Thursday, 7 February 2019
Lisa Radakovich Holsberg: Saving Hermas (and Everyone Else): Everyday Soteriology in The Shepherd of Hermas
At the heart of The Shepherd of Hermas lies salvation. Dating from the early 2nd century and likely hailing from Rome, this narrative of conversion (metanoia) tells the story of the ordinary and everyday Hermas, a former slave who at the time of the narrative is a freed married man with a wife, children, and business affairs of his own. This ordinary man is seized by extraordinary events involving visionary dream figures who lead him on a complex journey of revelations towards the goal of salvation; a journey which includes a plunge into the depths of his own interiority. Yet, the salvation revealed in The Shepherd of Hermas is not an exclusively personal one. Hermas’ salvation in The Shepherd necessarily entails the salvation of other people. Most scholarly interpretations of The Shepherd depict the work as an early call to apocalyptic asceticism or as a cipher for the ecclesiastical organization of the emerging Christian Church. Drawing on the scholarship of Osiek, Lipsett, Santner, Wilson, Dibelius, and Young, this paper presents an alternative interpretation wherein the details of Hermas’ everyday life of family, business affairs, and community are treated as meaningful and intrinsic to the working-out of salvation in the concrete existence of life here-and-now. This paper speculates that these everyday details may feasibly have contributed to The Shepherd’s early popularity, and contends that they offer a powerful example of God present and active in ordinary existence.