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Abstract

This dissertation argues that Hermas, the author the Shepherd, was meaningfully influenced by a corpus of Pauline letters. Chapter One demonstrates that the Shepherd was probably written at Rome in the first few decades of the second century C.E., when Pauline letters were increasingly known and accruing authority among Christians there and beyond. The Shepherd presents Hermas as at least semi-literate, and he could plausibly have read Pauline letters himself or heard them read or discussed by his fellow Christians in various settings. Chapter Two analyzes the history of scholarship, showing how the minimalist consensus that solidified in the modern period, according to which Hermas probably knew only Ephesians and maybe 1 Corinthians, constitutes a reversal of ancient views and reflects not only the acceptance of multiple methodological false dichotomies but also the widespread adoption of an unduly restrictive reading strategy that inevitably restricts the likelihood of ever detecting a meaningful encounter. It then presents a new interpretive approach that potentially uncovers fresh evidence of Hermas’s engagement with Pauline letters. Focusing on the Mandates, Similitudes, and Visions sections, respectively, Chapters Three through Five explore Pauline intertexts in the Shepherd, demonstrating that Hermas adopted, adapted, and synthesized identifiable parts of the corpus Paulinum, including both authentic epistles (1 Thessalonians, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and Romans) and pseudepigraphic ones (Colossians, Ephesians, and the Pastoral Epistles), as well as Hebrews. Much of what was foundational for the apostle and his pseudepigraphers was foundational for Hermas too. He discussed major and minor topics and theological themes developed across the corpus through time. He connected relevant parts of different Pauline letters and interpreted them in light of each other. He also implicitly participated in particular Paulinist debates, using specifically Pauline terms. Therefore, Hermas fully deserves the label of Pauline interpreter. He carefully and creatively engaged traditions preserved in Pauline letters, and he also interpreted (and corrected) his own experience and the experience of other Roman Christians in light of those letters. This recognition reorients scholarly study of the Shepherd by reconnecting it with a major current in early Christian thought, thereby expanding the sphere of Pauline influence in the second century C.E. even to texts that do not name the apostle or quote letters attributed to him at length.

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