First editions in Greek and Latin, except the first four chapters and part of the fifth, which were known only in the Latin version, by Archbishop Ussher (Oxf. 1643, destroyed by fire 1644), Luc. d’achery (Par. 1645), and Isaac Voss (Amstel. 1646).
First complete edition of the Greek original from the Codex Sinaiticus, to which it is appended, by Tischendorf in the facsimile ed. of that Codex, Petropoli, 1862, Tom. IV. 135-141, and in the Novum Testam. Sinait. 1863. The text dates from the fourth century. It was discovered by Tischendorf in the Convent of St. Catharine at Mt. Sinai, 1859, and is now in the library of St. Petersburg.
A new MS. of the Greek B. from the eleventh century (1056) was discovered in Constantinople by Bryennios, 1875, together with the Ep. of Clement, and has been utilized by the latest editors, especially by Hilgenfeld.
O. v. Gebhardt, Harnack, and Zahn: Patr. Ap. 1876. Gebhardt ed. the text from Cod. Sin. Harnack prepared the critical commentary. In the small ed. of 1877 the Const. Cod. is also compared.
Hefele-Funk: Patr. Ap. 1878, p. 2-59.
Ad. Hilgenfeld: Barnabae Epistula. Inteqram Graece iterum edidit, veterem interpretationem Latinam, commentarium criticum et adnotationes addidit A. H. Ed. altera et valde aucta. Lips. 1877. Dedicated to Bryennios. “Orientalis Ecclesicae splendido lumini.” who being prevented by the Oriental troubles from editing the new MS., sent a collation to H. in Oct. 1876 (Prol. p. xiii). The best critical edition. Comp. Harnack’s review in Schürer’s “Theol. Lit. Ztg.” 1877, f. 473-’77.
J. G. Müller (of Basle): Erklärung des Barnabasbriefes. Leipz. 1869. An Appendix to De Wette’s Corn. on the N. T.
English translations by Wake (1693), Roberts and Donaldson (in Ante-Nic. Lib. 1867), Hoole (1872), Rendall (1877), Sharpe (1880, from the Sinait. MS). German translations by Hefele (1840), Scholz (1865), Mayer (1869), Riggenbach (1873).
C. Jos. Hefele (R.C.): Das Sendschreiben des Apostels Barnabas, auf’s Neue untersucht und erklärt. Tüb. 1840.
Joh. Kayser: Ueber den sogen. Barnabasbrief. Paderborn, 1866.
Donaldson: Ap. Fathers (1874), p. 248-317.
K. Wieseler: On the Origin and Authorship of the Ep. of B., in the “Jahrbücher für Deutsche Theol.,” 1870, p. 603 sqq.
O. Braunsberger (R.C.): Der Apostel Barnabas. Sein Leben und der ihm beigelegte Brief wissenschaftlich gewürdigt. Mainz, 1876.
W. Cunningham: The Ep. of St. Barnabas. London, 1876.
Samuel Sharpe: The Ep. of B. from the Sinaitic MS. London, 1880.
J. Weiss: Der Barnabasbrief kritisch untersucht. Berlin, 1888.
Milligan in Smith and Wace, I. 260-265; Harnack in Herzog2 II. 101-105.
Other essays by Henke (1827), Rördam (1828), Ullmann (1828), Schenkel (1837), Franke (1840), Weizsäcker (1864), Heydecke (1874). On the relation of Barnabas to Justin Martyr see M. von Engelhardt: Das Christenthum Justins d. M. (1878), p. 375-394.
The doctrines of B. are fully treated by Hefele, Kayser, Donaldson, Hilgenfeld, Braunsberger, and Sprinzl.
Comp. the list of books from 1822-1875 in Harnack’s Prol. to the Leipz. ed. of Barn. Ep. p. XX sqq.; and in Richardson, Synopsis 16-19 (down to 1887).
The Catholic Epistle of Barnabas, so called, is anonymous, and omits all allusion to the name or residence of the readers. He addresses them not as their teacher, but as one among them. He commences in a very general way: “All hail, ye sons and daughters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us, in peace;” and concludes: “Farewell, ye children of love and peace, The Lord of glory and all grace be with your spirit. Amen.” For this reason, probably, Origen called it a “Catholic” Epistle, which must be understood, however, with limitation. Though not addressed to any particular congregation, it is intended for a particular class of Christians who were in danger of relapsing into Judaizing errors.
1. Contents. The epistle is chiefly doctrinal (ch. 1-17), and winds up with some practical exhortations to walk “in the way of light,” and to avoid “the way of darkness” (ch. 18-21). It has essentially the same object as the Epistle to the Hebrews, though far below it in depth, originality and unction. It shows that Christianity is the all-sufficient, divine institution for salvation, and an abrogation of Judaism, with all its laws and ceremonies. Old things have passed away; all things are made new. Christ has indeed given us a law; but it is a new law, without the yoke of constraint. The tables of Moses are broken that the love of Christ may be sealed in our hearts. It is therefore sin and folly to assert that the old covenant is still binding. Christians should strive after higher knowledge and understand the difference.
By Judaism, however, the author understands not the Mosaic and prophetic writings in their true spiritual sense, but the carnal misapprehension of them. The Old Testament is, with him, rather a veiled Christianity, which he puts into it by a mystical allegorical interpretation, as Philo, by the same method, smuggled into it the Platonic philosophy. In this allegorical conception he goes so far, that he actually seems to deny the literal historical sense. He asserts, for example, that God never willed the sacrifice and fasting, the Sabbath observance and temple-worship of the Jews, but a purely spiritual worship; and that the laws of food did not relate at all to the eating of clean and unclean animals, but only to intercourse with different classes of men, and to certain virtues and vices. His chiliasm likewise rests on an allegorical exegesis, and is no proof of a Judaizing tendency any more than in Justin, Irenaeus, and Tertullian. He sees in the six days of creation a type of six historical millennia of work to be followed first by the seventh millennium of rest, and then by the eighth millennium of eternity, the latter being foreshadowed by the weekly Lord’s Day. The carnal Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament is a diabolical perversion. The Christians, and not the Jews, are the true Israel of God and the righteous owners of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Barnabas proclaims thus an absolute separation of Christianity from Judaism. In this respect he goes further than any post-apostolic writer. He has been on that ground charged with unsound ultra-Paulinism bordering on antinomianism and heretical Gnosticism. But this is unjust. He breathes the spirit of Paul, and only lacks his depth, wisdom, and discrimination, Paul, in Galatians and Colossians, likewise takes an uncompromising attitude against Jewish circumcision, sabbatarianism, and ceremonialism, if made a ground of justification and a binding yoke of conscience; but nevertheless he vindicated the Mosaic law as a preparatory school for Christianity. Barnabas Ignores this, and looks only at the negative side. Yet he, too, acknowledges the new law of Christ. He has some profound glances and inklings of a Christian philosophy. He may be called an orthodox Gnostic. He stands midway between St. Paul and Justin Martyr, as Justin Martyr stands between Barnabas and the Alexandrian school. Clement and Origen, while averse to his chiliasm, liked his zeal for higher Christian knowledge and his allegorizing exegesis which obscures every proper historical understanding of the Old Testament.
The Epistle of Barnabas has considerable historical, doctrinal, and apologetic value. He confirms the principal facts and doctrines of the gospel. He testifies to the general observance of Sunday on “the eighth day,” as the joyful commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, in strict distinction from the Jewish Sabbath on the seventh. He furnishes the first clear argument for the canonical authority of the Gospel of Matthew (without naming it) by quoting the passage: “Many are called, but few are chosen,” with the solemn formula of Scripture quotation: “as it is written.” He introduces also (ch. 5) the words of Christ, that he did not come “to call just men, but sinners,” which are recorded by Mat_9:13. He furnishes parallels to a number of passages in the Gospels, Pauline Epistles, First Peter, and the Apocalypse. His direct quotations from the Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and Isaiah, are numerous; but he quotes also IV. Esdras and the Book of Enoch.
2. Authorship. The Epistle was first cited by Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, as a work of the apostolic Barnabas, who plays so prominent a part in the early history of the church. Origen seems to rank it almost with the inspired Scriptures. In the Sinaitic Bible, of the fourth century, it follows as the “Epistle of Barnabas,” immediately after the Apocalypse (even on the same page 135, second column), as if it were a regular part of the New Testament. From this we may, infer that it was read in some churches as a secondary ecclesiastical book, like the Epistle of Clement, the Epistle of Polycarp, and the Pastor of Hermas. Eusebius and Jerome likewise ascribe it to Barnabas but number it among the “spurious,” or “apocryphal” writings. They seem to have doubted the authority, but not the authenticity of the epistle. The historical testimony therefore is strong and unanimous in favor of Barnabas, and is accepted by all the older editors and several of the later critics.
But the internal evidence points with greater force to a post-apostolic writer. The Epistle does not come up to the position and reputation of Barnabas, the senior companion of Paul, unless we assume that he was a man of inferior ability and gradually vanished before the rising star of his friend from Tarsus. It takes extreme ground against the Mosaic law, such as we can hardly expect from one who stood as a mediator between the Apostle of the Gentiles and the Jewish Apostles, and who in the collision at Antioch sided with Peter and Mark against the bold champion of freedom; yet we should remember that this was only a temporary inconsistency, and that no doubt a reaction afterwards took place in his mind. The author in order to glorify the grace of the Saviour, speaks of the apostles of Christ before their conversion as over-sinful, and indulges in artificial and absurd allegorical fancies. He also wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem when Barnabas in all probability was no more among the living, though the date of his death is unknown, and the inference from Col_4:10 and 1Pe_5:13 is uncertain.
These arguments are not conclusive, it is true, but it is quite certain that if Barnabas wrote this epistle, he cannot be the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and vice versa. The difference between the two is too great for the unity of the authorship. The ancient church showed sound tact in excluding that book from the canon; while a genuine product of the apostolic Barnabas had a claim to be admitted into it as well as the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews or the writings of Mark and Luke.
The author was probably a converted Jew from Alexandria (perhaps by the name Barnabas, which would easily explain the confusion), to judge from his familiarity with Jewish literature, and, apparently, with Philo and his allegorical method in handling the Old Testament. In Egypt his Epistle was first known and most esteemed; and the Sinaitic Bible which contains it was probably written in Alexandria or Caesarea in Palestine. The readers were chiefly Jewish Christians in Egypt and the East, who overestimated the Mosaic traditions and ceremonies.
3. Time of composition. The work was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which is alluded to as an accomplished fact; yet probably before the close of the first century, certainly before the reconstruction of Jerusalem under Hadrian (120).
The older editions give only the imperfect Latin Version, first published by Faber Stapulensis (Par. 1513). Other Latin MSS. were discovered since. The Greek text (brought from Mt. Athos by Constantine Simonides, and called Cod. Lipsiensis) was first published by R. Anger, with a preface by G. Dindorf (Lips. 1856); then by Tischendorf, in Dressel’s Patres Apost., Lips 1857 (p. 572-637); again in the second ed. 1863, where Tischendorf, in consequence of the intervening discovery of the Cod. Sinaiticus retracted his former objections to the originality of the Greek Hermas from Mt. Athos, which he had pronounced a mediaeval retranslation from the Latin (see the Proleg., Appendix and Preface to the second ed.). The Ποιμὴν ὅρασις is also printed in the fourth vol. of the large edition of the Codex Sinaiticus, at the close (pp. 142-148), Peters b. 1862. The texts from Mt. Athos and Mt. Sinai substantially agree. An Ethiopic translation appeared in Leipz. 1860, ed. with a Latin version by Ant. d’abbadie. Comp. Dillmann in the “Zeitschrift d. D. Morgenländ. Gesellschaft” for 1861; Schodde: Hêrmâ Nabî, the Ethiop. V of P. H. examined. Leipz. 1876 (criticised by Harnack in the “Theol. Lit. Ztg.” 1877, fol. 58), and G. and H’s Proleg. xxxiv. sqq.
O. v. Gebhardt, and Harnack: Patrum Apost. Opera, Fascic. III. Lips. 1877. Greek and Latin. A very careful recension of the text (from the Sinaitic MS.) by v. Gebhardt, with ample Prolegomena (84 pages), and a critical and historical commentary by Harnack.
Funk’s fifth ed. of Hefele’s Patres Apost. I. 334-563. Gr. and Lat. Follows mostly the text of Von Gebhardt.
Ad. Hilgenfeld: Hermae Pastor. Graece e codicibus Sinaitico et Lipsiensi … restituit, etc. Ed. altera emendata et valde aucta. Lips. 1881. With Prolegomena and critical annotations (257 pp.). By the same: Hermae Pastor Graece integrum ambitu. Lips., 1887 (pp. 130). From the Athos and Sinaitic MSS.
S. P. Lambros (Prof. in Athens): A Collation of the Athos Codex of the Shepherd of Hermas, together with an Introduction. Translated and edited by J. A. Robinson, Cambridge, 1888.
English translations by Wake (1693, from the Latin version); F. Crombie (Vol. I. of the “Ante-Nicene Christian Library.” 1867, from the Greek of the Sinait. MS.), by Charles H. Hoole (1870, from Hilgenfeld’s first ed. of 1866,) and by Robinson (1888).
C. Reinh. Jachmann: Der Hirte der Hermas. Königsberg, 1835.
Ernst Gaâb: Der Hirte des Hermas. Basel, 1866 (pp. 203).
Theod. Zahn: Der Hirt des Hermas. Gotha 1868. (Comp. also his review of Gaâb in the Studien und Kritiken for 1868, pp. 319-349).
Charles R. Hoole (of Christ Church, Oxf.): The Shepherd of Hermas translated into English, with an Introduction and Notes. Lond., Oxf. and Cambr. 1870 (184 pages).
Gust. Heyne: Quo tempore Hermae Pastor scriptus sit. Regimonti, 1872.
J. Donaldson: The Apostolical Fathers (1874) p. 318-392.
H. M. Behm: Der Verfasser der Schrift., welche d. Titel “Hirt” führt. Rostock, 1876 (71 pp.).
Brüll: Der Hirt des Hermas. Nach Ursprung und Inhalt untersucht. Freiburg i. B. 1882. The same: Ueber den Ursprung des ersten Clemensbriefs und des Hirten des Hermas. 1882.
Ad. Link: Christi Person und Werk im Hirten des Hermas. Marburg, 1886. Die Einheit des Pastor Hermae. Mar b. 1888. Defends the unity of Hermas against Hilgenfeld.
P. Baumgärtner: Die Einheit des Hermas-Buches. Freiburg, 1889. He mediates between Hilgenfeld and Link, and holds that the book was written by one author, but at different times.
I. The Shepherd of Hermas has its title from the circumstance that the author calls himself Hermas and is instructed by the angel of repentance in the costume of a shepherd. It is distinguished from all the productions of the apostolic fathers by its literary form. It is the oldest Christian allegory, an apocalyptic book, a sort of didactic religious romance. This accounts in part for its great popularity in the ancient church. It has often been compared with Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Dante’s Divina Commedia, though far inferior in literary merit and widely different in theology from either. For a long time it was only known in an old, inaccurate Latin translation, which was first published by Faber Stapulensis in 1513; but since 1856 and 1862, we have it also in the original Greek, in two texts, one hailing from Mount Athos re-discovered and compared by Lambros, and another (incomplete) from Mount Sinai.
II. Character and Contents. The Pastor Hermae is a sort of system of Christian morality in an allegorical dress, and a call to repentance and to renovation of the already somewhat slumbering and secularized church in view of the speedily approaching day of judgment. It falls into three books:
(1) Visions; four visions and revelations, which were given to the author, and in which the church appears to him first in the form of a venerable matron in shining garments with a book, then as a tower, and lastly as a virgin. All the visions have for their object to call Hermas and through him the church to repentance, which is now possible, but will close when the church tower is completed.
It is difficult to decide whether the writer actually had or imagined himself to have had those visions, or invented them as a pleasing and effective mode of instruction, like Dante’s vision and Bunyan’s dream.
(2) Mandats, or twelve commandments, prescribed by a guardian angel in the garb of a shepherd.
(3) Similitudes, or ten parables, in which the church again appears, but now in the form of a building, and the different virtues are represented under the figures of stones and trees. The similitudes were no doubt suggested by the parables of the gospel, but bear no comparison with them for beauty and significance.
The scene is laid in Rome and the neighborhood. The Tiber is named, but no allusion is made to the palaces, the court, the people and society of Rome, or to any classical work. An old lady, virgins, and angels appear, but the only persons mentioned by name are Hermas, Maximus, Clement and Grapte.
The literary merit of the Shepherd is insignificant. It differs widely from apostolic simplicity and has now only an antiquarian interest, like the pictures and sculptures of the catacombs. It is prosy, frigid, monotonous, repetitious, overloaded with uninteresting details, but animated by a pure love of nature and an ardent zeal for doing good. The author was a self-made man of the people, Ignorant of the classics and Ignored by them, but endowed with the imaginative faculty and a talent for popular religious instruction. He derives lessons of wisdom and piety from shepherd and sheep, vineyards and pastures, towers and villas, and the language and events of every-day life.
The first Vision is a fair specimen of the book, which opens like a love story, but soon takes a serious turn. The following is a faithful translation:
1. “He who had brought me up, sold me to a certain Rhoda at Rome. Many years after, I met her again and began to love her as a sister. Some time after this, I saw her bathing in the river Tiber, and I gave her my hand and led her out of the river. And when I beheld her beauty, I thought in my heart, saying: ‘Happy should I be, if I had a wife of such beauty and goodness.’ This was my only thought, and nothing more.
“After some time, as I went into the villages and glorified the creatures of God, for their greatness, and beauty, and power, I fell asleep while walking. And the Spirit seized me and carried me through a certain wilderness through which no man could travel, for the ground was rocky and impassable, on account of the water.
“And when I had crossed the river, I came to a plain; and falling upon my knees, I began to pray unto the Lord and to confess my sins. And while I was praying, the heaven opened, and I beheld the woman that I loved saluting me from heaven, and saying: ‘Hail, Hermas!’ And when I beheld her, I said unto her: ‘Lady, what doest thou here?’ But she answered and said: ‘I was taken up, in order that I might bring to light thy sins before the Lord.’ And I said unto her: ‘Hast thou become my accuser?’ ‘No,’ said she; ‘but hear the words that I shall say unto thee. God who dwells in heaven, and who made the things that are out of that which is not, and multiplied and increased them on account of his holy church, is angry with thee because thou hast sinned against me.’ I answered and said unto her: ‘Have I sinned against thee? In what way? Did I ever say unto thee an unseemly word? Did I not always consider thee as a lady? Did I not always respect thee as a sister? Why doest thou utter against me, O Lady, these wicked and foul lies?’ But she smiled and said unto me: ‘The desire of wickedness has entered into thy heart. Does it not seem to thee an evil thing for a just man, if an evil desire enters into his heart? Yea, it is a sin, and a great one (said she). For the just man devises just things, and by devising just things is his glory established in the heavens, and he finds the Lord merciful unto him in all his ways; but those who desire evil things in their hearts, bring upon themselves death and captivity, especially they who set their affection upon this world, and who glory in their wealth, and lay not hold of the good things to come. The souls of those that have no hope, but have cast themselves and their lives away, shall greatly regret it. But do thou pray unto God, and thy sins shall be healed, and those of thy whole house and of all the saints.’
2. “After she had spoken these words, the heavens were closed, and I remained trembling all over and was sorely troubled. And I said within myself: ‘If this sin be set down against me, how can I be saved? or how can I propitiate God for the multitude of my sins? or with what words shall I ask the Lord to have mercy upon me?’
“While I was meditating on these things, and was musing on them in my heart, I beheld in front of me a great white chair made out of fleeces of wool; and there came an aged woman, clad in very shining raiment, and having a book in her hand, and she sat down by herself on the chair and saluted me, saying: ‘Hail, Hermas!” And I, sorrowing and weeping, said unto her: ‘Hail, Lady!’ And she said unto me: ‘Why art thou sorrowful, O Hermas, for thou wert wont to be patient, and good-tempered, and always smiling? Why is thy countenance cast down? and why art thou not cheerful?’ And I said unto her: ‘O Lady, I have been reproached by a most excellent woman, who said unto me that I sinned against her.’ And she said unto me: ‘Far be it from the servant of God to do this thing. But of a surety a desire after her must have come into thy heart. Such an intent as this brings a charge of sin against the servant of God; for it is an evil and horrible intent that a devout and tried spirit should lust after an evil deed; and especially that the chaste Hermas should do so-he who abstained from every evil desire, and was full of all simplicity, and of great innocence!’
3. “‘But [she continued] God is not angry with thee on account of this, but in order that thou mayest convert thy house, which has done iniquity against the Lord, and against you who art their parent. But thou, in thy love for your children (φιλότεκνος ὤν) didst not rebuke thy house, but didst allow it to become dreadfully wicked. On this account is the Lord angry with thee; but He will heal all the evils that happened aforetime in thy house; for through the sins and iniquities of thy household thou hast been corrupted by the affairs of this life. But the mercy of the Lord had compassion upon thee, and upon thy house, and will make thee strong and establish thee in His glory. Only be not slothful, but be of good courage and strengthen thy house. For even as the smith, by smiting his work with the hammer, accomplishes the thing that he wishes, so shall the daily word of righteousness overcome all iniquity. Fail not, therefore, to rebuke thy children, for I know that if they will repent with all their heart, they will be written in the book of life, together with the saints.’
“After these words of hers were ended, she said unto me: ‘Dost thou wish to hear me read?’ I said unto her: ‘Yea, Lady, I do wish it.’ She said unto me: ‘Be thou a hearer, and listen to the glories of God.’ Then I heard, after a great and wonderful fashion, that which my memory was unable to retain; for all the words were terrible, and beyond man’s power to bear. The last words, however, I remembered; for they were profitable for us, and gentle: ‘Behold the God of power, who by his invisible strength, and His great wisdom, has created the world, and by His magnificent counsel hath crowned His creation with glory, and by His mighty word has fixed the heaven, and founded the earth upon the waters, and by His own wisdom and foresight has formed His holy church, which He has also blessed! Behold, He removes the heavens from their places, and the mountains, and the hills, and the stars, and everything becomes smooth before His elect, that He may give unto them the blessing which He promised them with great glory and joy, if only they shall keep with firm faith the laws of God which they have received.’
4. “When, therefore, she had ended her reading, and had risen up from the chair, there came four young men, and took up the chair, and departed towards the east. Then she called me, and touched my breast, and said unto me: ‘Hast thou been pleased with my reading?’ And I said unto her: ‘Lady, these last things pleased me; but the former were hard and harsh.’ But she spake unto me, saying: ‘These last are for the righteous; but the former are for the heathen and the apostates.” While she was yet speaking with me, there appeared two men, and they took her up in their arms and departed unto the east, whither also the chair had gone. And she departed joyfully; and as she departed, she said: ‘Be of good courage, O Hermas!’
III. The theology of Hermas is ethical and practical. He is free from speculative opinions and ignorant of theological technicalities. He views Christianity as a new law and lays chief stress on practice. Herein he resembles James, but he ignores the “liberty” by which James distinguishes the “perfect” Christian law from the imperfect old law of bondage. He teaches not only the merit, but the supererogatory merit of good works and the sin-atoning virtue of martyrdom. He knows little or nothing of the gospel, never mentions the word, and has no idea of justifying faith, although he makes faith the chief virtue and the mother of virtues. He dwells on man’s duty and performance more than on God’s gracious promises and saving deeds. In a word, his Christianity is thoroughly legalistic and ascetic, and further off from the evangelical spirit than any other book of the apostolic fathers. Christ is nowhere named, nor his example held up for imitation (which is the true conception of Christian life); yet he appears as “the Son of God,” and is represented as pre-existent and strictly divine. The word Christian never occurs.
But this meagre view of Christianity, far from being heretical or schismatic, is closely connected with catholic orthodoxy as far as we can judge from hints and figures. Hermas stood in close normal relation to the Roman congregation (either under Clement or Pius), and has an exalted view of the “holy church,” as he calls the church universal. He represents her as the first creature of God for which the world was made, as old and ever growing younger; yet he distinguishes this ideal church from the real and represents the latter as corrupt. He may have inferred this conception in part from the Epistle to the Ephesians, the only one of Paul’s writings with which he shows himself familiar. He requires water-baptism as indispensable to salvation, even for the pious Jews of the old dispensation, who received it from the apostles in Hades. He does not mention the eucharist, but this is merely accidental. The whole book rests on the idea of an exclusive church out of which there is no salvation. It closes with the characteristic exhortation of the angel: “Do good works, ye who have received earthly blessings from the Lord, that the building of the tower (the church) may not be finished while ye loiter; for the labor of the building has been interrupted for your sakes. Unless, therefore, ye hasten to do right, the tower will be finished, and ye will be shut out.”
Much of the theology of Hermas is drawn from the Jewish apocalyptic writings of pseudo-Enoch, pseudo-Esdras, and the lost Book of Eldad and Medad. So his doctrine of angels. He teaches that six angels were first created and directed the building of the church. Michael, their chief, writes the law in the hearts of the faithful; the angel of repentance guards the penitent against relapse and seeks to bring back the fallen. Twelve good spirits which bear the names of Christian virtues, and are seen by Hermas in the form of Virgins, conduct the believer into the kingdom of heaven; twelve unclean spirits named from the same number of sins hinder him. Every man has a good and an evil genius. Even reptiles and other animals have a presiding angel. The last idea Jerome justly condemns as foolish.
It is confusing and misleading to judge Hermas from the apostolic conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christianity. That conflict was over. John shows no traces of it in his Gospel and Epistles. Clement of Rome mentions Peter and Paul as inseparable. The two types had melted into the one Catholic family, and continued there as co-operative elements in the same organization, but were as yet very imperfectly understood, especially the free Gospel of Paul. Jewish and pagan features reappeared, or rather they never disappeared, and exerted their influence for good and evil. Hence there runs through the whole history of Catholicism a legalistic or Judaizing, and an evangelical or Pauline tendency; the latter prevailed in the Reformation and produced Protestant Christianity. Hermas stood nearest to James and furthest from Paul; his friend Clement of Rome stood nearer to Paul and further off from James: but neither one nor the other had any idea of a hostile conflict between the apostles.
IV. Relation to the Scriptures. Hermas is the only one of the apostolic fathers who abstains from quoting the Old Testament Scriptures and the words of our Lord. This absence is due in part to the prophetic character of the Shepherd, for prophecy is its own warrant, and speaks with divine authority. There are, however, indications that he knew several books of the New Testament, especially the Gospel of Mark, the Epistle of James, and the Epistle to the Ephesians. The name of Paul is nowhere mentioned, but neither are the other apostles. It is wrong, therefore, to infer from this silence an anti-Pauline tendency. Justin Martyr likewise omits the name, but shows acquaintance with the writings of Paul.
V. Relation to Montanism. The assertion of the prophetic gift and the disciplinarian rigorism Hermas shares with the Montanists; but they arose half a century later, and there is no historic connection. Moreover his zeal for discipline does not run into schismatic excess. He makes remission and absolution after baptism difficult, but not impossible; he ascribes extra merit to celibacy and seems to have regretted his own unhappy marriage, but he allows second marriage as well as second repentance, at least till the return of the Lord which, with Barnabas, he supposes to be near at hand. Hence Tertullian as a Montanist denounced Hermas.
VI. Authorship and time of composition. Five opinions are possible. (a) The author was the friend of Paul to whom he sends greetings in Rom_16:14, in the year 58. This is the oldest opinion and accounts best for its high authority. (b) A contemporary of Clement, presbyter-bishop of Rome, a.d. 92-101. Based upon the testimony of he book itself. (c) A brother of Bishop Pius of Rome (140). So asserts an unknown author of 170 in the Muratorian fragment of the canon. But he may have confounded the older and younger Hermas with the Latin translator. (d) The book is the work of two or three authors, was begun under Trajan before 112 and completed by the brother of Pius in 140. (e) Hermas is a fictitious name to lend apostolic authority to the Shepherd. (f) Barely worth mentioning is the isolated assertion of the Ethiopian version that the apostle Paul wrote the Shepherd under the name of Hermas which was given to him by the inhabitants of Lystra.
We adopt the second view, which may be combined with the first. The author calls himself Hermas and professes to be a contemporary of the Roman Clement, who was to send his book to foreign churches. This testimony is clear and must outweigh every other. If the Hermas mentioned by Paul was a young disciple in 58, he may well have lived to the age of Trajan, and be expressly represents himself as an aged man at the time when he wrote.
We further learn from the author that he was a rather unfortunate husband and the father of bad children, who had lost his wealth in trade through his own sins and those of his neglected sons but who awoke to repentance and now came forward himself, as a plain preacher of righteousness, though without any official position, and apparently a mere layman. He had been formerly a slave and sold by his master to a certain Christian lady in Rome by the name of Rhoda. It has been inferred from his Greek style that he was born in Egypt and brought up in a Jewish family. But the fact that he first mistook the aged woman who represents the church, for the heathen Sibyl, rather suggests that he was of Gentile origin. We may infer the same from his complete silence about the prophetic Scriptures of the Old Testament. He says nothing of his conversion.
The book was probably written at the close of the first or early in the second century. It shows no trace of a hierarchical organization, and assumes the identity of presbyters and bishops; even Clement of Rome is not called a bishop. The state of the church is indeed described as corrupt, but corruption began already in the apostolic age, as we see from the Epistles and the Apocalypse. At the time of Irenaeus the book was held in the highest esteem, which implies its early origin.
VII. Authority and value. No product of post-apostolic literature has undergone a greater change in public esteem. The Shepherd was a book for the times, but not for all times. To the Christians of the second and third century it had all the charm of a novel from the spirit-world, or as Bunyan’s Pilgrims’ Progress has at the present day. It was even read in public worship down to the time of Eusebius and Jerome, and added to copies of the Holy Scriptures (as the Codex Sinaiticus, where it follows after the Ep. of Barnabas). Irenaeus quotes it as “divine Scripture.” The Alexandrian fathers, who with all their learning were wanting in sound critical discrimination, regarded it as “divinely inspired,” though Origen intimates that others judged less favorably. Eusebius classes it with the “spurious,” though orthodox books, like the Epistle of Barnabas, the Acts of Paul, etc.; and Athanasius puts it on a par with the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, which are useful for catechetical instruction.
In the Latin church where it originated, it never rose to such high authority. The Muratorian canon regards it as apocryphal, and remarks that “it should be read, but not publicly used in the church or numbered among the prophets or the apostles.” Tertullian, who took offence at its doctrine of the possibility of a second repentance, and the lawfulness of second marriage, speaks even contemptuously of it. So does Jerome in one passage, though he speaks respectfully of it in another. Ambrose and Augustin ignore it. The decree of Pope Gelasius I. (about 500) condemns the book as apocryphal. Since that time it shared the fate of all Apocrypha, and fell into entire neglect. The Greek original even disappeared for centuries, until it turned up unexpectedly in the middle of the nineteenth century to awaken a new interest, and to try the ingenuity of scholars as one of the links in the development of catholic Christianity.
The Pastor Hermae has long ceased to be read for devotion or entertainment. We add some modern opinions. Mosheim (who must have read it very superficially) pronounced the talk of the heavenly spirits in Hermas to be more stupid and insipid than that of the barbers of his day, and concluded that he was either a fool or an impostor. The great historian Niebuhr, as reported by Bunsen, used to say that he pitied the Athenian [why not the Roman?] Christians who were obliged to listen to the reader of such a book in the church. Bunsen himself pronounces it “a well-meant but silly romance.”
On the other hand, some Irvingite scholars, Dr. Thiersch and Mr. Gaâb, have revived the old belief in a supernatural foundation for the visions, as having been really seen and recorded in the church of Rome during the apostolic age, but afterwards modified and mingled with errors by the compiler under Pius. Gaâb thinks that Hermas was gifted with the power of vision, and inspired in the same sense as Swedenborg.
Westcott ascribes “the highest value” to the Shepherd, “as showing in what way Christianity was endangered by the influence of Jewish principles as distinguished from Jewish forms.” Hist. of the Canon of the N. T p. 173 (second ed.)
Donaldson (a liberal Scotch Presbyterian) thinks that the Shepherd “ought to derive a peculiar interest from its being the first work extant, the main effort of which is to direct the soul to God. The other religious books relate to internal workings in the church — this alone specially deals with the great change requisite to living to God … Its creed is a very short and simple one. Its great object is to exhibit the morality implied in conversion, and it is well calculated to awaken a true sense of the spiritual foes that are ever ready to assail him.” (Ap. Fath., p. 339). But he also remarks (p. 336) that “nothing would more completely show the immense difference between ancient Christian feeling and modern, than the respect in which ancient, and a large number of modern Christians hold this work.”
George A. Jackson (an American Congregationalist) judges even more favorably (Ap. Fath., 1879, p. 15): Reading the ‘Shepherd,’ and remembering that it appeared in the midst of a society differing little from that satirized by Juvenal, we no longer wonder at the esteem in which it was held by the early Christians, but we almost join with them in calling it an inspired book.”
Mr. Hoole, of Oxford, agrees with the judgment of Athanasius, and puts its literary character on the same footing as the pious but rude art of the Roman catacombs.
Dr. Salmon, of Dublin, compares Hermas with Savonarola, who sincerely believed: (a) that the church of his time was corrupt and worldly; (b) that a time of great tribulation was at hand, in which the dross should be purged away; (c) that there was still an intervening time for repentance; (d) that he himself was divinely commissioned to be a preacher of that repentance.
(I.) The fragments of Papias collected in Routh: Reliquiae Sacrae, ed. II., Oxf., 1846, vol. I., 3-16. Von Gebhardt and Harnack: Patres Apost., Appendix: Papice Fragmenta, I., 180-196. English translation in Roberts and Donaldson. “Ante-Nicene Library.” I., 441-448.
Passages on Papias in Irenaeus: Adv. Haer., V. 33, §§ 3, 4. Euseb. H. E. III. 36, 39; Chron. ad Olymp. 220, ed. Schöne II. 162. Also a few later notices; see Routh and the Leipz. ed. of P. A. The Vita S. Papiae, by the Jesuit Halloix, Duaei, l633, is filled with a fanciful account of the birth, education, ordination, episcopal and literary labors of the saint, of whom very little is really known.
(II.) Separate articles on Papias, mostly connected with the Gospel question, by Schleiermacher (on his testimonies concerning Matthew and Mark in the “Studien und Kritiken” for l832, p. 735); Th. Zahn (ibid. 1866, No. IV. p. 649 sqq.); G. E. Steitz (in the “Studien und Kritiken” for 1868, No. 1. 63-95, and art. Papias in Herzog’s Encyc.” ed. I. vol. XI., 78-86; revised by Leimbach in ed. II. vol. XI. 194-206); James Donaldson (The Apost. Fathers 1874, p. 393-402); Bishop Lightfoot (in the “Contemporary Review” for Aug., 1875, pp. 377-403; a careful examination of the testimonies of Papias concerning the Gospels of Mark and Matthew against the misstatements in “Supernatural Religion”); Leimbach (Das Papiasfragment, 1875) Weiffenbach Das Papiasfragment, 1874 and 1878); Hilgefeld (“Zeitschrift für wissensch. Theol.” 1875, 239 sqq.); Ludemann (Zur Erklärunq des Papiasfragments, in the “Jahrbücher für protest. Theol.,” 1879, p. 365 sqq.); H. Holtzmann (Papias und Johannes, in Hilgenfeld’s “Zeitschrift für wissensch. Theologie,” 1880, pp. 64-77). Comp. also Westcott on the Canon of the N. T., p. 59-68.
Papias, a disciple of John and friend of Polycarp, was bishop of Hierapolis, in Phrygia, till towards the middle of the second century. According to a later tradition in the “Paschal Chronicle,” he suffered martyrdom at Pergamon about the same time with Polycarp at Smyrna. As the death of the latter has recently been put back from 166 to 155, the date of Papias must undergo a similar change; and as his contemporary friend was at least 86 years old, Papias was probably born about a.d. 70, so that he may have known St. John, St. Philip the Evangelist, and other primitive disciples who survived the destruction of Jerusalem.
Papias was a pious, devout and learned student of the Scriptures, and a faithful traditionist, though somewhat credulous and of limited comprehension. He carried the heavenly treasure in an earthen vessel. His associations give him considerable weight. He went to the primitive sources of the Christian faith. “I shall not regret,” he says, “to subjoin to my interpretations [of the Lord’s Oracles], whatsoever I have at any time accurately ascertained and treasured up in my memory, as I have received it from the elders (παρὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων) and have recorded it to give additional confirmation to the truth, by my testimony. For I did not, like most men, delight in those who speak much, but in those who teach the truth; nor in those who record the commands of others [or new and strange commands], but in those who record the commands given by the Lord to our faith, and proceeding from truth itself. If then any one who had attended on the elders came, I made it a point to inquire what were the words of the elders; what Andrew, or what Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas, or James, or John, or Matthew, or any other of the disciples of our Lord; and what things Aristion and the elder John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I was of opinion that I could not derive so much benefit from books as from the living and abiding voice.” He collected with great zeal the oral traditions of the apostles and their disciples respecting the discourses and works of Jesus, and published them in five books under the title: “Explanation of the Lord’s Discourses.”
Unfortunately this book, which still existed in the thirteenth century, is lost with the exception of valuable and interesting fragments preserved chiefly by Irenaeus and Eusebius. Among these are his testimonies concerning the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew and the Petrine Gospel of Mark, which figure so prominently in all the critical discussions on the origin of the Gospels. The episode on the woman taken in adultery which is found in some MSS. of John 7:53-8:11, or after Luk_21:38, has been traced to the same source and was perhaps to illustrate the word of Christ, Joh_8:15 (“I judge no man”); for Eusebius reports that Papias “set forth another narrative concerning a woman who was maliciously accused before the Lord of many sins, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.” If so, we are indebted to him for the preservation of a precious fact which at once illustrates in a most striking manner our Saviour’s absolute purity in dealing with sin, and his tender compassion toward the sinner. Papias was an enthusiastic chiliast, and the famous parable of the fertility of the millennium which he puts in the Lord’s mouth and which Irenaeus accepted in good faith, may have been intended as an explanation of the Lord’s word concerning the fruit of the vine which he shall drink new in his Father’s kingdom, Mat_26:29. His chiliasm is no proof of a Judaizing tendency, for it was the prevailing view in the second century. He also related two miracles, the resurrection of a dead man which took place at the time of Philip (the Evangelist), as he learned from his daughters, and the drinking of poison without harm by Justus Barsabas.
Papias proves the great value which was attached to the oral traditions of the apostles and their disciples in the second century. He stood on the threshold of a new period when the last witnesses of the apostolic age were fast disappearing, and when it seemed to be of the utmost importance to gather the remaining fragments of inspired wisdom which might throw light on the Lord’s teaching, and guard the church against error.
But he is also an important witness to the state of the canon before the middle of the second century. He knew the first two Gospels, and in all probability also the Gospel of John, for he quoted, as Eusebius expressly says, from the first Epistle of John, which is so much like the fourth Gospel in thought and style that they stand or fall as the works of one and the same author. He is one of the oldest witnesses to the inspiration and credibility of the Apocalypse of John, and commented on a part of it. He made use of the first Epistle of Peter, but is silent as far as we know concerning Paul and Luke. This has been variously explained from accident or Ignorance or dislike, but best from the nature of his design to collect only words of the Lord. Hermas and Justin Martyr likewise ignore Paul, and yet knew his writings. That Papias was not hostile to the great apostle may be inferred from his intimacy with Polycarp, who lauds Paul in his Epistle.
The relation of Papias to the Apostle John is still a disputed point. Irenaeus, the oldest witness and himself a pupil of Polycarp, calls Papias Ἰωάννου μὲν άκουστὴς, Πολυκάρπου δὲ ἑταῖρος (Adv. Haer. V. 33, 4). He must evidently mean here the Apostle John. Following him, Jerome and later writers (Maximus Confessor, Andrew of Crete and Anastasius Sinaita) call him a disciple of the Apostle John, and this view has been defended with much learning and acumen by Dr. Zahn (1866), and, independently of him, by Dr. Milligan (on John the Presbyter, in Cowper’s “Journal of Sacred Literature” for Oct., 1867, p. 106 sqq.), on the assumption of the identity of the Apostle John with “Presbyter John;” comp. 2 and 3 John, where the writer calls himself ὁ πρεσβύτερος. Riggenbach (on John the Ap. and John the Presbyter, in the “Jahrbücher für Deutsche Theologie,” 1868, pp. 319-334), Hengstenberg, Leimbach, take the same view (also Schaff in History of the Apost. Ch., 1853, p. 421).
On the other hand, Eusebius (H. E. III. 39) infers that Papias distinguishes between John the Apostle and “the Presbyter John” (ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰωάννης) so called, and that he was a pupil of the Presbyter only. He bases the distinction on a fragment he quotes from the introduction to the “Explanation of the Lord’s Discourses,” where Papias says that he ascertained the primitive traditions: τί Ἀνδρέας ἢ τί Πέτρος εἶπεν [in the past tense], ἢ τί Φίλιππος ἢ τί Θωμᾶς ἢ Ἰάκωβος ἢ τί Ἰωάννης [the Apostle] ἢ Ματθαῖος, ἢ τις ἕτερος τῶν τοῦ κυρίου μαθητῶν, ἅ τε Ἀριστίων καὶ ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰωάννης, οἱ τοῦ κυρίου [not τῶν ἀποστόλων] μαθηταὶ, λέγουσιν [present tense]. Here two Johns seem to be clearly distinguished; but the Presbyter John, together with an unknown Aristion, is likewise called a disciple of the Lord (not of the Apostles). The distinction is maintained by Steitz, Tischendorf, Keim, Weiffenbach, Lüdemann, Donaldson, Westcott, and Lightfoot. In confirmation of this view, Eusebius states that two graves were shown at Ephesus bearing the name of John (III 39: δύο ἐν Ἐφέσῳ γενέσθαι μνήματα, καὶ ἐκάτερον Ἰωάννου ἐτι νῦν λέγεσθαι). But Jerome, De Vir. ill. c. 9, suggests, that both graves were only memories of the Apostle. Beyond this, nothing whatever is known of this mysterious Presbyter John, and it was a purely critical conjecture of the anti-millennarian Dionysius of Alexandria that he was the author of the Apocalypse (Euseb. VII. 25). The substance of the mediaeval legend of “Prester John” was undoubtedly derived from another source.
In any case, it is certainly possible that Papias, like his friend Polycarp, may have seen and heard the aged apostle who lived to the close of the first or the beginning of the second century. It is therefore unnecessary to charge Irenaeus with an error either of name or memory. It is more likely that Eusebius misunderstood Papias, and is responsible for a fictitious John, who has introduced so much confusion into the question of the authorship of the Johannean Apocalypse.