John 8:1-59 - Outline of John (MENU page)
The account of 'the woman taken in adultery' (John 7:53 - 8:11) is not included in some ancient manuscripts. According to Augustine, it was omitted from some copies for fear that it would encourage adultery. However, in this passage, sin is condemned, not condoned. The account seems to fit well in the context, and provides the transition to Jesus' declaration and discourse on 'the light of the world' (which begins in v.12).
7:53 And every man went unto his own house.
8:1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
8:2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple,
and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
in the morning- ie., on the eighth day of the feast of Tabernacles.
This day was regarded as a sabbath. It was a day to consider the significance of the celebrations just concluded. Lev 23:33-36
Jesus... taught...- cp. 7:14-18; Luk 21:37,38
Suddenly, the solemnity of the sabbath is broken by a commotion. Excited voices grow louder as a group of religious leaders approaches. They are dragging a woman... her clothes in disarray... hair disheveled... defiant and resisting. The Teacher's words are interrupted. His hearers stare at the humiliated woman.
8:3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery;
and when they had set her in the midst,
8:4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
8:5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned:
but what sayest thou?
{cp. Mat 5:17,27-32}
8:6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.
But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground,
[as though he heard them not].
Master...- ie., teacher. They address Him respectfully.
But they have no desire to hear His teaching (as demonstrated by their interruption).
tempting him... to accuse him- 'tempt' is GK= peirazo, test, tempt, prove.
One can test something to ascertain its worth. But they had already pre-judged Him (7:47-52).
Their intention is to discredit Him.
"If He condemned her, He would lose favor with the common people. If He did not, He would be disagreeing with Moses." [TBKC]
Moses in the law...- condemned both adulterer and adulteress to death. Lev 20:10; Deu 22:22
The absence of the man indicates that their intent was not enforcement of the law (v.4).
"They didn't really want to stone the woman. They wanted to stone Him." [McGee]
as though He heard them not...-
"In effect, He dismisses the case. He will not join with her accusers.
He will not so much as look at her to add to her embarrassment." [McGee]
8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them,
He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8:8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
He... wrote on the ground.- This is the only record of Jesus' writing.
The scriptures record three occasions when something was written by the finger(s) of God.-
  1. The Law in stone- the standard of righteousness and judgment. Ex 31:18; Deu 9:10
  2. A sentence on a wall- an announcement of impending judgment. Dan 5:5,25-28
  3. Jesus' writing in the dust of the temple floor- a catalyst of conviction. (v.9).
    Would He have doodled or made meaningless marks? cp. 5:19; 7:16
    Surely His written words would sharply discern between righteousness and sin. cp. Heb 4:12
We are not told what Jesus wrote. Therefore, any suggestion is speculation.
However, Jer 17:13 seems particularly applicable to these men who had 'forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.' (7:37-38)
Note that He wrote on the ground twice (v.6,8).
  • Perhaps in v.6, He wrote a list of specific sins. (cp. Jer 17:1)
    or, a list of reminders to hidden sins. (eg., a woman's name, an address, or a date [McGee])
  • Perhaps in v.8, He began matching each man's name to some hidden sin. Jer 17:9,10; Psa 90:8
  • That these words were written in dust, and would soon be wiped out, was a mercy.
    The final verdict awaits each man at the future day of judgment.
He that is without sin...- They came to 'tempt' Him. He put them to the test.
If the prerequisite for a judge is sinlessness, all men are disqualified. Mat 7:1-5; Rom 2:1,22
8:9 And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience,
went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last:
and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman,
he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers?
hath no man condemned thee?
8:11 She said, No man, Lord.
And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee:
go, and sin no more.
Jesus... alone- Only He was qualified to cast a stone (v.7 with v.46).
hath no man condemned thee?-
"Without accusers or witnesses, the [human] case is dropped." [TBKC]
But the fact remains that she is guilty of adultery.
neither do I condemn thee...-
"Is Jesus reversing the Mosaic system? No.
He is placing His cross between that woman and her sin. This One who is the Son of the virgin, who Himself was under a cloud [of illegitimacy] all of His life, is going to the cross to pay the penalty for even the sin of this woman." [McGee] John 1:29
"He who read her heart must have known that she believed in Him. John 3:16-18" [GWms] cp. Rom 8:34
go and sin no more.- How was this sinner to live without sinning?
By the water of life. The same provision was made for another adulteress. cp. 4:14,24; 7:37-39
Christ delivers believers from the penalty for sin, and from the power of sin over our lives.
they... being convicted... went out...-
They departed from Him "each caring for character rather than conscience,
he who had the most reputation to save being the first to retire." [GWms]
Having been convicted, they were repelled by the Light.
Had they stayed and confessed, they also would have found forgiveness in the Savior. Jer 17:14
Then, their names would have been written in heaven. Luk 10:20; Heb 12:23
Later, that same day, He gave them another opportunity:
8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying,
I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,
but shall have the light of life.
I am... - for other "I am..." statements of Jesus, see: 6:35; 8:58; 10:7; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1
the light of the world- 'the' light (not 'a' light).
In the OT, this expression refers to the LORD and His Messiah.
See Isa 49:6,9; 50:10; 60:1-3; Mal 4:2; cp. Luk 1:77-79; 1Joh 1:5
the light of life...-
  • reveals man's sinful condition (darkness) which leads to death. Joh 3:19
  • reveals God's remedy for sin, the Savior who leads His followers into life. 1:4,5; 12:46; 1Joh 1:6,7
    Jesus had acted as light, when He exposed the sin of the religious leaders (v.9).
he that follows me...- To 'follow' Him is to trust in Him and obey Him. 10:27,28; 12:26
8:13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him,
Thou bearest record
{witness} of thyself; thy record {witness} is not true.
(See 5:31-47 and the Notes at 5:31.)
8:14 Jesus answered and said unto them,
Though I bear record
{witness} of myself, [yet] my record {witness} is true:
for I know whence I came, and whither I go;
but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.
8:15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
8:16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true:
for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.
8:17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.
{Deu 19:15}
8:18 I am one that bear witness of myself,
and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.
my record is true - Even without corroborating human witnesses, Jesus testimony is reliable.-
  1. He knew the truth concerning His origins (v.14).
    They were incompetent to judge Him. 7:28,29,33,34
  2. His judgment was not according to the flesh (v.15). cp. 7:24
    (judge- GK= krino, to judge, to condemn, to make a determination of a matter)
    Whatever judgments He made were in harmony with His Father's mind. 5:19,22,30
    God's Law is perfect, His knowledge is complete, and His interpretation is just.
  3. He was endorsed by the Father (v.17,18). cp. 5:37
I judge no man- The context, here, focuses on His method of judgment (v.15).
It is also true that at His first coming, His mission was not to judge, but to save. v.11; 3:17
At His second coming, He will exercise judgment according to God's Word. 5:27-29,45
8:19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father?
Their questions (see also v.25,53) reveal their darkness and blindness concerning Him,
even while exposed to the light of His presence. cp. 2Cor 4:4-6
The discussion, in ch.8, reflects the conflict between spiritual Light and darkness.
A chart, contrasting these two sides, may make the argument of this chapter easier to grasp.
Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: {v.55}
if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. {cp. 14:7-9; Luk 10:21,22}
8:20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple:
and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.
the treasury- was located in 'the court of the women' (cp. v.3; Mark 12:41-42).
This courtyard was the location of four huge lampstands which brightly illuminated the temple area during the feast of Tabernacles (in second Temple times). Priests used ladders to replenish the four large oil burning lamps which topped each lampstand.
These lamps reminded Israel of the pillar of fire which went before them in the wilderness (as a visible manifestation of the Lord's presence, Ex 13:21).
these words...- ie. v.12-19. Jesus was identifying Himself as the Light of the pillar of fire.
The Lord Himself stood in their midst, though they were clouded in darkness.
no man laid hands on Him...- His words offended them.
But they were powerless to take action against Him. cp. 7:30,44
8:21 Then said Jesus again unto them,
I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins:
whither I go, ye cannot come.
said... again unto them...- ie., as He had spoken on the previous day, 7:32-34
die in your sins...- of which, they had been convicted, in His presence (v.7-9).
8:22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself?
because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.
{cp. 7:34-36}
Will he kill himself? - Death was their desire for Him (v.37,40).
"No! He will give Himself a ransom for many." [McGee] cp. 10:11,18
8:23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above:
ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins:
for if ye believe not that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins.
from beneath... from above- He contrasts their earthly nature to His heavenly nature. cp. 3:13
They had desperate need of the new birth (3:3,6,7) which requires faith in Him (3:14,15).
ye shall die in your sins- Death is the natural consequence of sin.
The Lord Jesus Christ provided the only means of escape for us, on His cross. Rom 6:23
Note: The GK word for 'sin', in v.21 is singular, in v.24 is plural.
-- The singular may speak of their sin of unbelief in Him, or of their overall sinful condition.
-- The plural speaks of their many iniquities. (cp. singular 16:9; 2Cor 5:21; plural 1Pet 2:24)
if ye believe not that I am...- cp. Deu 32:39; Isa 43:10-13; 48:12,17
Note that, in the KJV, the word 'he' is in italics [bracketed], indicating that it is absent from the GK text, but supplied by the translators.
8:25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou?
They do not know His mission (v.18,19), His work (v.21,22), or Him (v.25). [McGee]
And Jesus saith unto them,
Even [the same] that I said unto you from the beginning.
cp. v.12- He is the light of the world, ie., the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
8:26 I have many things to say and to judge of you:
to judge...- Judgment is the work of light. cp. v.16; 9:39-41
but he that sent me is true;
and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.
8:27 They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.
8:28 Then said Jesus unto them,
When ye have lifted up the Son of man,
{3:14; 12:32-34}
then shall ye know that I am [he],
and [that] I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
8:29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone;
for I do always those things that please him.
then shall ye know...- know- GK= ginosko, to perceive, to come to understand.
They would not recognize His Person, nor understand His mission,
until after His death & resurrection. cp. Acts 2:22-24,37-41; 6:7; Zech 12:10; Rev 1:7
His redemptive death explains Him. His resurrection declares Him. cp. Rom 1:1-4
8:30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.
many believed...- Was this fleshly faith in Him, as an earthly messiah? (cp. 2:23-25; 6:14,15)
Or, was this the faith of those who having been examined by the Light, see their sinful condition and turn to the Savior?
8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him,
If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed;
8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
if ye...- Belief must be tested.
True disciples of Christ are those who...
  1. continue in His Word. 14:15,23
    continue- GK= meno, to abide, to remain. 15:4-9; Col 1:23; 1Joh 2:19,24
    in my word- God's Word is essential to Christian faith and discipleship. 7:17; 16:13
  2. grow in knowledge (understanding) of the Truth.
    -- to know His Word. 17:17
    -- to know Him. 1:14,17; 14:6
  3. are set free by the Truth (ie., by Christ). v.36; Rom 8:2; 2Tim 2:25,26; Isa 42:6,7
8:33 They answered him,
We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man:
how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
Their perspective on Jesus' words is physical & fleshly. Jesus answers both points raised:
8:34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
commits sin...- (GK present tense), ie., 'practices sinful habits...'
the servant of sin- cp. Rom 6:16; 7:14,24
The freedom Jesus offers is from the tyranny of sin and death (sin's consequence). Heb 2:14,15
8:35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever:
[but] the Son abideth ever.
8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
the house- ie., the temple of God (eg. Joh 2:16,17), where atonement for sin was ministered.
the servant... in the house- ie., the priests to whom this ministry was entrusted.
abideth not...for ever.-
  • A priest's ministry was temporary, due to his limited lifespan (cp. Heb 8:23,24).
  • The priestly system established under Moses was temporary.
    Soon, this system would be ended (at the destruction of the earthly Temple, in 70 AD), due, in part, to God's judgment upon unfaithful servants.
the Son abideth ever.-
Servants may be dismissed, but the Father's House belongs to the Son. Heb 3:1-6
if the Son... make you free...- He has full authority to set men truly free from sin,
if only they would believe in Him. cp. v.24; Isa 61:1; Luk 4:18; Rom 8:2; Gal 4:4-7
8:37 I know that ye are Abraham's seed;
but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
8:38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father:
{cp. v.28,29; 14:10,24}
and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
{cp. v.44}
A father's nature and mannerisms are passsed on to his children.
Their words & actions demonstrated that their father was very different from Jesus' Father. cp. v.23
8:39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father.
Jesus saith unto them,
If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
8:40 But now ye seek to kill me,
a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God:
this did not Abraham.
Abraham's seed (v.37)- all Jewish people are physical descendants of Abraham.
Abraham's children (v.39)- not all physical descendants are spiritually related to Abraham.
Abraham believed & obeyed God. cp. Gen 12:1-9; 15:6; Rom 9:6-8; Gal 3:6-9
Abraham's spiritual children would exhibit faith & actions pleasing to God.
In contrast to Abraham, their hearts held murder & disregard for God's Word. (v.37,40)
8:41 Ye do the deeds of your father.
Then said they to him,
We be not born of fornication;
we have one Father, [even] God.
{Mal 1:6; Titus 1:16}
...born of fornication- They may have been mocking His supposed illegitimate birth. Mat 1:18
8:42 Jesus said unto them,
If God were your Father, ye would love me:
for I proceeded forth and came from God;
neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

8:43 Why do ye not understand my speech?
[even] because ye cannot hear my word.
They do not exhibit the characteristics of God's children.-
my speech- GK= lalia, dialect, talk.
my word- GK= logos, expression of thought, revelation.
The sound of His teaching did not make sense to them,
because by nature they were unreceptive to God's truth. 7:17; 1Cor 2:14
8:44 Ye are of [your] father the devil,
and the lusts of your father ye will do
{ie., ye willingly do}.
He was a murderer
{lit., 'a man slayer', cp. v.40} from the beginning,
and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.
When he speaketh a
{the} lie, he speaketh of his own {ie., out of his own nature}:
for he is a liar, and the father of it.
{Gen 3:4,5}
8:45 And because I tell [you] the truth, ye believe me not.
8:46 Which of you convinceth
{ie., convicts} me of sin? {v.29; cp. v.7-9}
And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
8:47 He that is of God heareth God's words:
ye therefore hear [them] not, because ye are not of God.
because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.-
Just as Satan refused the light of God's truth, preferring to dwell in the darkness of his own lie, these men were by nature children of falsehood. They could not receive the truth, but they would receive a lie.
ye are not of God.- Note that the Bible does not teach 'the universal Fatherhood of God.'
Natural man has more in common with Satan, than with Christ. 1Joh 3:8-15
To become a child of God, a man must receive a new nature from God. Joh 1:12,13; 3:5-7
8:48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him,
Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?
a Samaritan- they were calling Him a heretic whose teachings were confused.
(see the Notes at 4:9)
a devil- "They thought He was mad, unclean and evil." [TBKC] cp. v.52; 7:20; 10:20
8:49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil;
but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.
{Rom 15:3}
8:50 And I seek not mine own glory:
there is one that seeketh and judgeth.
{1Pet 2:23}
one that seeketh...- The Father would vindicate & glorify the Son in due time. v.54; Php 2:9-11
8:51 Verily, verily, I say unto you,
If a man keep my saying
{GK= logos, word},
he shall never see
{GK= theoreo, to view with intense concern} death. {v.31,32; 5:24; 6:40}
"They have murder in their hearts, and He has nothing but love in His...
He is offering them eternal life..." [McGee]
8:52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil.
Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest,
If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
8:53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead?
"You are not greater than our father Abraham, who was such that he died, are you?" [Wuest]
and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
never taste of death...- They misquoted and misapplied His words to physical death.
Jesus did not say that His disciples would not taste {ie., partake of} physical death (cp. Mat 16:28). Jesus Himself would 'taste death' for every man (Heb 2:9). Because of Him, death has lost its sting. Upon approaching the grave, the believer does not 'see' {GK= theoreo, view attentively, consider with interest, discern} death, as though sizing up a formidable foe... rather he sees Jesus, His empty grave clothes, His empty tomb {cp. 20:6-8} and knows that in Him, he has eternal life.
8:54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing:
it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
cp. v.50; Psa 2:6-12; Heb 5:5; Psa 91:14-16
8:55 Yet ye have not known {GK= ginosko} him; but I know him: {v.19; 7:28,29}
and if I should say, I know
{GK= oida} him not, I shall be a liar like unto you:
They lied when they claimed that His Father was their God. cp. v.44
but I know {GK= oida} him, and keep his saying. {v.29}
GK= ginosko, to come to know, to understand, to acquire knowledge.
GK= oida, to see with the eyes, 'to know inherently or intuitively' [TBKC]
8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see {GK= oida} my day:
and he saw
{GK= oida} [it], and was glad. {cp. Heb 11:8-13; Gal 3:7-9}
Abraham rejoiced to 'see'...- cp. this word as used in 3:3.
Abraham, a child of God by faith, comprehended what his physical offspring could not.
8:57 Then said the Jews unto him,
Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Before Abraham was, I am.
{ie., "Before Abraham came into existence, I am." [Wuest]}
cp. v.28; Ex 3:14; Isa 9:6; 41:4; 43:13; 44:6; Mic 5:2; Rev 1:8
8:59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: {cp. 5:18; 10:30-33}
but Jesus hid himself,
{cp. 7:10}
and went out of the temple,
going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
{cp. Luk 4:30; Joh 10:39}
In ch. 8, Jesus, as the Light of the world --

Click here to continue the study in John 9:1-
Return to John - MENU page.

Limited permission is granted to copy & distribute these notes from

Go to The Book opening page.