by miriam berg
Chapter VIII

(John 8:1-11)
Go, and sin no more." With these words Jesus concludes one of the most remarkable incidents in the gospels. Confronted with an example of a "sin" according to the Mosaic law, for which death by stoning was the penalty, he says nothing at first, then at last tells them:
Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.
Then the woman's accusers leave, one by one; we are not told why, but we may assume that even those scribes and Pharisees realized that they were not without sin, and were struck by his words, and left his presence without his telling them to. Jesus expresses surprise:
Did no man condemn thee? Neither do I condemn thee.
It is remarkable as an example of how we should behave towards those whose actions we deplore; it is noteworthy that most of the ancient manuscripts of John do not have it, and some early manuscripts of Luke have it instead. It is perhaps one of the most believable stories in the gospel of John, ranking with the confrontation of Jesus with the elders in the Synoptics, where he asks them why they didn't believe in John the Baptizer, and where he tells them to render unto God the things that are God's. Further evidence, however, that it is interpolated into John at this point, is how the next section follows and is directly related to the previous chapter.

(John 8:12-59)
This next section is another argumentative discourse by Jesus with the Jews, after which they take up stones to cast at him, but he "hides" (it is reported) and leaves the temple. This last is inconsistent with the report in Luke that he passed through them and went his way (Luke 4:30) on a similar occasion. Somehow Jesus hiding is not the picture I have of the teacher who cried, Woe unto the scribes and Pharisees! (Matt. 23:13-33; Luke 11:39-52). Shall we believe John's report? or that of the Synoptics?

But this discourse further is filled with sharp contrasts with the teaching in Matthew, Mark, and Luke: not a single parable, only repeated claims that God is his special Father. Surely we may believe that God was Jesus' Father, just as God is the parent of us all; but we do not need to conclude that Jesus was a god himself, any more than are we all. Here are some of the contradictions between sayings in John and the Synoptics:
I am the light of the world. (8:12)
Ye are the light of the world.
(Matt. 5:14)
The Father that sent me beareth witnessof me.
Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. (Matt. 12:27)
I am from above; I am not of this world.
Why ca1lest thou me good? none is good, save one, even God. (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19)
Except ye believe I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

For whoso shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and sister and mother. (Mark 3:35)
Everyone who shall speak a word against the son of man, it shall be forgiven him. (Luke 12: 10)
If a man keep my word, he shall never see death.

Be not afraid of them that kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast your body into the valley of Gehenna. (Luke 12:4-5)
Before Abraham was, I am.
Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)
Now of course many verses in this discourse could be said to be consistent with teachings in the Synoptics: the condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus' denial that he acts of himself, his assertion that he seeks not his own glory. It is rather the overall tone of the discourse which is so appallingly at variance with Matthew, Mark, and Luke; Jesus there never claims, I am this, or I am that; he says, (You) do this, and do that, and God will reward you; the kingdom or reign of God is within you; it comes not with outward signs; it is like pearls of great value and a treasure hidden in a field; it grows slowly and from within. Jesus rarely uses "I" in the Synoptics but rarely misses a chance in John. Whose report do we think is the more accurate? Which is less likely to have been words handed down by those who believed Jesus was the Messiah, and therefore more likely to be authentic, when compared with words which are known to correspond with the beliefs held by the early Christians? Who is the more convincing, the man who astounded people with the authority of his teaching in the Synoptics, or the one who complained, Why seek ye to kill me? and, If I say truth, why do you not believe me? and, Are ye wroth with me, because I healed on the Sabbath? Jesus' sharp retorts in the Synoptics ring with authority: Is not a man of more value than a sheep? Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not find the kingdom of God; Let these words sink into your ears, for the Son of man is delivered up into the hands of men; Go and tell that fox, Herod, that I go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following. Let us be glad that Mark, Matthew, and Luke preserved these sayings, even if John didn't want to hand them down.

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