Tuesday, September 6, 2022

How Should We Refer to John 7:53-8:11?

In my previous post, I hinted at my displeasure at the title "The Woman Taken in Adultery" for John 7:53-8:11. I believe the result of using this title is a misapprehension of what this passage is all about. The focus is not on the woman or even the fact that she was thought to have been caught in the very act of adultery. This isn't the first time I've voiced my concern about the way Bible publishers go about entitling the paragraphs in their translations. In Mark 4:35-41, for example, we read how "Jesus Stills a Storm." Other titles I've found include:

  • Jesus' Authority over Nature
  • Jesus Muzzles the Storm
  • The Wind Ran out of Breath (The Message) -- clever indeed! 

These titles aren't inaccurate. But to me they seem to miss the point of the story. Better options, in my opinion, include:

  • A Lesson about Faith
  • With Jesus in the Storm
  • How to Handle the Storms of Life
  • The Shocking Peace of Christ

For more options, go here

Let's come back to John 7:53-8:11. I might suggest that the following title better reflects the significance of this passage:

The Story of Jesus Forgiving the Woman Accused of Adultery.

I intend to use this title from now, and if I don't, feel free to call me out. Of course, checking a paragraph title against the template of Scripture is only half the battle. John Stott used to say that it's not difficult to be contemporary if you're not afraid of being biblical, and it's not difficult to be biblical if you're not afraid of being contemporary. However, to be both biblically faithful and contemporary -- well, that is the challenge. 

How about you? Are there any passages in the Bible that you think have been poorly titled? How, for example, might you retitle the three stories in Luke 15 (the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Lost Son)? I had fun with this one here.  Also, how about Luke 18:9-14 -- The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector?