John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 8:6, Jesus Writes on the Ground

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

//Everyone knows this story. The Pharisees, hoping to discredit Jesus, bring him a woman caught in the act of adultery and ask him if she should be stoned. The law says she must die. But Jesus refuses to answer at first and instead stoops to write in the dust.

This scene leads to great speculation. What was Jesus writing, there? I provided a guess once before about what Jesus may have written. See here.

Today it was brought to my attention that this incident occurred in the Temple. That means Jesus was writing in the Temple dust, which sheds a different light on the topic. It brings us to this post about the “Jealousy Law.” In order to find out whether a woman was unfaithful to her husband, the priest would make a mixture of holy water and Temple dust. He then would make the woman drink it, to see if her womb would shrink (perhaps a “shrinking womb” indicated the death of the fetus).

Might Jesus have been toying with the woman, or with the Pharisees, pretending to be a priest … pretending to evoke the divining powers of the Temple dust? Or … even more bizarre … might he actually have been learning from the magic dust whether the story of adultery was true? This is the first time I’ve ever put these two passages of scripture together, so I would be interested in hearing opinions!

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