THE SHEPHERD OF HERMASTHE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS - BOOK FIRST- VISIONS
THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS - BOOK SECOND - COMMANDMENTS
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THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS
The Shepherd of Hermas (sometimes called The Pastor or The Shepherd) is a Christian work of the second century, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and occasionally considered canonical by some of the early Church fathers. The reference to Clement of Rome suggests a date between 88 and 97 for at least the first two visions. Since Paul sent greetings to Hermas, a Christian of Rome (Romans 16:14), some have followed Origen's opinion that he was the author of this religious romance. However, others set the date of composition in the 2nd century.
The Shepherd had great authority in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was cited as Scripture by Irenaeus and Tertullian and was bound with the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus, and it was listed between the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul in the list of the Codex Claromontanus. The book was originally written in Rome, in the Greek language, but a Latin translation was made very shortly afterwards. Only the Latin version has been preserved in full; of the Greek, the last fifth or so is missing.
The book consists of five visions granted to Hermas, a former slave. This is followed by twelve mandates or commandments, and ten similitudes, or parables. It commences abruptly in the first person: "He who brought me up sold me to a certain Rhoda, who was at Rome. After many years I met her again, and began to love her as a sister." As Hermas was on the road to Cumae, he had a vision of Rhoda, who was presumably dead. She told him that she was his accuser in heaven, on account of an unchaste thought the (married) narrator had once had concerning her, though only in passing. He was to pray for forgiveness for himself and all his house. He is consoled by a vision of the Church in the form of an aged woman, weak and helpless from the sins of the faithful, who tells him to do penance and to correct the sins of his children. Subsequently he sees her made younger through penance, yet wrinkled and with white hair; then again, as quite young but still with white hair; and lastly, she shows herself as glorious as a Bride.
In the second vision she gives Hermas a book, which she afterwards takes back in order to add to it. The fifth vision introduces "the Angel of repentance" in the guise of a shepherd, from whom the whole work takes its name. He delivers to Hermas a series of precepts (mandata, entolai), which form an interesting development of early Christian ethics. The eleventh mandate, on humility, is concerned with false prophets who desire to occupy the first seats (that is to say, among the presbyters). Some have seen here a reference to Marcion, who came to Rome c. AD 140 and desired to be admitted among the priests (or possibly even to become bishop of Rome).
After the mandates come ten similitudes (parabolai) in the form of visions, which are explained by the angel. The longest of these (Similitude 9) is an elaboration of the parable of the building of a tower, which had formed the matter of the third vision. The tower is the Church, and the stones of which it is built are the faithful. But in the third vision it looked as though only the holy are a part of the Church; in Similitude 9 it is clearly pointed out that all the baptized are included, though they may be cast out for grave sins, and can be readmitted only after penance.
The Shepherd of Hermas uses many indirect citations from New Testament. He shows acquaintance with the three Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. He most often refers to the Epistle of James and the Book of Revelation. He also uses Ephesians and other Epistles, including 1 Peter and Hebrews.
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