Montanism is derived from Montanus, a “monk” who was a former priest of Cybele in Asia Minor in either 156 or 172. He claimed that he was given the gift of speaking in tongues, and proceeded to give many revelations concerning the “end of the world.” We do not have much information on this group, but the little that we do have is very enlightening, and sheds light on the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.

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The Gift of the Spirit and Revelation

There is nothing mentioned about Montanus and his group in the Scriptures since they originated at least 50 years after the end of the Apostles. We do have information concerning them from those that are deemed the “church fathers”: one of them, Tertullian, even joined Montanism.

From the information preserved in the records of these “church fathers,” we see that Montanus described himself as the inspired instrument of the Holy Spirit, even going so far as to claim that he was the “Father and the Son and the Paraclete1.” The movement was also known for two women, Prisca (or Priscilla) and Maximilla; the latter declared that “after me, there will be no more prophecy, but the End2.”

The Montanists’ main theology was that the end of the world was soon to come and that the “heavenly Jerusalem” would soon come to earth in Phrygia, in the little town of Pepuza3. They were known for their “ecstatic outbursts,” losing possession of their faculties, and their insistence that their words were the actual words of God Himself4.

Let us examine the testimony of Eusebius of Caesarea concerning this group:

In a certain village in that part of Mysia over against Phrygia, Montanus, they say, first exposed himself to the assaults of the adversary through his unbounded lust for leadership. He was one of the recent converts, and he became possessed of a spirit, and suddenly began to rave in a kind of ecstatic trance, and to babble in a jargon, prophesying in a manner contrary to the custom of the Church which had been handed down by tradition from the earliest times5.

If we remove the more virulent language to see the nature of the history that Eusebius recounts, we see that Montanus believed in the gift of speaking in tongues and did so not in accordance with the speaking in tongues of Pentecost, but as a form of babble.


Montanism no longer exists today; the movement continued into the third century, but died out not long after its three founders did. The “heavenly Jerusalem” did not fall to Pepuza in Phrygia, and 1,800 years later, the millennium they imagined has not begun. Therefore, can anyone say that these individuals were truly given the Spirit?

The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement looks back and sees a bit of itself in the Montanism of the second century. Montanism, however, represents an Achilles’ heel to the Pentecostals: if it were a true movement, how can the gifts still be around when one of its members declared that “after [her], there will be no more”? Furthermore, why did the world not end in the second or even third century? If we accept, therefore, that the Montanists were deluded by false spirits, why does the Montanist experience correlate so well with the Pentecostal/Charismatic experience of the twentieth century, with the emphasis on emotionalism, loss of possession of faculties, and the “utterance of the Spirit”?

The debacle that was Montanism thus demonstrates that the Spirit of God is not poured out in such a way that causes the high emotionalism and the “ecstasy” that has been purported first in Montanism and later in Pentecostalism. The Montanists help affirm the truth of the fulfillment of the prophecy given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10:

Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

Since the experience of Montanism has been proven false by the passing of time, why should we believe that the experiences of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements fall into any other category when the same nature of experience existed in both groups? Therefore, it is evident that the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:8 are not present today, just as they were not present in the second and third centuries CE.

Other Resources


1: Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament, pp. 100-101
2: Ibid.
3: Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, p. 52, and The Canon of the New Testament, p. 100
4: The Early Church, p. 52
5: Eusebius of Caesarea, History of the Church, v. xvi. 7

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3 Responses

  1. Jim

    I am in my 70’s and have been associated with the Pentecostal movement all my life (half my life with the Assembly of God) and have never seen ’emotionalism, loss of possession of faculties’, I am certainly aware that ’emotionalism, loss of possession of faculties’ does occur, especially in the early part of the 1900’s,but it is and has not been common for decades, or even close to common. You might be hard pressed to find a major modern Pentecostal movement where this is even close to common. “utterance of the Spirit” on the other hand is somewhat common still today, both personal and to a group. As in New Testament days, the are many individuals seeming to express this gift, but are false. Every Pentecostal group recognizes this. Like the New Testament era, there are those who are genuine. I personally have never spoken in tongues (not all Pentecostal/Charismatics do) but know many how do. The vast vast majority have never spoken in tongues except in private. Consider reflecting today’s Pentecostals.

  2. Sam

    I’m troubled that what we see in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Church is not what we see in the Scriptures. Never do we see anyone speaking in tongues privately, it was always publicly for the purpose of presenting Jesus Christ as the Savior who forgives sins being proved through His death, burial, and resurrection. Speaking in tongues Biblically is speaking the truth of Gods Word in a known language not previously learned by the individual speaking. We forget 1Corinthians 12:7-11 which tells us the Holy Spirit gives us gifts as he see fit for the edification not of self, but for the Church as a whole. The claim that they speak some angelic language is unscriptural. Where in Scripture do we read at anytime an angel spoke to another human or God in an ecstatic unintelligible language? Always when an angel spoke the hearer understood what was being said. The Bible tells us if one is to speak in tongues Biblically they or someone else who has the gift of interpreting tongues must be present and give the interpretation and if not they are to hold their peace and remain silent. 1Corinthians 14:22 reminds us that tongues is a sign for the unbeliever.

  3. Tongues of Fire — An Introduction | WolfOfJudah

    […] Montanism is derived from Montanus, a “monk” who was a former priest of Cybele in Asia Minor in either 156 or 172. He claimed that he was given the gift of speaking in tongues, and proceeded to give many revelations concerning the “end of the world.” — Montanism; A Study of Denominations […]

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