The Woman Caught in Adultery: Is it a True Account?

2: And early in the morning he came again into the temple and all the people came to him and he sat down and taught them 3: And the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman taken in adultery and when they had set her in the midst 4: They said to him Master this woman was taken in adultery in the very act 5: Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned but what say you 6: This they said testing him that they might have [reason] to accuse him But Iesous stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground as though he heard them not[1] 7: So when they continued asking him he lifted up himself and said to them any who are without sin among you let them first cast a stone at her[2] 8: And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground[3] 9: And they which heard it being convicted by their own conscience went out one by one beginning with the elders even to the least and Iesous was left alone and the woman standing before him[4] 10: When Iesous had lifted up himself and saw none but the woman he said to her Madam where are those thine accusers has any condemned you 11: She said No one Lord and Iesous said to her Neither do I condemn you go and sin no more[5]

[1] Was Jesus writing, Leviticus 20:10, And the man that commits adultery with another man's wife even he that commits adultery with his neighbor's wife [both] the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death…? Where was the man?
[2] Jesus was not condoning the woman’s sin in defending her. He was, rather, confronting the greater sin of using the Word of God with self-serving motives and by only partially applying it to the situation. Those who had brought this woman before him, had neglected to bring the other guilty party—the man—who had also been caught in the very act with her. This unidentified man had apparently been paid off and released. This was a cruel political ploy—in which a woman’s life was held in total disregard—aimed at ridding themselves of, by publicly discrediting, the wildly popular teacher from Nazareth. 
[3] Was Jesus writing, Hosea 6:6, For I desired mercy and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings?
[4] Jesus and the woman were not completely alone. Only her accusers had left. Remember, Jesus was on the Temple grounds teaching the people when they were all interrupted by the Pharisees dragging in this woman—who the scriptures say had been set up in a sting operation just to test and discredit Jesus publicly. This had been strategically timed for maximum exposure, so there was likely a very large crowd present. We cannot know the exact size of the crowd that witnessed the episode, from beginning to end, and then remained (after the woman’s accusers had all left) to witness Jesus exonerating the woman.
[5] Some claim that the story of The Woman Caught in Adultery is not a true account, but rather an interpolation (inserted [after the 1st Century] into the text of John’s Gospel). There is little authority for this, but the evidence that this story was indeed penned by the apostle—and is true—is overwhelming. 1.) The passage is contained in over 5000 extant (existing) manuscripts, so there is no doubt that this episode did happen exactly as the text relates it. 2.) It would be curious indeed if this account was fabricated and added into the text later, as it is well-documented that ancient peoples were all misogynistic in the extreme. Even the early Christian Church—that began as egalitarian—soon fell back into the misogyny from which it had so recently been set free. So, for an unknown scribe to imagine and manufacture a story where a woman commits adultery against her husband (her lord) and can go unpunished—in a time when all women were considered little more than property—is near impossible for any thinking person to believe. Even more difficult to accept, is that such a fabrication would become so popular and widely accepted that it was then copied into over 5000 extant Greek Texts (and into how many thousands more that are no longer extant?). The story of The Woman Caught in Adultery is true. It has as much textual evidence to support it as does the story of Nikodemos’ secret visit to Jesus (recorded in John chapter three) where Jesus told Nikodemos that he “…must be born again.”

Jocelyn Andersen is best known for her book, Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence.  She is also editor of the Hungry Hearts Online Bible Commentary  For more information about her work, visit her website at 

Untranslated words in this chapter of the HHBC
Iesous Pronounced Ee-A-Soos G2424 translated Jesus: Yeshua is the Hebrew name, and its English spelling is “Joshua.” Iesous is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name, and its English spelling is “Jesus.” Thus, the names “Joshua” and “Jesus” are essentially the same; both are English pronunciations of the Hebrew and Greek names for our Lord. For examples of how the two names are interchangeable, see Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8 in the KJV. In both cases, the word Iesous refers to the Old Testament character Joshua. Because of disparities in English translation of the word, Iesous will remain untranslated throughout the main body of scripture this commentary.

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