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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.


Summary

The story

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 didn’t 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 didn’t really care about the members of the community, and he is the only one who will provide food that gives life, an overflowing life.

The vocabulary

We find in this pericope some features unique to John, for instance, the doublet "Amen, Amen" or the word "door" in reference to a fold’s 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.


 


  1. Translation of the Greek text (28th edition of Kurt Aland)

    Greek textTransliterated Greek textLiteral translationTranslation in current language
    1 Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὁ μὴ εἰσερχόμενος διὰ τῆς θύρας εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν τῶν προβάτων ἀλλὰ ἀναβαίνων ἀλλαχόθεν ἐκεῖνος κλέπτης ἐστὶν καὶ λῃστής· 1 Amēn amēn legō hymin, ho mē eiserchomenos dia tēs thyras eis tēn aulēn tōn probatōn alla anabainōn allachothen ekeinos kleptēs estin kai lēstēs; 1 Amen, Amen, I say to you, the [one] not entering in by the door to the fold of the sheep but is climbing up another way, this one thief he is and robber. 1 Truly, truly, I assure you, he who does not try to enter the sheep fold through the door, but climbs it from another place, this one is a thief and a robber.
    2 ὁ δὲ εἰσερχόμενος διὰ τῆς θύρας ποιμήν ἐστιν τῶν προβάτων. 2 ho de eiserchomenos dia tēs thyras poimēn estin tōn probatōn. 2 Then, the [one] entering in by the door shepherd he is of the sheep. 2 But whoever tries to enter through the door, here is the shepherd of the sheep
    3 τούτῳ ὁ θυρωρὸς ἀνοίγει καὶ τὰ πρόβατα τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ ἀκούει καὶ τὰ ἴδια πρόβατα φωνεῖ κατʼ ὄνομα καὶ ἐξάγει αὐτά. 3 toutō ho thyrōros anoigei kai ta probata tēs phōnēs autou akouei kai ta idia probata phōnei katʼ onoma kai exagei auta. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens and the sheep the voice of him hears and the own sheep he calls according to name and he leads out them. 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.
    4 ὅταν τὰ ἴδια πάντα ἐκβάλῃ, ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν πορεύεται καὶ τὰ πρόβατα αὐτῷ ἀκολουθεῖ, ὅτι οἴδασιν τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ· 4 hotan ta idia panta ekbalē, emprosthen autōn poreuetai kai ta probata autō akolouthei, hoti oidasin tēn phōnēn autou; 4 When the own all he has brought out, before them he goes and the sheep him follows because they know the voice of him. 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.
    5 ἀλλοτρίῳ δὲ οὐ μὴ ἀκολουθήσουσιν, ἀλλὰ φεύξονται ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι οὐκ οἴδασιν τῶν ἀλλοτρίων τὴν φωνήν. 5 allotriō de ou mē akolouthēsousin, alla pheuxontai apʼ autou, hoti ouk oidasin tōn allotriōn tēn phōnēn. 5 Then, a strange not they will follow in no way but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of the strangers. 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.
    6 Ταύτην τὴν παροιμίαν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, ἐκεῖνοι δὲ οὐκ ἔγνωσαν τίνα ἦν ἃ ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς.6 Tautēn tēn paroimian eipen autois ho Iēsous, ekeinoi de ouk egnōsan tina ēn ha elalei autois.6 This the allegory he said to them the Jesus, then these [one] they didn't know what it was what he was talking to them6 This is what Jesus said to them in pictures, but they did not understand what he meant.
    7 Εἶπεν οὖν πάλιν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα τῶν προβάτων. 7 Eipen oun palin ho Iēsous; amēn amēn legō hymin hoti egō eimi hē thyra tōn probatōn. 7 He said therefore again the Jesus, amen, amen, I say to you, that me I am the door of the sheep. 7 So Jesus took up again, "Truly, truly, I assure you, I am the door [shepherd] of the sheep.
    8 πάντες ὅσοι ἦλθον [πρὸ ἐμοῦ] κλέπται εἰσὶν καὶ λῃσταί, ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἤκουσαν αὐτῶν τὰ πρόβατα. 8 pantes hosoi ēlthon [pro emou] kleptai eisin kai lēstai, allʼ ouk ēkousan autōn ta probata. 8 All who ever came [before me] thieves they are and robbers, but didn't hear them the sheep. 8 All those who came [before me] are thieves and robbers. But the sheep did not listen to them.
    9 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· διʼ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ σωθήσεται καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει. 9 egō eimi hē thyra; diʼ emou ean tis eiselthē sōthēsetai kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai kai nomēn heurēsei. 9 Me, I am the door; by me if anyone might enter he will be saved and he will enter and he will go out and pasture he will find. 9 I am the door: if anyone enters through me, he will be liberated. He will walk and find pasture.
    10 ὁ κλέπτης οὐκ ἔρχεται εἰ μὴ ἵνα κλέψῃ καὶ θύσῃ καὶ ἀπολέσῃ· ἐγὼ ἦλθον ἵνα ζωὴν ἔχωσιν καὶ περισσὸν ἔχωσιν.10 ho kleptēs ouk erchetai ei mē hina klepsē kai thysē kai apolesē; egō ēlthon hina zōēn echōsin kai perisson echōsin.10 The thief does not come if not so that he might steal and he might sacrifice and he might destroy. Me, I came so that life they may have and abundantly they may have. 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.

  1. Analysis of each verse

    v. 1 Truly, truly, I assure you, he who does not try to enter the sheep fold through the door, but climbs it from another place, this one is a thief and a robber.

    Literally: Amen, Amen (amēn), I say to you, the [one] not entering (eiserchomenos) in by the door (thyras) to the fold (aulēn) of the sheep (probatōn) but is climbing up (anabainōn) another way (allachothen), this one thief (kleptēs) he is and robber (lēstēs).

amēn (amen)
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 (hé’émin) 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".

  • It is agreed that the Gospel according to Mark was the first to be written. The use of amēn seeks to give a certain value and solemnity to what Jesus is about to affirm and, at the same time, is a call to believe him at his word. In the 13 occurrences of the word in Mark, eleven refer to a future event. And in the latter case, the expression appears four times in a context where Jesus addresses a large, sometimes hostile audience, and seven times where he addresses his disciples.

    The future in front of a large audience

    • In speaking of the coming judgment or kingdom: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (3:28-29); some will not taste dead of seeing the kingdom (9:1).
    • In speaking of the time of the Gospels: the gesture of the woman pouring very expensive nard on her head will be proclaimed (14: 9)
    • In speaking of his audience: No sign will be given to them (8: 12)

    The future in front of the disciples

    • In speaking of reward: whoever gives a Christian a drink will have his reward (9: 41); whoever leaves everything will have eternal life (10, 29).
    • In talking about the end of time: it will take place in this generation (13: 30)
    • In speaking of faith: whoever has faith will see what he wants to achieve (11: 23) Speaking of the fate that awaits him: one of them will betray him (14: 18); it is his last supper before the one in the kingdom (14: 25); Peter will deny him (14: 30).

    In the two instances in which the gaze is not turned to the future, Jesus addresses himself only to his disciples: Whoever does not welcome the Kingdom as a child will not enter it (10: 15); the widow who has put two coins in the treasury of time has put in more than all the others (12: 43). These two cases concern a fundamental attitude of the human heart which Jesus discerns in people and which he emphasizes.

  • What can we conclude from Mark's amēn? First of all, Mark likes terms that have a local colour, i.e. not Greek. Let us remember Talitha koum (5:41), Ephphata (7:34), or Elōi, Elōi, lama sabachthani (15:34). This preference of Mark does not detract from the probability that the expression is very old and probably dates back to the historical Jesus, given the multiple attestations (Mark, Source Q, John). When we look at all the occurrences, we note that it seems to be the expression of a prophet who proclaims his convictions about the future, and must therefore convince his audience to take him at his word, or else he has a penetrating look at the human heart and at life, and invites his audience to pay attention to it and to remember what he says.

  • This is quite different from the Gospel of the Greek Luke. For the latter shows no attraction to this expression. Not only does it appear only five times in his Gospel, but three of these five occurrences are simply a repetition of Mark (18, 17.29; 21, 21, 32). Furthermore, twice he replaces Mark's amēn with the Greek adverb alēthōs (really) (see 9:27; 21:3), just as he does with the Q document in 12:44. And when he takes up the prediction of Peter's denial from Mark (Mk 14:30), he simply deletes the amēn (22:34). So one may wonder how to explain the two occurrences of amēn that are specific to him? In 4:24 ("And he said, 'Truly I say to you, no prophet is well received in his own country') Jesus seems to be taking up a well-known saying, and so Luke would have simply reproduced his source as it is. In 12:37 ("Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find standing watch. Truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and make them sit down to the table, and passing from one to the other he will serve them") we are before the conclusion of a parable that comes from a source particular to Luke, and which he seems to be content to reproduce. In short, the evangelist expresses no interest in amēn, which he merely repeats without further ado.

  • It is quite different with the Jew Matthew where amēn appears in 31 verses. It is true that among these verses, 8 come from Mark (Mt 10:42; 16:28; 18:3; 21:21; 24:34; 26:13,21,34). And the part of the Q document is more complicated: as we know, the passages that only Matthew and Luke share are considered as coming from a source that only they know, called Q (from the German Quelle, i.e. source); therefore the question arises: when amēn is present in Matthew and absent in Luke in these passages, was it Matthew who added it to this source, or was it rather Luke who cut it out from this source? Any answer has a highly hypothetical value, since no copy of Q source has ever been found. After analysis, we opt for the hypothesis that Matthew added amēn to his Q source. Why did he do this?

    • Firstly, we note that on the rare occasions when amēn seems to be present in Q document, Luke explicitly replaced it with its Greek equivalent alēthōs (really): "Truly I say to you, he will establish it over all his goods" (Mt 24:27 || Lk 12:44); this is exactly what he had done with two passages from Mark that contained amēn: Mk 9:1 || Lk 9:27; Mk 12:43 || Lk 21:3). We deduce that if Luke does not feel the need to replace amēn with alēthōs, it is because amēn was probably not present in Q document.

    • Secondly, the Q document seems to prefer the adverb affirmative nai (yes). For example, "So what did you go and see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet" (nai legō hymin, Mt 11:9 || Lk 7:26; see also Mt 11:26 || Lk 10:21).

    • Thirdly, Matthew seems to love amēn so much that he sometimes adds it to his Marcan source which, however, contains many: for example, "Jesus said to his disciples, 'Truly I tell you, it will be difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven'" (Mk 10: 23 || Mt 19: 23; see also Mk 13: 2 || Mt 24: 2).

    What role does amēn play in Matthew? It is a way of emphasizing the solemn and peremptory character of Jesus' teaching. Above all, when we know his Jewish side which emphasizes orthopraxis, then the rules he puts forward become obligatory:

    • not one letter, not one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all is accomplished (5: 18)
    • the debtor will have to pay back every last penny (5: 26)
    • don't shout your alms giving, or prayer or fasting (6: 2-16)
    • what you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven (18: 18)
    • what you did to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me (25: 40)

  • What about John now? As we have pointed out, he always doubles his amēn which becomes: amēn, amēn, and this over 25 verses. Of course, as with Matthew, this allows him to give great solemnity and importance to what Jesus is about to affirm. But the content is different. This content could be grouped into four categories.
    • A teaching about Jesus himself: he is the Son of Man in communication with God (1:51); he knows the things of God (3:11); the Son does exactly what the Father does (5:19); "before Abraham existed, I am" (8:58); he is the shepherd of the sheep (10:7).

    • A teaching on the spiritual life: Unless one is born from on high, or born of water and the Spirit, no one can see the kingdom of God (3:3-5); it is not Moses, but the Father who gives true bread from heaven (6:32); If the grain dies, it bears much fruit (12:24); the one sent is not greater than the one who sent him (13:20); when you have grown old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and lead you where you would not want to go (21:18).

    • A teaching on the fruits of faith in Jesus: Whoever believes has eternal life (5: 24); the dead will live (5: 25); whoever believes has eternal life (6: 47); eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus gives eternal life (6: 53); whoever keeps the word of Jesus will never see death (8: 51); whoever believes will do greater works than those of Jesus (14: 12); sadness will turn into joy (16: 20); whatever is asked of the Father, he will give (16: 23).

    • A teaching that reveals hearts: the crowd is looking for Jesus not because they saw a sign, but because the have been filled with bread (6: 26); whoever commits sin is a slave (8: 34); whoever does not pass through the door of the fold is a thief and a robber (10: 1); one of the disciples will betray him (13: 21); Peter will deny him (13: 38).

    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.

    thyras (door)
    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.

    aulēn (fold)
    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.

    probatōn (sheep)
    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.
    • The prophet Ezekiel rebukes the Jewish leaders for having let the sheep go astray and not having sought out those who went astray, so that from now on it is Yahweh himself who will take care of his flock, especially through the work of his servant who will be like David (Ezek 34).
    • It is the same message that Jeremiah sends (Jer 23:1-4).
    • Finally, the prophet Micah became the spokesman of Yahweh, promising to bring back the sheep that had strayed away (Micah 4:6-7).
    Above all, we must remember two things: the flock of sheep is the figure of the people of the covenant ("And he will save them, the Lord their God, in that day as the sheep are his people", Zechariah 9:16), and the true shepherd was first of all Moses ("You led your people like a flock by the hands of Aaron and Moses", Ps 77:21).

    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.

    kleptēs (voleur)
    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.

    lēstēs (robber)
    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.
    This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter through it.

    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.
    They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of their salvation.
    Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
    Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.
    Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.
    Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.
    Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory

    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:
    v. 1v. 2
    the [one] not entering in by the doorthe [one] entering in by the door
    to the fold of the sheep
    this one thief he is and robbershepherd he is of the sheep

    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.

    thyrōros (doorkeeper)
    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:
    • The door (14 fois): Lc 11, 9.10; 12, 36; 13, 29; Mt 25, 11; Jn 10, 3; Ac 5, 19.23; 12, 10.14.16; 14, 27; 16, 26.27
    • The eyes (13 fois): Lc 9, 30; 20, 33; Jn 9, 10.17.21.26.30.32; 10, 21; 11, 37; Ac 9, 8.40; 26, 18
    • The mouth (5 fois): Lc 1, 64; Mt 13, 35; 17, 27; Ac 8, 35; 10, 34
    • Heaven (3 fois): Lc 3, 21; Mt 3, 16; Jn 1, 51
    • The ears Mc 7, 35
    • The tombs Mt 27, 52
    • A chest Mt 2, 11

    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.

    phōnēs (voice)
    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:
    • 3: 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice (phōnē). For this reason my joy has been fulfilled
    • 5: 25 Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice (phōnē) of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
    • 5: 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice (phōnē)
    • 18: 37 For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice (phōnē)

    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:

    • 10: 3 the sheep obey his voice (phōnē), and the sheep belonging to him he calls each one by name
    • 10: 4 he walks before them, and the sheep follow him, for they recognize his voice (phōnē)
    • 10: 5 they will rather flee from him, because they do not recognize the voice (phōnē) of strangers
    • 10: 16 I must bring them also (that do not belong to this fold), and they will listen to my voice (phōnē)
    • 10: 27 My sheep hear my voice (phōnē). I know them, and they follow me.

    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.
    1. To listen to the word or to listen to someone means to believe, to have faith (29 times in the Johannine tradition). For example, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears (akouō) my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24; see also 1:37; 3:29; 5:25,28; 6:45; 10:3,8,16,20,27; 14:28; 18:37; 1 John 2:7,24; 3:11; 4:6). The act of believing is done by connaturality, i.e. our deepest being has opened itself to God, and therefore is able to recognize the dimension of God in Jesus: "Whoever is of God hears (akouō) the words of God; if you do not hear (akouō), it is because you are not of God". (Jn 8:47). Conversely, not being able to listen to a word means not believing. For example, "When many of his disciples heard him, they said, 'This is a hard word! Who can listen (akouō) to it?". (Jn 6:60; see also 8:38.43; 9:27; 12:47; 14:24).

    2. Listening sometimes has the trivial sense of learning a new thing (13 times in the Johannine tradition). For example, "When the Pharisees heard (akouō) the rumours about Jesus, they sent guards to seize him" (John 7:32; see also 4:1.47; 9:32.35; 11:4.6.20.29; 12:12.18; 1 John 2:18; 3 John 1:4).

    3. Listening sometimes has the meaning of being questioned, of receiving a word that obliges one to make a decision (9 times in the Johannine tradition). For example, "Some Pharisees, who were with him, heard (akouō) these words and said to him, 'Are we blind too?"(John 9:40; see also 7:40; 8:9,27,40; 12:29; 19:8,13; 21:7).

    4. The Gospel uses this verb several times to describe Jesus' unique relationship and communion with God (6 times in the Johannine tradition). For example, "(He who comes from heaven) testifies to what he has seen and heard (akouō), and no one receives his testimony" (John 3:32; see also 5:30; 8:26,40; 15:15; 16:13).

    5. The evangelist also uses this verb to describe the fact that God answers a prayer (6 times in the Johannine tradition). For example, "We know that God does not listen (akouō) to sinners, but if someone is religious and does his will, he listens (akouō)" (John 9:31; see also 11:41.42; 1 John 5:14).

    6. Then we have the unique case where the word refers to the legal action of hearing someone for investigation: "Does our Law judge a man without first hearing (akouō) him and knowing what he is doing!" (Jn 7:51).

    7. Finally, there is also the unique case where the word describes the fact of having acquired knowledge: "The crowd then answered him: 'We have learned (akouō) from the Law that Christ remains forever. How can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" (Jn 12:34).

    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.

    idia (own)
    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:

    • In the story of the poor Lazarus and the rich man, the last one begs Abraham by raising his voice: "Then he (the rich man) called out (phōneō): Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue, for I am tormented by this flame" (Lk 16:24).

    • At times there is no word, but only a cry: "And the unclean spirit, shaking him violently, cried out (phōneō) with a loud voice and came out of him" (Mk 1:26; see also Jesus' cry on the cross in Lk 23:46).

    • This is the verb used to describe the rooster crow: "And immediately, for the second time, a rooster crowed (phōneō). And Peter remembered the words that Jesus had said to him: 'Before the rooster crows (phōneō) twice, you will deny me three times'. And he burst into tears." (Mk 14:72)

    • It is also used to describe a challenge: "He summoned (phōneō) him and said to him, 'What do I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer manage my property" (Lk 16:2).

    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)
    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:

    • "There was a man sent from God. His name (onoma) was John" (1:6).
    • "Now there was among the Pharisees a man, Nicodemus [was] his name (onoma), a notable of the Jews" (3:1).
    • "Then Simon Peter, carrying a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. This servant's name (onoma) was Malchus" (18: 10).

    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:

    • "But to all who received him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name (onoma)" (1:12).
    • "Father, glorify thy name (onoma)!" Then there came a voice from heaven: "I have glorified him and I will glorify him again." (12: 8)
    • "But all these things will they do to you for my name's sake name (onoma), because they do not know him who sent me" (15: 21).

    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:

    • "I come in my Father's name (onoma) and you do not receive me; let another come in his own name (onoma), and you will receive him" (5:43).
    • "Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in the name (onoma) of my Father testify about me" (10:25).
    • And whatsoever you shall ask in my name (onoma), that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (14:13).

    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:

    • When Nathaniel heard Jesus call him as a straightforward Israelite, he cried out, "How do you know me?" and was answered, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you". Understanding that Jesus knew him personally, he confessed his faith: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel" (1:47-49).

    • Things are going the same way with the Samaritan woman. Jesus knows that she has had five husbands and the one she has now is not her husband. The evangelist writes: "The woman then left her pitcher there, ran to the city and said to the people, 'Come and see a man who has told me all that I have done. Is he not the Messiah?" (4:28-29).

    • Finally, there is the story of Thomas who is not there with the others when Jesus resurrected makes himself present. At the subsequent meeting, the evangelist puts words in Jesus' mouth in which he knows exactly what Thomas said earlier: "Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here: these are my hands. Put your hand out and put it in my side, and do not become unbelieving, but believing.'". Understanding to be known, Thomas replied, "My Lord and my God!" (20: 27-28)

    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:

    • Jesus warns his disciples that their name will be banished (ekballō) (Lk 6: 22)
    • Jesus speaks of removing (ekballō) the straw/beam in the eye (Mk 9:47 || Lk 6:42 || Mt 7:4-5)
    • Jesus warns people of the danger of being thrown out (ekballō) of the Kingdom of God (Lk 13:28 | Mt 8:12)
    • Jesus drives out (ekballō) the sellers from the temple (Mk 11:15 || Lk 19:45 | Mt 21:12)
    • In the parable of the homicidal winegrowers, the winegrowers throw out (ekballō) and kill the heir (Mk 12:8, 8 || Lk 20:15 || Mt 21:39)
    • In the account of the raising of the daughter of the synagogue ruler, he chased (ekballō) the crowd out of the house before entering and acting (Mk 5:40 | Mt 9:25).
    • Jesus says that everything that enters the mouth goes into the belly and then goes out (ekballō) to the sewer (Mt 15:17).
    • In the parable of the talents, he who has not made use of his talent is thrown out (ekballō) into darkness (Mt 25:30).
    • Jesus bullies and chases away (ekballō) the leper he has just healed (Mk 1:43)
    • In Acts, Stephen is driven (ekballō) out of the city to stone him (7: 58), Peter drives (ekballō) the people out before entering the room alone to raise Tabitha (9: 40), the Jews drive (ekballō) Paul and Barnabas out of their territory (13: 50), the Jews want to drive (ekballō) Paul out of the city (17: 37), and throw (ekballō) the wheat into the sea to lighten a sinking ship (27: 38).

    So we're left with a few instances where we don't have the idea of expelling or deporting someone or something:

    • Jesus asks to pray to the Master to bring out (ekballō) workers for his harvest (Lk 10, 2 || Mt 9, 38)
    • The Good Samaritan takes out (ekballō) two denarii from his pocket to give to the innkeeper (Lk 10:35).
    • (a reference to Isaiah 42:1-4) The servant of Yahweh will not quench the wick that still smokes until he has led (ekballō) the right to victory (Mt 12:20).
    • The good man brings forth (ekballō) good things out of his good treasure, and the evil man brings forth evil things (Mt 12:35).
    • Every scribe who has become a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven... brings forth (ekballō) from his treasury new and old (Mt 13:52).
    • The Holy Spirit pushes (ekballō) Jesus in the desert (Mk 1:12)

    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:

    • Whatever the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away (ekballō) (Jn 6:37).
    • It is now the judgment of this world; now the Prince of this world will be driven out (ekballō) (Jn 12:31).
    • Not satisfied with this, he (Diotrephes) himself refuses to receive the brethren, and those who would like to receive them, he prevents them from doing so and expels them (ekballō) from the Church (3 Jn 1:10).

    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 (before)
    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: 2.3.12.28; 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.

    • The world of God. For instance:
      • "I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." (7: 29)
      • "Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going" (8: 14)
      • "though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word." (8: 55)
      • "And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me."." (12: 50)

    • The events of his own life. Such as:
      • "He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do" (6: 6)
      • "Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "Whom are you looking for?"" (18: 4)
      • "After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), 'I am thirsty'." (19: 28)

    • Those around him. For example:
      • During the discourse on the bread of life, Jesus knows that his disciples are whispering (6:61) and he knows those who do not believe in him (6:64).
      • Jesus knows those whom he has chosen (13:18) and knows who will betray him (13:11).
      • Jesus knows that his word does not reach the Jewish community (8:37).

    On several occasions, the fourth Gospel speaks to us of people's ignorance, of what they do not know. For example:

    • Ignorance concerns the presence of Jesus: John the Baptist announces that a man unknown to him and to all is standing among them, and that he has a mission to reveal (1: 26.31.33); Mary Magdalene does not know the presence of Jesus at the empty tomb (20: 14); during an outing at sea, the disciples do not recognize the presence of Jesus on the shore (21: 4).
    • Ignorance concerns certain aspects of Jesus' life: Jesus needs to eat food that people do not know (4: 32); the disciples do not know where he is going (14: 5).
    • Ignorance concerns the identity of Jesus: the Samaritan woman does not know the gift of God in Jesus (4: 10); it is not known where Jesus comes from and where he is going (8: 14); the Jews do not know where Jesus comes from (9: 29).
    • Ignorance concerns God: we do not know the one who sent Jesus (7: 28), we do not know the Father, otherwise we would know Jesus (8: 19); because we do not know the one who sent Jesus, we persecute the disciples (15: 21).
    • Ignorance concerns the meaning of certain events or certain gestures or certain words: the fact that a blind man sees now (9: 21); Peter does not understand the washing of the feet, he will understand it later (13: 7); the disciples do not understand the word of Jesus in a short time (16: 18).
    • Ignorance concerns the Scripture which had foretold that Jesus would rise from the dead (20: 9).
    • Ignorance concerns the object of worship: Samaritans do not know what they do not know (4: 22).
    • Ignorance concerns certain material realities: At the wedding of Cana, one does not know where the wine comes from, except for the servants (2: 9), and in general one does not know where the wind comes from or where it goes (3: 8).

    Conversely, knowledge can sometimes be an obstacle: because we think we know, we do not open ourselves to a new reality. For example:

    • Because one knows Jesus' parents, one cannot accept that he came from God (6:42).
    • Because one knows that Jesus has not studied, one cannot understand why he can read and write (7: 15).
    • Because one knows his origins in Galilee, one knows that Jesus cannot be the messiah (7:27).
    • Without using the word know, Jesus makes the same type of observation with the image of being blind or seeing: "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but you say, 'We see! Your sin remains'" (9:41).

    On a few occasions the Gospel presents us with the testimony of people who know or have understood. For example:

    • The servants know that Jesus is responsible for the water becoming wine (2:9).
    • Nicodemus knows that Jesus comes from God (3:2).
    • The Samaritan woman knows that the Messiah is coming (4: 25).
    • The Samaritans know that Jesus is truly the Savior of the world (4:42).
    • The parents of the blind man know that he is their son and that he was born blind (9: 21).
    • The blind man knows that God does not listen to sinners, but rather to those who are religious and do his will (9: 31).
    • Martha knows that God will answer Jesus' prayer and that his brother Lazarus will rise in the last days (11: 22.24).
    • The disciples will be happy if they know that the servant is not greater than his master, nor the one sent greater than the one who sent him (13:16).
    • The disciples now know that Jesus knows everything (16: 30).
    • Those who have heard the teaching of Jesus know what he said (18: 21).
    • He who testifies through the fourth Gospel knows that he is telling the truth (19:35; 21:24).

    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.

    allotriō (strange)
    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.

    • Mark introduced it in his account of the pigs throwing themselves down the cliff, which led the guards to flee to town to report the news: Mk 5:14 || Lk 8:34 | Mt 8:33.
    • In his apocalyptic speech, Jesus invites the people of Judea to flee to the mountains when the temple has been defiled (Mk 14: 14 || Lk 21: 21 || Mt 24: 16).
    • At the moment of his arrest, the disciples flee (Mk 14: 50 || Mt 26: 56).
    • The Q document presents us with this invective of John the Baptist: "O generation of vipers, who suggested that you escape from the coming wrath?" (Lk 3:7; Mt 3:7).
    • Mark gives us two of his own accounts of flight, firstly that of the young man who followed Jesus when he was arrested and had to flee naked when his garment was seized (Mk 14:52); then that of the women at the tomb who ran away when a young man told them that Jesus had risen from the dead, all of them afraid (Mk 16:8).
    • Matthew also presents us with two of his own accounts of flight, firstly that of Joseph who has to flee to Egypt with his family at the request of an angel of God (Mt 2:13); and secondly that of Jesus who invites the disciples to flee to another city if they are persecuted (Mt 10:23).

    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:

    • "Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself" (1 Cor 6: 18)
    • "Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols" (1 Cor 10: 14)
    • "Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (2 Tim 2: 22)

    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.
    • "But I know (ginōskō) that you do not have the love of God in you" (5: 42)
    • "This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows (ginōskō) him. You know (ginōskō) him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you" (14: 17)

    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

    paroimian (allegory)
    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:
    • Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Unless one is born from above, no one can see the kingdom of God," which leads Nicodemus to ask the question: "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born?" He then receives a catechesis on the son of man who is to be reared as Moses reared the serpent in the desert (3:3-15).

    • Jesus said to the disciples, "I have something to eat that you do not know about", which led the disciples to ask themselves, "Has anyone brought him something to eat", before Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work" (4:32-24).

    • When Jesus said to the Jews, "But he who sent me is true, and I tell the world what I have heard of him," the narrator adds, "They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father," and follows this sequence with a word from Jesus that clarifies the matter by using the Old Testament expression of Yahweh: "I am" (8:26-28).

    • On his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the narrator tells that Jesus finds a little donkey and sits on it, as it is written, "Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion: behold, your king comes, riding on a donkey's colt". Then the narrator adds: "At first his disciples did not understand this, but when Jesus was glorified, they remembered that it was written about him and that it was done to him" (12:14-16).

    • When Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, he receives Simon Peter's objection ("No, you will not wash my feet, never"), and must therefore specify: "If I do not wash you, you have no part with me" (13:5-8).

    • When Jesus said to his disciples, "A little longer and you will not see me, and then a little longer and you will see me," he had to face their incomprehension: "What is a little longer? We do not know what he means", and so Jesus must introduce them to the idea of his death and resurrection.

    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.

    palin (again)
    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:
    • In Bethany, beyond the Jordan River, John the Baptist baptizes and preaches, then the next day in the same place he gives a testimony about Jesus, and again the next day he gives a testimony about Jesus before two of his disciples (1, 19-39).

    • After the wedding at Cana and the sign he performed, Jesus returns again to the same village and performs a sign again (son of the royal officer) (4, 46-54)

    • In Jesus, the evangelist presents us with a man who likes to repeat things: At dawn he is again in the temple and, sitting down, he teaches, and when he is confronted with the problem of the woman caught in the act of adultery, he just stoops down to write on the ground, and after being forced to take a stand and having asked those who have not sinned to cast the first stone, he stoops down again to write on the ground, and finally, when the woman is gone, he begins again to teach the crowd (8: 2-12).

    • The whole scene of the blind man is a series of repetition: it starts with the neighbours and those who were used to seeing him blind questioning him, followed by the Pharisees who in turn question him again, and in the face of the divisions in their ranks, they start questioning him again, and after questioning the parents, they call the blind man again and it is the latter who must question them: Why do you want to hear my story again? (9, 2-27)

    • The Jews' attack on Jesus is repeated throughout the Gospel. At a certain point they wanted to stone him ("Then they gathered up stones and threw them at him, but Jesus fled and went out of the Temple", 8:59), then, after Jesus proclaimed that he and the Father are one, the evangelist writes, "The Jews again brought stones to stone him" (10:31), and after presenting their effort to challenge Jesus, he continues: "So they sought to seize him again, but he escaped from their hands" (10:39).

    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:

    • LXX: I am (egō eimi), I am (egō eimi) the one who blot out your transgressions and sins for my sake, and I will not remember them (Isa 43:25).
    • LXX: Hear me therefore, Jacob; hear me, O Israel, whom I call to me: I am (egō eimi) the first, and I am I am (egō eimi) for ever (Isa 48:12)
    • LXX: I am (egō eimi), I am (egō eimi) your comforter; know who you are, and if you should fear a mortal man, a son of man, who will dry up like the grass of the field (Isa 51:12)
    • LXX: And I will execute my judgments against Egypt, and they shall know that I am (egō eimi) the Lord (Ezek 30:19)
    • LXX: Fear not in their presence, for I am (egō eimi) with you to save you, says the Lord (Jer 1:8).
    • LXX: Go and read these words from the side of the aquilon and say, House of Israel, come back to me, says the Lord, and I will not turn my face against you any more, because I am (egō eimi) merciful, says the Lord, and I will not be angry with you forever (Jer 3:12)
    • LXX: Draw out the sword and close the way to those who pursue me; say to my soul: I am (egō eimi) your salvation (Ps 34:3)

    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.

    • (walks on the sea) "But he said to them, 'It is I (egō eimi). Do not be afraid." (6: 20)
    • "So I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you don't believe that I am (egō eimi), you will die in your sins." (8: 24)
    • "Jesus tells them: 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am (egō eimi) and that I do nothing of myself, but I say what the Father has taught me'" (8: 28).
    • "I tell you, from now on, before the thing happens, so that once it happens, you will believe that I am (egō eimi)" (13: 19)
    • (Jesus asks who they're looking for) "They said to him, 'Jesus of Nazareth'. He said to them, 'It is me (egō eimi)'. Now Judas, who betrayed him, was standing there with them. When Jesus said to them, 'It is me (egō eimi)', they turned back and fell to the ground... Jesus replied, 'I told you that I am he (egō eimi). If therefore you seek me, let these go'" (18:5-6.8).

    Then there are the various attributes associated with Jesus.

    • He is messiah (4: 26)
    • He is the bread of life (6: 35.41.48.51)
    • He is light (8: 12)
    • He is the door (10: 7.9)
    • He is the good shepherd (10: 11.14)
    • He is the resurrection (11: 25)
    • He is the way: the truth and the life (14: 6)
    • He is the true vine (15: 1.5)

    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).

    Current textText from BoismardNew proposal
    7 So Jesus took up again, "Truly, truly, I assure you, I am the door of the sheep.7 So Jesus took up again, "Truly, truly, I assure you, I am the shepherd of the sheep. 7 So Jesus took up again, "Truly, truly, I assure you, I am the shepherd of the sheep.
    8 All those who came [before me] are thieves and robbers. But the sheep did not listen to them.8 All those who came [before me] are thieves and robbers. But the sheep did not listen to them. 8 All those who came [before me] are strangers. But the sheep did not listen to them.
    9 I am the door: if anyone enters through me, he will be liberated. He will walk and find pasture. 9 I am the door: if anyone enters through me, he will be liberated. He will walk and find pasture. 9 I am the door: if anyone enters through me, he will be liberated. He will walk and find pasture.

    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:

    • Above all, there is Jesus (51 times): apart from the physical action of travelling to Judea, Samaria or Galilee, there is the theological action.
      • He came into the world (10 times) or his own, to be a light (1: 9; 12: 46), to bring discernment (9: 39), to give life (10: 10), to save him (12: 47), to bear witness to the truth (18: 37); in short, he came to do the truth and to give life.

      • And Jesus knows where he came from (8: 24), because he came from God (from heaven or from above: 3: 31; in the name of his Father: 5: 43; he came out of his Father: 16: 28), and therefore he did not come of his own accord, but was sent (7: 28; 8: 42).

      • But now he returns to his Father (17: 11), and where he is going the disciples cannot come (7: 34.36; 13: 33)

      • Nevertheless, Jesus will come again, after having prepared a place for his disciples to be with him (14:3); but in the meantime, he comes in many ways, first by being present when the disciples are gathered (20:19.26), and by sending the Paraclete so that they will not be orphans (14:18).

    • Then, it is a particular person (31 times), apart from Jesus, who enters into action and comes.
      • There is John the Baptist who comes to testify (1: 7; 1: 31)

      • Then there will be the Paraclete who will come to testify (15: 26; 16: 7)

      • There is the Prince of this world coming (14: 30)

      • Many discussions are taking place about the Messiah or Christ: when he comes, no one will know where he is from (7: 27), he will not come from Galilee (7: 41), but from Bethlehem (7: 42), he will come to explain everything (4: 25), he will come to give signs (7: 31).

      • Many characters come to Jesus, Nicodemus (3: 2; 7: 50; 19: 39), Martha, then Mary about their brother Lazarus (11: 29.32), Judas to arrest him (18: 3), and Mary Magdalene on her way to the tomb (20: 1)

      • In the same line, there is the Samaritan woman whose regular action of going to the well to draw water brings her to meet Jesus (4: 7) and to whom Jesus asks to bring her husband (4: 16).

      • There are finally those whose encounter with Jesus will heal them, the cripple from the pool of Bethesda who does not go to the water quickly enough (5: 7), and the blind man who returns from the pool of Siloam with clear sight (9: 7)

    • When it comes to the disciples (27 times), apart from the gesture of going from one place to another, the action of coming to Jesus very often means: believing in him.
      • There are examples where "to come to" clearly means "to believe": "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger; he who believes in me shall never thirst" (6:35); "Whatever the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will not cast him out" (6:37); "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day" (6:44); "It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Whoever listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me" (6:45); "Jesus said to him, 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (14:6).

      • When a disciple receives an invitation to come, it is an invitation to believe (see Philip and Andrew, 1: 39; Nathanael, 1: 46-47)

      • All this can be expressed symbolically, such as coming to the light (3: 21), or not coming to judgment (5: 24)

      • Otherwise, it means to accompany him in death, which is not possible at the moment (7: 34.36; 13: 33).

    • Then, the subject of the action can be a non-personal reality (24 times), usually one thing:
      • In this category, we must especially mention the hour (15 times), the hour comes when the Father will be worshipped in spirit and truth (4:21.23), when the dead will live (5:25). 28); but as the hour of Jesus has not yet come, he cannot be taken away (7:30; 8:20); then when the Greeks want to see him, Jesus announces that his hour has come (12:23), the hour for which he came (12:27), the hour when he will no longer speak in figures of the Father, but in all clarity (16:25), the hour when he will have a last supper with his disciples (13:1), the hour when the disciples will be scattered (16:32), and the Son is glorified (17:1); and later the hour will come when the disciples will be excluded from the synagogues and killed (16:2.4)

      • There are also natural things such as the wind, from which we do not know where it comes (3: 8), the harvest that comes (4: 35), the night that comes (9: 4)

      • And there is a multitude of things, such as ships coming (6: 23), a wolf (10: 12), a voice from heaven (12: 28), events (16: 13; 18: 4)

    • And of course, as in all the Gospels, there is the action of the crowds (14 times) where curiosity, interest, half-faith and faith are manifested towards Jesus:
      • They come to Jesus who in turn baptizes as John the Baptist (3: 26), the Samaritans leave the city and come to Jesus (4: 30. 40) and at the approach of the Passover a great multitude comes to Jesus (6:5) and, witnessing the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, comes to him to make him king (6:15), and seeks him, and comes to Capernaum (6:24) and in the temple they come to him to hear him at dawn (8:2) and at the Jordan, where John the Baptist had baptized, they come to him and many believed in him (10:41).

      • A lot of Jews from Jerusalem come to Bethany to Martha and Mary at the death of their brother (11: 19), and having seen what Jesus had done, come to him (11: 45), followed by others who come to see with curiosity the risen from the dead (12: 9)

      • and the crowds go to Jerusalem for the great feasts, especially the Passover, the Galileans who will see the signs of Jesus in Jerusalem and will welcome him into their homes afterwards (4: 45), and a multitude who, having come for the feast, will welcome Jesus with palm branches (12: 12)

    • We end with people who show their opposition to Jesus (8 times)
      • They are people who do not want to come to Jesus to have life (5: 40), and because they cannot come to him, they will die in their sin (8: 21-22).
      • Others go to Jesus to mock him or hit him (19: 3)
      • Others still have the task of checking that he is dead and taking care of his body (19: 32.33.38)

    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:
    • "Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live through me" (6: 57)
    • "I am the door: if anyone enters through me, he will be liberated" (10: 9)
    • "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (14: 6)

    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:

    • "All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being" (1: 3)
    • "He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him" (1: 10)
    • "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (3, 17)

    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.
    • To be saved means to be spared from physical death, or to avoid it (Mt = 8; Mk = 6; Lk = 7; Jn = 1; Ac = 1):
      • "And he said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good instead of evil, to save a life instead of killing it?" But they were silent" (Mk 3:4)
      • "He (the head of the synagogue) begs him urgently: "My little girl is at the end, come and lay your hands on her so that she may be saved and live." (Mk 5:23)
      • "Save yourself and come down from the cross!" (Mk 15:30)

    • To be saved means to be spared from an unfortunate situation, such as an illness or disability, or a difficult moral or physical situation (Mt = 4; Mk = 5; Lk = 5; Jn = 2; Ac = 3).
      • "And Jesus said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be healed of your sickness'"(Mk 5:34)
      • "And wherever Jesus went into villages, towns or farms, they put the sick in the squares and asked him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak, and all who touched him were saved" (Mk 6:56).
      • "She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: For he shall save his people from their sins" (Lk 1:21)

    • To be saved refers to the day of God's judgment in the Hereafter, when some will be condemned, and others will inherit the kingdom of God: (Mt = 3; Mk = 4; Lk = 5; Jn = 3; Ac = 8)
      • "They were greatly astounded (after Jesus had said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God) and said to each other, "And who can be saved?" (Mk 10:26)
      • "And you will be hated by all for my name's sake, but he who endures to the end, that one will be saved" (Mk 13:13)
      • "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:16).

    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.
    • And Moses said to the Lord: "Let the Lord of the spirits and of all flesh discern and choose a man who will go out (exerchomai) at their head and come in (eiserchomai) at their head and lead them out and bring them in, and the community of the Lord will no longer be like a flock that is without a shepherd" (Num 27:17).
    • (Prayer of Solomon) Give me wisdom and understanding, that I may go out (exerchomai) before this people and come in (eiserchomai): for who shall judge thy great people? (2 Chr 1:10)
    • (Caleb speaks) I am still as strong as when Moses sent me; I am still as strong in the war to enter (eiserchomai) and to go out (exerchomai) (Jos 14:11)
    • Since your brother Judas died, there is no man like him to go out (exerchomai) and come in (eiserchomai) against our enemies, Bacchides and those who are enemies of our nation (1 Macc 9:29).

    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.

    nomēn (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.
    • LXX "And I will feed them in a good pasture (nomēn) on the high mountain of Israel; and there shall be their sheepfolds, and there they shall sleep, and there they shall rest in delight, and there they shall feed in a fat pasture (nomēn) on the mountains of Israel" (Ezek 34:14).

    • LXX "For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture (nomēn); we give you thanks throughout all ages; we will proclaim your praise from generation to generation" (Ps 78:13).

    • LXX "For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture (nomēn) and the sheep of his hand" (Ps 94:7).

    • LXX "Know that the Lord is God himself; it is he who made us, not we; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture (nomēn)" (Ps 99:3).

    • LXX "And thou shalt say to them that are in chains, Come out; and to them that are in darkness, See the light. And they shall eat in every way, and their pasture (nomēn) shall be in every path" (Is 49:9).

    • LXX "For the shepherds have become foolish, and have not sought the Lord; therefore the whole pasture (nomēn) has failed, and [the sheep] have been scattered" (Jer 10:21);

    • LXX "Cursed be the shepherds who lose and scatter the sheep from their pasture (nomēn)!.... I myself will gather the remnant of my people in every land where I have banished them, and I will restore them to their pasture (nomēn), and they shall grow and multiply" (Jer 23:1.3).

    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.
    • To go through spiritual and eternal death, and therefore not to have access to eternal life: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not perish (apollymi), but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).
    • To go through physical death or losing one's physical integrity: (At the time of his arrest, Jesus asks to let his disciples go "so that the word he had said might be fulfilled: 'I did not lose (apollymi) a single one of those whom you gave me'" (Jn 18:9).
    • To lose possession or advantage of something: "When they were full, he said to his disciples, 'Gather up the extra pieces, so that nothing will be lost (apollymi)" (Jn 6:12)

    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.

    zōēn (vie)
    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.

    • LXX : And many of those who sleep under heaps of earth will awaken, some for eternal life (zōē aiōnios), others for shame and eternal confusion (12: 2)

    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.

    • LXX : And when he was about to give up the spirit, he (one of the seven brethren) spoke thus: Thou, O most wicked of men, thou hast lost us for this life: but the King of the world shall raise us up to eternal life (zōē aiōnios), we who have died for His laws. (7: 9)

    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.

    • LXX : This is the lot of sinners for all eternity. - But those who fear the Lord will rise to eternal life (zōē aiōnios), - And their life in the light of the Lord will not cease. (3, 12)

    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:

    • Life is first of all a trait of the very being of God, and therefore defines the Father, and thus also his Son: "For as the Father has life (zōē) in himself, so he gave the Son life (zōē) in himself" (5:26); one can rightly speak of "divine life".

    • Life is associated with truth or light, as well as with the action of which Jesus is the example; in other words, life is defined as openness to the light that is truth, and as openness to the path traced out by Jesus, which John sums up in the mouth of Jesus as follows: "Jesus said to him, 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (14:6).
      • So, life and light are synonymous: "What was in him was life (zōē), and life (zōē) was the light of men" (1: 4); "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (zōē)" (8: 12).

      • But the path taken by Jesus, the path of love that gives his physical life, this path indicated by the Father who sent him, is also synonymous with life: "and I know that his commandment is eternal life (zōē). So then what I say, as the Father has told me, I say" (12:50); it is the same reality that is expressed by the symbolism of the bread of life, because by eating this bread we express our commitment to take the same path as the Master: "I am the living bread which has come down from heaven". Whoever eats this bread will live forever. And the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life (zōē) of the world" (6: 51); in his first letter, John is even more explicit: "We know that we have passed from death to life (zōē), because we love our brothers and sisters. He who does not love abides in death" (1 Jn 3:14).

    • However, there is a fundamental condition for access to this life: faith, i.e. total trust in Jesus' teaching and in the way he has shown us. This is a leitmotif that runs through the whole Gospel and concludes it.
      • "He who believes in the Son has eternal life (zōē); he who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life (zōē); but the wrath of God dwells on him" (3:36).
      • "Truly, truly, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth in him that sent me, hath eternal life (zōē) and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed from death to life (zōē)" (5: 24)
      • "These are written down, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life (zōē) in his name" (20: 31).

    • When John speaks of life, there are always two aspects, a present and a future; no passage expresses this paradox better than this word: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life (present); he who refuses to believe in the Son shall not see (future) life; but the wrath of God abides upon him" (3:36).

      • It seems that this eternal life is already present in the believer, so that the evangelist uses the verb "to have" in the present tense ("has eternal life"): "Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life (zōē)" (6: 47); and for John, one of the signs that eternal life is already present is love: "We know that we have passed from death to life (zōē), because we love our brothers and sisters. He who does not love abides in death" (1 Jn 3:14).

      • In itself, this eternal life is a future reality, for no one will avoid physical death: "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live" (11:25); for John shares the Jewish understanding that we saw in Matthew: "Do not be astonished, for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out: those who have done good, to a resurrection of life (zōē), those who have done evil, to a resurrection of judgment" (5:28-29).

    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.

    perisson (overflowing)
    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.

    1. Structure analysis

      There seem to be two distinct allegories.

      1. Allegory of the shepherd and thieves/robbers (v. 1-2)
        1. Solemn Introduction: Truly, truly, I assure you v. 1a
        2. Denunciation
          • he who does not try to enter the sheep fold through the door v. 1b
          • but climbs it from another place v. 1c
          • this one is a thief and a robber v. 1d
        3. Statement on the right behavior
          • But whoever tries to enter through the door v. 2a
          • here is the shepherd of the sheep v. 2b

      2. Allegory of the shepherd and the stranger (v. 3-5)
        1. In the fold (v. 3)
          1. Action of the doorkeeper: to the shepherd, the doorkeeper agrees to open the door.
          2. Action of the sheep: the sheep recognize his voice
          3. Action of the shepherd: he calls the sheep each by name and brings them outside

        2. Outside the fold (v. 4-5)
          1. Action of the shepherd :
            • When he has brought out all that belong to him
            • he walks before them
          2. Action of the sheep :
            • In front of the shepherd: they follow, for they recognize his voice
            • In front of the stranger: they will not follow, they will no longer flee from him, for they do not recognize his voice.

      3. Conclusion / Transition (v. 6)
        1. Jesus speak in pictures
        2. But he is not understood

      4. Explanation of the allegory (v. 7-10)
        1. Solemn introductioon : Truly, truly, I assure you, I am the door [shepherd]
        2. Identification of thieves / robbers :
          • All those who came before Jesus
          • The sheep did not listen to them
        3. Identification of the door : Jesus
          • Through him, one is liberated
          • Through him, one can live and find food
          • Through him, one finds life, and a life overflowing
          • While the thief only comes to steal, kill and destroy

      As we have already noted, there is a certain tension (the flow is not totally smooth) in these 10 verses where the logical structure is not perfect. For there are two different situations:

      • The first situation is related to a simple fold that belongs to a shepherd who comes to find his sheep, and the challenge is to keep thieves away (v. 1-2),
      • The second one is related to the shared or communal fold that forces each shepherd to distinguish his own sheep from the whole, and the challenge is to determine which sheep belongs to whom (v. 3-5).

      Verses 1-2 concern the discernment of the owner of the flock, the authentic shepherd on one hand, the thief on the other hand; this discernment is based on how to access the fold. Verses 3-5 concern above all the way the sheep recognizes the one it is to follow: the real shepherd is able to pronounce the name of each one, and his voice is familiar; a relationship has been established.

      In the interpretation of the allegory, these two situations are somewhat intertwined and modified.

      • Firstly, we lose sight of the stranger and only remain the thieves, so the theme of non-recognition of the voice concerns the relationship with them.
      • Then, the theme of the door receives a completely different meaning, i.e. it is no longer a question of the place where the shepherd must pass, but of the place where the sheep must pass.
      • Then the theme of the shepherd leading his sheep out and walking before them seems to be absorbed by the theme of the door.
      • Finally, the doorway theme of Jesus receives a great expansion

      Boismard tries to explain these tensions by the hypothesis of a compostion in three phases or iterations.

      Iteration 1 by John II-A (circa year 60)
      1 Truly, truly, I assure you,
      he who does not try to enter the sheep fold through the door,
      this one is a thief and a robber.
      2 But whoever tries to enter through the door, here is the shepherd of the sheep,
      3 and the sheep obey his voice
      and he leads them out,
      4 and he walks before them
      and the sheep follow him.
      7 I am the shepherd of the sheep.
      8 All those who came are thieves and robbers,
      But the sheep did not listen to them.
      27 My sheep recognize my voice and I know them and they follow me.

      In this first iteration, the fold belongs to a specific shepherd, and his challenge is to keep thieves away. Fortunately, even if the thieves manage to get into the fold, the sheep will not follow him.

      Iteration 2 by John II-B (circa year 90) (modifications from ohn II-B are underlined)

      1Truly, truly, I assure you,
      he who does not try to enter the sheep fold through the door,
      this one is a thief and a robber.
      2But whoever tries to enter through the door, here is the shepherd of the sheep,
      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 nameand he leads them out.
      4 he brought out all that belong to him,
      he walks before them
      and the sheep follow him.for they recognize his voice.
      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.
      6 This is what Jesus said to them in pictures,
      but they did not understand what he meant.
      7 So Jesus took up again, "Truly, truly, I assure you,
      I am the shepherd of the sheep.
      8All those who came are thieves and robbers,
      But the sheep did not listen to them
      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.
      .

      As can be seen, it was John II-B who introduced the communal or shared fold, and thus the idea of the stranger and the challenge of separating his ewes from the others. These modifications may have been suggested by the religious context where the community lives under pressure from different leaders. John II-B is also the one who introduced the theme of the overflowing life that opposes the thief's effort of destruction, a way of distinguishing the different leaders.

      Iteration 3 by John III (circa 110) (modifications from John III are in bold)

      1Truly, truly, I assure you,
      he who does not try to enter the sheep fold through the door,
      but climbs it from another place,
      this one is a thief and a robber.
      2But whoever tries to enter through the door, here is the shepherd of the sheep,
      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 nameand he leads them out.
      4When he has brought out
      he brought out all that belong to him,
      he walks before them
      and the sheep follow him.for they recognize his voice.
      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.
      6 This is what Jesus said to them in pictures,
      but they did not understand what he meant.
      7 So Jesus took up again, "Truly, truly, I assure you,
      I am the shepherd of the sheep.
      8All those who came are thieves and robbers,
      But the sheep did not listen to them
      9I am the door:
      if anyone enters through me, he will be liberated.
      He will walk and find pasture.
      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.
      .

      According to his habit, John III, a Christian of the Johannine tradition, does not add anything really new, but tries (sometimes a little heavily) to bring certain clarifications, to cross the T's and to dot the I's. So he clearly identifies the door with Christ, giving to the allegory a Christological twist.

      I wanted to present Boismard's attempt to imagine the history of the composition of this allegory in order to show its complexity, and above all to indicate that its meaning may have evolved according to the contemporary political and religious events that marked its interpretation.

    2. Context analysis

      1. Context that precedes

        It is not easy to establish the context of the allegory. For it begins abruptly without an introduction such as: "As Jesus saw the Pharisees or Sadducees trying to convince the crowd, he told them this allegory", or, "As he was leaving the city, he turned to his disciples and said to them". No. We pass without warning from Jn 9:41 (Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but you say, 'We see!' Your sin remains") to Jn 10:1 (Truly, truly, I assure you, whoever does not try to enter the sheep fold through the door, but climbs it from another place, he is a thief and a robber). So it must be concluded that John connects the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep to the preceding scene, i.e. the account of the healing of the blind man.

        The account of the blind man is a long story. The healing itself is recounted in verses 1 and 6-7, preceded by an introduction on the meaning of disability, and followed by a long trial to explain the healing that took place. During this trial there are many witnesses on the witness stand,

        • First (vv. 8 - 12) the neighbours and relatives who question the healed blind man,
        • then (vv. 13-17) the blind man himself who is questioned by the Pharisees,
        • afterwards (vv. 18-23) the parents of the blind man appear before the judges,
        • and again the blind man (vv. 24-34) is questioned by the Pharisees.

        This trial ends with the expulsion of the healed blind man (v. 34). Then follows a dialogue between the former blind man and Jesus which ends with a profession of faith: "The man said, 'I believe, Lord', and he bowed down before him" (v. 38). Jesus concludes the scene with a statement on the meaning of his mission: "I have come into this world for discernment: that those who do not see may see and those who see may become blind" (v. 39). Finally, the Pharisees who had heard ask the question: "Are we blind too?" (v.40). And Jesus answers them: "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but you say, 'We see!' Your sin remains" (v.41).

        Thus, the transition to the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep is a kind of condemnation of the attitude of the Pharisees, who claim to see, but are in fact blind. Even if we consider the Johannine tradition as independent, we also have a similar passage in the Q source: "Can a blind man guide a blind man? Won't they both fall into a hole?" (Lk 6:39; Mt 15:14). Matthew applies this sentence to the Pharisees, and will go on to make a series of invective against them: "Woe to you blind guides" (23:16); "Fools and blind guides! "(23:17); "Blind guides" (23:24); "Blind Pharisee!" (23: 26). So there is an agreement between Matthew and John to consider the Pharisees as blind. Matthew adds that they are blind "guides". Now John, for his part, after having described the Pharisees as blind, goes on to the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep. First of all, one must consider his audience as these Pharisees, and so the allegory is addressed to them. By the same token, since the beginning of the allegory deals with the question of the ownership of the sheep fold and the sheep, we must think that the author associates thieves and robbers with the Pharisees. Moreover, the role of the shepherd is to guide. Also, in his own way, he associates the Pharisees with blind guides, like Matthew. And the blind man who has regained his sight must be associated with the sheep who listen to the shepherd's voice.

      2. Context that follows

        What follows is more consistent with the allegory of the shepherd and his sheep. It goes from verses 11 to 21. Why v. 21? Because v. 21 brings a conclusion to the whole story of the blind man who was born blind ("Others were saying, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"), and v. 22 introduces a new narrative ("At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter").

        This section of vv. 11-21 could be entitled the allegory of the Good Shepherd. The allegory now opposes the shepherd owner and the hired or salaried shepherd (vv. 11-18) where the emphasis is on the fact that true shepherd gives his life for his sheep and that there is mutual knowledge between them, and it mentions the plan to gather together also the sheep that are not from the same fold. This section ends with the division among the Jews about Jesus, i.e. are his actions done in the name of demons or in the name of God?

        What light sheds the context that precedes and follows? First of all, the account of the blind man and the allegory around the shepherd together form a whole for the fourth Gospel. And this whole is ultimately aimed at making a decision about Jesus: is he the guide, the light, or the shepherd from God, or is he a madman inspired by the devil? For the evangelist, he is that light in the darkness, he is that guide whose authenticity people recognize because he accepts to give his life for those who follow him, and he takes the trouble to know each one of them intimately, and one day he will gather the whole universe.

    3. Analysis of parallels

      It is difficult to find parallels, since the Johannine tradition is independent of the synoptic narratives. The word "shepherd" is rarely found in the Gospel Acts: Mt = 3; Mk = 2; Lk = 4; Jn = 6; Ac = 0. In Luke, it appears only in the infancy narratives where the shepherds in the fields receive the good news of the birth of a Saviour. In Mark there is the emotional reaction of Jesus who sees the crowd as a flock without a shepherd (6: 34 || Mt 9: 36) and the citation of Zechariah 13: 7 ("I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered") when the disciples flee (14: 27 || Mt 26: 31), two scenes taken up by Matthew. And in the latter, there is also the scene of the Last Judgment where the Son of Man acts as a shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats (25: 32). Of course, we could mention the parable of a man who has 100 sheep and goes in search of the lost one / gone astray (Lk 15:4-7 | Mt 18:12-14), even though the word "shepherd" does not appear in it. But we are far from a context of discerning the true shepherd.

      We have to look to the Old Testament to find a certain parallel, especially in the prophets, where there are complaints about the attitude of the shepherds who let the flock go astray (see, for example, Jer 10:21; 27:6; Zech 10:3; 13:7). The best parallel is probably Ezekiel 34. Here are a few passages from this chapter put in parallel with our allegory of the shepherd. The parallel is not exact, but both texts point in the same direction.

      John 10: 1-10Ezekiel 34: 1-31
      1 Truly, truly, I assure you, he who does not try to enter the sheep fold through the door, but climbs it from another place, this one is a thief and a robber.2 Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them - to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep.
      But whoever tries to enter through the door, here is the shepherd of the sheep.
      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.
      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.
      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.10 Thus says the Lord God, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them.
      This is what Jesus said to them in pictures, but they did not understand what he meant.
      7 So Jesus took up again, "Truly, truly, I assure you, I am the door [shepherd] of the sheep.11 For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land.
      8 All those who came [before me] are thieves and robbers. But the sheep did not listen to them.
      9 I am the door: if anyone enters through me, he will be liberated. He will walk and find pasture.14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God.
      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.23 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken. 25 I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild animals from the land, so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely.

      In both texts, there is the same dynamic: before, they are shepherds unworthy of the name. God has decided to take matters into his own hands, and he alone is able to truly care for the sheep and give them what they need. And he does it through his messiah, someone of the lineage of David in Ezekiel, Jesus in John.

    4. Intention of the author when writng this passage

      It is time to recapitulate our analysis and understanding of the 4th Gospel. We will do so by taking up Boismard's hypothesis of a three-phase composition.

      • It is recognized that if the Gospels contain so many parables, the credit probably goes to Jesus himself, who seems to have had a talent for storytelling, even if we cannot conclude that we have the very words of Jesus in a particular parable. At the source of the allegories about the shepherd and the sheep in ch. 10 of the 4th Gospel, we can imagine some parables of Jesus: it would be surprising if it were otherwise with the pastoral culture of Palestine in the 1st century where flocks of sheep were part of daily life. Also, it would be surprising if John invented everything from scratch. Did Jesus tell a parable about the shepherd and sheep to make us reflect on the different types of leaders, especially since this is an important theme of the Old Testament, to make us reflect on the meaning of his mission? We can think so, especially since other images point in this direction, such as that of Luke 13:14: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times have I wanted to gather your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings... and you have not wanted to!".

      • John was able to weave together different parables around the shepherd and his sheep, for several different themes appear: the shepherd and the thief, the shepherd and the stranger, the shepherd and the hireling. We are perhaps in the year 60 or 65, in Palestine, more than 30 years after the death of Jesus and the experience that he is alive. The Johannine community is still young. But the region is in turmoil with the rise of nationalist movements and various zealot groups that want to expel the Romans, which will lead to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. Some members of the community had to endure pressure from Jewish leaders to join this attempted insurrection. In addition to this, there is the regular pressure from their Jewish confreres when they go to the synagogue together and who remind them of the authority of Moses and all the great leaders of the Jewish community. It is in a similar context that we must imagine John's pastoral work. He has just told the story of the blind man healed by Jesus, which is the story of every Christian. And the trial suffered by the blind man, questioned by his relatives and the Jewish authorities, is a reflection of what the members of the community had to endure. The evangelist will offer them some guidelines.

      • Everyone who enters through the back door to attract a member of the community to their cause, without having taken the time to get to know him and support him, is a thief and a dishonest person. Whether it is the leaders of the Jewish community or the leaders of the nationalist movement, they have no interest in the Christian as such, but they only want to win him to their cause, and as quickly as possible. They are impostors. On the contrary, the true pastor has taken the time to identify himself openly, to go through the door, to take the time to get to know each person, to walk with them. That is the true leader. He does not impose anything, he simply invites people to follow him.
        1 Truly, truly, I assure you,
        he who does not try to enter the sheep fold through the door,
        this one is a thief and a robber.
        2 But whoever tries to enter through the door, here is the shepherd of the sheep,
        3 and the sheep obey his voice
        and he leads them out,
        4 and he walks before them
        and the sheep follow him.

        Why does the evangelist dare to say: All who came before Jesus are thieves and robbers? First of all, there is the biblical tradition that just about all Jewish leaders failed in their mission, to the point where God decided to look after his flock himself. Then there is his faith that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and that he alone was able to fulfill his mission. Finally, this is probably the evangelist's way of closing once and for all the debate about leaders trying to influence members of the Christian community.

      • Twenty years passed when the community had to emigrate and go to Asia Minor, more precisely to Ephesus, in present-day Turkey. Things have changed a lot. First of all, Jewish Christians were expelled from the synagogue for good. Secondly, tensions arose within the Christian communities themselves. In particular, there is the movement of Judaizing Christians which Paul faced and which seems to be still alive: it states that, even if one is a disciple of Jesus, Jewish practices such as circumcision, food restrictions and some of the Jewish laws are still in force. In this new context, the evangelist feels the need to edit and update his work. Now the fold, which belonged to the same shepherd, becomes a shared fold where several flocks live together; the Christian family has become plural and one must identify oneself with it:
        To him the doorkeeper agrees to open

        For the pastor is the one who somehow forced them to leave Palestine to emigrate to Asia Minor: he calls each of them by name and brings them out. Thus, this Johannine community has a common history, and the other Christian leaders, especially the Judeo-Christians, can only be foreigners.

        they will not follow a stranger, they will rather flee from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.

        Finally, to clarify his message, he must bring a form of conclusion according to his practice of double language, a veiled image that Jesus must decipher before an audience that does not understand.

        This is what Jesus said to them in pictures, but they did not understand what he meant. So Jesus took up again, "Truly, truly, I assure you, 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

        That is the ultimate criterion: life. Life is associated with both truth or light and brotherly love. And this can only come from Jesus and is communicated by the true leader.

      • Ten or twenty years later, a member of this Johannine community was able to add a final touch, no doubt in the context of a long meditation on the Old Testament, especially the passages on the shepherd and his sheep, and the desire to clarify certain points of the fourth Gospel.
        I am the door: if anyone enters through me, he will be liberated. He will walk and find pasture.

      • What remains of the fourth Gospel at the end of this allegory is that the Christian, a blind man who has become a seer, is confronted with different forces that are exerted upon him, and he must choose his leaders. The true leader, in the lineage of Jesus, is the one who acts transparently, without subterfuge, in justice, who patiently takes the time to get to know him, who invites to follow him without forcing him, and if at times he leads him out of his comfort zone, he will walk ahead to lead him to where he needs to live and grow. The criterion of the leader will always be that, in the end, the one he leads will be overflowing with life, he will live in truth and in love.

    5. Current situations or events in which we could read this text

      1. Suggestions from the different symbols in the story

        • "Enter through the door". That's the criterion of legitimacy for leaders. Jesus did things in the light, spoke openly, walked the path of justice and love. A leader, religious or lay, must take the same path. Otherwise he is an impostor.

        • "He calls them each by name". One cannot lead others without knowing them intimately. And knowing takes time. Jesus opened himself to the people of his milieu, he welcomed them, he understood them. A true leader, religious or lay, cannot behave otherwise.

        • "When he has brought out all those who belong to him". Bringing out means: pushing them out, getting them out of the comfort zone, getting them going. Jesus led people to surpass themselves, to go further: "You have learned, I say to you". A true leader doesn't just reflect what people already think, he takes them further.

        • "He will be liberated". How will Jesus liberate people? Of course, according to the testimony of the Gospels, he healed them from physical infirmities. But he freed them even more by leading them to see the world differently, by freeing them from their inner blindness, by telling them about a loving Father, by opening them to their brothers, by giving them a new responsibility.

        • "I have come so that they may have life". It is hard to understand what life is. For Jesus, there can be no life without light, without understanding things, without seeking the truth. And there can be no life without true love, without love of one's brother. A genuine leader cannot but want life to be full and overflowing for those he leads.

      2. Current situations or events in which we could read this text

        • Populist leaders currently have the wind in their sails: Donald Trump in the United States, Marine le Pen in France, Recep Erdogan in Turkey, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philipines. Are they true leaders according to the model proposed by today's Gospel?

        • The Coptic Church in Egypt has just been attacked by a suicide bomber who killed 45 people during the Palm Sunday gathering. How should we react after having recognized the ignominy of the act? What does a leader do in such a situation?

        • The horror continues in Syria. After the chemical attack with Sarin gas, the buses of the people being relocated are being attacked. Is there a limit to human evil? Real leaders offer a way to continue to live and hope.

        • Living is also aging. And getting older means losing a little more memory, becoming less independent, becoming more fragile. This is what becomes of a part of our society. Which leader will be able to chart a course for life in this universe?

        • Our society faces many challenges. One of them is the lives of farmers and peasants. Many can no longer make a living from their work. Some commit suicide. Are there leaders who will be able to chart a course for the future?

     

    -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 - L’évangile 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.