Husband: Get out of there, insolent woman! Now you can’t escape anymore!
Neighbor: Knock that door down and get them out?
Lady neighbor: Adulteress, adulteress!
A mob of men and women shouted as they gathered around Cirilo’s house, in a district in Jerusalem where water carriers lived. Stones were hurled against the door while curses were heard all over the place.
Another Neighbor: You’ll pay for this, you bitch!
Another Lady Neighbor: We know that you two rascals are inside!
Through a hole in the yard, a half-naked man leaped and rushed down the street, like a rat coming out of its hiding place.
Husband: Let him go, I’ll come back for him some other time. But now, it’s Joan I must confront!
Neighbor: Get her out of the house, and hurry!
After shovings from the neighbors, the wooden lock gave way and the door opened. Several men milled inside the house… In one corner, beside the stinking creek, a horrified woman was seen crouching…
Husband: Oh! How I want to strangle you, you filthy woman! You bitch. I swear that this will be your last day on earth!
Neighbor: Death to the adulteress! Kill her!
Lady Neighbor: She must die, she must die!
Neighbor: Get her!
Two men rushed toward the woman, grabbed her by the hair and dragged her out of the house… Then an old man snatched away the sheet with which she intended to cover her body…
Husband: Leave her that way, for everyone to see her sins! If she didn’t have any qualms undressing before Cirilo, neither would she mind baring herself before everyone!… Neighbors, this woman has betrayed me… and went with another man! Help me regain my honor that has been tarnished by this woman’s infidelity!
Lady Neighbor: Let her die! Let her die!
Neighbor: Go and live with your good-for-nothing lover, you slut!
The two men who lifted her by the arms dragged her through the small, narrow street, while she resisted by kicking. With raised fists, they shouted at the top of their voices, as they headed south toward the cliff of the Gehenna, a cursed barrio where the residents of Jerusalem burned their garbage and stoned their adulterous women.
Lady Neighbor: Death to the adulteress! Throw her into the pit!
Neighbor: Now, now, look who’s here! The prophet from Galilee!
In the midst of our conversation with Jesus near the Temple, we saw the angry crowd approaching…
Neighbor: Come with us Prophet, and fulfill the Law of Moses! The stain of adultery can only be washed out by stoning the guilty one!
Husband: The more hands there are, the more stones shall be hurled! Come with us. Let all your friends come along too!
Neighbor: We caught this whore in the same bed with Cirilo, the water carrier!
Lady Neighbor: She can’t give any excuse. We’re all witnesses to her offense!
The men dragging the woman cleared the way, and dropped her in the midst of everyone. Her face almost kissed the ground and her knees were already bleeding. Her whole body was wet with saliva and was full of bruises… One of them, in a gesture of contempt, stuck out his right foot and rested it on the woman’s face, pressed against the stones on the ground…
One Neighbor: Who is the prophet here?… So, it’s you?… Well, why don’t you condemn her now, so that the devil can swallow her up and lead her directly to hell!… Come on, what are you waiting for?… If you are indeed a prophet, speak up and condemn her!…
Lady Neighbor: Let her die! Let her die!
Jesus approached the group of men who were shouting and threatening with their fists…
Jesus: Where is the husband of this woman?
Husband: Here I am! I used to be the husband of this whore, but not anymore. What do you want?
Jesus: Tell me what happened. Has she ever deceived you before?
Husband: Of course! She would always deny it, but sooner or later, it is easier to spot a liar than a cripple…
Jesus: Tell me… How many times, do you think, has she been unfaithful to you?
Husband: How many times? I don’t know anymore. Thrice, four times or five times… She is worse than a bitch in heat.
Then Jesus bent over and with his finger, drew three, four, five lines on the ground…
Jesus: What else is your complaint against her?
Husband: What else? Ha! Isn’t this imprudence committed in broad daylight sufficient enough? Do you want more evidence against her? She would say, “I am going to visit a sick friend and cheer her up” …and who was this sick friend but Cirilo, the water carrier and butcher from the next block. Wait till I see him… I will cut him into pieces with his own butchers knife!
Lady Neighbor: Have you seen how she flirted with my husband, right before my eyes – making me look so stupid! If you had only seen how she wiggled her way in front of our house, while tongues kept on wagging… What a whore she is!
Another Lady Neighbor: This woman has been laid upon by every male in the neighborhood!
Lady Neighbor: Tell the prophet how they caught her fondling Jack’s son! Come on, tell him!
Another Lady Neighbor: The Rabbi wouldn’t turn his head for nothing, when she passes by, if he didn’t know a lot about her!
Lady Neighbor: She’s got a foul mouth. Everything she utters is loathsome.
Neighbor: If you only knew what she says and does!
Lady Neighbor: You should see how she dresses herself – baring practically all her breasts! What a brazen woman!
All the while, Jesus, in a squatting position, was drawing a line for every accusation hurled against the woman…
Old Man: This harlot’s misdeeds are endless!
Lady Neighbor: We knew all along this was coming, folks! She is her mother’s daughter, a whore like herself. Nobody even knows who her father is…
Husband: Enough of this silly talk! What have you got to say, prophet from Galilee?
Jesus: Will someone get me a stone, please?
All: Very well, and be tough with her!
An old man, with a look of malice in his eyes, leaned over to pick up a stone, and gave it to Jesus…
Lady Neighbor: Pounce her on the head – like we all do to adulterous women!
Neighbor: Crush her to death: Crush her to death!
Jesus weighed the stone in his hand, as he looked at the woman who was lying flat, her face on the ground, in the middle of the street…
Jesus: My fellowmen, I am sorry, but I can not cast this stone at this woman. If anyone here thinks that he is without sin, let him come forward and do it…
A pot-bellied old man went up to Jesus…
Old Man: Give me the stone. I’ll do it. We have to fulfill the Law of Moses, which condemns adultery…
Jesus: Make sure it will not rebound on you, as it did on Goliath…
Old Man: What on earth do you mean?
Jesus: Now you listen… just between the two of us… How much interest do you charge when you lend money… ten percent, twenty, or perhaps… forty percent? …This is also against the Law of Moses, don’t you think so?
Jesus stared at the old man, who was about to throw the stone at the naked body of the woman. His look was like a razor’s blade penetrating through the old man’s eyes.
Jesus: The Law prohibits that you choke the poor to death because they are unable to pay their debts on time. Do you agree, my friend?
The stone slid from the old man’s hand, as he turned around and slipped through the crowd…
Lady Neighbor: What’s with him? Why did he back out?
Jesus again faced the people who were getting impatient.
Jesus: Who among you wishes to cast the first stone at the woman?
Neighbor: I do. Give it to me. If there is anything that disgusts me – it’s infidelity… What an abominable woman!
A tall man, full of arrogance, approached the woman…
Jesus: Say, my friend, what is your job?
Neighbor: My job? I am a businessman. I run a food store along Puerta del Angulo.
Jesus: And probably, you keep two weighing scales for your business: one, to weigh all your purchases, and another, to weigh what you sell… Tell me, how many have you got… one or two?
The vendor opened his mouth to reply to Jesus, but he couldn’t utter a single word. Then he withdrew and disappeared among the crowd…
Jesus: And you… by your looks, you must be a lawyer or a judge… a judge of those who sit in the Great Council… Tell me, my friend, how much bribe do you receive for convicting the widow and exonerating the landowner? Do you wish to cast the first stone?… How about you?… You must be a doctor. Go ahead… Throw the first stone. After all, this woman lives in the slums. You haven’t set foot in the place, have you? All your patients come from the wealthy barrio, naturally, because they can afford to pay you.
Neighbor: Stop all this nonsense! This woman is a sinner. You have noted down her sins through the lines you drew on the ground… See how numerous they are!
Jesus: Why do you see the mote in her eye, while you refuse to see the plank in you own?
Neighbor: The mote in my eye! This woman is guilty of the most grievous sin, adultery!
Jesus: It is more adulterous to see priests in cahoots with the oppressive rulers of the people. Yet no one hurls stones at them. It is more adulterous to see God’s servants worshipping Mammon, the god of money, but no one lifts a finger to accuse them. All of you are hypocrites. Go and hide yourselves in the mountain caves, because the God of Israel’s coming for the final reckoning, and just as you have done to this woman, you’ll be judged the way you judge others.
Jesus leaned back and spoke no more. Then he reached out to erase the lines that he had drawn on the ground, while the accusations were hurled against the adulteress.
Peter: By golly, Jesus, how you left them breathless!
Jesus: It seems that the only sin they’re aware of is that of sleeping with a woman. They waste their time picking on this type of woman and criticizing her sins. Yet, the more obvious things and the grave abuses against the poor are committed right before their own eyes, without their knowledge…
Peter bent over the woman who was lying flat on the ground…
Peter: Hey, you’re saved. You’re very lucky. What’s your name?
Joan: Joan… but I… I…
Jesus: Weep no more, woman. It’s all over now. Here, cover yourself with this sheet. Take it easy. No one’s going to hurt you anymore. Open your eyes now. Look, they’ve all left. No one has condemned you. Not even God. Neither has he cast a stone at you.
Peter and Jesus lifted Joan from the ground, and brought her home to the aqueduct street, facing the barrio of water carriers, near the holy Temple of Jerusalem.
The episode of the adulteress – which can only be found in the gospel of John – is not among the ancient manuscripts which are preserved from the original text of said gospel. Some are of the opinion that this text, which, on the other hand, is replete with historical realities, must have been deleted from the gospel of Luke and from the writings of John precisely because Jesus’ compassion for this sinful woman might turn out to be scandalous to the first Christian communities. It is therefore this aspect that makes the story relevant.
In Israel, adultery was considered a public crime, punishable by death, in accordance with the ancient laws (Lev 20:1). Customs and traditions had interpreted a number of laws in favor of the male species. Thus, a married man was said to have committed adultery only if he had an affair with a married woman. If the latter, however, was single, a prostitute, or a slave, then such act on the part of the man was not considered adulterous. On the other hand, a woman having an affair with any man was considered an adulteress. A woman suspected of adultery was subjected to a public trial by making her drink bitter water. If her stomach became swollen after drinking it, then this confirmed her adulterous act. If she did not feel any malaise at all, then it was considered a false accusation (Num 5:11-31). This test was performed daily by a priest in the Puerta de Nicanor of the Temple of Jerusalem. The man was never subjected to a similar process. In any case, once adultery was proven, the guilty ones (man or woman) – should be punished by the people through stoning.
Since adultery was considered a public crime, the people should likewise cleanse the stain of sin publicly. Death by stoning was carried out by the residents of the place where the sinner had been guilty of the sinful act, and usually the place of torture was held beyond the walls of the city. Witnesses to the crime were the ones who cast the first stones at the culprit. Other crimes punishable by stoning were blasphemy, divinations and other forms of idolatry, as well as the violation of the Law of the Sabbath.
Adultery is a sin against fidelity. In a number of cases, it is also an expression of weakness. In order to save the adulteress from death as mandated by law, Jesus, in this episode, contrasts this “sin” with other offenses like fraud, exploitation, usury, judicial corruption and many others. In this light, it is evident that acts of injustice committed against the poor and the less fortunate, by taking advantage of their misery, are far more grievous in the eyes of God than the sins of the flesh.
Jesus was always merciful, full of understanding and tolerant with cheaters, prostitutes and drunkards – this wide gamut of human weaknesses which are related to the flesh, and to the cunning existence of the poor. On the other hand, he frowned upon the hypocrisy and injustice of the rich and the powerful. He never branded the sinners and the condemned as a “race of snakes,” as the heads of the official religion claimed. Rather, this insult was intended specifically for them. The Christian community should be able to identify, as Jesus has shown, the real sin that separates people from God and isolates them from each other.