Archive for the ‘Adultery’ Tag

Devotion for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ and the Adulteress, by Rocco Marconi

Image in the Public Domain

In Vain

MAY 29, 2022


The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Acts 19:1-20

Psalm 97

3 John

John 8:1-11


The name of Jesus has power, but only when people who believe in him use it.  Consider, O reader, the hilarious scene in Acts 19:11-20 and the serious issue (division of a congregation by one man) in the Third Letter of John.  God is the king and the earth should exult, as Psalm 97 reminds us.  However, some people still use religion self-servingly.

John 7:53-8:11 is a floating pericope.  Some ancient copies of the Gospel of Luke place it in different locations.  The final version of the Gospel of Luke lacks it.  And one can jump from John 7:52 to 8:12 without missing a beat.  This floating pericope is a compelling story–originally part of the Gospel of Luke–that has settled down as John 7:53-8:11.

Those who sought to entrap Jesus (yet again) used an adulteress as their pawn.  They seemed unconcerned about the whereabouts of the man with whom she had sinned.  Where was he?  His absence was conspicuous.

These Pharisees had distorted the Law of Moses to attempt to entrap Jesus.  They had focused on the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22) for one sinner and not the other one.  These Pharisees had also ignored the real issue at work in the Law of Moses vis-à-vis adultery:  the protection and stability of a man’s property.  Whatever Jesus wrote, he compelled the accusers to leave.  He reversed the trap.

Then Jesus forgave the woman.

The Law of God is not a blunt weapon to manipulate for one’s purposes.  Neither is the name of Jesus.

This point leads me back to Exodus 20:7:

You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Robert D. Miller, II, of The Catholic University of America, offers a germane analysis of this commandment in his Understanding the Old Testament course (2019) for The Great Courses.  He explains:

This is a warning that there is no possibility of involving the name of God without something happening.

–Course Guidebook, 39

That something may involve ricochet.










Twenty-Ninth Day of Lent   12 comments

Susanna and the Elders, by Albrecht Altdorfer (c.1480-1538)

Monday, April 4, 2022

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Daniel 13:1-9, 15-29, 34-62 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim.  And he took a wife named Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord.  Her parents were righteous, and had taught their daughter according to the Law of Moses.  Joakim was very rich and had a spacious garden adjoining his house; and the Jews used to come to him because he was the most honored of them all.

In that year two elders from the people were appointed as judges.  Concerning them the Lord had said:

Iniquity came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people.

These men were frequently at Joakim’s house, and all who had suits at law came to them.

When the people departed at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden to walk.  The two elders used to see her every day, going in and walking about, and they began to desire her.  And they perverted their minds and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering righteous judgments.

Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the garden, for it was very hot.  And no one was there except the two elders, who had hid themselves and were watching her.  She said to her maids,

Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I may bathe.

They did as she said, shut the garden doors, and went by the side doors to bring what they had been commanded; and they did not see the elders, because they were hidden.

When the maids had gone out, the two elders rose and ran to her, and said,

Look the garden doors are shut, no one sees us, and we are in love with you; so give your consent, and lie with us.  If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with you, and this was why you sent your maids away.

Susanna sighed deeply, and said,

I am hemmed in on every side.  For if I do this thing, it is death for me; and if I do not, I shall not escape your hands.  I choose not to do it and to fall into your hands, rather than to sin in the sight of the Lord.

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against her.  And one of them ran and opened the garden doors.  When the household servants heard the shouting in the garden, they rushed in at the side door to see what had happened to her.  And when the elders told their tale, the servants were greatly ashamed, for nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna.

The next day, when the people gathered at the house of her husband Joakim, the two elders came, full of their wicked plot to have Susanna put to death.  They said before the people,

Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, who is the wife of Joakim.

Then the two elders stood up in the midst of the people, and laid their hands upon her head.  And she, weeping, looked up toward heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord.  The elders said,

As we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids.  Then a young man, who had been hidden, came to her and lay with her.  We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them.  We saw them embracing, but we could not hold the man, for hew was too strong for us, and he opened the doors and dashed out.  So we seized this woman and asked her who the young man was, but she would not tell us.  These things we testify.

The assembly believed them, because they were elders of the people and judges; and they condemned her to death.

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said,

O eternal God, who discern what is secret, who are aware of all things before they come to be, you know that these men have borne false witness against me.  And now I am to die!  Yet I have done none of the things they have wickedly invented against me!

The Lord heard her cry.  And as she was being led away to be put to death, God aroused the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel; and he cried with a loud voice,

I am innocent of the blood of this woman.

All the people turned to him, and said,

What is this that you have said?

Taking his stand in the midst of them, he said,

Are you such fools, you sons of Israel?  Have you condemned a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts?  Return to the place of judgment.  For these men have borne false witness against her.

Then all the people returned in haste.  And the elders said to him,

Come, sit among us and inform us, for God has given you that right.

And Daniel said to them,

Separate them far from each other, and I will examine them.

When they were separated from each other, he summoned one of them and said to him,

You old relic of wicked days, your sins have now come home, which you have committed in the past, pronouncing unjust judgments, condemning the innocent and letting the guilty go free, though the Lord said, ‘Do not put to death an innocent and righteous person.’ Now then, if you really saw her, tell me this: Under what tree did you see being intimate with each other?

He answered,

Under a mastic tree.

And Daniel said,

Very well!  You have lied against you own head, for the angel of God has received the sentence from God and will immediately cut you in two.

Then he put him aside, and commanded them to bring the other.  And he said to him,

You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you and lust has perverted your heart.  This is how you have been dealing with the daughters of Israel, and they were intimate with you through fear; but a daughter of Judah would not endure your wickedness.  Now then, tell me:  Under what tree did you catch them being intimate with each other?

He answered,

Under an evergreen oak.

And Daniel said to him,

Very well!  You have lied against your own head, for the angel of God is waiting with his sword to saw you in two, that he may destroy you both.

Then all the assembly shouted loudly and blessed God, who saves all who hope in him.  And they rose against the two elders, for out of their mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness. and they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do their neighbor; acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death.  Thus innocent blood was saved that day.

Psalm 23 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;

he makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil,

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

John 7:53-8:11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

They [the chief priests and Pharisees] went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in their midst they said to him,

Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such.  What do you say about her?

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.  And as they continued to ask him he stood up and said to them,

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw the stone at her.

And once more he bent down  and wrote with his finger on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus looked up and said to her,

Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?

She said,

No one, Lord.

And Jesus said,

Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.

The Collect:

Be gracious to your people, we entreat you, O Lord, that they, repenting day by day of the things that displease you, may be more and more filled with love of you and of your commandments; and, being supported by your grace in this life, may come to the full enjoyment of eternal life in your everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The story of Susanna, one of the Greek additions to the Book of Daniel, is canon in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.  It is also an ancient example of a detective story and a courtroom drama.  The two lecherous and would-be murderous elders commit perjury and face the consequences of their actions.  They attempt to blackmail the virtuous (and married) Susanna into having sex with them in violation of the Law of Moses, which proscribes execution for all sexual partners involved in adultery.  The same law code states elsewhere that false witnesses will suffer the same fate they wish upon the innocent party or parties.

This day’s reading from John was originally in Luke, but that is a point of information, not formation.  My approach in these devotions is to seek formation.  So let us proceed, taking the reading on its own terms and in narrative context.

The placement of this story at this point in the Johannine Gospel narrative indicates heightened tensions between Jesus and religious authorities, who try repeatedly to entrap him in his words.  In this case the pawn is a woman caught in adultery.  The text states her guilt of the charge and the existence of a man who does not appear in the story.  He got away, and this fact does not seem to trouble the religious authority figures in front of Jesus.  The Law of Moses called for the execution of the man and the woman committing adultery.  This is a trap for Jesus, and he knows it.  So he exposes their hypocrisy, and they skulk away.  And Jesus sends the woman on her way, granting her a new beginning.

Righteousness does not consist of manipulating religious laws and traditions to cover up nefarious goals.  Nor does it is not involve playing “gotcha” with anyone.  No, I think that righteousness is much like love.  It is patient and kind, eschews arrogance and does not insist on its own way.  Righteousness, like love, rejoices in the truth, not wrongdoing.  Righteousness entails caring about the consequences of one’s actions on others.

Let us pursue righteousness, not self-justification at the expense of others.


Written on March 5, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, April 4, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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