Indirectly, too, Hermas tended to keep alive the idea of the Christian prophet, even after Montanism had helped to discredit it.
MONTANISM, a somewhat misleading name for the movement in the 2nd century which, along with Gnosticism, occupied the most critical period in the history of the Early Church.
It was the overthrow of Gnosticism and Montanism that made the "Catholic" Church.
In this article an account will be given of the general significance of Montanism in relation to the history of the Church in the 2nd century, followed by a sketch of its origin, development and decline.
Such is, in brief, the position occupied by Montanism in the history of the ancient Church.
2 In Gaul and Rome the prospects of Montanism seemed for a while more favourable.
Many of the small congregations had gone completely over to Montanism, although in large towns, like Ephesus, the opposite party maintained the ascendancy.
The writings of Tertullian afford the clearest demonstration that what is called Montanism was, at any rate in Africa, a reaction against secularism in the Church.
There are other indications that Montanism in Carthage was a very different thing from the Montanism of Montanus.
Western Montanism, at the beginning of the 3rd century, admitted the legitimacy of almost every point of the Catholic system.
This explains how the later Montanism never attained a position of influence.
Of the later history of Montanism very little is known.
It was only in the land of its nativity that Montanism held its ground till the 4th century.
- The materials for the history of Montanism, although plentiful, are fragmentary, and require a good deal of critical sifting.
(4) The later lists of heretics, and the casual notices of Church fathers from the 3rd to the 5th century, though not containing much that is of value, yet contain a little.3 1 It is evident that Montanism was by no means homogeneous.
Other influences tending to diversity were the rise of later prophets and visionaries, the personality of prominent members of the sect (like Tertullian himself, who gave to Montanism much more than he received from it), and the power of local environment.
An examination of Phrygian as distinct from African Montanism leads to the following conclusions: (I) The Phrygians claimed to have received the prophetic gift by way of succession just as the bishops traced their office back to the apostles; Tertullian seems to ignore the intermediate steps between the apostles and Montanus; (2) the "ecstasy" of the African section was much more restrained than the ravings of the Phrygians; (3) the original Montanists followed the example of the Phrygian native cults in assigning a prominent place to women, Tertullian on the other hand (De virg.
I, 1864); Stroelin, Essai sur le montanisme (1870); ?De Soyres, Montanism and the Primitive Church (London, 1878); W.
Special points of importance in the history of Montanism have been investigated by Lipsius, Overbeck, Weizsacker (Theol.
This sacrifice of local autonomy was in a measure prepared for by an earlier centralizing movement proper to the churches themselves, whereby those in certain areas met in conference or " synod " to formulate a common policy on local problems. Such inter-church meetings cannot be traced back beyond the latter half of the 2nd century, and were purely ad hoc and informal, called to consider specific questions like Montanism and Easter observance.
The late 2nd century movement known as Montanism was in essence a revolt against this growing secularization of the Church, but the movement failed, and the development against which it protested was only hastened.
But this general unity became official, and expressed itself in organization, only with the rise of the conciliar and metropolitan systems. Already before the end of the and century local synods were held in Asia Minor to deal with Montanism, and in the 3rd century provincial synods became common, and by the council of Nicaea (canon 5) it was decreed that they should be held twice every year in every province.
Die christliche Kirche des 2ten Jahrhunderts (1841), in which he pointed out for the first time that Montanism was much more than an isolated outbreak of eccentric fanaticism in the early church, though he himself introduced fresh misconceptions by connecting it with Ebionitism as he conceived the latter.
It was understood, indeed, that they had maintained their place in the churches till the end of the 2nd century, and that the great conflict with what is known as Montanism had first proved fatal to them; but a clear conception of their position and influence in the churches was not to be had.
Being unable to reconcile incompatibles, he broke with the church and became the most powerful representative of Montanism in the West.
For the next five years it was his constant endeavour to secure the victory for Montanism within the church; but in this he became involved more and more deeply in controversy with the majority of the church in Carthage and especially with its clergy, which had the support of the clergy of Rome.
This conflict, moreover, brought Ultra montanism the enormous advantage that, even after the abolition of the May Laws, it had still left to it a well-disciplined press, an admirable organization, and a network of interests and interested parties; and all these combined to make the Centrum the strongest and the most influential political party in Germany for the remainder of the 19th century.
Montanism sought to form a new Christian commonwealth which, separated from the Jerusalem from above, and its establishment in the spot which by the direction of the Spirit had been chosen in Phrygia.
Montanism also brought these apocalyptic expectations into discredit in orthodox ecclesiastical circles.
This may have been so to some degree; but Papias (whose name itself denotes that he was of the native Phrygian stock, and who shared the enthusiastic religious temper characteristic of Phrygia, see Montanism) was nearer in spirit to the actual Christianity of the sub-apostolic age, especially in western Asia, than Eusebius realized.
In one aspect Montanism is the central reaction of the primitive Christian enthusiasm against the forces which were transforming its character.