Writing in the Sand

Image by Falkenpost from Pixabay

What did Jesus write in the sand with the woman caught in adultery in John 8?

This is one of the few passages that may have not been in the original text of the New Testament. The earliest manuscripts do not include the story. However, when you read it, most people say it would easily fit into the other stories the Gospels told.

The religious leaders of Israel bring a woman they say was caught in adultery to Jesus. They are trying to catch Jesus, as they often try to do so, to disprove him as a teacher of authority.

But like all of the other times, this one doesn’t work out either. The funny thing is that the only bring a woman to him. Where is the man? Both were supposed to be stoned according to Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 22:24). Instead, they pick on the woman.

Jesus famously says, “Let the first one without sin cast the first stone.” All of them drop their stones and go back to their houses. Then Jesus tells the woman that if they don’t condemn her neither does he. Then he says to go and sin no more.

Before Jesus says to let him without sin cast the first stone, he bends down right after they tell him what the law of Moses says, as if he doesn’t already know, Jesus bends down and writes in the sand (John 8:6).

The Greek word used for writing here can refer to text or pictures. Some people think that Jesus just drew in the sand in order to give the religious leaders time to consider their accusation before he delivered his verdict.

Some suggest that he actually wrote words. He might’ve written some of the condemnations for being a false witness from Scripture (Exodus 23:1, 7; Daniel 5:24). Others suggest that he wrote the sins of the accusers in the sand as a way of showing them that he knew what they had done to prepare them for his statement about the first without sin.

Whether this episode belongs in the Bible or not, it is consistent with similar episodes in the Gospels. The religious leaders were constantly trying to trap Jesus so they could kill him. They loved putting him between what they thought were the only two answers, both untenable.

Most people will admit that we don’t know what Jesus wrote or doodled in the sand. It may be that it supported his words which forced every person who wanted to stone her to leave. But these are some of the options suggested.

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