And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. 3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (John 7: 53 - 8: 11).
The account of the woman taken in adultery – found only in John’s Gospel – is unique in that there is nothing quite like it in the other Gospels. Some modernistic scholars, however, doubt the authenticity of this unusual narrative. As a result, this portion of Scripture – known in theological circles as “the pericope de adultera” – has been omitted from quite a few modern translations.
“The Revised Version and the American Standard Version put it in brackets; the Revised Standard Version relegates it to the footnotes; the New English Bible follows Westcott and Hort in removing it from its customary place altogether and printing it at the end of the Gospel of John as an independent fragment of unknown origin. The New English Bible even gives this familiar narrative a new name, to wit, ‘An Incident In the Temple’” (https://purelypresbyterian.com/2016/12/01/defense-of-the-pericope-adulterae/).
We may ask: “Why do critics question the authenticity of this passage?” The main reason was the way the Lord Jesus Christ dealt with the woman’s sin. According to the Law of Moses, the adulterous woman deserved a death sentence (Lev. 20: 10). But, instead of condemning her, Jesus forgave the woman. By showing compassion, it appears that Jesus was condoning the woman’s sin, and making light of the seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20: 14).
Augustine, one of the early Church Fathers, provided an interesting reason why the passage had been deliberately excluded from certain manuscripts – “Certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord’s act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if He who had said ‘sin no more’ had granted permission to sin”
As we study the periscope, let us consider the above arguments and weigh the issue in the light of God’s Word.
o The malicious design of Jesus’ enemies (vv 4-6a)
In the early morning, when Jesus was teaching in the temple, the scribes and Pharisees brought before Him a woman “taken in adultery, in the very act” (v 4). Quoting the Mosaic Law – “such should be stoned” – they wanted Jesus’ verdict on the woman: “but what sayest thou?” (v 5). Using the adulterous woman as a tool, they had hoped to discredit the Lord before the watching crowd: “This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him” (v 6a). It is obvious that these religious leaders were not concerned for the truth nor the life of the woman. Their wicked intent was to ensnare Jesus.
The enmity of these religious leaders was not new. We learn from an earlier passage that they had failed in their wicked scheme to arrest Jesus. The officers they sent had not only returned empty-handed but spoke admirably of Him: “Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (Jn. 7: 45-46).
Time and again, these enemies of our Lord had sought to entrap Him with their questions and words. They saw the early morning scandal of the adulteress as yet another opportunity to ensnare Him. They hoped that He would say something which would contradict the Law of Moses.
That it was a set-up to trap Jesus was evident from the fact that only the woman was caught “in the very act”. What about the man who was just as guilty? Why was he spared the public exposure and shame? The Law had required that both be put to death: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20: 10). Yet, he had been allowed to get away scot-free. (… to be continued)