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  • Print publication year: 1991
  • Online publication date: October 2009

4 - Tradition, history and interpretation in John 10

Summary

John 10 is a complex chapter. Problems arise for the interpreter because of questions about the relation of the chapter to the rest of the Gospel as well as doubts about the order of the chapter itself. Special features, such as the aμήν-sayings, the παριíα and the έγώ εiμι-sayings, also complicate the task of interpretation.

Chapters 5–10 form an important section of the gospel in which the great debates and disputes take place. These chapters focus on conflict with ‘the Jews’. The first reference to the persecution of Jesus (5:16) is followed by the first account of an attempt to kill him (5:18). Persecution was a consequence of his having broken the Sabbath, and the attempt to kill him followed because he justified his action (work, eργν) by appeal to his relation to the Father (5:17–18), a theme taken up in 10:14–18, 29–39, where another attempt to kill (stone) Jesus is described. Attempts to arrest or kill Jesus run through these chapters (5:16, 18; 7:19, 20, 25, 32, 44; 8:20, 59; 10:31–3, 39). The implicit charge against Jesus in 5:18 is explicitly spelt out as blasphemy in 10:33. But in chapter 10 Jesus' appeal to his works is made to justify his claimed relation with the Father (10:25, 37–8) whereas, in chapter 5, his appeal to his relation to the Father justifies his work (5:17). Thus, in typical Johannine fashion, the claimed relation is used to justify the work and the works are used to justify the claim.