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Lesson of the Week

JESUS BRUTALLY INTIMIDATES A WOMAN ACCUSED OF ADULTERY


In John 8, there is a tale which is considered to be an insertion by many and thus unscriptural that Jesus had to deal with an adulteress. A mob brought him to her saying she was found committing adultery and Moses commanded stoning. He wrote on the ground and then said that if they had no sin they could stone her. They were trying to get him to contradict the Law, the word of God, and thus show he was not a loyal Jew. He affirmed the law by saying its holy if you have no sin if you stone. This was a terrible thing for her to hear. They walked away probably waiting for another chance to get her. She tells Jesus there is nobody there to condemn her and he says he will not condemn her. He could not stone her on his own anyway. That was not allowed. He told her not to commit the sin in future and she walks off stigmatised and in danger. Jesus was setting things up for her to maybe be stoned in the future.

Scholars admit that Jesus failed to distance himself from the savage law of God that a woman guilty of adultery should be stoned. The law also requires three witnesses. Jesus never pointed that out. The story does not mention witnesses. It says, "She was caught in the act", but that sounds like hearsay. The witnesses needed to be mentioned so their omission means they didn't exist. Jesus could have walked away. He left her feeling he would sanction stoning and telling the others to stone if they had no sin must have made her terrified. He did not make sure she was escorted away but told her she was an adulteress thus leaving her stigmatised and under threat of being stoned later on. He did not ask her to go to the judge with him to make sure that she could get mercy. She was owed it as the attempt to liquidate her failed. He did not even forgive her or say he did. And surely his being on his own with her with her reputation was going to get him in trouble? He did not really think she was guilty.
 
We are told by bleeding heart semi-Christians, “Jesus proved that God had revoked the capital laws of the Torah when he saved the adulteress from being stoned to death by a group of Jews though these laws required it - see John 8. When Jesus saved her it shows he revoked the death penalty in spite of the Law. He implied that the Law was evil for allowing sinners to kill sinners”.

Christian books like When Critics Ask say that the passage does not support the proposal that Jesus was against capital punishment (page 415).

This is correct.
 
The reasons are as follows.
 
Jesus implies that the woman should be stoned when he said that if the accusers were not guilty of sin they could stone her for she was guilty. The Christians have to hold that he meant this for he could not deceive. Even if she had merely wanted to commit adultery but didn’t carry it out physically he would have said the same.

Some say that the Jews could not execute under Jewish law but under Roman law for the latter was the law of the land. The Jews who sought to slay the woman did not obey the Law of Moses which demanded that both the guilty parties be brought before the people for trial and execution if guilty. Jesus would not have approved of the execution when it was planned only to trap him which does not mean he would oppose her being executed under any other different circumstances.
 
The Jews were wandering through different territories and different legal jurisdictions for they were a wandering people at the time God made the law of executing killers, homosexuals, adulterers and witches. This means the Law of killing has to be obeyed no matter what the jurisdictions think. The man who sinned with the woman might have been already dealt with or was to be dealt with later so the Law that both of them had to be brought before the people was obeyed – there is no reason to believe the Law would care if it were done at the one time or not. It is true that the people who brought the woman to Jesus had a bad motive but the gospel does not tell us that it was their only motive or their main one. We read that they planned to trap him. Since nothing is said in the passage about Roman law and the Jewish law is mentioned they were hoping to get Jesus to break the Law of Moses by demanding that she be spared. But what Jesus does is make them see that they are as bad as her and deserve to die as well and they go away and he tells the woman he does not condemn her to death for there is nobody to condemn her. Jesus refused to condemn the capital punishment laws. Though he delighted in offending the Jews and their traditions he didn’t dare because he wanted them to stay in force.
 
It is certain from reading the passage that Jesus believed that she deserved to be put to death and that the Law of Moses was right to demand the destruction of adulterers (page 373, Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties; page 124, The Enigma of Evil). Jesus could not abrogate a death penalty when his religious system said that the reason we can die and will die though it be by execution, murder or naturally is that God and himself has sentenced us to death for our sins (page 125, The Enigma of Evil).
 
Jesus could have cancelled the death penalty for the woman would not have had a fair trial because the accusers were big sinners or adulterers themselves. He was ready to air their dirty linen which was why they walked away one by one. That was why he would not let the men judge her and stone her. There is no hint that Jesus was postponing her trial for he could not do that. He told her he would not condemn her but did she get off? He meant he would not stone her to death and says nothing to stop her being judged properly and stoned at a later date. He only let her go on her way. He only said he didn’t condemn her. He could have been leaving it up to the judges if they wanted to judge her legally and destroy her. He said nothing that indicated he forbade this.
 
The accusers broke the Law by accusing a woman without having her partner in sin there to bear witness against her. And they had no proof that one of the pair were married and did not take her to the elders for trial first so Jesus could not have let them stone her anyway though Jesus agreed that she should be. Since the man could not be punished with her Jesus would have had to let her go though he knew she was guilty for it could not be proved. The Christian book, The Enigma of Evil, tells us that Jesus had to save the woman for her execution would not have been in accordance with the Law of Moses but would have been a lynching by its standards (page 124). So his saving her does not mean he wanted the Jewish law repealed.

Also, the Jews were not permitted by Rome to kill unless they got the go-ahead from its representatives so Jesus would have had to forbid her execution but only at that particular time.
 
Perhaps Jesus knew the woman was not in her right mind or drunk when he told her he did not condemn her. She was guilty of adultery but not guilty enough to merit the death penalty. This would stop anybody appealing to the episode to prove that Jesus banned stoning adulterers to death.
 
The explanation I prefer is that Jesus was not having people who were deserving of stoning themselves stone this woman to death and that it would have been right to see her killed if the right people were doing it. He permitted those who had less sins than her to kill her with stones and he meant it for he said so. He was stating that despite the Roman law that forbade the Jews to kill without permission they should do it. He made it a duty for the Christians to kill homosexuals and prostitutes and adulterers in defiance of the state. He believed that the Law of Moses was for all.
 
Jesus was not saying the Law was wrong for he did indicate that it was right to stone her in the right circumstances. Martin Luther believed the Christian religion required the execution of adulterers and adulteresses (page 391, Martin Luther).

Jews when able to, put adulterous people to death. What about Jesus telling the Jews to judge men or women who remarried after divorce as guilty of adultery? He said that to Jewish leaders who were also lawyers meaning he was virtually telling them to execute the divorced and remarried and not just cheaters.

We must not forget that Jesus was serious when he said that he who has no sin must cast the first stone. He didn’t say it was wrong to even want to cast the stone. This was not about it being wrong to stone her but about the hypocrisy of those who wanted to stone her. If there had been a person there who didn’t deserve death then Jesus would have told him to cast the first stone. He told us that. Why didn’t he cast it himself? Because he couldn’t. He had to opt out because his job as teacher from Heaven came first.
 
The story was not in the original gospel. The best manuscripts don’t have it.  And though it is put in John 8 nobody knows where it belongs (some ancients thrust it in at the end of Luke) which is certainly due to the fact that it does not belong in the New Testament at all. The doctrine that it is inspired and is a part of the Bible is just a Catholic dogma proclaimed by the infallible Council of Trent. There is no evidence for any of this so Trent was guilty of fraud for it said that the Church could not make a dogma binding and infallibly proclaim it true without conclusive evidence. The story is in the King James Bible suggesting that Protestants accept it as canonical.

“The evidences of the earlier manuscripts of the Gospel of John suggest that this particular passage was not included by John himself in the original text of his gospel.
 
The earliest surviving witness to this episode seems to be the sixth-century Codex Bezae” (Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties, page 371).

But, still, the passage could be true and it is certainly a testimony from early tradition that Jesus was pro-murder. He told an adulteress she should be stoned but only by people who didn't deserve to be stoned themselves! In other words, believing in or being fine with stoning people is not a moral flaw! Actually it is not a flaw but a heinous outrage.
 
Even if God does not want us to kill homosexuals and adulterers he cannot condemn us harshly for doing it if they deserve it. It would be no worse than the sins we commit every day that defy him. We all know that if you attack person X without good reason and X attacks you back that X is not stooping down to your level (if free will exists that is and if the concept of deserving is true!) for you asked for it and X did not. To have X told off and perhaps punished while you get away would be sick indeed for you are more bad than he is.

NOTES: The story is thought to have been invented out of the apocryphal story of Susanna where Daniel saves her from being stoned to death. Like the Jesus version, the Jews do not keep to the legal procedure and lose any right to stone her. It seems the story appeared late and originally belonged to the Gospel of the Hebrews. Eusebius seems to have thought that. The Gospel of the Hebrews endorsed Jewish Christianity and thus having a Jesus who abolished the stoning penalty would have been inconceivable. This context verifies our interpretation.
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