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.
This passage, including the last verse of the previous chapter, is often disputed by those who believe the Alexandrian versions of Scripture are the best and German Higher Criticism is correct. One of the problems with that point of view is that the passage is found in many manuscripts of what these same scholars call the Byzantine text type along with ancient versions such as the Old Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Ethiopic. As well, it is referenced by early church fathers including Jerome and Augustine. So, we can safely dismiss the contentions of unbelieving Christians who cling to the fantasies of nineteenth century Anglo-Catholics.
The event presented here reveals a great teaching moment as Christ denies those who, perhaps guilty of the same crime, single out one person for punishment, and it is usually the woman who receives the brunt of such hypocrisy. The old saw about when you point a finger at someone you have three fingers of your hand pointing back at you applies.
The questions always come up, had they all committed adultery with her? What was Jesus writing with his finger on the ground? I will leave that up to other commentators and pastors to expound on the possibilities there. What is clear to the eye here is that Jesus has clarified and sharpened a moral command of God for the Jews.
Leviticus 20:10 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.
The context insists that the sin He was referring to was this sin that the men were wanting an excuse to kill this woman. So, guys, with which one of you was she taken in adultery? Shall you be stoned also? What if all of them had been guilty at some time with this woman? Was this an attempt to clear the books?
The hypocrisy of how moral laws are implemented by the Taliban, the Saudi police, or even Christian fundamentalists in America wanting the government to enforce religious rules is clear here. You may throw the stone but only if you are not guilty of the crime as well and for the Christian that means additionally, in your heart.
Matthew 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
2Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
How then shall any of us justify throwing the stone? One of the great tragedies of fundamentalism in America is its placing the burden of sexual sin on the woman’s shoulders. You will hear people, even women, declare that it is a woman’s responsibility not to entice a man, as if we don’t own our own sin and a man simply cannot help his behavior if tempted. This is wickedness and evil for we are responsible for how we respond to temptation.
In a different context these words are said and they apply well to this context.
Matthew 18:7 ¶ Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
For we have no excuses. In even another context is a verse that is applicable to this situation.
1Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Jesus did not give the woman, standing alone, a pass. He admonished her not to sin, and the context insists that He is referring to this particular sin, anymore.
Now, remember the first verses here. He was interrupted by the scribes and Pharisees while He was teaching people.