Angela Kim Harkins

Feb 5, 2024

An Embodied Reading of the Shepherd of Hermas

The Book of Visions and Its Role in Moral Formation

Equinox Publishing 2023

Among early Christian books abandoned at the flipside of the canonical boundary, the Shepherd of Hermas is presently undergoing an exciting renaissance of scholarly interest from multiple critical angles. Accepting that the Shepherd was broadly reckoned as a catechetical scripture by early Christians after its composition and dissemination from Rome, Angela Kim Harkins interrogates the first section of the tripartite Shepherd known as the Book of Visions, which narrates Hermas’s visionary experiences in first-person voice. 

In An Embodied Reading of the Shepherd of Hermas: The Book of Visions and its Role in Moral Formation (Equinox, 2023), Harkins argues that enactive reading can help to generate immersive experiences of Hermas’s revelations and explain the favor that the Book of Visions curried among ancient readers. Cognitive approaches also highlight how modern scholars, who are trained to read apocalypses “against the grain” in their search for historical or theological information, frequently do not stop to notice and appreciate the very things that made apocalypses engaging to a broad range of ancient readers and hearers. Harkins joined the New Books Network to discuss her book’s recent publication, the relevance of reading psychology approaches, and the breadth of apocalyptic works in Jewish and Christian antiquity.

Angela Kim Harkins (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 2003) is Professor Ordinaria of New Testament at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. Her research interests have focused on prayer in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity, including the Hodayot or “Thanksgiving Hymns” from the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. Among her eight publications in the last decade are edited volumes on the Shepherd of Hermas (De Gruyter, 2022, with Harry O. Maier) as well as Fallen Angels and the Watchers, both of whom are known through apocryphal and pseudepigraphical texts. Angela was born in Seoul, South Korea, and presently serves as lead editor for the Journal of Ancient Judaism.

Rob Heaton (Ph.D., University of Denver, 2019) hosts Biblical Studies conversations for New Books in Religion and teaches New Testament, Christian origins, and early Christianity at Anderson University in Indiana. He recently authored The Shepherd of Hermas as Scriptura Non Grata: From Popularity in Early Christianity to Exclusion from the New Testament Canon (Lexington Books, 2023). For more about Rob and his work, or to offer feedback related to this episode, please visit his website at https://www.robheaton.com.

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Rob Heaton

Rob Heaton (Ph.D., University of Denver, 2019) hosts Biblical Studies conversations for New Books in Religion and teaches New Testament, Christian origins, and early Christianity at Anderson University in Indiana. His research focuses on the New Testament canon and other early Christian literature, especially subcanonical books like The Shepherd of Hermas and the Apostolic Fathers. For more about Rob and his work, or to offer feedback related to his podcast episodes, please see his website at https://www.robheaton.com.
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