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Is it Mary?

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In John 8:1-11 is the woman in the story Mary Magdalene? Some Bibles say it’s not supposed to be there, so is this story really in the Bible or not?


Steve Answers:

While the disciples get named and others sometimes get named (Jairus, Pilate, Zacchaeus, Bartimaeus, etc.), it seems like lots of people in the Bible are simply described by one characteristic. For example:

The demon-possessed man–Mark 5:16

The widow of Nain–Luke 7:11, 12

The centurion–Matthew 8:5

The rich young ruler–Luke 18:18-25

The paralytic–Matthew 9:2

The woman who was stooped over–Luke 13:11

The man who was born blind–John 9:1

Peter’s mother-in-law–Mark 1:30, 31

Sometimes a story will appear in more than one of the Gospels, such as the story of a blind man by the side of the road outside of Jericho. In Luke 18:35-42 you can read the story, but no name is mentioned. In Matthew 20:29-34 you can read a story that’s almost identical, except there are two blind men instead of one. If you look in the Gospel of John, the story doesn’t appear at all. In Mark 10:46 you’ll find the story again, and this time it’s one blind man and he has the name Bartimaeus.

The story in John 8:1-11 doesn’t appear in any other Gospels, so we can’t do a comparison. The story is often called “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” But no name except for Jesus is given in the story. By the way, in order for a woman to be caught in the act of adultery (see John 8:4), there would have had to have been a man at the same time and at the same place. Where’s the man?

According to the law of Moses, which the teachers of the law and Pharisees refer to (see John 8:5), both the woman and the man should have been stoned (see Leviticus 20:10). But the Pharisees were using parts of the Bible and purposely leaving out other parts to try to get their own way and claim that God was on their side!

Why do some people figure it was Mary Magdalene (from the town of Magdala) in the story? They take her presence at the death, burial, and following the resurrection of Jesus as indications of close ties with Him (see John 19:25; 20:1-18). It’s easy to couple that with the story of the woman who poured the perfume on Jesus (see Luke 7:36-50). Then the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) seems to fit right in as well. Throw in the statement that seven times Jesus cast demons out of Mary Magdalene (see Luke 8:2), and you have a great collection of stories about how Jesus redeems those who are lost and even bound by Satan. There is tremendous hope in each of these stories, even if we don’t always know the person’s exact name.

Does the story of “The Woman Caught in Adultery” really belong in the Bible? Well, we don’t have the original book of John. We don’t have the original version of any part of the Bible. So, we look to the oldest copies available to be as accurate as possible. When hand copies were made, some errors certainly could’ve occurred. Some scribes were extremely careful to be accurate, but others were careless or possibly even added or took away some sections.

When the King James Version of the Bible was translated, the oldest copies of the Bible included John 8:1-11. But that was in 1611. Since that time, even older sections of the Bible have been found, and these typically do not have this section of John in them. As a result, Bible scholars are apt to say that this section of the Bible is questionable. However, they admit that it’s consistent with the rest of the stories of Jesus, and that it appears to be a true story. They just aren’t sure where to put it. That leaves things rather open-ended, doesn’t it? Do you think the story of “The Woman Caught in Adultery” is consistent with other things you’ve read about Jesus? You can make this story very personal by reading Ephesians 2:10, which says that those who have been saved become God’s poetry (“workmanship” in the King James Version). In other words, God makes your life poetry. There are many more stories currently happening that are just as amazing as the one found in John 8:1-11. Keep looking for the same things to happen today as they did when Jesus walked this earth. The details and names may vary, but the core remains the same. Have you seen any great poetry lately?

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