Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Exegetical Paper: An Adulteress Faces Jesus, the Righteous Judge – John 7:53-8:11

LIBERTY UNIVERSITY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY 
Exegetical Paper: Selected Passage – John 7:53-8:11 
Submitted to Dr. A Boyd Luter, in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the completion of the course
 NBST 610 D01
Hermeneutics
 by
 Ray Ruppert
May 2, 2015
 Table of Contents
Thesis and Outline John 7:53-8:11.............................................................................................. 1
Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 2
Context.............................................................................................................................................. 3
Historical-Cultural Context .................................................................................................. 3
Literary Context ................................................................................................................... 4
Analysis ............................................................................................................................................ 6
Jesus’ Courtroom (7:53-8:2)........................................................................................................ 6
Introduction of the Other Characters (8:3) ................................................................................. 6
The Prosecutors, Scribes and Pharisees (8:3a) ................................................................ 7
The Defendant, a Woman Caught in Adultery (8:3b) .................................................... 7
The Accusation (8:4) ................................................................................................................... 7
The Question Regarding Sentence (8:5) ..................................................................................... 8
Revelation of Prosecutors’ Motive (8:6a) ................................................................................... 8
Wisdom of Jesus’ First Response (8:6b-c) .................................................................................. 9
Jesus Bends Down (86b) ................................................................................................ 9
Jesus Writes on the Ground (8:6c)................................................................................... 10
Prosecutors’ Persistence (8:7a) ................................................................................................... 10
Wisdom of Jesus’ Judicial Response (8:7b-8) ............................................................................ 11
He Stands (8:7b) ............................................................................................................. 11
Jesus’ Answer (8:7c) ....................................................................................................... 11
Jesus Writes on the Ground (8:8) ................................................................................... 12
Prosecutors’ Response to Jesus (8:9) .......................................................................................... 13
Jesus’ Mercy in His Interaction with the Woman (8:10-11) ....................................................... 14
Jesus Stands (8:10a) ........................................................................................................ 14
Jesus Questions the Woman (8:10b) ............................................................................... 14
Woman’s Response (8:11a) ............................................................................................ 15
Jesus’ Acquittal of the Woman (8:11b) .......................................................................... 15
Jesus’ Advice to the Woman (8:11c) .............................................................................. 16
Application ...................................................................................................................................... 16
Theological Principles ........................................................................................................... 16
Personal Application ............................................................................................................. 17
Conclusion ....................................................................................................................................... 17
Bibliography..................................................................................................................................... 19


Thesis and Outline – John 7:53-8:11

The passage selected for this paper is John 7:53-8:11.[1]
7:53 [[They went each to his own house, 8:1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."]]

This paper will reveal the purity, wisdom, and mercy of Jesus the righteous judge as he demonstrates God’s grace and mercy to a woman who deserves punishment and to her accusers; it will also show how people can apply the theological principles of the passage to their lives.
                   I.            Jesus’ Courtroom (7:53-8:2)
                II.            Introduction of the Other Characters (8:3)
A.    The Prosecutors, Scribes and Pharisees (8:3a)
B.     The Defendant, a Woman Caught in Adultery (8:3b)
             III.            The Accusation (8:4)
             IV.            The Question Regarding Sentence (8:5)
                V.            Revelation of Prosecutors’ Motive (8:6a)
             VI.            Wisdom of Jesus’ First Response (8:6b-c)
A.    Jesus Bends Down (8:6b)
B.     Jesus Writes on the Ground (8:6c)
          VII.            Prosecutors’ Persistence (8:7a)
       VIII.            Wisdom of Jesus’ Judicial Response (8:7b-8)
A.    He Stands (8:7b)
B.     Jesus’ Answer (8:7c)
C.     Jesus Writes on the Ground (8:8)
             IX.            Prosecutors’ Response to Jesus (8:9)
                X.            Jesus’ Mercy in His Interaction with the Woman (8:10-11)
A.    Jesus Stands (8:10a)
B.     Jesus Questions the Woman (8:10b)
C.     Woman’s Response (8:11a)
D.    Jesus’ Acquittal of the Woman (8:11b)
E.     Jesus’ Advice to the Woman (8:11c) 

Introduction

Some scholars forcefully question this passages’ inspiration;[2] however, the pericope conforms to several themes in the Gospel of John and fits into the narratives surrounding the passage. It contributes to the goal of the book to help people believe Jesus is the Christ and have eternal life (John 20:31). Many Bibles indentify this passage with a woman caught in adultery. An exception is the New King James Bible, which states before John 7:53, “An Adulteress Faces the Light of the World.” While the woman caught in adultery is instrumental in this pericope, she is not the main character and the correct punishment for adultery is not the main issue. The other active characters in the passage, the scribes and Pharisees, are not the principle characters though they are also indispensable, as their goal is to discredit Jesus reveals the real issue. This passage is about Jesus Christ and the way he reveals himself as the righteous judge, who alone is capable of unbiased judgment. Jesus demonstrates his purity, wisdom, and mercy as the righteous Judge. He knows and abides by the Law of Moses, does not infringe on the Roman government’s authority, and demonstrates God’s grace and mercy to a woman who deserves punishment. The passage has several theological principles and provides practical application for Christian living and attaining eternal life. 

Context

Historical-Cultural Context

The Apostle John was the acknowledge author of the Gospel of John for the first eighteen hundred years of Christianity.[3] John Nixon reviews six patristic authors who referred to the Gospel of John and acknowledged John as an elder or apostle.[4] He also reviews seven later Church fathers who explicitly attest that John wrote the Gospel of John.[5] These are strong confirmation that John was the author.
The stated purpose of John’s gospel is to convince people Jesus is the Son of God and see them saved (John 20:31). However, Jewish ritual and religion depended on the temple to satisfy the requirements of the Law. Written after the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, John offered the opportunity for Jews to see that Jesus replaced the temple and symbolically fulfilled the feasts.[6] This passage demonstrates the distance the religious leaders went to try to avoid exactly what happened in A.D. 70, as they perceived Jesus a threat to the status quo.

Most scholars do not accept the passage of John 7:53-8:11 as genuine. Most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include this pericope. The Codex Bezae (circa A.D. 400) is the only major Greek manuscript that contains this passage.[7] Even though there are over 900 manuscripts containing the passage, no church fathers referred to the passage.[8] In defense of the passage, Jerome’s translation of the Gospel of John into Latin contains the pericope and Zane Hodges speculates that Jerome had access to manuscripts older than those available today.[9]

Internal evidence is also debatable. Allison Trites concludes, “The story of the adulterous woman fits admirably into the controversy developed in John 1—12.”[10] W. Harris III admits it fits with the Festival of Booths that bracket the passage; however, he states, “In general the style of the pericope is not Johannine either in vocabulary or grammar.”[11]

In keeping with the overwhelming evidence, it appears that this passage was not part of the original Gospel of John and does not meet two of the three prescribed criteria of canonicity, apostolicity, and catholicity. However, it does meet the criterion of orthodoxy.[12] The later church accepted it for over a thousand years, most of Christendom accepts this passage as authoritative, and “it is as well written and as theologically profound as anything else in the Gospels.”[13]

Literary Context

John establishes at least three trains of thought as he worked through the first twelve chapters of his gospel. The first is the ongoing conflicts that Jesus had with his opponents, the Pharisees.[14] Specific instances are in John 4:1-3, 7:32, and 7:45-52 before the pericope. Afterwards the conflicts continue in John 8:13, 9:22, 10: 22-39;  they decide to kill him in John 11:47-53. This last conflict reveals their selfish motive because they fear they will lose their powerful political and religious positions.

The second train of thought is the description of Jesus as the judge of the world. The Father gave him authority to judge and his judgment is just (John 5:25-30). Jesus declared that he judges righteously (John 7:24). Jesus then demonstrates his righteous judgment in John 7:53-8:11. Jesus follows this with the statement that his judgment is true because he judges along with the Father (John 8:16). Jesus reveals his mercy when he states that he did not come to judge but save the world. However, the world will be judged in the future by what Jesus said (John 12:47-50).

In closer context, the theme of the Festival of Booths is another train of thought included in this pericope. This context begins in John 7:1 and continues through the end of the chapter with the seventh day of the feast. On the eighth day of the feast, Jesus returns to the temple to teach and the Pharisees attempt to trap him but he demonstrates righteous judgment (John 7:53-8:11). Jesus then declares to be the light of the world in keeping with extinguishing the artificial lights of the festival by the light of day,[15] thus concluding Jesus’ fulfillment of the feast.

Each of these three themes ties in seamlessly with the pericope, shedding light on the passage. The passage provides a transition from the plot of the chief priests and the Pharisees to Jesus’ reappearance in the temple the next day. The transition from Jesus’ discussion with the woman in verse 11 to his next confrontation with the Pharisees appears rather abrupt because the Pharisees have departed in verse 9 but suddenly reappear in verse 13. This is not out of step with other transitions between topics in chapter 8. However, there is not agreement among scholars that the passage is seamless. Burge labels the placement of the text, “Awkward.”[16]

Analysis

Jesus’ Courtroom (7:53-8:2)

“They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple” (John 7:53-8:1). The author sets the scene for the trial that is about to unfold. Tying in with the previous scene where the Pharisees and chief priest are frustrated at their attempt to arrest Jesus, they retire to the comfort of their homes following their seven days living in booths. In contrast, Jesus does not seek a more comfortable surrounding for his night. Perhaps in the same manner as he was accustomed when teaching his disciples privately (Matt 24:3), and when he prepared for his arrest and crucifixion (Matt 26:30-46), he sought this place of quiet and prayer to prepare for his next entrance into Jerusalem. The courtroom is the temple, which is not insignificant as this is where God, the eternal judge meets man year after year to forgive sins on the Day of Atonement, which was celebrate only a week before.
“All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them” (John 8:2). Even though the people are confused about Jesus (John 7:40-44), they still come to listen to him teach, as the officers testified, “No one ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46). Jesus sits down to teach, the customary position of a teacher in his day. Thus, the scene is set for the trial to begin with Jesus as the judge and the people to witness Jesus’ handling of the affair.

Introduction of the Other Characters (8:3)

“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst …” (John 8:3). Jesus and the people are already in his court; he is seated and ready to judge just as the Ancient of Days is seated with thousands before him (Dan 7:9-10). The other characters of the scene now enter the courtroom.

The Prosecutors, Scribes and Pharisees (8:3a)

The scribes and Pharisees enter to bring accusations of adultery against a woman. This is the only mention of scribes in the Gospel of John; however, their mention is significant as they are the ones who will interpret the law as jurists.[17] They are present should Jesus make a mistake in his judgment, they will be witness to his deficiency. The Pharisees are the religious leaders with the authority to bring spiritual charges. They have decisive influence on prayer, worship, sacrifices and are “capable of counteracting the design of the kings.”[18] These prosecutors will bring the charges against the woman. They have a zeal for righteousness but not a zeal for the soul of the woman.[19]

 The Defendant, a Woman Caught in Adultery (8:3b)

The woman committed adultery. Without a doubt, she is a sinner. Her identity is unknown. The prosecutors place her in the midst of the courtroom. In all respects, she is most likely an emotional wreck. Her sin is not just exposed, but also flagrantly paraded before the most important people of the country and in the holy temple.[20] Yet the author says nothing about her other than her sin and her position before Jesus who will be her judge. Thus, every sinner throughout time can identify with her.

The Accusation (8:4)

“They said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:4). The prosecution addresses Jesus with respect as a teacher even though they rudely interrupt his teaching session. Acknowledging him as a teacher will add to their case against him later. They are not coming to a distinguished Rabbi because the case is difficult, since capital punishment for adultery is seldom if ever enforced.[21]

Adultery is sexual intercourse of a married person with someone outside of the marriage. In the Jewish view, both the man and the woman are guilty of adultery. However, Roman and Greek law did not hold the man accountable but the penalty for the woman is death.[22] Considering the Hellenization of Palestine and the influence of the Roman occupiers, it is possible that the accusers did not see a need to bring the man as well as the woman. Leaving the man out of the equation may also give them the opportunity to accuse Jesus if he does agree with their sentence.

The Question Regarding Sentence (8:5)

“Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say" (John 8:5)? At one time adultery was a serious crime punishable by death (Lev 20:10, Deut 22:21-22). They caught this woman in the act, which requires the death of both the man and the woman involved. Stoning a woman and not the man can happen only upon learning of her adultery at the consummation of her marriage (Deut 22:17). Assuming that two or more of the accusers are also witnesses (Deut 17:6-7), the case seems open and shut.[23] Repeating her sin twice leaves no room to consider that she is not guilty. Jesus cannot deny her guilt. It only remains for him to agree or disagree with the prosecution’s assessment of the Law of Moses.

Revelation of Prosecutors’ Motive (8:6a)

“This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him” (John 8:6a). The author clarifies that the prosecutors’ motive is not to have the Law of Moses carried out against the woman. That is of little importance to them. Their motive is to execute Jesus; if they have to kill the woman in the process, then they are willing to sacrifice her. Since the man is not present, there is opportunity for Jesus to challenge the prosecution.[24]

Revealing that this was a trap prepares the reader to see how Jesus foils their attempt. Current readers may not understand the dilemma of the situation. If Jesus agrees with the sentence to stone the woman, the scribes may condemn him for not being strict enough about the Law since the man was free. He would not be an impartial judge if he sentenced the woman and not the man. If he advocates stoning her, the Roman government may take him to task for taking the law into his own hands since the Jews did not have authority to carry out the death sentence (John 18:31). They also can claim that he violates his own teaching of grace and forgiveness (Luke 5:20). If he dismisses the charge, then they can claim he is guilty of teaching against the Law of Moses and against Roman law.[25] In the eyes of the prosecution, their plan is perfect.

Wisdom of Jesus’ First Response (8:6b-c)

“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground” (John 8:6b). There is little in contemporary Western culture that would explain Jesus’ action. It was most likely a surprise to the prosecutors as well.[26] The King James Version adds, “As though he heard them not.” While this is not in any Greek manuscripts, translators added this and it presents a valid idea that may help understand his action.

Jesus Bends Down (8:6b)

Presumably, Jesus is still sitting during this interruption, maintaining his position as a teacher as well as judge. Rather than standing in their presence to show respect for them (Job 29:8), he remains seated. Bending over, Jesus effectively ignores their demand to settle the case. “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense”( Prov 19:11 NIV). Jesus knows their deception and the offensive interruption of his teaching. He demonstrates wisdom and patience by bending down and ignoring their initial request.

Jesus Writes on the Ground (8:6c)

Speculations abound for what Jesus wrote on the ground; however, it is more important to note that he writes on the ground. Is it for the benefit of the onlookers, the prosecutors, the woman, or the reader? If Jesus is demonstrating his wisdom then one explanation makes sense. Jesus writes on the ground with his finger symbolically repeating what God did when he gave the Ten Commandments. This is the finger of God writing on the earth. These are the only two times in the Bible when God writes with his own hand. It is a reminder to the scribes and Pharisees of the full Ten Commandments as well as a reminder to the reader. For the readers who no longer have the temple to satisfy the requirements of the Old Testament, it is a statement that Jesus writes the New Covenant.[27]

The eighth day of the feast was a holy day of rest. According to their traditions, no one may write more than two letters, unless it was in the dust. Jesus demonstrates that he is well aware of the oral as well as the written traditions.[28] His judgment will take into account all aspects of their laws.

Prosecutors’ Persistence (8:7a)

“And as they continued to ask him …” (John 8:7a). It is apparent that the prosecutors have only one thing on their minds; they will not stop asking the question about the sentence until Jesus responds verbally.[29] It is hard to imagine that they do not take notice of what Jesus writes. Perhaps, Jesus’ ignoring them only fuels their anger against him. Their desire to eliminate Jesus dominates any sense of decorum. Their impatience is in contrast to Jesus’ calm.

Wisdom of Jesus’ Judicial Response (8:7b-8)

“He stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground” (John 8:7b-9).

He Stands (8:7b)

Now Jesus stands. He is face to face with the prosecution and the woman. It is time for Jesus to render his verdict and this simple action of standing transforms Jesus from a teacher, ignoring the rabble, to the judge of mankind. The reader may very well be acquainted with the Book of Acts and remembers that Jesus was standing at the right hand of God at Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7:55-60). It must silence the prosecutors not because they recognize Jesus but because they are about to trap him.

Jesus’ Answer (8:7c)

Jesus again demonstrates his wisdom in his answer. Rather than falling into their trap, Jesus turns the table on the prosecutors. He answers by synthesizing Leviticus 24:14, Deuteronomy 13:5-10, and Deuteronomy 17:6-7.[30] He does not render a verdict about the woman’s guilt or innocence, rather he clarifies that stoning must be carried out by the person who first sees or hears the offence, even if it is in secret. Furthermore, there must be two or more witnesses to the crime. It is obvious that in each of these situations, any person doing the stoning must also be free from blasphemy and idol worship, or they would be stoned as well. However, Jesus adds the requirement for the person to cast the first stone to be without sin in this situation as well. They can use nothing in his answer to accuse him before the people, their own religious establishment, or the Roman government.

The Law did not require the executioners to be sinless. If sinlessness is a requirement of a witness and therefore an executioner, then it would be impossible to convict anyone. Yet the Bible clarifies that the government’s has authority to carry out God’s wrath on evildoers (Rom 13:4).[31] The meaning of being without sin in the context of this passage and the synthesis of Jesus reply from the Old Testament brings two points to mind. The first is that the witness must be free from the sin of adultery. The second is that the witness must be free from complicity in arranging to catch her and trap Jesus. The judge of all mankind does not pass judgment on the woman, but on her prosecutors. In one sense, Jesus also becomes her advocate (1 John 2:1).[32]

Jesus Writes on the Ground (8:8)

Jesus’ purpose in writing on the ground this time may be to extend grace to those who must let his words sink into their hearts.[33] Rather than staring them down, face to face, he is willing to let them “save face” by leaving quietly. Jesus also demonstrates wisdom in that abruptly bending down, he sends the message that he is not willing to discuss his answer. The religious leaders have often attempted to justify themselves (Luke 10:29; 16:14-15).[34] Again, there is no point in speculating about what Jesus writes. He is patient, giving each person time to repent (2 Peter 3:9). The judge of this world is a patient judge.

Prosecutors’ Response to Jesus (8:9)

“But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him” (John 8:9). These men or their agents followed Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry (John 3:18). They know what Jesus taught otherwise they would not have been able to construct their trap nor would they feel constrained to kill him. When Jesus allows the one without sin to cast the first stone, his words are enough to convict these men. “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28). If this were not enough, God is also able to bring to their minds conviction from the Old Testament. Their intent against Jesus is obviously murder. A sobering passage is Proverbs 28:17, “If one is burdened with the blood of another, he will be a fugitive until death; let no one help him.” This demonstrates that Jesus’ word judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart (John 12:47-50, Heb 4:12).

Leaving from the oldest to the youngest may be part custom in deferring to the elders and part conviction of those most sensitive to their conscience.[35] On the other hand, those who have been Pharisees, using the negative sense of the word, the longest are most likely to have seared consciences (Titus 1:15). However, as they left, they admit their guilt. This is a huge contrast to their next conflict with Jesus as the Pharisees regroup and argue extensively with Jesus about his ability to judge, his Father, and his deity (John 8:12-59). Their admission of guilt does not bring about any long-term repentance or change of heart. Most likely, they leave because they are embarrassed. Regardless of their reason, this demonstrates God’s control of the situation because it is not yet time for them to take Jesus.

Jesus’ Mercy in His Interaction with the Woman (8:10-11)

“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’” (John 8:10-11). With no prosecutors, Jesus is the only one left qualified to pass judgment on the woman.

Jesus Stands (8:10a)

It is likely that she stands through the entire ordeal since Jesus stands to address her. He does not look down on her, nor does he sit again to teach. He demonstrates his respect for her just as he did for other women he encountered.[36]

Jesus Questions the Woman (8:10b)

Jesus does not question the woman about her guilt. He judges as he hears and his judgment is just (John 5:30). Just as Jesus spoke with respect to the woman at the well but also told her all she did (John 4:39), Jesus does not need witnesses to accuse her. He knows her heart and her life; he does not need to ask if she is guilty. Rather, his question is about her immediate crisis; where are those who want her dead? Jesus demonstrates his tenderness and compassion as a graceful judge.[37] This is in stark contrast to the Law that previously stood to condemn her.

The first question is about the location of her accusers. The second is asking even if anyone is condemning her. If there is no prosecution, then according the Law, punishment (condemnation) is not appropriate (Deut 17:6). Even in our culture, this is the practice. No judge would convene a trial if there were no prosecuting attorney willing to take on the case. However, that does not mean the person is innocent. [38]

Woman’s Response (8:11a)

“She said, ‘No one, Lord’” (John 8:11a). The woman has one brief moment to speak and simply replies to Jesus’ question. She calls him lord, but this may only mean she acknowledges his authority over her in the trial. Surely, Psalm 51:4 is familiar to her. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” Unlike David, she does not admit guilt, demonstrate remorse, or express relief. However, she is still at the mercy of the judge and he has not yet rendered his verdict.

Jesus’ Acquittal of the Woman (8:11b)

“And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you’” (John 8:11b). This is the second time that Jesus uses the word, “condemn.” Jesus uses the word in the strict sense of pronouncing a sentence, the punishment required for a crime, not a declaration of guilt. Even though Jesus is qualified to condemn her because he is without sin and the judge of all mankind, he will not sentence her because he supports the Law of Moses.[39] This is a legal acquittal, which means she is not guilty according to the law. It does not remove her moral guilt before God.

This does not mean that Jesus forgives the woman. Jesus does not say anything about forgiving her sins. In comparing this incident with other verses where Jesus specifically tells the paralytic (Matt 9:2) and the woman who anointed him and wept on his feet (Luke 7:48-50) that their sins were forgiven, there are two major differences. The first is that this woman did not come to Jesus willingly. She did not come to find forgiveness. The second is that she did not come in faith. In both of the other two instances, Jesus either sees or comments on their faith. He makes no such comment about the woman caught in adultery. His advice to her demonstrates this as well.

Jesus’ Advice to the Woman (8:11c)

“’Go, and from now on sin no more’” (John 8:11c). In neither of the other proclamations of forgiveness, does Jesus tell the person to stop sinning. Rather, he heals the paralytic and simply tells him to go home (Matt 9:6). He dismisses the woman in peace (Luke 7:50). However, the adulteress has no assurance of forgiveness; she has not expressed any faith in Jesus. In his next confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus will drive the point home as he declares, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:22). While Jesus demonstrates his grace and mercy to the woman, it is only temporary unless she also repents and comes to him in faith.

Application

Theological Principles

Several theological principles are within the pericope that are consistent with both the Old and New Testaments. The best-laid plans of men are unable to trap Jesus before his time, demonstrating God’s sovereignty in all situations. Jesus’ ability to uphold the details of the Law and his own teaching of mercy and grace demonstrate God’s wisdom. Conviction of the scribes and Pharisees reveals that no one can hide his sins from God. People will go to extreme sinful lengths to satisfy their desires rather than submit to God. Jesus will judge correctly in every situation and it will be with grace and mercy; but this does not mean he will forgive without faith and repentance. Jesus gives everyone ample time to repent. This passage does not apply to a theology allowing or disallowing capital punishment.[40]

Personal Application

The biggest difference between the circumstances of this passage and today is that Jesus is not physically present. While people cannot approach Jesus and challenge him, people do approach and challenge Christians trying to discredit Jesus and the Bible. There are also legalistic Christians who treat sinners harshly and without compassion. There are also sinners who need to make up their minds about their sins and whether or not they will forsake them and turn to Jesus for salvation. These similarities allow for personal applications.

We are often like the scribes and Pharisees in this passage. We judge others harshly and legalistically. We forget that Jesus graciously forgives us and expects us to extend grace to others. We need to give people with sin problems the opportunity to repent and change their lives rather than treating them harshly and hoping that God will “get them.” We must look at our own sins and realize that it is only because of Jesus’ patience and grace toward us that we are not treated the way we want him to treat others. Rather, we need to let them know that they can come to Jesus. Those who repent find assurance of their forgiveness.
We are like the woman caught in adultery. But the devil is the prosecutor and Jesus is the judge and our advocate (1 John 2:1). We can be sure that Jesus will judge us fairly, as he has already defeated the prosecutor. But the question is whether we appear before Jesus unwillingly at the end of our life or we come to him while alive in repentance and in faith. If we do not come in faith, then we can be sure that our accuser will not stop. His witness will stand and more importantly, Jesus’ witness will stand. We will be condemned and it will not be temporal, but eternal.

We can be like Jesus. We can make sure that we examine cases carefully. We can be patient. We can be gracious and treat sinners with respect. We can make sure that we do not accept the condemnation of hypocrites who have an ungodly agenda. We can also warn against continued sin. Best of all, we can go one step further and share the gospel, praying that sinners will believe in Jesus and receive salvation.

Conclusion

The authenticity of John 7:53-8:11 is questionable and that will never change. However, the passage provides a vivid look into the life of Jesus and the ongoing conflict he had with the religious leaders. It reveals him as the righteous judge. The details of this incident focus on Jesus’ wise application of the Law of Moses to the case of a woman caught in adultery. He weighs all the intricacies of their trap from the legal and Roman political angles. Yet, he shows grace to the accusers as he allows them to leave without his condemning stare. It is a powerful demonstration of God’s ability to convict and move even a sinner’s heart to his will. Jesus emerges as the judge of the accusers as well as the woman’s judge revealing his purity. He offers her the opportunity to admit her guilt and ask for forgiveness, which she does not do. Again, Jesus demonstrates mercy by freeing her and giving her another chance to repent and change her life. The theological principles found in this passage are consistent with other Scripture and are useful for application today.

Bibliography

Barnes, Albert. Barnes’ Notes. Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc, 2005. Electronic database.
Baylis, Charles P. “The Woman Caught in Adultery: A Test of Jesus as the Greater Prophet.” Bibliotheca Sacra 146, no. 582 (April 1, 1989): 171-84. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/bsac146-582-04.
Burge, Gary M. “A Specific Problem in the New Testament Text and Canon: The Woman Caught In Adultery (John 7:53-8:11).” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27, no. 2 (June 1984): 141-48. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jets27-2-03.
Clarke, Adam. Clarke’s Commentary. Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc, 2005. Electronic database.
Constable, Thomas L. “Notes on John.” Sonic Light. 2015. Accessed April 20, 2015. http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/john.pdf.
Exell, Joseph S. The Biblical Illustrator: New Testament Volumes. Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc, 2006. Electronic database.
Fausset, Andrew Robert. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc, 2006. Electronic database.
Harris III, W. Hall. “1. Background to the Study of John.” Bible.org. February 2, 2009. Accessed April 13, 2015. https://bible.org/seriespage/background-study-john.
—. “10. Exegetical Commentary on John 7.” Bible.org. February 2, 2009. Accessed April 13, 2015. https://bible.org/seriespage/exegetical-commentary-john-7.
—. “11. Exegetical Commentary on John 8.” Bible.org. February 2, 2009. Accessed April 13, 2015. https://bible.org/seriespage/exegetical-commentary-john-8.
Harrison, Everett F. “The Gospel and the Gospels.” Bibliotheca Sacra 116, no. 462 (April 1959): 109-16. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/bsac116-462-02.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc., 2006. Electronic database.
Hodges, Zane C. “Problem Passages in the Gospel of John Part 8 the Woman Taken in Adultery (John 7:11-8:11) the Text.” Bibliotheca Sacra 136, no. 544 (October 1979): 318-32. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/bsac136-544-03.
James, Stephen A. “The Adulteress and the Death Penalty.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22, no. 1 (March 1979): 45-53. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jets22-1-04.
Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments. Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc., 2006. Electronic database.
Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Revised Edition. Revised ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004.
Köstenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2009. Kindle.
Nixon, John Ashley. “Who Wrote the Fourth Gospel? The Authorship and Occasion of the Fourth Gospel According to Patristic Evidence from the First Three Centuries.” Faith and Mission 20, no. 3 (Summer 2003): 81-92. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/fm20-3-05.
Orr, James, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc, 2006. Electronic database.
Trites, Allison A. “The Woman Taken in Adultery.” Bibliotheca Sacra 131, no. 522 (April 1974): 137-146. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/bsac131-522-04.
Unger, Merrill F. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Updated ed. Edited by R. K. Harrison. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1988. Biblesoft.
Whitacre, Rodney A. “Commentaries for the Book of John.” BibleGateway.com. 2010. Accessed April 13, 2015. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/?action=getBookSections&cid=4.
—. “John 7 Commentary - Both the Crowd and the Pharisees Are Divided over Jesus.” BibleGateway.com. 2010. Accessed April 13, 2015. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/John/Both-Crowd-Pharisees-Divided.
—. “John 7 Commentary - Jesus Forgives a Woman Taken in Adultery.” BibleGateway.com. 2010. Accessed April 13, 2015. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/John/Jesus-Forgives-Woman-Taken.
—. “John 8 Commentary - Jesus Reveals Himself as the Light of the World.” BibleGateway.com. 2010. Accessed April 13, 2015. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/John/Jesus-Reveals-Himself-Light.



[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Bible references in this paper are to The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001)

[2] William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Revised Edition, Revised ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 123.
[3] John Ashley Nixon, “Who Wrote the Fourth Gospel? the Authorship and Occasion of the Fourth Gospel According to Patristic Evidence from the First Three Centuries,” Faith and Mission 20, no. 3 (Summer 2003): 81, accessed March 29, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/fm20-3-05.
[4] Nixon, 82-83.
[5] Ibid., 92.
[6] Köstenberger et al., 8612-8668, Kindle.
[7] Gary M. Burge, “A Specific Problem in the New Testament Text and Canon: The Woman Caught In Adultery (John 7:53-8:11),” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27, no. 2 (June 1984): 142, accessed March 29, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jets27-2-03.
[8] Thomas L. Constable, “Notes on John,” Sonic Light, 2015, 150, accessed April 20, 2015, http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/john.pdf.
[9] Zane C. Hodges, “Problem Passages in the Gospel of John Part 8 the Woman Taken in Adultery (John 7:53-8:11): the Text,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136, no. 544 (October 1979): 330-331, accessed March 29, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/bsac136-544-03.
[10] Allison A. Trites, “The Woman Taken in Adultery,” Bibliotheca Sacra 131, no. 522 (April 1974): 146, accessed March 29, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/bsac131-522-04.
[11] W. Hall Harris III, “11. Exegetical Commentary on John 8,” Bible.org, February 2, 2009, accessed April 13, 2015, https://bible.org/seriespage/11-exegetical-commentary-john-8.
[12] Klein et al., 115-116. Klein et al. provide the criteria for canonicity.
[13] Rodney A. Whitacre, “John 7 Commentary - Jesus Forgives a Woman Taken in Adultery,” BibleGateway.com, 2010, accessed April 13, 2015, https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/John/Jesus-Forgives-Woman-Taken.
[14] Trites, 146.
[15] Andrew Robert Fausset, Fausset's Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Tabernacles, Feast Of,” (Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc., 2006), Electronic Database.
[16] Burge, 144.
[17] Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Updated ed., s.v. “Scribes,” ed. R. K. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006), Biblesoft.
[18] Ibid., “Pharisees.”
[19] Whitacre, John 7.
[20] Farrar, “The Scene and Its Significance,” in The Biblical Illustrator: New Testament Volumes, eds. Joseph S. Exell, (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006), John 8:3-11.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Unger, “Adultery.”
[23] Trites, 145.
[24] Constable, 152.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Harris, “John 8.”
[27] Constable, 152.
[28] Whitacre, John 7.
[29] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes, (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2005), John 8:7, Electronic Database.
[30] Constable, 152.
[31] Stephen A. James “The Adulteress and the Death Penalty,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22, no. 1 (March 1979): 48, accessed March 29, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/jets22-1-04.
[32] Constable, 152.
[33] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments, (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006), John 8:8, Electronic database.
[34] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006), John 8:1-11, Electronic database.
[35] Whitacre, John 7.
[36] Constable, 154.
[37] Jamieson et al., John 8:11.
[38] James, 47.
[39] Charles P. Baylis, “The Woman Caught in Adultery: A Test of Jesus as the Greater Prophet,” Bibliotheca Sacra 146, no. 582 (April 1, 1989): 183, accessed March 29, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/bsac146-582-04.
[40] James, 53.

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