The Curmudgeon


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: John 8 iii-xi

This incident is one of the most famous in Jesus' ministry; and not without reason, as it constitutes a rare example of a moral precept laid down by the Saviour which the majority of His followers have obeyed to the letter.

The Pharisees attempt to trap Jesus by bringing before Him a woman caught in the act of adultery, and asking Him whether she should be stoned to death in accordance with the law of Moses. Jesus at first pretends not to hear them and sits writing in the dust with his finger; regrettably, whether by human error or divine censorship, the substance of what He wrote has not come down to us. After repeated questioning, Jesus at last states that whoever is without sin should throw the first stone. By order of age and hence, presumably, experience and wisdom, the Pharisees leave, and Jesus tells the woman that He will not condemn her either.

According to Jesus, sadistic capital punishment is justifiable when carried out by those who consider themselves to be without sin. Fortunately for enthusiasts of divine chastisement, generations of the Saviour's followers have had more mercy from their consciences than either the vengeful Jesus or the legalistic Pharisees had from theirs. By contrast, once reminded of their own imperfections, the Pharisees show mercy to the woman despite the lack of any stipulation in the law of Moses as to the sinlessness or otherwise of earthly judges and executioners. As one who excoriated hypocrites almost as much as He did unbelievers, Jesus could hardly ignore His own blatant sins of wrath, pride and false prophecy, and therefore could do no other than follow the example of His honest and courageous enemies.


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