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Grapte (Herm. Vis. 2)

Role: Literate Worker

Gender: Female

Date: Late-first to early second century CE

Place: Rome

Language: Greek

Literary Genre: Apocalypse; Revelation Dialogue

Title of Work: Shepherd of Hermas

Reference: Herm. Vis. 2.4.3 (8.3)

Original Text:

γράψεις οὖν δύο βιβλαρίδια καὶ πέμψεις ἓν Κλήμεντι καὶ ἓν Γραπτῇ. πέμψει οὖν Κλήμης εἰς τὰς ἔξω πόλεις, ἐκείνῳ γὰρ ἐπιτέτραπται. Γραπτὴ δὲ νουθετήσει τὰς χήρας καὶ τοὺς ὀρφανούς. σὺ δε ἀναγνώσῃ εἰς ταύτην τὴν πόλιν μετὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων τῶν προϊσταμένων τῆς ἐκκλησίας.

English Translation:

Therefore, write two little books and send one to Clement and the other to Grapte. Then Clement will send it to the outer cities, since it is entrusted to him. But Grapte will instruct the widows and orphans. And you will read it in the city with the presbyters who preside over the assembly.


Grapte is mentioned only once in the Shepherd of Hermas, when a divine figure called the Ekklesia commands Hermas to compose textual material that he receives from her (both via copying from a book that she holds and via dictation). Grapte is one of two recipients of the Ekklesia’s books, which are distributed by Hermas. 

Given that the Shepherd describes Grapte’s role as instruction for widows and orphans through the divine knowledge passed on by Hermas, she is characterized as a leader and teacher in her early Christian community. This role also presumes Grapte’s literacy and ability to interpret the textual material she receives for a broader community.

It is likely that Grapte is an enslaved or formerly enslaved person. Her name, which means “written,” is common among enslaved persons—particularly those who were trained as literate workers (e.g., CIL 2 3346; CIL 15 7286a). Grapte’s skill as an enslaved literate worker may have made her a valuable part of an early Christian network that distributed and interpreted texts.

Keywords: Apostolic Fathers; Christian;Literate Worker

Related Entries: Clement; Hermas


Maier, Harry O. “The Social Setting of the Ministry as Reflected in the Writings of Hermas, Clement and Ignatius. Waterloo, Ontario: Laurier University Press, 1991.

Proctor, Travis W. “Books, Scribes, and the Cultures of Reading in the Shepherd of Hermas.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 73.3 (2022): 461–479.

How to Cite:

Bonar, Chance E. “Grapte (Herm. Vis. 2).” Ancient Enslaved Christians. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. <URL>.



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