The Only Time Jesus Wrote


Grace Jesus judgment mercy sin

The Only Time Jesus Wrote

9 March 2016 Hits:5952


The New Testament Gospels don’t record everything Jesus did or said. The Apostle John made that clear when he wrote, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” We know little of Jesus’ life from the time he was a toddler to when he started his ministry about the age of 30.

We know that Jesus had an education because he could both read and write, but just like the Bible only tells us once that Jesus wept, it also states only once that Jesus wrote – but what he wrote was incredibly significant.

The story is found in John chapter 8 and revolves around a woman who had been caught by some religious leaders in the very act of adultery. It was an obvious set up to trap Jesus in order to have a basis for accusing him.

These religious leaders “made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”

Many have hypothesized about what Jesus wrote in the dirt – one suggested he was writing Sanskrit (Sand-skrit). I appreciate the attempt at humour! John doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote because he knew his audience 2,000 years ago wouldn’t need an explanation.

Whenever someone was caught in adultery, both the man AND the woman would be brought to the Nicanor Gate and accused. This gate was the entrance to the Women’s Court of the temple. At least two witnesses must be present to confirm that adultery had indeed been committed, and then there was a certain ceremony conducted in order to bring judgment. However, in this instance the Pharisees only brought the woman, and there is no mention of any witnesses. The Teachers and Pharisees just say she was caught in the act but they don’t say by whom. Both of these things were a violation of the Law of God.

Next, the priest was required to stoop down and write the law that had been broken, along with the names of the accused, in the dust of the floor of the Temple. In fact, the priest could write the law and the names anywhere, as long as the marks were not permanent. The dust on the floor of the Temple was the most common place for this to be done. And so by doing this Jesus showed the woman’s accusers that even though THEY were not keeping the law, He would anyway.

The Scribes and Pharisees ignored the law but then continued with their accusations. And so Jesus stood up (after plainly demonstrating they were violating the law themselves) and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”   After saying this Jesus again stooped down and wrote on the ground. What did he write this time?

It’s important to note that this event occurs around Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. Every year on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) the High Priest would baptise himself about 11 times in order to be ceremonially cleansed between each separate portion of the day’s sacrifices. At the end of the day there was a celebration at his home where the people would rejoice that their sins had been forgiven. To end the festivities the High Priest would quote Jeremiah 17:13, “Oh Yahweh, the Immerser (Baptizer) of Israel, all those who leave your way shall be put to shame (publicly embarrassed), those who turn aside from my ways will have their names written in the dust and blotted out, for they have departed from Yahweh, the fountain of the waters of life” (Literal Hebrew Translation).

Religious Jewish men would hear this verse quoted every year – the older they were the more times they’d heard it. Thus when Jesus wrote this verse in the dust the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were “convicted by their own conscience” (KJV), put to shame, and departed from Jesus from the eldest to the youngest, the older having heard the verse quoted more often. It’s likely Jesus also wrote the men’s names in the dust in fulfillment of Jeremiah 17:13.

There are some stunning lessons to be learned from this story but the most mind-blowing is the wonderful insight it gives into the grace of God. Women had few if any rights in the first century world and yet Jesus treated this woman (and all women) with great dignity. This woman had broken the law and the law demanded capital punishment and yet Jesus responded with compassion and forgiveness. He believed in her – despite others rejecting her – and gave her the opportunity to be redeemed: Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus wrote in the dust because what he wrote wouldn’t be permanent – it could be rubbed out. That’s what he did to this woman’s sins – that is what he has done to your sins too.

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

Share Us

6 replies on “The Only Time Jesus Wrote”

David Leggesays:

The court of the temple was built with stones, so Jesus was not writing in the dirt, He was writing on a stone. Many say that it was symbolic of the 10 commandments. Jesus could have been saying, “you lecture me on the law, when I was the one who wrote the law.”
It’s a beautiful story, and shows wisdom, love, compassion, grace and forgiveness. What a saviour we have.

Rob Buckinghamsays:

The Bible says that Jesus “wrote on the ground.” The Greek word can be translated a number of ways depending on context. Here it probably means earth, dirt or dust. In any case, if Jesus wrote with His finger on stone then He must have had very tough fingers 🙂


Why do you think or what do you know, if anything, about Jesus being educated when as an adult, he was a carpenter? Fascinating.


I wrote a very similar message over 10 years ago about this event.

One thing that strikes me is that what you have written whilst very true is that it has an air of foresight to it.

However we know from scripture that Jesus was a man in every way like all of us. Hence I do not think he knew what was coming at him in this instance.

My personal opinion, and I emphasise MY OPINION, is that Jesus stooped to gather his thoughts, to not get taken up in the moment of madness that was around him. Searched his heart, sifting through the logic of what was happening and realised it was another trap that was being set before him.

I agree on what he wrote in the sand or on the ground was regarding when a man and woman are caught together, and I think what stood out to Jesus most was “where is the man?” only a part of the equation was put before him, conclusion = another trap, are they really after my opinion or are they trying to trap me yet again.

You see I think Jesus even though fully divine was also fully man and had to use his intellect, logic and knowledge just like we all do.

So understanding it was a trap he was able to then apply the appropriate scriptures to bring forth the truth.

Another fact that needs to be recognised here is that even though Jesus brought forth the scripture and wrote it on the ground as well as the other cultural aspects of what he did, Jesus did not only NOT accuse or judge the woman, he did NOT accuse or judge the men as well. Instead he brought forth the word which spoke to each person individually and they judged themselves. There is a very strong message in that fact alone regarding how we will be judged.

A friend once said to me “we will be judged according to our revelation”. Seems he had a small gem in that statement which parallels with the above, each man once understanding the “revelation” of the scripture written before them suddenly had a change of heart. Does that remind us of anything in particular? Perhaps the concept of repentance that Jesus spoke so often about? Once the truth is revealed to us we can no longer run away from it or hide as it forces us to bring ourselves into judgement and alignment with it. Not in an accusing or judgemental was but through personal revelation of the things that God wants us to change in our selves.

Sarah O’Riordansays:

I think it’s so beautiful how Jesus SHOWED them how they were wrong rather than telling them. His gentle, loving, merciful nature is what inspires us to change. Feeling judged or condemned will never help a person want to change. Jesus shows us the very highest form of eloquence here by what He doesn’t say.

On another note, I didn’t go to school until the 7th grade and was taught to read and write by my sister who was two years older than me and had taught herself. I don’t presume Jesus was formally educated simply because He could read and write. Having said that, there’s no greater education than to walk with God.

Neil Bullsays:

We live in an age where too many Christians are happy to not only judge the sin of others, but also pick up a stone and throw.

(I guess expressing this view makes me one!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Our team would love to help! Please feel free to contact us if you need further information about any of our services, groups or facilities.

Contact Us