Friday, April 25, 2014

Commentary On the Gospel of John According to the Aramaic Peshitta: Chapter 10

"Truly, truly, I say to you: that he who does not enter by the door into the sheepfold of the flock, but climbs up by another place, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the gate is the Shepherd of the flock. And to this man to gatekeeper opens the gate and the flock hears his voice, and his sheep he calls by their names and he leads them out. And when he leads his flock out, he goes before it and his sheep go after him because they know his voice. After a stranger, however, the flock does not go, rather it flees from him because it does not know the voice of the stranger." Yeshua told them this parable, but they did not comprehend what he spoke with them. Yeshua now said to them again, "Truly, truly I say to you: that I am the Gate of the flock and all those who have come are thieves and robbers if the flock have not heard them. I am the Gate, and by me if a man should enter he will live, and will enter and go out, and he will find pasture. A thief does not come but that he may steal, and kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and they may have something which is abundant. I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his flock, but a hireling who is not the shepherd, nor are the sheep his, when he sees a wolf coming, leaves the sheep and flees. And the wolf comes [and] plunders and scatters the flock. Now, the hireling flees because he is hired, and he does not care about the flock.  I am the Good Shepherd and I know those who are mine, and I am known by those who are mine. Just as my Father knows me, and I know my Father. And I lay my life down for the sake of the flock. And I also have other sheep, those who were not from this sheepfold, and also them it is necessary for me to bring them, and they will hear my voice, and all the flocks will become one and [there will be] one Shepherd." - John 10:1-16

This apparently takes place right after the end of chapter 9. Jesus is contrasting himself with the Pharisees in the previous chapter. He is the Good Shepherd (calling for mind Psalm 23, which identifies Yahweh as the Shepherd) and the Gate. These dual roles are indispensable to each other, as the Shepherd leads the sheep into the Gate, while the Gate keeps the sheep safe from predators and also keeps them from going astray. Before Jesus, there were many who claimed to be the Messiah but all of these were false, thieves and robbers. Simon of Peraea and Athronges were men who claimed to be the long-awaited King of Israel before Jesus of Nazareth. These false Messiahs came to take advantage of the people, while Jesus came to give them eternal life and many other blessings. Another point Jesus is making here is that He is the only way to God, and that you are doing evil if you try to find salvation in any other but Him.

The hirelings are most likely the Pharisees and religious leaders of the people. Unlike Jesus, the Good Shepherd, they do not care about the sheep and are unwilling to lay their lives down for them. The Good Shepherd proves His love for His sheep by His willingness to lay down His life for them.

The other sheep who will join the fold are the Gentiles who heard and responded to the Gospel in faith. Jesus is telling the Jews that soon the Gentiles will join the flock and there will no longer be division from them while they are under the one Shepherd and God: Jesus Christ. Zechariah 14:9 (RBE) says, "So will Yahweh become king over all the earth,--In that day, there shall be one Yahweh, and his Name, be one."

"Because of this my Father loves me: that I lay down my life that to again I might take it up. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down by my own will. For I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to again take it up, for this commandment I have received from my Father."- John 10:17-18

This is another prophecy of the Messiah's death and resurrection. Jesus's life was not forcefully taken from Him, He gave His life for us out of his own free will because of His love for us. He also tells us that not only will He die by His own will, He will also rise from death because of His own free will. He has authority to come back from the dead, given to Him by His heavenly Father. This is more evidence of Christ's deity and the Oneness of God, as the Father (Galatians 1:1) and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11) are stated to have risen Christ also. If these three are not the same Person, who really rose Jesus from the grave? Trinitarians will most likely come back with the principal of perichoresis, which is the idea that each Person of the Trinity must cooperate with one another in their activities. This theory was only made in order to further distinguish Trinitarianism from tritheism (another attempt being that the three "Persons" are in one "essence"). To me, this seems to be more of a stretch than the Scripture allows us to make. The principal of Occam's Razor will go well here: the simplest explanation is the best, and the simplest explanation is that these are merely multiple manifestations of one divine Person.

And division occurred again among the Yehudeans because of these words. And many of them were saying that, "He has a devil and is insane. Why do you listen to him?" But others were saying, "These words are not of a possessed one. Why? Is a devil able to open the eyes of the blind?"- John 10:19-21

Another one of several divisions occurring among the people while trying to decide whether or not He is the Messiah He claims to be. Jesus was frequently accused of being in league with the devil or being possessed by a demonic spirit throughout His ministry (this is especially seen in the Synoptic Gospels, like in Mark 3:20-30). Jesus's wonderful deeds, graceful words, and miracles were clearly not the works of the devil. The devil would not to destroy his own work to break down God's people. On the contrary, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8) and to free those oppressed by him (Acts 10:38).

And the Feast of Dedication occurred in Urishlim, and it was winter. And Yeshua was walking in the temple, in the porch of Shleemon, and the Yehudeans surrounded him and said to him, "How long will you hold our souls? If you are the Messiah, tell us openly!"- John 10:22-24

The Feast of Dedication is what we know as Hanukkah, which is the eight-day celebration of a miracle which is believed to have occurred during the Maccabean revolt in which a candle was lighted with only a one-day supply of oil after the defeat of Antiochus IV and it lasted for eight days. The phrase "How long will you hold our souls" is a literal translation, and Paul Younan states that it means "How long will you keep us waiting?"

Yeshua answered and said to them, "I have told you and you do not believe, and the works that I do in the name of my Father, they testify concerning me. But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep, just as I have told you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they come after me, and I give to them life that is eternal, and they will not perish ever. And no man will snatch them from my hands. For my Father, who gave [them] to me is greater than all, and no man is able to snatch them from the hands of my Father."- John 10:25-29

The Scriptures testify of the fact that the Messiah would come and perform miracles like those of Jesus (Isaiah 35). These skeptics were called by the voice of God's Son but were not part of the chosen few. Due to their hardened and unbelieving hearts, they were unable to receive the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is truly the Messiah.

This teaching on the sheep is not Calvanism. Jesus knows who those are that will accept and reject His Message, but that does not mean that they are "predestined" to accept or reject the Gospel. God has foreknowledge of their response to the Gospel, but this does not mean that each individual is unable to choose to accept or reject the Word of God.

No one can force the sheep out of the hands of the Father (or Christ), but this does not mean that they cannot choose to forsake the truth. The Apostles frequently admonition the believers to continue in the faith (Colossians 1:23) and speak of people walk away from it (II Peter 2:20-22). The devil or man cannot force you to leave God's care, but you can wonder off and God will draw you back to Him if you will heed His voice. We are safe within God's hands if we will submit to His leadership and stay submitted to Him.

Jesus is also claiming divinity here by saying that He can give the sheep eternal life and also claiming equality in power to His Father by stating that He and the Father are able to protect the sheep in the same way. This is one of the more subtle divinity claims of Christ, at least in my opinion. At first sight it might not look like Jesus is claiming to be God until you read the next few verses.

"I and my Father are one." And again the Yehudeans took up rocks to stone him, and Yeshua said to them, "Many pleasing works I have shown you from the presence of my Father. For which work of them do you stone me?" The Yehudeans said to him, "It is not because of the pleasing works [that] we do stone you, rather because you do blaspheme, and [that] while you are a son of man, you make yourself God."- John 10:30-33

Here the Messiah is continuing to claim of divinity. If Jesus were not claiming to be God in the flesh, the Judeans would not have accused Him of blasphemy. The Father and Son are not merely in perfect harmony, but are the same divine being.

Yeshua said to them, "Is it not written in your law that, 'I have told you that you [are] gods'? If he called those [people] gods because the Miltha of God was with them, and scripture is not able to be broken, to him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world you say that, 'You blaspheme!' concerning that I had told you that  I [am] the Son of God? Unless I do the works of my Father, do not believe me. However, if I do [them], even if you do not believe me, you believe the works that you may know and believe that my Father [is] in me, and I [am] in my Father." And they were seeking again to seize him but he escaped from their hands.- John 10:34-39

Notice that Jesus does not deny that He is claiming deity, but instead continues to support His claim and defend himself by quoting Psalms 82:6. Psalms 82:6 is not saying that human beings are literally gods, but is speaking about divinely appointed judges who are abusing their power and acting corruptly. The Hebrew word elohim is not merely used of God or idols, but also judges, rulers, and angels.

Jason Dulle makes and interesting observation that Jesus seems to be mocking the unbelievers' assertions by using this verse, which calls even mere men gods because they're in a position of authority. The Jewish people all agreed the Messiah to be in a position of authority above all magistrates and judges, so Jesus's point here is, "Why does my humanity stop me from being God?" Jesus's later statement that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him is further proof of His deity.

Jesus is not necessarily using His miracles as proof of His divinity, but proof that He is who He claims to be. Would God choose to use a blasphemer to cast out demons and heal the sick or raise the dead? The obvious answer is no. If Jesus were a blasphemer and a fraud, then God would not be doing these things. If Jesus is not blaspheming when He claims to be God, then He must be God, and therefore must be the Messiah.

And he went to the crossing of the Yordanan, to the place where Yukhanan had previously been when he was baptizing, and he remained there. And many men came to him and were saying that, "Yukhanan did not even one miracle, but everything that Yukhanan said concerning this man is true." And many believed in him.- John 10:40-42

When things got heated among the people, Jesus frequently when to spend time away from the city. John's witness to Christ was clearly very important, as the people viewed him as a true prophet sent from God. The Jewish people who came to faith in Christ here because of John's testimony also saw Jesus's superiority to John in that John the Baptist did not work any known miracles, but Jesus had done many.