Analysis of John 10: 1-10
I propose a biblical analysis with the following steps: a study of each Greek word of the evangelical text, followed by an analysis of the structure of the narrative and its context, to which is added a comparison of parallel or similar passages. At the end of this analysis and as a conclusion, I propose to summarize what the evangelist meant, and I end up with some suggestions on how this Gospel could shed light on our current situation.
The allegory of the shepherd and his sheep follows the story of the healing of a blind man from birth where Pharisees will put pressure on different characters so they deny Jesus did any good. The context revolves therefore around leadership symbolized by the shepherd. The first criterion of the true shepherd is related to how a fold is accessed, i.e. through the transparent way of the gate, or through a stealth way. Then a new criterion is required when the fold is shared by several shepherds: the intimacy between the sheep that recognizes his voice and the shepherd who knows them by name, and does care for them by guiding them; all other shepherds are strangers. As the disciples didnt seem to understand what Jesus was referring to with his allegory, he is then more specific: all Jewish leaders up to now (for instance the Pharisees) were robbers as they didnt really care about the members of the community, and he is the only one who will provide food that gives life, an overflowing life.
We find in this pericope some features unique to John, for instance, the doublet "Amen, Amen" or the word "door" in reference to a folds entrance. There also a few words that he uses often, or more than the other evangelists, like anabainō (to climb up) that may have a physical meaning like here, but more often a theological meaning (to ascend to heaven), phōneō (calling with a loud voice), which has a nuance of a call to faith, oida and its synonym ginōskō (to know), which is key in his whole Gospel, as faith generates a new knowledge, ekeinoi (these one), laleō (to talk), always used in reference to Jesus, palin (again), as if words have to be repeated to be fully grasped, erchomai (to come), an all-purpose verb, but often synonymous of "to believe", zōē (life) which comes from the Father through Jesus, and this life is synonymous of light and truth, and can be received through faith. There are words that are unique to him in the Gospels-Acts, like allachothen (another way), katʼ onoma (each by name), expressing a personal relationship that is the base for faith
Structure and composition
At first sight, these 10 verses seem simple: there is first an allegory where Jesus talks of sheep, shepherd, fold, robber and stranger, followed by an explanation of the allegory. But a closer look shows a more complex composition. Verses 1-2 concern a simple fold that belongs to a shepherd who comes to find his sheep, and the challenge is to keep thieves away. In verses 3-5 we are facing a shared fold with different owners and the challenge for the sheep it to recognize the one it is to follow: the right shepherd is able to spell out the name of each one, and his voice is familiar; a relationship has been established. And In the interpretation of the allegory (v. 6-10), these two situations are somewhat intertwined and modified: we lose sight of the stranger and the theme of the doorway, identified with Jesus, received a significant expansion.
The complexity of the whole allegory comes probably from the fact that it went through different iterations. In the first iteration, the landscape is a simple fold own by a single shepherd, and the story puts in contrast the owner who accesses the fold the proper way and whom the sheep will follow because it recognizes his voice, and the robber who avoids the proper way and whom the sheep will not follow. In the second iteration, a modified landscape is introduced with a shared fold, and so multiple herds, and now the emphasis is the intimacy between a specific shepherd and his own sheep, and to this end, new characters are introduced: the doorkeeper who knows each owner, strangers without any intimacy with the sheep and whom the sheep will not follow; moreover, the contrast between the shepherd and the robber will be accentuated: the former cares for the life of the sheep, the latter is looking only to slaughter. Finally, a third iteration will give a more Christological twist to the allegory by identifying the door of the fold to Christ who provides salvation.
Intention of the author
John the elder, the presumed author of this Gospel (and not John the apostle), probably knew a number of Jesus parables around a shepherd and his sheep. In the first iteration of his Gospel, probably around year 60 AD, in Palestine, while his young community is enduring the pressure from Jewish leaders to join this insurrection against the Romans, on top of the pressure at the synagogues of Jewish brothers reminding them of the authority of Moses and all the great leaders of the Jewish community, John weaves together different parables of Jesus to create an allegory in order to warn his community about these Jewish leaders who want to win Christians to their cause: they are impostors, they are robbers who were never part of the community and will never be followed. And by referring to the Old Testament, especially Ezekiel 34, he reminds everyone how Jewish leaders, through the image of a shepherd, failed in their duty to take care of the flock, and so God himself, through his messiah, will be the true shepherd.
Over twenty years passed when the community had to emigrate and go to Asia Minor, more precisely to Ephesus, in present-day Turkey. The landscape had totally changed. First, the Jewish Christians have been expelled from the synagogues. In their new Greek milieu, tensions arose within the Christian communities themselves, when the johannine community, who seems to be unstructured and more charismatic, is facing more orthodox and well structured Jewish Christians who are still promoting circumcision, food restrictions and some of the Jewish laws. In this context, John feels the need to update his Gospel. Now the fold, which previously belonged to the same shepherd, becomes a shared fold where several flocks live together, and the challenge for the sheep is to identify its own shepherd, and for the leader to recognize his own sheep: the criteria is personal intimacy where they know each other by name and they do care for each other; all other leaders are strangers that really do not care about the members of the community.
Finally, a Christian from Ephesus, probably coming from Judaism and belonging to the "Johannine school" in the first years of the second century, will publish a new and final edition of the Gospel, by tightening loose ends of the Gospel and giving a more Christological flavour to the allegory: Christ is clearly the door through which one will find life.
Amēn is the Greek transcription of Hebrew: אָמַן (ʾāman). The root mn refers to that which is solid and firm (Ps 89:53, "Blessed be the Lord forever, Amen, Amen"). This final 'amen' was translated by the Septuagint as genoito (let it happen, let it be so), from the verb ginomai (to happen, to arise). The verb, for its part, describes the idea of what is solid, stable, and therefore reliable, as we see in Gen 15:6: "Abram trusted (héémin) in Yahweh, who counted it to him as justice". One will not be surprised to learn that the Septuagint often translated this verb as "believe" (pisteuein). As for the noun אֶמֶט (ʾemeṭ), it is often translated as truth (alētheia) to designate what is in conformity with reality or as sincere, what can be trusted (On the subject, see the word "Amen" in the Glossary).
The presence of amēn in the New Testament would be explained by two sources: the language of Jesus, and its use in synagogue liturgy. In the Gospels, it is found exclusively in the mouth of Jesus and is always followed by legō (I say) : (Mt = 31; Mk = 13; Lk = 5; Jn = 50; Ac = 0), and legō is mostly followed by hymin (to you: plural) (Mt = 29; Mk = 12; Lk = 5; Jn = 20; Ac = 0), and sometimes by soi (to you: singular) (Mt = 2; Mk = 1; Lk = 0; Jn = 5; Ac = 0). What characterizes the Gospel according to John is the constant use of the doublet "amen, amen", which he alone does. From this point of view, the use of the expression is found in 25 verses, whereas it appears in 31 verses in Matthew. It is translated as : "believe my word," "well, yes," "I guarantee it," "believe me". We opted for the translation: "Truly, I assure you".
As can be seen, the content of Jesus' affirmations is much more spiritual and Christological than what we have seen in other evangelists, and reveals John's "high theology". This teaching is often addressed to a wide audience at the beginning of the Gospel, as the focus will change and will be on the disciples in the second part. With regard to our parable of the pastor, the context is first of all that of a teaching on pastoral life (how to discern the true pastor) before becoming Christological (I am the true pastor).
|eiserchomeno (he is entering)||
The verb eiserchomai, composed of the preposition eis (to, in) and the verb erchomai (to come, to arrive, to go), means: to enter, to penetrate. It is regularly found in the fourth Gospel: Mt = 33; Mk = 30; Lk = 50; Jn = 15; Ac = 33. In the first part of the Gospel, it has above all a spiritual meaning: to enter the kingdom of God (3: 5), to enter into the fatigue of others (4: 38), to enter through Jesus (10: 9); Satan enters Judas (13: 27); in the second part of the Gospel, it is the physical meaning that dominates: Jesus enters the Kidron (18: 1), Pilate enters the praetorium (18: 33), Simon Peter enters the tomb (20: 6). What should be noted here is the tense of the verb used: it is a present participle (eiserchomenos). What is the reason for this? Translations all use a present tense: the one that enters. But why did John not use eiserchetai, the present tense, as Hebrews 9:25 does, for example, "the high priest who (eiserchetai) enters the sanctuary every year with blood that is not his own"? The proper of a participle is to describe a state, and the present participle is that of a present state. And so it is necessary to translate: the one who is entering. But to which reality does this participle refer? It means that something has begun, without being finished, i.e. the action of entering has begun, but is not finished, and therefore continues. In this context, Jesus seems to serve a warning that people are trying to gain access to the flock, but have not yet succeeded. So I think we could render this idea with the verb to strive or try: he who does not try to enter.
Thyra (door, entrance, passage in) is present in all the Gospels and Acts: Mt = 4; Mk = 6; Lk = 4; Jn = 7; Ac = 10. The word designates above all the door of a house (e.g. Jn 20:19), or of the city (e.g. Mk 13:29), or of the tomb of Jesus (e.g. Mk 15:46), or of the temple (e.g. Acts 3:2). But sometimes it has a symbolic meaning ("Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able", Lk 13:24). But to speak of the door of a fold as John does here is unique. One can imagine that the fold fence was high enough to prevent a sheep from escaping, or a predator from getting through it, and so a proper door would allow entry and exit.
The word aulē designates either the forecourt of a building or its roofless inner courtyard. By extension, it includes the palace itself. As it refers primarily to a roofless interior space, it includes the enclosure for animals. In the Gospels, it is uncommon: Mt = 3; Mk = 3; Lk = 2; Jn = 3. It was Mark who introduced this word with his account of the passion when he writes that Peter had followed to the interior of the aulē (palace) of the high priest (14: 54), and as he was warming himself by a fire that was lit in the aulē (inner courtyard), he was recognized by one of the servants women (14: 66); And at the trial of Jesus before Pilate, he wrote that when Pilate had condemned him, the soldiers took him into Pilate's aulē (palace), which is the praetorium, to mock him (15:16). As can be seen, the word designates both the palace and its inner courtyard. Luke has taken up this scene of Peter warming himself in the aulē (22: 55), as well as Matthew (26: 58.69), who also mentions the gathering of the chief priests and elders of the people in the aulē (palace)(26: 3). John has his own version with Peter and the other disciple entering the aulē (court) of the high priest (18:5). Apart from this scene from the trial of Jesus, we only find aulē in this picture that Luke puts in the mouth of Jesus: "When a strong and well-armed man guards his palace (aulē), his possessions are safe" (11: 21). In this context, aulē to designate an animal enclosure is unique in the whole New Testament and appears only twice, here and in Jn 10:16. It refers to a pastoral culture and probably situates us in Palestine.
The word probaton refers primarily to a small herd of four-legged grazing animals such as sheep and goats. But in the New Testament it refers to sheep, the female sheep, especially when distinguished from the male goat, billy goat (eriphos) or lamb (arēn). It is less frequent than one would have expected, given Jesus' peasant background: Mt = 11; Mk = 2; Lk = 2; Jn = 19; Ac = 1. But with Mark probably addressing the Christians of Rome, and Luke perhaps addressing those of Corinth, one can understand these evangelists not being keen in talking about sheep. Yet the image of the shepherd and his sheep has great significance for the Old Testament and the Jewish world. Let us recall some of them.
Mark evokes the image of the sheep twice, first when he evokes Jesus' reaction before the crowd who appear to him as sheep without shepherds and leads him to teach at length (6:34), and then when Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 to tell the disciples that they are going to abandon him: "All of you will fall, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered'" (14:27). These two texts of Mark are taken up again by Matthew (9:36 and 26:31). The latter is the one who offers the long list of references to the sheep. In addition to Mark, he takes up a parable that seems to come from the Q document, that of a man having 100 sheep, one of which goes astray (18:12). All the rest comes from a source that only he knows: texts on mission (Jesus who says that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (15: 24), and invites the twelve to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (10: 6), and to be aware that they are like sheep in the midst of wolves (10: 16)); a controversial text (if one goes to the rescue of a single sheep that has fallen into a hole on the Sabbath, how much more should one not care for a man in need of help? (12:11-12); a warning about false prophets ("Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but within you are ravenous wolves", 7:15); and texts about the final judgment where the sheep will be separated from the goats (25:32-33). Luke, for his part, only takes up again the Q document about the man having 100 sheep and loses one of them (15: 4-6). The feature that emerges from all these uses of the image of the sheep is that of a fragile being, who needs to be guided and protected, but at the same time is very precious.
Where does John fit into all this? As usual, he is totally independent and does not seem to know the other Gospels. His references to the sheep focus on two passages, this parable about the shepherd (Jn 10) and this supplement to the Gospel, chap. 21, where Jesus asks Simon if he loves him and, when he answers in the affirmative, invites him to feed his sheep (21:16-17).
|anabainōn (he is climbing up)||
The verb anabainō is formed from the preposition ana, which describes a movement from bottom to top, and the verb bainō, which refers to walking and going somewhere, and signifies: to go up, to rise. It is a verb that is regularly found in the Gospel-Acts, especially in John: Mt = 9; Mk = 9; Lk = 9; Jn = 15; Ac = 18. In the Synoptics, it usually has a physical meaning: to rise from the water, to climb the mountain, to grow for a plant, to get into a boat, to go up to Jerusalem; exceptionally it has the psychological meaning of an idea or a feeling that rises from the heart. In John, on the other hand, it also has the theological sense of being in relationship with God or of belonging to the world of God: "No one has ascended (anabainō) to heaven except the Son of Man, who came down from heaven (3:13; see also 1:51; 6:62; 20:17). Here, this verb has a physical meaning, and in the context of a fold, to ascend means to pass over that which encloses the fold, hence our translation of climbing. As with eiserchomai (to enter) discussed earlier, the verb is in the present participle, and thus describes an action begun but not completed. So there are currently people who are "breaking and entering".
|allachothen (another way)||
The adverb allachothen (from another place, from another source) is unique throughout the Bible (New Testament and Septuagint). It is found only in the apocryphal writing of 4 Maccabees: "I could bring you many proofs from another source (allachothen) to support this assertion that pious reason is the dominatrix of the passions". This adverb contains the prefix alla which means: other. This accentuates the idea of the roundabout way in which one wants to access the flock.
The Greek name kleptēs (thief, cheater, scoundrel), which gave us in English the words cleptomaniac and cleptomania, is not frequent: Mt = 3; Mc = 0; Lc = 2; Jn = 4; Ac = 0. In fact, it is present in only two sources, the Q source and John. In Q source, it appears in Jesus' call not to hoard, but rather to make a treasure in heaven where the thief can do nothing (Mt 6:19-20 || Lk 12:33) and in his call to be vigilant with the image of the householder who would not have let the wall of his house be pierced if he had known when the thief would appear (Mt 24:43 | Lk 12:39). In the Gospel according to John the word thief also appears in two sections, in chapter 10 with the allegory of the pastor and in 12: 6 when the narrator states that Judas was a thief and stole what was put in the common purse of the disciples. Here, in our parable, the evangelist seems to evoke a known and universal social reality, that of stealing of flocks. A thief only cares about his own interests.
The word lēstēs (brigand, thief, pirate, bandit, looter) is different from kleptēs which we have just seen and which designates someone who steals stealthily. Here, it refers to an outlaw who goes so far as to kill in order to commit his crimes. Once again, this is an uncommon word in the New Testament: Mt = 4; Mk = 3; Lk = 4; Jn = 3; Ac = 0. It appears in Mark during the scene of the vendors being driven out of the temple when Jesus quotes Jeremiah 7:11: "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers (lēstēs)" (Mk 11:17; Lk 19:46; Mt 21:13). It appears further on when Jesus questions those who came to arrest him as if he were a robber (Mk 14:48; Lk 22:52; Mt 26:55). Finally, on the Calvary, the narrator mentions that two robbers are crucified with Jesus (Mk 15:27; Mt 23:33) (Luke prefers the term "wrongdoer"). Luke presents a scene of his own, the parable of the Good Samaritan, which tells the story of a man who falls into the hands of robbers (lēstēs) and leaves him half dead (Lk 10:30.36). In John, the word is present twice in the allegory of the shepherd (Jn 10:1.8) and in the narrator's pen, who mentions that Barabbas is a robber at the moment when the Jews ask for his release (Jn 18:40). So John uses very strong terms to describe those who climb the fold and do not go through the door: they are thieves and robbers. The only other passage in the Bible that speaks of these two types of wrongdoer is found in Hosea 7:1: LXX "At the very moment when I want to heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim and the crimes of Samaria come to light: yes, imposture is practiced; the thief (kleptēs) enters the fields; outside, the robber (lēstēs) rages". Hosea seems to bring together in these two words all the evil that is done. How can this first verse of the pastor's allegory be summed up? In spite of its apparent simplicity, several questions arise. What is the original context of this parable, on what occasion could Jesus have spoken it? John placed this parable in the context of a controversy with the Jews, especially the Pharisees. But the writing of this Gospel takes place around the year 90, when the rift between Christians and Jews was consummated and the Pharisees took over the leadership of Judaism. What about the years 28 or 29 when Jesus' ministry takes place? Historically, we know of many leaders who gathered groups for different reasons. For example, there is Judas of Galilee who gathered a revolutionary group, sowing a revolt around 4 BC during the succession of Herod, to which Acts 5:37 refers ("After him, at the time of the census, Judas of Galilee rose up and brought forth people after him, and he also perished, and those who followed him were scattered"). The Pharisaic and Sadducean movement also had its followers. The priestly authorities in Jerusalem also exercised some leadership. The movement initiated by John the Baptist attracted a number of followers, including Jesus and some of his disciples. In short, there was no shortage of leaders. If such a context gives us the background for interpreting a parable of Jesus, what does the criterion of discernment mean: to pass or not to pass through the door? Unfortunately, the rest of the saying will present us with the Christian perspective where it is Jesus who becomes the door. But if Jesus could have spoken a similar parable1, what would he have meant by this door? Psalm 118:19-20 could give us an indication:
Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through the them, and give thanks to the Lord.
The same is true of Psalm 24:4-10.
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.
So it is Yahweh who comes in the door, and he who seeks him is righteous and pure in heart.
Without the Old Testament, we might have guessed that the one who passes through the door is the one who does not cheat, who acts in an open and transparent way, thus defining the true leader. But Jewish tradition adds the dimension of justice, pure heart and authentic search for God. A leader who does not behave this way is an impostor. If Jesus really spoke this parable, this is probably the criterion he offered to his audience.
Let us mention in conclusion that, according to M.E. Boismard, the phrase "but climbing it up from another place" is a later addition to the parable by John III.2
|v. 2 But whoever tries to enter through the door, here is the shepherd of the sheep
Literally : Then, the [one] entering in by the door shepherd he is of the sheep.
We have already analyzed all the words of this verse, for it merely repeats v. 1 which had a negative aspect, now presenting its positive side. If we eliminate from v. 1 the phrase "but climbing it from another place" which Boismard says is from John III, we find the allegory of the shepherd and the thief from John II-A. The opposition of the two characters can be represented by the following parallel:
We have tried to imagine the meaning of the allegory if it was pronounced by Jesus, but the account we have comes from the pen of the evangelist, and if we believe Boismard, from John II-A, and therefore written around the year 60 or 65. The perspective is now Christian, and therefore the door is obviously Christ, just as the way is Christ, he will write later (Jn 14:4). Who then are the thieves and robbers? Probably the pastors of the community who do not conform to the teaching of Jesus. There are several exhortations in the New Testament to feed the flock well: see Jn 21:15-18 ("Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? " And he said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. " Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."), Acts 20:28 ("Be mindful of yourselves and of all the flock which the Holy Spirit has made you keepers, to feed the church of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own son."), 1 Peter 5:1-4 ("Feed the flock of God entrusted to you, watching over it, not by constraint, but willingly, according to God; not for a sordid gain, but with the impulse of your heart..."), 1 Peter 5:1-4 ("And you shall not be afraid to feed the flock of God which is entrusted to you. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive the crown of glory which shall not wither).
|v. 3 To him the doorkeeper agrees to open and the sheep obey his voice, and the sheep belonging to him he calls each one by name and he leads them out.
Literally : To him the doorkeeper (thyrōros) opens (anoigei) and the sheep the voice (phōnēs) of him hears (akouei) and the own (idia) sheep he calls (phōnei) according to name (onoma) and he leads out (exagei) them.
The word thyrōros (doorkeeper, doorman, caretaker, janitor) is very rare throughout the Bible. It appears four times in the New Testament, and only in the Gospels: Mt = 0; Mk = 1; Lk = 0; Jn = 3. In Mark, we find it in the eschatological parable where a man, on a journey, advises his porter to watch over his house (13:34). In John, apart from our scene of the shepherd, the word is used twice in the scene of Peter's denial in the palace of the high priest Annas, where this time it is about a doorkeeper, while the "other disciple" speaks to her to let Peter in, and it is she who looks at the latter to affirm that he is a disciple of Jesus. The presence of a doorkeepr presupposes a fairly large building and staff. It may seem a little strange to find a doorkeepr in a fold. But as the following shows, one can imagine a rather large complex, since this time it would be a community structure where multiple shepherds would each bring their flock; the challenge is then to recognize one's own flock. In short, with v. 3 we have the impression that we are facing a new parable: after the parable of the shepherd and the thief, it is the shepherd and his relationship with his flock.
|anoigei (he opens)||
The verb anoigō is quite common in the Gospel-Acts : Mt = 8; Mk = 1; Lk = 6; Jn = 10; Ac = 13. It opens different things:
As can be seen, eight times out of ten anoigō in John's case refers to the eyes and is linked to the episode of the blind man. Once, it refers to heaven that opens, and once to a door, that of our parable. Thus, we are before a unique reality of the fourth Gospel.
Of course, it is the role of a doorkeeper to open and close the doors, he is the keeper of the house. In the case of a sheep fold, it is his role to recognize the different shepherds who have parked their flock in the sheep fold. Thus, in our parable, the doorkeeper recognizes who is a true shepherd and who is the owner of one of the flocks in the sheep fold.
The word phōnē (sound, noise, voice, cry, tone, accent, language) is an ordinary word frequently found in the Gospel-Acts: Mt = 7; Mk = 7; Lk = 14; Jn = 15; Ac = 27. In the synoptic Gospels, following Mark, it designates first of all the voice of God who testifies about Jesus: at his baptism (Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22; Mt 3:17), at the transfiguration (Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35; Mt 17:5), and through the prophet Isaiah (Mk 1:3). But this voice is also that of the demons or evil spirits (Mk 1:26; 5:7; see Lk 4:33; 8:28), as well as that of Jesus on the cross who twice screams with a loud cry (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46 and Mk 15:37; Lk 23:46; Mt 27:50). But John is in a completely different register. If, just once, God makes his voice heard as in Mark to testify in favor of Jesus ("Then there came a voice from heaven: 'I have glorified him and I will glorify him again.'", 12:28), the voice becomes for him a source of identity and communion, and thus of transformation:
To hear the voice of Jesus is to recognize him as the Son of God or His envoy. This is only possible by identifying with what he is, with what he said, with what he did. That is why the evangelist can say: "Whoever is of the truth hears my voice". And in this way the human being is completely transformed. The reverse is also true, when Jesus addresses the Jews and says to them: "You have never heard his voice (phōnē), you have never seen his face" (5:37). The synonymous use of "hearing his voice" and "seeing his face" has been noted. This is all the depth that the evangelist gives to the recognition of Jesus' voice, and it is in this context that the scene of the sheep hearing the voice of the shepherd must be understood:
Through the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep, the evangelist presents us with an analogy of faith and of what it means to believe in Jesus: it is the recognition that his person is the very expression of God, and this is only possible if there is in the depths of our being a connivance between our being and his being, which he expresses through the search for truth, and from there we allow ourselves to be guided by the paths where he wants to lead us. All this is expressed by the image of the recognition of the voice and the gesture of following the sound of his voice.
|akouei (he hears)||
The verb akouō (to hear, listen, learn, understand, consider, obey) is very frequent throughout the New Testament, and in particular in the Gospels, Acts and Epistles of John: Mt = 57; Mk = 41; Lk = 57; Jn = 54; Ac = 74; 1 Jn = 10; 3 Jn = 1. As we can see, it is a word well integrated in the Johannine tradition. In order to appreciate all its nuances, the panoply of meanings must be divided into several categories. We propose seven of them.
Within the framework of this semantic richness of the verb akouō, the listening sheep is the allegorical expression of the believer who recognizes in Jesus the one sent by God able to guide him, and who obeys his voice.
Idios is a possessive adjective meaning: his own, pertaining to oneself, proper, personal (Mt = 10; Mk = 8; Lk = 6; Jn = 15; Ac = 16). It is also used as a noun and then means: his own, his possessions. In the synoptic Gospels, we also find the expression kat idian, literally "in oneself" or "with oneself", and refers to the fact of being alone, isolated or apart from others. In John, idios also refers to the relationship of faith: "Before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved his own (idios) who were in the world, loved them to the end" (13:1). In the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep, idios translates first of all the fact that the fold contains different flocks, and the shepherd must sort out the sheep that belong to him from the others. But this sorting is not done by marking the flock, but the sheep identify themselves by listening and following their master; a relationship has been established. Thus, while idiosyncrasy is often used to express possession, here it expresses rather the relationship of faith.
|phōnei (he calls)||
The verb phōneō has the same root as phōnē (voice). It is regularly found in the Gospels-Acts, especially in John (less so in the rest of the New Testament, except in Revelation, where one likes noise very much): Mt = 5; Mk = 10; Lk = 9; Jn = 12; Ac = 4). Literally, it means to make one's voice heard. But it does not simply mean speaking. For it has the nuance of speaking with a loud voice, that is, raising one's voice, shouting at someone and calling out to them. Let's give some examples:
These are the same nuances found in the fourth Gospel. When the shepherd calls his sheep, let's not imagine a soft and intimate voice. It is a cry. Besides, one only has to imagine the cacophony of a flock to guess that it is not easy to be heard. But with John, it's more than that realistic side. For it is the same verb that will be used in Philip's call: "Nathaniel said to him, 'Where do you know me from?' Jesus said to him, 'Before Philip called (phōneō) you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you'" (1: 48). A strong voice also describes the call of the disciple. All this is consistent with the evangelist's intention to describe the Christian life through the pastoral image.
Onoma (name) is very frequent in the Gospels, Acts and Letters of John: Mt = 22; Mk = 15; Lk = 34; Jn = 25; Ac = 53; 1 Jn = 3; 3 Jn = 2. It has three main meanings. First, it designates the proper name that identifies and distinguishes a particular person. Let us give some examples from the fourth Gospel:
But onoma also expresses the person himself in his deepest being or social being. In these cases, "name" could be replaced by "me", "you", or "him". Let us give some examples from the fourth Gospel:
Finally, onoma is used to express the delegation or mediation with the expression "on behalf of". Thus, sent by someone, one speaks "on his behalf". Or, one asks something "in the name of a person". Let us give some examples from the fourth Gospel:
In the context of the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep, we have something unique. For onoma here refers to the proper name that identifies and distinguishes the person, but it does so in a general way without being associated with a particular name. The author simply tells us that each sheep has a unique name. But there is more. Here we have the expression katʼ onoma (literally: according to a name, usually translated: each by its name). However, this expression is only found elsewhere in the New Testament, in the 3rd letter of John: "Peace be with you! Your friends greet you. Greet ours, each by name (katʼ onoma)" (1:15). We have already mentioned that the probable author of the Gospel would also be the author of the epistles of the same name. With katʼ onoma we have an example of his signature.
What is important to remember from all this is that for the author of the 4th Gospel, being able to call someone by name is the basis of the faith relationship. In this context, the episode of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb is of great importance.
14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). (Jn 20: 14-16)
Mary experiences a transformation ("she turned around") at the mere mention of her name. And her Rabbouni is the expression of her faith in the Risen Christ. For the evangelist, this is the basis of faith: I am known, I am in a relationship with someone for whom I count. Throughout his Gospel, he will give several examples of this:
This is what it means when the shepherd calls his sheep by name.
|exagei (he leads out )||
The verb is composed of the preposition ek (out of) and the verb agō (to lead, to conduct) and means: to bring out, to bring out. It is rare throughout the New Testament: Mt = 0; Mk = 1; Lk = 1; Jn = 1; Ac = 8; Heb = 1. As can be noted, it appears only in the Gospel Acts, apart from the mention in the epistle to the Hebrews. In Luke it expresses the fact that Jesus brings his disciples out of Jerusalem for his ascension to the surroundings of Bethany (Lk 24: 50). At Mark they bring Jesus outside to crucify him (Mk 15: 20). In the Acts of the Apostles, three times out of eight the verb exagō is used to describe the exit from Egypt, as in Hebrews 8:9, and as is often seen in the Septuagint: see for example Ex 3:8. 10.12; 6: 7.26; 12: 42; 14: 11; 29: 46; Deut 6: 12; 8: 14; 13: 6.11; 1 Kings 8: 21.53; 2 Chr 7: 22; Ps 136: 11.16; Jer 32: 32; Ezek 20: 6.9.41. In our parable, the verb describes the fact that the shepherd brings his sheep out of the fold. But it is difficult to avoid seeing in it the evocation of the coming out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, which leads to see in the shepherd the new Moses.
|v. 4 When he has brought out all that belong to him, he walks before them, and the sheep follow him, for they recognize his voice.
Literally : When the own all he has brought out (ekbalē), before (emprosthen) them he goes (poreuetai) and the sheep him follows (akolouthei) because they know (oidasin) the voice of him.
|ekbalē (he has brought out)||
The verb ekballō (to bring out, to drive out, to expel, to take away, to throw away) is uncommon in the New Testament apart from the Gospels-Act: Mt = 28; Mk = 18; Lk = 18; Jn = 3; Ac = 5. It should be noted right away that it is mainly used in the expression "to cast out demons": 35 times out of 73. Elsewhere, it very often describes the vivid action of removing evil, driving out people, or banishing or throwing things away. For example:
So we're left with a few instances where we don't have the idea of expelling or deporting someone or something:
In the synoptic tradition and in Acts, we do not really have a context similar to that of a shepherd and his flock, which could enlighten the use of ekballō, except perhaps the story of the Spirit leading Jesus into the desert; in this case, the Spirit brings Jesus out of his familiar environment to face what will become a place of trial. What about the Johannine tradition?
Apart from the allegory of the shepherd, we must be satisfied with three occurrences:
As we can see, we are still in a context of expulsion. What does that mean? Of course, in the allegory of the shepherd, it cannot be a question of expulsion, since the sheep follow their shepherd. Nevertheless, we cannot eliminate the idea that the shepherd is exercising "gentle" violence by forcing the sheep out of the fold, a bit like how Mark speaks of the Spirit driving Jesus into the desert to face the trial. It is important to remember that getting out of the fold is not necessarily very pleasant. Moreover, Boismard translates ekballō as "pushing out" (see M. E. Boismard, A. Lamouille, op. cit., pp. 263-264).
Why did the Evangelist choose this word? For example, he could have used the verb periagō: to bring with one's self. We could evoke the fact that it is realistic that a shepherd is obliged to push his sheep out of the fold, according to what we can observe of pastoral life. But an evangelist is a catechist who teaches a community, and his interest is not in accurately describing a rural scene. Unfortunately, we do not have a document that directly informs us about the community of the fourth Gospel. But the works of scholars such as M. E. Boismard and R. E. Brown (see for example The Community of the Beloved Disciple. New York: Paulist, 1979, 204 p., 1983) on the Johannine tradition allow us to arrive at a good level of probability that this community first existed in Palestine, in the region of Samaria, before immigrating (or going into exile) in Asia Minor, in the region of Ephesus. It can therefore bear witness to what it is like to leave a fold, to be somehow forced to immigrate to a more favourable land in a distant land, under the guidance of an authentic pastor.
Emprosthen is a preposition (Mt = 18; Mk = 2; Lk = 10; Jn = 5; Ac = 2; 1 Jn = 1) which refers to the two meanings of "before": i.e., to the sense of walking in front of someone or preceding someone, and to the sense of being in the presence of someone. It is little used by John. The first meaning appears in the scene around John the Baptist when the latter says: "Whoever comes behind me has passed before me" (1:15), or again: "I am not the Christ, but I am sent before him" (3:28). Thus, John the Baptist is before Jesus to prepare for his coming, at the same time Jesus is before John the Baptist as the most important person. The second meaning of emprosthen appears under the pen of the evangelist who writes: "Although he had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in him" (12:37); it refers to the signs that Jesus did in the presence of the Jews. What about the shepherd and his sheep? Of course, the evangelist intends to describe a shepherd who goes before his sheep, who walks ahead to show the way and guide them, in the way Isaiah describes Yahweh walking before his people: "I will walk before(emprosthen) you; I will make the mountains smooth; I will break down the gates of brass; I will crush the bars of iron" (LXX: Is 45:2).
|poreuetai (he goes)||
poreuō is a movement verb: to move, to go, to walk, to surrender, to make way. It is very present in the Gospels-Acts (Mt = 29; Mk = 3; Lk = 52; Jn = 16; Ac = 37), very little elsewhere in the New Testament. Luke uses it a lot, because life is for him a long journey, and it is a Jesus who walks, especially this long walk that will lead him to Jerusalem (9: 51 - 19: 28), and afterwards it will be the walk of the Church to the ends of the earth in the Acts of the Apostles. In John, out of the 16 occurrences, 10 refer to Jesus, especially (6 times) to the fact that Jesus announces that he is going to his Father (14: 220.127.116.11; 16: 7.28). And of the six times that people other than Jesus walk, three times it is Jesus who asks them to start walking: 4: 50; 8: 11; 20: 17. Jesus is really at the heart of the action of walking. The allegory of the shepherd does not specify where this walking leads. In the pastoral world, it is a question of leading the flock to good pastures, as Psalm 23:2 says: "He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters". Therefore, we must conclude that the interest of the evangelist here is not the destination, but the relationship of the flock with its shepherd.
|akolouthei (he follows)||
The verb akoloutheō (to follow, to accompany) appears only in the Gospels-Acts throughout the New Testament, with the exception of a few occurrences in Revelation: Mt = 25; Mk = 18; Lk = 17; Jn = 19; Ac = 4; Rev = 6. The reason is simple: very often it is a technical term to describe the disciple, the one who is called to follow Jesus (52 times out of the 89 occurrences in the New Testament). It is the same with John, where 12 times out of 19 occurrences refer to the attitude of the disciple: for example, "The two disciples heard his words and followed (akoloutheō) Jesus" (1: 37); or, "Again Jesus spoke to them and said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows (akoloutheō) me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (8: 12). Of course, in our parable we do not speak of disciples, but of sheep. The fact remains that through the images of the allegory we can clearly see the attitude of the disciple in the sheep.
|oidasin (they know)||
The verb oida, also known as eidō, belongs to two major families of meaning: on the one hand, there is "to see" and its synonyms such as to look at or observe, and on the other hand there is "to know" and its synonyms such as to understand or grasp. In the Gospels-Acts-Letters of John, it refers only to knowing or be aware of: Mt = 24; Mk = 21; Lk = 25; Jn = 83; Ac = 19; 1 Jn = 15; 3 Jn = 1. As can be seen, it occupies a central place in the Johannine tradition. If we add to our analysis ginōskō (know: Mt = 19; Mk = 11; Lc = 26; Jn = 57; Ac = 16; 1 Jn = 25; 2 Jn = 1), a synonym, our observation becomes even more striking, i.e. almost one third of the occurrences of both verbs are found in the Johannine tradition. The emphasis on knowledge is so strong that some people suspect the evangelist to be Gnostic, i.e. to promote salvation through knowledge.
When we try to understand the role that the fourth Gospel makes oida play, we first note that it often appears in the mouth of Jesus to express what he knows. This knowledge concerns three categories.
On several occasions, the fourth Gospel speaks to us of people's ignorance, of what they do not know. For example:
Conversely, knowledge can sometimes be an obstacle: because we think we know, we do not open ourselves to a new reality. For example:
On a few occasions the Gospel presents us with the testimony of people who know or have understood. For example:
As can be seen from all these examples, everything revolves around knowledge or ignorance. Already in the Prologue, the Evangelist warned us: "What was in him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not seize him" (1:4-5). Returning to our parable of the shepherd, the evangelist tells us that the sheep know the voice of the shepherd, i.e. know who the true shepherd is. In the context of what we have just seen about knowledge, the sheep point to those who have been able to grasp who is the light of the world. This is a knowledge born out of faith.
|v. 5 On the other hand, they will not follow a stranger, they will rather flee from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.
Literally : Then, a strange (allotriō) not they will follow in no way but will flee (pheuxontai) from him, because they do not know (oidasin) the voice of the strangers.
Allotrios adjective meaning: who belongs to others, foreign, strange, hostile. Here it is used as a noun. It is a rare word throughout the New Testament, including the Gospels-Acts: Mt = 2; Mc = 0; Lc = 1; Jn = 2; Ac = 1. In Matthew (17:25-26), the word appears in a question from Jesus to Peter about the obligation to pay the temple tax: "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect taxes? From their sons or from others (allotrios)?". Of course, the answer would be "others", i.e. foreigners, because of the political mores of the time. In Luke (16:12), the word appears in the mouth of Jesus who concludes the parable of the dishonest manager who knew how to manage in his own interest the goods for which he was responsible at the time of his dismissal: "And if you have not been faithful for the foreign (allotrios) good, who will give you yours?" In other words, money and material goods are considered foreign goods for the believer who seeks spiritual goods. In the Acts of the Apostles (7:6), this is a reference to a text from Genesis as Stephen summarizes Israel's sojourn in a foreign land. So we find ourselves in the allegory of the shepherd with something unique: a foreign shepherd. In terms of pastoral life, the number of shepherds makes it logical that for a specific flock there is only one owner, and all the others are, by definition, strangers. But in the context of the allegory, it is clear that the face of the foreign shepherd carries a negative note. Who is he who the sheep not only will not follow, but whom they must not follow? In the Old Testament, the foreign land where the Jews were exiled and the foreign gods had a highly negative note. The same can be presupposed for the shepherd, even if, for the moment, we have no clue as to his identity. If Boismard is right in attributing the writing of this verse to John II-B, i.e., around Ephesus in the 90s, then one can see in it the image of other Christian leaders foreign to the Johannine community who could exert influence, or simply the Jewish authorities who sought to repatriate the "black sheep".
|pheuxontai (they will flee)||
The verb pheugō (to flee, to escape from, to run away, to avoid, to fly by, to shun) appears sometimes in the New Testament, especially in the Gospels-Acts : Mt = 7; Mk = 5; Lk = 3; Jn = 2; Ac = 2.
In all the examples given, the flight is triggered by fear of a surprising or threatening event, and by the desire to preserve life or physical integrity. In John, the only two mentions of pheugō belong to the sequence of stories about the shepherd and his sheep: first here, where it is the sheep that flee from a foreign shepherd, and further on (10, 12), where it is the salaried or mercenary shepherd who flees from danger. In the case of the sheep, why flee? Is it not enough not to follow the foreign shepherd? Of course, one could always evoke the pastoral reality where an animal may be afraid of a stranger. But the term John II-B's pen is probably not neutral. It is probably the same intention that is found in some epistles when dealing with what is considered an evil:
Thus, one has to flee from this foreign shepherd because of a harmful influence from which one must protect oneself.
|ouk oidasin (they do not know)||
Here is the reason given by the evangelist: one does not follow a stranger. Through the apparent simplicity of the sentence, what deep reality is he translating? On a superficial level, one could say: it is quite logical, someone will not let himself be guided by someone he does not know. But that is precisely the question: why is someone a stranger? And, in fact, will they always be strangers? To answer this question, we must return to our observations on knowledge (the verbs oida and ginōskō) in John, and see in Jesus' relationship with his audience the same relationship of the shepherd with his sheep. According to the evangelist, the voice or word of Jesus is refused to be recognized as the word of God, much in the same way that sheep do not recognize the voice of a stranger ("Why don't you recognize (ginōskō) my language? It is because you cannot hear my word", 8: 43). Why is this? One of the reasons given is this: "and yet it is not of myself that I have come, but he who sent me truly sends me. You do not know (oida) him" (7: 28). Therefore, we cannot welcome Jesus without knowing the Father. Yet no one has seen God, how can one know him and thus welcome Jesus? Therefore, the evangelist puts in the mouth of Jesus: "If you know (ginōskō) me, you will also know (ginōskō) my Father; from now on you know (ginōskō) him and you have seen him" (14: 7). Thus, it is through Jesus that we know the Father, but we cannot welcome Jesus without knowing the Father. It is like a vicious circle. How do we get out of it? In fact, the starting point is neither Jesus nor the Father, but it is within oneself. The evangelist gives us two clues.
Let's start with God's love. What the evangelist seems to be saying is that in order to know God, one must first open oneself to the love that is present deep within. It is not in his Gospel, but in his letters that John will clarify this idea: "By this we know (ginōskō) that we know him (ginōskō): if we keep his commandments" (1 Jn 2:3). What are these commandments? The answer is clear: "Love one another as he has commanded us" (1 Jn 3:23). Everything else follows: "Beloved, let us love one another, since love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God (ginōskō). Whoever does not love has not known (ginōskō) God, for God is Love" (1 Jn 4:7-8). In short, one cannot know God without first loving, for God is love. And faith is only the eyes of love, so that John can bring them together in a single sentence: "Now this is his commandment: believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another as he has commanded us" (1 Jn 3:23); believing and loving go together.
The search for truth is a way to know Jesus and his Father: "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that it may be made manifest that his works are done in God" (3:21). In contrast, the evangelist sees those who refuse the word of Jesus as people who refuse the truth: "You are of the devil, your father, and it is your father's desires that you want to fulfil. He was a murderer from the beginning and was not established in the truth, because there is no truth in him: when he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own heart, because he is a liar and the father of lies" (8:44). This is how Jesus can conclude before Pilate: "I was born, and came into the world only to bear witness to the truth. Whoever is of the truth hears my voice" (18:37). And in his first letter John can complete by saying: "We are from God. Whoever knows (gginōskō) God listens to us, whoever is not of God does not listen to us. This is what we recognize (ginōskō) the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 Jn 4:6).
In order to recognize Jesus' voice as coming from God, it is necessary both to have love at the heart of one's life and to be a seeker of truth. This is probably what the evangelist sums up when speaking of God's will: "If anyone wants to do his (the one who sent him) will, he will recognize (ginōskō) whether my doctrine is from God or whether I am speaking about myself" (7:17). Thus, our shepherd is in the image of who we are. For those who are centered on love and the search for truth, their God will be Love and Truth; there is like a law of connaturality. And so, every other God will be a stranger. Not only will he not follow him, but he will flee from him, as one flees from evil.
|v. 6 This is what Jesus said to them in pictures, but they did not understand what he meant.
Literally : This the allegory (paroimian) he said to them the Jesus, then these [one] (ekeinoi) they didn't know (egnōsan) what it was what he was talking (elalei) to them
Paroimia means: indirect or figurative language, proverb, saying, maxim, comparison, figure, digression. It is found throughout the New Testament only in John, apart from 2 Peter 2:22: Mt = 0; Mk = 0; Lk = 0; Jn = 4; Ac = 0. Paroimia is different from a parable, because the latter is often based on a story from life, and usually begins with the formula: "One day a man went on a journey... or, "A man had a hundred sheep, and one day he lost one...". Here we have rather a succession of images and comparisons: the shepherd and the thief, the shepherd and the stranger. The evangelist uses the word paroimia. Later, in his Gospel, he puts it in the mouth of Jesus who says: "All this I have told you in paroimia (figures, enigmatic images). The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in paroimia, but I will speak to you clearly about the Father" (16:25). This meaning of paroimia is consistent with that found in Ben Sirach: "He (the wise man) seeks the hidden meaning of the figures (paroimia), and he deals with enigmatic sentences". But what did Jesus say that is so enigmatic in the section (16:19-25)? It begins with Jesus' response to the confusion of the disciples, who ask themselves: "What does he say to us there: 'A little longer and you will not see me,' and then a little longer and you will see me', and 'Am I going to the Father?'" Then he warns them that they will weep and lament, while the world will rejoice, but their sadness will turn into joy, and then borrows the image of the pregnant woman who no longer remembers her pain after giving birth. This riddle will be solved only a little further on when Jesus says, "I came out from the Father and into the world. Again I leave the world and go to the Father" (16:28). At that moment the disciples cry out: "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures (paroimia)! Now we know that you know everything and do not need to be questioned. At this we believe that you have come out of God" (16:29-30). What did the disciples clearly understand? It is that Jesus must die, and that through his death he will join his Father. This is what the image of the woman giving birth meant. Thus, the image itself is not complicated; it is the reality that we want to translate through this image that can remain enigmatic. It is the same with the image of the shepherd and his sheep: the image is simple, but the reality it intends to translate is not obvious and could leave us in the dark.
|ekeinoi (these [one])||
The only reason to mention the demonstrative adjective or pronoun ekeinos (that one, that thing) is to emphasize that it belongs to the style of the Johannine tradition: Mt = 54; Mk = 23; Lk = 33; Jn = 70; Ac = 22; 1 Jn = 7.
|egnōsan (they didn't know)||
We have here a literary process typical of the fourth Gospel: the words and actions of Jesus are always situated at two levels, a primary level where things seem to say one thing, and a secondary level where things refer to a much deeper reality. Things at the primary level sometimes raise questions or appear confusing at times, when they do not lead on a false trail, which triggers Jesus to intervene with a clarification and a form of catechesis. A typical example is Jesus' response when asked for a sign to justify his action of driving the vendors out of the temple: "Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it up" (2:19). Of course, his audience understands these words at the primary level: "This sanctuary has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?"(2: 20). It is the narrator who must clarify: "But he was speaking about the sanctuary of his body" (2:21). Let us give a number of examples:
It is the same literary process that we have in the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep. Jesus opposes the shepherd of the sheep to the thief and then to the stranger. But the narrator points out that the audience does not understand. So we should expect Jesus to clarify his thought, as he did in all the examples we have given.
|elalei (he was talking)||
The only reason to pause for a moment on the verb laleō (to make sounds, to shout, to make noise, to converse, to speak, to preach) is to emphasize that it is part of the Johannine vocabulary: Mt = 26; Mk = 21; Lk = 31; Jn = 59; Ac = 58; 1 Jn = 1; 2 Jn = 1. But there is more. This verb is used only in reference to Jesus, either to describe the fact that he speaks (for example, "Again Jesus spoke (laleō) to them and said, 'I am the light of the world', 8: 12), or to put it in Jesus' mouth by referring to what he said (for example, "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no use. The words I have spoken (laleō) to you are spirit and they are life", 6: 63), or to refer to words about him (for example, "Yet no one spoke (laleō) openly about him for fear of the Jews", 7: 13), or to describe someone who speaks to Jesus (for example, "Pilate said to him, 'Aren't you speaking (laleō) to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and that I have power to crucify you?": 19, 10).
|v. 7 So Jesus took up again, "Truly, truly, I assure you, I am the door [shepherd] of the sheep.
Literally : He said therefore again (palin) the Jesus, amen, amen, I say to you, that me I am (egō eimi) the door of the sheep.
The adverb palin (again, further, in their turn, once more) is really part of the Johannine style: Mt = 17; Mk = 28; Lk = 3; Jn = 45; Ac = 5; 1 Jn = 1, so that one could speak of a Gospel of repetition:
The evangelist's literary method continues throughout the story from his arrest to his resurrection: when they come to arrest him, Jesus calls out to the cohort and the guards ("Who are you looking for?"), and after identifying himself (I am), and the soldiers have retreated and fallen to the ground, Jesus will ask them again who they are looking for (18:7); it is when Peter denies again that the rooster will be heard (18:27); Pilate will go back and forth between the crowd and Jesus, entering again into the praetorium with Jesus after having questioned the Jews (18, 33), then returning again to the Jews after having questioned Jesus (18: 38), then, after having returned so that the soldiers could mistreat him, he returns again outside with the mistreated man (19: 4), and finally returns again to the praetorium to try in vain to get more answers from Jesus (19: 9); the Jews answer Pilate that they have taken Jesus away from him because he is a criminal and must be put to death, and when Pilate proposes to them that he be released at the Passover, the evangelist writes: "So they yelled again, "Not this fellow but Barabbas'" (18:40); after his resurrection he wished them peace twice (20:19-21), and twice he appeared in the midst of his disciples gathered together ("Eight days later his disciples were again inside and Thomas with them")(20:26).
This literary method is certainly intentional. On the one hand, it gives rise to the idea of a long meditation, where the truth of things, which at first is elusive, slowly emerges, as if by layers, where one needs to constantly dwell on what has been said before discovering its full meaning. On the other hand, the repetition of choices, for or against Jesus (Peter will repeat his love for Jesus three times, the Jews will repeat several times their intention to take Jesus, and at his trial will repeat their choice to see him die, Pilate's decision), only accentuates the fact that they are deliberate, carefully weighed; it is not a simple whim.
In the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep, the meaning of the shepherd and the thieves, and the sheep-shepherd relationship in opposition to the stranger has not been grasped. The teaching must then be repeated, going a little farther, being a little clearer.
|egō eimi (me I am)||
As in any allegory, we must now identify the symbols. For example, in Mark, the parable of the sower will be allegorized by the fact that each symbol will be given a singular meaning: the seed becomes the word of God, the seed by the roadside represents those who have let Satan prevent the word from taking root, the seed in stony places represents the shallow people who, having welcomed the word with joy, abandon it because of persecution, the seed in thorns represents those who have let the word be stifled by the cares of the world and the deceit of money. Thus, in the allegory of the shepherd, we must identify the different symbols that are the shepherd, the thief, the door, the sheep and the stranger. The evangelist begins with the door which he identifies with Jesus.
I am (egō eimi). The expression "I am", which may seem banal, is not banal in the Jewish world, for it has become the very name of God. It is said to have originated in the Exodus scene when Moses asks God what his name is, should the Israelites ask him:
LXX : God said to Moses, "I am (egō eimi) he who is." And he said, "This is what you will say to the Israelites: He who is has sent me to you." (Ex 3:14)
A number of books of the Bible will use the title, particularly Deuteronomy, to emphasize God's uniqueness:
LXX : Behold, behold that I am (egō eimi); and there is no God but I; I give death and life, I smite and heal, and no one can deliver out of my hands (Deut 32:39).
Among the prophets, it is Isaiah who uses exactly the same expression to insist on the same point:
LXX : Be witnesses for me, and I myself will bear witness, says the Lord God; and also my servant, whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe and understand that I am (egō eimi). Before me there was no other God, nor shall there be after me (Isa 43:10; see also 41:4; 46:4).
Otherwise, in Isaiah and elsewhere in the Old Testament, the expression "I am" is used to reveal some aspect of God. Let us give a few examples:
It is the same process, used by the Old Testament to talk about God, that the fourth Gospel uses to talk about Jesus. First there is the expression "I am" without any attribute, which he uses seven times.
Then there are the various attributes associated with Jesus.
The use of the expression "I am", associated with God, is probably not accidental: by insisting throughout the Gospel on the deep intimacy between Jesus and his Father, John intends to support this idea by using the style associated with God in the Old Testament to speak of Jesus. And in the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep, Jesus "is the door", i.e., he is the mediator to find life, as we will learn later; this is in keeping with the other statement of the evangelist: I am the way, the truth and the life.
Therefore, Jesus is the door. Very well. It is easy to understand this since verse 1 began by talking about the door and then presented two different approaches, those of thieves and robbers on the one hand, and the shepherd on the other. But it is the next verse, verse 8, that poses the problem: first it refers to thieves and robbers as in v. 1, which is perfect, but instead of explaining what it means to enter through the door, it talks about the sheep who listen or do not listen, a reference not to v. 1, but to v. 2. To be consistent with the reference to listening to the sheep in v. 8, the evangelist should have written in v. 7: "I am the shepherd of the sheep", not "I am the door of the sheep"; the sheep do not listen to a door, but to a shepherd. In fact, there is a small problem of textual criticism here. One of the oldest manuscripts of the Gospel of John, called Papyrus 75, which dates from the beginning of the third century AD, has a review: "Truly, truly, I assure you, I am the shepherd of the sheep". There is also a similar version in the earliest Coptic translation of this passage, which also dates back to the third century (see Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1979, note on Jn 10:7 and p. 688 on P75). On the other hand, other important reviews of equals, such as Papyrus 66 of the same period, and the 4th century codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus present the version "I am the door of the sheep".
How to decide? Modern Bibles have all opted for "door". M.E. Boismard (see M.E. Boismard, A. Lamouille, op. cit., p. 263), for his part, opted for "shepherd", not only because of the support of Papyrus 75 and the Coptic translation, but also for reasons of consistency with v. 8; according to him, the replacement of "shepherd" by "door" would be due to a scribe under the influence of v. 9 where Jesus says: I am the door of the sheep. Even this correction is not totally satisfactory. For according to v. 5 it is the stranger, and not thieves and robbers, that the sheep do not listen to. To see the extent of the problem, let us consider the following table where are presented in parallel the usual text, Boismard's modification following P75, and a proposal in order to have a totally coherent flow (we have underlined the modified text).
One must accept that an evangelist may not be totally logical. Boismard's argument that a copyist would have mistakenly copied door instead of shepherd, influenced by v. 9, is possible. But it is equally possible that the scribe of P75 would have seen the problem of logic and would have tried to correct it by modifying door by shepherd. In any case, the text shows tensions in its composition. Therefore, in the absence of decisive arguments, we opt for the text generally received. But we have left the mention of the shepherd in square brackets to reflect certain handwritten translations.3.
|v. 8 All those who came [before me] are thieves and robbers. But the sheep did not listen to them.
Literally : All who ever came (ēlthon) before me (pro emou) thieves they are and robbers, but didn't hear (ouk ēkousan) them the sheep.
|ēlthon (they came)||
The verb erchomai (to come, to arrive, to go, to appear) is a verb that the Johannine tradition is particularly fond of: Mt = 113; Mk = 86; Lk = 99; Jn = 155; Ac = 50; 1 Jn = 3; 2 Jn = 2; 3 Jn = 2. It is an ordinary and all-purpose verb, such as to have, to be or to do in English, in accordance with the simple Greek style of the 4th Gospel4. But it is a movement verb, and therefore describes an action. In order to understand this action, one must establish who is the subject of the action. For the purpose of analysis, we will group these subjects into six categories:
As we can see, the analysis of this simple verb allows us to draw up a good part of the landscape of the fourth Gospel. Where do thieves and robbers come from in this landscape? The allegory tells us about those who came, and thus takes us back to the past. And the affirmation is all-encompassing: "all". These thieves and robbers are not presented in direct opposition to Jesus, for it is not directly against the shepherd that are taking action, but against the sheep. Literally, this would refer to all the leaders before Jesus, including Moses. But if we place ourselves in the time of the evangelist, we should probably first see the Jews of the first Christian generation who tried to bring back to the fold by different methods their fellow believers who had gone astray by becoming Christians. Later on, we can see Judeo-Christians, to whom Paul himself opposed, who tried to bring back to Jewish orthopraxis the members of this unstructured community. (See R.E. Brown, op. cit.).
|[pro emou] (before me)||
The expression is in square brackets because the Greek text is uncertain. It is present in many important manuscripts such as Papyrus 66, the codex Sinaiticus (corrected version), Vaticanus and Bezae. On the other hand, it is absent from Papyri 45 and 75, from the original Sinaiticus, from most Latin, Syriac and Coptic translations, and from some Fathers of the Church such as Chrysostom and Augustine. Since there is good support for the manuscripts on both sides, a decision must be made by asking the question: what is more likely, that a copyist has forgotten the expression, or that he has added it? It is easier to understand that a copyist added it to clarify the beginning of the sentence (those who came), so that there is no ambiguity that they are indeed people before Jesus. But as this remains very hypothetical, our Bibles have preferred to keep the expression.
|ouk ēkousan (they did not hear)||
We saw earlier that one of the main meanings of the verb to listen is to believe. However, here we have a negative sentence, and therefore it should be translated: the sheep did not believe them. In the 4th Gospel, not listening or not believing has a negative connotation: "if you do not listen, it is because you are not from God" (8:47). Are the sheep not of God? Of course not. When can not listening be justified? In fact, we have an example: "We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if someone is religious and does his will, he listens" (9:31). When we say that God does not listen to sinners, we assume that sinners desire bad things. In the same line, the sheep do not listen to thieves and robbers who want bad things. Thus, the sheep do not symbolize people who are usually referred to as "sheep", i.e. who let themselves be influenced by anyone, but people who have taken a stand, who have chosen their side.
|v. 9 I am the door: if anyone enters through me, he will be liberated. He will walk and find pasture.
Literally : Me, I am the door; by me (diʼ emou) if anyone might enter he will be saved (sōthēsetai) and he will enter (eiseleusetai) and he will go out (exeleusetai) and pasture (nomēn) he will find (heurēsei).
|diʼ emou (by me)||
The preposition dia has various meanings: causal (because of, in view of), local (across), temporal (during, in the course of) and mediating (by, through). Here it has a mediating meaning: by or through me. The mediator is Jesus. This is a strong idea of the fourth Gospel. It is first of all in the mouth of Jesus:
God is fundamentally the source of truth and life, and thus of salvation. It is Jesus who truly reveals God to us, and thus communicates truth, life and salvation to us. When Jesus says that he is the door, he is saying that he is the way, a way that leads to life and thus to salvation.
Mediation is also expressed through the narrator's pen:
Under the pen of the narrator, the approach is more cosmic, whereas the mediation of Jesus concerns the creation of the cosmos itself. And it is therefore his creation that he comes to restore to its original destiny through his salvific action. In the perspective of the fourth Gospel, there is no direct link with God, for God is reached only through Jesus.
|sōthēsetai (he will be saved)||
The verb sōzō means: to save from death, to keep alive, to preserve, to spare, to keep safe, to bring back safe. It is regularly used by evangelists, but less so by John: Mt = 15; Mk = 15; Lk = 17; Jn = 6; Ac = 12; 1 Jn = 0; 2 Jn = 0; 3 Jn = 0. When we go through the different occurrences of sōzō in the Gospels, we see that this verb has three main meanings.
What about the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep? What does the verb "to be saved" mean? First of all, who are we talking about? The sentence says, "The one who". Who is this "He who"? In v. 2, the evangelist spoke of the shepherd who comes through the door, as opposed to thieves and robbers. And so, one would expect here to speak of the shepherd who comes through the door, which is Jesus. But what follows is about going in and out, and finding pasture? Is it about the shepherd or the sheep? Normally, when we talk about pasture, we are talking about sheep. In this case, "to be saved" would mean that the sheep will find something to eat and be able to survive. If we are talking about the shepherd, we don't understand what it means to be saved. We must therefore admit that the evangelist is not very coherent and presents us with a poorly crafted allegory. In order to respect the sentence as it is, we have to affirm that we are talking about the sheep that must pass through the door that is Jesus in order to find good food. In this case, we must admit that we are moving away from the meaning of the beginning of the allegory. In any case, "to be saved" probably refers to avoiding the unfortunate situation of being hungry. We prefer the translation: to be liberated, to the translation: to be saved, because the latter is still too pregnant with the idea of eternal salvation. The sheep is thus freed from the threat of starvation.
|eiseleusetai (he will enter)||
We have already analyzed earlier the verb eiserchomai.
|exeleusetai (he will go out)||
As for the verb exerchomai (to go out, to leave, to come from), it is very frequent in the Gospels-Acts: Mt = 43; Mk = 38; Lk = 40; Jn = 30; Ac = 29; 1 Jn = 2; 2 Jn = 1; 3 Jn = 1. It usually refers to the fact that someone leaves one place to go to another ("The next day, Jesus resolved to leave (exerchomai) for Galilee", Jn 1:43). But sometimes it can refer to an object that moves ("but one of the soldiers stabbed his side with his spear and immediately there came out (exerchomai) blood and water", Jn 19:34; "Then the news spread (exerchomai) among the brothers that this disciple would not die", Jn 21:23). In John, it also has a meaning of its own, a theological meaning: "I came out (exerchomai) from the Father and came into the world. Again I leave the world and go to the Father" (Jn 16:28). But here, in v. 9, we have a particular expression: to enter and to go out. This couple exists in the Old Testament with the Hebrew expression bôʾ (to enter) and yāṣāʾ (to go out), and which the Septuagint rendered with the expression eiserchomai (to enter) and exerchomai (to go out). The expression is intended to summarize the whole of human life or our daily activities, where we spend our time going in and out; it is synonymous with taking action. It is found in the following passages of the Old Testament.
We find the expression elsewhere in the New Testament in Acts 1:21: (It is Peter who speaks: "It is necessary, therefore, that of those men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus entered (eiserchomai) and went out (exerchomai) in our midst"). Very often our Bibles prefer to replace the expression "going in and out" with a more familiar expression, for example "traveling around" (Jerusalem Bible in Acts 1:21), "living" (NIV in Acts 1:21).
Let us return to the allegory of the shepherd. The evangelist tells us that the sheep will go in and out. As the expression refers to human action in general, he intends to describe the usual life of the sheep. We have opted for the translation: walking. For human life is a long walk, a series of actions, and this translation fits well with what follows, i.e. finding pasture.
The noun nomē refers to grazing, eating, feeding, pasture, or snacking. Throughout the New Testament, it appears only here and in 2 Tim 2:17: "their word (those who indulge in ungodly chatter) is like a grangrene of pasture (nomē). Such are Hymenaeus and Philetus". On the other hand, in the pastoral culture of the Old Testament it is well known. And since herd and pasture are intimately associated, the reference to pasture sometimes refers to the whole herd. Here are some uses of this word.
As can be seen, herd and pasture are very closely associated, because without food, the herd cannot survive. And it is the role of the pastor or shepherd to find that food. But as there have been bad shepherds in the history of Israel, it is Yahweh himself who will take care of finding this food, and this food will be fat and plentiful. But here, in v. 9, it is Jesus who assumes this role, and through him, the sheep will have this abundant food.
|heurēsei (he will find)||
The verb heuriskō (to find, to meet, to discover, to ascertain, to recognize) is very widespread in the Gospels-Acts: Mt = 27; Mk = 11; Lk = 45; Jn = 19; Ac = 35; 1 Jn = 0; 2 Jn = 1; 3 Jn = 0. In Luke it is an important theme. In John, it plays a less important role, but still a rather precise one. On the one hand, it is used to designate the meeting of a person ("Later Jesus found (heuriskō) him in the Temple and says to him, 'You are healed; sin no more, lest something worse happen to you", 5: 14), and on the other hand, finding (or not finding) what one is looking for ("You will look for me, and you will not find (heuriskō) me; and where I am, you cannot come"). What about the sheep in our allegory? Even if the word "seek" does not appear, we can assume that a sheep is always looking for food, and "finding" is the result of that search. And so, thanks to the shepherd, his search for food will be fruitful. Perhaps the best parallel is another passage from John, where some of the disciples fished in vain all night without catching anything, before early in the morning Jesus, on the shore, said to them: "Cast the net to the right of the boat and you will find (heuriskō)" (21:6). The rest is well known: the fishing was so abundant that they no longer had the strength to pull the net. For the sheep and the fishermen the situation is the same: through Jesus they find what they are looking for, and they find it in superabundance.
|v. 10 The thief comes only to steal, slaughter and destroy, whereas I have come so that they may have life, and that they may have it overflowing.
Literally : The thief does not come if not so that he might steal (klepsē) and he might sacrifice (thysē) and he might destroy (apolesē). Me, I came so that life (zōēn) they may have and abundantly (perisson) they may have.
|klepsē (he might steal)||
The verb kleptō (to steal, to thieve, to rob) is very rare: Mt = 5; Mc = 1; Lc = 1; Jn = 1; Ac = 0; 1 Jn = 0; 2 Jn = 0; 3 Jn = 0. It was Mark who introduced it by referring to the so-called commandments of God: "You know the commandments: Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal (kleptō), do not bear false witness, do not do wrong, honour your father and mother" (Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20; Mt 19:18). So it is always something wrong. This scene was taken up by Luke and Matthew. Elsewhere, Matthew has two scenes that use this word: "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven: there no moth or worm that burns, no thief that punctures or robs (kleptō)" (Mt 6:19-20), and the hoax about the disciples stealing Jesus' body ("You shall say this...: 'His disciples came at night and stole (kleptō) it while we were sleeping", Mt 28:13; see also 27:64). John is quite independent with his description of the thieving shepherd. But we remain in the context of someone who does evil.
|thysē (he might sacrifice)||
The verb thyō means above all to kill, but only in relation to an animal, from which to sacrifice, immolate, slaughter an animal. It is only in this context that it appears in the New Testament: Mt = 1; Mk = 1; Lk = 4; Jn = 1; Ac = 4; 1 Jn = 0; 2 Jn = 0; 3 Jn = 0; 1 Co = 3. First of all, there is the context of the family feast in which the animal that has been fattened is slaughtered in order to celebrate joyfully (Lk 15:23.27.30; Mt 22.4), then there is the context of the religious celebration, in particular the paschal lamb which is slaughtered among the Jews (Mk 14:12; Lk 22:7), and among the pagans, the animals offered to the various deities (Acts 14:13.18; 1 Cor 10:20). In Paul, the paschal lamb was replaced by Christ who was slain (thyō) (1 Cor 5:7). In our allegory, we do not specify why the sheep is slaughtered; we imagine that it is for food. We must also assume that the true shepherd does not want to use it as food and wants to prolong its life.
|apolesē (he might destroy)||
The verb apollymi (to lose, to destroy, to cause to perish, to lead astray, to demolish, to waste, to spoil) is quite widespread in the Gospels-Acts : Mt = 18; Mk = 10; Lk = 27; Jn = 9; Ac = 2; 1 Jn = 0; 2 Jn = 1; 3 Jn = 0. In John, it has three great meanings.
In which category does the action of the sheep thief fall? It is of course in the physical destruction of the sheep. But since it is an allegory, and behind the image is the description of a community of believers, it must also be seen as a reference to spiritual and eternal death.
The word zōē (life, existence) belongs above all to the Johannine tradition in the Gospel Acts: Mt = 7; Mk = 4; Lk = 5; Jn = 36; Ac = 8; 1 Jn = 13; 2 Jn = 0; 3 Jn = 0. It has two great meanings: firstly, earthly existence, and secondly, divine or spiritual life that extends into the afterlife, also called eternal life. In the Gospel-Acts, only Luke uses zōē in reference to earthly life: "Then Jesus said to them, 'Beware of all greed, for even in the midst of abundance a man's life (zōē) is not assured by his possessions'" (12:15); or again, (Paul's speech in Athens) "Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, he who gives life (zōē), breath and all things" (Acts 17:25). We know the outcome of Paul's speech in Athens according to Luke: the Greeks mocked him at the mention of the resurrection of the dead. Now, this notion of resurrection of the dead and eternal life comes from the Hebrew world, and from a very recent Hebrew world.
It is in the prophet Daniel, around 164 BC, that we have the first mention of this individual eternal life beyond death; the idea develops in the context of the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164) and the idea that accepting death as a martyr opens the door to the happiness of a future world.
This belief in Daniel's individual resurrection and eternal life is taken up again in the first book of Maccabees, but it is in the second book of Maccabees, probably written around 120 BC, that we find the same expression, again in a context of persecution and death as a martyr.
Finally, there is the book of the Psalms of Solomon, a collection of eighteen psalms, which is not part of the Hebrew Bible, but is preserved in the Septuagint and was probably written about 50 BC, after Pompey's invasion of Jerusalem in 63.
These ideas are taken up in the New Testament. They were conveyed at the time of Jesus, especially by the Pharisees. Mark echoes them with this rich man who asks Jesus a question: "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life (zōē aiōnios)? "(10: 17 || Lk 18: 18 || Lk 10: 25 || Mt 19: 16). But it is Matthew the Jew who gives us the closest parallel to the passage quoted above from Daniel, when he presents us with the scene of the Last Judgment and writes: "And they shall go away, these to everlasting punishment, and the righteous to eternal life (zōē aiōnios)" (25: 46).
What about John? First of all, zōē never refers to physical existence (John rather uses the word psychē to refer to physical life), but always to this life that comes from God. Of the 36 occurrences of the word, 19 are accompanied by the adjective "eternal" (aiōnios), i.e. more than 50%. This life has a number of characteristics:
Let us return to the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd Jesus came so that his sheep might have life. What kind of life are we talking about? As we have seen, it cannot be about physical existence, because never zōē has this meaning in John; and so the shepherd is not content to keep the life of his flock. On the other hand, he does not use the expression "eternal life", which would be a bit awkward with sheep. But in the context of this allegory where the flock of sheep represents the Christian community, the evangelist certainly refers to that life which has its source in God, that life which is both light and a path of love, and which exists only by listening to the voice of the shepherd, i.e., by believing in Jesus.
The adjective perissos means: which exceeds (in quantity, in value), overabundant, superfluous, extraordinary, more than sufficient, excessive, extravagant. In the New Testament it is very infrequent: Mt = 2; Mk = 1; Lk = 0; Jn = 1; Ac = 0; 2 Co = 1; Rom = 1. In Matthew, Jesus speaks of simply answering yes or no, and what is said "in addition" (perissos) comes from the bad (5, 37); and he points out that when one greets only one's friends one does nothing "extraordinary" (perissos) (5, 47). In Mark, the disciples experience "excessive" (perissos) amazement when they see Jesus walking on the water (6:51). Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, mentions that it is "superfluous" (perissos) that he writes in favor of the collection for the poor of Jerusalem (2 Cor 9:1), and in the letter to the Romans, he raises the question of the "superiority" (perissos) of the Jew (Rom 3:1). How, then, can perissos be translated in the context of the life offered by the shepherd Jesus? I have opted for a life that is "overflowing" because it not only fulfills our expectations, but exceeds them. And it reflects the generosity of the one who is the source of it, who gives more than what we ask for.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, April 2017
1 According to John P. Meier, an expert on the historical Jesus, there is a consensus among exegetes that Jesus used parables in his teaching, but by applying rigorous criteria to determine the historicity of a specific passage, each particular parable fails the test, more specifically those from John's Gospel. See his v. 5, Probing the Authencity of the Parables, p. 190, in his series : A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Doubleday (The Anchor Bible Reference Library): New York, 1991-2015.
2 See M. E. Boismard, A. Lamouille, Synopse des quatre évangiles, T. III - Lévangile de Jean. Paris : Cerf, 1977, p. 263. Let us recall that, for the authors, there are mainly four levels of composition of the Gospel according to John. There is a first source called Document C, probably written in Aramaic (comprising five parts, the first four correspond to the regions where Jesus' activity took place, i.e. Samaria, Galilee, Jerusalem, Bethany, and the fifth includes the accounts of the passion and resurrection), which seems close to the synoptic tradition, while being independent, and above all manifests the influence of Samaritan-Christian circles, and would have been composed around the 50s AD. Then there would have been an author called John II-A, living in Palestine and knowing Aramaic, who would have enriched this Document C with new material, especially with speeches that seem to be personal compositions, but would have integrated elements of a Document A, of Palestinian origin, also known in the Matthean tradition, and he would have been in contact with some sources used by Luke. He would have composed his work around the years 60-65. Some thirty years later, this author would have immigrated to Asia Minor, where he revised his work and modified the sequence, transposed certain Aramaic terms into Greek, and was influenced by the epistles of Paul. The change was so significant that Boismard renamed him John II-B. It is this John II (A and B) who would also be the author of the epistles of the same name. According to Papias, whom we know from the historian Eusebius of Caesarea (Ecclesiastical History, III, 29, 4), it would be John the Elder, a community leader, who is not to be confused with the apostle John (cf. Ecclesiastical History, III, 29, 1-6). Finally, a Christian from Ephesus, probably coming from Judaism and belonging to the "Johannine school" in the first years of the second century, whom Boismard calls John III, merges the two works of John II and completes it with fragments of Document C which would have been neglected, makes harmonizations with the synoptic tradition, and makes a certain number of personal alterations. See Introduction, pp. 9-70.
3 It should be noted that the age of a manuscript is not in itself a guarantee of authenticity, for even the oldest scribe may have been distracted or taken the liberty of harmonizing what he copied. For example, Papyrus 46, which also dates from the beginning of the 3rd century, a great source for Paul's epistles, allowed itself a number of harmonizations, such as harmonizing 1 Cor 7:5 where Paul asks couples to resume living together (again, be (ēte) together) with what Paul says about the Eucharist in 1 Cor 11:20 (when you gather (synerchomenōn) together), so that under his pen 1 Cor 7:5 became: again, gather (synerchesthe) together. Likewise, it is not because a codex like the Vaticanus is complete and of great quality that it is without error: a very simple example is the forgetting of "your" in the sentence: "lest Satan take advantage of (your) incontinence to tempt you" (1 Cor 7:5), or the forgetting of "for" in the sentence: "(For) I wish that all were as I myself am." (1 Cor 7:7).
4 The language of the 4th Gospel is within the reach of a beginner in the study of the Greek language. If Boismard is right in his hypothesis that the main author (John II) first lived in Palestine and that his language at birth was Aramaic, before immigrating to Ephesus where probably only Greek was spoken, then it should not be surprising that his language never attained the complexity and refinement of a Luke whose mother tongue was certainly Greek.