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ALLEGORY OF JOHN X.
are sufficiently explained by the writer himself, and ought not, in interpretation, to be pressed into all possible details of comparison which corresponding portions of ancient armour might be made to suggest. Here, as in Isa. lix, 17, righteousness is represented as a breastplate, but in 1 Thess. v, 8, faith and love are thus depicted. Here the helmet is salvation—a present consciousness of salvation in Christ as an actual possession—but in 1 Thess. v, 8 it is the hope of salvation. Each allusion must be carefully studied in the light of its own context, and not be too widely referred. For the same figure may be used at different times for different purposes.'
The complex allegory of the door of the sheep and of the good shepherd, in John x, 1-16, is in the main simple and self- Allegory of interpreting. But as it involves the twofold comparison John x, 1-16. of Christ as the door and the good shepherd, and has other allusions of diverse character, its interpretation requires particular care, lest the main figures become confused, and non-essential points be made too prominent. The passage should be divided into two parts, and it should be noted that the first five verses are a pure allegory, containing no explanation within itself. It is observed, in verse 6, that the allegory (Trapoquia) was not understood by those to whom it was addressed. Thereupon Jesus proceeded (verses 7-16) not only to explain it, but also to expand it by the addition of other images. He makes it emphatic that he himself is “the door of the sheep,” but adds further on that he is the good shepherd, ready to give his life for the sheep, and thus distinguished from the hireling who forsakes the flock and flees in the hour of danger.
The allegory stands in vital relation to the history of the blind man who was cast out of the synagogue by the Pharisees, but graciously received by Jesus. The occasion and scope of the scope of the whole passage cannot be clearly apprehended allegory. without keeping this connexion constantly in mind. Jesus first
Meyer appropriately observes: "The figurative mode of regarding a subject can by no means, with a mind so many-sided, rich, and versatile as that of St. Paul, be so stereotyped that the very same thing which he has here viewed under the figure of the protecting breastplate, must have presented itself another time under this very same figure. Thus, for example, there appears to him, as an offering well pleasing to God, at one time Christ (Eph. v, 2), at another the gifts of love received (Phil. iv, 18), at another time the bodies of Christians (Rom. xii, 1); under the figure of the seedcorn, at one time the body becoming buried (1 Cor. xv, 36), at another time the moral conduct (Gal. vi, 7); under the figure of the leaven, once moral corruption (1 Cor. v, 6), another time doctrinal corruption (Gal. v, 9); under the figure of clothing which is put on, once the new man (Eph. iv, 24), another time Christ (Gal. iii, 27), at another time the body (2 Cor. v, 3), and other similar instances.”—Critical Commentary on Ephesians, in loco,
contrasts himself, as the door of the sheep, with those who acted rather the part of thieves and robbers of the flock. Then, when the Pharisees fail to understand him, he partly explains his meaning, and goes on to contrast himself, as the good shepherd, with those who had no genuine care for the sheep committed to their charge, but, at the coming of the wolf, would leave them and flee. At verse 17 he drops the figure, and speaks of his willingness to lay down his life, and of his power to take it again. Thus the whole passage should be studied in the light of that pharisaical opposition to Christ which showed itself to be selfish and self-seeking, and ready to do violence when met with opposition. These pharisaical Jews, who assumed to hold the doors of the synagogue, and had agreed to thrust out any that confessed Jesus as the Christ (chap. ix, 22), were no better than thieves and robbers of God's flock. Against these the allegory was aimed.
Keeping in view this occasion and scope of the allegory, we next Import of par- inquire into the meaning of its principal allusions. ticular parts. “The fold of the sheep" is the Church of God's people, who are here represented as his sheep. Christ himself is the door, as he emphatically affirms (verses 7, 9), and every true shepherd, teacher, and guide of God's people should recognize him as the only way and means of entering into the fold. Shepherd and sheep alike should enter through this door. “He that enters in through the door is a shepherdof the sheep” (ver. 2); not a thief, nor a robber, nor a stranger (ver. 5). He is well known to all who have any charge of the fold, and his voice is familiar to the sheep. A stranger's voice, on the contrary, is a cause of alarm and flight." Such, indeed, were the action and words of those Jewish officials toward the man who had received his sight. He perceived in their words and manner that which was strange and alien to the truth of God (see chap. ix, 30-33).
So far all seems clear, but we should be less positive in finding other special meanings. The porter, or doorkeeper (Yvpwpós, ver. 3), has been explained variously, as denoting God (Calvin, Bengel, Tholuck), or the Holy Spirit (Theodoret, Stier, Alford, Lange), or even Christ (Cyril, Augustine), or Moses (Chrysostom), or John Baptist, (Godet). But it is better not to give the word any such
Not the shepherd, as the English version renders moeuñv here. This has led to a mixture of figures by supposing Christ to be referred to. In this first simple allegory Christ is only the door ; further on, where the figure is explained, and then enlarged, he appears also as the good shepherd (verses 11, 14).
? For a description of the habits and customs of oriental shepherds, see especially, Thomson, The Land and t Book, vol. i, p. 301. New York, 1868.
ALLEGORY OF JOHN X.
remarkable prominence in the interpretation. The porter is rather an inferior servant of the shepherd. He opens the door to him when he comes, and is supposed to obey his orders. We should, therefore, treat this word as an incidental feature of the allegory, legitimate and essential to the figure, but not to be pressed into any special significance. The distinction made by some between the sheep” and “his own sheep” in verse 3, by supposing that several flocks were accustomed to occupy one fold, and the sheep of each particular flock, which had a separate shepherd, are to be understood by “his own sheep,” may be allowed, but ought not to be urged. It is as well to understand the calling his own sheep by name as simply a special allusion to the eastern custom of giving particular names to favourite sheep. But we may with propriety understand the leading them out (égayet aútá, ver. 3), and putting forth all his own (tà idia Trávta ÉKBáły, ver. 4), as an intimation of the exodus of God's elect and faithful ones from the fold of the old Testament theocracy. This view is maintained by Lange and Godet, and is suggested and warranted by the words of Jesus in verses 14–16.
The language of Jesus in defining his allegory and expanding its imagery (verses 7–16) is in some points enigmatical.
Jesus' explanaFor he would not make things too plain to those who, tion somewhat
enigmatical. like the Pharisees, assumed to see and know so much (comp. chap. ix, 39-41), and he uses the strong words, which seem to be purposely obscure: “All as many as came before me are thieves and robbers” (ver. 8). He would prompt special inquiry and concern as to what might be meant by coming before him, a procedure so wrong that he likens it to the stealth of a thief and the rapacity of a robber. Most natural is it to understand the coming before me, in verse 8, as corresponding with the climbing up some other way, in verse 1, and meaning an entrance into the fold other than through the door. But it is manifestly aimed at those who, like these Pharisees, by their action and attitude, assumed to be lords of the theocracy, and used both deceit and violence to accomplish their own will. Hence it would seem but proper to give the words before me (Trpò fuoũ, ver. 8) a somewhat broad and general significance, and not press them, as many do, into the one sole idea of a precedence in time. The preposition Trpó is often used of place, as before the doors, before the gate, before the city (comp. Acts v, 23; xii, 6, 14; xiv, 13) and may here combine with the temporal reference of nagov, came, the further idea of position in front of the door. These Pharisees came as teachers and guides of the people, and in such conduct as that of casting out the man born
blind, they placed themselves in front of the true door, shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men, and neither entering themselves nor allowing others to enter through that door (comp. Matt. xxiii, 13). All this Jesus may have intended by the enigmatical came before me. Accordingly, the various explanations, as "instead of me," " without regard to me," "passing by me,” and “pressing before me,” have all a measure of correctness. The expression is to be interpreted, as Lange urges, with special reference to the figure of the door. “The meaning is, All who came before the door (Tpò tñs Núpas 1100v). With the idea of passing by the door this other is connected: the setting of themselves up for the door; that is, all who came claiming rule over the conscience as spiritual lords. The time of their coming is indicated to be already past by the ήλθον, not however by the πρό, forasmuch as the positive πρό does not coincide with the temporal one. ... At the same time emphasis is given to the nadov. They came as though the Messiah had come; there was no room left for him. It is not necessary that we should confine our thought to those who were false Messiahs in the stricter sense of the term, since the majority of these did not appear until after Christ. Every hierarch prior to Christ was pseudoMessianic in proportion as he was anti-Christian; and to covet rule over the conscience of men is pseudo-Christian. Be it further observed that the thieves and robbers, who climb over the wall, appear in this verse with the assumption of a higher power. They stand no longer in their naked selfishness, they lay claim to positive importance, and that not merely as shepherds, but as the door itself. Thus the hierarchs had just been attempting to exercise rule over the man who was born blind.” 1
The import of the other allusions and statements of this passage is sufficiently clear, but in a thorough and elaborate treatment of the whole subject the student should compare the similar allegories which are found in Jer. xxiii, 1-4; Exek. xxxiv; Zech. xi, 4-17; and also the twenty-third Psalm. So also the allegory of the vine and its branches, John xv, 1-10-an allegory like that of the door and the shepherd peculiar to John-may be profitably compared
Lange's Commentary on John, in loco.
According to Lange (on John xv, 1) “Jesus' discourse concerning the vine is neither an allegory nor a parable, but a parabolic discourse, and that a symbolical one.” But this is an over-refinement, and withal, misleading. The figures oi some allegories may be construed as symbols, and allegory and parable may have much in
But this figure of the vine, illustrating the vital and organic union between Christ and believers, has every essential quality of the allegory, and contains its own interpretation within itself.
and contrasted with the psalmist's allegory of the vine (Psa. Ixxx, 8–15) which we have already noticed.
The allegorizing process by which Paul, in Gal. iv, 21-31, makes Hagar and Sarah illustrate two covenants, is an excep- Paul's allegory tional New Testament instance of developing a mysti- in Gal. iv, 21. cal meaning from facts of Old Testament history. Paul exceptional. elsewhere (Rom. vii, 1–6) illustrates the believer's release from the law, and union with Christ, by means of the law of marriage, according to which a woman, upon the death of her husband, is discharged from (katń yntal) the law which bound her to him alone, and is at liberty to become united to another man. In 2 Cor. iii, 13–16, he contrasts the open boldness (Tappnoia) of the Gospel preaching with the veil which Moses put on his face purposely to conceal for the time the transitory character of the Old Testament ministration which then appeared so glorious, but was, nevertheless, destined to pass away like the glory of his own God-lit face. He also, in the same passage, makes the veil a symbol of the incapacity of Israel's heart to apprehend the Lord Christ. The passage of the Red Sea, and the rock in the desert from which the water flowed, are recognized as types of spiritual things (1 Cor. x, 1-4; comp. 1 Peter üi, 21). But all these illustrations from the Old Testament differ essentially from the allegory of the two covenants. Paul himself, by the manner and style in which he introduces it, evidently feels that his argument is exceptional and peculiar, and being addressed especially to those who boasted of their attachment to the law, it has the nature of an argumentum ad hominem,
“ At the conclusion of the theoretical portion of his epistle," says Meyer, “Paul adds a quite peculiar antinomistic disquisition—a learned rabbinico-allegorical argument derived from the law itself-calculated to annihilate the influence of the pseudo-apostles with their own weapons, and to root them out of their own ground."
We observe that the apostle, first of all, states the historical facts, as written in the Book of Genesis, namely, that Abraham was the father of two sons, one by the bond wom- accepted as litan, the other by the free woman; the son of the bond- erally true. maid was born Karà oápka, according to flesh, i. e., according to the ordinary course of nature, but the son of the free woman was born through promise, and, as the Scripture shows (Gen. xvii, 19; xviii, 10-14), by miraculous interposition. He further on brings in the rabbinical tradition founded on Gen. xxi, 9, that Ishmael persecuted (ěšíwke, ver. 29) Isaac, perhaps having in mind also some subsequent aggressions of the Ishmaelites upon Israel, and then adds the words
Critical Commentary on Galatians, in loco.