In the churches of my youth the Bible was read several times during each worship period. A passage would be read before communion (usually First Corinthians 11:23ff or a portion of Isaiah 53), another before the sermon (usually a few verses that were part of the text being used by the minister), and during Bible class where we used the text as you would a “Wordsearch” puzzle, finding answers to fill in blanks in our class workbooks.

Scripture was considered holy and perfect. It was a rule book and quite a complex rule book at that, full of hidden laws, man traps, and gotchas for those not schooled properly in how to “rightly divide the Word.” We were certain we had found the proper method of interpreting it and most of us made it through high school with a dozen or so passages etched in our minds – proof texts to keep us on the straight and narrow. All of this was done by well meaning, honest, good hearted people who devoted their lives to serving Jesus the best way they knew how and I will owe them the rest of my life.

But…there were problems, problems we never talked about and were never encouraged to ask about. For me, it all started with lasciviousness and the Moabites. But I’m getting ahead of my story…

We were told that the Bible was dictated by the Holy Spirit, word for word, to holy men who wrote it down just as they were told and then other holy people preserved those words perfectly, exactly for us in our Bibles. One illustration on how God dictated every single word – told to us by more than one preacher – was the story of Balaam and his donkey. The donkey, when beaten by Balaam, turned to the prophet and told him that there is an angel blocking the path. Balaam doesn’t seem to be surprised that his donkey is speaking to him but that isn‘t the point. The preachers told us that God made the donkey talk and gave him the very words he was to speak. “He didn’t just tell the donkey to talk to Balaam and put it in his own words” they said and we all laughed. The problem came later when some of us read the parts of the Bible we never read in church or Bible class and when others of us studied how the Bible came to be written and then gathered in the first place. While those two items alone were enough to knock us silly and cause us to question what we’d been taught (and which may be why we lose so many of our teens once they leave the nest) we can’t fully explore either of them here. Allow me to give a few illustrations of the problem and a possible solution and then allow you and the Spirit of God to take it from there.

Remember I said that it started with lasciviousness? We were told that God condemned it but we’d never heard the word before. It’s a great word, a wonderful old King James word and we were told it was why we weren’t allowed to dance or go to our prom (even if we refrained from dancing and “just watched”). Tracts – small booklets available in racks in our foyer – told us about the dangers of dancing and each made the point that the word “lasciviousness” meant dancing and since God condemned it, we shouldn’t even want to dance. When I was 13 I overheard some older teens doubt this wisdom from the elders and I was offended at their questioning of the faith. My father had an extensive library (I’d read over half of it by then. It was a requirement in our family) so I spent a day going through Greek and Hebrew lexicons, thesauruses, and commentaries…and was devastated at what I found. It became plain that one could dance in a lascivious manner but the word most certainly did NOT mean “dance” and, in fact, most dances in the Bible were in honor of God and He didn’t care for anyone who disapproved of them. If I was being lied to about THIS…what else was I being told that wasn’t true? I tried to ask a question about this twice and the fierce reaction I received from my father and, later, a Bible class teacher taught me to never ask questions again.

After spending time in agnosticism I came back to God because of the intricacies in the human brain (I eventually became a psychotherapist and neuroscientist). I wanted to be a deist but I just wasn’t sure if that was a safe option… So I did something I had never done before: I read the Bible and paid attention. I wasn’t looking for rules or patterns or ways to prove other religions wrong. I just wanted to read it and see what it said.

And here’s the thing: I wasn’t alone. I have since found a very large number of Church of Christ members have been doing the same, many of them for much longer than I. Fact is, I was a bit late to the party. As a church without a bureaucracy, we can change our direction much faster than other religious tribes. And when the younger generation came up and took its place as leaders, it brought with it an honest look at some scriptures we had never dealt with before (or swept aside with a “things were different back then. Just trust God. He must have had His reasons”). It wasn’t just the young preachers passing on a different way of viewing scripture: we had Cecil Hook, Leroy Garrett, Carl Ketcherside and many others who’d been cast out of fellowship by most of our churches but who kept writing and living lives of faith and love. We read their stuff and it changed everything. At least it did for me.

That’s why I wanted to mention the Moabites. They are merely one of a couple dozen examples I could bring up but since this is a blog and not a book…

If you carefully read the Old Testament you would be excused for being confused about God’s view of Moabites. In Deuteronomy 23:3-6 they (and the Ammonites) are expressly barred from the assembly of God. They are unsaveable and unconvertible – even to the tenth generation. If you had a single Moabite ancestor even nine generations back, you were forbidden from coming into the assembly or worshiping with the Jews. This wasn’t a temporary rule – it is recalled and enforced in Ezra 9, Nehemiah 13 and elsewhere.

God goes after the Moabites again in Isaiah 15-16, Jeremiah 48-49:6, Ezekiel 21 and 25, and Zephaniah 2:8,9.

But then we have the Book of Ruth. And she was a Moabite woman who was not only loved and protected by a Jewish man, he married her and she became the king’s grandmother and a grandmother of Jesus. Whaaa?

We have God telling the Hebrews to kill everyone in Jericho but they save a prostitute (I am interested in how they ended up at her house but that’s beside the point) who lied to protect them. Later, she married a Jew and she, too, enters the line of Jesus. Seriously? That seems to go against a lot of Deuteronomy and Leviticus…

Then we see Jonah. It isn’t about the fish/whale – it’s about God’s love for people that a lot of His followers hated. They were convinced God wanted the Ninevites and all other foreigners dead or banished. Instead, God sends them a prophet and forgives then when they repent, changing the decree He had made against them earlier.

It seems that God’s dislike/hatred of Moabites was overstated. At a minimum. And that changes the way we read scripture.

Skip to the New Testament and you find Paul saying a couple of things to the church in Corinth and Ephesus that people use to overrule other things he says about women in leadership and teaching. People ignore his conversational remarks and lists of workers, teachers, and leaders and go for what looks like rules and I understand their motivation; that was the way I was told to read scripture, too.

So how do we deal with the fact that Philip’s four daughters preached alongside him or that Junia was an apostle or that Phoebe is the only person in scripture expressly titled a deacon?

I haven’t figured it all out yet but I find one story very helpful: The Transfiguration. Jesus is praying when Elijah and Moses show up. The apostles are overjoyed – this is their entire Marvel Comic universe showing up, their pantheon of heroes, their fearless leaders! They want to build altars to them but God’s voice thunders and indicates Jesus, NOT the representatives of the law and the prophets. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

I – and a great many in the churches of Christ along with countless others in other religious traditions – now see the Bible as a narrative, not a rulebook. It is our story that points us to Jesus. When I get confused by Deuteronomy or Joshua or Paul or James I remember: go back and listen to Jesus. Hear him.

My path out of deism and into faith in Jesus had many steps but none so important as my decision to read the Gospels over and over for six months. It was easier back then to maintain an electronic-free room but I believe it is still worth the effort to do so. Go in there and read the story of Jesus again and again. Get to know his voice. As Hebrews 1 says, Jesus is what God looks like, sounds like, IS like.

The Bible is a finger pointing to Jesus. I love the Bible but I love Whom it points to even more.We are, after all, the Church of Christ – not the church of those other guys.

94 Responses

  1. what scares me in the above, is the utter extremism taken by the author. Let’s toss out the rules part (The be’s, and do’s and don’ts found in the writings of the apostles, i.e. Be imitators of God; no matter how you look at such statements, as imperatives they have binding power!).
    And let’s just worry about what Jesus says, “When I get confused by Deuteronomy or Joshua or Paul or James I remember: go back and listen to Jesus. Hear him.”
    If we were to listen to Jesus, and forget Paul or James, wold we not go back to some things which, because of the Christ event, are no longer an issue?
    do we need to go back to tithing, for example? Do we need to go back to Sabbath, sacrifices in Jerusalem?
    Surely, there is a better way to find balance within the pages of Scripture?
    And, BTW, what do we know about the daughters of Phillip other then, they were prophetesses? Can you tell me where I can find their activity recounted? The author draws a number of unsubstantiated conclusions. I see three at least in the above…
    Where the author is going is nothing new. The redesigning of the bible as just “a narrative” goes back at least 30 years. I’ve heard professors from some of our esteemed graduate schools saying the same in the mid-seventies. There, too, a significant part of Scripture was ignored.
    I agree: The Bible has more, much more to offer than just rules. But the rules are there, in both Old and New covenant language. No matter how much I want to, I can not just push those out of the way.

  2. What Patrick is saying is: ignore the rest of the bible and all of its ridiculous contradictions and instead just follow the teachings of Jesus. That’s the only way Patrick feels that he can remain a Christian because of the absolute absurdity of most of the bible.

    The problem that he has yet to reckon with is that many of the teachings of Jesus are absurd as well. Jesus talked a lot about people being cast into the “everlasting fire” of hell – a topic not even mentioned in the Old Testament. What an absurd idea: that all humans deserve to be tortured for eternity in an everlasting fire because they’re human. That was an idea perpetuated by Jesus!

    Just look at Jesus’ logic or the lack thereof in John chapter 8. The scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman to the center of the court who had been caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses (and of God) was clear: you must stone her to death. So they were going to stone her to death, makes sense. It’s God’s law after all. Then Jesus tells them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” They’ve all committed a sin at some point in their life so no one casts a stone and they all leave the woman alone.

    Can you imagine if we used Jesus’ logic today in our courts? A person is brought before the court who has clearly violated a law and that person’s lawyer tells the judge, “Judge, if you’ve never done anything wrong then by all means, throw this man in jail.” The judge looks at the lawyer and says, “Sir, you’ve got me there! I’m letting him go free.” There would be no law and order!

    Of course the law to stone an adulterer was an immoral law that no modern society has today and one that the vast majority of Christians would not support. If the character of Jesus in the NT were logical and moral he would’ve decried the law itself instead of coming up with the illogical nonsense that he did that, by the way, is the advocation of anarchy as explained in my court example above.

    Maybe it’ll take another 10 or 20 years before Patrick finally admits that Jesus’ teachings are absurd as well and are certainly not the words of a higher power. Will he finally just do the logical thing and become an atheist?

    1. If you really want to understand the story in John 7:53 – 8:11, we could have a productive discussion about it. You are right that the moral relativist interpretation, which is exemplified in your hypothetical judge who sets everyone free and which is favored by many post-moderns today, is absurd. But that is not the best interpretation in the first place. Nor is the feminist, egalitarian interpretation that Jesus objected to their bringing him only the woman and not the man, because he could have made such an objection clear if he wished.

      The first thing you need to think about is: What is the dilemma in the story? John 8:6 indicates that the scribes and Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus. What is the trap? What if Jesus just says, “Stone her” and that is the end of the story? Furthermore, it seems that the scribes and Pharisees perceive that they are in a dilemma, which they are trying to dump on Jesus. What is their dilemma? Why did they not just stone the woman themselves and never bring her to Jesus?

      Any fruitful discussion must begin by grappling with these questions. I look forward to continuing the discussion.

      1. Clark, I’ll just let you go ahead and answer those questions that you’ve posed and then tell me how that changes the precedent established by Jesus which is: He who is without sin cast the first stone.

        If that precedent hasn’t changed as the result of your answers – and I don’t know how it possibly could – then answering those questions is pointless.

        1. If the Jews (or Jesus) stoned the woman caught in adultery, they would be charged with murder by the Romans. The Jews were living under Roman law, not just the law of Moses. This is a consequence of the chain of events that began with the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities centuries earlier. Roman law did not treat adultery as a criminal offense, but only as a civil offense that could be brought up in divorce cases, for example.

          On the other hand, if they do not stone her, they believe they are violating the law of Moses. This leaves the Jews in a moral dilemma. They tried to push this dilemma on Jesus. If he says to stone her, they can get him in trouble with the Roman authorities (which was one of their goals at this point). If he says not to stone her, they can spread the word that Jesus is advocating the abrogation of the law of Moses and discredit him as the Messiah in the eyes of many of the people.

          Jesus did not tell them to stone her, but he also did not tell them not to stone her. He told them that any who was without sin could stone her. Why? Because their sin, collectively as a people, was the cause of the intolerable situation in which they found themselves: ruled by heathens who do not respect their law, do not recognize the Promised Land as belonging to them, etc. So, the point Jesus made is that their moral dilemma was truly a dilemma, but it was their own fault that they found themselves in a dilemma. God does not create moral dilemmas. People, through sin, create moral dilemmas. Such dilemmas would not happen in a sinless Edenic existence.

          So, if any of the scribes and Pharisees is sinless, then that man can claim that he bears no share of the responsibility for Roman rule, and he is morally entitled to carry out the punishment. Of course, no such scribe or Pharisee existed.

          Notice that this is a particular dilemma at a particular point in time, caused by the sins of particular people in history. It is not a precedent for all law enforcement and judges at all times. The conflict here was between a theocratic system of a chosen nation, and a secular legal system that was imposed on them after conquest. This conflict bears no resemblance to anything we experience today in America, for example. We are commanded in the New Testament to be subject to the laws of our society and have no theocratic mandate.

          1. Even if stoning was against Roman law it doesn’t mean that they would be charged with murder by the Romans. Stephen was tried and stoned by the jewish Sanhedrin so obviously they could stone people at least in some circumstances and the Pharisees didn’t seem too afraid of being charged with murder when they brought the adulteress woman before Jesus and threatened to stone her. Considering that fact I don’t know how you could confidentently claim that there was some kind of moral dilemma here when you don’t even know with any degree of confidence that they thought they would be charged with murder.

            You say things like this: “So, the point Jesus made is that their moral dilemma was truly a dilemma, but it was their own fault that they found themselves in a dilemma.” And this: “The conflict here was between a theocratic system of a chosen nation, and a secular legal system that was imposed on them after conquest.”

            Don’t you think it would’ve been helpful if the text had actually mentioned this or anything closely resembling this? You claim that Jesus made this point but nowhere in the text does it say this. All of this is pure speculation on your part and it actually conflicts with the text since Jesus’ reasoning is reported here and it mentions nothing of what you claim his point was.

            Even if the Pharisees were afraid of being charged with murder and there was some kind of moral dilemma and both of these things were mentioned in the text, Jesus’ response, as stated in the text, has nothing to do with either of those things.

            There is a moral dilemma given in the text and it involves either abiding by the Jewish law implemented by Jesus’ father or disregarding it and having mercy on the woman. The moral dilemma that you claim exists is not mentioned in the text and is different from the one in the text.

            You claim to know what Jesus’ point was but the text does not mention this or anything remotely like this.

            The conflict that you claim exists here is not mentioned in the text.

            You’re adding so much to the text. You said that you wanted to have a productive discussion about the text but nearly everything that you’ve just mentioned is not in the text and even contradicts it at times. Nothing productive can come from that.

          2. Proper interpretation begins with asking what a passage meant at the time the events happened, to the hearers or readers at that time, in their cultural context, then moving on to today and our context. What you refer to as details that should have been spelled out in the text, or speculations on my part, are the kind of cultural and historical information that did not need to be spelled out to the original hearers. The challenge of Biblical interpretation involves, among other things, learning this context.

            It is absurd to say that Jesus should have explicitly reminded the scribes and Pharisees before him: “You are facing a dilemma because you want to carry out the law of Moses, but you are living under Roman occupation and Roman law does not consider adultery a criminal offense,” etc. They knew all that. People do not talk like that. We all assume certain knowledge on the part of our listeners when we speak.

            Yes, the Jews could take a chance on getting in trouble with the Romans by stoning the woman, as they did with Stephen. The charge against Stephen was blasphemy, which had them enraged and acting on impulse in their rage (see Acts 7:54-58, especially Acts 7:57). They were not acting on impulse or in a rage in John 7:53-8:11, in which they calculatedly brought the woman before Jesus to entrap Jesus.

            In fact, we have historical records that indicate that the Romans understood the intensity of reaction to the charge of blasphemy and permitted capital punishment for it. Roman authorities prized order over justice. That is why we have several stories of Roman authorities appeasing mobs by punishing Christians (starting with Jesus being crucified; see also Acts 16:19-40, where Romans flogged Paul and Silas to appease the mob, without a trial, then were in fear when they found that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens who could make a complaint against them; and see Acts 21:27ff where a mob accused Paul of defiling the temple – as serious as blasphemy – and the Romans were interested in ending the mob uproar but not in punishing the mob). The Jewish historian Josephus records an incident in which a Roman soldier burned a Jewish scripture scroll and the Romans executed the soldier to appease the Jews, desiring order above all else. I doubt that Romans thought much of the Jewish scriptures, but a Roman governor feared word reaching Rome that he could not prevent insurrections or riots.

            So, a mob in a rage over a blasphemy charge is not comparable to the scribes and Pharisees in John 7:53-8:11, and was not viewed in the same way by Roman authorities, who were more permissive towards enraged mobs because they wanted to keep the peace more than they cared about who was right and who was wrong.

            If you wish to discuss Biblical passages productively, you have to expect to spend time learning about cultural and historical context, and not treat such context as some sort of special pleading by Biblical apologists. It is the way that historical texts are understood, whether the texts are Biblical or classical or Eastern or anything else. However, if you just want to heap scorn on the Bible and not gain any insight into it, then you can continue to do so, but you will not persuade anyone who is knowledgeable in the reading of any ancient texts.

          3. @Clark: Oh yeah I agree, if you’re studying a historical document, “Proper interpretation begins with asking what a passage meant at the time the events happened, to the hearers or readers at that time, in their cultural context…”. I thought you thought this was more than just a historical document though. I was under the impression you thought this was a holy book that was supposed to be understood by and relevant to people of all nations hundreds or thousands of years later but you’re saying that the author (God, right? At least inspired by him) was only concerned with having it understood by a particular people at a particular time in a particular cultural context.

            Imagine you have someone living hundreds of years ago in England who can’t even read and someone reads this book to them and they hear this story. This person obviously doesn’t have all of the resources available to them like we have today with the internet (not that he can read anyway). He’s obviously very, very unlikely to understand the cultural context at the time. So, naturally he thinks to himself: “What Jesus said here is illogical. If they used that logic back then or even now there would be no law and order. There’s no way I can believe that he’s the son of any kind of higher power.”

            You can understand why he would come to that conclusion, right? There’s no way a just god would blame him since that god didn’t even bother to provide a cultural context and explanation on why what Jesus said actually means something completely different for the billions of people who would read this story later on.

            This clearly isn’t a holy book written to be understood by all people in all cultures at all times, is it?

            I agree that it would’ve been a little odd for Jesus to have explicitly given the Pharisees the cultural and historical context that you claim changes everything about his statement but having the author provide that context would’ve made sense if it were a book meant to be understood by all people in all cultures at all times which it clearly is not as evidenced by yourself.

            Now to your point. I’ll sum up what you’ve just said: if an angry mob is involved then the Romans would let them stone someone but if it’s not an angry mob then they wouldn’t allow them to stone someone.

            Using your logic, if the Pharisees turned into an angry mob – which they could have at any time and might even have been at the time – then they would not have been in fear of being charged with murder therefore the moral dilemma and conflict that you claim existed would not have existed meaning that Jesus’ words would have been illogical.

            It all hinges on whether this was or was about to be an angry mob, according to your logic.

            Can you imagine someone approaching the illiterate man from England and telling him, “But wait! Don’t go off disbelieving in Jesus without this bit of key information that is not given in the text but from which I have understood myself because I am a great scholar. The key information is that the Pharisees don’t appear to have been an angry mob! Oh, you don’t know where I’m going with that? Ok, well if they weren’t an angry mob then there would have been a different moral dilemma at play here than the dilemma clearly understood from the text and that dilemma would have involved the Pharisees trying to get Jesus arrested by the Romans because only an angry mob can get away with stoning someone and since this probably wasn’t an angry mob Jesus might have been charged with murder if he had told them to follow his father’s law and stone her!”

            I see that confused look on your face so I assume you’re still not following. Let me explain further! When Jesus said, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’, he was actually blaming their collective sin, as a people, for putting them into this moral dilemma. This moral dilemma was created over a period of hundreds of years through a chain of events eventually resulting in the time of Jesus where the Romans are ruling over the Jews and Roman law does not allow the Jews to execute someone but they’ll overlook it if an angry mob is involved! And since this sin was a collective sin they’re all responsible even if they weren’t alive during one of the events of the chain that resulted in Roman rule, therefore, no man in this place at this time could justifiably claim that he bears no share of the responsibility for Roman rule.

            Hmmm, you still look confused. Let me explain further! The conflict here was between a theocratic system of a chosen nation, and a secular legal system that was imposed on them after conquest. This conflict bears no resemblance to anything we experience today in England, for example. So because of all of this easily understood information that even a common man like yourself could understand, Jesus words were actually totally logical!”

            What are the chances you think this illiterate man from centuries old England would have understood any of that? And even if he did, what are the chances that other people, literate or not, would have been able to come up with that same speculative, twisted, illogical argument that you’ve presented here?

            Like I said, your whole argument hinges on whether this was an angry mob and you’re just speculating that it wasn’t. It could’ve been. Even if it wasn’t an angry mob you’re just speculating that the sin Jesus was speaking of was only concerning the collective sin of the Jewish people. There’s no evidence to support your wildly speculative explanation for why Jesus’ illogical words were actually logical.

          4. I do not claim that the Bible is delivered to mankind to be understood clearly in all passages without teachers. I believe that a man in isolation could understand enough to comprehend sin, the need for forgiveness, etc., but to go beyond that and claim that the Bible can be clearly understood in all passages by a man who is isolated from any teachers or the accumulated knowledge of any spiritual community is not justified by anything in the Bible itself. The Bible claims that the role of teachers is very important.

            Only after the invention of the printing press did anyone conceive of someone sitting down alone with a Bible and understanding the depth of meaning of every passage, unassisted. This hyper-individualistic notion is actually the cause of a good bit of the division that exists within Christianity.

            I believe that God preserved the inerrancy of the scriptures. I do not believe that there is any error in John 7:53 – 8:11. Any hypothetical person who loses his faith over this passage is simply an unrealistic hypothesis. Do you know of any such person?

            The demand that God should force each scriptural author to provide lots of details that no one would need for several centuries, instead of expecting that the spiritual community called Christianity would accumulate knowledge and teaching and we would each make an effort to understand what others before us have written about each passage, is a demand based on a false assumption about how the Bible should be studied.

          5. @Clark: Oh yeah I agree, if you’re studying a historical document, “Proper interpretation begins with asking what a passage meant at the time the events happened, to the hearers or readers at that time, in their cultural context…”. I thought you thought this was more than just a historical document though. I was under the impression you thought this was a holy book that was supposed to be understood by and relevant to people of all nations hundreds or thousands of years later but you’re saying that the author (God, right? At least inspired by him) was only concerned with having it understood by a particular people at a particular time in a particular cultural context.

            Imagine you have someone living hundreds of years ago in England who can’t even read and someone reads this book to them and they hear this story. This person obviously doesn’t have all of the resources available to them like we have today with the internet (not that he can read anyway). He’s obviously very, very unlikely to understand the cultural context at the time. So, naturally he thinks to himself: “What Jesus said here is illogical. If they used that logic back then or even now there would be no law and order. There’s no way I can believe that he’s the son of any kind of higher power.”
            You can understand why he would come to that conclusion, right? There’s no way a just god would blame him since that god didn’t even bother to provide a cultural context and explanation on why what Jesus said actually means something completely different for the billions of people who would read this story later on.

            This clearly isn’t a holy book written to be understood by all people in all cultures at all times, is it?

            I agree that it would’ve been a little odd for Jesus to have explicitly given the Pharisees the cultural and historical context that you claim changes everything about his statement but having the author provide that context would’ve made sense if it were a book meant to be understood by all people in all cultures at all times which it clearly is not as evidenced by yourself.

            Now to your point. I’ll sum up what you’ve just said: if an angry mob is involved then the Romans would let them stone someone but if it’s not an angry mob then they wouldn’t allow them to stone someone.

            Using your logic, if the Pharisees turned into an angry mob – which they could have at any time and might even have been at the time – then they would not have been in fear of being charged with murder therefore the moral dilemma and conflict that you claim existed would not have existed meaning that Jesus’ words would have been illogical.

            It all hinges on whether this was or was about to be an angry mob, according to your logic.

            Can you imagine someone approaching the illiterate man from England and telling him, “But wait! Don’t go off disbelieving in Jesus without this bit of key information that is not given in the text but from which I have understood myself because I am a great scholar. The key information is that the Pharisees don’t appear to have been an angry mob! Oh, you don’t know where I’m going with that? Ok, well if they weren’t an angry mob then there would have been a different moral dilemma at play here than the dilemma clearly understood from the text and that dilemma would have involved the Pharisees trying to get Jesus arrested by the Romans because only an angry mob can get away with stoning someone and since this probably wasn’t an angry mob Jesus might have been charged with murder if he had told them to follow his father’s law and stone her!

            I see that confused look on your face so I assume you’re still not following. Let me explain further! When Jesus said, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’, he was actually blaming their collective sin, as a people, for putting them into this moral dilemma. This moral dilemma was created over a period of hundreds of years through a chain of events eventually resulting in the time of Jesus where the Romans are ruling over the Jews and Roman law does not allow the Jews to execute someone but they’ll overlook it if an angry mob is involved! And since this sin was a collective sin they’re all responsible even if they weren’t alive during one of the events of the chain that resulted in Roman rule, therefore, no man in this place at this time could justifiably claim that he bears no share of the responsibility for Roman rule.

            Hmmm, you still look confused. Let me explain further! The conflict here was between a theocratic system of a chosen nation, and a secular legal system that was imposed on them after conquest. This conflict bears no resemblance to anything we experience today in England, for example. So because of all of this easily understood information that even a common man like yourself could understand, Jesus words were actually totally logical!”

            What are the chances you think this illiterate man from centuries old England would have understood any of that? And even if he did, what are the chances that other people, literate or not, would have been able to come up with that same speculative, twisted, illogical argument that you’ve presented here?

            Like I said, your whole argument hinges on whether this was an angry mob and you’re just speculating that it wasn’t. It could’ve been. Even if it wasn’t an angry mob you’re just speculating that the sin Jesus was speaking of was only concerning the collective sin of the Jewish people. There’s no evidence to support your wildly speculative explanation for why Jesus’ illogical words were actually logical.

          6. @Clark: Ahhh so a person cannot fully understand the bible by themselves. They must have a teacher, you say. Even if they are intelligent and use their logical mind they still need a teacher and the “accumulated knowledge” of a “spiritual community” to fully understand it. This sounds very similar to the Catholic tradition of forbidding Catholics from interpreting the bible themselves but instead relying on the Church to interpret it for them. In fact, it sounds exactly like that.

            No, I don’t know of anyone who has lost their faith over this passage in John but if the bible is supposed to be inerrant, as you claim that it is, then Jesus saying something that is illogical and frankly idiotic proves that the bible is not inerrant thereby invalidating the entire bible.

            Your interpretation is clearly based on your own speculation and is not supported by the text at all as I’ve already explained. You speculate that the Pharisees who brought the woman to Jesus were not an angry mob and you speculate that only angry mobs could get away with murder under Roman rule and you speculate that Jesus was concerned that if he told them to stone the woman that he would be charged with murder and based on this speculation you speculate that the Pharisees knew this and therefore put him in this moral dilemma knowing that he would be arrested if he told them to stone her. None of this is supported by the text but that doesn’t stop you from claiming it all to be true.

            I could speculate as you have and come up with a completely different explanation for what happened in this story. I’ll show you what I mean…

            The Pharisees went to Jesus in an attempt to trap him; we know that from the text. But now I’ll speculate about what I think happened here: The Pharisees had heard reports of how he was a miracle worker and was highly intelligent and because of this they felt threatened. The Pharisees then asked Jesus what they should do with the adulteress and when they heard Jesus say, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”, they realized that he was not very intelligent at all and actually kind of an idiot because of the illogical nature of his comment. The guy just advocated for anarchy, they probably thought to themselves. No intelligent person would do that. They now didn’t perceive him as a threat anymore and instead of wasting their time arguing with an idiot they just quietly walked away.

            So go ahead and tell me why my speculative explanation here cannot be true.

          7. I don’t believe that anyone can FULLY understand any ancient text without getting background information that is not in that text. This is a statement that would be accepted by any classical scholar, and they are not defending their religion with some sort of special pleading. They are just stating the facts concerning how they do their work.

            The point of having a spiritual community, and paying attention to what that community has said over time, is that the earliest Christians were closer to the culture in which the Bible was written, and therefore they did not suffer the same cultural distance from the text that we do. So, the problem of each isolated individual not being able to fully understand every passage is ameliorated by not isolating the modern reader from ancient interpreters who had relevant cultural knowledge.

            The explanation of the passage that I provided was not originated by me. Biblical scholars have examined the textual history of the passage and most have concluded that it sounds like a genuine first century story. Why? Because of the Roman law vs. Mosaic law dilemma, primarily.

            It is silly to continue to harp on the fact that background information is not explicit in the text. That is the definition of background information. The absence of background information in a text does not make the discussion of that information “speculation.” For example, when we read the story of Jesus raising the son of the widow of Nain from the dead in Luke 7:11ff, we can grasp the gist of the story with no background information at all. But we get a fuller understanding, the story has a deeper emotional impact, if we have background information on what it would be like to be a widow whose only son died in that time and place. We need to know that she does not have life insurance and Social Security, and she will likely become a beggar. This also helps explain why Jesus had the sympathy for her to raise her son from the dead, even though lots of people died in Palestine during Jesus’ ministry and he did not raise all of them from the dead. No one’s salvation is affected by having a fuller understanding, but it is good to have that understanding, and the understanding tends to flow through the Christian community from teachers who investigate more deeply into the cultural background, using extra-Biblical sources, beginning with the writings of those who lived in that time and place. No doubt you will protest that the text does not explicitly say that she will become a beggar, and that Jesus had deeper sympathy as a result?

            The problem here is that the Luke 7:11ff story is not a point of contention between Christians and skeptics, so no one accuses us of some underhanded scheme when we draw in background information to understand the passage. Whenever a skeptic thinks a certain passage proves the Bible is in error, then the use of background information is viewed as some sort of dirty trick by Christians. In fact, the cultural interpretations of John 7:53 – 8:11 were developed to more fully explain the passage to other Christians. I am not aware of critics of the Bible using this passage until the present time.

            You do not seem to have any significant ability in the area of interpretation of literary or historical texts. My claim that the scribes and Pharisees were not an angry mob is based on their behavior. It is absurd to label this interpretation as speculation. Your interpretation that they thought Jesus was stupid fails to explain why they melt away quietly. It also contradicts the idea that they were an angry mob. Do you disperse an angry mob by saying stupid things to them? Have you ever heard of such a case? It seems that you are interested in casting aspersions on the Bible, but not in having an intelligent conversation.

          8. Well why stop there? To fully understand it you would have to be an expert in the language in which it is written as well. So to summarize, to fully understand any ancient text including the bible you’d need to be 1.) an expert in the languages in which the books of the bible were written 2.) a historian specializing in ancient Jewish and Roman history 3.) be instructed by teachers who are also experts in these fields 4.) have a spiritual community who can pass on accumulated knowledge developed over the last two millennia.

            Did I miss any?

            And I mostly agree with all of this. To fully understand an ancient text you need to be an expert in analyzing ancient texts and even then you may not fully understand it. That doesn’t mean that a lay person could not read a translation of the text and have a decent understanding of some of it. But a lay person will get it wrong far more often than an expert.

            The difference between any ordinary ancient text and the bible is the consequence of getting it wrong. If you interpret any ordinary ancient text incorrectly there are no serious consequences. In fact, it’s expected that this will happen even with the experts sometimes. But with the bible, there’s that whole hell thing. If you get it wrong, you are tortured in hell for all eternity (or so the bible claims and I assume you believe as well since most Christians believe this).

            Take the plan of salvation, for example, and the inconsistent, contradictory way in which it is presented throughout the bible. If you get that wrong, you’re condemned to hell. If you don’t have all four of those things I mentioned in my first paragraph then you are not going to have a chance at fully understanding the plan of salvation contained in the ancient text known as the bible. If a person doesn’t fully understand it it’s going to be easy for other people who have the “wrong interpretation” to persuade them in agreeing with them. People like that better hope they just happen to run into people like yourself who have the “right interpretation”.

            So we see clearly that the bible isn’t for the common man. I hate to imagine just how many sincere, good people are going to burn in hell for all eternity because they didn’t meet or have all of the four requirements of my first paragraph. Just imagine how many decent, logical people who dismissed the bible because they were appalled by the behavior of its god in all of those clear instances of when he sanctioned murder, genocide, rape, and slavery are going to burn in hell because they weren’t experts in the Hebrew language and its ancient history and therefore didn’t fully understand the historical and cultural context that I’m sure you think somehow makes those things perfectly justifiable but only for that specific time and place.

            I imagine your god will quote you and blame them for not having a “significant ability in the area of interpretation of literary or historical texts” at judgment day right before he sends them to hell. You really think this is how an all-powerful, super intelligent god would communicate his will to humans? What ridiculously absurd beliefs you have.

            Your inferences concerning the story of the widow of Nain are perfectly reasonable because you are basing them on evidence provided in the text and your inferences do not conflict with anything in the story. Why don’t you take that same approach with the story of the adulteress in John?

            Clark: “My claim that the scribes and Pharisees were not an angry mob is based on their behavior. It is absurd to label this interpretation as speculation.”

            There’s no mention of whether this was an angry mob or not. It has nothing to do with the story. You’re claiming as fact that they weren’t an angry mob. How could you possibly know that? Your whole interpretation is based on this belief that this wasn’t an angry mob and yet there’s no way you can know that which is why your interpretation is simply speculation built upon speculation. After you speculate that this wasn’t an angry mob you speculate that only angry mobs were allowed to stone people and then you speculate based on that speculation that Jesus would’ve been trying to avoid being charged with murder and then you speculate based on that speculation that Jesus’ point was something that is not found anywhere in the text and then you speculate based on that speculation that this was only “a particular dilemma at a particular point in time, caused by the sins of particular people in history.”

            My conclusion is based solely on the text and yours is based upon speculation after speculation constructed in a way that you can justify the obvious illogical statement by your messiah so that you can continue believing in your childish fantasies that you’ve probably built your life around.

          9. Rather than posting lengthy replies to your lengthy replies, maybe it would be best to take one small issue at a time. I say that the scribes and Pharisees were not an angry mob because of several indications: (1) They did not impulsively stone the woman when they found her. (2) Instead, they calculated a plot against Jesus, whereas rational calculation and laying rhetorical traps seem less characteristic of an angry mob than impulsive violence would be. I believe you brought up the example of the stoning of Stephen; did that mob make rational calculations and lay clever rhetorical traps, or immediately engage in violence? (3) When Jesus said what you characterize as stupid things, they quietly walked away. Does this seem characteristic of an angry mob? Maybe Stephen should have thought of that: Say some stupid things, and they all would have walked away instead of stoning him!

            So, we have several indications that they did not BEHAVE as an angry mob behaves. Are there contrary indications you would like to cite?

          10. @Clark:
            Clark: “(1) They did not impulsively stone the woman when they found her.
            (2) Instead, they calculated a plot against Jesus, whereas rational calculation and laying rhetorical traps seem less characteristic of an angry mob than impulsive violence would be. I believe you brought up the example of the stoning of Stephen; did that mob make rational calculations and lay clever rhetorical traps, or immediately engage in violence?”

            I agree that would’ve been a characteristic of an angry mob but just because they decided to wait a few minutes to stone her doesn’t mean they weren’t an angry mob. In fact, seizing a woman who they thought was caught in adultery without giving her a trial and threatening to stone her are all characteristics of an angry mob! Merriam-Webster defines a mob as: “a large group or crowd of people who are angry or violent or difficult to control” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mob). Well, it was a large group of people who were angry and had seized a woman (a violent act) and they were threatening more violence by stoning her. That fits the definition of “mob” pretty well and since the word “angry” is used in the definition of “mob” it’s redundant to try to distinguish between a mob and an angry mob – it’s apparently the same thing.

            Clark: “(3) When Jesus said what you characterize as stupid things, they quietly walked away. Does this seem characteristic of an angry mob?”

            No, it seems characteristic of a made up story trying to show Jesus as some sort of genius but it fails so bad in logic that it’s a joke of a story. Anyone with half a brain could have made Jesus look like a buffoon for saying what he said.

            So there you go. You can’t even get past your first foundation of speculation which is to conclusively show that it wasn’t a mob. The preponderance of evidence is that it was an angry mob by definition of the word mob!

          11. I think we are assuming too much when we state that the scribes and Pharisees seized the woman. I am going to pull my usual dirty trick of using historical knowledge to shed light on the passage, instead of reading it in an historical vacuum.

            Scribes had a full-time job: Making copies of the Hebrew scriptures by hand. These copies were distributed to synagogues wherever Jews lived. Copies then wear out and new copies must be delivered to the synagogues. Scribes usually worked from within a synagogue. So, scribes were among those least likely to be wandering about town and notice that some woman has entered some married man’s house while his wife is absent, or some married woman has entered some single man’s house, etc. The people of the town are the logical candidates for noticing such a thing. These people would then bring the woman for judgment/punishment. Where would they bring her? Well, the scribes were the “lawyers” (this word is even used in some other Gospel stories) who had developed expertise in the law by virtue of reading and writing it all day as a full-time job. The most religiously knowledgeable would be the ones to whom the woman would be brought by whomever seized the woman. Then they would be put in the dilemma I described earlier, being under Roman rule, and they apparently decided to try to ensnare Jesus in this dilemma.

            The woman being caught in the act by the “scribes and Pharisees” is much less likely than her being caught by the neighbors, based on what we know about scribes and Pharisees. Thus, your argument that the scribes constitute an angry mob, which is based on their supposed violent act of seizing the woman, is not only based entirely on a seizure that is not described in the text, it is based on a scenario of her seizure that is not even the most likely. On top of all of this, they simply do not behave in the way that we see angry mobs behaving (I cited examples earlier from the book of Acts, such as Stephen being stoned and the mob at Ephesus).

          12. @Rudy: You won’t even tell me what “historical development” you’re talking about. Our conversation is down below by the way and you haven’t responded to hardly anything I’ve said just like you didn’t respond two weeks ago to what I said in another thread. You have no desire to debate this issue because you know you’re in a losing position. If you want to actually debate the issue first tell me what “historical development” it is that you’re talking about and actually respond to what I’ve said previously.

          13. Clark, history shows the scribes did much more than just copy the law. They worked alongside the priests and had some level of authority. They didn’t just copy Law. They taught it. Here is a quote that will help here,

            “At the beginning of the intertestamental period the priests had filled the roles of both teachers and interpreters of the law. Various sources seem to indicate that as Hellenistic culture and other secular concerns occupied more and more of their attention, they began to neglect the teaching and application of the law and of the traditions that had grown up around it. So by the second dcentury BC the scribes had become an influential, respected group independent of the priests. Through copying the laws, scribes had become thoroughly familiar with it. In time, because of their knowledge they became recognized as experts. They were looked to for information about what the law actually said, and later for help in understanding what it meant and required. The scribes stepped in to fill the gaps left by the priests. They became zealous guardians of the law, the real teachers and directors of spiritual life.” – Scott “Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament,” 167

            That kind of messes with your argument quite a bit. They actually would have very much been interested in seeing to the enforcement of the Torah.

          14. Matt, what you quoted was my argument verbatim. The scribes became experts in the law, so people brought problems of the law to them. Anyone discovering a thorny problem in the law (e.g. catching an adulteress in the act while being hesitant to punish her themselves) would have taken the problematic case to the scribes and Pharisees at the temple or synagogue. But the scribes themselves would have been highly unlikely to be the ones who discovered the adultery, unless it were taking place in the synagogue or temple!

          15. @Clark, Like I’ve been saying for a while, there’s not enough information contained in the text to know with much degree of confidence whether this was a mob or not. You’re the one claiming that it was definitely not a mob. I’m just making the point that you can’t know that and I’m now going a step further and saying that the preponderance of evidence actually shows that it was more likely to be a mob.

            You agree that someone seized the adulteress you just don’t think that it was the scribes. What difference does it make who actually seized her? And you have no good reason to know whether they did or did not. She was seized by a group that either went straight to Jesus and threatened to stone her or gave her to another group that brought her to Jesus and threatened to stone her. Either way, the scribes and Pharisees took control of a woman who had been seized and were holding her against her will and threatening to brutally kill her. That sounds like a mob according to the definition: “a large group or crowd of people who are angry or violent or difficult to control”.

            You want to try to base your speculation filled theory on the belief that this was definitely not a mob and you simply have no justification in doing so.

          16. There is not a single word in the passage that indicates violence on the part of the scribes and Pharisees. You are trying to weasel in words that are not in the text, like “seized” and “against her will,” and then you accuse everyone else of “speculation” in their interpretations.

          17. @Clark, it doesn’t affect my conclusion if there was violence on the part of the scribes and Pharisees or not. You’re the one claiming that there was not violence because your conclusion requires that there was none. I’m just pointing out that a woman being seized against her will and threatened with stoning certainly seems rather violent to me. You’re claiming that it definitely was not and I’m casting some serious doubt on your speculative claims.

          18. Where does it say she was seized? Sometimes, people who are ashamed of something they are caught in the act of doing will not have to be physically seized. As a boy, I had more than my share of getting in trouble at elementary school. I recall being told to go to the principal’s office and walking down there by myself to tell them what I did and accept my punishment. No one seized me. For someone who constantly claims that others are speculating, you do a lot of speculating.

    2. Jay,

      Thank you for spending so much time in this conversation…it is clearly very important to you. I do wonder if you are missing the point of what Jesus did in John 8. In biblical interpretation we can run off course and misapply things if we start making points that the text is not trying to make. This is especially true in the parables but is true elsewhere as well.

      Jesus made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount that he didn’t come to abolish the Law of Moses but to fulfill it. In other words, he is taking the Law of Moses where the Law of Moses is supposed to go and bringing it to completion. That means there are things that are going to change through Christ as the Law is brought to completion.

      In the Judaism of Jesus’ day they believed the Messiah would make Torah obsolete in many ways. So this wasn’t a new idea in the least. It was blasphemous if you didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ but since he was it was perfectly in line with how things were supposed to be. You see this with how Jesus dealt with the Sabbath as well. This is not Jesus being absurd in the least. It is silly to even say that.

      The setting aside of Torah happened in many ways in the early church as well. They sat aside the identifying markers of Judaism for Gentile converts, for instance.

      The things you are describing make sense in context (historical, linguistic, etc) and aren’t as crazy as you are attempting to make them sound. Are you really saying Jesus was ridiculous to not have the woman stoned?

      1. Actually, it’s not that important to me. There are many ways to invalidate the bible and this is a relatively minor one.

        No, I’m not suggesting that Jesus should have stoned the woman. I thought my point was fairly obvious. It’s his reasoning for not stoning her that I have a problem with because it is a precedent that results in anarchy. If we all followed the precedent set by Jesus no one would ever receive punishment for a crime.

        If Jesus didn’t like his own father’s law then he should have used that as his reason for not stoning her. He could have explained how stoning people who have broken a promise to their spouse (adultery) is a barbaric and immoral thing to do and therefore they should let her go free.

        You say there are “things that are going to change through Christ as the Law is brought to completion”. I have to assume, since you’re speaking in such vague terms, that you mean that the stoning of people who have committed adultery should no longer be law. Well, if that’s what Jesus was doing here – abolishing that law (or fulfilling as you say) – then why didn’t he say that? He gave no indication that that law shouldn’t be a law anymore.

        Aren’t you supposed to emulate Jesus and follow his example? Well, this is a clear example that Jesus has given you on how to deal with laws. If you have never violated the law then you can “cast the first stone”, or punish that person, otherwise you should not. Correct? Shouldn’t you and all Christians follow this example provided to you by Jesus? If you think this story is an example of Jesus ending the law requiring the execution by stoning of adulterers then show me in the text where he or the writer of the book says this.

        1. Jesus didn’t ask you to follow his example. He is God. We are not. He has authority to say and do things we do not. Jesus doing something does not set a precedent for us all to do the same. For instance, I cannot proclaim your sins forgiven because my words lack authority to do so. Your point that Jesus sets precedent here is unfounded.

          Our bit having all our questions answered is a silly rationale to say he was out of line.

          So no, we don’t do every single thing he said or do every single thing he did because we don’t have the authority in some of these instances to do so. Hope that makes sense.

          1. So because Jesus didn’t say that you should follow this particular example you believe that it is not an example that you should follow? The analogy you gave is a bad one because in that case you simply can’t proclaim someone’s sins forgiven because your “words lack authority to do so.” You couldn’t even if you wanted to. But you could follow the example of Jesus saying that only a sinless person should punish someone for breaking the law. That’s not an impossibility like proclaiming someone’s sins forgiven, right?

            Matt: “Jesus didn’t ask you to follow his example.”
            From what I’ve gathered in your comment here it seems that Christians should only follow an example set by Jesus if he asks you to do so in that particular example. So you don’t ask the question, What would Jesus do? You ask the question, What examples did Jesus specifically ask me to follow?

            When the writer of 1 Corinthians says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1), and the writer of Ephesians says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph 5:1), you would add a caveat that says… “but only if Jesus asked me to follow a particular example.” That concept seems to conflict with these verses, doesn’t it?

            No, this topic isn’t important to me for the reasons I already stated. What is unique is that an atheist is being allowed to comment on a Christian forum. That is highly unusual. Most of the time the moderators ban anyone who makes their sheep think too hard about why they believe what they believe. For that reason I posted a link on reddit – there aren’t too many instances of this and people might find it interesting.

          2. We allow open discussion and a diversity of opinions to be expressed because that is what intellectual honesty requires. It is also what kindness and hospitality require. You are loved and respected and are more than welcome to try to poke holes. The truth has nothing to fear. I will respond to your points in the morning. Blessings to you Jay

        2. Jay,
          A few responses,

          “So because Jesus didn’t say that you should follow this particular example you believe that it is not an example that you should follow? The analogy you gave is a bad one because in that case you simply can’t proclaim someone’s sins forgiven because your “words lack authority to do so.” You couldn’t even if you wanted to. But you could follow the example of Jesus saying that only a sinless person should punish someone for breaking the law. That’s not an impossibility like proclaiming someone’s sins forgiven, right?”

          I didn’t say we only follow the examples Jesus specifically gives us. I am saying that we are not the Messiah/anointed/Christ. We don’t die for people’s sins. We don’t raise the dead. We don’t walk on water. We don’t do those things because we aren’t Jesus Christ. My analogy is accurate. We don’t have the authority/power or position to do what Jesus did. Period. It doesn’t matter if I want to or not. I can’t.

          So here is the point…only Jesus is in a position to take Torah and redefine it to make whatever point he deems is needed to be made. Jesus is the forgiver of sins…in his person. He can forgive sins of people like he did the paralyzed man in Mark or tell the their on the cross he will be in paradise. Should I follow the example of sending them to glory by my words? I don’t think so and Jesus doesn’t have to tell me that I shouldn’t try that.

          So what we have here is a difference in ontology…an existential difference between myself and Jesus Christ. That is what it boils down to. So yes, I follow his example, but only in the areas that I actually can. I cannot fulfill the law. I cannot forgive sins as he does. I cannot do miracles as he did. So I don’t attempt to do those things. And yet, I imitate Christ in the arenas of life that it is possible to do so.

          Does that make sense?

          1. Good to hear your comments about having an open discussion. Thanks.

            You say that this was an example of Jesus redefining the Torah. How so? The only way that is specifically mentioned in the text is that he set a precedent for how people should be judged for violating the law. He did not abolish the law of stoning adulterers here because he made no attempt to claim that it was a bad law or that it needed to be abolished or that it was not law anymore.

            Imagine if all of the judges during this time period were impressed with Jesus and decide to be imitators of him as the NT claims we should all be. So when a murderer comes up for trial each judge recuses himself because he’s not sinless and, because no one can punish him, the murderer is set free.

            Following this example from Jesus does not require special powers and since Jesus redefined the way people should be judged for violating the law, the judges would be doing exactly what they should be doing by recusing themselves just like the Pharisees did, correct?

        3. Following Jesus as you are defining it would require me doing all the things he did…if I am understanding you correctly. Feel free to re-explain your position on that. Maybe I missed your point. As I have stated above…that is impossible.

          If you look at how people reacted to Jesus’ teaching they were in awe of it because he didn’t teach as the scribes of their day did but taught with authority (Mark 1:22, Matt 7:29). Jesus didn’t just repeat the traditions of the elders or repeat opinions of those who went before. Jesus had authority to teach “you have heard it said [fill in the blank with Torah] but I tell you [fill in the blank with Jesus’ teaching]. I don’t have authority to do that. Jesus did. So I won’t be imitating him on that one any time soon.

          Another place I think you are mistaken is in saying that in everything Jesus did he set precedent for what we are to do. Again, if a guy is lowered through a hole in the roof, the Jesus precedent is for me to heal and forgive him. I am not the Messiah…I can’t do that.

          Jesus is the JUDGE…we can imitate him in principle. We can learn from his teaching and apply it as best as we can. But Jesus can make calls we cannot make and we don’t have to try to be the Messiah in order to imitate Christ. And that is a very good thing.

          All of this goes back to intention. You are assuming (as it is not in the text) that Jesus was intending to set precedent in how he handled the woman in John. How do you know that? How do you know he wants all people in all cases to follow his lead in how he handled that?

          1. @Matt, No, you’re not understanding me at all. Here’s what I stated two comments ago and which you also quoted: “The analogy you gave is a bad one because in that case you simply can’t proclaim someone’s sins forgiven because your “words lack authority to do so.” You couldn’t even if you wanted to. But you could follow the example of Jesus saying that only a sinless person should punish someone for breaking the law. That’s not an impossibility like proclaiming someone’s sins forgiven, right?”

            I’ve already ruled out following examples of Jesus where it would be impossible for you to do so because he’s the almighty son of God and you’re not. That’s understandable for the most part. “But you could follow the example of Jesus saying that only a sinless person should punish someone for breaking the law. That’s not an impossibility like proclaiming someone’s sins forgiven, right?”

            Then you ask, “You are assuming (as it is not in the text) that Jesus was intending to set precedent in how he handled the woman in John. How do you know that? How do you know he wants all people in all cases to follow his lead in how he handled that?”

            We’re going around in circles now. John 8 is an example of where Jesus has redefined how people should judge others according to the law. The NT says that we’re supposed to be imitators of him. A judge recusing himself from punishing someone who violated the law because they are not sinless is following the precedent that Jesus has set forth in John 8 and doing this is not impossible for them to do like forgive sins so why should this judge not do this?

        4. “You couldn’t even if you wanted to. But you could follow the example of Jesus saying that only a sinless person should punish someone for breaking the law. That’s not an impossibility like proclaiming someone’s sins forgiven, right?…We’re going around in circles now. John 8 is an example of where Jesus has redefined how people should judge others according to the law. The NT says that we’re supposed to be imitators of him. A judge recusing himself from punishing someone who violated the law because they are not sinless is following the precedent that Jesus has set forth in John 8 and doing this is not impossible for them to do like forgive sins so why should this judge not do this?”

          So your logic is, if Jesus said/did it and it is possible for me to say/do, I must do it if I am to imitate him. Am I reading you right? If that is your case it is full of holes but we can work on that once I make sure I understand your point.

          1. That’s the best understanding I have for what the NT means by its command to imitate Jesus. As a Christian, you should imitate Jesus whenever possible. You disagree with that?

            I should mention, to be clear, that imitating him really isn’t the point. Jesus redefined how people should judge others according to the law by setting a clear precedent of only punishing a lawbreaker if the judge is sinless. If all of the judges at this time followed that precedent there would be anarchy, wouldn’t there?

        5. Jay,

          I am to imitate Jesus to the best of my ability. That does not mean that I put myself in the place of Jesus in all things. There were things he did and said that only he can do and say/do. It is in the realm of possibility for me to do/say those very things and be very much wrong for doing so.

          You said imitating Jesus is not the point here but it is the point you are discussing that is the basis for your argument and your argument is mistaken because you aren’t seeing imitating Jesus from a biblical perspective, IMO. Your point that is in discussion here and the basis for you to say that he sets precedent whenever he does or says any and everything and so we all must (as good imitators) do exactly has he did in all things. That is what I hear you say – if Jesus says it, we say it (if it is theoretically possible). If he did it, we do it (if it is theoretically possible) otherwise we aren’t imitating him. That just doesn’t work out. Again, Jesus is in a position that we are not in.

          Check out John 5:16-30 where Jesus says that he is imitating the Father and that he only does what he sees the father do. In saying that he talks about how he is the judge because God has entrusted that role to him, not us. So I can see Jesus judging but not think that I can come along and do what I saw him do because God has not put me in the same role or with the same authority as Jesus. That doesn’t mean there is never a place to make judgments on matters but it doesn’t mean I have the freedom to do what Jesus did in John 8 because we aren’t Jesus and his actions there were not meant to be in total a precedent for all future legal proceedings.

          This is the same with Jesus as our High priest…in that role Jesus will do and say things that I wouldn’t imagine doing or saying or imitating because I am not in that role.

          Jesus did many things out of the roles he filled that we do not fill. To try to do those things is out of line for a disciple of Jesus. Just because Jesus did it does not mean we do it. Just because Jesus said it does not mean we automatically say it and to do otherwise would be a failure of imitating the Lord.

          1. Matt,

            I notice you’re avoiding the “judge” example and questions and instead you’re focusing on the part of what Jesus said that, I agree, you cannot imitate. That part is the redefining of the law on how to judge people who break the law. I have never claimed that anyone should imitate that.

            The precedent that Jesus set was that only sinless people should execute judgment for violations of the law not that anyone should be able to redefine the law.

            In fact, I made this crystal clear in my comments beginning with the very first one and especially in my most recent comment. The precedent is that only sinless people should execute judgment for violations of the law. I’ll again quote myself from my most recent comment: “Jesus redefined how people should judge others according to the law by setting a clear precedent of only punishing a lawbreaker if the judge is sinless. If all of the judges at this time followed that precedent there would be anarchy, wouldn’t there?”

            The precedent that I am talking about, again, is that only sinless people should execute judgment for violations of the law. If you were a judge during this time and since Jesus, who has the authority to redefine the law, has redefined the law then you are required to abide by this change in the law, aren’t you? And in order to abide by this change in the law you would have to only execute judgment for violations of the law if you were sinless, correct? Please answer these two questions.

        6. “The precedent that Jesus set was that only sinless people should execute judgment for violations of the law not that anyone should be able to redefine the law.”

          I am not going after “judge” so much as I am working on your view of precedent and imitation. That is at the heart of the discussion. The other is just one potential application of what you believe about how we are to imitate Jesus and whether or not Jesus fully intended us to imitate every single thing he did to the “t”. You are big about getting your points from the text without making assumptions so let me ask you this, how do you know that Jesus fully intended that we read that verse and conclude what you are concluding? It seems to me your interpretation and application are purely speculation based on a misunderstanding of what it means to imitate Christ. In doing so you are missing the simple point of the text by stretching it a few miles in every direction to show it is foolish.

          It seems to me you have your conclusion in mind – Christianity is foolish. So then you go looking to prove it so by finding two points that when held together seem foolish. In doing so you are missing the point of the text entirely. You are set up for failure from the start because you aren’t as interested (seems to me) in what the text is actually saying so much as in proving yourself right. What happens if you are wrong?

          Now let me get to your questions and I hope you will answer mine above as well,

          “The precedent that I am talking about, again, is that only sinless people should execute judgment for violations of the law. If you were a judge during this time and since Jesus, who has the authority to redefine the law, has redefined the law then you are required to abide by this change in the law, aren’t you? And in order to abide by this change in the law you would have to only execute judgment for violations of the law if you were sinless, correct? Please answer these two questions.”

          Again, this goes back to what was Jesus intending here? First, you have to conclude that Jesus was purposefully redefining the law for all time and to what extent. If you do believe he was redefining the law how far does it go? One can argue Jesus is doing away with stoning people for adultery. One, like yourself, takes it ten steps further to say we are to take every single detail of the story and do as Jesus did, concluding that the Jesus model has no more room for any judgement in any way since we all sin. Your point is that this story was intended to be read as a legal document setting precedent for all legal matters from that point forward. I don’t think that follows. I think it misses the point of the story. It misses the genre of the text. It ignores context. It doesn’t take into account what else the NT says about judgment. You are reading your own intentions into the text (eisegesis…a term you are probably familiar with). It is a HUGE stretch to do with this text what you are trying to do.

          Right before this story in John 7 Jesus is running into accusations of people who are accusing him falsely and Jesus calls them out on their inconsistency telling them that they are to make just/right/correct judgments. Why not give the caveat…but only judge if you are sinless? He didn’t say that but he fully intended them to make better judgments. I think you are missing the point here by trying to make the text make more points than it makes.

          1. Matt,

            You’re wrong. I was a Christian for a long time but had always thought – in the back of my mind – that what Jesus said in John 8 didn’t make logical sense. I couldn’t figure out a way to make logical sense of it so I instead suppressed the thought until I became an atheist. So no, I’m not just trying to prove myself right with a conclusion already in mind but thanks for your baseless speculation.

            Here’s an analogy. Imagine some people came to Jesus and asked him to help them choose a new ship captain. Instead of coming up with an insightful way of choosing this new captain, Jesus commands them to only choose a captain with at least 100 years experience as a ship captain. Then each one walks away because none of them have 100 hours as a ship captain or anything close to that.

            I would say that this is an illogical statement by Jesus because no one would ever be able to be a ship captain or anything else for that matter if we imitated Jesus and followed his advice by requiring 100 hours of experience.

            You would say, “But we can’t imitate Jesus because we don’t have the authority to tell these men how to choose a ship captain.”

            And I would say, “That’s not the point.”

            Then you would say, “But how do you know that we’re supposed to imitate Jesus in this case and how do we know if this was supposed to be the standard for which ship captains are chosen for all time?”

            And I would say again, “That’s not the point.”

            Then you would say, “One can argue Jesus is doing away with ship captains.”

            And I would say again, “That’s not the point.”

            The point, clear to any rational thinking person, is that his comment is not something you would expect from an intelligent person who thinks rationally because if his advice were used in this context or any other context no one would be a captain or in command of anything!

            I can’t spell this out for you anymore than this. I strongly believe you have the intelligence to understand exactly what I’m talking about but you will not, under any circumstances, let yourself come to the conclusion that the character of Jesus in the bible was not a rational thinking person.

            It wouldn’t be very logical for Jesus to have said this in my hypothetical example, would it?

        7. That is why I kept saying this is how it “seems” to me…recognizing that it is just my perception and that I very much could be wrong about where you are coming from. Glad I was mistaken. Thanks for setting the record straight.

        8. Your analogy doesn’t pan out. In your analogy you have Jesus coming up to some people and him specifically stating that his intention is to tell them how to pick the next captain. You are assuming that Jesus’ intention in this passage is that he is setting the standard for all judges for all time. That isn’t the point of the passage. You still haven’t shown that was Jesus’ point in the passage. I have asked you to prove that and you haven’t done it…you can’t because it is speculation that Jesus intended his actions toward this woman to be the be all, end all of all legal proceedings from that point forward. So you are basing this view on speculation that doesn’t get the big point of this story at all.

          1. Seriously? Your objection to my analogy is based on your belief that I said something that is just the opposite of what I actually said? I said, “Here’s an analogy. Imagine some people came to Jesus and asked him to help them choose a new ship captain.” And you claim that I “have Jesus coming up to some people and specifically stating that his intention is to tell them how to pick the next captain.” What?

            I think you need to read my analogy again.

            You also didn’t answer my question… “It wouldn’t be very logical for Jesus to have said this in my hypothetical example, would it?”

        9. I read and re-read and re-read your analogy just now to make sure I am getting your argument. I am thinking you mean 100 years where you are saying 100 hours in that last instance, right? That detail makes a big difference in how I read your comment. You are saying it 2 different ways.

          I can address the point I think you are making…is that if Jesus said the standard was impossible and that no one could ever follow it that it wouldn’t make sense for him to bind it on anyone….being an illogical point. Am I following you there?

          You seem to be avoiding my point about intention and precedent. From your perspective, it seems, Jesus’ statement is illogical because he is setting a standard for judgment no one can actually keep. My contention is that is not what this text is teaching…this text is not legal code for how to run a court of law. Please address that.

          1. Matt: “I can address the point I think you are making…is that if Jesus said the standard was impossible and that no one could ever follow it that it wouldn’t make sense for him to bind it on anyone….being an illogical point. Am I following you there?”

            That’s mostly it, yes. Jesus didn’t say it was impossible but he did give a requirement that inherently is impossible or nearly so and he knew that it would be.

            It doesn’t have to be a legal code for how to run a court of law as evident in my example that you still have yet to give an answer to. However, since Jesus was in a position of authority to change the way people are punished for violations of the law, it makes it even more irrational that he would say what he said.

            Again I ask: “It wouldn’t be very logical for Jesus to have said this in my hypothetical example, would it?”

            And to avoid any confusion, here is my analogy with the mistake of “100 hours” corrected to “100 years”:

            “Here’s an analogy. Imagine some people came to Jesus and asked him to help them choose a new ship captain. Instead of coming up with an insightful way of choosing this new captain, Jesus commands them to only choose a captain with at least 100 years experience as a ship captain. Then each one walks away because none of them have 100 years as a ship captain or anything close to that.

            I would say that this is an illogical statement by Jesus because no one would ever be able to be a ship captain or anything else for that matter if we imitated Jesus and followed his advice by requiring 100 years of experience.

            You would say, “But we can’t imitate Jesus because we don’t have the authority to tell these men how to choose a ship captain.”

            And I would say, “That’s not the point.”

            Then you would say, “But how do you know that we’re supposed to imitate Jesus in this case and how do we know if this was supposed to be the standard for which ship captains are chosen for all time?”

            And I would say again, “That’s not the point.”

            Then you would say, “One can argue Jesus is doing away with ship captains.”

            And I would say again, “That’s not the point.”

            The point, clear to any rational thinking person, is that his comment is not something you would expect from an intelligent person who thinks rationally because if his advice were used in this context or any other context no one would be a captain or in command of anything!

            It wouldn’t be very logical for Jesus to have said this in my hypothetical example, would it?”

        10. Thank you for taking the time to clarify…it helps these discussions go more smoothly and accurately. I apologize for making an assumption about you earlier. That doesn’t help the conversation and at the end of the day we are seeking the truth in these matters and don’t need unnecessary roadblocks to that goal.

          To your question – Again I ask: “It wouldn’t be very logical for Jesus to have said this in my hypothetical example, would it?”

          If the goal is to find a ship captain and that is the for all time rule then no, it isn’t logical. I don’t know how many times I can say the following without your reply – IF that is the point of the passage. I am not convinced that when Jesus stood there with the men who had rocks in their hands and the woman there before them all that when he said what he said that His INTENTION was to be binding on all judgments for all time. Remember, Jesus was divine (I know you don’t agree with that…but this is our disconnect…we are coming at it from two different sets of assumptions). Jesus can say whatever he, as the Son of God, needs to say without me thinking that I must come along and think his point was that all of us must face any and all legal matters with the exact same, locked down, concrete approach. That just doesn’t follow. I am not sure why you won’t address that but I wish you would. I wish you would show us how you know that Jesus intention here is to provide legal precedent for all legal matters to follow from that point forth. He isn’t teaching that, therefore the imitation dilemma and illogical nature of it all is non-existent.

          1. Matt,

            This is why I brought up this analogy because it exposes the flaw in your position.

            You’ve just given me two conditions in which Jesus’ hypothetical words in my “ship captain” analogy would be illogical and both of these conditions must be met for his words to be considered illogical by you.

            1.) “If the goal is to find a ship captain”
            2.) “and that is the for all time rule”

            Even if the second condition wasn’t known or didn’t exist his words are still illogical because what he’s saying is impractical, useless, irrational, and plain idiotic just like in John 8.

            I’m going to modify my analogy slightly. Imagine if Jesus told them to only choose a captain with at least 100 years experience as a ship captain but added the caveat of, “but I am not setting this up as a rule for all time”. Is his comment now logical or even practical?

        11. Your problem here is that you aren’t working with all the pieces of the puzzle and it has left you puzzled. I have checked a half dozen of the best commentaries on John and not a single person takes your approach or comes to your conclusion. On the contrary almost every single one of them actually says the exact opposite of what you are saying. I will quote a few and some of what you will find in these quotes may help you understand what is going on in these verses.

          D.A Carson’s Pillar NT Commentary on John (regarded by scholars as one of the top commentaries ever written on John):
          “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. This is a direct reference to Deut 13:9, 17:7 (cf. Lv 24:14) – the witness of the crime must be the first to throw the stones, and they must not be participants in the crime itself. Jesus’ saying does not mean that the authorities must be paragons of sinless perfection before the death sentence can properly be meted out, nor does it mean that one must be free even from lust before one can legitimately condemn adultery…It means, rather that they must not be guilty of this particular sin.” p.336

          He gives the background necessary to give you some more pieces to your puzzle. The Gospels were written in a historical context that was very much connected with the OT…the very Law we keep talking about. Have you gone back to review what the Torah actually said here and how it connects to this narrative and then to what Jesus said?

          Next, Raymond Browns famous commentary on the Gospel of John,
          “If the Sanhedrin was not able to try and execute the woman, then the reason for bringing her to Jesus and the nature of the trap involved become clear. If he decides the case in favor of the woman and releases her, he violates the clear prescriptions of the Mosaic Law; if he orders her to be stoned, he will be in trouble with the Romans. This dilemma would be similar to that of the Roman coin in Mark 12:13-17.

          An even more practical problem in the story of the adulteress concerns the principle enunciated by Jesus in vs. 7: “the man among you who has no sin – let him be the first to cast a stone at her.’ Some have used this to paint their portrait of the liberal Jesus Christ and have turned it into a maudlin justification for indifference toward sins of the flesh. However, Jesus is not saying that every magistrate must be sinless to judge others, a principle that would nullify the office of judge. He is dealing here with zealots who have taken upon themselves the indignant enforcement of the Law, and he has every right to demand that their case be thoroughly lawful and their motives be honest. He recognizes that, although they are zealous for the word of the Law, they are not interested in the purpose of the Law, for the spiritual state of the woman is not even in question, or whether or not she is penitent. Moreover, Jesus knew they were using her as a pawn to trap him.” p337-338

          Keener’s Commentary on Gospel of John,
          “By bringing the defendant, explicitly citing Moses’ words, and inviting Jesus to compare his response to that of Moses, they seek to create a dilemma resembling that of paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:14–15). If Jesus opposes her execution, he must explain why he reduces a sentence in the law of Moses; if he approves her execution, he can be viewed as usurping Roman prerogatives in the name of returning to God’s law, hence charged with treason.323 Roman law did not permit execution by subject peoples (see comment on 18:31) and did not authorize execution for adultery. Jesus was already known for his mercy toward sinners, so his interlocutors may have planned to challenge his fidelity to the law. But, as in Mark 12:17, Jesus silences those testing him with a witty retort.

          It may be that Jesus, following procedure in the Mosaic law (Deut 17:4; 19:18), shows that the witnesses themselves lack integrity and that the case should therefore be dismissed. If so, only a sinless witness would do; if the Pharisees practiced leniency in capital cases by requiring such stringent eyewitness evidence that it was barely ever produced,335 Jesus took such new leniency to a higher level. Since cases were prosecuted on the basis of accusers, the withdrawal of accusers would lead to the woman’s acquittal.337 That one who has turned from a sin should no longer continue in it was good Jewish teaching (Sir 19:13; 21:1; 31:26); cf. John 5:14.”

          Just a few things to consider. Hope that is helpful. Just so you know, I am not avoiding putting anything that negates my position by just not posting it here. I didn’t find a single person who agreed with your position on this amongst my commentaries. Feel free to share if you know of some that do.

          1. Are you kidding me? You couldn’t find a single Christian authored commentary that agrees with me on my position that, if true, invalidates the entire New Testament? Next you’re going to tell me that you couldn’t find any verse in the bible that says that Jesus was illogical like I claimed he was in John 8.

            Guess what, I just asked all of my atheist friends and not a single one of them agree with you that Jesus was the son of God. Can you believe that?

            Is this a joke?

            Of course Christian commentaries aren’t going to admit that what Jesus said was illogical otherwise the authors wouldn’t be Christian. All of the quotes you listed use the same dishonest trick that every other Christian apologist uses. They’re saying: I know what the text says but this is what the text actually means. They add words that aren’t there, they change words to words that they prefer, or they just claim that the text says the complete opposite of what it actually says like this little gem here: “Jesus’ saying does not mean that the authorities must be paragons of sinless perfection before the death sentence can properly be meted out, nor does it mean that one must be free even from lust before one can legitimately condemn adultery…It means, rather that they must not be guilty of this particular sin.”

            Jesus is quoted as saying, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

            Not “He who is not ‘guilty of this particular sin’ among you, let him to be the first to throw a stone at her”.

            It just doesn’t say that. If that’s what Jesus meant then he should’ve said that! We’re supposed to believe that all of the scribes and Pharisees walked away because they had all committed adultery? It’s absurd!

            You also didn’t respond to my analogy and question. Here it is again:

            “This is why I brought up this analogy because it exposes the flaw in your position.

            You’ve just given me two conditions in which Jesus’ hypothetical words in my “ship captain” analogy would be illogical and both of these conditions must be met for his words to be considered illogical by you.

            1.) “If the goal is to find a ship captain”
            2.) “and that is the for all time rule”

            Even if the second condition wasn’t known or didn’t exist his words are still illogical because what he’s saying is impractical, useless, irrational, and plain idiotic just like in John 8.

            I’m going to modify my analogy slightly. Imagine if Jesus told them to only choose a captain with at least 100 years experience as a ship captain but added the caveat of, “but I am not setting this up as a rule for all time”. Is his comment now logical or even practical?”

          2. I answered your analogy above based on what I thought you were saying…which you said I read you right. You haven’t addressed my questions. So where do we go from here? I am answering your questions but you aren’t mind. So go ahead and answer how you know to read this narrative as a legal, binding example for all decisions.

          3. You absolutely did not respond to previous comment and modified analogy. I’ll quote it yet again:

            “You’ve just given me two conditions in which Jesus’ hypothetical words in my “ship captain” analogy would be illogical and both of these conditions must be met for his words to be considered illogical by you.

            1.) “If the goal is to find a ship captain”
            2.) “and that is the for all time rule”

            Even if the second condition wasn’t known or didn’t exist his words are still illogical because what he’s saying is impractical, useless, irrational, and plain idiotic just like in John 8.

            I’m going to modify my analogy slightly. Imagine if Jesus told them to only choose a captain with at least 100 years experience as a ship captain but added the caveat of, “but I am not setting this up as a rule for all time”. Is his comment now logical or even practical?”

        12. Jay,

          Here is what I am going to do. I will go back through all that has been said and make sure I have answered your questions. If I have not, I will certainly apologize for saying that I did. I will answer any questions that I find that I haven’t sufficiently addressed. I am asking you to do the same. Then we can put our heads together and work through this.

          1. You don’t need to go back through all that has been said. I just quoted myself again. It’s right there. The question is literally right there. I’ll quote it again so you don’t feel the need to go searching for anything:

            “You’ve just given me two conditions in which Jesus’ hypothetical words in my “ship captain” analogy would be illogical and both of these conditions must be met for his words to be considered illogical by you.

            1.) “If the goal is to find a ship captain”
            2.) “and that is the for all time rule”

            Even if the second condition wasn’t known or didn’t exist his words are still illogical because what he’s saying is impractical, useless, irrational, and plain idiotic just like in John 8.

            I’m going to modify my analogy slightly. Imagine if Jesus told them to only choose a captain with at least 100 years experience as a ship captain but added the caveat of, “but I am not setting this up as a rule for all time”. Is his comment now logical or even practical?”

            By the way, this analogy is a response to your “legal, binding example for all decisions” point if you would just answer it you’d see that.

        13. Jay,

          I am going to respond to your analogy as it stands and then give further comment. As it stands, it is (of course) illogical for someone to say the only one who can captain a ship must have 100 years experience with one exception. It is illogical if the purpose of the conversation is actually about finding a captain and that everyone is actually working together to make it happen. The exception being this – if the point of the statement is to not allow any of those he is talking to to have the ability to choose a ship captain (for reasons stated in the text/context), then that comment would do the job.

          Now, let me say this – your analogy is flawed from the start because it doesn’t mirror the situation of the narrative we are discussing. This is what has been left out of the discussion – exegesis of the actual passage. We have made up analogies and talked all around it but we need to talk about what it means. The story gives us a few details that are left out of your analogy,

          1 – In verse 6 we find out, “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.”

          2 – These men weren’t following proper procedure in making accusation and carrying out capital punishment and were asking Jesus to also follow the wrong protocol. The Law calls for witnesses. They didn’t even provide any. The Law also REQUIRES the man to be stoned and they didn’t require him either. The Law required these judgments to be done by the Levitical priests (Deut 17:9).

          So let me re-work your analogy to make it fit the context of what Jesus said.

          Some people who don’t like a particular man go to him and ask him to make some regulations for who can captain a ship, trying to trap him and get him in trouble with the authorities over making these rulings. Knowing it is a trap he says, “Only those with 100 years experience may captain this ship.” Now we see this is a perfectly logical answer given the context/situation of the statement.

          Context matters…context informs us on what Jesus said and why. This is no typical legal proceeding. This is a trap. Jesus responds accordingly. Then you take that and try to misapply this approach to all legal proceedings when the whole situation was a shame. You aren’t even close to saying what the text is saying which leads to your misapplication of the text.

          1. Matt, the conversation is going around in circles. No matter what you say, Jay will bring in unrelated issues to the conversation. All he is doing is proving the point that “inferences” are mostly subjective. Having a thoughtful conversation about meaning/application of the Biblical text is one thing. Finding more and more rocks to throw at someone’s understanding is does not help anyone.

          2. They must have had witnesses. The text reads, “this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.” That couldn’t happen without witnesses. You’re wrong about that.

            Just because it doesn’t mention the man involved doesn’t mean that he wasn’t already stoned or would be stoned later. But, of course, the text doesn’t mention anything about this and yet you still speculate that they weren’t going to stone him. You also assume that since both the man and the woman should be stoned that both of them have to be stoned or none of them can be according to the law. That’s not the law. That’s just your speculation.

            The law did not require these judgments to be done by the Levitical priests. The verse just preceding the one you cited reads, “If any case is too difficult for you to decide… then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 9 So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge…”

            In verse 5 it reads, “then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death.” This is done without a Levitical priest. You’re wrong about this as well.

            The text reads, “They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him.” Accusing him of what? The text doesn’t say. Yet you speculate that the Pharisees wanted to, “trap him and get him in trouble with the authorities over making these rulings”. You have no basis for assuming that. The text doesn’t say that. I could just as easily assume that they were going to accuse him of not following the law if he told them not to stone her.

            But none of this matters anyway because Jesus said nothing about any of this. He didn’t object because the man wasn’t there as well, he didn’t object because he thought that the law required a Levitical priest, he didn’t object because he claimed there were no witnesses, he didn’t even object! You’ve assumed all of this. You just keep piling on your own speculation and disguise it as “context”.

            You’ve said so many things that are untrue and based on speculation that it’s going to take a long time to go through each one of them but I’ll just focus on three of them for now:

            1.) You said that they didn’t provide witnesses. How could they not have witnesses if “this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.”? Also, where did Jesus complain that they didn’t provide witnesses? If you can’t answer both of these questions then all you’ve done is speculate.

            2.) Deut 17 shows that people could stone someone without the judgment of a Levitical priest and that this priest is only involved “If any case is too difficult for you to decide…”. So why do you claim “The Law required these judgments to be done by the Levitical priests”? It didn’t unless in special circumstances. Also, where does Jesus complain that they didn’t have a Levitical priest to judge the woman? If you can’t answer both of these questions then all you’ve done is speculate.

            3.) Explain how “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” means that they were trying to “trap him and get him in trouble with the authorities over making these rulings” instead of “they were going to accuse him of not following the law if he told them not to stone her.” Your speculation verses my speculation. Prove that yours has to be true and that mine cannot be. If you can’t answer this then all you’ve done is speculate. Just to be clear, I am not claiming to know what they were going to accuse him of, I’m just creating this speculation to prove to you that you can’t prove one speculation to be true against another because they’re both just speculation. If you can’t answer that then all you’ve done is speculate.

            By the way, why would you worship a god who thought it was just to stone to death people who commit adultery and those who engage in homosexual acts?

          3. Matt: You are coming around to a proper understanding of the passage by focusing on the fact that the situation was a trap. Once you focus exclusively on WHY it was a trap, you will eventually understand what I said and not go off on these red herrings.

            The situation was not a “trap” because they left the witnesses behind. Jesus could just say, “Where are the witnesses? Let them come forward and testify.” That would make Jesus more astute in knowledge of the law, and more faithful in application of the law, than the scribes and Pharisees. What is the trap? What can they now accuse Jesus of because of this request for witnesses?

            Likewise, the situation was not a “trap” because the man was not also accused, else Jesus could just point that out. Likewise, the situation was not a “trap” because the scribes and Pharisees did not bring the case to a priest, else Jesus could just point that out. In none of these examples would it be the case that Jesus gets “trapped” by pointing out that they are not following the law.

            It was a trap for Jesus because of the conflict between Mosaic law and Roman law. You are not permitted to stone someone for adultery under Roman law, but you are supposed to do so under Mosaic law. This is a textbook case of a dilemma. This explanation (not original to me) also causes us to understand that the scribes and Pharisees, as well as the original witnesses who dumped this problem on them, faced the same dilemma, which naturally leads to them deciding to dump the dilemma on Jesus as a trap. Without understanding that the scribes and Pharisees faced a dilemma, it is not apparent that they would think of taking the case to Jesus.

            Jay has his reasons for rejecting this explanation (he does not want the matter explained, because he wants to continue to claim that Jesus was illogical). I am not sure why any Christian needs to resist this explanation, however. The alternative explanations being discussed in this thread do not explain how there was a “trap” in the first place.

          4. Clark,

            Clark: “It was a trap for Jesus because of the conflict between Mosaic law and Roman law. You are not permitted to stone someone for adultery under Roman law, but you are supposed to do so under Mosaic law. This is a textbook case of a dilemma.”

            Matthew 12:1-14
            “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” 3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? 5 Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? 6 But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
            8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
            “9 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”

            Matthew 19:3
            “Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?””

            Here are three examples (two in Matthew 12 and one in Matthew 19) where the same group of people as in John 8 (Pharisees) attempt to get Jesus to violate the Torah “so that they might accuse Him” with absolutely no indication that they were trying to put him in a dilemma where he had to choose between violating Roman law or Jewish law.

            In John 8 we find a very similar situation where the Pharisees are again “testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him.”

            In all three cases in Matthew the point of the Pharisees testing him is to get him to violate Jewish law so that they can accuse him of violating Jewish law with no indication of anything to do with Roman law or a dilemma between the two. In the cases that I could find of where they tried to get him to violate Roman law, such as paying taxes to Caesar in Matthew 22, it’s simply an attempt to get him to violate Roman law, not place him in a dilemma between choosing between Jewish law or Roman law.

            Why do you choose to interpret John 8 as the Pharisees attempting to put Jesus into a dilemma of having to choose between Jewish law and Roman law when there are examples of the Pharisees simply trying to get him to violate Jewish law or in the case of Matthew 22, Roman law, but never both simultaneously? In fact, every time that I’ve seen where they ask him a question about a specific law, it’s always that law that they’re trying to get him to violate. In all three cases in Matthew 12 they ask him about Jewish law because they want to accuse him of violating Jewish law. In Matthew 22 they ask him about Roman law because they want to accuse him of violating Roman law. I can’t find an example of them ever trying to place him in a dilemma between the two. Can you? If you can, how do you know that John 8 is an example of a dilemma instead of just another example of where they were trying to get him to violate Jewish law since that’s what they were questioning him about?

          5. Jay: The example you give are interesting, but they differ from one another. Even so, they have the similarity that there was a reasonable expectation, knowing Jesus, that he would want to heal on the Sabbath, for example, and in the case of eating grain on the Sabbath, it had already happened so there was no speculation about what Jesus might do or say in the future. There was simply a question about how past actions related to Mosaic law, unlike John 8 or your other examples.

            In any case, you have never answered why the scribes and Pharisees thought that Jesus might violate the law in John 8. Why wouldn’t they think that Jesus would just say, “Carry out the law. Stone her.” I provided a reasonable answer. I have not heard any reasonable alternative answer from anyone in the discussion.

          6. Clark, I’ll have to assume then that you can’t find an example of anyone ever placing Jesus in a dilemma of choosing to either side with Jewish law or Roman law since I specifically asked you to provide an example and you did not. There are many examples of them trying to get Jesus to side against Jewish law and at least one example of them trying to get him to side against Roman law but never both simultaneously. Since John 8 mentions nothing about Roman law and only mentions Jewish law and uses similar language to other examples where the Pharisees asked Jesus only about Jewish law and since you cannot find any examples of when they put him in a dilemma in having to choose between Jewish law and Roman law, you have a much better reason to believe that they were simply trying to get him to violate Jewish law so that they might accuse him of doing so rather than the more elaborate Jewish law vs Roman law dilemma that you have repeated here.

            I don’t remember you asking me why the scribes and Pharisees thought that Jesus might violate the law in John 8 but it seems fairly obvious that they had tried multiple times to get him to side against Jewish law and this was just another example of that.

            Concerning your comment that the text doesn’t contain the word “seize”, what I’ve done here is called an inference which is completely different than what you and Matt have done which is called speculation. I provided definitions earlier and you can read them from my previous comments. I based the conclusion that they seized her on actual evidence in the text: they “brought a woman caught in adultery and having set her in the center of the court…”. They brought her there. She did not bring herself there. They set her in the center of the court. She did not set herself in the center of the court. She was caught in adultery and they threatened to stone her to death. That’s very unlikely to be a situation where a person willingly goes with them and is laughably so different from the example of you gave of willingly going to the principal’s office. You weren’t threatened with being killed or anything remotely close to that, were you?

            But, of course, as I’ve mentioned over and over again it doesn’t matter if I can conclusively prove that she was seized. You’re the one who claimed that she wasn’t and that this wasn’t a mob and yet all of the evidence points away from your claim and that’s why I’ve been pointing this out.

            So now that I’ve proven conclusively that you have absolutely no good reason to believe that purely speculative theory that you thought completely changed the words of Jesus in John 8, let’s move on.

            I’m more curious about why you’d believe in a god who commanded his people to stone to death anyone who committed adultery. Would you support a law like that today? If someone did try to pass that law would you consider it an immoral law?

          7. Jay: “Clark, I’ll have to assume then that you can’t find an example of anyone ever placing Jesus in a dilemma of choosing to either side with Jewish law or Roman law since I specifically asked you to provide an example and you did not.” Most of the time the Jews tried to get Jesus in trouble with Jewish audiences, but there are times when they tried to get him in trouble with the Romans. One of the commentaries quoted by Matt earlier mentioned the Roman coin story in Mark 12 as an example. Then, of course, the crucifixion of Christ was based on charges that Jesus was a “king” and therefore was a rebel against Caesar.

            “I don’t remember you asking me why the scribes and Pharisees thought that Jesus might violate the law in John 8 but it seems fairly obvious that they had tried multiple times to get him to side against Jewish law and this was just another example of that.”

            My first question to you, eons ago, was why the question by the Pharisees was a “trap.” You had no answer and asked me to provide an answer. It is a central question to understanding the story, which you had obviously never contemplated, yet you were 100% sure of your interpretation without ever answering it. You continue to provide a non-answer. I specifically asked in my most recent post why the scribes and Pharisees would expect Jesus to say anything other than “Carry out the law. Stone her.” Try giving an honest answer to that question instead of going off on another tangent.

          8. Clark, you completely missed the point of what I said. I asked for an example of when Jesus was placed in the dilemma of having to choose between siding with Jewish law or Roman law. I didn’t say that you hadn’t given an example of anyone trying to get him in trouble with only Roman law. The point, again, is that there are only examples of people trying to get him in trouble with the law (Roman or Jewish) that they’re citing, never both simultaneously in some elaborate dilemma that you suggested. In John 8 they only cited Jewish law.

            I think you should go back and read my previous comment. I explained it all there and it’s obvious you didn’t understand it.

            Clark: “My first question to you, eons ago, was why the question by the Pharisees was a “trap.” You had no answer and asked me to provide an answer…”

            It’s not that I didn’t have an answer, I just wanted you to answer the question yourself and then tell me how that changes what Jesus said which, unsurprisingly, it did not. You’re so sure that I never contemplated your question because I asked you to answer it first and then tell me why how it changes what Jesus said? There you go with your illogical speculation again.

            And then I give you a straightfoward answer to your question and you call it a non-answer and a dishonest answer? Because you don’t like that answer? Why don’t you explain why it’s a non-answer and dishonest answer instead of just making assertions which is all I’ve seen you do here.

            Here’s my answer again: “It seems fairly obvious that they had tried multiple times to get him to side against Jewish law and this was just another example of that.”

            I’ll expound on that since you didn’t like the answer though it seemed rather obvious based on everything I’ve already said. The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus by getting him to violate the law. There are lots of examples of them trying to do this. John 8 is obviously another example of that where it even uses the exact same language as those other examples. Jesus had been doing things that they thought were contrary to the law and they wanted to get him to violate or refute it. They probably thought he seemed like the compassionate type and thought that he’d probably choose violating Jewish law over stoning a woman.

            I don’t even know why you’re still talking about this. I’ve easily refuted every single speculative, illogical, and ridiculous claim you’ve made in your attempt to change the text. I’ve proven conclusively that you have absolutely no good reason to believe that purely speculative theory that you thought completely changed the words of Jesus in John 8.

            If you don’t think this is the case then go read everything that’s been said earlier because you clearly don’t remember it or you can answer these questions which you have never answered:

            Why do you choose to interpret John 8 as the Pharisees attempting to put Jesus into a dilemma of having to choose between Jewish law and Roman law when there are examples of the Pharisees simply trying to get him to violate Jewish law or in the case of Matthew 22, Roman law, but never both simultaneously? In fact, every time that I’ve seen where they ask him a question about a specific law, it’s always that law that they’re trying to get him to violate. In all three cases in Matthew 12 they ask him about Jewish law because they want to accuse him of violating Jewish law. In Matthew 22 they ask him about Roman law because they want to accuse him of violating Roman law. I can’t find an example of them ever trying to place him in a dilemma between the two. Can you? If you can, how do you know that John 8 is an example of a dilemma between having to choose between Jewish law or Roman law instead of just another example of where they were trying to get him to violate Jewish law since that’s what they were questioning him about?

            The most accurate interpretation is that they were simply trying to get him to violate Jewish law and since that’s the case Jesus’ words were illogical and idiotic as I’ve said from the beginning. The funny thing is, even if you were right in your elaborate and speculative interpretation it still doesn’t change what Jesus said and his words would still be illogical and idiotic! Certainly not something you would expect a supernatural higher power to say.

          9. “They probably thought he seemed like the compassionate type and thought that he’d probably choose violating Jewish law over stoning a woman.”

            Finally! You finally produced a reason why the scribes and Pharisees would guess that Jesus would not simply say, “Stone her.” Despite all your claims to have already answered the question, you had not done so until now.

            And now your answer is not nearly as convincing as the simple answer I gave: Because they knew that he would get in trouble with the Romans if he said to stone her. And they knew this because they faced the same dilemma themselves, which makes a much more believable scenario than the one in which they face no dilemma and yet it occurs to them that it might be a problem for Jesus.

            The main reason that you cannot hold a productive discussion is that you are convinced, a priori (i.e. prejudiced) that any answer that any Christian gives you will be some sort of sneaky deflection of the problems posed by skeptics. In truth, I have never heard any skeptic bring up John 8:1-11 before you, and I have discussed many passages with many skeptics over the years. I first ran across the perspective about Roman law vs. Mosaic law many years ago; I believe it was in a book by F.F. Bruce called “New Testament History.” The entire book is an attempt to shed light on New Testament passages using historical background knowledge. It was written to deepen the understanding of Christians, not to answer any skeptics. I doubt any skeptics ever read it. Certainly not you!

            Matt quoted the same idea by Raymond Brown, a Jesuit scholar who was writing a Catholic commentary that was not an apologetic treatise. Likewise, I just dug up my Bible Background Commentary, which limits itself to comments on historical, cultural and geographical background knowledge that might be useful in understanding Bible verses. For John 8:4-5 it reads:

            “The law demanded the execution of this woman, but Rome had removed capital jurisdiction from Jewish courts, except for temple violations. Thus the Jewish leaders test whether Jesus will reject the law, compromising his patriotic Jewish following, or reject Roman rule, which will allow them to accuse him to the Romans.”

            I will have to investigate the “temple violations” exception out of curiosity, but it does not affect this passage directly except to confirm what I said previously about the Romans understanding that things like burning someone’s scriptures could lead to an insurrection and would be punished severely, because the primary concern of Roman governors was maintaining order, not pursuing what we think of as just punishment. Notice that the quote also refers to Jewish courts. Local, conquered peoples in the Roman empire were allowed to maintain their own courts and customs for marriage, divorce, property settlements, etc., but the Romans pre-empted these courts on major matters of concern to the empire and prohibited them from exercising capital punishment.

            Under Roman law, adultery was a civil offense that could be brought up in a divorce proceeding, but nothing more. If the Jews want to punish minor criminal offenders in a way that is agreeable to the Romans, fine. If they want to execute adulterers, not fine. So we have a conflict between a Mosaic law that was intended for a theocracy, and a Roman civil law that was not theocratic and which was imposed on a theocratic people. Adultery was probably the most extreme example of this conflict, because it is a capital offense in one system and not even a criminal offense at all in the other.

            These are all sources that were not written to answer your objections, but to explain background information. What background information do you have about Palestine (or any other province) under Roman rule? Do you have any background knowledge at all in this area? Remember, you said that the example of Stephen being stoned contradicts my statement that the Jews feared the Romans if they stoned this woman. Take a look at the quoted sources and see if anyone on earth agrees with you. Stephen’s case is a blasphemy case, much more akin to a burning of scriptures or a “temple violation” than to adultery.

            The second reason that you cannot hold a constructive discussion on this topic is that you define the use of background information as “speculation” while the use of the naked text to make educated guesses about missing details is “inference.” Perhaps you can quote from your extensive studies in history, literature, etc., and give us some secular scholars who have no Christian axe to grind but who agree with you that omitting relevant background information makes the interpretation of a text superior to including it?

            The irony here is that, although you are a skeptic, you are using a fundamentalist approach to interpretation. Just as the fundamentalist thinks that any Christian who tries to bring extra-Biblical information into the discussion is suspect (probably some liberal trying to avoid the “obvious” fundamentalist interpretation!), you think that any Christian who is trying to use background information is trying to pull a fast one to answer objections from skeptics. In truth, the background information commentaries are entirely an intra-Christianity tool for understanding. Try reading any work of literature (e.g. Shakespeare) with total avoidance of cultural and historical background commentary and you will see what an inferior approach this is. Or can you cite scholars of literature who would recommend this approach?

          10. Clark, Wow, speculation is your thing isn’t it? You speculate on everything including what’s in my mind! I think it’s been fairly productive so far considering I proved your point wrong long ago.

            And now you resort to the argument from authority. Clark: None of my christian commentaries agree with you! Or, I haven’t heard anyone bring up your argument therefore you must be wrong!

            Oh, how convincing!

            I’ll repeat what I said earlier because you still have not responded to it and you’re making this discussion very unproductive:

            I’ve proven conclusively that you have absolutely no good reason to believe that purely speculative theory that you thought completely changed the words of Jesus in John 8.

            If you don’t think this is the case then go read everything that’s been said earlier because you clearly don’t remember it or you can answer these questions which you have never answered:

            Why do you choose to interpret John 8 as the Pharisees attempting to put Jesus into a dilemma of having to choose between Jewish law and Roman law when there are examples of the Pharisees simply trying to get him to violate Jewish law or in the case of Matthew 22, Roman law, but never both simultaneously? In fact, every time that I’ve seen where they ask him a question about a specific law (Jewish or Roman), it’s always that law (Jewish or Roman) that they’re trying to get him to violate. In all three cases in Matthew 12 they ask him about Jewish law because they want to accuse him of violating Jewish law. In Matthew 22 they ask him about Roman law because they want to accuse him of violating Roman law. I can’t find an example of them ever trying to place him in a dilemma between the two. Neither can you apparently. How do you know that John 8 is an example of a dilemma between having to choose between Jewish law or Roman law instead of just another example of where they were trying to get him to violate Jewish law since that’s what they were questioning him about?

            The most accurate interpretation is that they were simply trying to get him to violate Jewish law just like in all of the other cases where they tried to do this and since that’s the case Jesus’ words were illogical and idiotic as I’ve said from the beginning. The funny thing is, even if you were right in your elaborate and speculative interpretation it still doesn’t change what Jesus said and his words would still be illogical and idiotic! Certainly not something you would expect a supernatural higher power to say.

          11. Matt, You might be right but unfortunately the text might be too vague. They ask him, “Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” By lawful it seems they are probably talking about Jewish law which means in this case they might have been trying to put him in a dilemma of having to choose between siding with Jewish or Roman law. But was it against Jewish law to pay taxes to Rome? If not then there’s no dilemma.

          12. You can call it an argument from authority, but the fact remains that the scholarly community of all those who study any texts from recent to ancient, including secular and religious scholars of history, literature, classics, and religion, have learned from many years of hard experience that they are poorly served to ignore historical and cultural background information when interpreting a text. This is the accumulated wisdom of certain scholarly disciplines, not an appeal to any particular authority. If you can find a single scholar to the contrary in any of these fields, that would add to the discussion. As it is, you seem to be the only person on earth making this argument about John 8. Can you even find a non-Christian scholar in any relevant field who expresses an approach to interpretation that is similar to yours, regardless of whether they ever commented on John 8? Or maybe you can convince all of these fields that their approach to interpretation of various texts is wrong and that you alone hold the key to true interpretation?

            As there is no hope of convincing you to overcome your anti-Christian prejudices, I have to consider the discussion fruitful only if other readers besides you would benefit from reading it. I am convinced that any reasonable reader, Christian or not, will find the interpretation that I described (which turns out to be held by several noted commentators, two of which I had not read before this discussion) to be a more reasonable interpretation than yours. If you can cite any intelligent opinions to the contrary, I would be happy to engage them.

            Of course, it is unlikely that any readers will wade through this incredibly lengthy discussion to even reach this post. It seems unlikely at this point that anyone beyond you, me and Matt is even still reading.

          13. Clark: “You can call it an argument from authority”

            And I do. Argument from authority is a fallacy. That’s all you have now: argument from authority. You won’t even answer any questions I have related to why you would interpret the verses the way you are instead of another way because you have no argument except your fallacious argument from authority.

            You should really stop saying that my approach is to ignore all historical and cultural background information. You’re just lying about that. I don’t remember the last time I heard so many assertions from one person.

            I’ll play along though and respond to your argument from authority since it’s the only thing you have left and you apparently think it’s a good argument. Dr. Thomas Constable in his Expository Notes says this:

            “If Jesus advocated not executing the woman, the lawyers and Pharisees could charge Him with teaching the people to violate the law. If He recommended executing her, He would contradict His own reputation for being gracious and forgiving (cf. Luke 5:20; Luke 7:47). Moreover He would alienate Himself from the Jews. That decision might have gotten Him in trouble with the Roman authorities too (cf. John 18:31).”

            He lists what he thinks would have happened to Jesus if he had recommended executing her and the third and final result is that his “decision might have gotten him in trouble with the Roman authorities.” Keywords: “Might have”

            Matthew Henry in his commentary wrote, “Those that were taken in adultery were by the Jewish law to be put to death, which the Roman powers allowed them the execution of…”. “perhaps they would accuse him to the Roman governor, for countenancing the Jews in the exercise of a judicial power.” Keyword: “Perhaps”

            Other commentaries don’t even mention a dilemma of any kind having to do with the possible violation of Roman law. The only thing they mention is that the Jews were trying to get him to violate Jewish law.

            So, some scholars and authors of commentaries think that this was only about Jewish law and others think that they might have been trying to get him into trouble with the Romans.

            So now what?

            You seemed confident that you knew that the Pharisees were deliberately placing him into a dilemma between Jewish and Roman law and yet there are some scholars who simply suggest it as a possibility or don’t even mention it at all.

            I don’t know where you’re going to go with this. In your mind, do you win the argument because you think you have a majority of christian scholars who you think agree with you? This will be entertaining I’m sure.

            By the way, for argument’s sake I’d like to just grant you the point that there was a dilemma here between Jewish and Roman law and see where you go from there. I remember a while back you said that you knew what Jesus’ point was. You said, “Because their sin, collectively as a people, was the cause of the intolerable situation in which they found themselves: ruled by heathens who do not respect their law, do not recognize the Promised Land as belonging to them, etc. So, the point Jesus made is that their moral dilemma was truly a dilemma, but it was their own fault that they found themselves in a dilemma.”

            Tell me how you know that’s what his point was.

        14. “They must have had witnesses. The text reads, “this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.” That couldn’t happen without witnesses. You’re wrong about that. ”

          – We are both making assumptions. The text doesn’t say one way or the other. My question would be, why aren’t they mentioned. Your question would probably be…we can assume they are there because they seem to have proof. But all we have is what they said and that is just the accusation without any proof actually mentioned in the text. So at the end of the day…we just don’t know. I would wonder why not bring them forward if they are there but that doesn’t prove anything and neither does your assumption.

          “Just because it doesn’t mention the man involved doesn’t mean that he wasn’t already stoned or would be stoned later. But, of course, the text doesn’t mention anything about this and yet you still speculate that they weren’t going to stone him. You also assume that since both the man and the woman should be stoned that both of them have to be stoned or none of them can be according to the law. That’s not the law. That’s just your speculation.”

          – You are right, that is my speculation. I doubt they stoned him (why not mention it, why stone the guy first in a culture that probably would have gone with her first, etc). But as you said all of that is speculation.

          “The law did not require these judgments to be done by the Levitical priests. The verse just preceding the one you cited reads, “If any case is too difficult for you to decide… then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 9 So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge…”

          – The text is telling you that this wasn’t a case they were just deciding for themselves…they were taking it to someone else and not to the one they were commanded to take it to, which is who I pointed out – the Levitical priesthood. So you are right in that the priests were not the first line of defense but if someone else was to be brought it (which is what they are doing in this text) it was to be the priests. They didn’t do that. My point stands on that one, IMO.

          “In verse 5 it reads, “then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death.” This is done without a Levitical priest. You’re wrong about this as well.”

          – Not sure what you are referring to there that I said that was wrong.

          “The text reads, “They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him.” Accusing him of what? The text doesn’t say. Yet you speculate that the Pharisees wanted to, “trap him and get him in trouble with the authorities over making these rulings”. You have no basis for assuming that. The text doesn’t say that. I could just as easily assume that they were going to accuse him of not following the law if he told them not to stone her. ”

          Actually I have all sorts of linguistical grounds to base that on. Here is what that word means in this passage according to BDAG (the leading Greek lexicon used today),

          “πειράζω – to attempt to entrap through a process of inquiry, test. Jesus was so treated by his opponents, who planned to use their findings against him Mt 16:1; 19:3; 22:18, 35; Mk 8:11; 10:2; 12:15; Lk 11:16; 20:23 v.l.; J 8:6.

          Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

          So I have every reason to say that is what is going on here. Accusing him of what? I am assuming you have read the Gospels and as the verses in that definition will bear out this was a regular practice of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day to try to get him in trouble by putting him in a situation where he either needs to side with Torah or Rome and Jesus always finds a way out…as he does here. My interpretation is completely consistent with what we know of these sorts of things. So the burden of proof is on you to show that is not what is going on here when the text says that it is what is happening.

          “But none of this matters anyway because Jesus said nothing about any of this. He didn’t object because the man wasn’t there as well, he didn’t object because he thought that the law required a Levitical priest, he didn’t object because he claimed there were no witnesses, he didn’t even object! You’ve assumed all of this. You just keep piling on your own speculation and disguise it as “context”. ”

          – Jesus didn’t need to say any of this. He destroyed their attempt to entrap him without having to give a lecture. Again, this is consistent with how Jesus typically handled these situations. Any time we read scripture we are going to have some gaps to fill. That is just the nature of reading and comprehending. No text is going to give you every single detail. You aren’t pleased with how I am filling in the gaps and I am not thinking you are doing it very well either! 🙂 We humbly admit that we don’t have every detail but still try to understand what is going on. Do you humbly admit that your answers require speculation and assumptions as well?

          “1) You said that they didn’t provide witnesses. How could they not have witnesses if “this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.”? Also, where did Jesus complain that they didn’t provide witnesses? If you can’t answer both of these questions then all you’ve done is speculate.”

          – This is a moot point for either of us as the text doesn’t say. You are saying they did. How do you know that? Speculation. Do you see that is what you are doing? The same thing you are saying I am doing? I don’t say that in an accusatory way. I am really asking if you recognize that is what you are doing.

          “2.) Deut 17 shows that people could stone someone without the judgment of a Levitical priest and that this priest is only involved “If any case is too difficult for you to decide…”. So why do you claim “The Law required these judgments to be done by the Levitical priests”? It didn’t unless in special circumstances. Also, where does Jesus complain that they didn’t have a Levitical priest to judge the woman? If you can’t answer both of these questions then all you’ve done is speculate.”

          – I already covered this above…it didn’t require a priest but if you are going to go get some help it was to the priest, not to a rabbi…so again, my point stands. Jesus doesn’t have to complain about it for it to be so. I don’t have to speculate on this…I am in line with Deut 17.

          “3.) Explain how “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” means that they were trying to “trap him and get him in trouble with the authorities over making these rulings” instead of “they were going to accuse him of not following the law if he told them not to stone her.” Your speculation verses my speculation. Prove that yours has to be true and that mine cannot be. If you can’t answer this then all you’ve done is speculate. Just to be clear, I am not claiming to know what they were going to accuse him of, I’m just creating this speculation to prove to you that you can’t prove one speculation to be true against another because they’re both just speculation. If you can’t answer that then all you’ve done is speculate.”

          – Yep…I am speculating. I am speculating based on the Greek. Based on the context. Based on systematic theology. Based on other times Jesus was in a similar situation. Based on how these things were handled by the Law of Moses…which is mentioned in the text and therefore needs to be examined. What is your speculation based on?

          “By the way, why would you worship a god who thought it was just to stone to death people who commit adultery and those who engage in homosexual acts?”

          – Really?

          1. Assumption: “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.”

            Speculation: “the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence.”

            Matt:
            “We are both making assumptions. The text doesn’t say one way or the other.”
            “You are right, that is my speculation.”
            “But as you said all of that is speculation.”
            “Any time we read scripture we are going to have some gaps to fill.”
            “You aren’t pleased with how I am filling in the gaps and I am not thinking you are doing it very well either!”
            “Do you humbly admit that your answers require speculation and assumptions as well?”
            “Yep…I am speculating. I am speculating based on the Greek. Based on the context. Based on systematic theology. Based on other times Jesus was in a similar situation. Based on how these things were handled by the Law of Moses…which is mentioned in the text and therefore needs to be examined. What is your speculation based on?”

            Thanks for being honest in admitting that you’re speculating and assuming a lot of things here. However, you accuse me of speculating as well in an attempt to justify your own speculation. That’s just simply untrue. The only thing I saw you accuse me of speculating about are the witnesses. First of all, I don’t need to know if there were witnesses to make my point. If there were or weren’t, it doesn’t affect my conclusion but you brought it up claiming that there weren’t and I pointed out that if they were caught in the very act of adultery then there had to be witnesses. That’s an inference not speculation.

            Inference:
            “the act or process of reaching a conclusion about something from known facts or evidence”

            The difference is that I base my conclusion on evidence – in this case the text. She could not have been caught in the act of adultery without witnesses. Whether those witnesses went with them to meet Jesus I don’t know nor do I care because I’m not making a conclusion based on a claim about whether the witnesses were there with Jesus but for you to claim that they weren’t there is just speculation on your part, as you admit. The problem for you is that you base your conclusion on speculation built upon speculation and you freely admit that. That’s a fallacy.

            You claim that this is a situation where they were trying to get Jesus in trouble by making choose between siding with either the Torah or Rome.

            Matthew 12:9
            “And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him.”

            Here’s an example of them questioning him about the law “so that they might accuse Him”. It’s a very similar situation to John 8 and it even uses the same language, John 8:6, “This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.”

            I could just as easily say that they were trying to get Jesus to violate the law by not choosing to side with the Torah in John 8 just like they did in Matthew 12:9. You say they were trying to get him to side with the Torah. Tell me why that interpretation isn’t accurate but yours is.

            Of course, I don’t need to say any of that because my conclusion relies on no speculation whatsoever. Just to remind you how simple my point is I’ll repeat it: The text quotes Jesus as saying, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” That statement is a useless, impractical, and illogical statement because it is an advocation of anarchy and is easily refuted. All the Pharisees had to say was, “If only sinless people were allowed to execute judgment there would be no law and order.” And Jesus would be left looking like a fool.

            Thank you again for being honest about your conclusion being based on speculation built upon speculation. I’m not interested in an endless debate about your speculation filled interpretations though.

            And yes, really, why would you worship a god who thought it was just to stone to death people who commit adultery and those who engage in homosexual acts?

          2. Thanks for your response. I am nothing if I am not honest about where I am coming from and what I can and cannot know. I am as transparent as I know how to be and even appreciate your attempt to call me out when you think I have not been. I am praying for you, that your heart and mind will be opened to the truth about God and the love He has for you that surpasses knowledge. I am glad you are here on the site and encourage you to keep in these discussions. My ability to respond will be limited the next few days but I will get around to responding when I am able. In the meantime be well and keep searching. You may find the very thing you don’t think is findable 🙂 god bless and I will pick this back up later.

  3. Um, really? How about the consistency of Jesus? After all, if the woman was “caught” that means there has to be a man, too, right? And if the man is not there, where is the justice in stoning the one partner? Just wondering…

    1. You’re adding that to the text. Jesus made no mention of it not being fair because the man wasn’t there as well. He gave his reason and that was: only someone without sin should cast the first stone and since they all had sin none of them should cast a stone. That is terrible logic that results in anarchy.

      1. This is funny! You have been adding to the OT text, reading words into the text without any kind of shame… And here I point out the obvious in the situation, where there was no way in which Jesus could condone what the Pharisees wanted to do… And I put words in the text???
        Do the logical thing, and become an Atheist?? Where exactly do you find this the “logical” thing to do??

        1. Where did I add to the OT text?

          Jesus stated his reasoning for preventing her stoning and it has nothing to do with what you claimed. Where did he mention anything about it not being fair that the man wasn’t there as well? Using his reasoning given in the text, he would have pardoned the man as well if he had been there.

          1. Also, why couldn’t Jesus condone what the Pharisees wanted to do? It was his own father (himself actually) who created the law that stated that adulterers should be stoned. Maybe the Pharisees had already stoned the man or were about to.

        2. Also, why couldn’t Jesus condone what the Pharisees wanted to do? It was his own father (himself actually) who created the law that stated that adulterers should be stoned. Maybe the Pharisees had already stoned the man or were about to.

          1. Here you go, reading things into the text – again! Jesus and Jehovah are not the same. “The Law said, that when a woman AND a man are caught in adultery, they should be stoned. The Jews bring ONLY the woman… I have always wondered if Jesus wrote, “Bring me the man, too, and you have a case…” THAT is conjecture”

  4. You have been “inferring” all sorts of things in the conversation re slave girls, based on nothing but conjecture, assumption and air.
    The Law said, that when a woman AND a man are caught in adultery, they should be stoned. The Jews bring ONLY the woman… I have always wondered if Jesus wrote, “Bring me the man, too, and you have a case…” THAT is conjecture… Justice asks the same question. So, I have a good basis to “infer” that it was because of that absence Jesus did what he did, and said what he said.

  5. John 14:11: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”

    That certainly makes it sound like the two are one and there are a lot of people in your faith that will disagree with you but the text is so vague that it’s hard to know what this is even speaking of so I’ll just let you and other Christians debate the nonsense of verses like this.

    You absolutely have no reason to infer that since Jesus gave his very specific reasoning for dismissing the punishment that the law demanded. He said NOTHING about what you’re trying to claim his reasoning was. You’re adding to the text.

    There are other verses that I mentioned in that previous thread but here’s another good one: God deliberately caused women to be raped in Zechariah 14:1-2, “Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of…”

    I don’t have to infer anything from those verses. Your god deliberately caused women to be raped and even specifically mentioned it.

  6. I can infer anything I want to. As long as I make it clear that is what I am doing. You, on the other hand, leave out an entire aspect of the story. One of my favorite American radio moments were the, “And the rest of the story…” broadcasts by Paul Harvey. It would be useful if you were to include the rest of the story as well!
    Your approach reminds me of the recent events in Missouri. “Police kills young man…” The rest of the story (The young man had previously attacked the officer, tried to grab the officer’s gun…) is “conveniently left out.
    God told Israel: This is what is going to happen – but you can prevent it from happening…
    You left it out of your argument, purposely misrepresenting God’s actions.

  7. lol. You think you can infer whatever you want as long as you make it clear that that’s what you’re doing? What kind of jacked up logic is that? Are you not aware what the word infer means? You have to base it on evidence. You can’t just make up whatever you want otherwise you could just “infer” anything about anything. How ridiculous.

    You didn’t even attempt to deny that God deliberately caused these women to be raped and nothing of what you said changes that. I just want to hear you admit it: Your god deliberately caused women to be raped in this instance, didn’t he? Let’s see if you can answer a direct question without dancing around it.

  8. Inferences are often subjective, as is obvious with your inferences about the character of God based on an complete story. inferences are often subjective, as is obvious in how lawyers apply the Constitution. Inferences are dangerous – and not too often based on evidence. For example, where does the Constitution say that abortion is a “right?” Or that same sex marriage is a “right?” Both are inferences – but definitely not “necessary” or logical!
    So, you read the whole story about why God allows bad things to happen to His people, and we’ll talk some more. Until then, all I see from you is “baiting…” and no indication that you want a serious conversation…

  9. You’re defending making an inference without evidence. Well, that’s not what the word means. An inference must be made using evidence, as I said earlier.

    merriam-webster.com defines inference as:
    “the act or process of reaching a conclusion about something from known facts or evidence”
    “a conclusion or opinion that is formed because of known facts or evidence”

    You can’t make an inference without evidence, by definition of the word. You’re not making an inference, you’re just making stuff up. If you want a serious conversation then stop 1.) making stuff up 2.) misusing words

    Also, you still haven’t even attempted to deny that God deliberately caused these women to be raped. What does that say about your god if you can’t even defend him against the most abhorrent of crimes?

  10. Actually Rudy, I specifically said that I was not inferring anything concerning Zechariah 14 because it wasn’t necessary. Here’s what I said, “I don’t have to infer anything from those verses. Your god deliberately caused women to be raped and even specifically mentioned it.”

    Also, I never said that a person should never infer something, I just rejected your misuse of the word “infer” when you claimed that you could infer anything without evidence.

    You said that I ignored material that would make my statement false. I must have missed that then because I have no idea what you’re talking about. Please tell me what “related material” makes this statement false: “In Zechariah 14:1-2, your god deliberately caused women to be raped.”

    I’ve given you several chances and you still haven’t responded to my accusation against your god concerning Zechariah 14:1-2.

    1. i know what you SAID. But then, I also read what you WROTE. And what you WROTE, supports my argument: Inference is SUBJECTIVE, simple as that. Your inference: “your god deliberately caused women to be raped.” Your failure: you refuse to take the preceding history into account. Would you take the preceding history into account, you would never make the statement that “…your god deliberately caused women to be raped.”
      Your accusation has no foundation, so what is there to respond? I have asked you to consider your actions as a parent. Your children (should you have any) are constantly warned by their parent of the consequences of their behavior.

      — SHOULD one of your children drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol (I would think that as a parent you would warn your children against that act)
      — SHOULD that child kill someone while driving under the influence (Behavior you have strongly warned against)
      — SHOULD that child be tried and convicted for vehicular homicide (A consequence you have surely shared with your child)
      — SHOULD that child then be sent to a prison (Surely a consequence you have shared with your child)
      — SHOULD that child then be sexually abused in said prison (Surely a possibility you have made child aware of)
      Is it now YOUR fault hat such indeed takes place? Did YOU cause your child’s behavior? Did you CAUSE your child to be sexually molested in jail? Or do you say, Child, I warned you for the consequences of such behavior. I told you time and time again to change. I told you about jail. I pleaded with you, warned you about what might happen. yet, your behavior did not change…

      So, when you read the rest of the story, you will see how that same God tells those who raped those women, “You went too far, and I will surely deal with you because of that…”

      You have such lofty statements about context, and history and… and… Would sure be pleasant to see you practice such. But then, again, your posts would be much less incendiary…

  11. @Rudy: “SAID” and “WROTE” are the same thing on an online forum since you’re apparently not aware. What proceeding history changes the fact that your god is described as gathering nations to attack Israel where he predicts that Jewish women will be raped? I’m assuming you think that because he warned them to stop making him angry that they deserved what they got? How does my accusation have no foundation? I’ve already explained the foundation, multiple times.

    You’ve already brought up this parent/child analogy in another thread and I responded to it… 2 weeks ago. I still haven’t heard from you but now you bring it up again.
    Here is how I responded to it there:
    “@Rudy: You asked if I had any children and I asked you “why would you say that”? It’s a very odd question so don’t accuse me of not answering your question when it was so out of place that I had to ask why you were even asking.

    Yes, I have children and no I would never discipline them by torturing them, enslaving them, killing them, or causing them to be raped… which is exactly what God did to his “children”. Would you do any of those things to your children to “discipline” them? Of course you wouldn’t. What a stupid analogy.

    Rudy: “If you want to draw a portrait of the God of the Bible, at least have the intellectual honesty to look at the complete picture of God, and not the few parts you happen to like better.”

    I’m sure Saddam Hussein was nice to his wife and kids sometimes but how does that change the fact that he was also a sadistic killer? Same with Yahweh. Yeah, he did some nice things, so what? Every evil person throughout history has done some nice things but that doesn’t excuse the evil things that they’ve done.

    In the case of Zechariah 14, the enemy didn’t go “too far” as you say. It’s not like God didn’t know they were going to rape the women. He predicted they would and yet he still gathered those “nations against Jerusalem to battle” knowing the consequences which means that he deliberately caused these women to be raped among all of the other horrors he caused against his “children” in just this one instance alone.

    If God caused this thing to happen, which he clearly did by gathering them to battle, and he predicted the outcome, then how could he not be responsible for the outcome?”

    (http://wineskins.mystagingwebsite.com/forums/topic/patrick-mead-vs-the-church-of-christ/#post-3035)

    In response to your slightly modified analogy here I’ll point out one of the obvious differences that makes your analogy such a terrible one. If I, as a parent, warned my child about not doing something because they might end up being sexually abused and then they still do it and are sexually abused and there’s nothing I can do to stop it then no, I definitely would not have deliberately caused them to be sexually abused. Now, if I warn them about not doing this thing and they still do it and then I discipline them by gathering a bunch of rapists into my house and telling them to attack my child then yes, I would have deliberately caused my child to be sexually abused. And that is a much more accurate analogy to what happened here.

    Would you gather bad people together to murder and rape your children to discipline them as your god did in Zechariah? You seem to think that’s what discipline is.

  12. @Rudy: Also, you claim that God told the nations that he had just gathered to attack Israel that they had gone too far. In fact you even quoted him as saying that and yet the text says nothing like this. Secondly, if he predicted that they would rape women and yet he still causes them to attack Israel and they do in fact rape women, as he predicted, then how could he possibly tell them that they’d gone too far?

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