Looking at various translations of the Bible as “the evidence,” mainstream Christianity holds that Mary Magdalene – the adulterous woman – was accused of prostitution by the Jewish teachers of Law and the Pharisees. This is arguably the best-known biblical story; how Jesus (pubh) then forgave the adulterous woman while undermining the Law of Moses.
The story has become dear to many Christian apologists and has made its way to almost every single Hollywood movie about Jesus, including Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. The Biblical story of the adulterous woman, however, poses numerous questions that undermine its authenticity. Lets take a look at a few details that are usually overlooked.
A few awakening points about the story of adulterous woman:
1. If the adulterous woman was caught in the act of adultery, where was the man she was caught with?
2. Both of them (man and women) are to be stoned, according to the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 20:10)
3. When Jesus was speaking to the Jews and the adulterous woman he was writing on the ground, what exactly was he writing and why is this account missing from our selected four gospels? He couldn’t be possibly writing nonsense on the ground, or merely be playing with a stick; Jesus was a holy man, in contact with divinity and direct as the very foundation of Truth.
4. Jesus had not Come to destroy the Law
According to the Gospel of Matthew, we know that Jesus had promised that he would uphold the Law of Moses, precisely in his own words:
“17 Think not that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to destroy them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)
5. Jesus equated wicked people with the adulterous
When the Pharisees ask for a sing from him, he responded with the very famous quote from Mathew 12:39 that no sign is given to a wicked and adulterous people or generation. So if he equated these as the worse types of sins, then do you think that he would have passed by adultery that easily.
38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (Matthew 12:38-39)
What can we take from the story?
So did Jesus really think or advice that sins should not be punished at all and all adulterous acts should be forgiven?Could it be that she was being accused falsely? Again we cannot help but to ask: where was the man who committed this sin with her?
The reality of the adulterous woman:
If we assume the story to be authentic, it is obvious that Jesus’ aim in letting the adulterous women go was solely to admonish the notion of finding faults in others and making them public in order to serve a purpose or to arrogantly glorify the one self position and status. This was the case with the Jewish teachers of Law and the Pharisees.
Whether she had sinned or not, they did not care, that was not what they were concerned with. They bring the woman to be judged for her “sin” but they had particularly brought her to put Jesus in a tough position, to humiliate him and of course to promote their own prominence. Jesus of course understood this, as this was one of the reasons for his prophethood; to expose the evil nature and intentions of his people, especially in their interpretation of the Law of Moses and of course not the Law itself. He administered unlimited forgiveness as an antidote for this malady of his heart-hardened people.
The story was not part of the original Gospels:
Biblical scholars overwhelmingly agree that the story of Mary Magdalene was not originally part of Gospel of John because firstly, as it is not found in the oldest and best existing manuscripts, namely Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus held in the Vatican and the British Museums.
Secondly, to a thoughtful reader it is almost immediately evident that the writing style of the story of the adulterous woman is very different from what we find in the rest of John, which includes the stories immediately before or after. The gospel of John has a very mystical tone throughout, which is quite different from that of Matthew, Mark and Luke, whereas the story of Mary Magdalene, with John, lacks such this tone.
Thirdly, it has a large number of words and phrases that are otherwise alien to the Gospel of John. One must wonder about the origins of these phrases and while knowing that the story does not exist in our best manuscripts, the image and the truth starts to take shape about its authenticity.
Fourthly, in numerous other New Testament scriptures the story of the adulterous woman is found after Luke 21:38 instead of John 8:3-11.
It is also important to note that whoever narrated this account, was not John himself. This of course leaves readers with a dilemma: if this story was not originally part of John, should it be considered part of the Bible?
Dr. Bart Ehrman, in his book, Misquoting Jesus, write:
Not everyone will respond to this question in the same way, but for most biblical scholars, the answer is no.
To understand the Bible and how it has come together in a way we know it and we hold it today, I strongly recommend reading Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus.
There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, “That is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah. It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it! (Quran, 3:78)