The Third Book of Hermas,
That seeing we have no abiding city in this world, we ought to
look after that which is to come.
1. And he said to me, You must know that you who are the
servants of the Lord live here as in a pilgrimage, for your city
is far off from this city.
2. If, therefore, you know your city in which you are to
dwell, why do you here buy estates, provide yourselves with
delicacies, stately buildings, and superfluous houses? For he
who provides himself these things in this city, does not think of
returning into his own city.
3. O foolish and doubtful and wretched man who does not
understand that all these things belong to other men, and under
the power of another. For the Lord of this city says to you,
Either obey my laws, or depart out of my city.
4. What therefore must you do who are subject to a law in
your own city? Can you deny the law for your estate, or for any
of those things which you have provided? But if you will deny
it, and will afterwards return into your own city, you will not
be received, but will be excluded from there.
5. See therefore that like a man in another country, you
procure no more to yourself than what is necessary and sufficient
for you. And be ready, so that when the God or Lord of this city
will drive you out of it, you may oppose his law and go into your
own city, where you may with all cheerfulness live according to
your own law with no wrong.
Compare with: "For he looked for a city which hath
foundations, whose builder and maker [is] God.... But
now they desire a better [county], that is, an
heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called
their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.... For
here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to
come." (Hebrews 11:10, 16; 13:14)
6. Take heed therefore you that serve God and have him in
your hearts. Work the works of God, being mindful both of his
commands and of his promises, and be assured that he will make
them good to you, if you will keep his commandments.
7. Instead of the possessions that you would otherwise
purchase, redeem those who are in want from their necessities, as
everyone is able; justify the widows, judge the cause of the
fatherless, and spend your riches and your wealth in such works
8. For this purpose has God enriched you, that you might
fulfill these kind of services. It is much better to do this
than to buy lands or houses, because all such things will perish
with this present time.
9. But what you will do you for the name of the Lord, you
will find in your city, and will have joy without sadness or
fear. Therefore do not covet the riches of the heathen, for they
are destructive to the servants of God.
Compare with: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures
upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where
thieves break though and steal: But lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor
rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break
through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there
will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)
10. But trade with your own riches, by which you may attain
to everlasting joy.
Compare with: "Sell that ye have, and give alms;
provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure
in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief
approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your
treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke
11. And do not commit adultery, nor touch any other man's
wife, nor desire her; but desire that which is your own business,
and you will be saved.
As the vine is supported by the elm, so is the rich man helped by
the prayers of the poor.
1. As I was walking into the field and considered the elm
and the vine, and thought with myself of their fruits, an angel
appeared and said to me, What is it that you think upon so long
2. And I said to him, Sir, I think of this vine and this
elm because their fruits are fair. And he said to me, These two
trees are set for a pattern to the servants of God.
3. And I said to him, Sir, I would know in what consists
the pattern of these trees which you mention. Pay attention, he
said. Do you see this vine and this elm? Sir, I said, I see
4. This vine, he said, is fruitful, but the elm is a tree
without fruit. Nevertheless, unless this vine were set by this
elm and supported by it, it would not bear much fruit; but lying
along upon the ground, it would bear but ill fruit, because it
did not hang upon the elm; whereas, being supported upon the elm,
it bears fruit both for itself and for that.
5. See, therefore, how the elm gives no less, but rather
more fruit, than the vine. How, Sir, I said, does it bear more
fruit than the vine? Because, he said, the vine being supported
upon the elm gives both much and good fruit; whereas, if it lay
along upon the ground, it would bear but little, and that very
6. This similitude, therefore, is set forth to the servants
of God, and it represents the rich and poor man. I answered,
Sir, make this clear to me. Hear, he said, the rich man has
wealth, nevertheless towards the Lord he is poor, for he is
distracted about his riches and prays but little to the Lord; and
the prayers which he makes are lazy and without force.
Compare with: "A faithful man shall abound with
blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall
not be innocent." (Proverbs 28:20); "Then said Jesus
unto his disciples. Verily I say unto you, That a rich
man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And
again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to
enter into the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:23, 24)
Various interpretations have been suggested for
the impossible image of a camel going through the eye
of a needle: e.g., that the word was not "camel," but
"rope"; or that the eye of a needle was a city gate
through which camel might barely squeeze. (The Talmud
uses a similar expression, "for an elephant to go
through the eye of the needle.") But whatever the
phrase refers to, it displays the difficulty of
salvation for those who are attached to riches. The
Bible presents wealth both as a blessing of God and a
peril for the wealthy who do not use their riches to
help the poor.
Compare with: "And the cares of this world, and
the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other
things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh
unfruitful." (Mark 4:19); "But they that will be rich
fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many
foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in
destruction and perdition."
7. When, therefore, the rich man reaches out to the poor
those things which he lacks, the poor man prays to the Lord for
the rich. And God grants to the rich man all good things because
the poor man is rich is prayer, and his requests have great power
with the Lord.
8. Then the rich man ministers all things to the poor,
because he perceives that he is heard by the Lord, and he more
willingly and without doubting affords him what he needs, and
takes care that nothing be lacking to him.
9. And the poor man gives thanks to the Lord for the rich,
because they both do their work from the Lord.
10. With men therefore, the elm is not thought to give any
fruit; but they do not know or understand that by being added to
the vine, the vine bears a double increase, both for itself and
for the elm.
11. Likewise, the prayers of the poor to bless the rich are
heard by the Lord; so their riches are increased, because they
minister to the poor of their wealth. Therefore they both are
made partakers of each other's good works.
Aside from the rather idealized portrayal of the
spirituality of the poor, verses 7-11 present a novel
rationale for benevolence and charity.
12. Whoever therefore will do these things, he will not be
forsaken by the Lord, but will be written in the book of life.
13. Happy are they who are rich and perceive themselves to
be enriched, for he that is cognizant of this will be able to
minister something to others.
As the green trees in the winter cannot be distinguished from the
dry, so neither can the righteous from the wicked in this present
1. Again he showed me many trees whose leaves were shed,
and which seemed to me to be withered, for they were all alike.
And he said to me, See these trees? I said, Sir, I see that they
look like dry trees.
2. He answering said to me, These trees are like the men
who live in the present world. I replied, Sir, why are they like
dried trees? Because, he said, neither the righteous, nor
unrighteous, are known from one another, but all are alike in
this present world.
3. For this world is as the winter to the righteous men,
who are not known, but dwell among sinners.
4. As in the winter all the trees having lost their leaves
are like dry trees, nor can it be discerned which are dry and
which are green, so in this present world neither the righteous
nor wicked are distinguishable from each other, but are all
As in the summer the living trees are distinguished from the dry
by their fruit and green leaves, so in the world to come the
righteous will be distinguished from the unrighteous by their
1. Again he showed me many other trees, some of which had
leaves, and others appeared dry and withered. And he said to me,
See these trees? I answered, Sir, I see them. Some are dry and
others full of leaves.
2. He said, These green trees are the righteous who will
possess the world to come. For the world to come is the summer
to the righteous, but it is the winter to sinners.
3. When therefore the mercy of the Lord will shine forth,
then they who serve God will be made evident and plain to all.
For as in the summer the fruit of every tree is shown and made
manifest, so also the works of the righteous will be declared and
made manifest, and they will be restored in that world merry and
4. For the other kind of men, namely the wicked, like the
trees which you saw dry, will be found just as dry and without
fruit in that other world, and like dry wood will be burned; and
it will be made clear that they have done evil all the time of
Compare with: "Even so every good tree bringeth
forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth
evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,
neither [can] a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn
down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their
fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:17-20)
5. And they will be burned because they have sinned and
have not repented of their sins. And also all the other nations
will be burned, because they have not acknowledged God their
Compare with: "The wicked shall be turned into
hell, [and] all the nations that forget God." (Psalm
6. Therefore bring forth good fruit, so that in the summer
your fruit may be known. Keep yourself from too much business,
and you will not offend. For they who are involved in much
business sin much, because they are taken up with their affairs
and do not serve God.
7. And how can a man that does not serve God, ask anything
of God and receive it? But they who serve him, ask and receive
what they desire.
8. If a man has only one thing to follow, he may serve God
because his mind is not taken off from God, and he serves him
with a pure mind.
9. If therefore you do this, you may have fruit in the
world to come; and all, as many as will do the same, will bring
Of a true fast, and the rewards of it, also of the cleanliness of
1. As I was fasting in a certain mountain and giving thanks
to God for all he things that he had done to me, behold I saw the
shepherd, who was accustomed to converse with me, sitting by me
and saying to me: What has brought you here so early in the
morning? I answered, Sir, today I keep a station.
As in station or office of prayer, a recommended
but voluntary devotional habit.
2. He answered, What is a station? I replied, It is a
fast. He said, What is that fast? I answered, I fast, as I have
been used to doing. You do not know, he said, what it is to fast
to God; nor is this a fast which you fast, profiting nothing with
3. Sir, I said, what makes you speak like this? He
replied, I speak it, because this is not the true fast which you
think that you fast; but I will show you what is a complete fast,
and acceptable to God.
4. Pay attention, he said. The Lord does not desire such a
needless fast; for by fasting in this manner, you advance nothing
5. But the true fast is this: do nothing wickedly in your
life, but serve God with a pure mind, keep his commandments, and
walk according to his precepts, nor permit any wicked desire to
enter into the mind.
6. But trust in the Lord, so that if you do these things
and fear him, and abstain from every evil work, you will live to
7. If you will do this, you will perfect a great fast, and
an acceptable one to the Lord.
For the nature of the acceptable fast, see Isaiah
8. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Listen
to the similitude which I am about to propose to you as to this
9. A certain man having a farm and many servants, planted a
vineyard in a certain part of his estate for his posterity,
This similitude begins like the parable of the
vineyard in Matthew 21:33, but it turns quite different
in development and in interpretation.
10. And taking a journey into a far country, chose one of
his servants whom he thought the most faithful and approved, and
delivered the vineyard into his care, commanding him that he
should take up the vines. Which if he did, and fulfilled his
command, he promised to give him his liberty. Nor did he command
him to do anything more; and he so went into a far country.
11. And after that servant had taken that duty upon him, he
did whatever his lord commanded him. And when he had staked the
vineyard and found it to be full of weeds, he began to think with
12. I have done what my lord commanded me; I will now dig
this vineyard, and when it is digged, it will be more beautiful;
and the weeds being pulled up, it will bring forth more fruit and
not be choked by the weeds.
13. So setting about this work he digged it and plucked up
all the weeds that were in it; and so the vineyard became very
beautiful and prosperous, not being choked with weeds.
14. After some time the lord of the vineyard came and went
into the vineyard, and when he saw that it was handsomely staked
and digged, and the weeds plucked up that were in it, and the
vines flourishing, he rejoiced greatly at the care of his
15. And calling his son whom he loved, and who was to be
his heir, and his friends with whom he was accustomed to consult,
he told them what he had commanded his servant to do, and what
his servant had done more; and they immediately congratulated
that servant, because he had received so just a commendation from
16. Then he said to them, I indeed promised this servant
his liberty if he observed the command which I gave him; and he
observed it and besides has done a good work to my vineyard,
which has exceedingly pleased me.
17. Therefore for this work that he has done, I will make
him my heir together with my son, because when he saw what was
good, he neglected it not, but did it.
18. Both his son and his friends approved this design of
the lord, namely, that his servant should be heir together with
19. Not long after this, the master of the family called
together his friends and sent from his supper several kinds of
food to that servant.
20. Which when he had received, he took so much of it as
was sufficient for himself, and divided the rest among his fellow
21. Which when they had received, they rejoiced for what he
had done to them and wished that he might find yet greater favor
with his lord.
22. When his lord heard all these things, he was again
filled with great joy; and calling again his friends and his son
together, he related to them what his servant had done with the
meats which he had sent to him.
23. They therefore assented even more to the master of the
household that he ought to make that servant his heir together
with his son.
24. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] I
said to him, Sir, I know not these similitudes, neither can I
understand them, unless you expound them to me. I will, he said,
expound all things to you whatever I have talked with you, or
shown to you.
25. Keep the commandments of the Lord and you will be
approved and will be written in the number of those that keep his
commandments. But if besides those things which the Lord has
commanded, you will add some good thing, you will purchase to
yourself a greater dignity and be in more favor with the Lord
than you would otherwise have been.
26. If therefore you will keep the commandments of the Lord
and will add to them these stations, you will rejoice, but
especially if you keep them according to my commands.
The phrase "add to them these stations" means to
practice additional self-assumed, specific habits of
27. I said to him, Sir, whatever you will command me, I
will observe, for I know that you will be with me. He said, I
will be with you who have taken up such a resolution and with all
those who purpose in like manner.
28. This fast, if you also observe the commandments of the
Lord, is exceeding good. Therefore keep it.
29. First of all, take heed to yourself, and keep yourself
from every shameful act, and from every filthy word, and from
every hurtful desire; and purify your mind from all the vanity of
this present world. If you will observe these things, this fast
will be right.
30. Thus therefore do. Having performed what is before
written, that day on which you fast you will taste nothing at all
but bread and water; and computing the quantity of food which you
are accustomed to eat upon other days, you will lay aside the
expense which you would have made that day, and give it to the
widow, the fatherless, and the poor.
It is unfortunate that this simple, practical
advice, written early in the second century, has been
unknown to Christians all this time.
31. That he who receives of it may satisfy his soul, and
his prayer come up to the Lord God for you; thus you will perfect
the humiliation of your soul.
32. If therefore you will thus accomplish your fast as I
command you, your sacrifice will be acceptable to the Lord, and
your fast will be written in his book.
33. This station, thus performed, is good and pleasing and
acceptable to the Lord. If you will observe these things with
your children and with all your house, you will be happy.
34. And whoever will do these things when they hear them,
they also will be happy and receive whatever they will ask of the
35. And I begged him to expound to me the similitude of the
farm, and the Lord, and of the vineyard, and of the servant that
had staked the vineyard, and of the weeds that were plucked out
of the vineyard, and of his son and his friends which he took
into council with him. For I understood that this was a
36. He said to me, You are very bold in asking, for you
ought not to ask anything, because if it is appropriate to show
it to you, it will be showed to you.
37. I answered him, Sir, whatever you will show me without
explaining it to me, if I do not understand what it is, I shall
in vain see it. And if you propose any similitudes and not
expound them, I shall in vain hear them.
38. He answered me again, Whoever is the servant of God and
has the Lord in his heart, he desires understanding of him and
receives it; for he understands the words of the Lord which need
an inquiry and explains every similitude.
39. But they who are lazy and slow to pray, doubt to seek
from the Lord. although the Lord is of such an extraordinary
goodness that without ceasing he gives all things to them that
ask of him.
40. You therefore who are strengthened by that venerable
messenger and have received such a powerful gift of prayer
because you are not slothful, why do you not now ask
understanding of the Lord and receive it?
41. I said to him, Seeing I have you present, it is
necessary that I should seek and ask it of you, for you show all
things to me and speak to me when you are present.
42. But if I saw or heard these things when you were not
present, I would then ask the Lord to show them to me.
43. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And
he replied, I said a little before that you were subtle and bold,
in that you ask the meaning of these similitudes.
44. But because you still persist, I will unfold to you
this parable which you desire, so that you may make it known to
45. Hear therefore, he said, and understand. The farm
before mentioned denotes the whole earth. The Lord of the farm
is he who created and finished all things, and gave virtue to
46. His son is the Holy Spirit; the servant is the Son of
God; the vineyard is the people whom he saves. The stakes are
the angels who are set over them by the Lord to support his
people. The weeds that are plucked up out of the vineyard are
the sins which the servants of God had committed.
47. The food which he sent him from his supper are the
commands which he gave to his people by his Son. The friends
whom he called to counsel with him are the holy angels whom he
first created. The absence of the master of the household is the
time that remains to his coming.
48. I said to him, Sir, all these things are very
excellent, and wonderful, and good. But, I continued, could I or
any other man, though ever so wise, have understood these things?
49. Therefore now, Sir, tell me what I ask. He replied,
ask me what you will. Why, I said, is the Son of God in this
parable put in the place of a servant?
50. Pay attention, he said. The Son of God is not put in
the condition of a servant, but in great power and authority. I
said to him, How, Sir? I do not understand it.
51. Because, he said, the Son set his angels over those
whom the Father delivered to him, to keep every one of them; but
he himself labored very much, and suffered much, that he might
blot out their offenses.
52. For no vineyard can be digged without much labor and
pains. For that reason after having blotted out the sins of his
people, he showed to them the paths of life by giving them the
law which he had received of the Father.
53. You see, he said, that he is the Lord of his people,
because he received all power from his Father. But why the Lord
took his Son and the good angels into counsel about dividing the
inheritance, hear now.
54. That Holy Spirit, which was created first of all, he
placed in the body in which God should dwell: namely, in a chosen
body, as it seemed good to him. This body therefore into which
the Holy Spirit [as before above] was brought, served that Spirit
by walking rightly and purely in modesty, nor ever defiled that
Most commentators suggest that the Holy Spirit in
this similitude means the created Spirit of Christ as
man; not the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the
Trinity. The Shepherd of Hermas often turns the usual
symbolisms of Bible commentators upside down, and
symbols become symbolic of other symbols, etc.
55. Seeing therefore the body at all times obeyed the Holy
Spirit and labored rightly and chastely with him, nor faltered at
any time, that body was wearied and indeed lived servilely, but
being mightily approved to God with the Holy Spirit, was accepted
56. For such a stout course pleased God, because he was not
defiled in the earth, keeping the Holy Spirit. He called
therefore to counsel his Son, and the good angels, that there
might be some place of standing given to this body which had
served the Holy Spirit without blame, for fear it would seem to
have lost the reward of its service.
57. For every pure body in which the Holy Spirit has been
appointed to dwell and that is found without spot, will receive
its reward. And thus you now have the exposition of his parable
58. Sir, I said, since I have heard this exposition, I now
understand your meaning. Listen further, he said. Keep this
your body clean and pure so that the Spirit which will dwell in
it may bear witness to it, and be judged to have been with you.
59. Also take heed that it not be instilled into your mind
that this body perishes, and you abuse it with any lust. For if
you will defile your body, you will also at the some time defile
the Holy Spirit; and if you will defile the Holy Spirit, you
will not live.
For "defile the Holy Spirit" some copies read
"defile your body."
60. And I said, What if through ignorance this might have
been already committed before a man heard these words; how can he
who has thus defiled his body attain to salvation?
61. He replied, As for men's former actions which they have
committed through ignorance, only God can afford a remedy to
them, for all the power belongs to him.
62. But now guard yourself, and because God is almighty and
merciful, he will grant a remedy to what you have formerly done
amiss, if for the time to come you will not defile your body and
63. For they are companions together, and the one cannot be
defiled but the other will be so too. Keep therefore both of
them pure, and you will live to God.
Of two sorts of voluptuous men, and of their death, defection,
and of the continuance of their pains.
1. As I was sitting at home praising God for all the things
which I had seen, and thinking concerning the commands, that they
were exceedingly good, and great, and honest, and pleasant, and
such as were able to bring a man to salvation, I said thus within
myself, I shall be happy if I shall walk according to these
commands, and whoever will walk in them will live to God.
2. While I was speaking like this within myself, I saw him
whom I had before been accustomed to see, sitting by me, and he
spoke thus to me:
3. Why do you doubt concerning my commands which I have
delivered to you? They are good, doubt not, but trust in the
Lord, and you will walk in them. For I will give you strength to
Compare with: "For it is God which worketh in you
both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure."
4. The commands are profitable to those who will repent of
those sins which they have formerly committed, if for the time to
come they will not continue in them.
5. Whoever therefore you are who repents, cast away from
you the vulgarity of the present world and put on all virtue, and
righteousness so you will be able to keep these commands and not
sin anymore from now on.
6. For if you will keep yourselves from sin in the time to
come, you will cut off a great deal of your former sins. Walk in
my commands, and you will live to God. These things have I
spoken to you.
7. And when he had said this, he added, Let us go into the
field, and I will show you shepherds of sheep. I replied, Sir,
let us go.
8. And we came into a certain field, and there he showed me
a young shepherd, finely arrayed, with his garments of a purple
color. And he fed large flocks, and his sheep were full of
pleasure and in much delight and cheerfulness, and they ran
skipping here and there.
9. And the shepherd took very great satisfaction in his
flock; and the countenance of that shepherd was cheerful, running
up and down among his flock.
Every time we assume we can guess the Shepherd's
meaning, he surprises us with his interpretation.
10. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Then
the angel said to me, Do you see this shepherd? I answered, Sir,
I see him. He said to me, This in the angel of delight and
pleasure. He therefore corrupts the minds of the servants of
God, and turns them from the truth by delighting them with many
pleasures, and they perish.
11. For they forget the commands of the living God and live
in luxury and vain pleasures, and are corrupted by the evil
angel, some of them even to death and others to a falling away.
Falling away means defection from faith.
12. I replied, I do not understand what you mean by saying
to death, and to a falling away. Hear, he said: All these sheep
you saw exceeding joyful are such as have forever departed from
God and given themselves up to the lusts of this present time.
13. To these therefore there is no return by repentance to
life, because that to their other sins they have added this, that
they have blasphemed the name of the Lord. These kind of men are
ordained to death.
14. But those sheep which you saw not leaping, but feeding
in one place, are such as have indeed given themselves up to
pleasures and delights, but have not spoken anything wickedly
against the Lord.
15. These therefore are only fallen off from the truth, and
so yet have hope laid up for them in repentance. For such a
falling off has some hope still left of a renewal, but they who
are dead are utterly gone forever.
16. Again we went a little farther forward, and he showed
me a great shepherd who had as it were a rustic figure, clad with
a white goat's skin, having his bag upon his shoulder, and in his
hand a stick full of knots and very hard, and a whip in his other
hand, and his countenance was stern and sour; his look was enough
to frighten a man.
17. He took from that young shepherd such sheep as lived in
pleasures but did not skip up and down, and drove them into a
certain steep craggy place full of thorns and briars, so much so
that they could not get themselves free from them.
18. But being entangled in them, fed upon thorns and
briars, and were grievously tormented with his whipping. For he
still drove them on, and afforded them no place or time to stand
19. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] When
therefore I saw them so cruelly whipped and afflicted, I was
grieved for them because they were greatly tormented, nor had
they any rest afforded them.
20. And I said to the shepherd that was with me, Sir, who
is this cruel and implacable shepherd, who is moved with no
compassion towards these sheep? He answered, This shepherd is
indeed one of the righteous angels, but he is appointed for the
punishment of sinners.
21. To him therefore are delivered those who have erred
from God and served the lusts and pleasures of this world. For
this reason he punishes them with cruel and various kinds of
pains, every one according to their deserts.
22. Sir, I said, I would know what kind of pains they are
which every one undergoes? Pay attention, he said. The numerous
pains and torments are those which men every day undergo in their
present lives. For some suffer losses, others poverty, others
various sicknesses. Some are unsettled, others suffer injuries
from those that are unworthy, others fall under many other trials
23. For many with an unsettled design aim at many things
without profit, and they say that they do not have success in
24. They do not call to their mind what they have done
amiss, and they complain of the Lord. When therefore they will
have undergone all kind of vexation and inconvenience, then they
are delivered over to me for good instruction to be confirmed in
the faith of the Lord and to serve the Lord all the rest of their
days with a pure mind.
25. And when they begin to repent of their sins, then they
call to mind their works which they have done amiss, and give
honor to God, saying that he is a just Judge, and they have
deservedly suffered all things according to their deeds.
26. Then for what remains of their lives, they serve God
with a pure mind and have success in all their undertakings, and
receive from the Lord whatever they desire.
27. And then they give thanks to the Lord that they were
delivered to me, nor do they suffer any more cruelty.
28. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] I
said to him, Sir, I entreat you still to show me now one thing.
What, he said, do you ask? I said to him, Are they who depart
from the fear of God tormented for the same time that they
enjoyed their false delight and pleasures? He answered me, They
are tormented for the same time.
29. And I said to him, They are then tormented but little,
whereas they who enjoy their pleasures so as to forget God, ought
to endure seven times as much punishment.
30. He answered me, You are foolish, neither understand the
efficacy of this punishment. I said to him, Sir, if I understood
it, I would not desire you to tell me.
31. Listen, he said, and learn what the force of both is,
both of the pleasure and of the punishment. An hour of pleasure
is over within its own space, but one hour of punishment has the
efficacy of thirty days. Whoever therefore enjoys his false
pleasure for one day, and is one day tormented, that one day of
punishment is equivalent to a whole year's space.
In those days, one day was counted as twelve hours
(one night is also twelve hours). Thus, the day starts
at six in the morning and ends at six in the evening.
Thus, the third hour of the day was nine o'clock, the
sixth hour was noon, etc. The sixth hour of the night
was midnight, etc. One hour is calculated as a twelfth
of a day; thirty days is a twelfth of a year. Compare
with: "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" (John
32. Thus look how many days anyone pursues his pleasures,
so many years is he punished for it. You see therefore how that
the time of worldly enjoyments is but short, but that of pain and
torments a great deal more.
33. I replied, Sir, because I do not understand at all
these times of pleasure and pain, I entreat you that you would
explain yourself more clearly concerning them. He answered me,
Your foolishness still sticks to you.
34. Should you not rather purify your mind and serve God?
Take heed, for fear that when your time is fulfilled, you be
found still unwise. Hear then, as you desire, so you may more
35. He who gives himself up one day to his pleasures and
delights, and does whatever his soul desires, is full of great
folly, nor understands what he does, but the day following
forgets what he did the day before.
36. For delight and worldly pleasure are not kept in
memory, by reason of the folly that is rooted in them. But when
pain and torment befall a man a day, he is in effect troubled the
whole year after, because his punishment continues firm in his
Ancient writings sometimes contain remarkable
psychological insights. This refers to the
psychological phenomenon of time-distortion; we
commonly say "Time flies when you're having fun," yet
time drags when we are in pain or discomfort. (A
stressful five minutes in a dentist's chair seems like
an hour, and can ruins the whole day.) Here, the
principle is applied to retribution.
37. Therefore he remembers it with sorrow the whole year,
and then calls to mind his vain pleasure and delight, and
perceives that for the sake of that he was punished.
38. They who have delivered themselves over to such
pleasures are thus punished, because when they had life, they
rendered themselves liable to death.
39. I said to him, Sir, what pleasures are hurtful? He
answered, That is pleasure to every man which he does willingly.
40. For the angry man, gratifying his passion, perceives
pleasure in it; and so does the adulterer and drunkard, the
slanderer and liar, the covetous man and the defrauder, and
whoever commits anything like these. Because he follows his evil
disposition, he receives a satisfaction in doing it.
The phrase "follows his evil disposition" can be
translated "obeys his disease."
41. All these pleasures and delights are hurtful to the
servants of God. For these therefore they are tormented and
42. There are also pleasures that bring salvation to men.
For many, when they do what is good, find pleasure in it and are
attracted by the delights of it.
43. Now this pleasure is profitable to the servants of God
and brings life to such men. But those hurtful pleasures, which
were before mentioned, bring torments and punishment.
44. And whoever will continue in them, and will not repent
of what they have done, will bring death upon themselves.
That they who repent must bring forth fruits worthy of
1. After a few days in the same field where I had seen
those shepherds, I saw the same person who before talked with me.
And he said to me, What do you seek?
2. Sir, I said, I came to entreat you that you would
command the shepherd, who is the minister of punishment, to
depart out of my house, because he greatly afflicts me.
3. And he answered, It is necessary for you to endure
inconveniences and vexations, because that good angel has
commanded it concerning you in order to test you.
4. Sir, I said, what great offence have I committed, that I
should be delivered to this angel? Pay attention, he said. You
are indeed guilty of many sins, yet not so many that you should
be delivered to this angel.
5. But your house has committed many sins and offenses, and
therefore that good angel has been grieved at their doings and
has commanded that for some time you should suffer affliction, so
that they may both repent of what they have done and may wash
themselves from all the lusts of this present world.
6. When therefore they will have repented and be purified,
then that angel who is appointed over your punishment will depart
7. I said to him, Sir, if they have behaved themselves so
as to anger that good angel, yet what have I done? He answered,
They cannot otherwise be afflicted, unless you, who are the head
of the family, suffer.
8. For whatever you will suffer, they must necessarily feel
it, but as long as you stand well established, they cannot
experience any vexation.
9. I replied, But, Sir, behold they also now repent with
all their hearts. I know, he said, that they repent with all
their hearts, but do you therefore think that their offenses are
immediately blotted out?
10. No, they are not presently; but he that repents must
afflict his soul and show himself humble in all his affairs, and
undergo many and diverse vexations.
11. And when he will have suffered all things that were
appointed for him, then perhaps he that made him, and formed all
things besides, will be moved with compassion towards him, and
afford him some remedy, especially if he will perceive his heart
to be pure from every evil work.
12. But at present it is expedient for you, and for your
house, to be grieved; and it is needful that you must endure much
vexation, as the angel of the Lord who committed you to me has
This is another of those hard explanations of why
the righteous suffer. No single explication suffices
for each individual case. Job's friends had cogent
explanations in general, but none applied to his
suffering. That a person may suffer because of the
sins of loved ones, because only that can move them to
repentance is a startling concept -- which applied to
Hermas, but is not meant to be taken as a universal
13. Rather give thanks to the Lord, that knowing what was
to come, he thought you worthy to foretell that trouble was
coming upon you, who are able to bear it.
14. I said to him, Sir, if you also be with me, I shall
easily undergo any trouble. I will, he said, be with you, and I
will entreat the angel who is set over your punishment to
moderate his afflictions towards you.
15. And moreover you will suffer adversity only for a
little time, and then you will again be restored to your former
state; only continue in the humility of your mind.
16. Obey the Lord with a pure heart, you, and your house,
and your children, and walk in the commands which I have
delivered to you, and then your repentance may be firm and pure.
17. And if you will keep these things with your house, your
inconveniences will depart from you.
18. And in the same manner all vexation will depart from
all those who will walk according to these commands.
That there are many kinds of elect, and of repenting sinners; and
how all of them will receive a reward proportionate to the
measure of their repentance and good works.
1. Again he showed me a willow which covered the fields and
the mountains, under whose shadow came all such as were called by
the name of the Lord.
2. And by that willow stood an angel of the Lord very
excellent and lofty, who cut down boughs from that willow with a
great hook and reached out little rods, as it were about a foot
long, to the people who were under the shadow of that willow.
3. And when all of them had taken them, he laid aside his
hook, and the tree continued entire, as I had before seen it. At
which I wondered and mused within myself.
4. Then that shepherd said to me, Forbear to wonder that
the tree continues whole, notwithstanding so many boughs have
been cut off from it, but wait a little, for now it will be shown
you what that angel means, who gave those rods to the people.
5. So he again demanded the rods from them, and in the same
order that every one had received them, he was called to him to
restore his rod. When he had received them, he examined them.
6. From some he received them dry and rotten, and as it
were touched with the moth; those he commanded to be separated
from the rest and placed by themselves. Others gave in their
rods dry indeed, but not touched with the moth; these also he
ordered to be set by themselves.
7. Others gave in their rods half dry; these also were set
apart. Others gave in their rods half dry and cleft; these too
were set by themselves. Others brought in their rods half dry
and half green; these were in like manner placed by themselves.
8. Others delivered up their rods two parts green, and the
third dry; they too were set apart. Others brought their rods
two parts dry, and the third green; they also were placed by
9. Others delivered up their rods less dry, that is, only a
little of their tops were dry, but they had clefts; these were
set apart the same way by themselves. In the rods of others
there was but a little green, and the rest dry; these were set
aside by themselves.
10. Others came and brought their rods as green as they had
received them, and the greatest part of the people brought their
rods thus, and the messenger greatly rejoiced at these; they also
were put apart by themselves.
11. Others brought in their rods not only green, but full
of branches; and these were set aside, being also received by the
angel with great joy. Others brought their rods green with
branches that also had some fruit upon them.
12. They who had such rods were very cheerful, and the
angel himself took great joy at them, nor was the shepherd that
stood with me less pleased with them.
13. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Then
the angel of the Lord commanded crowns made of palms to be
brought, and the angel crowned those men in whose rods he found
the young branches with fruit, and commanded them to go into the
The tower, of course, the same one in Visions, the
First Book of Hermas, and means the Church.
14. He also sent into the tower those in whose rods he
found branches without fruit, after giving a seal to them. For
they had the same garment, that is, one white as snow, with which
he bade them go into the tower. And so he did to those who
returned their rods green as they had received them, giving them
a white garment and sending them away to go into the tower.
15. Having done this, he said to the shepherd that was with me,
I go my way, but send these within the walls, every one into the
place in which he has deserved to dwell, first examining their
rods, but examine them diligently so that no one deceive you.
But and if anyone will escape you, I will try them upon the
altar. Having said this to the shepherd, he departed.
16. And after he was gone, the shepherd said to me, Let us
take the rods from them and plant them, if perhaps they may grow
green again. I said to him, Sir, how can those dry rods ever
grow green again?
17. He answered me, That tree is a willow and always loves
to live. If therefore these rods will be planted and receive a
little moisture, many of them will recover themselves.
18. Therefore I will try, and will pour water upon them,
and if any of them can live, I will rejoice with him; but if not,
at least by this means I shall be found not to have neglected my
19. Then he commanded me to call them, and they all come to
him, every one in the rank in which he stood, and gave him their
rods, which having received, he planted every one of them in
their several orders.
20. And after he had planted them all, he poured much water
upon them, to the point that they were covered with water and did
not appear above it. Then when he had watered them, he said to
me, Let us depart, and after a little time we will return and
21. For he who created this tree would have all those live
who received rods from it. And I hope now that these rods are
thus watered, many of them will receive in the moisture and will
22. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] I
said to him, Sir, tell me what this tree denotes? For I am
greatly astonished that after so many branches have been cut off,
it seems still to be whole, nor does any less of it appear to
remain, which greatly amazes me.
23. He answered, Listen carefully. This great tree which
covers the plains and the mountains, and all the earth, is the
law of God that is published throughout the whole world.
24. Now this law is the Son of God, who is preached to all
the ends of the earth. The people that stand under its shadow
are those who have heard his preaching and believed.
25. The great and venerable angel whom you saw was Michael,
who has the power over his people and governs them. For he has
planted the law in the hearts of those who have believed, and
therefore he visits them to whom he has given the law, to see if
they have kept it.
26. And he examines everyone's rod, and of those, many that
are weakened; for those rods are the law of the Lord. Then he
discerns all those who have not kept the law, knowing the place
of every one of them.
27. I said to him, Sir, why did he send away some to the
tower and left others here to you? He replied, Those who have
transgressed the law they received from him are left in my power
so that they may repent of their sins, but they who fulfilled the
law and kept it are under his power.
28. But who then, I said, are those who went into the tower
crowned? He replied, All are crowned who have striven with the
devil and have overcome him; they are those who have suffered
hard things in order to keep the law.
29. But they who gave up their rods green and with young
branches, but without fruit, have indeed endured trouble for the
same law, but have not suffered death, neither have they denied
their holy law.
30. They who delivered up their rods green as they received
them are those who were modest and just, and have lived with a
very pure mind, and kept the commandments of God.
31. The rest you will know, when I shall have considered
those rods which I have planted and watered.
32. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] After
a few days we returned, and in the same place stood that glorious
angel, and I stood by him. Then he said to me, Gird yourself
with a towel and serve me.
33. And I girded myself with a clean towel, which was made
of coarse cloth. And when he saw me girded and ready to minister
to him, he said, Call those men whose rods have been planted,
every one in his order as he gave them.
34. And he brought me into the field, and I called them
all, and they all stood ready in their several ranks. Then he
said to them, Let every one pluck up his rod, and bring it to me.
And first they delivered theirs, whose rods had been dry and
35. And those whose rods still continued so, he commanded
to stand apart. Then they came whose rods had been dry but not
rotten. Some of these delivered in their rods green, others dry
and rotten, as if they had been touched by the moth.
36. Those who gave them up green, he commanded to stand
apart, but those whose rods were dry and rotten, he caused to
stand with the first sort. Then came they whose rods had been
half dry, and cleft; many of these gave up their rods green and
37. Others delivered them up green with branches, and fruit
upon the branches, like those who went crowned into the tower.
Others delivered them up dry but not rotten, and some gave them
up as they were before, half dry and cleft.
38. Every one of these he ordered to stand apart, some by
themselves, and others in their respective ranks.
39. Then came they whose rods had been green but cleft.
These delivered their rods altogether green and stood in their
own order. And the shepherd rejoiced at these, because they were
all changed and free from their clefts.
40. Then they gave in their rods, who had them half green
and half dry. Of these some were found wholly green, others half
dry, others green with young shoots. And all these were sent
away, every one to his proper rank.
41. Then they gave up their rods, who had them before two
parts green and the third dry. Many of those gave in their rods
green, many half dry, the rest dry but not rotten. So these were
sent away, each to his proper place.
42. Then came they who had before their rods two parts dry
and the third green, and many of these delivered up their rods
half dry, others dry and rotten, others half dry and cleft, but
few green. And all these were set every one in his own rank.
43. Then they reached in their rods, in which there was
before but a little green, and the rest dry. Their rods were for
the most part found green, having little boughs with fruit upon
them, and the rest altogether green.
44. And the shepherd, upon sight of these, rejoiced
exceedingly because he had found them thus, and they also went to
their proper orders.
45. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Now
after he had examined all their rods, he said to me, I told you
that this tree loved life: you see how many have repented and
attained to salvation. Sir, I said, I see it.
46. That you might know, he said, that the goodness and
mercy of the Lord is great, and to be had in honor, who gave his
Spirit to those who were found worthy of repentance.
47. I answered, Sir, why then did not all of them repent?
He replied, Those whose minds the Lord foresaw would be pure, and
that they would serve him with all their hearts, to them he gave
48. But for those whose deceit and wickedness he beheld and
perceived that they would not truly return to him, to them he
denied any return to repentance, for fear they should again
blaspheme his law with wicked words.
49. But I said to him, Now, Sir, make known to me, what is
the place of every one of those, who have given up their rods,
and what their portion, that when they may have not kept their
seal entire, but have wasted the seal which they received, will
hear and believe these things, they may acknowledge their evil
deeds and repent;
50. And receiving again their seal from you, may give glory
to God, that he was moved with compassion towards them, and sent
you to renew their spirits.
51. He said, Pay attention. They whose rods have been
found dry and rotten, and as it were touched with the moth, are
the deserters and the betrayers of the Church.
52. Who, with the rest of their crimes, have also
blasphemed the Lord and denied his name which had been called
upon them. Therefore all these are dead to God. And you see
that none of them have repented, although they have heard my
commands that you have delivered to them. Therefore life is far
distant from these men.
53. They also who have delivered up their rods dry, but not
rotten, have not been far from them. For they have been
counterfeits, and brought in evil doctrines, and have perverted
the servants of God; but especially those who had sinned, not
allowing them to return to repentance, but keeping them back by
their false doctrines.
54. These therefore have hope, and you see that many of
them have repented since the time that you have laid my commands
before them, and many more will yet repent. But they who will
not repent will lose both repentance and life.
55. But they who have repented, their place is begun to be
within the first walls, and some of them are even gone into the
tower. You see therefore, he said, that in the repentance of
sinners there is life, but for those who do not repent, death is
56. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Hear
now concerning those who gave in their rods half dry and full of
clefts. Those whose rods were only half dry are the doubtful,
for they are neither living nor dead.
57. But they who delivered in their rods, not only half dry
but also full of clefts, are both doubtful and evil speakers, who
detract from those who are absent and never have peace among
themselves, and who envy one another.
58. Nevertheless to those also repentance is offered, for
you see that some of these have repented.
59. Now all of this kind who have quickly repented will
have a place in the tower, but they who have been slower in their
repentance will dwell within the walls; but they that will not
repent, but will continue on in their wicked doings, will die the
60. As for those who had their rods green, but yet cleft,
they are such as were always faithful and good, but they had some
envy and strife among themselves concerning dignity and
61. Now all who contend with one another about these things
are vain and without understanding.
62. Nevertheless, seeing they are otherwise good, if when
they will hear these commands they will amend themselves and will
at my persuasion suddenly repent, they will at last dwell in the
tower with those who have truly and worthily repented.
63. But if any one will again return to his dissension, he
will be shut out from the tower and will lose his life. For the
life of those who keep the commandments of the Lord consists in
doing what they are commanded, not in dominion or in any other
64. For by forbearance and humility of mind, men will
attain to life, but by seditions and contempt of the law, they
will purchase death to themselves.
65. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] They
who had their rods had half dry and half green are those who are
engaged in many affairs of the world, and are not joined to the
saints. For which reason half of them live, and half are dead.
66. Since the time that they have heard my commands, many
of these have repented and begun to dwell in the tower. But some
of them have wholly fallen away; to these there is no more place
67. For by reason of their present interests, they have
blasphemed and denied God; and for this wickedness they have lost
life. And of these many are still in doubt; these may yet
return, and if they will quickly repent, they will have a place
in the tower, but if they will be more slow, they will dwell
within the walls; but if they will not repent, they will die.
68. As for those who had two parts of their rods green and
the third dry, they have by manifold ways denied the Lord. Many
of these have repented and found a place in the tower, and many
have altogether departed from God. These have utterly lost life.
69. And some being in a doubtful state, have raised up
dissensions; these may yet return, if they will suddenly repent
and not continue in their lusts. But if they will continue in
their evil doing they will die.
70. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] They
who gave in their rods two parts dry and the other green are
those who have indeed been faithful, but besides are rich and
full of good things, and thereupon have desired to be famous
among the heathen outside, and have thereby fallen into great
pride and begun to aim at high matters, and to forsake the truth.
71. Nor were they joined to the righteous, but lived with
the heathen, and this life seemed the more pleasant to them.
Nevertheless they have not departed from God, but continued in
the faith; only they have not wrought the works of faith.
72. Many therefore of these have repented and begun to
dwell in the tower. Yet others, still living among the heathen
and being lifted up with their vanities, have utterly fallen away
from God and followed the works and wickedness of the heathen.
These kind of men therefore are reckoned among strangers to the
73. Others of these began to be doubtful in their minds,
despairing by reason of their wicked doings ever to attain to
salvation. Others who were thus made doubtful, stirred up
dissensions as well.
74. To these therefore, and to those who by reason of their
deeds are become doubtful, there is still hope of return, but
they must repent quickly for their place to be in the tower. But
they that repent not, but continue still in their pleasures, are
near to death.
75. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] As
for those who gave in their rods green, excepting their tops,
which only were dry and had clefts, these were always good and
faithful, and upright before God; nevertheless they sinned a
little by reason of their empty pleasures and trifling thoughts
which they had within themselves.
76. When many of them they heard my words, they immediately
repented and began to dwell in the tower. Nevertheless some grew
doubtful, and others to their doubtful minds added dissensions.
To these there is still hope of return because they were always
good, but they will not easily be moved.
77. Lastly, those who gave in their rods dry except for
their tops, which alone were green, they are such as have
believed indeed in God but have lived in wickedness, yet without
departing from God, having always willingly borne the name of the
Lord and readily received the servants of God into their houses.
78. For that reason, when they heard these things they
returned and without delay repented, and lived in all
righteousness. And some of them suffered death, while others
readily underwent many trials to remind them of their evil
79. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And
when he had ended his explications of all the rods, he said to
me, Go and say to all men that they repent, and they will live to
God because the Lord, being moved with great clemency, has sent
me to preach repentance to all.
80. Even to those who by reason of their evil deeds do not
deserve to attain to salvation. But the Lord will be patient and
keep the invitation that was made by his Son.
81. I said to him, Sir, I hope that when they will hear
these things, all will repent. For I trust that everyone,
acknowledging his crimes and taking up the fear of the Lord, will
return to repentance.
82. He said to me, Whoever will repent with all their
hearts and cleanse themselves from all the evils that I have
before mentioned and not add anything more to their sins, if they
will not doubt any of these commands, will receive from the Lord
the cure of their former iniquities and will live to God.
83. But they that will continue to add to their
transgressions and still persist in the lusts of the present
world, will condemn themselves to death. But you walk in these
commands, and whosoever will walk in these, and exercise them
rightly, will live to God.
84. And having showed me all these things, he said, I will
show you the rest in a few days.
The categories in the interpretation do not always
correspond exactly to the terminology in the similitude
(probably due to copyists' errors), but here is a
summary of this complex passage:
The willow tree is called both the law of God, and
the Son of God; the angel who separates the believers
into their various groups is Michael.
Those with dry and rotten rods "as it were touched
by the moth" are deserters and betrayers of the Church,
blasphemers of the Lord, none of whom repent.
Those with dry rods, but "not touched by the moth"
(not rotten) are the counterfeit teachers with evil
doctrines, some of whom repent.
Those with half dry rods are the doubtful,
"neither alive nor dead," some of whom repent.
Those with half dry and cleft rods are the
doubtful and evil speakers, full of envy, some of whom
Those with half dry and half green rods are those
engaged in worldly affairs, some of whom repent, but
others completely fall away.
Those with green but cleft rods (a description in
the interpretation that does not reflect any in the
vision) are people who are always good and faithful,
but with more or less envy, some of whom repent.
Those with rods two parts green, and the third dry
are those who in manifold ways denied the Lord by
dissensions, some of whom repent, although others
altogether depart from God.
Those with rods two parts dry, and the third green
are rich and more or less faithful but desirous of
being famous among the heathen, some of whom repent.
Those whose rods were green except for tops, which
were dry with clefts, are believers who were faithful
but sinned a little through empty pleasures and
trifling thoughts, some of whom repent.
Those whose rods were a little green but the rest
dry (assuming these are the same in the interpretation,
whose rods were dry except for the tops, which were
green), believed in God but lived in wickedness without
departing from God, and willingly bore his name and
showed hospitality to the servants of God; some of this
group immediately repented, others only after trials,
some of those trials leading to including death.
They who delivered up their rods as green as they
received them were those who were modest and just, and
lived with a very pure mind, and kept the commandments
of God; these were given white garments and sent to the
tower. (Most of the people were in this category.)
Those who gave up their rods green and full of
young branches but without fruit, were those who did
not deny the holy law but endured trouble for the Lord,
although they had not suffered death. These were given
a seal, a white garment, and sent to the tower.
Those whose rods were green with branches and some
fruit were those who had striven with the devil and
overcome him; they had suffered hard things in order to
keep the law. All these were given crowns and sent
into the tower.
Thus the chosen (elect) and repenting sinners fall
into one of twelve categories.
Continue to Similitudes 9 and 10