John 8:1-11 - Woman caught in adultery - 'new' commentary


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. :slight_smile:

p. 184

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.’


This sort of stuff is the reason Christ gave us the Church, and gave the Church the authority to interpret scripture.

Much of it seems to be based on the author’s assumption over what Christ wrote in the dust while he waited for the people to recognize their own sinfulness, and leave. The Bible makes absolutely no mention of what was written in the dirt, only that Christ wrote something. For all we know, he could have been writing out Irish Limericks.


The Blarney Stone
In the Village of Blarney
There’s one magic stone.
They say when you kiss it,
You’re put in “the zone.”
You talk and you gab and
Your words are so glib
That it matters not least
If it’s truth or a fib.
So it’s lie through your teeth
Or its truth that you own.
It’s all in the gift
of the kissed Blarney Stone.

An Irish Limerick.


One person’s ‘stuff’ is another person’s delightful treasure. :slight_smile:

Acts 15

7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

**8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;

9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.**


This is interesting. Thanks for sharing! I never thought of the connection to the passage from Numbers before.


Me neither - I thought the incident stood alone. But the intense connection, for me, came with the line,

…the test proved inefficacious, unless the husband was himself innocent of the crime whereof he accused his wife.

So many other things fell into place. Like how Jesus could judge others, call people hypocrites and a ‘brood of vipers’, tossing the Temple, etc. - and not be sinning. He had no sin! I’d heard the rumor, of course but it didn’t sink in - it looked like anger and I didn’t buy ‘righteous anger’. But I now understand Righteous Judgment - and that to do it, one must be sinless. That makes it God’s territory, not mine.

On a worldly level, it makes sense why judging others often makes no change in their behavior - condemnation by fellow sinners more often than not caused me to dig in my heels.

I’ve struggled for a long time now to let go of childhood humiliations and the strange attempts to break my willfulness, which led to outer conformity (until adulthood) but an inner smouldering rage. It isn’t that I didn’t want to let go of the distance between family members and the tit-for-tat jabs - I just couldn’t find the right string to pull to have it all unravel.

That passage gave me such a surge of Hope. Now that I trust Him (after years of denial), this passage says, “I’ll do the judging. You get to drop the bag of rocks and and become joyful that you know Me - and stop hiding your Light under a basket because you feel like a hypocrite.”

It didn’t matter that I immersed myself in God’s Word…I knew I didn’t have Love. 1Cor 13 made me feel like the Holy Spirit was saying, “If you don’t have Love, I really can’t use you effectively. For all of your study, you’re still at the bottom of the mountain - because no one gets to climb up without taking others along.” As they say in AA, “It’s only a selfish program…until it isn’t anymore.”

I’ll feed Hope while waiting to see if the epiphany sinks down to the fire and puts it out. :wink:



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