Biblical People

Biblical People: The Adulterous Woman

Jesus’s detractors drag a woman caught in the act of adultery before him. The religious leaders who present her care nothing about her, what she did, or justice. If they have true concern for the law they claim to uphold, they would have likewise offered up her adulterous partner along with her. 

Instead, they are exploiting her to try to trap Jesus into saying something they can use against him. Being knowledgeable about Scripture, as well as their made-up rules about religion, they are sure they can twist whatever Jesus says to ruin him. 

The woman is merely their pawn. 

Jesus refuses to take sides, something her accusers had not considered. Had he either upheld the law or offered her mercy, they could have used it against him. Instead, he thwarts their devious scheme. Without pronouncing judgment, he allows anyone who is perfect to begin the prescribed punishment of execution by stoning. The person who is without sin may throw the first rock. No one qualifies, and they slink away.

Once they all leave, Jesus offers the woman mercy and lets her go. He encourages her to change her behavior.

Too often, well-meaning religious leaders are quick to condemn others when they should extend love and encouragement.

Is it our nature to judge others or offer them love and mercy? What would Jesus do?

[Discover more about this woman in John 8:1–11.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.