Literary Context of John 10:1-21

A colometric presentation of the passage under scrutiny is in order:

1a ―Truly, truly, I say to you,
1b he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door
1c but climbs in by another way,
1d that man is a thief and a robber;
2a but he who enters by the door
2b is the shepherd of the sheep.
3a to him the gatekeeper opens;
3b the sheep hear his voice,
3c and he calls his own sheep by a name
3d and leads them out
4a When he has brought out all his own,
4b he goes before them,
4c and the sheep follow him,
4d for they know his voice.
5a A stranger they will not follow,
5b but they will flee from him,
5c for they do not know the voice of stranger.‖
6a This figure Jesus used with them,
6b but they did not understand
6c what he was saying to them.
7a So Jesus again said to them
7b ―Truly, truly, I say to you,
7c I am the door of the sheep.
8a All who came before me are thieves and robbers
8b but the sheep did not heed them.
9a I am the door;
9b if any one enters by me,
9c he will be saved,
9d and will go in and out
9e and find pasture.
10a The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroys;
10b I came that they may have life,
10c and have it abundantly.
11a I am the good shepherd.
11b The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12a He who is a hireling and not a shepherd.
12b whose own the sheep are not,
12c sees the wolf coming
12d and leaves the sheep and flees;
12e and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
13a He flees because for the sheep,
13b and cares nothing for the sheep.
14a I am the good shepherd;
14b I know my own
14c and my own know me,
15a as the Father knows me
15b and I know the Father;
15c and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16a And I have other sheep,
16b that are not of this fold;
16c I must bring them also,
16d and they will heed my voice.
16e So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
17a For this reason the Father loves me,
17b because I lay down my life,
17c that I may take it again.
18a No one takes it from me,
18b but I lay it down of my own accord.
18c I have power to lay it down,
18d and I have power to take it again;
18e this charge I have received from my Father.‖
19a Again the Jews were divided
19b because of these words.
20a Many of them were saying,
20b ―He has a demon
20c and is out of his mind.
20d Why listen to him?‖
21a Others were saying.
21b ―These are not the words of one who has a demon.
21c Can a demon open the eyes of a blind?

John 10:1-21 is very carefully organized. Milne divides the literary unit into two: ―In the first, Jesus illuminates the distinctiveness of his ministry (1-18), and, in the second, reactions to his teaching are identified (19-21). Links to the immediately preceding section are clear. There is no break in the flow of the discourse at v. 1, and the reaction in v. 21 is specifically related to the healing of the blind man. Niceta Vargas notes, ―John 10:1, the beginning of the shepherd discourse, appears to be a continuation of 9:41, a saying of Jesus which is the end-part of the conclusion of the narrative of the man born blind.‖41 In John 10:1-21 two comparisons are introduced: Jesus the Shepherd and Jesus the Gate.

These two comparisons are closely bound together and continue the theme introduced by the preceding episode. In this pericope, Jesus contrasts himself―with the false shepherds of Israel represented by the Pharisees, who have rejected rather than saved the man who was given his sight. Again, according to Vargas, ―the literary genre of John 10:1-18 is a parable. Considering, however, that John 10:1-18 is also a discourse, and that it is not closely similar to the Synoptic parable which is purely a narrative, one might doubts its identification as a parable.

The content of vv. 1-5 is the closest thing to a parable in the Gospel of John. In fact, Brown refers to 10:1-5 as consisting of several parables while 10:7ff consists of allegorical explanations. John Pointer prefers to identify the literary genre of John 10:1-18 as paroimia (a Greek word that appears in 10:6 which is translated in some English bible editions as ‗parable’). The figure of speech, paroimia, ―seems to have been derived from the Old Testament traditions where God is portrayed as the shepherd of Israel, and the leaders of the people as true or false shepherds (Ezek 34).

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