Hear vs Listen in John 10:27

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Puritan Board Freshman
NASB 2020 changed John 10:27 from

My sheep hear My voice…


My sheep listen to My voice

They’re not the only ones to do this and it seems pretty well split among popular translations.

Is there a theologically significant difference here or is to hear also to listen? I guess my knee jerk reaction was to attribute hearing to election and listening to free will but I’m probably splitting hairs.

This passage has historically been a Calvinism-go-to for me so just curious if we’re seeing the NASB tip its hand a little or if “listen” isn’t as works-based as I’m making it out to be.

What do you think?

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
What do you think?

The following are a few gleanings from the Oxford English Dictionary and Strong's Concordance.
I am by no means an expert. I just like words and muddle along with the few I understand.
Some stats:
  1. In the KJV the word 'hear,' in its various forms, is used roughly 1300 times.
  2. In the KJV the word 'listen' is used only once. (Isaiah 49:1) It is the same word, 'shama,' that is translated in forms of 'hear' elsewhere.
  3. In the NASB 2000 the word 'listen' is used 58± times.
from OED - The present definition of "to hear."
a. intransitive. To perceive, or have the sensation of, sound; to possess or exercise the faculty of audition, of which the specific organ is the ear. The proper verb to express this faculty or function.

from OED - The present definition of "to listen."
a. transitive. To hear attentively; to give ear to; to pay attention to (a person speaking or what is said). Now archaic and poetic.
1637 J. Milton Comus 19 - At which I ceas't, and listen'd them a while.

a. intransitive. To give attention with the ear to some sound or utterance; to make an effort to hear something; to ‘give ear’.

Sometimes the KJV limits 'hear' to perceived atmospheric vibrations.
Deuteronomy 4:28​
And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.​

Sometimes the Bible uses 'hear' in the sense of, to listen with an attempt at comprehension.
James 1:19 (ASV)​
Ye know this, my beloved brethren. But let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:​

At other times the Bible, particularly Jesus, uses to 'hear' in both senses.
Matthew 11:15 (ASV)​
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.​
Luke 14:35 (ASV)​
It is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill: men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.​
Luke 8:8 (ASV)​
And other fell into the good ground, and grew, and brought forth fruit a hundredfold. As he said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.​
[and many other times]​

When Jesus says, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," He means to listen with comprehension. 'Listen' alone, seems a bit weaker than 'let him hear'.


Puritan Board Graduate
They are just trying to use clearer English. There is a difference between hearing something and listening to it. I hear things all day. I never stop hearing. But it takes a special act of the will to listen. In the same way, unbelievers hear the voice of the Lord all the time. They hear it in sermons, in relationships with Christians, and in creation around them. Only believers listen.
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