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John 8 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on John 8 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

(7:53 - 8:11) The woman caught in adultery
This is one of the best-known and most-loved of all Bible stories, but it shouldn't be in the Bible. For although some manuscripts put it here, others after John 7:36 or 21:35, or Luke 21:38,  it is not found anywhere in the oldest and best manuscripts.
The author of the SAB quotes Bart Ehrman as proof that this verse doesn't belong in the Bible. Actually Bart Ehrman doesn't believe that a single verse in the Bible is true. He would do away with all verses in the Bible. As an authority he isn't therefore the last one I would consult on what verse belongs in the Bible.
But on the particulars, what would Bart Ehrman's teacher, Bruce Metzger have to say?

the account has all the earmarks of historical veracity

Hmmm. Looking at the manuscripts, the usual suspects Sinaiticus and Vaticanus omit them, but note that the Codex Vaticanus has an “umlaut” at this point, indicating that an alternative reading was known at this point. And indeed, the oldest Greek manuscript that contains it is from the 4th century. Based on internal evidence F.H.A. Scrivener thought it to be part of scripture:

The arguments in its favor, internal even more than external, are so powerful, that we can scarcely be brought to think it an unauthorized appendage to the writings of one, who in another of his inspired books, deprecated so solemnly the adding to or taking away from the blessed testimony he was commissioned to bear (Rev. 22:18-19)... Why should not St. John have inserted in this second edition ... this most edifying and eminently Christian narrative?

A. W. Wilson in chapter 6 of "A New Approach to NT textual criticism" provides in depth look at the evidence presented by critics that the internal evidence is in favor of a non-Johannine origin of the Pericope Adulterae. His extremely well-supported conclusion:

On the contrary, the internal evidence suggests the exact opposite: that the incident is an integral, forceful and therefore original part of John's gospel chapters 7 to 10. For the incident to dovetail with so many unrelated themes is surely beyond the possibilities of coincidence or later scribal manipulation, particularly in such a contextually sensitive place in John's thematically-driven Gospel. ...
In passing, how interesting it is that the only incident in John's Gospel involving professional, scholarly scribes is the one which not only calls their credibility into question but is also precisely the same one which was to suffer the most at their hands down through the centuries.

2 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.

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

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So 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.

(8:7) "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
Jesus tells those who'd like to stone to death an adulteress that whoever among them that is without sin should "cast the first stone." Good advice -- but it directly contradicts the teachings of the Old Testament (Lev.20:10). If that wasn't a good law then, why did God make it? Has he since changed his mind? If so, shouldn't it then be removed (along with most of the OT) from the bible?
How should adulterers be punished?
Does God approve of capital punishment?
The author of the SAB interprets this verse as if Jesus gave a general rule: “Don't stone adulteresses, for who is without sin?” Taken as a rule, why punish anyone at all? Why punish murders, because the punishers no doubt have sins of their own as well. Such a meaning is ridiculous of course. And in other places Jesus even affirms that he did not come to abolish the law, Matthew 5:17.
So to discern the meaning we have to look at the context. The first thing we should note here is the objective of the Pharisees: that they might have something to accuse him, verse 6. Under the Roman occupation, the Jews had no power to bring anyone to death, chapter 18:31. So if Jesus had said: “Yes, she must be stoned,” the Pharisees would have taken Jesus to the Roman governor, accusing him of sedition or anything else they could accuse him of. But if Jesus had so no, they would accuse him to all Jews willing to listen that Jesus had made the law of Moses void. So it was a carefully laid out trap.
Jesus answer demonstrates his excellent wisdom. He does not say that Moses is wrong, but he confirms the law and asks them to administer it. So far from contradicting it, Jesus actually confirms Moses here! Because where does he say that they shouldn't cast a stone?
And verses 10-11 does not contradict that. Although Jesus was without sin, it was also true that at least two witnesses of her crime were needed for a proper trial. One could not just accuse and next stone people. As there were no witnesses, no trial could be conducted. So Jesus let her go.
But as the almighty God, he also knew the accusation was true. So he admonishes her to sin no more. What she did was sin. And she should do that no more.

8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

12 Then spake Jesus again 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.

(8:12) BOM: Mosiah 16:9, Alma 38:9

13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.

(8:14, 18) "Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true"
Did Jesus bears witness of himself?
(8:15) "I judge no man."
Does Jesus judge people?
In chapter 5:31 the context is the human court and human witnesses. Just one witness wouldn't be sufficient, at least two were needed, and Jesus appeals to a number of other witnesses there. In verse 17 Jesus explicitly appeals to that law and says he is not the only witness, but the Father is a witness as well.
But in this verse he appears not as a mere human, but as God. Because he knows whence he came (from heaven) and where he would go (back to heaven). No human can claim that he knows where he wants to go to. We all have our desires, but we don't know the future, James 4:13-15 and Acts 18:21, only God does.
John Gill comments as follows:

which seems contradictory to what he says, in chapter 5:31, and may be reconciled thus; there he speaks of himself as man, and in the opinion of the Jews, who took him to be a mere man; and also as alone, and separate from his Father, as the context shows; therefore his single testimony, and especially concerning himself, could not be admitted as authentic among men; but here he speaks of himself as a divine person, and in conjunction with his Father, with whom he was equal; and therefore his testimony ought to be looked upon, and received as firm and good, giving this as a reason for it:

15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.

From the next verse (verse 16) we can immediately see that the meaning of this verse is not, as the author of the SAB takes it, that Jesus does not judge. What Jesus says here is a shorthand for: “I judge no man after the flesh.” That's the distinction Jesus makes here. The Pharisees judged after the flesh, he did not judge in that particular way.

16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.

17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.

18 I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.

20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.

22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.

23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.

24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

(8:24) "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."
If you don't believe in Jesus, you will "die in your sins" (and then go to hell).
Indeed, everyone shall once have to give account of their life. And who does not sin?

25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.

26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.

27 They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.

28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

(8:32) "The truth shall make you free."
The meaning here is that the truth shall free people from being a slave of sin, see verse 34, willing to do its bidding anytime. I'm afraid the author of the SAB interprets this verse as being free to sin.

33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.

35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.

36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.

38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.

(8:40) "But now ye seek to kill me, a man."
Is Jesus God?
(8:41) "We be not born of fornication" -- implying that Jesus was.
Yes and yes. Jesus is truly man, and truly God, Matthew 1:23.

41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

Indeed implying that. Making it clear that they knew that Jesus was conceived when his mother was not married. As they only allowed carnal interpretations, fornication was the only explanation. But they knew the scriptures and had no excuse for not knowing that a virgin would conceive, Is. 7:14.

42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

(8:44) "Ye are of your father the devil."
Jesus calls his opponents (the Jews) the sons of the devil.
(8:44) "There is no truth in him [the devil]."
If so, then why did the devils call Jesus "the Christ, Son of God"? (Lk.4:41) Were they lying then too?
The meaning of: “There is no truth in him.” is that the devil doesn't have love for truth. As John Gill explains:

There is no truth in him, that is natural and genuine, and essential to him; and if at any time he speaks it, it is not from his heart, but because he is forced to it, or has an evil design in it.

45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?

47 He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.

50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

(8:51) "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death."
Must everyone die?
(8:52) "Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil."
After Jesus makes the foolish claim that those who believe in him will never die, his listeners reply, "now we know that thou hast a devil."
Yes, everyone shall die, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” Gen. 2:17. Since then everyone has to die.
But there are two deaths: death is when a person dies, but death is also the everlasting separation of man, body and soul from God after the Last Judgment. Jesus refers to this second death here. Those who belief in Jesus are still subject to the first death, but they will be acquitted in the second.

52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.

Jesus claim wasn't foolish at all, it is a clear doctrine taught in the Bible, see for example Rev. 2:11.

53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:

55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.

(8:58) "Before Abraham was, I am."
By saying "before Abraham was, I am," Jesus claims to be God. Was he?

Of course, the Watchtower tries to change the meaning of Jesus' words by having him say, "Before Abraham came into existence I have been." I suppose this is supposed to mean that he was around as the Archangel Michael back then or something. (The NWT translates "ego eimi" as "I am" everywhere it occurs except in this verse.)
(8:59 - 9:6) "Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple."
Where did Jesus cure the blind man?

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

The reading of the author of the SAB is correct of course and his comments are spot on. But it should be noted again that the Jehovah's Witnesses actually believe very little of the Bible and are not beyond translating it to conform with their doctrines.

59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.