Original Research - Special Collection: Studies on the Bible - spirituality and mysticism

Reading John 7:53–8:11 as a narrative against male violence against women

Michael O'Sullivan
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 1 | a2939 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i1.2939 | © 2015 Michael O'Sullivan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 March 2015 | Published: 14 August 2015

About the author(s)

Michael O'Sullivan, All Hallows College, Dublin City University, Ireland; Department of New Testament, University of the Free State, South Africa; Spirituality Institute for Research and Education (SpIRE), Dublin, Ireland


Male violence against women is at shocking levels in South Africa. According to Faul, ‘A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours, a probable underestimate because no perpetrator is identified in 20 percent of killings’, whilst ‘More than 30 percent of girls have been raped by the time they are 18’. Reeva Steenkamp’s killing by her partner, Oscar Pistorius, came ‘the day before she planned to wear black in a “Black Friday” protest against the country’s excruciatingly high number of rapes’ (Faul). The purpose of this article is to reread a key biblical text regarding male violence against women in order to highlight how Jesus would want us to respond to such violence. The text is John 7:53–8:11. The NRSV: Catholic Edition entitles the story ‘The woman caught in adultery’. However, this title is problematic as it can lead to misleading readings of the text, as I will show, and so I have given it a different title, namely ‘The woman threatened with stoning’.


violence against women; South Africa; Woman Caught in Adultery; Reeva Steenkamp


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Crossref Citations

1. Estructura, análisis narratológico y contextual de Jn 7,53-8,11
Facundo Mela
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doi: 10.18566/cueteo.v47n107.a03