Hermas one of the so-called apostolical fathers (q.v.), the supposed author of a tract that has come down to us under the name of Ποιμήν, The Shepherd, and generally designated by the title Pastor Hermae. The authorship. of the tract is uncertain, but it is clearly not the work of the Hermas ( ῾Ερμᾶς) mentioned in Ro 16:14, as Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome believed, and as the tract itself seems to pretend. The author appears to have been a layman of the 2nd century, probably a Roman tradesman "who had lost his wealth through his own sins and the misdeeds of his neglected sons" (Hilgenfeld; Schaff, History of the Church, § 121). Others ascribe it to Hermas or Hermes, brother of Pins, bishop of Rome from A.D. 142 to 157. Of the Greek original we have nothing left but fragments, which are given in Fabricius, Cod. Apocryph. N. Test. 3, 378, and in Grabe, Spicileg. 1, 303. M. d'Abbadie claims (1860) to have discovered a third in Ethiopia, which he has transcribed and translated into Latin (Lpz. 1860); but whether the text from which it is taken is correct is a matter for further investigation. The Greek text was at an early period translated into Latin, and, since the beginning of the 15th century, often published (Paris, 1513, fol.; Strasb. 1522, 4to; Basle, 1555 and 1569, fol.; Oxford, 1685, 12mo; with additions by Le Clerc, Amst. 1698, 1724; Paris, 1715, 12mo). It is also inserted in the various collections of the fathers in Cotelier, Patres cevi apostolici (Paris, 1672, fol.), and in French in Desprez's Bible (Paris, 1715, fol. vol. 4). It is also given in the various editions of the Apostolical Fathers (q.v.). Of late years this tract has been the subject of more editing and literary criticism than almost any relic of the early Church. In 1857 Dressel published at Leipzig a new Latin translation of the Pastor which he found in a MS. at Rome, and which differs from the other. The edition contains also a Greek text of the φλοθστᾷ, revised by Tischendorf. This text, it is claimed, was found in a, convent of Mount Athos by Simonides. Tischendorf considers it, however, only as a retranslation from the Latin into Greek, and places its origin in the Middle Ages. Tischendorf himself discovered, in the Codex. Sinaiticus, the Greek text of book 1 of the Shepherd, and the first four chapters of book 2; this is given in the recent edition of Dressel, Patres Apost. (Lips. 1863); also by Hilgenfeld, who has carefully edited the Pastor Hermae in his Nov. Test. extra Canuonern receptum (fasc. 3, Lips. 1866). The Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. 1 (Edinb. 1867), contains a new and good translation of the Shepherd, following the text of Hilgenfeld, who makes use of the text found in the Sinaitic Codex.
The Pastor is written in the form of a dialogue, and is divided into three parts: 1 Visiones; 2. Mandata; 3. Similitudines. Hermas, in his childhood, had been brought up with a young slave. In after life, and when he was married, he met her again, and experienced for her a passion which, however pure in itself, was yet forbidden by the Church under the circumstances. Soon afterwards the young slave died. One day, as Hermas was wandering in the country, thinking of her, he sat down and fell asleep. "During my sleep," says he, "my mind carried me away to a steep path, which I found great difficulty in ascending on account of rocks and streams. Arriving on a piece of table-land, I knelt down to pray; and as I was praying the heavens opened, and I saw the young maiden I was wishing for, who saluted me from the sky, saying, 'Good day, Hermas.' And I, looking at her, answered, 'What art thou doing there?' 'I have been called here,' she answered, 'to denounce thy sins before the Lord.' 'What!' exclaimed I, 'and wilt thou accuse me?' 'No; but listen to me...' etc. The conversation goes on with a blending of severity and tenderness. "Pray to the Lord," says the young girl, as she disappears from his sight; "he will heal thy soul, and will efface the sins of all thy house, as he has done those of all the saints." One cannot help noticing the striking similarity which exists between this Vision and the celebrated passage in the Divina Commedia where Beatrice appears to Dante. This vision is followed by three others. They are all invitations to penitence, and though in the first it appears as if the invitation was especially directed to Hermas, it clearly applies also to the Church in general. This becomes more evident in the following visions.
The Mandata begin also with a vision. An angel appears to Hermas under the form of a shepherd, wearing' a white cloak, and bearing a staff in his hand. This shepherd is the angel of penitence, and gives Hermas twelve precepts, which embrace the rules of Christian morals. They are given under the different headings:
1. Defide in unum Deum;
2. Defugienda obt-rectatione, et eleemosynafacienda in simplicitate;
3. De fugiendo mendacio.;
4. De dinittenda adultera;
5. De tristitia cordis et patientia;
6. De dgnoscendis uniuscujusque hominis luobus geziis et utriusque inspirationibus;
7. De Deo timendo et daemone non timendo;
8. Declinandum est a malo et facienda bona;
9. Postulandum a Deo assidue et sine haesitatione;
10. De animi tristitia et non contristando Spiritum Dei, qui in nobis est;
11. Spiritus et prophetas probari ex operibus, et de duplici spiritu;
12. De duplici cupiditate. Dei mandata non esse impossibilia et diabolum non meetutendum credentibus.
The Similitudines, finally, are a series of parables and allegories. The vine, with its rich fruits and flexible boughs, is used to symbolize the fruitfulness of the Church. The willow is made the emblem of divine law. This latter image is made by Hermas the ground of a most graceful allegory. Similitudines 1 to 4 are short and simple images or descriptions; Simil. 5 to 9 are visions of the approaching completion of the Church, 'and of judgment as well as invitations to penitence on that account; Simil. 10, finally, is a sort of conclusion of the whole.
This work was perhaps the most popular book in the Christian Church of the 2nd and 3nd centuries. Yet, while it pleased the masses, it did not always satisfy the teachers. Irenmaus (adv. Haer. 4, 3), Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 1, 29), and Origen (Explan. Epist. ad Romans 16) held it in high estimation. Eusebius asserts (Hist. Eccles. 3, 3) that many other ecclesiastical writers contested its authenticity. Jerome, after praising Hermas in his Chronicon, accuses him of foolishness (stultitia) in his Comment. in Habakkuk (1, 1), and Tertullian treats him no better, designating the book as apocryphal in De Pudicit. (10). The learned Duguet, in his Conferences ecclesiastiques (1, 7), even claims to find in the Pastor the germ of all heresies which troubled the Church in the 2nd century. Others among modern theologians, and especially Mosheim, have violently attacked the Pastor, and considered Hermas as an impostor. The book "knows little of the Gospel, and less of justifying faith; on the contrary, it talks much of the law of Christ and of repentance, enjoins fasting and voluntary poverty, and teaches the merit, even the supererogatory merit, of good works, and the sin-atoning virtue of martyrdom" (Schaff, 1. c.). See Gratz, Disquisitio in Past. Hermae (Bonn, 1820); Hefele, Patr. Apost. Prolegomena; Hilgenfeld, Apost. Vater (Halle, 1853); Cave, Hist. literaria; Fabricius, Bibl. Graeca, 7, 18; Tillemont, Memoires eccles. vol. 2, May 9th; Dom. Ceillier, Hist. des Auteurs sacrae et eccles. 1, 582; Hosheim, Comment. 1, 208-9; Neander, Ch. Hist. 1, 660, Iase, Ch. Hist. § 39 and Appendix; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Géneralé, 24, 371; Schaff, Church History, § 121; Bunsen, Christianity and Mlci2mkind, 1, 182; E. Gaab, Der Hirt d. Hermas (Basel, 1866, 8vo); Zahn, Der Hirt d. Hermas untersucht (Gotha, 1868, 8vo); Alzog, Patrologie, § 19; Lipsius, in Zeitsch rift J Wissenschftliche Theologie, 1865, heft 3; Hilgenfeld, Delr Hirt d. Hermcas u. sein neuester Bearbeiter, in Zeitsch f. Wiss. Theol. 1869, heft 2; Lipsius (in same journal, 1869, heft 3), Die Polenzik eines Apologeten (a severe review of Zahn's Hernmas).