What did Jesus write?

John 8 starts with Jesus in the Temple, being confronted on Shemini Atzeret with the woman caught in adultery. It says that twice Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with His finger, then all her accusers “went away one by one, beginning with the elders.”

Christ and the woman taken in adultery by Bruegel

I heard a homily once in which the priest speculated that Jesus wrote out some of the sins of the accusers in the dust on the ground. Yeah, maybe. But it was a crowd of people who ALL were embarrassed into skulking away, so maybe not.

I got thinking about this again the other day when I figured out that this event occurred on Shemini Atzeret. That is a day that God commanded be a Sabbath-level holy day of rest.

I couldn’t find any specific information about whether stoning someone to death was a permitted Sabbath activity. It hardly seems likely, given that the list of banned activities includes no “ending the life of a creature, whether through slaughter or any other method.”

Plus it was a violation of Roman law for the Jews to put anyone to death.

It seems significant both that Jesus wrote two times in the dust and that the elders were first to leave.

Breaking the religious law against work on a holy day and breaking the civil law against imposing capital punishment were two points that condemned the accusers of the woman.

It’s not like you can write much with your finger in dust. But “Shemini” and “Pilate” would have been enough. And the elders were most likely to catch on first, especially when Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

So yeah … maybe that’s what He wrote.



Filed under Bible History

2 responses to “What did Jesus write?

  1. Linked to this on my “blog heap o’links,” which I’m striving to be reviving but ain’t got much yet. I mean, it’s not like anyone will see it there soon, but the heap was originally just my own “bookmarks” jazzed up. 🙂

    chrissy, I admit I don’t always take the time to pursue all your connections in your various fascinating posts. I’d like to go back over all (or almost all?) of ’em, to get a better picture of the larger patterns you touch on. Or, seem to touch on, when I can follow what you’re saying. (It’s me 🙂 ) But, like this post shows, even when what you’re doing is basically speculating, a/k/a making things up (heh), you do so with such knowledge and skill! What you surmise is so reasonable as to suggest it’s high likelihood!

    And, even if it’s not true, it does reflect Jesus’ manner, I’d say; your research teaches and your speculations uplift as well.

    Thanks for this. Keep digging!


  2. I tend to think that Jesus wrote of the sins of those present – murderers, thieves etc. Many of those sins were committed in private… based upon their own holier than thou attitudes.

    Anything is possible. What is written in Scripture is written there for a reason.