Thoughts on Montanism and Pentecostalism
Many years ago, I read about Montanism. Some Pentecostal authors actually seem positive toward the movement and describe it as a move against the institutionalization of the church in that era. But is that how we should interpret it?
Montanism was a movement some time before 200 AD. Montanus, according to critics, would prophesy in a frenzied state. He had two women prophetesses who worked with him. A movement grew up around him known as Montanism or ‘The New Prophecy.’ Montanus was from Asia Minor, but the movement spread from there to North Africa, Italy, and Gaul. In Asia Minor, there was a definite schism, but apparently those who adhered to the movement in Carthage remained a part of the regular church.
Much of what we now of Montanism was written by critics who were harsh toward it. Some things that were controversial about Montanism. – It was said that Montanus raved and prophesied while in an ecstacy. – They said his way of prophesying differed from the continuous tradition of how prophesying was done from the beginning of the church. – Montanists were ascetic and against women wearing ornaments. – Montanists were accused of accepting gifts and wearing makeup. – After the death of Montanus and the two prophetesses, Montanists apparently believed that prophecy had ceased because the perfect had come and went with Montanus, and may have invented I Corinthians 13 cessationism, while the main church still believed in the gift of prophecy. – It is believed that Montanus forbade widows and widowers from remarrying.
It is this last point I want to respond to. Tertullian, the author and apologist, became a Montanist defender. He defended the ‘New Prophecy’ revelation that widows could no longer remarry. Basically, the Montanist movement, through their prophecies, had created a new, extra-biblical doctrine about marriage, forbidding marriage to widows and widowers. I see this as something that is contradictory to Pentecostal approaches to theology and scripture. Pentecostals typically see these ‘ground rules’ as set in the Bible. Doctrine comes from scripture. Certain ‘Neo-Pentecostal’ groups may not see it that way.