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An Adulteress Forgiven

Jesus walked up the Mount of Olives[a] near the city where he spent the night. Then at dawn Jesus appeared in the temple courts again, and soon all the people gathered around to listen to his words, so he sat down and taught them. Then in the middle of his teaching, the religious scholars[b] and the Pharisees broke through the crowd and brought a woman who had been caught in the act of committing adultery and made her stand in the middle of everyone.

Then they said to Jesus, “Teacher, we caught this woman in the very act of adultery. Doesn’t Moses’ law command us to stone to death a woman like this?[c] Tell us, what do you say we should do with her?” They were only testing Jesus because they hoped to trap him with his own words and accuse him of breaking the laws of Moses.

But Jesus didn’t answer them. Instead he simply bent down and wrote in the dust with his finger.[d] Angry, they kept insisting[e] that he answer their question, so Jesus stood up and looked at them and said, “Let’s have the man who has never had a sinful desire[f] throw the first stone at her.” And then he bent over again and wrote some more words in the dust.[g]

Upon hearing that, her accusers slowly left the crowd one at a time, beginning with the oldest to the youngest,[h] with a convicted conscience. 10 Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?”

11 Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.”[i]

Jesus said, “Then I certainly[j] don’t condemn you either.[k] Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.”[l]

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  1. John 8:1 Named for the many olive trees on its slopes, the Mount of Olives was a high slope just east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley.
  2. John 8:3 Or “scribes.” The scribes were not merely professional copyists, they were the scholarly experts who were to be consulted over the details of the written law of Moses.
  3. John 8:5 See Lev. 20:10 and Deut. 22:22-24, where it is clear that both the man and woman were to be stoned to death.
  4. John 8:6 This is the not the first time God wrote with his finger. See Ex. 31:18.
  5. John 8:7 As translated from the Aramaic.
  6. John 8:7 The Greek word anamartetos means more than simply sin, but is best translated “a sinful desire.”
  7. John 8:8 See Jer. 17:13. Jesus wrote in the dust to fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy that those who forsake God (spiritual adultery) will be written in the dust. All of the accusers were guilty of having forsaken God, the fountain of living water, and yet were so anxious to stone this woman to death. The same finger that wrote the Ten Commandments in stone also wrote the names of each of the accusers, or perhaps he wrote Jer. 17:13 in the dirt in front of their eyes, pointing to their hypocrisy.
  8. John 8:9 The Aramaic can be translated “starting with the priests.”
  9. John 8:11 The Aramaic contains a powerful testimony from this woman. Apparently the woman had the revelation of who Jesus really was, for she addressed Jesus with the divine name in the Aramaic, MarYah, Lord Yahweh! See also 1 Cor. 12:3. The Greek texts use the word kurios for Lord, which can also mean “sir” or “landowner.”
  10. John 8:11 The Greek has the emphatic use of the personal pronoun.
  11. John 8:11 The Aramaic is “Neither do I put you down” (or, “oppress you”). The Torah required two witnesses. There were none left!
  12. John 8:11 Or “no longer be sinning.” It should be noted that this entire episode (referred to commonly as the “Pericope Adulterae”) is missing in the majority of the most reliable Greek manuscripts. There are some manuscripts that have this story at the end of the book of John and at least two that include it in the Gospel of Luke. Many scholars surmise that this episode in the ministry of Jesus was added after the Gospel of John had been completed. However, it is the conclusion of this translation that the above text is indeed an inspired account of the ministry of Jesus and may have been deleted by many translators and copyists who doubted that Jesus could tell an adulterer that he would not condemn her. St. Augustine, one of the early church fathers, mentioned this story and stated that many translators had removed it because they interpreted it as Jesus giving license to immorality. God’s grace always seems to startle the religious (St. Augustine, De Conjug. Adult., II:6.)