John 7:53-8:11 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. Whom do the Pharisees bring to Jesus and what charge do they bring against this person? See John 8:3 (printed below)

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought to him a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand before them (John 8:3)

As Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, the Pharisees brought to Him a woman guilty of adultery. They charge that she was caught in the very act of adultery, thereby establishing her guilt.

2. What punishment did the law of Moses prescribe for the sin of adultery? See John 8:5 (printed below) Why do you think the Pharisees ask for Jesus’ opinion as to what to do with this woman? Hint: Recall what Jesus had done for the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, He had shown mercy to him.

Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such a person. What then do you say about her? (John 8:5)

The Pharisees immediately remind Jesus that the Old Testament Law of Moses prescribed that if a person was found to be guilty of adultery they were to be stoned to death. No doubt remembering the act of mercy Jesus had bestowed upon the undeserving paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, the Pharisees now ask for Jesus’ opinion as to what should be done about this woman who was obviously guilty of adultery.

3. By asking Jesus for His counsel concerning the adulterous woman, what were the Pharisees seeking to do? See John 8:6a (printed below)

Now they said this in order to test him, so that they might have something of which to accuse him. (John 8:6a)

The Pharisees’ intention was to test Jesus. By asking for His opinion as to what to do about this woman, the Pharisees hoped to create a dilemma for Jesus. Knowing Him to be merciful and compassionate, they no doubt hoped that He would counsel leniency towards the woman and exempt her from suffering the punishment of being stoned to death. If, indeed, Jesus gave such counsel, the Pharisees then would have grounds for accusing Jesus of neglecting the justice prescribed in the Old Testament Law.

4. What does Jesus now do (see verses 6b-9 printed below?) What do you suppose Jesus wrote on the ground? Note: Consider first Deuteronomy 22:22 and then Deuteronomy 6:5, (both printed below). How do the Pharisees react?

Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. (7) When they continued questioning him, he stood up and said to them, Whoever among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her. (8) Again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. (9) Then, those who heard began to go away one at a time, beginning with the oldest down to the youngest, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. (John 8:6b-9)

If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 22:22)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Jesus replies to the Pharisees by stooping down and writing with His finger in the dirt. What did He write? Perhaps it was the very law to which the Pharisees referred—the law that stipulated both parties who were caught in adultery were to be put to death. If so, Jesus is exposing the sin of the Pharisees in being selective in their administration of justice. When they continue to question Him, Jesus asks them the convicting question, “Who among you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.” Then He again stooped down and wrote in the dirt. Maybe this time He wrote out the first and greatest commandment, the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Deuteronomy 6:5). Whatever He wrote, the Pharisees became convicted of their own sin and thereupon withdrew, leaving the woman alone in the presence of Jesus.

5. What does Jesus now tell the woman? See John 8:10-11 (printed below)

Then Jesus stood up and said to her, Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? (11) And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you. Go your way; from now on leave your life of sin. (John 8:10-11)

Since her accusers have seen fit not to press charges and carry out the sentence of condemnation against her, Jesus declares that He will not do so either. But Jesus does exhort her to repent of her sinful lifestyle. The implication is that the mercy of God must not be abused. The teaching of Scripture (an example of which is this very incident involving the adulterous woman) is that there is mercy with the Lord; but if we persist in our sins we shall finally be subject to the righteous judgment of God. The mercy of God is intended to lead us to repentance and reconciliation with our holy God (note Romans 2:4-6), it was never intended to be abused and misinterpreted to be a license to continue in sin without fear of just retribution.