John 8.6

In the story where the women is brought to Jesus accused of adultery:-

“John 8:6 NIV They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.”


What do you think Jesus was writing?


Comments

  • I've heard a suggestion that he was writing down the 10 Commandments, or the numbers thereof.

    Of course, that probably wasn't the Ship edition of the 10 Cs...
    ;)
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    edited March 2018
    We don't know! I've read various theories. That he was writing in the sand to collect his thoughts. That he was writing down the 7th commandment - Do not commit adultery. That he was summarising from scripture the sins of the would be stone throwers.

    The most imaginative speculation I've heard is that he was re-enacting the miraculous hand, writing on the wall in Daniel 5. Here is the extract from the story of Belshazzar's Feast.
    25 “This is the inscription that was written:

    mene, mene, tekel, parsin

    26 “Here is what these words mean:

    Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

    27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

    28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

    (The difference between parsin and peres is not really explained)

    He may have been reminded, in particular, of Tekel - "you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting". A phrase which is very apt for what happens next. "Whoever has not sinned, let him cast the first stone." And they weigh themselves on the scales and find themselves wanting.

    I would like that to be true. But like everything else, it is just speculation.
  • As Barnabas says, we can only speculate. But it is a tantalizing detail that John throws in, and it’s hard not to speculate.

    In addition to the possibilities already given, I’ve heard at least two others. The first is that he was writing that portion of the Law that says the witnesses are to cast the first stones, the understanding being that if they have born false witness, they are guilty of murder. Under this theory, Jesus’s “let the one without sin” isn’t just a general statement. It’s a way of saying “anyone who isn’t part of this set-up can cast the first stone.”

    The second is the one I find most interesting. John makes clear that the incident occurs at the end of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. The water ritual at the Temple was the day before; that’s when Jesus calls himself “living water.” Jeremiah 17:13 has long been associated with that day, at least from the rabbinic era, or so I’ve read. (I can’t guarantee it.). That passage says:

    O Lord, the hope of Israel,
    all who forsake thee shall be put to shame;
    those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth,
    for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.

    Various translations say “written in the dust” or “written in the underworld.” And note the “living water” reference.

    So this theory would say that Jesus wrote this verse, which would be fresh on everyone’s mind. Or, even more interestingly, that he wrote their names—“those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth.”
  • The most plausible answer I have seen so far, (and it came from a shipmate), is that Jesus completed the verse from the Old Testament which the stoners were referring to when they wanted the woman stoned.

    “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.” Deut.22:22

    Since whatever Jesus wrote could have only been a few words, “And also the man with her “, and it would seem to have been very relevant to the situation, I find this answer very likely.

    Most of the stone throwers seemed uncannily certain that the woman was adulterous so perhaps they had ’known’ her to be so also in the biblical sense as well? And if not with her then perhaps with someone else. If so it would explain why they changed their minds when confronted with the full quotation of the law.

    It would also explain why the older ones who perhaps had been her longest standing customers left first.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    edited March 2018
    ..her longest standing customers ...

    Is it clear that she was a prostitute? I appreciate that Jesus used the phrase 'life of sin' but I think he might have said that if she was in a single adulterous relationship.
  • RdrEmCofERdrEmCofE Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    Well no. It's not specifically in the text. One might well ask though, how was it common knowledge that she was 'up to no good', especially as the whole thing was a trap set to see if Jesus would either support Jewish law and therefore break Roman law, (the death penalty not being legal for Jews to carry out in their own way), or whether he would support Roman law and therefore be discredited as a Rabbi.

    Somehow this poor woman was rounded up by the religious authorities and dragged before Jesus just to see what he would do. My thoughts are then that she must have been notorious to be such an easy target for the religious hypocrites. Since no man appeared with her, yet she was supposed to have been 'taken in the very act', makes it look to me like a set up, (the man appearing to her be a customer). Though perhaps not truly professional, I suspect she may have had a reputation which conveniently brought her to the attention of the Jesus Opposition.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    Thanks. I see where you're coming from, now.
  • It strikes me as a reach to suggest she was a prostitute. And it does seem to have a whiff of Mary Magdeline-ism about it. Woman in the gospels about whom there is a hint of sin? Must have been a prostitute.

    It seems to me that John is suggesting a set-up. He tells us they were trying “trap” Jesus. They didn’t bring the man with whom she was supposedly committing adultery. They knew she couldn’t really be stoned. The whole thing smacks of being made up.

    True, she may have had a reputation that they capitalized on. Then again, this was at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the pilgrim feasts, so lots of people had come to Jerusalem. Who knows if she was a local or not. She just as easily haven some poor woman they dragged there. Perhaps they promised to pay her if she went along with their story.

    It’s all speculation.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Keep it simple. It was a conspiracy we know. One of them or their agent seduced her. I like the argument that Jesus finished off the OT quote. My favourite speculation is he wrote their names and their lovers'.
  • Barnabas62 wrote: »
    (The difference between parsin and peres is not really explained)
    IIRC, one is the plural of the other.
  • I don't think Jesus was writing anything - certainly nothing of significance. I'm sure that if what he was writing had any importance, the writer would have been sure to tell us!

    The significance is in the act itself. In the midst of a crowd baying for blood, Jesus stops and doodles in the dust. Not only is Jesus refusing to be rushed by the crowd into making a decision, his pause creates the space which gives opportunity for more reasoned judgement to be possible.

    So when he then says "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone" his words are heard and people respond accordingly. Without the pause, he would never have been heard.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    Is "parsin" related to "Pharisee"? I know there's some thought that "Pharisee" and "Persian" are related. Is "peres" related to "Persian"?

    Thx.

    ETA: Also the Persian language is Farsi. Compare that with "Pharisee.
  • RdrEmCofERdrEmCofE Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    I don't think Jesus was writing anything - certainly nothing of significance. I'm sure that if what he was writing had any importance, the writer would have been sure to tell us!

    Only if the witness who reported the incident to the author could read. Not many ordinary people at that time could. There is also no indication in the text as to what language was written. It could have been Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic and the witness might have not understood whichever one was used.

    Your point though of the pause, waiting for silence is a good one. It may have been a ploy to get individuals stirring up the situation, (many of whom would have been Pharisees, who could read), to stop shouting and find out what was being written. If that were to work though, and it seems to have, I think Jesus must have written something legible. Also the letters in the sentence would have needed to be large enough to be clearly seen from 8 to 20 feet away, so it would have been brief and pertinent.
    _____________________________________________________________
    In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 2 Cor. 5:19. Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet. 4:8.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    The word ἔγραφεν can mean "He drew" also.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    I think we can get a hint of what Jesus might have written if we look at the whole story

    2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

    But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

    9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

    11 “No one, sir,” she said.

    “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    Notice if verse five the religious authorities quote the law of Moses in part.

    What was that law?

    About the only verse that I could find that comes close to the law they were citing is Leviticus 20:10

    "'If a man commits adultery with another man's wife--with the wife of his neighbor--both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death."

    Could it be that Jesus actually wrote this particular verse?

    Notice what happens next. After Jesus finishes writing, he looks up and says, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

    I would argue that when the men looked at what Jesus had written they realized they had condemned themselves. They trapped themselves! Because, all of the sudden, the men faded away. (I can imagine the first readers of this caught the humor of this story).

    Then Jesus asks the woman, "Where are those who condemn you?" She replies no one is there.

    Then Jesus, the one who IS without sin (who by rights could have cast the first stone) answers. "Neither do I, go and leave your life of sin"

    As to the point that the Greek word that is used here could mean drew, I have seen some translations use that word, but I get the distinct impression those translators assume Jesus was illiterate. Yet, there is ample evidence that Jesus did in fact knew how to read and write.

  • Well, Jesus could read well enough to read a particular passage of scripture, (E.g. "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your hearing"; and presumably for his Bar Mitzvah, if they had them then.) Though it was mostly an oral culture, I think, for people other than scholars. So he *could* have recited something he heard and memorized.

    Writing? The only thing I'm coming up with is this specific incident.

    He may well have been extremely literate and well-written. But the Bible doesn't really seem to specify one way or the other.
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    I have read that as this was an eyewitness account it is significant that what was written was not recorded. That must mean that what was written was not known and that it was the symbolic action that was important, not the words themselves.

    Could it have been Jesus writing in the dust as opposed to the tablets of stone (the decalogue) to show he didn't like their interpretation?

    Could it be that he was showing he resented them putting him in the position of a judge?
    One commentator suggests that writing in the dust was a common action symbolising 'intentional disregard'.

    One commentator, in the Pulpit Commentary, suggests:
    "This act is unparalleled in Scripture, even if the custom is still occasionally practised in the East. Mr. O'Neil, in his instructive volume, 'Palestine Explored,' records a curious instance of a youth, who, after playing some practical joke upon an old man, feigned utter ignorance of the surprise and cry of the old man by instantaneously assuming the position of one entirely abstracted from all sublunary thought, in fact, by sitting on the ground and scribbling with his finger in the dust, "as though he heard and saw nothing of what had happened." Such an intention can only be attributed to our Lord on the understanding that it was a current method of indicating an indisposition to have anything to say to the intruders."







  • MamacitaMamacita Kerygmania Host
    Taking another look at the passage, I note that Jesus stoops to write in the dust not once but twice. These actions form a sort of bracket or frame around the statement he makes to the crowd. Similar to the comments above that say this is an intentional pause, I think Jesus was deliberately and quite demonstratively not engaging with the crowd. Maybe his writing in the dust was even meant to be a little provocative ("See? I'm not playing along.") He stands, faces the crowd, convicts them with one line, and then by his actions tells them "I'm done here."
  • A first century mic drop
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    I wish the church was as forgiving as Jesus was.
  • [Mudfrog] I have read that as this was an eyewitness account it is significant that what was written was not recorded. That must mean that what was written was not known and that it was the symbolic action that was important, not the words themselves.

    Not as significant as you might imagine. Whoever delivered the evidence of this encounter may have been illiterate or could not read the language written or interpret the symbolism used. Few ordinary people could read. At least four possible languages might have been used, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin.

    The chances of an ordinary Galilean peasant being able to relate some years after the event, the words that were actually written is probably quite unlikely, as a matter of fact.

    I am more inclined to believe that the 'dust writing' was a delaying tactic to quieten the mob and probably the completion of the 'law' concerning the stoning of both the man and the woman involved in the adulterous act. Especially since it is a fact that no man was accused, and that the whole thing was a Pharisee contrived 'set up'.

    It could have been as succinct as "And The Man". Pharisees could all read, they all also knew the law, they would also all have understood the point that was being made.
  • RdrEmCofERdrEmCofE Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    Has it ever occurred to anyone that the witness who reported the incident for John to have recorded it, was the woman herself, who probably could not read? Who else would carry such a vivid memory of events for so long a period afterwards?

    Especially since there was only herself and Jesus to hear the last words spoken to her.
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    I think you all understimate the intelligence of the people.

    John 18 v 15:
    Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

    There is speculation that there was more to John than meets the eye.
    Who says he wasn't educated?
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    Am I being too facetious if I suggest he was drawing a willy?
  • [Mudfrog] I think you all understimate the intelligence of the people.
    John 18 v 15:
    Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus.

    We were discussing John 8:6 (which presumably encompasses Jn.7:53-Jn.8:11) not Jn.18. It gets confusing because in many Bibles the text goes straight from Jn.7:52 to Jn.8:12 missing out the story completely, some adding it at the end of Johns Gospel after 21 or even after Luke 21:38. Plus there are some variations of the text.

    However, the story starts by saying 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 . . . . .

    It seems likely therefore that His disciples did not witness this event. John is not mentioned as a witness to it.

    The account must have come to John much later, perhaps even after his gospel had been written. Even possibly after John had died. Either John added ch21 as an afterthought or his community of disciples are thought to have possibly added John 21 to the end of his gospel, after his death. It is possible that this woman's testimony only became available to them after the first edition of John's gospel and they thought it essential to include it since it came from a reliable eye witness. Who knows, she may even have had some standing in the church by that time.
  • [Leo] Am I being too facetious if I suggest he was drawing a willy?

    Who knows? It might have made the same point, explained why we don't know what was written and it might have been a big prick to their conscience.
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    1) I mentioned John 18 to suggest that John may not have been the uneducated peasant that he has been accused of being.

    2) What is your evidence that the disciples were nt there? They were with him on just about every other occasion you can suggest.

    3) What grounds have you for saying that the episode under discussion was not John's eyewitness account or that it crept into the Gospel after his death?

    It seems to me that, as with most things, the simplest explanation is the real one:
    John witnessed the event, did not know what was written, but made mention of the writing in the dust in order to show Jesus' attitude to the woman's accusers.

    Everything else is pure speculation or unreasonable destruction of the authenticity of the record and indeed if the Gospel of John itself.

  • RdrEmCofERdrEmCofE Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    [Mudfrog] I mentioned John 18 to suggest that John may not have been the uneducated peasant that he has been accused of being.

    Does anyone think John the Evangelist was an illiterate peasant?

    I certainly don't. In fact John is generally considered the most articulate and sophisticated user of the Greek language of all the New Testament authors.
    What is your evidence that the disciples were not there? They were with him on just about every other occasion you can suggest.

    The evidence that Jesus was not accompanied seems to be implied by the text.

    "Jn.7: "53. They each went to their own home 1.but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2. Early in the morning he came again to the temple."

    "They" each, (meaning the disciples), went to their own homes, Jesus didn't.
    The following morning early "He" meaning Jesus, came again to the temple.

    Not "they", (ie. the disciples), came again to the temple. "He". Jesus probably told them where He would be, but they simply didn't get up early enough, each of them being at their own home.
    What grounds have you for saying that the episode under discussion was not John's eyewitness account or that it crept into the Gospel after his death?

    Most manuscripts of John's Gospel do not contain this story. Some ancient manuscripts add 7:53-8.11 either at Jn7:53-8:11 or at the end of John's Gospel, or even after Luke 21:38.

    I have explained my theory as to how these facts might be explained, but this thread is not really the place to debate the issue, I think it would need to go to Kergymania.

    I can't see how the authenticity of the account is questionable just because John himself might not have witnessed it. John did not witness the conversation of Jesus with the Samarian Woman at Jacob's well either if you look carefully at Jn.4:8 and Jn.4:27. But we have an accurate enough record of that too. I wonder where that account came from? John wrote it, but he couldn't have witnessed it.
  • balaambalaam Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    [Mudfrog] What is your evidence that the disciples were not there? They were with him on just about every other occasion you can suggest.

    The evidence that Jesus was not accompanied seems to be implied by the text.

    "Jn.7: "53. They each went to their own home 1.but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2. Early in the morning he came again to the temple."

    "They" each, (meaning the disciples), went to their own homes, Jesus didn't.
    The following morning early "He" meaning Jesus, came again to the temple.

    You think it likely that the disciples who had followed Jesus from Galilee had homes in Jerusalem?
  • MamacitaMamacita Kerygmania Host
    It's not clear that "they" refers to the disciples. If we back up to John 7, there are a great many people present right before Jesus heads off to the Mount of Olives: Pharisees, temple police, Nicodemus, not to mention "the crowd," all of whom likely had homes nearby. The disciples aren't mentioned, at least not directly.
  • RdrEmCofERdrEmCofE Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    The disciples probably did not all stay at the same place in Jerusalem. They almost certainly would have had lodgings with friends, relatives or have digs of some sort. "They" seems to apply to everyone other than Jesus. He is the only one repoted to have gone to the Mount of Olives, (probably to pray alone, a seems to have been his habit. Mk.1:35). It is the destination of Jesus which seems to be the main point of the sentence being there.
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    [Mudfrog] I mentioned John 18 to suggest that John may not have been the uneducated peasant that he has been accused of being.

    Does anyone think John the Evangelist was an illiterate peasant?

    I certainly don't. .

    I thought you implied it.
    I believe John was the eyewitness.

    I certainly do not read into this that the disciples were absent.

  • [Mudfrog]I thought you implied it.

    You thought wrongly. I wrote:"The chances of an ordinary Galilean peasant being able to relate some years after the event, the words that were actually written is probably quite unlikely, as a matter of fact."

    You wrongly assumed that I thought John the Evangelist was the eye witness. You then, even more wrongly, assumed that I therefore thought John the Evangelist was an [ordinary Galilean peasant], but of course I don't think that at all.

    I think John the Evangelist was one of the most sophisticated, if not the most sophisticated of Jesus' inner twelve. We know from the style of his Greek he was not only literate but an unusually accomplished author.

    I just don't think that John himself witnessed this particular incident, just as he didn't witness the conversation between Jesus and the Samarian woman at Jacob's well.
    I believe John was the eyewitness.

    You are perfectly entitled to believe that. There is unfortunately however nothing in the text itself to support that conclusion.
    I certainly do not read into this that the disciples were absent.

    There is no reason to assume they were present either. The disciples are not mentioned. The previous evening they "each went to his own house". It is very unclear who the "they" referred to. It could have been Nicodemus or the Pharisees. In any event it may not have been Jesus' disciples i.e. the twelve. Jesus was at The Feast (In Private) i.e. incognito, his brothers having gone on without him. Jn.7:1-12. His disciples are not mentioned as going with Him but that does not of course mean for certain that they did not also accompany Jesus in secret or in disguise.

    Where do you get the information from that the 12 were with Jesus during the incident of the woman caught in adultery? Not from the text. Your assumption that John is the witness is just that, an assumption. If it had been John, presumably we might have been able to read what Jesus wrote; John was literate, but he might have forgotten what it said. I think that would be unlikely though given the rest of the detail that we have.

    The first indication that His disciples were accompanying Jesus comes at Jn.9:1 This comes after Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple some considerable time later.

    The fact of the matter is that the text itself is inconclusive and I consider it marginally more likely that the accused woman might have reason to remember and much later relate the incident than John himself, to whom it would have been merely another interesting incident among many. To the woman it would have been a life changing recollection, probably enough to later on make her 'a follower of The Way. It would also be very unlikely that she could read. Extremely few women could.

    Bearing in mind John or his disciples recorded the incident at least 35 years after the actual event, (and in all probability even as much as 55 years later), the witness was likely to have been someone to whom the event was of very great significance, to have remembered it in such detail.

  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    You are going to great lengths to argue that none of the disciples were eyewitnesses to this event - I am not sure why you don't want them to be there - but the commentaries I have seen all assume that they are in fact there.

    The issue of each going to their own house has been addressed by other shipmates.
    As for individual instances of the disciples evidently not being there, firstly, we are told expressly they were not there (e.g. the disciples went to buy food) and secondly, in all his teaching of the disciples, do you not think that Jesus would have told the disciples what was said when he was alone with the Samaritan woman, or in the desert, etc?

    My original point was that John was an eyewitness to the incident of the woman caught in adultery but the actual words or marks Jesus wrote were unseen by John who, in any case was reporting the fact of the stooping and the writing because the attitude was more significant than the content.

    It also seems to me that not knowing what Jesus wrote is in itself an indication of an imperfect eyewitness report. Do you not think perhaps that had this been an invented or embellished story that the author might well have written the supposed content of the writing?

    If you were making this up, why would you leave such an 'important' detail out of your story?
  • It also seems to me that not knowing what Jesus wrote is in itself an indication of an imperfect eyewitness report. Do you not think perhaps that had this been an invented or embellished story that the author might well have written the supposed content of the writing?

    If you were making this up, why would you leave such an 'important' detail out of your story?

    I have not suggested at any time that the story is 'made up'. In fact my suggestion that the eye witness might have been the woman herself would authenticate the story rather than question its authenticity, don't you think? It would also seem to explain why we don't know what was written. Few women could read. The report seems to be surprisingly detailed in every other respect.

    I am not particularly bothered whether the disciples were with Jesus or not. Someone reported the incident, or John witnessed it himself. Either way it makes no difference to whether the text is 'inspired' surely?
    As for individual instances of the disciples evidently not being there, firstly, we are told expressly they were not there (e.g. the disciples went to buy food) and secondly, in all his teaching of the disciples, do you not think that Jesus would have told the disciples what was said when he was alone with the Samaritan woman, or in the desert, etc?

    I cited the case because it was an instance where Jesus held a private conversation without his disciples being present. It makes the point that Jesus was not always going about with disciples in tow. He often acted alone.

    The disciples need not have got the details of the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman from Jesus, though they could have of course. We know that the woman was very vocal about the incident, to anyone who would listen to her. Perhaps the disciples got the info from her, or perhaps her account came down to John much much later than the actual incident. Many of the characters mentioned in John's gospel were still alive long after the events in which they took part. Perhaps John gathered some of his information from others just as St Luke did.
  • EsmeraldaEsmeralda Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    The most plausible answer I have seen so far, (and it came from a shipmate), is that Jesus completed the verse from the Old Testament which the stoners were referring to when they wanted the woman stoned.

    “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.” Deut.22:22

    Since whatever Jesus wrote could have only been a few words, “And also the man with her “, and it would seem to have been very relevant to the situation, I find this answer very likely.

    Most of the stone throwers seemed uncannily certain that the woman was adulterous so perhaps they had ’known’ her to be so also in the biblical sense as well? And if not with her then perhaps with someone else. If so it would explain why they changed their minds when confronted with the full quotation of the law.

    It would also explain why the older ones who perhaps had been her longest standing customers left first.

    I've always thought this the most likely answer, and also a huge blow against sexism and double standards.

  • I agree, @Esmeralda.

    What struck me here is how Jesus addresses the hostile crowd as individuals: ‘If there is one of you…’ and so delegitimizes the authority of the group. He does not allow them to act like a mob, or exacerbate a volatile situation. His bending down to write or draw in the dust (in front of scribes or copiers!) shifts the debate away from them, ignoring their urgency and refusing to engage on their terms. He knows that they have no authority as a group, or as individual men. He calls their bluff and challenges them to find a leader among themselves, someone who is ‘sinless enough’ to take responsibility for throwing the first stone. He challenges them to literally begin stoning her to death. They don’t have civil or religious authority to do this and Jesus knows it.

    He stoops down twice, then straightens up, and even if we can’t be sure what he drew or wrote, the gestural significance is powerful. He doesn’t remain upright facing them to answer them as equals or as if this is a body of men entitled to demand an answer of him, he doesn’t allow them to lure him into their trap. His mind is elsewhere, he is physically redefining the situation. He turns to the greater authority of what he writes or quotes, a truth written in dust, to be erased but perhaps conveying an imperishable command or insight. And then he speaks to the woman standing there alone and liberates her from judgment.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Mamacita wrote: »
    Taking another look at the passage, I note that Jesus stoops to write in the dust not once but twice. These actions form a sort of bracket or frame around the statement he makes to the crowd. Similar to the comments above that say this is an intentional pause, I think Jesus was deliberately and quite demonstratively not engaging with the crowd. Maybe his writing in the dust was even meant to be a little provocative ("See? I'm not playing along.") He stands, faces the crowd, convicts them with one line, and then by his actions tells them "I'm done here."

    I'd suggest that the first time He wrote, He was completing the edict - both the woman and the man were to be stoned. The second time, he started, very casually to write the names of the accusers.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    Mamacita wrote: »
    Taking another look at the passage, I note that Jesus stoops to write in the dust not once but twice.
    It could also be that who wrote this passage cobbled it together from different sources, and didn't notice he got the same scene twice.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    It's possible of course (as are the views others and I have set forth*) but I don't recall seeing that approach propounded before. I have neither Greek or Hebrew but is there something there which suggests it?

    * It's the sort of passage for which we shall never know the correct answer.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Is this story recorded in any of the other Gospels? There is quite a bit of speculation that what John wrote is not factual, though he presents certain truths that are indisputable. Did this happen? Immaterial! What does it mean? "Let him/her who is without sin cast the first stone." The one who could cast the stone ends up not doing it. Implication: no matter how godawful we, or others, may think our sins are, the one who can cast the first stone still doesn't
Sign In or Register to comment.