The Adultery Passage – John 7:53-8:11

It’s a famous story: The Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus and ask if they should stone her. He answers by saying, “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” One by one, they all leave.

This is one of the most highly debated texts in the Bible. Many pastors actually skip it or choose to never preach on it. Let me explain why. I’ve been studying up on this passage for a Small Group session tomorrow night and here’s what I’ve discovered: (By the way, most of this info is from a sermon I downloaded by Dr. Israel Loken who was my Bible teacher and is a highly regarded Biblical scholar/author.)

1. Most Bible scholars agree that this passage was not in the original Biblical text. It was added at a much later date. The earliest manuscript which includes this passage dates back to the 5th century – over 400 years after Jesus’ days. The next oldest manuscript which includes it is from the 9th century – another 500 years later. All the older manuscripts exclude this passage however, after the 9th century addition, is appears that most manuscripts do include it with a special marking identifying it as a later addition. The manuscripts which include it also don’t agree on where it belongs. It is sometimes found in John, sometimes in Luke, and sometimes in Matthew.

2. Textually the passage doesn’t fit the rest of John’s gospel. The words used are not found in any of John’s other writings. It’s highly unlikely that the author of John could have written it.

3. If you omit the passage from John, the gospel seems to flow better. The last part of chapter 7 takes place at the Feast of Tabernacles and raises the question of where Jesus is from. Who He is. When you skip this passage and go directly to 8:12, you see Jesus answering their questions. Especially in verse 14 where Jesus talks about where He came from. Also in 8:12, Jesus calls Himself the “light of the world.” This would make much more of a statement if it happened during the Feast of Tabernacles with the huge festival Menorahs in the background. If we leave the passage in tact, the scene has changed away from the Feast of Tabernacles and this event would not have had the same kind of impact.

4. Even though most scholars recognize this text as a later addition, they also believe it to be an accurate account of a historical event – it really happened. Much like the Old Testament, this story was passed down orally from generation to generation. The story is also recalled by a a few historians long before it’s first appearance in a manuscript in the 5th century. Papius wrote about it around 140AD. Augustine and Ambrose write of it as well.

5. It important to recognize that even if the story doesn’t belong in the Scriptures, it doesn’t add any important doctrine or make any changes to the whole of Scripture. It merely supports those doctrines which have been established in other texts.

6. In verse 8:6, we see Jesus writing on the ground with His finger. There has been much debate and there are many theories about what He wrote.

a.) He wrote the 10 Commandments. (It’s the only other place in Scripture where the hand of God writes something.)

b.) He wrote the sins of those who were standing as accusers of the woman.

c.) (and this is the one I like) He was writing the text from Lev 20:10 or Deut 22:22 and 24 which describes how both a man and woman should be brought forward when caught in adultery. This would have pointed out the “sins” of the accusers as well as upholding the law.

I also think it’s important to note that “he without sin” disqualifies everyone present. . .well, everyone except Jesus. Under these rules Jesus actually had the right to stone her. His choice in no way condones her actions. This is clear when Jesus tells her to leave her life of sin. What a beautiful example Jesus has given us! We are to forgive others no matter what the circumstances. We’ve got to remember that we are sinners too and we need the same forgiveness. We have chosen other things over God. We are adulterous too. We are an adulterous people.

This was a fun lesson to teach at small group. We had lots of great discussions around it all. I hope it’s been beneficial to someone else too.

Torah and Mitzvah

Torah ScrollsI learned a little Hebrew today. Thought it was worth sharing.

Torah” = “Law” in Christian Bibles, but in a Jewish bible it’s almost always translated “teaching.” As Christians, we typically talk about the Old Testament law as the means by which God showed us, how much we needed a Savior. (“Cause we couldn’t live up to everything the “Law” required.) Therefore, we think of the “Law” as a condemning sort of thing. If we could think of it more like Jesus did, like our Jewish friend do, I think we’d be thinking more accurately.It may be subtle, but it makes a difference. Let me show you:

Psalm 1:2 – “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”

but if we read it the way our Jewish friends do, it’d say:

Psalm 1:2 – “The teaching of the Lord is His delight, and he studies that teaching day and night.”

Our Jewish friends, think of the “Law” well the “Torah” very differently. The Torah is a blessing – not a condemnation. It’s God “teaching” which helps us to live life more fully. Their attitude toward “Torah” is much more in line with it’s intent, and therefore more in line with God.

In much the same way, “Mitzvah” is translated “commandment.” We hear that word as burdensome – as something which comes from a domineering authority figure. But our Jewish friends hear it differently – in a positive way. They say things like “I had the opportunity to do a mitzvah today when my neighbor needed some help.” It’s not a burden, but an opportunity to honor God in a special way.

Bottom line: I think our Jewish friends have it right. If we could learn to think of these terms like they do, I think much of the weight of our faith would be lifted and we could live in freedom by rejoicing in His “Torah” (teaching) and looking for opportunities to perform a “Mitzvah” (commandment).

Remez

“May the force be with you.” It’s a classic quote. With those 5 little words I have referred you to a concept found in the Star Wars films. Almost anyone in our culture would recognize the reference, without mentioning the film itself. Jesus often did the same thing.

hiddenA practice called a “remez” (meaning “hint”) was practiced by most rabbis (including Jesus) during Biblical times. The Jewish educational system required that every young boy memorize the Law. Many went on to memorize the entire Old Testament. Their culture was so steeped in the Scriptures, that they could quote a part of a verse knowing that others would recognize the end. According to FishingtheAbyss.com, there are “30 – 50 (potentially more) remezim of Jesus recorded in the gospels.”

Here’s an example: Ever wonder why the Pharisees hated Jesus so much? Although He did say some things to them that were not very flattering, sometimes it’s what He didn’t say that bothered them the most.

Check out Mathew 21:16

But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
” ‘From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise’?”

Why would that make them so angry? It doesn’t sound so bad. But check out what the rest of that verse says. He was quoting Psalm 8:2

From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

The Pharisees knew the end of the verse He was quoting – and Jesus knew it too. He called them “enemies!” No wonder they got so mad.

Anyway, the “remez” is an interesting practice. We’ve got to know the whole of Scripture in order to understand the intricacies of the things Jesus said (and didn’t day).

Here are a few other places Jesus used the “remez.” Look ’em up. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Matthew 21:13 hints at Isaiah 56:7 (Jesus isn’t as mad about them selling stuff in the temple area as much as He is concerned that this was the only place the Gentiles could worship and they were not being allowed to do so.)

Matthew 27:46 hints at Psalm 22:1 (Check out Psalm 22:13-18 – Jesus was telling them He was the Messiah.)

Luke 11:20 hints at Exodus 8:18-19

Luke 19:10 hints at Ezekiel 34 (Revealing Himself as the Messiah)

Mark 15:34 would have been an obvious “remez” to the Jews present at the time. Hinting at Psalm 22-24 (Messianic Psalms)

OK – so that should be enough to get you started. The bottom line for me is this. If we could approach the Scriptures with the context of Jewish culture, we’d have a much greater understanding and these sorts of nuances wouldn’t fly over our heads. I may be strange (and some of you know it’s true) but I’d sure like to be able to talk about the Scriptures as easily and with as much nuance as I do about Star Wars.

Breakin’ the Law

LawIs it OK to rebel against a rule/law/etc.?As a youth minister, one of the topics that comes up over and over is about obeying parents (and other authorities). Scripture is clear that we are to obey the authorities (Ephesians 6, Romans 13:1-7) placed over us and so it’s a pretty easy answer. Of course you’ve gotta obey God’s authority above all else, but who are we to make those kinds of judgment calls? I mean – who is able to say that law is wrong and God would do this instead? We’re all human so it makes it tough sometimes. And then there’s the argument concerning the Bible. If it goes against God’s word, then it’s a man-made law and we aren’t required to follow it. But then again Romans 13 says that God placed the authorities in those positions and so if we disobey them, we are disobeying God.Bottom line: Is it OK to rebel against a rule/law/etc.?We see it all throughout Scripture but some guys (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego) are commended for it while others are condemned or even killed (Ananias and Sapphira).Consider one particular example from Jesus’ life. John 9 records Jesus’ healing of a blind man on the Sabbath by using spit and mud. He could have chosen to heal him any way he wanted to, but for some reason he decided that spit and mud were the best option. Now here’s the part I just learned – The Jewish system of laws said, “To heal a blind man on the Sabbath, it is prohibited to inject wine in his eyes. It is also prohibited to make mud with spittle and smear it on the eyes.” (Shabbat 108:20) Who wrote this law? Was this really a problem in the ancient world? Anyway, this means that Jesus not only broke the law by healing on the Sabbath, but he also chose a method of healing that He knew was forbidden by the Jewish laws! He broke the law and went against their authority on purpose! Jesus was a rebel! He was sinless and so of course it wasn’t sinful to break this law, but what about us? How can we know when it’s sinful to break the law and when it’s not? And the other question is why? Why would Jesus break this particular law on purpose? It was clearly about more than just healing the blind man. He could have healed him in countless other ways. Jesus must have had an ulterior motive. Did you hear that? Jesus had ulterior motives! He had a plan, a scheme, another agenda! And then he’d go and say something like, “I have not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” (Matthew 5:17) Can’t you hear the people now – “What are you talking about? You are destroying it. You just broke the law and now you’re saying this?” Did Jesus break those laws (Sabbath and spit laws) because He knew they were breaking the people?I’m not sure what to think anymore. Jesus did the very things I tell our youth not to do.Hmm. . . what are the religious laws, the modern rules that need to be broken? What sacred cows need to be BBQed? What ones should we draw attention to and then rebel against? And how can we know which laws should be broken? Which laws are written by man and which are from God? If we are to obey the authorities He has placed over us, aren’t those laws to be obeyed as if they were from him? Which laws have we added to the Scriptures that are keeping people from knowing God? Which ones are breaking the people?I wonder if there’d be more teenagers interested in church if we started doing the kinds of things Jesus did?Not sure I really have the answers today – these are just things that are rolling around in my head today.

Breaking The Law

During class tonight, one of the guys sitting at our table (Beto) said something that I thought was pretty insightful. We were discussing our outlines of the book of James and he said something like this:

Heart
“Do we break the law, or does it break us? It’s the standard of the law that breaks us.”

The truth is that for me most of the time it’s me breaking the law. Sometimes I don’t ever even know I did it. But sometimes, the Holy Spirit reveals it to me that I’ve done it, and then I have a choice to either let the law break me or to rebel and refuse to repent. I wonder how many times I’ve been so hardened that I’ve ignored the Spirit. I wonder how many times He knew I wasn’t even ready to admit my sin and decided not to even reveal it to me?

Prayer:
God, I wanna be the kind of guy who is broken by the law. I know it’s not a fun place to be, but I wanna chase after You and that means being broken to my own selfish desires. It means that I wanna have a soft heart which is sensitive to your subtle nudges and prods. Push me God. Let me be broken by your law, and restored by your grace. Renewed and rebuilt into the man you’ve called me to be. I believe You are working on me and trust You to do it – I’m even excited to see how it’s all gonna turn out! Thank You! AMEN!