The Shepherd of Hermas – What is it? Should the Shepherd of Hermas be in the Bible?

The Shepherd of Hermas is a Christian written work typically dated to the second century that relies heavily upon allegory and visions to communicate the importance of faithfulness to God. While it was not affirmed as part of the New Testament writings, it was included in one important early copy of the Greek Bible called Codex Sinaiticus. It attained some notable attention in some theological circles in early church history, though by the time of Jerome's translation of the Latin Vulgate around AD 400 he stated that the work was "almost unknown" to the Western Church.

The book itself consists largely of five visions given to a man named Hermas who is described as a freed slave. These visions are followed by a series of 12 commandments and then 10 parables that express a variety of ideas consistent with other writings of the time period. The date of writing assigned to the Shepherd of Hermas is typically based on the book's seeming awareness of the Book of Revelation and its mention of Clement of Rome. The Muratorian Canon mentioned the Shepherd of Hermas at approximately AD 170, calling it a book full of mistakes. Some ancient sources attribute the work to Pius 1 (bishop of Rome from 140—155). If so, then the book would have most likely been composed during this time.

The name of the book is found in one of its visions. In it, Hermas is visited by an angel of repentance who appears as a shepherd. This shepherd also gives certain commands to Hermas to obey.

One interesting aspect of the Shepherd of Hermas is that it appears to support a premillennial understanding of the end times. In other words, this work presents the return of Jesus prior to the prophesied millennial reign. At the very least, it provides evidence that this view was discussed and popularized in writings outside of the Bible from the second century.

While the Shepherd of Hermas was popular in some churches, it is clear that as early as about AD 170 early church leaders had rejected it from the inspired New Testament writings. Its inclusion in the Codex Sinaiticus is certainly significant, yet does not mean that the scribes who copied it even agreed the writing was inspired.

Those 27 books of the New Testament that were affirmed as authoritative and inspired were agreed upon at an early stage by church leaders, though some debate remained regarding a few books until the fourth century. Despite the ancient composition and notoriety of the book, it was never accepted, nor should it be accepted now, as one of the books of the New Testament.

Related Truth:

What is the canon of the Bible and how did we get it?

What are the Catholic Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical books?

The Gnostic gospels – What are they?

What is the Millennium / Millennial Kingdom?

What is going to happen in the end times?

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