Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Watchtower and Eschatological Topics

Great Multitude: In heaven or on earth?

The courtyard of the sheep

One of the parables of the Holy Bible that has been seriously mistreated by the occasional interpretations of the so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses” is the parable of the sheep pen (‘courtyard’) and the sheep, which the Lord Jesus Christ had narrated and was reported by John the Evangelist in his Gospel, in chapter 10, verses 1-16.


The reason we are tackling this parable is that the Watchtower organization uses it in order to convince us that there are two orders of Christians, each with a different inclination, the one being celestial and the other terrestrial: an assertion totally contradictory to the Christian Gospel.

We shall see further down, how the Watchtower assertions are lacking in sobriety, and how they basically mislead the ignorant reader into another gospel, different to the one that Christ and His Apostles preached, regarding the one and only Christian inclination. (Galatians 1: 8,9,  Ephesians 4: 4).


The misinterpretation of the parable

Following the various changes to the interpretation of this parable, the Watchtower preaches the following today:

It splits the parable into two parables, which –they assert– speak of different things.  The first part is apparently analyzed in verses 1-6 of  John 10, and the second, in verses 7-16.

The first parable apparently describes the sheep pen of the Mosaic Law, from which the Lord Jesus Christ extracted the first Christians, like sheep (Watchtower, 15-5-1984 page 29).  But the second parable –according to their assertions describes the Church in which we find the Saints, who number only 144.000. (Book: “Lord of Peace”, page 81). Outside of the pen of the (supposedly) second parable, we find the “other sheep”, which, according to Watchtower, are the millions of “Christians” who have a different hope to the celestial one that the Lord and His Apostles had.  

Further along, we shall prove beyond any doubt the lameness of this interpretation, as we proceed to explain the true meaning of this parable of the Lord.


The parable and the content of the pen

Let’s look briefly at what this parable says, from the first verse:

The Lord speaks of a courtyard (pen) with sheep, where certain thieves try to break in secretly (verse1). But the shepherd of that pen enters through the door (verse 2).  The shepherd is allowed by the doorman to enter; he then calls out to his sheep by their name, and they listen to his voice, and he takes them out of the pen. (verse 3).  

In this third verse, it appears that this pen also has sheep that belong to other shepherds, because it says that “he calls out to his sheep by their name, and that “he takes his sheep out of the pen. The fact is, that the Lord Jesus Christ extracted His sheep from the Mosaic Law – these were the Israelites, who became Christians. According to Galatians 4: 4,5, the Lord became an incarnate man, “in order to buy those who were subject to the Law, so that they might receive the adoption.

When He brings out His sheep, they follow Him, because they recognize His voice, (verse 3), and they don’t follow any stranger  (verse 4).Jesus narrated this proverb to them, but they did not know what it was that He was telling them”  (verse 6).

It appears here that the Lord’s audience didn’t understand what the parable that He was narrating to them meant. “Jesus therefore spoke to them again:Verily, verily I say unto you, that I am the doorway of those sheep”.  Seeing that they didn’t understand Him, “Jesus therefore spoke to them again” (=repeated) THE SAME PARABLE, in another way, so that they would understand it! If He had narrated another parable –as Watchtower asserts- not only would they NOT understand Him, but He would have confused them even more!

But verse 7 is perfectly clear. It says: “He therefore spoke to them again” (=repeated).  This signifies that “He therefore spoke againThe word “therefore” is an elucidatory one; it signifies that the words that follow it, are an elucidation of the words spoken previously.  It doesn’t signify another parable!  The word “again” also signifies the same thing.  Jesus repeated the same parable!  He didn’t narrate a new one, in order to accommodate the Watchtower dogmas!

From verse 7 therefore, we have an analysis of the same parable, and not another, new one, with other symbolisms. We can see this, from the following:


Time and function of the flock

In verse 8, it says the following: “all those who came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not heed them”.  

If the courtyard mentioned here is indeed the Church, as the Watchtower asserts, then how did thieves and robbers come BEFORE Christ?  Wasn’t the Christian Church established (in earthly time) by Christ Himself, on the Day of the Pentecost, 33 years AFTER the Birth of Christ.??

It is obvious here, that the pen (courtyard) is NOT the Christian Church, but the Judean one, just as it likewise is, in the first part of the parable, prior to verse 6.

The same thing also appears in the Holy Bible, in Acts 5: 36,37. In that passage, mention is made of a certain Teudas and also a certain Galilean, Judas, who each attempted to appear as the Messiah. They didn’t accomplish anything though, because neither of them was the true shepherd.

In verse 9, we can see the basic function of a shepherd with his flock.  The sheep need two things from the shepherd: 1. shelter, and 2. food. Thus, in this verse, the Lord clarifies that He is the doorway.  Should any of His sheep “enter”´ under His shelter and protection, they will be saved.  “And it shall enter and it shall exit and find pasture”.  It shall enter (the shelter) and it shall come out (to graze) and shall find food.  The “food” here, is the spiritual sustenance of the Church. (Corinthians I, 10: 3). The verse doesn’t imply that the sheep will be coming and going from the pen!  It is indicating the two functions of the shepherd for his flock.  The sheep –as we saw in verses 3 and 4- EXIT from the Mosaic Law, and they ENTER into the protection of the shepherd Jesus, into His Church. This is also apparent, in verses: John 14: 6 and Ephesians 18:No-one comes to the Father, except only through Me”.   It is through Him (as the doorway), that we are led... to the Father.


The origin of the sheep

The same appears in verse 16, where it says: “I have other sheep also, which are not OF this pen.  I must lead them also, and they (too) shall hear my voice, and it shall be as one flock, one shepherd.”

This verse says that, apart from those sheep of Israel of which He speaks, He has other sheep also, which are not OF this courtyard (pen); in other words, they don’t originate from the pen of the Mosaic Law.

The word “of” signifies ORIGIN. The origin of the sheep of the first group is “of” the Mosaic Law, and they are not, but were, of this same pen.  They were in the Mosaic Law, but now the Lord has led them out of it.   So, there also exist other sheep, which do not originate from the Mosaic Law (the Gentiles), who would one day join the Israelites – they too would be gathered into the Church of the Lord – and would thus become one flock under one shepherd.

“…for He is our peace, Who made both into one, and Who dissolved the dividing wall  - the enmity within His body - Who abolished the Law of the Commandments through (His) dogmas, so that in Him, He might create one new man out of the two, and (thus) making peace and restituting both of them in one single body for God, through the Cross…” (Ephesians 2:14-16).

In this passage, it is as though we are reading the parable, worded in another way!! It speaks of the dividing wall (the pen) of the Law that was torn down, in order for Him to join both groups into one flock: the Judeans and those of the (other) nations. Thus, they become “….. one flock, one shepherd..”.

The Watchtower organization, in its desire to disorient its (non-Greek) readers of this parable, did not hesitate to alter the text of John 10 : 16. In its publications (prior to the official circulation of the NWT in Greek), as is their habit, it has replaced the word “of”; thus, instead of stating that the sheep were not “of” that pen, they wrote “in” that pen. In this way, they give the non-Greek readers of this mutilated passage the impression that Jesus Christ did not lead the sheep out; that those sheep are inside the pen, and that other sheep are not.  This is how they attempt to support that the ones “inside” are inside the Church, and the ones who are outside are another order, which is outside (!!!) the Church, and who supposedly have another hope: not a celestial one.  But: in their Greek translation of this text, they didn’t dare make this change, so what it actually says in there is: “...who are not of this pen”. The Greek reader therefore can – if he so desires – understand what has been done.

This interpretation by the Watchtower is improvable and arbitrary, and is furthermore proved erroneous, as it has resorted to forging the text of the Holy Bible.  But according to Greek syntax, the fact that the (Greek) text contains the word "of" (or "from") signifies that the sheep who were in the courtyard not only originated from that pen, but also that they DO NOT REMAIN INSIDE IT, and neither does the text in any way say that sheep outside are placed inside the pen.


Ezekiels prophecy

This parable of Jesus is directly related to Ezekiel’s prophecy, chapter 34. This is a prophecy that was given to the shepherds of Israel, warning them that the true shepherd of the Israelites would be coming to free them from the oppression and the irresponsibility of their religious leaders. This shepherd would pick out His own sheep from among Israel and would free them, and would provide them with shelter and food:

Ezekiel 34: (2)...Prophesy thus to the shepherds of Israel…(8) that: the shepherds have been grazing for themselves, and were not grazing my sheep,...(10) behold, I am opposed to those shepherds, and I shall demand my sheep from their hands, and I shall cease them from herding sheep…...(11) For thus says the Lord God:  Behold, I shall seek out my sheep, and I shall visit them, (12) just as a shepherd visits his flock on the day that he finds he is amongst scattered sheep, thus shall I visit my sheep, and I shall muster them from every place that they were scattered…. (13) And I shall bring them away from the people, and shall congregate them…(14) I shall graze them in a good place, and their pen shall be atop the high mountains of Israel. There they shall rest in a fine pen, and they shall graze in a lush pasture….(17) Behold, I shall judge between a sheep and a sheep ...(23) and I shall render them under one shepherd, and he shall herd them, my servant David...(25) And I shall prepare for them a testament.. (28) and they shall reside in safety.”

In the above passage, the parallels with the Lord’s parable are more than obvious.  In it, it is evident that the Lord takes the sheep away from the oppression of the shepherds of the (Mosaic) Law, in order to bring them into His Church, where they will find shelter and safety.

Thus, with the assistance of this passage, it is positively clear that the “pen” of the parable is the Mosaic Law, and not the Church of Christ. Every other assertion about two different callings is entirely groundless.



N. M.

Translation by A.N.

Article published in English on: 3-9-2005.

Last update: 11-12-2010.