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John viii. 1-^-20.
1. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
Thither he went to spend the night, that his ores* ence at Jerusalem might not excite tumults, and furnish his enemies with a plausible pretext for apprehending him before the proper time.
2. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
He intimated by the early time of his appearance, and the posture which he assumed, that he intended to deliver to them a discourse of some length.
3. And the scribes and Pharisees, the Pharisaic scribes, brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4. They say unto 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 sayest thou?
6. This they said tempting him, "trying him," that they might have to accuse him.
The snare laid for Jesus on this occasion consisted in tempting him, with a show of respect, as if they regarded his authority as greater than that of Moses, to pass sentence upon this criminal; which would have afforded them an opportunity of accusing him before the Sanhedrim or the Romans, or both, as assuming to himself the office of a magistrate, and usurping their rights. It was for a woman betrothed to a husband, and guilty of this crime, that the law of Moses appointed the punishment of stoning. Upon a married woman guilty of adultery it only pronounced the punishment of death, without specifying what kind of death it should be. Deut. xxii. 20, &c. Yet as the crime in the latter instance was more heinous than in the former, it was natural to conclude that the punishment should not be less severe. And it seems, from a passage in the prophet Ezekiel, as if this law had alwa\s been interpreted in this manner, Ezekiel xvi. 38, 40. "And I wdl judge thee as women that brake wedlock, and they shall stone thee with stones."
The design of the Jews in this transaction is generally supposed to be what has been just mentioned: as the Roman law, however, did not punish this crime so severely as the Jewish, some have conjectured that their object was to render Jesus obnoxious to the Roman governor, by inducing him to sanction a law which that governor had interfered to suspend *. But whatever their designs were, they were completely disappointed by the wisdom and prudence of Jesus. At first he appeared not to hear, or not to attend to, what these accusers of the woman said to him.
But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not.]
The last words of this sentence are not to be found in the best editions of the New Testamentf, and probably at first were no more than the explanation of some transcriber, which was afterwards inadvertently adopted into the text. What Christ intended by this
* Lardnci's Works, Vol. i. pp. 41, 42.
action of writing upon the ground, it is not easy to say; except it were merely to afford himself time to consider what answer he should make to the ensnaring question proposed to him.
7. So, when they continued asking him, he lift up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
The law of Moses, which appointed the punishment of stoning for capital offences, directed that the first stones should be thrown at the offender hy the witnesses against him, Deut. xvii. 7. Christ here directs that those of this criminal's accusers, or of the witnesses against her, should throw the first stone, who had never committed the same or a similar offence; well knowing beforehand, by that supernatural knowledge with which he was endued, that they had been all guilty of this or some other heinous crime, and that a sense of guilt and fear of shame would not allow them to stand forward, as persons of irreproachable character. To afford them time for reflection, and to wait the issue of what he had said, he again employed himself as before.
8. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9. And they that heard it, being
convicted by their own conscience,
went out, one by one, beginning at the
eldest, even unto the last; and Jesus
was left alone, and the woman standing
in the midst.
It is not necessary to suppose that these men went out, in exact order, according to their age; but, the elder persons beginning to go out first, their example was followed by the younger, until they had all disappeared. Nor is it necessary to suppose that Jesus and the woman were the only persons left: for there were other spectators, whom he had before been teaching, and whom he began to teach again immediately afterwards.
10. When Jesus had lift up, « lifted wjt?," himself, and saw none but the woman, i. e. none in the place where she and her accusers had stood, he said unto her* Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?
Hath no civil magistrate passed sentence upon thee; neither the Sanhedrim, nor the Roman governor; or towhomsoever the right of exercising this authority belongs?
11. She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee.
I do not pass sentence upon thee: for it is an office that does not belong to me, and has been offered to me on the present occasion only to draw me into a snare. But although I dismiss thee because I have no authority to detain thee, I am sensible thou hast been guilty of a great crime, and warn thee not to commit it any more.
Go, and sin no more.
Before I dismiss this story, it is right to inform yon that it is not to be found in some of the oldest and best manuscripts of this evangelist, and that when inserted in others, it is frequently distinguished from the rest of the text by a mark prefixed, or by being put at the end of the book, or in one of the other evangelists, and that on account of this, as well as of some supposed improprieties in the narration, it has been concluded by several learned men not to be genuine. I see no sufficient reason, however, for doubting its authenticity: for although not found in all the old manuscripts, it appears in many of great authority. The mark affixed to the story in some copies, was, no doubt, intended to remind the reader that it was to be passed over, and not read in public, like other parts of scripture; which originated in a foolish apprehension that prevailed in very early times, that our Lord's behaviour to this woman did not sufficiently discountenance adultery. This practice of leaving out the passage in public reading may be regarded as the cause of its being omitted in transcribing, and will explain to us the present inconsistency between the different copies. In respect to our Lord s conduct, the caution with which he acted is easily accounted for and justified, by recollecting that he was called to decide on a matter in which his enemies had laid a snare for him.
12. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world.
I communicate the light of knowledge, not to the Jews only, but to all mankind, as the sun diffuses his beams over all nations.
He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, hut shall have the light of life.
The light which I shall give to my followers will not leave them uncertain which way they are going, like men who are left in the dark, but will show them the way to eternal life. Here our Lord resumes the discourse of which we have an account in the preceding chapter, and which had only been interrupted by the night, and the case of the adulterous woman. What suggested to him the figure of light upon this occasion, might be nothing more than the return of the morning, or the bright shining of the sun where he stood.
13. The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record, " thou "Vol. 2.] 3'A