Yeshua and the Adulteress: A Prospective.

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Chapter 8 (verses 1-11) of the Gospel of John tells the story of the Pharisees and Torah teachers bringing a woman accused of having been caught in an adulteress affair to Yeshua. They were trying to trap Yeshua in a way that they could bring charges against him. Yeshua wrote in the sand, asked the one without sin to throw the first stone, wrote in the sand some more and all the accusers left. The woman was then able to leave.

I have heard some people use this story as a means to show that Yeshua is more about love than about obeying the Torah, and repeat that old, worn-out analogy of the hateful and violent God of the Old Covenant vs. the loving and forgiving Messiah of the New Covenant. 

Well, that’s not what we are going to discuss today. Today I want to talk about the unanswered question…what did Yeshua write in the sand? 

I think I know! 

Let’s start with some assumptions that are pretty safe to say:

  1. Yeshua probably knew they were trying to trap him;
  2. There was something fishy from the start because there was no man brought with the woman. If she was “caught in the act” there had to be someone else there, right?  

So here we are: all the people Yeshua was teaching are standing around and the woman is in the center of the crowd.  The Pharisees ask Yeshua what is to be done with her, and he starts to write in the sand, then says that the one without sin should throw the first stone. So, what might he have written?

I think he wrote from Exodus 20:19, the Ninth Commandment: 

“Do not give false evidence against your neighbor.”

After this, he stated whoever is without sin throw the first stone. I think he knew that throwing the stone would absolutely convict the thrower of a sin because these were Torah experts, and the Torah demands that a trial must be held first. Anyone who threw a stone would be violating the Torah. 

After this, he wrote again in the sand, and this time everyone started to leave until no one was left but the woman and Yeshua. This second time I think he wrote from Deuteronomy 19:16-20, which says:

“If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before God, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days.  And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you.”

If the reminder from the Torah about not giving false evidence, i.e. bearing false witness didn’t scare them off, then this one certainly would have made them think twice. And because it says “brother” that law would obviously hold true for “sister”, as well. 

I believe the woman was falsely accused from the start, and Yeshua was aware of this. I don’t have anything to go on but speculation, based on the fact that there was no man brought with her, and that we know from reading the Gospels that the Pharisees were not above using false witnesses to achieve their goals. And, even if she was an adulteress, this was not the proper setting for a trial and Yeshua was not in a position of authority with the right to judge her according to the Torah. 

One last thing that is important to remember: Yeshua never forgave her of the sin she was accused of. He simply obeyed the Torah, which says that there must be two or three witnesses when there is a capital crime committed (Deuteronomy 19:15.) Yeshua asked her where her accusers were, and she said there was no one; in accordance with the Torah, Yeshua said he would not accuse her, either. 

And when he told her to go, he said, “…and sin no more.” Maybe this was because Yeshua knew she was a sinner (aren’t we all?), maybe there never really was an affair, maybe there was an affair but she was seduced into the crime to setup Yeshua this way, in which case it makes sense they would catch and hold her and let the man go. Who knows? That could make an interesting Drash some other day, but today all I am talking about is what he wrote in the sand to make everyone go away. 

If Yeshua wrote the things in the sand that I have postulated here, then the entire story makes sense.

What do you think he wrote?