Whole Bible Christianity

It's a God Thing


Adulterous Woman, John 8:2-11, Grace, Law, Casting Stones, Can't Judge, Woman's Fault

Misconceptions corrected about the story of the adulterous woman in John 8:2-11.

Grace in, Law Out

Some considerable speculation has been advanced as to what exactly Jesus wrote in the dirt (twice). Some think the accuser's names were written, then their sins.

Some think Jesus was getting rid of the Law by using grace. This misconception drives a lot of the false applications from this story.

It's Only The Woman

If she was "caught in the very act," there was someone absent who should've been included in the festivities. Two people should have been on trial. That was the first of several mistakes made by the mob.

Can't Judge Me

Conventional church application tells us that this parable means no one can judge our sin here on earth unless they are perfect. So we frequently throw this in anyone's face who tries to tell us that we should stop sinning, because of course no one of us is perfect. We let ourselves off the hook with a misrepresentation of the lessons Jesus is trying to convey here.

Printable Version of The Adulterous Woman



Grace Goes Away, or Grace in the Law?

2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 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."]] (John 8:2-11 ESV)

Question. Did Jesus introduce the doctrine of Grace here and "do away" with the Law, or did the Grace in the Law save her?

Some considerable speculation has been advanced as to what exactly Jesus wrote in the dirt (twice). Some think the accuser's names were written, then their sins. But, maybe, He was writing down the references in the Law that they were not including in their impromptu court case. The first time He might have written the following two references.

10 "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 ESV)

22 "If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 22:22 ESV)

Obviously, if she was "caught in the very act" then there was a party to the proceedings that was missing. The scriptures say that both people should be put to death, but they only had one person. They persisted in their testing, so Jesus may have written the following references the second time:

6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 17:6-7 ESV)

15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 19:15-19 ESV)

With this second set of references He may have been pointing to another problem: if she was "caught in the very act" there should be witnesses, and the witnesses should have to throw the first stone. The curve in the question was that if the accusations were being made "without sin" (i.e. according to the Torah), then let the stoning begin. Torah comes from an archery term meaning "straight shooting (hit the mark)." The word for sin is also used in archery and means to "miss the mark." The Mark was Torah, and all of God's Word is Torah.

In any case, whatever was written, it is beyond doubt in my opinion that Jesus, using the Grace in the Law, was dealing with the core issues in the matter: lack of the presence of the other offending party, lack of witnesses, and false testimony. In other words, as the defending counsel, without resorting to "eliminating" or "remaking" the Law, Jesus brilliantly maneuvered His line of questioning to illuminate the Grace-filled provisions of God in the Law and expose their own intentional misuse of that Law.

Many who attempt to excuse their own sin have also misused the statement made by Jesus concerning the first stone. "Only someone without sin can cast a stone at me" has been the rallying cry of many who attempt to dodge responsibility for their actions. Meaning, of course that since none of us are without sin (Romans 3:23) then no one can properly judge the sinner's actions. It seems people nowadays are almost frantic to find some reason to avoid judgment so they can continue with their behavior. Even Grace has been twisted out of proportion to justify disobedience.

Only by understanding the whole of the Word, including it's beautiful Grace-filled Laws, can we arrive at a correct judgment, and exercise our God-given responsibility to rightly divide, and apply, the Word of Truth to daily living.

Jesus did not condemn the woman, probably because He was not a witness to the act (although she probably was actually guilty of wrong behavior). This does not mean Jesus approved of her actions, although the admonishment to "sin no more" implies He knew. But according to the Law, He could not pass judgment at that moment as far as physical death was concerned. How many of us are not punished instantly for some sinful action only to presume on the Grace of God and do something else?

The point of this narrative seems to be, not the guilt or innocence of the woman, but the proper and Just application of God's Word. His justice goes a lot deeper than a few rules and regulations, so also His Grace. But the one does not exclude or eliminate the other. In His infinite Mercy and Wisdom they BOTH are balanced to the fullest degree.

Praise Him that has justified us, not by erasing His Word but by giving it to us filled with His Mercy!

May the Lord bless you and keep you
Bruce Scott Bertram
The Word of God Ministries