John 8:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 8:3, NIV: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group"

John 8:3, ESV: "The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst"

John 8:3, KJV: "And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,"

John 8:3, NASB: "Now the scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in the act of adultery, and after placing her in the center of the courtyard,"

John 8:3, NLT: "As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd."

John 8:3, CSB: "Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center."

What does John 8:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

At various times in Jesus' public ministry, He was challenged by religious leaders, such as the Pharisees (Matthew 16:1; 19:3; Matthew 22:35; Luke 10:25; 11:54). Their questions were usually meant as traps, not sincere requests. These were brought up in an effort to embarrass Jesus in front of His followers. Unfortunately for Jesus' critics, those attempts always came up short—in fact, they usually went worse for the critics than if they'd just been silent. Here, the Pharisees introduce a new wrinkle: a real-life, flesh-and-blood moral dilemma, both unexpected and scandalous.

The verse here says the woman had been caught "in adultery," specified in the next verse as "in the act." Most likely, the woman had been caught, not moments before being brought to Jesus, but at some time previously. One way or another, her guilt was not a matter of debate: she was absolutely, unquestionably culpable for the sin of adultery. This, however, raises a question which might well have been part of Jesus' response. Namely, if the woman was caught "in the act," then so was whatever man she was with—so where is the guilty man? This entire episode is an attempt by the Pharisees to show that they, not Jesus, are truly following the law. But even their trap fails that test, since they've only brought half of the guilty parties (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).

The act of "placing her in the midst" is part of the Pharisees' intended drama. This is meant to be as public as possible, so that Jesus' response can be given as much publicity as possible. Of course, that approach assumes that Jesus is about to make a serious public-relations error. As it turns out, this assumption is once again false.