Previous: Casting The First Stone
"No," Rosh replied sadly, "it is a story from the Bible. A woman, who had been caught in the act of adultery, was brought to Jesus by the Lawyers and Pharisees to test him."
"What is adultery?" asked Josh.
"It is when a married man or woman has sex with the other even though they are married to someone else," said Rosh, "The Jewish law at the time, Leviticus 20:10, prescribed death for both the man and woman caught in adultery."
"Then why did they only bring the woman?" asked Josh, "If two people broke the law and the law says punish both of them, shouldn't they both be punished?"
"Yes, they should," Rosh answered, "I don't know why the man wasn't brought, especially if they were caught red handed as the story claims. Perhaps because the man was Roman and the woman was Jewish."
"New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce writes that the Jewish law required death. But Roman law did not permit a death penalty for adultery. The Jews may have therefore only brought the woman to be judged under their law."
"But how was it to be a test of Jesus?" asked Josh.
"Rome ruled that land at the time of Jesus," answered Rosh, "so the Jews lived under Roman law. The Jewish crowd wanted the adulterous woman to be stoned to death according to their law at the time. But if they stoned the woman, they would be prosecuted for murder by the Romans."
"If they didn't stone her to death, they wouldn't be following their own ancient law. So they wouldn't be seen as holding true to their faith."
"As the Pharisees often did, they tested Jesus by giving him a truly difficult problem. If Jesus supported stoning, he would be advocating civil disobedience to the Roman rulers. If he didn't prescribe stoning, then he would be breaking his own ancient law. And he had to make up his mind quickly, as they kept asking him what he wanted them to do."
"So what did Jesus say?" asked Josh.
"What would you have said, if you were Jesus?" Rosh asked him back.
"I'd let her go," Josh said after careful deliberation, "Let her husband be her judge, not me."
"When you are a leader and a teacher, and people are looking up to you to lay down the moral code, you can't just delegate your responsibilities to others," said Rosh, "it sounds reasonable to delegate judgment and retribution to the victim. But the one who has just been wronged has little hope of being either logical or unbiased. That is why we use unattached and impartial judges."
"Also, one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel. The community also therefore, has a vested interest in setting examples to moderate behavior, so individual freedoms remain balanced against common communal good."
When Josh didn't speak for a long time, Rosh continued, "What I am saying is that Jesus had to decide. He couldn't have just passed the buck on to her husband.
So if you were Jesus, and you had to decide, here and now, whether to stone her or to let her go, what would you have decided?"
Josh thought long and hard about it.
"I would still have let her go," he finally said, "because death penalty is too severe for what she did."
"So you would break tradition. Break the ancient code. Break your own law?" Rosh wanted to confirm.
"Yes," this time there was no pause.
"Why?" Rosh's tone rose, "because going against the power of the State would be immediately harmful, while tradition is unlikely to come with armies to beat the shit out of you. Your mother advocates Roman punishment for you, here and now, but this system only punishes the little thieves. It can never eliminate theft. In fact, it creates Too Big To Fail thieves and smarter, bigger, institutionalized theft."
Josh never spoke when his father's anger began to raise so. He knew the symptoms well. But he also did not truly understand what Rosh was on about now. Despite his anger, Rosh noticed his bewilderment.
"Jesus chose what you chose too," he concluded, "to not condemn her. He saved her. By saying 'let him that is without sin, cast the first stone'. But he did not condone her either. When the crowd had finally dispersed, leaving her unharmed, he came to her and said, 'Go, and sin no more.' Now go, and ponder on that."
Long after his sons had gone to their rooms, he stood alone under the canopy of stars. Questions remained.
Jesus taught forgiveness of sins. But he never advocated a blanket amnesty from punishment under the law, in order for the Kingdom of the Earth to be consistent with the Kingdom Of Heaven.
He probably wasn't concerned with the Kingdom of the Earth. But why create amnesty for one woman out of all sinners, while others continued to be crucified for their sins? And what to do with Josh?
'I must refresh my understanding,' he decided, 'and let it guide me.'
He turned, and walked to his library. Long into the night, he was reading, listening, watching and thinking.