Expectations

In The Shepherd of Hermas (Sim. 5.2), the Shepherd shares with the ever-dense Hermas a parable of a slave whose master leaves on a trip shortly after planting a vineyard. He commands the slave to fence in the vineyard and says he will give him his freedom if he does so. The slave then puts up the fence, but notices that there are a bunch of weeds in the vineyard, so he takes some initiative and pulls up the weeds as well.

I think it says something about the particular way I was formed in the Judeo-Christian tradition that my first thought on reading up to this point was, “Oh shit, the master’s going to be so pissed when he comes back.”

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12 Responses to “Expectations”

  1. Hill Says:

    I had the exact same reaction.

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    It just seems like there are a lot of stories like that in the Bible where God is out to screw you over on a technicality. Like he’d come back and say, “What?!?!?! I wanted to keep those weeds!”

  3. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    As a child and teenager I pretty much only read Revelation.

  4. Daniel Says:

    I actually am having trouble guessing how the story ends if it’s not “and then the slave kept being a slave because he tried to remove his master’s weeds”. Does the master come back and be like “Oh hey, you are free now and also thanks for pulling the weeds, have some cake”?

  5. ken oakes Says:

    Perhaps one of the happier reunions between “master” and “slave” in the NT is the parable of the shrewd servant (Luke 16), in which one expects the master to return and lay the smack down but instead praises the servant for his wily dealing. Irresponsibility with the master’s possessions/properties seems fine as long as one is gaining some friends in the process.

  6. Adam Kotsko Says:

    The actual ending is that he’s not only freed, but also made a co-heir with the master’s son.

  7. Adam Kotsko Says:

    In kind of an interesting twist, in the allegorical interpretation, the slave is the Son of God and the master’s son is the Holy Spirit, who in some way accepts Christ’s flesh (I’m having trouble parsing out exactly what is being claimed in this regard).

  8. stras jones Says:

    Damn, I had the exact same thought as I was reading this. Is The Shepherd worth reading? I don’t really know much New Testament apocrypha.

  9. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I’m just reading it because it’s relatively simple Greek yet not as familiar to me as the NT. There’s interesting stuff in there, and it was very popular in the 3rd and 4th centuries, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to someone with avocational interest.

  10. Alex Says:

    Didn’t the shepherd almost make canon?

  11. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Yes — or at least it was considered a serious contender among Alexandrian types (Clement being its greatest advocate).


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