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 Post subject: THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS (1st - mid 2nd century) Questions.
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 10:54 am 
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The Shepherd of Hermas is Hermas of Rome's account of his visions of Christ in the form of a shepherd. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans addresses a Christian named Hermas, and the Shepherd of Hermas says to have Clement send the document's copies abroad. Origen thought that the document was written under Clement's papacy (88-99 AD). But the Muratorian Fragment (c.200 AD) says that it was written under the papacy of Pius I, the brother of Hermas, in 140-155 AD. The Catholic Encyclopedia suggests that the reference to Clement is probably a literary fiction used to portray the document as older than it really is.

The text can be found here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd.html In the course of reading the Shepherd, questions arose in my mind about it and I would like to ask them below.

(Question 1) Does the Shepherd of Hermas teach a heresy that Christians cannot successfully repent of severe sins committed after their baptism?
According to an article on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website:
Some passages, such as 2.4.3 ["if any one... sins after that great and holy calling in which the Lord has called His people to everlasting life, he has opportunity to repent but once..." etc.], can easily be taken in a Donatist sense. When the Shepherd says that there is but one chance to repent after baptism, it is uncertain whether this is to be taken in the sense we expressed above (i.e., that it was common for the Sacrament of Penance to be administered only once, and after that, sins had to be atoned by extended durations of penitence) or rather in the absolute sense the Donatists inferred - that there is no repentance or penitence that can atone for certain serious sins committed after baptism.
http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/hi ... ermas.html

Here is the full passage (2.4.3), with the most relevant section in bold:
And I said to him, "I should like to continue my questions." "Speak on," said he. And I said, "I heard, sir, some teachers maintain that there is no other repentance than that which takes place, when we descended into the water and received remission of our former sins."

He said to me, "That was sound doctrine which you heard; for that is really the case. For he who has received remission of his sins ought not to sin any more, but to live in purity. Since, however, you inquire diligently into all things, I will point this also out to you, not as giving occasion for error to those who are to believe, or have lately believed, in the Lord. For those who have now believed, and those who are to believe, have not repentance for their sins; but they have remission of their previous sins. For to those who have been called before these days, the Lord has set repentance. For the Lord, knowing the heart, and foreknowing all things, knew the weakness of men and the manifold wiles of the devil, that he would inflict some evil on the servants of God, and would act wickedly towards them. The Lord, therefore, being merciful, has had mercy on the work of His hand, and has set repentance for them; and He has entrusted to me power over this repentance. And therefore I say to you, that if any one is tempted by the devil, and sins after that great and holy calling in which the Lord has called His people to everlasting life, he has opportunity to repent but once. But if he should sin frequently after this, and then repent, to such a man his repentance will be of no avail; for with difficulty will he live."

Brian Fitzgerald, in his study on the document, notes:
The discussion in Mandate Four... came later and indicates some development in Hermas’ thought, i.e., what happens in case of multiple acts of repentance.

Frequent alternations between sinning and repentance apparently render such occasions of repentance void. Yet where those who do not repent die, those who repent often might live, albeit with difficulty. ... Although severely discouraged, repenting often might still save, if only barely. This last point is left rather vague, however.
http://www.st-philip.net/files/Fitzgera ... hermas.pdf

(Question 2) The Shepherd (Christ) says that grief is good to the extent that it brings repentance:
grief enters into the heart of the man who was irritated, and he is grieved at the deed which he did, and repents that he has wrought a wicked deed. This grief, then, appears to be accompanied by salvation, because the man, after having done a wicked deed, repented.
Book II, Commandment 10

Next it says that:
every cheerful man does what is good, and minds what is good, and despises grief; but the sorrowful man always acts wickedly. First, he acts wickedly because he grieves the Holy Spirit, which was given to man a cheerful Spirit. Secondly, Grieving the Holy Spirit, he works iniquity, neither entreating the Lord nor confessing to Him. For the entreaty of the sorrowful man has no power to ascend to the altar of God." "Why," say I, "does not the entreaty of the grieved man ascend to the altar?" "Because," says he, "grief sits in his heart. Grief, then, mingled with his entreaty, does not permit the entreaty to ascend pure to the altar of God. For as vinegar and wine, when mixed in the same vessel, do not give the same pleasure [as wine alone gives], so grief mixed. with the Holy Spirit does not produce the same entreaty [as would be produced by the Holy Spirit alone]. Cleanse yourself from this wicked grief, and you will live to God; and all will live to God who drive away grief from them, and put on all cheerfulness."
What do you think about its claim that if you are in sorrow and grief your prayer doesn't go to God?

(Question 3) The document has numerous commandments like cleansing oneself from grief. Do you agree that Christians, who are fallible, can succeed in keeping all the Shepherd's commandments such that they won't need to repent of violating them?
In Book II, Commandment 12, Hermas has this discussion with the Shepherd:
I say to him, "Sir, these commandments are great, and good, and glorious, and fitted to gladden the heart of the man who can perform them. But I do not know if these commandments can be kept by man, because they are exceeding hard."

He answered and said to me, "If you lay it down as certain that they can be kept, then you will easily keep them, and they will not be hard. But if you come to imagine that they cannot be kept by man, then you will not keep them. Now I say to you, If you do not keep them, but neglect them, you will not be saved, nor your children, nor your house, since you have already determined for yourself that these commandments cannot be kept by man."
Isn't it true though that people can sometimes keep the commandments but that as humans in a fallen world no one can perfectly? Paul takes the view in his correspondence that no one can keep the commandments always and that this is why we need the Atonement, right? I guess the Shepherd takes a different view and proposes that after baptism you can definitely keep all the moral rules.

(Question 4) What kind of salvific luxury is the Shepherd talking about in Book III, Similitude VI?:
there are also acts of luxury which save men; for many who do good indulge in luxury, being carried away by their own pleasure: this luxury, however, is beneficial to the servants of God, and gains life for such a man; but the injurious acts of luxury before enumerated bring tortures and punishment upon them; and if they continue in them and do not repent, they bring death upon themselves."
Is this like taking a vacation when someone is overstressed from work?

(Question 5) According to the Seventh Similitude (below), does God punish innocent heads of households for their children's sins and not the other way around? And meanwhile God must afflict the penitent and doesn't altogether remit their sins? Does that sound right?
The Shepherd says:
"...your household has committed great iniquities and sins, and the glorious angel has been incensed at them on account of their deeds; and for this reason he commanded you to be afflicted for a certain time, that they also might repent, and purify themselves from every desire of this world. When, therefore, they repent and are purified, then the angel of punishment will depart." I said to him, "Sir, if they have done such things as to incense the glorious angel against them, yet what have I done?" He replied, "They cannot be afflicted at all, unless you, the head of the house, be afflicted: for when you are afflicted, of necessity they also suffer affliction; but if you are in comfort, they can feel no affliction."

"Well, sir," I said, "they have repented with their whole heart." "I know, too," he answered, "that they have repented with their whole heart: do you think, however, that the sins of those who repent are remitted? Not altogether, but he who repents must torture his own soul, and be exceedingly humble in all his conduct, and be afflicted with many kinds of affliction; and if he endure the afflictions that come upon him, He who created all things, and endued them with power, will assuredly have compassion, and will heal him; and this will He do when He sees the heart of every penitent pure from every evil thing: and it is profitable for you and for your house to suffer affliction now. But why should I say much to you? You must be afflicted, as that angel of the Lord commanded who delivered you to me. And for this give thanks to the Lord, because He has deemed you worthy of showing you beforehand this affliction, that, knowing it before it comes, you may be able to bear it with courage." I said to him, "Sir, be thou with me, and I will be able to bear all affliction." "I will be with you," he said, "and I will ask the angel of punishment to afflict you more lightly; nevertheless, you will be afflicted for a little time, and again you will be re-established in your house. Only continue humble, and serve the Lord in all purity of heart, you and your children, and your house, and walk in my commands which I enjoin upon you, and your repentance will be deep and pure; and if you observe these things with your household, every affliction will depart from you. And affliction," he added, "will depart from all who walk in these my commandments."

 Post subject: Re: THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS (1st - mid 2nd century) Questions
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 11:24 am 
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With respect to the point concerning keeping the commandments, it's a defined doctrine of the Catholic Church (I realize you aren't Catholic) that:

    CANON XVIII.-If anyone says that the commandments of God are impossible to keep, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, let him be anathema.

Council of Trent, Session VI.

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