The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Mt. 25:46

I’m 98% sure I saw it in Keener’s The Historical Jesus of the Gospels. Unfortunately, it’s a huge book and despite having over 300 pages of endnote material he doesn’t have an index entry for “goat”. :wink: (I know, I just checked.)

I’ll try to poke around relevant topics and see if I can hunt it up again. But the notion was not that the goat would follow more loyally than the sheep once the flock got going, but that they wouldn’t need rescuing as much. (I think I mis-described it, looking back. Sorry. :slight_smile: )

I think the main point of this particular parable is not the fact of judgment–that would have been understood by his audience from scripture. The point, it seems to me, is the nature of righteousness. Jesus’ Jewish audience assumed that they were the righteous because they had the Law, and were the Chosen People of God. But Christ is saying that in the Judgment–when the nations are gathered, and the righteous and unrighteous are separated–the criterion is not going to be what they expected.

This goes to the heart of what ‘righteousness’ is–and is very applicable to us as Christians today. We are not ‘righteous’ because we belong to the right group, or give mental assent to certain theories. We are righteous by faith–by believing God–and belief in the heart becomes deeds in the body.

Righteousness is to do what is right – “love God, and love your neighbor” and “if you do not love your brother whom you see, how can you love God whom you do not see” and “if you see your brother hungry and bless him, but don’t give him anything to eat–what good is that?”

And, this is pretty much what Sherman is saying–I think. :sunglasses: .


Thanks–I tried googling herding practices in the Middle East–but couldn’t find anything relevant. If you find anything (and happen to remember me :wink: ) I’d like to hear more.

I watched a herd boy with his sheep once, on a hillside in Mexico. It was very interesting.


I think Sonia hits the nail on the head (in a non-judgmental way of course :wink: ) with her post above.

Yes Tom – of course you are correct in this.
It would have been more accurate, more precise of me, to simply ask why Jesus needed to employ the use of Sheep and Goats in His story at all. For I’ve not been able to detect anything in the culture of the day where it was common knowledge that Goats represented damnable qualities while Sheep the good and therefore savable qualities. The use of sheep and goats in the story appears just to confuse us and detract from it’s true meaning – which I think Sonia, and Sherman articulate nicely.

That God judges based on criteria apart from our social or group identity, and rather upon how we treat those needy/less fortunate in our midst, must mean that the moment a Goat begins to act like a Sheep (ie with righteousness) he BECOMES a Sheep! But that seems a little silly doesn’t it? So the designations sheep and goats are really quite peripheral to the issues Jesus finds important. ie the story might really be “cleaner” and clearer if the sheep/goat thing had been left out!

So I guess I’m saying that there must be a cultural context in which Jesus spoke that is completely foreign to me – and I’m curious if anyone knows what it is?


I think this will help:

According to Smith: “Sheep and goats mingle and graze together each day. But when they are moved to fresh pasture or when sheep are due for shearing or goats for milking, or when evening falls and the goats must be sheltered against night’s chill, then they are separated” [p. 297].

The word for “separate” (aphorizo) is a fairly rare word (10 times in the NT – 3 in Mt). It occurs twice in v. 32 of our text and also in 13:49: “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous.”

It is one of Matthew’s themes that there are sheep and goats, evil and righteous, wheat and weeds (Mt 13:24-30) in the church at the present time. The separation is not our responsibility, but the responsibility of the angels or of the king who comes at the end of the age. Although Mt does have the discipline section in ch. 18, where a church member sins against another, the purpose of the discipline is not separation, but seeking to restore the wayward one. Until the time that the angels come to do the actual separating, we may have to put up with those stupid jerks in the world (and in the church) while we pray earnestly, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” :wink:

Jeremias indicates that: “sheep are the more valuable animals; moreover their white colour (in distinction from the black of the goats) makes them a symbol of the righteous.” [p. 206]

I’m not sure where I picked up this idea, but I used it in a sermon on this text. Why “sheep and goats”? Why not good sheep and bad sheep or good goats and bad goats? Why two different animals? It is impossible for a goat to become a sheep.

It was common for a shepherd to have both animals in his flock. However, throughout the Bible, including the First Reading (Ezek 34:11-16, 20-24) and Psalms (100 or 95:1-7a) for Christ the King A, God’s people are referred to as sheep. Throughout scriptures the image of sheep and shepherd is used to talk about the relationship between God and God’s people. Goats are not used in the image of this relationship. :wink:

Perhaps that the most important part of this parable: We are to be sheep under authority of the Good Shepherd. The separation takes place between sheep and goats before either group is told what they have or haven’t done. The sheep are told before they know anything about what they’ve done, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” It is not their “good deeds” that brings the blessing; it is because they are sheep, God’s people, living under authority of the Good Shepherd. But as sheep, they naturally did such good things for the needy and also to Christ. :wink:

Reference : Brian Stoffregen ( I’m not endorsing his theological views, but I believe he did a nice job describing the significance of the sheep and the goats) :wink:

God bless,

I think it’s a mistake to look for the meaning of the passage in some proposed distinction (or lack of it) between sheep and goats established in the OT other elsewhere, as if the general goodness/usefulness of goats alongside sheep establishes unity of identity across the two groups in THIS parable. The distinction that NEEDS to be made between the two IS made between the two IN THE TEXT and that’s all the distinction we need concern ourselves with: Sheep serve Christ by serving others in need. Goats don’t. Who cares whether or not goats could be offered as well as sheep within the wider Levitical code?

I still have problems with the claim that “sheep” (per Sherman) is an empty set, i.e., there are no sheep in the world and everybody–believers and unbelievers alike–are goats because everybody fails to serve the needy. I find this obviously false. But I’m not a fan of “purgatory” either.


Purgatory is an unbiblical doctrine established by the RCC. Sherman is obviously showing his lack of knowledge of the symbolism Jesus is using to describe the righteous( sheep) and the unrighteous( goats) being judged in the final judgment in Rev 20:11-15. :wink:

Occam’s razor (or Ockham’s razor ie the principle that “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity” . The popular interpretation of this principle is that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one) demands, I think, that the most likely solution here is that the act of dividing into two distinct groups of animals was one which would be very familiar to the ancient Hebrew. Nothing else. And the basis upon which that distinction is being made is how they behaved in relation to those around them who needed their compassion and care. So I’m with Tom on this.

But we Universalist’s have never (at least not the ones I encounter here) denied the reality of God’s discerning judgement. For their ARE consequences for what we do.

Spoke with my pastor about this today before church (he grew up on a farm in Iowa where they had both sheep and goats) and he said that goats are far more intelligent than sheep. So I certainly don’t want to go THERE in this regard!!! :astonished: :astonished: :smiley: :laughing: :smiley: :laughing:


A37: Purgatory is an unbiblical doctrine established by the RCC. Sherman is obviously showing his lack of knowledge…

Tom: There’s every need not to insult people (as you often do, and as you do here with Sherman) and to express your view humbly and with intellectual integrity. This may be a reach for you, Aaron, but TRY it for goodness sake. Say, “IN MY VIEW purgatory is an unbiblical doctrine,” or “I believe that…”

I’m not making this up on my own. I’ve prayed about this and the Holy Spirit has infallibly revealed to me that you are blind to your pride and arrogance. So I can’t possibly be wrong. I’m speaking infallibly. Judgment awaits if you don’t believe the word of God as I’m delivering it to you. Repent of your pride and arrogance!


:laughing: Next time you want to quote me, Tom, make sure you leave in everything I said, Ok? Here is what I said in its entirety: Sherman is obviously showing his lack of knowledge of the symbolism Jesus is using to describe the righteous( sheep) and the unrighteous( goats) being judged in the final judgment in Rev 20:11-15.

What did God say about those who have a lack of knowledge, Tom? ( Hosea 4:6)

I’m not the one entangled in a false gospel that God never said to preach or teach…that would be you, my brother. I’m not making this up on my own. Check out Galatians 1:8-9. Final Judgment awaits everyone in Rev 20:11-15, my brother…see ya there. Hope you are apart of the ones who are separated to the right and found written in the book of life because thats where I will be. :wink:

Completing the quote is irrelevant to my point. You’ve arrogantly assumed you’re in a place to judge the knowledge of others on this particular point. And besides, I’m infallible. You can’t be right on this. Best repent now.


The pot calling the kettle black, my brother. I love you, Tom, and so does Jesus! :wink:

The love of Jesus is unquestionable. And I love you too. That’s why I urge you to repent of your pride and arrogance and humble yourself. The arrogance with which which you approach others is so overwhelming an obstacle people can’t hear anything else you’re saying.

Please Aaron. Just humble yourself and repent before it’s too late.


Too late for what?

Too late for you to take advantage of the opportunity to be cleansed of your sinful pride before harsh judgment.

You should repent and apologize to the entire board for lying and deceiving us as well. You said you were leaving this board, turning us over to the Lord and washing your hands of us. You even claimed your leaving was required by biblical values you hold to. But now you’re back. So you’ve lied to us. This should be immediately and sincerely repented of Aaron.

All that I’m sharing with you is infallible. Will you choose to honor the truth of God that I share or harden your heart?


Where did I say I was leaving this board for good? Lied repeatedly? C’mon Tom… seriously… you are falsely accusing me and acting strange. :confused:

Play your game if you wish. Avoid facing your arrogance and pride if you wish. What God is sharing with you through me will stand. I hope you’ll repent and find healing.


I’m not playing a game. Where did I say I was leaving for good, Tom? Where did I repeatedly lie, Tom? Who’s playing games, Tom? I agree that I could be spending my time more wisely, but if you were really hearing from God you would not be teaching UR, my brother. Why would the HS tell you my faults without dealing with yours first? Love ya! :wink:

I hope you yield to the Spirit and let him cleanse you of your pride and arrogance. Don’t harden your heart.

Please, while you have today.