Franklin Trammell, Ph.D. 2014
Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina
(Re)growing the Tree
Early Christian Mysticism, Angelomorphic Identity, and the Shepherd of Hermas
Dr. Trammell is Adjunct Lecturer in the Religious Studies Department at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He teaches courses on early Jewish Christianity and the Jerusalem church, and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity.
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.
Part 1 introduces the text and the figure of Hermas including the reported experiences which lead him to write his text and the nature of his Jewish-Christian environment.
Part 2 surveys the traditions of Hermas within the contexts of prophetic visions, apocalypticism, and early Jewish and 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 is 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.
Part 3 details the mythological, historical, and traditional background of primordial Wisdom relating to the story of Adam, the exile of Israel, and the female divine Presence of the Temple in order to elucidate Hermas’ implicit identification of the Ecclesia with Wisdom and his imaging of the righteous in terms of a vine and a Tree who are in exile. It is argued that this background is bound up with the angelomorphic identity that his community shares with Ecclesia-Wisdom and that the Q source evinces the earlier form of the tradition transmitted by Hermas.
Part 4 provides the traditional background to Hermas’ depiction of the divine glory as a union of male and female including Jewish mystical parallels. Hermas’ tradition of the glory as a union of the Son of God and Wisdom is 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.
Part 5 focuses on the continuity between Q source and the Shepherd of Hermas, especially those elements related to the angelomorphic identity that the earthly righteous share with the Son of God and Wisdom, 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.