Let Him Who Is Without Sin…

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The story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) is footnoted in most modern versions (NIV, NASB, RSV) to indicate that in the majority of Greek manuscripts the story does not appear. In other Greek manuscripts it is placed elsewhere—after John 7:36, while in another it even appears after Luke 21:38. The complex manuscript evidence presents a real challenge to New Testament scholarship. Many scholars have questioned the historicity of the story altogether.

In a previous article we examined Jesus’ Jewish commandment to love. We discovered that the foundation of his ethical instruction was based upon contemporary Jewish teaching and its understanding of the biblical command to “love your neighbor (who is) like yourself” (Lev. 19:18; Luke 10:27). The new and developing Jewish sensitivity to the universal frailty of the human condition is heard in the apocryphal work of Ben Sira, “Should a person refuse mercy to a man like himself, yet seek pardon for his own sins?” (Sir. 28:4).

The same sentiment is heard in Jesus’ model prayer that he gave to his disciples: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (Matt. 6:12). We are expected to extend unmerited mercy and forgiveness to those who have offended us, because we ourselves stand in similar need of the unmerited mercy of God.

In the same vein on another occasion Jesus cautioned his followers, “The measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matt. 7:2). All of these sayings resemble the famous words of the first-century Jewish sage Hillel: “Judge not your neighbor lest you find yourself in his place!” (m. Avot 2:3).

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Comments 1

  1. Joshua McClintock

    Would it be correct to say that Jesus also, by virtue of causing her accusers to walk away, in effect caused her case to be ‘thrown out’? The law says that a matter is to be established by two or more witnesses. In the end he says, “Woman, where are your accusers?” and later follows it up with “Neither do I accuse you…”.

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