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In John 10;1-16, 25-29, does someone become Christ's sheep when he hears his voice, or does he hear his voice because he is his sheep?

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Excellent and perceptive question about the Shepherd metaphor in John 10.

We should observe several things about this very eastern metaphor of the sheep.

Ancient shepherds were mobile and wandered around for fresh pasture. In this way shepherds and their attached flocks often met - the shepherd would chat and spend some time together. The two flocks would mix. When the time came for the two shepherds to move on, their would each call and all the sheep would follow the correct shepherd because, "his sheep follow him because they know his voice" (John 10:4).

One of the points about this shepherd metaphor is the recognition of the sheep of their shepherd.

the sheep listen for his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (V3)

The sheep are distinguished from other by the very fact that they recognize their shepherd. In fact as Jesus notes in V5

But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will flee from him because they do not recognize his voice.”

In this metaphor, every sheep hears the voices of the various shepherds, but Jesus flock follow Jesus because only they recognize His voice. Note that Jesus emphasizes this point again in V8 -

All who came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them

Again in V14 -

I am the good shepherd. I know My sheep and My sheep know Me

Thus, when a person becomes a disciple of Christ - somehow the person learns to recognize the voice of Jesus in their life. Just how this occurs varies from person to person which is not the subject of this question.

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    @JohnRowse - God calls ALL people to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) but only those who respond become the "sheep of His pasture". Recall that these are metaphors so we cannot over-interpret them too literally. See 1 Tim 2:3, 4, 6, etc. – Dottard Apr 19 at 21:28
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    It is true that we should not try to milk every udder detail from figures or analogies. However, this question addresses something that is by no means peripheral, or an insignificant detail, but arises repeatedly in the passage. You have taken us in this comment to other scriptures, and they are not irrelevant. But we need to peel off the skin and look inside the fruit to try see what it is before we try to compare it with other fruit, lest we be comparing apples with oranges. The question is not, How does someone become a disciple? That assumes that "sheep" = "disciple" here. – John Rowse Apr 19 at 22:26
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    It does not answer the question to dive across to 2 Peter and then immediately to Ps.95, where another sheep image is used--but how is it used? Context! Hermeneutics begins at home. If I hear you correctly, however, are you saying that one becomes a sheep of the good shepherd by hearing and responding to his call to repentance? Are you choosing the first alternative? – John Rowse Apr 19 at 22:42
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    In John 10:16, Jesus--as he speaks--currently has (echō = "I have") sheep that he is yet to bring, but they "will hear" his voice. In 10:25-26, he addresses some Jews who were not "of [his] sheep", and he gives that as the reason they "do not believe". By contrast, in 27, he states, "My sheep hear my voice". In line with the earlier picture (10:3ff) of intermingled sheep , and the known sheep responding to the voice they know, these are sheep who responding are given eternal life. This is their initial believing. And yet they are already sheep before this. – John Rowse Apr 20 at 8:00
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    I notice that you have not responded to my earlier comments on that charge (the third answer above). Where metaphorical language is interpreted with caution, and especially where figures are explained in concrete terms, there is no reason for its basic message to be treated as less didactic, or as only giving "the broad sweep". However, my question simply asks that we listen to the figure, first, before we move to interpretation and application. – John Rowse Apr 20 at 10:13
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What qualifies someone/sheep to be part of a flock? At the most basic level, they must follow the Shepherd, otherwise they do as they please and go where they will.

““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:21‬ ‭

Who enacts the will of the Father?

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” ‭‭John‬ ‭15:10‬ ‭

So Jesus the Shepherd is able to lead because He too kept the commandments of the Father

What words are we to hear and follow?

““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:24, 26‬ ‭

And these words are recorded for us to read, believe and practice. Start with the Scriptures and even if you receive guidance in your spirit, that guidance must be filtered through the Scriptures. So major in the Scriptures

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭

“If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭11:36‬ ‭

Therefore ingest the Scriptures and illuminate your path

“With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭119:10-12, 15-16‬ ‭

Additional

  • Are the sheep Jesus has that are not of His current flock His? Yes in the sense that they are drawn to Him
  • Are the sheep Jesus has that are not of His current flock part of His flock? No they are not
  • Are the sheep Jesus has that are not of His current flock saved? Not until they walk through the gate
  • Are the sheep Jesus has that are not of His current flock following Him and benefit from His protection, leading and salvation? No

“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out ALL his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:3-4‬ ‭

If we are going to set precedent and not include a qualifying “because” then this is the context

Jesus leads His sheep OUT. Meaning they were IN to begin with. Secondly the verse says

When He has brought out ALL His own. I guess either all means all or it doesn’t. He says all. Therefore any sheep that are not in the stall/sheepfold/barn are NOT part of ALL His own.

So whatever Jesus means by

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭

Must be in this context of NOT part of all His own.

Which was preceded by

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:14‬ ‭

And they KNOW HIM. But the sheep that are not of that fold, do they know Him? No, they can’t

“Formerly, when you did not know God... But now that you have come to know God,” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:1, 4-5‬ ‭

Once again do they know Him, for all His sheep know Him? No they don’t. Therefor win context these other sheep that are His, His to recover and redeem, all future tense

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will (future tense) listen to my voice. So there will (future tense) be one flock, one shepherd.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭

These sheep are His when they hear His voice and accept to be part of the fold. They are Jesus’ in the sense that they gravitate toward truth and the Father seeing that they gravitate toward truth, draws them to Jesus. They are set aside to come in contact with the Shepherd and when that happens they accept Him and accept to follow Him.

Dishonest interpretation

It would be dishonest to say the following

  • His sheep follow him because they can hear his voice.

  • Everyone else who doesn’t follow him must therefore not hear his voice.

This is entirely inconsistent because His sheep can hear the voice of another Shepherd

“A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭

It doesn’t say they can’t hear a stranger’s voice but merely that they are not intimately acquainted (close to the heart) with it and refuse to follow a stranger.

The fact that Jesus says after being asked if He was the Messiah

“So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:24‬ ‭

Answers in the affirmative thereby calling himself the messiah/Christ/anointed

“Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:25‬ ‭

And He answers by saying that He told them, which implies they HEARD Him but still didn’t believe in Him, doesn’t mean they couldn’t hear (because they weren’t his sheep). They refused to believe what He had to say because they were not intimately acquainted with His voice, a voice of TRUTH

Let’s contrast why these were of a different shepherd and what his name is

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭8:44-47‬ ‭

These men were already of another sheepfold with a different shepherd. They were listening to the truth and could not accept it because they were already given over to lies

BUT

But what about the other sheep Jesus speaks of? Can they hear?

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭

No not initially

“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:19‬ ‭

But how were they of God?

“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭

They were born again of the Spirit through the Word. In other words they entered through the gate.

These other sheep have NEVER entered through this gate

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭

So how then are they His sheep?

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” ‭‭John‬ ‭6:44‬ ‭

They were drawn by the Father. HOW? How does the Father draw people and set them aside to be drawn to Jesus? The text explains

“It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—” ‭‭John‬ ‭6:45‬ ‭

From what will they learn and be taught by the Father? The Scriptures or the OT. Anyone who believes the OT Scriptures is drawn by the Father to Jesus. This is in a pre-Crucifixion context. We look back but they looked forward to a coming Messiah. Those who believed the Scriptures that promised a savior believing the Father and essentially the GOSPEL (Good News) are drawn to Jesus

“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:13-14, 17‬ ‭

So the question remains did they or did they not hear?

“But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:18-21‬ ‭

So these other sheep were not even Jews they were Gentiles and they heard. Heard what? The Gospel from the OT and they believed and entered through the gate to be saved.

Were they saved prior to hearing The gospel, believing and entering through the gate to be saved? No but they were His sheep to save because they believed the good news the Father told them through those He sent to preach it and Jesus in FUTURE TENSE brings them too

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭

In other words no one was predestined prior to being in Christ from the foundation of the world because they were never in Christ.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭

Everyone was in the first Adam and dead in sin and trespasses

But those who heard the Father’s good news and believed and accepted it were drawn to Jesus who let them IN through the gate to be SAVED

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:4-5‬ ‭

IN HIM, anyone who enters into Jesus through the gate that IS JESUS is predestined THROUGH HIM because Jesus from the foundation of the world was predestined to be holy and blameless before the Father and we too can accept this by faith and be made holy and blameless.

That’s how ONE HEARS His voice, by the preaching of the OT good news Scriptures that point to Jesus and anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!

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Roman 10:

13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Horizontally speaking, some believer has to be sent for people to hear. After having heard the good news, then some of them believe and officially join the flock.

Vertically speaking, Jesus has already known who would listen to his voice before he calls them as in John 10:16

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

In John 10;1-16, 25-29, does someone become Christ's sheep when he hears his voice, or does he hear his voice because he is his sheep?

Both are true depending on the perspective. This is the notion of Co-Reality.

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    Tony, this is true--wonderfully true. However, let's begin within the passage itself, as Dottard does. The question relates to hearing, yes, but the calling here is not your calling on the name of the Lord, but hearing his calling to you. Who is it who hears the good shepherd's voice in vv14-16 and 26-27? – John Rowse Apr 19 at 21:53
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    Thanks for the addition, bringing us back to the text of John 10. From the perspective of the Good Shepherd, himself, who sees what is real, are we to learn here that "both are true"? Does he tell us both (a) that his sheep are his sheep already before hearing his voice--AND (b) that people become his sheep when they hear his voice? If both of of these are true from his perspective, where in this passage does tell us that (a) is true, and where does he tell us that (b) is true? – John Rowse Apr 20 at 0:48
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    "Vertically speaking, Jesus has already known who would listen to his voice before he calls them as in John 10:16." Tony, does Jesus just say in this verse that he had already known them before they listened to his voice, or that they were already his sheep before they listened to his voice? – John Rowse Apr 20 at 0:59
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    Good question. As I said to another contributor, "You have taken us in this comment to other scriptures, and they are not irrelevant. But we need to peel off the skin and look inside the fruit to try see what it is before we try to compare it with other fruit, lest we be comparing apples with oranges." To faithfully compare scripture with scripture, we must do much more than compare skin with skin. Also, "Hermeneutics begins at home." It can be hard, but it is a vital discipline. So in this case let's begin by looking at what Jesus says about shepherd and sheep here. – John Rowse Apr 21 at 1:15
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    At this stage, I am not trying to derive any doctrine from the passage, but to understand what it does or does not say, so that we can legitimately derive doctrine from it, while comparing scripture with scripture. – John Rowse Apr 21 at 15:48
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The difficulty with asking your question based on John 10 is Jesus used sheep as an illustration, and we can draw too much out of a figure of speech.

This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. (John 10:6, ESV)

The primary purpose of this figure of speech is to point out that Jesus is the true Messiah/Christ. Sheep don't choose their owner. They learn their shepherd's voice. But, that is probably pushing the illustration too far. There is a passage in John from one of Jesus' discourses that specifically answers your question.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37, ESV)

This answers you question saying it is not either... or but both... and. From our standpoint we choose to come to Christ. He will not refuse anyone who comes to him. But, from God's stand point, he knows who will come to him. He created people, and from the beginning knew who would come to him. Thus, he chose us (Rom. 9).

But from the human standpoint nothing hinders us from coming to Christ. It is our choice and responsibility. Nothing prevents us. Christ will not reject us.

To interpret properly Jesus' figurative discourse in John 10, it is necessarily to stick to the points Jesus' made. The first point is the shepherd of the sheep enter through the gate, not climbing over the fence. Jesus didn't gather followers in secret, but openly taught in public, even in the temple.

Then, Jesus make the point that the sheep recognize their shepherd's voice (see What is the nature of the "voice" John 10:27 is talking about?). In Jesus' context, shepherds called their flocks out of the other flocks from watering troughs or holes, calling them by name and they came.

The signs that Jesus' is the true Messiah is he came openly to the temple, and his followers hear him and followed him. So many people followed Jesus that the Jewish leaders feared to arrest him in public.

Jesus is the door (the way) to enter into salvation. The others claiming to be the messiah were lawless insurrectionists, who brought destruction. Jesus came to give abundant life. Then, of course, Jesus demonstrated he was the good shepherd by laying down his life (τὴν ψυχήν) for us. The other flock is the Gentiles, who will become one flock with his Jewish followers.

It's probably pushing the illustration too far to answer your question based on John 10. With sheep they heard the shepherd's voice because they learned it as his sheep, but Jesus made the not-his-sheep distinction with not follow him although they heard the same teachings as those when they first followed. Those who did not followed probably heard just as much of Jesus' teachings as those when they first decided to follow. The twelve were an exception, but far from the entire flock.

A last point, as the good shepherd protects the sheep from predators, Jesus gives us security of salvation by protecting us.

I used John 6:37 to answer your question because John 10 doesn't give a clear answer. We could eisegete an answer by looking at characteristics of sheep Jesus didn't mention here. But, to be true to Jesus' teachings, when he used figures of speech, we need to stick to the points Jesus was making.

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    Perry, please see my comments to other contributors. In short, yes, we are discussing a passage with a strong figurative component (although there is also some concrete explanation). However, before we try to draw doctrinal conclusions from the picture, my question asks what the figure itself says. That is not always easy to do. It is much easier to race off outside the passage and cite lists of proof texts isolated from their context that say what we would like the passage to say. – John Rowse Apr 20 at 11:15
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    I am not saying that your answer does that, by the way. What you say of John 6 is correct. The same question can be asked there, "Does someone become Christ's gift from the Father when he comes to the Bread for life, or does he come to the Bread because he was given to the Son by the Father?" But that is for another post. But I prefer that we first try to understand the John 10 picture on its own merits. – John Rowse Apr 20 at 11:28
  • @john I expanded the answer – Perry Webb Apr 20 at 22:21
  • The purpose of my question is to seek to clarify Jesus' main points, so that we can, as you say, stick to them, and before we, as you say again, "draw" anything out of them. But at this stage, you may notice that my answer (below) attempts no drawing or broader interpretation. – John Rowse Apr 21 at 11:41
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    @John That's a valid conclusion, but it is difficult to be convincing without including the rest of John, because of the figure of speech. Your conclusion fits the figure of speech, but we need to let scripture interpret scripture. – Perry Webb Apr 22 at 8:41
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In John 10;1-16, 25-29, does someone become Christ's sheep when he hears his voice, or does he hear his voice because he is his sheep?

In v16, Jesus says he has (present tense) sheep (1) that are not yet in "this sheepfold", (2) that he is still to bring and (3) that are still to hear his voice. They are his sheep prior to hearing his voice.

In vv25-27, he has sheep that he calls "my sheep", and that are already his sheep when they hear his voice. They are contrasted with those in v25-26 who do not believe because they are not his sheep.

Therefore, the second alternative is true.

How then did they come to be his sheep in the first place, if it preceded hearing his voice? Jesus tells us plainly the one big reason why his sheep are his sheep, even the “other sheep” who, as he speaks, “will hear [his] voice”. As he speaks, the Father has given (dedōken, a perfect indicative) them to him already (29). The hand that has placed his sheep into his hand ensures “they will definitely not perish”.

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  • Without a broader context of Scripture you could make that argument but since exegesis demands context, as does hermeneutics, just because Jesus calls them His sheep (present tense) it doesn’t mean that they are his officially, not until they join and become one flock. Even this text J10 exemplifies this exact point. I WILL bring them and they WILL become one flock. The act of joining the flock is by rebirth from above by the Word THROUGH faith. These sheep about to join have not heard the word but even when they do, they must then believe it and accept it. – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 20 at 12:38
  • The question does not ask about joining the flock, but about being his sheep. There are (1) those who are not his sheep (25-26) and therefore do not believe, and so do not join the flock (16), and (2) those who are his sheep (27) and who hear his voice (all of them) and join the flock (16). – John Rowse Apr 21 at 0:43
  • You’re conflating. You’re saying one can be his sheep without being in His flock. Incorrect because they currently don’t hear his voice nor obey Him. They are not predetermined or predestined to be in his flock as individuals but as a collective group who share something in common, faith in His word, those that hear and respond. “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will LISTEN to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” ‭‭J‭10:16‬ please read the 2 links ⬆️ under my answer in comment section. It’ll explain who the others are – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 21 at 1:17
  • To answer your last question, you need to answer this one first: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/53185/… – Perry Webb Apr 21 at 8:52
  • I agree with your answer, but because it is figurative, some will say Jesus is talking about another flock, not pointing out individuals. Still the overall discourse points to your answer, – Perry Webb Apr 21 at 8:57
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Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (Jn 10:11). Who can be excluded from his flock? Thus all are his sheep before they hear his voice.

  • I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (v. 9, emphasis added)

This is the story of the good shepherd. He calls, and he gathers. He knows each sheep by name. Between shepherd and sheep, the relationship is reciprocal. He calls; they listen (v.3). He leads; they follow (v.4). He knows his sheep, and his sheep know him (v.14).

This is the story of the true shepherd, he who alone is good. He came so that the sheep may have life (v.10). He is the door by which all must enter (v.7). Those who enter by any other means are as thieves and hired hands. Thieves steal and destroy (v.10). Hired hands care not for the sheep; they flee and abandon the sheep to the wolves (v.12).

The sheep may thus be snatched and scattered (v.12). Some have yet to hear his voice (v.16). In the relationship between sheep and shepherd, the only true constant is the love of the shepherd (v.13), who never tires of gathering his sheep and bringing them home. In the end, as from the beginning, there is one shepherd, one flock, and one God over all (v.16, vv. 29-30). And those who listen to his voice, who follow, and are known by him – these no one can snatch from his hand.

  • My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. (v.28-30)
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  • @John Perhaps it is not possible for any one interpretation to capture the truths that are revealed in any parable. I can see and appreciate the merits in your question and comments. I hope that you can see some merit in my interpretation, which comes from a different perspective and is based on a model that is more fluid and dynamic. The sheep can be scattered (v. 12) and some may get lost. The only true constant is the love of the shepherd (v.13) who never tires of gathering his flock and bringing them home. – Nhi Apr 22 at 12:13
  • @Nihil. My question did not ask for an interpretation, and I have not offered any myself --e.g. I have not suggested who the "other sheep" are. My question simply relates to the raw data, not its interpretation. – John Rowse Apr 22 at 14:09
  • Let me illustrate. If someone makes the observation from vv2-4 or v27 that the sheep there are the sheep of their shepherd before they hear his voice, that is setting out the data for our consideration. But if someone draws the conclusion from v27 that I should not waste my time doing evangelism because Jesus' sheep are going to hear his voice anyway, that is going WAY beyond the data. It is more likely that that it is based on prior thinking than on the data. – John Rowse Apr 22 at 14:39
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    “What of those who hear but do not know? Or those who hear and know, yet do not follow? Would the shepherd still know them as his own?” Who are these who hear his voice and do not follow? That is a false hypothesis: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (27). – John Rowse Apr 23 at 11:56
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    Thanks for the comment. I am using data as in science, to distinguish what is observed from its interpretation. I simply mean, the basic facts, whether of concrete teaching, or of stories, analogies or other figures--what the speaker said, or did, etc., as against the meaning to be derived from that. In some cases the less unequivocal the hard logic, the greater the impact on the heart--e.g., "[he was] raised..." – John Rowse Apr 23 at 14:57

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