The last two weeks have covered the background to stoning, and the judicial system. This week I look at the woman caught in adultery.
There are more aspects in this than might immediately seem apparent.
The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife… the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. Lev 20: 10
In John 8:4 we are not told whether or not she is another man’s wife… but given that the woman is brought before Jesus, it seems that she is the one who was married. (Hence the term adultery, rather than fornication.)
First… there was no evidence of witnesses.
Jesus knew the law. He would also have known that the woman should have been taken before the elders, which in His day would have been the Sanhedrin.
Secondly, it depends which year this happened.
In AD 30, the power of the Jewish courts to pronounce and execute the death penalty ceased. The Roman authorities removed that right. (This is why Jesus had to be condemned by the Romans; the Jewish courts no longer had that right.) So, whether the Jews had that right here is dependent upon the year the woman was brought to Christ.
Whichever the circumstance or the time, Jesus knew both the Mosaic law, and the law of the Romans.
He also knew He was being tested.
If there arises among you a prophet of a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder; and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you saying ‘let us go after other gods’ which you have not known, and let us serve them’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams, of the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. Deut 13: 1 -3
This is one of many scriptures in the Old Testament which gives instructions about testing prophets. (All they had then was the Old Testament, the New had not been written.)
So, when the scribes and Pharisees tested Jesus, they were being scriptural. So also was Christ in HIs response. He knew the law, and He obeyed it.
At first it seems that He was ignoring them, especially when he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Could it have been…?
One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. Deut 19: 15
If a false witness rises against him of wrongdoing then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days… Deut 19: 16, 17.
We will not know in this lifetime what it was that Jesus wrote. What we do know, is that He lived by the law, and in spite of various accusations of the scribes and Pharisees, He kept the law.
Knowing this, we need to heed His response… ‘”he who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” John 8:7b
The hands of the witness shall be first against him to put him to death…” Deut 17: 7
And why did Jesus say to her “Neither do I condemn you”?
He knew the law; He lived by the law… He was not a witness, they were not in a ‘court’, He was not ‘an elder’ or a member of the Sanhedrin. By the law, He could not condemn her.
Last thought… He instructed her, “Go and sin no more.”
This closes the mini-series on the woman caught in adultery.
Till next week… tread softly, you may be treading on someone’s dreams,