Montanus

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Montanus was the founder of the heretical movement Montanism that flourished mostly in and around the region of Phrygia in Asia Minor, where early on its followers were called Cataphrygians. The movement died out within a few generations although the sect persisted in some isolated places into the eighth century.

Life

Very little is known about the life of Montanus. Before his conversion to Christianity, he may have been a priest of the ecstatic cult of Cybele, the mother goddess of fertility. He probably was an adult convert to Christianity, but there is no evidence he became a priest or bishop after his conversion. According to the fourth century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, Montanus entered into an ecstatic state and began to prophesy in about 172 or 173 in the village of Ardabau in Phrygia, now in central Turkey. He taught that God's supernatural revelations did not end with the apostles, but that even more wonderful manifestations of the divine energy might be expected under the inspiration of the Paraclete. His sect was soon joined by two disciples, the prophetesses Maximillia and Priscilla (Prisca).

Convinced that the end of the world was at hand and that the New Jerusalem was about to descend near the Phrygian village of Pepuza, as mentioned in the Revelation of the New Testament, Montanus established a rigorous morality to purify Christians and detach them from their material desires. Criticism of Montanus and his movement consequently emphasized the new prophecy’s unorthodox ecstatic expression and his neglect of the bishops’ divinely appointed rule.

Under official disapproval and with the failure of the world to come to an end, Montanism largely died out within two centuries, disappearing as quickly as it had arisen, although it persisted in some isolated rural areas of Asia Minor into the eighth century.

The date of the death of Montanus is unknown.

Sources

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