The Meaning of John 10:6 Explained

John 10:6

KJV: This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

YLT: This similitude spake Jesus to them, and they knew not what the things were that he was speaking to them;

Darby: This allegory spoke Jesus to them, but they did not know what it was of which he spoke to them.

ASV: This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

What does John 10:6 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Many of the Jews who heard these words did not understand what Jesus was talking about. They did not respond to the Shepherd"s voice. They could hardly have failed to understand the relationship between shepherds and sheep that was so common in their culture. Nevertheless they did not grasp Jesus" analogy of Himself as Israel"s true Shepherd.
The Greek word paroimia ("figure of speech") occurs elsewhere in John"s Gospel ( John 16:25; John 16:29) but never in the Synoptics.
"It suggests the notion of a mysterious saying full of compressed thought, rather than that of a simple comparison." [1]
A similar word, parabole ("parable"), appears often in the Synoptics but never in the fourth Gospel. Both words, however, have quite a wide range of meanings encompassing many kinds of figurative language.

Context Summary

John 10:1-6 - "a Stone Of Stumbling"
In John 9:35 we hear of Jesus finding the outcast, whom the Pharisees had excommunicated; and this story is appropriately followed by a picture of the true Shepherd as contrasted with the false. At night sundry flocks are brought to the Eastern sheepfold and committed to the care of the keeper or porter. In the morning the shepherds knock at the barred door of the enclosure, and the porter opens from within. Each separates his own sheep by calling their names, and when thus summoned the flock follows its shepherd, wherever he may lead.
The sheepfold in this parable holds the Jewish people. The stranger is the religious Teacher who fails to speak in the familiar phrase of Moses and the prophets. The Pharisees and scribes are the thieves and robbers who have stolen God's glory and made profit of his flock. Note that whenever you are put forth, you will find Christ going before.
God has sent many true shepherds from out His presence chamber, to care not only for individuals or churches but for nations. [source]

Chapter Summary: John 10

1  Jesus is the door, and the good shepherd
19  Diverse opinions of him
23  He proves by his works that he is Jesus the Son of God;
31  escapes the Jews;
39  and goes again beyond Jordan, where many believe on him

Greek Commentary for John 10:6

This parable [ταυτην την παροιμιαν]
Old word for proverb from παρα — para (beside) and οιμος — oimos way, a wayside saying or saying by the way. As a proverb in N.T. in 2 Peter 2:22 (quotation from Proverbs 26:11), as a symbolic or figurative saying in John 16:25, John 16:29, as an allegory in John 10:6. Nowhere else in the N.T. Curiously enough in the N.T. παραβολη — parabolē occurs only in the Synoptics outside of Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 11:19. Both are in the lxx. Παραβολη — Parabolē is used as a proverb (Luke 4:23) just as παροιμια — paroimia is in 2 Peter 2:22. Here clearly παροιμια — paroimia means an allegory which is one form of the parable. So there you are. Jesus spoke this παροιμια — paroimia to the Pharisees, “but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them” Second aorist active indicative of γινωσκω — ginōskō and note ην — ēn in indirect question as in John 2:25 and both the interrogative τινα — tina and the relative α — ha “Spake” (imperfect ελαλει — elalei) should be “Was speaking or had been speaking.” [source]
Parable [παροιμίαν]
The word occurs but once outside of John's writings (2 Peter 2:22). The usual word for parable is παραβολή , which is once rendered proverb in the A.V. (Luke 4:23, changed to parable by Rev.), and which occurs nowhere in John. For the distinction see on Matthew 13:3. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for John 10:6

Matthew 13:3 Many things in parables [πολλα εν παραβολαις]
It was not the first time that Jesus had used parables, but the first time that he had spoken so many and some of such length. He will use a great many in the future as in Luke 12 to 18 and Matt. 24 and 25. The parables already mentioned in Matthew include the salt and the light (Matthew 5:13-16), the birds and the lilies (Matthew 6:26-30), the splinter and the beam in the eye (Matthew 7:3-5), the two gates (Matthew 7:13.), the wolves in sheep‘s clothing (Matthew 7:15), the good and bad trees (Matthew 7:17-19), the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27), the garment and the wineskins (Matthew 9:16.), the children in the market places (Matthew 11:16.). It is not certain how many he spoke on this occasion. Matthew mentions eight in this chapter (the Sower, the Tares, the Mustard Seed, the Leaven, the Hid Treasure, the Pearl of Great Price, the Net, the Householder). Mark adds the Parable of the Lamp (Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16), the Parable of the Seed Growing of Itself (Mark 4:26-29), making ten of which we know. But both Mark (Mark 4:33) and Matthew (Matthew 13:34) imply that there were many others. “Without a parable spake he nothing unto them” (Matthew 13:34), on this occasion, we may suppose. The word parable There are parables in the Old Testament, in the Talmud, in sermons in all ages. But no one has spoken such parables as these of Jesus. They hold the mirror up to nature and, as all illustrations should do, throw light on the truth presented. The fable puts things as they are not in nature, Aesop‘s Fables, for instance. The parable may not be actual fact, but it could be so. It is harmony with the nature of the case. The allegory John does not use the word parable, but only παροιμια — paroimia a saying by the way (John 10:6; John 16:25, John 16:29). As a rule the parables of Jesus illustrate one main point and the details are more or less incidental, though sometimes Jesus himself explains these. When he does not do so, we should be slow to interpret the minor details. Much heresy has come from fantastic interpretations of the parables. In the case of the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-8) we have also the careful exposition of the story by Jesus (Matthew 13:18-23) as well as the reason for the use of parables on this occasion by Jesus (Matthew 13:9-17). [source]
John 10:1 Verily, Verily [Αμην αμην]
Solemn prelude by repetition as in John 1:51. The words do not ever introduce a fresh topic (cf. John 8:34, John 8:51, John 8:58). So in John 10:7. The Pharisees had previously assumed (Vincent) they alone were the authoritative guides of the people (John 9:24, John 9:29). So Jesus has a direct word for them. So Jesus begins this allegory in a characteristic way. John does not use the word παροιμια — parabolē but εις την αυλην των προβατων — paroimia (John 10:6), and it really is an allegory of the Good Shepherd and self-explanatory like that of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. He first tells it in John 10:1-5 and then explains and expands it in John 10:7-18. Into the fold of the sheep (αυλη — eis tēn aulēn tōn probatōn). Originally αω — aulē (from αναβαινων — aō to blow) in Homer‘s time was just an uncovered space around the house enclosed by a wall, then a roofless enclosure in the country where flocks were herded as here and John 10:16. It later came to mean the house itself or palace (Matthew 26:3, Matthew 26:58, etc.). In the papyri it means the court attached to the house. Climbeth up (αναβαινω — anabainōn). Present active participle of αλλαχοτεν — anabainō to go up. One who goes up, not by the door, has to climb up over the wall. Some other way (αλλοτεν — allachothen). Rare word for old εκεινος — allothen but in 4Macc 1:7 and in a papyrus. Only here in N.T. The same (κλεπτης εστιν και ληιστης — ekeinos). “That one” just described. Is a thief and a robber (κλεπτω — kleptēs estin kai lēistēs). Both old and common words (from ληιζομαι — kleptō to steal, κλεπτης — lēizomai to plunder). The distinction is preserved in the N.T. as here. Judas was a kleptēs (John 12:6), Barabbas a robber (John 18:40) like the two robbers (Matthew 27:38, Matthew 27:44) crucified with Jesus erroneously termed thieves like “the thief on the cross” by most people. See Mark 11:17. Here the man jumping over the wall comes to steal and to do it by violence like a bandit. He is both thief and robber. [source]
John 10:6 This parable [ταυτην την παροιμιαν]
Old word for proverb from παρα — para (beside) and οιμος — oimos way, a wayside saying or saying by the way. As a proverb in N.T. in 2 Peter 2:22 (quotation from Proverbs 26:11), as a symbolic or figurative saying in John 16:25, John 16:29, as an allegory in John 10:6. Nowhere else in the N.T. Curiously enough in the N.T. παραβολη — parabolē occurs only in the Synoptics outside of Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 11:19. Both are in the lxx. Παραβολη — Parabolē is used as a proverb (Luke 4:23) just as παροιμια — paroimia is in 2 Peter 2:22. Here clearly παροιμια — paroimia means an allegory which is one form of the parable. So there you are. Jesus spoke this παροιμια — paroimia to the Pharisees, “but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them” Second aorist active indicative of γινωσκω — ginōskō and note ην — ēn in indirect question as in John 2:25 and both the interrogative τινα — tina and the relative α — ha “Spake” (imperfect ελαλει — elalei) should be “Was speaking or had been speaking.” [source]
John 16:25 In proverbs [εν παροιμιαις]
See note on John 10:6 for this word. Shall tell Future active of απαγγελλω — apaggellō to report, correct text and not αναγγελω — anaggelō (John 16:13, John 16:14, John 16:15), as in 1 John 1:2. Plainly See note on John 7:13 for this word. [source]
John 16:29 No proverb [παροιμιαν ουδεμιαν]
No wayside saying, no dark saying. See John 10:6; John 16:25. [source]

What do the individual words in John 10:6 mean?

This - allegory spoke to them - Jesus they however not knew what it was that He was saying
Ταύτην τὴν παροιμίαν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς ἐκεῖνοι δὲ οὐκ ἔγνωσαν τίνα ἦν ἐλάλει

Ταύτην  This 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.
τὴν  - 
Parse: Article, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
παροιμίαν  allegory 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: παροιμία  
Sense: a saying out of the usual course or deviating from the usual manner of speaking.
εἶπεν  spoke 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: λέγω  
Sense: to speak, say.
αὐτοῖς  to  them 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative Masculine 3rd Person Plural
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.
  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Ἰησοῦς  Jesus 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰησοῦς  
Sense: Joshua was the famous captain of the Israelites, Moses’ successor.
δὲ  however 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: δέ  
Sense: but, moreover, and, etc.
ἔγνωσαν  knew 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: γινώσκω  
Sense: to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel.
ἦν  it  was 
Parse: Verb, Imperfect Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: εἰμί  
Sense: to be, to exist, to happen, to be present.
  that 
Parse: Personal / Relative Pronoun, Accusative Neuter Plural
Root: ὅς 
Sense: who, which, what, that.
ἐλάλει  He  was  saying 
Parse: Verb, Imperfect Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἀπολαλέω 
Sense: to utter a voice or emit a sound.