Educational Audiobooks: On Prayer By Origen & The Shepherd Of Hermas
A treatise on prayer by a great early Christian theologian from Alexandria. Using prayers from both the Old and New Testament as examples, he creates a primer on what sort of things a Christian should pray for, and how. His primary tool for doing this is a detailed interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer.
Some of the theology, Biblical interpretation, and Christian practice that he advocates has been developed further since his time. So you may need to take these bits with a grain of salt. But much of his advice and insight is still good today, as well as serving as an interesting slice of historical life.
Origen of Alexandria[a] (c. 184 – c. 253), also known as Origen Adamantius,[b] was an early Christian scholar, ascetic, and theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria. He was a prolific writer who wrote roughly 2,000 treatises in multiple branches of theology, including textual criticism, biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, homiletics, and spirituality. He was one of the most influential figures in early Christian theology, apologetics, and asceticism. He has been described as “the greatest genius the early church ever produced”.
Origen sought martyrdom with his father at a young age but was prevented from turning himself in to the authorities by his mother. When he was eighteen years old, Origen became a catechist at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. He devoted himself to his studies and adopted an ascetic lifestyle as both a vegetarian and teetotaler. He came into conflict with Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria, in 231 after he was ordained as a presbyter by his friend, the bishop of Caesarea, while on a journey to Athens through Palestine. Demetrius condemned Origen for insubordination and accused him of having castrated himself and of having taught that even Satan would eventually attain salvation, an accusation which Origen vehemently denied. Origen founded the Christian School of Caesarea, where he taught logic, cosmology, natural history, and theology, and became regarded by the churches of Palestine and Arabia as the ultimate authority on all matters of theology. He was tortured for his faith during the Decian persecution in 250 and died three to four years later from his injuries.
The Shepherd of Hermas was a “bestseller” among early Christians (late Second Century), and was nearly designated a book of scripture. It’s not clear whether it’s supposed to be instructive fiction or an actual account of visions by Hermas, a freed slave turned shady businessman, worried by his sharp-tongued wife and troubled kids. The book provides much food for thought and much to disagree with.
The Shepherd of Hermas (Greek: Ποιμὴν τοῦ Ἑρμᾶ, Poimēn tou Herma; sometimes just called The Shepherd) is a Christian literary work of the late 1st or mid-2nd century, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers such as Irenaeus. The Shepherd was very popular amongst Christians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was bound as part of the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus, and it was listed between the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul in the stichometrical list of the Codex Claromontanus.
The work comprises five visions, twelve mandates, and ten parables. It relies on allegory and pays special attention to the Church, calling the faithful to repent of the sins that have harmed it.
The book was originally written in Rome, in the Greek language, but a first Latin translation, the Vulgata, was made very shortly afterwards. A second Latin translation, the Palatina, was made at the beginning of the fifth century. Of the Greek version the last fifth or so is missing.
The shepherd is one of the meanings that was probably attached to some figurines of the Good Shepherd as well as a symbol for Christ, or a traditional pagan kriophoros.
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