As chapter 8 opens, your Bible will no doubt have words like these: “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53 – 8:11.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that it isn’t in any of the ancient manuscripts. And frankly, if it were not meant to be there, I am at a loss to explain its presence. Even noted textual scholar Bruce Metzger, while doubting it should be in John, believed it was a true story and our Greek New Testaments contain the story within the text.
I am not, however, at a loss to explain why some manuscript copyists left the story out. After all, Jesus lets a convicted adulteress off with what would seem like a slap on the wrist and in doing so, violates the law.
In fact, however, nothing of the sort is going on.
Ever wondered how they could “catch” this woman “in the act” of adultery (a point John makes twice in two consecutive verses)? Ever wondered how they could catch her and not catch her consort? Hmmm. I smell a rat, a setup, a conspiracy, and no doubt so did Jesus. The woman was not the only one guilty of sin, but she was the only one charged, unwitting bait in order to trap Jesus — and Jesus knew it.
The Lord doesn’t condemn this woman, but he makes it plain she cannot continue in her “life of sin.”
The Lord doesn’t condemn this woman, not because she wasn’t guilty, but because there were extenuating circumstances in this case that made her not wholly culpable. Those who use this passage to forbid Christians judging poor behavior should remember Jesus made no such prohibition; he only forbade people guilty of the same sin condemning others while they got off scott free.