Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 10

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John 10

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  1, 19 -- 12, 50 (continued)

3.  Conflicts with the Jews  7, 1 -- 12, 50 (continued)

10, 1-21:  The Good Shepherd.  The claims already made by our Lord are now urged under the image of the Good Shepherd.  This symbol is frequent in the Old Testament: cf. Pss. 22; 78, 13; 94, 7; 99, 3; Isa. 40, 11; Jer. 23, 1-4; Ezech. 34; 37, 24; Mich. 7, 14; Zach. 10, 3; 13, 7.  As to the occasion of this discourse, the fact that some of the hearers knew of the cure of the blind man (10, 21) suggests a link between the two.  Most interpreters are inclined to connect 10, 1-21 with 9, 40 f as having a somewhat polemic aim.  Many others, however, both in ancient and in modern times, regard the theme of the Good Shepherd as a new one, neither polemic nor apologetic.

1-6:  The parable, most apt in the pastoral country of Judea, supposes rather than describes its scene.  A barrier of stones and briers for the protection of their flocks has been erected by a group of shepherds, one of whom stands guard over the entrance of this fold.    1 f.  A thief finds no access by the normal entrance, but climbs into the fold at some unguarded spot; the true shepherd enters by the gate.    3 f.  The practice of naming one's sheep is till observed in Palestine.  The sheep run to their own shepherd's call.  Having let out his sheep (Pss. 76, 21; 77, 52), he goes before; he leading, they obedient to his voice.    5.  The thief is met quite otherwise.    6.  This parable: John's term is more strictly "proverb," but rather to be understood as "parable."  A parable is by nature somewhat obscure, Jesus now applies the image to Himself, selecting two features, the fold and the good shepherd.

7-10:  Christ the door of the fold.    7.  Jesus alone can admit to His Kingdom.    8 f.  The contrast is between true and false shepherds.  The thieves, failing to pass through this door, were not recognized by the sheep.  All whoever have come: the context implies "not through me."  The Greek text has "all who have come before me."  It refers to those who came before Christ, but also without His authorization; not to legitimate agents of God.  Cf. Matt. 23, 4-13; Luke 11, 46-52.  It can however apply to normal teachers who have lost the true spirit of their doctrine.    9.  The true shepherds, who enter through Christ, enjoy the safety of His protection, free access to the fold, and pasturage for their flocks.  Cf. Num. 27, 17; 1 Par. 4, 39 ff; Jer. 23, 3; Ezech. 34, 14.    10.  The motive of the thief is forcibly contrasted with that of Christ, which is to give the sheep abundant spiritual life.

11-18:  The Good Shepherd.  In the Old Testament, God is spoken of as king and shepherd of Israel: Ps. 79, 2.  Cf. the good shepherd in Isa. 40, 11; Jer. 31, 10; Ezech. 34, 11-16; 37, 24.  The shepherd David is a type of the Messias: Ezech. 34, 23.  Hence the image, though not claimed in proof of His Messianic mission, eminently befits our Lord.    11.  I am the good shepherd: this element of the original parable is now reapplied with an aim of contrast.  The good shepherd is faithful to his duties, and devoted to the sheep, even to giving his life for them.  Cf. Gen. 31, 40; 1 Kgs. 17, 34 f.    12.  The contrast is not now with the thief, but with the shepherd unfaithful to his duty, called the hireling because of his selfish motive; cf. Ezech. 34, 2.5.  He is not a shepherd because he has no devotion to the sheep; he does not own them, and is not concerned about them.  Cf. 1 Cor. 13, 5; Phil. 2, 21; Titus 1, 11; 1 Pet. 5, 2.8.    13.  The contrast lies in the hireling's conduct in time of danger: he thinks only of his own safety.    14-16.  To such a disposition Christ opposes His death for the salvation of mankind.  He knows His sheep with a practical and intimate knowledge, such as He described on the night of the Last Supper.  The model of this relationship is the mutual knowledge of the Father and the Son.  He is willing, nay, fully intends, to sacrifice His life for the sheep.  Cf. Isa. 53.    16.  Other sheep, not of the house of Israel; cf. Isa. 2, 2 f; 11, 9 ff; 42, 4; etc.; Amos 9, 11-12.  Bring: more properly, "lead."  The reading of the Greek text, "one flock and one shepherd," is better than that of the Vulgate.  Cf. Ezech. 34, 23; 37, 22.24.    17 f.  The death of Jesus is the design of the Father.  His Resurrection also is foretold as in 2, 19.  Cf. Mark 8, 31; 9, 20; 10, 34 and parallels; Phil. 2, 8 f.  He teaches that redemption is consummated only in His death; that He freely accepts death for love of men and in obedience to the Father; that He has the power to resume His life, a power which proves that He is God, as His death proves that He is man.  For this reason: because of His obedience.

19-21:  Effect on the audience.    19.  Again has 9, 16 in view.  One party in official circles obstinately accuses Christ of madness; the other is inclined in His favor by the miracle of 9.

10, 22-39:  At the Feast of the Dedication.  The time between Tabernacles and Dedication was spent by our Lord away from Judea, or at least out of Jerusalem.  John here tells of another claim of Christ to equality with the Father (10, 22-39), and of another stage in the opposition of the Jews (10, 40-42).

22.  The Feast of the Dedication, later known also as the Feast of Lights, fell in mid-December.  It commemorated the consecration (chanukah) of the temple in 165 B.C., after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes; cf. 1 Mach. 4, 30-59.  Its celebration was similar to that of Tabernacles.  Beginning on the 25th Kislev, it lasted eight days.  Winter was reckoned from the middle of December to the middle of February.    23.  Solomon's porch, a portico along the eastern wall of the Court of the Gentiles; cf. Acts 3, 11; 5, 12.    24.  Jews: as elsewhere, the officials of Judaism.  Keep us in suspense: literally, "take away our soul."  The expectation of the Messias, then so general, was especially keen on festal occasions, and was now accentuated by the works of Christ.  The Jews seem to challenge Him either to declare His kingdom or to renounce His claim.  With merely worldly ideals, they could not understand His delay (St. Augustine).    27.  Recurrence to the image of 1-6 emphasizes their refusal to believe; nothing prevents them but themselves.    29.  The Greek text reads "My Father . . . is greater," though the text of the Vulgate has good support in the manuscripts.  What my Father has given me: interpretations vary.  Some hold that the gift is the divine nature; others, the divine power of Christ.  The former is the general opinion.  The Fourth Lateran Council (Denzinger 432) cites this text in defining that "the Father by generating the Son from eternity gave to Him His own nature."    30.  This clear statement of equality with the Father follows logically from 29.  The responsive action of the Jews (vv.31, 33, 36, 38) shows that they understood it.    31.  Cf. 7, 20; 8, 59; 19, 7.

32-39:  As in 6, our Lord is not deterred by opposition from maintaining the full meaning of His revelation.    32.  His works were good, as being not only merciful, but also wonderful; they were evidence of a divine mission.    33.  Blasphemy was punishable by stoning; see note on 8, 59.  It included any injury to the divine name.  Our Lord is here understood to identify Himself with God.    34-36.  That their offense was unreasonable He proves from Scripture, arguing a minore ad majus.  Quoting Ps. 81, 6, He recalls that under the Old Law even the magistrates were called "gods" (cf. also Ex. 7, 1; 22, 8 f), though at times unworthy of their office.  How much more right to the title has He who not only is sent by God, but has been made holy by Him.  Made holy: set aside especially for God's work.  The reply is against their insistence upon words, and their hasty action based upon the words of the Law.    34.  In your Law: as in 7, 49; 12, 34; 15, 25, used of Scripture in general; a designation known also from rabbinical literature.    35.  Called them gods: the context of Ps. 81, 6 shows that unfaithful magistrates are meant.  They were the ordinary interpreters of the Law.  Scripture cannot be broken: cannot give false information.    36.  However they may have understood this argument, His next words permit  no qualification to the claim in 30.    37 f.  The works of my Father: the miracles, exceeding natural powers, could be recognized as from God.    39.  Cf. 8, 59; Luke 4, 30.  This escape was not necessarily miraculous.

10, 40-42:  Jesus in Perea.  It is suggested that we are here again in contact with the Synoptic tradition as in Matt. 19, 1; Mark 10, 1; Luke 13, 22 f.    40.  The place would be Bethany; cf. 1, 28.    41.  Many came to him: for the details we might consult Luke 13, 22 and the chapters following.  The popular belief is based upon the word of John the Baptist and the miracles of our Lord.    42.  The people's belief contrasts with the unbelief of the officials, just above.

Confraternity Bible:

The Good Shepherd  1 "Amen, amen, I say to you, he who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber.  2 But he who enters by the door is shepherd of the sheep.  3 To this man the gatekeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them forth.  4 And when he has let out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  5 But a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers."

6 This parable Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 Again, therefore, Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  8 All whoever have come are thieves and robbers; but the sheep have not heard them.  9 I am the door.  If anyone enter by me he shall be safe, and shall go in and out, and shall find pastures.  10 The thief comes only to steal, and slay, and destroy.  I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.

11 "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  12 But the hireling, who is not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees.  And the wolf snatches and scatters the sheep; 13 but the hireling flees because he is a hireling, and has no concern for the sheep.

14 "I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 even as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.  16 And other sheep I have that are not of this fold.  Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.  17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again.  Such is the command I have received from my Father."

19 Again there arose a division among the Jews because of these words.  20 Many of them were saying, ""He has a devil and is mad.  Why do you listen to him?"  21 Others were saying, "These are not the words of one who has a devil.  Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?"

At the Feast of the Dedication  22 Now there took place at Jerusalem the feast of the Dedication; and it was winter.  23 And Jesus was walking in the temple, in Solomon's portico.  24 The Jews therefore gathered round him, and said to him, "How long dost thou keep us in suspense?  If thou art the Christ, tell us openly."

25 Jesus answered them, "I tell you and you do not believe.  The works that I do in the name of my Father, these bear witness concerning me.  26 But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep.  27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me.  28 And I give them everlasting life; and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.  29 What my Father has given me is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch anything out of the hand of my Father.  30 I and the Father are one.

31 The Jews therefore took up stones to stone him.  32 Jesus answered them, "Many good works have I shown you from my Father.  For which of these works do you stone me?"  33 The Jews answered him, "Not for a good work do we stone thee, but for blasphemy, and because thou, being a man, makest thyself God."

34* Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law,
'I said you are gods'? 
35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God was addressed (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of him whom the Father has made holy and sent into the world, 'Thou blasphemest,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?  37 If I do not perform the works of my Father, do not believe me.  38 But if I do perform them, and if you are not willing to believe me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in me and I in the Father."

39 They sought therefore to seize him; and he went forth out of their hands.

Jesus in Perea  40 And again he went away beyond the Jordan, to the place where John was at first baptizing; and there he stayed.  41 And many came to him; and they were saying, "John indeed worked no sign.  42 All things, however, that John said of this man were true."  And many believed in him.


34: Cf. Ps. 81, 6.  The judges who administered the Law were called gods, because they represented God.  If they, merely men, and so often unfaithful to their duties, could enjoy this title, how much more right to it has He who was made holy, i.e., especially set aside for God's work!