John 10
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
Chap. 10:1-21.] Of true and false shepherds. Jesus the good Shepherd. This discourse is connected with the preceding miracle; and the conduct of the Pharisees towards the man who had been blind, seems to have given occasion to this description of false shepherds, which again introduces the testimony of Jesus to Himself as the true Shepherd. So that, as Meyer remarks, the paragraph should begin at ch. 9:35 properly. The more we study carefully this wonderful Gospel, the more we shall see that the idea of this close connexion is never to be summarily dismissed as imaginary, and that our Evangelist never “passes without notice to an entirely different and disjointed occurrence or discourse,” as I stated in some of my earlier editions. See on the whole subject of the parable, Jeremiah 23:1-4: Eze_34: Zechariah 11:4-17.

These opening verses (to ver. 5) set forth the distinction between false and true shepherds. Then (vv. 7, 8, 9) He brings in Himself, as the door, by which both shepherds and sheep enter the fold. Then (ver. 10) He returns to the imagery of the first verses, and sets forth Himself as the Good Shepherd; and the rest (to ver. 18) is occupied with the results and distinctions dependent on that fact.

1. τὴν αὐλ.] ὁ περιτετειχισμένος κ. ὕπαιθρος τόπος (Phavorinus, Lücke ii. 403); just answering, except in this being a permanent enclosure, to our fold. This fold is the visible Church of God, primarily, as His people Israel were His peculiar fold; the possibility of there being other folds has been supposed to be alluded to in ver. 16: but see note there.

The terms in this first part are general, and apply to all leaders of God’s people; in ver. 1, to those who enter that office without having come in by the door (i.e. Christ, in the large sense, in which the O.T. faithful looked to and trusted in Him, as the covenant promise of Israel’s God); and in ver. 2 to those who do enter this way; and whosoever does is the shepherd of the sheep (not emphatic,—not, ‘the Good Shepherd,’ as below, ver. 11, but here it is merely predicated of one who thus enters, that he is the shepherd of that particular fold: it is the attribute of a shepherd thus to enter).

The sheep throughout this parable are not the mingled multitude of good and bad; but the real sheep, the faithful, who are, what all in the fold should be. The false sheep (goats, Matthew 25:32) do not appear; for it is not the character of the flock, but that of the shepherd, and the relation between him and his sheep, which is here prominent.

3.] Perhaps the θυρωρός should not be too much pressed as significant; but certainly the Holy Spirit is especially He who opens the door to the shepherds: see frequent uses of this symbolism by the Apostles, Acts 14:27: 1Corinthians 16:9: 2Corinthians 2:12: Colossians 4:3;—and instances of the θυρωρός shutting the door, Acts 16:6, Acts 16:7. (So Theodorus Heracleota, and Stier, iv. 482, edn. 2.)

τὰ πρόβ. τ. φων. αὐτ. ἀκ.] The voice of every such true shepherd is heard (heeded, understood) by the sheep (generally): and he calls by name his own sheep, that portion of the great flock entrusted to him, and leads them out to pasture, as his office is.

This distinction between τὰ πρόβ. and τὰ ἴδια πρόβ. has given rise to exegetical and doctrinal mistakes, from not observing ποιμήν above. It has been imagined that Christ is here spoken of, and that therefore these two descriptions of sheep must be different, and so the whole exposition has been confused. Even Stier has fallen into this mistake.

4.] When he has led forth (ἐκβάλλειν = ἐξάγειν) to pasture all his sheep (there shall not an hoof be left behind), he goes before them (see The Land and the Book, p. 202); in his teaching pointing out the way to them; they follow him, because they know his voice; his words and teaching are familiar to them. But observe that the expression here becomes again more general; not τὰ ἴδ. πρ., but τὰ πρ. as in ver. 3. The sheep know the voice of every true shepherd.

5.] So that the ἀλλότριος is not the shepherd of another section of the flock, but an alien: the λῃστής of ver. 1;—and τῶν ἀλλ. is generic, as in E. V. Meyer takes it as merely meaning a stranger, one who is not their Shepherd: but this hardly seems strong enough for the context.

6.] παροιμία is not = παραβολή, as so generally set down. This is not properly a parable: but rather a parabolic allegory. The parable requires narrative to set it forth; and John relates no such. The right word for παροιμία would be allegory: etymologically it is, any saying diverging from the common way of speech (παρʼ οἶμον): cf. Meyer. We have other examples in ch. 15:1 ff. and in Matthew 9:37, Matthew 9:38.

7.] What follows is not so much an exposition, as an expansion of the allegory.

The key to this verse is the right understanding of what went before. Bear in mind, that vv. 1-5 were of shepherds in general. But these shepherds themselves go into and out of the fold by the same door as the sheep: and Christ is that door; the Door of the sheep: the one door both for sheep and shepherds, into the fold (see ἡ θύρα, absol. ver. 9), into God’s Church, to the Father.

8.] I believe that the right sense of these words, ὅσοι ἦλθον πρὸ ἐμοῦ, has not been apprehended by any of the Commentators.

First, they can only be honestly understood of time: all who came before me (not, “without regard to me,” Olsh. &c., nor “passing by me as the door,” Camer., nor “instead of me,” Lampe, &c.: nor “pressing before me,” ch. 5:7, which would have been ἔρχονται, not ἦλθ.: nor “before taking the trouble to find me, the door,” Stier, iv. 492, edn. 2: nor any other of the numerous shifts which have been adopted).

What pretended teachers then came before Christ? Remember the connexion of these discourses. He has taught the Jews that Abraham and the Prophets entered by Him (ch. 8:56): but He has set in strong opposition to Himself and His, them (these Jews) and their father, the Devil (ib. ver. 44). He was “the first thief who clomb into God’s fold;” and all his followers are here spoken of inclusively in the language of the allegory, as coming in by and with him. His was the first attempt to lead human nature, before Christ came; before the series of dispensations of grace began, in which pasture and life is offered to man by Him.

Meyer understands the Pharisees, &c. who taught the people before Christ appeared as the Door of the sheep: but this does not seem to reach the depth of the requirements of the saying.

εἰσίν, not ἦσαν, because their essential nature as belonging to and being of the evil one is set forth, and the inclusion of these present Pharisees in their ranks.

ἀλλʼ οὐκ …] This of course cannot be understood absolutely,—‘the sheep never for one moment listened to them;’ but, did not listen to them in the sense of becoming their disciples eventually. So that the fall of our first Parents would be no exception to this; whom of all men we must conclude, by the continuing grace and mercy of God to them after that fall, to have been of His real sheep. And since then, the same is true; however the sheep may for a while listen to these false shepherds, they do not hear them, so as to follow them. Those who do, belong not to the true flock.

Ver. 9 expands and fixes ver. 7. “Non est salutaris aditus in ecclesiam, nisi per me, sive pastor esse velis, sive ovis.” Erasmus, Paraphr. See Numbers 27:16, Numbers 27:17. The sequel of the verse shews that this combined meaning is the true one. Meyer, who understands it all of shepherds alone, finds great difficulty in the interpretation of the latter words: “shall go in and out before the sheep, and find pasture for them.”

Ver. 10 shews the gracious intent of the Saviour in this;—to give life, and in abundance. This verse forms the transition from Him as ἡ θύρα, to Him as ὁ ποιμήν. He is here set in opposition to ὁ κλέπτης (see on ver. 8), and thus insensibly passes into the place of a ποιμήν, who has been hitherto thus opposed. Then the ζωὴν ἔχωσιν binds on to νομὴν εὑρήσει—and καὶ περισ. ἔχ.: q. d. not merely as a door to pass through, but actively, abundantly, to bestow abundance of life. We are thus prepared for (ver. 11) the announcement of Himself as ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός—the great antagonist of ὁ κλέπτης—the pattern and Head of all good shepherds, as he of all thieves and robbers: the Messiah, in His best known and most loving office: cf. Ezekiel 34:11-16, Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24, and Isaiah 40:11. But He is ὁ π. ὁ κ. in this verse, as having most eminently the qualities of a good shepherd, one of which is to lay down His life for the sheep. These words here are not so much a prophecy, as a declaration, implying however that which ver. 15 asserts explicitly.

12.] The imagery is here again somewhat changed. The false shepherds are here compared to hirelings, i.e. those who serve merely for gain; the μισθωτός who fulfils the character implied by the word. The idea is brought in by τὴν ψυχ. αὐτ. τίθ. ὑπὲρ τ. πρ., which introduces a time of danger, when the true and false shepherds are distinguished.

τ. λύκον] The purposes of this wolf are the same as those of the thief in ver. 10, and in the allegory he is the same;—the great Foe of the sheep of Christ. Lücke and De Wette deny this, and hold ‘any enemies of the theocracy’ to be meant;—but no deep view of the parable will be content with this,—see Matthew 7:15, where the λύκοι ἅρπαγες are ψευδοπροφῆται, the κλέπται κ. λῃσταί of ver. 8;—and their chief and father would therefore be ὁ λύκος, just as ὁ ποιμήν is the Shepherd.

14, 15.] The knowledge of His sheep here spoken of is more than the mere knowing by name: it is a knowledge corresponding to the Father’s knowledge of Him;—i.e. entire, perfect, all-comprehensive: and their knowledge of Him corresponds to His of the Father,—i.e. is intimate, direct, and personal: both being bound together by holy and inseparable Love. Beware of rendering [the former clause of] ver. 15 as in E. V. as an independent sentence, ‘As my Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father:’ it is merely the sequel to ver. 14, and should stand, as the Father knoweth me and I know the Father.

ὑπὲρ τ. προβ.] for those my sheep—not, for all; that, however true, is not the point brought out here: the Lord lays down His life strictly and properly, and in the depths of the Divine counsel, for those who are His sheep.

16.] The ἄλλα πρόβ. are the Gentiles;—not the dispersion of the Jews, who were already in God’s αὐλή. By these wonderful words, as by those in Acts 18:10, and by the conclusion of Mat_25. (see notes there), our Lord shews that, dark and miserable as the Gentile world was, He had sheep even there. Observe they are not in other folds, but scattered: see ch. 11:52. Cf. also Ephesians 2:14 ff.

δεῖ με ἀγ.…] i.e. in the purpose and covenant of the Father. The Lord speaks of His bringing them, and their hearing His voice: meaning that His servants in His name and by His power would accomplish this work. Admirably illustrative of the converse method of speaking which He employs Matthew 25:40, Matthew 25:45. The μία ποίμνη is remarkable—not μία αὐλή, as characteristically, but erroneously rendered in E. V.:—not one fold, but one flock; no one exclusive enclosure of an outward church,—but one flock, all knowing the one Shepherd and known of Him. On εἷς ποιμήν compare Hebrews 13:20.

17.] The λαλεῖν ἐν παροιμίαις is now over, and He speaks plainly,—My Father. In this wonderful verse lies the mystery of the love of the Father for the Son;—because the Son has condescended to the work of humiliation, and to earn the crown through the cross (see Philippians 2:8, Philippians 2:9, διό). The ἵνα here is strictly τελικόν,—in order that. “Without this purpose in view,” says Stier (iv. 504, edn. 2), “the Death of Christ would neither be lawful nor possible.”

18.] The truth of this voluntary rendering up was shewn by His whole sufferings, from the falling of His enemies to the ground in the garden (ch. 18:6) to His last words, παρατίθεμαι τὸ πν. μου, Luke 23:46 (see note there). His resurrection also was eminently His own work, by virtue of the Spirit of the Father dwelling in and filling Him: the ἐξουσία in both these cases being the ἐντολή, appointment, ordinance of the Father, from the counsel of whose will the whole mediatorial office of Christ sprung: see ch. 12:49.

19-21.] The concluding words bind this discourse to the miracle of ch. 9, though not necessarily in immediate connexion.

22-39.] Discourse at the Feast of Dedication. It may be, that Jesus remained at, or in the neighbourhood of, Jerusalem during the interval (two months) between the Feast of Tabernacles and that of the Dedication. Had He returned to Galilee, we should have expected some mention of it. Still, by the words ἐν τοῖς Ἱεροσολύμοις, it would seem as if a fresh period and a new visit began; for why should such a specification be made, if the narrative proceeded continuously? See on Luke 9:51 ff.

22.] This feast had become usual since the time when Judas Maccabæus purified the temple from the profanations of Antiochus. It was held on Chisleu (December) 25, and seven following days: see 1 Macc. 4:41-59: 2 Macc. 10:1-8: Jos. Antt. xii. 7. 7.

χειμ. ἦν] it was winter (not ‘stormy weather,’ as Lampe, .: Matthew 16:3): see above. The notice is inserted to explain to Gentile readers the reason of our Lord’s walking in Solomon’s portico. This latter was on the east side of the temple, called also by Jos. στοὰ ἀνατολική. He says, Antt. xx. 9. 7, that it was an original work of Solomon, which had remained from the former temple.

24.] ψυχὴν αἴρεις is generally explained, ‘keep us in doubt,’ αἰωρεῖς, ἀναρτᾷς μεταξὺ πίστεως κ. ἀπιστίας, But there is some question whether ψ. αἴρ. is ever so used. In Josephus, it signifies ‘to uplift the soul,’ ‘raise the courage;’ ἐπὶ τὸν κίνδ. τὰς ψ. ἠρμένοι, Antt. iii. 2. 3; 5. 1. So also Aquila, Proverbs 19:18, πρὸς τὸ θανατῶσαι αὐτὸν μὴ ἄρῃς ψ. σου. See also Psalm 85:4; 142:8 (LXX). These usages, however, as all the examples adduced in the ., are confined to the act of a man on his own soul: when the term applies to effects produced on another, it seems to imply any strong excitement of mind, whether for hope or fear. How long dost thou excite our minds?

25.] He had often told them, in unmistakable descriptions of Himself; see ch. 5:19; 8:36, 56, 58, &c. &c. But the great reference here is to His works, as in ver. 37.

Observe the sharp contrast of ἐγώ and ὑμεῖς.

26.] The difficulty of καθὼς εἶπον ὑμῖν is considerable warrant for its genuineness: and it comes much more naturally with this than with the following verse. I believe it to refer more to the whole allegory, than to any explicit saying of this kind; and this is shewn to my mind by the following words in ver. 27:—the minor proposition, ‘but ye hear not my voice,’ being understood. This was a corollary from the allegory, and thus it might be said καθὼς εἶπον ὑμῖν. This reference to the allegory some two months after it was spoken, has been used by the rationalists as an argument against the authenticity of the narrative. But, as Meyer observes, it in reality implies that the conflict with the Jewish authorities is here again taken up after that interval, during which it had not broken out.

27-29.] This leads to a further description of these sheep. The form of the sentence is a climax; rising through the ἐγὼ δίδωμι and ἐκ τ. χ. μου, to ὁ πατήρ μου ὃ δέδωκέν μοι and ἐκ τ. χ. τοῦ πατρός. Then the apparent diversity of the two expressions, ἐκ τ. χ. μου and ἐκ τ. χ. τοῦ πατ. μου, gives occasion to the assertion in ver. 30, that Christ and the Father are one; one in essence primarily, but therefore also one in working, and power, and in will. ἓν κατὰ δύναμιν, ἤγουν ταυτοδύναμοι, Euthym.; who adds, εἰ δὲ ἓν κατὰ δύναμιν, ἓν ἄρα καὶ κατὰ τὴν θεότητα καὶ οὐσίαν καὶ φύσιν. This certainly is implied in the words, and so the Jews understood them, ver. 33. Bengel remarks after Augustine, “per sumus refutatur Sabellius, per unum, Arius.” It is perhaps more than is actually contained in the words: but, as Meyer says, they are founded on the unity of essence of the Son and the Father, and so presuppose the homousian doctrine.

ἕν, not εἷς: not personally one, but essentially.

31.] i.e. as having spoken blasphemy, Leviticus 24:10 ff.

ἐβάστασαν, sustulerunt (Vulg.)—they lifted up in the air, in act to throw at him. It is more than αἴρειν, ch. 8:59. Cf. Hom. Od. λ. 594 (λᾶαν βαστάζοντα πελώριον ἀμφοτέρῃσιν), Polyb. 15:26. 3 (βαστάσας τὸ παιδίον).” Meyer.

32.] See Mark 7:37.

ἐκ τοῦ πατρός μου, because (cf. vv. 37, 38) He Himself proceeded forth from the Father, and the Father wrought in Him.

ἔδειξα, because they were part of the manifestation of Himself as the Son of God.

λιθάζετε, are ye stoning (preparing to stone) Me?

33.] θεόν = ἴσον τῷ θ., ch. 5:18.

34.] νόμος here is in its widest acceptation,—the whole O.T.,—as ch. 12:34; 15:25. The Psalm (82) is directed against the injustice and tyranny of judges (not, the Gentile rulers of the world (De Wette), nor, the angels (Bleek)) in Israel. And in the Psalm reference is made by εἶπα to previous places of Scripture where judges are so called, viz. Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:9, Exodus 22:28.

35.] πρὸς οὓς ὁ λόγ. τ. θεοῦ ἐγ., to whom God (in those passages) spoke. We can hardly build on this passage, as Luthardt has done, a theory as to the distinction between those to whom ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ came merely in utterance, and those to whom He came in Person. See below on ver. 36.

The expression, καὶ οὐ δύν. λυθ. ἡ γρ. (which is not a parenthesis, but constructionally part of the sentence, depending on εἰ), implies, ‘and if you cannot explain this expression away,—if it cannot mean nothing,—for it rests on the testimony of God’s word,’ …

36.] The argument is à minori ad majus. If in any sense they could be called gods,—how much more properly He, whom &c. They were only officially so called, only λεγόμενοι θεοί—but He, the only One, sealed and hallowed by the Father, and sent into the world (the aorists refer to the time of the Incarnation), is essentially θεός inasmuch as He is υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ.

The deeper aim of this argument is, to shew them that the idea of man and God being one, was not alien from their O.T. spirit, but set forth there in types and shadows of Him, the real God-Man.

Observe ὑμεῖς, set in emphatic contrast to the authority of Scripture,—as ὃν ὁ πατὴρ ἡγίασεν … is to ἐκείνους above.

37, 38.] Having put the charge of blasphemy aside, our Lord again has recourse to the testimony of His works, at which He hinted ver. 32; and here, to their character, as admitted by them in ver. 33. ‘If they bear not the character of the Father, believe Me not: but if they do (which even yourselves admit), though ye may hate and disbelieve Me, recognize the unquestionable testimony of the works:—that ye may be led on to the higher faith of the unity of Myself and the Father.’

γνῶτε κ. γινώσκητε] The distinction lies in the force of the present as denoting the continuance of a state, whereas the aorist implies an act of a moment. The nearest approach to it in English would perhaps be, that ye may perceive (the introductory act) and know (the abiding state). This distinction between the tenses not being appreciated, γινώσκητε has been awkwardly changed to πιστεύσητε. Cf. Plato, Legg. viii. p. 849 Α, τῶν δὲ ἐν ἄστει κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ ἐπιμεληθῆναι καὶ ἐπιμελεῖσθαι τὴν τῶν ἀστυνόμων ἀρχήν.

39.] The attempt to stone Him seems to have been abandoned, but (see ch. 7:30) they tried again to take Him into custody: and, as before, He (miraculously?) withdrew Himself from them.

40-42.] Jesus departs to Bethany beyond Jordan, and is there believed on by many.

40.] See ch. 1:28 and note.

41.] The locality reminds them of John and his testimony. The remark seems to have a double tendency;—to relate their now confirmed persuasion, that though John did not fulfil their expectations by shewing a sign or working miracles, yet he was a true prophet, and really, as he professed, the forerunner of this Person, who in consequence must be, what John had declared Him to he, the Messiah. And (ver. 42) the result followed:—many believed on Him. “The Ἰωάννης repeated, ver. 42, belongs to the simplicity of the speech, which is reproduced literatim, and expresses the honour paid by the people to the holy man whose memory still lived among them.” Meyer.

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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