So here’s the plan: each week that the gospels are covered in Sunday School, I will post one question from my book along with a brief discussion of the issues that it raises. Well, that’s usually the plan. This week I’m doing things a bit differently because there’s a bunch of different stuff I wanted to tell you about John 8:1-11, the story of the woman taken in adultery. So this post is a bunch of questions with no answers.
Why haven’t the scribes and Pharisees brought the man involved in the incident to Jesus? Does this imply something about them? Specifically, what does it say about their respect for the law (see Deuteronomy 22:13-30)?
The verb for adultery in verse 4 is passive, which means that it is possible that the woman was passively involved, that is, raped. If you approach the story with that assumption, do you interpret it differently?
The phrase “in the very act” (verse 4) comes from later manuscripts; most earlier ones simply say “she was taken in adultery,” without necessarily implying that her accusers witnessed the transgression or that she was actively involved. Does knowing this change your interpretation of the story?
Note that the words “as though he heard them not” (verse 6) are not included in the majority of ancient manuscripts. Would the translation be better without them?
Note the irony in verse 7: who is it in this story who is without sin?
What are several things that Jesus does to acknowledge the dignity of the woman?
Do you assume that the woman was actually guilty of adultery? (If you do, are you siding with the scribes and Pharisees?) Compare verse 11 with 5:14. Is this evidence that the woman isn’t guilty? (That is, is the command to “sin no more” a general statement?) Do you interpret the story differently if she is innocent?
Some interpreters find a parallel between this woman’s experience and Jesus’:
(1) Both are falsely accused (if you conclude that she is innocent).
(2) Both face a sham trial (compare 7:51).
(3) Both are publicly humiliated and described as being “in the midst” (8:3, 9, and 19:18).
(4) Both are victims of religious leaders.
Do you find these parallels accurate? What else do Jesus and the woman have in common? What can you learn from comparing them?
In a rare case of unanimity, scholars conclude that John 7:53–8:11 was not a part of the earliest manuscripts of John. Some scholars think this story was not included in any of the first copies of the Gospels because it shows Jesus being “too merciful” to the woman. Do you think this might have been true? Why do you think the story was included later on? (Compare 3 Nephi 23:6–13.)
(adapted from Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels)