Other Sheep in Other Traditions

Here is the beginnings of a literature survey on how scholars outside the Mormon tradition have interpreted John 10:16. I am curious about both exegetical and eisegesical readings and where LDS scholars might be able to contribute to the larger discussion, both in learning from others and in gaining respect for our unique views stemming from 3 Ne 15:12-16:3. I will limit myself to three articles.

Andreas J. Kostenberger, “Jesus the Good Shepherd Who Will Also Bring Other Sheep (John 10:16): The Old Testament Background of a Familiar Metaphor” Bulletin for Biblical Research 12.1 (2002) 67-96 LINK

I took the liberty of paraphrasing John 10:16 by replacing symbolic terms with Kostenberger’s interpretations: There are “individual believing Gentiles” not of “Judaism” (“the flock based on the Jews”) who “[Jesus] will lead” (“clearly refer[ing] to the future mission of the exalted Lord through his disciples”) and who “will be added to the flock.”

While acknowledging that Jesus does not explicitly identify the “other sheep,” he insists that “[t]he reader with hindsight has little difficulty understanding Jesus’ statement … as a reference to the Gentiles.” This, he notes, is more or less the scholarly consensus. Kostenberger see historical significance in John 10:16 as it extends salvation to the Gentiles, a concept that was a “paradigm shift” for Jews who regarded themselves as the only ones being “safely in the fold.”

Kostenberger believes Jesus was drawing on good shepherd imagery in the Old Testament passages. One such extended metaphor is found in Ezekiel 34 and 37 which essentially contain a prophecy about the reunification of Israel (especially Joseph with Judah). This connection is interesting interesting given how Latter-day Saints connecting both texts to the Book of Mormon. If the Nephites “likened” such passages to their circumstances, expanding on the meaningthey found in “slightly veiled form[s],” that are “pregnant with theological implications,” they would have something in common with the Saviour. Kostenberger has the Saviour expanding prophecies specific to Israel’s salvation to include Gentiles. Kostenberger also finds helpful parallels in Zechariah, Isaiah, and inter-testament literature.

John L. Fowles, “The Jewish Lectionary and Book of Mormon Prophecy,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/2 (1994): 118-122 LINK review of Aileen Guilding, Jewish Worship and the Fourth Gospel: A Study of the Relation of St. John’s Gospel to the Ancient Jewish Lectionary System (Oxford:Clarendon, 1960)

 This is the Institute instructor in Logan, who I have met, and not the John Fowles of Bloggernacle fame. I am cheating by including an LDS author in this survey, but his article presents the findings of Aileen Guilding. An analogy of the Jewish lectionary cycle is the four year cycle that LDS use to get through all their scriptures. The Jews had less scripture so they had a three year cycle, however there is some difficulty in figuring the exact calendar for the readings of specific passages in the geographically distributed synagogues. Guilding saw a correlation between Christ’s sermons and texts that were appropriate to be read in conjunction with various feasts. The “purpose of the sermon is to set forth Jesus himself as the fulfillment of the things typified by that feast.”

In summarizing Guilding’s view, Fowles writes “Jesus’ announcement of visiting other sheep while in Jerusalem came during the time of the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22)…sometimes called Hanukkah.” One of the yearly readings for that occasion was “Genesis 46:28-47:31, which spoke of the reuniting of Joseph and Judah.” A reading for the first year in the cycle was “Ezekiel 37:15-28 regarding the reuniting of Judah and Joseph, including their records.”

Raymond E. Brown, “‘Other Sheep Not of This Fold’: The Johannine Perspective on Christian Diversity in the Late First Century,” JBL 97 (1978): 5-22

Raymond Brown was a liberal Roman Catholic scholar. I am aware of at least three references to his publications in Mormon oriented publications. In addition to Fowles’ article, A. Burt Horsley’s RSC monograph Peter and the Popes cites him as does Scott Kenney in Sunstone. As I study of early Christianity, his views about apostolic succession have been influential on me (see my recent post on an article that is well within his school of thought.) I like his work on reconstructing the various factions in the first century and Latter-day Saints should take interest as we learn more about when and how the apostasy occurred. Although his method of reading later Johannine community tensions into John’s Gospel highly disorients me, Brown refreshingly avoids the “other sheep” = Gentiles formula. Kenney summarized Brown’s position

 Nevertheless, in spite of their sense of estrangement and superiority, the Johannine Christians did not break fellowship with the Apostolic Christians, for at the Last Supper the Apostles are commanded “to love one another as I have loved you,” and to be one. Consequently, Brown interprets the famous passage of John 10:16 …. as referring not to gentiles who were to come into Christianity, but to the Johannine Christian attitude toward the Apostolic Christians. They are not of this fold, but they are the sheep of Jesus, they are his own, and they are to walk together so there will be one sheep herd and one shepherd.

 As an aside, I think the more ecumenically minded Christians–even if the majority understand the distinction with the other sheep to originally have been referring to the Gentiles–make the distinction between their branch of Christianity and other denominations they recognize as Christian. This is where the notion of “sheep stealing” arises. The idea is so pervasive that it surfaced in Carl Mosser’s quip “Mormon missionaries don’t evangelize, they proselytize” [in contrast to what Christians should do] that Louis Midgley quoted in a recent essay. I have some other sources that shed light on some of that mystery, if any one is interested.

This entry was posted in Scripture Discussion and tagged , by Keller. Bookmark the permalink.

About Keller

I was a BYU baby while my parents finished up their advanced degrees in psychology. I have lived in some interesting places growing up: near the Lagoon at Layton; in an old polygamist house in Manti with an upper-story door that opened to the middle of a roof; in Rigby,Idaho, the self-proclaimed birthplace of television; then over to Sweet, a small town north of Boise near some fun river rapids; then for my high school years in Lund (named after a counselor in the First Presidency), Nevada; and full circle back to Utah County for college. Currently I work as an electrical engineering in the defense and space industry in Salt Lake City. I have served in a single's ward elder's quorum presidency and as a hymn book coordinator. I also served a mission in the Bible Belt (Oklahoma City) and to prepare I became an avid reader of FARMS publications. This has lead me to become a volunteer for FAIR as way of furthering my apologetic interests and helping those struggling with tough issues to find useful information. I have also started an interfaith blog to dialog with Catholics and practice "holy envy." I like blogging on historical topics and doing genealogical research.

2 thoughts on “Other Sheep in Other Traditions

  1. Keller, this is the first time to my knowledge we’ve had the word “eisegesical” on M*. You are definitely classing up the place.

    But more seriously, I have a personal experience during my conversion process with reading about “other sheep” in the Bible (and wondering what the heck that meant) and then a year later reading 3 Nephi 15 and saying to myself, “NOW I get it.” I am aware that most Christians take another view of that scripture (ie, Jesus discussing the Gentiles in addition to the Jews) but it seems to me difficult to square the actions of 3rd and 4th century Christians with the idea that they were his other sheep. In other words, there are, in my opinion, a lot more warnings about the apostasy and eventual restoration than there are confirmations that the Church would immediately be established after Christ’s death. The “other sheep” always seemed to refer to mysterious groups far, far away rather than the successors in Palestine (“not of this fold,” for example). That’s one person’s reading, anyway.

Comments are closed.