The New Prophecy and "New Visions"

The New Prophecy and "New Visions": evidence of Montanism in The passion of Perpetua and Felicitas

Rex D. Butler
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The New Prophecy and "New Visions"
    Book Description:

    In this book, Rex D. Butler examines the Passion for evidence of Montanism and proposes that its three authors--Perpetua, Saturus, and the unnamed editor--were Montanists.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1590-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface & Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the late second and early third centuries, persecution against Christians erupted throughout the Roman Empire¹ as a result of either an imperial edict or localized legislation and pogroms.² The persecution in Carthage led to the arrest of several young catechumens and their teacher.³ Ultimately, five of these Christians were martyred during public games held on 7 March 203.⁴

    Their story was preserved in a narrative, The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas, remarkable for several features. First, embedded in the account were diaries of two martyrs, who recorded their sufferings and joys amid persecution. Second, Perpetua’s diary, preserved in the...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Montanism
    (pp. 9-43)

    Montanism received its name from its founder, Montanus, but not until the fourth century, when Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315–86) used the term Montanists ( $ \tau \mathrm{o}\grave{\upsilon} \varsigma \ \mathrm{Mo} \nu \tau \alpha \nu \text{o}\grave{\upsilon} \varsigma $ ) to deny their claims to be Christians.¹ At first, Montanus’ detractors called his followers Cataphrygians ( $ {\mathrm o}\acute{\iota} \ \kappa \alpha \tau \grave{\alpha} \ \Phi \rho \grave{\upsilon} \gamma \alpha \varsigma $ , Latin, cataphryges), designating the geographical foundation of the movement.² The Montanists themselves, however, described their movement as the New Prophecy,³ or simply the Prophecy,⁴ and themselves as prophets or prophetesses.⁵

    Other epithets assigned to the Montanists were: Priscillianists and Quintillianists, referring to other, female leaders in the movement; and Pepuzites, derived from a key city in...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Authorship of the Passion
    (pp. 44-57)

    Before examining the text of the Passion, it is necessary to determine its authorship. The document consists of three separate parts, which are the two martyrs’ diaries and the editorial framework. Therefore, two problems must be investigated: the authenticity of the diaries and the identity of the unnamed editor.

    The editor stated several times that the diaries were written personally by Perpetua and Saturus.¹ After naming the catechumens in the introduction, the editor introduced Perpetua’s narrative with a parenthetical statement: “Now from this point on the entire account of her ordeal is her own, according to her own ideas and...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Examination of the Passion
    (pp. 58-96)

    After the exploration of the authorship of the Passion, the next step is the examination of the document for Montanist viewpoints, which are judged by criteria established in chapter one. The Passion consists of four sections: a preface; Perpetua’s narrative, including four visions; Saturus’ vision; and the account of the martyrdom. Each section contains a variety of allusions both Montanist and Catholic. This admixture is not surprising, considering the Carthaginian Montanists’ situation as members of house churches within the larger Christian community. In fact, the value of this examination of the Passion consists not only in the appraisal of Montanist...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Passion in Literary/Historical Context
    (pp. 97-126)

    Throughout The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas, in the preface, the diaries, the visions, and the account of the martyrdom, signs of Montanism can be observed. Yet, not all readers perceived the Montanist beliefs of the authors, especially of Perpetua and Saturus. Despite the internal evidence, many scholars have pointed to the response of the orthodox church to the memory of the martyrs.¹ They were regarded as saints; the date of their martyrdom was celebrated; a basilica was erected in their honor;² and sermons commemorating them were preached by no less an authority than Augustine. These honors convinced many historians...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 127-132)

    Many unique features set the Passion apart from other acts of martyrdom from the patristic period. The autobiographical sections written by Perpetua and Saturus and preserved along with the eyewitness account of the editor were original with the Passion and provide keen insights into the thoughts and emotions of early martyrs. Perpetua’s diary is likely the earliest extant writing by a Christian woman. In Herbert Musurillo’s estimation, the Passion “is also an apocalypse in its own right, reminiscent of the book of Revelation and the Shepherd of Hermas.”¹ Finally, the evidence of Montanist influence in the Passion adds even more...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 133-184)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 185-206)
  13. Index of Modern Authors
    (pp. 207-208)
  14. Subject Index
    (pp. 209-211)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 212-212)