(Re)growing the Tree: Early Christian Mysticism, Angelomorphic Identity, and the Shepherd of Hermas
DeConick, April D.
Doctor of Philosophy
This study analyzes the Shepherd of Hermas with a focus on those elements within the text that relate to the transformation of the righteous into the androgynous embodied divine glory. In so doing, Hermas is placed within the larger context of early Jewish and Christian mysticism and its specific traditions are traced back to the Jerusalem tradition evinced in the sayings source Q. Hermas is therefore shown to preserve a very old form of Christianity and an early form of Christian mysticism. It is argued that since Hermas’ revelatory visions of the Angel of the Lord and the divine House represent the object into which his community is being transformed, already in the present, and he provides a democratized praxis which facilitates their transformation and angelomorphic identity, he is operating within the realm of early Christian mysticism. Hermas’ implicit identification of the Ecclesia with Wisdom, along with his imaging of the righteous in terms of a vine and a Tree who are in exile and whose task it is to grow the Tree, is shown to have its earlier precedent in the Q source wherein Jesus and his followers take on an angelomorphic identity with the female Wisdom of the Temple and facilitate her restoration. Hermas’ tradition of the glory as a union of the Son of God and Wisdom is also shown to have its most direct contact with the Q source, in which Wisdom and the Son are understood to be eschatologically united in the transformation of the people of God. Included are two sections on how Hermas describes this union to occur presently within the bodies of the righteous through moral purity, adherence to the commandments, and baptism. The last chapter focuses on the continuity between Q source and the Shepherd of Hermas, along with overlaps between James, Q, and Hermas. It is concluded that Hermas is transmitting a tradition that can be substantially traced back to the Jerusalem church.
Shepherd of Hermas; Early Christian Mysticism