Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Religious Studies

First Advisor

Gregory A. Robbins


Athanasius of Alexandria, Biblical canon, Christian Origins, Early Christianity, New Testament, Shepherd of Hermas, The


With its roots in the first century CE and claims to special revelation from various apparitions, the Shepherd of Hermas portended an alternative Christian trajectory to the prevailing Christocentrism. But some in the second, third, and fourth centuries also deemed it compatible with the synoptic Johannine-Pauline metanarrative for Christianity, such that prominent bishops Victorinus, Eusebius, and Athanasius labored to depict it outside the scriptures of the New Testament. While their data and other early patristic writings presage the Shepherdâ??s frequent appearance among scholarship on the biblical canon, this often manifests as little more than a curiosity, absent a proper context for the bookâ??s popularity and subsequent omission from the canon.

In the first study of such length on the extracanonicity of the Shepherd, this dissertation contextualizes Hermasâ??s book as interested not merely in the limits of repentance for grave postbaptismal sins. Hermas also prophetically propounded an alternative aretological scheme of Christian salvationâ??one in which the Son of God was primarily a virtuous exponent, rather than a savior. Still, certain Christians received the book as scripture, and a critical reevaluation of patristic reception reveals that occasional elite, localized, and idiosyncratic judgments against the Shepherd failed to hamper its wider approbation, particularly in Egypt, until the irruptive intervention of Athanasius.

Athanasiusâ??s 39th Festal Letter (367 CE) has long been acknowledged for its milestone New Testament, but this investigation expands the traditional focus on Athanasius from canon list to canonical designs. The Alexandrian bishopâ??s eventual imposition of scriptural boundaries was forged deep into a divisive career struggling against alternative doctrines, forms of authority, and modes of Christian piety. Crucially, this dissertation argues that Athanasius wielded four constrictive forces under evolution since the second centuryâ??heresiology, Christology, openness to prophetic authority, and ecclesiastical organizationâ??to isolate the Shepherd of Hermas as an incompatible and unwelcome source for Christian doctrine and unity. This focus on the ecclesiastical-political dimension of the canon, an instrument declared by fiat and accepted over time by an episcopal â??gentlemenâ??s handshake,â?? heralds new potential for future canon research not offered by the dead ends of the so-called canonical â??criteria.â??


Recieved from ProQuest

Rights holder

Robert Donald Heaton

File size

450 p.

File format





Biblical studies, Religious history, Ancient languages

Available for download on Sunday, August 01, 2021