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THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS (1st-2nd Cent.) 2 Questions on Praying in Grief & Collective Guilt

Discussion in 'One Bread, One Body - Catholic' started by rakovsky, Jun 20, 2019.

  1. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

    Eastern Orthodox
    The Shepherd of Hermas presents itself as Hermas of Rome's account of his visions of Christ in the form of a shepherd. The Muratorian Fragment (2nd to 3rd century) says that it was written "very recently" 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. In the course of reading it, some questions arose for me about it. And since the text was written by a Roman Christian, I would like to please ask a few of them here on the Catholic forum.

    Roberts' and Donaldson's translation can be found here: The Shepherd of Hermas (Roberts-Donaldson translation)
    K. Lake's translation is here: The Apostolic Fathers
    (On a sidenote, I made an earlier post asking whether the Shepherd of Hermas was a long record of real visions or an extended allegory here: What reasons are there to think that the Shepherd of Hermas was a literal vision or was fictional?)

    (Question 1) What do you think about the Shepherd's claim that the prayers of sorrowful or mournful people don't go to God?
    In Book II, Commandment 10, the Shepherd says that grief is good to the extent that it brings repentance:
    But then the Shepherd tells the narrator:
    Lake's translation has:
    How about the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53:3: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of maḵ-’ō-ḇō-wṯ (sorrows/griefs/pains), and acquainted with ḥō-lî (affliction/sickness/grief): and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
    And John 11, on Jesus' mourning over Lazarus,
    "34. “Where have you laid him?” He asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they answered. 35. Jesus wept. 36. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
    And Luke 19:41, "As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it"?
    Doesn't the claim that the sorrowful or mournful man always acts wickedly and that his prayer won't go to God contradict these verses?

    (Question 2) (A) According to the Seventh Similitude (below), a punishing angel afflicted the narrator as head of his household for his household's sins, and not the other way around. (ie, the angel did not punish the narrator's children for his sins, which the Shepherd said were not so great). (B) Next, the Shepherd claims that the fully repentant are not forgiven immediately and must still be afflicted. Do these two statements by the Shepherd sound right?

    In Similitude VII, the Shepherd says:
    Let's look at this more closely, using K. Lake's translation for comparison. Book III, Similitude VII begins:
    So in the passage above, the Shepherd is telling the narrator that he punished the narrator, not because of the narrator's sins, but in order to punish his household, which had greatly sinned, and thereby to bring them to repent and to purify them. The Shepherd claims that this is the only way to punish the narrator's household, because, he claims, "when you are afflicted, of necessity they also suffer affliction; but if you are in comfort, they can feel no affliction." Does this sound right?

    I guess that there could be some special, extremely rare features of the narrator and his family that would make such a situation true in their case. Like maybe the narrator is the only thing in the world that his family cares about. But it seems like in a lot of families the parents could be afflicted (eg. grieve or feel more burdened) if their children are afflicted (eg. get sick). Job would be a case of this alternative situation, since God afflicted him by hurting his family.

    The chapter continues:
    So the Shepherd (Christ) knows that the family repented with all their heart, but the Shepherd (Christ) still says "you must be afflicted". And he says that those who repent are not forgiven immediately, but still must different suffer afflictions.
    Does this sound right?
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2019
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  2. Lords Man

    Lords Man Active Member

    United States
    The Shepherd of Hermas, which I have read, is non-canonical for very good reasons. Check this out.
  3. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

    Eastern Orthodox
    Lord's Man,
    Thank you for replying. One of the best reasons that it is non-canonical is that it was not written by an apostle. I don't think that even the Hermas whom Paul mentions in Romans is an apostle. I think that the text has alot of challenges, and that the article that you pointed to did a good job addressing the easy misreading of the text about Christ's own holy Spirit. Some people misread the text as Adoptionist because they think that it's referring to The Holy Spirit (third person of the Trinity) going into Christ. Let me tell you my guess in the next message about how one could answer Question 1.
  4. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

    Eastern Orthodox
    Regarding Question 1 above (about the prayers of the mournful not reaching the altar in Book II, Commandment 10), the author of the Shepherd is certainly drawing from James 1 about joy while under tribulation and from Revelation 8:3 about the angel who delivers prayers from the saints to God's altar.
    A reader could interpret the passage in Book II, Commandment 10 this way:
    Sorrow is good when it causes a bad person to repent. A person who repents can become joyful. But the prayers of a sorrowful person do not go to the altar of God, and therefore, the person is always acting badly in two ways: his affliction afflicts the Spirit and his prayers are weak and are not received at the altar of God. At the same time, the author does not deny that God hears the prayers, or that He can respond to them.

    The main weakness that I see in this passage is that the author does not reveal the basis for his assertion that the prayers of the sorrowful are not received at the altar. Like I said, I think that the author is basing his assertions on James 1, but even James does not declare these conclusions. Have a look at Psalm 51:17 (KJV): "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." With this kind of wording, calling the broken spirit a "sacrifice", the language in the Psalm is certainly using images associated with the altar.