GailAllen.com

Home | UB Contents | OT Apocrypha | NT Apocrypha | Nag Hammadi Library | KJV | ASV | Search

 

THE SECOND BOOK OF HERMAS, CALLED COMMANDS



INTRODUCTION

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.

COMMAND 1
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 knowledge."

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 unapproachable."

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 Incarnate God.

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 them.

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.

COMMAND 2
That we must avoid detraction, and do our alms-deeds with simplicity.

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 of man.
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 your brother.

"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 God.

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 your house.

COMMAND 3
Of avoiding lying, and the repentance of Hermas for his dissimulation.

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." (Revelation 21:8)

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 him.
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 life.
10. And whoever will listen carefully to this command, and do it, and will depart from all lying, he will live to God.

COMMAND 4
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 adultery.
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 them.
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.

COMMAND 5
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 you.
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 them all.

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 of faith.
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 nature.
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 quietness."

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 commandment.

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 God."

18. For if you will obey this command, then also you will be able to observe the other commandments that I shall command you.
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.

COMMAND 6
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 iniquity.
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 God.
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.

COMMAND 7
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 everything well.
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 glorious.

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.

COMMAND 8
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 righteousness.

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 chastity.
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 their minds."

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.

COMMAND 9
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 creature.
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 things."

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 of God.
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.

COMMAND 10
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 saves.

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 righteous.

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 God.
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 and broken.
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 business.
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 him sad.
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 heart.
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.

COMMAND 11
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 spirit.
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 heaven.
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.

COMMAND 12
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 believe.

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 to death.
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 and holy.

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 11:28-30)

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 you.
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 4:7)

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 have delivered.
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.

 

Home | About | Contact | Privacy | Fair Use | Site Map | Search