MONTANISTS AND ANTI-MONTANISTS


(XXII - XXIII - XXIV - XXV)

Montanus and his two female attendants, Maximilla and Prisca, were enthusiastic revivalists of the mid-second century. They believed that in Montanus the Paraclete dwelt bodily, and that the heavenly Jerusalem would soon come down at Pepuza in Asia Minor. Their theology is thus largely based on the Johannine writings, which at this time were becoming very popular in Asia, and Gaius of Rome (XXVI) tried to cut the ground from under them by ascribing Gospel and Apocalypse to Cerinthus (Pseudo-Tertullian, 10). The visions and the prophecy of Montanism (which was sometimes called the New Prophecy, XXIII. I) have been thought of as a return to first-century Christianity; but there is little evidence that, except at Corinth, apostolic Christian- ity was ordinarily so effervescent.

The anonymous writer composed his treatise against the Montanists thirteen years after Maximilla's death, which probably took place under Marcus Aurelius. It was there- fore written in the last decade of the century. His book i8 dedicated to Avircius Marcellus, whose group of believers may well have been weaker than the Montanists at Hieropolis. Avircius Marcellus (XXIV) is known to us only from his legendary martyr-acts and from this inscription, which Sir William Ramsay discovered in Phrygia. It has been thought pagan; but it is more likely to come from a persecuted and secretive Christianity. Paul, Faith, the Fish (IchthysÑa symbol of Christ), born of a Virgin, the Eucharistic elements Ñthese are all surely Christian. Apollonius of Ephesus (XXV) wrote early in the third century, but because of his discussion of Montanus his fragments are included here.

XXII. -- THE MONTANIST ORACLES


Assembled in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste (1913), 34-105.

I. Montanus: "I am the Lord God Omnipotent dwelling in man." (Epiphanius, Haer. xlviii.11.)

2. Montanus: "I am neither an angel nor an envoy, but I, the Lord God, the Father, have come." (Ibid.)

3. Montanus: "I am the Father and the Son and the Paraclete." (Didymus, De trinitate iii. 41. 1.)

4. Montanus: "Why do you say 'the superman who is saved'? Because the righteous man will shine a hundred times brighter than the sun, and even the little ones among you who are saved, (will shine) a hundred times brighter than moon." (Epiphanius, Haer. xlviii. 10.)

5. Montanus: "Behold, man is as a Iyre, and I hover over him as a plectrum; man sleeps but I watch; behold, the Lord is removing the hearts of men and giving them (new) hearts." (Ibid., xlviii. 4.)

6. Montanus: "You are exposed to public reproach? It is for your good. He who is not reproached by men is proached by God. Do not be disconcerted; your righteousness has brought you into the midst (of all). Why are you disconcerted, since you are gaining praise~ Your power arises when you are seen by men." (Tertullian, De fuga 9)

7. Montanus: "Do not hope to die in bed nor in abortion nor in languishing fevers, but in martyrdom, that he who suffered for you may be glorified." (Ibid.)

8. Montanus: "For God brought forth the Word as a root brings forth a tree, and a spring a river, and the sun a ray." (Tertullian, Adv. Prax. 8.)

9. Montanus: "The Church is able to remit sins; but I will not do so, lest others also sin." (Tertullian, De pudic. 21)

IO. Maximilla: "After me there will be no more prophecy, but the End." (Epiphanius, Haer. xlviii. 11.)

11. Maximilla: "I am driven as a wolf from the sheep. I am not a wolf; I am word, spirit, and power." (Eusebius, H.E. v. 16. 17.)

12. Maximilla: "Do not listen to me, but listen to Christ." (Epiphanius, Haer. xlviii. 12 )

13. Maximilla: "The Lord sent me as a partisan of this task, a revealer of this covenant, an interpreter of this promise, forced, whether I will or not, to learn the knowledge of God." (Ibid. xlviii. 13.)

14. Prisca: "For continence brings harmony, and they see visions, and, bowing their heads, they also hear distinct voices, saving and mysterious." (Tertullian, De exh. cast. 10.)

I5. Prisca:"They are flesh, yet they hate the flesh." (Tertullian, De res. carn. 1l.)

16. Prisca: "Appearing as a woman clothed in a shining robe, Christ came to me [in sleep]; he put wisdom into me and revealed to me that this place is sacred and that here Jerusalem will come down from heaven." (Epiphanius, Haer. xlix. 1.)

XXIII. ANONYMOUS AGAINST MONTANISM
(H.E. v. 16 f.)

1. "It is a long and very considerable time, beloved Avircius Marcellus, since you urged me to write some kind of treatise against the heresy of the followers of Miltiades, as they are called. Yet I have somehow held back until now, not through lack of ability to refute~falsehood~and bear witness to the truth, but from fear and extreme caution, lest by chance I might seem to some to be adding a new article or clause to the word of the New Covenant of the gospel, to which no one who has purposed to live according to the gospel itself may add, and from which no one may take away. But when recently I came to Ancyra in Galatia, and found the local church ringing with the noise of this new (not, as they themselves say, prophecy; but much rather, as will be shown) false prophecy, with the help of the Lord we discoursed, to the best of our ability, for many days in the church on every one of these same points, as well as on those which they put forward. The result was that the church rejoiced greatly and was confirmed in the truth, while they of the contrary side were for the moment discomfited, and the opposers put to grief. So when the local presbyters requested us to leave behind some memorandum of what had been said against them that oppose themselves to the word of truth (and there was present also our fellow-presbyter Zoticus of Otrous), though we did not do this, we promised to write it here, should the Lord permit us, and send it to them speedily."

2. "Their opposition, then, and their recent schismatical heresy as regards the Church, arose thus. There is reported to be a certain village in that Mysia which borders on Phrygia, called by the name of Ardabau. There it is said that a certain recent convert to the faith named Montanus (while Gratus was proconsul of Asia), in the immeasurable longing of his soul for the pre-eminence, first gave the adversary a passage into his heart; and that moved by the spirit he suddenly fell into a state of possession, as it were, and abnormal ecstasy, to such an extent that he became frenzied and began to babble and utter strange sounds, that is to say, prophesying contrary to the manner which the Church had received from generation to generation by tradition from the beginning. Some of those who heard at that time his spurious utterances were annoyed at him, as at one possessed and tormented by a demon, the prey of a spirit of error and a disturber of the people. So they rebuked and strove to check his speaking, mindful of the injunction and warning of the Lord to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets [Matt. vii. ~5]. But otllers were puffed up, as if at a prophetical gift of the Holy Spirit, and filled with no slight conceit, and forgetful of the Lord's injunction. Therefore they called forth this maddening and cajoling spirit which was deceiving the people, by which they were beguiled and deceived, so that it could no longer be checked to silence. And by some art, or rather by the employment of such an evil artifice, the devil secretly stirred up and inflamed the minds which had lost in sleep the true faith, those of the disobedient persons whose ruin he had devised, and by whom Ñaccordingly !Ñhe was honoured. So that he raised up two women as well, and so filled them with the spurious spirit that they too babbled in a frenzied, inopportune and unnatural manner, like him whom we mentioned above. And the spirit pronounced them blessed who rejoiced and prided themselves in him, and puffed them up with the greatness of his promises; yet at times he would administer shrewd and plausible rebukes to their face, that he might seem capable of reproving also. Nevertheless, there were few who were thus deceived by the Phrygians. Moreover, this arrogant spirit taught them to blaspheme the entire universal Church under heaven, because the spirit of false prophecy received neither honour nor admission into it. For when the faithful throughout Asia had met frequently and at many places in Asia for this purpose, and on examination of the new-fangled teachings had pronounced them profane, and rejected the heresy, these persons were thus expelled from the Church and shut off from its fellowship."

3. "Since, then, they also used to call us slayers of the prophets [Matt. xxiii. 31] because we did not receive their prophets of unbridled tongue (for these, they say, are they whom the Lord promised to send to the people), let them answer us before God: Is there a single one, gentlemen, of these followers of Montanus or of the women who began to babble, who was persecuted by Jews or killed by lawless men? None. Or were any of them seized and crucified for the Name's sake? No. Or, indeed, were any of the women ever scourged in the synagogues of the Jews or stoned? Never in any way. No, it was another death that Montanus and Maximilla are reported to have died. For report says that a maddening spirit drove both of them to hang themselves, though not at the same time; and a persistent rumour at the time of each death said that thus they died and ended their life, after the fashion of the traitor Judas. Similarly, common report has it about that marvellous man, theÑso to speakÑ first steward of their so-called prophecy, Theodotus, that once, on being lifted and raised heavenwards, he fell into abnormal ecstasy, and entrusting himself to the spirit of error was whirled to the ground, and so met a miserable end. But, my dear sir, let us not imagine we can be certain of a fact of this kind when we did not see it. Perhaps it was thus, perhaps it was not thus, that Montanus and Theodotus and the previously mentioned woman met their end."

4. "And let not the spirit which spoke in the person of Maximilla say in the same book Accotding to Asterius Urbanus, 'I am driven as a wolf from the sheep. I am not a wolf. I am word and spirit and power' [Montanist Oracles, 11]. But let him show clearly the power that is in the spirit, let him bring convincing proof of it, and by the spirit let him force an acknowledgement from those who were then present to prove and discourse with the talkative spirit. Approved men and bishops, Zoticus from the village of Cumana and Julian from Apamea, whose mouths the followers of Themiso muzzled, and would not allow them to refute the false spirit which was deceiving the people."

5. "And surely this falsehood too is now evident. For it is more than thirteen years today since the woman died, and there has been neither a partial nor a universal war in the world. Instead, by God's mercy the Christians have enjoyed continuous peace."

6. "So then when they have been refuted in all their arguments and are at a loss, they endeavour to take refuge in the martyrs, saying that they have many martyrs, and that this is a reliable proof of the power of that which is called among them the prophetic spirit. But this, as it appears, proves to be ab- solutely untrue. For it is a fact that some of the other heresies have immense numbers of martyrs, yet surely we shall not for this reason give them our assent, nor acknowledge that they possess the truth. To take them first, those called Marcionites from the heresy of Marcion say that they have immense numbers of martyrs of Christ, but as regards Christ himself they do not truly acknowledge him."

7. "It is doubtless for this reason that whenever those called from the Church to martyrdom for the true faith meet with any so-called martyrs from the heresy of the Phrygians, they separate themselves from them and are perfected without having fellowship with them, for they do not wish to assent to the spirit which spoke through Montanus and the women. And that this is true, and that it took place in our time at Apamea on the Meander among those martyrs of Eumenia who were the companions of Gaius and Alexander, is an evident fact."

8. "I found these things in a certain treatise of theirs, in which they attack that treatise of our brother Miltiades in which he shows that a prophet ought not to speak in a state of ecstasy; and I abridged them."

9. " . . . but the false prophet in abnormal ecstasy, upon whom follow licence and fearlessness. For while he begins with voluntary ignorance, he ends with involuntary madness of soul, as has been stated. But they cannot show any prophet under either the Old or the New [Prophecy] who was moved by the Spirit after this manner, neither Agabus nor Judas nor Silas nor the daughters of Philip, nor Ammia in Philadelphia nor Quadratus, nor can they make their boast of any others whatever not belonging to their number."

10. "For if, as they say, the women followers of Montanus succeeded to the prophetic gift after Quadratus and Ammia of Philadelphia, let them show which of their number, who were followers of Montanus and the women, succeeded to it. For the Apostle lays it down that the prophetic gift ought to continue in the whole Church until the Lord's coming. But they cannot produce anyone, though it is the fourteenth year or thereabouts since the death of Maximilla."

XXIV. AVIRCIUS MARCELLUS, BISHOP (?) OF HIEROPOLIS

1. (An anti-Montanist writer says) "As for a long and very great time, beloved Avircius Marcellus, I have been urged by you to compose some writings against the heresy called after Miltiades...." (H.E. v. 16. 3.)

2. "I a citizen of the elect city erected this in my lifetime, that I might have before me a place for my body; my name is Avircius, a disciple of the pure Shepherd who feeds the flocks of sheep on mountains and plains, (5) who has great all-seeing eyes; he taught me . . . faithful scriptures. To Rome he sent me to see my king and to see the queen, golden-robed and golden sandalled; a people I saw there which has a splendid seal, (10) and I saw the plain and all the towns of Syria, and Nisibis, crossing the Euphrates; But everywhere I met with fellows; Paul was my companion, and Faith everywhere led the way and served food everywhere, the Fish from the spring Ñimmense, pure, which the pure Virgin caught (15) and gave to her friends to eat for ever, with good wine, giving the cup with the loaf. These things I Avircius said to be written thus in my presence. I am truly seventy-two years old. Let everyone who knows these things, and is in agreement, pray for Avircius. (20) No one is to put anyone else into my tomb; otherwise he is to pay the Roman treasury 2,000 gold pieces and (my) good native city of Hieropolis l,000 gold pieces." (W. M. Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, ii. 657.)

XXV. APOLLONIUS OF EPHESUS
(H.E. v. 18.)

1. "But his works and teaching show of what kind this new-fangled teacher [Montanus] is. This is he who taught dissolutions of marriages; who laid down laws on fasting; who named Pepuza and Tymion [small towns in Phrygia] Jerusalem, in his desire to draw to them.people from everywhere; who appointed agents for collecting money; who has devised his scheme for receiving gifts, under the name of 'offerings'; who has supplied salaries to those who preach his doctrine, so that by means of gluttony the teaching of it may be more effective."

2 We show, therefore, that these prophetesses were the very first, from the time when they were filled with the spirit, who left their husbands. How, then, did they speak falsehood, calling Priscilla a virgin?"

3. "Does not every scripture seem to you to forbid a prophet to receive gifts and money [see Didache 11 f.]? Therefore, when I see the prophetess possessed of gold and silver and costly apparel, how can I fail to reject her7"

4. " Moreover, Themiso too, he who is clothed with plausible covetousness, who did not bear the sign of confession, but put off his chains, thanks to a large sum of money, and (though this fact should have made him humble) boasts himself a martyrÑthis man, imitating the Apostle, dared to compose a catholic epistle,' and in it to instruct those whose faith had surpassed his, to contend with empty-sounding words, and to utter blasphemy against the Lord, the apostles and the holy Church."

5. "But not to speak of many, let the prophetess tell us about Alexander, who calls himself a martyr, with whom she banquets, to whom also many do reverence. It is not for us to speak of his robberies, and the other deeds of daring for which he has been punishedÑthe record office preserves the tale of them. Which, then, of the two forgives the other's sins7 Does the prophet forgive the rnartyr his robberies, or the martyr the prophet his deeds of covetousness? For though the Lord has said, 'Get you no gold, nor silver, nor two coats' [Matt. x. 9 f.] they, in complete contradiction, have transgressed as regards the getting of these forbidden things. For we shall show that they whom they call prophets and martyrs get their petty gains not only from the rich but also from poor people and orphans and widows. And if they are confident, let them take their stand on this, and come to a definite agreement on this understanding, that if convicted they may at least for the future cease to transgress. For one ought to prove the fruits of the prophet: for the tree is known by its fruit. But, that those who wish may know about Alexander, he has been convicted by Aemilius Frontinus, proconsul at Ephesus, not because of the Name, but because of the robberies he committed, being already an apostate. Next, he made a false appeal to the Name of the Lord and was released, having deceived the faithful in that city. And his own community, whence he came, would not receive him, because he was a robber. Those who desire to learn about him have the public archives of Asia. And yet the prophet knows nothing of him with whom he associated many years! In exposing this man we also expose, by means of him, his claim to be a prophet. We can show the same in the case of many; and if they have the courage, let them stand the exposure!"

6. "lf they deny that their prophets have received gifts, let them agree on this point, that if they are convicted of having received them, they are not prophets; and we will furnish countless demonstrations of the fact. But one must prove all the fruits of a prophet. Tell me, does a prophet dye his hair? Does a prophet paint his eyelids7 Does a prophet love adornment? Does a prophet play at gaming tables and dice? Does a prophet lend money at interest? Let them agree whether these things are permitted or not, and for my part I will show that they took place among them."

XXVI. GAIUS OF ROME

Gaius, a "very learned" Roman presbyter, was so vehemently anti-Montanist that he rejected the Gospel and Apocalypse of John, ascribing them to Cerinthus. Like the Alogi whom Epiphanius describes, he compared the Fourth Gospel with the Synoptics and found the Apocalypse in disagreement with the eschatology of authentic scripture.

Dialogue with Proclus
I. But I can point out the trophies of the apostles. For if you are willing to go to the Vatican, or to the Ostian Way, you will find the trophies of those who founded the church." H.E. ii. 25. 7.)

2. "But Cerinthus too, by means of revelations supposed to be written by a great apostle, falsely introduces wonderful stories to us as if they had been shown to him by angels. He says that, after the resurrection, Christ's kingdom will be on earth, and the flesh, dwelling at Jerusalem, will again serve lusts and pleasures. And being an enemy to God's scriptures, and wishing to deceive, he says that there will be a period of a thousand years for wedding festivities." (H.E. iii. 28. 2.)

3. "Proclus speaks thus: But after him there were at Hierapolis in Asia four prophetesses, daughters of Philip. Their tomb is there, and that of their father." (H.E. iii.31.4.)

4. While curbing the recklessness and audacity of his opponents in composing new scriptures, he mentions only thirteen epistles of the holy apostle, not numbering the Epistle to the Hebrews with the rest; as there are even to this day some among the Romans who do not consider it to be the apostle's. (H.E. vi. 20. 3.)

Dialogue with Proclus (?)
Fragments from Bar Salibi in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste

5. "Tbese things [described in Rev. viii. 7-11] are not what will take place; for the coming of the Lord will take place as a thief by night." (Dionysius Bar Salibi, In Apoc., Actus et Epist. canon., interp. I. Sedlacek, p. 8.)

6. "As in the flood the heavenly bodies were not taken away, so at the End it will happen, according to the scripture [Matt. xxiv. 37] and the writing of PaulÑ-when they say peace and security, then their destruction will be at hand." [1 Thess. v. 3; against Rev. viii. 12.] (Ibid. p. 9 )

7. "How can the lawless be tormented by locusts [Rev. ix. 3-5] when the scripture says that sinners prosper and the righteous are persecuted in the world [Ps. lxxiii. 2, Job xxi. 9?]?, and Paul says that believers shall be persecuted and evil men shall grow worse, deceiving and deceived [2 Tim. iii. 12 f.]?" (Ibid. p. 10.)

8. "It is not written that angels shall war nor that a quarter of mankind shall be destroyed [Rev. ix. 14 ff.], but that nation shall rise against nation [Matt. xxiv 7]." (Ibid. p. 10.)

9. "How can Satan be bound here [Rev. xx. 2] when it is written that Christ entered into the house of the strong man and bound him and took away his goods from him [Matt. xii. 29]?" (Ibid. p. 19.)

10. Hippolytus of Rome said: There was a man named Gaius who claimed that neither the Gospel nor the Apocalypse were John's, but rather belonged to the heretic Cerinthus. (Ibid. p. 1.)

1 l . The heretic Gaius charged John with disagreeing with his fellow-evangelists since he says that after the baptism he went into Galilee and wrought the miracle of the wine at Cana. (P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste, p. 285.)

Fragments of thc Alogi

The arguments used against the Johannine writings by this group are so similar to those of Gaius that it is probable that either he was a member of their group or else late writers against heretics have ascribed his writings to them. The remains of the Alogi are therefore included among the fragments of Gaius.

12. They say that these books are not by John but by Cerinthus, and are not worthy to be [readl in church. (Epiphanius, Haer. li. 3.)

13. They say that his books do not agree with the other apostles. "What does he say? 'In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God,' and 'the Logos became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,' and directly following, 'John bore witness and cried, saying, This is he of whom I spoke to you, and, This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,' and after that it says, 'And they who heard said to him, Rabbi, where do you dwell?' And in the same place, 'The next day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and he finds Philip and says to him, Follow me.' And a little beyond this, 'And after three days there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and Jesus was invited to the wedding, and his disciples with him, and his mother was there.' But the other evangelists say that he spent forty days in the desert, tempted by the devil, and then returned and took the disciples to himself." (Epiphanius, Haer. Ii. 4.)

14."Behold, the second gospel [Mark] makes it clear concerning Christ, yet nowhere mentions being born again [John iii. 3]; but it says, 'In the Jordan the Spirit came upon him, and a voice, This is the beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' [Mark i. 9-1 l]." (Epiphanius, Haer. Ii. 6.)

15. "The gospel written in the name of John is false. For after saying, 'The Logos became flesh and tabernacled among us,' and a few other things, it immediately says, 'There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee."' (Epiphanius, Haer. li. 18.)

16. They say that since the gospel according to John does not say the things (as the other gospels) it is uncanonical (adiatheton), and they will not accept it. (Epiphanius, Haer. i. 18.)

17. "John spoke of the Saviour's keeping two passovers, but the other evangelists, only one." (Epiphanius, Haer. li. 22.)

18. We also find expressed somewhere in these writings that the divine Logos was begotten of God in the fortieth year of Augustus. Either the writer was mistaken, or through the beta's dropping out and only the mu remaining, he wrote only mu (forty) years. For he was begotten in the forty- second year of Augustus. He also says that it was on the twelfth day before the calends of July or June, I do not remember which, in the consulship of Sulpicius Camerinus and Vettius Pompeianus. I noticed this because those who mention the day of the conception, when Gabriel told the news to the virgin, share the opinion of some who say that according to tradition he was born in seven months. (Epiphanius, Haer. Ii. 29.)

Notes regarding numbers and numerology in the above passage:
(a) the number mb (Greek letters mu, beta) = 42. Omission of the beta (2) ==> 40.
(b) 7 months of pregnancy: 7 was a sacred number indicative of perfection; cf. its frequency in the Book of Revelation mentioned below.

19. "Of what value to me is the Apocalypse of John, which tells about seven angels and seven trumpets [Rev. viii. 2~?" (Epiphanius, Haer. Ii. 32.)

20. "Again it says, 'Write to the angel of the church in Thyatira' [Rev. ii. 18]; and there was no church at all there in Thyatira. How then did he write to a non-existent church?" (Epiphanius, Haer. Ii. 33.)

21. These incompetent word-chasers reject the gospel and apocalypse of John, and even his epistles, which agree with the gospel and apocalypse. And they say, " 'I saw, and he said to the angel, Loose the four angels which are in the Euphrates. And I heard the number of the army, ten thousand times ten thousand, and a thousand times a thousand, and they were clad in breastplates of fire and brimstone and hyacinth! [Rev. ix. 14-17].'" They think that the truth is ridiculous. (Epiphanius, Haer. Ii. 34.)