What is the Shepherd of Hermas?

Author: BibleAsk Team

The Shepherd of Hermas

The Shepherd of Hermas or The Shepherd (refers to the Good Shepherd as a symbol for Christ) is a Christian literary work of the late 1st or mid-2nd century. The writer of “The Shepherd of Hermas” is not known. Some ancient sources attribute the work to a Hermas who was a brother of Pius I, the Bishop of Rome from 140 to 155. The book was originally written in Rome, in the Greek language, but a first Latin translation, the Vulgata, was made very shortly afterwards. The Shepherd is the longest of all the writings classified among the Apostolic Fathers. It is considerably longer than any book of the New Testament.

The Shepherd of Hermas is a non-canonical apocalypse of the Early Church. Although it has some apocalyptic tones, unlike the book of Revelation, Daniel, and the mini-apocalypses of Mark 13, Matthew 24, and Luke 21, it does not discuss the end of the current age directly. Hermas was not a theologian. 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. The book takes the form of allegory and focuses especially on Church to repent and be pure.

The visions of the book concerned the church. The basic form in which the church appeared is that of a tower in process of construction. The tower, which is the church, was being built of stones, representing people. The officers—apostles, bishops, deacons, teachers—fitted easily. So, did saints. Unbelievers were the stones that were cast away. 

The first woman that appeared in the visions was Rhoda, who was Hermas’ owner when he was a slave. Then came the old woman who personified the church. The old woman, the church, appeared first as old, then as middle aged, and finally, young and beautiful as Hermas repented of his sins. There were also seven women around the tower. They were daughters, one of the other, who represented the virtues faith, continence, simplicity, knowledge, innocence, reverence, and love.

In another vision an angel of repentance visits Hermas the shepherd and delivers laws and mandates that become instrumental in the establishments of early Christian ethics.

Although the Shepherd of Hermas was considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers like Irenaeus, it is not an inspired book. The early church leaders under the guidance of the Holy Spirit excluded this book from the Bible and it was ranked among the apocryphal. The Shepherd of Hermas included un-biblical teachings such as the idea that Christ (incarnate) had existed since the beginning and the corporeal reality of Jesus the man was simply an apparition.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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