John 8:1-20

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These small group studies of John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

John 8:1-20 Inductive Bible Study

Outline –

  1. The woman caught in adultery (1-12)

    1. The background (1-2)

    2. The accusation (3-5)

    3. Their hidden agenda (6)

    4. Jesus’ response (7-8)

    5. The accusers leave (9)

    6. Jesus doesn’t condemn her, but tells her to stop sinning (10-11)

  2. Jesus’ talks to the people again (12-20)

    1. Jesus is the Light of life (12)

    2. The Pharisees say that His testimony is not enough (13)

    3. Jesus responds (14-18)

      1. His testimony by itself is enough (14)

      2. Their judgments are earthly and flawed (15)

      3. Jesus judgments are heavenly and true (16)

      4. The Father and Jesus testify together (17-18)

    4. They don’t know Jesus or the Father (19)

    5. His time had not come to be killed (20)

Questions –

Should the passage about the woman caught in adultery be considered part of the Bible?

What should our attitude be towards this (and other) questionable readings?

What was the Pharisees’ real reason for bringing this woman to Jesus?

What were they trying to accomplish?

Where do you think the man was?

What are some of the things people speculate that Jesus may have been writing in the ground?

What did Jesus mean in verse 7? Without any sin? Without sin in convicting the woman? Or without the sin of adultery?

Does this mean the death penalty is wrong because everyone is a sinner? If not, what does it mean?

Why do you think the older ones were walking out first?

What does it mean that Jesus was the only one left (He was the only perfect one without sin that could condemn her)?

Why didn’t Jesus condemn her since she had sinned? Is Jesus being lenient on sin? Why wasn’t he more harsh on her adultery?

What is the “Light of life”?

What does it mean that Jesus is the Light of the world?

What does it mean that Jesus is THE Light of the world?

Are there many sources of truth?

Where can we find spiritual truth?

Who is walking in darkness?

What is darkness?

What does this verse show our responsibility is towards Jesus?

What will the effective difference in our lives be after we have the Light in us and are no longer walking in darkness?

Why did the Pharisees say Jesus’ testimony was not true?

Why was it true even if Jesus did speak by Himself?

What is the difference between how they made decisions/testified and how Jesus did?

How can we know God?

Why were they still not seizing Jesus?

Cross-references –

Leviticus 20:10 (5) – An adulterer (speaking about a man, but applicable to woman) should be put to death.

Deuteronomy 22:22-24 (5) – The woman and man who lie together when they are not married are to be stoned.

Deuteronomy 17:6-7 (7) – A person was only to be killed if witnesses condemned them.

Matthew 5:17 (7) – Jesus didn’t come to abolish, but to fulfill.

Psalms 50:16-20 (7) – What right do the wicked have to tell of God’s ways or to judge others?

Romans 2:1-3 (7) – No one is innocent because we all judge others and do the same things we say others should not do.

Psalms 130:3-4 (7) – If God marked iniquities who could stand? He forgives.

Proverbs 26:5 (7) – Answer a fool as his folly deserves.

Psalms 9:15-16 (9) – The wicked are caught in their own trap.

Luke 12:13-14 (11) – Jesus didn’t come to judge formally or render legal verdicts.

John 3:17 (11) – Jesus didn’t come to judge, but to save.

Proverbs 28:13 (11) – The person who hides sin will suffer, but the one who admits and forsakes it finds compassion.

Luke 5:32 (11) – He came to call the sinners to repentance.

Romans 2:4 (11) – The kindness of God leads to repentance.

Isaiah 9:2 (12) –A prophecy about the light coming to the dark world.

Isaiah 49:6 (12) – Similar prophecy to above.

John 3:19-21 (12) – The people in the dark hate the Light. Those who walk in truth come to the Light.

John 12:25 (12) – Walk in the Light so that the darkness will not overtake us. He who walks in the dark doesn’t know where He is going.

John 9 (12) – Jesus heals the man born blind.

Acts 17:31 (16) – There will be a day that Jesus will judge. It is fixed.

Deuteronomy 19:15 (17) – Two witnesses were needed to confirm a fact.

Teaching Points –

Authenticity of the story about the woman caught in adultery-

Should the passage about the woman caught in adultery be considered part of the Bible?

What should our attitude be towards this (and other) questionable readings?

After reading some commentaries it is almost as difficult as before reading commentaries to decide if this story should be considered authenticate, part of the gospel of John, etc. A lot of old manuscripts contained it. Many others did not. Some others left an empty space here. Some others put it at the end of Luke 21. Others included it, but with an asterisk. Some Bible critics suggest that it should be put at the end of Luke 21 and considered authentic and canonical. Others say that the strongest evidence is to leave it in John since that is where most manuscripts have it. Yet another theory is that John himself added it much later on to his original. One argument says it is more difficult to explain why it would be included if it was spurious than why it would be excluded even if genuine. At that time the church was very ascetic and this passage confounded them. They may have thought it gave sort of a license to sin so excluded it. Augustine accordingly says, ‘Some of slender faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, have removed it from their manuscript, fearing, I believe, that an immunity to sin might be thought to be given by it.’

Many are impressed with its excellence and think the narrative looks too detailed, too real, and too powerful to be considered false. In the end this is the longest and most difficult section of questionable texts in the Bible. Personally, I am inclined to accept it as an authentic story that God wants us to know and be taught through. Perhaps it was added later or perhaps it was always supposed to be a part of John and the church removed it because they considered it gave license to sin. But I kind of doubt God would allow such a story to remain in the Bible if it is false and propagates false doctrine. Nonetheless, to err on the side of safety, I wouldn’t want to base any major doctrines exclusively on this text.

1-2

This encounter took place in the temple, the center of religious life in Jerusalem. Jesus was not afraid of the Pharisees because He time had not yet come. He was immune.

3-5

Where do you think the man was?

Firstly, the people accusing her were hypocrites. They seemingly let the man go, but brought the woman. This was typical of that time when women were really looked down upon and they were judged strictly for their sins (rightly so), but the men were pretty much immune to punishment.

Leviticus 20:10 (5) – An adulterer (speaking about a man, but applicable to woman) should be put to death.

Deuteronomy 22:22-24 (5) – The woman and man who lie together when they are not married are to be stoned.

Moses did indeed command adulterers to be stoned in the above verses. This was part of the law of God. It was intended to purge the people of evil and be a deterrent to further adultery by others. We know that all sin deserves death, just as the first sin of Adam and Eve. This is fair and just. Sin is a serious matter. This is what the Old Testament teaches. The Old Testament shows how serious sin is and how basically we have no hope because no one can keep the law. Everyone is deserving of punishment. We need some help.

Jesus set the bar even higher saying that if a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart he is guilty. Some say that in this passage Jesus lowers the standard and excuses sin. That is not true at all. His standard is even higher than that given in the OT, but the problem is no one can reach it.

6 –

What was the Pharisees’ real reason for bringing this woman to Jesus?

What were they trying to accomplish?

The Pharisees had a hidden motive. They weren’t zealous for God’s law and wanting to rid the land of evil (perhaps this is one reason why Jesus didn’t go along with them), but they were trying to trap Jesus. At that time the people were also split among two opinions. Some of the legalists supported the death penalty. Others disagreed with it. They intended to force Jesus to “declare” for one side. That way He would alienate Himself from the other side and lose supporters. Whichever way He said they would try to accuse Him.

I mentioned before that one test you can ask yourself for answering a question is if the people who ask it are sincere. I will be much more inclined to answer a question if it is sincere than if there is a bad motive. It seems to me that Jesus is the same here. He didn’t end up answering their question straightforwardly, but gave a much different answer than they expected.

He also started writing in the ground. There is lots of speculation about what He was writing. What is some of it? Some say that the first time He was writing just because He didn’t want to answer the question and the second time He was writing was to give them a chance to leave unobserved. Others say He was writing their sins in the ground and so on. There is really no way we can know so it is not that helpful to speculate. It is interesting though this is the only place it is recorded where Jesus wrote and we even don’t know what it was. Also, He wrote in the dust so it didn’t stay long. Not sure what we can learn from that, except to perhaps think carefully before we write so that we don’t regret it!

7-8

What did Jesus mean in verse 7? Without any sin? Without sin in convicting the woman? Or without the sin of adultery?

Does this mean the death penalty is wrong because everyone is a sinner? If not, what does it mean?

There are three possibilities of what it means “without sin”. One could be in the procedure for prosecuting this girl. Another could be the sin of adultery. Or it could mean any sin. My leaning would be without sexual sin. That is they were all in the same boat as her getting ready to kill her while they were going off free. In no way does this mean the death penalty should never be carried out. This was established for governments to deal with criminals. The focus is not on the girl at all at this point. It is not on whether she sinned, but on whether they sinned. Jesus wanted to point out their hypocrisy, to show that they were no better than the crowds they sought to teach. How could they judge this girl when they had done the same kinds of things? Before they hypocritically judge others they should examine their own lives and repent.

I think we can learn something from this too. Often we are far too quick to judge others. In our pride we think we are better than some people and look down on them, when in actuality we are all in the same boat. We should always look ourselves and examine our own lives before we look at and condemn others (remove the log from our eyes before removing the speck from others). In John 21:22 Jesus mildly reproves Peter for being concerned John would live until He returned saying, “What is that to you? You follow me!”

Read and discuss these verses.

Deuteronomy 17:6-7 (7) – A person was only to be killed if witnesses condemned them.

Matthew 5:17 (7) – Jesus didn’t come to abolish, but to fulfill.

Psalms 50:16-20 (7) – What right do the wicked have to tell of God’s ways or to judge others?

Romans 2:1-3 (7) – No one is innocent because we all judge others and do the same things we say others should not do.

Psalms 130:3-4 (7) – If God marked iniquities who could stand? He forgives.

Proverbs 26:5 (7) – Answer a fool as his folly deserves.

9 –

Why do you think the older ones were walking out first?

Perhaps the old ones had sinned more so had more to remember or perhaps they were more humble and aware of their sins. Younger men tend to be more prideful. But every single one of her accusers left, realizing that they were sinful too and in no position to judge.

10-11 –

What does it mean that Jesus was the only one left (He was the only perfect one without sin that could condemn her)?

Why didn’t Jesus condemn her since she had sinned? Is Jesus being lenient on sin? Why wasn’t he more harsh on her adultery?

Jesus was the only one left because He was the only one who hadn’t sinned and therefore He could have accused her. Yet He did not condemn her. Why?

Read and discuss these verses.

Luke 12:13-14 (11) – Jesus didn’t come to judge formally or render legal verdicts.

John 3:17 (11) – Jesus didn’t come to judge, but to save.

Proverbs 28:13 (11) – The person who hides sin will suffer, but the one who admits and forsakes it finds compassion.

Luke 5:32 (11) – He came to call the sinners to repentance.

Romans 2:4 (11) – The kindness of God leads to repentance.

These verses teach us several things.

  1. When Jesus came, He didn’t come as a judge in an official capacity. That was simply not a responsibility He took on.

  2. His chief goal of His first coming was to save (Everyone is still responsible for their sins and will eventually face judgment after the Second Coming).

  3. He came to call the sinners to repentance.

  4. Often kindness and mercy will cause true repentance better than strictness.

I’ve heard some liberal groups use this story to teach a principle that we should tolerate sin. They say Jesus tolerated the woman’s sin here and didn’t condemn her and neither should we condemn people who sin. Some have said that means homosexuals can come to church and be welcomed and tolerated, even allowed to lead. Other groups use it to support their own types of sin, whether it be immorality or whatever. This is completely not Jesus’ intention. Never does He say the sin is OK. Rather He commands her to “sin no more”. He acknowledges that what she is doing is sin. He implies that she deserves condemnation and that He can condemn her. And He shows that she must not continue in her sin, but must forsake it. Yet He doesn’t revile He. He uses His mercy to encourage her to repent, not to encourage license. That is the amazing thing about God. He is just and He can rightfully condemn everybody to hell. Yet He is also merciful, wants us to repent, and wants us to follow Him. Let His mercy inspire us to repent. Let His mercy inspire us to forgive others and be compassionate. We need to think when is the proper time to be strict in rebuking and when is the proper time be compassionate and merciful. You can imagine that this woman was completely humiliated, shamed, and embarrassed already. Harsh words might have crushed to a point of guilt and sorrow that there would be no return. Evaluate with wisdom when to be compassionate. It is probably far more often the right course to take than the one we actually take. Don’t be too speedy to deal out rebukes.

12 –

What is the “Light of life”?

What does it mean that Jesus is the Light of the world?

What does it mean that Jesus is THE Light of the world? (There is only one truth. It is absolute. There are not many ways and there are not many truths.)

Are there many sources of truth?

Where can we find spiritual truth?

Who is walking in darkness?

What is darkness?

What does this verse show our responsibility is towards Jesus?

What will the effective difference in our lives be after we have the Light in us and are no longer walking in darkness?

In the Bible darkness is a symbol for sin or untruth. Without Christ every person is walking in darkness. We are blind and don’t know the truth. Neither do we know the right way to go. Jesus referred to the religious teachers of His day as “blind guides” (Matthew 23:24). He also discussed the problem of blind guides saying, “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into the pit?” (Luke 6:39). Man has come up with all kinds of sciences, philosophies, psychologies, theories, and religions. Without Christ we cannot know what is true and what is not. Without Him we are blind, walking in the darkness, continuing in our sin, and following blind leaders.

Some people enjoy walking in the darkness because they want to continue sinning in secret and go their own way without interference (John 3:19). Jesus desires to free us from this pattern. He is willing to open our eyes to the truth! He wants us to know what is right and what is wrong. His light will show us which way to go in this dark world. He will give us the strength to overcome our sins and live guilt-free in the light of His forgiveness. This light is life. John 8:32 says that the “truth will set you free”. If you want the light from God you must follow Jesus.

And once again, Jesus did a miracle to back up His words. In the very next chapter (John 9) Jesus healed a man who was born blind. This man had never seen any light in this world until Jesus healed His eyesight. He can open not only physical eyes, but also our spiritual eyes.

Here God also gives us a responsibility. We must follow Him. The light is there and we must follow it. There are false lights too. Those are the kind of lights that bugs and insects follow only to be ZAPPED. That is the light of death. But Jesus is the light of life.

For believers this has several implications for us.

  1. We should follow the true Light.

  2. There is only one truth and we need to find it in God’s Word.

  3. We need to be spiritually discerning, able to evaluate what we here from the world through the lens of the truth. Light reveals. Having our eyes opened will reveal many lies in the world that we may have accepted as truths before. What are some of these lies/false lights?

  4. The Light will reveal everything. Therefore we cannot hide our sin and need to live transparent lives.

  5. We should understand that the people in the world are blind and may not understand something that is obvious to us.

Read and discuss these verses.

Isaiah 9:2 (12) –A prophecy about the light coming to the dark world.

Isaiah 49:6 (12) – Similar prophecy to above.

John 3:19-21 (12) – The people in the dark hate the Light. Those who walk in truth come to the Light.

John 12:25 (12) – Walk in the Light so that the darkness will not overtake us. He who walks in the dark doesn’t know where He is going.

John 9 (12) – Jesus heals the man born blind.

14-18 –

Why did the Pharisees say Jesus’ testimony was not true?

Why was it true even if Jesus did speak by Himself?

What is the difference between how they made decisions/testified and how Jesus did?

How can we know God?

The Pharisees were still demanding more witnesses even though Jesus gave them several already. Jesus responds that He Himself is enough, but that the Father is also a witness.

He also points out the flaws in their judgment ability. They judge according to the flesh. Their own sinful desires and prejudices affect their viewpoint. Jesus didn’t come to judge, but even when/if He did it is true because it is not corrupted by sin and false motives.

Acts 17:31 (16) – There will be a day that Jesus will judge. It is fixed.

Deuteronomy 19:15 (17) – Two witnesses were needed to confirm a fact.

19-20 –

This same conversation seems to repeat itself again and again. The Pharisees wanted to see Jesus Father. Jesus shows them that if they knew God they would also Him, but they don’t know either. From John 8:44 we know that they were of their father, the devil. It is no wonder there were so many disagreements when they were controlled by Satan and Jesus had the authority of God.

Once again they didn’t seize Jesus because His time had not yet come.

Study John 8:21-30

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