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Lightfoot's Apostolic Fathers In English - J. B. Lightfoot, D. D., D.C. L., LL. D.

The date is uncertain. The work is found in general circulation in the Eastern and Western Churches, soon after the middle of the second century. About this time also it must have been translated into Latin. It is quoted by Irenaeus in Gaul, by Tertullian in Africa, by Clement and Origen in Alexandria. All these fathers—even Tertullian, before he became a Montanist—either cite it as scripture, or assign to it a special authority as in some sense inspired and quasi-canonical. The same inference as to its early influence may be drawn from the denunciation of Tertullian, who—now become a Montanist—rejects it as repulsive to his puritan tendencies (de Pudic. 10), and the author of the Muratorian Canon (c. A.D. 180), who denies it a place among either the prophets or the apostles, though apparently allowing it to be read privately for edification. Its canonicity moreover had been the subject of discussion in more than one council, when Tertullian wrote (l. c., not before A.D. 212).

With the date is closely connected the question of authorship. On this point there are two ancient traditions.

(1) The author of the ‘Shepherd’ was the same Hermas, who is greeted by S. Paul as a member of the Roman Church, A.D. 58 (Rom. 16:14). This is the view adopted by Origen (iv. p. 683) in his commentary on the passage, where he speaks of the book as ‘a very useful scripture, and in my opinion divinely inspired’; but, as he introduces this view of the authorship with ‘ut puto’ it is plain that he does not fall back on any historical tradition in support of his opinion. His influence had great weight with subsequent writers.

(2) It was written by one Hermas, the brother of pope Pius I (c. A.D. 140–155) during the episcopate of the latter. This is stated in the Muratorian Canon (c. A.D. 180) ‘sedente cathedram urbis Romae ecclesiae Pio episcopo fratre eius’. This statement, however, is not consistent with the mention of Clement as a contemporary. If it be true, either some other Clement is meant, or the original Greek of the Canon, of which only the Latin is extant, cannot have stated that Pius was actually bishop at the time when it was written.

This tradition appears likewise in one or two subsequent writings, which however are perhaps not independent. It is somewhat discredited by the fact that its motive in depreciating the value of the work, as being quite recent and having no claim to be read in the Church like the writings of the Apostles and prophets, appears in the context1.

(3) Besides these two traditional views, a third and intermediate Hermas, not otherwise known, is postulated as the author about A.D. 90–100, to meet the difficulty about Clement. This is the view of several recent critics (Zahn, Hirt des Hermas p. 14 sq, followed by Caspari and others). The notices of the Christian ministry, and of the condition of the Church generally, seem to be consistent with either the second or the third view, though they suggest the earlier date rather than the later (Vis. ii. 2, 4, iii. 5, 9, Sim. ix. 27).

On the whole we may, though not without diffidence, adopt (2) the ancient tradition, which is definite and claims to be almost contemporary, as the safest guide; though confessedly (3) the modern suggestion has stronger support from internal evidence, such as it is.

The Aethiopic version, which identifies the author with S. Paul, ought to be regarded as a blunder, rather than a tradition founded on Acts 14:12. τὸν δὲ ΠαῦλονἙρμῆν.








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