Apocalypses: The Shepherd of Hermas

Apocalypses

Time Period

100–150 CE, written in three or more stages.

Pseudonym

(n/a)

Angelic Guide

Hermas is guided by the personification of the Church in the opening chapters. After this he is guided by an angel, the titular ‘shepherd’.

All these things the shepherd commanded me to write, for he is the angel of conversion.

Cosmogony

(n/a)

Primordial Events

(n/a)

Historical Review

(n/a)

After-the-fact Prophecy

(n/a)

Persecution

A collective memory of past oppression, probably centrally Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome, overshadows predictions of the eschatological tribulation.

‘Blessed will be you who endure the coming great tribulation and will not deny their life.’

Social Upheaval

(n/a)

Resurrection

The book is barely concerned with eschatology, only briefly alluding to a future life.

‘For all flesh in which the holy spirit has dwelt, which is found to be undefiled and spotless, will receive its reward.’

Judgment

Most of the book is concerned with repentance in this life, and purgatorial chastisement, but there are a few allusions to final judgment.

‘Many of them were converted, and went into the tower to dwell, but many distanced themselves from God to the end. These lost their life in the end.’

New Creation

In keeping with the lack of focus on eschatology, Hermas only mentions the ‘age to come’ a few times.

‘So if you do this, you will be able to bear fruit for the age to come, and whoever does this will bear fruit.’

Sources

Most scholars agree the book was written by one author, but in multiple stages over a period of time. Unlike virtually every other apocalypse, the Shepherd of Hermas is not pseudepigraphical. There have been attempts to identify this Hermas with the one mentioned in Romans 16.14, and the Clement in this book with the one mentioned in Philippians 4.3, but neither connection can be certain.

Visions 1-4 were the first stage. They show the most immediate concern for the urgent need for repentance in light of the imminent eschatological tribulation.

Commands 1-12 and Parables 1-8 were probably added next, with Vision 5 written to segue from the original text into the new sections.

Parables 9-10 were probably the last. They diverge in style somewhat from the previous sections, but presuppose their presence in the book.

Units

Vision 1: Hermas introduces his situation. His first vision of the personified Church.

Vision 2: The Church warns Hermas of the coming tribulation and the deadline for repentance.

Vision 3: Hermas sees the Church as a tower under construction. The eschaton will happen when it is complete.

Vision 4: Hermas sees the tribulation as an enormous monster. He faces it head-on.

Vision 5: Hermas sees an angel as a shepherd, assigned to guide him. He prepares Hermas for the twelve commands.

Command 1: Trust that God is one and made all things with order.

Command 2: Be simple and innocent.

Command 3: Love truth.

Command 4: Pursue celibacy.

Command 5: Endure and have patience.

Command 6: Follow justice.

Command 7: Keep God’s commandments.

Command 8: Don’t do evil.

Command 9: Don’t be double-minded.

Command 10: Don’t grieve.

Command 11: Stay away from false prophets.

Command 12: Have only good and holy desire.

Afterword: The commands are easy to follow.

Parable 1: Christians belong to a faraway city. The shepherd interprets the parable.

Parable 2: Hermas sees a fruitful vine climbing a fruitless tree. The shepherd interprets the parable.

Parable 3: Hermas sees withered trees. The shepherd interprets the parable.

Parable 4: Hermas sees blooming and shriveled trees. The shepherd interprets the parable.

Parable 5: Hermas is rebuked for fasting on a mountain. The shepherd tells him a parable of a vineyard. The shepherd gives two different interpretations of the parable.

Parable 6: Hermas sees two shepherds. The shepherd interprets the parable.

Parable 7: Hermas sees the angel of punishment chastising his household. The shepherd informs him forgiveness is not immediate after repentance.

Parable 8: Hermas sees a huge tree, pruned by angels. The shepherd interprets the parable.

Parable 9: Hermas sees twelve mountains, one with a new gate. The shepherd interprets the parable.

Parable 10: Hermas returns home. The shepherd leaves, but promises to return.

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