24 February 2017

Van De Weyer's "Revelations to the Shepherd of Hermas"


One of my professors along the way referred to The Shepherd of Hermas as belonging to a category he termed "Almost-Bible".  In some parts of the earliest period of the Church The Shepherd of Hermas was regarded as Sacred Scripture, but with the process of establishing the New Testament Canon of Scripture it was impossible to discern an Apostolic origin for the Shepherd of Hermas.  An enormous amount of information was lost during the great persecutions especially under Diocletian,  so I have rather lightly held The Shepherd of Hermas in my own category of "Sacred" albeit not "Sacred Scripture".  

To read the original in translation is very, very difficult for any contemporary Christian who is not well-versed in the Christian apocalyptic vision which in the early Church did not derive from the Apocalypse/Revelation but was pre-existent to the Scriptures.

In part this prophetic vision derived from the Prophecy of Daniel, but it is important to note that the early Christian Church, its beliefs, and doctrines came from a living body of faith believed by those who held the First Temple, the Temple of Solomon, to have been a true Temple of the Most High but regarded the Second Temple in Jerusalem as polluted and not conveying the original truth and worship of the holy faith of the Hebrew people.

It is true that this living Christian apocalyptic vision was greatly informed by the Book of Jubilees, the Books of Enoch, Daniel and others.  Indeed, the Book of Jubilees is Sacred Scripture in the Canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewehedo Church.  The visions and revelations to Hermas the Shepherd arise from within this tradition, a living tradition that stretches back to the First Temple into great antiquity. But today the Western Church in Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Lutheran, or Pentecostal forms is quite cut off from that living tradition and vision.  The sense of the Apocalyptic vision in Pentecostalism and other Western European-origin churches is derived strictly from the Canon of Scripture and not from that original Christian living tradition.

However, elements of that original tradition can be found buried within archaic elements of the liturgical life of the various early Churches, and to some degree that understanding of prophecy and revelation comes to have its life in an almost separate mystical stream in the West.  St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Hildegard von Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Mechthild von Magdeburg and others experienced revelations and "showings" that can be seen as part of the Holy Spirit's "living work" which "living work" can be seen in the Prophet Daniel, the Revelation/Apocalypse, and successive generations of visionaries and seers of the Church.

I would suggest viewing The Shepherd of Hermas within this last category of mine "the Holy Ghost's living work".  Within it profound insight and understanding, guidance and deliverance can be found for the soul.

Robert Van De Weyer's "Revelations to the Shepherd of Hermas" is not a literal translation, but it is an extraordinarily successful attempt at presenting the visions and showings in The Shepherd of Hermas for a modern audience to consider.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to locate copies in hardback or paperback, but with a short glance I see that a few are available through various booksellers. Originally, the hardback edition was published under the title "The Shepherd of Hermas: An Apocalypse".

In this time of Pre-Lent, drawing very near to Ash Wednesday, I would like to share the 23rd chapter  from Robert Van De Weyer's text that I find especially striking:

The old woman now gave me a message to take to the churches across the world. "Listen to me, my children," she began. "I brought you up in great simplicity, innocence, and reverence, and I instilled righteousness into your hearts. But you prefer the ways of wickedness, and as a result there is conflict and division among you. I instruct you to be at peace with one another, to help one another in your daily work, and to share your wealth, so that those who are poor in this world's goods receive from those who are rich. Some of you are becoming ill from overeating, while others are wasting away from lack of food.  This failure to share food destroys the souls of the rich and the bodies of the poor. While this injustice continues, the tower, which is the holy Church, cannot be completed. And there is a further injustice which you must root out. Your leaders enjoy great respect and status, and treat those in their charge, especially the poor and uneducated, as if they were slaves. All are equal in the eyes of God, and those who regard themselves as superior are not fit to be leaders. Many of you are wise, but none of you is pure. Only when wisdom is mixed with purity shall you be fit to stand before your Father in heaven."

Revelations to the Shepherd of Hermas
Compiled by
Robert Van De Weyer
Paperback Edition
Triumph Books, Liguori, Missouri