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The Woman
Taken in Adultery
John 8:1-11
Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people
came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and
Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set
her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery,
in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be
stoned: but what sayest thou?  This they said, tempting him, that they might
have to accuse him.

But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he
heard them not.

So when they contin ued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them,
He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he
stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one
by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and
the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto
her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord.

And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.  (KJV)
Jesus went to the mount of Olives, as He did many times. It seems to have been a favorite place
to withdraw from Jerusalem. [Matthew 21:1; 24:3; 26:30 Mark 11:1; 13:3; 14:26; Luke 19:29; 19:37;
21:37; 22:39]

Early in the morning Jesus returns to the temple, and the crowds gathered around Him. He began
to teach the people, when the scribes and the Pharisees interrupted Him by bringing a woman
caught in the act of adultery. They tell Jesus this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. They
feign concern that the Law of Moses commanded that those taken in the act of adultery be stoned;
but, the Law does not say the woman is to be stoned, it plainly states that both the man and the
woman are to be stoned. They were merely using the woman as a stooge, to see if they could get
Jesus to condemn the Law that they might have something to accuse Him. If He said stone her,
what about the man? If He said, no not stone her, was He condoning adultery? What did Jesus
say?

(Leviticus 20:10) And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that
committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be
put to death.  (KJV)

(Deuteronomy 22:22) If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they
shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put
away evil from Israel.  (KJV)

Jesus ignored them, kneeled down and wrote something on the ground. What He wrote we do not
know. Much speculation has been made. Was it the passage which said both were to be brought?
Did He write a definition of sin? Did He write something about the sanctity of marriage? Was it
about mercy? Volumes of speculation could and have been written on what did Jesus write. All we
know is that He wrote on the ground.

However, we do know that they continued to badger Him with questions about the situation.
Finally, He stood up, and said, HE THAT IS WITHOUT SIN AMONG YOU, LET HIM FIRST CAST A
STONE AT HER. The accuser was to cast the first stone when someone was accused of a sin that
called for stoning. Jesus took this a step further for the Jews here, He left them with the concept
that the one among them that should not be stoned for sin, throw the first stone.

(Deuteronomy 17:7) The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death,
and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.  
(KJV)

He then stooped down, and wrote again with His finger on the ground. Again, what He wrote is a
matter of mystery. Whether He wrote that both the man and the woman were to be brought if they
are caught in the act, or whether He wrote about mercy and grace, or whether He wrote about
hypocrisy … Who knows? But, it caused those who brought the woman to seriously think about
what they had done, and what they were doing.

BEING CONVICTED BY THEIR OWN CONSCIENCE, they WENT OUT ONE BY ONE, BEGINNING
AT THE ELDERST, EVEN UNTO THE LAST. No one was left except Jesus, and the woman. Their
accusation was their own conscience. It was their greatest adversary. Many times, our greatest foe
is our own conscience. The knowledge of right and wrong which we have accumulated over the
years. It is not a matter of whether we know what is right and wrong, it is more a matter of our
willingness to follow it.

Then Jesus stood up, and addressed the woman: WOMAN, WHERE ARE THOSE THING
ACCUSERS? HATH NO MAN CONDEMNED THEE? In the end, none of the scribes and Pharisees
were willing to pick up a stone and throw it. They were willing to temp Jesus. They were even
willing to have the woman stoned. However, they were not willing to get their own hands dirty. They
were not willing to start the stoning by throwing a stone. They were only willing to do it with their
words.

SHE SAID, NO MAN, LORD. No man had the guts to remain and condemn her.

Jesus replied, NEITHER DO I CONDEMN THEE: GO, AND SIN NO MORE. She had not been
brought as the Law demanded. She was the only one brought, the man was not presented. Under
these circumstances, even according to the Law, she was not to be condemned. But, the lack of
condemnation was not commendation. Sin was sin. Jesus tells her, SIN NO MORE. Do not
transgress the Law. Be righteous. Use this opportunity as a second chance. Do not repeat your
mistakes. Do what is right.

(John 3:15-21) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For
God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to
condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is
not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed
in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come
into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For
every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be
reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest,
that they are wrought in God.  (KJV)

The Textual Controversy

Does John 7:53-8:11 Belong in the New Testament?

John 7:53-8:11 is omitted by THE WESTCOTT/HORT, UNITED BIBLE SOCIETIES, AND NESTLE
GREEK TEXTS, BY THE AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION, THE NEW AMERICAN STANDARD,
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, AND THE REVISED STANDARD VERSION. It is single-
bracketed [of doubtful origin] in TODAY’S ENGLISH VERSION. It is double-bracketed [extremely
dubious inclusion] in the Common English Bible and the English Standard Version. It is included
in THE TEXTUS RECEPTUS, AND THE MAJORITY GREEK TEXTS, AND IN THE KING JAMES
VERSION, THE LIVING BIBLE AND THE NEW KING JAMES VERSION.

....

The evidence utilized will be that found in the critical apparatus of the UBSIII.

ANTIQUITY OF THE WITNESSES

In the 2ND Century, ttwo Syriac versions (Harclean, Palestinian – all dated 2ND to 7TH Century)
include the verse.e. Three Syriac versions (Curetorian, Sinaitic, and Peshitta – dating from 2ND to
7TH Century) omits the verse.

In the 3RD Century, one Coptic versions (Bohairic – dating from 3RD  to 6TH Century) and
Didascalia include the verse. Two papyri (P66 – P. Bodmer II, P75 – P. Bodmer XIV, XV) and two
Coptic versions (Bohairic, Sub-Achmnic – dating from 3RD to 6TH century ) omit the verse.
In the 4TH Century three versions (Armenian – dating from the 4TH or 5TH century) and three
writers (Ambrosiaster, Apostolic Constitutions, and Ambrose) include the verse. Two uncials
(Aleph – Sinaiticus, B – Vaticanus) and three versions (Gothic, Vercellensis Old Latin, and
Armenian --- IV/V) omit it.

....

NUMBER

Fifty-three Greek manuscripts include the verse, while twenty-seven manuscripts omits it.
Fourteen versions include the verse, and tthirteen versions omit it.

Seven early writers quote the verse, while ten early writers omits it.

The majority of the BYZANTINE MANUSCRIPTS include JOHN 7:54-8:11.

....

The Greek manuscripts favor the passage at a ratio of almost 2 to 1. Every category of evidence
favors the inclusion of JOHN 5:4. The evidence shows JOHN 5:4 is a part of the New Testament.

Variety

Whether you look at the manuscripts which include the verse by number, by age, by family, or by
type, they all favor the inclusion of the verse. The versions from every location include the verse.
There is no doubt that the inclusion of the verse passes the Variety test.

Continuity

In the 2ND Century, the PALESTINIAN SYRIAC VERSION and SOME MANUSCRIPTS OF THE
HARCLEAN SYRIAC VERSION (both dating 2ND to 7TH Century) include the passage. THE
DIATESSARON OF TATIAN and three SYRIAC VERSIONS (CURETONIAN, SINAITIC, PESHITTA –
all dating from 2ND to 7TH Century) omit the passage.

In the 3RD Century, CERTAIN MANUSCRIPTS OF THE COPTIC BOHAIRIC VERSION and
DIDASCALIA include the passage. Two papyri (P. BODMER II {P66}, P. BODMER XIV,XV {P75}),
three COPTIC VERSIONS (SAHIDIC, CERTAIN MANUSCRIPTS OF THE BOHAIRIC, SUB
ACHMIMIC – dating 3RD to 6TH Century), possibly CLEMENT, TERTULLIAN, ORIGEN and
CYPRIAN omit the passage.

In the 4TH Century, certain manuscripts of the ARMENIAN VERSION (dated 4TH or 5TH Century)
include it at its present location and some have it at the conclusion of John, while
AMBROSIASTER, THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS and AMBROSE include JOHN 7:53-8:11.
Two uncials (SINAITICUS {ALEPH}, VATICANUS {B}), the GOTHIC VERSION, the Vercellensis Old
Latin version, and the ARMENIAN VERSION omit the passage.

In the 5TH Century, three OLD LATIN VERSIONS (BEZAE CANTABRIGIENSIS, PALATINUS,
CORBEIENSIS II), JEROME, BOTH GREEK AND LATIN MANUSCRIPTS ACCORDING TO
JEROME, and AUGUSTINE include the passage. Two uncials (T, FREER GOSPELS {W}) and
possibly two others (ALEXANDRINUS {A}, EPHRAEMI RESCRIPTUS {C} – there is doubt as to the
reading they contain), the GEORGIAN VERSION, CHRYSOSTOM, NONNUS and CYRIL omit the
passage.

In the 6TH Century, one uncial (BEZAE CANTABRIGIENSIS {D}), the SARZANENSIS OLD LATIN
VERSION, and the ETHIOPIC VERSION include the passage. One uncial (N), the BRIXIANUS OLD
LATIN VERSION, and COSMOS omit the passage.

In the 7TH Century, three OLD LATIN VERSIONS (AUREUS, USSERIANUS I, THE MARGIN OF
RHEDIGERANUS dating either 7TH or 8TH Century) include the passage. Two OLD LATIN
VERSIONS (MONACENSIS, THE TEXT OF RHEDIGERANUS dating either 7TH or 8TH Century)
omit the passage.

In the 8TH Century, one uncial (E) includes 8:2-11. Two uncials (REGIUS{L}, ) omit the passage.

In the 9TH Century, eight uncials (F, G, H, K, M, U,  {8:3-11},  {8:3-11}) and one minuscule
(892) include the passage. Three uncials (Y, , 053) and two minuscules (33, 565) omit the
passage.

In the 10TH Century, two uncials (, S) and two minuscules (1079, 1077) include the passage.
Two uncials (X, 0141) and one minuscule (2193) omit the passage.

In the 11TH Century, four minuscules (1216, 28, 700, 1433) put it in the traditional place, three
minuscules place it after Luke (124, 788, 230) and two lectionaries in the margin (L185 {8:1-11},
L833 {8:3-11}) include the passage. THEOPLYLACT omits the passage.

In the 12TH Century, seven minuscules (1010, 1071, 1344, 1365, 1195, 1646, 225) put it in the
tradition place, one minuscules places it after John (1), and five minuscules place it after Luke
(346, 543, 826, 828, 983), and it is included in the COLBERTINUS OLD LATIN VERSION (dated
either 12TH or 13TH Century). Four minuscules (22, 157, 1241, 1230) omit the passage.

In the 13TH Century, two minuscules place the passage in its traditional place (1109, 1546), one
minuscule places it after John (118), and two minuscules place it after Luke (13, 1689). One
minuscule (1242) omits the passage.

In the 14TH Century, three minuscules place the passage in its traditional place (2174, 2148,
1445), two minuscules place it after John (131, 209) and it is in the margin of one lectionary
(L1579 {8:3-11}). It is omitted by one minuscule (209).

In the 15TH Century, one minuscule places it after Luke (69), and one minuscule (1253) omits it.

The majority of the lectionaries in the SYNAXARION (the so-called “moveable year” beginning at
Easter) and in the MENOLOGIAN (the “fixed year” beginning at September 1) omit JOHN 7:53-8:11.
The majority of the BYZANTINE MANUSCRIPTS include JOHN 7:53-8:11.

....

The passage is found in twelve (12) uncial manuscripts [dating from the 6th through the 9th
centuries] and thirty-five (35) minuscules [dating from the 9th through the 15th centuries], plus the
majority of the Byzantine manuscripts, which are not included in the above count. This brings the
count of manuscripts to more than nine hundred (900) which include the passage. The majority of
the passage (8:1-11 in one, and 8:3-11 in the others) is found in six (6) lectionaries, though it is
missing in the majority of lectionaries. However, this is not surprising since lectionaries only
include select readings.

The passage is found in fourteen (14) ancient versions [Syriac, Coptic, Old Latin, Armenian and
Ethiopic -- dating from the 2nd century to the 13th century]. Seven (7) early writers quote the
passage [from the 3rd century to 430 a.d.].

It is interesting to note that from the 9th century on, the passage is firmly accepted on the evidence
available. It waits until the 19th century to say the passage is fraudulent.

The manuscript evidence, excluding the Byzantine texts (which comprise the vast majority -- up to
95% -- of manuscripts extant), is numerically seventy-five (75) to fifty (50) in favor of the inclusion of
the passage. Once the testimony of the Byzantine texts is added, the result is more than nine
hundred (900) manuscripts, plus versions, lectionaries, and early writers in favor of the passage.

CONTEXT

And every man went unto his own house.

Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and
he sat down, and taught them.

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they
had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the
very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest
thou?  This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.

But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them
not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is
without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote
on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one,
beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing
in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her,
Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no
more. [JOHN 7:53 - 8:11 KJV]

Those who reject this passage as being authentic rely heavily upon the alleged incongruity of this
story with the context. They feel the story of the woman taken in adultery interrupts the “flow of
Jesus” sojourn in Jerusalem. However, a careful reading of the passage where it is found shows
it to be perfectly compatible to the context which surrounds it, and even helpful in completing the
picture.

In verse 32 of the 7th chapter, we read: “The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such
things concerning Him [i.e., indicating He was the Christ] and the Pharisees and chief priests sent
officers to take Him.”

Beginning with verse 45, these officers report back to the Pharisees. This meeting between the
chief priests and the Pharisees and the officers is still in progress in verse 52.

Without the passage in question (7:53-8:11), the next verse (8:12) would begin: “Then spake
Jesus again unto them,...”

There is no end to the conspiracy meeting of the chief priests, Pharisees and officers. There is no
context for the place of Jesus' words beginning at 8:12. There is no contrast between the light
which Jesus is, and the darkness which the scribes and the Pharisees have shown themselves
to be by their sinful conduct.

“Nor is the narrative improperly suited to the place where it is found in the overwhelming majority
of the nine hundred copies which contain it. On the contrary, a setting at the Feast of Tabernacles
(cf. 7:2,14) is ideal for the story. It was on just such an occasion, when Jerusalem was crowded
with pilgrims, that strangers might be thrown together with the resulting sin around which the story
centers. An interview with a woman in a court of the temple would likely have been in the Court of
the Women. And this evidently where Jesus was, as the reference to the 'treasury' in 8:20
indicates. Moreover, the way in which the woman's accusers are driven to cover by the moral
exposure which Jesus brings upon them furnishes a suggestive introduction to the initial
Johannine reference to the Lord as the Light of the World (8:12). The setting of the incident at
daybreak is likewise suitable (cf. 8:2) since the rising sun furnishes the natural backdrop for the
same title.  It is in fact to the sun (not the temple candelabra, as Hort thought) that the title Light of
the World refers (cf. 9:4,5; 11:9). Finally, as the Qumran find have shown (cf. 1QS iii 6-7), the
thought of forgiveness of sin experienced here by the woman is properly linked to the phrase 'light
of life' (8:12).”[THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT ACCORDING TO THE MAJORITY TEXT; edited by
Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad; Thomas Nelson Publishers; 1982; p. xxiv].

The context suffers not by the addition of the passage (7:53-8:11), but by its omission.
There is no justification for the rejection of the passage upon the grounds of interrupting the flow
of thought. In fact, contextual considerations favor its inclusion.

By the way, upon what basis is the assumption made that contextual considerations made by
men would be superior to the contextual selection of the Holy Spirit? The idea that men, upon the
basis of literary context, can determine where a passage belongs in the Bible is rather
presumptuous. That would mean we can determine what and how the Holy Spirit would say
something. That is not in the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14).

INTERNAL EVIDENCE

In the case of John 7:53-8:11, this means: Is the passage written in the same style as John wrote
the rest of his Gospel? Those who reject the passage claim that the style (i.e., the choice of words
and the use of grammar) of these verses is contrary to that found in the remainder of the book.

Thus, they claim the passage not to be a part of the Gospel of John.

“There is no compelling reason to doubt that the story is originally Johannine, despite the
prevailing contrary opinion. Among the marks of Johannine style which it exhibits, none is clearer
than the phrase in 8:6: ..... This is a pure and simple Johannism, which is evident by comparison
with 6:6; 7:39; 11:51; 12:6,33; and 21:19. Likewise the use of the vocative .... (8:10) by Jesus to
address a woman is a Johannine characteristic (cf. 2:4; 4:21; 19:26; CF. ALSO 20:13,15). The
phrase .... (8:11) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except John 5:14, and the historic
present of ....(8:3) is consonant with John's frequent use of this idiom.” [IBID.; PP. XXIII-XXIV].
“In view of the features of Johannine style that have been noted and the narrative's almost unique
suitability to this context, the idea that the passage is not authentically Johannine must finally be
dismissed. If it is not an original part of the Fourth Gospel, its writer would have to be viewed as a
skilled Johannine imitator, and its placement in this context as the shrewdest piece of
interpolation in literary history!”[IBID.; P. XXIV].

CONCLUSION

Metzger says,

The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming. …
When one adds to this impressive and diversified list of external evidence the consideration that
the style and vocabulary of the periscope differ noticeably from the rest of the Fourth Gospel (see
any critical commentary), and that it interrupts the sequence of 7.52 and 8.12ff., the case against
its being Johannine authorship appears to be conclusive.

At the same time the account has all the earmarks of historical veracity. It is obviously a piece of
oral tradition which circulated in certain parts of the Western church and which was subsequently
incorporated into various manuscripts at various places. …

Sometimes it is stated that the periscope was deliberately expunged from the Fourth Gospel
because it was liable to be understood in a sense too indulgent to adultery. But, apart from the
absence of any instance elsewhere of scribal excision of an extensive passage because of moral
prudence, this theory fails “to explain why the three preliminary verses (vii 63; viii 1-2), so important
as apparently descriptive of the time and place at which all the discourses of c. viii were spoken,
should have been omitted with the rest” (Hort, “Notes on Select Readings,” p. 86f.).

Although the Committee was unanimous that the periscope was originally no part of the Fourth
Gospel, in deference to the evident antiquity of the passage a majority decided to print it, enclosed
within double brackets, at its traditional place following Jn 7.52. [IBID., PP. 219-221]

This is another occasion in which the UBS, along with other texts, failed to have the courage to
follow through with their convictions. Their failure, however, was the correct move. Consider all the
tests to which the text should be placed – and the answer is clear: the passage belongs in the
New Testament. It is a part of the Gospel of John.