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The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas, a precious document from the early church, reported the imprisonment and martyrdom of six Carthaginian Christians in 203. Embedded in this work is the personal diary of Perpetua, which is the earliest extant writing known to be penned by a Christian woman. A beatific vision recorded by her teacher, Saturus, is also included along with an unnamed editor's eyewitness account of the martyrs' contest with wild beasts and their ultimate execution.
Throughout the Passion, there are several remarkable emphases: the Holy Spirit's activity, prophecies and visions, women's leadership, eschatological expectation, zeal for martyrdom, and prerogatives awarded to confessors. These emphases bring to mind the tenets of Montanism, a Spirit-based movement that began in Asia Minor in the second century and spread rapidly to the west, where it found its greatest advocate in Tertullian of Carthage. The relationship of the Passion to Montanism, important as a forerunner of modern-day Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement, has been debated since the document was rediscovered in the seventeenth century.
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. Although many scholars have discussed both sides of this issue, this work is the most extensive investigation to date.
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