The Shepherd’s Door: An Incarnational Reading of John 10:1-5 -- By: Douglas C. Estes

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 24:1 (Fall 2006)
Article: The Shepherd’s Door: An Incarnational Reading of John 10:1-5
Author: Douglas C. Estes

The Shepherd’s Door:
An Incarnational Reading of John 10:1-5

Douglas C. Estes

Student, University of Nottingham Nottingham, England NG7 2RD

Conventional wisdom suggests the shepherd discourse of John 10 is one of the most contemplated, most studied passages of the Fourth Gospel. After all, the figure of Jesus as the Good Shepherd has been an essential and regular part of the Christian proclamation for two millennia.1 Nevertheless, conventional wisdom about the shepherd discourse is faulty for at least two reasons. First, a survey of the interpretation of the discourse reveals the discourse is perhaps the most treacherous to interpret of any in the Gospel.2 Even the original hearers did not comprehend parts of the speech (John 10:6). As a result, the only consensus among interpreters today about John 10 is in the area of approach: an overemphasis on the familiar (broad) themes of the discourse and a clear hesitancy to wrestle with the particulars, especially the symbolic. This leads to the second problem with the conventional wisdom about John 10: the prominence placed on certain familiar thematic sections of the discourse—especially those dealing with the shepherd motif—has resulted in a paucity of studies on the remaining motifs in the shepherd speech.

One such example of relative neglect is the door motif in the παροιμία (hidden figure) of John 10:1-5.3 Critics as a whole have largely disregarded the παροιμία due to its confusing and seemingly contradictory symbolic elements— Jiirgen Becker has described it as a nut with a sizeable shell limiting access to the motifs inside.4 The inherent complexity of the figure has led to several rather intriguing, and also several dubious, readings.5 In this study, I will undertake a unique and original reading of the παροιμία by focusing on the significance of the door for the introduction of the shepherd (10:1-2). Whereas most interpretations of the παροιμία start from the perspective of the shepherd motif—defined by the shepherd elements found elsewhere in the discourse (10:11-18)—we will begin with the core symbols of the You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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