The heresy of Montanism, known by its adherents as the New Prophecy, was an early Christian movement of the late 2nd century named after its founder, Montanus. Montanus was a pagan priest who later converted into Christianity and became a self proclaimed prophet. Montanus began his prophesying in a village called Ardabau, located in Phrygia, a province of Anatolia. His movement called for a reliance on the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit with an emphasis on the continuance of miraculous gifts, such as speaking in tongues and prophecy. He also claimed that his teachings were above those of the Church, and soon he began to teach Christ’s imminent return in his home town in Phrygia. Montanus claimed that he himself either was, or at least specially spoke for, the Paraclete that Jesus had promised would come (the Holy Spirit). Montanus had two female colleagues, Prisca and Maximilla, who likewise claimed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Known as “the Three”, they spoke in ecstatic visions and urged their followers to fast and to pray, so that they might share these revelations.
Around 177, Apollinarius, Bishop of Hierapolis, presided over a synod which condemned the New Prophecy. The leaders of the churches of Lyons and Vienne in Gaul also condemned the New Prophecy and communicated their decision to Pope Eleutherius. The Church Father Tertullian was drawn to Montanism for it’s strict moral standards and would eventually leave the Church in favor of Montanism. Tertullian was a determined advocate of strict discipline and an austere code of practise, and was one of the leading representatives of the rigorist element in the early Church. Tertullian’s resolve to never marry again and that no one else should remarry eventually led to his break with Rome because the orthodox church refused to follow him in this resolve. He, instead, favored the Montanist sect where they also condemned second marriage. Modern scholars, however, reject the assertion that Tertullian left the mainstream church or was excommunicated in part due to the fact that the orthodox Church Father Cyprian of Carthage referred to Tertullian as his master.
Sources: Tabbernee, William (2009), Prophets and Gravestones: An Imaginative History of Montanists and Other Early Christians, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson
Still, Todd D; Wilhite, David E (2012). Tertullian and Paul (Pauline and Patristic Scholars in Debate). T&T Clark Publishing. 2019
- List of text: