03 September 2006

Taken in Adultery, In the Very Act

Hosea uses the analogy of a husband and his adulterous wife to illustrate the unfaithfulness of Israel to its covenants with the Lord. One of the consequences of Israel’s wayward worship was that they contaminated Judaism with elements of paganism.

As I studied Hosea this week, I thought about another story of adultery, this time from the New Testament. Jesus is in the temple and some scribes and Pharisees bring him a woman “taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4). The men challenge Jesus to judge what should be done with her, seeking an opportunity “to accuse him” (8:6). Jesus’ response is famous: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (8:7).

We see the men slowly disperse, none of them willing to cast a stone, “being convicted by their own conscience” (8:9). The question I have is, of what were they convicted?

I had always assumed that each of them recalled his own particular sin before walking away. But can’t help but wonder if any of them, masters of the writings of the prophets themselves, remembered the writings of Hosea. Had they considered its teachings, they would have understood the accusation Jesus made of them elsewhere: that the brand of godliness these men practiced and taught was an adulterated version (Matthew 23:13-15,23,25,27,29 ) of the one taught by the prophets.

The scribes’ and Pharisees’ willingness to misuse the temple as the site to lay their trap, heartlessly using the woman as bait, is representative of their abuse of the gospel in general. To them, the law and the prophets were useful for personal gain, not personal righteousness. Jesus’ answer to them disarms the trap in the manner it had been set: they had been caught adulterating the law, in the very act.


Stephen said...

I like that insight. Any chance you will be writing about Isaiah any time soon?

Robert C. said...

I think it's interesting that we still use OT terminology of being faithful or unfaithful both when discussing relationships of lovers and when discussing our relationship with God. But I'm not quite sure of the relationship of this loyalty sense of faithful and the believing connotation we usually associate with having faith. Thoughts?

Robert C. said...

Also, I think the NT story confirms something I was thinking about regarding Hosea, that not only is the lesson about how we need to be faithful to God, but how we can take from the analogy a lesson on how we should treat our spouses. When they are unfaithful (to whatever minor or major extent), we should be gracious, merciful and forgiving as God is toward us. "Forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors."

Stephen said...

That is an interesting comment, about faith and faithful, one more place the word has an additional use or meaning.

Mogget said...

My two cents:

The motives of the men involved were impious. Their zeal for the Law masks an attempt to entrap Jesus. Under these conditions, Jesus is perfectly correct in stopping the process and demanding an approach that is not tainted by malicious behavior and motives.

BrianJ said...


Thanks! I've decided to try to post some of the thoughts I have as I prepare my Gospel Doctrine lessons, so while I don't have specific plans for Isaiah, I probably will be posting. Of course, there's no guarantee that it will be worth reading.

Robert C:

Jim F influences my thinking here. I posted a while ago about blind obedience. I wrote about faith as being loyal to prior testimony. I think I'll post soon on how I read that into Paul's famous Heb 11:1.


Thanks for your "two cents." Of course, with a mind like yours, the exchange rate makes those worth dollars on my little blog.

But I have a question: If Jesus was purely interested in taking the correct approach, why didn't he end it with throwing a stone? The way this passage is usually read is that Jesus was replacing the Law of Moses and instituting the "new christianity." Is there a way to read this as doing both; ie. protecting the law and replacing it?

adam said...

I believe that this story shows a great discourse in the character of God. The Jewish accusers want the woman stoned for her sins, because this was the law and what God commands.
However the uniqueness of this story is that we have Jesus, God himself, present in the situation so we can really see how God acts, or feels about this situation. We see that the accusers want this lady punished in the name of God by his law. However it is interesting to note that Christ says nothing about punishment towards this lady. He simply refuses to get pulled into their talk of justice. In fact, the idea of punishment never comes from Christ, only the concept of forgiveness.
By Jesus saying, "he who is without sin cast the first stone", Jesus exposes the fact that the person who is demanding punishment is not God but rather the accusers. This saying by Christ would invoke the idea of how mercy has been extended to them in their time of sin. What Jesus exposes to the accusers is that the justice that they are demanding is nothing more then their own demands of justice that they have projected upon God, thus making their violence, and hatred or since of justice sacred. Jesus exposes their demand for justice, which they use to make themselves holy over another is nothing more then a sin itself.
What this story invokes is the question of how often do we get generated or place ourselves above others because of their sins? How often do we demand justice upon another and even until death because we say its God's will? I think what Jesus is saying is that God will have no part in such ploys or feelings. Jesus reveals to us that God is about mercy, and love, it is us who are more concerned with the justice of others.

Robert C. said...

I just barely noticed this comment by Adam. I think it makes an interesting point about justice, that perhaps justice is not really an eternal law per se, but something instituted in this life (though I don't really subscribe to this idea, at least not yet). I have a million questions about justice in the scriptures....