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Sept 16, 2010

Coffman on the PA

Excerpt from: J.B. Coffman, Bible Commentary, (USA, c. 1950)

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J.B. Coffman - Introduction
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Dr. James Burton Coffman graduated from Abilene Christian College in 1927. He has received honorary doctorates from three institutes of higher learning, including Abilene Christian, which named him Outstanding Alumnus in 1971. Dr. Coffman has spent his entire life in ministry, having served churches across the nation. He has conducted over 200 gospel campaigns in 30 states and several foreign countries. The James Burton Coffman Commentaries on the Bible were written by Dr. Coffman over a period of twenty-eight years and are in use by Christians throughout the nation and around the world.


J.B. Coffman's Commentary

This paragraph (John 7:53-8:11) is omitted from later versions of the New Testament, upon the basis of convincing arguments denying it a place in the sacred canon.

Hendriksen, after canvassing all of the scholarly findings on the subject, concluded thus:

"Though it cannot now be proved that this story formed an integral part of the Fourth Gospel, neither is it possible to establish the opposite with any degree of finality. We believe moreover, that what is recorded here really took place and contains nothing in conflict with the apostolic spirit."

- William Hendriksen,
Exposition of the Gospel according to John
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961), II, p. 35.

We shall study the narrative as it has come down to us.

8:1-2: but Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. 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.

Early in the morning ...
is a detail that suggests the report of an eyewitness.

And he sat down and taught them ...
refers to his assumption of the formal position of a teacher.

And all the people ...
Scholars notice what is called a change of style here and throughout the paragraph, evidenced by the stringing together of one thought after another by the use of "and." Also, this is the only mention of the Mount of Olives in John. All of the facts, however, fit the situation perfectly.

8:3-4: And the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, they say unto him, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act.

Overshadowing the moral lapse of the woman was the brutal, unfeeling, sadistic behavior of the hypocrites who thus broke up a religious discussion by such an intrusion. Their partiality in not bringing her partner makes it possible to suppose that one of them was the guilty man. "Adultery ..." indicates the woman was married.

8:5-6: "Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou of her?" And this they said trying him, that they might have whereof to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and wrote with his finger on the ground.

The Pharisees were misapplying Moses' law here, since "stoning" was commanded for a betrothed girl before her marriage (Deuteronomy 22:23f), and the woman before them was married. They cared nothing for the law and were only interested in cooking up some charge against Jesus. Incidentally, if they had really believed their own earlier indictment of him as a sabbath-breaker, they would not still have been searching at this later date for another basis of accusation.

Trying him ...
has the force of "tempting him." What did they hope to gain? (1) If Jesus had concurred in asking a death penalty for the woman, they would have hailed him before the Romans who had made it illegal for the Jews to assess such a penalty. (2) If the Lord had recommended mercy, they would have placed him at variance with Moses and made a lawbreaker out of him!

Stooped ... and wrote ... on the ground ...
The Saviour reacted to such a grotesque and embarrassing situation with silence and by stooping and writing on the ground. This is the only instance of Jesus writing; and the fact of his writing being quickly trampled under foot strongly suggests the only other instance of deity's writing, namely, that of God's inscribing the tables of stone. The decalogue too was quickly trampled under foot (spiritually), and Moses smashed the tables of stone (Exodus 32:19). If this passage is really spurious, it is difficult to explain such overtones as this.

8:7: But 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."

Jesus, as ever, found the answer in the Scriptures. Deut. 17:7 says, "The hand of the witness shall be the first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people." Thus Jesus demanded that the witness, nowhere visible in this interview - that the witness should reveal himself and cast the first stone; but the Lord demanded something else - such a witness would himself have to be without sin. Again the Pharisees' trap had closed without taking Jesus. The Lord had neither condoned any kind of sin nor contradicted Moses. He just turned the tables by an appeal to conscience, there being no coward like a guilty conscience.

8:8: And again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.

Another period of silence ensued, as the Lord kept writing. The older heads in the Pharisees' company saw instantly that their scheme had failed. Not in a million years were they prepared to produce a witness, much less a sinless witness.

8:9: And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even to the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst.

The Saviour's silence, the total absence (or silence) of any witness against the woman, and the watchfulness of the mighty throng surrounding the little circle of Pharisees with Jesus and the woman at the center - all of that became suddenly a situation of profound embarrassment to the Pharisees. The oldest, being the more perceptive, led the way, and they all left. Once more the Galilean had conquered.

8:10: And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, "Woman, where are they? did no man condemn thee?"

Where are they ...?
Indeed, where are they all who opposed and rejected the Lord? God only waits a little while, and the most powerful and vicious sinners fade away.

8:11: And she said, "No man, Lord." And Jesus said unto her, "Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more."

The woman's humble and respectful answer, Jesus' refusal to condemn, despite his divine knowledge of all the truth, and his gentle admonition "sin no more" - this is as beautiful a conclusion of this incident as could be imagined. Jesus' mercy to the woman is possibly the reason some have suspected this passage.

Again from Hendriksen:

"Augustine definitely stated that certain individuals had removed from their codices the section regarding the adulteress, because they feared women would appeal to this story as an excuse for infidelity ... asceticism played an important role in the sub-apostolic age. Hence the suggestion that the section (7:53-8:11) was actually part of John's Gospel but (later) removed from it cannot be entirely dismissed."

- William Hendriksen,
Exposition of the Gospel according to John
(Baker, 1961), II, p. 35 fwd.

8:12: Again therefore Jesus spake 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 the light of the world ...
is the second of the seven great "I am's" of John. See: John 6:35; 8:12; 10:9; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; and 15:5.

Several suggestions of what might have prompted such a metaphor by Jesus are: (1) the great lamps kindled in the temple court during the feast of tabernacles, (2) the glorious sun rising at that very moment over the mount of Olives, and (3) the pillar of fire that lighted the way for Israel in the wilderness; but it seems more reasonable to suppose that if Jesus needed any suggestion of such a metaphor he would have rather found it in the "light" passages of the Old Testament. Note:

I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation to the end of the earth (Isaiah 49:6). I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6). But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings (Mal. 4:2).

As the sun is the source of all light, power, and energy on earth, Jesus the Sun of righteousness is the source of all spiritual light, power, and energy. Light is the only thing that can come into contact with filth and remain uncontaminated. Christians are the "light of the world" (Matthew 5:14), but theirs is a reflected light. Men of righteous intention seek the light (John 3:19ff). Light either kills or develops vegetation, depending on whether or not it is rooted in soil; and the gospel has that same dual function (2 Corinthians 2:15ff). Light is its own witness. See next verse.

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