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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

John 10

Verse 1

1. ἀμὴν ἀμήν. This double affirmation, peculiar to this Gospel (see on John 1:51), never occurs at the beginning of a discourse, but either in continuation, to introduce some deep truth, or in reply. This verse is no exception. There is no break between the chapters, which should perhaps have been divided at John 9:34 or 38 rather than here. The scene continues uninterrupted from John 9:35 to John 10:21, where we have a reference to the healing of the blind man. Moreover John 10:6 seems to point back to John 9:41; their not understanding the allegory was evidence of self-complacent blindness. This chapter, therefore, although it contains a fresh subject, is connected with the incidents in chap. 9 and grows out of them. The connexion seems to be that the Pharisees by their conduct to the man had proved themselves bad shepherds; but he has found the Good Shepherd: they had cast him out of doors; but he has found the Door: they had put him forth to drive him away; the Good Shepherd puts His sheep forth to lead them. We are not told where these words are spoken; so that it is impossible to say whether it is probable that a sheepfold with the shepherds and their flocks was in sight. There is nothing against the supposition. Be this as it may, Jesus, who has already appropriated the types of the Brazen Serpent, the Manna, the Rock, and the Pillar of Fire (John 3:14, John 6:50, John 7:37, John 8:12) here appropriates the type of the Shepherd (Psalms 23; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 11).

διὰ τῆς θύρας. Oriental sheepfolds are commonly walled or palisaded, with one door or gate. Into one of these enclosures several shepherds drive their flocks, leaving them in charge of an under-shepherd or porter, who fastens the door securely inside, and remains with the sheep all night. In the morning the shepherds come to the door, the porter opens to them, and each calls away his own sheep.

τ. αὐλὴν τ. πρ. The fold of the sheep. Comp. ἡ θύρα τ. πρ. (John 10:7).

ἀλλαχόθεν. Literally, from another quarter; here only in N.T.

ἐκεῖνος. S. John’s characteristic use: comp. John 1:18; John 1:33, John 5:11; John 5:39, John 6:57, John 9:37, John 12:48, John 14:12; John 14:21; John 14:26, John 15:26.

κλέπτηςλῃστής. Everywhere in this Gospel (John 10:8; John 10:10, John 12:6, John 18:40) and in 2 Corinthians 11:26 κλέπτης is rightly rendered ‘thief’ and λῃστής ‘robber’ in A.V. But elsewhere (Matthew 21:13; Matthew 26:55; Matthew 27:38, &c. &c.) λῃστής is translated ‘thief.’ The λῃστής is a brigand, more formidable than the κλέπτης: the one uses violence and is sometimes chivalrous, the other employs cunning, and is always mean.

Verses 1-9


Verses 1-18

1–18. “The form of the discourse in the first half of chap. 10 is remarkable. It resembles the Synoptic parables, but not exactly. The parable is a short narrative, which is kept wholly separate from the ideal facts which it signifies. But this discourse is not a narrative; and the figure and its application run side by side, and are interwoven with one another all through. It is an extended metaphor rather than a parable. If we are to give it an accurate name we should be obliged to fall back upon the wider term ‘allegory.’

This, and the parallel passage in chap. 15, are the only instances of allegory in the Gospels. They take in the Fourth Gospel the place which parables hold with the Synoptists. The Synoptists have no allegories distinct from parables. The fourth Evangelist has no parables as a special form of allegory. What are we to infer from this? The parables certainly are original and genuine. Does it follow that the allegories are not?

[1] We notice, first, that along with the change of form there is a certain change of subject. The parables generally turn round the ground conception of the kingdom of heaven. They … do not enlarge on the relation which its King bears to the separate members.… Though the royal dignity of the Son is incidentally put forward, there is nothing which expresses so closely and directly the personal relation of the Messiah to the community of believers, collectively and individually, as these two ‘allegories’ from S. John. Their form seems in an especial manner suited to their subject-matter, which is a fixed, permanent and simple relation, not a history of successive states. The form of the allegories is at least appropriate.

[2] We notice next that even with the Synoptists the use of the parable is not rigid. All do not conform precisely to the same type. There are some, like the Pharisee and Publican, the Good Samaritan, &c., which give direct patterns for action, and are not therefore parables in the same sense in which the Barren Fig-tree, the Prodigal Son, &c. are parables.… If, then, the parable admits so much deviation on the one side, may it not also on the other?

[3] Lastly, we have to notice the parallels to this particular figure of the Good Shepherd that are found in the Synoptists. These are indeed abundant. The parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:4-7; Matthew 18:12-13).… ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 15:24).… ‘But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd’ (Matthew 9:36), which when taken with Matthew 11:28-29 (‘Come unto Me all ye that labour,’ &c.), gives almost an exact parallel to the Johannean allegory.” Sanday.

Verse 2

2. ποιμήν ἐστιν τ. πρ. Is a shepherd of the sheep. There is more than one flock in the fold, and therefore more than one shepherd to visit the fold. The Good Shepherd has not yet appeared in the allegory. The allegory indeed is twofold, or even threefold; in the first part (1–5), which is repeated (7–9), Christ is the Door of the fold; in the second part (11–18) He is the Shepherd; John 10:10 forming a link between the two main parts.

Verse 3

3. ὁ θυρωρός. Ostiarius. The ‘porter’ is the door-keeper or gate-keeper, who fastens and opens the one door into the fold. In the allegory the fold is the Church, the Door is Christ, the sheep are the elect, the shepherds are God’s ministers. What does the porter represent? Possibly nothing definite. Much harm is sometimes done by trying to maké every detail of an allegory or parable significant. There must be background in every picture. But if it be insisted that the porter here is too prominent to be meaningless, it is perhaps best to understand the Holy Spirit as signified under this figure; He who grants opportunities of coming, or of bringing others, through Christ into the Kingdom of God. Comp. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; Acts 14:27; Revelation 3:8 : but in all these passages ‘door’ does not mean Christ, but opportunity.

τ. πρ.… ἀκούει. All the sheep, whether belonging to his flock or not, know from his coming that they are about to be led out. His own sheep (first for emphasis) he calleth by name (Exodus 33:12; Exodus 33:17; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 45:3; Isaiah 49:1; Revelation 3:5), and leadeth them out to pasture. Even in this country shepherds and shepherds’ dogs know each individual sheep; in the East the intimacy between shepherd and sheep is still closer. The naming of sheep is a very ancient practice: see Theocritus v. 102. φωνεῖ implies more directly personal invitation (John 1:49, John 2:9, John 4:16, John 9:19; John 9:24, John 11:28, John 13:13, John 18:33) than καλεῖ (T. R.), which would express a general summons (Matthew 4:21; Matthew 20:8; Matthew 22:9; Matthew 25:14). The blind man had been called out from the rest, and had heard His voice.

Verse 4

4. ὅταν τὰ ἴδια πάντα ἐκβ. When he hath put forth all his own. ‘There shall not an hoof be left behind’ (Exodus 10:26). Ἐκβάλῃ is remarkable, as being the very word used in John 9:34-35 of the Pharisees putting forth the man born blind: here we might have expected ἐξάγειν rather than ἐκβάλλειν. The false shepherds put forth sheep to rid themselves of trouble; the true shepherds put forth sheep to feed them. But even the true shepherds must use some violence to their sheep to ‘compel them to come’ (Luke 14:23) to the pastures. This was true at this very moment of the Messiah, who was endeavouring to bring His people out of the rigid enclosure of the Law into the free pastures of the Gospel. But there are no ‘goats’ in the allegory; all the flock are faithful. It is the ideal Church composed entirely of the elect. The object of the allegory being to set forth the relations of Christ to His sheep, the possibility of bad sheep is not taken into account. That side of the picture is treated in the parables of the Lost Sheep, and of the Sheep and the Goats.

ἔμπροσθεν. As soon as they are out he does not drive but leads them, as Oriental shepherds do still: and they follow, because they not only hear (John 10:3) but know his voice. Note the change from sing. ἀκολουθεῖ to plur. οἴδασιν; Winer, p. 646.

Verse 5

5. ἀλλοτρίῳ δὲ οὐ μή. But a stranger they will in no wise follow: strong negative, as in John 4:14; John 4:48, John 6:35; John 6:37, John 8:12; John 8:51-52. The ἀλλότριος is anyone whom they do not know, not necessarily a thief or robber: they meet him outside the fold. There is a story of a Scotch traveller who changed clothes with a Jerusalem shepherd and tried to lead the sheep; but the sheep followed the shepherd’s voice and not his clothes.

Verse 6

6. παροιμίαν. Allegory or similitude. The Synoptists never use παροιμία; S. John never uses παραβολή; and this should be preserved in translation. A.V. renders both words sometimes ‘parable’ and sometimes ‘proverb.’ In LXX. both are used to represent the Hebrew mashal; in the title to the Book of Proverbs, Proverbs 1:1; Proverbs 25:1, παροιμίαι; elsewhere almost always παραβολή. The two words appear together in Sirach 39:3; Sirach 47:17. In A.V. we have ‘parable’ and ‘proverb’ indifferently for mashal. In N.T. παροιμία occurs only here, John 16:25; John 16:29, and 2 Peter 2:22. It means something beside the way (οἷμος); hence, according to some, a trite ‘way-side saying;’ according to others, a figurative ‘out-of-the-way saying.’ For παραβολή see on Mark 4:2.

ἐκεῖνοι. The pronoun (John 7:45) separates them from the Teacher.

οὐκ ἔγνωσαν. Did not recognise the meaning. The idea that they were strangers, or even robbers, instead of shepherds to the sheep did not come home to them at all.

Verse 7

7. εἶπεν οὖν. Jesus therefore said again. Because they did not understand He went through it again, explaining the main features.

ἀμὴν ἀμ. This is the important point: the one Door, through which both sheep and shepherds enter, is Christ. Ἐγώ is very emphatic; I (and no other) am the Door: comp. ‘I am the Way’ (John 14:6). For ἐγώ εἰμι see on John 6:35.

ἡ θ. τ. προβάτων. The Door for the sheep (John 10:9) and also the Door to the sheep (John 10:1-2). Sheep and shepherds have one and the same Door. The elect enter the Church through Christ; the ministers who would visit them must receive their commission from Christ. Jesus does not say ἡ θ. τ. αὐλῆς, but ἡ θ. τ. προβάτων. The fold has no meaning apart from the sheep.

Verse 8

8. πάντες ὅσοι ἧλθον πρὸ ἐμοῦ. These words are difficult, and some copyists seem to have tried to avoid the difficulty by omitting either πάντες or πρὸ ἐμοῦ. But the balance of authority leaves no doubt that both are genuine. Some commentators would translate πρὸ ἐμοῦ ‘instead of Me.’ But this meaning of πρό is not common, and perhaps occurs nowhere in N.T. Moreover ‘instead of Me’ ought to include the idea of ‘for My advantage;’ and that is impossible here. We must retain the natural and ordinary meaning of ‘before Me:’ and as ‘before Me in dignity’ would be obviously inappropriate, ‘before Me in time’ must be the meaning. But who are ‘all that came before Me’? The patriarchs, prophets, Moses, the Baptist cannot be meant, either collectively or singly. ‘Salvation is of the Jews’ (John 4:22); ‘they are they which testify of Me’ (John 5:39); ‘if ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me’ (John 5:46); ‘John bare witness unto the truth’ (John 5:33): texts like this are quite conclusive against any such Gnostic interpretation. Nor can false Messiahs be meant: it is doubtful whether any had arisen at this time. Rather it refers to the ‘ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing’ who had been, and still were, the ruin of the nation, ‘who devoured widows’ houses,’ who were ‘full of ravening and wickedness,’ who had ‘taken away the key of knowledge,’ and were in very truth ‘thieves and robbers’ (Matthew 7:15; Matthew 23:14; Luke 11:39; Luke 11:52). These ‘came,’ but they were not sent. Some of them were now present, thirsting to add bloodshed to robbery, and this denunciation of them is no stronger than several passages in the Synoptists: e.g. Matthew 23:33; Luke 11:50-51. The tense also is in favour of this interpretation; not were, but ‘are thieves, and robbers.’

οὐκ ἤκουσαν. For they found no authority, no living voice in their teaching (Matthew 7:29). Comp. ‘To whom shall we go?’ (John 6:68). Hearers there were, but these were not the sheep, but blind followers, led by the blind. For the plural verb see Winer, p. 646.

Verse 9

9. There is a very clear reference to this verse in the Ignatian Epistles, Philad. 9: αὐτὸς ὢν θύρα τοῦ πατρός, δι' ἧς εἰσέρχονται Ἀβραὸμ κ. Ἰσαὰκ κ. Ἰακὼβ κ. οἱ προφῆται κ. οἱ ἀπόστολοι κ. ἡ ἐκκλησία. In the message to the Philadelphian Church (Revelation 3:8) we find ἰδοὺ δέδωκα ἐνώπιόν σου θύραν ἀνεῳγμένην. For other early adaptations of this image comp. Hegesippus (Eus. H. E. II. xxiii. 8), τίς ἡ θύρα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, Hermas III. Sim. ix. 12, ἡ πύλη ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστί, and Clem. Rom. I. xlviii. see on John 3:8, John 4:10, John 6:33, John 8:28-29.

δι' ἐμοῦ. Placed first for emphasis; ‘through Me and in no other way.’ The main point is iterated again and again, each time with great simplicity and yet most emphatically. “The simplicity, the directness, the particularity, the emphasis of S. John’s style give his writings a marvellous power, which is not perhaps felt at first. Let his words seem to hang about the reader till he is forced to remember them. Each great truth sounds like the burden of a strain, ever falling upon the ear with a calm persistency which secures attention.” Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, p. 250.

ἐάν τις. If anyone: there is no limit of sex or nationality. Comp. John 6:51, John 8:51, John 3:15, John 11:25, John 12:46.

σωθήσεται. It is interesting to see how this has been expanded in the Clementine Homilies (III. lii.); Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ πύλη τῆς ζωῆς· ὁ δι' ἐμοῦ εἰσερχόμενος εἰσέρχεται εἰς τὴν ζωήν. ὡς οὐκ οὔσης ἑτέρας τῆς σώζειν δυναμένης διδασκαλίας. See on John 10:27 and John 9:1. These passages place the reference to the Fourth Gospel beyond a doubt. Σωθήσεται and νομὴν εὑρήσει seem to shew that this verse does not refer to the shepherds only, but to the sheep also. Although ‘find pasture’ may refer to the shepherd’s work for the flock, yet one is inclined to think that if the words do not refer to both, they refer to the sheep only.

εἰσελεύσεται κ. ἐξ. These words also are more appropriate to the sheep than to the shepherds; but comp. Numbers 27:17; 1 Samuel 18:13; 2 Chronicles 1:10. ‘To go in and out’ includes the ideas of security and liberty (Jeremiah 37:4). The phrase is a Hebraism, expressing the free activity of life, like versari (Deuteronomy 28:6; Deuteronomy 28:19; Deuteronomy 31:2; Psalms 121:8; Acts 1:21; Acts 9:28).

Verse 10

10. Just as John 10:9 refers back to John 10:2, so this refers back to John 10:1. It is the same allegory more fully expounded. Note the climax; κλέψῃ, steal and carry off; θύσῃ, slaughter as if for sacrifice (LXX. in Isaiah 22:13; 1 Maccabees 7:19); ἀπολέσῃ utterly consume and destroy. In what follows ζωὴν ἔχ. is opposed to θύσῃ κ. ἀπολέσῃ, περισσὸν ἐχ. to κλέψῃ: instead of taking life, He gives it; instead of stealing, He gives abundance.

ἐγὼ ἧλθον. I came that they may have life, and that they may have abundance. Ἐγώ is in emphatic contrast to ὁ κλέπτης. This is the point of transition from the first part of the allegory to the second. The figure of the Door, as the one entrance to salvation, is dropped; and that of the Good Shepherd, as opposed to the thief, is taken up; but this intermediate clause will apply to either figure, inclining towards the second one. In order to make the strongest possible antithesis to the thief, Christ introduces, not a shepherd, but Himself, the Chief Shepherd. The thief takes life; the shepherds protect life; the Good Shepherd gives it.

Verse 11

11. ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ π. ὁ κ. see on John 6:35 : καλός cannot be adequately translated: it means ‘beautiful, noble, good,’ as opposed to ‘foul, mean, wicked.’ It sums up the chief attributes of ideal perfection; comp. John 10:32, John 2:10. Christ is the Perfect Shepherd, as opposed to His own imperfect ministers; He is the true Shepherd, as opposed to the false shepherds, who are hirelings or hypocrites; He is the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep, as opposed to the wicked thief who takes their lives to preserve his own. Thus in Christ is realised the ideal Shepherd of O.T. Psalms 23; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 23; Ezekiel 34; Ezekiel 37:24; Zechariah 11:7. The figure sums up the relation of Jehovah to His people (Psalms 80:1); and in appropriating it Jesus proclaims Himself as the representative of Jehovah. Perhaps no image has penetrated more deeply into the mind of Christendom: Christian prayers and hymns, Christian painting and statuary, and Christian literature are full of it, and have been from the earliest ages. And side by side with it is commonly found the other beautiful image of this Gospel, the Vine: the Good Shepherd and the True Vine are figures of which Christians have never wearied.

τ. ψ. αὐ. τίθησιν. Layeth down His life. A remarkable phrase and peculiar to S. John (John 10:15; John 10:17, John 13:37-38, John 15:13; 1 John 3:16), whereas δοῦναι τ. ψ. αὐτοῦ occurs Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45. ‘To lay down’ perhaps includes the notion of ‘to pay down,’ a common meaning of the word in classical Greek; if so it is exactly equivalent to the Synoptic ‘to give as a ransom’ (λύτρον). Others interpret, ‘to lay aside’ (John 13:4), i.e. to give up voluntarily. In this country the statement ‘the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep’ seems extravagant when taken apart from the application to Christ. Not so in the East, where dangers from wild beasts and armed bands of robbers are serious and constant. Genesis 13:5; Genesis 14:12; Genesis 31:39-40; Genesis 32:7-8; Genesis 37:33; Job 1:17; 1 Samuel 17:34-35. Ὑπέρ, ‘on behalf of.’

Verses 11-18


Verse 12

12. ὁ μισθωτός. The word occurs nowhere else in N.T. excepting of the ‘hired servants’ of Zebedee (Mark 1:20). The Good Shepherd was introduced in contrast to the thief. Now we have another contrast to the Good Shepherd given, the hired shepherd, a mercenary, who tends a flock not his own for his own interests. The application is obvious; viz., to those ministers who care chiefly for the emoluments and advantages of their position, and retire when the position becomes irksome and dangerous. In one respect the hireling is worse than the thief, for he is false to his pledge and betrays a trust. He sacrifices his charge to save himself, whereas a true shepherd sacrifices himself to save his charge.

καὶ οὐκ ὤν π. And not a shepherd, as in John 10:2.

τὸν λύκον. Any power opposed to Christ (John 10:28).

ἀφίησιν κ.τ.λ. Leaveth the sheep and fleeth; and the wolf snatcheth them and scattereth (them); because he is an hireling, &c. The wolf seizes some and scatters the rest.

Verse 14

14. γινώσκουσίν με τὰ ἐμά for γινώσκομαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐμῶν.

Verses 14-18

14–18. Further description of the True Shepherd. [1] His intimate knowledge of His sheep; [2] His readiness to die for them. This latter point recurs repeatedly as a sort of refrain, like ‘I will raise him up at the last day,’ in chap. 6. The passage, especially John 10:14-15, is remarkable for beautiful simplicity of structure: the parallelism of Hebrew poetry is very marked. There should be no full stop at the end of John 10:14 : I know Mine, and Mine know Me, even as the Father knoweth Me and I know the Father. So intimate is the relation between the Good Shepherd and His sheep that it may be compared and likened (not merely ὥσπερ, but καθώς) to the relation between the Father and the Son. The same thought runs through the discourses in the latter half of the Gospel: John 14:20, John 15:10, John 17:8; John 17:10; John 17:18; John 17:21. Note that γίνωσκω, not οἷδα, is used: it is knowledge resulting from experience and appreciation. Contrast Matthew 7:23, ‘I never knew you’ (ἔγνων) with Luke 4:34, ‘I know Thee who Thou art’ (οἶδα).

Verse 16

16. ἄλλα πρόβατα. Not the Jews in heathen lands, but Gentiles, for even among them He had sheep. The Jews had asked in derision, ‘Will He go and teach the Gentiles?’ (John 7:35). He declares here that among the despised heathen He has sheep. He was going to lay down His life, ‘not for that nation only’ (John 11:52), but that He might ‘draw all men unto Him’ (John 12:32). Of that most heathen of heathen cities, Corinth, He declared to S. Paul in a vision, ‘I have much people in this city’ (Acts 18:10; comp. Acts 28:28). The Light ‘lightens every man’ (John 1:9), and not the Jews only. Ἔχω, not ἕξω, like ἐστί μοι in Acts 18:10 : they are already His, given to Him (John 17:7) by the Father. He is their Owner, but not yet their Shepherd.

ἐκ τ. αὐλῆς τ. Emphasis on αὐλῆς not on ταύτης; the Gentiles were not in any fold at all, but ‘scattered abroad’ (John 11:52).

ἐκεῖνα. Not ταῦτα: they are still remote.

δεῖ. Such is the Divine decree; see on John 3:14. It is the Father’s will and the Messiah’s bounden duty.

ἀγάγειν. Lead, rather than ‘bring;’ comp. ἐξάγειν (John 10:3). Christ can lead them in their own lands. ‘Neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem’ (John 4:21) is the appointed place. The spiritual gathering into one (John 11:52) is not the idea conveyed here.

γενήσεται μία ποίμνη, εἷς ποιμήν. They shall become one flock, one shepherd. The distinction between ‘be’ and ‘become’ is worth preserving (see on John 9:27; John 9:39), and that between ‘flock’ and ‘fold’ still more so. ‘There shall become one fold’ would imply that at present there are more than one: but nothing is said of any other fold. In both these instances our translators have rejected their better predecessors: Tyndale and Coverdale have ‘flock,’ not ‘fold;’ the Geneva Version has ‘be made,’ not ‘be.’ The old Latin texts have ovile for αὐλή and grex for ποίμνη; so Cyprian and (sometimes) Augustine. The Vulgate has ovile for both. Hence Wiclif has ‘fold’ for both; and this error was admitted into the Great Bible of 1539 and A.V. of 1611. One point in the Greek cannot be preserved in English, the cognate similarity between ποίμνη and ποιμήν. ‘One herd, one herdsman’ would involve more loss than gain. ‘One flock, one flock-master’ would do, if ‘flock-master’ were in common use. But the rendering of ποίμνη by ovile and ‘fold’ is all loss, and has led to calamitous misunderstanding by strengthening ‘the wall of partition’ (Ephesians 2:14), which this passage declares shall be broken down. Even O.T. Prophets seem to have had a presentiment that other nations would share in the blessings of the Messiah: Micah 4:2; Isaiah 52:15. The same thought appears frequently in the Synoptists; e.g. Matthew 8:11; Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 28:19; Luke 13:29. And if S. Matthew could appreciate this side of his Master’s teaching, how much more S. John, who had lived to see the success of missions to the heathen and the results of the destruction of Jerusalem. It is therefore unreasonable to urge the universalism of the Fourth Gospel as an argument against its authenticity. Here, as elsewhere in N.T., the prior claim of the Jews is admitted, their exclusive claim is denied.

Verse 17

17. διὰ τοῦτο. For this cause: see on John 5:16, John 7:21. The Father’s love for the incarnate Son is intensified by the self-sacrifice of the Son, which was a προσφορὰ κ. θυσία τῷ θεῷ εἰς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας (Ephesians 5:2).

ἵνα π. λάβω αὐ. In order that I may take it again. This clause is closely connected with the preceding one, ἵνα depending upon ὅτι κ.τ.λ. Christ died in order to rise again; and only because Christ was to take His human life again was His death such as the Father could have approved. Had the Son returned to heaven at the Crucifixion leaving His humanity on the Cross, the salvation of mankind would not have been won, the sentence of death would not have been reversed, we should be ‘yet in our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:17). Moreover, in that case He would have ceased to be the Good Shepherd: He would have become like the hireling, casting aside his duty before it was completed. The office of the True Shepherd is not finished until all mankind become His flock; and this work continues from the Resurrection to the Day of Judgment.

Verse 18

18. οὐδεὶς αἴρει. No one taketh it from Me; not even God. See on John 10:28. Two points are insisted on; [1] that the Death is entirely voluntary: this is stated both negatively and positively: see on John 1:3; [2] that both Death and Resurrection are in accordance with a commission received from the Father. Comp. ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit’ (Luke 23:46). The precise words used by the two Apostles of Christ’s death bring this out very clearly; παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα (John 19:30); ἀφῆκεν τ. πν. (Matthew 27:50). The ἐξέπνευσεν of S. Mark and S. Luke is less strong; but none use the simple ἀπέθανεν. Ἐγώ is emphatic; but I lay it down of Myself.

ἐξουσίαν ἔχω. I have right, authority, liberty: John 1:12, John 5:27, John 17:2, John 19:10. This authority is the commandment of the Father: and hence this passage in no way contradicts the usual N.T. doctrine that Christ was raised to life again by the Father. Acts 2:24.

τ. τ. ἐντολήν. The command to die and rise again, which He ‘received’ at the Incarnation. Comp. John 4:34, John 5:30, John 6:38.

Verse 19

19. σχίσμα πάλιν ἐγ. There arose (John 1:6) a division (John 7:43) again among the Jews, as among the Pharisees about the blind man (John 9:16), and among the multitude at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:43). Here we see that some even of the hostile party are impressed, and doubt the correctness of their position: comp. John 11:45.

τ. λόγους τ. These words or discourses (sermones), whereas ῥήματα (John 10:21) are the separate sayings or utterances (verba): τ. λόγους is the larger expression.

Verses 19-21


Verse 20

20. δαιμ. ἔχει. See last note on John 8:48 and comp. John 7:20.

τί αὐ. ἀκ. They are uneasy at the impression produced by these discourses and seek to discredit their Author,—‘poisoning the wells.’

δαιμονιζ. Of one possessed with a demon. see on John 3:34.

μὴ δ. δ. Surely a demon cannot: comp. John 10:40. A demon might work a miracle, like the Egyptian magicians, but not so great and so beneficent a miracle as this (comp. John 9:16). But here they stop: they declare what He cannot be; they do not see, or will not admit, what He must be.

Verse 22

22. ἐγένετο δὲ τ. ἐγκ. This is the reading of א A D X and the bulk of MSS., with the Syriac and some old Latin texts: the best Latin texts have neither τότε nor δέ: the Memphitic gives both τότε and δέ. It is possible that -το δε produced τοτε. Now there took place at Jerusalem the Feast of the Dedication: see on John 2:13. The mention of a feast of so modern and local an origin and of ‘Solomon’s Porch’ indicate a Jewish writer familiar with Jerusalem. The vivid description (χειμών, περεπάτει, ἐκύκλωσαν, &c) and the firm grasp of the strained situation indicate an eyewitness. The Feast of Dedication might be celebrated anywhere, and the pointed insertion of ‘at Jerusalem’ seems to suggest that in the interval between John 10:21 and John 10:22 Christ had been away from the city. It was kept in honour of the purification and restoration of the Temple (B.C. 164) after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes; 1 Maccabees 1:20-60; 1 Maccabees 4:36-59 (note esp. 1 Maccabees 4:36 and 1 Maccabees 4:59); 2 Maccabees 10:1-8. Another name for it was ‘the Lights,’ or ‘Feast of Lights,’ from the illuminations with which it was celebrated. Christian dedication festivals are its lineal descendants.

χειμὼν ἧν. For the asyndeton (the καί of T. R. is not genuine) comp. ὥρα ἦν ὡς ἕκτη (John 4:6, John 19:14). Perhaps χειμὼν ἦν to be connected with what follows rather than with what precedes: It was winter, and Jesus was walking, &c. Certainly the words explain why He was teaching under cover, and are not a mere note of time. We are in doubt whether they refer to the winter season (2 Timothy 4:21), or to the stormy weather (Matthew 16:3; Acts 27:20). The latter seems preferable. [1] The Feast of Dedication always began Kisleu 25th, i.e. late in December, so that there was no need to add ‘it was winter,’ although S. John might naturally state the fact for Gentile readers. [2] ἧν δὲ νύξ (John 13:30) is almost certainly added to symbolize the moral darkness into which the traitor went out. Perhaps here also χειμὼν ἧν is added as symbolical of the storm of doubt, passion and hostility in the midst of which Christ was teaching. see on John 18:1.

Verses 22-38


Again we seem to have a gap in the narrative. Between John 10:21-22 (but see below) there is an interval of about two months; for the Feast of Tabernacles would be about the middle of October, and that of the Dedication towards the end of December. In this interval some would place Luke 10:1 to Luke 13:21. If this be correct, we may connect the sending out of the Seventy both with the Feast of Tabernacles and also with John 10:16. Seventy was the traditional number of the nations of the earth: and for the nations 70 bullocks were offered at the Feast of Tabernacles—13 on the first day, 12 on the second, 11 on the third, and so on. The Seventy were sent out to gather in the nations; for they were not forbidden, as the Twelve were, to go into the way of the Gentiles or to enter any city of the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). The Twelve were primarily for the twelve tribes; the Seventy for the Gentiles. The words ‘other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must lead,’ must have been spoken just before the mission of the Seventy.

Dr Westcott, on the strength of the strongly attested (B L 33 and the Thebaic and Armenian Versions) ἐγένετο τότε τὰ ἐγκ., At that time there took place the F. of the Dedication, would connect chaps. 9 and John 10:1-21 with this later Feast rather than with Tabernacles. In this case the interval of two months must be placed between chaps. 8 and 9

Is it possible that τὰ ἐγκαίνια here means the Dedication of Solomon’s Temple, which took place at the Feast of Tabernacles (1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chronicles 5:8)? If so, there is no gap in the narrative. Ἐγκαίνια is used in LXX. of the Dedication of the second Temple (Ezra 6:16), and ἐγκαινίζω is used of the first Temple (1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles 7:5). At the Feast of Tabernacles some commemoration of the establishment of a permanent centre of national worship would be natural.

Verse 23

23. ἐν τ. στ. Σ.] This was a cloister or colonnade in the Temple-Courts, apparently on the east side. Tradition said that it was a part of the original building which had survived the various destructions. No such cloister is mentioned in the account of Solomon’s Temple, and perhaps the name was derived from the wall against which it was built. It is mentioned again Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12 as the recognised place of worship for the first disciples. Foundations still remaining may belong to it. For ἱερόν see on John 2:14; John 2:19.

Verse 24

24. ἐκυκλ. οὗν] The Jews therefore compassed Him about (Luke 21:20; Hebrews 11:30; Revelation 20:9) and kept saying to Him. For change of tense comp. John 4:27; John 4:30. They encircled Him in an urgent manner, indicating that they were determined to have an answer. ‘Therefore’ means ‘because of the good opportunity.’

ἕως πότε κ.τ.λ.] How long dost Thou excite our mind, or hold our mind in suspense? If Thou art the Christ tell us with openness (see on John 7:13). They put a point-blank question, as the Sanhedrin do at the Passion (Luke 22:67). Their motives for urging this were no doubt mixed, and the same motive was not predominant in each case. Some were hovering between faith and hostility and (forgetting John 8:13) fancied that an explicit declaration from Him might help them. Others asked mainly out of curiosity: He had interested them greatly, and they wanted His own account of Himself. The worst wished for a plain statement which might form material for an accusation: they wanted Him to commit Himself.

Verse 25

25. εἶπονπιστεύετε. The change of tense is significant: His declaration is past; their unbelief still continues. To a few, the woman at the well, the man born blind, and the Apostles, Jesus had explicitly declared Himself to be the Messiah; to all He had implicitly declared Himself by His works and teaching.

τὰ ἔργα. see on John 5:20; John 5:36 : all the details of His Messianic work. Ἐγώ is an emphatic answer to the preceding σύ (‘If Thou art the Christ’), and to the following ὑμεῖς: ταῦτα also is emphatic; ‘the works which I do … they … but ye believe not.’ For this retrospective use of οὗτος see on John 3:32.

Verse 26

26 Omit. καθὼς εἶπον ὑμῖν with אBKLM1.

Verse 27

27. ‘I know Mine, and Mine know Me’ (John 10:14). Winer, p. 646.

Verses 27-28

27, 28. Note the simple but very impressive coupling of the clauses merely by καί and comp. John 10:3; John 10:12. The series forms a climax and seems to fall into two triplets, as A. V., rather than three pairs.

Verse 28

28. δίδωμι. Not δώσω. Here as in John 3:15, John 5:24 and often, the gift of eternal life is regarded as already possessed by the faithful. It is not a promise, the fulfilment of which depends upon man’s conduct, but a gift, the retention of which depends upon ourselves.

οὐ μὴ ἀπόλ. εἰς τ. αἰ. Literally, Shall certainly not perish for ever: see on John 8:51. The negative belongs to ἀπόλωνται, not to εἰς τ. αἰ., and the meaning is, they shall never perish, not ‘they may perish, but shall not perish eternally:’ comp. John 11:26; Romans 8:38-39.

καὶ οὐχ ἁρπ. And no one shall snatch them. ‘No one’ rather than ‘no man’ (as in John 10:18) for the powers of darkness are excluded as well as human seducers. ‘Snatch’ rather than ‘pluck,’ for it is the same word as is used of the wolf in John 10:12, and this should be preserved in translation.

This passage in no way asserts the indefectibility of the elect, and gives no countenance to ultra-predestinarian views. Christ’s sheep cannot be taken from Him against their will; but their will is free, and they may choose to leave the flock.

χειρός. “His hand protects, bears, cherishes, leads them” (Meyer).

Verse 29

29. δέδωκεν. see on John 3:35 and comp. John 17:6; John 17:24. That which the Father hath given Me is greater than all. The unity of the Church is invincible. But the reading is doubtful: ὃ δ. μ. μεῖζον has the most ancient authority (B1, old Latin, Memphitic) and agrees with John 6:39, John 17:2 : the common reading, ὃς δ. μ. μείζων, and ὁ δεδωκώς μ. μείζων (D), are obvious corrections: that of א L, ὃ δ. μ. μείζων, is impossible: that of AB2X, ὃς δ. μ. μεῖζον, is easy and may be right; My Father who gave them to Me is a greater power than all (comp. Matthew 12:6).

ἐκ τ. χ. τ. πατρός] Emphatic repetition of πατήρ: ἐκ τ. χ. αὐτοῦ would have sufficed. ‘The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them’ (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1): comp. Deuteronomy 33:3; Isaiah 49:2; Isaiah 51:16.

Verse 30

30. ἐγὼ κ. ὁ π. ἕν ἐσμεν. I and the Father are one; one Substance, not one Person (εἶς). Comp. John 17:22-23, and contrast ἅπαντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς εἶς ἐστε ἐν χρ. .,—‘are one man, one conscious agent’ (Galatians 3:28); and τοὺς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν ἑαυτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον (Ephesians 2:15). Christ has just implied that His hand and the Father’s hand are one, which implies that He and the Father are one; and this He now asserts. They are one in power, in will, and in action: this at the very least the words must mean; the Arian interpretation of mere moral agreement is inadequate. Whether or no Unity of Substance is actually stated here, it is certainly implied, as the Jews see. They would stone Him for making Himself God, which He would not have done had He not asserted or implied that He and the Father were one in Substance, not merely in will. And Christ does not correct them, as assuredly He would have done, had their animosity arisen out of a gross misapprehension of His words. Comp. Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:3. S. Augustine is therefore right in stating that ἐσμέν refutes Sabellius, who denied the distinction, while ἕν refutes Arius, who denied the equality, between the Father and the Son. Comp. Tert. adv. Prax. 22; Hippol. c. Noet. 7.

Verse 31

31. ἐβάστ. πάλιν. They prepare to act on Leviticus 24:16 (comp. 1 Kings 21:10). Πάλιν refers to John 8:59, where we have ἧραν for ἐβάστασαν. The latter implies more effort; ‘lifted up, bore:’ but we cannot be sure whether it refers to raising from the ground or to carrying from a distance. The change from ἵνα βάλωσιν ἐπ' αὐτόν to ἵνα λιθάσωσιν αὐτόν, as from ἧραν to ἐβάστασαν may indicate that this was a more deliberate attempt to carry out the law of blasphemy. S. John uses the classical λιθάζειν (John 10:32-33, John 11:8), whereas the Synoptists use the LXX. word λιθοβολεῖν (Matthew 21:35; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). In the Acts both words occur (Acts 5:26, Acts 7:58).

Verse 32

32. ἀπεκρίθη. Just as the Jews ‘answered’ His act of cleansing the Temple (John 2:18), Jesus ‘answered’ their act of preparing to stone: comp. John 5:17. The act in each case involved an assertion.

ἔργα καλά. Works morally beautiful, noble and excellent (John 10:14). Comp. καλῶς πάντα πεποίηκε (Mark 7:37) and εἶδεν ὁ θεὸς ὅτι καλόν (Genesis 1:8; Genesis 1:10; Genesis 1:12, &c.). The noble works (John 5:20; John 5:36) proceed from the Father and are manifested by the Son.

ἔδειξα. Divine works are exhibitions of goodness, ‘signs’ of something above and beyond them.

διὰ ποῖον αὐ. ἔρ. Literally, for what kind of work among these; i.e. ‘what is the character of the work for which ye are in the act of stoning me?’ It was precisely the character of the works which shewed that they were Divine, as some of them were disposed to think (John 10:21, John 7:26). Comp. Matthew 22:36, where the literal meaning is, ‘what kind of a commandment is great in the law?,’ and 1 Corinthians 15:35, ‘with what kind of body do they come?’ see on John 12:33, John 18:32, John 21:19. The ἐμέ is emphatic, ‘Me, the Representative and Interpreter of the Father.’ For the present tense see Winer, p. 332.

Verse 33

33. περὶ κ. ἔρ. Concerning a good work: ‘That is not the subject-matter of our charge.’ Comp. John 8:46, John 16:8; 1 John 2:2.

καὶ ὃτι. Καί is epexegetic, explaining wherein the blasphemy consisted: it does not introduce a second charge. see on John 8:53.

Verse 34

34. ἔστιν γεγραμμένον. see on John 2:17.

ἐν τ. νόμῳ ὑμ. As in John 12:34, John 15:25 ‘the Law’ is used in its widest sense for the whole of O. T. In all three places the reference is to the Psalms: comp. Romans 3:19; 1 Corinthians 14:21. Ὑμῶν means, ‘for which you profess to have such a regard:’ comp. John 8:17.

ἐγὼ εἶπα, θεοί ἐστε. The argument is both à fortiori and ad hominem. In the Scriptures (Psalms 82:6) even unjust rulers are called ‘gods’ on the principle of the theocracy, that rulers are the representatives of God (comp. Exodus 22:8). If this is admissible without blasphemy, how much more may He call Himself ‘Son of God.’

Verses 34-38

34–38. Christ answers a formal charge of blasphemy by a formal argument on the other side.

Verse 35

35. εἰ ἐκ. εἶ. θ. Probably, If it called them gods, viz. the Law. ‘Them’ is left unexplained; a Jewish audience would at once know who were meant. But how incredible that any but a Jew should think of such an argument, or put it in this brief way! These last eight verses alone are sufficient to discredit the theory that this Gospel is the work of a Greek Gnostic in the second century.

ὁ λόγος τ. θ. Practically the same as ‘the Scripture;’ i.e. the word of God in these passages of Scripture. The Word in the theological sense for the Son is not meant: this term appears nowhere in the narrative part of S. John’s Gospel. But of course it was through the Word, not yet incarnate, that God revealed His will to His people.

οὐ δ. λυθῆναι. Literally, ‘cannot be undone’ or ‘unloosed.’ The same word is rendered ‘unloose’ (John 1:27), ‘destroy’ (John 2:19; 1 John 3:8), ‘break’ (John 5:18 and John 7:23), ‘loose’ (John 11:44). John 1:27 and John 11:44 are literal, of actual unbinding; the others are figurative, of dissolution or unbinding as a form of destruction. Here either metaphor, dissolution or unbinding, would be appropriate; either, ‘cannot be explained away, made to mean nothing;’ or, ‘cannot be deprived of its binding authority.’ The latter seems better. The clause depends upon ‘if,’ and is not parenthetical; ‘if the Scripture cannot be broken.’ As in John 2:22, John 17:12, John 20:9, ἡ γραφή probably means a definite passage. Comp. John 7:38; John 7:42, John 13:18, John 17:12, John 19:24; John 19:28; John 19:36-37. Scripture as a whole is called αἱ γραφαί; John 5:39.

Verse 36

36. δν ὁ π. ἡγ. Of Him whom the Father sanctified: in emphatic opposition to ‘them unto whom the word of God came.’ Men on whom God’s word has conferred a fragment of delegated authority may be called ‘gods’ (Elohim) without scruple; He, whom the Father Himself sanctified and sent, may not be called Son of God (no article before ‘Son’) without blasphemy. By ‘sanctified’ is meant something analogous to the consecration of Jeremiah before his birth for the work of a Prophet (Jeremiah 1:5). Comp. Sirach 45:4 (Moses), Sirach 49:7 (Jeremiah); 1 Maccabees 1:25 (the Chosen People). When the Son was sent into the world He was consecrated for the work of the Messiah, and endowed with the fulness of grace and truth (see on John 1:14), the fulness of power (John 3:35), the fulness of life (John 5:26). In virtue of this Divine sanctification He becomes ‘the Holy One of God’ (John 6:69; Luke 4:34). see on John 17:17; John 17:19, the only other passages in S. John’s writings where the word occurs.

ὑμεῖς λέγετε. Ὑμεῖς, with great emphasis; ‘Do ye, in opposition to the Scripture, dare to say?’

Verse 37

37. εἰ οὐ ποιῶ. Not εἰ μή, because the negative belongs to ποιῶ, not to the sentence; if I omit to do: John 3:12, John 5:47; Revelation 20:15. Comp. Soph. Ajax, 1131. Winer, pp. 599, 600.

μὴ πιστ. μοι. A literal command: if His works are not those which His Father works, they ought not (not merely have no need) even to believe what He says (see on John 6:30), much less believe on Him (see on John 1:12). Comp. John 5:24; John 5:46, John 8:31; John 8:45, John 14:11. His works are His Father’s (John 9:3, John 14:10).

Verses 37-38

37, 38. Having met their technical charge in a technical manner He now justifies the assertion of His unity with the Father by an appeal to His works. Deum non vides, tamen Deum agnoscis ex operibus ejus (Cicero).

Verse 38

38. τ. ἔργοις π. ‘Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed’ (John 20:29); but it is better to have the faith that comes with sight than none at all. Thus we have four stages: 1. believing the works; 2. believing Him on account of the works (John 14:11); 3. believing on Him (John 8:30); 4. abiding in His word (John 8:31).

The true position of miracles among the Evidences of Christianity is clearly stated here and John 14:11. They are not primary, as Paley would have it, but secondary and auxiliary. Christ’s doctrine bears the evidence of its Divine origin in itself.

ἵνα γνῶτε κ. γινώσκητε. That ye may come to know and continually know; attain to knowledge and advance in knowledge in contrast to their state of suspense (John 10:24): the aorist denotes the single act, the present the permanent growth. The apparent awkwardness of having the same verb twice in the same clause has probably caused a large number of authorities to substitute πιστεύσητε in the second case. But the change of tense is full of meaning, especially in reference to the Jews. Many of them attained to a momentary conviction that He was the Messiah (John 2:23, John 6:14-15, John 7:41, John 8:30, John 10:42, John 11:45); very few of them went beyond a transitory conviction (John 2:24, John 6:66, John 8:31).

κἀγὼ ἐν τ. πατρί. An instance of the solemnity and emphasis derived from repetition so frequent in this Gospel.

Verse 39

39. ἐζήτουν οὖν πάλιν. Both οὖν and πάλιν are of somewhat uncertain authority: the termination of ἐζήτουν might cause the omission of οὖν. Πάλιν. refers to John 7:30; John 7:32; John 7:44, and shews that πιάσαι (see on John 7:30) means ‘arrest Him’ for the Sanhedrin, not ‘take Him’ and stone Him.

ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ. Went forth out of. There being nothing in the text to shew that His departure was miraculous, it is safest (as in John 8:59, where also ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ occurs) to suppose that there was no miracle. He withdrew through the less hostile among those who encircled Him, while the others were making up their minds how to apprehend Him. The majesty of innocence suffices to protect Him, His hour not having come. They cannot snatch His sheep out of His hand (John 10:28), but He goes forth out of their hand.

Verses 39-42


Verse 40

40. πάλιν π. τ. . Referring back to John 1:28. The hostility of the hierarchy being invincible and becoming more and more dangerous, Jesus retires into Peraea for quiet and safety before His Passion. This interval was between three and four months, from the latter part of December to the middle of April. Comp. Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1. But some portion of this time was spent at Ephraim (John 11:54) after going to Bethany in Judaea to raise Lazarus. Nothing is told us as to how much time was given to Bethany or Bethabara in Peraea, how much to Ephraim.

τὸ πρῶτον. John afterwards baptized at Aenon (John 3:23).

Verses 40-42

40–42. “The chapter ends with a note of place which is evidently and certainly historical. No forger would ever have thought of the periphrasis ‘where John at first baptized’ … ‘John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.’ It would be impossible to find a stronger incidental proof that the author of the Gospel had been originally a disciple of the Baptist, or at least his contemporary, and also that he is writing of things that he had heard and seen. A Gnostic, writing in Asia Minor, even though he had come into relation with disciples of John, would not have introduced the Baptist in this way. In circles that had been affected by the Baptist’s teaching, and were hesitating whether they should attach themselves to Jesus, this is precisely the sort of comment that would be heard” (Sanday).

Verse 41

41. πολλοὶ ἦλθον. The harvest (John 4:35-38). The testimony of the Baptist, and perhaps the miraculous voice at Christ’s Baptism, were still remembered there. Since then there had been the mission of the Seventy and Christ’s own work in Galilee.

ἕλεγον. Kept saying or used to say: it was a common remark.

σ. ἐποίησεν οὐδέν. This is indirect evidence of the genuineness of the miracles recorded of Christ. It is urged that if Jesus had wrought no miracles, they would very possibly have been attributed to Him after His death. Let us grant this; and at the same time it must be granted that the same holds good to a very great extent of the Baptist. The enthusiasm which he awakened, as a Prophet appearing after a weary interval of four centuries, was immense. Miracles would have been eagerly believed of him, the second Elijah, and would be likely enough to be attributed to him. But more than half a century after his death we have one of his own disciples quite incidentally telling us that ‘John did no sign;’ and there is no rival tradition to the contrary. All traditions attribute miracles to Jesus.

ἐκεῖ. Last for emphasis. There, in contrast to Jerusalem which had rejected Him, many believed on Him (John 1:12), not merely believed His words (John 10:37-38).

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 10". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.