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Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements

Survey 2 - Decline of Orthodox Gifts
and Rise of Counterfeit Gifts

Our Background and Objectivity
Comparing Modern Tongues to Biblical Tongues
Basic Introduction to the Charismatic Movement
Opening Remarks and Introduction to the Gifts
Survey 1 - Continuity of the Gifts in the First Few Centuries
Survey 2 - Decline of Orthodox Gifts and Rise of Counterfeit Gifts
Survey 3 - A Change in Tune Regarding the Gifts
Survey 4 - From the Renaissance to the Modern Era
An Introduction to the Gifts in Modern Times
The Origins of the Modern Charismatic Movement

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5

In our last section of the survey, we left off with Irenaeus. We will pick up this section of our study right where we left off with two more quotes from Irenaeus.

CHAP. XIII.--THE DECEITFUL ARTS AND NEFARIOUS PRACTICES OF MARCUS. 1. But (2) there is another among these heretics, Marcus by name, who boasts himself as having improved upon his master. He is a perfect adept in magical impostures, and by this means drawing away a great number of men, and not a few women, he has induced them to join themselves to him, as to one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above. Thus it appears as if he really were the precursor of Antichrist.

Here Irenaeus speaks of "magical impostures" among the heretical Gnostic sects. Two paragraphs later, Irenaeus goes on to describe what these "magical impostures" were.

CHAP. XIII.--THE DECEITFUL ARTS AND NEFARIOUS PRACTICES OF MARCUS. 3. It appears probable enough that this man possesses a demon as his familiar spirit, by means of whom he seems able to prophesy, (6) and also enables as many as he counts worthy to be partakers of his Charis themselves to prophesy. He devotes himself especially to women, and those such as are well-bred, and elegantly attired, and of great wealth, whom he frequently seeks to draw after him, by addressing them in such seductive words as these: "I am eager to make thee a partaker of my Charis..."

Here we see Irenaeus has recorded for us the practice of the Gnostic heretics of his day. One of their leaders, a man by the name of Marcus, was able at least to make it "seem" as though he were prophesying. Notice that the Gnostics even incorporated the word "Charis." This is very close to the Greek word "carisma," (Strong's No. 5486), which is translated "gift" all 17 times it occurs in the New Testament. And while this word referred to other gifts besides the miraculous gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, in the setting and context spoken of by Irenaeus, it was most certainly that particular usage of "carisma" that the Gnostics were mimicking.

After Irenaeus, all the mentions of charismatic gifts are in reference to heretical sects. Mentions of these gifts among orthodox Christians falls from the scene until it is picked up in the next section of our survey where it has a dramatically and significantly different content (as we will see.) For now, we will continue with more quotes demonstrating the description and rise of the counterfeit gifts.

As encyclopedia.com records around 172 AD there arose in Phrygia a group known as the Montanists. The Montanists received their name from their leader, Montanus who worked in company with two female prophetesses by the names of Prisca and Maximillia. Eventually the orthodox Tertullian himself also became a member of this group.

The teachings and issues surrounding Montanus are recounted in the work The Church History by Eusebius Pamphilus. We should note that Eusebius himself "favored the semi-Arian views of Eusebius of Nicomedia, and he once gave refuge to Arius." Thus, Eusebius was not without heresy of his own.

However, this fact alone does not erase the record of Montanus provided by Eusebius, partially because Eusebius' description is not his own, but rather is borrowed from the record of an earlier writer named Asterius Urbanus (who lived during the second century AD). It should be noted that while Eusebius is categorized among the Post-Nicene writers (those who wrote after the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, Asterius Urbanus is considered part of the Ante-Nicene writers who wrote before the Council of Nicaea. And we should also note that Eusebius lived around 263-339 AD, well over a hundred years after the rise of the Montanists. For this reason, Eusebius' work should be viewed as an attempt to chronicle history and not mistakenly viewed as criticism of a contemporary figure. And since Eusebius' record of the Montanists is borrowed from an earlier Christian writer, Eusebius' semi-Arian views should not be used to discredit this description of the Montanists.

Consider the following excerpts from Book V of Eusebius' work The Church History.

1 As the so-called Phrygian heresy was still flourishing in Phrygia in his time, Apollonius also, an ecclesiastical writer, undertook its refutation, and wrote a special work against it, correcting in detail the false prophecies current among them and reproving the life of the founders of the heresy. But hear his own words respecting Montanus: 2 "His actions and his teaching show who this new teacher is. This is he who taught the dissolution of marriage; who made laws for fasting; who named Pepuza and Tymion, small towns in Phrygia, Jerusalem, wishing to gather people to them from all directions; who appointed collectors of money; who contrived the receiving of gifts under the name of offerings; who provided salaries for those who preached his doctrine, that its teaching might prevail through gluttony." (Chapter XVI. The Circumstances Related of Montanus and His False Prophets.)

One of the novel ideas proclaimed by the prophet Montanus appears to have been that he declared the towns of Pepuza and Tymion in Phrygia would be the location of the New Jerusalem. Additionally, Montanus seems to have found a way to entice men to become teachers of his doctrine by providing financial incentive. So we see that financial gain was tied into the lure of teaching the Montanus' views.

7 There is said to be a certain village called Ardabau in that part of Mysia, which borders upon Phrygia. There first, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name, through his unquenchable desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him. And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning." (Chapter XVI. The Circumstances Related of Montanus and His False Prophets.)

Here is the passage as written by Asterius.

12 There, they say, one of those who had been but recently converted to the faith, a person of the name of Montanus, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, gave the adversary entrance against himself by the excessive lust of his soul after taking the lead. And this person was carried away in spirit; 13 and suddenly being seized with a kind of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to speak and to utter strange things, and to prophesy in a manner contrary to the custom of the Church, as handed down from early times and preserved thenceforward in a continuous succession. (The Extant Writings of Asterius Urbanus, From Book I.)

The above excerpts are quite interesting in that it denotes the quality or characteristics of Montanus' prophesying. Not only is Montanus said to have a desired leadership role, but his prophetic episodes are described as being a matter of "frenzy and ecstacy" involving raving and babbling. Eusebius and Asterius note that this style of prophesying was "contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition." Or in other words, Montanus' prophetic episodes were entirely different in character than the manner in which orthodox Christian prophets behaved. This deviation from the "constant custom" of the Church is what demonstrates the counterfeit nature of Montanus' prophetic gift.

10 For the faithful in Asia met often in many places throughout Asia to consider this matter, and examined the novel utterances and pronounced them profane, and rejected the heresy, and thus these persons were expelled from the Church and debarred from communion." (Chapter XVI. The Circumstances Related of Montanus and His False Prophets.)

Here again is the same passage as previously written by Asterius Urbanus.

17 And those few who were thus deluded were Phrygians. But the same arrogant spirit taught them to revile the Church universal under heaven, because that false spirit of prophecy found neither honour from it nor entrance into it. For when the faithful throughout Asia met together often and in many places of Asia for deliberation on this subject, and subjected those novel doctrines to examination, and declared them to be spurious, and rejected them as heretical, they were in consequence of that expelled from the Church and debarred from communion.18 (The Extant Writings of Asterius Urbanus, From Book I.)

In these excerpts we see that Montanus and his group were eventually excommunicated by the churches of Asia and their prophecies rejected as profane and heretical. Below, Asterius is even more explicit in his declaration of how the form of prophetic gifts among the Montanists deviated from the customary manner in the Church.

"But the false prophet falls into a spurious ecstasy, which is accompanied by a want of all shame and fear. For beginning with a voluntary (designed) rudeness, he ends with an involuntary madness of soul, as has been already stated. But they will never be able to show that any one of the Old Testament prophets, or any one of the New, was carried away in spirit after this fashion. Nor will they be able to boast that Agabus, or Judas, or Silas, or the daughters of Philip, or the woman Ammia in Philadelphia, or Quadratus, or indeed any of the others who do not in any respect belong to them, were moved in this way." (The Extant Writings of Asterius Urbanus, From Book III. IX.)

In the above quote, Asterius asserts that it is an identifying mark of a false prophet to act in ecstasy. He also states that while this begins voluntarily on the part of the prophet, it ends in involuntary madness. Continuing, Asterius says this type of prophecy is totally inconsistent and deviant from the prophets of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Therefore, when we examine the practice of the charismatic gifts in modern practices, we can likewise determine their authenticity by whether or not they occur in a state of ecstasy.

And we can safely conclude that such an ecstatic manner of prophecy which included babbling and raving was indeed "contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning" by viewing Paul's words on the subject of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14.

1 Corinthians 14:31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints...37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

We should also take note that according to Britannica.com, ecstatic prophecy was not the only charismatic gift highly emphasized by Montanus and his followers, but the gift of tongues was also very important.

"The greatest emphasis upon the gift in the early church was made by followers of the 2nd-century prophet Montanus. His excommunication about 177 and the later decline of the sect probably contributed to a climate of opinion unfavourable to speaking in tongues, and the practice declined." (Britannica.com, "Tongues, gift of.")

If Montanus did engage in ecstatic prophesying, babbling, and raving, he was certainly not prophesying in the manner required by Paul. For Paul wrote that any man considering himself a prophet must acknowledge that "God is not the author of confusion," that prophecy should be done "decently and in order," and "that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." Ecstatic babblings and ravings would not qualify as being in compliance with the manner, which Paul described was present "in all churches of the saints."

What we are left with is the semi-Aryan heretics as exemplified by Eusebius vying against the Montanist heretics and their counterfeit gifts which were ecstatic, babbling, and "contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning." So, from both Irenaeus and Eusebius, we see that by the end of the second century AD, while orthodox authentic gifts including prophecy and tongues continued, they were competing with counterfeit versions such as those practiced by Marcus and Montanus. We also see the character of the counterfeit gifts best exemplified by the deviant and ecstatic prophetic mannerisms of Montanus.