John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 8:3-6, What Did Jesus Write on the Ground?

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

//A few days back, I discussed the Sermon on the Mount as a new Law, replacing the old Law Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. I’d like to return to that theme for this story.

Today’s story of an adulteress caught in the act is not original to John’s Gospel. Although it appears to have been well known among early Christians, it was not part of the original Gospel. Its placement in chapter eight interrupts the flow of thought, slicing the Tabernacles motif in half. The earliest manuscripts of John don’t have this story, and in later manuscripts its position is not fixed; it sometimes appears here, but it is sometimes placed after verse 7:36, 7:44, or even in the gospel of Luke. Nor is the language Johannine.

It is, however a beautiful Christian story, with an interesting mystery. The question the story leaves unanswered, and which has titillated Bible scholars for two millennia, is this: When Jesus stooped and wrote on the ground, what was he writing?

The “teachers and Pharisees” were correct, of course. Deuteronomy chapter 22 describes the death penalty. The Law was clear, written on stone tablets and given to Moses: You shall not commit adultery. This Law was written by God’s own finger upon those tablets. Perhaps this provides a clue to what Jesus was writing more than a millennia later. Was God rewriting His Law, again with His own finger? The new Law reads as such:

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”


  1. Sandra Currie

    Send this to the Republicans in Congress!

  2. IAMHEnry

    it has been revealed to me what Jesus wrote on the ground also jesus had revealed him self to me he had no beard i also know what was on the scroll john swalloed in revalations if anyone has these same revalations happen to them please actknowledge Amen IAM HEnry

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