Rough deal for hired hands? John 10:12

‘The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.’ [NRSV]

This blog was first posted on Newman Research Centre for the Bible and its Reception: 26/06/2015

1938: A Bedouin shepherd carrying a young lamb on the hills of Palestine
1938: A Bedouin shepherd carrying a young lamb on the hills of Palestine

John 10: 1-18 contains two of the seven so-called ‘I am’ (εγω ειμι) statements that characterise the teaching of Jesus in John’s Gospel; the gate (v.9) and the shepherd (v.11).*

However, unlike the other εγω ειμι statements, this metaphor is developed in a much richer way. For the image to work, it is contrasted with two negative and opposing images – ‘the thief’ (vv. 1 & 8-10) and ‘the hired hand’ (vv. 11-13). Unsurprisingly, attention is generally placed upon the image of the Good Shepherd, the focus of this teaching (παροιμια – proverb/parable), and most commentaries tend to dismiss these figures as little more than a rhetorical device (for example, Carson, 1991).

Nevertheless, the choice of these opposing images, particularly the figure of ‘the hired hand’ (μισθωτος), can tell us about, not only the historical context of this story, but also hint at possible developments of the Jesus tradition within sections of the early church. Read more

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