the
heavenly Jerusalem but God's spiritual presence with the Montanist
85 McGinn seems to be
delighted with this oracle (Op. cit., 131-132).
86 This oracle is probably
related to Apollonius' remark that Montanus "named Pepuza and Tymion
Jerusalem" and wanted people to gather there from everywhere" (EH
87 Mary Jane Kreidler,
"Montanism and Monasticism: Charism and Authority in the Early Church,"
in Elizabeth A. Livingstone (ed.), Studia Patristica, vol. 18
(Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publishing, 1989), p. 232.
88 McGinn, Op. cit., 129,
89 Hippolytus' judgment,
after reading all the literature put out by the Montanists, is the exact
opposite to that of Sheila McGinn formed on the basis of less than
twenty brief statements. McGinn speaks of their "constructive theology"
with its "powerful sense of the immanent presence of God," "the
pre-eminent role of divine grace in the process of the call and
conversion of Christians" and its emphasis on the "importance of
holiness of life" (Ibid., 132-133).
90 E.g., Henri Daniel-Rops
speaks highly of "the vehement faith which Montanus gave to a life
consecrated by the Spirit" (The Church of Apostles and Martyrs,
trans. Rodney Butler [London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1960] p. 302).
However, earlier he writes of Montanism as "a wave of semi-sanity ...
let forth in the world," entertained by "certain hot-headed individuals"
and led by Montanus and "two women visionaries ... who were as
irrational as he was" (pp. 296-297).
91 Cf. Schaff: "Their
affinity with the Protestant idea of the universal priesthood is more
apparent than real; they go on altogether different principles" (Op.
cit., p. 424).
92 Wright, Op. cit., 21-22.
93 Ibid., 22.
94 Schaff, Op. cit.,
pp. 417, 421. Schaff’s faulty understanding is in keeping with his
erroneous view of the pluriformity of the church; that the various
churches are more or less legitimate manifestations of the body of
Christ, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
95 The church is called to
grow into Christ, not beyond Him (Eph. 4:15).
96 Cunningham seems to err
on the side of generosity to the Montanists: "many of [them], there is
reason to think, were possessed of genuine piety" (Op. cit., p.
97 Even a cursory reading of
the charges against Montanism raised by the post-Nicene fathers will
indicate the gross abuses it later fell into, though one doubts if they
were guilty of some of the enormities ascribed to them.
98 This is very different
from John Wesley's judgment of Montanus as "one of the holiest men of
the second century" (quoted in Trevett, Op. cit., p. 1).
99 Klein, Op. cit., 15.
Tertullian, as quoted earlier, affirms, "While this law of faith is
permanent, the other articles, indeed, of discipline and life admit
revisions, since the grace of God continues to operate, of course, and
advance until the end" (On the Veiling of Virgins 1.5). Nestler
again shows remarkable insight here: "The problem with Tertullian's
dispensational hermeneutics is that is [sic] opens the door to all kinds
of teachings and doctrines" (Op. cit., 74).
100 Epiphanius" source
clearly recognized this, quoting I John 4:1 and I John 2:18-19 (Medicine
101 Wright, Op. cit., 22.
102 Burghardt, Op. cit.,
347. Burghardt's words are those of James Ash.
103 Powell, Op. cit., 52.
This could be further documented in the writings of the church fathers,
but Powell merely notes this trait in Eusebius" two main early
witnesses, Anonymous and Apollonius (HE 5.16.3; 5.18.5).
Similarly, John A. Faulkner writes, "It was an absolutely divine
guidance which was bringing believers more and more face to face with
the written Word and leaving in the background the immediate revelations
of the prophets" ("The First Attempt to Restore Primitive Christianity,"
Methodist Review, 712 [Sept., 1912]). Faulkner's title does refer to
Montanism, for he views Montanus as trying
to recover the old paths, though he believes Montanus was not entirely
on that path himself. He reckons that it was not Montanism but
Methodism, "whose glory it was to proclaim original Christianity in all
its essential spiritual elements" (713).
104 We have only one
reference to Montanist healing and it speaks not of a person who had
power to heal but one who gave directions as to how they might be
healed. Tertullian speaks of "a sister among us who has received the
gifts of revelation" who "obtains instructions for healing for
those who want them" (On the Soul 9.4).
105 Cf. Francis Turretin,
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3, trans. George Musgrave
Giger (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, repr. 1997), pp. 119, 146. Jaroslav
Pelikan writes, "In the experiences of monks and friars, of mystics and
seers, as well as in the underground religion of many believers, the
Montanist heresy has carried on a sort of unofficial existence" (The
Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, vol.
1 [USA: The University of Chicago Press, 1971], p. 108).
106 Interestingly, some of
the Montanists later joined the Novationists, another pure-church group
(Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity,
vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, repr. 1970], pp. 347-348).
107 John Calvin,
Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge
(London: James Clarke & Co. Ltd., repr. 1949), 4.1.16; vol. 2, p. 294.
Q. & A. 54.
109 Cf. Schaff: the
Montanists "asserted a claim to universal validity" (Op. cit., p.
417; cf. Powell, Op. cit., 52-53).
110 Admittedly, Tertullian's
Against Praxeas is a significant work on the doctrine of the Holy
Trinity. However, from what we have seen of the Montanist spirit,
Tertullian's success in this regard must be in spite of, not
because of, his Montanism (contrast Jaroslav Pelikan, Op. cit.,
pp. 104-105; "Montanism and its Trinitarian Significance," Church
History, 25, 99-109 ).
111 E.g., Daniel-Rops
writes, "Montanus hurled himself into a frenzied campaign of
evangelization through the Near Eastern provinces" (Op. cit.,
p. 297). This missionary zeal, of course, is no proof of God's blessing.
Jesus said to the false religionists of His day,
"Woe unto you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one
proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child
of hell than yourselves" (Matt. 23:15).
112 Hans Karl La Rondelle,
Perfection and Perfectionism: A Dogmatic-Ethical Study of Biblical
Perfection and Phenomenal Perfectionism (Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1971),
113 II Corinthians 11:4
speaks of "another spirit" in the same breath as "another Jesus" and
114 K. R. Hagenbach, A
Text-Book of the History of Doctrines, vol. 1, trans. Henry B.
Smith, (New York: Sheldon & Co., 1861), p. 60, n. 1.
115 The Jesuit, Burghardt,
speaks of Montanism's "pertinence for contemporary charismatic
movements" (Op. cit., 339). On the next page he writes, "I can find no
persuasive evidence that primitive Montanism was guilty of heresy." This
suggests a certain openness to Charismaticism.
116 Cf. the fine treatment
of these passages by Jerome, Epistle 41, To Marcella.
117 The Marcionites also
permitted women to all of the special offices. The Valentinian Gnostics
may have drawn the line at women bishops (Peter Jones, The Gnostic
Empire Strikes Back [Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1992], p. 30).
118 Powell, Op. cit., 48.
The Gnostic Naasenes appealed to Galatians 3:28 for their position that
Adam before the Fall was an hermaphrodite and that the Christian, as a
new creature, is an hermaphrodite (Jones, Op. cit., p. 33).
119 Cf. Origen, Catenae
on Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians 14.36; Epiphanius, Medicine
49.2-3. The fathers appealed to the classic texts in this regard (e.g., Gen. 3:16; I Cor. 11:3-5, 8; 14:34-35; I
120 Powell, Op. cit., 42-43.
121 For on-line audio, video and written materials on
Pentecostalism and Charismaticism, see "Resources
on Cessationism," including these two pamphlets, "Try
the Spirits" and "Pentecostalism:
Spirit-Filled Blessing or Dangerous Heresy?" Among the many books on this subject, see, e.g., John F. MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).