Testing the Prophets
We feel a special sense of connectedness when we discover a spiritual ancestor who looks like us. For example, those suffering for the faith today draw inspiration from the early martyrs. Others, longing for Spirit-filled worship and “charismatic” witness, find their attention drawn to the enthusiastic, second-century Christian movement called Montanism.
In this example, however, there lies a problem: Montanism, which on the surface looks like modern Pentecostalism, was widely rejected as heretical in the early church. Why?
Sometime around the year 157, in the Roman province of Asia Minor known as Phrygia, a professing Christian named Montanus began to prophesy ecstatically. Claiming the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was soon joined by two prophetesses, Maximilla and Priscilla (Prisca). They paid special attention to the biblical teachings about the Paraclete, and they claimed to be the last in a succession of prophets that included the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8–9). They said they were called to summon all believers to righteous preparation for the heavenly descent of the New Jerusalem.
By the 170s, this “New Prophecy” movement, as it was known, spread. The heart of Montanist activity was always in Asia Minor, although converts were eventually won in missionary outposts such as Rome, Byzantium, and Carthage. What attracted scores of early Christians to Montanism? Perhaps the answer lies in three words: authority, vitality, and discipline.
Montanist prophets claimed direct revelations from God, and their utterances (“oracles”) were treasured and preserved as authoritative teaching by the faithful. Here was fresh truth, Spirit-given, for these last days!
Moreover, such revelations, springing as ...