He was right-handed. When he wrote on the paving stone of the Temple (in the story of the woman guilty of adultery) what did he write? Nothing. He did not need to.
The act of writing-on-stone is what the Bible calls “a parable-inaction” where no words are spoken but the action is the message.
We read of such parables in the prophets: doing something God asks them to do, without words.
Can you see the parable in Jesus writing on the ground with his finger? His action recalls God’s writing the commandments on the tablets of stone given to Moses on the holy mountain (Horeb/Sinai), the commandments that would guide the rabble of slaves leaving Egypt to become the People of God.
God wrote the commandments on stone? God has no hands, God has no body, God is spirit. This is “our” translating the work and word of God into images we understand. God had no finger with which to write the commandments.
“The finger of God” is a biblical image for the power of God. Everything God did/does is by the Word of God – “dabar”, a word that creates as it is spoken. “God saw all that was made and it was good.” God has no eyes. Again, it is our expressing understanding our way, not God’s way.
“The finger of God” is a phrase used by the Pharoah’s magicians to describe the plagues brought about by Moses when trying to convince the Pharoah to let the Hebrews go free. The magicians can do some of what God can do but not all, as they admit after the third plague, the mosquitos.
The finger of God “wrote” the commandments on stone, and the son of God wrote on the stone of the Temple pavement. The woman’s accusers understood this parable-in-action. So should we. They walked away defeated, leaving Jesus with the woman, not condemning her, nor forgiving her, either, but sending her home to be forgiven by her husband and family and neighbours. Was she? Jesus was right-handed. He was taught to write, as we all are. His teachers would never have allowed him to write left-handed, and not so long ago pupils in our schools were punished if they tried to write naturally with their left hand. Why the bias against lefthandedness? It is rife. It is everywhere.
In the whole of the Bible only one man is left-handed, Ehud, in the Book of Judges (chapter 3), and he is remembered for his treachery by being able to kill, unexpectedly, using his left arm and hand. In the same Book of Judges (chapter 20) we read of seven hundred soldiers of the tribe of Benjamin who could fight with either hand – in an army of 25,000! They were ambidextrous, we say, equally confident with either hand: it actually translates “having two right hands”, “dexter” being the Latin for “right”. “Sinister” is the Latin for “left”. To be left-handed is to be sinister, not trustworthy, unnatural.
Being left-handed is unusual, we accept that; but “evil”, “unnatural”, “inferior”, why? It is the way that God has made them and who are we to judge? Perhaps they need some conversion therapy. “We’ll try the cane if you dare write with your left hand,” and so they did, in our strangely biased schools.
Sheep on the right, “Come, you blessed” . . . goats on the left, “Go you cursed.” Left-handed compliments, poor footballers with two left feet, Catholics as left-footers, Jacob’s blessing Ephraim and Manasseh in chapter 48 of the Book of Genesis – and see why Joseph was so upset.
The Bible reflects bias against left-handedness. In London there is a left-handed shop with a fascinating variety of everyday utensils. Do you think we should get up a petition to have it closed as being against Bible teaching, and then try conversion therapy? Capital punishment, genocide, divorce, blood revenge are approved in the Bible, but same sex relationships and eating black pudding are condemned. Puzzling. Do you quote the Bible to prove yourself right and other people wrong? Dangerous ground if they read the Bible better than you do.
God bless us to ask to understand,
(14th March 2021)