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The story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) is not in the oldest Greek manuscripts, so some scholars doubt its authenticity. But there are many possible explanations for this, the foremost of which is the fact that no one seems to have the oldest—the original. Their oldest copies are centuries old, and no one can say for sure if that particular scribe copied the most accurate previous manuscript.
As usual, in such cases I refer to Dr. Ivan Panin’s Numeric English New Testament, where he determined the truly inspired text according to its gematria. The mathematical patterns inherent in the text itself proves inspiration, and in this case Panin includes it in his New Testament. Hence, I believe it must be included in the Gospel of John, because if omitted, countless patterns would be destroyed.
Jesus Delays His Return to Galilee
John 7:53 and 8:1 should be read together.
53 Everyone went to his home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
No doubt Jesus had set up His booth on the Mount of Olives, along with many others. While most of them took down their booths after the final morning ceremony on the eighth day of Tabernacles, Jesus was led to remain for at least an extra day. He sensed that He still had more to do and teach at the temple before leaving that place.
John 8:2 says,
2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.
Most likely, these were local people living in or near Jerusalem. Perhaps some had come to witness the morning sacrifice. Perhaps some had requested Him to continue teaching for a few days, since Jesus had been avoiding Jerusalem for some time. We do not know.
John 8:3, 4, 5 continues,
3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?”
Apparently, she had been discovered during the night or early that morning, and the scribes and Pharisees saw in her an opportunity to trap Jesus. If He dismissed the case, they could claim that He was putting away the law; if He said to stone her, they could report Him to the Roman authorities, who had decreed that all capital cases be decided by a Roman court.
Hence, this plot was hatched as a result of Jesus’ teachings in the latter half of the feast, which they believed to be outrageous. Because of His popularity, they could not arrest Him without angering the people. They needed to discredit Him to give themselves an excuse to arrest Him.
The Law of Jealousy
The scribes and Pharisees suggested that the woman deserved to be stoned, appealing to the law found in Deuteronomy 22:23, 24,
23 If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds here in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus, you shall purge the evil from among you.
This law applies only to a married or betrothed woman. We are not told specifically if she was betrothed, but because Jesus did not refute this claim, it is likely that she was indeed betrothed. Yet the law condemns both the man and the woman in such cases.
Why was the man not brought to Jesus as well? After all, if she had been “caught in adultery,” certainly the man would have been caught as well. Without the man present, where was the material evidence? How could an investigation take place without questioning the adulterous man? Should Jesus take the word of the scribes and Pharisees, whose motives were shady?
This alone made it impossible for a credible investigation to take place, even if Jesus had decided to judge the case. But any time it becomes impossible for an earthly court to do justice, the law allows men to appeal to the Divine Court and leave it in His hands for judgment. We see this in the law of jealousy in Numbers 5:12-31, which begins, saying,
12 Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, “If any man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him, 13 and a man has intercourse with her and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband and she is undetected, although she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act, 14 if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has defiled herself, or if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has NOT defiled herself, 15 the man shall bring his wife to the priest….
In other words, if a man suspects that his wife has committed adultery, but he cannot prove it, he has the right to bring her to the priest, who then presents the case to God Himself. In the appeal for divine justice, the priest was to have her take an oath of innocence, since it is obvious that she was claiming to be innocent.
Then the priest was to put some dust from the dirt floor of the tabernacle into a glass of water and have her drink some of it. This reinforced her claim of innocence and also gave her one final opportunity to retract her claim. If she were innocent, nothing harmful would come of it. But if guilty, she was judged by God Himself and would become barren. Numbers 5:23 then says,
23 The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall wash them off into the water of bitterness.
The curse of the law was written down, and it seems that the priest poured the water over the scroll and let it run down into another vessel, thus depositing the curse of the law into the water that she was to drink. By drinking it, she accepted the divine verdict.
This law was perverted during the Middle Ages by what they called “trial by ordeal.” In those cases, they would burn people at the stake, and if innocent, they expected God to intervene, put out the fire, and thus prove their innocence. Or they might attach a stone to their foot and throw them into the river, expecting God to save them if they were innocent.
The problem with this was that it established the principle that men were guilty unless proven innocent. The American judicial system, based upon the Protestant thinkers who studied the law of God, reversed this and established that a man is innocent unless proven guilty. Thus also, a woman suspected of adultery merely ingested some water with a little dust in it, which was quite harmless. Her oath presumed her innocence, unless God proved her guilt by making her barren.
Jesus Appeals to the Divine Court
Jesus knew that the scribes and Pharisees were trying to trap Him. Even if the woman was guilty, He would not have been able to sentence her to death, because the Romans disallowed this. Likewise, the witnesses were not credible, to say the least. There was no way that righteous judgment could be rendered. So He availed Himself of the law’s provision in the law of jealousy.
John 8:6 says,
6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground.
Paper was scarce in those days, and Jesus had no blank scroll on which to write the curse of the law. So He wrote those curses on the ground, showing His willingness to appeal to the law of jealousy. At first the scribes and Pharisees did not understand what He was doing, so we read in John 8:7, 8,
7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
What did Jesus write? The priestly curse is given in Numbers 5:21, 22,
21 … “The Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people by the Lord’s making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell; 22 and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.”
The woman in question was supposed to say, “Amen, Amen” to confirm her oath and accept the divine verdict. However, Jesus’ trial never got that far, because all of the so-called “witnesses” retracted their testimony by leaving the court. Once they understood what Jesus was doing, they refused to participate, knowing that God would hold the witnesses accountable as much as the woman in question. In fact, God judges the accusers first by their own standard (Matthew 7:2).
John 8:9-11 concludes,
9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she had been, in the midst. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you? 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on, sin no more.”
With no witnesses willing to testify against her, the trial ended. No accuser was left, so by law no judge could pronounce her guilty. She did not have to take the oath, “Amen, Amen,” nor did she have to drink any “water of bitterness.” His only advice was, “From now on, sin no more.”
Jesus did not violate the law by refusing to condemn her. He simply applied the proper law in this situation. Jesus used the law to promote mercy and to expose the accusers. They knew this, and this is why they left the scene as soon as they understood how they had been beaten.