The Woman Taken in Adultery.
1, 2. Jesus went unto the Mount of
Olives—This should have formed the last verse of the
foregoing chapter. "The return of the people to the inert quiet and
security of their dwellings (Joh 7:53), at the close of the feast, is
designedly contrasted with our Lord's homeless way, so to speak,
of spending the short night, who is early in the morning on the scene
again. One cannot well see why what is recorded in Lu 21:37, 38 may not even thus early have taken
place; it might have been the Lord's ordinary custom from the beginning
to leave the brilliant misery of the city every night, that so He might
compose His sorrowful and interceding heart, and collect His energies
for new labors of love; preferring for His resting-place Bethany, and
the Mount of Olives, the scene thus consecrated by many
preparatory prayers for His final humiliation and exaltation" [Stier].
3-6. scribes and Pharisees—foiled in
their yesterday's attempt, and hoping to succeed better in this.
4, 5. woman … in adultery … Moses
… commanded … should be stoned—simply put to
22:22), but in aggravated
cases, at least in later times, this was probably by stoning (Eze 16:40).
but what sayest thou—hoping, whatever
He might answer, to put Him in the wrong:—if He said, Stone her,
that would seem a stepping out of His province; if He forbade it, that
would hold Him up as a relaxer of the public morals. But these cunning
hypocrites were overmatched.
6. stooped down—It will be observed He
was sitting when they came to Him.
with his finger wrote on the
ground—The words of our translators in italics ("as though He
heard them not") have hardly improved the sense, for it is scarcely
probable He could wish that to be thought. Rather He wished to show
them His aversion to enter on the subject. But as this did not suit
them, they "continue asking Him," pressing for an answer. At last,
raising Himself He said.
7. He that is without sin—not meaning
sinless altogether; nor yet, guiltless of a literal breach of the
Seventh Commandment; but probably, he whose conscience acquits him of
any such sin.
cast a stone—"the stone,"
meaning the first one (De 17:7).
8. again he stooped down and wrote—The
design of this second stooping and writing on the ground was evidently
to give her accusers an opportunity to slink away unobserved by
Him, and so avoid an exposure to His eye which they could ill have
stood. Accordingly it is added.
9. they … convicted … went out one by
one … Jesus was left alone—that is, without one of her
accusers remaining; for it is added.
the woman in the midst—that is, of the
remaining audience. While the trap failed to catch Him for whom it was
laid, it caught those who laid it. Stunned by the unexpected home
thrust, they immediately made off—which makes the impudence of
those impure hypocrites in dragging such a case before the public eye
the more disgusting.
10. Woman, &c.—What inimitable
tenderness and grace! Conscious of her own guilt, and till now in the
hands of men who had talked of stoning her, wondering at the
skill with which her accusers had been dispersed, and the
grace of the few words addressed to herself, she would be
disposed to listen, with a reverence and teachableness before unknown,
to our Lord's admonition. "And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I
condemn thee, go and sin no more." He pronounces no pardon upon the
woman (such as, "Thy sins are forgiven thee" [compare Lu 5:28; 7:48]—"Go in peace" [compare
Mr 5:34; Lu 7:50; 8:48]), much less does He say that she had
done nothing condemnable; He simply leaves the matter where it was. He
meddles not with the magistrate's office, nor acts the Judge in
any sense (Joh 12:47).
But in saying, "Go and sin no more," which had been before said to one
who undoubtedly believed (Joh 5:14),
more is probably implied than expressed. If brought suddenly to
conviction of sin, admiration of her Deliverer, and a willingness to be
admonished and guided by Him, this call to begin a new life may have
carried with it what would ensure and naturally bring about a permanent
change. (This whole narrative is wanting in some of the earliest and
most valuable manuscripts, and those which have it vary to some extent.
The internal evidence in its favor is almost overpowering. It is easy
to account for its omission, though genuine; but if not so, it
is next to impossible to account for its insertion).
Joh 8:12-59. Further
Discourses of Jesus—Attempt to
12. I am the light of the world—As the
former references to water (Joh 4:13, 14; 7:37-39) and to bread (Joh 6:35) were occasioned by outward occurrences,
so this one to light. In "the treasury" where it was spoken (see
on Joh 8:20) stood two colossal golden
lamp-stands, on which hung a multitude of lamps, lighted after the
evening sacrifice (probably every evening during the feast of
tabernacles), diffusing their brilliancy, it is said, over all the
city. Around these the people danced with great rejoicing. Now, as
amidst the festivities of the water from Siloam Jesus cried,
saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink," so now
amidst the blaze and the joyousness of this illumination, He proclaims,
"I AM THE Light of the
world"—plainly in the most absolute sense. For
though He gives His disciples the same title, they are only "light
in the Lord" (Eph 5:8); and
though He calls the Baptist "the burning and shining light" (or
"lamp" of his day, Joh 5:35),
yet "he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that
Light: that was THE TRUE Light which,
coming into the world, lighteth every man" (Joh 1:8, 9). Under this magnificent title Messiah
was promised of old (Isa 42:6; Mal 4:2, &c.).
he that followeth me—as one does a
light going before him, and as the Israelites did the pillar of bright
cloud in the wilderness.
but shall have the light of life—the
light, as of a new world, a newly awakened spiritual and eternal
13-19. bearest record of thyself; thy record is
not true—How does He meet this specious cavil? Not by
disputing the wholesome human maxim that "self-praise is no praise,"
but by affirming that He was an exception to the rule, or
rather, that it had no application to Him.
14. for I know whence I came, and whither I
go, &c.—(See on Joh 7:28).
15. Ye judge after the flesh—with no
I judge no man.
16. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true,
&c.—Ye not only form your carnal and warped judgments
of Me, but are bent on carrying them into effect; I, though I form and
utter My judgment of you, am not here to carry this into
execution—that is reserved to a future day; yet the judgment I
now pronounce and the witness I now bear is not Mine only as ye
suppose, but His also that sent Me. (See on Joh
5:31, 32). And these are the two witnesses to any fact which your
20. These words spake Jesus in the
treasury—a division, so called, of the fore court of the
temple, part of the court of the women [Josephus, Antiquities, 19.6.2, &c.],
which may confirm the genuineness of Joh 8:2-11, as the place where the woman was
no man laid hands on him, &c.—(See
on Joh 7:30). In the dialogue that follows, the
conflict waxes sharper on both sides, till rising to its climax, they
take up stones to stone him.
21-25. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my
way, &c.—(See on Joh 7:33).
22. Then said the Jews, Will he kill
himself?—seeing something more in His words than before
7:35), but their question
more malignant and scornful.
23. Ye are from beneath; I am from
above—contrasting Himself, not as in Joh 3:31, simply with earthborn messengers of
God, but with men sprung from and breathing an opposite
element from His, which rendered it impossible that He and they
should have any present fellowship, or dwell eternally together. (Again
see on Joh 7:33; also see on Joh 8:44).
24. if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die
in your sins—They knew well enough what He meant (Mr 13:6, Greek; compare Mt 24:5). But He would not, by speaking it
out, give them the materials for a charge for which they were watching.
At the same time, one is irresistibly reminded by such language, so far
transcending what is becoming in men, of those ancient
declarations of the God of Israel, "I AM
He" (De 32:39; Isa 43:10, 13; 46:4;
48:12). See on Joh 6:20.
25. Who art thou?—hoping thus to extort
an explicit answer; but they are disappointed.
26, 27. I have many things to say and to judge of
you; but he that sent me is true, &c.—that is, I could,
and at the fitting time, will say and judge many things of you
(referring perhaps to the work of the Spirit which is for
judgment as well as salvation, Joh 16:8), but what I do say is just the message
My Father hath given Me to deliver.
28-30. When ye have lifted up the Son of
man—The plainest intimation He had yet given in public
of the manner and the authors of His death.
then shall ye know that I am he,
&c.—that is, find out, or have sufficient evidence,
how true was all He said, though they would be far from owning it.
29. the Father hath not left me alone; for I do
always those things that please him, &c.—that is, To you,
who gnash upon Me with your teeth, and frown down all open appearance
for Me, I seem to stand uncountenanced and alone; but I have a sympathy
and support transcending all human applause; I came hither to do My
Father's will, and in the doing of it have not ceased to please Him;
therefore is He ever by Me with His approving smile, His cheering
words, His supporting arm.
30. As he spake these words, many believed on
him—Instead of wondering at this, the wonder would be if
words of such unearthly, surpassing grandeur could be uttered
without captivating some that heard them. And just as "all that
sat in the council" to try Stephen "saw his face"—though
expecting nothing but death—"as it had been the face of an
angel" (Ac 6:15), so
may we suppose that, full of the sweet supporting sense of His Father's
presence, amidst the rage and scorn of the rulers, a divine benignity
beamed from His countenance, irradiated the words that fell from Him,
and won over the candid "many" of His audience.
31-33. Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed,
If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed,
&c.—The impression produced by the last words of our Lord may
have become visible by some decisive movement, and here He takes
advantage of it to press on them "continuance" in the faith,
since then only were they His real disciples (compare Joh 15:3-8), and then should they
experimentally "know the truth," and "by the truth be made
33. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and
were never in bondage to any man, &c.—Who said this? Not
surely the very class just spoken of as won over by His divine words,
and exhorted to continue in them. Most interpreters seem to think so;
but it is hard to ascribe such a petulant speech to the newly gained
disciples, even in the lowest sense, much less persons so gained
as they were. It came, probably, from persons mixed up with them in the
same part of the crowd, but of a very different spirit. The
pride of the Jewish nation, even now after centuries of
humiliation, is the most striking feature of their character. "Talk of
freedom to us? Pray when or to whom were we ever in bondage?"
This bluster sounds almost ludicrous from such a nation. Had they
forgotten their long and bitter bondage in Egypt? their dreary
captivity in Babylon? their present bondage to the Roman yoke, and
their restless eagerness to throw it off? But probably they saw that
our Lord pointed to something else—freedom, perhaps, from the
leaders of sects or parties—and were not willing to allow their
subjection even to these. Our Lord, therefore, though He knew what
slaves they were in this sense, drives the ploughshare somewhat deeper
than this, to a bondage they little dreamt of.
34, 35. Whosoever committeth sin—that
is, liveth in the commission of it—(Compare 1Jo 3:8; Mt
is the servant of sin—that is, the
bond-servant, or slave of it; for the question is not
about free service, but who are in bondage. (Compare 2Pe 2:19;
Re 6:16). The great truth
here expressed was not unknown to heathen moralists; but it was applied
only to vice, for they were total strangers to what in revealed
religion is called sin. The thought of slaves and
freemen in the house suggests to our Lord a wider idea.
35. And the servant abideth not in the house for
ever, but the Son abideth ever—that is, "And if your
connection with the family of God be that of BOND-SERVANTS, ye have no natural tie to the
house; your tie is essentially uncertain and precarious. But the
Son's relationship to the Father is a natural and essential one; it is
an indefeasible tie; His abode in it is perpetual and of
right: That is My relationship, My tie: If, then, ye would have
your connection with God's family made real, rightful,
permanent, ye must by the Son be manumitted and
adopted as sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty." In this
sublime statement there is no doubt a subordinate allusion to
21:10, "Cast out this
bondwoman and her son, for the son of this bond-woman shall
not be heir with my son, with Isaac." (Compare Ga 4:22-30).
37-41. ye seek to kill me—He had said
this to their face before: He now repeats it, and they do not deny it;
yet are they held back, as by some marvellous spell—it was the
awe which His combined dignity, courage, and benignity struck into
because my word hath no place in
you—When did ever human prophet so speak of His words?
They tell us of "the word of the Lord" coming to them. But here is One
who holds up "His word" as that which ought to find entrance and
abiding room for itself in the souls of all who hear it.
38. my Father … your father—(See
on Joh 8:23).
39. If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the
works of Abraham—He had just said He "knew they were
Abraham's children," that is, according to the flesh; but the
children of his faith and holiness they were not, but the
40. this did not Abraham—In so doing ye
act in direct opposition to him.
41. We be not born of fornication … we have
one Father, God—meaning, as is generally allowed, that they
were not an illegitimate race in point of religion, pretending
only to be God's people, but were descended from His own chosen
42, 43. If God were your Father, ye would love
me—"If ye had anything of His moral image, as children have
their father's likeness, ye would love Me, for I am immediately of Him
and directly from Him." But "My speech" (meaning His peculiar style of
expressing Himself on these subjects) is unintelligible to you because
ye cannot take in the truth which it conveys.
44. Ye are of your father the
devil—"This is one of the most decisive testimonies to the
objective (outward) personality of the devil. It is quite
impossible to suppose an accommodation to Jewish views, or a
metaphorical form of speech, in so solemn an assertion as this" [Alford].
the lusts of your father—his impure,
malignant, ungodly propensities, inclinations, desires.
ye will do—are willing to do; not of
any blind necessity of nature, but of pure natural
He was a murderer from the
beginning—The reference is not to Cain (as Locke, De
Wette, Alford, &c.), but to
Adam [Grotius, Calvin, Meyer, Luthardt, &c.]. The death of the human
race, in its widest sense, is ascribed to the murderous seducer of our
and abode not in the truth—As,
strictly speaking, the word means "abideth," it has been denied that
the fall of Satan from a former holy state is here expressed
[Locke, &c.], and some superior
interpreters think it only implied [Olshausen, &c.]. But though the form of
the thought is present—not past—this is to express the
important idea, that his whole character and activity are just a
continual aberration from his own original truth or rectitude; and
thus his fall is not only the implied basis of the thought, but
part of the statement itself, properly interpreted and brought
no truth in him—void of all that holy,
transparent rectitude which, as His creature, he originally
When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his
own—perhaps his own resources, treasures (Mt 12:35) [Alford]. (The word is plural). It means that
he has no temptation to it from without; it is purely
self-begotten, springing from a nature which is nothing but
the father of it—that is, of lying:
all the falsehood in the world owes its existence to him. What a verse
is this! It holds up the devil (1) as the murderer of the human race;
but as this is meant here in the more profound sense of
spiritual death, it holds him up, (2) as the spiritual parent of
this fallen human family, communicating to his offspring his own evil
passions and universal obliquity, and stimulating these into active
exercise. But as there is "a stronger than he," who comes upon him and
overcomes him (Lu 11:21, 22), it is only such as "love the
darkness," who are addressed as children of the devil (Mt 13:38;
45-47. And because I tell you the truth, ye
believe me not—not although, but just because
He did so, for the reason given in the former verse. Had He been
less true they would have hailed Him more readily.
46. Which of you convinceth me of
sin—"Convicteth," bringeth home a charge of sin. Glorious
dilemma! "Convict Me of sin, and reject Me: If not, why stand ye out
against My claims?" Of course, they could only be supposed to impeach
His life; but in One who had already passed through unparalleled
complications, and had continually to deal with friends and foes of
every sort and degree, such a challenge thrown wide among His bitterest
enemies, can amount to nothing short of a claim to absolute
48-51. Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan,
and hast a devil?—What intense and virulent scorn! (See Heb 12:3). The "say we not well" refers to
7:20. "A Samaritan" means
more than "no Israelite at all"; it means one who pretended, but had
no manner of claim to the title—retorting perhaps, this
denial of their true descent from Abraham.
49. Jesus answered, I have not a
devil—What calm dignity is here! Verily, "when reviled, He
reviled not again" (1Pe 2:23).
Compare Paul (Ac 26:25),
"I am not mad," &c. He adds not, "Nor am I a Samaritan," that He
might not even seem to partake of their contempt for a race that had
already welcomed Him as the Christ, and began to be blessed by Him.
I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour
me—the language of wounded feeling. But the
interior of His soul at such moments is only to be seen in such
prophetic utterances as these, "For thy sake I have borne reproach;
shame hath covered my face; I am become a stranger unto my
brethren, an alien unto my mother's children. For the zeal of thine
house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that
reproached thee are fallen upon me" (Ps 69:7-9).
50. I seek not mine own glory: there is one that
seeketh—that is, evidently, "that seeketh My glory";
requiring "all men to honor the Son even as they honor the
Father"; judicially treating him "who honoreth not the Son as
honoring not the Father that hath sent Him" (Joh 5:23; and compare Mt 17:5); but giving to Him (Joh 6:37) such as will yet cast their crowns
before His throne, in whom He "shall see of the travail of his soul,
and be satisfied" (Isa 53:11).
51. If a man keep my saying, he shall never see
death—Partly thus vindicating His lofty claims as Lord of the
kingdom of life everlasting, and, at the same time, holding out even to
His revilers the scepter of grace. The word "keep" is in harmony
8:31, "If ye continue
in My word," expressing the permanency, as a living and paramount
principle, of that faith to which He referred: "never see
death," though virtually uttered before (Joh 5:24;
6:40, 47, 51), is the
strongest and most naked statement of a very glorious truth yet given.
11:26 it is repeated in
nearly identical terms).
52, 53. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know
that thou hast a devil, &c.—"Thou art now self-convicted;
only a demoniac could speak so; the most illustrious of our fathers are
dead, and Thou promisest exemption from death to anyone who will keep
Thy saying! pray, who art Thou?"
54-56. If I honour myself, my honour is
nothing, &c.—(See on Joh 5:31,
55. I shall be a liar like unto you—now
rising to the summit of holy, naked severity, thereby to draw this long
dialogue to a head.
56. Abraham rejoiced to see my day,
&c.—exulted, or exceedingly rejoiced that he should see, he
exulted to see it, that is, by anticipation. Nay,
he saw it, and was
glad—he actually beheld it, to his joy. If this mean
no more than that he had a prophetic foresight of the
gospel-day—the second clause just repeating the first—how
could the Jews understand our Lord to mean that He "had seen Abraham?"
And if it mean that Abraham was then beholding, in his
disembodied spirit, the incarnate Messiah [Stier, Alford,
&c.], the words seem very unsuitable to express it. It expresses
something past—"he saw My day, and was
glad," that is, surely while he lived. He seems to refer to the
familiar intercourse which Abraham had with God, who is once and
again in the history called "the Angel of the Lord," and whom
Christ here identifies with Himself. On those occasions, Abraham "saw
ME" (Olshausen, though he thinks the
reference is to some unrecorded scene). If this be the meaning, all
that follows is quite natural.
57-59. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not
yet fifty years old—"No inference can be drawn from this as
to the age of our Lord at the time as man. Fifty years was with the
Jews the completion of manhood" [Alford].
and hast thou seen Abraham?—He had
said Abraham saw Him, as being his peculiar privilege. They give
the opposite turn to it—"Hast Thou seen Abraham?" as an
honor too great for Him to pretend to.
58. Before Abraham was, I am—The words
rendered "was" and "am" are quite different. The one clause means,
"Abraham was brought into being"; the other, "I exist."
The statement therefore is not that Christ came into existence
before Abraham did (as Arians affirm is the meaning), but that He
never came into being at all, but existed before Abraham
had a being; in other words, existed before creation, or
eternally (as Joh 1:1).
In that sense the Jews plainly understood Him, since "then took
they up stones to cast at Him," just as they had before done when
they saw that He made Himself equal with God (Joh 5:18).
hid himself—(See on Lu 4:30).