Could Jesus Read And Write?

John 8:6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
In our day reading and writing are Siamese twins. It is hard to imagine one without the other. In the ancient past it was different, only a small minority were trained to write on permanent surfaces.
One reason for this limited skill is that writing involved more than just drawing the letters. There were no ballpoint pens, computers, typewriters, pencils, or readily available paper or ink. Writers (scribes) wrote with difficult writing instruments on stone, metal, pottery, plant material, animal skins, cloth, wax, and clay. But the common man’s writing surface was dirt. And the easiest and most available writing instrument was the finger… and both were free.
The word “wrote” in this verse means: to inscribe the characters of a written language on a surface. In the ancient world it was a skill that took time and commitment to learn.
Ancient literacy rates, especially among Israelites, are hotly debated. Generally most everyone agrees that literate persons were a small minority of the population of the ancient world. There is little evidence that ancient Israel was overly exceptional in this regard. Ian Young in his study, “Israelite Literacy”, concludes: “that ancient Israelite scribes, priests, and the upper classes of society had skills in both reading and writing. The rest of the population in general did not have such skills.”
Luke 4:16-20 verifies that Jesus could read, and John 8:6 confirms he could write. John 7:14 -17 tells us he knew “letters” but had no formal scribal education.
“Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground,” Some say that he only scribbled. Don’t believe it. He wrote words. Based on the result of what He wrote on this occasion I like to imagine he wrote the name of each accuser’s girlfriend...
Jesus came to forgive those who had broken the law of God. The world was already condemned under the justice of God, so there was no need of further condemnation. John 3:16-21 That's what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. If I can help answer questions you have about Jesus, please don't hesitate to write me, or read the posts on the left under the subject title "Jesus".


  1. Love the way your mind works. You'd make a great case study. Love the article. I wonder what all Jesus actually did know, and had to hold back, to maintain His relational humanity among society. Wow.

  2. One man said that Jesus was writing to give himself time to "get his thoughts together."  Would God have to take time to collect His thoughts?
    Another writer said that the first time Jesus wrote the names of the accusors, the next time the sins of by their names.  Either way it was "shut your mouth and get out of here!!!"

  3. Funny so many people want to know this--the question never crossed my mind. I always figured that he wrote--"Where's the man?" The fact that adultary was not just a sin for the woman, but for both would have made this act of dragging just the woman out--in order to set Jesus up--a sin for everyone involved in the conspiracy. Then when He said--"let he who is w/o sin throw the first stone..." they would all feel guilty for this very act. These will be interesting questions for the Lord to answer one day--and probably very soon I feel based on the birth pangs...

  4. I don't think He could have written much in the sand because of the physical nature of the medium, the intricacies of the language character set, and the tool used to inscribe it with. What would be interesting to speculate is if He had left us anything in writing and why He didn't. Most of his material came straight out of the book of Proverbs, written by another Son of David. Maybe He wrote a reference to a passage well known by the Scribes.



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