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Christianity / Orientations / Heresy /

In Christianity, sect (see heresy) promoting a strict understanding of the religion, asceticism and the idea of prophecies manifesting from the Holy Spirit through its leaders.
Montanism originated in Phrygia with the self-proclaimed prophet Montanus in the 2nd century CE, but spread soon across the Christian world of its time. It especially flourished in Carthage in the 3rd century, aided by the influence of Tertullian (who left Montanism after some 10-15 years).
The message that the Montanists claimed to bring forth was not always in accordance with the message brought by the majority church. Their prophecies were by outsiders understood as additions to the original message of Jesus, not clarifications of the original message. Moreover, the prophecies were described as being possessions by God. Within 25 years of its emergence, the Montanists were labelled heretics by the majority church.
Emphasizing the message of the imminent second coming of Christ,- with which they were not deviating substantially from other Christian groups,- the Montanists came to believe that the heavenly Jerusalem soon would descend on the Earth in a plain between the two villages of Pepuza and Tymion in Phrygia. Prophets and laymen went there, in many cases, whole villages were almost abandoned.
The Montanists deviated by expressing that sins could not be forgiven, they changed the length of fasts, discouraged marriage and had second marriages forbidden. Martyrdom was elevated to the highest of piety, it was deemed illegal to avoid or flee from the fate of dying for one's faith, in reality, the faithful were urged to seek persecution.
Martyrdom was linked with certain values, as one would be forgiven all one's ins and go directly to Paradise. In order to achieve martyrdom, it is reported that many followers committed immoral acts and having sex in public, but this is doubtful. More believable is the accounts of 2nd century Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius on Montanists throwing themselves into gladiatorial arenas voluntarily, shouting "Kill me, for I am a Christian!"

Around 156: Montanus, who recently had converted to Christianity, falls into trance in the Phrygian village of Ardabau. Afterwards, he claims to have heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, receiving a divine message, prophecies. He begins speaking out his message, and is joined by two young women, Prisca and Maximilla, who also gets contact with the Holy Spirit.
— The teaching of Montanus, as well as of other Montanists, spreads quickly across Asia Minor, many towns and villages sees complete conversion.
Around 170: Pope Eleutherus expresses favourable thoughts concerning the Montanists.
Around 177: Church leaders chose to excommunicate the Montanists, making Montanism a separate sect with its seat of government at Pepuza.
3rd century: Montanism becomes an important sect in Carthage.
202: Reports of a Montanist group in Rome.
Around 207: Tertullian converts to Montanism.
Around 220: Tertullian breaks with the Montanists, founding his own sect, that would survive into the 5th century.
Around 400: According to St. Augustine, Montanism sees a rapid decline, many congregations loosing members, abandoning their buildings to the Roman Catholic Church, and reconciling with it. Still, some congregations would survive.
Middle 6th century: Byzantine emperor, Justinian 1, imposes strict regulations on the Montanists and other groups deemed heretical. He sends an expedition to Pepuza to destroy the Montanist shrine there.
722: Byzantine emperor, Leo 3, orders that Montanists, as well as Jews, shall be baptized by force if necessary.
9th century: Last records of Montanists, then only living in isolated communities.

By Tore Kjeilen