The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly – John 10:10
Meaning of John 10:10
The meaning of the verse, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” is that illegitimate and unfaithful leaders come to destroy Christians for their greed, but Jesus comes to give them life. In John 10, Jesus provides an analogy to his listeners about shepherding. In previous verses, Jesus explains that he protects and takes care of the sheep, and they trust him and recognize him. In John 10:10, he compares the traditional and hypocritical religious leaders to robbers and thieves. Thief is also a metaphor for Satan in this verse. He figuratively says that they come to cause havoc for their selfish gain. In contrast, Jesus claims that he has come to give life, an abundant life. However, it is important to note that abundant life does not necessarily mean wealth, health, and prosperity. The term “abundant life” is a metaphor for eternity in heaven.
Interpretations of John 10:10
The verse of john 10:10 is a commonly quoted verse in churches and among Christians. However, the verse is often taken out of context and interpreted in different ways. Here are some examples.
Interpretation #1 Every situation is caused by Satan or the devil
The interpretation of the verse, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” is that every problem or trouble a person faces is caused by satan. The reader believes that whenever he or she gets injured or faces loss and failure in college or work, it is caused by the devil. Hence, he or she blames the devil for all the problems in the world, including natural disasters, terrorism, and hate crimes. Additionally, the reader also concludes that when a person makes an enemy, it is because they are influenced by the devil.
Interpretation #2 Jesus is promising eternal life on Earth
The meaning of the verse, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” is that Jesus promises an eternity through this verse. In this version, the reader believes that Jesus is literally giving his word to the readers that he will immortalize them forever. Hence, the reader believes that Jesus will provide a person with excellent health and prosperity, along with blessing her or him with eternal life.
Interpretation #3 Non-Christians are under the control of the evil
The interpretation of the verse, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” is that anyone who is not a Christian is constantly under the influence of satan or evil. The interpretation can come from a Christian as they believe that even if a person is good and has never sinned in their life, they are controlled by evil. This is because he or she has not accepted Jesus into their life and hence has indirectly given way to evil in their life. The reader also believes that the non-Christian’s acts of charity or kindness are not from the heart but acts of display.
Interpretation #4 Recognizing evil makes Christian invincible
In this interpretation, the reader believes that a Christian is untouchable and indestructible if they start recognizing evil. Jesus is warning through this verse that the thief, which is a metaphor for Satan, is responsible for destruction, loss, and unhappiness. The reader, who is a Christian, also believes that Jesus is the strongest opponent of Satan and that relying on Jesus can help them recognize evil, which in turn will make them invincible. Thus, recognizing evil can help the Christians easily escape situations like natural disasters, terrorism, hardships, etc.
Interpretation #5 Jesus assures peace and comfort during hardship
The final interpretation of the verse, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” is that Jesus is assuring comfort and peace during hardships. The reader believes that this verse is a promise from Jesus to love and help during difficult times, especially during attacks of evil. After warning Christians of what Satan and false teachers are capable of, he proceeds to bless and be with his Children.
Historical background of John 10:10
The Book of John was written by John the Evangelist. Similar to the other three gospels, John covered the events of Jesus’ birth, death, His ministry, teachings, and redemption. The gospel was written between AD 70-110. The tenth chapter is about Jesus’ analogy about sheep and him being the shepherd. The tenth verse, in particular, is Jesus’ warning about religious leaders who mislead believers and about himself who provides life in abundance. The verse is metaphorical in its context and is meant to be a warning to the readers.
Literary Devices of John 10:10
John 10:10 is a warning and caution to the readers and consists of some significant literary devices. Here are some examples.
Metaphor – The ‘thief’ in verse is a metaphor for Satan as well as a deceptive preacher as Jesus is warning His listeners as well as readers about what evil is capable of.
Alliteration – The verse has one repeated consonant sound at the beginning of the word in quick succession. For example, the sound of /th/ in ‘i am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly’.
Consonance – The verse has a rich use of consonant sounds in repetition, a few without quick successions. For example, the sound of /t/, the sound of /l/, the sound of /m/, and the sound of /d/ in ‘The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly’.
Anaphora – The verse John 10:10 has repeated use of the phrase ‘that they’ referring to the readers of the Bible as well as any person who accepts Christianity. Here Jesus is warning the listeners about the deception of Satan or false teachers; thus it makes an excellent example of anaphora