Should this passage be here? Consider these facts:
- It’s in about 1500 manuscripts.
- It’s also in 500 lectionary texts (daily reading manuscripts in the early church).
- It’s missing in 269 manuscripts, sometimes because they were copied off an earlier manuscript that omitted it.
- Augustine though that it was “omitted because of the prudish fear that it would encourage adultery.”
- Jerome (347-420) said, “in the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is found the story.”
- Eusebius (an early historian) mentions that Papias (ca 100) seems to reference the story.
Some believe that the gospel reads better if this passage is omitted, but this is how it fits:
- 7:37 – It’s the last day of the feast
- 7:53 – “Everyone went to his own house”
- 8:1 – Jesus stays in Jerusalem
- 8:2 – Jesus goes back to the temple to teach
- 8:2 – It’s very early in the morning
- 8:3 – The woman is brought into outer court
- 8:11 – The woman leaves temple going east (into the sunrise)
- 8:12 – Jesus says “I am the light of the world…”
- 8:12 – The text says Jesus spoke to them “again”!
The main point of the passage is that grace and forgiveness are a priority! How does Jesus get the crowd to realize this? He says, “whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her,” and writes something on the ground. What does He write!?!?!? Some manuscripts (12) read, “the sins of each one of them.” Others think that He may have written a Scripture passage on the ground:
Exodus 23:1 “You must not give a false report. Do not make common cause with the wicked to be a malicious witness.”
Exodus 23:7 “Keep your distance from a false charge—do not kill the innocent and the righteous, for I will not justify the wicked.”
But, perhaps most likely, He is just scribbling in the sand to take up some time and to give His words time to sink in. Hopefully by engaging in this daily Bible reading you are thinking about it throughout the day and giving it some time to sink in!