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Adulterous Woman

aymon de albatrus

4 they said to Him, Teacher, this woman was taken in the very act, committing adultery. 5 And in the Law, Moses commanded that such should be stoned. You, then, what do you say? 6 But they said this, tempting Him, that they may have reason to accuse Him. But bending down, Jesus wrote with the finger in the earth, not appearing to hear. (John 8:4-6)

Before dealing with this famous passage we need to briefly analyse the relationship between adultery and the Law of God and if this is still a serious sin in the New Testament (NT), after Jesus' advent.

What is the Law?
The law is a composition of statutes that God has imposed on man to obey for his well being.  Soon after having given the Law of God, Moses informs the people: And Moses said unto the people, "Fear not; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not." (Exodus 20:20 ).  So, the Law (the 10 commandments and their derivatives) were given to the people to ensure that the fear of Him be in front of them, as a brake to not sin, that is, to not offend Him.  The Law is then a good thing for us for it tells us exactly what God, the Creator, wants from us: The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalms 19:7)  Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Romans 7:12)

Why God gave the Law
To make known to man what was not of His liking, or rather what offends Him, in other words, sin:  What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid! Nay, I would not have known sin, but through the law; for I would not have known lust, except that the law had said, "Thou shalt not covet." (Romans 7:7)  and sin is defined as: Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4)

Has the law changed in some way in the N T?
Let us take the textual words of our beloved Lord: For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18).  Taking these words of Jesus, can anyone honestly say that the Law has been surpassed?  Surely, NO way?  The Law is certainly still valid and applicable to all, from the beginning till the end of time, without a tittle changing.  The difference in the NT is the sacrifice of Christ that God inserts between the believers (His elect) and the Law and Himself.  This way His Law remains intact, perfectly satisfied by Grace through the Holy Blood of Christ Jesus, shed for His own. And they sang a new song, saying, "Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, from every kindred and tongue, and people and nation, (Revelation 5:9)

The Law is applicable to All, but for the believers His Grace is interposed between their sins and God, thus they are justified in front of God for He "sees" the justified sinner through the blood of Jesus, that is Grace for them.  Moreover, Jesus continually intercedes for their sins through His Holy Blood shed once for all:  Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost those who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

Moreover: knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, (1 Timothy 1:9), demonstrated clearly that the Law is in full activity, especially for the non believers, for they are not covered by the precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For what purpose was the Law given? 
To bring us to Christ,
24 Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (Galatians 3:24-25)

With full testimony from our mouth?,
9 that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

Well, then, is Adultery still a Sin in the NT? 
Let us see what Scripture says: 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, quarreling, rivalry, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envying, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like. About these things I tell you again, as I have also told you in times past: that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

As it is clearly stated, Adultery and Fornication are serious sinful activities that do not permit those who practice them to enter in the kingdom of God, and are therefore lost.  The definition of Adultery is making illicit sex between married people, but not to themselves, whilst Fornication is the same activity between unmarried.  However the deed is the same as is the sin.

We are left in no doubt that the NT judges adultery and fornication as pure sin.  In the NT "Adultery and derivates" appears about 50 times, whilst "Fornication and derivates" about 57 times.

The Adulterous Woman
Therefore, having proved that the Law is always valid, even in the NT, without any alteration and that Adultery/Fornication is a grave sin in the NT, as it was in the OT, let us read what John Knox and other high caliber reformers had written apropos in their church Polity: 

Marriage once lawfully contracted, may not be dissolved at man's pleasure, as our master Christ Jesus does witness, unless adultery is committed; which, being sufficiently proven in presence of the civil magistrate, the innocent (if they so require) ought to be pronounced free, and the offender ought to suffer the death as God has commanded. If the civil sword foolishly spares the life of the offender, yet the church may not be negligent in their office, which is to excommunicate the wicked, and to repute them as dead members, and to pronounce the innocent party to be at freedom, be they never so honourable before the world. If the life is spared (as it ought not to be) to the offenders, and if the fruits of repentance of long time appear in them, and if they earnestly desire to be reconciled with the church, we judge that they may be received to participation of the sacraments, and of the other benefits of the church (for we would not that the church should hold those excommunicate whom God absolved, that is, the penitent).

This we do offer as the best counsel that God gives unto us in so doubtsome a case. But the most perfect reformation were, if your honours would give to God his honour and glory, that ye would prefer his express commandment to your own corrupt judgments, especially in punishing of those crimes which he commands to be punished with death. For so should ye declare yourselves God's true and obedient officers, and your commonwealth should be rid of innumerable troubles.

These godly men were well instructed in Scripture as servants of God, that He used to convert Scotland from Catholicism to Protestantism.

Moreover, we have the same confirmed in the Westminster Confession Chapter XXIV-V. 

Adultery or fornication, committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce, and after the divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

Let us then analyse the famous unique passage, Joh 8:3-11?

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said unto Him, "Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act  Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned but what sayest thou?" 6 This they said testing Him, that they might have cause to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He lifted Himself up and said unto them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 And they who heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the eldest even unto the last, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted Himself up and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?" 11 She said, "No man, Lord." And Jesus said unto her, "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more." (John 8:3-11 KJ21)

The commandment given by God on Adultery is this: "‘And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)

But the modern interpretations absolve the adulterous woman reducing God's commandment to naught (as if it were possible).  They make of the adulterous women as a heroine of faith, to be emulated and exalted, as we do in the present democracy.  Adultery has always been condemned as a serious matter, even in the secular culture up to a few years ago, till the advent of feminism.  Now, in our depraved society, adultery is like eating a piece of pizza, more, today's doctors, psychologists as many "erudite" magazines encourage adultery as something therapeutic and beneficial to marriage, encouraging separate holidays for husbands and wives.  We have really escaped from reality and even the church has drunk deeply from the world

Now we know that without spilling of blood there is no acquittal of sin and surely Jesus has spilled His Holy blood for the remission of the sins of His own (Mat 1:21). We know also that the salvific application of atonement is, through repentance. No one is acquitted by God without repentance and reformation.

Keeping this in mind, can we, in honesty, truly say that Jesus pardoned the woman taken in adultery and left her free of her sin?

But let us watch the scene with more attention:

  • We notice that the Scribes and the Pharisees brought this woman to Jesus for reason other that Saintly justice, but in order to trap Jesus: 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]. (John 8:6)

  • Jesus knew very well that they wanted to catch Him in fault so to have reason to accuse Him, but how?·

  • Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: (John 18:31)

  • Aaah! So this was the plan. They tried to place Jesus in a situation from which He could not exit, because if He had said, "carry out the sentence according to the Law of Moses" they would have accused Him in front of the Romans saying that He had incited them (Jews) to carry out a capital punishment in contravention to Roman laws. If instead He had said: "I do not accuse this woman and you cannot put it to death" they would have accused Him of breaking the Law of Moses and thus condemn Him for Biblical heresy.

  • In whichever way He had answered they would have framed Him and would have had reason for getting the Romans to put Him to death, as they did, later: Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. (Matthew 26:65)

  • But Jesus was more skilful than they and made appeal to their conscience and their sins, saying: … He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. (John 8:7) and therefore, all the denouncers, accused by their own conscience left. Moreover, it is to be noted that they could not have stoned the woman to death, because of the Roman laws and that they had only brought the woman to Jesus for the sole reason to trap Him. The proof of this is that the Jews (later) could not put Jesus to death, but had to take Him to Pilate (Mat 27:2) for they could not put anybody to death. Therefore all this farce was not for receiving a Saintly judgment from Jesus, but it was in order to nail Him. But His time had not arrived as yet

  • Then Jesus asked the woman where were her accusers and if someone had condemned her, she answered: "No man, Lord." And Jesus said unto her, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (John 8:11)

  • Here we notice three things:

  • The woman calls Him "Lord". The modernist make a big deal of the fact that the woman calls Him "Lord", but there is nothing strange in this, for the term is "Kurios" in the Greek and it is a term of respect commonly used by a servant towards his master or towards a person of importance and Jesus was recognized as a "Rabboni", therefore a person to be respected, anyway.

  • Jesus said " Neither do I condemn thee ". In this also there is nothing strange for Jesus did not come the first time to condemn, as He says: And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. (John 12:47).

It is in the second coming that He will come to judge: …… and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; (2 Timothy 4:1)

  • The third thing that we notice is that Jesus confirms the sin of the woman, in saying: " go, and sin no more " and He does not acquit her for He does not say to her, like in other times: " thy sins are forgiven thee " because she does not show repentance, nor faith, not does she asks for forgiveness and displays no signs of thanks.

Can we then say Biblically that the woman received forgiveness for her sin?  Only if one has a modernist’s visions.

For those who says that the OT Law in not applicable in the NT because of Jesus, it is to be noted that Jesus was still on earth, at that time, and that His precious blood was not shed, as yet, thus this happening was technically still in the OT dispensation.

Can it be honestly said that Jesus repealed the commandment of God concerning adultery? For he said: For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18)

Can anyone honestly say that Jesus actually abrogated the commandments of God concerning Adultery/Fornication?    When He, Himself said:  "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.  (Matthew 5:17)

Jesus did not revoke Moses' Law, He upheld it fully.


  1. We have verified that the ten commandments (and their derivates) are still valid for all, but for the believers Jesus' sacrifice (The Grace) is interposed between their sins and God.

  2. Adultery and Fornication have always been serious sins with capital punishment that has not been revoked by the Lord Jesus Christ, just as the Law has not been revoked.   

  3. The Scribes and the Pharisees tried to use the adulterous woman to trap Jesus so to have something for which to accuse Him.  If He had supported the Law of Moses He would have broken the law of the Romans, and if he had supported the law of the Romans, He would have broken Moses' Law. 

  4. But Jesus saw the snare and by making appeal to their evil conscience He destroyed their malevolent resolution.

  5. This is the real point of the narrative, not the woman's sin. 

  6. Jesus admitted the woman's sin and did not forgave her as proven by the fact that the woman did not show any sign of repentance nor she displayed any sign of gratitude.  Nor Jesus said "thy sins are forgiven thee" as He had done previously in innumerable situations.  

  7. We must recognize that the Lord is magnanimous to the maximum, nevertheless we must confine ourselves to what is actually written and not entertain fantastic fantasies. (Deu 29:29)


Incidentally do note that this event of Jesus and the adulteress was not originally part of the gospel of John. Bible translations often put this part within parenthesis or give a note apropos. The text does not appear in the earliest hand-written manuscripts of John. Yet the text is consistent with the general tenor of the Bible that gives the text a place in the gospel.