Texte correspondant en français L’adultère.
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Such words lead us to question ourselves before judging others. However, the same mistake is constantly repeated over time. Jesus already faced it when some Teachers of the law brought in a woman caught in adultery. His response was unequivocal; a sentence that will pass to eternity, without wordplay: ¨Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.¨ (John 8:7 )
The description of the facts related in the Gospel of John is quite jolting. A woman is caugt… Very early in the morning, some men entered the bedroom she was in; they snatched her from her lover’s arm, they took her out of the still hot sheets of their romance to rush to Jesus who was teaching in the Temple’s court. They asked Him the question: ¨Now what do you say?¨ (John 8:5) The scene is all the more stunning; these men, instead of going to a court, went to Jesus who was teaching to a crowd. The tension is noticeable; everything goes fast until Jesus answers. He is pressed with questions demanding one possible answer: ¨The law of Moses is very clear, this woman must be stoned!¨ (John 8:5) The silence of Jesus testifies the suddenness of the outcome.
These accusers remind Jesus that the law indicates that such women, adulterous, must be stoned. It is worth noting the dynamic of the text. An adulterous woman is brought to Jesus for law enforcement without any judicial remedy. The accuser makes himself the judge. Instead of following the justice procedure, he judges and condemns this woman without any other possible recourse.
Despite everything, a court of justice existed in Israel where the High Priest represented the impartiality of the law. It was he who had to bring the verdict in the court of justice. However, these men of the law decided to appear before Jesus to hear His sentence; we will not mention the fact that the accusation is already clear in there heart; evidently, since they caught her early in the morning in her lover’s bed.
There are a few possibilities regarding the explanation of that intrusion: They eather recognize Jesus as the High Priest, which I doubt; or they give themselves the right to confuse the accused by placing themselves above the law, which is a possibility considering some passages of the Gospels; or else, they plan to baffle Jesus, which seems to be the case for the Pharisees were looking for an occasion to accuse Him (Matthew 26:16). It is meaningful to understand the trap set by His detractors : if Jesus recognizes the fault of this woman, He will then confirm the sentence of death. In doing so, He will withstand against the Roman law which forbade the death penalty in Judea. Jesus could then be accused of sedition following his statement. He, therefore, could be brought to the Roman justice for treason. However, if He refutes their accusation toward this woman, He will directly place himself against the law of Moses and, consequently, against God. They could destroy his reputation. In both cases, Jesus is surrounded.
Furthermore, this situation is dramatic and certainly unbearable for this woman who stands there in the middle of the crowd beside her accusers. She is surrounded by people ready to stone her, those people who accompanied her detractors. She is even standing in front of all those who came to listen to Jesus’ teaching early in the morning. She is certainly scared to be exposed so publicly. She might have felt uncomfortable to appear in front of a man that do not even dare to look at her. She must have been frightened of the outcome of this public condemnation.
There is something wrong in the unfolding of the story. This does not corroborate with the teaching of the law of Moses. The woman is not the only one involved; what about her companion? Where is he now? Why have he not been brought with the woman before Jesus? The fault committed in the adultery as described in the law of Moses, is not the sole responsability of the woman but the man as well. The punishment was applied to both wrongdoers and not just to one of them (Leviticus 20:10).
We could almost hear the tone of the voice of the accuser. This woman, and only her, is at fault. She is always the first person responsible; from her emanates the sin and, according to the doctors of the law, she must be punished. The Gospel testify about this aggressiveness. The context is twisted, Jesus must struggle with it.
However, the response of Jesus is such a surprise that it gives no reply. No one could respond. No one could stay and accomplish what they intend to do, namely to stone the woman that is to satisfy the desire to make someone feel the rage one is having in his heart. Wisdom prevailed, pushing the older ones to leave; they were accused by their conscience…
Between the years 1940 and 1945, during the occupation of France, the penal code of Vichy condemned adultery. Despite the recognition of the fault on both wrongdoers, a study reports that the law of Vichy harmed women compared to men. Women’s responsabilities for infedility is implicit. It was understood that the responsability of women in offending love affairs were essential. In the vast majority of the legal cases studied, women bear the responsability of provocating offending love affairs; ¨I can tell you that she did everything to make me her lover¨ testified a man caught in the wrong.1
Closer to us, in 2015, the Court of Portugal made a controversial judgement worthy of a horror story. A then married woman lived an extramarital relationship. Willing to end that relationship, she was intimidated by her lover. Enraged by the decision of the woman, he threatened her to denounce her to her husband, which he did afterwards. The husband in discovering the truth, divorced. Humbled, he agreed with her lover to abduct his ex-wife. The atrocity continues when the husband beats her with a studded stick while her ex-lover holds her on the ground. The worst was still to come when the court justified the action of the ex-husband by invoking the Bible. The woman is anyway guilty according to the judges, especially as the Bible teaches that it is necessary to stone to death such a woman. In other words, she suffers the consequences of her action. As for the husband, he got out with a fine of 1 750 euros and a 15-months suspended prison sentence; that is practically nothing regarding the seriousness of the aggression. 2
Here is the judgement rendered by the court of Porto. ¨Adultery committed by a woman is a behavior strongly condemned by the society¨ can be read in the decision. The Judges explain ¨understanding the violence of the husband, a victim of this betrayal after being vexed and humbled by this woman.¨ The Court also quotes from the Bible, which says ¨the adulteress should be punished by the death penalty.¨3
What can we say about such a judgement that has not been told, other than the mistake to justify the attitude of the husband in complicity with the lover, to blame the woman in bearing alone the responsability of the behavior and, further, distort the teaching of the Bible?
The solution offered by Jesus takes all its strength: pardon and then reconciliation. He, the Son of God, was the only One who could threw the stone; He did not do it. Anger can be part of our life in reaction of something happening, but the Apostle Paul reminds to the Ephesians not to sin because of it, that is make the evil worth by that anger (Ephesians 4 : 26). At some other times, Jesus rebuked the attitude of the Doctors of the law and the Pharisees seizing the letter of the law but forgetting mercy (Matthew 23:23).
Jalousy makes things worth. Violence is against the spirit of the law, it brings overflows in exceeding the role of the jurists. Before acting promptly, one must think his one’s own condition before the Lord. Before incriminating others, it becomes necessary to consider first God’s love towards everyone (John 3:16,17). The comfort to this woman still comes from Jesus who asked her where are her accusers. All went away, they have left her alone with Xrist. ¨Then neither do I condemn you; go now and leave your life of sin¨ He says. These laws inscribed in stone on which the Pharisees founded their authority, Jesus made them anew in tracing them in the sand of the court of the Temple, the fragile heart of each one of us who needs much more of a law of love rather than condemnation (John 13:34)
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
(Words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30)
1- Crime, Histoire & Sociétés. Vol.9, n°2, 2005, Varia – Articles : Women in court / Femmes en justice – Les couples illégitimes dans la France de Vichy et la répression sexuée de l’infidélité (1940-1944) Cyril Olivier. (Back to the text)
2- National Post, article published October 25, 2017, author Samantha Schmidt Portugal : No jail for Portuguese man who beat ex-wife — because her adultery assaulted his ‘honour’ Read the article (Back to the text)
3- CTV news by Barry Hatton, The Associated Press. Published Tuesday, October 24, 2017. Outrage after Portugal court quotes Bible on woman’s assault (Back to the text)