The Shepherd’s Risk: Thinking Metaphorically with John’s Gospel

In: Biblical Interpretation
Susan E. Hylen Emory University, USA

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One of the characteristics of the good shepherd of John 10:11–18 is a phrase that is usually translated “he lays down his life” (vv. 11, 15, 17, 18). Although interpreters often acknowledge the alternate meaning, “he risks his life,” this option is usually rejected. This article sees the notion of risk as an important element of John’s metaphorical presentation of Jesus as shepherd. Drawing on cultural conventions of shepherding, the literary context, and metaphor theory, the author argues that John portrays Jesus as one who risks his life for the sheep, and not simply as one who dies for them. This idea of a shepherd who risks his life for the flock can illuminate the reader’s understanding of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and the way that disciples are called to follow him.

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