Yes, Jesus was known to have questionable associates and compassion for sinners. Just a brute fact. Yes, this incident is suspect on manuscript grounds and was probably a later addition to the text and it occurs in a few different locations.
My whole approach is one of history. Did this incident really happen or did it just serve the purposes of the Church? is this just a fabricated story about Jesus or is it Jesus par excellence? I am inclined to the latter view.
I agree fully with Keith’s interpretation. That is what the text is saying. Those elements are with the grain of the early church and them showing up in a story much later can be questioned historically. When stories fit the ideology of the later Church too neatly, good historians will express caution. Good historians will also not try to disconnect Jesus entirely from his followers.
But as far as this interpretation, all of this can be done in a different story very easily without Jesus issuing a slap on the wrist for adultery. That appears against the grain to me in antiquity and this affords it a degree of historicity. If nothing else, I believe the evidence favors a core of historicity. That is the point I was making. I see the incident as having a historical basis and I am explaining its lack of popularity.
“Fulfilling” the law is easy for Gentiles to get behind on things they don’t care about like cultic purity or kosher regulations. Thats just Paul’s party line for Roman Christians. That serves their purposes. Matthew tells a slightly different story but I digress. I am just not convinced a slap on the wrist for adultery serves the patriarchy of the times. I also see trajectories on women in the Canon itself. I am elated this story survived at all.
I agree that this story is about the authority of Jesus but if it actually happened, it is also equally about the compassion Jesus showed for this woman and his direct dismissal of OT commands requiring capital punishments.
The story has even deeper meaning for me. It is the response of Jesus to every act of violence, every racism, every genocide, every lie, every murder, every justification of slavery, every land theft, every ethnic cleansing, every witch trial or instance of misogyny perpetuated in God’s name. It is also my response to many things in the Bible that don’t make sense to me—including command to stone Law breakers! That’s how I take it though that obviously is not its specific historical context.
And for those interested, this is how Rauser started Jesus Loves Canaanites:
“I have seen many violent films over the years, but The Stoning of Soraya M. is definitely among the most disturbing. There are several reasons that this film has never left me. To begin with, this tragic story of a spiraling marriage in rural Iran culminates in a horrific scene in which a woman is stoned to death by the residents of her village with her husband and father leading the way. It is a truly awful, extended display of inexplicable cruelty and sickeningviolence. There are few more vicious ways to die than to be pelted to death with rocks. Yet, through it all there is no compassion or mercy deployed by the villagers, once friendly neighbors have now become stone-cold executioners. Right before this haunting murder begins to unfold, Soraya, buried up to her waste, screams desperately at the gathered villagers glaring back at her with a mixture of hatred and curiosity. “How can you do this to anybody?” she cries. And without missing a beat, one man bellows back at her: “It’s God’s law.”
How many atrocities of history have been justified by an appeal to those words? “It’s God’s law!” “God wills it!” “God commands it!” “God approves of it!” How often have those very words been bellowed just loud enough to silence the voices of protest?””
We can all wiki Soraya Manutchehri (1986) or Asisha Ibrahim Duhulow (2008) as modern day examples of this story that happened. It is not just some ancient and primitive practice from a bygone era.
Imagine this woman’s fear and subsequent relief at not actually being murdered in this fashion if it is an actual story.