The Significance of the Writing on the Ground
John 8:3-11
And the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the middle,…

As St. John gives no explanation, we are left to conjecture.

1. Some think, as , Rupertus, and Lampe, that our Lord wrote on the ground the texts of Scripture which settled the question brought before Him, as the seventh commandment, and Leviticus 20:10, and Deuteronomy 22:22. The action would then imply, "Why do ye ask Me? What is written in the law, that law which God wrote with His own finger as I am writing now?"

2. Some think, as Lightfoot and Burgon, that our Lord meant to refer to the law of Moses for the trial of jealousy, in which an accused woman was obliged to drink water into which dust from the floor of the Tabernacle or Temple had been put by the priest (Numbers 5:17). The action would then imply, "Has the law for trying such an one as this been tried? Look at the dust on which I am writing. Has the woman been placed before the priest, and drank of the dust and water?"

3. Some think, as , Melancthon, Brentius, Toletus, and a Lapide, that our Lord's action was a silent reference to the text, Jeremiah 17:13: "They that depart from Me shall be written in the earth."

4. One rationalist winter suggests that our Lord "stooped down" from feelings of modesty, as if ashamed of the sight before Him, and of the story told to Him. The idea is preposterous, and entirely out of harmony with our Lord's public demeanour.

5. Some think, as Euthymius, Calvin, Rollock, Chemnitius, Diodati, Flavius, Piscator, Grotius, Poole, and Hutcheson, that our Lord did not mean anything at all by this writing on the ground, and that He only signified that He would give no answer, and would neither listen to nor interfere in such matters as the one brought before Him. Calvin remarks: "Christ intended, by doing nothing, to show how unworthy they were of being heard; just as if anyone, while another was speaking to him, were to draw lines on the wall, or to turn his back, or to show by any other sign that he was not attending to what was said." I must leave the reader to choose which solution he prefers. To my eyes, I confess, there are difficulties in each view. If I must select one, I prefer the last of the five, as the simplest. Quesnell remarks: "We never read that Jesus Christ wrote but once in His life. Let men learn from hence never to write but when it is necessary or useful, and to do it with humility and modesty, on a principle of charity, and not of malice."

(Bp. Ryle.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

WEB: The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery. Having set her in the midst,

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