Craig Evans Discusses Bart Ehrman’s Book „How Jesus Became God”

photo patheos.com

Craig Evans discusses Bart Ehrman’s assertions against the divinity of Christ in Ehrman’s book ‘How Jesus became God’, as he published in his own book ‘How God became Jesus’.

~~ Bird et al, How God Became Jesus. http://amzn.to/1gJHalo (Canada: http://amzn.to/1jmdez6 )
~~ Ehrman, How Jesus Became God. http://amzn.to/OKT20e (Canada: http://amzn.to/1plFQKP )

VIDEO by AcadiaDivCollege

How God Became Jesus:
The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature
–A Response to Bart Ehrman

Book Description via Amazon – In his recent book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher From Galilee historian Bart Ehrman explores a claim that resides at the heart of the Christian faith– that Jesus of Nazareth was, and is, God. According to Ehrman, though, this is not what the earliest disciples believed, nor what Jesus claimed about himself.
The first response book to this latest challenge to Christianity from Ehrman, How God Became Jesus features the work of five internationally recognized biblical scholars. While subjecting his claims to critical scrutiny, they offer a better, historically informed account of why the Galilean preacher from Nazareth came to be hailed as ‘the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Namely, they contend, the exalted place of Jesus in belief and worship is clearly evident in the earliest Christian sources, shortly following his death, and was not simply the invention of the church centuries later. (Book – 233 pages) Publisher: Zondervan (March 25, 2014)

Bart Ehrman vs Craig Evans Whole Debate on „Does the New Testament misquote Jesus?”

Watch Craig Evans new interview about his latest response to Bart Ehrman’s book ‘How Jesus became God’, here- Craig Evans Discusses Bart Ehrman’s Book „How Jesus Became God”

„Does the New Testament misquote Jesus?”

THE QUESTION:  Does the New Testament present a reliable portrait of the Historical Jesus?

DEBATERS:

  1. Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  2. Dr. Craig A Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College of Acadia University

Here’s a summary of the opening statements from The Chronicle Herald:

A debate on whether or not the New Testament Gospels give a historically accurate account of the life and death of Jesus Christ is not exactly Hockey Night in Canada.

Yet, increasingly, biblical scholars, like Acadia’s Craig Evans and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Bart Ehrman, have been showing up on YouTube, CNN, CBC, CTV, the History Channel and the Discovery Channel, and even, in the case of Bart Ehrman, on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, not to mention the bestseller list of the New York Times.

All of Ehrman’s 25 books are based on sound scholarship, and most of them are intended for and read mostly by scholars, „an audience of dozens” as he once put it. But his last few books, written in a more user-friendly literary style, have made the New York Times bestseller list. They include: God’s Problem, Jesus Interrupted, Forged and Misquoting Jesus.

Of Evans’s 50 books, including ones he has edited, he has written one popular book, Fabricating Jesus — How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, in which he takes on Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus as well as three books by other writers, all of which he describes as „popular books” as opposed to „scholarly books.”

Thursday night in Halifax more than 600 people packed the McNally Theatre Auditorium on the SMU campus to hear these two New Testament champions spar over the issue of whether the accounts of Christ’s life, as described by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Gospels, which were written as many as 80 years after His birth, present a reliably accurate historical portrait of the man whose life and death is at the heart of a 2,000-year-old religion with two billion adherents.

At the beginning of the debate the steel flashed and the lines were sharply drawn. Evans, the first to take the lectern, emphatically declared his answer: „Yes it does.”

He had 25 minutes to make his point, citing the preponderant agreement of a long list of biblical scholars that the four Gospels are the primary source for the historical narrative of the birth, life and death of Christ.

„I disagreed with the whole thing!” said Ehrman heatedly after striding to the lectern. He said if you read the Gospel accounts „horizontally,” that is, start reading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ lineage, then skip over to Mark’s account of it, then to Luke’s and finally to John’s, you will discover irreconcilable discrepancies. „They can’t all be right,” he said. And the same holds true for accounts of the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection. So who do you trust?

At the end of the lectern challenges, assertions and rebuttals, the two professors moved over to two comfortable chairs centre stage for the „conversation” part of the debate in which they asked each other questions and discussed the issue. By now the spears had mostly been transformed into ploughshares. It had been entirely cordial.”We’re really agreed that there are discrepancies in the Gospel accounts,” Ehrman concluded. „And all New Testament scholars say the same.”

But he conceded that a life of Christ could be arrived at through them and that their inaccuracies didn’t affect the theological significance of Christ’s life.

VIDEO by TalalRafiChannel The full debate between Bart Ehrman and Craig Evans about whether the Bible is reliable as a source. Bart Ehrman is a bible scholar who became an atheist after studying it. He believes that there are too many contradictions and errors in the bible for it to be called the word of God. He is famous for his book Misquoting Jesus.

He also talks about how the bible was changed and about its history and who the authors of the gospels were.

The Reliability of The New Testament – Daniel Wallace PhD

Daniel B. Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and Recently his scholarship has begun to focus on John, Mark, and nascent Christology. He works extensively in textual criticism, and has founded The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (csntm.org), an institute with an initial purpose of preserving Scripture by taking digital photographs of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts. He has traveled the world in search of biblical manuscripts. His postdoctoral work includes work on Greek grammar at Tyndale House in Cambridge, textual criticism studies at the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, and the Universität Tübingen, Germany. Photo credit www.dts.edu –

 The Realiability of the New Testament

Wallace: Excerpt: If my New Testament doesn’t really tell the truth about who God is, or who Jesus is, or whether He was really raised from the dead, or if I can’t be sure that’s what the original text said, then I’ve got a few problems to deal with. What I want to give you today is a reason for confidence in the Scriptures. I will begin by quoting from some scholars who have disagreed with this confidence:

  1. We begin with well known scholar Dan Brown, who wrote in his book ‘The DaVinci Code”: The Bible has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.” You’ve all heard something like that, you may even have said something like that: The Bible’s been translated so many times, and retranslated, how can we tell what it originally said? We’re going to deal with this issue front on and you’re going to realize that’s a really stupid statement to make.
  2. But, there are others who have written something similar. Atheists are now joining the chorus: „We do not have any of the original manuscripts of the Bible. The originals are lost. We don’t know when and we don’t know by whom. What we have are copies of copies. In some instances, the copies we have are twentieth generation copies.” C. J. Werleman, Jesus lied P. 41. By the way, there’s a new kind of atheism out that no longer says that Christianity is wrong, that’s presupposed, but, what it’s now saying is that Christianity is evil. And that’s what we have to deal with: Atheism is good and Christianity is evil. C. J. Werleman also wrote a book titled „God hates you, hate him back„. It’s kind of a strange title for an atheist, don’t you think( for someone who doesn’t believe in God)? Now, he says: We don’t have any of the original manuscripts; he’s right. He says: The originals are lost and we don’t know when and by whom. He’s right. What we have are copies of copies. That’s true. However, I have no idea where he got the idea that some copies are 20th generation copies. I think he made it up.
  3. Muslims are saying the same thing, and Muslims are a huge group for us to have to deal with. They have their apologists who are making claims about the Koran. And, a very well known british muslim, M. M. Al-Azumi has written a book called „The history of the Koranic texts from revelation to compilation- a comparative study with the Old and New Testaments„. The book is very, very popular in Britain. He says, „The Orthodox church, being the sect which eventually established supremacy over all the others, stood in fervent opposition to various opposition (a.k.a „heresies”) which were in circulation… In each case this sect, the one that would rise to be the Orthodox church, deliberately corrupted the Scriptures so as to reflect its own theological visions of Christ, while demolishing that of all rival sects.” What’s he talking about? He is saying that the Bible that you have today is a corruption of the original. What he says elsewhere is that the deity of Christ is definitely not taught in the original New Testament, and (that) this group known as the Orthodox church, which is nothing that even resembles orthodoxy, made up things about Jesus and they demolished all the other views.Well, where are Werdleman and Al-Azumi getting their ideas from? They’re not New Testament scholars. They don’t know Greek, as far as I know. Well, they’re getting it from a number of New Testament scholars, but, principally, from one fellow who has become the #1 theologian in the country as far as the media is concerned. If you ever watch any of these stories, it’s typically around Christmas and Easter is when you will see these TV shows that are typically dealing with „well, Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead…” Somebody claimed just a few years ago that we actually found the bones of Jesus.

Well, Bart Ehrman was an evangelical, he went to Moody Bible Institute, he’s a graduate of Wheaton College- two very fine evangelical schools. He went on to Princeton Seminary to study under the great Dr. Bruce Metzger, who was one of the finest New Testament scholars of the 20th century and an evangelical himself. Ehrman got his master;s and his doctorate under Metzger at Princeton Seminary. And then he began to drift. Later on, he got out of evangelicalism, but still called himself a Christian, years later he called himself an agnostic, which is where he is at today. But, he has also said, „If there is a God, it’s definitely not the God of the Bible.” He’s not the God that I could possibly ever worship. Because of his spiritual journey, or unspiritual journey, Ehrman has become kind of the spokesman for liberalism and is the #1 theologian, as I said, in the media, newspapers, radio, television, they all interview him because (they say): Oh, here’s a guy who came out of evangelicalism and now he’s against it.” This is where these other people have gotten their ideas from about the text. Bart Ehrman is a bonafide New Testament scholar whose specialty is the New Testament manuscripts. In his book „Misquoting Jesus” he said, „Not only do we not have the originals, we do not have the first copies of the originals. We don’t even have copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies, of the copies of the originals.” I am sure he is right in the first and second generation. But, Ehrman has made this claim and his writings have impacted tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, who are either marginally within the Christian faith, or were considering and they’ve abandoned it. That’s Bart Ehrman. (8:30)

Two attitudes to avoid

It reminds me of a couple of attitudes we need to avoid as we think about these issues of the text of Scripture.

  1. Radical skepticism or total despair. This attitude is the one I have just presented to you from these 3 writers:  That, basically, we can’t tell what the original text said, we might as well give up (cause) we don’t know.
  2. But, there’s another attitude that’s equally pernicious, and it’s found among Christians. King James only people have this attitude. Many of you come to church with your Bible in your hands, and you say, „This is exactly what the apostles wrote.” We don’t know for sure about some things, but we do have certainty about others. So there’s another attitude we need to avoid, which is absolute certainty. It makes us uncredible in the eyes of skeptics and sometimes when that absolute certainty gets dashed, people switch the pendulum way too far, over to radical skepticism. (9:00)

While there are 2 attitudes to avoid, there are 4 questions I want us to answer this morning:

  1. How many textual variants are there?
  2. What kinds of textual variants are there? Do they affect doctrine, are they spelling differences?
  3. What theological beliefs depend on textually suspect passages?
  4. Is what we have now what they wrote then?

The above notes are from the first 10 minutes of the video (there are 26 minutes remaining, in which Dr. Wallace answers the 4 questions)

VIDEO by Shulamitefire The Realiability of the New Testament

ABOUT THE VIDEO: Published on Jul 28, 2013

If you encounter someone who questions or doubts the accuracy and reliability of our Bible, the information Dr. Daniel Wallace provides in this presentation at Heights Baptist Church in 2013 will address those issues directly.

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace has been Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Seminary for over 25 years and is an internationally known Greek New Testament scholar. He has been a consultant for five Bible translations and founded the Center for the study of New Testament Manuscripts.

Bumper Sticker Theology vs. Reliability of Biblical Texts – Daniel Wallace at Dallas Theological Seminary

„The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” Simple, this aphorism speaks highly of the importance of faith and it links that faith to the ultimate authority for the Christian, as the Word of God. It’s pithy and it’s easy to remember. It’s found on countless church marquees, evangelistic tracts and websites. To millions of believers it speaks of a child like faith, and it just might be the worst Christian slogan ever concocted.

There are serious gaps in this triad. Take the first line: The Bible said it. How do you know that the Bible said it? Which Bible says it? In order to know all that the Bible said, in all its particulars, requires doing serious work in ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts trying to trace back the trail to the original wording, because the original manuscripts turned to dust long ago. It requires a profound knowledge of scribal habits and at least a passing acquaintance with several ancient translations of the Bible- Latin, Coptic, Syriac, and a host of others.

And even after all the spade work has been done, we cannot be sure of all the details. Now the irony is that God Himself has put you and me, ministers of the Gospel in the extremely awkward position of having to echo that question first posed to Eve in the garden: „Has God REALLY said?” Now, as a general rule, I don’t like to be in league with the devil, so I should point out that, though the question is the same, our motivation should be different. We ask because we really wanna know, so that we can believe. That old serpent asked because he wanted to sow the seeds of doubt, not only of the Word of God, but of also the character of God. „Did God really say this?” Well, if He did, He must not be good. But, we still must ask.

–>Neither Do I Condemn You by John Piper (The message he gives every 10 years) Essential sermon from John 7:53-8:11

from DesiringGod.org March 6,2011

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Neither Do I Condemn You

John 7:53-8:11

[[They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

This message is the kind I may give once every decade or so. The reason it’s so rare is that the situation with our text is so rare. In most of your Bibles, you notice that John 7:53 to John 8:11 is either set off in brackets or is in a footnote. The reason for this is that most New Testament scholars do not think it was part of the Gospel of John when it was first written, but was added centuries later.

For example…

  • Don Carson, who teaches at Trinity, and is in my view one of the best New Testament scholars in the world, writes, „Despite the best efforts . . . to prove that this narrative was originally part of John’s Gospel, the evidence is against [them], and modern English versions are right to rule it off from the rest of the text (NIV) or to relegate it to a footnote (RSV).” (The Gospel According to John, 1991, p. 333)
  • Bruce Metzger, one of the world’s great authorities on the text of the New Testament until his death in 2002: „The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the periscope of the adulteress is overwhelming.” (The Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 1971, p. 219)
  • Leon Morris: „The textual evidence makes it impossible to hold that this section is an authentic part of the Gospel.” (The Gospel According to John, 1971, p. 882)
  • Andreas Köstenberger: „This represents overwhelming evidence that the section is non-Johannine.” (John, 2004, p. 246)
  • And Herman Ridderbos: The evidences „point to an unstable tradition that was not originally part of an ecclesiastically accepted text.” (The Gospel of John, 1997, p. 286)

I think they are right. And this gives us a chance to spend a little while on the branch of Biblical Studies behind these judgments called Textual Criticism, and its implications for the trustworthiness and authority of the Scriptures. So let me summarize the reasons these scholars give for thinking this the story of the woman taken in adultery was not originally part of John’s Gospel, and then give some general thoughts about the science of Textual Criticism that helps make sense of the arguments.

Reasons This Section Isn’t Original to John’s Gospel

The evidence goes something like this:

  1. The story is missing from all the Greek manuscripts of John before the fifth century.
  2. All the earliest church fathers omit this passage in commenting on John and pass directly from John 7:52 to John 8:12.
  3. In fact, the text flows very nicely from 7:52 to 8:12 if you leave out the story and just read the passage as though the story were not there.
  4. No Eastern church father cites the passage before the tenth century when dealing with this Gospel.
  5. When the story starts to appear in manuscript copies of the Gospel of John, it shows up in three different places other than here (after 7:36; 7:44; and 21:25), and in one manuscript of Luke, it shows up after 21:38.
  6. Its style and vocabulary is more unlike the rest of John’s Gospel than any other paragraph in the Gospel.

Now saying all that assumes a lot of facts that many of you simply don’t have at your fingertips. And nobody expects you to. This is a hugely technical field of scholarship that at the upper levels requires not only the ability to read ancient languages, but the ability to read them in kinds of ancient handwritten scripts that are very demanding. So let me give you just enough so that you can make sense of these reasons.

The Science of Textual Criticism

The New Testament that we know was originally written in Greek. The first printed Greek New Testament—that came off a printing press—was published by Erasmus in 1516. It turned the world upside down. If you want a great glimpse of this period and the heroism it produced, read David Daniell’s biography of William Tyndale.

This means that for 1500 years the manuscripts of the biblical books were passed down to us through handwritten copies. This is how we have access to the actual words that the New Testament writers wrote with their very hands. None of those first, original manuscripts is known to exist. Which is probably just as well, since we would probably turn it into an idol and charge money for people come worship.

So the books of the New Testament were preserved for us by faithful, hardworking copyists. Some of these copies were in a script called uncials (referring to manuscripts with all capital Greek letters), others were in a script called minuscule (referring to manuscripts with small Greek letters). A smaller number are called papyri because they are very early and written on the special paper-like material made from the Papyrus plant that was prevalent in the Nile Delta. One last group of manuscripts is the lectionaries—which were collections of texts for reading in public worship.

What’s Simply Staggering

Now here is what’s amazing. The abundance of these manuscripts of the New Testament, or parts of the New Testament, as compared to the number of manuscripts for all other ancient works is simply staggering.

  • There are 10 existing manuscripts of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars (composed between 58 and 50 B.C.). And all of these date from the tenth century or later.
  • There are 20 manuscripts of Livy’s Roman History written roughly during the time when Jesus was alive.
  • Only two manuscripts exist for Tacitus’s Histories and the Annals which were composed around A.D. 100—one from the ninth and one from the eleventh century.
  • There are only eight manuscripts of the History of Thucydides who lived 460-400 B.C.

Compare those numbers with the manuscripts and partial manuscripts for the New Testament. These numbers are from the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Muenster, Germany, which is the most authoritative collection of such data in the world. There are 322 uncial texts, 2,907 minuscule texts, 2,445 lectionary portions, and 127 papyri, for a total of 5,801 manuscripts. These are all hand-written copies of the New Testament or parts of the New Testament preserved in libraries around the world and now captured electronically. No other ancient book comes close to this kind of wealth of diverse preservation.

Problems and Solutions

What that wealth does is create problems and solutions at the same time. These copies do not all agree on what the wording was in the original manuscripts. So the more manuscripts you have, the more variations you find. On the other hand, the more manuscripts you have, the more control you have over which readings are the original ones. The more manuscripts you have the more variations you find, and yet the more they tend to be self-correcting.

For example, if you had only two ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of John and one has the story of the woman taken in adultery and the other doesn’t, you would be hard put to choose. But if you have a hundred manuscripts of John, even though you may find more variations, you will be able to tell by the number and age and geographical diversity of the manuscripts whether the story was there or not. This is what the science of Textual Criticism has done with hundreds of variations in the manuscripts.

Here’s the way F. F. Bruce put it a generation ago: „If the great number of manuscripts increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is . . . in truth remarkably small” (The New Testament Documents, p. 19).

No Doctrine Threatened

But what is most significant for the reliability and authority of the New Testament is that the variations that Textual Critics are unsure of are not the kind that would change any Christian doctrine. For example, in our passage from John 7:53–8:11, no truth that this Gospel teaches is changed by omitting this story. Bruce says, „The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affects no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” (The New Testament Documents, p. 20).

Nothing on this score has changed in the last generation since F. F. Bruce wrote in 1943, except, perhaps, that people like Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina, have become very popular in questioning the reliability of our New Testament to give us what the original authors wrote.

Reason to Worship God

In 2006, Paul D. Wegner reaffirmed F. F. Bruce’s assessment (A Student’s Guide To Textual Criticism of the Bible, Downers Grove: InterVarsity): „It is important to keep in perspective the fact that only a very small part of the text is in question. . . . Of these, most variants make little difference to the meaning of any passage.”

Then he closes his book by quoting Fredric Kenyon: „It is reassuring at the end to find that the general result of all these discoveries and all this study is to strengthen the proof of the authenticity of the Scriptures, and our conviction that we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable Word of God” (Frederic G. Kenyon, The Story of the Bible, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), p. 113, quoted in Wegner, p. 301).

So when I agree with the vast majority of scholars that the story of the woman taken in adultery was not in the Gospel of John, you should not think: „O my everything is up for grabs now.” Or: „How can I count on any text?” On the contrary, you can be thankful that God has, in his sovereign providence over the transmission process for 2,000 years, ordered things so that the few uncertainties that remain alter no doctrine of the Christian faith. That is really astonishing when you think about it, and we should worship God because of it.

What’s a Preacher to Do?

Now the question is: What should I, the preacher, do with this story? Both Don Carson and Bruce Metzger think the story probably happened. In other words, they think this is a real event from Jesus’s life, and the story circulated and later was put in the Gospel of John. Metzger says, „The account has all the earmarks of historical veracity” (Textual Commentary, p. 220). And Carson says, „There is little reason for doubting that the event here described occurred” (The Gospel According to John, p. 333).

Perhaps. I would like to think so. Who doesn’t love this story? But that does not give it the authority of Scripture. So what I will do is take its most remarkable point and show that it is true on the basis of other parts of Scripture, and so let this story not be the basis of our authority, but an echo and a pointer to our authority, namely, the Scriptures, that teach what it says.

The Most Remarkable Point

The most remarkable point of this story is that Jesus exalts himself above the Law of Moses, changes its appointed punishment, and reestablishes righteousness on the foundation of grace. I don’t doubt that this is why the story was preserved. It is an amazing story. Let me show you where I get that lesson and why I think it is a faithful echo of the rest of the New Testament.

The woman is caught in adultery and brought to Jesus. In verses 4–5, the scribes and Pharisees put Jesus to the test. We have seen this before in the Gospels. This has the ring of truth. Here’s what they say, „Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” So this is a blatant test to see if Jesus will contradict the Law.

Pharisees Taking Aiming at Jesus

The law said, „If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die” (Deuteronomy 22:22; see Leviticus 20:10). There is already something fishy going on here that only the woman is brought forward. There is no such thing as adultery where only one party is guilty. But there she is and no man. So how committed are these scribes and Pharisees really to the law? Or is the law a pretext for their prejudice against Jesus?

Verse 6 makes explicit what their motives were, and so we don’t expect a great deal of justice: „This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.” They were using her, and using the law, to get rid of this troublemaker.

The Law Fulfilled in Love

In verse 7, Jesus says, „Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Now of course, that won’t work as a basis for social justice. No criminals would be brought to justice if judges had to be sinless. That’s why I said Jesus is going to reestablish righteousness. He’s going to do it on the foundation of grace. For now there is zero grace, zero humility, zero compassion. Which means there is zero law-keeping.

Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus standing against the Pharisees’ view of the law and saying in effect, „Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13; 12:2). Or: „If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?” (John 7:23). In other words, „the Law is fulfilled in one word: Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Galatians 5:14; cf. Matthew 7:12).

Jesus Reestablishing Righteousness

So Jesus forced them to expose their own misuse of the law. They all walked away. The point is not that judges and executioners must be sinless. The point is that righteousness and justice should be founded on a gracious spirit, and if it’s not, what you get is the heartlessness and hypocrisy of Pharisaism. That’s the point throughout the Gospels, not just here.

When they are all gone, Jesus ends the story saying to the woman, „Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (recall John 5:14). Not: Neither do I condemn you, so it doesn’t matter if you commit adultery. But: I am reestablishing righteousness in your life—and the for Pharisees, if they will have it—on the basis of an experience of grace. Don’t commit adultery any more. Not mainly because you fear stoning. But because you have met God, and have been rescued by his grace—saved by grace!

Come for Grace—And Sin No More

The story may not belong to John’s Gospel. In fact, the story may never have happened. But this point of the story is unshakably true. This is the pervasive message of the New Testament. Jesus exalted himself above the Law. He wrote it! Jesus altered some of its sanctions. He pointed to its main goal of Christ-exalting love. And he reestablished righteousness on the basis of an experience of grace.

The story points us to the message of the whole New Testament: We are called to be holy as God is holy. God hates sin. But pursuing holiness without a profound experience of grace in our own lives produces hypocrisy and doctrinaire cruelty. Jesus came into the world to provide that grace through his cross, and to establish holiness, righteousness, and justice on the foundation of our experience of his grace. So come to him for grace, and set your face to sin no more.

© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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