HE WROTE ON THE GROUND

That the Jewish leadership wanted Jesus dead, was apparently not a secret to anyone who wanted to know (John 5:18; 7:1,25). It is not surprising then that when Jesus went up to the feast of tabernacles, He went, as it were, in secret (John 7:10). Yet Jesus began teaching in the temple openly and boldly, so much so that some in Jerusalem were saying “Is this not He, Whom they seek to kill? But, lo he speaketh boldly and they say nothing to Him” (John 7:25,26). Even Jesus, Himself, openly confronted the Jews with the pointed question “Why go ye about to kill Me?” (John 7:19).

Nevertheless, however much they wanted to kill Him, no one would make the move, some because they were afraid and others because they were impressed with His teaching (John 7:44,46,47). When the officers of the temple would not bring Jesus in to the council, the Pharisees accused them of being deceived (John 7:47). Nicodemus offered a mild defense of Jesus, arguing that at the very least Jesus should be given a hearing (John 7:50,51). Finally, when they found themselves at an impasse, the council broke up in disarray, and every man went to his own house (John 7:53).

After spending the night on the mount of olives, the next morning Jesus returned to the temple and began teaching openly again (John 8:1,2). As Jesus sat down and taught all the people that had come to hear Him, that faction of the scribes and Pharisees who sought Jesus’ life approached Him with a woman whom they sat in the midst of the crowd, right in front of Jesus (John 8:3). “Master,” they said, “this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4). Their intentions were not honorable for they sought an occasion where Jesus would make a mistake and entrap Himself and they could have something tangible wherewith they could accuse Him (John 8:6).

Some have supposed that the woman’s situation was like that of forced infidelty found in Deut. 22:23,24. In any case, the law required the death of both offending parties (Lev. 20:10). However, is it not curious that the male offender is strangely absent? Is it not curious that just after they had failed in trying to take Him, that they found just the right woman with which to attempt to test Him? Perhaps the guilty man was in the very crowd surrounding Jesus, or, dare we say, even among the scribes or Pharisees?

“Moses,” they said trying to give themselves some semblance of authority, “in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou?” (John 8:5). Maybe they so disgusted Jesus that He ignored them. Maybe He was drawing them further into the moral dilemma into which He was going to place them. But for whatever reason, Jesus seems to ignore them and stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger (John 8:6). They must have thought that they had caught Jesus for they “continued asking Him” the same question (John 8:7).

But Jesus turned the tables on them. He calmly rose from His place and mades a simple statement: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Then He stooped down again and began writing on the ground again (John 8:8). What Jesus wrote on the ground has been the cause of a lot of speculation. It has captivated the imaginations of many people for a long time. It could be that just as the finger of God wrote the tables of stone, the finger of God was now writing on the tables of stone in the temple (cf. Ex. 31:18). We simply cannot know. We need to learn that the secret things belong to the Lord (Deut. 29:29).

With this statement, Jesus pricked the conscience of every man there (John 8:9). The oldest first began to drop their stones and then the younger (John 8:9). As they dropped the stone they held, they each went out until only Jesus and the woman were left there (John 8:9). “Woman,” Jesus said, “where are those thine accusers? hath no man condenmed thee?” “No man, Lord” she replied. Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

The scribes and Pharisees not only broke the law of Moses by not examining this man and woman legally, they were partial in that they let the man go free (if he was not in on this attempt to snare the Lord) and their intentions were dishonorable from the beginning. Jesus knew their hearts. Jesus also knew the heart of this woman. We do not know her background but she was apparently of a far different character than the hypocritical Jewish leaders. Jesus did not condone this woman’s actions or pass over them lightly. He called it sin. He called upon her to sin no more. However, since there could no longer be found thetwo witnesses against her the law required, the Lord forgave her and encouraged her to change her life.

Eric L. Padgett

NOTE:
In the area of Textual Criticism, John 8:1-12 is one of the most controversial passages found in all the Bible. So controversial has this passage been that certain professors of the Christian faith, even in ancient times, have excised it from the biblical text. Many of those same ancient authorities, however, which omit the reading note where the passage in John should have been, and is now, with special diacritical marks indicating that they knew of the reading.

Some have suggested that the passage is an ancient oral tradition that found its way into the Text, though not scripture. However, it is hard to understand how or why this section was added to the text, and particularly in this place, being so controversial as it is. It makes more sense that it was excised from the text by someone who was uncomfortable reading about how Jesus treated this woman caught in the very act of adultery.

This passage is found in the Latin Vulgate in 383 A.D. Jerome based this translation on Greek manuscripts which were already available and considered ancient. Didymus the blind mentions this pasaage by 395 A.D. He lived in Alexandria. The Didascalia Apostolorum mentions the account. It was written around 230 A.D. in Syria, some have suggested it was written near Antioch. Ambrose of Milan mentions this passage no less than nine times, according to Dean Burgon, and places it in the gospel account of John.

There are other proofs that this passage is part of God’s word that cannot be gone into here. A search of the internet will provide plenty of arguments on both sides of the issue, if you are interested.

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