John 8


‘But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn, he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 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. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.’ John 8:1-11

Much has been said about this passage of Scripture, should it be here? Was it originally here? Is it inspired? Did Jesus even do this? Does it matter, and if so, how much? The following are the facts known about this passage, and the answers can be deduced from them.

Several words are used here that don’t occur in any other passage of John’s Gospel or other writings. This isn’t conclusive of anything. The earliest and most trusted manuscripts omit this story, some of the later ones do have it but others put the story in different places. Some manuscripts put it at the end of this account of John, while still others place it after Luke 21:38.

The oldest translation of the Bible doesn’t include it, nor do the earliest commentators mention it. A few of the oldest Latin witnesses do mention it. Eusebius states that Papais recounted it in 100 AD.

It cannot be insisted that the passage ought to be here, or that it was originally here, thus its inspiration is impossible to prove as is Jesus’ role in this situation. I believe it does matter for the sake of the purity of Scripture which must be maintained.

However, as it doesn’t affect any doctrinal issue, it’s perhaps better to maintain the status quo rather than cause further disunity in the Christian family.

John 7:53 tells us that after the failure of the temple guards to arrest Jesus, the Pharisees and other Sanhedrin decide to call it a night allowing all to return home.

Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives, possibly spending the night in prayer. He may have then gone on and spent the night with friends in one of the nearby towns.

Jesus returns to the temple; the temple court is where the rabbis held their schools and the Scribes their debates. A scribe may be a Rabbi but not all Rabbis were scribes, who were copyists. Note Jesus sat down and taught, this is the normal practice of the rabbis and teachers and here, Jesus attracts a group of disciples very quickly.

The Pharisees had somehow ‘come across’ a woman in the act of adultery, we’re not sure how they ‘came across’ her but it’s evident, they may well have entrapped her to use a weapon against Jesus. The woman appears as a sorry sight before Jesus.

Her adultery could have been with a secret lover she was forbidden to see or with the one she was betrothed to or with one sent by the authorities to seduce her. They may have intended to take the woman before the Sanhedrin council, but this isn’t very likely because as we read, she was just a tool they used in the hope of trapping Jesus.

John 8:5 tells us they hoped to get Jesus to deny Moses’ Law by forgiving her, Deuteronomy 22:23, says she ought to be stoned, or deny Roman Law as the Jews were under Roman law which forbade them stoning people.

But it’s clearly indicated that the accusers weren’t interested in justice, she was just a tool they used to try and trap Jesus, Matthew 22:15.

And so, they leave Jesus with a dilemma, Deuteronomy 22:22-24, Moses commanded stoning, what do you say when you teach love? If He says no, don’t stone her, then He would be reported to the Sanhedrin for teaching against the law.

If He said yes, stone her, He would be going against His own teaching and also against Roman law as the Jews were forbidden to stone people under Roman law.

Please note that the Greek text actually has Jesus saying in John 8:7.

‘Let him who hasn’t committed her kind of sin cast the first stone’. In other words, Jesus says, ‘if you’re accusing her of adultery and want her stoned, take a look at yourself’. He’s basically calling them adulterers.

A question often asked is, what did Jesus write in that sand? He has deemed it unnecessary for us to know so we aren’t told.

Many ideas have been brought forth including:

1. The names and sins of the woman accusers.

2. A warning aimed at the accusers.

3. Jesus doodled, showing His disinterest in such matters.

4. He didn’t know what to say so He played for time, to think up an answer.

So, we don’t know what He wrote but we do know that when they insisted on an answer, Jesus turns the legal squabble into a moral issue. A strange sense of morality overcomes the accusers and the others present and they all leave, none able to say they were without her kind of sin.

The oldest go first, indicating either more skeletons hidden in their cupboards or their higher awareness of personal sin. If they were guilty of the same sin by either desire or intent, they themselves would be hypocrites. He wouldn’t mean that judgements were to be carried out only by sinless people, for that would be impossible.

In John 8:10-11 we see Jesus deals so kindly with this embarrassed, wretch of a woman. He doesn’t condemn her, condone her, or even chastise her, all He does is encourage her to leave her sinfulness which gives her hope.

In this story, we see the hypocrisy the Jews condemn in others but failed to see in themselves. We also see their double standards, they brought the woman not the man, just a put-up job to trap Jesus. The day we meet Jesus is an opportunity to change our lives and become better people.

‘When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law, it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.’ John 8:12-20

Here we find the sixth discourse where Jesus begins teaching in the treasury, in the court of the women. There were 13 large chests with trumpet-like openings to receive gifts and also in this court there were 4 large candelabra 50 ft high used for the ceremony called the illumination of the temple, this was to commemorate the Pillar of Cloud and Fire in the wilderness.

Jesus here, makes an incredible claim, that the Jewish authorities represent darkness, whilst Jesus represents light. In the first eighteen verses, the word, who became the Son, brings light to the world. Jesus here declares Himself to be that light.

An interesting allegory can be drawn between the followers here walking in the light, and the followers in the desert walking in the light of the pillar of fire. This is especially relevant as the feast of Tabernacles which remembers the divine guidance of the Jews after the Exodus was in progress.

Jesus uses these, ‘I AM’ statements seven times in John

1. I am the bread of life. John 6:35.

2. I am the light. John 8:12.

3. I am the door. John 10:7.

4. I am the shepherd. John 10:11.

5. I am the resurrection. John 11:15.

6. I am the way. John 14:6.

7. I am the vine. John 15:1.

John always connects light with life and darkness with death. The light that brings spiritual illumination to all men. Notice John uses the word, ‘follows’ this is the present continuous tense, John 10:48.

The word, ‘darkness’, ‘skotia’ is an emblem of sin, John 1:5 / John 12:46. Light of life means light resulting from the possession of Eternal life, John 1:4.

We see in John 8:13-18 that the Pharisees will not believe Jesus and they come with the idea that as He doesn’t have a second witness, His claims are invalid, Deuteronomy 19:15.

In John 5, Jesus explains who His co-witnesses are and there He discredited His own witness, but here He doesn’t. Instead, He invokes higher spiritual standards and claims God the Father as the co-witness.

In verse 14, Jesus claims higher knowledge than the ones who have studied and so, the denial of Jesus’ testimony is invalid but Jesus supports what He says with three facts.

1. He knows His heavenly origin and destination.

2. It isn’t Jesus alone who judges but the Father who sent Him.

3. The two witnesses of the Father and the Son should be enough for Deuteronomy 19:15 and His works are an extra witness and they were done with divine help and cooperation. John 3:2.

In John 8:19 we see the Pharisees and all else knew what Jesus was referring to when He spoke of ‘My Father’ they ask for clarification in an attempt to get a direct statement to use against Him. They may also be implying that they thought Jesus was illegitimate.

Another possibility is that they thought He was referring to Joseph who they knew was dead, and were saying ‘go on produce your dead witness’.

But it’s more likely that they knew He was referring to God as His Father and were sarcastically demanding that He produce God as His witness. Again, Jesus claims higher knowledge than His questioners, again He ‘blasphemes’, and again the Pharisees are unable to seize Him.

The sessions of the Sanhedrin were held in a room in which only a wall separated them from the court of the women. Jesus would have been within earshot when He made His statement, yet it was impossible for anyone to arrest Him. His hour hadn’t yet come as it’s only six months more till He is crucified.

‘Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So, Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many believed in him. John 8:21-30

Again, Jesus teaches the gathered people and again they aren’t able to grasp the message Jesus brings them. He knows that few of the Jews will ever accept His Messiahship and that most even of those He taught directly, will fail the test, making them unable to join Him at the final destination.

Notice Jesus says, ‘die in your sins’ this would appear to be related to the specific sin of denying the claims of Jesus, despite all the evidence. They would die in their unforgiven state, whereas accepting Him means that their sins could be taken away.

When they ask the question, ‘Will he kill himself?’ this tells us that they believed that the lowest regions were prepared for the suicides and murderers and so Jesus speaks about His origin,

‘I am from above, not of this world’. His critics were from their father below. Notice John 8:24 ‘I AM EGO EIMI’ the word, ‘he’ isn’t in the Greek, so, literally, Jesus says, ‘If you believe not that I AM you will die in your sins’.

He tells the people of the urgent need they have to believe His claims and this is a clear indication of His claim to Deity, the phrase is an echo of Exodus 3:14 / Deuteronomy 32:39 / Isaiah 43:10.

They ask for clarification and Jesus slowly explains twice over.

‘I AM’ and I have been saying this from the beginning. He had much to tell them but they were unable to understand it, His message from the Father must be proclaimed.

In John 8:29 we find another amazing claim, ‘The one who sent me is with me now, the Father has never left me alone for I always do what pleases Him.’ And in John 8:30 we can see the fruit of these careful explanations, ‘many put their faith in him’.

‘To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honour my Father and you dishonour me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.’ John 8:31-59

At this point, until the end of verse 36, Jesus addresses the people mentioned in verse 30 as believers. Many commentators differ as to the point where Jesus stops addressing believers and starts talking to unbelievers.

The argument extends into questions regarding the quality of the faith of those mentioned in verse 30 which we won’t go into but I believe that Jesus encourages the new disciples to hold on to the teaching.

When the Spirit comes and the church is established, they can be baptised in Christ and receive freedom from the bondage of sin. Jesus guarantees them total freedom from the guilt associated with the sin in their lives and He also was in a position to relieve them from their burden of sin immediately as He had the power to forgive sin.

But, as we know, salvation is conditional, ‘if you continue (holdfast) in my word’ John 7:17. ‘Hold fast to my teaching and live in accordance with it’, Colossians 1:21-23 / John 15:6. John 8:33 literally says, ‘seed of Abraham we are and to no one have we been enslaved ever.’

The idea of slaves is referring to spiritual, not physical slaves. The Jewish nation had been slaves and all the Jewish people would be very aware of this.

The slave and the Son

Jesus said that everyone who commits sin, practices sin, is a slave to sin and so, He shows that the slave has no rights or security, but the son always remains the son, as the Son in God’s house, Jesus could give freedom. If the Son sets you free you are free indeed.

Jesus now turns to those not accepting Him and accuses them of trying to kill Him in John 6:37-41. Jesus twice mentions that they wish to kill Him, but the people don’t deny this. Jesus proclaims them Abraham’s descendants, but not his children.

They first declare themselves Abraham’s children, but then contradict that and say they are the Father’s children. In verses 38-39, the people do what their physical fathers do as opposed to that done by the spiritual Fathers. They were illegitimate children.

And then Jesus makes one of His strongest statements ever, He declares those in opposition to Him are children of Satan, not children of God. Jesus reaffirms the divine origin of the message He brings, accusing those who don’t accept it of rejecting God for the love of Satan.

If you were God’s children and loved Him then they would love the one that God had sent. He asks one impossible answer to answer another question, ‘why is my language not clear to you?’

The answer! They cannot hear, they don’t believe they cannot even prove Jesus guilty of sin because they don’t belong to God. John 18:38 / John 19:4-6.

They cannot bear to hear His word because of envy, John 9:41 / Acts 14 / Ezra 16:45 / 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12. They have made themselves destined for eternal separation because they will not believe the truth. Their hardness of heart is because they are children of their Father the devil.

In John 8:48-51 we see the Jews are now incised at Jesus’ comments and give Him two insults. They are now full of abuse and impossible to impress but Jesus still continues to converse with them.

They are unable even to listen to what He is saying, their hate of Him is spilling over but Jesus still proclaims the truth. He knows that the situation is getting worse, He is in danger of being molested, but He sticks to the truth not backing down one inch.

Jesus tells again of eternal life through Himself and displays humility by assuring the crowd that His intention isn’t to bring glory on Himself, but on God. Likewise, we ought to seek glory for God, not ourselves. The Jews are now sure that Jesus has a serious problem, He says life, eternal is available through His self.

We see in John 8:52-59 that all the crowd know that Abraham is dead, yet this Jesus claims it possible never to taste death. Jesus is obviously saying He has the power to conquer death. Abraham and all the prophets didn’t have much power, and so, Jesus is claiming to be greater than them. Of course, Jesus is God, far superior to any man.

The crowd acts most indignant at His claims, Jesus attempts once more to get the word and forced it, using His Godly power on them, but Jesus respects mankind’s freedom of choice and lets the mob make up their own mind.

Jesus who is eternal, saw the gladness of Abraham when the Saviour was promised all those years ago when the covenant was drawn up between Abraham and the Father.

The mob picks up on this idea and distorts it, they say, ‘You are not yet 50 years old.’ He was about 30 when He was baptised, Luke 3:23 and his ministry lasted around three years.

Why do they say 50?

Possibly because He may have looked older than His years, or 50 was a round figure but it was also the year that a Levite retired after completing their service, Numbers 4:3.

In John 8:58 Jesus puts all doubt out of their minds and makes a great declaration, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’. The crowd is aware of the significance of this claim, which vividly draws a picture of Jesus’ eternal existence as well as their absolute superiority. Jesus claims to be Lord.

‘At this, they picked up stones to stone him.’ The situation takes the last step to blatant violence. It’s interesting to note the Greek words used in verse fifty-five, for the twice used ‘know’, the Greek uses two different words resulting in a much stronger expression.

The word used to describe the Jews not knowing the Father is ‘egnokate’ which gives the impression of being ignored due to a lack of study.

The word used by Jesus to express His own knowledge of the father is ‘oyda’ which refers not merely to an academic knowledge of the father, but a deeper, intimate knowledge of Him.

Jesus says He has been with, seen, been part of, has been the father. This was rather provocative, as these men, Jesus spoke to include the most ‘learned’ of the Jews.

Tradition said that before Abraham died, he had a vision of the Messianic age. This could be what Jesus refers to in verse fifty-six.

Once again Jesus escapes from an enclosed place while many want to do Him bodily harm, some divine intervention must have been employed.

Go To John 9



"That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."