The Good Shepherd is a pericope found in in which Jesus is depicted as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Similar imagery is used in Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd is revisited throughout the four Gospels in references to Jesus not letting himself lose any of his sheep.
The surrounding context of the allegorical story of the Good Shepherd (John 9:35-41 and John 10:22-30) shows that the people around Jesus realized that he was asserting that he was God. Biblical scholar Donald Guthrie maintains that the reaction of the Jews (picking up stones to stone him) shows that they understood that Jesus was asserting his own divinity. (Cf. Leviticus chapter 24, verse 16: "He who blasphemes the name of Yahweh, he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him...." WEB)
Early Christian art
The image of the Good Shepherd, adopting the form of the classical Kriophoros, is the most common of the symbolic representations of Christ found in Early Christian art in the Catacombs of Rome, before Christian imagery could be made explicit. The image continued to be used in the centuries after Christianity was legalized in 313. Initially it was probably not understood as a portrait of Jesus, but a symbol like others used in Early Christian art, and in some cases may also represent the Shepherd of Hermas, a popular Christian literary work of the 2nd century. However by about the 5th century the figure more often took on the appearance of the conventional depiction of Christ, as it had developed by this time, and was given a halo and rich robes, as on the apse mosaic in the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano in Rome, or at Ravenna (right).
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn't own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees. The wolf snatches the sheep, and scatters them. The hired hand flees because he is a hired hand, and doesn't care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I'm known by my own; even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice. They will become one flock with one shepherd. Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. I received this commandment from my Father.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Parables: "There are no parables in St. John's Gospel" and the Encyclopædia Britannica article on Gospel of St. John: "Here Jesus' teaching contains no parables and but three allegories, the Synoptists present it as parabolic through and through." is potentially a stand-alone parable of Jesus, which UBS calls "Parable of the Sheepfold", calls it a "figure of speech", Strong's G3942, however, states I am the gate, which makes it a metaphor. Several authors such as Barbara Reid, Arland Hultgren or Donald Griggs comment that "parables are noticeably absent from the Gospel of John".
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- ↑ "The figure (...) is an allegory of Christ as the shepherd" Andre Grabard, "Christian iconography, a study of its origins", ISBN 0691018308
- ↑ Eduard Syndicus; Early Christian Art; pp. 21-3, Burns & Oates, London, 1962
- ↑ The Two Faces of Jesus by Robin M. Jensen, Bible Review, 17.8, October 2002
- ↑ Understanding Early Christian Art by Robin M. Jensen, Routledge, 2000
- ↑ Syndicus, 130-131
- ↑ Barbara Reid, 2001 Parables for Preachers ISBN 0814625509 page 3
- ↑ Arland J. Hultgren, 2002 The Parables of Jesus ISBN 080286077X page 2
- ↑ Donald L. Griggs, 2003 The Bible from scratch ISBN 0664225772 page 52
- ↑ According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Parables: "There are no parables in St. John's Gospel" and the Encyclopædia Britannica article on Gospel of St. John: "Here Jesus' teaching contains no parables and but three allegories, the Synoptists present it as parabolic through and through."
- Holman Bible Dictionary - "Shepherd" for other Biblical references.