Scholars don’t consider this passage as part of the canon since it is absent from almost all the early manuscripts. Those that include it sometimes place it elsewhere. However it is believed to be an authentic story and is consistent with others.
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One Reply to “Jesus forgives a woman caught in adultery”
First, let’s deal with the observation that this text isn’t found in most ancient manuscripts, i.e., it shouldn’t be included in the Bible. Some don’t include it at all, but most seem to include it with a footnote along the lines, “[The most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include John 7:53–8:11]” This is a dividing line for some who will point to the Bible, the single Christian document that binds us together, and suggest this is why they don’t believe. In Nabeel Qureshi’s book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, he recalls how Muslims are taught this is one of the key ways to argue against Christianity, namely, the Bible is flawed while the Qur’an is perfect. Nabeel makes the point that Christian scholars agree this is likely out of place (as well as Mark 16:9-20) and while I don’t know if he would agree with James Hamilton’s position, after exploring this topic in detail he also concludes, “That there is a consensus on this point should make us more confident in the Scriptures not less.”[1, 2]
I was raised with the verse, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” along with the concluding remarks, “go and sin no more.” The two must go together and they are consistent with the teach of Jesus. Whether or not we should include this passage here or some other place (or no place) in the Bible is beyond me, I’m no Biblical scholar, but we must learn the lesson taught here. Jesus is the Christ who offers forgiveness to those who confess their sins and accept his grace.
I like the passage because it’s hard, it’s difficult, it causing me to think. So often we hear how easy it is to become a Christian and I think that perhaps we should stop saying it’s easy, just say a prayer and poof! all better. If it’s free and easy it’s of no value to most. These are difficult lessons.
The woman here is caught in adultery, this clearly violates the seventh commandment. Moses provides some pretty harsh rules about our intended response, although these Pharisees and teachers altered Moses’ law a bit, but that’s another story altogether. The most offensive part of this story is that the woman is brought before Jesus and not the couple (you can’t do adultery by yourself!). They were obviously baiting Jesus and this provides a solid basis for his reaction.
We should not be quick to accuse and we should learn from our mistakes. This lesson is consistently taught throughout the Bible. It’s interesting to know that there are some parts of scripture that are italicized and marked with brackets. I pray that we are guided by the Holy Spirit as we learn to hear God’s voice through it all.