“Aniy Or Ha-Olam, I am, I exist, am present as the uncreated Light of the world:” -Yeshua
With regard to the debate over whether the portion of John’s Gospel from 7:53 to 8:11 is valid Scripture or not: while it’s true that no early manuscripts include this account, it is equally true to say that it’s more than likely a legitimate oral or written tradition passed on by the first century Ecclesia (Body of believers), Church, and included by later scribes. Any believer who has met Yeshua and been filled with His Spirit will testify that the Spirit of God in us witnesses to the inspiration of this portion of the text.
Therefore, in keeping with the teaching of Messiah, I trust myself to the unity of Scripture and Power (Born of the Spirit), and consider this account to be Scripture, inspired by God and passed on to us for good purpose.
It seems to me that the Yeshua of this story is the Yeshua of the wider body of New Testament writing. He is here, unmistakable, the Teacher of Israel, full of compassion, mercy, tenacity and holy chutzpah. His feet firmly planted on the ground and His Spirit drawing wisdom from the heavens.
I invite you to put away the conjecture of scholarship and instead to embrace the incomparable Messiah of Israel. The story of the young woman caught in adultery is one of His most powerfully intimate public moments.
1But Yeshua[H] (YHVH Saves, Joshua, Jesus) walked (halakh[H]) to the Mount of Olives (har-hazeiytiym[H]).
Yeshua had clearly walked to the Mount of Olives (Har Ha-zeiytiym) the night before, probably with His disciples in tow. It appears He had spent the night there, or alternatively He may have stayed in the village of Bethany on the lower eastern slope of the mount with His friends Miriyam (Mary), Marta (Martha) and El’azar (Lazarus)[John 11:1-2].
Keep in mind that the walk from the Temple precinct the night before down the hill into the Kidron valley would have taken Yeshua and His disciples past Gat Sh’maniym (Gethsemane) and then up the other side to the summit. The journey to and from the mount of Olives is approximately 1.5km, taking in terrain and the navigating of a clear path. If Yeshua had stayed overnight in Bethany, He would likely have taken a path along the Kidron ravine on the road to Bethany, an estimated further 2 kilometres could be added to each trip if this was His route. Of course, it would have meant that He climbed to the summit of the Mt of Olives from the opposite side the following morning before sunrise and thus ascended from the Mount as described in the text.
2 In the morning, at daybreak (orthos[G], ba-boker[H]) He came again into the temple (hieron[G], ha-mikdash[H]), and all the tribes (ho laos[G], ha-am[H]) were coming to Him (Yeshua); and He sat down (yeishev[H]) and taught, held discourse with them (didasko[G], vay’lam’teim[H]).
This event took place early, probably prior to Sacharit (Morning Prayer). Yeshua sat down to teach in the court of women as was the custom of other rabbis of the time. This is unlikely to refer to the court of the Gentiles as some suggest. Those coming to Him were of the “tribes” of Israel, the collected Jewish pilgrims who had made aliyah for the festival of Sukkot, only Jews were allowed in the court of women. As confirmation of this location verse 20 has Yeshua near the treasury which is situated in the court of the women.
The Greek “didasko” perfectly conveys the rabbinical method of teaching which involved discourse rather than a Greco-Roman style lecture and rhetoric format.
Keep in mind that the Jewish day had begun after the previous sundown and it would continue to be the seventh day of Sukkot until after sundown that evening. Therefore, Sh’mini Atzeret (the eighth day Sabbath following Sukkot was yet to occur).
It is important to note that the great lamps of the court of women had been put out for the final time at the conclusion of the last full night of Sukkot (The previous night). This gives context to Yeshua’s “I am the light of the world” statement later in the text.
3 Some of Ha-Soph’riym The Scribes (of Torah & commentary; often Sadducees) and the P’rushiym[H] (Separate, distinct, chased ones, Pharisees) brought a woman caught in adultery, and had her stand (histemi[G]) in the centre of the court (of women), 4 they said to Him (Yeshua[H]), “Rabbi [H] (didaskalos[G]), this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Torah[H] (Instruction) Moshe[H] (Moses, drawn out) commands us to stone such women; what then do You say?”
“Scribes and Pharisees” is used only here in John’s Gospel, leading some to believe that the textual addition of verses 7:53 to 8:11 is more likely to be connected to Luke’s Gospel account, due to similar language being employed more often by Luke. However, it is equally possible that the author of John’s Gospel simply used a different turn of phrase. The result is the same, it shows the unified front of the two groups who held little theological common ground between them, the Scribes generally being associated with the Sadducees rather than the Pharisees.
The first question many ask is, “If the woman was caught in the act of adultery as the text explains, where is the man who had been involved?” Of course, this can be answered by conjecture in many different ways: perhaps the Scribes and Pharisees in question were Patriarchal chauvinists’, happy to let a fellow male go free? It is possible, based on Mishnaic assertions regarding the proliferation of adulterous acts in the first century (ref. note on v.7-6), that several of them might have been guilty of such sin themselves? It is even possible that the man involved in the sinful act was complicit in the plan to trap the girl or that he was simply able to escape while she was being caught? There is no way of knowing for certain. There must however, be two witnesses to this crime according to Torah (Deut. 19:15).
What we do know is that the Torah requires that both the man and the woman caught in this type of sexual sin are to be punished (Lev.20:10; Deut.22:22-24 ref. Num. 5:11-31). Therefore, the question that was being posed by the Scribes and Pharisees was already outside the specific guidelines of the Torah, meaning that the response must come in the form of an interpretive halakhic ruling from the rabbi being questioned, in this case, Yeshua.
We also know (because the Torah Scribes and Pharisees, specify stoning as the punishment) that the woman was a virgin pledged in marriage prior to the act of adultery. We know this because that is the only situation in which the Torah specifies stoning as the method of punishment for adultery (Deut. 22:23-24). Elsewhere in cases of adultery strangling is the commanded punishment (Lev. 20:10).
The fact that this was done publicly was unusual, given that it was illegal for Jews to carry out the death penalty under Roman governance (Though this was not always successfully policed Acts 7:58-59). This was the counter balance to the fact that the Torah required stoning for such an offense, leaving Yeshua in what some of the Torah Scribes (teachers) and Pharisees might have hoped to be an impossible position.
It’s important to note that Yeshua’s mother Miriyam (Mary) might just as easily have found herself in this situation if not for the righteous action of Yeshua’s earthly (adoptive) father Yosef (Joseph). The key difference of course being that Miriyam was not guilty of adultery. This correlation may well have made this an especially emotional event for Yeshua. It’s also important to note that throughout His earthly ministry Yeshua sought to honour women and restore their rightful place in God’s creative order. Therefore, the intentional humiliation of this young woman could only have served to anger Yeshua. In light of this, His measured response under the circumstances is without comparison.
6 They were saying this, to try Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Yeshua[H] stooped down and with His finger (daktulos[G]) wrote, (grapho[G], letters as opposed to drawing) on the ground (stone floor of the court of the women).
In the midst of this tumultuous scene, Yeshua, calmly bends down and starts to write in the dust on the stone floor of the temple court of the women of Israel. One of our Yeshivah students noted that it reminded her of a child at play. Another student suggested that in doing this He took control of the situation, drawing everyone’s attention to Himself and requiring the Torah Scribes (teachers) and Pharisees to work to His time table, unwilling to be bullied into playing their silly game. Those of us who are old enough to remember might also liken it to a teacher writing on a black board. All eyes and ears are now on Yeshua and what He is writing.
We know that He wrote rather than drew. The Greek “grapho” refers to the writing of letters.
So, what did He write? We can’t possibly know for certain though there are many suggestions. The only one I have found value in outside of what I will propose is the idea that He may have written the words of Jeremiah 17:13:
“Lord, you are the hope of Israel;
all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the Lord,
the spring of living water.”
Perhaps Yeshua began His list of their names here and completed them when He stooped down to write the second time. However, while I like this idea, It seems highly unlikely. I would like to propose another option.
I have asked myself, “Did God the Father ever write on stone with His finger?” The answer is “yes”, in fact He did it three times (Exodus 31:18; 34:1; Dan. 5:25). I suggest that the first thing Yeshua wrote in the dust of the stone floor was the Ten commandments. Perhaps He did this, emulating His Father (Exodus 31:18; 34:1). It’s worth noting that the second to last commandment is, “You shall not commit adultery.” Thus, He reminded His audience of the many commandments each one of them had broken, and that they might just as well find themselves standing where the woman was now put on display.
7 But when they stayed to question Him (Yeshua), He rose up, and said to them, “The sinless one (ho-anamartetos[G]) of you, let him be the first (protos[G]) to drop (ballo[G]) a building stone (lithos[G]) on her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote (grapho[G], letters as opposed to drawing) on the ground (stone floor of the court of the women). 9 When they heard (akouo[G]) it, they began to leave one by one, beginning with the elderly ones, and He (Yeshua) was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the centre of the court of women.
Clearly there were none present who were without sin. Therefore, Yeshua’s statement was intended to bring a right judgment to this situation (Deut.17:7).
We note that elsewhere Yeshua calls that generation an adulterous one (Matt. 12:39). If there’s one thing we know about Yeshua it is that He detests hypocrisy.
In reference to the time of Roman occupation, during the lifetime of Rabban Yochanan ben Zaccai, the Mishnah records the following:
"when adulterers increased, the bitter waters ceased; and Rabban Yochanan ben Zaccai (who was now living) caused them to cease.'' -Mishnah. Sotah, c. 9. sect. 9.
In other words, adultery had become so prolific among the people of that generation that the practice of the Torah concession regarding trying a suspected adulteress with “bitter waters” (Num. 5:11-31) was stopped due to the fact that many of the husbands in question were already guilty of adultery themselves.
By responding as He did Yeshua was not breaking the Torah, as some suggest, to the contrary, He was upholding its finer requirements. Both offenders were not present, nor was this being done in a court of Jewish rulers. Yeshua therefore, was making a halakhic ruling based on the fact that the Torah could not possibly be honoured by this illegitimate trial.
After speaking He then stooped down to write for the second time. The result being that one by one the woman’s accusers walked away in defeat.
I suggest that this time He wrote the words that the finger of God wrote on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace in Babylonian:
“Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Uparsin (Peres): Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
In other words, to these particular Scribes of the Torah and the Pharisees He was saying, “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to your oppressors (not the Medes and Persians but the Romans).”
Therefore, in all of Scripture God has written directly on stone three times plus one (Yeshua in the present account).
Whatever Yeshua wrote, it seems that it was what He said that moved them to leave. After all, the scripture says, “When they heard it, they began to go out one by one.” This likely refers to His challenge “Let the one among you who is without sin drop the first building stone…” Although, given that the chronology places the second writing before the description of their leaving, it may be that Yeshua spoke while He wrote, or even spoke out loud what He wrote.
Now Yeshua is left standing with the young woman, an intimate moment emphasized by the tender words that follow.
10 Rising up, Yeshua[H] (YHVH Saves, Joshua, Jesus) said to her, “Dear woman (gune[G]), where are they? Is there no one to give judgement (katakrino[G]) against you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord (Adonay[H], kurios[G]).” And Yeshua[H] said, “Neither do I pass judgement on you. Separate (apo[G]) yourself now and miss the mark (sin) no more hereafter.”
Yeshua looks upon this humiliated and broken woman and with great mercy and compassion He shows her that social justice is but a tear in the vast ocean of God’s eternal justice. “Does anyone condemn you?” He says, to which she responds in a somewhat shaky but surprised voice, “No one, Adonay.” And in keeping with what John’s Gospel says about Him Yeshua says, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” I hear it this way, “Your sin has been covered, you’re free to start again child, don’t go back to that self-destructive lifestyle.”
And, just maybe, He was also thinking, We need to get my mum to set you up with a nice Jewish boy with the character of my adoptive dad Yosef (Joseph), someone who will honour you and treat you the way a woman should be treated.
It’s important to note that Yeshua did not validate the woman’s sin, rather He showed her that she had great worth in God’s sight in spite of her sin. Therefore, “Continue to live, and turn away from your sinful practices…” Yeshua upheld the Torah and the redemptive grace of God.
12 Again (palin[G]) therefore (oun[G]) Yeshua[H] spoke to them, saying, “Aniy Or Ha Olam[H] I am, I exist, am present as (eimi[G]) the uncreated Light of the world (kosmos[G]); the one who follows, joins, accompanies (akoloutheo[G]) Me will not, not in the smallest way (ou me[G]) continue to walk (haholeikh[H], peripateo[G]) in the darkness (bachosheikhah[H], skotia[G]), but will have the Light of the life (phos ho zoe[G]).”
This must have taken place sometime later given that “they” had all walked away prior to Yeshua’s closing words with the woman caught in adultery. Therefore, verse 12 begins a separate discussion held later that day (still Hoshanah Rabah) in the court of women near the treasury or treasury receptacles that surrounded that place. This was not heard by non-Jews.
Yeshua’s claim to being the light of the world is made with the backdrop of the Sukkot lamp stands in mind. Further, it is made in the court where those same lamp stands had stood shining light into all Jerusalem for the seven days of Sukkot.
There were great Menorah-like four branched candle stands in the Temple precinct. At sundown on the first day of the feast, they went down to the court of the women where golden candlesticks had been erected, and at the head of them four golden basins, and four ladders to every candlestick, and four young priests had four pitchers of oil, that held a hundred and twenty logs (an ancient measure of oil), which they put into each basin. Wicks were made from the old breeches and girdles of the priests, and it was these oil soaked wicks that the priests would light. There was not a court in Jerusalem which was not lit up with that light, and religious men, and men of good works, danced before them, with lighted torches in their hands, singing songs and hymns of praise, which continued for the following six nights (Mishnah. Succah, c. 5. sect 2, 3, 4; Maimon. ib. c. 8. sect. 12.).
“Aniy Or Ha-Olam” I am, I exist, am present as the uncreated Light of the world:” This is a statement of Deity and an allusion to the light through Whom God spoke all things into existence. It’s interesting to note that unlike other occasions the Pharisees did not immediately seek to take hold of Yeshua for what they may well have understood to be a blasphemous statement. It may have been because they were still smarting from the theological defeat they had experienced earlier that day.
“…the one who follows Me will not, not in the smallest way continue to walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of the life.” A flood of Scripture comes to mind:
“The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.” -Isaiah 9:1  NASB
““But for you who [b]fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” -Malachi 4:2 (3:20) NASB
“He says, “It is too [a]small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light [b]of the nations
So that My salvation may [c]reach to the end of the earth.” -Isaiah 49:6 NASB
Each of these Scriptures and many more throughout the New Testament testify to Yeshua being the light of the world. This is revealed first and always first to the Jews and also always to the nations.
We note that it is the one “who follows” who will not walk in darkness. Following is the fruit of true belief, trust, faith. By nature following Messiah proves faith because it is an act of faithfulness.
13 So some of the P’rushiym[H] (Separate, distinct, chased ones, Pharisees) said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true, valid, faithful (ne’emanah[H], alethes[G]).”
If they consider Yeshua’s statement to be blasphemy they may also consider Him on trial and therefore cite Torah in relation to the need for witnesses to establish a matter (Deut.17:6; 19:15). However, it’s not clear why they say this, they may simply be invoking a sense of accountability (Prov.27:2). Regardless, it is not true to say that simply because a person speaks of themselves that the person is lying or that their testimony is unfaithful/invalid. If it were, the complaint of the Pharisees would be equally inadmissible.
14 Yeshua[H] answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, valid (emet[H], alethes[G]), for I see, perceive (eido[G]) My place of origin (pothen[G]) and where I am going; but you do not see, perceive (eido[G]) My place of origin (pothen[G]) or where I am going.
This re-establishes the former conversation regarding false judgement by sight as opposed right judgement by the relational knowledge of God (John 7:24).
Yeshua being God with us, has every right to testify on His own behalf because He has come from God, is in God, is One with God. God Who is faithful and cannot lie is the origin and the present person of Yeshua.
15 You all according to the flesh (ha-basar[H], sarx[G]) separate, choose, discern, esteem, prefer, judge (tishpotu[H], krino[G]); I am not separating, choosing, discerning, esteeming, preferring, passing judgement (eshpot[H], krino[G]) on anyone.
“Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” -John 7:24
“I am not separating, choosing, discerning, esteeming, preferring, passing judgement on anyone.” Yeshua was not at that time acting as Judge, however, He will in the future judge everyone (5:22, 27-30).
16 But even if I do separate, choose, discern, esteem, prefer, judge (eshpot[H], krino[G]), My judgment (mishpatiy[H]) is true, valid (emet[H], alethes[G]); for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father (Aniy ve’ha-Av[H]) Who sent Me (shelachaniy[H]).
The unity of God as unique manifestations of Himself, Father and Son, is self-evident here. Yeshua is qualified to judge because the Judge (the Father) is with Him and His judgement is truth.
17 Even in your Torah (be’torat’chem[H]) it is written (katuv) that the testimony of two men is true, valid, faithful (ne’emanah[H], alethes[G]). 18 I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father (ve’ha-Av[H]) Who sent Me (shelachaniy[H]) testifies about Me.”
Some say Yeshua is distancing Himself from the Torah by saying “Your Torah”. This is utter nonsense. He is the Author and goal of the Torah, why would He distance Himself from it? In fact, saying “Your Torah” is intended as an admonition to accountability. “If you cite the Torah, then be prepared to abide by it.”
When a Prime Minister speaks to the nation and says “Your country needs you”, that same Prime Minister is not saying “It’s your nation, not mine” rather the statement is a call or challenge that is being made with the intention of uniting the nation. Something similar is happening here.
Yeshua offers two witnesses according to the Torah as a concession to their disbelief, Himself and God the Father.
19 So they were saying to Him (Yeshua), “Where is Your Father (Aviykha[H])?” Yeshua[H] answered, “You see, perceive (eido[G]) neither Me nor My Father; if you see, perceive (eido[G]) Me, you would see, perceive (eido[G]) My Father also.” 20 These words He spoke in the treasury (nishkah[H], gazophulakion[G]), as He taught (didasko[G]) in the temple precinct (hieron[G]); and no one seized Him, because the certain, definite, time, hour (hora[G]) for Him had not yet come (lo bai to[H]).
As is the case elsewhere, they had obviously misunderstood Yeshua and had concluded that He was speaking of His adoptive earthly father. Yosef is not mentioned in the Gospels following Yeshua’s youth and it is likely that he had passed away. So when Yeshua, referring to God, says “You see neither Me nor My Father; if you see Me, you would see My Father also.” They presume He is speaking of an earthly father whom they have not seen. In fact, Yeshua is clearly alluding of their spiritual blindness.
NB: The Septuagint text of Neh. 13:7 uses the same gazophulakion[G] to translate the Hebrew nishkah[H], meaning “storeroom”.
The Temple treasury may be a reference to a storeroom in the court of the women or to the treasury receptacles for financial offerings which were positioned in the colonnade which surrounded the court. Either way, these things were being said in a place where only Jews could enter.
We note the now familiar refrain:
“…and no one seized Him, because the certain, definite, time, hour for Him had not yet come.”
21 Therefore, He (Yeshua) said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek (zeteo[G]) Me, and will die in your sin (missing the mark);
For the first time in the Gospel of John dying in sin without a vicarious means of redemption is alluded to. This is not an idea foreign to Torah but it is an idea that is beyond the scope of the first century Jewish understanding of atonement as it pertains to a transcendent application.
where I am going, you’re not able, nor do you have the power (dunamai[G]) to come.” 22 So the Religious Judean leaders (Yehudiym[H]) were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you’re not able, nor do you have the power (dunamai[G]) to come.’”?”
Once again they understand Yeshua literally and ironically conclude at least part of the whole. See my commentary of John 7:34 for further clarification of what Yeshua is alluding to.
23 And He was saying to them, “You are from below (kato[G]), I am from above (ano[G]); you are of this world (ha-olam[H], kosmos[G]), I am not of this world (ha-olam[H], kosmos[G]).
“You are from below, I am from above” Not, “you are from under the earth” but, “Your origin is of the earth”. Whereas, “My origin is above in the heavens, of God Himself”. Yeshua was born into time and space from an eternal existence outside of time and space, being a manifestation of the person of God seeded in a human womb and thus fully God and fully man.
“you are of this world, I am not of this world” Once again this concerns origin. Yeshua is quite clearly in the world but He originates from within God whereas those who are hearing His words originate from within the sin affected creation.
24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins (missing the mark); for unless you believe, are persuaded (pisteuo[G]) that I Am (ego eimi[G]), you will die in your sins (missing the mark).”
Therefore, as alluded to previously, without a saving knowledge of Yeshua they will die in their sin. In fact, the Greek text essentially says “Unless you believe that I AM (God with you), you will die in your sins.”
25 So they were saying to Him (Yeshua[H]), “Who are You?” Yeshua said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning?
It’s possible that those questioning Him were wondering who could have devised this strange new teaching and therefore, asked “Who are You?” Alternatively, some of them had begun to feel a pricking of awe and were seeking an explicit revelation in order to decide whether or not to accept Yeshua and His teaching. Finally, those who hated him were challenging His claims by saying “Who are You?”
26 I have many things to speak and to judge (lishpot[H]) concerning you all, but He who sent Me (sholchiy[H]) is true, faithful (ne’eman[H], alethes[H]); and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world (ha-olam[H], kosmos[G]).”
Yeshua is essentially saying, “You don’t get to know all the details now, I will say only what the Father has given Me to say, the rest will be revealed at the proper time.”
27 They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father (Ha-Av[H]). 28 So Yeshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man (Ben Ha-Adam[H]), then you all will know (yoda’tem[H], ginosko[G]) that I Am (ego eimi[G]), and of separation (apo[G]) I Myself make, fashion, produce (poieo[G]) nothing, but according (kathos[G]) to that taught (didasko[G]) to Me of the Father (Ha-Av[H]), these things I speak.
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you all will know that I Am…” Yeshua is referring to the means of His death and inferring that His death will come about as a result of their actions. He is also clearly saying that those listening will come to understand that He is the King Messiah and God with us, upon seeing Him crucified. Therefore, lifting up in the sense of glory is intrinsically connected to His suffering on the cross.
Once again Yeshua points to the Father God as the origin of His actions and speech.
29 And He who sent Me is with, after, behind, in the midst of (meta[G]) Me; He is not leaving Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
Yeshua is saying that He is inseparable from God. The Father Who sent Him is with Him before, after, and in the midst of Him, eternally present and One. Therefore, the foolish popular evangelical notion that the Father turned His face away from Messiah on the cross (Not recorded in Scripture), is untenable and diminishes both the nature and the redemptive work of God in its presumption that the Father did not suffer with the Son. It is tantamount to blasphemy.
30 As He spoke these things, many had come to believe, were persuaded by, put their trust (ya’amiynu[H], pisteuo[G]) in Him (Yeshua).
Once again “many”, including some of them Pharisees and Scribes, Sadducees and rulers, had come to believe in Yeshua as they listened to His words. These same ones would later come to have a fulness of understanding regarding His redemptive work following His death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). They had begun a genuine journey of faith. This does not, as some Christian scholars presumptively conclude, describe a shallow intellectual assent to faith in Yeshua. It saddens me to hear even some Messianic Jews proliferate this nonsensical idea. The text gives no such indication.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.