The Development of the Canon of the New Testament

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Apocryphal New Testament Writings

Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Truth
Gospel of the Twelve
Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Basilides
Gospel of the Egyptians
Gospel of the Hebrews
Gospel of Matthias
Traditions of Matthias
Preaching of Peter
Acts of Andrew
Acts of Paul
Acts of John
Epistle to the Laodiceans
I Clement
Epistle of Barnabas
Shepherd of Hermas
Apocalypse of Peter

Shepherd of Hermas (middle of 2nd century CE)

The Shepherd of Hermas was one of the most popular books produced in the early Church, and for a time it was frequently quoted and regarded as inspired. The book is a picturesque religious allegory, in most of which a rugged figure dressed like a shepherd is Hermas' guide. From this the book took its name, 'The Shepherd'. Comprising a rambling mélange of 5 Visions, 12 Mandates, and 10 Similitudes, the book is characterized by strong moral earnestness. It is primarily a call to repentance and adherence to a life of strict morality, addressed to Christians among whom the memory of persecution is still fresh., and over whom now hangs the shadow of another great tribulation.

The genre of Visions 1-4 is that of a Jewish-Christian apocalypse; except that the interpretation of the vision does not concern the end times, but the possibility of repentance because the end is not yet. The Mandates reflect the form of a typical Jewish-Hellenistic homily. The closest parallels to the Similitudes are the parables in the book of I Enoch. These parables, in which typically the telling of a parable is followed by a request for and granting of an interpretation, and finally blessings and curses upon those who either do or do not heed it, are more like allegorical similes than the more familiar parables of the synoptic Gospels.

The questions of date and authorship are still unresolved. Perhaps the least unsatisfactory resolution of the conflicting evidence is to suppose that Hermas was a younger contemporary of Clement and wrote (and perhaps published) sections of his rambling treatise at intervals over a considerable period of time, finally gathering them together in one volume toward the middle of the 2nd century. For more discussion of the evidence, see [Metzger] pp. 64-65 and [LHH] pp. 190-191.

The personality of Hermas is clearly revealed in the book. With garrulous naïveté he relates all manner of intimate details concerning himself and his family. We learn that, as a Christian slave, he had been sold in Rome to a woman called Rhoda, who set him free. As a freedman he married, acquired a fortune (though not always by lawful transaction), and through ill luck had again been reduced to poverty. He tells us that during the persecution his children apostasized, that they betrayed their own parents, and that they led a disorderly life. Hermas depicts himself as slow of understanding but insatiable in curiosity, and at the same time as 'patient and good tempered, and always smiling', 'full of all simplicity and of great guilelessness' (Vision 1.2). We may conclude that he was a simple man of limited outlook, but genuinely pious and conscientious.

The text of the Shepherd has not been well preserved. Only 3 incomplete Greek manuscripts and a number of small fragments have been discovered, and no Greek text is available for nearly all of 107.3-114.5. The major extant witnesses are:

codex Sinaiticus, 4th. c. (Greek) 1.1-31.6
codex Athous, 14-15th c (Greek) 1.1-107.2
P. Michigan 129, 3rd c., (Greek) 51.8-82.1
Vulgate translation (Latin) the text used for 107.3-114.5
MS (Ethiopic)  

There are also many small fragments in Greek, and fragments of a Middle Persian translation have also been discovered. The book is fairly lengthy; an English translation can be found in [LHH] pp. 194-290.

Pages created by Glenn Davis, 1997-2010.
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