John 8: 1-11
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
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.”
You may have noticed I’m calling this story “A Suspicious Tale.” Yeah. That’s because, within these 11 verses, there are no fewer than 6 errors.
1. She’s alone.
The bible is pretty clear on this; if two people are having sex and one of them is married, they’re both supposed to die. Was this woman “caught in the act of adultery” all by herself? The Pharisees don’t mention the man and Jesus doesn’t ask about him. I guess he’s let off the hook by Jesus, too.
In the modern world, this would be like getting robbed by two thieves and the police letting one of them go without so much as a warning. How would you feel about that?
2. The author tells you up front who’s wrong and who’s right.
The fact that the author of this story says “they were using this question as a trap” is assuming the unstated intentions of others (that is, it’s not a fact but rather a guess) and without that line it’s reasonable to wonder what makes the Pharisees wrong in this case. They were absolutely correct in saying that Moses commanded them to stone her, and that commandment was found in the bible. Jesus’ words and actions are not based on previous scripture. If instead we were given the same exact story, but with different players, would we come to the same conclusion?
If this were an Indiana Jones movie, the Pharisees would be the Nazis (arriving, of course, in a black car) and Jesus would be Indiana Jones. We would excuse the hero of this movie for anything he did to the bad guys, just because the movie established who we should be rooting for. But the bad guy isn’t always the bad guy just because of the story’s premise.
3. Jesus’ response is both illogical and dishonest.
Up until this point, God left it up to “the whole assembly” to carry out his punishments. God apparently has the power to carry out punishments himself, but instead leaves it up to people “with sin”. It doesn’t make sense that a person needs to be sinless to punish sin, because then sin would never get punished… except in this case, where they dragged her before someone who, according to the bible, is “without sin”. So if that was truly Jesus’ reason for preventing them from stoning her, then he would have carried it out himself.
Remember the story proving Solomon was wise? Two women were brought before him, arguing about a baby, and through his infinite wisdom he determined who the mother is. But this story also infers that the Jewish leader settled civil cases brought before him, presumably for hundreds of years before Solomon took the throne. And none of the previous judges had Solomon’s wisdom. Do you think these mere mortals always judged correctly? Clearly God should’ve taken been judge, jury, and executioner all along if he didn’t want mistakes to happen. But I think it’s rather silly of Him to command men to do it instead (because he’s lazy?) and then tell them they weren’t worthy of doing it in the first place (because he’s arrogant).
4. The author of the story didn’t witness it.
First he’s making assumptions about the Pharisees testing Jesus, and then he’s assuming how the story ends. “Those who heard began to go away… until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.” The author is no longer present, and so he either interviewed the woman (unlikely) or took Jesus’ word for it.
You may wish to rebut with something about “divine inspiration” in the bible’s authorship. If you really believe in divine inspiration, then you’ve never tried to define it literally. I’ve already painted that picture… there’s no need to do it again.
5. Jesus believes that his forgiveness is enough.
Even if you granted Christians this belief that every sin “wrongs God”, therefore requiring an apology to Him, this still doesn’t excuse a wrongdoer from apologizing to the person who was actually wronged – in this case, her husband. Remember him? He has no idea that she cheated on him, and Jesus doesn’t tell her that she needs to say “I’m sorry” or even to confess that she cheated on him. And if he picks up a venereal disease from her that she received from the act of adultery, I guess Jesus is in the clear for that one, too. Because he’s Jesus.
6. He lets her go with a warning.
Forgiveness is a nice concept. It really does paint Jesus as a nice guy here, even to an unbeliever. But even though we see this as an act of love, the bible says it’s the exact opposite. And if it were the modern day, Jesus would be yet another traffic cop letting a beautiful woman get away with just a warning. And why not – she is totally naked, after all, and he’s a virgin. His decision might be just a little biased.
And if you agree that Jesus was right, you also may be just a little biased. Let’s change the players in this situation. Let’s call the woman “Willie Horton” and let’s call Jesus “Michael Dukakis”. If you aren’t familiar with this story, Willie Horton was a murderer/rapist who was let out of prison on a furlough program supported by Dukakis. And he then went on to murder and rape again. Many Republicans (who aren’t necessarily Christian, but the two groups often coincide) saw this as a good reason not to elect Dukakis as president. But wasn’t he just emulating Jesus? Or perhaps Jesus was foolish, too, because a simple “leave your life of sin” doesn’t fix the problem.
Adding further suspicion to this story, you should also know about its shady origins. Read what http://www.biblegateway.com has to say in the preface to these verses:
[The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.]