In John 8:6-8 says that Jesus wrote on the ground. I'm interested is there some parallel in Bible with that act? What does it signifies? Is it something like prophetic act, or some ancient Jewish "modus operandi" in some special cases?


6 Answers 6


In the ancient world papyrus was a valuable and expensive commodity. For ephemeral scribblings people used erasable wax tablets, or they wrote on the ground with a stick or a finger. There is the famous story of how the great mathematician Archimedes was drawing geometric figures in the dust when he was murdered by an invading Roman soldier. This was around 212 BC. By the time when the Christian gospels were redacted this must have become a proverbial example of a wise man ignoring the crises of everyday life and concentrating on his intellectual or spiritual work.

The sources are collected here: http://www.math.nyu.edu/~crorres/Archimedes/Death/Histories.html

  • How does it relate to question?
    – user8377
    Feb 24, 2016 at 13:55
  • @talmudist. The question was: "Are there parallels...."
    – fdb
    Feb 24, 2016 at 13:59
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    Related to the Bible, how does Archimedes came up in the Bible
    – user8377
    Feb 24, 2016 at 14:17
  • Loads of ancients wrote on the ground...
    – user8377
    Feb 24, 2016 at 14:25

this article explained everything what I wanted to know: https://www.academia.edu/991221/_Earth_Accuses_Earth_Tracing_Jesus_Writing_on_the_Ground_

summa sumarum: DIVINE FINGER - writer says that Jesus wrote with His finger.Here the author of the passage may be recalling Exodus 31:18, a verse that describes God inscribing covenant provisions with the divine finger. The writing on the wall in Daniel (5:5,24-28) also serves as possible inter-text Here divinely-sent fingers write letters announcing judgement...

NAMES IN THE GROUND-NAMES IN THE HEAVEN -according to Ambrose Jesus wrote "earth, earth, write these men have been disowned",a passage that references Jeremiah 22:29-30 and 17:13 - Ambrose continues "their names are written in the ground".by contrast "the names of Christians are written in heaven" - Augustine took the lead from Ambrose..suggested that Jesus writings shows that "those who abandon Him are written in the earth" (suported on Jer 17:13) -traditions linking condemnation with divine writing, particularly writing in the earth, are much older than what is found among the Latin fathers -in the second century Clement of Alexandria recalled Jeremiah 22 to argue that God writes the faithless into the earth and the faithful into heaven. "For the one in a state of ignorance, who is sinful, is also earth and ashes..." This reminds me on theology of st. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:46-48 ("So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven, As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy...") In John 8 (wider context) Jesus is actually in fight with their stone-hearts who are under the written law, not under the Law of Mercy and Forgiveness, they do not want to receive Jesus, "a living soul", so they condamned themselves. ("Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven." Matthew 12,31. Here blasphemy stands for not willing to change your stone-heart, not willing to recieve Holy Spirit: love and mercy) Also, John 8 it's all about Jesus who is from heaven, and them, earthly people, ignorant about Heaven, the source of all Mercy (John 8, Earth and Heaven, uncompassion and compassion, hate and love.

THE MEASURE THAT YOUR MEASURE YOU WILL BE MEASURED Matt 7:2 -If you seek what is on earth, you do not seek what is in heaven - says Origen. So earth is their measure and Jesus is pointing that with His finger on the ground.

DANIEL 13 - the story of Daniel and the story of the adulteress were read in tandem on the third Saturday of Lent. If you read the story of Daniel you must notice that Susanna is victim ALONE..

TERRA TERRAM ACCUSAT-ninth century glossa, Codex Sangallensis 292, indicates that Jesus wrote "terra terram accusat", that is "eart accuses earth", meaning: a human judging a human, a mortal judging a mortal, a sinner judging a sinner". all of it makes sense in larger context, and it perfectly fits in the main message of Gospel.


No one knows what Jesus wrote with His finger but since everyone left - beginning with the eldest - some have conjectured that he just may have been writing names and places and circumstances that some of the present were involved with that were sinful. Did He not say 'he who is without sin cast the first stone"? Nothing like being reminded that we are all sinners to stamp out condemnation, huh?


It's a good question. Any answer is going to be speculative. The bible just doesn't provide detail.

That said many scholars have noted that whatever Jesus wrote in the ground had something to do with them being convicted and going away one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last.

[John 8:9] - And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Questions this raises include: What did Jesus write? Was the woman a prostitute? What convicted the men (eldest to youngest)? Had the elder ones been with the women? How did they know she committed adultery?

We cannot know, and speculation abounds - but certainly something to think on.


John 8:6-8 form part of a passage known as the Pericope Adulterae, regarded as inauthentic by the great majority of biblical scholars, being absent from most early manuscripts, as well as being found in different locations when it does occur. The first manuscript of John to include this story is Codex Bezae, which dates to the fifth century, and on internal grounds these verses interrupt the narrative of John’s Gospel and feature non-Johannine vocabulary and grammar.

Kyle R. Hughes ('The Lukan Special Material and the Tradition History of the Pericope Adulterae') cites a landmark article published in 1988 by Bart Ehrman, which identifies the Pericope Adulterae as a conflation of two earlier accounts about Jesus showing mercy to a sinful woman. Ehrman says:

By the fourth century there were actually three extant versions of the PA:

  1. the entrapment story in which Jesus freely pardons a sinful woman, known to Papias and the author of the Didascalia

  2. the story of Jesus’ intervention in an execution proceeding, preserved in the Gospel according to the Hebrews and retold by Didymus in his Ecclesiastes commentary, and

  3. the popular version found in MSS of the Gospel of John, a version which represents a conflation of the two earlier stories.

Our earliest manuscript record of the passage in its present form, goes back only as far as the fifth century, although it may have existed for some time before this. According to Ehrman, it is a conflation of two earlier stories that are no earlier than the second century. We therefore can not reasonably attribute the present passage or either of its two predecessors to Jesus himself. There is no reason to think of this as either prophetic act or some ancient Jewish "modus operandi".

  • 3
    What you say about the pericope is correct, but it does not address the question of why Jesus is described as writing on the ground. The question is not about whether the "historical" Jesus wrote on the ground or not, but about the motivic logic of the narrative, be it fictitious or not.
    – fdb
    Feb 23, 2016 at 0:30
  • 1
    @fdb I was not concerned with the historicity of the account, but whether it was either a prophetic act or some ancient Jewish modus operandi - as asked in the question. If indeed the pericope comes from a later Christian source, it is not an ancient Jewish modus operandi, nor prophetic. That outcome was the sole purpose of my analysis. Feb 23, 2016 at 0:39
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    how can your conclusion ("there is no reason...") be based on facts about time of pericope production?
    – Orhidea
    Feb 27, 2016 at 11:26
  • @Orhidea Thank you for your question. There could be reason to suppose this was a prophetic act if we are sufficiently sure that Jesus really did do these things, and there could be reason to suppose it could be some ancient Jewish "modus operandi" if it had been written in a Jewish milieu. Because it was written late, we can not be sure that Jesus really did the things described and we can be sure that the writer had no knowledge of any ancient Jewish modus operandi. There of course remains a remote possibility, but no reason to think either of these explains the passage. Feb 27, 2016 at 20:08
  • With respect to many early writers thinking it inauthentic, to be clear the vast majority of manuscripts fall into 2 camps: sourced from Asia Minor or Alexandria Egypt. There are textual markers that suggest a texts origins and there was natural distrust between the camps. The earliest copies of the pericope have all the hallmarks of an Alexandrian origin and no evidence exits there were copies in Asia Minor. Accordingly it is NOT true there is evidence early Christians thought it inauthentic. Certainly Alexandrian Christians didn't think so.
    – user34445
    Jul 2, 2017 at 14:05

The sand, although minuscule, is a stone and from heaven that stone could be seen as a stone that lands (perhaps crushing a statue made of 4 metals) that ends one period of the world like the time when larger ancient creatures roamed the earth. The woman, not condemned, could be seen as blessed AMONG WOMEN and thus allows women instead of men to be available for the immaculate conception of Christ when the next age arrives.

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