[2nd century heresy]
Ancient Pentecostal History and Roots

Pentecostalism is the ancient heresy of Montanism revived

See: Neo-Montanism: 19th century heresy



(Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series: Volume I, Oak Harbor, WA: Logos, 1997, Book V. Chapter XVI. The Circumstances Related of Montanus and His False Prophets)

1 Against the so-called Phrygian heresy, the power which always contends for the truth raised up a strong and invincible weapon, Apolinarius of Hierapolis, whom we have mentioned before, and with him many other men of ability, by whom abundant material for our history has been left.

6 Having said this with other things, in the beginning of his work, he proceeds to state the cause of the above-mentioned heresy as follows: "Their opposition and their recent heresy which has separated them from the Church arose on the following account.

7 There is said to be a certain village called Ardabau in that part of Mysia, which borders upon Phrygia. There first, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name, through his unquenchable desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him. And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning.

[The fault found by the Church with Montanus' prophecy was rather because of its form than because of its substance. It was admitted that the prophecies contained much that was true, but the soberer sense of the Church at large objected decidedly to the frenzied ecstasy in which they were delivered. That a change had come over the Church in this respect since the apostolic age is perfectly clear. In Paul's time the speaking with tongues, which involved a similar kind of ecstasy, was very common; so, too, at the time the Didache was written the prophets spoke in an ecstasy (en pneumati, which can mean nothing else; cf. Harnack's edition, p. 122 sq.). But the early enthusiasm of the Church had largely passed away by the middle of the second century; and though there were still prophets (Justin, for instance, and even Clement of Alexandria knew of them), they were not in general characterized by the same ecstatic and frenzied utterance that marked their predecessors. To say that there were none such at this time would be rash; but it is plain that they had become so decidedly the exception that the revival by the Montanists of the old method on a large scale and in its extremest form could appear to the Church at large only a decided innovation. Prophecy in itself was nothing strange to them, but prophecy in this form they were not accustomed to, and did not realize that it was but a revival of the ancient form (cf. the words of our author, who is evidently quite ignorant of that form). That they should be shocked at it is not to be wondered at, and that they should, in that age, when all such manifestations were looked upon as supernatural in their origin, regard these prophets as under the influence of Satan, is no more surprising. There was no other alternative in their minds. Either the prophecies were from God or from Satan; not their content mainly, but the manner in which they were delivered aroused the suspicion of the bishops and other leaders of the Church. Add to that the fact that these prophets claimed supremacy over the constituted Church authorities, claimed that the Church must be guided by the revelations vouchsafed to women and apparently half-crazy enthusiasts and fanatics, and it will be seen at once that there was nothing left for the leaders of the Church but to condemn the movement, and pronounce its prophecy a fraud and a work of the Evil One. That all prophecy should, as a consequence, fall into discredit was natural. Clement (Strom. I. 17) gives the speaking in an ecstasy as one of the marks of a false prophet,—Montanism had evidently brought the Church to distinct consciousness on that point,—while Origen, some decades later, is no longer acquainted with prophets, and denies that they existed even in the time of Celsus (see Contra Cels.VII. 11).]


8 Some of those who heard his spurious utterances at that time were indignant, and they rebuked him as one that was possessed, and that was under the control of a demon, and was led by a deceitful spirit, and was distracting the multitude; and they forbade him to talk, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord and his warning to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets? But others imagining themselves possessed of the Holy Spirit and of a prophetic gift, were elated and not a little puffed up; and forgetting the distinction of the Lord, they challenged the mad and insidious and seducing spirit, and were cheated and deceived by him. In consequence of this, he could no longer be held in check, so as to keep silence.

9 Thus by artifice, or rather by such a system of wicked craft, the devil, devising destruction for the disobedient, and being unworthily honored by them, secretly excited and inflamed their understandings which had already become estranged from the true faith. And he stirred up besides two women, and filled them with the false spirit, so that they talked wildly and unreasonably and strangely, like the person already mentioned. And the spirit pronounced them blessed as they rejoiced and gloried in him, and puffed them up by the magnitude of his promises. But sometimes he rebuked them openly in a wise and faithful manner, that he might seem to be a reprover. But those of the Phrygians that were deceived were few in number. "And the arrogant spirit taught them to revile the entire universal Church under heaven, because the spirit of false prophecy received neither honor from it nor entrance into it.

10 For the faithful in Asia met often in many places throughout Asia to consider this matter, and examined the novel utterances and pronounced them profane, and rejected the heresy, and thus these persons were expelled from the Church and debarred from communion."

11 Having related these things at the outset, and continued the refutation of their delusion through his entire work, in the second book he speaks as follows of their end:

12 "Since, therefore, they called us slayers of the prophets because we did not receive their loquacious prophets, who, they say, are those that the Lord promised to send to the people, let them answer as in God's presence: Who is there, O friends, of these who began to talk, from Montanus and the women down, that was persecuted by the Jews, or slain by lawless men? None. Or has any of them been seized and crucified for the Name? Truly not. Or has one of these women ever been scourged in the synagogues of the Jews, or stoned? No; never anywhere.

13 But by another kind of death Montanus and Maximilla are said to have died. For the report is that, incited by the spirit of frenzy, they both hung themselves; not at the same time, but at the time which common report gives for the death of each. And thus they died, and ended their lives like the traitor Judas.

14 So also, as general report says, that remarkable person, the first steward, as it were, of their so-called prophecy, one Theodotus—who, as if at sometime taken up and received into heaven, fell into trances, and entrusted himself to the deceitful spirit—was pitched like a quoit, and died miserably?

15 They say that these things happened in this manner. But as we did not see them, O friend, we do not pretend to know. Perhaps in such a manner, perhaps not, Montanus and Theodotus and the above-mentioned woman died."

18 Again in the same work, after saying other things in refutation of the false prophecies of Maximilla, he indicates the time when he wrote these accounts, and mentions her predictions in which she prophesied wars and anarchy. Their falsehood he censures in the following manner:

19 "And has not this been shown clearly to be false? For it is to-day more than thirteen years since the woman died, and there has been neither a partial nor general war in the world; but rather, through the mercy of God, continued peace even to the Christians." These things are taken from the second book.

20 I will add also short extracts from the third book, in which he speaks thus against their boasts that many of them had suffered, martyrdom: "When therefore they are at a loss, being refuted in all that they say, they try to take refuge in their martyrs, alleging that they have many martyrs, and that this is sure evidence of the power of the so-called prophetic spirit that is with them. But this, as it appears, is entirely fallacious.

21 For some of the heresies have a great many martyrs; but surely we shall not on that account agree with them or confess that they hold the truth. And first, indeed, those called Marcionites, from the heresy of Marcion, say that they have a multitude of martyrs for Christ; yet they do not confess Christ himself in truth."

A little farther on he continues:

22 "When those called to martyrdom from the Church for the truth of the faith have met with any of the so-called martyrs of the Phrygian heresy, they have separated from them, and died without any fellowship with them, because they did not wish to give their assent to the spirit of Montanus and the women. And that this is true and took place in our own time in Apamea on the Maeander, among those who suffered martyrdom with Gaius and Alexander of Eumenia, is well known."



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