Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 10:1-10

Joh 10:1  Amen, amen, I say to you: He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber.

Amen, amen (that is in truth, most truly and most assuredly), I say unto you, He that entereth not, &c. He puts forth this parable to show who He is, and who are His rivals and adversaries. The occasion for it was because the Pharisees had cast out of the synagogue for his confession of Christ the blind man whom He had healed. By doing this they signified that Jesus was not the Messiah, but a false prophet; and consequently that they who believed in Him, as the blind man who had been cured did, erred in their belief, and wandered away from the synagogue, and were apostates from their own Church. Christ therefore puts forth the parable of the door of the sheepfold; to show by it, that so far from His being a false prophet, all others who enter not by Him as the door of the sheepfold into the Church of God, are deceivers and counterfeits. And that consequently the synagogue of the Pharisees was not the synagogue of God, but of Satan. Whereas the true Church of God is the Christian Church which Christ founded and substituted for the Jewish Church, and consequently the blind man when excommunicated from the synagogue, entered by faith in Christ into the true, i.e., the Christian Church

In order that the reader may easily comprehend the whole parable, I will here give a summary of it. (1.) The sheepfold is the Church of God. (2.) The owner is God the Father. (3.) The door is Christ, or faith in Him, who is inclosed by the Scriptures of the Law and the Prophets as by a door firm-fastened with its bolts. (4.) The porter is the Holy Spirit. (5.) The sheep are not merely the predestinated, as S. Augustine held, but all the faithful that are within the Church. (6.) The true Pastors and Prelates are those who enter through Christ. (7.) To these the porter, i.e., the Holy Spirit, openeth, because faith in Christ, by the which they enter, is the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit gives them true and lawful power, so that what they do is ratified by God. (8.) They lead out the sheep, i.e., the faithful, into the pastures of sound doctrine, grace, and virtues, go before them by their own example of a good life, and call them by their names, because they have a care for them severally, and exhort, stimulate, and compel them one by one to better things. (9.) He who enters not into the sheepfold through Christ, but by leaping over the wall, or breaking through a window or wall, is a thief and robber of the sheep, that is, of the faithful: for he is busy in killing and destroying them. The other matters are mere ornamental additions, and are not to be applied in illustration of the subject.

Let us consider these points one by one, and review them again.

He that entereth not by the door, &c. Such were Judas of Galilee and Theudas (Act 5:36-37), and others who pretended that they were the Messiah, or endeavoured to arrogate to themselves that which specially belonged to the Messiah. And such, too, the Scribes and Pharisees were beginning to be, who before this had received legitimate authority from God through the merits of Christ, to teach and govern His people; and were therefore His true Pastors and Teachers. But by opposing themselves to Christ, now present among them, and by turning away the people from Him, they became wolves, nay thieves and robbers of the faithful. So S. Augustine, and from him the Gloss. Against the arrogance of the Pharisees, who boasted they could see, He brings forward this similitude, which shows that neither wisdom nor a good life can avail aught except through Him. And S. Chrysostom says: “By the phrase, another way, He signifies the Scribes who taught the doctrines and commandments of men, and transgressed the law.” Such were the false prophets of old, and heretics now, of whom Jeremiah writes (Jer 23:21). Hear S. Augustine, “Let pagans, or heretics, or Jews say, ‘We live well;’ if they enter not by the door, what does it profit them? And they are to be said not to live well who either know not the end of good living through blindness, or else contemn it through pride of heart.”

Tropologically:—S. Augustine, “Lowly is the door, even Christ. He who enters by this door must needs be humble, in order that he may be able to enter without hurting his head by striking it against the lintel But he who humbleth not himself, but wishes to climb up by the wall, is exalted only that he may fall.” And the same S. Augustine (Serm. xlix., de Verb. Dom.) says, “He enters by the door who imitates Christ and His humility. He is a ‘thief’ who strives to steal away the sheep from Christ, and claim them for himself. He is also a ‘robber,’ because he kills the souls of the faithful, and hands them over to hell.” And so S, Augustine (in loc.), “He is a thief who calls ‘his own’ that which is another’s.” “By making the sheep of God his own,” says the Gloss. “He is a ‘robber’ because he kills what he has stolen,” says S. Augustine.

Tropologically:—Salmeron says humorously (Tract, p. 88), “Men enter ecclesiastical benefices by various means. (1.) By the royal gate, courtiers as recommended by great men. (2.) By the golden gate. (3.) By the gate of consanguinity. (4.) By the gate of gifts (simony). (5.) By the gate of doing service, those who by their obsequiousness are promoted by bishops to benefices. They lie in sickness and wait for the moving of the waters, that is for the vacant post. For he who is first gains favour with the successor, and obtains the benefice.”

Joh 10:2  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

But he that entereth, &c. By the door S. Chrysostom understands the Holy Scriptures. “For these,” he says, “lay open the knowledge of God, protect the sheep, drive away wolves, by precluding access to heretics.” So also Theophylact, Leontius, and Euthymius. And also Theodorus of Heraclea (in Cat.), who gives also a further reason. “Scripture is the door, because he is a true pastor to whom the door gives ingress, that is on whom Scripture confers authority, and thus secures his acceptance.” Other fathers regard Christ as the door, as He Himself says expressly. But you will say, Christ is the shepherd of the sheep, therefore He cannot be a door. For the shepherd enters by the door, therefore He cannot Himself be the door. S. Augustine replies; “The Lord Himself is the pastor and the door. He opens Himself who expounds Himself, and the porter is the Holy Spirit, of whom the Lord says, ‘He will teach you all truth.’ Christ therefore, who is the truth, is the door, and He who teacheth the truth openeth the door.” And the Gloss says, “All who hold and teach the truth are one shepherd in Christ the Shepherd.” Christ retained for Himself alone the name of door, for the sheep to enter in to God. But the shepherd entereth the door. For Christ Himself and other preachers preach Christ. But you may say more simply with Maldonatus, that Christ the shepherd enters by the door, i.e., by Himself, into the Church, because He enters by His own authority, but others by authority derived from Him. But it is not possible in a parable to make all expressions fit in exactly. Moreover, Syrians and Hebrews delight in parables, heaping them up one on another, and running them into each other. As Christ in this place mixes up the similes of the door and the shepherd.

Joh 10:3  To him the porter openeth: and the sheep hear his voice. And he calleth his own sheep by name and leadeth them out.

To him the porter openeth. (1.) That is Moses, as bearing testimony to Christ, says S. Chrysostom and others. (See chap. v. 46.) (2.) S. Cyril thinks that it means the angel who presides over the whole Church (S. Michael, as is supposed). (3.) The genuine meaning (according to S. Augustine, Chrysostom, and many others) is, that it means the Holy Ghost, “for the Scriptures opened by Him point out Christ as the Shepherd,” says Theophylact. Or rather the Holy Ghost opened a door for Christ into the Church, when He constituted Him the Pastor of the Church, confirmed His authority by His testimony, His grace, and miracles, as when He descended on Him in the form of a dove at His baptism, and afterwards through Him gave sight to the blind, healed the sick, and raised the dead. And He also places over the Church all other Pastors whatsoever, the lawful successors of Christ, and causes them to be acknowledged and accepted, and by them brings in all the other faithful into the Church. He also exposes the frauds of heretics, and causes them to be expelled from the Church.

And the sheep hear his voice. Just as sheep when they hear the call of the shepherd, so do Christian people acknowledge the true pastor (and those whom He substitutes as His deputies), listen to His voice, and follow Him in all things. S. Augustine, and Bede after him, understand by the sheep only the predestinated, for they are called sheep, and are distinguished from the goats (Mat_23:33). But this relates to the judgment when the elect and saved are separated from the reprobate. But the present passage relates to the Church militant, where the elect are mingled with the reprobate, and cannot be separated. Both then are called sheep. The sheep then are all the faithful. For they are all of them in the Church, and acknowledge, love, and worship Christ as their Shepherd.

And calleth His own sheep by name, i.e., one by one. For the shepherd looks after them singly, and calls them, both in a body and separately, to follow Him to the pasture. And if any of them be sick He takes it out by itself, gives remedies, and if necessary carries it on His shoulders. Moreover, skilful shepherds commonly give names to their sheep and other animals, and call to them by their names. And in like manner Christ and every pastor give names to Christians at their baptism, and call them by them. He also takes care of them one by one, so as to feed them by His example and the Holy Sacraments, and thus leads them to salvation and heavenly glory.

Leontius observes that Christ here sets forth eight signs and duties of a true pastor; that he enters by the door, that the Porter opens to him, that he can address his sheep by their several names, that he leads forth his sheep, that he goes before them, that his sheep follow him, and that he lays down his life for the sheep. Such was S. Chrysostom, who, speaking on his banishment, thus addresses his people (Hom. xi.), “Ye are my father, ye are my mother, ye are my life, ye are my grace. If ye make progress, I am delighted. Ye are my crown, my riches, my treasure. I am prepared to be offered a thousand times for you; nor need you thank me for this. I am only discharging a debt. For a good pastor ought to lay down his life for his sheep. For to such an one death brings immortal life.

And leads them out to the pastures, which are not without, but within the fold, that is in the Church itself. For in the Church the pastor teaches the people, celebrates Mass, baptizes, administers the Sacraments, &c. Besides, the Church is the assembly of the faithful, and therefore where the faithful are there also is the Church, or a part thereof

Joh 10:4  And when he hath let out his own sheep, he goeth before them: and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice.

And when he hath led out his own sheep (to the pastures) he goeth before them, to lead the way, to defend them from the wolf and the spoiler, and to lead those that follow him by a direct and convenient road to better pastures. And so in like manner Christ and every true pastor (1.) go before the faithful in their way to heaven by the example of a holy life. Let a pastor therefore consider that he ought to be the leader and guide of the faithful in sanctity, to surpass them all, to give to all a bright pattern of virtues, so that looking on him, they may follow him to greater heights, as S. Peter says (1 Epist. chap. v. 3). (2.) A pastor by his vigilance and energy protects the faithful from heretics, scandals, and other evils. (3.) He points out the straight way to heaven, and feeds and nurtures them with the best advice he can.

Anagogically. St Augustine says, He who went before the sheep is He who being raised from the dead, dieth no more, and who said to the Father, “I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.” (John 17:24).

And the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. They distinguish his voice from that of others, and therefore follow it.

Joh 10:5  But a stranger they follow not, but fly from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.

But a stranger will they not follow…because they know not the voice of strangers, i.e., of heretics, Jews, heathens, and any wicked and deceitful men, for the genuine sheep of Christ fly from them as from wolves.

Joh 10:6  This proverb Jesus spoke to them. But they understood not what he spoke.

Proverb. In the Greek παζοιμίον, a similitude, proverb. (See note on Prov 1:5.) The Pharisees and Jews, against whom He launched it (and the apostles also), did not understand it, as being involved and obscure.

Joh 10:7  Jesus therefore said to them again: Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

Jesus therefore said to them again…I am the door of the sheep.  Maldonatus thinks that Christ here speaks of two doors, the door of the house, i.e., Holy Scriptures, and the door of the sheepfold, which is Christ. He believes that the word door is used in two senses, one by which the shepherds themselves, and the other by which the sheep enter. But this distinction is more subtil than solid. For Christ speaks in both cases of one and the same door, that is of the sheepfold. What He said obscurely and parabolically (ver. 1) He explained in the parable. “He opened,” says S. Augustine, “that which was closed. He is the door. Let us enter that we may rejoice in having so done.” This distinction evades indeed one difficulty, i.e., how Christ enters as a shepherd through the door; that is, how He enters the door of the Church by Scripture witnessing to Him. But it does not escape the other difficulty—how the same person is both the shepherd and the door. We must say, therefore, that He united together two parables (as was said above, ver. 2). For Christ intended to teach two things. First, that no one could enter into the Church, and afterwards into heaven, that is be justified and sanctified, except through Him. This He shows by the parable of the door. For as there is no ingress into the fold except through the door, so there is no entrance into the Church, militant and triumphant, except through Christ; and secondly, that He is the true Shepherd, as laying down His life for the sheep; but that the others were hirelings, whom the sheep ought not to follow. This He sets forth by the parable of the shepherd. But because this latter subject is connected with the former, He mixes up the two parables together.

Joh 10:8  All others, as many as have come, are thieves and robbers: and the sheep heard them not .

All others, as many as have come, are thieves and robbers. What then! were all the prophets thieves and robbers? S. Augustine (contra Faustum, xvi. 12, and S. Jerome, lib. ii. contra Pelag.) replies that the prophets came not of their own accord, but were sent by God. And again they were not sent in addition to Christ, but with Christ, as His precursors, and announcing His advent. They were therefore not contrary to Christ, but counted as one with Him, as having come for His sake, and by His order and guidance. “They came with the Word of God. He sent them as the heralds of Him who was to come, and He possessed the hearts of those whom He had sent.” Euthymius adds, “They came indeed before Christ, but they entered through the door.” He speaks specially of those impostors who claimed to be the long-expected Messiah. They were thieves and robbers, such as Judas of Galilee, Theudas, and afterwards Simon Magus, Barchochebas, and many others, who claimed for themselves the name and title of the Christ. So S. Cyril, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, and others.

And the sheep heard them not. Because they discovered that they did not bring the token of the Messiah, as predicted by the prophets, but wished to steal away the faithful from Christ to claim them for themselves, and to cast them into hell.

Joh 10:9  I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved: and he shall go in and go out, and shall find pastures.

I am the door, &c. Rupertus thinks that this relates to a different door and a different sheepfold from the other, according to what is said (ver. 16), “Other sheep I have,” &c. But there is only one fold of Christ; one Church, that is. As He subjoins, “There shall be one fold and one shepherd.” The meaning of the door already spoken of, Christ partly confirms, partly explains when He adds, “By Me if any man, enter in, he shall be saved.” That is, if any man believe in Me, and therefore through faith in Me and by My grace enters the Church, “he shall be saved,” i.e., shall be justified and blessed, if he continues, that is, in My faith, grace and charity even unto death. So S. Gregory (Epist. lib. vii. 49). “He enters through the door into the sheepfold who enters through Christ. But he enters through Christ who believes and teaches the truth concerning Him—the Creator and Redeemer of mankind, and abides by what he preached.”

And he shall go in and out. Will go out to the pastures, and after having fed will return to the resting-place, as sheep do. For the faithful will, when well fed, enter the fold of the Church, and again when hungry will go forth to the pastures of the soul, without any peril, for I will guide them to and fro.  So Maldonatus.

But to go in and out signifies among the Hebrews to act with freedom, do one’s own work, &c., and is connected with what follows. It means, the faithful man will move about everywhere without fear; will do his duty, and whatever he does, whether at home or abroad, will everywhere find food for his soul. The phrase denotes security, confidence, and freedom of converse; and of doing everything, everywhere, for and through Christ. So Cyril, Chrysostom.

Symbolically and tropologically, S. Gregory (Hom. xiv.) “The faithful withdraws within himself by contemplation, and comes forth in action to do good works.” “He will enter in,” says S. Augustine, “for inward meditation, he will go forth for outward action.” The author of De spiritu et anima, says, “He will enter within to contemplate My Godhead, he will go forth to contemplate My Manhood, and in either case will find wondrous pastures.” And in another place S. Gregory writes, “Within, they have the pastures of contemplation; without, the pastures of good works; inwardly they enrich their mind with devotions, outwardly they satiate themselves with good works.” And lastly, Theophylact says, “He will enter in who has a care for the inward man; he will go out who mortifies his members upon earth.”

Anagogically, Rupertus says, “He enters the Church by faith, to find therein pastures; he will go out when at death he migrates therefrom into heaven.” “He enters,” says S. Augustine, “into the Church through the door of faith, and goes forth through the same door of living faith into eternal life, where he will find pasture.” And S. Gregory, “He will enter into faith, he will go forth to hope, and will find pasture in eternal satiety.”

Joh 10:10  The thief cometh not, but for to steal and to kill and to destroy. I am come that they may have life and may have it more abundantly.

The thief cometh not, &c. He shows what is the end and aim of him whom before He called a thief, and what on the contrary was His own. The thief and robber of the sheep,—as for instance a heretic or schismatic, a Scribe or Pharisee, or especially a false-Christ,—comes to carry off the sheep (i.e., the faithful) from God and the Church, whose property they are, to hand them over to the synagogue of Satan, and there kill them by heresy and sin, and cast them into hell. But I who am the true Shepherd of the sheep (i.e., of the faithful) came down from heaven, not for My own sake, but for that of the faithful, that being freed by Me, they may have the life of grace, even yet more abundantly. The word πεζισσὸν may be taken either as an adverb (abundantly), or as an adjective (abundant), that is, surpassing, exceeding all measure, that is, that they may abound in My doctrine and grace, and may live thereby, quick in spirit, enriched with spiritual gifts both in this world by grace, and in the world to come by glory. So S. Cyril and others. Rupertus adds, “that Christians may have more abundant grace than the Jews under the old law.” This abounding life of the spirit, inspired by Christ, you may see in S. Peter and the other Apostles, in Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, &c. Hence the glowing language of S. Paul, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ,” &c. (Rom. viii.)

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One Response to Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 10:1-10

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