57 – Woman Caught in Adultry

When: Early October, 29 AD
Where: Temple, Jerusalem, Judea


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With the festival of booths now officially over, the people dispersed, each to where they were staying [today] the night. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives where his “booth” had been built.

Early in the morning Jesus went back to the Temple complex and sat on a step under the Portico of Solomon [model] and taught. After a while Jesus became aware of a rustle of noise and motion coming toward him. The Pharisees and Legalist were approaching with their guard. In the midst of them was a young woman, being half dragged and half pushed toward Jesus. They came to a stop and she was pushed to the pavement before Jesus. After first having looked up at Jesus, she then lay face down at his feet. ‘Teacher,’ the leader said, ‘she has been caught in the act of adultery. What do you think should be done to her?’

Adultery was a matter of an engaged or married woman having sexual intercourse with someone other then her “husband”. In the Law of Moses both man and woman are to be stoned to death. But this was a trap. The Pharisees knew the rumor that Jesus’ mother had been pregnant before she had gotten married. Would Jesus take pity on this woman and release her and thereby violate the Law of Moses? Or would he sentence her to death and violate the Roman law against the death penalty without Roman approval?

But Jesus put his head down and doodled in the dirt that had collected on the step [model]. When the accusers persisted, he raised his head and laid the dilemma upon the witnesses. The Law of Moses, as written in the book of Deuteronomy, stipulated that the witness should begin the execution (therefore the witness could fulfill the Mosaic law and break the Roman law, or violate the Mosaic law).

Yet Jesus allowed them a way out. ‘If you are sinless, then you begin the execution.’ As they thought about it, the older people were first to realize what Jesus meant, and they began to leave. Then the younger ones turned and left as they came to understand what Jesus had meant. Finally the leaders left.

When Jesus finally looked up there was no one left except the woman and a couple of guards. He looked the woman in the eyes. ‘You are found not guilty, for lack of a witness,’ he said. ‘Your life is spared on a technicality. Go, and do not do it again.’

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