In this picturesque allegory, a shepherd (Jesus) gives strict moral guidance through visions, “mandates,” and “similitudes” to a man named “Hermas.” The former slave-turned-businessman wrote it between 90 and 157 in Rome. It was used as a textbook for new believers and was considered Scripture by Irenaeus (c. 130–c. 200) and Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215).

The Gift of Repentance

I asked [the shepherd], “Because my sins are abundant, what must I do to live?”

“You shall live,” he said, “if you keep my commandments and walk in them. Whosoever shall hear and keep these commandments shall live before God.”

“I must continue to question,” I said. “Some teachers say that there is no second repentance beyond what was granted when we were blessed in the water of baptism and received remission for our previous sins.”

He replied, “That is so; for he who has received remission for former sins ought never to sin again but live in purity. Since you never cease asking about such things, I will explain more without excusing those who already believe in the Lord.

“Those who believe now, and those who shall believe in the future, need no repentance of sins, since they have remission of their former sin.

“For those who were called before these days the Lord granted repentance. The Lord knows the heart, and knowing all things beforehand, he knows the weakness of man and the wiles of the Devil, who throws mischief at the doors of God’s servants. Because the Lord is merciful, he granted mercy to his creation and offered repentance.

“But after the Lord established this holy gift, and a man be tempted by the Devil, he has but one repentance. It is unprofitable, therefore, for such a man to sin and repent repeatedly, for scarcely shall he live.”

I ...

Subscriber Access OnlyYou have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Already a CT subscriber? for full digital access.