Notes for Feb. 23-24
Was this passage in the original manuscript of John?: You will find a note in your Bible typically just before John 7:53 which states something like, “The earliest manuscripts do not include John 7:53 – 8:11”. There is a scholarly discipline called “Textual Criticism,” in which “textual critics” compare the ancient copies that we have of the books of the Bible and seek to determine what was in the original manuscripts – in this case the Gospel written by the Apostle John. Fortunately, we have more ancient copies of the New Testament books than any other piece of ancient literature. This includes complete books, pieces of books, etc... By comparing these copies side by side, over time scholars have been able to determine with a very high degree of certainty what the original handwritten Gospel of John and other books of the Bible actually contained. Both liberal and conservative scholars agree that we can be certain of 99% of the original words of the Greek New Testament. The 1% of words or phrases that may have multiple possibilities are very minor in importance, not affecting the doctrine of Scripture or the teachings of the apostles. There are a few passages like this one in John 7:53 – 8:11 that are footnoted. In our passage today, most of the copies of the Gospel of John contain this passage, however, the oldest manuscripts that are still in existence today do not contain this passage. Thus, it is debated as to whether or not this passage was in the original manuscript written by John. Most scholars believe that it is an authentic event and may have been in the original, but since the oldest manuscripts don’t have it, they add this textual note.
Mount of Olives: This location is opposite on the mount/hill opposite the temple, just across the Kidron valley. This is where the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus was located and other friends of Jesus lived there. One would only need to walk down from the Mt. of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane area and then back up to the temple mount area to arrive at the temple.
Adultery: The Jewish law required the death penalty for cases of adultery (the breaking of one of the Ten Commandments) and the execution of this sin was stoning. (Leviticus 20:10-11). This may seem harsh to us today, but the Levitical law of the Old Testament was far more gracious and lenient than the laws of the surrounding cultures which were far crueler and lacked a sense of balance in the justice being measured out. The sin of adultery tore apart the fabric of families and is also the analogy that God uses for the nation of Israel when they are unfaithful to him. Of course, God shows mercy to the adulteress (Israel) throughout the Old Testament, most strikingly in the book of Hosea. Jesus is representing his Father’s mercy and ethos in dealing with sinners, like those in the nation of Israel and in the church today.
Witnesses and Stoning: Witnesses were typically the first to throw stones at the convicted, however, false witnesses were served notice that if their testimony was found to be false that they could receive the same punishment that they were about to inflict (See Deuteronomy 17:7; 19;9).
What did Jesus write in the sand?: There has been much speculation about what Jesus wrote in the sand – whatever it was, it made an impact on the men in the crowd as they were confronted with their own sin. God wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger, so Jesus, being fully God and fully man is writing with His finger – a subtle sign of His deity.
Jesus doesn’t condone sin: Jesus demonstrates forgiveness of sin to the woman, but also is clear to her, “go and from now on, sin no more.” He calls her sin and the sin of the man a sin, but he offers a new path of freedom and grace.
Where does this event take place? Why is this significant?
What is Jesus doing when the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law bring the woman to him? Why is this significant?
What is the purpose of the question of the Pharisees to Jesus?
Describe the trap that the Pharisees have set for Jesus. What would be the consequences of what appears to be two choices for Jesus?
Read Leviticus 20:10-11. Does the law say that only the woman should be stoned for adultery? What does the law say?
Why would the sin of adultery be such an egregious sin against God and against the community?
How do we view adultery today in our culture? In the church?
What do you think the woman was feeling in this situation?
What was Jesus writing in the sand in response to the men’s question? What impact did it have on the men accusing the woman?
Who also in Scripture wrote word with His finger? Why is this significant? (Clue- The Ten Commandments)
What did Jesus say to the crowd? Why did it have such power? Who gave Jesus the authority to say something like this?
What is the warning that Jesus gives the crowd?
What are the promise and the warning that Jesus gives to the woman?
What can we learn for ourselves from this story? For our church?
How does knowing Jesus help us when we are caught in sin?
How can we help those who are caught in sin?