John 8: 7-8 – What was Jesus writing on the ground?

The content is not indicated in any way. Only guesses can be made. An ancient tradition, starting with St. Jerome understands this as “the sins of the accusers.” The action of Jesus (“writing,” “drawing,” “registering”) is reported twice (Jn 8: 7-8). This interpretation suits the context of the gospel of John 8: 8 better but seems to be irrelevant in the context John 8: 7. Some speak of writing the statement of sentence before reading it according to the Roman legal custom. But how to explain the statement of Jesus in John 8: 11 if he has already written the statement of judgement earlier. A third opinion is based on Jeremiah 17: 13 – “… those who turn away from you shall be recorded in the earth,” for they have forsaken the fountain of living water, the Lord.” Further, a scholar conjectures that what Jesus could have written in the given time would be “you shall not join hands with a wicked man” (Ex 23: 16). Or perhaps in contrast to the tablets of stone written with ‘finger of God’ (cf. Ex 31: 18-19), is Jesus writing a new law of life with his finger…? But leaving all these possibilities, it is better to go for the simple probabilities that it was an action to spend time while the people around was challenged. Probably Jesus was simply drawing lines on the ground while thinking, containing the disgust for the wildly zealous Jews or expressing his imperturbability or calmness. As the evangelist has not given any indication, it is better to take it as not essentially important for the message.

When Jesus says to the woman, “Nor do I condemn you. You may go. But from now on, do not sin again,” it is clear that no compromise with sin is implied in the attitude of Jesus towards the woman. Compassion and understanding are not compromise and adjustment. Jesus understands the woman in her interior attitude of repentance but univocally demands a separation from her sinfulness.

In this narration John is creating a mock- Sanhedrin. The context is similar to a trial in the Sanhedrin. At the end of a trial the members of the Sanhedrin have to pronounce judgment one by one. In case of a complicated case, the judgment is stated starting from the eldest. The accused will be standing in front of the members. That is the position of the woman. When all left one by one starting from the eldest, it is tantamount to saying that all have pronounced her innocent.

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8 thoughts on “John 8: 7-8 – What was Jesus writing on the ground?

  1. Hi Sharon, I appreciate the History you share very much but today I feel even more blessed because what I received from God in my quiet time in March this year has already been recorded by Jerome, I don’t know much else about him except he felt great repentance for his sins like I do but I will follow him up later .

    I was commenting on a Blog but at the time I did not know WordPress had sent me an old Post, I found this out later, I had the first time I commented on this persons Post written it was their names, as often happens this knowledge just came to me. But when I got the Post the second time, in my quiet time on that day which covers most of my day because I’m often talking with Jesus, I asked Him what He wrote in the sand and He confirmed in my heart, I never hear Him audibly like others do, that it was their names and the second time their sins, which they alone could see, this is why they couldn’t argue anymore, if He was just a man, He wouldn’t have known and it was why He said if you are without sin caste the first stone, they knew He knew they were not sinless and so they walked away not wanting to be exposed but as we know they didn’t repent they killed Jesus instead, …the big cover up.

    I have been very much like Jerome and the Adulterous woman having sinned greatly in my life but like both of them I have been forgiven and yes God said to me very clearly in my heart … go and sin no more but He also empowered me through The Holy Spirit as He does us all so I didn’t sin, when I ask, He gives me the strength to reject sin and walk in victory , so very True , No Temptation will be greater than we can bear but this is about what God calls sin , not man’s fleshy rules and regulations or my weaknesses and short comings, which we all have and are not to judge critically.

    Thank you again Sharon – Christian Love from us both -Anne

    1. Hi again Sharon , I did some research on St Jerome using your link , he was indeed a devoted man of God and much of what he claimed and taught is very True and can be confirmed in Scripture but going by the information on your link, like other Theologians he also believed in a well known Theological error which is a contradiction of what the Scriptures tell us.

      I find this happens today too when some Trust in what they were taught or what they think is True but God always confirms His Truth by His written word and by His creation, and the Holy Spirit confirms it in our hearts as Jesus leads us into all Truth.

      Thanking you – Anne

      1. Thank you Sharon, I always appreciate your encouragement, I did a bit more research and found that the Priests were required to write the law that had been broken, along with the names of the accused in the dust of the floor of the Temple, interesting it was not sand as many call it but dust that had been trodden on many times. This rule must have been in reference to all sin not just Adultery because it was not just their names but also the broken law that had to be written down too.

        I believe Jesus was fulfilling Jeremiah 17:13 He also said of the Pharisees that they studied the Scriptures but rejected Him who they were about (John 5:38-40 ) Scripture confirms Scripture.

        Christian Love from us both – Anne

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