The Woman Caught in Adultery

I shared with a Seventh-day Adventist recently regarding John 8:1-11 and it is clear that SDA’s – but not only SDA’s – approach the Scriptures of the Bible from the stand point of eisegesis (that is to read into the Scriptures one’s own belief systems and dogma) and that is where they interpret and teach scripture from their own view point which brings about error, but we are to receive from the Scriptures by exegesis (that is allowing Scripture to confirm Scripture) and “. . . the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things . . .” (see John 14:26).

This post will deal with two issues that many believers misinterpret – or miss altogether – with regards to this portion of Scripture where often it is said that this story merely shows the Lord Jesus’ mercy and grace to the woman caught in adultery. It however goes a lot deeper from a legal perspective than just “seeing the mercy and grace of Jesus.” The two issues, are,

1. Why? and for what reasons did Jesus write on the ground with His finger the two times? and

2. Would Jesus have had to give the command to stone the woman if all the requirements of the law were fulfilled?

Here is the portion of Scripture under discussion:

1  Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. 
2  And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. 
3  And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 
4  They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 
5  Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 
6  This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 
7  So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 
8  And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 
9  And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10  When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11  She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. ~ John 8:1-11

I will now give an exegesis account on John 8:1-11, starting with the first issue,

1. Why? and for what reasons did Jesus write on the ground with His finger the two times? 

Firstly, the Pharisees knew the law, but they also added to, diminished from and even broke the law of Moses. While many would overlook that Jesus would have to remind the Pharisees what the law required, by writing on the ground, we can learn much from what Jesus said, as it is recorded in the words of Jesus, as we hear His teaching, as He berates the doings and teachings of the scribes and Pharisees, as it is written,

1  Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 
2  Saying,
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 
3  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 
4  For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 
5  But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 
6  And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 
7  And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 
8  But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
~ Matthew 23:1-8

Now to exegete the John portion of Scripture under discussion, in John 8:3 we read that the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Jesus a woman taken in adultery, and they confirm in verse 4 that it was “in the very act.” If it was “in the very act” then they had broken the law of Moses by letting the male adulterer go free and by only bringing the female adulteress to Jesus for judgment. They “knew” what the law commanded as they say in verse 5 “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned:”, but their whole modus operandi was to tempt Jesus so that they could accuse Him for at the end of verse 5 they say, “but what sayest thou?” In verse 6 it confirms that they wanted to accuse Jesus and the only way to do that was to see how Jesus would react to the law of Moses that they were referring to. On the Pharisees’ part they were being deceitful and wanting to make a show of Jesus’ reaction before the scribes, who would have most certainly recorded the events, and before the people whom Jesus were teaching. In essence they were trying to “catch-out” Jesus by seeing if He would keep the law. The law of Moses commanded the following:

10  And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. ~ Leviticus 20:10

22  If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. ~ Deuteronomy 22:22

I believe that when “. . . Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not” He was bringing to their attention what the law actually said, bringing an indictment against them as to where the adulterer was that was caught “in the very act.” He wrote the applicable law with His finger, and we can go to the Old Testament Scriptures and see Who is referred to as writing the law with His finger, as we read, for it is written,

18  And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. ~ Exodus 31:18 (My emphasis in bold and throughout)

10  And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. ~ Deuteronomy 9:10

Since Jesus was being tested by the Pharisees in the law, it would be expected that Jesus was probably writing concerning the law. Why else would He stoop done and write? We are speaking about a Righteous GOD in human flesh! And if the Pharisees knew the Scriptures they would have understood Jesus’ writing with His finger, too. The Pharisees continued with their badgering of the Lord Jesus, and He lifted up Himself from the stooped position, as we read,

7  So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. ~ John 8:7

Jesus’ statement of “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” is referring to them breaking the law that He has just made known to them for they could not sin unless they had violated the law. You cannot bring an indictment against someone before showing them the error of their ways, or else it could be a false accusation if it were not true! For in 1 John 3:4 it reads: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” In this instance, Jesus could not make reference to “sin” in the absence of the “law” being mentioned, for He would have no basis to make that statement. Where there is no law there can be no transgression and indictment. Therefore, Jesus had to make known the law before saying, that if there is no transgression of the law (sin) among you then that person can then cast a stone at her. No righteous judgment can be executed without a person being shown the law they have violated. In a court of law you cannot be sued and be found guilty unless you are told which law you have transgressed. For we read, as it is written,

15  Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. ~ Romans 4:15

2. Would Jesus have had to give the command to stone the woman if all the requirements of the law were fulfilled?

It should also be noted that if the Pharisees had also brought the male adulterer to Jesus with the present adulteress, Jesus would have had to teach and show that He was a keeper of the law and have them both stoned according to the law given to Moses by GOD! However, this was not the intentions of the Pharisees to uphold the law, but to discredit and find reasons to accuse Jesus (see John 8:6). They were not law abiding, but deceivers in their actions!

When Jesus stooped down again the second time and wrote on the ground, it is possible that He was writing their indictments as lawbreakers for we read that they were being convicted by their own consciences; for we also read, as it is written,

11  For there is no respect of persons with God.
12  For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13  (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
14  For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15  Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; )
16  In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. ~ Romans 2:11-16

In context Jew and Gentile have the law written in their hearts and all have a conscience, for a ‘Jew’ is one inwardly, as we read,

28  For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29  But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. ~ Romans 2:28,29

One’s conscience can only bring about conviction when the righteous requirements of the law is brought to one’s attention. In John 8:9 the Pharisees’ consciences were convicted – their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts accusing one another. Have you heard the saying: “Have you got a guilty conscience?” How can a conscience be guilty if it has never been shown what it is guilty of? We read that the law is a schoolmaster, as it is written,

24  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. ~ Galatians 3:24

Once they were convicted by their consciences they started leaving from the eldest to the last for they were not innocent from transgressing the laws of Moses which the Pharisees bragged about keeping! Therefore, Jesus could also not condemn the woman as the requirements of the law had not fully been fulfilled, in two parts:

(i) The male adulterer was also not present to stand “trial”; and

(ii) The “witnesses” were no longer present having departed due to their own convictions, as we read what the law required from witnesses:

6  At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. 
7  The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you. ~ Deuteronomy 17:6,7

The answer to the second issue would then be a resounding YES! If the male adulterer had also been brought to Him, the witnesses who caught the adulterer and the adulteress “in the very act” would have had to be the first to cast stones at the lawbreakers and then afterward the hands of all the people which would probably have included Jesus’ own hand! Therefore, in light of the fact that the transgressing of the law was not fulfilled in all its requirements, Jesus showed the adulterous woman mercy “Neither do I condemn thee:”, but gave her a stern warning to “go, and sin no more.

Jesus Christ is merciful and gracious, but He is also a righteous Judge that passes righteous judgments! Christians must not be as the Pharisees, whom Christ berated:

15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. ~ Matthew 23:15

Jesus said the just shall live by faith, for the letter of the law kills, as we read:

16  Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17  But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18  For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19  For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 
20  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 
21  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. ~ Galatians 2:16-21

We therefore cannot come to the Scriptures as we think fit, wanting it to say what we want it to say to fit one’s own doctrines, dogma and religious denomination, but we must always allow Scripture to confirm Scripture! Our Lord Jesus Christ is the living Word of the written Word Who is “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8). And He changes not, neither will He ever contradict Himself!Soli Deo Gloria

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