The following is an excerpt. I’ve seen threads on this before, but I’ve just come across a ‘treatment’ of those verses that stands out above all other commentaries I’ve ever read. :tiphat: to those gone but still here serving our Lord through the efforts of those who make such gems available on the net.
The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels
Author(s): Burgon, John William (1813-1888)
Miller, Edward (1825-1901) (Editor)
But even that is not all. On close and careful inspection, the mysterious texture of the
narrative, no less than its ‘edifying and eminently Christian’ character, vindicates for the
Pericope de adultera a right to its place in the Gospel. Let me endeavour to explain what
seems to be its spiritual significancy: in other words, to interpret the transaction.
The Scribes and Pharisees bring a woman to our Saviour on a charge of adultery. The
sin prevailed to such an extent among the Jews that the Divine enactments concerning one so accused had long since fallen into practical oblivion.
On the present occasion our Lord is observed to revive His own ancient ordinance after a hitherto unheard of fashion. The trial by the bitte water, or water of conviction582, was a species of ordeal, intended for the vindication of innocence, the conviction of guilt. But according to the traditional belief the test proved inefficacious, unless the husband was himself innocent of the crime whereof he accused his wife.
Let the provisions of the law, contained in Num. v. 16 to 24, be now considered. The
accused Woman having been brought near, and set before the Lord, the priest took ‘holy
water in an earthen vessel,’ and put of the dust of the floor of the tabernacle into the water.’
Then, with the bitter water that causeth the curse in his hand, he charged the woman by an oath. Next, he wrote the curses in a book and blotted them out with the bitter water; causing the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse. Whereupon if she were guilty, she fell under a terrible penalty,—her body testifying visibly to her sin. If she was innocent, nothing followed.
And now, who sees not that the Holy One dealt with His hypocritical assailants, as if
they had been the accused parties?
Into the presence of incarnate Jehovah verily they had been brought: and perhaps when He stooped down and wrote upon the ground, it was a bitter sentence against the adulterer and adulteress which He wrote. We have but to assume some connexion between the curse which He thus traced in the dust of the floor of the tabernacle’ and the words which He uttered with His lips, and He may with truth be declared to have ‘taken of the dust and put in on the water,’ and ‘caused them to drink of the bitter water which causeth the curse.’
For when, by His Holy Spirit, our great High Priest in His human flesh addressed these adulterers,—what did He but present them with living water in an earthen vessel’?
Did He not further charge them with an oath of cursing, saying, ‘If ye have not gone aside to uncleanness, be ye free from this bitter water: but if ye be defiled ‘—
On being presented with which alternative, did they not, self-convicted, go out one by one? And what else was this but their own acquittal of the sinful woman, for whose condemnation they shewed themselves so impatient? ‘Surely it was the water of conviction’ (τὸ ὕδωρ τοῦ ἐλεγμοῦ) as it is six times called, which they had been compelled to drink; whereupon, convicted (ἐλεγχόμενοι) by their own conscience,’ as St. John relates, they had pronounced the other’s acquittal.
Finally, note that by Himself declining to ‘condemn’ the accused woman, our Lord also did in effect blot out those curses which He had already written against her in the dust,—when He made the floor of the sanctuary His ‘book.’