Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

The story of Christ and the woman taken in adultery

March 17th, 2014 by Inigo Montoya

Comments (11)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , , ,
March 17th, 2014 10:41:07
11 comments

T. Greer
March 20, 2014

“he story of Jesus and the adulterous woman is NOT a parable crafted to teach a specific principle with general application; this is a report of an event from the life of Jesus brought about by specific circumstances…..

The law of Moses dictated that to be convicted to death because of adultery, there had to be at least two witnesses. It also dictated that the witnesses whose testimonies established the guilt of accused were to be the first to begin the stoning. So Jesus was asking those who claimed to have witnessed the adultery to step forward themselves to impose the punishment as the law demands. And so the accusers were entrapped in their own catch-22. If they stepped forward as witnesses, they would have opened themselves to questions about how they witnessed the act and why the man involved is not also accused as demanded by Moses. If they try to carry out the stoning, they will be in violation of Roman law.”

My trouble with this account is that it essentially reduces the Savior’s actions and words to nothing more than a lawyer’s trick. If we have to turn some of the plainest words of scriptural writ into legal maneuvers simply to maintain our beliefs, then perhaps we need to examine our beliefs a little bit closer.

I suggest that in his zeal to show that the scriptures here are not about “non-judgmentalism” the author goes a step too far. Christ never uses the word ‘judging.’ Christ’s lesson is not about judgement, but condemnation.

I suspect that recognizing the distinction between these two deeds makes figuring out all that ‘tolerance’ stuff a whole lot easier.


Adam G.
March 20, 2014

T. Greer,
I agree with you that the linked post goes too far. In other words, I don’t agree that the Savior was up to a mere lawyerly dodge, at least not here. But I wouldn’t put it past him either. “Render unto Ceasar” has been interpreted into a profound statement of the separation between Church and state, but at root it was a cheap rhetorical trick. An earnest commitment to genuine dialogue wasn’t his thing.


Vader
March 20, 2014

“nothing more than a lawyer’s trick” betrays an attitude and perspective rather different than that of Jews of the first century A.D. The act of outfoxing lawyers would have greatly excited their admiration.


Bruce Charlton
March 20, 2014

This is a very interesting discussion, and I feel the strength of both sides of the argument.

I sometimes get the feeling, reading the gospels – especially John – that they were trying to get down pretty much everything they could remember that seemed potentially of relevance, without knowing which specific details might be significant and which might not.

The meaning lies at a fairly large scale of detail, I think – so in that sense I think T Greer’s is correct approach in most instances.

On the other hand, there are a few of these events when the ‘message’ seems to be that nobody could ‘get one over’ Jesus, nobody could back him into a corner – he would always be able to turn the tables (if he wanted to). Which is presumably one reason how he avoided arrest etc for so long.


T. Greer
March 21, 2014

1. “different than that of Jews of the first century A.D. The act of outfoxing lawyers would have greatly excited their admiration.”

Ah, but was the evangelist writing for the Jews, the God-fearing, the heathen, or those already converted in the first century?

2. More deeply, dad the story ended with Christ’s words “Whoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone” I would raise no objection to the lawyerly interpretation. But that is not the story’s closing note. The evangelist did not let the story end there. And it is in those moments when Christ and the woman are alone that the lesson is found. What Christ said to the crowd seems so much less important than what he did to the sinner.


Michael Towns
March 22, 2014

So the take away, as I see from the post and the comments here: scripture means whatever we think it ought to mean.

Or perhaps when reading scripture, we simply use it as a mirror to reflect our own biases and preconceptions instead of using as a “Urim and Thummim” as Elder Oaks suggested: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/01/scripture-reading-and-revelation?lang=eng


Vader
March 22, 2014

I think there is a certain amount of arguing for the sake of arguing going on here.

I don’t think anyone here disagrees that, in part Christ’s response was a lawyerly dodge. This would have excited the admiration of almost any of the possible audiences T. Greer mentions. But I also think that all of us here are agreed that the original linked post goes too far in suggesting that that is all it is.

I also don’t think that anyone here disagrees with the point of the original linked post, which is that the use of this passage to condemn the reproval of sin is not only self-inconsistent, but is also not supported by the passage. I think we all agree that reproving sin is consistent with the teachings of Christ, as long as it is done in the way Elder Oaks advocates, as an invitation to repentance rather than as condemnation. That the argument overreaches does not mean that the conclusion is actually wrong.

Christ was not shy about reproving unrepentant sinners. His private words to the woman in this story ended with a reproval — “Go, and sin no more.”

It would be interesting to ask those who insist this story teaches us not to condemn sin how they feel about the numerous instances where Christ undeniably reproved the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the lawyers and scribes. I suspect the answer would reveal that much of the intent of those misusing this story is to minimize Christ as a teacher of righteousness and maximize Christ as populist revolutionary.

Some additional notes: This passage is not present in many of the earliest texts of the Gospel of John. That has led some commenters to conclude that it is an interpolation. One theory is that it was an interpolation based on a story repeated by Eusebius, about Christ dealing with a woman who had been falsely accused of diverse sins. I don’t know how seriously we need to take these opinions, but the point raised is an interesting one: Was the woman actually guilty, or was she framed? The “Go and sin no more” suggests actual guilt, but wouldn’t it be good advice for any of us regardless of the specifics of our sin?


Michael Towns
March 22, 2014

Vader,

Very reasoned response. I would also add, though, that according to some folks, a mere invitation to repent constitutes a “condemnation”. They view Jesus as the ultimate 1st century AD hippy: let and let live, bro. Talk a good talk, but don’t seriously expect me to stop looking at porn or overbilling clients. Save me in my sins, not from them.


Bookslinger
March 22, 2014

MT: The wierd thing is that some of the multiple-meanings can all be true depending on the reader, and when they are reading. That’s one of the beauties of the scriptures, is that there really can be multiple levels of meaning in some passages. And, in addition, reading scriptures puts us in a place where the Holy Ghost can teach us things that are not in the surface-level meaning, nor literal meaning, nor symbolic meaning of what is being read.

From what I hear, it’s a common theme to hear people talk about finding new meanings in a passage, and they claim they had no idea that was there in the many times they had read that passage previously.

None of this multiple-levels,-multiple-meanings stuff should be taken as license to _wrest_ the scriptures into something the Lord nor the mortal author intended.

IMO, our Sunday school (Gospel Essentials and Godpel Doctrine) lessons are Mormonism 101, and 102. Institute classes might be 103. But Mormonism 201 and higher is only taught one-on-one by the Holy Ghost. It’s almost like it can’t be taught person to person without the Holy Ghost because the speaker never knows (without revelation) whether the listener is ready for it. In fact, the GA’s have generally stated we are not to share lessons learned via revelation and the Holy Ghost unless prompted to do so.


Michael Towns
March 22, 2014

A fine line between personal interpretation and wresting. That’s all I’m suggesting.


Bookslinger
March 22, 2014

Mt: is your avatar really smoking, or is the pipe just a fashion statement?

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