Thursday 20 July 2017

Bible Book:

“Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (v. 11)

John 7:53 – 8:11 Thursday 20 July 2017

Psalm: Psalm119:113-128


In most Bibles, today's passage appearswith brackets around it and a footnote that says something like:'Not found in most ancient manuscripts'. It has been the subject ofmuch study by biblical scholars, who have long noted that thelanguage is somewhat dissimilar to the rest of the Gospel and thatthe passage seems to break up the flow of chapters 7 and 8. Themajority opinion is now that this text was not originally includedin John's Gospel but added several centuries later. Exactly whythis happened and when the change was made is unclear. However,there is evidence that the incident is one of many that wererelated orally about Jesus in the years following his resurrectionand that it eventually found its ways into the pages of Scripturevia a copyist or later editor. The story certainly has manysimilarities with Jesus' other encounters with his opponents (eg Mark 10:2-12;12:13-17) and there is every reason to believe that it is anauthentic part of his teaching.

Whatever the textual history of theseverses, though, the challenge they present to modern readersremains unchanged. If the testimony of the scribes and Phariseeswas accurate, then the woman had undoubtedly broken the traditionalJewish law. Adultery contravened one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus20:14) and was dealt with extensively in the teaching of Moses(Deuteronomy 22:13-29, for example). Itcertainly could be punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), but only when the womanwas married/betrothed and the couple were caught committing the actby two witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). The law alsostipulated that both parties should be stoned in such cases (Leviticus 20:10) and so it is odd that only thewoman has been brought before Jesus here. All of this suggests thatthose who had brought the woman to Jesus were much more interestedin convicting him than her, condemning him for too lax aninterpretation of the law. As elsewhere, though, Jesus' expertknowledge of the law, which stipulated that the witness to the deedshould be the first to take up the stones (Deuteronomy 17:7), helps him to turn the tableson his accusers.

To Ponder

  • What do you think Jesus wrote on the ground with his finger(verse 6)?
  • What has this passage got to teach us today about how weinterpret the law and treat those convicted of offences?
  • Should we be overly concerned about the detail of how ourBibles came together? Why?
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