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In John 8 (KJV), Jesus stoops down to write something. We are not told what he wrote, but one line of thinking is that he wrote the Ten Commandments with "his finger" on solid stone, just as God had written the Ten Commandments "on stone" and "with his finger", as recorded in Deuteronomy 9:10.

The verses in John say:

8:6 ...and with his finger wrote on the ground.
8:8 ...and wrote on the ground.

Now the story takes place in the temple. Would the ground have been stone, sand, dust, or mud? My thinking is that the ground would have been solid stone, would it not? Or are there reasons to think otherwise?

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The short answer: No

This answer is supported by two facts that tend to indicate that Jesus wrote in soil: location and word usage. First, in John 8:2-3, the text states:

Early in the morning he came to the temple courts again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The experts in the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They made her stand in front of them

This tends to indicate that Jesus was probably teaching in the court of the Gentiles. In the temple there were several major courts: The court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, The Court of Israel, the Court of the Priests, and several others:

Larger Temple Complex

The Temple Itself

Because women were not allowed into the Court of Israel and it would have been atypical for Rabbis to be teaching in the Women's court, it seems most likely that the setting to this scene was in the Gentile's court. While the temple itself did have stone foundations, the Gentile's court did not. This can be seen from pictures of the Wailing Wall today. The trees just behind the wailing wall would have been part of the Gentile's court and these can only grow in soil:

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This is also consistent with the text itself which uses the word γῆν (ghen) when referring to the medium in which Jesus wrote. This is perhaps best illustrated by the parable of the Sower. In the parable of the Sower, some seeds fall on the good soil. The word for soil used in Luke 8 is this same word, γῆν (ghen), which is then contrasted with the seeds that fall on the πέτραν (petran; rock). This word, πέτραν (petran) is the same word used in the parable of wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7. In this parable, the wise man selects the πέτραν (petran) for the foundation of his home. Were Jesus writing in the foundation of the temple, we would expect him to be writing on πέτραν (petran), not in γῆν (ghen).

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  • VERY TELLING, that the writer told us The Lord wrote "with His finger". On the face of it, that sounds like superfluous information, but I dont think it is. I think its so the reader can can be taken back to the 10 Commandments, which the Lord wrote on stone with His finger. Staying on John 8 for a second, in verse 7 & 10 kjv it says "he lifted up himself" and "When Jesus had lifted up himself", I believe there is more to that than just words. That takes us forward to the crucifixion. There is nothing superfluous in God`s Word. – user16688 Sep 13 '16 at 3:15
  • +1 An excellent explanation. I can't help but notice that the court of the Gentiles is huge in comparison to the other courts. It seems that it was always God's intent to accommodate the Gentiles. "Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves." – enegue Apr 28 '17 at 10:02
  • @James Shewey. You may be right. I just have difficulty picturing such an important area being unpaved, considering what mess it would be on rainy days. The possibility is, of course, that the area was created to cater for cattle. Do you think that that was it's purpose? A second question I have is: "Why do you dismiss the possibility of Solomon's Porch beeing the place of the encounter?" Because John 10:23; Acts 3:11, 5:12, seem to indicate that Solomon's Porch was a popular place for gatherings. hoshanarabbah.org/blog/2018/03/29/solomons-porch – Constantthin Aug 10 '19 at 21:28
  • @Constantthin - it certainly would have catered to livestock at times. For example, Solomon's Temple was originally built on top of a threshing floor. Similarly, the money changers were also selling sacrifices, and I believe I would find this would be done in the court of the Gentiles as well if I did some digging. It is possible that Jesus would have stood in Solomon's Porch when addressing his audience, but stepped to the dirt covered area to write. Had this been in stone, we would expect some explanation by the authors that this was a supernatural event. – James Shewey Aug 11 '19 at 9:14
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    The writing itself is rather unremarkable and the audience seems bothered not by the act itself, but the content of what Jesus had actually written. – James Shewey Aug 11 '19 at 9:14

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