THE VISION OF THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN
The following is purported to be the first-ever version of the famous scene in the Gospels, identifying the “ADULTEROUS WOMAN” of John 8:1–8:11.
(Freely based on my most recent book, “The Matthias Scroll–Select Second Edition”)
The text describes an adulteress being brought by elders, Pharisees and scribes before Jesus in the Temple precincts for his decision whether she should be stoned for her sin of fornication according to Torah law.
[Immediately, friends, voices of dissent may argue there is no basis for labeling the Gospel’s rendering a “vision.” However, there are elements which eliminate it as a historical occurrence and support the meditative characterization.]
An early apostolic devotee or proselyte reading the story in John’s Gospel (almost certainly recorded as canon under Simon/Peter’s supervision) believed the ones who brought the adulteress to Jesus subsequently departed when he challenged them only to stone her if they were themselves innocent ( “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”).
Perhaps few early devotees wondered what “test” he had passed, enabling them to go off (since the Gospel enunciates the purpose of the Pharisees, elders and scribes was to “test” him).
One infers, they wanted to know if Jesus was obedient when it came to Torah law. “Will you or won’t you say we should stone her?” (Supposedly his refusal to be an executioner would somehow provide them a legal basis to expose him for anti-Torah pedagogy.) Others have offered a convoluted explanation that his judgment to stone her without Roman permission would violate their law and be grounds for his arrest. (Nonsense.)
On the most obvious level, Jesus’ “halachik” (legal) opinion would hardly have mattered to the law makers in the Temple administration. Nor would they likely have discovered a woman having adulterous sexual intercourse in the Temple area, nor dispatched her to him from the Sanhedrin’s court, in a manner proximate to that described.
Were these parameters of logic not laid asunder by the tale as told in the Gospel text, we have its final, implausible conclusion to end any misconception it describes a historical event.
Simply, when the the supposed enforcers of jurisprudence over the accused woman’s fate leave her with Jesus and return to whatever activity may have been their prior obligation, we must assume his words persuaded them they should not obey Torah law either. After all, they depart without carrying out the mandated punishment.
Were the “adulteress woman” a true event, Jesus had managed to turn the Pharisees, scribes and elders into violators of Torah law. He had also transformed them from the hard-hearted villains typical of their Gospel portrayals into compassionate and forgiving Jewish leaders.
Indeed, attempting to force the Gospel text into the mold of history leads to a breakdown in logic.
To make sense of the passage, let us consider the circumstances contextualizing the event as a vision Jesus had following the wedding at Cana, one he later related to Matthias, which his scroll preserved in its rudimentary form to eventually be recorded within John’s Gospel.
(First, as a reminder:)
Several days before the Wedding at Cana, during the Rosh ha-shannah New Year service, Jesus had become angry with his mother when she and several of Joseph’s sons tried to extricate him from a small crowd outside the synagogue seeking his healing.
Still, he and the disciples went to Cana. There, he drew attention to himself by mixing wine with water and Mary warned him (what she saw as) his continuing antics would prevent his getting married. This much is supported directly by critical analysis of the Matthias text.
Reconstructed (see Abram’s Historical Writing) Matthias has recorded the drama of Jesus learning, during the wedding at Cana, he had no known father and that his mother, at sixteen years of age, had committed adultery.
The abrupt change in his demeanor toward those he had his whole life thought to be his brothers, and the departure of his disciples as well as the sarcasm of his family that he should “go to Jerusalem and show (everybody) his ‘miracles’ so as not to keep them a secret” paint the picture of Jesus faced with the truth for the first time: His mother’s warning he would not be able to get married had a devastating implication: If an individual had been raised (as Jesus was from the age of twelve) by a single mother, and then acted “crazy” it meant he was probably born without a known father.
He spent the night with them nonetheless, in a lakeside house (it is conjectured), and remained behind when they left for Jerusalem on their pilgrimage for the Day of Atonement and five days later the Feast of Booths.
Undecided whether to make the pilgrimage by himself, now totally alone, he was devastated. What was he to feel toward his mother whose infidelity occurred during her betrothal when she was only sixteen? And what was he to think about the inner voice he had felt was his spiritual guide…but was possibly a foreigner and certainly an adulterer if not satan himself?
The Vision of the Adulterous Woman
(according to Matthias, with inference based on credible
That night when he would have slept, Jesus envisioned a woman caught in the act of adultery dragged toward him by observant members of the Jewish community.
Possibly they resembled the Cana wedding guests and Galilean villagers, people he recognized, but now in the guise of Pharisees, elders and scribes demanding he tell them whether or not to stone her. Jesus found himself unable to look at the adulteress, and began making marks with his finger in the dusty ground; marks of anguish and confusion.
Half asleep, he pictured her being pulled by her arm, then let go to stand before him. It was dark, and he couldn’t see her features.
A stormwind of doubt was raging, and he was afraid to look up. She had sinned when only a girl.
Was it her fault, that from an unknown seed, so long ago, was sown his inclination to spread a message of hope to those afflicted, offering a promise their punishment would end with the coming Kingdom…
He wanted to blame his disciples for whispering words he had forgiven the leper, and was now exalted by others, even as one sent by God.
His fingers agitated the dirt at his feet making deep, undefined marks in the loose dirt. At last he looked up.
“Woman,” he heard himself say, just as he had when he arrived at the Cana wedding, “Where is everybody? Has nobody condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she replied. And he understood her words to mean, “It is up to you.”
Then he saw it was his mother, her expression sad, as it was on his thirteenth birthday when he asked why Joseph almost never came to visit them in Nazareth. And just as he would have said, “I forgive you,” he was startled by laughter. In the odd way of dreams, Jesus was fully awakened by the sound to discover it was his own.
Eventually he would tell Matthias, “If I forgave her, I condemned myself by acting as one who really did think he spoke for God. So all I said was, ‘I don’t condemn you.’ But she was gone, and I was awake.”
Jesus arose that morning with only one intention. He would go to Jerusalem and ascend the Temple mount where he would atone for leading people to believe he could forgive sin.