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Third Book of Hermas,
Called Similitudes


The greatest mysteries of the militant and triumphant church which is to be built.

1. After I had written the Commands and Similitudes of the Shepherd, the Angel of Repentance, he came to me and said, I will show you all those things that the angel spoke with you under the figure of the Church. For that Spirit is the Son of God.
2. And because you were weak in body, it was not declared to you by the angel until you were strengthened by the Spirit and increased in force so you could also see the angel.
3. For then indeed the building of the tower was very well and gloriously shown to you by the Church; nevertheless you saw all things shown to you as it were by a virgin.
4. Now you are enlightened by the angel, but yet by the same Spirit. But you must consider all things diligently, for therefore I am sent into your house by that venerable messenger, so that when you will have seen all things powerful, you may not be afraid as before.
5. And he led me to the ascent of a mountain in Arcadia, and we sat upon its top. And he showed me a great plain, and about it twelve mountains in different figures.
6. The first was black as soot. The second was smooth, without herbs. The third was full of thorns and thistles. The fourth had herbs half dried, of which the upper part was green, but that next to the root was dry; and when the sun grew hot, some of the herbs were dry.
7. The fifth mountain was very rugged, but yet had green herbs. The sixth mountain was full of clefts, some lesser and some greater; and in these clefts grew grass, not flourishing, but which seemed to be withering.
8. The seventh mountain had delightful pasture and was wholly fruitful, and all kinds of cattle and the birds of heaven fed upon it; and the more they fed of it, the more and better the grass grew.
9. The eighth mountain was full of fountains, and from those fountains were watered all kinds of the creatures of God. The ninth mountain had no water at all, but was wholly destitute of it and nourished deadly serpents, and was destructive to men.
10. The tenth mountain was full of tall trees and altogether shady, and under the shade of them lay cattle resting and chewing the cud.
11. The eleventh mountain was full of the thickest trees, and those trees seemed to be loaded with several sorts of fruits, that whoever saw them could not choose but desire to eat of their fruit.
12. The twelfth mountain was altogether white and of a most pleasant aspect, which gave it a most excellent beauty.
13. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] In the middle of the plain he showed me a huge white rock that rose out of the plain, and the rock was higher than those mountains, and was square, so that it seemed capable of supporting the whole world.
14. It looked to me to be old, yet it had in it a new gate, which seemed to have been newly hewn out in it. Now that gate was bright beyond the sun itself, so much that I greatly admired at its light.
15. Around the gate stood twelve virgins, of which four who stood at the corners of the gate seemed to me to be the chiefest, although the rest were also of worth.
16. It added also to the grace of those virgins that they stood in pairs, clothed with linen garments and decently attired, their right arms being at liberty as if they were about to lift up some burden, for so they were adorned and exceeding cheerful and ready.
17. When I saw this, I wondered with myself to see such great and noble things. And again I admired upon the account of those virgins, that they were so handsome and delicate, and stood with such firmness and constancy as if they would carry the whole heaven.
18. And as I was thinking thus within myself, the shepherd said to me, What are you thinking within yourself to be so disquieted and filled with care?
19. Do not seem to consider, as if you were wise, what you do not understand, but pray to the Lord that you may have ability to understand it. What is to come you cannot understand, but you can see what is before you.
20. Be not therefore disquieted at those things which you cannot see, but get the understanding of those which you see.
21. Forbear to be curious, and I will show you all things that I ought to declare to you; but first consider what yet remains.
22. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And when he had said this to me I looked up, and behold I saw six tall and venerable men coming. Their countenances were all alike, and they called a certain multitude of men, and they who came at their call were also tall and stout.
23. And those six commanded them to build a certain tower over that gate. And immediately there began to be a great noise of those men who came together to build the tower, running here and there about the gate.
24. But those virgins who stood about the gate perceived that the building of the tower was to be hastened by them. And they stretched out their hands, as if they were to receive something from them to do.
25. Then those six men commanded that they should lift up stones out of a certain deep place and prepare them for the building of the tower. And there were lifted up ten white stones, square and not cut round.
26. Then those six men called the ten virgins to them and commanded them to carry all the stones that were to be put into the building through the gate to deliver them to those that were about to build the tower.
27. Immediately all the virgins began together to lift up those stones that had been taken out of the deep.
28. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And they who also stood about the gate carried stones in such a manner that those stones which seemed to be the strongest were laid at the corners, and the rest were put into the sides.
29. And thus they carried all the stones, bringing them through the gate and delivering them to the builders, as they had been commanded. These received them from their hands and built with them.
30. But this building was made upon that great rock, and over the gate, and by these the whole tower was supported. The building of the ten stones filled the whole gate, which began to be made for the foundation of that tower.
31. After those ten stones, five and twenty others rose up out of the deep, and these were lifted up by those virgins and placed in the building of the same tower, as the others had been before.
32. After these five and thirty others rose up, and these were also in the same way fitted into the same work. Then forty other stones were brought up, and all these were added to the building of that tower.
33. So there began to be four ranks in the foundation of that tower, and the stones ceased to rise out of the deep, and they who built rested a little.
34. Again those six men commanded the multitude to bring stones out of those twelve mountains for the building of the same tower.
35. So they cut out of all the mountains stones of different colors and brought them and gave them to the virgins, who received them and carried and delivered them into the building of the tower,
36. In which, when they were built, became white and different from what they were like before, for now they had changed their former colors and were all alike. But some were carried up by the men themselves, and when they came into the building, they remained just as they were put in.
37. These neither became white nor different from what they were before, because they were not carried by the virgins through the gate. For this reason these stones were disagreeable in the building. When those six men perceived it, they commanded them to be removed and put again in the place from which they were brought.
38. And they said to those who brought those stones, Do not reach up to us any stones for this building, but lay them down by the tower, so these virgins may carry them and reach them up to us.
39. Do not labor in vain, for unless they will by carried by these virgins through this gate, they cannot change their colors.
40. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Although the building that day was done, the tower was not finished. It was to be built afterwards, but now there was some delay.
41. And these six men commanded those that built to depart, and as it were to rest for some time, but they ordered those virgins that they should not depart from the tower; it seemed to me they were to be left to guard it.
42. When all were departed, I said to that shepherd, Sir, why is not the building of the tower finished? He said, Because it cannot be finished until its Lord comes and approves of the building, so if he finds any stones in it that are not good, they may be changed, for this tower is built according to his will.
43. Sir, I said, I would know what the building of this tower signifies, as also I would be informed concerning this rock, and this gate.
44. And concerning the mountains, and the virgins, and the stones that rose out of the deep and were not cut, but put into the building just as they came forth, and why the ten stones were first laid in the foundation, then the twenty-five, then thirty- five, then forty?
45. Also concerning these stones that were put into the building, and again taken out, and carried back into their place. I pray you to fulfill the desire of my soul as to all these things and reveal all to me.
46. And he said to me, If you will not be dull, you will know all, and will see all the other things that are about to happen in this tower, and will understand diligently all these similitudes.
47. And after a few days we came into the same place where we had sat before, and he said to me, Let us go to the tower, for the Lord of it will come and examine it.
48. So we went there and found none but those virgins there. And he asked them whether the Lord of that tower had been there, and they replied that he would be there presently to examine the building.
49. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] After a very little while I saw a great multitude of men coming, and in the middle of them a man so tall that he surpassed the tower in greatness.
50. About him were those six who before had given commands for the building, and all the rest of those who had built that tower, and many others of great dignity. The virgins who guarded the tower ran to meet him, and kissed him, and began to walk near to him.
51. But he examined the building with so much care that he handled every stone, and struck every one with a rod he held in his hand.
52. Some being so struck turned black as soot, others were rough, some looked as if they had cracks in them, others seemed maimed, some were neither black nor white, some looked sharp, and did not match with the other stones, and others were full of blemishes.
53. These were the kinds of those stones that were not found proper in the building; all of which the Lord commanded to be taken out of the tower and laid near it, and other stones to be brought and put in their places.
54. And they who built, asked him from which of the mountains he would have stones brought to replace those that were laid aside. But he forbad them to bring any from the mountains, and commanded that they should take some out of a certain field that was near.
55. So they digged in the field and found many bright square stones, and some also that were round. Nevertheless, all that were found in that field were taken away, and carried through the gate by those virgins; and those of them that were square were fitted and put into the places of those that had been pulled out.
56. But the round ones were not put into the building, because they were hard, and it would have required too much time to cut them. But they were placed about the tower, as if they should later be cut square and put into the building, for they were very white.
57. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] When he who was chief in dignity and lord of the whole tower saw this, he called to him the shepherd who was with me and gave him the stones that were rejected and laid about the tower, and said to him, Cleanse these stones with all care, and fit them into the building of the tower, so that they may agree with the rest; but those that will not suit with the rest, cast away afar off from the tower.
58. When he had thus commanded him, he departed with all those that came with him to the tower; but those virgins still stood about the tower to guard it.
59. And I said to that shepherd, How can these stones, seeing they have been rejected, return into the building of this tower? He replied, I will cut off the greatest part from these stones and will add them to the building, and they will agree with the rest.
60. And I said, Sir, how will they be able to fill the same place, when they will be so much cut away? He answered, They that will be found too little will be put into the middle of the building, and the larger will be placed outside to keep them in.
61. When he had said this to me, he added, Let us leave, and after three days we will return, and I will put these stones, being cleansed, into the tower.
62. For all these that are around the tower must be cleansed, for fear the master of the house happens to come suddenly and find those which are about the tower unclean, and be exasperated because these stones should never be put into the building of this tower, and I shall be looked upon to have been unmindful of my master's commands.
63. When therefore we came after three days to the tower, he said to me, Let us examine all these stones and see which of them may go into the building. I answered, Sir, let us see.
64. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And we began first of all to consider those which had been black, for they were found just such as they had been when they were pulled out of the tower. For this reason he commanded them to be removed from the tower and put by themselves.
65. Then he examined those which had been rough, and commanded many of those to be cut round and fitted by the virgins into the building of the tower. So they took them and fitted them into the middle of the building; and he commanded the rest to be laid by with the black ones, for they also were become black.
66. Next he considered those which were full of cracks, and many of those also he ordered to be pared away, and so to be added to the rest of the buildings by the same virgins.
67. These were placed outside because they were found undamaged; but the residue that could not be reformed because of the multitude of their cracks were therefore cast away from the building of the tower.
68. Then he considered those that had been maimed: many of these had cracks and were become black, others had large clefts; these he commanded to be placed with those that were rejected.
69. But the rest, being cleansed and reformed, he commanded to be put in the building. These therefore those virgins took up and fitted into the middle of the building, because they were weak.
70. After these he examined those which were found half white and half black, and many of those were now black; these also he ordered to be laid among those that were cast away.
71. The rest were found altogether white; those were taken up by the virgins because they were found whole, and fitted into the same tower and put in the outside so they might keep in those that were placed in the middle, for nothing was cut off from them.
72. Next he looked upon those which had been hard and sharp, but few of these were made use of, for they were found very hard and could not be cut. But the rest that were weaker were formed and fitted by the virgins into the middle of the building.
73. Then he considered those which had spots; a few were found black and were carried to their fellows. The rest were white and entire; they were fitted by the virgins into the building and placed in the outside because of their strength.
74. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] After this he came to consider those stones which were white and round, and he said to me, What shall we do with these stones? I answered, Sir, I cannot tell.
75. He replied, Can you think of nothing then for these? I answered, Sir, I do not understand this art; neither am I a stone-cutter, nor can I tell anything.
76. And he said, Do you see that they are very round? Now to make them square, I must cut off a great deal from them; nevertheless, it is necessary that some of these should go into the building of the tower.
77. I answered, If it is necessary, why do you perplex yourself and not rather choose, if you have any choice among them, and fit them into the building?
78. Upon this he selected some of the largest and brightest, and squared them. When he had done this, the virgins took them up and placed them in the outside of the building.
79. And the rest that remained were carried back into the same field from which they were taken. Nevertheless, they were not cast away because, he said, there is still a little lacking to build this tower, and perhaps the Lord will have these stones fitted into this building, because they are exceeding white.
80. Then there were called twelve very stately women, clothed with a black garment, girded with their shoulders free and their hair loose. These seemed to me to be country women.
81. And the shepherd commanded them to take up those stones which were cast out of the building, and carry them back to the mountains out of which they had been taken.
82. And they took them all up joyfully, and carried them back to their places from where they had been taken.
83. When not one stone remained around the tower, he said to me, Let us go around this tower and see whether anything is lacking.
84. We began therefore to go round about it, and when he saw that it was handsomely built, he began to be very glad, for it was so beautifully framed that anyone who had seen it must have been in love with the building:
85. No joint appeared anywhere, and it all seemed to be a single stone, as if it had all been cut out of one rock.
86. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And when I diligently considered what a tower it was, I was extremely pleased. He said to me, Bring some lime and little shells, so I may fill up the spaces of those stones that were taken out of the building and put in again; for all things about the tower must be made even.
87. I did as he commanded me, and he said to me, Be ready to help me, and this work will quickly be finished.
88. He therefore filled up the spaces of those stones, and commanded the place about the tower to be cleansed.
89. Then those virgins took brooms of twigs and cleansed all the place around and took away all the rubbish, and threw water on. When this was done, the place became delightful, and the tower beauteous.
90. Then he said to me, All is now clean. If the Lord should come to finish the tower, he will find nothing to complain of us.
91. When he had said this he would have departed. But I laid hold on his bag, and began to entreat him for the Lord's sake, that he would explain to me all things that he had shown me.
92. He said to me, I have now a little business, but I will suddenly explain all things to you. Wait here for me till I come.
93. I said to him, Sir, what shall I do here alone? He answered, You are not alone, for all these virgins are with you.
94. I said, Sir, then take me to them. Then he called them and said to them, I commend this man to you until I shall come.
95. So I remained with those virgins, who now were cheerful and courteous to me, especially the four who seemed to be the chiefest among them.
96. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Then those virgins said to me, That shepherd will not return today. I said to them, What then shall I do? They answered, Wait for him till the evening, if perhaps he may come and speak with you; but if not, yet you will continue with us till he does come.
97. I said to them, I will wait for him till evening, but if he does not comes by that time, I will go home and return here again the next morning.
98. They answered me, You are delivered to us and may not depart from us. I said, Where shall I stay?
99. They replied, You will sleep with us as a brother, not as a husband; for you are our brother, and we are ready from now on to dwell with you, for you are very dear to us.
100. Nevertheless I was ashamed to continue with them. But she who seemed to be the chiefest among them embraced me and began to kiss me. And the rest, when they saw I was kissed by her, began also to kiss me as a brother and lead me about the tower to amuse me.
101. Some of them sang psalms while others made up the chorus with them. I walked about the tower with them, rejoicing silently and seeming to myself to be grown young again.
102. When the evening came on, I would immediately have gone home, but they did not allow me to depart. Therefore I continued with them that night near the same tower.
103. They spread their linen garments upon the ground and placed me in the middle, and did nothing else but pray.
104. I also prayed with them without ceasing, not less than they. They rejoiced greatly when they saw me pray in that manner, and I continued there with them till the next day.
105. And when we had worshipped God, then the shepherd came and said to them, Have you done no injury to this man? They answered, Ask him. I said to him, Sir, I have received a great deal of satisfaction by remaining with them.
106. And he said to me, How did you eat? I answered, Sir, I feasted the whole night upon the words of the Lord. He said, They received you well then. I said, Sir, very well.
107. He answered, Will you now learn what you desired? I replied, Sir, I will, but first I pray you to show me all things in the order that I asked them.
108. He answered, I will do all as you would have me and not hide anything from you.
109. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] First of all, Sir, I said, tell me what this rock and this gate denote? He said, This rock and this gate are the Son of God. I replied, Sir, how can that be, seeing the rock is old, but the gate new?
110. He said, Hear, O foolish man, and understand. The Son of God is indeed more ancient than any creature, so much so that he was in council with his Father at the creation of all things.
111. But the gate is therefore new, because he appeared in the last days in the fullness of time, so that they who will attain to salvation may by it enter into the kingdom of God.
112. You have seen, he said, those stones which were carried through the gate, how they were placed in the building of the tower, but those that were not carried through the gate were sent away into their own places?
113. I answered, Sir, I saw it. Accordingly, he said, no man will enter into the kingdom of God but he who will take upon him the name of the Son of God.
114. For if you would enter into any city and that city was encompassed by a wall with only one gate, could you enter into that city except by that gate?
115. I answered, Sir, how could I do otherwise? As therefore, he said, there would be no other way of entering into that city but by its gate, so neither can anyone enter into the kingdom of God, but only by the name of his Son, who is most dear to him.
116. And he said to me, Did you see the multitude of those who built that tower? Sir, I said, I saw it. He answered, All those are the angels, venerable in their dignity.
117. With those is the Lord encompassed as with a wall; but the gate is the Son of God, who is the only way of coming to God. For no man will go to God, but by his Son.
118. You saw also, he said, the six men, and in the middle of them that venerable great man who walked about the tower and rejected the stones out of the tower?
119. Sir, I said, I saw them. He answered, That tall man was the Son of God, and those six were his angels of most eminent dignity, who stand about him on the right hand and on the left.
120. None of these excellent angels comes in to God without him. He added, Whoever therefore will not take upon him his name, he will not enter into the kingdom of God.
121. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Then I said, What is this tower? This, he said, is the Church. And what, Sir, are these virgins? He said to me, These are the holy spirits, for no man can enter into the kingdom of God, except these clothe him with their garment.
122. For it will avail you nothing to take up the name of the Son of God, unless you will also receive their garment from them. For these virgins are the powers of the Son of God. So will a man in vain bear his name, unless he will be also endued with his powers.
123. And he said to me, Did you see those stones that were cast away? They bore indeed the name, but put not on their garment. I said, Sir, what is their garment? Their very names, he said, are their garment.
124. Therefore whoever bears the name of the Son of God ought to bear their names also; for the Son of God also himself bears their names.
125. He continued, As for those stones delivered by their hands, which you saw remain in the building, they were clothed with their power; this is why you see the whole tower of the same color with the rock and made as if it were one stone.
126. So also those who have believed in God by his Son, have put on his spirit. Behold there will be one spirit, and one body, and one color of their garments; and all will attain this, who will bear the names of these virgins.
127. And I said, Sir, why then were those stones that were rejected cast away, seeing they also were carried through the gate and delivered by the hands of these virgins into the building of this tower?
128. He said, Seeing you take care to inquire diligently into all things, hear also concerning those stones which were rejected. All these received the name of the Son of God, and with that the power of these virgins.
129. Having therefore received these spirits, they were perfected and brought into the number of the servants of God; and they began to be one body and to have one garment, for they were endued with the same righteousness, which they alike exercised.
130. But after they beheld those women whom you saw clothed with a black garment, with their shoulders at liberty and their hair loose, they fixed their desires upon them, being tempted with their beauty; and were clothed with their power, and cast off the clothing of the virgins:
131. Therefore they were cast off from the house of God and delivered to those women. But they who were not corrupted with their beauty, remained in the house of God. This, he said, is the significance of those stones that were rejected.
132. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And I said, Sir, what if any of these men will repent, and cast away their desire of those women, and be converted, and return to these virgins, and put on again their virtue, will they not enter into the house of God?
133. They will enter, he said, if they will lay aside all the works of those women, and will resume the power of these virgins and will walk in their works.
134. And this is why there is a stop in the building, so that if they will repent, they may be added to the building of this tower; but if they will not repent, others may be built in their places, and so they may be utterly cast away.
135. For all these things I gave thanks to the Lord, that being moved with mercy towards all those upon whom his name is called, he sent to us the angel of repentance to preside over us who have sinned against him; and that he has refreshed our spirits which were almost gone, and who had no hope of salvation but are now refreshed to the renewal of life.
136. Then I said, Show me now, Sir, why this tower is not built upon the ground, but upon a rock and upon the gate? He replied, You ask this because you are foolish and without understanding.
137. And I said, Sir, I need to ask all things of you, because I understand nothing at all. For all your answers are great and excellent, but which a man can hardly understand.
138. Hear, he said. The name of the Son of God is great and limitless, and the whole world is supported by it. If therefore every creature of God is sustained by his Son, why should he not support those also who have been invited by him, and who carry his name, and walk in his commandments?
139. Do you not see, he said, that he does support them who with all their heart bear his name? He therefore is their foundation and gladly supports those who do not deny his name, but willingly bear it.
140. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And I said, Sir, tell me the names of these virgins and of those women that were clothed with the black garment.
141. Hear, he said, the names of those virgins who are the more powerful and stand at the corners of the gate. These are their names:
142. The first is called Faith, the second Continence, the third Power, the fourth Patience; the who are under these are Simplicity, Innocence, Chastity, Cheerfulness, Truth, Understanding, Concord, and Charity.
143. Whoever therefore bears these names, and the name of the Son of God, will enter into the kingdom of God.
144. Hear now, he said, the names of those women, which were clothed with the black garment. Of these, four are the principal: the first is Perfidity, the second Incontinence, the third Infidelity, and the fourth Pleasure.
145. And the rest which follow are called: Sadness, Malice, Lust, Anger, Lying, Foolishness, Pride, and Hatred. The servant of God who carries these spirits will see indeed the kingdom of God, but he will not enter into it.
146. But, Sir, what are those stones that were taken out of the deep and fitted into the building? The ten, he said, which were placed at the foundation are the first age; the following five and twenty, the second, are righteous men.
147. The next thirty-five are the prophets and ministers of the Lord, and the forty are the Apostles and doctors of the preaching of the Son of God.
148. And I said, Sir, why did the virgins put even those stones into the building after they were carried through the gate? And he said, Because these first carried the spirits, and they departed not one from the one, neither the men from the spirits, nor the spirits from the men:
149. But the spirits were joined to these men even to the day of their death, and if they had not had these spirits with them, they could not have been useful to the building of this tower.
150. And I said, Sir, show me more about this. He answered, What do you ask? Why did these stones come out of the deep and were placed into the building of this tower, seeing that long ago they carried those holy spirits.
151. It was necessary, he said, for them to ascend by water so they might be at rest. For they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by laying aside the mortality of their former life.
152. Even though they were dead, they were nevertheless sealed with the seal of the Son of God, and so entered into the kingdom of God.
153. For before a man receives the name of the Son of God, he is ordained to death; but when he receives that seal, he is freed from death and assigned to life.
154. Now that seal is the water of baptism into which men go down under the obligation to death, but come up appointed to life.
155. For that reason, to those also was this seal preached, and they made use of it so they might enter the kingdom of God.

Compare 1 Peter 3:19

156. And I said, Why then, Sir, did these forty stones also ascend with them out of the deep, having already received that seal?
157. He answered, Because these Apostles and teachers who preached the name of the Son of God, dying after they had received his faith and power, preached to them who had died before and they this seal to them.
158. Therefore they went down into the water with them, and again came up. But these went down while they were alive, and came up again alive; whereas those who were before dead, went down dead, but came up alive;
159. Through these therefore they received life and knew the Son of God. For this reason they came up with them and were fit to come into the building of the tower uncut and put in whole, because they died in righteousness and in great purity; only this seal was lacking to them.
160. Here you have the explication of these things.
161. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] I answered, Sir, tell me now what concerns those mountains, why are they so different, some of one form and some of another.
162. Hear, he said. These twelve mountains you see are twelve nations, which make up the whole world. Therefore the Son of God is preached to them by those whom he sent to them.
163. I said, But why are they different and every one a symbol? He replied, Pay attention. These twelve nations that possess the whole world are twelve people.
164. And as you have beheld these mountains different, so are they. I will therefore open to you the meaning and actions of every mountain.
165. But first, Sir, I said, seeing these mountains are so different, show me how have they conformed into the building of this tower, and been brought to one color, and are no less bright than those that came out of the deep?
166. Because, he replied, all the nations which are under heaven have heard and believed in the same one name of the Son of God by whom they are called.
167. So having received his seal, they have all been made partakers of the same understanding and knowledge; and their faith and charity have been the same, and they have carried the spirits of these virgins together with his name.
168. And therefore the building of this tower appeared to be of the same color and shone like the brightness of the sun.
169. After they had thus agreed in one mind there began to be one body of them all; however, some of them polluted themselves and were cast off from the kind of the righteous, and again returned to their former state and became even worse than they were before.
170. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] I said, Sir, how were they who knew the Lord worse? He answered, If he who does not know the Lord lives wickedly, the punishment of his wickedness accompanies him.
171. For he who has known the Lord ought to abstain altogether from all wickedness, and more and more to be the servant of righteousness.
172. Does not he who ought to follow goodness, if he will prefer the part of sin, seem to you to sin more than he who offends without knowing the power of God?
173. For this reason these are indeed ordained to death; but they who have known the Lord and have seen his wonderful works, if they will live wickedly, they will be doubly punished and will die forever.
174. You have seen after the stones that had been rejected were cast out of the tower, they were delivered to wicked and cruel spirits, and you beheld the tower so cleansed as if it all had been made of one stone.
175. So the church of God, when it will be purified (the wicked and counterfeits, the mischievous and doubtful, and all who have behaved themselves wickedly in it and committed various kinds of sin, being cast out) will become one body, and there will be one understanding, one opinion, one faith, and the same charity.
176. And then will the Son of God rejoice among them and will receive his people with a pure will.
177. And I said, Sir, all these things are great and honorable, but now show to me the effect and force of every mountain, so that when every soul that trusts in the Lord hears these things, it may honor his great, wonderful, and holy name.
178. Hear, he said, the variety of these mountains, that is, of the twelve nations.
179. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] They who have believed of the first mountain, which is black, are those who have revolted from the faith and spoken wicked things against the Lord, and betrayed the servants of God.
180. These are condemned to death, so there is no repentance for them; therefore they are black because their kind is wicked.
181. Of the second mountain, which was smooth, are the hypocrites who have believed, and the teachers of vulgarity; these are next to the foregoing, which have not in them the fruit of righteousness.
182. For as their mountain is barren and without fruit, so also such kind of men have indeed the name of Christians, but are empty of faith; nor is there any fruit of the truth in them.
183. Nevertheless is room left to them for repentance, if they will suddenly pursue it; but if they will delay, they also will be partakers of death with the foregoing kind.
184. I said, Sir, why is room left for repentance to those, and not to the foregoing kind, seeing their sins are practically the same?
185. There is to these therefore, he said, a return to life by repentance because they have not blasphemed against their Lord nor betrayed the servants of God, but have deceived men by their desire of gain, leading them according to the lusts of sinners; this is why they will suffer for this.
186. However there is still left them room for repentance, because they have not spoken any thing wickedly against the Lord.
187. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] They of the third mountain, which had thorns and brambles, are those who believed, but some of them were rich and others taken up with many affairs. The brambles are their riches; the thorns are those affairs in which they were engaged.
188. They who are entangled in much business and in diversity of affairs do not associate themselves with the servants of God, but wander, being called away by those affairs with which they are choked.
189. And so they who are rich yield themselves with difficulty to the manner of life of the servants of God, fearing anything should be asked of them. These therefore will hardly enter into the kingdom of God.
190. For as men walk with difficulty barefoot over thorns, even so these kind of men will scarcely enter into the kingdom of God.
191. Nevertheless there is afforded to all these a return to repentance if they will quickly return to it, because in their former days they have neglected to do spiritual, but in the future they may do some good.
192. If they will do the works of righteousness after repenting, they will live; but if they will continue in their evil courses, they will be delivered to those women who will take away their life.
193. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] As for the fourth mountain, which had many herbs, the upper part of which is green but the roots dry, and some of which being touched with the heat of the sun are withered:
194. It denotes the doubtful who have believed, and some others who carry the Lord in their tongues but do not have him in their heart. Their grass is dry and without root because they live only in words, but their works are dead.
195. These therefore are neither dead nor living, but are doubtful. For the doubtful are neither green nor dry, that is, neither dead nor alive.
196. For as the herbs dry away at the sight of the sun, so as soon as the doubtful hear of persecution and fear inconveniences, they return to their idols and again serve them, and are ashamed to bear the name of their Lord.
197. This kind of men then is neither dead nor alive; nevertheless these also may live, if they will presently repent; but if not, they will be delivered to those women who will take away their life.
198. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] As concerning the fifth mountain, which is craggy and yet has green grass, they are of this kind who have believed and are faithful indeed, but believe with difficulty and are bold and self- conceited, and want others to think they know all things, but really know nothing.
199. By reason of this confidence, knowledge is departed from them, and a rash presumption is entered into them.
200. But they carry themselves high like prudent men, and though they are fools, yet would seem to be teachers.
201. Now by reason of this folly many of them, while they magnify themselves, are become vain and empty. For boldness and vain confidence is a very evil spirit.
202. Many of these are cast away, but others acknowledging their error have repented and submitted themselves to those who are knowing.
203. And to all the rest of this kind there is repentance allowed, forasmuch as they were not so much wicked as foolish and void of understanding.
204. If these therefore will repent, they will live to God; but if not, they will dwell with those women who will exercise their wickedness upon them.
205. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] For what concerns the sixth mountain, which had greater and lesser clefts, they are such as have believed; but those in which were lesser clefts are they who have had controversies among themselves, and by reason of their quarrels languish in the faith;
206. Nevertheless many of these have repented, and so will the rest when they will hear my commands; for their controversies are but small, and they will easily return to repentance.
207. But those who have the greater clefts will be as stiff stones, mindful of grudges and offenses, and full of anger among themselves. These therefore are cast from the tower and refused to be put into its building; for this kind of men will hardly live.
208. Our God and Lord, who rules over all things and has power over all his creatures, will not remember our offenses, but is easily appeased by those who confess their sins; but man being languid, mortal, infirm, and full of sins, perseveres in his anger against man, as if it were in his power to save or destroy him.
209. But I, as the angel who am set over your repentance, admonish you that whoever among you has any such purpose should lay it aside and return to repentance, and the Lord will heal your former sins, if you will purge yourselves from this evil spirit. But if you will not do it, you will be delivered to him to death.
210. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] As for the seventh mountain, in which the grass was green and flourishing, and the whole mountain faithful, and all kind of cattle fed upon the grass of it, and the more the grass was eaten so much the more it flourished,
211. They are such as believed and were always good and upright, and without any differences among themselves, but still rejoiced in the servants of God, having put on the spirit of these virgins and been always eager to show mercy to all men, readily giving to all men of their labors without upbraiding or deliberation.
212. Therefore the Lord, seeing their simplicity and innocence, has increased them in the works of their hands and given them grace in all their works.
213. But I, who am the angel appointed over your repentance, exhort you that as many as are of this kind would continue in the same purpose, so that your offspring may not be rooted out forever.
214. For the Lord has tested you and written you into our number, and all your descendants will dwell with the Son of God, for you are all of his spirit.
215. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] As concerning the eighth mountain, in which were a great many springs by which every kind of all the creatures of God was watered, they are such as have believed the Apostles whom the Lord sent into all the world to preach.
216. And some of them being teachers have preached and taught purely and sincerely, and have not in the least yielded to any evil desires, but have constantly walked in righteousness and truth.
217. These therefore have their conversations among the angels.
218. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Again, as for what concerns the ninth mountain, which is desert and full of serpents, they are such as have believed but had many stains.
219. These are such ministers as discharge their ministry amiss, seizing and carrying away the goods of the widows and fatherless, and serve themselves, not others, out of those things they have received.
220. These, if they continue in this covetousness, have delivered themselves to death, nor will there be any hope of life for them. But if they will be converted and will discharge their ministry sincerely, they may live.
221. As for those which were found rough, they are such as have denied the name of the Lord and not returned again to the Lord, but have become savage and wild, not applying themselves to the servants of God but, being separated from them, have for a little carelessness lost their lives.
222. For as a vine that is forsaken in a hedge and never dressed, perishes and is choked by the weeds, and in time becomes wild and ceases to be useful to its lord, so this kind of men, despairing of themselves and being soured, have begun to be unprofitable to their Lord.
223. Yet to these there is, after all, repentance allowed, if they will not be found from their hearts to have denied Christ; but if any of these will be found to have denied him from his heart, I cannot tell whether such a one can attain to life.
224. I say therefore that if any one has denied, he should in these days return to repentance, for it cannot be that anyone who now denies the Lord can afterwards attain to salvation; nevertheless repentance is proposed to them who have formerly denied.
225. But he who will repent must hurry his repentance before the building of this tower is finished; otherwise he will be delivered by those women to death.
226. But they that are maimed are the deceitful and those who mix with one another; these are the serpents you saw mingled in that mountain.
227. For as the poison of serpents is deadly to men, so the words of such persons infect and destroy men. They are therefore maimed in their faith by reason of that kind of life they lead.
228. However some of them, having repented, have been saved, and so will others of the same kind also be saved if they will repent; but if not, they will die by those women whose power and force they possess.
229. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] For what concerns the tenth mountain, in which were the trees covering the cattle, they are such as have believed, and some of them have been bishops, that is, governors of the churches.
230. Others are such stones as have not feignedly, but with a cheerful mind entertained the servants of God.
231. Then such as have been set over inferior ministries and have protected the poor and the widows, and have always kept a chaste conversation; therefore they also are protected by the Lord.
232. Those who do like this are honored with the Lord, and their place is among the angels, if they will continue to obey the Lord even to the end.
233. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] As to the eleventh mountain, in which were trees loaded with several sorts of fruits, they are such as have believed and suffered death for the name of the Lord, and have endured with a ready mind and given up their lives with all their hearts.
234. And I said, Why then, Sir, have all these fruit indeed, but yet some are fairer than others?
235. Pay attention, he said. Whoever suffered for the name of the Lord are esteemed honorable by the Lord, and all their offenses are blotted out because they have suffered death for the name of the Son of God.
236. Hear now, why their fruits are different, and some of them excel others. They who, being brought before magistrates and being asked, denied not the Lord but suffered with a ready mind, these are more honorable with the Lord. The fairest fruits therefore are these.
237. But they who were fearful and doubtful and have deliberated with themselves whether they should confess or deny Christ, and yet have suffered, their fruits are smaller because this thought came into their hearts.
238. For it is a wicked and evil thought for a servant to deliberate whether he should deny his master. Take heed therefore you who have such thoughts that this mind does not continue in you, and you die to God.
239. But you who suffer death for his name's sake ought to honor the Lord that he has esteemed you worthy to bear his name, and that you should be delivered from all your sins.
240. And why therefore do you not rather esteem yourselves happy? Yes, think truly that if anyone among you suffers, he performs a great work! For the Lord gives you life, and you do not understand it. For your offenses did oppress you, and if you had not suffered for his name's sake, you would now be dead to the Lord.
241. For this reason I speak this to you who deliberate whether you should confess or deny him. Confess that you have the Lord for your God, for fear that at any time denying him, you will be delivered not merely to bonds.
242. All nations punish their servants who deny their masters, so what do you think the Lord who has the power of all things will do to you?
243. Therefore remove these doubts out of your hearts, so that you may live forever to God.
244. As for the twelfth mountain, which was white, they are such as have believed like sincere children into whose thought there never came any malice, nor have they ever known what sin was, but have always continued in their integrity.
245. So this kind of men without all doubt will inherit the kingdom of God, because they have never in anything defiled the commandments of God, but have continued with sincerity in the same condition all the days of their life.
246. Whoever therefore, he said, will continue as children without malice will be more honorable than all those of whom I have yet spoken; for all such children are honored by the Lord and esteemed the first of all.
247. Happy therefore are you who will remove all malice from you and put on innocence, because you will first see the Lord.
248. And after he had thus ended his explication of all the mountains, I said to him, Sir, show me now also what concerns the stones that were brought out of the plain and put into the tower in the place of those that were rejected;
249. As also concerning those round stones that were added into the building of the tower, and also of those who still continued round.
250. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Hear now, he said, concerning those stones which were brought out of the plain into the building of the tower and placed in the room of those that were rejected; they are the roots of that white mountain.
251. Because those who have believed of that mountain were very innocent, the Lord of this tower commanded that they which were of the roots of this mountain should be placed into the building.
252. For he knew if they were put into this building they would continue bright, nor would any of them any more be made black.
253. But if he had added from the rest of the mountains in this manner, he would almost have needed again to visit the tower and to cleanse it.
254. Now all these white stones are the young men who have believed, or will believe; for they are all of the same kind. Happy is this kind, because it is innocent.
255. Hear now also concerning those round and bright stones. All these are of this white mountain, but they are found round because their riches have a little darkened them from the truth and dazzled their eyes:
256. They nevertheless have never departed from the Lord, nor has any wicked word proceeded out of their mouths, but all righteousness, and virtue, and truth.
257. When therefore the Lord saw their mind, and that they might adorn the truth, he commanded that they should continue good, and that their riches should be pared away.
258. For he would not have them taken wholly away, because they might do some good with that which was left, and live to God, for they also are of a good kind.
259. Therefore there was a little cut off from them, and so they were put into the building of this tower.
260. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] As for the rest which continued still round and were not found fit for the building of this tower because they have not yet received the seal, they were carried back to their place because they were found very round.
261. But this present world the vanities of their riches must be cut away from them, and then they will be fit for the kingdom of God. For they must enter into the kingdom of God, because God has blessed this innocent kind.
262. Of this kind therefore none will fall away; if any of them become tempted by the devil and should offend, he will soon return to his Lord God.
263. I the angel of repentance esteem you happy, whoever are innocent as little children, because your portion is good and honorable with the Lord.
264. And I say to all you who have received his seal: keep simplicity and remember not the offenses which are committed against you, nor continue in malice or bitterness through the memory of offenses.
265. But become one spirit, and provide remedies for these evil rifts and remove them from you so that the lord of the sheep may rejoice at it; for he will rejoice, if he will find all whole.
266. Woe will be to the shepherds if any of these sheep will be found scattered away. But and if the shepherds themselves will be scattered, what will they answer to the lord of the sheepfold? Will they say that they were troubled by the sheep? They will not be believed.
267. For it is an incredible thing that the shepherd should suffer because of his flock; he will be punished more for his lie.
268. Now I am the shepherd, and I must especially give an account of you.
269. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] For this reason take care of yourselves while the tower is yet building. The Lord dwells in those that love peace, for peace is beloved; but he is far off from the contentious and those who are full of malice.
270. Therefore restore to him the spirit as entire as you received it. For if you will give a new and whole garment to one who shrinks and thickens woolen cloth by moistening and pressing, you will expect to receive it whole again; if therefore he will restore it to you torn, would you receive it?
271. Would you not be angry and reproach him, saying, I gave my garment to you whole; why have you rent it, and made it useless to me? Now it is of no use to me, by reason of the rent which you have made in it. Would you not say all this to such a person, for the rent which he made in your garment?
272. If therefore you would be concerned for your garment and complain that you had not received it whole, what do you think that the Lord will do, who gave his Spirit to you entire, and you have rendered him altogether unprofitable so that he can be of no use to his Lord? For being corrupted by you, he is no longer profitable to him.
273. Will not therefore the Lord do the same concerning his Spirit, by reason of your deed? I say he undoubtedly will do the same to all those whom he will find to continue in the remembrance of injuries.
274. Tread not then under foot, he said, his mercy; but rather honor him because he is so patient with respect to your offenses, and not like one of you; but repent, for that will be profitable for you.
275. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] All these things which are above written, I the shepherd, the angel of repentance, have shown and spoken to the servants of God.
276. If therefore you will believe and pay attention to these words, and will walk in them, and will correct your ways, you will live. But if you will continue in malice and in the remembrance of injuries, no such sinners will live to God.
277. All these things that were to be spoken by me I have thus delivered to you. Then the shepherd said to me, Have you asked all things of me? I answered, Sir, I have.
278. Why, then, he said, have you not asked concerning the spaces of these stones that were put in the building, that I may explain that also to you? I answered, Sir, I forgot it. Hear, then he said, concerning these also.
279. They are those who have now heard these commands and have repented with all their hearts.
280. And when the Lord saw that their repentance was good and pure, and that they could continue in it, he commanded their former sins to be blotted out. For these spaces were their sins, and they are therefore made even that they might not appear.

Here is a summary of this lengthy and complex passage:

The twelve mountains are the "twelve nations that make up the whole world," or representative of those peoples who have heard the Gospel and professed to believe. The following is the description of the "mountains" and interpretation of each:

1. black as soot: those who revolted from the faith, betrayed the servants of God, and spoke wicked things against the Lord. No repentance is possible.

2. smooth, without herbs: hypocrites, profligates, and teachers of vulgarity, who have no fruit of righteousness in them. Repentance is possible for them.

3. full of thorns and thistles: rich and entangled in many affairs, with no time to live as a servant of God. Repentance is offered.

4. herbs half dried, with upper part green, but some dry near the roots: doubting believers, professing with their mouths, but not their deeds. Repentance is possible.

5. rugged, but with green herbs: those who believe with difficulty because of their vain conceit, but desire to be teachers without knowing anything. Repentance is possible.

6. full of clefts, in which some withering grass grew: believers who have controversies and quarrels among themselves. Repentance is possible.

7. delightful pasture and wholly fruitful, where the more cattle and birds ate, the better the grass grew: believers who were always good, without differences among themselves. They need no repentance if the continue as they are.

8. full of fountains, which were full of living creatures: believers who constantly obeyed the Apostles in all things. They "have their conversations among the angels."

9. destitute of water, inhabited by poisonous serpents: wayward ministers who are covetous and serve themselves rather than others. Repentance is possible.

10. full of tall, shady trees, under which cattle rested and chewed the cud: the especially faithful bishops, priests, and deacons.

11. full of thick trees full of delectable fruits: believers who have suffered for the Lord and remained faithful unto death.

12. altogether white and majestically beautiful: those who have believed like children and continued in childlike simplicity and innocence.

The white rock with a bright new gate in the plain that rose higher than the mountains: the ancient rock represents the pre-existent Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. The new gate represents the Son of God in his earthly ministry.

The twelve virgins who stood around the gate, ten of whom took stones through the gate to build the tower, are "holy spirits" or the powers of the Son of God, named Faith, Continence, Power, Patience, Simplicity, Innocence, Chastity, Cheerfulness, Truth, Understanding, Concord, and Charity.

The six tall men are angels of eminent dignity who stand on the right and left hand of the Son of God); the multitude of strong men they commanded to build the tower are other venerable angels.

The ten stones used first in the building of the tower are "the first age," presumably the righteous of the Old Testament; the next twenty-five stones are simply called "righteous men"; the next thirty-five stones are prophets and ministers of the Lord; the next forty stones are Apostles and doctors (teachers) of the preaching of the Son of God.

The following is a brief recapitulation of the actions taken in building the tower (Church):

The six men (eminent angels) command the multitude (other venerable angels) to cut colored stones (professing Christians) out of the mountains (nations or peoples), which become white and fit perfectly if carried by the virgins (the powers or virtues of the Son of God), but stayed the same color when handled by the multitude (angels). The virgins (the Christian virtues) did not carry those through the gate. The six men (angels) command the multitude (other angels) to return the stones (professing believers) to the mountains (place of their origin), and from now on bring stones (professing believers) for the virgins (the Christian virtues) to handle.

The process of building the tower (Church) is delayed until the Lord of the tower approves what was done; the virgins (Christian virtues) guard the tower (Church).

The Lord comes with the six (eminent angels) and others (angels) of great dignity, with the multitude of (angelic) workers. He is greeted by the virgins (Christian virtues). He strikes each stone (professing believers) with a rod (of revelatory judgment). Some stones (professing believers) turned (symbolically) black, some of mixed color (maimed), some did not match but were full of blemishes. These stones are laid near the tower, and others brought to replace them, but not from the mountains, but from a field (the root of the white mountain of innocent believers). Some of these are square and fitted perfectly into the building to replace those which had been removed. Some from the field were white but round (innocent believers slightly contaminated by riches, which must be pared away) and not put in the building. These were cleansed and fitted, but those that did not agree with the others were carried far from the tower.

The Shepherd (of repentance) is to cut these stones (professing believers) to fit, even the small ones will be used in the middle of the building to hold the others in place. After three days, he examines them all.

Black (unrepentant) ones removed from the tower (Church) that are still black (unrepentant), he puts together in one place. Rough ones that had been removed were cut to fit (repented), but some had become black (unrepentant) and were put with those.

Those cracked (defective believers) were pared away (submitted to repentance) and put into the tower (Church) on the outside. Others that could not be pared away (not submitting to repentance) were cast away.

Those that had large clefts (irremediable defects) or had become black (unrepentant) were cast away, but those that were cleansed (by repentance) were put into the middle of the building (Church) because they were weak.

Some of those that were both black and white (good and bad) had become all black (unrepentant), others all white (repentant). The former were cast away, the latter were put in the building. (The same is done with hard and sharp stones.)

The white and round stones (innocent believers tempted by riches) were cut away and squared (disciplined by repentance and made fit); those who remained big (innocent after repentance) were built into the tower (Church), the others were taken back to the field from which they had come. Since they were exceedingly white (still innocent), they were kept in case they were needed to finish the tower (Church).

All rejected stones (professing believers who did not repent) were given to twelve stately women dressed in black (Perfidity, Incontinence, Infidelity, Pleasure, Sadness, Malice, Lust, Anger, Lying, Foolishness, Pride, and Hatred), who returned them to the mountains (populations of the earth) from which they had come.

Lime and small shells are used to finish the building (Church) and make it smooth. (The spaces were the past sins of the repentant, now erased by God and made not to appear.) Then the site is swept, the building is washed and becomes beauteous.

(The Shepherd then left Hermas in care of the twelve virgins (Christian virtues), then returned to explain the symbolisms given above.)


Of repentance and alms-deeds.

1. After I had written this book, the angel who had delivered me to that shepherd, came into the house where I was and sat upon the bed, and that shepherd stood at his right hand.
2. Then he called me and said to me, I delivered you and your house to this shepherd, so that you might be protected by him. I said, Yes, Lord.
3. He said, If therefore you will be protected from all vexations and from all cruelty, and have success in every good word and work, and have all virtue and righteousness, walk in those commands he has given you, and you will have dominion over all sin.
4. For if you keep those commands, all the lust and pleasures of this present world will be subject to you, and success will follow you in every good undertaking.
5. Take therefore his maturity and modesty towards you, and say to all that he is in great honor and renown with God, and is a prince of great authority and powerful in his office.
6. To him only is the power of repentance committed throughout the whole world. Does he not seem to you to be of great authority?
7. But you despise his goodness and the modesty he shows towards you.
8. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] I said to him, Sir, ask him since the time that he came into my house whether I have done any thing disorderly, or have offended him in any thing?
9. I know, he said, that you have done nothing disorderly, neither will you from now on do any such thing. Therefore I speak these things with you so that you may persevere, for he has given me a good account concerning you.
10. But you must speak these things to others so they who either have repented, or will repent, may be like-minded with you, so that he may give me as good an account of them also, and I may do the same to the Lord.
11. I answered, Sir, I declare to all men the wonderful works of God, and I hope that all who love them and have before sinned, when they will hear these things, will repent and recover life.
12. Continue therefore, he said, in this ministry and fulfill it. And whoever will do according to the commands of this shepherd, he will live and have great honor both here and with the Lord.
13. But they who will not keep his commands, flee from their life and are adversaries to it. And they that follow not his commands, will deliver themselves to death and will be every one guilty of his own blood.
14. But I say to you, keep these commandments, and you will find a cure for all your sins.
15. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Moreover, I have sent these virgins to dwell with you, for I have seen that they are very kind to you. You will therefore have them for your helpers, so that you may the better keep the commands which he has given you; for these commands cannot be kept without these virgins.
16. And I see how they are willing to be with you, and I will also command them that they will not all depart from your house.
17. Only purify your house, for they will readily dwell in a clean house. For they are clean and chaste and industrious, and all of them have grace with the Lord.
18. If therefore you will have your house pure, they will abide with you. But if it will be ever so little polluted, they will immediately depart from your house, for these virgins cannot endure any manner of pollution.
19. I said to him, Sir, I hope that I shall so please them that they will always delight to dwell in my house. And as he to whom you have committed me makes no complaint of me, so neither will they complain.
20. Then he said to that shepherd, I see that the servant of God will live and keep these commandments, and place these virgins in a pure habitation.
21. When he had said this, he delivered me again to that shepherd and called the virgins, and said to them, I see that you will readily dwell in this man's house, so I commend him and his house to you, so that you may not at all depart from his house. And they willingly heard these words.
22. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Then he said to me, Go on manfully in your ministry. Declare to all men the great things of God, and you will find grace in this ministry.
23. And whoever will walk in these commands will live and be happy in his life. But he that will neglect them will not live, and will be unhappy in his life.
24. Say to all who can do well, not to cease exercising themselves in good works, for it is profitable to them. For I would that all men should be delivered from the inconveniences they lie under.
25. For he who lacks and suffers inconveniences in his daily life is in great torment and necessity. Whoever delivers such a soul from necessity gets great joy to himself.
26. For he who is grieved with such inconveniences is just as equally tormented as if he were in chains. And many upon the account of such calamities, being not able to bear them, have chosen even to destroy themselves.

Evidently this is a very compassionate reference to some suicides.

27. He therefore who knows the calamity of such a man and does not free him from it, commits a great sin and is guilty of his blood.
28. For this reason, as many as have received ability from the Lord, exercise yourselves in good works, for fear that while you delay to do them, the building of the tower be finished; because for your sakes the building is stopped.

That is, the Church is not yet completed.

29. Except therefore you will make haste to do well, the tower will be finished, and you will be shut out of it.
30. And after that he had thus spoken with me, he rose up from the bed and departed, taking the shepherd and the virgins with him.
31. However, he said to me that he would send back the shepherd and virgins into my house. Amen.

Despite its overwhelming abundance of symbolism, the trilogy called the Shepherd of Hermas is not really about visions of angels, towers, mountains, stones, virgins, etc. We should be mindful that it actually deals with the types of people who seek salvation, and the faith, virtue, and sanctity they must acquire to overcome vice, weakness, and the vexations of life.

The writings of Hermas thus treat vividly the all- important themes of redemption through Christ, the purity of the Church, and the spiritual struggles of those who aspire to righteousness.


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