Christ, the Good Shepherd.
4th c
. Roman sarcophagus


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. [The fragment thus rejects Hermas as sacred scripture, (to be read in the Christian assembly), but recommends that it be read privately.]

A prominent theme in this work is the permissibility for Christians of (a single) repentance for grave sin committed after baptism.

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 composed 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 repentance 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).


The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 3, p. 148


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