The Theology of the Shepherd of Hermas


The Theology of Hermas: Modalism


Introduction to the Shepherd of Hermas


The book is entitled, “The Shepherd of Hermas” because an angel appeared to Hermas dressed like a Shepherd to command him to write an inspired book to deliver to God’s Church. The contents of the Shepherd of Hermas affirm that Hermas was a Prophet who ministered in the city of Rome from about 60 to 90 A.D. Therefore, if we are to believe the contents of The Shepherd of Hermas, the book itself was intended to be a part of the body of New Testament inspired Scripture.

The apostle Paul knew both Hermas and Clement of Rome, as Hermas is listed in Romans 16:14 and Clement in Philippians 4:3. In Hermas Vision 2:4, Hermas lists Clement as a contemporary leader of the church in Rome who sent copies of “The Shepherd of Hermas” throughout the known world. Since the historical data proves that Clement was a leader in the Church in Rome at the same time as Hermas, and since the apostle Paul personally knew both Clement and Hermas within the first century, it is clear that Hermas wrote “The Shepherd” during the first century.

Hermas Vision 3:5 describes Hermas’ Vision of the holy angels placing the foundational white stones for the building of a Tower which the angel described as being symbolic of the New Testament Church. The angel stated that the foundational white stones used for the building of the tower are - and I quote, “The APOSTLES, bishops, teachers, and deacons, who have walked in godly gravity, and who have discharged their duties as bishops, teachers, and deacons for the good of God's elect. Some of these have fallen asleep, SOME ARE STILL WITH US (Hermas Vision 3:5).”

Since Hermas only saw the beginning of the construction of the church, symbolized as a tower, the large foundational white stones were symbolic of the original apostles who laid the foundation of the church. The angel said to Hermas that some of the apostles “are still with us.” If Hermas was a mid-second century document, none of the original apostles would still be alive.

Scholars have pointed out that the Muratorian fragment says that Hermas wrote the Shepherd during the lifetime of bishop Pius in the mid second century. However, scholars George Edmondson and John Robinson have conclusively shown that the Muration fragment is, “full of errors” and that Hermas Vision 3:5 clearly states that some of the apostles were, “still alive” while the Shepherd was written. Therefore the Shepherd of Hermas had to have been written within the first century while some of the apostles were still living.

George Edmondson wrote, “It has already been suggested that the Muratorian Fragmentist blundered in his assertion that the work of Hermas was written during the episcopate of his brother Pope Pius I, because he confused the author of ‘The Pastor' with a well-known brother of the bishop, who actually bore that name (The Church in Rome in the First Century, Pg. 215, George Edmondson, University of Oxford 1913).” Mr Edmondson continued, “… it is certainly very strange that, if Hermas wrote his book during his brother's episcopate, there should not be a single reference to that brother's existence in a work in which the author several times speaks of his family and, as has been said, repeatedly deals with the condition, organization, and affairs of the Church.” (The Church in Rome in the First Century, Pg. 215, George Edmondson, University of Oxford 1913)

George Edmondson further pointed out that Hermas himself opened “The Shepherd” by writing that he was “sold into Rome” as a slave and that Hermas happens to be a Greek name while the Roman bishop “Pius” is a Roman name (“Now the very first line of Hermas' book compresses into the briefest compass the life-story of the writer's youth. He who brought-me-up sold me into Rome to a certain Rhoda.' This implies that Hermas had either been born a slave in the house of the vendor, who did not live at Rome, or what is from the form of the expression--ho threpsas--quite probable, that he had been a castaway child whom the above-mentioned master had taken care of and brought up as a slave. In the last case his parentage would be unknown and he would have no brother. If, however, he were born a slave, three things must be postulated before the Muratorian statement can be accepted: (1) that in this slave household relationships were recognized; (2) that both Hermas and his brother must have been sold in Rome and afterwards became freedmen; (3) that the brother laid aside his original Greek slave name for that of Pius. Negative evidence is never conclusive, but it is certainly very strange that, if Hermas wrote his book during his brother's episcopate, there should not be a single reference to that brother's existence in a work in which the author several times speaks of his family and, as has been said, repeatedly deals with the condition, organization, and affairs of the Church.” The Church In Rome, Lecture 8, George Edmondson). Hence, it is very unlikely that a Greek slave who was sold into Rome with a Greek name could have been the brother of bishop Pius who had a Roman name. Yet in spite of the clear historical evidence proving that the Shepherd of Hermas was a first century document, the preponderance of Trinitarian scholarship has failed to point out the obvious evidence supporting the Shepherd of Hermas as a first century document which was written while some of the apostles were “still alive (Hermas Vision 3:5).”

Scholars have further pointed out that many of the earliest Christian writers revered and cited The Shepherd of Hermas as scripture. It seems very unlikely that second and third century Christian writers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen would have cited Hermas as scripture if it was not written within the first century. The Shepherd of Hermas almost made its way into the New Testament but was rejected because its theology is clearly non-Trinitarian.

Even Roman Catholic scholars admit that the Shepherd of Hermas “had great authority in ancient times and was ranked with Holy Scripture.”

“… ‘The Shepherd’ (Poimen, Pastor), a work which had great authority in ancient times and was ranked with Holy Scripture. Eusebius tells us that it was publicly read in the churches, and that while some denied it to be canonical, others "considered it most necessary. St. Athanasius speaks of it ... St. Irenæus and Tertullian (in his Catholic days), cite the Shepherd as Scripture. Clement of Alexandria constantly quotes it with reverence, and so does Origen (Chapman. J. Transcribed by Don Ross).” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.)

Above: The Shepherd of Hermas appears bound together with the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus (dated to the fourth century).

The preponderance of Trinitarian scholars have tried to claim that The Shepherd of Hermas was written in the second century because they do not want to admit that the earliest first century Roman Church that the apostles themselves founded baptized in Jesus Name (Romans 6:1-7) and believed that the Spirit of the Son of God is the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). Since the Shepherd of Hermas was quoted as inspired scripture by many of the earliest Christian writers (including Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen), the Shepherd of Hermas must have originated during the first century A.D. For why would the second and third century Christians accept it as scripture if it was not written during the first century?

The Shepherd of Hermas was bound with the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Claromontanus but was rejected by the later Catholic Church. Trinitarian translator Jack N. Sparks wrote in his preface to his translation of The Shepherd of Hermas: “You wouldn’t call Hermas a precise theologian. His terminology in speaking of the Son and the Holy Spirit is so confusing that he seems to IDENTIFY THE TWO AS THE SAME PERSON.” Hermas wrote concerning the deity of Jesus, “The pre-existent Holy Spirit which created all things did God make to dwell in a body of flesh chosen by Himself (Hermas Parable 5:6).”

If Hermas and the first century Roman Church believed in a trinity, Hermas Parable 5:6 should have stated that the “pre-existent Son did God make to dwell in a body of flesh.” Yet Hermas declared that the Holy Spirit of God incarnated Himself “in a body of flesh chosen by Himself.” Hermas clearly believed that the deity of Jesus is the Holy Spirit in Parable 9:1, “The angel of repentance, he came to me and said to me, I want to show you what THE HOLY SPIRIT which spoke with you in the form of the church, showed you; for THAT SPIRIT IS THE SON OF GOD” (Hermas Parable 9:1 - See Romans 8:9 / 2 Corinthians 3:17 / Ephesians 4:6).

Since the annals of church history prove that the Shepherd [Angel] of Hermas was widely received and accepted by the earliest Christians, it is clear that the majority of the earliest Christians also believed that the Holy Spirit of God is the Spirit that became the Son of God by incarnating Himself as baby Jesus. Hence, the earliest Christian writers (who lived while some of the apostles were still alive) believed that Jesus is the Holy Spirit of God incarnated in a body rather than an alleged second divine person called “God the Son.”

Since the apostles themselves founded the first century Roman Church, it is hard to believe that the theology of the first century Roman Church differed from the theology of the original apostles. The teachings of the Shepherd of Hermas are identical with the Bible. Luke 1:35 states: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35 NIV).” Luke 1:35 informs us that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary to supernaturally conceive baby Jesus, but if the trinity were true, then it should read that an eternal divine person called God the Son came over Mary to sire the Christ child. Therefore the theology of the earliest Roman Christian Church is identical with the Bibles' teaching.

Hermas Taught Water Baptism in the Name of Jesus For Salvation

Trinitarians hate to admit that Hermas taught Oneness Theology and water baptism in Jesus Name in Rome while some of the apostles were still alive. Like modern day Oneness Pentecostals, the early first century Roman Church believed that water baptism into the name of the Son of God alone is necessary for salvation. Hermas wrote in book 2, Command 4:3,

“I have heard, Sir,” say I, “from certain teachers, that there is no other repentance than that which took place when we went down into the water and received remission of our former sins.” He said to me; “You have well heard; for so it is. For he who has received remission of his sins ought not to sin any more, but to live in purity.”

Here we find evidence proving that the first century Roman church taught that water baptism is for receiving the “remission of our former sins.” Hermas further wrote the angel’s instructions in Parable 9:12, “Did you see the stones which were entered through the portico [doorway] were placed in the structure of the tower (the Church) but the ones that did not so enter were returned to their own place? No one will enter the Kingdom of God unless HE TAKES HIS HOLY NAME. For if you want to enter a city and that particular city has been walled around and has one entrance, could you possibly enter that city except by the gateway, so, a man cannot enter the Kingdom of God other than by the name of the Son … The portico [doorway] is the Son of God; this is the only entrance to the Lord … Whoever does not receive his name cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (See John 3:3-5 / John 10:1-9 – words in parenthesis and brackets were added for clarity)

In the context of water baptism, Parable 9:13 goes on to state, “These all,” he said, “received the name of God.” Hence, we can clearly see that the Son’s name is the name of God. Parable 9:14 goes on to say, “The name of the Son of God is great, and cannot be contained, and supports the whole world.” Hermas Vision 4:2 says, “… you can be saved by no other than by His great and glorious name.”

In the context of water baptism, Parable 9:16 further explains the necessity of water baptism into the name of the Son of God, “It was necessary,” he answered, “to ascend through water (immersion and ascending) in order that they might be made alive; for, unless they laid aside the deadness of their life, they could not in any other way enter into the kingdom of God.” Accordingly, those also who fell asleep received the seal of the Son of God. For, he continued, “before a man bears the name of the Son of God he is dead; but when he receives the seal he lays aside the deadness and obtains life. The seal, then, is the water: they descend into the water dead, and they arise alive. And to them, accordingly, was this seal preached, and they made use of it that they might enter into the kingdom of God.” (See Romans 6:1-7; Colossians 2:8-12; 1 Peter 3:20-21; John 3:3-5)

The Shepherd [Angel] of Hermas clearly said that no one can enter into the Kingdom of God unless he or she received the name of the Son of God in water baptism. Here we have plain evidence proving that the earliest Christian Church in Rome believed that water baptism must be conducted by full body immersion (“they descend into the water”) into the name of the Son of God [Jesus]. This is exactly what modern Apostolic Faith Christians believe even though we are condemned as heretics for doing so.

In The Shepherd of Hermas Vision 3:3 we read that Hermas asks, “Why was the tower (symbolic of the church) built upon the water, O Lady?” She answered, “I told you before, and you still inquire carefully: therefore inquiring you shall find the truth. Hear then why the tower is built u