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Good Shepherd

appear jesus christian sheep

The motif of the *shepherd as leader and protector occurs frequently in the Old Testament, often used to symbolize *God. The imagery was also applied to political (especially royal) leaders, not always with positive connotations (e.g., *Ezekiel 34 describes the disastrous consequences wrought by bad shepherds, poor leaders). In the New Testament , Jesus used the image of the Good Shepherd, who diligently watches over and leads his flock and who carefully retrieves lost sheep. Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd, which provided inspiration for the subject’s popularity in early Christian art. Jesus as Good Shepherd may appear as a youthful, beardless, seated figure, surrounded by sheep (representing members of the Christian flock), or he may appear as a standing figure carrying a sheep on his shoulders (representing a strayed sinner, rescued). Both types appear in early Christian sculpture (sarcophagi, statuettes), in frescoes and mosaics. Classical precedents in general bucolic or pastoral imagery as well as specific prototypes (Orpheus among the *animals, Mercury as protector of flocks) are often cited in the development of this symbolism. Other biblical references include: Psalm 23 (“the Lord is my shepherd”), *Isaiah 40: 11, and Hebrews 13:20.
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