While there are superficial similarities between the stories of Susanna and the Woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11), there are important differences such as:
- Susanna is a woman of noble birth and had a good reputation and high social standing (her lineage is listed etc); the woman caught in adultery is a woman of low reputation, possibly a prostitute with a sinful past. (See appendix 1 below).
- the accusation of Susanna's accusers was false; the accusation of the those condemning the woman caught in adultery was valid - see appendix 1 below.
- Susanna's witnesses were correctly accused of being false witnesses; the woman's accuses were not accused of being false witnesses. That is, their accusation was correct!
- the premise of the story of Susanna was the virtue of Susanna and Daniel in contrast to her vial accusers; the premise of the story the woman caught in adultery was to trap Jesus between Torah and Roman law
- Susanna's justice was achieved by a clever legal procedure; the woman caught in adultery was not given legal justice (!!) but shown grace and forgiven
- Suzanna's justice involved condemning (and finally executing) the accusers; Jesus not only forgave the sinner (the woman) but ministered to the (his own) accusers without explicitly condemning them (there was an implied condemnation, but remained tacit). That is, He managed to effectively have the charges dropped!
- Thus, the point of the story of Susanna was the legal acumen of Daniel; the point of the story of the woman caught in adultery was the GRACE of Jesus AND that such grace leads to a virtuous life (John 8:11).
- that is, the result of the stories is the opposite of each other: one is innocent, released because of perfect justice and adherence to Torah; the other is guilty and released because of forgiveness, to subsequently lead an upright life.
APPENDIX 1 - the Woman Caught in Adultery
The woman caught in adultery is a classic case of the correct accusation but gained under false and inadmissible circumstances. Specifically, rules of jurisprudence at the time required that:
- If someone saw a crime being committed, he had to do everything to try and prevent it
- if a court of condemnation is assembled, and ALL believed the accused is guilty, the accused must be released as there is no one to defend the accused
- if a punishment of death is valid, it cannot be carried out the same day
- the trial could not be convened on the same day as the crime - at least one day had to pass to allow tempers to cool and justice prevail
- the man involved in the crime of adultery was not also brought before the condemning crowd
[There is an interesting side-note to all of this. Many suggest that the punishments of death for adultery in the Torah were overly harsh; however, given the above rules, it was a crime almost impossible to prove because it was done in private thus preventing at least two or three witnesses, who if present should have tried to prevent the crime occurring!]
All this clearly demonstrates that the condemning crowd was much less interested in justice and much more interested in trapping Jesus. [Thus, some have speculated (with some justification) that the woman was actually set-up as part of a plan to trap Jesus.]
The Pulpit commentary observes this (John 8:3):
There is no indication of any mere sectional animosity or of any
genuine desire to receive an authoritative or prophetic response to
their inquiry. The Sanhedrin itself would certainly not have
condescended at this epoch to have submitted any question of its own
action to the arbitrament of Jesus. Numerous witnesses of the act of
adultery are inconceivable, though in the excitement and confusion of
the Feast of Tabernacles in a crowded city and suburbs, this may have
been more feasible than might otherwise be supposed. The probability
is that the act was undeniably committed in such a way as to bring
this woman under the cognizance of these reformers or defenders of the
theocracy who cropped up on all sides, and that a group of bigots scow
at once that capital might be made for their antagonism to Jesus by
proposing to him a query which would, however it might be answered,
lower his prestige. According to ver. 10 (omitted in Codex B), these
scribes and Pharisees were, if not the "witnesses" of adultery, the
"accusers" ready to take the case before the highest court.
Considering the long desuetude of the Law, and the impossibility of
even the Sanhedrin legally inflicting the penalty of stoning, even if
it were so disposed, the whole question looks like a subtle but
ill-considered plot to entangle the Lord in his judgments, and to
induce him to sacrifice his influence with the people.
APPENDIX 2 - Gill
I note an interesting comment reported by Gill when he comments on John 8:3:
And the Scribes and Pharisees,.... The members of the Sanhedrin, who
had been so miserably disappointed the day before, were no less
diligent and industrious in their wicked way, seeking all
opportunities, and taking all advantages against Christ; and fancying
they had got something whereby to ensnare him, and bring him into
disgrace or danger, they pursue it; and brought unto him a woman taken
in adultery; who, as some conjecture, might have been taken in it the
day before, in one of their booths; being drawn into it through
intemperance and carnal mirth, which at this feast they greatly
indulged themselves in; which shows, that they were far from drawing
the Holy Ghost at this time upon them; that on the contrary, they fell
into the hands, and under the power of the unclean spirit: who this
woman was, is not material to know; what is pretended to be taken out
of the annals of the Spanish Jews, is no doubt a fable; that she was
the wife of one Manasseh of Jerusalem, an old man, whose name was