Friday, March 4, 2011

Montanism (The New Prophecy)
& its violent end /

Ο Μοντανισμός (Νέα Προφητεία)
& το βίαιο τέλος του


For almost four centuries, between ca. 165 to ca. 550 C.E., this area was also the administrative and religious center of a Christian prophetic movement known as Montanism which spread throughout most of the Roman Empire. Called “The New Prophecy” by its supporters and “The Phrygian Sect” by its orthodox Christian opponents, the movement was eventually called “Montanism” after one of its three original founders, a man named Montanus. The other two founders were the prophetesses Maximilla and Priscilla.

Montanism did not differ greatly from other forms of early Christianity. In terms of major Christian doctrines, Montanists did not differ at all from orthodox Christians. Montanists did, however, believe that, through their prophets, they had received new revelation about the way in which Christians should live their daily lives. On the whole, Montanists were more strict than most Christians in their ethical practices. For example, they fasted for longer periods, encouraged an ascetic lifestyle, and refused to allow remarriage after divorce or even after the death of one’s husband or wife.

While much of what Montanists practiced was seen as too restrictive by their fellow Christians, these same Christians also found some of Montanism’s other practices too liberal. For example, Montanism repudiated traditional gender roles and encouraged women to participate fully in all aspects of the movement. One of the Montanists’ late fourth-century opponents, bishop Epiphanius of Salamis in Cyprus, complained:
Among them women are bishops and women are presbyters and the like; as there is no difference, they say, “In Christ Jesus there is  neither male nor female” (Haer. 49.2.5).
Orthodox Christians were also upset at the way in which Montanus, Maximilla, and Priscilla prophesied. Their oracles were often delivered while they were in an ecstatic trance, and sometimes they “babbled strangely” (Anonymous, Frag. in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.16.7-8). The same, now unknown, writer whose anti-Montanist treatise is partly preserved in Eusebius of Caesarea’s Historia ecclesiastica, also reports that Montanus was a recent convert to Christianity (Anonymous, Frag. in Eus., Hist. eccl. 5.16.7). Jerome’s late fourth-century description of Montanus as a “castrated half-man” (Ep. 41.4) has suggested to some scholars that Montanus, before his conversion, may have been a priest of the Phrygian mother goddess Cybele. A more probable scenario is that Montanus had been a priest of Apollo, as claimed by the Dialogue Between a Montanist and an Orthodox (4.5; cf. 4.6 and Pseudo-Didymus, Trin. 3.41.3). If so, Montanus had held a prominent religious and cultural position in his community prior to becoming a Christian. Irrespective of whether he had actually held one of these offices, as claimed by the fourth-century sources, it seems likely that practices associated with popular Phrygian cults influenced Phrygian Montanism —although not necessarily the Montanism that spread rapidly to other parts of the Roman Empire. [...]

A shrine containing “the bones of Montanus and the women” (IMont 2; cf. IMont 1) was erected in Pepouza—probably as early as the 180s. Epiphanius reports that, in his day (ca. 377), Montanist pilgrims visited Pepouza (Haer. 48.14.1). The final version of the shrine was destroyed by John of Ephesus in ca. 550 when soldiers placed at his disposal by the emperor Justinian I (527-565) burnt the relics and confiscated the latest known Montanist churches in Pepouza (IMont 1-2).

One of the churches confiscated was the Montanist cathedral—the seat of the Montanist patriarch (Jerome, Ep. 41.3; cf. Cod. Just. I.5.20.3; IMont 77). There was at least one other Montanist church building in Pepouza at the time of the persecution under John of Ephesus (IMont 1). This church, resulting from the formation of Montanist subsects, may date from the fourth century. The (however frequently unreliable) anonymous author of a fifth century book called Praedestinatorum haeresis, who is commonly referred to as Praedestinatus, reported in ca. 450 that he had heard of “two churches in the same city of Pepouza, that of Quintilla and that of Priscilla” (Haer. 1.27). Priscilla was the third of the original founders of Montanism. Quintilla was a later Montanist prophetess.

* William Tabbernee & Peter Lampe,
Pepouza and Tymion: The Discovery and Archeological Exploration of a Lost Ancient City and an Imperial Estate,
[Πέπουζα και Τύμιον: Η Ανακάλυψη και η Αρχαιολογική Εξερεύνηση μιας Χαμένης Αρχαίας Πόλης και μιας Αυτοκρατορικής Επικράτειας]
Walter de Gruyter, 2008,
pp./σσ. 1, 4, 16.

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