A Note From Our Editor: Reflections On John 7:53-8:11 -- By: John Warwick Montgomery
A Note From Our Editor: Reflections On John 7:53-8:11
Once in a while the Editor gets into a sermonic mood (he is, after all, a Lutheran clergyman). Here’s a take on John 7:53-8:11 which may be new to you.
But first, a preliminary word for readers schooled in textual criticism.
Writes Bruce Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament [2d ed.; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994], pp. 187-89): “The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming. . . . 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 manuscripts at various places.” In other words, though we do not know exactly where the story should be placed within Jesus’ earthly ministry, it surely represents an event which really occurred during that ministry.
The essence of the event lies in Jesus’ assertion to the religious leaders and their followers about to stone the woman: “He who is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her.” Response? “And they who heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last.”
Even the scribes and the Pharisees, with their holier-than-thou legalism, had to admit that they themselves were sinners—and that therefore that they were in no position to condemn the woman to a horrible death.
The late Professor Norman Cohn, in his classic The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (1957), observed that violent revolutionary movements such as the 16th century Anabaptist commune in Muenster became even more dangerous and destructive when led by someone “who believed that he had attained a perfection so absolute that he was incapable of sin.”
Today, in our world of rampant and increasing secularism, many have lost all understanding of sin. And when that happens, there is no reason not to commit atrocities and human rights violations in dealing with those one disagrees with or whom one despises as inferior.
Doesn’t this go far to explain why the secular régimes of the 20th century (Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s U.S.S.R., Pol Pat, Amin Dada, Mugabe) have had no problem killing and maiming whoever opposes them—or even those they imagine to be a threat to them?
Our modern secular era has been the most destructive of human life in all the centuries of recorded history. When one loses consciousness of one’s personal and societal sin, that result is inevitable. ...
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