John 8:6 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 8:6, NIV: "They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger."

John 8:6, ESV: "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."

John 8:6, KJV: "This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not."

John 8:6, NASB: "Now they were saying this to test Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground."

John 8:6, NLT: "They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger."

John 8:6, CSB: "They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him.Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger."

What does John 8:6 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

As Jesus went about His public ministry, He was often challenged by critics such as the Pharisees and Sadducees. Their questions were rarely sincere; most often, they were looking to trip Jesus up and discredit Him (Matthew 16:1; 19:3; Matthew 22:35; Luke 10:25; 11:54). Unfortunately for them, these attempts never succeeded. In fact, they often wound up embarrassing the critics! Here, the Pharisees attempt to use a more dramatic approach: a real-life moral dilemma. The woman they have brought is unquestionably guilty (John 8:4), and there is no question that the law prescribes death for adulterers (Deuteronomy 22:22; Leviticus 20:10). Their hope is that Jesus will either stone her, ruining His merciful reputation (Matthew 11:19; Luke 6:36) and breaking Roman law (John 18:31), or He will refuse and prove that He does not honor Old Testament law.

However, Jesus does not take the bait. Interestingly, Jesus says nothing at first. Instead, He begins to write on the ground. This puzzling detail is one of the New Testament's richest sources of speculation. The Bible does not say exactly what Christ is writing. Perhaps He is writing the exact Old Testament quotations these men are citing to Him. Maybe He is writing the names of the critics, alongside their own sins, in preparation for His surprising response (John 2:24–25). Or, as some have pointed out, Jesus may have been writing a question along the lines of "where is the man who was also caught in the act?" Given how quickly Jesus' critics will abandon their attack, and the prominence it is given in the story, one has to assume His writing factored heavily into their reaction.

While we don't know what Jesus wrote, we do see how He turns the hypocrisy of these Pharisees against them. They were not wrong to seek justice under the law. However, they are clearly not following it fully, since they have only brought half of the guilty ones. And, God's law also prioritized mercy over blind punishment (Proverbs 21:10; Zechariah 7:8–9; Matthew 23:23).