Barry Newman's Blog

March 10, 2013

The Parable(s) of the Lost Sheep (part V)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus,The Parable(s) of the Lost Sheep — barrynewman @ 11:57 pm

According to Jeremias[1]

We have already noted Kistemaker’s use of Jeremias and that Jeremias understands that the term, “sinners” would include “shepherds”.

However we should recognise the following: In the ancient world, to describe a ruler as a shepherd was to refer to the responsibility of a ruler to care for his people just as a shepherd has the responsibility to care for his sheep. Moses was a shepherd, God himself is referred to as a shepherd (e.g. Psalm 80:1). There are many references to a “shepherd” in the Old Testament in a noble sense, even a shepherd whom God will raise up. for the care of his people. Probably in the time of Jesus the notion of “shepherd” could be accompanied by either or both bad and good connotations.

On other relevant matters Jeremias writes, “Among the Bedouin the size of a flock varies from 20 to 200 head of small cattle; in Jewish law 300 head is reckoned as an unusually large flock.  Hence with 100 sheep the man possesses a medium-sized flock; he looks after it himself (like the man in John 10: 12), he cannot afford a watchman. Similarly though a little differently to Black, Jeremias believes that “the mountains” (ta ore) of Matthew are a translation of an Aramaic word meaning, “hill-country”. He also comments that “shepherds are reckoned among the hamartoloi, because they are suspected of driving their flocks into foreign fields, and of embezzling the produce of their flocks … A Palestinian shepherd counts his flock before putting them in the fold at night, to make sure that none of the animals is lost.  The number 99 implies that the counting has just been carried out.  … Experts all agree that a shepherd cannot possibly leave his flock to itself.  If he has to look for a lost animal he leaves the others in charge of the shepherds who share the fold with him … or drives them into a cave. … When a sheep has strayed from the flock, it usually lies down helplessly, and will not move, stand up or run. Hence there is nothing for the shepherd to do but to carry it, and over a long distance this can only be done by putting it on his shoulders.”

We should note that Jeremias believes there was only ever one parable and that the original version is preserved in Luke.


[1] For references  by Jeremias to the parable and its setting see Jeremias, op. cit., pp. 38 – 40, 132 – 134

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