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.

5 Life-Changing Experiences – Education

Romans 12:2 says that it’s the renewing of our minds that leads to transformation. That means education has the potential to be a transforming influence – and for me, it truly has been.

I might, however, define education a little differently than most. True education doesn’t happen in a classroom. Transformational education isn’t necessarily formal. As a matter of fact, to our knowledge, Jesus never taught the disciples in a classroom. He taught them wherever they were using their surroundings and situations as springboards to teach lessons which were easily applicable to their circumstances. He taught them by showing them. As a model for them, he didn’t seek to have them ascend to some greater knowledge or understanding but to have them actually become like Him – to apply the things he taught and live them out – he was interested in their transformation, not mere knowledge.

Me and Mike @ the Dead Sea
Me and Mike @ the Dead Sea

The education I’m speaking of (that which has been life-changing and transformational) has come in many forms in my life. Mike Mathews (my father-in-law and ex-boss/Pastor) discipled me and led me to go deeper in my spiritual life. He challenged my status quo by showing me that there was more. He sent me all over the country (and overseas twice) to go to conferences where I could see new ministry methods, and gain valuable insight into culture. These conferences enlarged my thinking, but when I’d return, it was Mike who came alongside me to encourage new efforts – this is where true transformation happened – in the daily grind of ministry – in working to live out the things I’d been learning.

My time at CBS (College of Biblical Studies) has also been transformational. Dr. Loken, Dr. Shockley, and Dr. Ayers have each stretched my brain capacity, but it has been the experience of working on staff in full-time church ministry which has guided me to transformation. The ideas and concepts which they taught have played out over and over in different circumstances within the church. Through their teachings, I’ve been able to “know what to look for” in order to recognize the real issues going on within the church. My growth has come as I have sought to “be like Christ” in every circumstance. Watching God work in these situations and feeling my way through/learning my role is what has been transformational.

True education (not just knowledge) changes us. The things we learn inform our decisions and affect our behaviors. I have been changed by the education God has granted me – and I’m grateful to Him. I hope to continue to be a student – to continue to be changed/transformed throughout my life.

I’ll close with a quote from Leonard Sweet from his book “Soul Tsunami.”
“In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. . . . Skin replaces itself every month; the stomach lining, every five days; the liver, every six weeks; the skeleton, every three months; cheek cells, three times a day. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms in your body are replaced every year – your whole body every five years (men) or seven years (women).”

If “education” = “change/transformation” and “no change” = death, then it only makes sense that we should all be concerned about our continued education/transformation. 

Pass/Fail

I’ve decided to take this “General Epistle” class as one of my two pass/fail classes. This means that my grade will only depend on a few of the assignments and my attendance. I will not receive a letter grade (so it won’t count for me or against me in my grade-point average), but only a pass or fail. I’m choosing to do this because Dr. Loken led us to believe that this may be the most difficult class remaining in the leadership program and because I need a little extra time to work on the “independent study” class which I am taking simultaneously. It’s a “marriage and family” class which will count for a sociology credit. During the next 4 weeks, I’ll focus my attention on getting the homework done for the marriage class. Miranda and I have planned to go to a friend’s beach house in Galveston in a couple of weeks with her family, so that’ll be a great time to work on that homework too.

Tonight was “Student Appreciation” day at CBS. That means that we get a longer break and have speaker share some sort of message (very short) and a band or group sing some songs. They also usually try to give us some food. Tonight was James Coney Island Hot Dogs. I probably shouldn’t have eaten at all but after seeing the hot dog competition on ESPN a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t help myself – I had to know what those hot dogs tasted like. It was pretty good, but I certainly can’t imagine shoving 66 of them down my throat in 12 minutes. (Joey Chestnut, 2007 Fourth of July Event)

(oops – I already ate that hot dog, but now I realize it isn’t a james coney island contest but a Nathan’s Hot Dog contest – oh well)

Hebrews

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Today is the first day of this new class – General Epistles and Revelation. Dr. Loken started out by telling us that the class should really be called the “General Epistles” ’cause Revelation is actually a “general epistle” too. It was clearly written to at least 7 churches which makes it pretty general.

We started out talking about Hebrews. The author is unknown, but most likely it was Paul or Barnabas. Much of the book is completely different than any of Paul’s other writings, but the greatest argument against him as the author comes in Heb 2:3 where the author says he learned the gospel from “those who heard Him.” Since Paul continually said that he had acquired the gospel directly from Jesus himself, it would be highly unlikely that he would have written this verse.

Dr. Loken explained that Hebrews was written to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. They were poor. Paul had even taken up offerings for them. They were poor because everything revolved around the temple in Jerusalem. All the commerce, social structures, everything. When someone became a Christian, they were immediately kicked out of the synagogue. They also typically lost their jobs, friends, family, and all support. When they confessed their faith, they understood that they were choosing persecution and struggle. This is why they were so good at sharing all their possessions, and living out their Christianity together. They “needed” the body in ways that our culture doesn’t understand. The easiest way for them to relieve the pressures of this kind of life was to go back to Judaism and the sacrificial system.

The book of Hebrews is a combination of dangling a carrot in front of them and then whipping them. Chapters 1, 3, & 5 are the carrots which talk about how Christ is so much better than Judaism. Chapters 2, 4, 6, 10, & 12 are more like the whip behind them saying you guys are going to receive the curse which was upon you head as a Jew if you go back to Judaism. The author of Hebrews continually encourages them to “hold fast” to their confession. Listen to Hebrews 10:24-27 with this understanding, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for our sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”

This is not a verse about going to church, but one about staying together in the midst of persecution and encouraging one another. It also clearly talks about how these Jewish believers cannot just go back to the sacrificial system – cause it’s not a valid system anymore.

Hebrews 6:4-6 – For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

There are many interpretations for these verses, but here’s mine – These guys are clearly believers – “enlightened,” “tasted the heavenly gift,” “partakers of the Holy Spirit.” They have to be Jewish believers ’cause the only guys who could crucify Jesus “again” are the guys who did it the first time. Basically the author is telling these Jewish believers (who are tempted to go back to Judaism for their own prosperity, comfort) that it would take Jesus going to the cross a second time to save them if they went back to Judaism now. Since that’s not gonna happen, they better remain true to their faith in Christ.

This probably sounds a bit like a ramble, but these are just some of the ideas we talked about tonight. I hope it’s not worthless reading, but I must admit that it probably isn’t my best writing. I don’t exactly have all my thoughts together very clearly yet either.

Grace and Peace

Peace_2 In class last week Dr. Loken pointed out something that seems pretty basic, but it was just something I never really thought about before. Paul uses the phrase “grace and peace” alot. Here’s why – “Grace” was a standard greeting for the Gentiles. “Peace” or “Shalom” was the standard greeting for the Jews. Anyway, every time he used this phrase, he communicated that both Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. It’s also a beautiful picture of the first century church which spread from the Jews to the Gentiles through Paul himself. Anyway, I just thought it was cool stuff!!!

Living Examples

Dr. Loken suggested in class today that we journal about some of the “living examples” in our lives. We were studying Colossians and at the end of all the things Paul tells the people there – he lifts up a few guys  as examples for how to live the way he has just described. He talks about Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, and Epaphras. (and some others)

I’m gonna tell you about Mike, Joe, and Jon – these are guys who I can point to who are true disciples – they have been tested and been through so many things, but still have remained faithful to the Lord. One day, when my son grows up (He’s gotta be born here first), but one day – I will tell him about these men so he can know that living for the Lord is something which can truly be done and that it makes a difference.

“Mike”. . . . . .wow I’m not even sure where to start – “Mike” is Mike Mathews – he is now my father-in-law, but was first my boss. That’s about all he was at first, but eventually our relationship grew and he became my pastor, then my later – a friend. He and I traveled the  world together (Israel, England, and to all kinds of churches in the US) Eventually, I fell in love with his daughter (that’s a whole other story though) and married her. Anyway, Mike had been an incredible pastor for over 20 years, when the system failed him and his ministry was stripped away from him without grounds. His life was turned upside down – his esteem and identity were thrown to the ground – he ended up working at “home depot.” And yet – through it all he was faithful to God – he handled the situation with integrity and love for the very people who were falsely accusing him – he even found his way into a church within a month of being run out of one. This is a true MAN of God. If you wanna see what it means to follow Jesus – look at Mike – his life will testify of an incredible love for Jesus.

Joe – Joe Torrez was my youth minister – nothing all that special in the eyes of the world – just a regular “Joe” who served in a tiny little church doing ministry “part-time.” But Joe led me to know the God of the universe! Now he quietly serves the Lord by teaching the Bible  in his home. That small group of people who meet with him have truly become what I believe the church is supposed to be. If you wanna see what it means to follow Jesus – watch Joe – he’s doing it every day in a quiet way.

Jon – Jon Godbold is my friend – He and I served together doing music together, but more than that – when I was alone in a new town – Jon invited me into his life and  even considered me a part of his family – to this day, I can go to his house @ Christmas and see a stocking on the mantle with my name on it. Jon and his wife Laurie are amazing in the way they live out their faith. They simply love people. There are probably more people than I’m aware of, but I know of at least 3 people who they have invited to live in their home with them when they were in need. I was one of them. My wife was another – (we weren’t at their house during the same time, but she lived there too). Shelby is the third. Anyway, by simply loving people and sharing what they have, they become witnesses not just to the people  who they have taken in, but also to anyone else watching the situation. Their home is one where faith is discussed openly and often. It’s a home where people are always welcome – even when they aren’t there. It’s a place where people feel loved and for whatever reason – people are drawn to their house – they want to be there because you simply can’t be at the Godbold’s and not experience God. I pray that my home i like that one day too.

Anyway, those are some of the people I’d tell you to watch if you wanna see what a Christian looks like today.

Questions for Paul

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I thought this was a cool pic – even the earth has questions!

The Corinthians were given the chance to ask Paul some questions – you can read Paul’s answers to them in 1 Corinthians 7:1-16:4. Dr Loken took some time out of class the other night to have each of us write down the one question we’d ask Paul if we were given the chance.

Mine was:
In what ways do you see that our “Christian” culture today has been deceived, and how should we repent?

Here are some of the other questions people would like to ask Paul:
Do babies who die go to heaven, and if so, how is Jesus the only way? (Dr. Loken)
Why did God use you?
What was your thorn in the flesh?
What limits should be allowed when it comes to alcohol?
Why is it so hard to lead a sinless life?
Should women be in ministry and if so, to what extent?
Abortion?
Should a pastor serve at more than one church?
How do you deal with doctrinal differences in church?
What is “triple honor” and “double honor?” (1 Timothy 5:17)
What is the “cup of the Lord?” (Hab 2:16)
Spiritual gifts?
Why is it so hard to do what is right sometimes and not other times?
Were you always celebate? Did you ever have a girlfriend or wife?
Female leaders in church?
How can I know for sure what to do?
Under what conditions is divorce okay?
Can the church discipline without excommunication?
Speaking in tongues?
Would you be Calvinist or Arminian?
How does the Trinity work?

Anyway, I thought there were some good questions. What would you ask him if you had the chance?

“Go Fourth and Teach”

Yes – I spelled “fourth” wrong on purpose – you’ll understand later. (It’s a really bad pun – but I’m just that stupid.)

Are you growing the way you should?

An interesting thought came out in class last night. We were talking about 1 Corinthians. Dr. Loken explained that Paul had planted the church in Corinth 4 years prior to writing the book we know as 1 Corinthians. (It’s actually at least the second letter he sent to them. – Check 1 Cor 5:9) Anyway, in Chapter 3 Paul makes it clear that he is disappointed in the Christians there for not growing to maturity. He assumes that after 4 years, they should have a basic understanding of their faith and even be able to teach others by that time. If you read Hebrews 5:10-6:2 along side 1 Corinthians 3, you can see the kinds of things the writer of Hebrews thinks they should understand: (1) repentance/life change, (2) Faith/trusting God’s sovereignty, (3) Baptism/Holy Spirit’s indwelling, (4) Laying on of hands/healing (James 5), & (5) Resurrection/Judgement – heaven & hell. (Each of these can be found in Hebrews 6:1-2)

Anyway, this whole 4 year thing is interesting to me – think about it – Jesus was with the disciples about 4 years – Paul expects maturity in about 4 years – we send students to college for about 4 years hoping that they would have a basic understanding of their subjects. Dr. Loken suggested (I think appropriately) that if you were discipling someone for 20 years and they hadn’t grown enough to disciple others themselves, then something is wrong. He never suggested that we don’t need long-term accountability or deeper teachings – but in regards to these basic tenants of our faith – we should be able to teach them to someone else after about 4 years of discipleship. This is not a scriptural law or some hard-and-fast rule, but simply a guide which the Scriptures seems to point to as a basic benchmark.

As a youth minister who will have students in my ministry for about 6 years, this was especially interesting to me. I think I’m gonna begin working on a plan to make sure that these ideas are clear in each and every one of our students by the time they graduate. I’ll try to work with our childrens coordinator to begin this process during the time when our students are transitioning from childrens ministry into youth ministry. For us, that happens in a “confirmation” process.

Anyway, it was a fun class – which brought up quite a few ideas which were new to me.

Gospels

We started the New Testament tonight and Dr. Loken did an overview of the intertestamental period to kind of get things started. It was pretty cool stuff. He also talked about the Dead Sea Scrolls and how they were discovered and about the Essenes who copied and collected the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was pretty interesting stuff. I’m gonna look at my notes tomorrow and write a bit more about all this.

I also had another interesting experience tonight. One of the guys in my class was acting really strangely and kind of seemed drugged or something. Anyway, a couple of us went to see if there was a nurse or something who could help him. There wasn’t a nurse, but one man came and tried to see what he could do. In the mean time one of the ladies in our class noticed what was going on and began to help. I found out that she was a nurse and what had happened is that Glen had a low blood-sugar level. She made him drink a soda and had him eating some things and in about 15 minutes, he was back to normal. The whole thing was kind of scary, but God was aweful good to provide someone in our class who recognized the symptoms and was able to take immediate action to correct the situation. Anyway,thank you God!!!!

Dr. Loken taught us about a false belief called gnosticism and explained the the book of 1 John was written specifically to defend against it. Gnosticism is the belief that physical things are evil and only the spiritual is good. Therefore, the guys who had held these beliefs who became Christians, had a hard time with the hyperstatic union. I mean – How could Jesus be God when He had a physical/evil body? Anyway, it was an interesting lecture. I’ll write more tomorrow. I’m tired right now.

OK – so Dr. Loken also covered some material and painted a picture for us of what the world was like during the time that Jesus walked the earth – the time the gospels were about. Here’s some of what he explained:

2% wealthy elite – aristocratic landowners

10% middle class – merchants

90% poor – farmers, herdsman, artisans, fishermen – Joseph/builder

33% of total population were slaves – 50% of Rome were slaves

The Jewish World
Synagogue – was a localized place of worship – they were first built during the exile because the temple had been destroyed and there was no access to Jerusalem. It took 10 men to start a synagogue. They used it for a place of prayer, worship, and instruction.

Sects of Jews:
Sadducees – (wealthy liberals) rose from the ranks of the priests – as the priests got rich, they started paying others to copy the Scriptures for them and soon they stopped knowing the Scriptures too. These guys denied resurrection and angels. They believed in freewill and were unpopular with the people. They recognized only the “Law of Moses.”

Pharisees – (conservatives) rose from the ranks of the scribes – they recognized the OT plus the “Tradition of the Elders” – they were popular with the people and believed in predestination, resurrection, & angels

Essenes – extreme separatists (similar to Pharisees) – daily prayer and bible study were required. Forbade marriage. Mostly in the Dead Sea area – John the Baptist was probably an Essene.

Scribes – copiers of the Law – official interpreters – Hillel and Shammai schools – Hillel used 7 hermeneutical principles and tradition – Shammai used strict interpretation – when Jesus was asked about divorce it was really a question of are you with Hillel or Shammai???