John 8.1-11: Discourse Analysis [A Big word that makes me sound smart]

What the heck is “discourse analysis” you wonder?  Why even bring this up?  I’m glad you didn’t asked.  Discourse analysis is a way of looking at a text—in this case the Greek NT text—to see what the writer emphasized, as I’ve pointed out before.  Sure Kevin DeYoung doesn’t appreciate it [“I admit I’ve always considered discourse analysis a waste of time and I hope to never arc a sentence.” I agree with him on arcing, do not agree on discourse analysis.], but what does he know? [Just a little jocularity on my part, Kevin].

There are several points of emphasis in this passage that we will miss apart from analyzing the text discoursally [yep, I just coined that word!].

Historical present

  • ESV: The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman.  Literal Greek: the scribes and the Pharisees bring unto him
  • ESV: they said to him, “Teacher. Literal Greek: they say to him, ‘Teacher,

John “marks” the text by suddenly switching into the present tense.  He has done this before and he will do it again.  John does this to make the story immediate and grab your attention.  Unfortunately, the translators take away this marker for smoothness of reading.


  • Because of the way John structures the Greek sentence we might write verse 6 like this: The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst. John emphasizes the words “in adultery,” which we would never know reading the English translation.  Why does he do this?  Because it is a particularly heinous sin in that culture [in any culture for that matter].  This woman is truly guilty [as is the man by the way, where is the man if they were caught in the very act?!?] She [and he] deserve death according to the Mosaic Law.
  • Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her (vs. 7).  John emphasizes “the first” and no doubt Jesus emphasized “the first” when he spoke the words.  The reason is obvious.  Jesus wants the unnamed woman’s accusers to reflect on their own worthiness to throw stones at a woman for being a sinner.  This is a powerful comment from Christ, as we see from the reaction to it.
  • 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.” (vs. 10-11).  I love the emphasis here.  Where are you accusers?  Where?  Is there no one left to condemn you? Jesus asks. “Neither do I condemn you.”  Has there ever been a more powerful or more emphatic “I” spoken in all of history?  This is grace speaking.  Jesus, the sinless one, does not condemn her, and if Jesus does not condemn her, then there is no one else possible who can condemn her.  She was guilty, she is guilty no longer.  Grace has spoken.Oh how her life must have changed after hearing those words.
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