Could the Montanists
have included any of the Nag Hammadi writings among
the "infinite number" of writings that Hippolytus
of Rome reports they considered authoritative? (1)
Heresiological sources give us little information
regarding what might have been included within a Montanist
canon. We know from the Church Fathers that the New
Prophecy possessed its own inspired writings. (2)
Indeed, in the fourth century Eusebius charges them
with having created "new scriptures" (3)--presumably
the collections of oracular statements that Hippolytus
claims circulated under the names of Montanus, Prisca
and Maximilla, and about which the bishop of Rome
complains that "they allege that they have learned
more from these than from the law, and the prophets
and the Gospels." (4) On the other hand, Eusebius's
late contemporary, Epiphanius, makes it clear that
members of the New Prophecy did not reject more traditional
scriptures. (5) For their barbs against their theological
opponents, they adopted Matthew's castigation of "prophet-slayers";
(6) they also certainly favored Paul, upon whom they
appeared to have drawn to justify their stance on
prophecy, and--certainly by the fourth century--the
Gospel of John, for their notion that Montanus himself
was the Paraclete or "Spirit of God." (7)
Their use of the Book of Revelation has been widely
debated, but seems likely. (8) But could the Montanists
have read--and considered authoritative--any of the
writings now preserved in the Nag Hammadi Library?
The present article
considers the possibility that the New Prophecy may
have found certain so-called "gnostic" writings
from the Nag Hammadi Library compatible enough with
their theology to have both known and included them
within their canon. The Nag Hammadi Library is eclectic;
it does not represent any single theology or community.
Within this diverse collection, I suggest that two
related texts--the revelatory poem entitled Thunder:
Perfect Mind (NHC VI,2) and Trimorphic Protennoia
(NHC XIII,1)-- although hardly likely to have been
composed by Montanists, may nevertheless have been
attractive to early adherents of the New Prophecy
during the late second century. (9) These texts are
notoriously difficult to categorize or date; the Thunder
and Trimorphic Protennoia's use of Jewish sapiential
traditions, however, suggests authorship within a
Jewish Alexandrian community, with later redaction--most
likely during the second century--by heterodox Christians.
(10) There is nothing to connect either text directly
with the New Prophecy or with Asia Minor, but this
need not be necessary to suggest their use within
Montanist communities, which likely began around Pepuza
in the 160s C.E. but quickly spread westward; they
reached North Africa within the century. (11)
Admittedly, the suggestion
that adherents of the New Prophecy might have been
attracted to Nag Hammadi documents initially strikes
us as absurd. But let us consider for a moment what
has prevented us from considering a Montanist reception
of so-called Gnostic texts. First, the long, slow
process of academic compartmentalization has prevented
us from thinking across lines that were established
for us, ironically enough, by the heresiological sources
we now tend to deconstruct or to refute. If we allow
ourselves to be influenced by the biases of these
sources themselves, it is easy enough to perceive
Montanists as having polemicized against "Gnosticism."
Tertullian, for instance, himself a Montanist later
in life, reports that the Montanist Proclus wrote
against the Valentinians. (12) Tertullian himself
composed a number of treatises, such as On the Soul,
which we conventionally define as "anti-Gnostic."
Yet the label is misleading. Tertullian argued not
against "Gnostics," but against certain
Christians who rejected voluntary martyrdom, who denied
the resurrection of the flesh (as is the case with
On the Soul), and who devalued the flesh. He did not
refute movements per se, but rather theological opponents
such as Marcion and Valentinus. As Michael Williams
has recently argued, none of these movements, nor
any single figure such as Marcion or Valentinus, necessarily
or consistently represented a movement or philosophy
we can safely label "Gnosticism," taken
as a whole. (13) To return to our two "case studies,"
neither Thunder: Perfect Mind nor Trimorphic Protennoia
expresses any sense of the flesh as devalued in any
way, nor takes any position regarding martyrdom, nor
denies the resurrection of the flesh. Their theology
is neither Marcionite nor Valentinian. Yet the generalizing
label "Gnostic," for the most part, remains.
A lamentable consequence of this inaccurate categorization
is that scholars remain confined to their area of
specialization without working across categories;
"Gnosticism" specialists do not generally
examine or consider Montanist texts, nor do Montanism
specialists read Nag Hammadi sources.
Scholars of early
Christianity face a second significant challenge in
that we are caught between two types of sources. Texts
such as those found at Nag Hammadi provide few clues
as to their social or community context; we cannot
infer from them who was using them, or where, or when,
or for what purpose. By way of contrast, heresiologists
have specialized in anthropological excursus, delighting
especially in the more specific, bizarre aspects of
these groups. Hippolytus's derogatory characterization
of the Montanists as "radish-eaters" ([GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), (14) for instance,
could neither be refuted nor supported by examining
their theological treatises. In other words, while
many of the characteristics of Montanism that are
supported in the heresiological sources--such as their
relation to martyrdom, their position on marriage,
their practices of feasting and fasting, prophecy/glossolalia,
and the phenomena of women appointed to the clergy--are
crucial to identity politics, they are absent from
the theological treatises either produced, or adopted,
and circulated by Montanist communities. Accordingly,
none of our extant Montanist oracles takes much of
a direct position on these issues, and we certainly
cannot expect to find them in other theological texts
they might have included within their canon.
On the other side
of the equation, there are reasons I believe we ought
to take seriously the possibility that Thunder and
Trimorphic Protennoia develop and articulate various
aspects of their theology--including conceptions of
the divine, the nature of salvation, and the role
of community--which members of the New Prophecy may
not have found necessarily dissonant with their own.
The dismantling of heresiological categories within
modern scholarship has startled us into appreciating
how remarkably close to the mainstream the theology
and practices of any group labeled "heretical"
can be. It is less remarkable to us now than ever
before, for instance, that Tertullian in his Montanist
phase uses the Pauline-inspired terms psychici and
spiritales--once widely considered part of a characteristically
"Gnostic" vocabulary--to distinguish his
community from members of the mainstream on the position
of second marriage. (15)
of classical Montanism reveal remarkable intersections
with elements found in both Thunder: Perfect Mind
and Trimorphic Protennoia. First, Montanists shared
a distinct mode of discourse--the use of aretalogical
"I am" sayings--with these two Nag Hammadi
writings. Second, all of these sources share a similar
orientation with respect to the status of prophecy
and eschatology. In anticipation of the charge that
these two elements--namely similar vocabulary and
praxis--are merely general characteristics that diverse
communities of the second century were likely to have
shared, I offer a third, more specific parallel: Montanist
sapiential theology--as expressed in the unattributed
oracle where Christ, in the form of a woman, comes
and places Wisdom inside a prophetess--bears a remarkable
similarity to the descent and incarnation of Wisdom/Protennoia
in the Trimorphic Protennoia. On the basis of these
elements, I suggest that the New Prophecy appears
to have shared with these two Nag Hammadi treatises
an adaptation of Jewish sapiential traditions that
placed at their center a particular way of envisioning
divine power as feminized. I base my argument here
not on heresiological definitions of the New Prophecy,
but on a comparison of our earliest extant Montanist
oracles with these two Nag Hammadi treatises. (16)
Gnosticism and Montanism
In recent years, scholars
have devoted considerable attention to the often complex
relationships between names and communities, particularly
to the difference between names as labels imposed
by outsiders, on the one hand, and self-designations,
on the other. (17) No known "Gnostic" group
in antiquity ever identifies itself as such anywhere
in our extant literature, just as Montanists themselves
appear to have eschewed the label "Montanist"
in favor of the early self-designation [GREEK TEXT
NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Nevertheless, proponents
of nineteenth-century historiography adopted both
labels to articulate their vision of a second-century
struggle of the Catholic Church against twin threats,
"the Scylla of Gnosticism," on the one hand,
and the "Charybdis of Montanism," on the
other. (18) We can easily detect this "twinning"
of anti-Catholic influences in, for instance, the
work of Adolf Harnack, Ferdinand C. Baur, and Albrecht
Ritschl. (19) Both movements, according to this view,
developed as extravagant responses to primitive Christianity,
nourished within the dangerously pagan wildness of
Phrygia. Accordingly, Montanism as a reaction to Gnosticism
developed as a tenet of nineteenth-century scholarship,
represented in particular by Augustus Neander's work
on Tertullian, Antignostikus, (20) and Hans von Schubert's
Outline of Church History, where Montanism and the
"Great Church" emerged as two different
responses to the dangers of Gnosticism. (21)
one of the few modern scholars to have examined critically
the historiographical relationship between Montanism
and Gnosticism, discusses Montanism as the "countermovement
to Gnosticism" in an incisive but lamentably
overlooked article published in 1973. (22) He notes
the stolid conviction among modern scholars that Montanism
had nothing to do with Gnosticism, but that it stood
"on one side of the fence while Gnosticism stands
on the other--in short, that [Montanism] must be anti-gnostic
by nature and by root." (23) Christine Trevett,
one of the most recent scholars to reexamine and define
Montanism, likewise notes the tendency to separate
the two movements:
Given such "twinning"
in terms of influence, it is interesting that we
attempts to twin Montanism and Gnosticism genetically.
is usually assumed to have been at odds with, rather
than influenced by,
Trevett herself supports
this analysis, describing Montanism as "hostile"
to Gnostic thought. (25) Yet none of the references
she makes in her learned study of Montanism indicates
anything but a superficial and inaccurate knowledge
of Gnosticism. She never defines Gnosticism per se,
but she does associate it with both Docetism and Encratism,
which I would argue were rather different and often
separate philosophies or movements. In any case, neither
is characteristic of Gnosticism nor of the two texts
I am discussing here. (26) Like many other Montanist
scholars before her, Trevett also falls prey to an
argument ex silentio: "had the Prophecy been
tainted [sic] with Gnosticism, then Hippolytus, no
less than Tertullian, would certainly have recognized
and written of it." (27) But this argument presumes
accuracy in the process of heresiological labeling.
To be fully consistent within her own logic, Trevett
would be forced to accept Montanism as heretical,
as did Hippolytus and his heresiologist contemporaries.
Yet Trevett herself is quick to point out that the
label was inaccurate, at least during the second century.
Even with the spirit
of the new academic Perestroika and scholars' concomitant
willingness to do away with heresiological labels
and constructs, few have seriously explored the idea
that Montanism and Gnosticism might somehow have been
related, rather than antithetical, phenomena. Froehlich
suggests that the Montanist logia share more themes
and language with Gnosticism than others have allowed,
including at least one smoking gun: a Montanist claim
to gnosis appears in an oracle attributed to Maximilla.
(29) Froehlich's sole supporter, thus far, has been
Francoise Blanchetiere, who, in a 1978 article characterized
the New Prophecy as a spiritual reform movement with
strongly apocalyptic and encratic leanings "non
sans quelque parente avec certaines idees gnostiques."
It is hardly my intention
here to argue that Montanism was a form of Gnosticism;
rather, I suggest that the labels for both are largely
inadequate, heresiological constructs that do violence
to both sets of evidence. They prevent us from seeing
their points of contact, which I will argue are based
not directly on textual interdependence or influence,
but on a similar way of reinterpreting and rearticulating
Jewish prophetic or sapiential traditions. Froehlich
himself paved the way for this approach when he cautiously
ventured that "a common language with Gnosticism
suggests, if not interdependence, at least a common
matrix," and then raised the tentative question,
"Is there a possibility of Jewish roots for Montanism?"
(31) Later scholars have been more likely to consider
the Jewish matrix of both Montanism and Gnosticism,
and to remain open to Judaism's profound influence
on second-century Christian communities as they shaped
new christocentric theologies from the ground of Jewish
concepts of community, prophecy, and identity. We
do not know the degree to which these new communities
actively shaped one another. We do know, however,
that they confronted similar issues of identity, heritage,
and the need for change, and that they faced these
challenges with relatively consistent and definable
discourse, imagery, and purpose. These points of overlap
will, I hope, become clearer below.
Montanism and Aretalogies
Origen, in his description
of Christian prophets active in the 170s, notes that
prophetic discourse at the time was characterized
by self-commendation formulae such as "I am God"
and "I have come." (32) Recently, scholars
have underscored the use of "I am" sayings
as a characteristic form of Montanist prophetic discourse.
(33) From Montanus himself we have three "I am"
sayings, of which the most interesting for our purposes
is "I am the Father and I am the Son and I am
the Holy Spirit" ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]). (34) Although the form of this oracle
immediately suggests the Gospel of John as its inspiration,
the use of the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
formula characterizes neither Montanism nor the Fourth
Gospel exclusively; we find it in a wide range of
early Christian revelatory discourses, many of which
Froehlich cites. (35) For instance, Simon Magus, like
Montanus, apparently equated himself with the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit. (36) In Trimorphic Protennoia,
we also find the identification of the speaker as
Father, Mother and Son at 37:22, though here it is
embedded in a doctrinal passage and not an aretalogy.
A better parallel for an aretalogical utterance in
Trimorphic Protennoia is 45:3: "I am androgynous;
I am Mother and I am Father." The well-noted
shift in the second person of the Trinity need not
concern us just yet; it is to the form of the proclamation
that I wish to bring attention at this moment.
proclamation derives from a late and unreliable source.
But if we consider our oldest extant Montanist logion,
preserved by Asterius Urbanus and attributed to Maximilla,
we find that it also preserves the aretalogical form:
"I am driven away like a wolf from the sheep.
I am not a wolf, I am word ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]) and spirit ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]) and power ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII])." (37) Outside the Montanist oracles,
we find our largest extant concentration of aretalogical
proclamations in second-century literature in Thunder:
Perfect Mind--which consists almost exclusively of
"I am" sayings. I reproduce only a few of
these lines here:
I am the voice ([GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) whose sound is
manifold and the
word ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) whose
appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN
ASCII]) of my name.
[I am] the power of the powers in my knowledge ([GREEK
REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])
of the angels, who have been sent at my word. (Thund.
Trimorphic Protennoia also contains three extensive
aretalogical passages, which likely formed the most
ancient stratum of the tractate:
I am the Word ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])
who dwells in the
ineffable Voice ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).
I dwell within all the Sovereignties and Powers ([GREEK
REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (Trim. Prot. 47:20)
I am the image of the Invisible Spirit ([GREEK TEXT
NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN
ASCII]). (Trim. Prot. 38:11)
is important to note that of the fifty-two tractates
in the Nag Hammadi library only these two contain
aretalogies, with the possible exception of the untitled
cosmological treatise that scholars have designated
On the Origin of the World (NHC II,5 and XIII,2).
This treatise reproduces a brief passage remarkably
similar in both style and content to Thunder: Perfect
Mind. These brief examples of excerpted passages illustrate
that both Thunder: Perfect Mind and Trimorphic Protennoia
share with Maximilla's proclamation not only the aretalogical
format, but also the self-identification as divine
speech or word. The speaker in Thunder proclaims,
"I am the word ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]) which cannot be grasped," while in
Trim. Pro. 42:7, Protennoia reveals herself as "unchanging
speech" ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).
appears to be a correspondence between the aretalogical
mode adopted by both of these "Gnostic"
sources and the Montanist logia, and the nature of
second-century prophetic discourse. In Thunder, and
particularly in Trimorphic Protennoia, we find a repeated
emphasis on speech or word. Similarly, Maximilla's
defiant proclamation, "I am word and spirit and
power," does something rather more than defend
her against those who accuse her of being a wolf among
lambs; she follows an ancient prophetic tradition.
The triad she invokes, [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]I, we know from other sources, including
Simon Magus's Apophasis Megale; we find similar language
in 1 Cor 2:4: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII],
[GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (38) Whether
or not we find this convincing, the use of [GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] forms is well attested
throughout the Septuagint, as Eduard Schweizer demonstrated
as long ago as 1939. (39) Indeed, the best parallels
for both the prophetic proclamations contained in
Thunder and Trimorphic Protennoia as well as the self-commendations
of the Montanists lie in the sapiential writings in
the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly in the proclamations
of Wisdom in Wisdom 6-8, or Proverbs 8. (40)
recent years, a sensitivity to the rich Nachleben
of Septuagintal sapiential traditions in Christian
literature has helped displace scholars' earlier conviction
that the Gospel of John had provided the source for
the aretalogical discourses in both Montanist oracles
and, in particular, Trimorphic Protennoia. In an incisive
study, Ronald Heine laid to rest prior hypotheses
of Montanist dependence on John. (41) Meanwhile, within
the world of Nag Hammadi studies, George W. MacRae
broke a source-critical stalemate; rather than trying
to solve the frustrating puzzle of the obvious textual
relationship between Trimorphic Protennoia and the
Fourth Gospel, he suggested that it might be more
illuminating to investigate the manner in which both
texts drew upon earlier Wisdom traditions. (42) Following
the lead of0 Heine and MacRae, then, we need to look
beyond the hypothesis of Johannine influence for both
sets of texts to uncover the Wisdom theologies that
appear to have undergirded them. Maximilla's proclamation
that she is [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII],
[GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and [GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] likely draws upon
Wis 1:6 and 7:7, in which Wisdom is equated with the
Holy Spirit; in a similar manner, Thund. 18:15-17
and Trim. Prot. 38:11 may invoke Wis 7:25 and 7:26,
where we find Wisdom described as the "breath
of the power of God" (7:25) and as an emanation
of glory (7:26). Beyond the remarkable similarity
in language and imagery between our texts and the
Wisdom of Solomon, other sapiential texts provide
convincing sources for--or at least, remarkable similarities
to--both Montanist logia and our two Nag Hammadi tractates.
Recently, John Poirier has convincingly traced Maximilla's
theme of the descent of Wisdom into the New Jerusalem
to Sirach 24. (43) Meanwhile, Roelof van den Broek,
in an important article on the influence of Jewish
Wisdom traditions on the long recension of Nag Hammadi's
Apocryphon of John and Trimorphic Protennoia, traces
the threefold descent of Protennoia/Wisdom in these
texts to 1 Enoch 42. (44)
shared use of aretalogical discourses in both Montanist
oracles and these two tractates from Nag Hammadi indicates
three things. First, Christians of the second century
appear to have drawn their use of "I am"
sayings from Wisdom's proclamations in the LXX and
Jewish sapiential discourse more generally, recasting
these traditions into a new, explicitly soteriological
form of proclamation. Second, the Montanists drew
upon a tradition common in many strands of early Christianity--evident
also in Trimorphic Protennoia--in which the savior
is manifest through a human representative, whether
in the form of the Holy Spirit, of Christ, or of Wisdom.
Third, although these sayings were interpreted by
their opponents as grandiose, blasphemous proclamations,
those uttering them more likely understood themselves
as surrendering their own, human authority to the
greater authority of a divine revealer which used
them as an instrument or mouthpiece. The prophetic
dimensions (and implications) of this we shall investigate
methodologies, such as form criticism and literary
criticism, have allowed us to become more sensitive
to language, particularly when set down into a structured,
literary tractate. Yet a purely literary analysis
of the aretalogical form can obscure the social dimensions
of "I am" sayings within the context of
a religious community. Following the lead of Hebrew
Bible specialists, scholars of Gnosticism have focused
on Wisdom as the hypostasized figure of Sophia, particularly
within the Nag Hammadi corpus. (45) But if we interpret
sapiential traditions hypostatically, rather than
incarnationally, we may lose sight of a vital aspect
of their impact within the communities in which these
texts and traditions were developed and transmitted.
To consider these texts incarnationally--that is,
to consider the manner in which prophets (and their
communities) believed themselves to contain an indwelling
Sophia who spoke her proclamations through them--would
allow us to consider a different set of questions:
not just how early Christians interpreted the divine,
but in what form, and through what type of authority
Wisdom visited and spoke from within early Christian
communities. Fortunately, the texts themselves provide
a brief glimpse into sapiential prophecy alive within
a community at that time.
in the Form of a Woman?
of the most startling and provocative of the extant
Montanist oracles is from Epiphanius, who could not
say whether the saying originated with Priscilla or
Christ came to me in the form of a woman ([GREEK TEXT
NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN
ASCII]) garbed in a bright garment ([GREEK TEXT NOT
ASCII]), threw Wisdom inside me ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
and revealed to me that this place is holy. (46)
Jensen's claim that this logion has "no direct
parallel in early Christian literature" is not
precisely correct, as R. M. Grant and others have
demonstrated. (47) The motif of the luminous woman
certainly appears in Jewish Christian literature of
the Roman Empire. In Revelation 12, for instance,
the Church in the form of a woman clothed with the
sun appears to John of Patmos. (48) We find a similar
motif in other Jewish apocalyptic writings, particularly
4 Ezra 9, in which Ezra witnesses the transformation
of the mourning woman into one with a shining face
and a "countenance like lightning" before
Jerusalem is revealed. We can also find parallels
from the testimonies of so-called Gnostics readily
enough. Hippolytus reports that the Valentinians connected
Wisdom (in this case, hypostasized Sophia) with the
heavenly Jerusalem; (49) the Naassenes, similarly,
give "the Jerusalem above" the title of
Eve, the "mother of the living." (50) According
to Irenaeus, Ptolemy equated the Mother with Sophia,
Earth, Jerusalem, Holy Spirit, "and, with a masculine
reference, Lord"; (51) Irenaeus also reports
that the Valentinian teacher Marcus claimed that the
highest Tetrad revealed itself to him "in the
form of a woman" ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]). (52)
suggest that we can find our most striking parallel
for Quintilla's oracle in Trimorphic Protennoia, in
which Protennoia (as divine Voice) recounts her descent
to teach her children "in the likeness of a woman":
Now I have come the second time in the likeness of
a woman ([GREEK TEXT NOT
REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and have spoken with them.
And I shall tell them of
the coming end of the Aeon and teach them of the beginning
of the Aeon to
come, the one without change, the one in which our
appearance will be
changed. (Trim. Prot. 42:18-23)
the continuing vibrancy of Wisdom traditions within
new Christian contexts provided traditional vocabulary
for divine revelation; the figure of a hypostasized,
even embodied, Wisdom influenced both Quintilla and
the unknown author of Trimorphic Protennoia. Of particular
interest here is the depth of the parallels between
the Montanist oracle and Trimorphic Protennoia: not
only does Protennoia descend "in the form of
a woman" as Christ came to the prophetess in
female form, but in both cases the content of the
revealed knowledge is eschatological--a point to which
I will return below. (53)
he neglected to note the relevance of Wisdom traditions,
it was Karlfried Froehlich who first observed that
Quintilla articulated her vision in language drawn
from prophetic writings in the Septuagint, particularly
the curious expression [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII], which evokes the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII] of Num 23:5, 16 and Deut 11:18, or [GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of Isa 37:7 and 51:53.
(54) More recently, scholars of Montanism have investigated
the sapiential dimensions of Quintilla's prophetic
vision. (55) According to Anne Jensen, we do the greatest
justice to the prophetess when we recognize her status
"not as an ecstatic but as a teacher of wisdom."
(56) In the case of Trimorphic Protennoia, it remains
an intriguing possibility that Protennoia's descent
"in the form of a woman" is meant to describe
a teacher's authoritative teaching to a community.
(57) Indeed, one has to wonder if this revelatory
discourse, replete with divine feminine imagery, might
not have been more appropriately delivered by a woman
leader of a community than by a male prophet. There
is certainly no way we can be sure of this, but given
the numerous accounts of female prophetic activity
in the second century we must consider this as plausible,
if not likely. The startling evidence of Quintilla's
experience demonstrates, indeed, that Wisdom imagery
was actively employed by women visionaries to articulate
their own experiences. (58)
we consider Quintilla's oracle alongside Protennoia's
descent into a woman in Trimorphic Protennoia, we
may make several observations. First, women prophets
appear to have articulated their divine revelations
as embodiments of a descended Wisdom. This experience
of embodying Wisdom provided the authoritative ground
from which these women prophesied, but also taught.
Second, the content of at least some of this prophetic
teaching, given our extant information, concerned
the nature of the eschaton. Third, in the cases of
Quintilla's oracle and Trimorphic Protennoia, the
proclamations of Wisdom are mediated not only through
human agents but also through the intercession of
Christ, who comes eventually in Christian theology
to replace the female Wisdom with an explicitly, unambiguously
male divine agency. (59) In the case of both these
sources, we appear to have an early form of Christian
wisdom theology closely aligned with Jewish sapiential
traditions, in which Christ is recognized as an embodiment
of Wisdom but has not yet eclipsed the traditional
construction of Wisdom as female.
Nature of Prophecy
agree that the New Prophecy can be characterized by
its emphasis on prophecy, but they have not reached
a consensus regarding the nature of that prophecy.
(60) Debates have centered around whether or not the
Montanists were carried away by the Spirit ([GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and prophesied in
a state of ecstasy--originally a heresiological claim.
(61) One of our earliest attestations of Montanist
prophecy reports women talking "incomprehensibly,
inopportunely, and strangely ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII])." (62) If indeed we are speaking of
glossolalia (Eusebius's anonymous source actually
refers to Montanist speech as [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]), (63) the Montanists, like some of the
communities which penned and employed writings from
Nag Hammadi, could claim a Pauline pedigree bolstered
by Paul's acknowledgment that ecstatic prophecy was
popular in the Christian community at Corinth. (64)
As Christine Trevett has shown, glossolalia was common
in the early prophetic discourse of Asia Minor; (65)
the Montanists were certainly not alone in using it,
nor did they receive their status as heretical purely
from their practice of prophesying in ecstasy. To
return to our Nag Hammadi treatises, we do find strings
of unintelligible or nonsensical vowels there, although
scholars tend to term these voces magicae (therefore
with precedents in Greco-Roman magic) rather than
glossolalia. (66) One such utterance in Trimorphic
Protennoia is perhaps best understood as a prayer
or hymnic utterance of a community: "Therefore
we glorify thee: MA MO O O O EIA EI ON EI!" (38:29).
the other hand, our extant Montanist oracles are neither
nonsensical nor obtuse, confounding the heresiological
insinuation that Montanist prophecy was mere nonsense
speech. We are left, then, to ponder a question: If
these oracles either define or conform to a genre
we term "prophecy" or "prophetic discourse,"
and were acknowledged in antiquity as such, what then
are the defining characteristics of that genre? David
E. Aune defines a prophecy, or an oracle, as "a
written or oral message from a god, occasionally encoded,
mediated by a human spokesperson." (67) It is
a form of "social communication," usually
"secured through distinctive forms of behaviour
(possession or trance), and/or a verbal claim that
the forthcoming (or preceding) message has a supernatural
origin." (68) These criteria ably characterize
the form of Montanist prophecy, as well as of our
two NHL tractates--although, in the case of these
latter texts, we have no data to indicate whether
or not they were expressed during a trance state.
If we consider content as well as form, then we note
that the Montanist oracles contain eschatological
statements ("After me there will be no more prophets;
it will be the culmination"), theological proclamations
("I am word and spirit and power"), subtle
jeremiads or polemics ("I am not a wolf among
sheep"), and claims of authority through divine
inspiration or indwelling of the Spirit ("Christ
revealed himself to me ... and threw Wisdom into me").
These characteristics describe with equal accuracy
the content and flavor of both Trimorphic Protennoia
and Thunder: Perfect Mind.
scholars of Gnosticism conventionally and consistently
define Trimorphic Protennoia and Thunder: Perfect
Mind as "revelatory discourses," the content
of these discourses is also distinctly prophetic in
nature. In fact, Trimorphic Protennoia's aretalogical
passages and Thunder: Perfect Mind might easily qualify
as oracular literature; they are statements considered
by a community to be inspired and contain first-person
monologues that would have been "delivered"
or spoken by a member of that community, presumably
within a liturgical or catechetical context. Again,
we find a significant overlap between our Nag Hammadi
writings and the Montanist logia: a marked emphasis
on word, speech, and hearing in both sets of documents,
the themes of divine speech or call, and the claim
to a divine authority. Like the cry of Wisdom outside
the gates in Proverbs 8, all of these sources exude
an almost plaintive plea to be heard: "you hearers,
hear me!" calls out the anonymous divine locutrix
of Thunder: Perfect Mind (13:8). She is the one who
"cries out" (19:28, 35), but as the "speech
that cannot be grasped." She is a "mute
who does not speak" yet "great is the multitude
of [her] words" (19:22-25). Protennoia in Trimorphic
Protennoia is "the voice speaking softly"
and "the hidden voice" which "dwells
within." She describes herself:
It is I who am laden with the Voice. It is through
me that Gnosis comes
forth ... I am perception and knowledge, uttering
a voice by means of
thought ... I am the real voice. I cry out in everyone,
and they recognize
it, since a seed indwells [them]. I am the Thought
of the Father and
through me proceeded [the] Voice, that is, the knowledge
of the everlasting
things. (36:9-19, trans. Turner)
Trevett, writing on Montanist prophecy, observes that
members of the New Prophecy "taught, expounded
and expanded the [Jewish] tradition, declared things
to come, convicted hearers of wrongdoing or compromise,
and stressed the need to bear witness." (69)
Trimorphic Protennoia and Thunder: Perfect Mind performed
precisely these same functions for a community. Note,
for instance, the opening words of Thunder:
It is from the Power that I was sent, And it is to
those who reflect upon
me that I have come And I was found among those who
seek after me Look at
me, you who reflect upon me; And you hearers, hear
me! (Thund. 13:1-8)
passages, spoken and recorded by members of a community,
lessen the distance from Maximilla's prophetic protestation:
"Hear not me, but hear Christ in me!" ([GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (70) In both cases,
the plural imperatives draw in a community or congregation,
assuring their salvation not through gnosis, but through
we persist in categorizing our sources conventionally,
perceiving Montanist logia as a compilation of oral
sources and Nag Hammadi tractates as a compilation
of literary material, we do not allow ourselves room
to explore the manner in which this literary material
would have been heard by a community. To characterize
Thunder as a "poem," for example, masks
its impact on a religious community when recited aloud
and considered a sacred, authoritative text. To be
preoccupied with literary-critical questions also
obscures the question of the speaker or "mouthpiece"
for this material; would not the reader in the community
be considered a transmitter of sacred revelation--a
prophet in every sense of the word? In place of the
more conventional designation of Thunder as a poem,
I offer that we might consider it instead as a song,
or a type of hymn for a liturgical context that nonetheless
functioned prophetically to articulate a position
of defiance in relation to other communities with
alternative paradigms for the divine. (71) Aune's
work on prophecy, particularly in the Odes of Solomon,
has emphasized the centrality of prophetic hymns in
early Christian worship. (72)
me make a final point regarding the intersection between
prophecy and Wisdom literature. As John C. Poirier
has remarked, Montanists most likely were attracted
to sapiential traditions because they justified their
emphasis on prophecy through the motif of Wisdom's
residence among humanity. (73) He notes, "wisdom
was widely associated with the prophetic spirit."
(74) Indeed, Wis 2:27 makes the connection explicit:
"In every generation [Wisdom] passes into holy
souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets."
This idea, already present in Hellenistic Judaism,
evidently made inroads into Christian communities
which sought scriptural justification and inspiration
for prophetic activity beyond (and perhaps entirely
apart from) the encouragement of Paul in 1 Corinthians.
This was recognized by, among others, Hippolytus,
who insinuates that members of the New Prophecy received
their prophetic calling illegitimately, unlike those
earlier prophets who were "correctly endowed
with wisdom ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])
through the word." (75)
over a century, scholars as prominent as T. D. Barnes
have followed Harnack, persistently characterizing
Montanism as fervently eschatological. (76) This perception
percolated into more general studies of apocalypticism,
including Norman Cohn's influential The Pursuit of
the Millennium (1957). Trevett, however, has recently
effectively laid this perception to rest. "In
fact," she observes, "there is less evidence
for Montanist eschatology than one might expect."
(77) The evidence for apocalypticism in the New Prophecy
rests on a single oracle of Maximilla: "After
me there will be no more prophets; it will instead
be the culmination ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN
ASCII])." (78) The Montanists may have adopted
the term [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] from
the parable of the seed in Matthew 24, in which the
harvest occurs at the end of time. (79) A later Montanist
source, the fourth-century Dialogue between a Montanist
and an Orthodox, also records an ambiguously eschatological
statement: "Montanus the Paraclete has come and
given to us the culmination ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII])." (80)
encounter the terms [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN
ASCII] and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
in a wide variety of so-called Gnostic sources, including
repeated use of the term [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII] in writings as diverse as the Pistis Sophia
and the Valentinian Gospel of Truth. In Trimorphic
Protennoia we find the related term [GREEK TEXT NOT
REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] on numerous occasions, to refer
to Protennoia incarnated as the Christ (38:17, 22;
39:12; see also 47:9, where Voice resides within the
[GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the same "Perfect
Mind" we find in the title of Thunder: Perfect
Mind). Strikingly, we also find in Trimorphic Protennoia
the more unusual term [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII] used three times to describe the eschatological
dimensions of Protennoia's revelations: "And
the culmination ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])
of this particular Aeon and of the evil life [has
approached and there dawns] the beginning of the Aeon
to come, which has no change forever" (44:33-45:2).
Twice Protennoia herself uses the expression in an
aretalogical passage. One passage retains the term
in the original Greek: "The second time I came
in the sound ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])
of my voice; I gave form ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]) to those who received form ([GREEK TEXT
NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) till their fulfillment
([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])" (47:11-13).
In a second, earlier passage we find the word translated
into the Coptic: "I am the fulfillment ([GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of the All, that
is, Meirothea, the glory of the Mother. I cast voiced
speech ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) into
the ears of those who know me" (45:9-12). Protennoia's
prophetic activity of throwing or casting speech ([GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) out toward her listeners
reminds us of the female Christ throwing or casting
(Greek: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) Wisdom
into the prophetess.
Wisdom in the Montanist oracle reveals to the prophetess
the location of the new Jerusalem, scholars have also
interpreted the descent of Wisdom in Quintilla's vision
as an eschatological motif. In his recent article,
Poirier has traced this motif convincingly to Sirach
24. We find a similar apocalypticism in Trimorphic
Protennoia's descent of Wisdom; Wisdom comes "in
the form of a woman" (42:18-19) to teach about
the coming end of the Aeon, the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII], in which "our appearance will be changed"
(42:23). Here, though, our closest scriptural reference
appears to be Paul's teaching on the eschaton in 1
Cor 15:52, where the apostle exhorts, "we will
be changed ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])."
Strikingly, both these passages actually reflect a
type of realized eschatology. If Pepuza had already
been known as the New Jerusalem, Quintilla's acknowledgment
of this fact emphasized that the heavenly Jerusalem
was already present for those who were spiritually
aware. In an article on the later Montanists, Douglas
We have here an eschatology radically different from
futurism usually ascribed to the Montanists -- an
realised in a present spiritual experience. (81)
observation accords nicely with the tenor of both
Thunder and, particularly Trimorphic Protennoia, in
which Protennoia descends to teach her own about the
[GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: "I have
come the second time in the likeness of a woman and
have spoken with them. And I shall tell them of the
coming end of the Aeon, and teach them of the beginning
of the Aeon to come, the one in which our appearance
will be changed" (42:15-22). The next passage,
now heavily lacunate, continues with a sort of eschatological
timetabling: "The birth beckons: [hour] begets
hour, [day begets day]. The months made known the
[month. Time] has [gone round] succeeding [time]"
(42:30-33). Yet as provocatively eschatological as
this sounds, the emphasis of this section is not on
a future apocalypse. Rather, the substance of Protennoia's
teaching was that the cosmos had already been profoundly
Then when the great authorities knew that the time
of fulfillment ([GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) had appeared--just
as in the pangs of the
parturient it had drawn near, so also had the destruction
together the elements trembled, and the foundations
of Amente and the
ceilings of Chaos shook and a great conflagration
burned in their midst,
and the rocks and the earth were shaken like a reed
shaken by the wind, and
the lots ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])
of Heimarmene and those
who apportion the planetary houses ([GREEK TEXT NOT
REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])
were greatly disturbed since they were overturned,
and their king was
a final eschaton might still await them, the point
of the tractate was to teach a community that they
were no longer in spiritual bondage; Protennoia had
herself altered the structure of the cosmos and its
astrological ordinations. What we appear to have both
in the Montanist oracle and in Trimorphic Protennoia,
then, are prophetic teachings with a significant realized
eschatology. They celebrate the gathering of a new
prophetic community loosed from the celestial tyranny
which bound their contemporaries in their ignorance,
a community that had been gathered and guided into
a new, inaugural age by Wisdom herself.
paper has provided a brief reexamination of the historiographical
tenet that Montanism stood in direct opposition to
"Gnosticism." Our findings here suggest
that if the Montanist logia were anti-anything, they
were anti-Marcionite, not anti-Gnostic, speaking to
the need to adhere to paradigms of prophetic activity
inherited from Judaism. On the other side of the equation,
if we remove the inaccurate label "Gnostic"
that has been applied to certain texts from Nag Hammadi,
then our academic responsibility requires us to reclassify
these writings more thoughtfully. The Thunder: Perfect
Mind and Trimorphic Protennoia are not Gnostic texts,
but early Christian texts that bear strong traces
of vibrant Jewish sapiential traditions.
intention here has not been to suggest that Trimorphic
Protennoia and Thunder: Perfect Mind are Montanist
texts--or even to prove that Montanists would have
read them, or even have known about them--but to emphasize
the need to reinvestigate the modern, arbitrary lines
we have previously drawn between one group and another,
lines that prevent us from appreciating how one early
Christian group may have accommodated texts from other,
earlier traditions. With regard to second-century
Montanism, D. Powell's comment is well taken: "We
must ask more carefully `where, when and by whom?'
even if thereby we see disappearing, one after another,
the more popular criteria for distinguishing Montanism
from non-Montanism." (82) We also know that a
fundamental component of the marginalization and rejection
of the New Prophecy derived from their conviction
that prophecy was ongoing, along with the revelation
of new texts from new sources, which they then incorporated
into their canon. Certainly our "Gnostic"
texts would have been welcomed within a community
open to revelations from relatively new sources--certainly
more recent than traditional prophetic texts of the
Jewish scriptures. Our Nag Hammadi texts provide enough
points of contact (such as a realized eschatology
built upon a scaffolding of sapientialism and prophetic
calls to hear, to judge, and to teach) to have supported
Montanist theology, including its understanding of
Jewish scripture and of Paul. The voluminous Montanist
canon was committed to the fire of the post-Constantinian
era, sealing forever our knowledge of what was vibrant
to their community. (83) But, it was in this same
period that most of our "Gnostic" texts
were also burnt. Yet some of these texts were gathered
together, away from the communities who had used them,
and carefully copied, translated, and spirited away
by the monastic communities that lined the steep wadis
of Nag Hammadi.
Hippolytus, Haer. 8.19 (ed. Marcovich, 338).
Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.20.3 (SC 41:120); Didymus,
Trin. 3.41 (PG 39:84); and later, Jerome, Ep. 41("Ad
Marcellam"); Pacian of Barcelona, Ep. 1 ad Syrup.
Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.20.3 (SC 41:120); see also
5.18.5 in which Apollonius reports that the Montanist
Themiso composed a new "catholic" epistle.
In 5.16.17 Eusebius's anonymous source refers to "a
work according to Asterius Urbanus" to introduce
Hippolytus, Haer. 8.19; see also Epiphanius, Pan.
48.7 on the Montanists' mistaken theological interpretations
of the scriptures.
See Epiphanius, Pan. 48.7 and Eusebius, Hist. eccl.
5.17.3 on the Montanist use of the Hebrew Scriptures,
including Gen 2:21, Num 12:7, Isa 1:2 and 6:1, and
Ezek 4:8-12--all passages that justify ecstatic prophecy.
The Christian canon was not yet fixed before the fourth
century, making the categories of "canonical"
versus "non-canonical" unhelpful here. Christine
Trevett, Montanism: Gender, Authority and the New
Prophecy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)
132, suggests that the Montanists most likely knew
and used the popular Shepherd of Hermas--part of many
early canons although rejected as too recent a composition
by the Muratorian Canon--as well as the non-canonical
Apocalypse of Peter.
Compare, for instance, Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.16.12
with Matt 23:34. The Anonymous also quotes Matt 7:15;
Apollonius quotes Matt 10:9-10 and 12:33.
An overview of the subject can be found in F. E. Vokes,
"The Use of Scripture in the Montanist Controversy,"
in Studia Evangelica: Papers Presented to the International
Congress of the Four Gospels in 1957 (Berlin: Akademie
Verlag, 1959) 317-20. For a refutation of the widely-held
assumption that the Montanists drew upon the Gospel
of John to assert that Montanus was the Paraclete,
see Ronald E. Heine, "The Role of the Gospel
of John in the Montanist Controversy," SecCent
6 (1987) 1-19. See also Trevett, Montanism, 129-31,
who remains uncommitted as to whether or not the Montanists
used the Fourth Gospel, but who emphasizes the importance
Trevett, Montanism, 130ff. The argument for the primacy
of Revelation in Montanist circles was first made
by Hans von Campenhausen in Ecclesiastical Authority
and Spiritual Power (trans. J. A. Baker; Palo Alto:
Stanford University Press, 1969) 47-48; see also W.
M. Calder, "Philadelphia and Montanism,"
BJRL 7 (1923) 309-54.
he Thunder: Perfect Mind and Trimorphic Protennoia
remain anonymous, undated, unattributed texts. For
critical editions, see Paul-Hubert Poirier and Wolf-Peter
Funk, Le tonnerre, intellect parfait (NH VI, 2) (BCNH
22; Laval: Les presses de l'universite Laval, 1995).
For critical editions of the Trimorphic Protennoia,
see Gesine Schenke, Die dreigestaltige Protennoia
(Nag Hammadi Codex XIII) (Berlin: Akademie Verlag,
1984); Yvonne Janssens, La Protennoia Trimorphe (NHC
XIII,1) (Laval: Les presses de l'universite Laval,
1978); and John Turner, "The Trimorphic Protennoia,"
in Nag Hammadi Codices XI, XII, XIII (ed. Charles
Hedrick; The Coptic Gnostic Library, NHMS 28; Leiden:
Poirier, Tonnerre, 171 describes the Thunder as deriving
from either a Jewish milieu or one "du moins
familier des realities religieuses juives" until
the Jewish content had become "marginal,"
that is, replaced by a more eclectic spirit of Hellenistic
or even early Christian syncretism.
I follow here the dating proposed by Christine Trevett,
Montanism, 26-45. Trevett suggests that the social
instabilities of the 160s may have been a more likely
time for a new apocalyptic movement to take shape
than the period around 172 C.E., the traditional "starting
date" for the movement based on the accounts
of Eusebius and Epiphanius. For the later date, see
W. H. C. Frend, "A Note on the Chronology of
the Martyrdom of Polycarp and the Outbreak of Montanism,"
in Oikumene, studi paleocristiani pubblicati in onore
del Concilio ecumenico vaticano II (ed. J. Courcelle;
Catania: Centro di studi sull'antico cristianesimo,
1964) 499-506; G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville, "The
Date of the Outbreak of Montanism [156 or 172 AD],"
JEH 5 (1954) 7-15; T. D. Barnes, "The Chronology
of Montanism," JTS 21 (1970) 403-08.
Tertullian, Val. 5.1 (ed. Marastoni, 57).
Michael Williams, Rethinking Gnosticism: An Argument
for Dismantling a Dubious Category (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1996).
Hippolytus, Haer. 8.19 (ed. Marcovich, 338).
Tertullian, Mon. 1 (LS 28-29). See also Clement of
Alexandria, Strom. 4.13.93, who criticizes Montanists
and Valentinians for using the term [GREEK TEXT NOT
REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to refer to outsiders.
For the collections of oracles, see Pierre de Labriolle,
Les sources de l'histoire du montanisme: textes grecs,
latins, syriaques publies avec une introduction critique,
une traduction francaise, des notes et des "indices"
(Paris: E. Leroux, 1913); Kurt Aland, "Bemerkungen
zum Montanismus und zur fruhchristlichen Eschatologie,"
in Kirchengeschichtliche Entwurfe (Gutersloh: Gutersloher
Verlagshaus, 1960) 143-48; Ronald E. Heine, ed., The
Montanist Oracles and Testimonia (Patristic Monograph
Series 14; Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1989).
From the second century, we have extant two logia
attributed to Prisca, one to Maximilla, and three
The arguments have been collected and stated most
elegantly by Williams, Rethinking Gnosticism. See
also Robert McL. Wilson, "Slippery Words: II.
Gnosis, Gnostic, Gnosticism," ExpTim 89 (1977-78)
296-301; Wilfrid Cantwell Smith, "Terminological
Boobytraps," in Traditions in Contact and Change:
Selected Proceedings of the XIVth Congress of the
International Association for the History of Religions
(ed. Peter Slater et al.; Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier
University Press, 1983) 306, comments on the "verbal
inanities" of discussing as "gnosticism"
a movement composed of people who never called themselves
Karlfried Froehlich, "Montanism and Gnosis,"
OrChrAn 195 (1973) 94.
Adolf Harnack, "Montanism," Encyclopedia
Britannica 16 (1889) 774.; Ferdinand C. Baur, Das
Christentum und die christliche Kirche der drei ersten
Jahrhunderte (Tubingen: Fues, 1853) 213-41; Albrecht
Ritschl, Die Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche
(Bonn: A. Marcus, 1857); see also Jean Danielou and
Henri Marrou, The First Six Hundred Years (trans.
Vincent Cronin; New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964); J. Lortz,
Geschichte der Kirche in ideengeschichtlicher Betrachtung
(Munster: Aschendorff, 1962-64).
Augustus Neander, Antignostikus (trans. J. E. Ryland;
London: Henry G. Bond, 1851-59).
Hans von Schubert, Grundzuge der Kirchengeschichte
(ed. E. Dinkler; 11th ed.; 1950) 39ff.
Froehlich, "Montanism and Gnosis," 95.
Trevett, Montanism, 10.
Ibid., 11. Trevett is supported here by other specialists
on Montanism. See William Tabbernee, "The Opposition
to Montanism from Church and State" (Ph.D. diss.,
University of Melbourne, 1978) 558; and D. H. Williams,
"The Origins of the Montanist Movement: A Sociological
Analysis," Religion 19 (1989) 331.
Trevett, Montanism, 39, 135, 163.
"The Lord sent ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]) me to be partisan, informer, interpreter
of this task, and of the covenant ([GREEK TEXT NOT
REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and of the pronouncement ([GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]); compelled ([GREEK
TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), willingly or unwillingly,
to learn the knowledge of God ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII])" (Epiphanius, Pan. 48.13.1 [GCS 31:237]).
Trevett interprets Maximilla's use of the term "gnosis"
as a Montanist usurpation of Gnostic language against
Gnostics themselves. In the case of both, however,
I suggest that the language clearly derives from Paul,
who uses both the words [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII] and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
(1 Cor 7:26; 2 Cor 6:4; 12:10; see also 2 Pet 1:2,
Francoise Blanchetiere, "Le Montanisme originel,"
RScR 53 (1979) 19.
Froehlich, "Montanism and Gnosis," 109.
Origen, Cels. 7.9. The content of this discourse was
often eschatological, warning of the coming of the
Eschaton. This eschatological message would be followed
by extravagant displays of ecstatic utterances and
See Clifford S. Hill, Prophecy, Past and Present:
An Exploration of the Prophetic Ministry in the Bible
and the Church Today (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Vine, 1991);
G. F. Hawthorne, "The Role of Christian Prophets
in the Tradition," in Tradition and Interpretation
in the New Testament (ed. G. F. Hawthorne and U. Betz;
Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987) 119-33.
Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.14.1 (SC 41:45). Heine, "The
Role of the Gospel of John," 17-19, gives convincing
reasons to doubt the authenticity of this oracle:
it appears only in late documents and reports concerning
the oracle are inconsistent, with certain versions
replacing "Holy Spirit" with the more troublesome
"Paraclete"; all of these accounts, at any
rate, postdate the Trinitarian debates of the fourth
Froehlich, "Montanism and Gnosis," 99.
Irenaeus, Haer. 1.16.1.
Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.16.17 (SC 41:51) from an anonymous
source, possibly second century. See Pierre de Labriolle,
La crise montaniste (Paris: E. Leroux, 1913) 9.
Dennis Groh, "Utterance and Exegesis: Biblical
Exegesis in Montanist Crisis," in The Living
Text: Essays in Honor of Ernest W. Saunders (ed. D.
E. Groh and R. Jewett; Lanham, Md.: University Press
of America, 1985) 78. Others have suggested, unconvincingly,
that John 6:63 ("the words that I have spoken
to you are spirit and life") stands behind the
logion; more convincing is 1 Thess 1:5: "for
our gospel came to you not only in word, but also
in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction."
While Paul in 1 Cor 2:4 appears to scorn Wisdom as
a prophetic source, he returns a few lines later to
clarify his position; for the initiated, he speaks
in hidden language: "We impart a secret and hidden
wisdom of God, secret and hidden, which God decreed
before the ages for our glory." One is tempted
to wonder whether in Maximilla's claim to speak to
her detractors openly as spirit and power, she intended
to point those in her community toward the sure knowledge
that to her own, Wisdom also spoke through her.
Eduard Schweizer, Ego eimi: Die religionsgeschichtliche
Herkunft und theologische Bedeutung des johannischen
Bildreden, zugleich ein Beitrag zur Quellenfrage des
vierten Evangeliums (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck &
See also Wis 6-10; 1 En. 42; Sir 23. On Wisdom in
Nag Hammadi texts in general, see Carsten Colpe, "Heidnische,
judische und christliche Uberlieferung in den Schriften
aus Nag Hammadi III," JAC 17 (1974) 107-25; Anne
McGuire, "Women, Gender, and `Gnostic' Traditions,"
in Women and Christian Origins, (ed. Ross Kraemer
and Mary Rose d'Angelo; New York: Oxford University
Press, 1999) 282. For Wisdom traditions in Trimorphic
Protennoia, see Craig Evans, "On the Prologue
of John and the Trimorphic Protennoia," NTS 27
(1981) 399; Roelof van den Broek, "Von der judischen
Weisheit zum gnostischen Erloser: zum Schlu[beta]hymnus
des Apokryphons des Johannes," in Studies in
Gnosticism and Alexandrian Christianity (Leiden: Brill,
Heine, "The Role of the Gospel of John,"
See George W. MacRae, "Gnosticism and the Church
of John's Gospel," in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism
and Early Christianity (ed. Charles Hedrick and Robert
Hodgson, Jr.; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1986) 95-96.
John C. Poirier, "Montanist Pepuza-Jerusalem
and the Dwelling Place of Wisdom," JECS 7 (1999)
Van den Broek, "Von der judischen Weisheit,"
See, for instance, George W. MacRae, "The Jewish
Background of the Gnostic Sophia Myth," NovT
12 (1970) 86-101; George Christopher Stead, "The
Valentinian Myth of Sophia," JTS 20 (1969) 75-104;
Pheme Perkins, "Sophia as Goddess in the Nag
Hammadi Codices," in Images of the Feminine in
Gnosticism (ed. Karen King; Philadelphia: Fortress,
1988); Karen King, "Sophia and Christ in the
Apocryphon of John," in Images, 158-76; James
Goehring, "A Classical Influence on the Gnostic
Sophia Myth," VC 35 (1981) 16-23.
Epiphanius, Pan. 49.1.3 (GCS 31:242). The place in
question was Pepuza in Asia Minor, which Quintiila
identifies here as the New Jerusalem; see Poirier,
"Montanist Pepuza-Jerusalem." Trevett (Montanism,
98) suggests that the Montanist Christophany actually
dates from Quintilla in the third century, rather
than from Priscilla in the second.
Anne Jensen, God's Self-Confident Daughters: Early
Christianity and the Liberation of Women (Louisville:
Westminster John Knox Press, 1966) 164; R. M. Grant,
Greek Apologists of the Second Century (Philadelphia:
Westminster, 1988) 87-88; Trevett, Montanism, 168-70;
William Tabbernee, "Revelations 21 and the Montanist
`New Jerusalem,' "ABR 37 (1989) 55.
See also Herm. Vis. 2.4.1; 2.1,1-4.
Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 1.5.3 (ed. Brox, 1:158); see
also Hippolytus, Haer. 6.30.9.
Hippolytus, Haer. 5.7.39 (Marcovich, 153-54).
Irenaeus, Haer. 1.5.3 (Brox 1:158).
The Coptic [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
translates, usually, the Greek [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII], which itself has eschatological resonances,
but it is not clear whether this word may have translated
the idea of the Montanist text; it is clear, however,
that it does not translate the "image" of
a woman, for which the Coptic texts tend merely to
transliterate the Greek [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]. It is most likely here, then, that the
text means to say that Pronoia's descent is in bodily
or incarnational form--"in the form of a [human]
woman rather than a [divine] female."
Froehlich, "Montanism and Gnosis," 98.
So, for instance, Trevett, Montanism, 169; Jensen,
God's Self-Confident Daughters, 164, 297 n. 239; Gail
Corrington Steele, "Women as Sources of Redemption
and Knowledge in Early Christian Tradition,"
in Women and Christian Origins (ed. Ross Kraemer and
Mary-Rose D'Angelo; Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1998) 344; Poirier, "Montanist Pepuza-Jerusalem,"
491-507, esp. 498.
Jensen, God's Self-Confident Daughters, 164.
In her critical edition of the Trimorphic Protennoia,
Yvonne Janssens identifies Protennoia's second descent
"in the form of a woman" as referring to
Wisdom being hidden within Eve. While this is an intriguing
and plausible possibility, it fails to explain two
things. First, why does Protennoia explicitly come
to teach/prophesy, when Eve does not? Second, why
the marked emphasis on speech and voice: "the
second time, I came in the sound of my voice"
(Trim. Prot. 47:11-12)? This, it seems to me, is more
indicative of prophetic activity and commendation
than any second-century interpretations of Eve.
Remarkably, Nag Hammadi scholars have consistently
failed to remark on the sociological significance
of Protennoia's descent into the "form of a woman,"
probably because of the ambiguity inherent in the
Coptic word [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII],
which can be translated either as "female"
or "woman." The critical translators of
the document consistently favor the former translation,
since it then allows us to understand her descent
as one of countless female hypostases we find throughout
the Nag Hammadi corpus, such as Protennoia, Pronoia,
Sophia, Eve, or even more plausibly, the Holy Spirit,
which these texts frequently render as feminine (cf.
Janssens, 72: "sous l'aspect d'une femme").
At the same time, the translation "woman"
becomes an intriguing possibility when we consider
the phrase "in the form of a woman," since
the Coptic term [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
translates the Greek [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII] and appears to refer to an actual physical,
rather than ideal or incorporeal, form. It is also
worth noting that in this incarnated form, Protennoia
comes to speak to "her own," a prophetic
activity which seems to describe more plausibly an
inspired human teacher of wisdom and prophetess speaking
to a community than a disembodied, idealized descent
of the Holy Spirit into an abstract, unidentified
This masculinization of Wisdom can be discerned through
redactional analysis of both Trimorphic Protennoia
and the closely related "Pronoia Hymn" of
the Apocryphon of John. In Protennoia's three descents
in Trimorphic Protennoia, she comes as female in the
first two (as Sound and Voice) and as the male Logos
in her third, final descent. This final descent bears
heavy evidence of extensive Christian redaction. In
the "Pronoia Hymn", the feminine agent is
both secondarily Christianized and secondarily masculinized,
particularly by the manner in which the older hymnic
material is placed within the framework of Christ's
revelation to John.
D. E. Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity and the
Ancient Mediterranean World (Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Eerdmans, 1983); E. E. Ellis, Prophecy and Hermeneutics
in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans,
1980); W. H. C. Frend, "Montanism: A Movement
of Prophecy and Regional Identity in the Early Church,"
BJRL 70 (1988) 25-34; Cyril G. Williams, "Ecstaticism
in Hebrew Prophecy and Christian Glossolalia,"
SR 3 (1974) 320-38.
See Eusebius's anonymous source, Hist. eccl. 5.16.7-9
and 5.17.2, which claims the women uttered strange
sounds ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and
with frenzied speech. Epiphanius's early source makes
similar claims; see Pan. 48.5.8 and 48.3.11, where
their speech is oblique ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]), crooked ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
IN ASCII]) and perverted. The mainstream position
maintained that even the "classical" prophets
of the Old Testament did not prophesy in an altered
state of consciousness (Pan. 48.3.4-6; 48.10.1) and
that true prophecy was characterized by clear wits,
not [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Pan. 48.7.8;
see also Didymus, Frag. In Ep. Ad Cor. II.5.12).
Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.16.9 (SC 41:48).
Ibid., 5.16.7 (SC 41:48).
1 Cor 6:12; 7:35; 10:33; 12:7. For Epiphanius's view,
see Pan 48.3.1-2; 48.8.1. For "gnostic"
use of Paul, see Elaine Pagels, "Exegesis and
Exposition of Genesis Creation Accounts in Selected
Texts from Nag Hammadi," in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism
and Early Christianity (ed. Charles W. Hedrick and
Robert Hodgson, Jr.; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson,
1986) 45-56, on the way in which certain texts, such
as Hypostasis of the Archons, draw upon 1 Cor 15.
Trevett, Montanism, 86-91.
See Patricia Cox Miller, "In Praise of Nonsense,"
in Classical Mediterranean Spirituality: Egyptian,
Greek, Roman (ed. H. A. Armstrong; World Spirituality
15; New York: Crossroad, 1987) on Gnostic voces magicae.
David E. Aune, "The Odes of Solomon and Early
Christian Prophecy," NTS 28 (1982) 437.
Trevett, Montanism, 94.
Epiphanius, Pan. 48.12.4 (GCS 31:235).
For a parallel, see Aune, "Odes," 453, on
realized eschatology in the early Christian hymns
of the Odes of Solomon.
Poirier, "Montanist Pepuza-Jerusalem," 501.
See also Aune, Prophecy, 144-52; John Rylaarsdam,
Revelation in Jewish Wisdom (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1946) 113.
Hippolytus, Antichr. 2.
T. D. Barnes, Tertullian: A Historical and Literary
Study (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971) 130-31. See Harnack,
"Millennialism," Encyclopedia Britannica
15 (1945) 496; Baur, Das Christentum, 247; Bonwetsch,
Montanismus, 78ff. A more recent article asserting
the eschatology of the New Prophecy is D. H. Williams,
"The Origins of the Montanist Movement: A Sociological
Analysis" Religion 19 (1989) 331-51. Against
Harnack, see Charles Hill, Regnum Caelorum: Patterns
of Future Hope in Early Christianity (Oxford: Clarendon,
1992). For a summary of scholarship, see Poirier,
"Montanist Pepuza-Jerusalem," 493 n. 6.
Trevett, Montanism, 95. Her conclusions are supported
by, among others, Charles Hill, "Marriage of
Montanism and Millennialism," SP 26 (1993) 142;
Douglas Powell, "Tertullianists and Cataphyrgians,"
VC 29 (1975) 50; Jensen, God's Self-Confident Daughters,
Epiphanius, Pan. 48.2.4 (GCS 31:222). Some manuscripts
have "prophetesses" in place of "prophets"
in this logion.
See also Matt 13:39-49; Heb 9:26; Mark 13:4. Apocalypticism
also lurks behind a statement from the fourth-century
Dialogue between a Montanist and an Orthodox: "Montanus
the Paraclete has come and given to us the culmination
([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])," but
this is a late source--later than the period we are
Epiphanius, Pan. 48.10.3 (GCS 31:233).
Powell, "Tertullianists and Cataphrygians,"
In Vit. Const. 3.56, Eusebius mentions that the Montanists'
scriptures were seized under Constantine and presumably
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