The Agora
Bible Commentary

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John 8

Joh 8:1

Authenticity of Joh 8:1-11: discussed in CJo 100,101; CCW in Xd 70:405,406.

BUT JESUS WENT TO THE MOUNT OF OLIVES: "If then we find this complex life of tensions and pressure a source of distress and of uncertainty, let us learn the lesson of living with God and see Him in every room of our lives, in every part of the day, through every window and door. So it was with Jesus who, having no permanent abode, no established residence, was more surely based than any man who has ever lived, and dwelt always with God, and God with him. Thus, at the end of one of his long days we catch a glimpse of the meeting between Father and Son: 'And every man went unto his own house, but Jesus went to the mount of Olives' (John 7:53-8:1)" (HAT, Xd 106:269).

Instances of Jesus withdrawing into a mountain, apart -- sometimes for privacy and prayer, and sometimes to instruct his followers: Mat 5:1; 8:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16; Mark 3:13; 6:46; 9:2; 13:3; Luke 6:12; 9:28; 22:39; John 6:3,15; 8:1.

Joh 8:2

Vv 2-11: See Lesson, Casting the first stone (John 8).

"As Christ was teaching in the temple, the day following the conclusion of the feast, he was rudely interrupted by the leaders who dragged an adulteress into the midst of the circle of listeners, crudely accusing her of infidelity. It was a most unseemly thing to do -- a wanton outrage on decent feelings, a brutal violation of the principles of mercy, let alone justice. For why did they not bring her companion in crime? But they were not interested in the principles of morality -- but only in embarrassing Jesus. The Master, however, handled the difficult and delicate situation with consummate wisdom and characteristic compassion. For he was able to help the woman without weakening the point of divine law, nor condoning the fact of sin" (GEM).

ALL THE PEOPLE: That is, all kinds (classes, or races) of men. Examples of "all" prob meaning "all without distinction" rather than "all without exception": Joh 1:7,9; 3:26; 5:28; 12:32; 13:35; Rom 10:13; 1Ti 2:1,2; 4:15; 5:20; 6:17; Heb 2:9.

Joh 8:3

CAUGHT: Katalambano. Sw v 4.

Joh 8:5

TO STONE SUCH WOMEN: Stoning was the capital punishment only of a betrothed virgin who was unfaithful (Deu 22:23,24) -- exactly the (alleged) sin of Jesus' own mother (Mat 1:18).

NOW WHAT DO YOU SAY?: Jesus' enemies seek occasion to vilify his parentage (cp vv 19,41,48). If he answers, "Yes, stone her", then they could reply, "But what of your mother?" (Mat 1:18,19; Deu 22:23,24) -- HAW, Xd 78:265.

Joh 8:6

Four handwritings: upon the stone (Exo 20:2); upon the wall (Dan 5:24); upon the ground (John 8:6); upon the cross (John 19:19).

STARTED TO WRITE: Continuous tense: he kept on writing.

ON THE GROUND: Cp trial of jealousy (Num 5:11-31): the priest took holy water (sym Christ) in an earthen vessel (sym human nature) and mixed in dust from tabernacle floor, and then wrote "curses of law". "Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water" (Jer 17:13).

WITH HIS FINGER: What does the finger of God do? (1) It unleashes plagues upon Egypt (Exo 8:16-19). (2) It writes the Law in tables of stone (Deu 9:10). (3) It casts out demons (Luk 11:20). (4) It creates the heavens (Psa 8:3). (5) It writes out the condemnation of wicked rulers upon the wall (Dan 5:5). The Finger of God makes commandments, punishes, heals, and creates anew. Christ's finger writing evokes many thoughts.

So... does the finger of God, THROUGH CHRIST HERE, do all these things in Joh 8? First of all, the finger that writes in the presence of the "accusers" of Israel could be accomplishing at least 3 of the 5 items above: (2) it could be writing the Law, as in: "THOU shalt not commit adultery... or murder... or steal, etc" -- the sins of each of those there assembled; and/or (1 and 5) it could be writing out the judgments... even the plagues... that God would bring upon the wicked rulers of -- not Babylon and Egypt -- but Israel (!). And so, convicted by knowledge of their own sins and the warnings of God's coming judgments, they slunk away. Also, (3) is it possible that this woman was Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast seven demons (Mar 16:9; Luk 8:2), and who is also commonly assumed to have led a life of immorality before her conversion? Finally, (4) all of Christ's work was with the purpose of developing the "new creation", his and God's: "a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2Pe 3:13) -- in simple terms, men and women who through faith are forgiven of their sins and renewed or "re-created" in him. This he was doing with the woman, and possibly also with some of the men!

Joh 8:7

A graphic illustration of the Lord's own commandment: "Judge not!"

WITHOUT SIN: "Anamartetos": once in NT. Sig "without failing". From LXX of Deu 29:19 -- cp v 20: "all the curses that are written in this book will lie upon him". Or, perhaps, "he that is without an ulterior motive in THIS matter" (WGos 395).

LET HIM BE THE FIRST TO THROW A STONE: The "first stone" is not in the world as yet, if Christ's condition is to be met absolutely. "The greatest abhorrence of sin is not necessarily found in the one most severe on the sinner" (Appl 5).

"None condemned the woman then, and the Lord, who was without sin and who alone among the sons of men might dare to face 'judgment without mercy', did not condemn her either" (PrPr).

"Christ had no time for immorality, and neither has any Bible-based church. Chastity, honesty and truthfulness are all musts for the genuine Christian.

"At the same time, Christ hates self-righteousness, hard-heartedness and unkindness. He condemned the smug bunch of Pharisees who were looking down their noses at an adulterous woman -- and then he rebuked the woman, 'Go, and do not sin again' (John 8: 11).

"The lesson of this story is clear. Christ hates both sorts of sin: the hidden sins of the heart, like the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and the more obvious sins, like the adultery of the woman.

"So we must constantly fight against 'internal' sins, like pride, and covetousness, and unclean thoughts; but we must fight equally hard against the 'external' sins, like cheating the income tax man, gluttony, and lying our way out of a scrape.

"But this is only the negative side of Christian behaviour -- the 'thou shalt nots'. Equally important, maybe even more important, are the positive traits listed in Gal 5: 22,23. 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control' " (AH).

Joh 8:9

KJV adds: "being convicted by their own conscience." It seems the Pharisees and the scribes were the adulterous ones! Cp Num 5:17 LXX: "waters of conviction", and Jer 17:13: "ashamed". Peter, convicted, draws near (Luk 5:8). Pharisees, convicted, leave. Cp 2Co 7:10.

THE OLDER ONES FIRST: "The older we are, the more conscious we are of the scope and consciousness of sin. It was the Gamaliels who first turned away, and finally the Sauls" (Xd 105:247).

WITH THE WOMAN STILL STANDING THERE: Or, poss, simply " still there", not necessarily standing but prostrate at Jesus' feet.

Joh 8:10

JESUS STRAIGHTENED UP: Or "lifted up himself" (v28; Joh 3:14; 12:32).

Joh 8:11

NEITHER DO I CONDEMN YOU: The testimony of two witnesses was needed (cp v 17; Num 35:30). "I judge no man" (Joh 8:15).

CONDEMN: "Katakrino" = formal passage of judgment.

AND SIN NO MORE: True repentance involved forsaking of sin: Mat 3:8; Act 26:20; 2Co 7:9,10; 12:21; cp 1Ti 5:8.

Joh 8:12

I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD: "Such a statement from an ordinary man in ordinary circumstances would not even be a debatable one. It would be self-proclaimed evidence of insanity on the part of the utterer. But in the case of Christ, it could not be so dismissed. It stood related to many things favouring its truth. The speaker had 'done many miracles' of a class entirely out of the range of ordinary so-called miraculous performances: 'works which none other man did', as Jesus defined them. How were these to be accounted for? They could not be ignored. They made the profoundest impression on the people, and through them on the leaders. His declaration, therefore that he was the light of the world, coming as it did from a mouth distinguished by originality, independence, and truth, and purity, as no public teacher had ever been before, possessed a weightiness of character which they could not make sport of, and which to this day impresses the attentive and discerning listener" (NR 211).

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD: During the Feast of Tabernacles, four large lamps were lit in the courts of the women, symbolizing God's pillar of fire in the wilderness -- Exo 13:21 (CJo 103). This light, not lit until the last day (cp Joh 7:37).

LIGHT: "Phos" (in ct Joh 5:35), a continuous light. Only in Christ can we have such light: Isa 9:2,6; 42:6; 60:1; 49:6,9.

Joh 8:13

HERE YOU ARE, APPEARING AS YOUR OWN WITNESS: 'You are serving yourself -- thereby denying your own rule (ie of Joh 7:18).'

Joh 8:14

WHERE I CAME FROM: 'But I am the manifestation of the Eternal Father, and in that capacity I can testify of Him!'

Joh 8:19

WHERE IS YOUR FATHER?: Cp implication of Joh 9:29.

Joh 8:22

Cp Luk 17:22.

WILL HE KILL HIMSELF?: They were coming nearer the truth than they realized.

Joh 8:23

FROM... FROM... OF... OF: "Ek" (out of) in all 4 cases.

FROM ABOVE: Virgin birth (v 42; Luk 1:35), his words (vv 26,28), and his Father's witness (vv 18,54). Cp "manna" (Joh 6:33,38, etc). Jesus instructs his followers also to be born "from above" (Joh 3:3,7), in ct to the earthly, sensual (Jam 3:15). Also, see 1Jo 2:15; 1Pe 1:23; 1Jo 3:9,10.

WORLD: "Kosmos" = the present arrangement of things: cp Joh 18:36; 1Jo 2:15.

Joh 8:27

See VL, Disciples, slow comprehension. The intimate personal communion Jesus had with his Father was beyond their grasp.

Joh 8:28

LIFTED UP: Cp Joh 3:14; 12:32.

Joh 8:29

HE HAS NOT LEFT ME ALONE: The 70 disciples (Luk 10:1). Cp Moses (Num 11:16,17).

I ALWAYS DO WHAT PLEASES HIM: "Have only one motive in life: to please God. Get all your pleasure and satisfaction from that. It will, at one stroke, eliminate 90% of your 'problems,' and ALL your inner 'unhappiness.' Don't seek praise. Don't seek status with others. Don't seek advancement. Don't seek THINGS. All these pursuits are happiness-robbers. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor pride with praise, nor lust with possession. All these are ashes in the mouth at last. Even of themselves they are stupid, but as set against and displacing spiritual motives and pursuits, they are pure suicide. Check every thought and word, and ask: 'Will this please God? Could I at this moment be pleasing Him better?' This wonderfully pacifies and harmonizes and unifies life, and gives it purpose. Set the goal of your life to bring every thought into harmony with this, and to eliminate everything out of harmony with it. This is success" (GVG).

Joh 8:32

// Gal 4:1-7.

Joh 8:33

AND HAVE NEVER BEEN SLAVES OF ANYONE: This was not true even on the natural level: Israel had been enslaved by Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome!

Joh 8:34

Examples of personification: riches (Mat 6:24); sin (Joh 8:34; Rom 5:21; 6:16); spirit (Joh 16:13); wisdom (Pro 3:13-15; 9:1); Israel (Jer 31:4,18); people of Christ (Eph 4:4,13; 5:23; Rev 19:7; 1Co 12:27; 2Co 11:2; Col 1:18,24).

Joh 8:35


Joh 8:37

YOU HAVE NO ROOM FOR MY WORD: "My word does not have free course in you."

Joh 8:38

YOUR FATHER: The "serpent" (v 44), Cain (v 49), or Ishmael (v 35).

Joh 8:39

Cp Mat 3:9.

Joh 8:40

DETERMINED TO KILL ME: Cp Gen 3: enmity between seed of woman and seed of serpent.

Joh 8:41

THE THINGS YOUR OWN FATHER DOES: Ishmael is your "father", the servant and not the son, etc (Joh 8:33-36).

WE ARE NOT ILLEGITIMATE CHILDREN: This was the taunt Ishmael leveled against his brother Isaac (Gen 21:9).

Professor Joseph Gedaliah Klausner: "The illegitimate birth of Jesus was a current idea among the Jews...: (a) Babylonian Talmud, Yebamoth 49b, 324: 'Jesus was a bastard born of adultery'; (b) Yebamoth IV 3; 49a: 'Reb Shimeon ben 'Azzai said [concerning Jesus]: "I found a genealogical roll in Jerusalem wherein was recorded, Such-an-one is a bastard of an adulteress." ' Klauser adds to this: 'Current editions of the Mishnah add: "To support the words of Reb Yhosua (who, in the same Mishnah, says: 'What is a bastard? Everyone whose parents are liable to death by the Beth Din [House of Judgment]): That Jesus is here referred to seems to be beyond doubt'; (c) Shabbath 104b: 'Jesus was a magician and a fool. Mary was an adulteress'; (d) Sanhedrin 106a,b: 'Mary was a whore: Jesus (Balaam) was an evil man.' Origen refers to the tradition (still current in his day during the 4th century), that Christ was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier: 'Mary was turned out by her husband, a carpenter by profession, after she had been convicted of unfaithfulness. Cast off by her spouse, and wandering about in disgrace, she then gave birth in obscurity to Jesus, by a certain soldier, Panthera' " (Refutation 128).

THE ONLY FATHER WE HAVE: Implying Jesus had two fathers: Joseph, and the unknown (Samaritan? v 48) who begot him.

Joh 8:42

See Lesson, Christ, preexistence of?

I CAME FROM GOD: Same phrase as "he who belongs to God" in v 47, related to all believers.

HE SENT ME: "Sent" is identical to word used of John Bapt in Joh 1:6.

Joh 8:44

Cp Mat 3:7; 23:33; 1Jo 3:8,10.

DEVIL: "Diabolos" = false accuser, liar. They slandered Christ as illegitimate. (The serpent was a false accuser of God -- accusing Him of an untruth: Gen 3:4.)


HIS NATIVE LANGUAGE: Or "according to his nature" (RSV).

Jesus employed personification here in defining the spiritual pedigree of the "Jews" (v 22). In the beginning, the serpent spoke the first lie, "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen 3:4). This lie, believed and acted upon by Eve, brought sin and consequently death into the world. Thus the serpent became the father of liars in the same sense that Jubal became "the father of all such as handle the harp and organ" (Gen 4:21).

According to Jesus, men can have only one of two fathers: They can be the seed of Abraham (John 8:33) -- but only if they do the works of Abraham (v 39) -- fleshly descent is not enough. Or they can be the seed of the serpent (vv 41,44), if they do his works -- that is, lying, subtlety, murder. In seeking to kill the true "seed of Abraham" (v 40), these Jews were admitting that they belonged in the other family.

So it is with us. Merely having a "name to live", and coming into the Abrahamic covenant nominally, is not enough. We must do the works of Abraham before we can claim to be his spiritual seed, and thus sons of God and heirs of God's precious promise given through Abraham. If we profess to follow Christ, while betraying him and denying him with our actions, then we have demonstrated that the Diabolism, the "serpent", is our true father, and we will never be "free".

Joh 8:46

CAN ANY OF YOU PROVE ME GUILTY OF SIN?: The sinlessness of Jesus: v 29; Joh 4:34; 14:30; 15:10; Heb 4:15; 7:26; 1Pe 1:19; 2:22; 3:18; Isa 53:9; 1Jo 3:5; 2Co 5:21.

Joh 8:48

YOU ARE A SAMARITAN: The Jews had investigated Christ, and his dubious birth (Joh 6:42; WGen 90,91; Gen 20; 21). 'Was his father a Samaritan?' (CJo 110). (The Samaritans were a people of doubtful ancestry themselves.) Cp the innuendo in Mar 6:3.

Joh 8:49

YOU DISHONOR ME: And thus my Father also!

Joh 8:51

DEATH: The second death (Rev 2:11), or death after judgment. The believer's death is really a "sleep": Mat 27:52; Joh 11:11; Act 13:36; 1Co 15:20,51; 1Th 4:14.

Joh 8:52

IF ANYONE KEEPS...: See Lesson, AN, Conditional deferment.

Joh 8:56

HE SAW IT AND WAS GLAD: Rejoicing at the birth of Isaac: Gen 17:17; Rom 4:19,20; cp Act 7:5; Heb 11:13,39. This was the "gospel" to Abraham (Gal 3:8). (See Lesson, John's figurative language.)

Joh 8:58

See Lesson, Christ, preexistence of?.

For explanation, cp v 56: "Abraham saw my day", ie in vision, prophecy, etc. Thus Christ existed in Abraham's day, in prospect and purpose. By this, Christ establishes preeminence, not preexistence. Abraham saw the day of Christ, marked out from the world's beginnings (1Pe 1:20; Rev 13:8). As the son and heir, Jesus' power and authority preceded that of Abraham.

I AM: "Ego eimi" -- sig "I am HE" (cp vv 24,28), or "I am the One" (NASB).

Joh 8:59

STONES: Some of the stones forming the raw materials of the still-unfinished temple.

JESUS HID HIMSELF: Jesus moved away into the crowd, which was not altogether hostile, and left the temple (cp Psa 91:1,11,12,14).

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