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The Shepherd of Hermas

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Estimated Range of Dating: 100-160 A.D.

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Information on the Shepherd of Hermas

Graydon F. Snyder writes (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 3, p. 148):

The early Christian document Hermas, or Shepherd of Hermas, was known to the early Church Fathers. The Muratorian canon, a list of canonical books from about the 3d century, says Hermas was written by the brother of Pius, Bishop of Rome, about 140-154. Despite much speculation, the author remains unknown. It was written in Rome and involves the Roman church. The document was composed over a longer period of time. Visions I-IV were composeed during a threatened persecution, probably under Trajan (the Clement of 8:3 could be Clement of Rome). Vision V - Similitude VIII and Similitude X were written perhaps by the same author to describe reprentance to Christians who were wavering. Similitude IX was written to unify the entire work and to threaten those who had been disloyal. This last phase must have occurred before Irenaeus (ca. 175). A preferred date would be 140. On the basis of this internal analysis multiple authorship seems necessary (Giet 1963), though the work could have been composed by one person over a long period of time (Joly 1958).

A. D. Howell-Smith writes concerning the Shepherd of Hermas (Jesus Not a Myth, pp. 120-121):

The Shepherd of Hermas, a strange allegory written sometime in the second century, had a great vogue in orthodox circles and was even included in some copies of the New Testament (it is found in the Sinaitic Codex). The theology of the Church must have been very elastic at a time when such a book could enjoy popularity and implicit, if not explicit, ecclesiastical sanction, for its Christology does not seem to square with any of the Christologies of the New Testament, or with those of contemporary theologians whose occasional documents have reached us. The Shepherd speaks of a Son of God; but this Son of God is distinguished from Jesus. "That Holy Spirit which was created first of all, God placed in a body, in which it should dwell, in a chosen body, as it pleased him." This is Martini's translation. F. C. Conybeare renders the passage: "God made His Holy Spirit, which pre-existed and created all creation, to enter and dwell in the flesh which He approved." In this text the Holy Spirit appears to be a divine substance. But we must not suspect Patripassionism. The "flesh" is spoken of as a person who "walked as pleased God, because it was not polluted on earth." "God, therefore, took into counsel the Son and the angels in their glory, to the end that this flesh might furnish, as it were, a place of tabernacling (for the Spirit), and might not seem to have lost the reward of its service. For all flesh shall receive the reward which shall be found without stain or spot, and in it the Holy Spirit shall have its home." This passage appears to make the "tabernacling" of the Holy Spirit in Jesus a reward for the purity of his life. Jesus then becomes divine through the power of God, after consultation with the Son of God, who elsewhere in The Shepherd is identified with the Holy Spirit. "The most venerable angel," "the glorious angel," "the holy angel" are titles that Hermas gives to Jesus in his allegory; but it is understood that the angelic status of Jesus is not his by nature. His labours on earth to save and to cleanse have gained him a co-inheritance with the Holy Spirit, God's primary Son, so that Jesus now is the second Son of God.

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Kirby, Peter. "The Shepherd of Hermas." Early Christian Writings. <>.