The Sheppard of Hermas

 

Hermas- It is not known for sure by whom or when this document was written. There are however, good arguments for an early date, somewhere around the middle of the first century. Irenaeus (130-202) quoted it as Scripture, as did Clement of Alexandria (first century). Thus, if it was already considered as Scripture then, it only stands to reason that either it must have been written many years before or else they considered its writer to be inspired.

Tertullian (160-22) denounced the document but without any reference to it being written at a late date, which by itself would easily have undermined it. This is indeed what its mention in  the Muratorian Canon (180) is suspected of doing, attempting to discredit it by asserting a late date (140-150) for its writing. However, Origen (182-254) thought it to be written by the same Hermas of the apostle Paul's greeting at the end of his epistle to the Church at Rome (ROMANS 16:14).

The document was used authoritatively by not a few ancient writers, including Origen, Athanasius, Didymus the Blind, Eusebius and Jerome. It was also included at the end of the important Codex Sinaiticus.

Internally, there is further evidence of its early date. The reference to Clement in Vision Two- 4:3, is thought to be the Clement who wrote from Rome in the first century. There is also an interesting reference to apostles, bishops, teachers and deacons, some who had fallen asleep but others who were still living (Vision Three 5:1). This is strong evidence of the documents very early date, possibly before A.D. 70.

Furthermore, there is much sound Biblical advice and guidance in the document as we shall see below. Much of it flows right along with Scripture.

The document is divided up into Visions, Mandates and Parables.

 

Vision Two- 6:5

For the Master has sworn by his own glory regarding his elect, that if sin still occurs, now that this day has been set as a limit, they will not find salvation, for repentance for the righteous is at an end; the days of repentance for all the saints are over, although for the heathen there is the possibility of repentance until the last day.

HEBREWS 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

HEBREWS 10:26-27 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

 

Mandate One- 1

"First of all, believe that GOD is one, who created all things and set them in order, and made out of what did not exist everything that is, and who contains all things but is himself alone uncontained."

ASV EPHESIANS 3:9 and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things;

HEBREWS 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds [eras] were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

 

Mandate Six- 2:1-3

"Now hear," he said, "about faith. There are two angels with man, one of righteousness and one of wickedness." "So how, sir," I said, "will I recognize their workings, given that both angels live with me?" "Listen," he said, "and understand them. The angel of righteousness is sensitive and modest and gentle and tranquil. When this one enters you heart, immediately he talks with you about righteousness, about purity, about holiness, about contentment, about every righteous deed, and about every glorious virtue. Whenever all these things enter your heart, you know that the angel of righteousness is with you. These then are the works of the angel of righteousness. So trust him and his works."

PHILIPPIANS 4:6-9 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

EPHESIANS 4:22-24 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

 

Mandate Seven- 1

"Fear the Lord," he said, "and keep his commandments. By keeping his commandments, you will be powerful in every deed, and your activity will be beyond criticism. For when you fear the Lord you will do everything well. This is the fear you must have to be saved."

ACTS 9:31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

ROMANS 11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

PHILIPPIANS 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

REVELATION 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

 

Mandate Eleven- 2:20-21

"Now take the power that comes from above. A hailstone is a very small pellet, but when it falls on a man's head, what pain it causes! Or, for another example, take a drop that falls on the ground from the roofing tiles, and wears a hole in the rock. You see, then, that even the smallest things from above falling on the earth have great power; so also the divine Spirit that comes from above is powerful. So put your trust in this Spirit, but have nothing to do with the other one."

JAMES 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

 

Mandate Twelve- 4:3-5

"If then," he said, "man is lord of all God's creatures and rules over everything, can't he also master these commandments? The man who has the Lord in his heart," he said, "can master everything, including all these commandments. But to those who have the Lord on their lips but whose heart is hardened and who are far from the Lord these commandments are hard and difficult. You, therefore, who are empty and fickle in the faith, put the Lord in your heart, and you will realize that nothing is easier or sweeter or more gentle than these commandments."

MATTHEW 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

1 JOHN 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

 

Parable Five- 1:1-5

As I was fasting while sitting on a certain mountain and giving thanks to the Lord for all that he had done for me, I saw the shepherd sitting next to me, and he said, "Why have you come here so early?" "Because, sir," I replied, "I have a station." "What," he said, "is a station?" "Sir," I replied, "I am fasting." "And what," he continued, "is this fast you are keeping?" "I am fasting, sir," I responded, "just as I have been accustomed to." "You do not know," he said, "how to fast to God, and this useless fast that you are keeping for him is not a fast." "Sir," I said, "why are you saying this?" "I am telling you," he said, "that even though you think you are fasting, this is not a fast. But I will teach you what a complete and acceptable fast to the Lord is." "Yes, sir," I said, "you will make me happy if I may learn about the fast acceptable to God."

"Listen," he said, "God does not desire such a worthless fast as this, for by fasting to God in this manner, you are accomplishing nothing with respect to righteousness. But keep a fast to God in this way: commit no evil in your life, and serve the Lord with a clean heart; keep his commandments and walk in his ordinances, and do not permit any evil desire to enter your heart, and believe in God. And if you do these things and fear him and restrain yourself from every evil deed, you will live to God; and if you do these things, you will complete a fast that is great and acceptable to God.

ISAIAH 58:5-9 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

 

Parable Five- 6:1-3

"Listen," he said.  "The Son of God is not presented in the guise of a slave, but is presented in great power and lordship." "How so, sir?" I asked. "I don't understand." "Because," he said, "God planted the vineyard, that is, he created the people, and turned them over to his Son. And the Son placed the angels over them to protect them, and the Son himself cleansed their sins with great labor and enduring much toil, for no one can cultivate a vineyard without toil and labor. So, when he himself had cleansed the sins of the people, he showed them the paths of life, giving them the law which he received from his Father. You see," he said, "that he is Lord of the people, having received all power from his Father.

JOHN 15:1-5 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

 

Parable Five- 6:4-8

But hear why the Lord took his Son and the glorious angels as counselors concerning the inheritance of the slave. The preexistent Holy Spirit, which created the whole creation, God caused to live in the flesh that he wished. This flesh, therefore, in which the Holy Spirit lived, served the Spirit well, living in holiness and purity, without defiling the Spirit in any way. So, because it had lived honorably and chastely, and had worked with the Spirit and had cooperated with it in everything, conducting itself with strength and bravery, he chose it as a partner with the Holy Spirit, for the conduct of the flesh pleased the Lord, because while possessing the Holy Spirit it was not defiled upon the earth. So he took the Son and the glorious angels as counselors, in order that this flesh also, having served the spirit blamelessly, might have some place to live, and not appear to have lost the reward of its service. For all flesh in which the Holy Spirit has lived will, if it proves to be undefiled and spotless, receive a reward. Now you have the explanation of this parable."

JOHN 8:29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

ESV 1 TIMOTHY 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

HEBREWS 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Parable Nine- 33:1

"All these things that are written above I, the shepherd, the angel of repentance, have declared and spoken to GOD's servants. If you believe and hear my words, and walk in them and mend your ways, you will be able to live. But if you persist in wickedness and bearing malice, no one of this kind will live to God. All these things which were to be spoken by me have now been spoken to you."

ROMANS 10:15-17 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.