February 23, 2013

What did Jesus write in the sand? (Or: things I should have learned in church that I figured out from the Althouse comments.)

Yesterday, when many blogs were talking about the Islamist Facebook page with a cartoon showing how to stone a person who had committed adultery, I added the New Testament story, from John 8, in which Jesus said: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." Jesus had just been teaching some people, and the scribes and the Pharisees, looking for a way to trip him up — they wanted to bring charges against him — present Jesus with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery and remind him that the Law of Moses commanded that she should be stoned. "So what do you say?" Instead of answering, Jesus bends over and writes in the dirt. They keep pushing for an answer, and it's only then that he says: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her."

I didn't include the next few sentences, but the story was very familiar. After Jesus makes his brilliant remark — which finds a new way into the question — the crowd disperses and Jesus tells the woman to "go and... sin no more."

Some of the commenters focused on what it was that Jesus wrote on the ground. I'd always assumed that what Jesus was writing was irrelevant and that he was simply gesturing I'm not going to talk to you. He invoked his right to remain silent, as we say in the United States of America. He knew whatever he said would be used against him. Later, when he arrives at the New Testament doctrine — the higher law — he speaks up and articulates it pithily. He doesn't write it. Jesus isn't the put-it-in-writing type. The scribes are the bad guys here, and he's about talking to the people. The Word is spoken. (It's only written down later.)

But, reading the comments, I see interest in the subject of what Jesus wrote.

Sydney says: "In the movie The King of Kings, each accuser comes up to Jesus and sees written in the dirt his own sin, and turns and walks away. I love that scene." Is that the standard theory of what Jesus wrote?

And Chip Ahoy, linking here, says: "But what did he write in the sand?" At the link, we get added details from The Urantia Book (which I'd never heard of). There, the idea is that Jesus knew the woman's husband was a "troublemaker" and "perceived" that he'd forced the woman into prostitution and that the husband was now cooperating with the Pharisees to get Jesus to say something that could be used to arrest him. In this version of the story, Jesus doesn't just bend over and write in the dirt right where he is. He walks over to the troublemaker husband and writes something in front of him that makes him rush off. Jesus comes back to his original place and writes on the ground again, and the men, "one by one," leave. Last to go, is "the woman's companion in evil," who gets his own special message written in the dirt.

Kentuckyliz gives us the Old Testament quotes (the law of Moses, which is what the Pharisees threw at Jesus to trip him up):
Deuteronomy 22:22 "If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die."

Leviticus 20:10 "If a man commits adultery with another man's wife — with the wife of his neighbor — both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death."
Kentuckyliz adds:
What's interesting about the Jesus scene, is that the law had become misogynistic in practice. The man is not being stoned according to the mandates of the law. In fact, I suspect he was standing in the crowd holding a stone.
Note that even in the extremely concise story told in John 8, we hear that the woman was "caught in the act." Whether he was in the crowd or not, the adulterer was known. Why aren't the authorities proposing to stone both the man and the woman? Kentuckyliz doesn't refer to what Jesus wrote in the sand, but this made me imagine that Jesus wrote "the man and the woman." And if the woman was a prostitute, all of the men who had ever slept with her would deserve stoning too.

In this scenario, Jesus acknowledges the written law of Moses by writing it. That's the Old Testament, which Jesus won't reject, even as his enemies are trying to lure him into rejecting it. He's showing that he knows the law, and in very few words, he's made it obvious to the legal experts that they are getting the law wrong and making them see their own faint-heartedness about equal justice, applying the strict law strictly on its written terms and to everyone. Then Jesus speaks, and the spoken word is the New Testament, calling us to a higher place, above the strict rules, under which we are all sinners. The New Testament demands that we look at our own sins. Go and sin no more.

That ought to keep you busy for the rest of your life. Now, leave other people alone.

ADDED: A second post includes the "King of Kings" clip and more.

81 comments:

rhhardin said...

Nobody writes on rock anymore.

Bob Ellison said...

I like your exegesis, Professor. When I was in college, a political philosophy professor once assigned a paper on analyzing the Bible as political philosophy. Some of the students scoffed, much as people laughed at Bush when he said Jesus was his favorite political philosopher. Foolish, that.

edutcher said...

How about just a doodle, vamping for time to gather his thoughts? Handling an angry mob can be tricky

Reagan had, "Weellll", Nixon had, "I'm glad you asked me that", and so on. Christ had Kilroy Was Here.

When this came up in school (age 15), that was what the teacher, who was also a minister, implied.

Darcy said...

"...above the strict rules, under which we are all sinners."

But we are all still sinners. The New Testament brings the hope of forgiveness, as the rules were and are impossible for us to adhere to. Completely unearned forgiveness. I think the New Testament teaches us to believe that. The focus is in believing - not behaving.

Anyway - very interesting post. I had never wondered what Jesus wrote in the sand. It's fascinating to wonder.

Tregonsee said...

"Let him who is without sin ..."

A joke from a Catholic friend continues:

As the crowd disperses, Jesus is startled when he looks up to see a middle aged woman shuffling forward carrying a bolder. He says to her, "Oh Mother, please!"

Bob Ellison said...

That shoe-shiner who gave thirty years' worth of saved tips to the children's hospital might not be a sinner.

Hagar said...

It is generally missed that Mohammed proclaimed the same God as the Christians and the Jews, and that most of that terrible sharia law is cribbed from the Old Testament.

Chip S. said...

Althouse in a nutshell:
Jesus Christ--Superlawyer!

edutcher said...

Hagar said...

It is generally missed that Mohammed proclaimed the same God as the Christians and the Jews, and that most of that terrible sharia law is cribbed from the Old Testament.

You might want to double check that. I don't think Jewish law is regarded as a political system the way sharia is.

mtrobertsattorney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pete said...

". . .calling us to a higher place, above the strict rules, under which we are all sinners."

So are you saying, Althouse, that with the New Testament, we are NOT all sinners?

Quayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quayle said...

One Mormon leader (also) speculates that Christ wrote something that showed that he knew of the sins of all the people there.

The focus is in believing - not behaving

The Mormon view is that the focus is on learning to behave, and learning why behaving is the better way, through trial and error, with Christ's ever-offered, ever-ready forgiveness as the only way that the trial and error process can work.

We all need another chance. We all need to know that as we knock around in this learning laboratory and classroom of life, that our willful tests of God's law (which are, after all, His guidance for a happy life) - we all need to know that our sin don't pile up on us and eventually sink us.

We can get a clean sheet to start over whenever we want it.

DADvocate said...

Go and sin no more.

Jesus said that to the woman, no one else. I don't see how that says, "leave other people alone." It's funny how people pick, choose and interpret the Bible to say what they want it to say.

One of my favorites is the Parable of the Prodigal Son where the father tells the son who stayed: "My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours." "Everything I have is yours." I can't remember anyone pointing out that the faithful son got a great reward.

mtrobertsattorney said...

One version has Jesus writing a description of a horrendous crime committed in secret by the leader of the Pharisees.

(The scribes got off easy.)

Shouting Thomas said...

The blinder of feminist indoctrination is slowly falling away from Althouse's eyes. I see it happening.

How long will it take before she questions the fundamental assumptions and concedes that it was all a tragic and destructive mistake?

How long before she begins to notice that she's making the same tragic and destructive mistake with the gay activist stuff?

It's tough to admit, isn't it Althouse? I went through the same thing. Two people dragged me out of the indoctrination. One was my very close gay male friend of 30 years. The other was my late wife, Myrna.

You'll get there, Althouse. I can see it coming.

And, yes, this is all about this post. Read the story of Adam and Eve, Althouse, not as a lawyer, but as a woman. The temptation of Eve has been enacted again during your lifetime.

St. George said...

Christ is writing the names of the accusers in the dust. It's a reference to an Old Testament verse in which the names of those unworthy of eternal life (or its equivalent) would be written by God in the dust instead of in the book of life (presumably in stone or something like that).

He is messing with them big time. He knew how to tick people off.

Meanwhile, he's telling the woman he knows she has sinned but is not condemning her. Instead he calls her to try harder, to live anew and be forgiven.

Darcy said...

@Quayle

I like that. I think we're on the same page. Believing makes me aspire to not sin. I think the focus on rules does the opposite.

Erika said...

The temptation of Eve has been enacted again during your lifetime.

What an interesting point-thanks for making it.

Rusty said...

Chip S. said...
Althouse in a nutshell:
Jesus Christ--Superlawyer!

But that's what judism and christianity are, laws.

Bob said...

He wrote the word Jehovah.

Timotheus said...

My own theory is that God made sure that there were unanswered questions in the Bible, so that we'd actually think about what He was telling us and have discussions with others about it.

Erika said...

Christianity is about God's transcendent grace, which compensates for our continual breaking of the laws that he laid down.

Darcy said...

@DADvocate
I love the Prodigal Son parable. I think the wayward son received a great reward! His father saw him coming home and ran to him with open arms. I loved that. I love the forgiveness in it and the allusion ( I believe) to the open arms of our Father to our wayward selves.

Illuninati said...

Hagar said:
"It is generally missed that Mohammed proclaimed the same God as the Christians and the Jews, and that most of that terrible sharia law is cribbed from the Old Testament."

It is generally missed because it is not true. Indeed, much of the Koran is plagerized from the Old Testament, but it is changed just enough to convey an entirely different God. The Koran itself claims this difference.

"But the Jews and the Christians say, "We are the children of Allah and His beloved." Say, "Then why does He punish you for your sins?" Rather, you are human beings from among those He has created. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills. And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, and to Him is the [final] destination." Koran 5:18
http://quran.com/5/18

As the Koran correctly points out, buth Christians and Jews view God as their loving heavenly father. This view is strictly forbidden in Islam. Muslims reverence Allah as their master, they are his slaves. In Islam God's unconditional love is a Jewish and Christian fable.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

There is a place somewhere in C.S. Lewis that singles out the writing-in-the-dirt business as evidence that the Gospels (or at least that one) are what they purport to be -- that is, real accounts of real events. He argues that no doctrine stems from that action; no tenet of the Church relies on it; it seems irrelevant to the story. Therefore, either the story is realistic fiction of a kind that didn't (so far as we know) exist before the late 18th century, or else it is an account by someone who didn't know what it meant, but put it in there just because he saw it.

Erika said...

Darcy and Dadvocate--it's one of my favorites too. I love reading it to my kids and showing them how Jesus' parables have so many layers of meaning. It seems that every time we discuss that story another aspect of our relationship to God reveals itself. Sometimes we wander and don't come to our senses and come home until we're face down in a pig trough of our own making. It ties in with the parable of the lost sheep, and both demonstrate how much he loves us and desires us to be with him, and that love will never wane no matter how stupidly we've tried to get away from it.

edutcher said...

Illuminati makes an excellent point.

It is not for nothing the word Islam translates to submission.

PS Read a little bit ago the best translation for jihad was crusade.

YMMV

Bob said...

My Catholic Study Bible has this to say about the passage:

7:53-8:11: The story of the woman caught in adultery is a later insertion here, missing from all early Greek manuscripts. A Western text-type insertion, attested mainly in Old Latin translations, it is found in different places in different manuscripts: here, or after Jn 7:36 or at the end of this gospel, or after Lk21:38, or at the end of that gospel. There are many non-Johannine features in the language, and there are also many doubtful readings within the passage. The style and motifs are similar to those of Luke, and it fits better with the general situation at the end of Lk 21: but it was probably inserted here because of the allusion to Jer 17:13 (cf. note on Jn 8:6) and the statement "I do not judge anyone" in Jn 8:15. The Catholic Church accepts this passage as canonical scrupture.

Hagar said...

@edutcher,
Judaism has "evolved," and Christians are supposed to go by the New Testament, which is a whole different story.
The struggle in the Moslem world today is between those who also want to "evolve" and those who want to go back to the 7th century.

Darcy said...

@Erika

Yes! To all of that. :)

edutcher said...

Shouting Thomas said...

The blinder of feminist indoctrination is slowly falling away from Althouse's eyes. I see it happening.

Maybe it fell away longer ago than we think.

After all, wouldn't using an alternative POV to spark discussion be a fairly common pedagogical device?

DADvocate said...

Darcy - I agree. But, I love just as much the way the faithful son receives a great reward. Many people seem to miss that.

edutcher said...

Hagar said...

@edutcher,
Judaism has "evolved," and Christians are supposed to go by the New Testament, which is a whole different story.
The struggle in the Moslem world today is between those who also want to "evolve" and those who want to go back to the 7th century.


I have no argument with that.

Bender said...

From Pope Benedict, March 21, 2010 --

While he is teaching in the Temple area the scribes and the Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman caught in adultery, for whom the Mosaic Law prescribes stoning.

These men ask Jesus to judge the woman with the purpose of "putting him to the test" and trip him up. The scene is full of drama: The woman's life and Jesus' own life depend on his words. The hypocritical accusers, in fact, pretend to entrust him with the judgment while in reality they want to accuse and judge him. But Jesus is "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14): He knows what is in every man's heart, he wants to condemn sin but save the sinner, and unmask hypocrisy.

There is a detail that is highlighted by the evangelist St. John: While the accusers question him insistently, Jesus bends down and starts writing with his finger on the ground. St. Augustine observes that this gesture displays Jesus as the divine lawgiver: Indeed, God wrote the law with his finger on the tables of stone (cf. Commentary on the Gospel of John 33:5). Thus, Jesus is the lawgiver, justice incarnate. And what is his judgment? "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her."

These words are full of the disarming power of the truth, which makes the wall of hypocrisy crumble and opens consciences to a greater justice, that of love, in which consists the perfect fulfillment of every precept (cf. Romans 13:8-10). It is justice that also saved Saul of Tarsus, transforming him into St. Paul (cf. Philippians 3:8-14). When the accusers "departed, one by one, beginning with the elders," Jesus, absolving the woman of her sin, introduces her into a new life, oriented toward the good: "Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on do not sin any more." It is the same grace that will make the Apostle say: "I only know this: forgetting what is behind and looking to that which is ahead, I race toward the goal, to the prize that God is calling me to receive above in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). . . .

Dear friends, let us learn from the Lord Jesus not to judge and not to condemn our neighbor. Let us learn to be intransigent with sin -- beginning with our own! -- and indulgent with people.

Gahrie said...

Judaism has "evolved," and Christians are supposed to go by the New Testament, which is a whole different story.
The struggle in the Moslem world today is between those who also want to "evolve" and those who want to go back to the 7th century.


The problem is, Islam can't "evolve" without further relevations from Allah.

Quayle said...

Darcy, we are on the same page. The trial and error produces faith that He really is right and He knows what He is doing.

Hagar said...

Judaism and Christianity have.

Bender said...

What is remarkable about this incident is that, for all of their own hypocrisy and sin - not to mention the unequal treatment of women by these men - each of them does drop his stone and walk away.

Were this to happen in today's world, most of the men would eagerly declare themselves to be without sin and start tossing stones, as we see constantly happening in contemporary society.

Hagar said...

Though more for some than for others.

Achilles said...

Some of the best proof that Jesus and the New Testament are libertarian. If only we could get people on both sides to stop using the government to condemn others and focus on their own belief, and use that as a tool to change others for the better rather than having a government make more and more stuff illegal because they don't like it.

ricpic said...

Why is it assumed that a society is advancing when mercy is shown the sinner; what about the sinned against? Their position, and they are far more numerous than the sinner, gets worse. Ooh, let's not stone the adulteress. What about the children and husbands of the far more numerous adulteresses in an "enlightened" society. Not to mention the wives and children of the adulteresses' partners. Ooh, let's not cut off the thief's hands. No, let's rather have a society cowering behind its deadbolts.

Louis said...

I believe that He was making a point to we the readers of the story thousands of years later. By choosing to draw in the dirt He was (literally) illustrating the Truth that this heaven will pass away and the heaven above it will pass away but His words will not pass away.

Ann Althouse said...

"So are you saying, Althouse, that with the New Testament, we are NOT all sinners?"

No, but there is a way to think about sin that is different. 1. Pay attention to your sins, not the sins of others. 2. You can be forgiven, and you should forgive others.

Erika said...

having a government make more and more stuff illegal because they don't like it

But that's not how anyone sees it. Everyone who wants to make stuff illegal--from Big Gulps to pornography to marijuana to abortion to hate speech--is not motivated entirely by personal dislike, but by a sincere* desire to protect the innocent from harm.

*usually

Bender said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DADvocate said...

1. Pay attention to your sins, not the sins of others. 2. You can be forgiven, and you should forgive others.

Well put. Clear and concise.

Bender said...

Whether Jesus, who is the Word Incarnate, "drew a line in the sand," or wrote something else, let's not forget the prior incident of "the writing on the wall."

Daniel 5 -
King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. . . . As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.
Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled. . . .
So Daniel was brought before the king . . . "I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means. . . . you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.
"This is the inscription that was written:
"mene, tekel, peres
"Here is what these words mean:
"Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
"Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
"Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." . . .
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.

jr565 said...

Hagar wrote:
It is generally missed that Mohammed proclaimed the same God as the Christians and the Jews, and that most of that terrible sharia law is cribbed from the Old Testament.

The parts where jews are likened to swine?

Basta! said...

I like your interpretation --- that Jesus wrote "the man AND the woman" --- going off the point Kentucky Liz brought up. However, I was curious enough to look up what the earliest commenters thought, and this neglect of the male sinner by those proposing stoning the woman didn't grab their attention. They're focused, rather, on the ground, or earth, and what Jesus writing on that particular surface might mean.

Ambrose of Milan (4th century) thought Jesus had written a line from Jeremiah (22:29), which Ambrose cited as: “Earth, earth, write that these men have been disowned”. That the OT passage didn't say that, but "Earth (= eretz), earth, earth, hear the word of the YHWH" didn't stop Ambrose, who expanded on the meaning of what he thought Jesus had written, thus: “Those who have been disowned by their Father are written on the ground”; by contrast, the names of Christians are written in heaven" --- to which St. George referred above.

John Chrysostome (4th century) claimed that Jesus wrote: "Earth, swallow up these men who have been disowned" --- make of that what you will.

Augustine of Hippo (also 4th century) gave a sermon in which he invoked the incident with the adulteress to remind local rulers that they were merely "Earth judging earth." Within a few centuries this had been recast as Augustine having said that Jesus wrote: "Earth accuses earth" (terra terram accusat), and this then became the tradition.

What I find most interesting is the exegetical mindset, that goes immediately from Jesus writing ON the earth to the idea that this must mean he wrote something that included the WORD "earth".



Bender said...

It is generally missed that Mohammed proclaimed the same God as the Christians and the Jews, and that most of that terrible sharia law is cribbed from the Old Testament.

Islam does not proclaim a faith in the Triune God. In fact, the Trinity is blasphemy according to the Koran.

Despite the many attempts by some to equate the two, Allah and God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not one and the same.

edutcher said...

True, Christ is regarded as another of the Prophets in Islam.

Hagar said...

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons or hypostases:[1] the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature".[2] A nature is what one is, while a person is who one is.[3][4][5]

The Trinity is considered to be a mystery of Christian faith.[6] According to this doctrine, there is only one God in three persons. Each person is God, whole and entire. They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: as the Fourth Lateran Council declared, "it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds". While distinct in their relations with one another, they are one in all else. The whole work of creation and grace is a single operation common to all three divine persons, who at the same time operate according to their unique properties, so that all things are from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.[6] The three persons are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial.

Trinitarianism (one deity in three persons) contrasts with nontrinitarian positions which include Binitarianism (one deity in two persons, or two deities), Unitarianism (one deity in one person, analogous to Jewish interpretation of the Shema and Muslim belief in Tawhid), Oneness Pentecostalism or Modalism (one deity manifested in three separate aspects), and social trinitarianism (three persons united by mutual love and accord).

(Wikipedia)

So, a lot of Christians do not go with the Fourth Lateran Council eirher.

jr565 said...

Achilles wrote:
Some of the best proof that Jesus and the New Testament are libertarian. If only we could get people on both sides to stop using the government to condemn others and focus on their own belief, and use that as a tool to change others for the better rather than having a government make more and more stuff illegal because they don't like it.

This is simplistic and stupid. One, the people in the mob were not govt. But even if they were, this can't possibly be ascribable to ALL sin can it? LIke if a court finds someone gulilty of murder they should not even face punishment of jail time? The lord may forgive their sins, but that doesn't mean that they still shouldn't pay restitution.

And there are things that SHOULD be illegal. (murder, theft etc). despite murderers and thieves thinking otherwise.

For example, I get that libertarians think all should be ok, but really, should society condone something like incest? Be completely neutral on it? Have no laws against it? If you play it out in the practical world, suppose you were a social worker and you were going to put a kid into a family who were in an incestual couple and this was common knowledge. Would or should you be neutral on the placement of that kid? What if they said up front that they would have relations with that kid up front (and lets assume they are at least honoring age restrictions). Would you still place that kid there?
This gets into socially acceptable and socially non aceptable norms. if you accept that there are socially acceptable norms, then you have to accept that not everything is permissible.


sydney said...

Muslims reverence Allah as their master, they are his slaves.

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

It is things like this that often make me think that Mohammed's teachings were very much anti-Christ.

jr565 said...

Jesus also said to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. That includes taxation, but also enforcement of justice.

And much of the issue is proportionality for the sin commited. For example, if you commit adultery should you be punishable by death. I certianly don't think so. But suppose you go on a killing spree, or are a Ted Bundy and you are captured. Should society be able to kill you (or stone you to death figuratively) I think so.

So, in certain cases, let he who is without sin cast the first stone does NOT apply.

We are talking about judging people right? Can a jury judge someone's sin? They can certainly judge someone's guilt or innocence for that sin> Would anyone argue that somehow they shouldn't have that right? And the judge can hand down a sentence of punishment for crimes commited. Would anyone argue that he shouldn't have that right?
Would anyone accept the premise that only he who is without sin can find someone guilty if they are serving ona jury, or only judges who are without sin can impose a sentence?

jr565 said...

To clarify:
This gets into socially acceptable and socially non aceptable norms. if you accept that there are socially acceptable norms, then you have to accept that not everything is permissible.
It doesn't mean that everythong that is socially impermisable should have a law against it, but it doesn't preclude that either.

Hagar said...

First Council of Nicea - 325 A.D.
Fourth Lateran Council - 1213 A.D.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Hagar,

Thanks for the Wiki passage on the Trinity -- interesting!

IIRC, the Catholic/Orthodox split was about the "filioque" passage in the Nicene Creed, with the Roman Catholics holding that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, while the Eastern Orthodox camp held that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father. Chesterton somewhere says that you can see the difference in the stiff, stylized character of Eastern Orthodox ikons as against the more fluid, human character of Catholic religious art.

JeffM said...

It is impossible to not sin. The scribes and pharisees believed redemption was possible through strict adherence to the law. Jesus sought to destroy this notion. Yet, if we are doomed to sin, and redemption is not possible through the law, what hope for us is there? Our culture's answer is to redefine sin. Adultery? Divorce? Gay marriage? Fuggedahboutit. Do what you got to do; go have fun. How is that working out? I think Shouting Thomas is on to something.

Synova said...

"Were this to happen in today's world, most of the men would eagerly declare themselves to be without sin and start tossing stones, as we see constantly happening in contemporary society."

In the Air Force a friend of my husband was told by someone in the Chaplain service that he wasn't allowed to distribute a letter to his fellow congregants explaining that a failure to trust God (in this case, fear) was a sin. He wasn't allowed (*they* weren't allowed) to tell anyone that they sinned.

At the time, with events, there were several people nearly incapacitated by fear and anxiety related to what was going on (as opposed to having anxiety or depression that wasn't related to real world events) and maybe the letter was "tough love" to an extent but it was kindly worded and it was doctrinally correct, if it was coming from his charismatic evangelical background or my Lutheran one.

Maybe the Catholics are wrong to separate sin into degrees, normal sins vs. serious sins... misdemeanors vs. felonies... but people do it because people think that way. Whereas a protestant evangelical will say that the smallest sin is as bad as the biggest. So indulging in fear might warrant a letter pointing out that, right now you're supposed to be trusting God, that's what He's there for. But being told you're sinning when you've accepted that you're a sinner just really isn't that horrible. You already know that you're incapable of eliminating all sin in your life, even if you're supposed to try, and while we are supposed to look to our own sins first, and it's not useful to be condemning, fire-and-brimstone, all the time about everything, when you see people hurting and you perceive a blind-spot that perhaps they could use a reminder of (probably because you're having a similar struggle at the time) it's entirely appropriate to write a letter to the people in your church explaining from scripture that God has promised to watch over you and in what way fear is a sin.

It's so often portrayed as the worst possible thing to talk about sin or sinners. One thing about the parable of the woman caught in adultery is that Jesus never says she's not a sinner or that what she has done is not a sin. He doesn't condemn her to be stoned, true, but he doesn't approve her actions or say that they are not sins or even that the Law is wrong.

Jeff is right that our society deals with the problem of "sin" by redefining "sin" as "not-sin".

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Dangerous to purse a "legal mind" take on the Bible.

Because the very first rule you have to lay down is the insistence that "Jesus said . . ." be replaced, always and everywhere, by "Jesus is said to have said . . .".

And this before you can even begin.

Illuninati said...

@Hagar:
"The struggle in the Moslem world today is between those who also want to "evolve" and those who want to go back to the 7th century"

Islam has already "evolved", it is just "evolving" in a different direction than Christianity and Judaism. Islam is an entirely different religion, developed to compete with Christianity and Judaism and replace them, so why should we expect Muslims to follow the leadership of religions which Muslims despise as aspotates?

Islam's golden age when there still deep thinkers living in Islamic countries ended about 1,000years ago. Since then, Islam has become more and more totalitarian and closed. Al Queda and the radical Islamists are simply the next step in their "evolution". Right now, the Islamists have joined up with the left in their battle against Christianity and Judaism. They sense victory. This reinforces their claims that Islam in its present totalitarian form is destined to rule the world. They have no reason to change.

Because Islam has such a radically different view of God than Christianity and Judaism, there is no reason that we should expect anything other than what we have already seen. Christianity and Judaism both view God as a loving father who welcomes our questions. Both religions emphasize God's will for us to be free. This view encourages freedom of thought. Islam is entirely different. The Koran teaches that Allah is our master, we are all Allah's slaves. A slave is only loved when he does something which pleases his master, a slave never questions his master.

In the passage I quoted earlier, Mohammad obviously knew that Christians and Jews view God as their loving master and he rejected that concept. In other words, one of the tasks Allah gave Mohammad and his followers is to stamp out the "heresy" that we can relate to God as a loving parent. Islam as we know it is the inevitable result of that view of God.



Stephen A. Meigs said...

Sometimes I have wondered whether the first advanced communications between people were by drawing maps or pictures in sand or dirt rather than by speech. If ground drawings were for a long time the most significant type of advanced communication between people, this might give sand drawing, etc., a kind of archetypal profound feel about it, as though we have remnants of primitive innate feelings relating to it that evolved early in human history.

Ipso Fatso said...

What did Jesus write?

Nice Rack.

AllenS said...

Way back then, nobody could read or write, including Jesus (although he didn't need to know how to read, because he could read your mind), so, he simply drew a line in the sand, and everyone knew, cross that line and you're fucking dead.

Later, it was simply translated into: "Go ahead, make my day."

True story.

Darcy said...

LOL, Allen

Smilin' Jack said...

"So are you saying, Althouse, that with the New Testament, we are NOT all sinners?"

No, but there is a way to think about sin that is different. 1. Pay attention to your sins, not the sins of others. 2. You can be forgiven, and you should forgive others.


And, more importantly, we can now get away with eating pork chops.

AllenS said...

Thanks, Darcy. I have a lot of stories of olden years to tell. Someone has to, and it might as well be me.

Joe said...

I have it on good authority that he was drawing boobies.

FuzzyFace said...

"… Therefore, either the story is realistic fiction of a kind that didn't (so far as we know) exist before the late 18th century…"

What?? How is this more realistic than all the fiction written in the previous few thousand years?

"The scribes and pharisees believed redemption was possible through strict adherence to the law.

It would be more correct to say that early Christians claimed that this was what the scribes and pharisees believed. Such a belief bears no resemblence to actual Pharisaic teaching.

R. Scott Clark said...

Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edn (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft/UBS, 1994), on this pericope (John 7:53-8:11) writes:

"The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming. It is absent from such early and diverse manuscripts as P66 (et al) Codices A and C are defective in this part of John, but it is highly probable that neither contained the pericope, for careful measurement discloses that there would not have been space enough on the missing leaves to include the section along with the rest of the text. In the East the passage is absent from the oldest form of the Syriac version (...) as wellas from the Sahidic and the Achminic versions.... Some Armenian MSS and the Old Georgian version omit it. In the West the passage is absent from the Gothic version and from several Old Latin MSS. No Greek Church Father prior to... (the 12th century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospel do not contain it."

The earliest text (D) containing this reading is Western, less reliable, and dated to the 6th century. In contrast P66 is in a more reliable text family, dates to 200AD.

Metzger writes:

"When one adds to this impressive and diversified list of external evidence the consideration that the style and vocabulary the pericope differ noticeably from the rest of the Fourth Gospel...and that it interrupts the sequence of 7.52 and 8.12ff., the case against its being of Johannine authorship appears to be conclusive.

At the same time the account has all the earmarks of historical veracity, It is obviously a piece of oral tradition which circulated in certain parts of the Western church and which was subsequently incorporated into various MSS at various places.

...Sometimes it is stated that the pericope was deliberately expunged from the Fourth Gospel because Jesus' words at the close were liable to be understood in a sense too indulgent to adultery. But, apart from the absence of of any instance elsewhere of scribal excision of an extensive passage because of moral prudence, this theory fails "to explain why the three preliminary verses (vii 53, viii 1-2), so important as apparently descriptive of the time and place at which al the discourses of c. viii were spoken, should have been omitted with the rest" (Hort, Notes on Select Readings, 86)."

Metzger goes on to say that it is included in the critical editions of the Greek NT because of the antiquity of the pericope but the committee has the highest degree of certainty that it was an oral tradition included in the Greek text of John's gospel much later.

The Godfather said...

I mentioned on another thread that scholars don't think this story is Johnanine (as R. Scott Clark explains in detail), but that doesn't mean it doesn't reflect Christ's teachings.

If you compare Christian scripture with Old Testament scripture, what jumps out at you is that Christian scripture sets the sin bar much higher -- basically, you can't avoid sinning no matter how hard you try. But, you can be forgiven by a loving God.

That's what this story is about. It doesn't say, Go ahead and commit adultery. Jesus tells the adulterous woman to sin no more. But he tells the men who would execute her that they have the right to do so only if they have not sinned themselves -- and by JESUS's standards, they have all sinned.

They didn't have to be murderers or adulterers or thieves or whatever to be sinners. They just had to be regular human beings like you and me.

Darrell said...

The old interpretation is that Jesus simply drew a circle. Since a circle by itself would surely NOT change anyone's mind, people have assumed that the power of God came into play--that everyone looking into the circle saw his or her own sinful life: The iPad of dirt. The "new" interpretation, from "scholars" that would be involved in the "God Project," is that drawing in the dirt like that is an old rhetorical trick with public speakers in the Middle East. It diverts the attention of the crowd to what the speaker is doing, and serves to defuse their anger. The crowd EXPECTS that the speaker is going to write something significant, and he only doodles. The new "scholars" say you can still see public speakers using this technique today. What it really says it that the "new" "Christian" scholars do not believe in the power of God (Jesus) and do not believe in what we call miracles or the ability of Jesus to perform them. Sad, that.

Bender said...

the committee has the highest degree of certainty that it was an oral tradition

The major problem with those who begin and end with the historical-critical method is that they end up missing the point entirely.

Moreover, of course the incident was part of the oral tradition. In fact, the entirety of the written Gospels was the fruit of oral tradition, just like the entirety of the Old Testament was written down only long after it had been handed down orally.

Nevertheless, we can be assured of the reliability of this reporting of this incident for the same reason that we can rely on the rest of the New Testament - because they were approved by the Church which pre-existed the written New Testament.

Michael The Magnificent said...

What gets lost is the relationship between Passover and Easter.

Christ is our sacrificial lamb that allows us to be passed-over by God's judgement.

TheThinMan said...

At candidate debates, when candidate A puts candidate B down, B is seen furiuosly writing away while putting on an all-knowing smile. This seems to be pure theater; B is telling us, "He didn't just destroy me because I'm gonna knock that one right out of the park!" So instead of us enjoying the put down, we're anticipating the amazing comeback we see is in store for us.

McGehee said...

He wrote, "I'm coming -- look busy."

Fr Martin Fox said...

Allen: actually, if you take a closer look, you will find the society of our Lord's time on earth had a high degree of literacy. God's Chosen People especially tended to be literate, because of the importance of studying the Torah.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Allen: actually, if you take a closer look, you will find the society of our Lord's time on earth had a high degree of literacy. God's Chosen People especially tended to be literate, because of the importance of studying the Torah.

Goober said...

Jr565;
Your response about libertarianism is all too common. You've created a strawman where libertarianism equates to anarchy and are arguing from that position. Just because the poster didn't list out his opinion on every crime does not mean that he was advocating allowing people to get away with murder untouched. For future reference so that libertarians don't have to list out their belief in minute detail for people like you:

Generally speaking, libertarians are against laws and punishment for actions that do not cause harm to another unwilling individual. Since we have a metric crap ton of laws on the books that do just that, libertarians are generally dissatisfied with the status quo. That does not mean calling for anarchy and lawlessness.