Competing for the Crown: Tertullian, Montanism and “Voluntary Martyrdom" Revisited

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The early Christian sectarian movement known to posterity as Montanism has traditionally been depicted as one which sought to provoke martyrdom—particularly what historians have labelled“voluntary martyrdom.” This image of Montanism as especially fanatical in the face of persecution has largely rested on a disputed reading of Tertullian and a handful of ambiguous references in other early Christian texts. While this view, and indeed the entire category of “voluntary martyrdom,” has not gone unchallenged in recent scholarship it continues to feature in major works on early Christian martyrdom. This article provides an overview of recent of discussions in the historiography of “voluntary martyrdom” and how this relates to the historical depiction of Montanism, followed by a reappraisal of the early Christian texts which have been utilised by scholars to support the traditional view.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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