The ‘Shepherd Motif’ outside of the use of ‘Shepherd’

25 May

I’ve highlighted the last two days the uses of the ‘Shepherd Motif’ in both the Old and the New testaments. Yet the shepherd motif runs deeper still. Two further metaphors continue the idea of leadership as shepherds and highlight the need for this to be so. Firstly, the constant reference to God’s people as His flock or as sheep. Secondly, false teachers and opponents of God’s people often described as wolves.

Acts 20 illustrates how Israel and the Church, being referred to as sheep and a flock, necessitates the application of the shepherd metaphor for her leadership.  Paul reminds the elders at Ephesus to keep watch over themselves and “all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28) before quickly describing their primary duty as shepherding.

Indeed, in some key instances, the use of the shepherd metaphor is in direct response to the state of the sheep. For example in Ezekiel 34, it is in the recognition of Israel being like sheep that are scattered that the need for a better shepherd is identified.

Furthermore, those that would harm the church are regularly referred to as wolves. Ezekiel, again prophesying against the immoral rulers and leaders, describes Israel as having officials that “are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain” (Ezek 22:27). Christ too had words of warning for His followers, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matt 7:15).

The shepherd motif therefore, is more than just a picture for leadership, but necessarily incorporates an understanding of the entire Church and the opposition that she faces. The shepherd metaphor is one piece in a larger tapestry which describes the leaders, members and enemies of the Church.

***This post is taken from a fuller paper written on the topic of the Shepherd Motif and Church Leadership. To view the whole paper, in which references appear and a complete bibliography, is given please click here.***

One Response to “The ‘Shepherd Motif’ outside of the use of ‘Shepherd’”


  1. Shepherds, Jesus, Church Leaders and Eternal Relevance « saintbeagle - 27/05/2011

    […] and perpetuation in the early church, by direct reference to elders and overseers as shepherds and indirect reference to Christians as sheep, the church as a flock, and false teachers as wolves, the Shepherd motif for […]

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