Saturday 26 July 2014

Bible Book:

“Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and from now on do not sin again.’” (vv. 10–11)

John 7:53 – 8.11 Saturday 26 July 2014


Biblical scholars have long debatedwhether the story of the woman caught in adultery is an insertioninto the Gospel. Most ancient manuscripts do not have this passageat all and a number of other manuscripts have the story at adifferent point in the Gospel. But some ancient manuscripts ofcourse do have this passage in its present location. Many moderntranslations put this story in square brackets to indicate that weare doubtful about the passage.

Personally, I think it is a greatstory and I am glad that it is included. It follows nicely on fromthe claims at the end of chapter 7 that none of the authorities orPharisees believe in Jesus. The story of the woman caught inadultery is clearly a plot dreamed up by the intelligentsia andfronted by the scribes and Pharisees (ie the authorityfigures).

The story is well known, as are itschallenges. Only the woman is brought to Jesus, not the man. Andall of her accusers appear to be male. She is neither identifiednor named and is silent for most of the narrative until she speaksin response to a direct question from Jesus.

The scribes and Pharisees play a highstakes game with the woman's life in an attempt to discredit Jesus,with no concern for her well-being. (Jesus could be accused ofdoing the same thing in calling their bluff.) If Jesus applied theletter of the law (which few would have attempted to do infirst-century Jerusalem), he could be discredited as a hardlinerwho stoned women. However, if Jesus did not condemn her they coulddiscredit him as one who did not keep the law of Moses, and hencecould not be the Messiah.

Commentators are divided about whatJesus was writing on the ground. Some think he was writing outportions of Torah (the Jewish Law). Some say he was doodling. Stillothers argue that what Jesus was writing was not important, it wasa device to create thinking time, not just for himself but also forthe woman's accusers.

Whatever he wrote, it is what Jesussays that is striking. He does not condemn or exonerate the womanat this point. He merely suggests that anyone who was without sinshould cast the first stone (verse 7). He then returns to writingon the ground as the woman's accusers slink away, having had timeto think.

After some time Jesus appears to besurprised that all the woman's accusers had left. The only one whowas indeed without sin had remained and he was not interested incasting stones, but rather in offering a new start. The past is notairbrushed away. She is to go and sin no more.

To Ponder

  • How much of a risk did Jesus take in this story? What if one ofthe men had lied or been mistaken about his own sinfulness and castthe first stone?
  • How do you create opportunities to offer a new beginning tothose who have been caught up in destructive habits?
  • The story does not tell us whether the woman acted upon Jesus'admonition to go and sin no more, only that it was offered. Is itenough to admonish? Is it also important to hold accountable?

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