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THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN
ABSOLVED BY JESUS.
HE feast ofthe Tabernacles, instituted by Moses in the memory of the forty years passed by the Jews under tents
in the desert, is to be celebrated again with all its poetical solemnity in the City of Jerusalem. During the eight days of its celebration the Hebrews dwell in tents, made of foliage, and chant the grand Alleluja of thanksgiving; lambs and kids are sacrificed; priests pour water and wine on the altar of the Lord; and the people, singing psalms, march around the altar with branches of palm and myrtle. The greater solemnity of the eighth day draws also a greater crowd to the Temple; for it is the last day, “good and joyous, the great Hosanna.''
Will Jesus go to the Temple? So the pilgrims ask one another. The new prophet is the talk of the people. He excites their curiosity and inspires them with admiration or hatred.
“The Jews therefore sought him on the festival day, and said: Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the multitude concerning him. For some said: He is a good man. And others said: No, but he seduceth the people. Yet no man spoke openly of him for fear of the Jews."*)
His enemies, so often dumfounded by Him, plotted anew how to undermine His influence. This “impostor” has seduced the people long enough, they said, He has become a menace to the nation. Thus the bitter fight was kept up even on festival days.
Jesus is the object of their conversation; all speak of Him according to their good or evil will; all expect Him; they were not deceived.
Whilst He thus formed the object of discussion, He quit Nazareth forever, passing through Galilee and Samaria, through the vine-yards of Saron, between the Thabor and Lake Genesareth, and, crossing the Jordan twice, He ascended from Jericho to Jerusalem by the route of the Romans.
*) John, VII. 11–13.
The doctors of the Law, together with the Scribes and Pharisees, had sent out soldiers to seize Him, but, having failed in this project, they hoped to catch Him by a snare.
Towards the middle of the festival season, Jesus went to the Temple, teaching there, and many believed in Him, even of those that were sent by His enemies to catch Him.
“And the Scribes and the Pharisees bring unto Him a woman taken in adultery, and they set her in the midst. And said to Him: Master, this woman was even now taken in adultery. Now Moses in the Law commandeth us to stone such a one. But what sayest Thou? And this they said tempting Him that they might accuse Him."'*)
“It was in the midst of those noisy festivities, called by Plutarch the bacchanalia of the Jews, among a crowd of strangers from everywhere, that this woman had shamefully forgotten herself in the universal run after sinful and worldly pleasures. *)
“Death was the sentence passed by all earthly lawgivers upon the culprit. Whipped
*) John, VIII. 3–11. **) Life of Our Lord. By the Abbé Camus, page 27. *) Legouvé, “Histoire morale des femmes.”.
from her conjugal home, chased by the populace through the streets of the town, exposed on an elevated stone in the public place, then placed on an ass and lead through the city, she heard nought but condemnation and cries for her blood for a sin that the law hardly forbade her husband.*)
In difficult cases the Jews usually consulted a distinguished rabbi. In accordance with this custom, but principally from malice, the Pharisees addressed Jesus. The culprit, in the opinion of the experts of the Law, was to be hanged, burned, or stoned according as she was the wife of a Jew, or a priest, or only betrothed. It appears that this woman was only betrothed.
This serious and stirring fact interrupted the teaching of Jesus. If He condemns the culprit, He is not the meek prophet of tlfe New Law He was teaching and will lose His prestige; if He absolves her, He despises the Mosaic prescriptions and opposes them. How can He escape the dilemma? His enemies already rejoice.
It is morning. The rays of the rising sun are reflected brilliantly on the gilt coping of the Temple, although penetrating less intensely the place where Jesus was teaching. Their mild light brought out wonderfully the intelligent and kind features of the Saviour.
The culprit before Him is wrapt up in the long veil of the Jewess, as she morally was in shame and despair. Near her stand the accusers clamoring for her condemnation. The crowd is silent, waiting for a word; but Jesus also keeps silent; bowing Himself down, He wrote with His finger on the ground.
Thus the rabbis acted when they wished to evade an answer. “When, therefore, they continued asking Him, He lifted Himself up, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone upon her. And again stooping down, He wrote on the ground."
What did Jesus write? Did He write a sentence, or the faults of her accusers? Some interpreters are of that opinion, but no one knows anything certain. What is certain, though, is that “they, hearing this, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst.”
What! Not one of her accusers, these