Montanism

Shortly after the middle of the second century Montanus proclaimed the imminent advent of the New Jerusalem, the signal for which was to be a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The movement that followed had its chief strength in Phrygia.

Montanus, a new convert to Christianity, believed himself to be the appointed prophet of God, and his followers were encouraged to regard themselves as an élite of “spiritual” Christians. Preparation for the advent was to be preceded by withdrawal from the world. Special fast-days were called, and persecution was to be expected, even encouraged, so that the church would be a purified and fit Bride for the coming Christ.

Opposition to the movement was initiated by Pope Eleutherus and taken up by writers such as Miltiades* and Apollinarius.* In 230, the group was virtually excommunicated: the Synod of Iconium refused to recognize the validity of Montanist baptism. Montanism continued as an underground movement, chiefly as a protest against growing formalism and worldliness in the official church. The most illustrious product of Montanism was Tertullian.* The movement bears resemblance to the many illuminist and millenarian sects that flourished at the time of the Reformation and subsequently.