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JRP's Exegetical Commentary: John 10:22-28

This is part of my Exegetical Commentary series which I’m slllooowwwwly posting up here.

Note: I’m mostly done with this entry, but I plan to keep expanding contexts back earlier into GosJohn 10.

This incident is part of Calv (and soft Arm) testimony for the assurance that Christ will certainly succeed in saving the people in His flock. But sometimes it is cited against the assurance of evangelical scope (by Calvs), or against the assurance of evangelical victory (by Arms), due to Christ’s statement to certain Jews (by prior referential context, certain Pharisees who had originally been supporting Him until He warned them not to be spiritually proud), that they do not believe Him because they are not His flock: and if they are not His flock, then how could they be saved even by God? To which Calvs will add that He never intended for them to be among His flock, and so thus never even intended, much less acted, for them to come to honor and glorify and loyally serve Him, but rather intended for them to ultimately blaspheme and dishonor Him instead. (Calvs will rarely spell this out in detail, with the Father and the Son and the Spirit giving each other ultimate dishonor and blasphemy by intentionally creating and sustaining such creatures and giving such dishonoring creatures to each other, whether as a gift forever or as a gift to be annihilated! – but the logic of their position ends up like this.)

The first thing to note is that the term here, as practically everywhere else, is {probaton} and so refers to any small flock animal, not to sheep exclusively; which is only important when commentators and exegetes try to force a distinction between “sheep” and “goats” here. The distinction Jesus talks about, is whether someone is in His flock or not, not whether they are (baby!) goats compared to the rest of the flock.

Second, there is no testimony here about Christ choosing for some people to be in or out of His flock, much less choosing for some people to be given eonian life or not. That idea isn’t immediately contradicted by this scene, but at best the idea is being read in by Calvs from testimony somewhere else. They shouldn’t appeal to this scene as primary evidence for the position.

Third, the verb being usually translated in English as “you are not believing” (or something to do with belief), is as usual {pisteuô}, which can refer to mere belief but which in the scriptures has more to do with trust. It’s in present active form, {pisteuete}, so what Christ is saying (by John’s report, probably translated from Aramaic into Greek for his text), is that they are actively not trusting Him at the present time. Why? The conjunction {hoti} can refer to causation of effects, or to logical ground/consequence (just like our “because” either way), or as a demonstrative comparison. So it could mean that the effect of not trusting Him comes as a cause from them not being currently His flock; or it could mean that not trusting Him is demonstrative evidence that they are not currently of His flock. (To be fair, this verbal emphasis on present action, continuing in the indicative mood of the verb, does not necessarily count against Calv ideas that God never chose much less ever acted for them to be in His flock. Their presently acting against being in His flock would be true either way.)

Some texts of GosJohn end the sentence here, but many go on to include a harmonizational note referring back to a prior incident, “just as I have told you” – in other words Jesus has already told them they are not of His flock. This has some important contextual bearing, so we’ll get back to it later. For now, those texts with the harmonization ending tend to include (but not always, as the Textus Receptus compilation doesn’t include it) another {hoti} as an explanatory conjunction leading into the following idea (v.27), “because” His flock are constantly hearing and following His voice, in other words obeying Him. Christ {ginôskô}, presently, actively, and continually knows them in an intimate experience (which is a conjugal marriage analogy), and they are following Him in the same way. This leads into the connection that Christ is continually giving them eonian life so that by no means will they be lost or destroyed nor can they be seized by force out of His hand. This is because His Father, Who has given them to Him, is greater than all, and so no one is able to seize them out from His Father’s hand. These are not only highly important gospel assurances, which Calvs (and soft Arminians) ardently defend, which I agree they should, but the statements also have highly important contextual references to other things Christ has already said or will say later in GosJohn.

This leads into Christ declaring that He and the Father are one, which His opponents rightly interpret to mean He is claiming ultimate deity with the Father – which was one reason they stopped supporting Him earlier in GosJohn, when He criticized their spiritual pride, about being sons of Abraham, as being in league with Satan, and declared that He Himself had seen Abraham because when Abraham was, “I AM!” (Thus Jesus declared the self-existent declarative Name of the one and only ground of all existence.) That earlier scene has other contextual importance, too, which we’ll be getting back to later; but the point here is that when they take up stones against Him for blasphemy, He treats them like incompetent rabbinical students, by quoting a scripture in His defense which sounds at first like He isn’t claiming ultimate deity: if they don’t recall the context, then that only proves they are poor students; but if they do recall the contexts to recognize the rebuke, then at least they have that competency in their favor. The context however involves the highest possible Judge, God Himself, called plural Elohim, coming to His temple to be judged against, by servants He set up in authority who are now rebelling against Him, and declaring their coming punishment: “I [the one and only singular Elohim] have said that you (plural) are elohim [a plurality of lesser gods]! – but you-all shall die like mortal men!” Thus (in the Greek translation) Jesus says (GosJohn 10:35), “If He called them gods, the ones to whom the Word of God came…” This is a reference to the pious habit of Aramaic translation/commentaries, popular in and before (and after) Jesus’ ministry, to avoid risking naming a name of God by substituting “the Memra of God” (which in Greek would be “the Logos of God”), or in English “the Word of God”, as an indirect reference to God Himself – and more specifically to the visible YHWH. So Jesus is declaring contextually that He Himself is the Memra/Logos of God, the visible singular Elohim (in the Psalm), coming to them in the Temple; and that they are the rebel authorities whom He Himself had appointed as judges for His people, whom He normally would expect to be serving Him faithfully! Jesus doesn’t add the judgmental context, nor directly states the highest-deity context; but the Pharisees are competent enough to remember the context and seek to seize Him anyway! (Whereupon He eludes them somehow, perhaps by supernatural power.)

Much of the point here is that the contexts agreed on by trinitarian theists for high Christology evidence, points to these Jews as not only members of the flock but as the highest ranking members of the flock! Psalm 82, which Jesus is citing, goes even farther in this affirmation: “I on My part said you are elohim, and all of you are the sons of the Most High!” But they are rebelling: and so, being highly appointed (and created) authorities in rebellion, they are like Satan.

The whole Psalm is worth considering along this line, and is short enough to quote fully (based in the NASB translation).

  1. Elohim takes His stand in the congregation of Elohim; He judges in the midst of the elohim. [There is a double-meaning here of the congregation being made of gods, and the congregation belonging to God(s) Himself.]

  2. "How long [says the one plural Elohim, or possibly the psalmist Asaph] will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?! (Selah, a pause for contemplation)

  3. "Vindicate the weak and fatherless! Do justice to the afflicted and destitute!

  4. "Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked!

  5. "They [the wicked and/or the weak and needy] do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

  6. "I [Elohim, the Memra/Logos/Word of God, per Jesus] said you are elohim, and all of you are sons of the Most High!

  7. “Nevertheless you will die like men, and fall like any one of the princes.”

  8. Arise, O Elohim [says the psalmist], judge the earth! For it is You Who does possess all the nations!

This all leads into further context for understanding what is and isn’t meant by Christ, but first:

Fourth, the Greek in GosJohn 10:26 doesn’t necessarily mean they are not members of His flock! The text is stable here, too, aside from very late texts (represented in the Textus Receptus) sometimes using the post-positive {gar} (as an explanatory “for”) instead of {hoti} (but meaning the same thing, as an explanatory reason): {ouk este ek tôn probatôn tôn emôn}, “you are not out-from of-the-flock, the-one-of-Me.” Sometimes {ek} will be translated in interlinears as though it means “of”, but it doesn’t: there is no Biblical Greek word for “of”, the meaning being signaled instead by genitive suffixes as here (the {-ôn} endings). This isn’t a conspiracy by translators; they’re only trying to simplify what would sound like screwy grammar in English. But I think it does accidentally obscure the point: the problem with these Jews isn’t that they are not actually of Jesus’ flock, but that they refuse to act as part of the flock! They aren’t going out from the flock to do things.

Why would anyone in Jesus’ flock go out from the flock to do something? For evangelism: they’re supposed to be bringing everyone who has been given to the Son by the Father, to the Son. They’re supposed to be cooperating with the Good Shepherd in His salvational work. In terms of Psalm 82, they are supposed to be bringing the destitute and needy, the weak and afflicted, out of the darkness and leading them to be just, bringing stability to the Earth. But they aren’t. We’ve seen this type of critique before from Jesus, even to His own disciples and apostles who are following Him more overtly, even being granted miraculous power from Him to work in His name – and yet they are somehow still doers of injustice, who are refusing to do what He says!

Again, these aren’t just random people passing by, or even random Jews (although as Jews they would be expected, by God, and through God’s grace, to have advantages in working with God in His work). This is where the prior context will come in handy, which we’ll be getting to soon. But relatedly:

Fifth, the scene starts with these Jews coming up to Jesus as He is walking in the Temple, on the porch of Solomon, and asking Him, {heôs pote tên psuchên hêmôn aireis}? “Until when will you be lifting up the soul of us?” That’s almost certainly not what you’ll find in your own English translation! – but that’s because it sounds weird and doesn’t seem to fit the context, so there are reasonable guesses that it means something like, “How long will you keep us in suspense?” For they want Him to openly declare Himself the Messiah.

This isn’t irony on their part. They’re declaring themselves on His side, as part of His flock in other words. This connects directly to the idea that they are rebels of His flock, refusing to obey Him or even to trust Him! Jesus replies that He has already told them, but they aren’t accepting this because they aren’t trusting Him.

Their request (and the reply of their Messiah) also connects directly to prior narrative contexts, including here in (what came to be later grouped as) GosJohn 10, and back in GosJohn 8. Once that is understood, the literal Greek becomes much clearer: they expect Him to lift up their souls (or their lives) by openly declaring Himself publicly and clearly to be the Messiah (or in Greek the Christ). But what would that mean, to them? – what are they expecting?

By prior story contexts, Jesus has already had to deal with proto-zealots (the Zealot party itself wouldn’t be established until later), and their rabbinic and Pharisaic supporters, who wanted to crown Jesus king by force! – and during a Passover Festival no less! (This is reported back in GosJohn 6, as part of John’s larger contexts of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.) Part of Jesus’ critique to them at that time, was that they had no interest in anyone other than Jews following Jesus: they only wanted their enemies to be destroyed, not to be saved from their sins.

By reference to a more recent incident, however (in GosJohn 8), where His supporters among the Pharisees were turning around to strongly oppose Him after defending Him to their peers, these people have a similar problem: they have a competitive spiritual superiority by claiming to be sons of Abraham, but this spiritual pride only makes them sons of Satan instead.

They don’t think they need to repent of any sins, because they are appealing to the Abrahamic covenant, which brings up the whole topic of what that covenant was about: the promise that God would bring all of Abraham’s descendants to righteousness, even as many as the stars in the sky. What the Jews tended to focus on, however, was the far more obvious promise about inheriting a certain portion of Levantine land, which doesn’t seem (on the face of it) to have anything to do with being righteous at all. But if the Creator of all creatures comes Himself as Abraham’s descendant, to fulfill the covenant made between the visible and the invisible Jehovah (because Abraham was put to sleep rather than actually participating in the covenant), then all rational creatures are included in the covenant between YHWH the Father and YHWH the Son. There can be no spiritual pride, because there is no spiritual exclusivity: the elect, such as the nation of Israel, are chosen for the sake of blessing the non-elect, not for their own sakes, nor as the only people whom God has chosen to be saved from their sins into righteousness!

But those who insist on having spiritual pride – and so who from that position insist that only some people (like themselves) are being saved, while others have never been chosen by God to be brought to righteousness – must reject the blessings and eventual inclusion of the non-elect in order to keep their spiritual pride. They want to have only their own souls lifted up – not other people’s souls! They have no interest in going out from the flock to bring more people into being followers of the Good Shepherd. They want the flock to be as small and exclusive as possible, in order to promote their own self-importance – even if that would necessarily require that God shall be ultimately blasphemed, and that Justice Himself should either fail or never even intend to lead some doers of injustice to do justice at last in full and loving agreement with Justice Himself.

The whole underlying referential context actually runs against the insistence that some people shall never be servants of God. Of course, what’s being morally judged here isn’t the mere idea that some people shall never be servants of God, which is only a question of fact – a mere mistake about that fact isn’t a sin, even though the mistake should and shall be corrected some day. But insisting that some people must always be sinners, for the sake of one’s own spiritual pride? That is definitely a sin, and in its own way it is the sin of Satan.

The Pharisaic Jews here want to be assured of their own salvation: they don’t want an ultimate scope of salvation, nor an ultimate assurance of other people’s salvation, to be true. As often happens in the Gospel accounts, Jesus judges against them with the assurance that other people will be saved, not at the moment talking about the assurance that they also will be saved from their sins – including being saved from the sin of insisting that God cannot or will not save other people from their sins! But if we, coming along afterward, insist that God cannot or will not save these Pharisees from their sins, too, then we are revealing ourselves to be like them, and under the same judgment, insofar as we do so from our own spiritual pride.

And, regarding the mere question of fact about whether or not they will also be saved from their sins, this can be demonstrated from the verbal contextual connections of this half of GosJohn, to other portions of John’s account.


Excellent stuff, why not just finish 'er off and get 'er published? :grin:

“Finish”: ah hahahahahahahahahaha! That’s hilarious! :rofl::sunglasses:

Yeah, I’m maybe now more than half finished with the Gospels. Maybe. My draft is running somewhere north of a thousand pages – not including this material, btw, I haven’t imported it into the draft yet! (Some of the thousand pages however includes a summary of the first six chapters, which I wrote up for video purposes. This could be eliminated, but I assume it’s representative of a much larger summary which will be necessary later… :scream: )

Well, I’m not gettin’ any younger here, just sayin. :laughing:

Why do Americans always drop the “g” from words which end in “ing”? :confused:

To be fair, we don’t ALWAYS do that; when we do it is just to sound more ‘folksie’ instead of pedantic. It maybe takes the ‘edge’ off an opinion that would otherwise sound, well…pedantic

" Excessively concerned with minor details or rules; overscrupulous.
‘his analyses are careful and even painstaking, but never pedantic’
-Oxford English Dictionary.
Which you already knew, but I have this new app for the dictionary and wanted to use it :slight_smile:

I wasn’t complainin’, I simply enjoy joshin’ interestin’ folksie Americans


Not currently being in His flock could be the cause of them not trusting Him – the grammar allows this meaning.

This would run along with a generally uncontroversial theory that until whenever the Holy Spirit calls someone, they’re unable to come to trust God – along with other generally uncontroversial theories such as, so long as someone is rebelling against being in the flock they are unable to come to trust God. (These ideas should still apply regardless of which Christology and Pneumatology is true, btw.)

How those ideas get applied can be controversial, such as a Calv belief that God never intended, much less acted, for some persons to be in His flock. I’m arguing elsewhere according to context that they’re not in His flock by being rebel members of the flock, not because He’s excluding them from His flock. Similarly there are two ways someone can be your king: you can accept and follow him as your king, and he can be in royal authority over you. These aren’t mutually exclusive, and a king can be in proper authority over someone who rebels against that proper authority. Consequently in one important sense he is not their king, but in another (I would argue more) important sense he is still their rightful king.

This really shouldn’t be controversial either – even Calvs acknowledge and agree with the principle – but then Calvs turn around and force a controversial schism in the idea in order to stick with their explanation for how the Gospel assurance of God’s victorious salvation can be true and yet some sinners are permanently lost after all: they aren’t in the flock because God (including the Son, in trinitarian Christology) never intended for them to be in the flock at all, therefore never empowers them to be in the flock much less ever leads them to be in the flock.

But the grammar of that one place does not necessarily require this idea; and the immediate and local contexts exclude that idea (I’m arguing along the way.)

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I would actually put it the other way around: John 10 should be understood in light of where John reports Jesus elsewhere (chp 17 for example) about the Father giving all things to the Son – so that the Son may be giving eonian life to all things which the Father has given Him!

See comments here for example: JRP's Exegetical Compilation: John 17

Invernessian calling Dave 2.0

This discussion on Quora might help!

Why don’t Americans say “g” in words ending with “ing”?

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True, not everyone has been given eonian life yet between the afternoon of John 10 and later that same evening of John 17. Or between John 10 and now.

But those Jews are still among the all things whom the Son has been given authority over by the Father, and the Son is still going to glorify the Father by giving eonian life to everything over which He has authority.

That those particular sheep don’t accept the authority of the Son yet, doesn’t mean they don’t get to have eonian life eventually. (The problem is that they aren’t in the flock; the question is in what sense are they not in the flock? – by being crocodiles and not sheep, or by being rebellious baby goats? Is the not-flocking a rebellion against rightful authority, or being purely other in which case there would be no moral judgment because there could be no rebellion?)

What the hell are you saying?:grimacing:

I’m only saying that the Jews opposing Jesus at the time of that incident in John 10, don’t have to have eonian life yet by the time of John 17 in order to eventually receive eonian life.

Their rebellion at x-point in time doesn’t prevent the Son from glorifying the Father by eventually leading them to do good and to positively honor-value the Son and the Father (and the Holy Spirit, per other verses). They could even (per other verses) be dying in their sins for rejecting that the Son is “I AM”, and yet end up praising the Son with Psalms for glorifying God.

So at best, I don’t understand Qaz’s objection (which he may be reporting from someone else and just passing on here, perhaps). The opponents are already part of God’s flock in the sense of God having authority over them whether they’re rebelling or not. If they aren’t “sheep of the flock” yet, that can only be due to their rebellion against accepting the leadership of the Shepherd. Whether they’re loyal sheep by the time of Jesus’ final discourse several hours later on the same day is completely irrelevant to whether they will ever be loyal sheep of the flock: they’re already part of the everything given to the Son by the Father so that the Son may glorify the Father by giving eonian life to everything over which the Son has authority.

Jesus is talking against the same people (categorically) in John 10 whom He’s talking against even more strongly in John 6, which also “cuts right between” John 3 and John 17.

But in John 6, Jesus talks about all people given to the Son by the Father being saved by being dragged to Him; and this not only includes people already loyal to Him, but (per Jesus’ reference to Jeremiah 32) also includes people who were previously rebelling against Him coming to Him in loyal repentance (with YHWH forgiving their injustices and remembering their sins no more) – which Jesus connects to resurrecting everyone given to Him by the Father. Per John 5, those who dishonor the Son are raised to judgment so that all may be honoring the Son and the Father, thus coming out of the dying and into eonian life.

Moreover, this pretty obviously includes the opponents whom Jesus is prophecying (in John 8, categorically the same opponents later in John 10) will die in their sins for not accepting that Jesus is “I AM” (when they have all the advantages to knowing and accepting Him, but are refusing for their own petty prideful reasons): even they shall come (per GosMatt’s Greater Condemnation report, taking place a day earlier) to praise and accept Jesus as YHWH.

It all fits together quite well. John 10 isn’t an exception: it relates topically back and forward to that same overall plan.

I’m not sure where you’re seeing the potential conflict, contradiction or contention between these texts…

Jn 3:35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.

This is simply John’s way of expressing Matthew’s recorded sentiment, as per Mt 28:18 etc.

Jn 10:26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.

This seems pretty clear to me… had these unbelieving Jews believed they would be his sheep; that they chose not to believe shows they weren’t. Believers are elsewhere described as servants… by the nature of things servants serve — clearly, not everyone is a servant.

Jn 17:2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, (Mt 28:18; Jn 3:35) that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.

All those given to Him received eternal life i.e., KNOWLEDGE of Him… as per the next verse.

This probably doesn’t pertain to Qaz’ problem, but in my study on Exodus this week (I’m reading two Jewish commentaries concurrently, one by a Jewish Christian teacher), I ran across another connection between the question of Jesus’ rebel Pharisee disciples in this half of GosJohn, to the idea that they’re looking to promote themselves by Jesus instituting an earthly kingship to overthrow the Romans.

Their question, “when will you be lifting up our souls?” looks like a translation into Greek (probably through a contemporary Aramaicism) of one of the Hebrew phrases for pardoning someone: to lift up the head (of the one being pardoned). So they could be trying to seem repentant of their earlier behavior, although they’re doing so by not only demanding pardon but on the terms they insist upon (that Jesus should declare Himself the Messiah in the particular way they want).

The phrase “to lift up the head” is also used, in Exodus, as a technical term to describe the half-shekel Temple tax, because this tax also functioned as a military census! Each (loyal) Jewish man at least twenty years old (so that he would have had time to give at least some children to his wife) was required to pay the half-shekel tax (for the tabernacle originally) as a special sin offering to indicate that if he had to fight in a war over the next year the manslaughter wouldn’t count as murder. So the phraesology of the tax indicates the census (of counting faces, analogically) and also as a preliminary repentance for any lives that might be slain during any wars of the coming year.

So they might be asking by a polite euphamism when Jesus will mustering Israel to war as the King Messiah that they’re expecting. But He has already indicated over and over that He hasn’t come to lead them in war.

Incidentally, why would this one verse (obviously being cited without the slightest contextual examination whatsoever) be considered convincing weight for Justice Himself never even intending much less acting to empower and lead some doers of injustice to do only justice injustice (i.e. “limited atonement” as that phrase is understood by Calvs), over-against many other verses (including their context) weighing toward the intention of Justice to bring all doers of injustice to do justice instead?

JP - Haven’t had my first jolt of Joe; I’ll re-read that after the caffeine hits…:woozy_face:

Hmm :slightly_frowning_face:

Jesus said…
So He said to them again, "Truly, truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus could well be speaking of the coming calamity the Jews were about to endure. His sheep were his people, there were many it seems who were dictating and possibly trying to decipher what the prophets of old were actually saying.

Seems kind of clear to me.

If you look and read john 10:19 and beyond it tells the story. I hope it helps.