What was Jesus writing in the dirt when the Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
The story of the woman caught in adultery is found in John 8:1-11. Briefly, the story involves the scribes and Pharisees who, in their continuing efforts to trick Jesus into saying something they c...

July 01 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Eced7a1f c81d 42f4 95ea 9d5719dce241 Singapore Moses Messenger of God, CEO in IT industry, Astronaut, Scientist
The answer is profoundly simple.

What He wrote on the ground is NOT recorded in any of the four gospels. So it is unimportant to speculate what he wrote. There are NO significant doctrines would arise discussing this.

We should stop where Bible stops.

October 22 2015 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Kodak camera 851 John Anderson
Since it wasn't told what Jesus wrote, perhaps the words were not that important. Perhaps it was to diffuse a nasty situation and take the eyes off of the woman. I can see them now, we've got him, they were thinking and he bends down and start playing tick tack toe perhaps. I bet that threw them into a stunned silence. 

Then, after saying bring a non sinner and have at it, he once again bent down a scribbled in the dirt. Perhaps because he didn't want them to think he was looking at them in a condemning or condescending way as they all slithered out of there. Whatever the reason, this is one of my favorite passages of the entire Bible. Praise Jesus.

August 10 2015 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Billy P Eldred
Of course, we don't know. But I believe that it is a good question. One of my favorite Bible verses is the last verse in the book of John. "Jesus did many other things as well. I suppose if everything he did was written down, even the whole world would not hold the books!" How true that verse is. Just look at what all he has done in your own life and my life and the lives of every believer ever born. So, what made it in the Bible is important. And we learn a lot by digging deep into the hidden meanings of each verse. With that, we have to add a note of caution not to change what is written by making something up, but I believe it is okay to ask "Could he have meant this?" "Or maybe this?"

Possibly, the very reason we are not told what he wrote here is so we would ask the question. I believe the Bible is living Word and it can mean different things to different people or even to the same person at different times dependant on their situation and their sincerity in seeking God at the moment.

All that being said,. I will make a conjecture that is not meant to be taken as definitive. Perhaps what was taking place here was a manifestation of Tongues akin to Pentecost. Maybe each person in the crowd saw Him write what they needed to see in order to disperse the crowd. Maybe they saw their own names, their own sins or even a scripture that they knew or a law that they had broken. 

Or maybe they just felt the Love of Jesus and were self convicted. Maybe they just saw his tears dripping on the sand as he wrote a scripture having to do with compassion or judging or forgiveness. Whatever he wrote, we know it worked!

February 14 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Data Susan Stribich
Problem: John 7:53-8:11 is not contained in the earliest and best manuscripts and was almost certainly NOT an original part of the Gospel of John. This text is traditionally referred to as the pericope adulterae. Among modern commentators and textual critics, it is a foregone conclusion that the section is not original but represents a later addition to the text of the gospel.

It is significantly important for Christians to understand that this is not a genuine biblical text, and as such, it was not inspired by the Holy Spirit.
For this reason pastors would be wise not to preach this text. Every time I've heard a pastor preach this text they inevitably speculate about what Jesus might have written in the dirt. Since the text does not have a legitimate pedigree (as textual critics put it) it is completely meaningless to make such speculations. When I heard a highly known and respected pastor peach this text on the radio I notified Dan Wallace of DTS and was able to connect the two men, so that Dan could bring awareness of this to the pastor. I sent Dan's article to my own pastor when he preached a sermon on the adulteress as well.

I became aware of the illegitimacy of this text from Textual Critic, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, of Dallas Theological Seminary. He has written an article about the text entitled, My favorite passage that's not in the Bible. You can read it here:


For further discussion you can visit www.bible.org Click on Lumina, go to John 8, then click on the number next to the section title, "A Woman Caught in Adultery" 136 < click this number.

Another important reason why Christians should be aware that this is not genuinely biblical text is that one of the leading critics of the reliability of scripture, Bart Ehrman, has made issue of this in at least one of his best selling books as a reason why we cannot trust scripture. Bart Ehman's books are widely read by skeptics of Christianity, including many secular university professors. This, it is good to be aware, and make your children aware, that this is one of the two largest variants of scripture. The other is the "longer ending of Mark", which is also not considered by text critics to be authentic.

April 22 2016 4 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini James Kraft 74 year old retired pipeline worker
We do not know what Jesus wrote. It does give us some insight though. Jesus being God and Man, is able to forgive sin. Second, He will show mercy to whom He will show mercy.

The Pharisees were trying to force Jesus into going against His own law. They did not care about whether the woman was guilty or not, they were wanting to show that Jesus was not who He said He was.

Jesus knew their hearts, and also the heart of the woman. The Pharisees loved to put others down to lift themselves up. We do not know the heart of the woman. 

The Pharisees were proud and self righteous because they believed they obeyed the law so well that God owed them a place in heaven and the last thing they needed was some one telling them they were not perfect.

But Jesus did exactly that when He said that the one without sin could cast the first stone. They had to admit they were not perfect.

It is the truth of the Gospel that Jesus came to save sinners. Not self righteous people. He said the well have no need of a physician but the sick.
He came to save sinners as the righteous have no need. Sinners know they need a savior.

It is the same today, those that believe they are perfect have no need of Jesus. It is as though self righteousness and pride were a virtue. The worst of it is we all have some of it. God be mercyfull to me a sinner.

God still resists the proud and gives grace to the Humble. Pride always goes before a fall. It is the law of God.

August 03 2016 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Patricia Robinson
Maybe Yeshua was biding time to cool off. He, being God and man, knew that they knew that the adulterous man should have been brought forth, also. Yet, they had so little respect for the Torah, that they were willing to break the law in order to trap Him. How angry and sad He must have felt at them dragging the woman to Him, only. Saying to them, "Cast the 1st stone if you are free from sin", without taking deadly actions against them, showed love, mercy, grace, compassion, long suffering and self-control. However, the Lamb will not show up in meeknesses for the 2nd coming, but with all power as the Lion of Judah and judgement.

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

May 22 2019 1 response Vote Up Share Report

12009676 1626949140887682 8999472247693518063 n Hugo Röhland X Military: Army, Navy, Electrician, Self Employed, Pension.
Not only has there been any, non what so ever recordings of Jesus writing in the sand, but as a matter of fact, the early MOST reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Jn 7:53 - 8:11. Maranatha.

April 22 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini David Bibb One crying out in the desert...
My answer is: We know exactly what was written in the dust (NLT). 

It may be because we fail to interpret the scriptures contextually that this question arises. We may also fail to understand the method that John’s gospel incorporates to divulge truth.

The author of the gospel employees the same method as his teacher to instruct us. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private. Mark 4:34

The reason the author did not expound upon the content of what was written on the ground, is because the reader, as a disciple of Christ, would continue reading so the context and meaning would be revealed.

Notice that Jesus stooped the write in the dust twice. A brief lexicon search for a better translation yields the word “earth” in place of ground or dust. Beginning at verse 12 (directly following the account of the unfaithful wife) begins the validity of Jesus’ testimony. 

Verse 18 states:
“I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”(NIV 1984)

A poor interpretation impedes understanding. He didn’t write on the “ground” but on the “earth”. God bent down twice to write upon the earth, first to write the Old Testament and again to write the New. In the Old Testament, the elders are the first to go, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then so on until Jesus arrives and begins to write anew. God does not write with pen and paper, but in the lives of men (who are but dust). Men see their lives and record what they see.

Both times the story is about a day when no one will remain to testify against his unfaithful wife (all mankind) with whom he still desires to be married.

The very Word that this site is dedicated to, is in fact what the author was referring to as being written in the dust.

April 04 2022 1 response Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
8:6 (Now they were asking this in an attempt to trap him, so that they could bring charges against 1 him.) 2 Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. 3 8:7 When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight 4 and replied, 5 “Whoever among you is guiltless 6 may be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8:8 Then 7 he bent over again and wrote on the ground.

1 tn Grk “so that they could accuse.”

2 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author of 7:53–8:11.

3 tn Or possibly “Jesus bent down and wrote an accusation on the ground with his finger.” The Greek verb καταγράφω (katagrafw) may indicate only the action of writing on the ground by Jesus, but in the overall context (Jesus’ response to the accusation against the woman) it can also be interpreted as implying that what Jesus wrote was a counteraccusation against the accusers, although there is no clue as to the actual content of what he wrote, some scribes added “the sins of each one of them” either here or at the end of John 8:8.

March 09 2019 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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