Rescuing Verses . . . Woman Caught in Adultery

© Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw (3 September 2018)

After 40 years of ministry in various churches, I have often heard people say that Jesus changed the law regarding the penalty for adultery. Here is the passage:

3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:3-11 ESV)

The passage is not in the earliest manuscripts. There are over 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, though most of them are short and do not include the whole New Testament, and 900 of those manuscripts include these verses.

If the woman was caught in the act, so was the man. How could the woman be judged and not the man? Of course, that did not mean the woman was innocent. We hear constantly on the news that Hazel Woman or Jack Man was caught doing something but only one was charged. The conclusion often is that if both are not changed then both go free. But that is illogical to the core. If three men murder someone, but only two have sufficient evidence to be charged, does that mean the two should go free also? Should we let the two go free because we cannot find enough evidence to convict the third one? If we cannot convict all, does that mean we must not convict any? That is ridiculous on the face of it.

Others say that Jesus relaxed His Old Testament law. The Old Testament required execution for adultery in some cases: “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20:10 NKJ).

Moreover, the Old Testament law is a revelation of the character of God and cannot change: “You shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44-45; 1 Peter 1:16; NKJ). It is clear, therefore, that if God is unchangeable, and the law is a revelation of His holy character, then His law cannot change. But that did not mean that every case of sex outside marriage required the death penalty (see Deut. 22:13-30).

Notice that Jesus did not challenge Moses’ law, its holiness, or the penalty for adultery; rather, He supported it. He instituted formal proceedings against her when He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Here is one passage He probably had in mind: “The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you” (Deut. 17:7 NKJ; see also Lev. 24:24; Deut. 19:18-19; 22:22). We see that Jesus, in keeping with the law given above, required the witnesses to cast the first stone. This would make them back up their testimonies to death. Being a witness was a very serious matter.

Again, the witnesses were required to be innocent of the sin they were accusing someone else of committing. It was not any sin that someone must be guilty of but the sin in question, in this case, adultery. If being sinful of any sin whatsoever disqualified anyone from being a witness, no one would ever be such, for all humans are sinful.

When Jesus carefully applied the law, He saw that all the accusers had gone. Since there were no witnesses innocent of the same crime, the formal procedure had to stop. Jesus said,

9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:9-11 ESV)

There could be no formal accusation and no conviction if the witnesses were gone! The sin she was not to commit anymore was adultery.

 

Conclusion

Assuming John 7:53-8:11 is genuine (and I do), we see that Jesus followed the law. He could not compromise His own holy character by saying, in effect, stoning for adultery was too harsh in My law; therefore, I’ll lower the standard. There shall be no more stoning for adultery. He required the witnesses to be innocent of the same crime and to demonstrate their innocence by throwing the first stones. Let us NEVER put a division between the Old Testament and the New Testament as if there were two gods, an Old Testament one who was harsh and a New Testament one who was loving and kind. That would be idolatry. AMEN. Ω

Rescuing Verses . . . “He will slay me, I have no hope” (Job 13:15)

“He will slay me; I will have no hope. Yet my ways I will defend to His face.”

In the summer of 1976 which I spent translating Hebrew, I was working on the second reading of Job (a most difficult book to translate!), and I came across this verse. I had always heard it translated “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him.”

The problem is what words in the text do we translate. If we translate what is actually written, we have ‎(לֹא)  “I will have no hope” or perhaps better, “I have no hope.” If we translate the other word that is there (actually in the margin), we have “I will have hope.” Clue: for hundreds of years, following the KJV, translations have rendered the verse: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” This is popular, and if you want to sell Bibles, don’t change favorite verses. It seems to me that the Hebrew is clear that we should translate it as I have in the heading above.

So what is Job’s point? All through Job’s book he is challenging God to meet with him and explain why he is being so sorely chastised. He cannot understand it. He does not deserve it. The Bible is full of verses that present the idea that we suffer because we deserve it and are delivered because of our righteousness. But in Job we see the righteous suffering, and does that not make life hopeless? Who can have hope when he is chastised even when doing righteousness? How does Job’s suffering help us if even the righteous suffer?

When I was about four years old, my grandmother put me on a bus to go see my Aunt Blanch across town. She was waiting for me at the bus stop, and as soon as we got to her house, I said, “Ok, it is time for a devotion.” I took my Bible and told the story of Job chapters one and two. I could not read and had the Bible upside down. But these two chapters, for some reason (Read my little book, Why Is God Always Late?) were my favorite chapters where we read that “while he was yet speaking” another catastrophe happened to Job as his children were killed and his possessions taken. Why did this happen? Job’s “friends” said he deserved it, for God only judged someone who had sinned. Thus, Job must have sinned. And while it is true that we do often suffer because of our personal sins—it is not always. Enter Job. Here we see extreme suffering, for apparently no reason. Job then laments:

“He will slay me; I will have no hope. Yet my ways I will defend to His face.”

God never chastised Job for being honest with the LORD. This is a statement of despair, which we all have from time to time. Many times in my earthly sojourn I’ve run back to Job, and though Job did not sin at first, he did later:

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)

So why did Job suffer? Who began the contest between Job and Satan? It was the LORD! He challenged Satan to consider that His servant Job who loved Him unconditionally, and Satan challenged Him to take away his possessions and his children and then he would curse God. The LORD gave Satan limited authority to test Job for apparently no reason. Job never knew what the context was all about, and then in despair, Job says:

“He will slay me; I will have no hope. Yet my ways I will defend to His face.”

Have you ever felt that way? Surely you have, and it is not wrong to complain to God, who already knows. But Job demonstrates that God Almighty was in control from beginning to end, which gives us great hope:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13 NKJ). AMEN.Ω