Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life (“psuche” G5590) for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down (”tithemi” G5087) my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take (“lambano” G2983) it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:1-18 KJV)
As for John 10:18, what does it mean “to lay it down” and “to take it again”? I think many assume it means to die and to resurrect from the dead (after death), but what if it just means to place one’s being somewhere, and then take it back again all while he was alive?
Defining the Words
The Greek words that are translated as “life”, “to lay down” and “to take” are “psuche” (G5590), “tithemi” (G5087) and “lambano” (G2983), respectively.
According to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, “psuche” means “breath”, “tithemi” means “1) to set, put, place, 2) to make, 3) to set, fix establish”, and “lambano” means “1) to take, 2) to receive (what is given), to gain, get, obtain, to get back”.
The Greek word translated as “life” in most of the above passage is not the same Greek word translated as “life” in verse 10.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life (“zoe” G2222), and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 KJV)
That word “zoe” means “life” and comes from the Greek word “zao” (G2198), which primarily means “1) to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead)” according to Thayers.
But “psuche”, to which Jesus is referring is most often translated elsewhere as “soul”. So if we consider that translation in this passage, verses 17-18 would read like this:
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his
life soul for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life soul for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life soul, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:11-18 KJV)
Knowing the distinction between the two words, “zoe” and “psuche”, this reads to me like Jesus is talking about his being (soul, breath), not his physical life (as opposed to death).
Furthermore, The Greek word translated as “take” in most of the above passage is not the same Greek word translated as “taketh” in verse 18.
No man taketh (“airo” G142) it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take (“lambano”) it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:18 KJV)
That word translated as “taketh” is “airo”, and it means “1) to raise up, elevate, lift up, 2) to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear, 3) to bear away what has been raised, carry off” according to Thayers.
Considering the entire context of John’s account, I believe Jesus was saying he had the power to set his being for the sheep, to be a good shepherd to them, one that wouldn’t flee when wolves approached as a hireling would. No one lifts or raises up his being from him, but he sets it for the sheep himself.
And then he also had the power to take or get back his being. He didn’t have to remain the shepherd until the end of his days. At least, that’s my understanding of this passage at the present time. I’m open to hear other thoughts on this.
Not My Will, But Thine Be Done
It seems to me that Jesus, knowing what it meant to stay on as the good shepherd, that he would ultimately lose his life for them, chose not to take back his being.
We’re told that he preferred to not drink of the cup that was set before him (the looming betrayal and death), but he surrendered his will to that of his Father’s as demonstrated in Matthew and Luke.
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39 KJV)
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. (Luke 22:41-43 KJV)
John shares a more lengthy prayer of Jesus to his Heavenly Father right before Jesus is betrayed by Judas. Notice the terminology he uses, identifying men as being given to him, that they belonged to the Father, and He gave them to him to keep.
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost,… (John 17:1-12a KJV)
When Jesus referred to having the power to lay down his soul/being and take it back again, I truly think he was simply saying that he chose to do the will of the Father (being the good shepherd), even unto death.
God Raised Jesus from the Dead
Regarding the notion that the reference to Jesus taking back his life is referring to his “life” (zoe) after his death, I don’t see how that is possible for two reasons:
- Because of the word choice used by John of “psuche” vs “zoe”.
- Because it’s clear elsewhere that God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead.
On the Day of Pentecost (or the Day of Firstfruits), Peter declares to the people…
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. (Acts 2:22-24 KJV)
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:29-32 KJV)
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. (Acts 4:10 KJV)
Besides, it could not have been Jesus raising himself from the dead because he was dead.
We’re told in the end that Jesus “gave up the ghost (spirit)”, similar to the account of Isaac’s death, so how could he have taken back his life after he lost it?
And the days of Isaac which he lived were an hundred and eighty years. And Isaac gave up the ghost and died, and was laid to his family, old and full of days; and Esau and Jacob his sons buried him. (Genesis 35:28-29 Brenton)
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30 KJV)
What do you think?