Disturbing reports from China say Communist Party officials have rewritten the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8, claiming Jesus stoned the woman to death.
The incident in John 8:3–11 is a powerful testament to Jesus’ forgiveness and his divinity. The account says a mob had surrounded a woman accused of adultery. After facing down the crowd seeking to stone her, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v7).
After the crowd leaves, Jesus stands up and says: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (v10-11).
Reports from Roman Catholic sources and carried by the religious liberty group Bitter Winter say this event in the gospel has been drastically changed in a textbook published by the University of Electronic Science and Technology Press. The book is reportedly used in ethics and law courses in Chinese secondary vocational schools.
According to the report, the textbook gives the story another ending: “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone’. Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead’.”
According to commentator Massimo Introvigne, quoted by Bitter Winter, the Chinese Communist Party is using the blasphemous text for its own purposes. “Christians in China are protesting against a textbook making Jesus a sinner and a killer,” he says. “Actually, however, the incident is subtler than that. As told to Chinese students, the story teaches that the law and the Party are good and pure, and transcend the impure human beings who happen to represent them.
“Even if the officers are corrupted, their decision should be accepted – because, honest or corrupted, they represent the Party, and the Party’s law should never be questioned.”
The incident is a serious step in the campaign by Communist Party officials to “sinicise” Christian Scripture, that is, to make Christianity Chinese in character.
Last month the persecution watchdog, Open Doors, documented moves by Chinese authorities to close down churches and turn them into “cultural hubs” in the hope that Christians will renounce their faith.
Open Doors quoted an official video documenting what the regime called the “successful transformation of Christians through education”. It said officials claimed that “a monotonous cultural life and lack of education is what drives citizens towards religion”. Several areas have also banned children from attending church.
Open Doors ranks China this year as 23rd among the 50 most dangerous countries to follow Jesus. Just two years ago it was number 43.
Nearly 100 million people in China identify as Christians.