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By William Tabbernee / Hendrickson / 2009
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Before the great councils of Christendom and before there were centers of ecclesiastical authority that spoke on behalf of the widely scattered churches found throughout the Roman Empire, how was one to determine what teachings were true and which prophets and prophetesses were authentic?
Montanism is named for its first proponent, a certain Montanus from Phrygia in Asia Minor in what is today Turkey who began his “spirit-filled movement” within the area sometime around 165 CE. He was shortly joined by two women, Priscilla and Maximilla. All proclaimed that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about the return of Jesus Christ as immanent and that the New Jerusalem would be established in the city of Pepouza in Phrygia.
With his profound knowledge of the group known at that time as “The New Prophecy” William Tabbernee dramatically tells the story of the followers of Montanus, Maximilla, and Priscilla, as well as of those other Christians, some well known such as Tertullian, most not, who followed their teachings for centuries thereafter. Replete with vivid descriptions, photographs of, and drawings illustrating the places and events surrounding these men and women, and with maps to orient the reader in the geography of its origins, this book provides an articulate, erudite, and thoroughly fascinating tour-de-force of what has been labeled a Christian heresy almost from its inception.
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William Tabbernee is no stranger to Montanism. . . . Indeed, his previous monographs . . . put him at the forefront of Montanist scholarship. With this present volume he brings his sense of geography and location to bear on the historical and epigraphic evidence, but in a way that is unlike anything he or other scholars have written before. . . . Tabbernee provides a narrative account of the historical, literary, and epigraphic evidence or fleshes out existing narratives by incorporating topographical elements (along with photographs) from his own archaeological insights. What is imaginative about the book is the way he humanizes his account, suggesting the emotions of the characters and filling in the backgrounds of some of the narratives in Eusebius and others. . . . Each vignette in this volume is short and delightfully readable. . . . At the end of each brief narrative the list of sources and the notes provide the historical grounding to assure the reader that this is not a work of fiction or even fictionalized history. Tabbernee has taken a stand on a number of debated issues. . . . Careful attention will need to be paid to the notes by those unfamiliar with particular episodes to reveal that there is a considerable amount of scholarly debate about these issues. . . . Given that Montanism suffered the same fate as other defeated groups in that their version of events was mostly wiped from history, Tabbernee provides a sympathetic reading, helping the reader not only to grasp but also to feel the passion and the position of both Montanists and their opponents alike.
—Catholic Historical Review
[It] provides a detailed, chronologically arranged overview of all the important historical information on the history of Montanism. . . . The book may be written in the style of a novel, but this should not obscure the fact that Tabbernee uses all the relevant texts, which are duly registered in the notes, and woven into his account. Further, the notes refer to modern research contributions, including the latest scholarly literature, on aspects of Montanism and the early Church. . . . The narrative part is prefaced by a list of the archaeological maps and drawings or photographs of the archaeological evidence. Readers will also be grateful to Tabbernee for the chronological table . . . which sets out in parallel the dates of the emperors’ reigns and the persons and events discussed in the text. At relevant points helpful maps, six in all, provide both overviews and detail on the geography of Montanism. . . . [A] very readable history of Montanism. Whereas the specialized literature, which is often unreadable, does not necessarily guarantee a better scholarly insight into the subject, the present work offers an original alternative: it is based on the sources and supplies all the necessary facts and references to modern research.
William Tabbernee is the former president and Stephen J. England Distinguished Professor of the History of Christianity at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A world-renowned specialist on Montanism, he led an international team of archaeologists and historians that discovered the long-lost site of Pepouza, Montanism’s most holy city. He is the author of Montanist Inscriptions: Epigraphic Sources Illustrating the History of Montanism, Fake Prophecy and Polluted Sacraments: Ecclesiastical and Imperial Reactions to Montanism, and (with Peter Lampe) Pepouza and Tymion: The Discovery and Archaeological Exploration of a Lost Ancient City and an Imperial Estate.