Casting Stones

We only got through half the study in our group last week, so here's the second half - that famous passage where Jesus invites whoever is without sin to cast the first stone. A favorite passage? A debatable passage? An unfavorite...? Personally I really like the passage because my grandfather used it in a church meeting to stop the endless debate over whether a youth leader could retain his position. The youth leader went on to be a powerful church leader; just as well no stones were cast.

(55) Casting Stones

John’s gospel continues with a well-known example of love vs. law. The passage, about a woman caught in adultery, is not found in the oldest copies of John’s gospel.
1.       Do you think it harms or benefits Christians to look at the history of how the Bible came to us?

2.       The opening of John’s gospel is not in all copies either. Textual analysts suggest the opening and this story might not have been in John’s original book: the opening because it’s written in more polished, poetic language; this passage because it’s less polished. They suggest this means the passages weren’t written by John. How might you answer them?

3.       This passage appears in different places in some old texts:
a.       before the last day of the feast in John 7:37;
b.      before the officers return empty-handed in John 7:44;
c.       after Jesus’ resurrection at the end of John;
d.      or even in Luke at the end of chapter 21.
How do you think we ended up with it placed here?

4.       Early Christians were very cautious about what they included in the Scriptures, choosing documents that verifiable, and were written by people who knew Jesus (hence excluding all later writing). They rejected less verifiable documents that fueled the beliefs of fringe groups. Do you think that makes their decisions suspect?

They accepted this passage in this location, so let’s read it where it is and, as we read, let’s consider:
·         Does it contradict anything we’ve learned earlier about Jesus?
·         Does it teach anything new, or just exemplify something we’ve already heard?

Read John 7:53-8:11. It’s a favorite passage for many people. What do you particularly like or dislike about the passage?

1.       Read Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22. Did Moses really command that she should be stoned, and if so, why?

2.       They probably expected a religious argument from Jesus. Instead he starts writing. What might they imagine he is writing? And what do you do when God doesn’t answer your questions?

3.       In last week’s passage (and in the Feast of Tabernacles) listeners were reminded of living waters. Read Jeremiah 17:1-3,13 How might this have affected their interpretation of what Jesus was writing?

4.       Read Deuteronomy 17:6-7; 19:15-19 Who did Moses say should convict/cast the first stone? But if the witnesses come forward, are cross-questioned by Jesus, and found to be false witnesses, what happens to them? Would you want to be cross-examined by Christ?

5.       Read John 8:10-11 Is Jesus saying her sin doesn’t matter? Is he telling us not to judge her? Or is something else going on?

6.       Does this help us understand how to hate the sin and love the sinner? How willing are we to use the law to let someone go free?

a.       And did you know where the expression “Hate the sin and love the sinner” comes from?
b.      Mohandas Gandhi quotes it in his autobiography in 1929, but St. Augustine originally wrote “With love for mankind and hatred of sins” in 424AD. How does the “original” affect your understanding of the phrase?


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