The followers of Montanus started in Phrygia, Asia minor. Montanus was a christian who is said to have been a heathen priest before his conversion. He claimed to be a prophet and the representative of a new prophetic gift; for in him appeared the paraclete whom Jesus had promised to his disciples, and preparing for the last days. Two women, Prisca and Maximilla, were associated with him as prophetess.

Montanism aimed at regaining what is conceived to be the genuine and original spirit of Christian life, only in a more intense form and with additional guarantees. The Montanists did not teach any doctrines opposed to the church. A large number of Christian people throughout the church were favorable to this group, others called them heretics. Adversaries at Rome resulted in the Montanists as a separate church. They were opposed to Gnosticism and generally considered quite orthodox in their beliefs. They were also opposed to the authority being taken by Bishops and were prone to exaggeration. The Montanists perceived that with the growth in numbers, wealth, and general prosperity, the Church was losing its early purity and the fine heroic enthusiasm of simpler times.

The Montanists may have drawn its initial strength from fanatical, enthusiastic elements already existing within the Phrygian Christians. Their communities encouraged martyrdom. They believed in a speedy return of Christ to earth, but then so did the disciples of Jesus. They practiced a rigid asceticism and accepted as their only authority the revelations of God to each individual soul. They represented a revival of the prophets who were prominent in the first few decades of the church, a call to Christians to a stricter living, and a vivid belief in the early end of the world, in the second coming of Christ, and in the establishment of the ideal society in the New Jerusalem.

At his baptism Montanus spoke with tongues and began prophesying, declaring that the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit was finding utterance through him. Prisca and Maximilla were also believed to be prophets, mouthpieces of the Holy Spirit. The New Jerusalem would come down from heaven and fixed in Phrygia. They were also found in other sections of the Mediterranean world, including Rome, Gaul, and North Africa, had itinerant preachers supported by the gifts of the faithful and at times fairly well organized.

The most eminent convert to Montanism was Tertullian. The Montanists should scarcely be classed among the heretical sects, though their teachings were condemned by the church. They believed in the priesthood of all believers, and not in orders of the ministry; they sought for a strict discipline in the church. They held to prophetic gifts as the privilege of disciples, and had many prophets and prophetesses in their membership. Tertullian embraced their views and wrote in their defence.

In modern times John Wesley gave approval to Montanus and most of their teachings, also Harnack. Eusebius wrote about them: “In a certain village in that part of Mysia over against Phrygia, Montanus, they say, first exposed himself to the assaults of the adversary through his unbounded lust for leadership. He was one of the recent converts, and he became possessed of a spirit, and suddenly began to rave in a kind of ecstatic trance, and to babble in a jargon, prophesying in a manner contrary to the custom of the Church which had been handed down by tradition from the earliest times.. and he also stirred up two women and filled them with the bastard spirit so that they uttered demented, absurd and irresponsible sayings.. these people were expelled from the church and debarred from communion.” Hippolytus - “They have been deceived by two females, Priscilla and Maximilla by name, whom they hold to be prophetesses, asserting that into them the Paraclete spirit entered Tertullian (after he became a Montanist) - We have among us now a sister who has been granted gifts of revelations, which she experiences in church during the Sunday services through ecstatic vision in the spirit.. In AD 156 it happened in Phrygia that a certain Montanus declared himself to be the incarnation of the Holy Ghost, that "spirit of truth" who according to the fourth gospel was to reveal things to come. There soon gathered around him a number of ecstatics, much given to visionary experiences believing them of divine origin and calling the "third testament".. accordingly summoned all Christians to Phrygia, there to await the Parousia, or second coming, in fasting and prayer and bitter repentance.”

Nothing was so propitious to the spread of Montanism as persecution. From 177 on, persecutions scattered Montanists and spread. Montanists were following in the footsteps of many, perhaps most of the earliest Christians, even the book of Revelation, had still expected it to happen "shortly". Because the Montanists would not accept the authority of the church as a whole, they were forced to split off as heretical. As their enthusiasm degenerated into arrogance, their asceticism into legalism, the movement died out. They are remembered not so much as heretics, but rather as a schismatic cult.
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