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March 27, 1998     The Message
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6 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana The miserable and the merciful: Forgiveness and freedom By FATHER DONALD DILGER Columnist Gospel Commentary for March 29, 1998, Fifth Sunday Of Lent: Cycle C: John 8:1-11 The sto W of the men who just caught a woman at adultery and bring her to Jesus seems to be a misplaced sto W in the Gospel of John. The earliest manuscripts of this gospel do not include this sto W and it does not fit easily into the context in which it is now found. The Greek style and vocabulary in which it is written indi- cate that the sto W fits better into the Gospel of Luke, where there is a similar story of a repentant woman whom Jesus forgives in Luke 7:36-50. Some ancient manuscripts place the sto W after Luke 21:37-38, mak- ing it part of Jesus' teaching in the temple on his only public visit to Jerusalem. Even today some New Testa- ments place the sto W at the end of John's gospel rather than in chapter eight• Why did this story have difficulty finding a place in the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament? The best hypothesis is that, at the time when the great manuscripts were written, a sto W por- traying such easy forgiveness of adultery was not in vogue. There were three sins in the ancient Church which were considered so grave that they demanded public penance: murder, adultery, and apostasy (reject- ing one's Christian faith). Contrary to such current practice, Jesus in this story says to the woman, "I do not condemn you. Go, but do not sin again." The stow: Jesus is teaching in Jerusalem, in the temple. A group of religious leaders, called scribes and Pharisees by John, brings to Jesus a woman just caught in adultery. They present their case with the Torah reg- ulations governing such cases, "In the law Moses com- manded us to stone such. What do you say about her?" John adds that this was intended as a test for Jesus, to have something with which to accuse him. Jesus says nothing, but bends down and writes with his finger on the ground. But they urged him, so he stood up and said, "Let him who without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her." Then he bent over once more and wrote on the ground with his finger. The men left one after another, beginning with the oldest among them. Jesus and the woman were left alone. He says, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, Lord." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, but do not sin again." Whether stoning to death was still practiced in the time of Jesus is uncertain. The Gospel of John also tells us that the Roman government, then ruling Palestine, had taken away from the Jews the right to inflict the death penalty. When the religious leaders cite "Moses," they refer to such laws as Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 where adulterers, both man and woman, were to be put to death. The penal- ty of stoning for a crime is found in Deuteronomy 22:21. Ezekiel 16:40 takes for granted stoning as a penalty for adultery• Since the Law of Moses, the Torah, condemns both man and woman caught in adultery, our sto W in John is somewhat lopsided in that no marl is brought to Jesus for judgment. Did the man escape or was there a double standard? The mention of this being a "test... that they might have some charge to bring against" Jesus, makes this sto W similar to the "test" about paying taxes to Caesar or not. If Jesus agrees to the woman's death, he can be accused of inciting rebellion against Rome. If he dis- agrees with the ancient Torah, he can be accused to the people of being "liberal." As to what Jesus wrote on the ground, no one knows. St. Jerome (late fourth century) seems to have originated the idea that Jesus wrote the sins of the accusers• Perhaps he was just embarrassed by the whole business, ignored them and played tic-tac-toe! Recall that any story in ed to record history but to serve as chism or book of instructions whom the book was have responded to a situation tion in the various Christian Gospel of John aiming a here as "scribes and Pharisees," ness and pride which so often are ions of rank and privilege, at least is forgotten? This would not be Church leaders being taken pride, haughtiness, conceit. Thus John on the "elders" leaving the Perhaps more" major theme in John's gospel rate women to the human di which they were often Jesus' mother in the first miracle, ordering the servants t and proclaiming her the Jesus' closest friends in this Martha and Mary, and also Mary gospel it is Martha, rather given the greatest siah and Son of God. In this Samaritan woman who becomes Jesus in his ministry. In this lene who is the first to see and the first one sent to proclaim the hiding men. And so, "Neither do Go, but sin no more," is ing the miserable, but also the bonds in which a male-d cast women. Readings: Isaiah 43:1 John 8:1-11 Golden Jubilations Lawrence and Elizabeth (Muensterman) Luigs of Wadesville will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a private cele- bration April 7. They were married April 7, 1948, at St. Agnes Church, Evansville. They are the parents of five children: John Luigs and Ed Luigs, both of Evansville, Steve Luigs of Wadesville, Pauline Elpers of Evansville, and Mary Jane Nur- renbern of Fulton, Mo. They have 10 grandchildren. Mr. Luigs is a farmer. ii iii i i i ii i Box 68 • Montgomery, Indiana 47558 Donald J. Traylor President Phone: 486-3285 IH IIII r Illll I I Hall I II I JOHN MANGIN Owner The Decorating Corner 21 East South Washington, IN 47501 Business: 254-7794 Home: 254-3087 Peop.les Trusz Company SOUTH MAIN STREET P.O. 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