Montanus in the Chronicle of Zuqnin

After my last post, I realised that I had a copy of Amir Harrak’s translation of parts 3 and 4 of the Chronicle of Zuqnin, which, for the section about Montanus, is based on John of Ephesus.  Here it is (Harrak, 1999, p.123-4):

549-550 The year eight hundred and sixty-one: Concerning the flood of the river that runs in Tarsus of Cilicia.

Most of Tarsus, a big city in Cilicia, was carried away, submerged and utterly destroyed by the water of the flooded river that runs through it. The other villages of the region, covering a vast area, were also swept away. Fields, vineyards and the rest of the plants were ruined; they were uprooted, dried up, and covered by earth.

At this time, the corrupting heresy of Montanus—the story of which and how it emerged was written down for us at the time of the Apostles—was ridiculed and uprooted.[3] For through the exhortation of holy John, Bishop of Asia, the bones of Montanus—he who said about himself that he was the Spirit Paraclete—Cratius (his associate),[1] Maximilla and Priscilla, his prophetesses, were found. He set them on fire and razed their temples to their foundations.

3 Michael, IV 323-325 [II 269-272] provides more information.
1 Addition based on Michael

“Michael” is, of course, Michael the Syrian, and the numbers are the volumes of the Chabot edition; Syriac in vol. IV, French in vol. II.  Here is the French, from book 9, chapter 33:

Dans le pays de Phrygie, il y a un lieu appelé Pépouza, où les Montanistes avaient un évêque et des clercs ; ils l’appelaient Jérusalem, et ils y tuaient les chrétiens. Jean d’Asie s’y rendit et fit brûler leur synagogue, sur l’ordre de l’empereur. On trouva dans cette maison un grand reliquaire de marbre scellé avec du plomb et lié par des garnitures de fer. Sur le dessus était écrit : « De Montanus et de ses femmes ». On l’ouvrit et on y trouva Montanus et ses deux femmes, Maximilla et Priscilla, qui avaient des lames d’or sur la bouche. Ils furent couverts de confusion en voyant les ossements fétides qu’ils appelaient « l’Esprit ». On leur dit : « N’avez-vous pas honte de vous être laissé séduire par cet impudique, et de l’appeler « Esprit »? Un esprit n’a ni chair ni os.» Et on brûla les ossements. —Les Montanistes firent entendre des gémissements et des pleurs. « Maintenant, disaient-ils, le monde est ruiné et va périr. » — Ou trouva aussi leurs livres honteux et on les brûla. La maison fut purifiée et devint une église.

Auparavant, du temps de Justinianus Ier (Justin), quelques personnes avaient informé l’empereur que Montanus, au moment de sa mort avait ordonné à ses ensevelisseurs de le placer à cinquante coudées sous terre « parce que, disait-il, le feu doit me découvrir, et dévorer toute la face de la terre ». Ses partisans, par l’opération pernicieuse des démons, répandaient faussement le bruit que ses ossements chassaient les démons; ils avaient suborné quelques individus qui, moyennant le pain de leur bouche, affirmaient qu’il les avait guéris. — L’empereur écrivit à l’évêque de l’endroit. Celui-ci fit creuser profondément et retirer les ossements de Montanus et ceux de ses femmes, pour les brûler. Alors, les Montanistes vinrent trouver l’évêque pendant la nuit, et lui donnèrent cinq cents dariques d’or; ils emportèrent les ossements et en apporce que les corps avaient été retrouvés tèrent d’autres; et au matin, sans que personne s’aperçût du mystère, l’évêque brûla ces ossements comme étant ceux de Montanus et de Crites (?) son associé. Mais ensuite, l’archidiacre dénonça l’évêque qui fut envoyé en exil.

Apollon, le compagnon de Paul, écrit que ce Montanus  était fils de Simon le mage; que quand son père périt, par la prière de Pierre, il s’enfuit de Rome, et se mit à troubler l’univers. Alors Apollon, (poussé) par l’Esprit, alla où il était, et le vit assis et prêchant l’erreur. Il commença à l’invectiver en disant : « O ennemi de Dieu, que le Seigneur te châtie ! » Montanus se mit à le reprendre, et dit :« Qu’y a t-il entre toi et moi, Apollon? Si tu prophétises : moi aussi ; si tu es apôtre : moi aussi ; si tu es docteur : moi aussi. » Apollon lui dit : « Que ta bouche soit fermée, au nom du Seigneur ! » Aussitôt il se tut et ne put jamais plus parler. Le peuple crut en Notre-Seigneur  et reçut le baptême. Ils renversèrent le siège de Montanus qui prit la fuite et s’échappa. — Ce récit est fini, ainsi que l’autre.

 In English:

In the country of Phrygia, there is a place called Pepouza where the Montanists had a bishop and clergy; they called it Jerusalem, and there they killed the Christians.  John of Asia went and burned their synagogue, on the orders of the emperor. In this house there was found a large marble shrine, sealed with lead and bound with iron fittings. On the top was written: “Montanus and his wives”. We opened it and found Montanus and his two wives, Maximilla and Priscilla, who had gold leaf on their mouths. They were ashamed of seeing the fetid bones which they called “the Spirit”. They were told: “Aren’t you ashamed to be seduced by this shameless wretch, and to call him ‘the Spirit’? ‘A spirit hath not flesh or bones. ‘” And the bones were burned.—The Montanists were heard wailing and crying. “Now,” they said, “the world is ruined and will perish.” — Their disgraceful books were also found and burned. The house was cleansed and became a church.

Previously, in the time of Justinianus I (Justin), some people had informed the emperor that Montanus, at the time of his death had ordered those who buried him to place him fifty cubits underground “because,” he said, “fire shall discover me, and devour the whole face of the earth”. His supporters, by the pernicious work of demons, falsely spread the rumor that his bones could cast out demons; they had bribed a few individuals who, for the bread in their mouths, claimed that he had healed them. — The Emperor wrote to the bishop of the place. He dug deep and removed the bones of Montanus and those of his wives, and burned them.  Then the Montanists came to find the bishop during the night, and gave him five hundred darics of gold; they took away the bones and ensured that the bodies recovered belonged to others; and in the morning, without anyone realising it, the bishop burned the bones as those of Montanus and Crites (?) his associate. But then the archdeacon denounced the bishop who was sent into exile.

Apollos, the companion of Paul, wrote that Montanus was the son of Simon Magus; that when his father died, by the prayer of Peter, he fled from Rome and began to disturb the world. Then Apollos (led) by the Spirit, went to where he was and saw him sitting and preaching the error. He began to curse him, saying: “O enemy of God, may the Lord punish you!” Montanus began to rebuke him, and said: “What is there between you and me, Apollos? If you prophesy: I do too; if you are an apostle: so am I; if you are a physician: so am I.” Apollos said: “Let your mouth be closed, in the name of the Lord!” He immediately fell silent and could never speak again. The people believed in our Lord and were baptized. They overthrew the seat of Montanus who fled and escaped.—  This story is finished, like the other.

 Interesting details indeed.  But it is hard not to feel sorry for the poor Montanists, plainly simple rural folk following the traditions of their families since the second century.

5 Responses to “Montanus in the Chronicle of Zuqnin”


  1. Ralph Ellis

    Roger,

    Anywhere I can get Parts I and II of the Chronicle of Zuqnin? I have looked all over for them, to no avail.

    I was looking for the section on the 1st century.

    Thanks,
    Ralph

  2. Roger Pearse

    The Syriac text of the Chronicle of Zuqnin, all four parts, was published 1927-1933 by J. B. Chabot, in the Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium series, volumes 91 and 104. Chabot also translated the first two parts into Latin, in 1949, as CSCO 121, but parts 3 and 4 awaited Hespel’s translation into French in 1989 in CSCO 507. Witold Witakowski translated part 3 into English for the Liverpool University Press Translated Texts for Historians series, while Amir Harrak has recently translated parts 3 and 4 into English.

    As far as I am aware, therefore, you have a choice of one: Chabot’s Latin translation. You can purchase a copy of this from the Peeters website (this does work; I have done this myself for other volumes), or borrow it by ILL. The Latin will probably be fairly simple, note.

    I’m interested to hear that you are interested in this. Tell me more!

  3. Ralph Ellis

    Thanks for that info – much appreciated.

    I have good reason to believe that the Abgar dynasty of Edessa began with Abgar V, and not back in 132 BC as the classical story says. The current early chronology depends solely upon the Chronicle of Zuqnin, as far as I can see (Moses of Chorene says nothing of kings prior to Abgar V).

    All the texts I have read simply parrot the same story without giving any reasoning or evidence, and so I need to see what the Zuqnin Chronicle really says. Shame they do not do an ebook version, I could Google translate that.

    .

  4. Roger Pearse

    Interesting. All this material ought to be accessible, I agree.

    You could always OCR the pages, you know?

  5. Ralph Ellis

    >>You could always OCR the pages

    That’s true. Anyway, I will see what the Peeters site say. And I will get back with further info when I have sorted out the details.

    Thanks,
    Ralph



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