THE SECOND BOOK OF HERMAS, CALLED COMMANDS
1. When I had prayed at home, and was sitting on the bed, a
certain man come in to me with a reverent look, in the habit of a
shepherd, clothed with a white cloak, having his bag upon his
back, and his staff in his hand, and saluted me.
This introduces the personage after whom the
Shepherd of Hermas trilogy is named.
2. I returned his salutation, and immediately he sat down
by me and said to me, I am sent by that venerable messenger to
dwell with you all the remaining days of your life.
3. But I thought that he was come to test me, and said to
him, Who are you? For I know to whom I am committed. He said to
me, Do you not know me? I answered no. I am, he said, that
shepherd to whose care you are delivered.
4. While he was yet speaking, his shape was changed, and
when I knew that it was he to whom I was committed, I was ashamed
and a sudden fear came upon me, and I was utterly overcome with
sadness because I had spoken so foolishly to him.
5. But he said to me, Do not be ashamed, but receive
strength in your mind through the commands which I am about to
deliver to you. For, he said, I am sent to show to you all those
things again, which you have seen before, but especially such of
them as may be of most use to you.
6. And first of all write my Commands and Similitudes, the
rest you will so write as I shall show to you. But I therefore
bid you first of all write my Commands and Similitudes, that by
reading them often you may more easily observe them.
7. So I wrote his Commands and Similitudes, as he told me.
8. Which things if when you have heard, you will observe to
do them, and will walk according to them, and exercise yourselves
in them with a pure mind, you will receive from the Lord those
things he has promised to you.
9. But if having heard them you will not repent, but will
still go on to add to your sins, you will be punished by him.
10. All these things that Shepherd, the angel of
repentance, commanded me to write.
Of believing in one God.
1. First of all believe that there is one God who created
and framed all things of nothing into a being.
2. He comprehends all things, and only is immense, not to
be comprehended by any.
3. Who can neither be defined by any words, nor conceived
by the mind.
People have always tried to understand God by
comparing him with something already known: the sun,
nature, light, etc. In its lowest form this way of
thinking likened God to animals, totems, idols, etc.;
in its higher form it described God in terms of
abstract ideals, such as truth, justice, love, etc.
Even in Christian thought, this positive, or
"cataphatic" theology -- the "way of affirmation" --
must always be balanced and corrected by the employment
of negative language. Our positive statements about
God -- that He is good, wise, just and so on -- are
true as far as they go, yet they cannot adequately
describe the inner nature of the deity. These positive
statements, said John of Damascus, reveal "not the
nature, but the things around the nature." And, "That
there is a God is clear; but what He is by essence and
nature, this is altogether beyond our comprehension and
A clear understanding of "apophatic" or negative
theology -- the "way of negation" -- which was fully
developed in the mystical theology of the Orthodox
Church, took a long time to find adequate expression.
Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), Archbishop of
Thessalonica, turned to the problem of how to combine
the two affirmations: 1) man can know God, and, 2) God
is by nature unknowable. Gregory answered that we know
the energies of God, but not his essence. This
distinction went back to St. Basil the Great (A.D. 330-
379), one of the Cappadocian Fathers, who wrote: "We
know our God from His energies, but we do not claim
that we can draw near to His essence. For his energies
come down to us, but His essence remains
Gregory wrote: "God is not a nature, for He is
above all nature; He is not a being, for He is above
all beings.... No single thing of all that is created
has or ever will have even the slightest communion with
the supreme nature, or nearness to it."
But however remote from us in His essence, yet in
His energies God has revealed Himself to men. These
energies are not something that exists apart from God,
not a gift which God confers upon men: they are God
Himself in His action and revelation to the world. God
exists complete and entire in each of His divine
energies. Thus for Christians, God is absolutely
transcendent, personal and Trinitarian, and an
Gregory's teaching was upheld in councils at
Constantinople in 1341 and 1351, which, although local
and not Ecumenical, yet possess a doctrinal authority
in Orthodox Church theology. Western Christendom has
never accepted these two councils, nor all the
ramifications of theology of Palamas which lies behind
4. Therefore believe in him, and fear him; and fearing him
abstain from all evil.
5. Keep these things, and cast all lust and iniquity far
from you, and put on righteousness, and you will live to God, if
you will keep this commandment.
That we must avoid detraction, and do our alms-deeds with
1. He said to me, Be innocent and without disguise; so will
you be like an infant who knows no malice that destroys the life
2. Especially see that you speak evil of none, nor
willingly hear any one speak evil of any.
3. For if you do not observe this, you also who hear will
be a partaker of the sin of him that speaks evil, by believing
the slander, and you also will have sin, because you believed him
that spoke evil of your brother.
4. Detraction is a pernicious thing, an inconstant, evil
spirit that never continues in peace, but is always in discord.
Therefore refrain yourself from it, and keep peace evermore with
"Detraction" means belittling others.
5. Put on a holy constancy in which there are no sins, but
all is full of joy, and do good of your labors.
In the Greek reading preserved by Athanasius,
"constancy" is "simplicity," and "in which there are no
sins, but all is full of joy" is "in which there is no
evil offence, but all things smooth and delightful.
6. Give without distinction to all that are in need, not
doubting to whom you give.
Compare with: "Give to him that asketh thee, and
from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."
(Matthew 5:42); "...He that hath two coats, let him
impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat,
let him do likewise." (Luke 3:11); "But when thou doest
alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand
doeth." (Matthew 6:3)
7. But give to all, for God will have us give to all, of
all his own gifts. They therefore who receive will give an
account to God, both why they received and for what purpose.
8. And they who receive without a real need will give an
account for it, but he that gives will be innocent.
9. For he has fulfilled his duty as he received it from
God, not making any choice to whom he should give, and to whom
not. And this service he did with simplicity and to the glory of
In contrast to secular opinion, the teaching here
is that it is a worthy practice to give charitably
without concern over the recipient's worthiness, for
both the giver and the recipient will be judged by God.
10. Keep therefore this command according as I have
delivered it to you, and have a pure heart so that your
repentance may be found to be sincere, and that good may come to
Of avoiding lying, and the repentance of Hermas for his
1. In addition he said to me, Love truth, and let all the
speech that proceeds out of your mouth be true.
Compare with: "Ye shall not steal, neither deal
falsely, neither lie one to another." (Leviticus
19:11); "Lying lips (are] abomination to the Lord: but
they that deal truly [are] his delight." (Proverbs
12:22; see also 19:5, 9); "Lie not one to another,
seeing that ye have put off the old man with his
deeds." (Colossians 3:9); "But the fearful, and
unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and
whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all
liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth
with fire and brimstone; which is the second death."
2. That the Spirit which the Lord has given to dwell in
your body may be found true towards all men, and the Lord who has
given such a Spirit to you may be glorified, because God is true
in all his words, and in him there is no lie.
Compare with: "God forbid: yea, let God be true,
but every man a liar..." (Romans 3:4); "In hope of
eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised
before the world began." (Titus 1:2); "That by two
immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God
to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have
fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before
us." (Hebrews 6:18)
3. They therefore that lie, deny the Lord and become
robbers of the Lord, not rendering to God what they received from
4. For they received the Spirit free from lying; if
therefore they make that a liar, they defile what was committed
to them by the Lord, and become deceivers.
5. When I heard this, I wept bitterly. When he saw me
weeping, he said to me, Why do you weep? And I said, Because,
Sir, I doubt whether I can be saved.
6. He asked me, Why? I replied, Because Sir, I never spoke
a true word in my life, but always lived in dissimulation and
affirmed a lie for truth to all men, and no man contradicted me,
but all believed my words. How then can I live, seeing I have
done in this manner?
7. And he said to me, You think well and truly. For you
ought, as the servant of God, to have walked in the truth and not
have joined an evil conscience with the spirit of truth, nor have
grieved the holy and true Spirit of God.
8. And I replied to him, Sir, I never before paid attention
so diligently to these things. He answered, Now you hear them:
Take care from now on that even those things which you have
formerly spoken falsely for the sake of your business, may
receive credibility by your present truthfulness.
9. For even those things may be credible if for the time to
come you will speak the truth, and by so doing you may attain to
10. And whoever will listen carefully to this command, and
do it, and will depart from all lying, he will live to God.
Of putting away one's wife for adultery.
1. Furthermore, he said, I command you to keep yourself
chaste, and that you do not allow any thought of any other
marriage, or of fornication, to enter into your heart; for such a
thought produces great sin.
2. But be at all times mindful of the Lord, and you will
never sin. If such an evil thought arises in your heart, you
would be guilty of a great sin, for they who do such things
follow the way of death.
3. Look therefore to yourself, and keep yourself from such
a thought; for where chastity remains in the heart of a righteous
man, there an evil thought ought never to arise.
4. And I said to him, Sir, permit me to speak a little to
you. He allowed me to speak, so I answered, Sir, if a man who is
faithful in the Lord will have a wife, and will catch her in
adultery, does a man sin who continues to still live with her?
Compare with: "But I say unto you, That whosoever
shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of
fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and
whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth
adultery." (Matthew 5:32)
In contrast to the easy access to divorce under
the Mosaic Law, and because of the misuse of divorce in
that day, Christ repeatedly condemned divorce and
emphasized the eternal character of marriage. However,
the possibility of divorce on grounds of unchastity,
for example, clearly shows that Christ considered that
the marriage bond is not absolute; it can be destroyed
by sin. In contrast to the position of the Roman
Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church allows divorce as
a corrective measure of compassion when a marriage has
unfortunately been broken.
5. And he said to me, As long as he is ignorant of her sin,
he commits no fault in living with her; but if a man will know
his wife to have offended, and she will not repent of her sin,
but go on still in her fornication, and a man will continue
nevertheless to live with her, he will become guilty of her sin
and partake with her in her adultery.
6. And I said to him, What therefore is to be done if the
woman continues on in her sin? He answered, Let her husband put
her away and let him continue by himself. But if he will put
away his wife, and marry another man's wife, he also commits
7. And I said, What if the woman who is so put away will
repent and be willing to return to her husband, will she not be
received by him? He said to me, Yes, and if her husband will not
receive her, he will sin and commit a great offence against
himself; but he ought to receive the offender, if she repents,
only not often.
8. For to the servants of God there is but one repentance.
And for this reason a man who puts away his wife ought not to
take another, because she may repent.
9. This act is alike both in the man and in the woman. Now
they commit adultery, not only who pollute their flesh, but who
also make an image. If therefore a woman perseveres in anything
of this kind, and repents not, depart from her, and live not with
her, otherwise you also will be partaker of her sin.
Compare with: "And unto the married I command,
[yet] not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from
[her] husband: But and if she depart, let her remain
unmarried, or be reconciled to [her] husband: and let
not the husband put away [his] wife. But to the rest
speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that
believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him,
let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an
husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to
dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the
unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the
unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else
were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But
if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother
or a sister is not under bondage in such [cases]: but
God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O
wife, whether thou shalt save [thy] husband? or how
knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save [thy]
wife?" (1 Corinthians 7:10-16)
If a Christian couple cannot stay together, the
two alternatives are to remain unmarried, that is,
separated, or be reconciled. Paul even forbids
remarriage while the first spouse is still living, and
then only to another Christian: "The wife is bound by
the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her
husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to
whom she will; only in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 7:39;
see also Romans 7:2,3)
(The word "law" sometimes means God's moral law,
such as in the Ten Commandments, the Mosaic religious
ceremonial law, or civil Roman law; it is not always
clear which is meant. Christianity is the antithesis
of the Mosaic law, and civil law is relative to a
government, and may change over time.)
10. But it is therefore commanded that both the man and the
woman should remain unmarried because such persons may repent.
This is the entire rationale behind these
stringent requirements for Christians.
11. Nor do I in this administer any occasion for the doing
of these things, but rather that whoever has offended should not
offend any more.
12. But for their former sins, God who has the power of
healing will give a remedy, for he has the power of all things.
13. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] I
asked him again and said, Seeing the Lord has thought me worthy
that you should dwell with me continually, speak a few words to
me, because I understand nothing, and my heart is hardened
through my former way of life; open my understanding because I am
very dull and comprehend nothing at all.
14. And he answering said to me, I am the minister of
repentance and give understanding to all who repent. Does it not
seem to you to be a very wise thing to repent? Because he that
does so gets great understanding.
15. For he is cognizant that he has sinned and done
wickedly in the sight of the Lord and remembers within himself
that he has offended, repents and does no more wickedly, but does
that which is good, and humbles his soul and afflicts it. You
see therefore that repentance is great wisdom.
16. And I said to him, For this reason Sir, I inquire
diligently into all things because I am a sinner, that I may know
what I must do that I may live, because my sins are many.
17. And he said to me, You will live if you keep these my
commandments. And whoever will hear and do these commands will
live to God.
18. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] And I
said to him, I have even now heard from certain teachers that
there is no other repentance beside that of baptism, when we go
down into the water and receive the forgiveness of our sins; and
that after that, we must sin no more, but live in purity.
19. And he said to me, You have been rightly informed.
Nevertheless seeing now you inquire diligently into all things, I
will show this also to you: yet not so as to give any occasion of
sinning either to those who will believe in the future, or to
those who have already believed in the Lord.
20. For neither they who have newly believed, or who will
believe later, have any repentance of sins, but forgiveness of
21. But as to those who have been called to the faith and
since then fall into any gross sin, the Lord has appointed
repentance, because God knows the thoughts of all men's hearts,
and their infirmities, and the manifold wickedness of the devil,
who is always contriving something against servants of God and
maliciously lays snares for them.
For mention of the snares of the devil, see 1
Timothy 3:7, 6:9; 2 Timothy 2:26.
22. Therefore our merciful Lord had compassion towards his
creature and appointed that repentance, and gave to me the power
of it. And therefore I say to you if anyone, after that great
and holy calling, will be tempted by the devil and sin, he has
one repentance. But if he will often sin and repent, it will not
profit him, for he will hardly ever live to God.
23. And I said, Sir, I am restored again to life since I
have thus diligently hearkened to these commands. For I
understand that if I shall not add any more to my sins from now
on, I shall be saved.
24. And he said, You will be saved, and so will all others,
as many as will observe these commandments.
25. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] And
again I said to him, Sir, seeing you hear me patiently, show me
yet one thing more. He said, Tell me what it is.
26. And I said, If a husband or a wife dies, and the
surviving party marries again, does he sin in so doing? He that
marries, he said, does not sin. However if he remains single, he
will by that means gain to himself great honor before the Lord.
See Romans 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:40
27. Keep therefore your chastity and modesty, and you will
live to God. Observe from now on those things which I speak with
you and command you to observe, from the time that I have been
delivered to you to dwell in your house.
28. So will your former sins be forgiven, if you will keep
these my commandments. And in like manner will all others be
forgiven, who will observe these my commandments.
Of the sadness of the heart, and of patience.
1. Be patient, he said, and long-suffering, so you will
have dominion over all wicked works and fulfil all righteousness.
2. For if you will be patient, the Holy Spirit who dwells
in you will be pure and not be darkened by any evil spirit, but
being full of joy will be increased, and celebrate in the body in
which it dwells, and serve the Lord with joy, and in great peace.
3. But if any anger will overtake you, presently the Holy
Spirit who is in you will be thwarted and seek to depart from
4. For he is choked by the evil spirit, and does not have
the liberty of serving the Lord as he would; for he is grieved by
anger. When therefore both these spirits dwell together, it is
destructive to a man.
Both Athanasius and Antiochus add the following:
"For in forbearance (or long-suffering) the Lord
dwelleth, but in bitterness the Devil. However, this
is omitted in all other extant copies, and probably for
good reason, for nowhere else is it mentioned that the
Holy Spirit and the devil coexist in a Christian's
heart. Rather, the sense of the passage is that the
"evil spirit" refers to the human spirit harboring evil
anger (that is, against people, as opposed to
"righteous anger," against injustice).
5. As if one should take a little wormwood, and put it into
a vessel of honey, the whole honey would be spoiled; a great
quantity of honey is corrupted by a very little wormwood and
loses the sweetness of honey, and is no longer acceptable to its
Lord because the whole honey is made bitter and loses its use.
6. But if no wormwood be put into the honey, it is sweet
and profitable to its Lord. Thus forbearance is sweeter than
honey and profitable to the Lord who dwells in it.
7. But anger is unprofitable. If therefore anger will be
mixed with forbearance, the soul is distressed, and its prayer is
not profitable with God.
8. And I said to him, Sir, I would know the sinfulness of
anger, so that I may keep myself from it. And he said to me, You
will know it, and if you will not keep yourself from it, you will
lose your hope with all your house. Therefore depart from it.
9. For I the messenger of righteousness am with you; and
all who depart from it, as many as will repent with all their
hearts, will live to God, and I will be with them and will keep
The Shepherd, the angel of repentance, calls
himself also the messenger of righteousness.
10. For all who have repented have been justified by the
most holy messenger, who is a minister of salvation.
The "most holy messenger" likely refers to the
Holy Spirit, who is the actual "minister of salvation."
11. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] And
now, he said, hear the wickedness of anger, how evil and hurtful
it is, and how it overthrows the servants of God. It cannot hurt
those that are full of faith because the power of God is with
them, but it overthrows the doubtful and those that are destitute
12. For as often as it sees such men, it casts itself into
their hearts, and so a man or woman is in bitterness for nothing
other than for the things of life, or for sustenance, or for a
vain word that might come their way, or by reason of any friend,
or for a debt, or for any other superfluous things of the like
13. For these things are foolish and superfluous, and vain
to the servants of God. But equanimity is strong, vigorous, and
of great power, and sits in great authority; it is cheerful,
rejoicing in peace and glorifying God at all times with meekness.
Here the sense is fuller in the Greek text of
Athanasius and Antiochus: "Having nothing of bitterness
in itself, and continuing always in meekness and
14. And this long-suffering dwells with those that are full
of faith. But anger is foolish, and light, and empty. Now
bitterness is bred through folly; by bitterness, anger; by anger,
fury. And this fury arises from so many evil principles that it
works a great and incurable sin.
15. For when all these things are in the same vessel in
which the Holy Spirit dwells, the vessel cannot contain them but
runs over; and because the Spirit is tender and cannot abide with
the evil one, it departs and dwells with him that is meek.
16. When, therefore, it is departed from the man in whom it
dwelled, that man becomes destitute of the Holy Spirit, and is
afterwards filled with wicked spirits, and is blinded with evil
thoughts. Thus does it happen to all angry men.
In the Greek of Athanasius follows these words,
omitted in the Latin version of Hermas: "And is
unstable in all his doings, being drawn here and there
by wicked men."
17. Therefore depart from anger, resist wrath, and put on
equanimity so you will be found with modesty and chastity by God.
Take good heed therefore that you do not neglect this
In the Greek text of Athanasius the phrase "so you
will be found with modesty and chastity by God" reads:
"Applauded with reverence by those who are beloved of
18. For if you will obey this command, then also you will
be able to observe the other commandments that I shall command
19. For this reason strengthen yourself now in these
commands, so that you may live to God. And whoever will observe
these commandments will live to God.
That every man has two angels, and of the suggestions of both.
1. He said, I commanded you in my first commandments to
keep faith, fear, and repentance. Yes, Sir, I said.
2. He continued: But now I will show you the virtues of
these commands, that you may know their effects; how they are
prescribed alike to the just and unjust.
3. Therefore believe the righteous, but give no credit to
the unrighteous. For righteousness keeps the right way, but
unrighteousness the wicked way.
4. Therefore you keep the right way, and leave that which
is evil. For the evil way has not a good end, but has many
stumbling-blocks; it is rugged and full of thorns, and leads to
destruction; and it is hurtful to whoever walks in it.
5. But they who go in the right way walk with evenness and
without offence, because it is not rough nor thorny.
6. You see therefore how it is best to walk in this way.
You will therefore go through it, he said, and so will all
others, as many as believe in God with all their heart.
7. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] And
now, he said, understand first of all what belongs to faith.
There are two angels with man: one of righteousness, the other of
8. And I said to him, Sir, how shall I know that there are
two such angels with man? Hear, he said, and understand.
9. The angel of righteousness is mild and gentle, and
quiet. Therefore, when he gets into your heart, immediately he
talks with you of righteousness, of modesty, of chastity, of
bountifulness, of forgiveness, or charity, and piety.
10. When all these things come into your heart, know then
that the angel of righteousness is with you. Therefore pay
attention to this angel and to his works.
11. Learn also the works of the angel of iniquity. He is
first of all bitter, and angry, and foolish; his works are
pernicious, and overthrow the servants of God. When therefore
these things come into your heart, you will know by his works
that this is the angel of iniquity.
12. And I said to him, Sir, how shall I understand these
things? Hear, he said, and understand. When anger overtakes
you, or bitterness, know that he is in you:
13. As also, when the desire of many things and of the best
meats and of drunkenness, when the love of what belongs to
others, pride, and much speaking and ambition, and similar
things come upon you.
14. When therefore these things arise in your heart, know
that the angel of iniquity is with you. Seeing therefore you
know his works, depart from them all and give no credit to him,
because his works are evil and inappropriate for the servants of
15. Here therefore you have the works of both these angels.
Understand now and believe the angel of righteousness, because
his instruction is good.
16. For even if a man or woman is ever so happy, yet if the
thoughts of the other angel arise in his heart, that man or woman
must necessarily fall into sin.
The distinction made by later devotional writers
between "a thought of evil" and "an evil thought" is
blurred here and in many early texts. The holiest
people may have "a thought of evil" come unbidden to
mind, but it is regarded as a temptation to be
disowned; whereas, if it is welcomed and dwelled on, it
becomes "an evil thought," a temptation succumbed to.
17. No man or woman ever can be so wicked but that if the
works of the angel of righteousness come into their heart, that
man or woman must do some good.
18. You see therefore how it is good to follow the angel of
righteousness. If therefore you will follow him, and submit to
his works, you will live to God. And as many as will submit to
his work also will live to God.
That we must fear God, but not the Devil.
1. Fear God, he said, and keep his commandments. For if
you keep his commandments you will be powerful in every work, and
all your work will be excellent. For by fearing God, you will do
2. This is that fear with which you must be affected so
that you may be saved. But fear not the devil: for if you fear
the Lord, you will have dominion over the devil, because there is
no power in him.
Compare with: "Wherefore take unto ou the whole
armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the
evil day.... Above all, taking the shield of faith,
wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery
darts of the wicked." (Ephesians 6:13, 16); "Submit
yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he
will flee from you." (James 4:7)
3. Now if there is no power in him, then neither is he to
be feared. But he in whom there is excellent power, he is to be
feared: for everyone that has power is to be feared. But he that
has no power is despised by everyone.
4. Fear the works of the devil, because they are evil. For
by fearing the Lord, you will not do the works of the devil, but
keep yourself from them.
This verse is a perfect example of two definitions
of "fear." The first usage means to abhor, to have
dread of; the second means to be in reverential awe of.
5. There is therefore a two-fold fear: if you do not want
to do evil, fear the Lord and you will not do it. But if you
will do good, the fear of the Lord is strong, and great and
The Greek text of Antiochus has these words, which
make the connection clearer: "Fear also the Lord, and
you will be able to do it, for the fear of the Lord is
strong, and great and glorious."
6. Therefore fear God and you will live. And whoever will
fear him and keep his commandments, their life is with the Lord.
But they who do not keep them, neither is life in them.
That we must flee from evil, and do good.
1. I have told you, he said, that there are two kinds of
creatures of the Lord, and that there is a two-fold abstinence.
From some things therefore you must abstain, and from others not.
2. I answered, Declare to me, Sir, from what I must
abstain, and from what not. Listen, he said. Keep yourself from
evil, and do it not; but abstain not from good, but do it. For
if you will abstain from what is good and not do it, you will
sin. Abstain therefore from all evil, and you will know all
There are sins of commission, and sins of
omission. For the former, compare with: "For this is
the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that ye
should abstain from fornication.... Abstain from all
appearance of evil." (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 5:22);
"Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and
pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against
the soul." (1 Peter 2:11)
Regarding sins of omission, compare with:
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth
[it] not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)
3. I said, What evil things are they from which I must
abstain? Pay attention, he said: From adultery, from
drunkenness, from riots, from excess of eating, from daintiness
and dishonesty, from pride, from fraud, from lying, from
detraction, from hypocrisy, from remembrance of injuries, and
from all evil speaking.
Here "daintiness" refers to a finicky insistence
on eating only the most delectable foods. Compare
with: "Incline not my heart to [any] evil thing, to
practice wicked works with men that work iniquity: and
let me not eat of their dainties." (Psalm 141:4);
"...put a knife to thy throat, if thou [be] a man given
to appetite." (Proverbs 23:2); "And into whatsoever
city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as
are set before you." (Luke 10:8); "And he said unto his
disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought
for your life, what ye shall eat, neither for the body,
what ye shall put on." (Luke 12:22); "Whether therefore
ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the
glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31); "For every
creature of God [is] good, and nothing to be refused,
if it be received with thanksgiving." (1 Timothy 4:4)
4. For these are the works of iniquity from which the
servant of God must abstain. For he that cannot keep himself
from these things cannot live to God.
5. But hear, he said, what follows of these kinds of
things, for indeed there are many more from which the servant of
God must abstain: From theft, and cheating, from false witness,
from covetousness, from boasting, and all other similar things.
6. Do these things seem to you to be evil or not? Indeed
they are very evil to the servants of God. For this reason the
servant of God must abstain from all these works.
7. Keep yourself therefore from them, that you may live to
God and be written among those that abstain from them. And thus
have I shown you what things you must avoid; now learn from what
you must not abstain.
8. Abstain not from any good works, but do them. Hear, he
said, what the virtue of those good works is which you must do,
that you may be saved. The first of all is faith and the fear of
the Lord, then charity, concord, equity, truth, patience, and
9. There is nothing better than these things in the life of
men who will keep and do them. Hear next what follow these.
The sense in the Latin text here is defective, and
may be restored from the Greek of Athanasius: "Whoever
keeps these things, and does not abstain from them,
will be happy in his life."
10. To minister to the widows, not to despise the
fatherless and poor, to redeem the servants of God from
necessity, to be hospitable (for in hospitality there is
sometimes great fruit), not to be contentious, but be quiet.
11. To be humble above all men, to reverence the aged, to
labor to be righteous, to respect the brotherhood, to bear
affronts, to be long-suffering, not to cast away those that have
fallen from the faith, but to convert them, and make them be of
good cheer, to admonish sinners, not to oppress those that are
our debtors, and all other things of a like kind.
After "make them to be of good cheer," the Greek
of Athanasius and Antiochus adds: "Not to remember
injuries, to comfort those who labor [struggle] in
12. Do these things seem to you to be good or not? And I
said, What can be better than these words? Live then, he said,
in these commandments, and do not depart from them. For if you
will keep all these commandments, you will live to God. And all
they that will keep these commandments will live to God.
That we must ask of God daily, and without doubting.
1. Again he said to me, Remove from you all doubting, and
question nothing at all when you ask anything of the Lord, saying
within yourself, How shall I be able to ask anything of the Lord
and receive it, seeing I have so greatly sinned against him?
2. Do not do thus, but turn to the Lord with all your heart
and ask of him without doubting, and you will know the mercy of
the Lord, how that he will not forsake you, but will fulfil the
request of your soul.
3. For God is not as men, mindful of the injuries he has
received, but he forgets injuries, and has compassion upon his
4. For that reason purify your heart from all the vices of
this present world, and observe the commands I have before
delivered to you from God, and you will receive whatever good
things you will ask, and nothing will be lacking to you of all
your petitions, if you will ask of the Lord without doubting.
The Greek both of Athanasius and Antiochus adds:
"But if you doubt in your heart, you will receive none
of your petitions. For those who doubt God, are like
the double-minded, who will obtain none of these
5. But they that are not such, will obtain none of those
things which they ask. For they that are full of faith ask all
things with confidence, and receive from the Lord, because they
ask without doubting. But he that doubts, will hardly live to
God, except he repent.
6. For this reason purify your heart from doubting, and put
on faith, and trust in God, and you will receive all that you
will ask. But and if you should happen to ask somewhat and not
immediately receive it, yet do not therefore doubt just because
you have not presently received the petition of your soul.
7. For it may be you will not presently receive it for your
trial, or else for some sin which you know not. But do not stop
asking, and then you will receive. Else if you will cease to
ask, you must complain only of yourself and not of God, that he
has not given to you what you desired.
Compare with: "Ask, and it shall be given you;
seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened
unto you." (Matthew 7:7)
The words ask, seek, and knock are in the present
progressive tense in Greek, meaning to keep on asking,
to keep on seeking, to keep on knocking. (In the King
James Version the Greek present progressive tense is
translated by the "-eth" ending. Sometimes this is
important for a correct doctrinal understanding, such
as in 1 John 3:6, which reads: "Whosoever abideth in
him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him,
neither known him." It means whoever keeps on abiding
in him does not keep on sinning, etc.)
8. Consider therefore this doubting, how cruel and
pernicious it is, and how it utterly roots out many from the
faith, who were very faithful and firm. For this doubting is the
daughter of the devil, and deals very wickedly with the servants
9. Despise it therefore, and you will rule over it in
everything. Put on a firm and powerful faith, for faith promises
all things and perfects all things. But doubting will not
believe that it will obtain anything by all that it can do.
10. You see therefore, he said, how faith comes from above,
from God, and has great power. But doubting is an earthly spirit
and proceeds from the devil, and has no strength.
11. Therefore keep the virtue of faith, and depart from
doubting, in which is no virtue, and you will live to God. And
all will live to God, as many as do these things.
Of the sadness of the heart, and that we must take heed not to
grieve the Spirit of God that is in us.
1. Put all sadness far from you, for it is the sister of
doubting and of anger. How, Sir, I said, is it the sister of
these? For sadness and anger and doubting seem to me to be very
different from one another.
2. And he answered, Are you without sense that you do not
understand it? For sadness is the most mischievous of all
spirits, and the worst to the servants of God. It destroys the
spirits of all men and torments the Holy Spirit; and again, it
The Latin text does read "it destroys the spirits
of all men," but the Greek text of Athanasius is
better: "and destroys more than any other spirit."
3. Sir, I said, I am very foolish, and do not understand
these things. I cannot grasp how it can torment and yet save.
Hear, he said, and understand. They who never sought out the
truth nor inquired concerning the majesty of God, but only
believed, are involved in the affairs of the heathen.
Compare with: "For godly sorrow worketh repentance
to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of
the world worketh death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)
4. And there is another lying prophet that destroys the
minds of the servants of God, that is, of those that are
doubtful, not of those that fully trust in the Lord. Now those
doubtful persons come to him as to a divine spirit and inquire of
him what will befall them.
5. And this lying prophet, having no power of the divine
Spirit, answers them according to their demands and fills their
souls with promises according as they desire; that prophet is
vain, and answers vain things to those who are themselves vain.
6. And whatever is asked of him by vain men, he answers
them vainly. Nevertheless he speaks some things truly. For the
devil fills him with his spirit, that he may overthrow some of
The Bible recognizes that even a false prophet may
say some true things. Compare with: "If there arise
among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth
thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder
come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let
us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and
let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the
words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for
the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your
soul." (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)
"But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a
word in my name, which I have not commanded him to
speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods,
even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine
heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath
not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the
Lord, if the thing follow not, or come to pass, that
[is] the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, [but]
the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt
not be afraid of him." (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
7. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] Whoever
therefore are strong in the faith of the Lord and have put on the
truth, they are not joined to such spirits, but depart from them.
But they who are doubtful, and repenting often like the heathens,
consult them, and heap up to themselves great sin, serving idols.
8. As many therefore as inquire of them upon every
occasion, worship idols and are foolish and void of the truth.
9. For every spirit that is given from God does not need to
be asked because he has the power of divinity and speaks all
things of himself, because he comes from above, from the power of
10. But he who has been consulted and speaks according to
men's desires, and concerning many other affairs of the present
world, does not understand the things which relate to God. For
these spirits are darkened through such affairs, and corrupted
11. As good vines, if they are neglected, are oppressed
with weeds and thorns, and at last killed by them, so are the men
who believe such spirits.
12. They fall into many actions and businesses, and are
void of sense, and when they think of things pertaining to God,
they understand nothing at all; for if at any time they chance to
hear anything concerning the Lord, their thoughts are upon their
13. But they who have the fear of the Lord and search out
the truth concerning God, with all their thoughts towards the
Lord, grasp whatever is said to them, and understand it right
away because they have the fear of the Lord in them.
14. For where the spirit of the Lord dwells, there is also
much understanding added. For this reason join yourself to the
Lord, and you will understand all things.
15. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] Learn
now, O unwise man, how sadness troubles the Holy Spirit, and how
it saves. When a man who is doubtful is engaged in any affair
and does not accomplish it by reason of his doubting, this
sadness enters into him and grieves the Holy Spirit, and makes
16. Again, when anger overtakes any man for any business,
he is greatly moved with anger; then again sadness enters into
his heart and he is troubled for what he has done, and repents
because he has done amiss.
The Greek text of Athanasius reads: "and he does
something harmful, because he has done amiss."
17. This sadness therefore seems to bring salvation,
because he repents of his evil deed. But both the other things,
namely, doubting and sadness, before mentioned, vex the spirit:
doubting because his work did not succeed, and sadness because he
angered the Holy Spirit.
18. Remove therefore sadness from yourself, and do not
afflict the Holy Spirit which dwells in you, for fear he entreat
God and depart from you. For the Spirit of the Lord, who is
given to dwell in the flesh, endures no such sadness.
19. For this reason clothe yourself with cheerfulness,
which has always favor with the Lord, and you will rejoice in it.
For every cheerful man does well, and relishes those things that
are good, and despises sadness.
20. But the sad man does always wickedly. First, he does
wickedly, because he grieves the Holy Spirit who is given to man,
being of a cheerful nature. And again he does ill, because he
prays with sadness to the Lord and does not make first a thankful
acknowledgment to him of former mercies, and so does not obtain
of God what he asks.
21. For the prayer of a sad man does not always have
efficacy to come up to the altar of God. And I said to him, Sir,
why does not the prayer of a sad man have virtue to come up to
the altar of God? Because, he said, that sadness remains in his
22. When therefore a man's prayer will be accompanied with
sadness, it will not permit his requests to ascend pure to the
altar of God. For as wine when it is mingled with vinegar does
not possess the sweetness it had before, so sadness being mixed
with the Holy Spirit does not allow a man's prayer to be the same
as it would be otherwise.
23. So cleanse yourself from sadness, which is evil, and
you will live to God. And all others will live to God, as many
as will lay aside sadness and put on cheerfulness.
That the spirits and prophets are to be tried by their works; and
of a two-fold spirit.
1. He showed me certain men sitting upon benches, and one
sitting in a chair, and he said to me, Do you see those sitting
upon the benches? Sir, I said, I see them. He answered, They
are the faithful, and he who sits in the chair is an earthly
2. For he does not come into the assembly of the faithful,
but avoids it. But he joins himself to the doubtful and empty,
and prophesies to them in corners and hidden places, and pleases
them by speaking according to all the desires of their hearts.
3. For he, placing himself among empty vessels, is not
broken, but the one fits the other. But when he comes into the
company of just men who have the Spirit of God in them, and they
pray to the Lord, that man is emptied because that earthly spirit
flees from him, and he becomes mute and cannot speak anything.
4. As if in a storehouse you will stop up wine or oil, and
among those vessels will place an empty jar, and will afterwards
come to open it, you will find it as empty as when you stopped it
up; so these empty prophets, when they come among the spirits of
the just, are found to be such as they came.
5. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] I said,
How then will a man be able to discern them? Consider what I am
going to say considering both kinds of men, and as I speak to you
so will you prove the prophet of God, and the false prophet.
Compare with: "Beloved, believe not every spirit,
but try the spirits whether they are of God: because
many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that
confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of
God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus
Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is
that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that
it should come; and even now already is it in the
world." (1 John 4:1)
6. And first test the man who has the spirit of God,
because the spirit which is from above is humble and quiet, and
departs from all wickedness and the vain desires of the present
world, and makes himself more humble than all men, and answers to
none when he is asked, nor to every one singly: for the Spirit of
God does not speak to a man when he wants, but when God pleases.
7. When therefore a man who has the Spirit of God will come
into the church of the righteous who have the faith of God, and
they pray to the Lord, then the holy angel of God fills that man
with the blessed Spirit, and he speaks in the congregation as he
is moved of God.
8. Thus therefore is the Spirit of God known, because
whoever speaks by the Spirit of God, speaks as the Lord will.
9. Hear now concerning the earthly spirit, which is empty
and foolish, and without virtue. First of all, the man who is
supposed to have the Spirit, whereas he does not in reality,
exalts himself and desires to have the first seat, and is wicked
and full of words.
10. And spends his time in pleasure and in all manner of
voluptuousness, and receives the reward of his divination, which
if he does not receive, he does not divine.
11. Should the Spirit of God receive reward to divine? It
is not becoming for a prophet of God to do so.
12. Thus you see the life of each of these kind of
prophets. Therefore prove that man by his life and works, who
says that he has the Holy Spirit. And believe the Spirit which
comes from God, and has power as such. But do not believe the
earthly and empty spirit, which is from the devil, in whom there
is no faith nor virtue.
13. Hear now the similitude which I am about to speak to
you. Take a stone and throw it up towards heaven, or take a
spout of water and mount it upward, and see if you can reach to
14. Sir, I said, how can this be done? For neither of
those things which you have mentioned is possible. And he
answered, Therefore as these things cannot be done, so is the
earthly spirit without virtue, and without effect.
15. Understand further the power that comes from above in
this similitude. The grains of hail that drop down are
exceedingly small, and yet when they fall upon the head of a man,
how do they cause pain to it?
16. And again, consider the droppings off a house, how the
little drops falling upon the earth work a hollow in the stones.
17. So in like manner the least things which come from
above, and fall upon the earth, have great force. Therefore join
yourself to this Spirit who has the power, and depart from the
other which is empty.
Of a two-fold desire: that the commands of God are not
impossible, and that the devil is not to be feared by them who
1. Again he said to me, Remove from you all evil desires,
and put on good and holy desires. For having put on a good
desire, you will hate that which is evil, and bridle it as you
will. But an evil desire is dreadful and hard to be tamed.
2. It is very horrible and wild, and by its wildness
consumes men. And especially if a servant of God will chance to
fall into it, except he be very wise, he is ruined by it. For it
destroys those who have not the garment of a good desire and are
engaged in the affairs of this present world, and delivers them
3. Sir, I said, what are the works of an evil desire, which
bring men to death? Show them to me, that I may depart from
them. Hear, he said, by what works an evil desire brings the
servants of God to death.
4. First of all, it is an evil desire to covet another
man's wife, or for a woman to covet another's husband, as also to
desire the dainties of riches and multitude of superfluous meats,
and drunkenness, and many delights.
5. For in much delicacy there is folly, for many pleasures
are needless to the servants of God. Such lusting therefore is
evil and pernicious, which brings to death the servants of God.
For all such lusting is from the devil.
6. Whoever therefore will depart from all evil desires will
live to God, but they that are subject to them will die forever.
For this evil lusting is deadly. Therefore put on the desire of
righteousness, and being armed with the fear of the Lord, resist
all wicked lusting.
7. For this fear dwells in good desires, and when evil
coveting finds you armed with the fear of the Lord and resisting
it, it will fly far from you and not appear before you, but be
afraid of your armor.
8. And you will have the victory, and be crowned for it,
and will attain to that desire which is good, and will give the
victory which you have obtained to God, and will serve him in
doing what you yourself would do.
Compare with: "But thanks [be] to God, which
giveth us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ." (1
Corinthians 15:57); "For whatsoever is born of God
overcometh the world: and this is the victory that
overcometh the world, [even] our faith." (1 John 5:4)
9. For if you will serve good desires and be subject to
them, you will be able to get the dominion over your wicked
lustings, and they will be subject to you as you will.
10. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] And I
said, Sir, I would know how to serve that desire which is good.
Pay attention, he said, Fear God and put your trust in him, and
love truth and righteousness, and do that which is good.
11. If you will do these things, you will be an approved
servant of God, and will serve him. And all others who in the
same manner serve a good desire will live to God.
12. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] And
when he had fulfilled these twelve commands, he said to me, You
have now these commands: walk in them, and exhort those that hear
them to repent and to keep their repentance pure all the
remaining days of their life.
13. And fulfill diligently this ministry which I commit to
you, and you will receive great advantage by it, and will find
favor with all such as will repent and believe your words. For I
am with you, and will force them to believe.
14. And I said to him, Sir, these commands are great and
excellent, and able to cheer the heart of that man who will be
able to keep them. But, Sir, I cannot tell, whether they can be
observed by any man.
15. He answered, You will easily keep these commands, and
they will not be hard. Nevertheless, if you once allow it to
enter into your heart that they cannot be kept by anyone, you
will not fulfil them.
16. But now I say to you, if you will not observe these
commands, but will neglect them, you will not be saved, nor your
children, nor your house, because you have judged that these
commands cannot be kept by man.
17. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] These
things he spoke very angrily to me, to the extent that he greatly
frightened me. For he changed his countenance, so that a man
could not bear his anger.
18. And when he saw me altogether troubled and confounded,
he began to speak more moderately and cheerfully, saying, O
foolish, and without understanding!
19. Inconstant, not knowing the majesty of God, how great
and wonderful he is who created the world for man and made every
creature subject to him, and given him all power so he could be
able to fulfill all these commands.
20. He said, He who has the Lord in his heart is able to
fulfill all these commands, but they who have the Lord only in
their mouths and their heart is hardened, they are far from the
Lord. To such persons these commands are hard and difficult.
21. If you who are empty and light in the faith put the
Lord your God in your hearts, you will perceive how that nothing
is easier than these commands, nor more pleasant, nor more gentle
Compare with: "Come unto me, all [ye] that labor
and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my
yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly
in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For
my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew
22. And turn yourselves to the Lord your God, and forsake
the devil and his pleasures because they are evil, and bitter,
and impure. And fear not the devil, because he has no power over
23. For I am with you, the messenger of repentance, who
have the dominion over him. The devil does indeed frighten men,
but his terror is vain. For this reason fear him not, and he
will flee from you.
Compare with: "Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James
24. And I said to him, Sir, hear me speak a few words to
you. He answered, Go ahead. A man indeed desires to keep the
commandments of God, and there is no one but what prays to God,
that he may be able to keep his commandments.
25. But the devil is hard, and by his power rules over the
servants of God. And he said, He cannot rule over the servants
of God who trust in him with all their hearts.
26. The devil may strive, but he cannot overcome them.
27. For if you resist him, he will flee away with confusion
from you. But they who are not full in the faith, fear the devil
as if he had some great power. For the devil tests the servants
of God, and if he finds them empty, he destroys them.
28. For as man, when he fills up vessels with good wine,
and among them puts a few vessels half full, and comes to try and
taste of the vessels, does not try those who are full, because he
knows that they are good, but tastes those that are half full,
fearing they might have grown sour, for vessels half full soon
grow sour, and lose the taste of wine, so the devil comes to the
servants of God to try them.
29. They who are full of faith resist him stoutly, and he
departs from them, because he finds no place where to enter into
them. Then he goes to those who are not full of faith, and
because he has a place of entrance, he goes into them and does
what he will with them, and they become his servants.
30. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscript] But I,
the angel of repentance, say to you, fear not the devil, for I am
sent to you so that I may be with you, as many as will repent
with your whole heart, and that I may confirm you in the faith.
31. Believe therefore, you who by reason of your
transgressions have forgotten God and your own salvation, and by
adding to your sins have made your life very heavy.
32. That if you will turn to the Lord with your whole
hearts and will serve him according to his will, he will heal you
of your former sins, and you will have dominion over all the
works of the devil.
33. Do not then be afraid in the least of his threatenings,
for they are without force, as the nerves of a dead man. But
listen to me and fear the Lord Almighty, who is able to save and
to destroy you; keep his commands, so that you may live to God.
34. And I said to him, Sir, I am now confirmed in all the
commands of the Lord while you are with me, and I know that you
will break all the power of the devil.
35. And we also will overcome him, if we shall be able,
through the help of the Lord, to keep these commands which you
36. You will keep them, he said, if you will purify your
heart towards the Lord. And all they also will keep them who
will cleanse their hearts from the vain desires of the present
world, and will live to God.