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Risk-Taking Shepherds

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Chapter Summary

The image of the shepherd in the Hebrew Bible is remarkable for its range of use: we find it in an early legal text, in several narratives, in widespread use in the prophetic literature, and in the Psalms. Matthew and Luke provide a parable about a lost sheep; John has Jesus compare himself to a good shepherd who is prepared to sacrifice his life to rescue his sheep from wild animals. Despite their different orientations, they have a common background in Jewish images of shepherding, which is sketched in this chapter before turning to some specific problems presented by the New Testament texts: on the one hand, the "apparent recklessness" of the shepherd in Matthew and Luke, in putting the ninety-nine sheep at risk by abandoning them in order to seek the one lost sheep; on the other, the significance of John's opposition between shepherd and "hireling".

Keywords: good shepherd; Hebrew Bible; Jesus; Jewish; lost sheep; New Testament texts; prophetic literature; Psalms; risk taking; shepherding



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