cartoon: woman caught in adultery

Click on the image for a larger picture. The original is watercolor and ink on Arches watercolor paper, 10″ x 10″ (25.5cm x 25.5cm).

This is based on the famous story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 in the bible. I wanted to contrast the ugly black and white of the hard stones, rocks, faces and hearts of the religious system wanting to put her to death and the woman’s beauty, color, softness and vulnerability. She’s looking off to her right. Jesus is saying something. I’m calling her Sophia.

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About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Lynn

    Well, you’ve sure sexualized that story for me! Wow! Would Jesus approve?

  • Tim Litzinger

    Lynn, the story was about sex!

  • http://ragingrev.com Matt Oxley

    SEX IN THE BIBLE?????

    ALL LIES!

  • http://www.DifficultRelationships.com Rod E. Smith

    David — with your permission I will use this non-commercially in the printed version of my sermon. Later today, I will purchase a printed version for my home. Ok?

    Thanks,

    Rod

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Rod: absolutely. thanks for asking. i’d love to hear feedback.

  • http://www.DifficultRelationships.com Rod E. Smith

    How do I get it to my computer — pray tell.

  • http://theshinyheadedprophet.blogspot.com/ Rob

    Thanks – I really love this image and wonder if you are willing to post to England and how much that would cost?

    Thanks

    Rob

  • Lynn

    I’m not seeing the comments after my comment above, but I did see them in my email. Anyway, to respond to them, I do realize the story is about sex. My first reaction to the painting though was shock that it now felt like pornography instead of adultery, judging, forgiveness, etc. I had always assumed the woman was clothed when they were contemplating the stoning, but maybe she wasn’t.

    Wouldn’t this picture cause men to lust, which according to Jesus is a bad thing-like adultery in your heart?

  • http://theshinyheadedprophet.blogspot.com/ Rob

    I think it is a fairly accurate picture … woman accused of adultery would probably have been stripped naked in the same way that Jesus would have been stripped naked on the cross.

    I don’t see this picture as pornography or of inducing lust but see it more as a picture reminding me of compassion. The woman is vulnerable and looking to Jesus to hear his words of acceptance …. restoring her dignity.

    Rather than filling me with lustful thoughts this image reminds me how easy it is to judge. Yes … the image is shocking and will cause people to ask questions … but questions that will cause me (and hopefully others) to remember following Jesus is about compassion and dignity long before it is about rules and respectability.

  • Lynn

    It’s probably just that I’m jealous cause she has a better body than me! I’m just saying my initial feeling about the picture. On the other hand, how popular would this picture be if David drew her with a lousy body? It sure makes the picture more interesting to make her sexy-which she may not have been. So, I’m just not buying it that it’s about some holy discussion. No offense, David.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    rob: go to my online gallery and buy it. shipping is free to anywhere in the world:
    http://nakedpastor.etsy.com

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Lynn: I’m not trying to biblically accurate. i’m trying to convey the mood of the event.

  • Lynn

    David,
    I just read one site that did seem to confirm what Rob said-that she very likely was nude. So I’m learning.

    I can certainly see the vulnerability aspect, but the main word that comes to me is “sexual.”

    I think this will be a very successful piece of art for you because of the picture itself and the contraversy it will incite.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Lynn: to say the least, it was a very emotionally and spiritually and theologically charged event.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    oh, and someone asked about using it as a screensaver: if you click on the image it will increase in size. drag it off.

  • http://akingdomreflection.blogspot.com/ bill meli

    John 8:4, “they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.” Please don’t forget that we serve the God of redemption, mercy, and forgiveness. All of which was extended to the woman caught in her sin and is being extended to our own messy, sinful lives on a continual basis. Thank you David for this wonderful illustration!

  • Lynn

    I gotta think this through about the “mood” of the event. I see that she’s not attempting to cover herself. The Jewish men are simply gazing on her entire body. They don’t seem upset or angry.

    If she was nude, did anyone offer her a cloak? Did Jesus offer her a cloak?

  • dcsloan

    (NRSV John 8:2-11)
    Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

    - – - – -

    Lynn,

    That’s the point – there is a cacophony of emotions and issues. It is about sex – in such a patriarchal society, it is easy to believe that she would have been displayed naked. Thus, her male accusers, vicariously, get to participate in the adultery – and the question asked of them by Jesus becomes both pointed and relevant – the accusers become the accused. It is about justice and how justice is applied and by whom justice is applied and who receives their justice and who does not receive their justice. It is pornographic in the sense that so much of pornography is less about sex and relationships and more about domination and abuse and so very often it is men dominating and abusing women. This woman was superficially “beautiful” to someone, thus the act of adultery. After Jesus was finished talking with her, the true beauty of the woman was both reclaimed and deeply redeemed to her.

  • Jen E

    Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  • hannah

    absolutely stunning!

  • http://jennw2ns.blogspot.com Jennwith2ns

    I like dcsloan’s comment. I always kind of wondered HOW she was caught in adultery, and if it wasn’t some extra hypocrisy among the religious leaders, in that maybe the man she was “adulterating with” was one of them. In any case, the question (which is so obvious as to not really need answering) is, why was SHE the only one of the pair brought before Jesus. The OT laws condemn both participants, not just the woman.

  • http://www.ellenharoutunian.com Ellen Haroutunian

    Stunning. No words. Some tears. Thank you.

  • fishon

    Lynn,
    I am about as conservative about these things as anyone on this site. Interesting that I didn’t see sex in it at all, that is from my side of the picture. However, what I see is the hypocrisy of the soon to be stone throwers [thank Jesus he stopped it]. Instead of pucking their own eyes out, they are going to enjoy the view with every stone they toss. And for many of them, the stones they throw in anger and in so-called, holy justice, will be stones they know should be hurled at them, for they know their secret thoughts.

  • Darrin

    Dave, your crowd of religious leaders in the background is a haunting scene! I will never look at a board of church elders the same again…

  • eyesWIDEopen

    So every time I think I’ve seen my favorite thing you can post, you pull something like this! Loved this so much I had to buy it before I lost it to some one else. Almost feels like it was something I commisioned. I’ll be bringing it to a coffee date with my pastor as soon as I get it. People who know me are probably sick of me telling this story when I talk about what’s wrong with our church. Why would anybody want to walk through our doors when these are the faces that will greet them? To see it so powerfully rendered is amazing. I love that she has her eyes on Jesus, not the hateful mob. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” and “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” have come out of my mouth so many times that when I don’t say it people worry.

  • http://www.brianheasley.blogspot.com brian Heasley

    David, you’ve made an ugly moment into a thing of beauty. Which is exactly what Jesus did.

  • eyeswideopen

    Oh no, Just read through the comments and saw that Rob wanted this. I’m so sorry Rob!!!

  • MSK

    I think this picture visualizes the judgment of MEN upon others… like his previous drawing, sheep bite sheep. What isn’t uncommon is everyone is quickly able to sit and point fingers at others then 1. not only minding their own business, but 2. Forgetting to look at themselves. This is honestly one of the most powerful stories in the bible… Jesus wrote in the sand…. who shall throw the stone… are you or I perfect, no… we are to love regardless. We all fall short but we have a loving God.. Thank you for your beautiful work and your down to earth spirituality. God bless you and keep being real man…

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    I appreciate all your comments folks. The picture you are buying is a fine art print. It isn’t the original. So there are some available.

  • http://www.work-in-progress-online.com Work In Progress Bible Community

    when is saw this picture and the crowd of religious leaders in the back I remembered a good friend of mine, who failed and had to walk in front of the church leaders who looked at her just as these in the picture. And because she is my friend, she wasn’t naked, but felt stripped naked and no mercy for her at all.

    Amazing picture, too bad this is not just a bible story, today too many churches do treat sinners just the same way. Where is Jesus??? Please help where is Jesus … or just one someone who would take the risk to stand in front of those and just offer a coat … do we stand out and extend mercy or just stand in the crowd even if we don’t agree, yet afraid to stand for the sinner, extend love and realize that we all stripped down totally naked in front of God.

    David Thanks a LOT. LOVE IT, but made me cry.The realization that this picture is so accurate and real today too.

  • http://theshinyheadedprophet.blogspot.com/ Rob

    eyeswideopen – no worries … I was too slow :-(

    david … ho do I buy one because I cant seem to do so on your etsy website as it is listed as sold :-(

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    rob: it’s back on etsy. try again!

  • http://www.mackanandersson.se Mackan Andersson

    It’s a haunting picture. I love it, even though it deeply disturbs me.

    (Your art sometimes do that… and I love it for that!)

    God has blessed you, David, to make such art. What you do is important beyond measure. And really, really beautiful. (At least to me).

  • http://www.crucialencounter.com Andy

    Lynn,

    I guess I understand your comment, “Sexual”. Though I don’t agree. Looks to me like she is probably covering up, with her left arm. That or playing with her nipples. My guess is covering up.

    Would Jesus approve? I dunno. can you answer that question? I’m not in the business of speaking for Jesus. I do know that he probably didn’t approve of 90% of the things I’ve done in my life but he chose to live for me, Love me and die for me. Pretty spectacular.

    This story KILLS ME every time I read it. EVERY TIME. The vulnerability of this woman when Jesus comes to her. Incredible. Sometimes I wish that I could drop my pride enough to be so vulnerable in front of Jesus. I think it would do the world a lot of good if we could all be that way in front of Him. (Sure, we may say we are, but.. really, are we about to be stoned to death?)

    Anyway. I think it’s beautiful. I want it. One day I can buy it. Give me a few months David. I’m on it.

  • tc

    David, if you were to expand the picture, I wonder how you would depict the man that was (also) caught in the adulterous act?

    DCSloan: as always, thanks for the great observation.

    Fishon: I believe you’ve betrayed your ‘true’ heart with your comment; hanks for sharing that :)

  • http://theshinyheadedprophet.blogspot.com/ Rob

    David – thanks
    ordered and I look forward toreceiving it
    cheers
    R

  • Lynn

    Andy,

    I’m glad you aren’t in the business of speaking for Jesus. That’s refreshing to hear, when so many think they speak for him or God or the Holy Spirit.

    Anyway, I guess I’m the only one so far that sees it in a sexual way. I’ll be watching to see more reactions to it. Definitely a great conversation piece.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    thanks Rob.

  • duggy

    David, saw this linked from Graham’s Facebook. At first I thought “What the heck?”, Then I looked at it and wow, very moving.
    Judging by some of the comments, there are some that offend too easily.
    By the way, when Jesus was bending down writing in the sand, I believe that he was writing the names of the men she was with (that were standing there ready to accuse her), which is why no one stood up to accuse her LOL – imho :o)

  • http://thepreacherlady.wordpress.com preacherlady

    This image has haunted me all day. There is only one other illustration of scripture that has affected me like this. Until dcsloan wrote his commentary, I hadn’t thought of the stoners as vicarious adulterers, but that is the added dimension.

    It took hours to pin down where this took me and I realized that it conveys the same feeling of the attitude that is many times projected at women in ministry from the male dominated church. I’ve stood there feeling that I was naked and small while self righteous men glared at me. I too have looked to see where Jesus was and what he had to say. Unfortunately, unlike this woman, I felt the stones. They threw them anyway…after all, they were men…what did a mere woman know? The look on the faces of the men in the picture is a look I’ve seen a thousand times. It’s penetrating and evil. Thank God that I and that woman in the picture were able to look to Jesus for reassurement…His was the only opinion that counted.

  • Ann Yoder

    David, I found this image very interesting. From a purely artistic vantage point, I liked the contrasts you are trying to express: darkness and hardness contrasted with color and softness. However, I would love to know why you posted this image to an audience that likely has people in it with some very sharply drawn religious boundaries? I actually really enjoy your audience, many if not most seem to be honest, vulnerable and non-judgemental Christians, but the reality is that some people are easily offended by these types of images. It almost seems like a baiting technique: were you bored and and wanting to create a lively discussion as well as a beautiful image?!! I really do enjoy your material so much, and find it refreshingly honest and sincere. Keep up the good work.

  • http://thepreacherlady.wordpress.com preacherlady

    This picture did something to me. I can’t quite describe it, but it hit me deep down inside….to the point that I blogged about it. The one thing we need to remember about the whole scenario, is that Jesus was the only one qualified to stone her. He forgave her. So must we.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Ann: Thanks for your compliment about my work. I could’ve been more explicit but chose not to be for the reasons you gave. I revealed enough of her body to make the point… no more than would be seen in most common magazines most of us have in our homes or leaf through in waiting rooms. So no, I wasn’t baiting. Now… 2 nude men holding hands instead of just the woman.. that would’ve been baiting.

  • http://godwillbegod.com Reluctant-Andrew

    She is looking off to her right, but she certainly does not seem to be looking down much. She may be covering up but she hasn’t lost all of her dignity necessarily, despite the efforts of the stone-faced. Vulnerable, maybe looking for rescue, but not defeated.

    Did you try a couple different body types for her? She looks young and shapely, as has been mentioned already. But the clarity and even the message might change significantly if she was rail-thin or had some extra curves.

  • Lynn

    Where’s the sympathy for the injured parties? His wife? Her husband?

  • dcsloan

    Reluctant-Andrew

    Her appearance does not matter. Her appearance does not change the message in any way.

    What matters her is her nakedness – whether real or in terms of her vulnerability. What matters is the singularity of her choice – no one else is accused. What matters is the abuse she has to endure at the hands of patriarchial justice – and in that sense, the injustice and abuse she suffers is pornagraphic. What matters is that Jesus comes to her defense and turns the tables on her accusers – they are equally guilty of adultry, either in their lust for her naked vulnerability or in their perversion of the law, using the law, in their attempt to trap Jesus, for injustice. What matters is that we are called to defend those who suffer injustice especially when the law is perverted to commit injustice. What matters is that justice is not about condemnation, it is about redemption – making the world and people right.

  • Lynn

    What pulls my heartstrings is adults abusing children.

    I just think attractive people get more sympathy than unattractive ones.

  • Erp

    I wonder how through history this story played against the story of Daniel and Susanna which is in the Deuterocanonical books and likely familiar to the early church. Susanna was also a woman accused of adultery (though in this case innocent) and is to be stoned until Daniel interferes and shows that her accusers are lying.

  • dcsloan

    Lynn,

    Sympathy is not a usable metric of injustice.

  • Lynn

    dcsloan,
    You said:

    “Sympathy is not a usable metric of injustice.”

    I have absolutely no idea what that means.

  • fishon

    dcsloan
    July 27, 2010 | 1:33 pm

    Reluctant-Andrew

    Her appearance does not matter. Her appearance does not change the message in any way.
    ——-To Jesus, no, it doesn’t matter.
    Ah, but to men, it can make a difference as to mercy or stones! Sad, but true.

  • Reluctant_Andrew

    Thanks fishon :-). I was trying to remain neutral but suggestive. Maybe that’s a mistake on a blog comment.

    I completely understand dcs’s insistence on returning to how “what matters” is the message given. That is important for sure.

    But I was just suggesting that her appearance can very easily change the message received.

  • Christine

    On the attractive naked woman issue…

    Not all nudity is sexual. That’s just our sex-obsessed Western culture talking. Nudity is as much about vulnerability or openess, which is David’s key theme (note the name of this site). And I agree that just enough is revealed to give of a sense of her being naked without being explicit.

    See is attractive. Not just the body shape, but the pose, the way her hair looks clinging and wet. Is she sexualized? Maybe. I think what we get is that she is attractive, but not necessarily in a sexual way, but in the sense that the viewer is drawn to her, sympathizes with her (because yes, attractive people do get more sympathy). But that’s part of the message, that we should relate to this woman. That’s the question jesus asks – who hasn’t sinned? Perhaps we haven’t all committed adultery, but we’ve all had those moments of guilt and judgement. She is us. She is human. And the beauty is a means of emphasizing that humanity. The colouration and perspective (with her being close and the other far away) does the same thing.

    I think her being sexy adds another layer, too. Because that’s part of what is being judged, not her body type per se, but her “ludeness”. The fact that only she and not he is judged is probably about misogyny, about seeing women as tempresses and men as victims, so in some way her “sexiness” could be on trial, as seen as evil alone with her actions.

    Her “sexiness” could also just serve to remind us that this is about sex, something we somehow do manage to glance over in reading the sotry.

    It might make the image somewhat more controversial, but I think we should be willing to accept the possible meanings being represented.

  • Lynn

    I think in this picture the nudity is sexual. It’s very interesting to me that I’m the only one who thinks so.

    David’s nudity is psychological. He could make it sexual with a sexual picture if he has a fairly decent body. The fact that he doesn’t put up a sexual picture of himself tells me that he’s not trying to turn us on. I think in this picture there is a sexual intention, along with the nudity expressing the fact that she has no power, and the GROUP of FULLY-CLOTHED men have lots of power.

  • Christine

    Art, though, is about representation. The literal nudity is representative of vulnerability, in this case. The name of this site, too, is representative, not literal. Here, words represent concepts. In art, an image does.

    Nudity and clothing as vulnerability and power. (I think you’re right.) But also juxtaposed against honest and fake, or humanly flawed versus artificial.

    I really doubt David is trying to turn people on with the image, though, even though I agree that the woman seems intentional attractive, even if there is an intentional sexual component. An image can have sexuality represented without being arrousing necessarily. (I would imagine only the most sexually repressed would consider this pornographic.)

    There is something very real, human, raw about the woman in the picture. And cold, hard, calculating, drone-like about the men. Authenticity and legalism. Authenticity even more so because her flaws are the same as the men’s, but hers are exposed. It’s all about contrast, and her sexuality is a part of that contrast.

  • dcsloan

    Where Lynn has a point is that in a patriarchial society it is common that women are not allowed to have a personal sense of sexuality. Women can be viewed as sex objects by men, as existing for the pleasure of men at the choice of the man. In a patriarchial society, women are not allowed that freedom of expression, it is another way the women are dominated into submission – only a man can control their sexuality, a woman cannot be allowed to control it herself.

    A contributing factor to why this woman alone was selected and dragged naked into public view was to condemn her audacity of expressing and controlling her expression of sexuality. In her adultery, she is more guilty of defiance of male authority than she is of breaking the law.

  • dcsloan

    Early in the morning he came again to the temple.
    All the people came to him
    and he sat down and began to teach them.
    The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
    who had been caught in adultery;
    and making her stand before all of them,
    they said to him,
    Teacher,
    this woman was caught
    in the very act of committing adultery.
    Now in the law
    Moses commanded us to stone such women.
    Now what do you say?
    They said this to test him,
    so that they might have
    some charge to bring against him.
    Jesus bent down
    and wrote with his finger on the ground.
    When they kept on questioning him,
    he straightened up and said to them,
    Let anyone among you who is without sin
    be the first to throw a stone at her.
    And once again
    he bent down and wrote on the ground.
    When they heard it,
    they went away, one by one,
    beginning with the elders;
    and Jesus was left alone
    with the woman standing before him.
    Jesus straightened up and said to her,
    Woman, where are they?
    Has no one condemned you?
    She said,
    No one, sir.
    And Jesus said,
    Neither do I condemn you.
    Go your way,
    and from now on do not sin again.
    (NRSV John 8:2-11)

    This picture is a cacophony of emotions and issues. It is about sex – in such a severe patriarchal society, it is easy to believe that she would have been displayed naked – as claimed by many biblical commentators. Thus, her male accusers, vicariously, get to participate in the adultery – and the question asked of them by Jesus becomes both pointed and relevant – the accusers become the accused. It is about justice and how justice is applied and by whom justice is applied and who receives their justice and who does not receive their justice. (Where is the man with whom she committed adultery?) It is pornographic in the same sense that so much of pornography has very little or nothing to tell us about sex and relationships and so much to say about domination and abuse – and so very often it is men dominating and abusing women. This woman was at least superficially “beautiful” to someone, thus the act of adultery. It is irrelevant whether her “beauty” had the same appearance as that depicted in the picture. Her actual appearance does not matter. The quality of her “beauty” does not change the message in any way. After Jesus was finished defending her and talking with her, the true beauty of the woman was both reclaimed and deeply redeemed to her – her future was reclaimed and the opportunity for her to live a righteous life was redeemed.

    In a patriarchal society, it is common that women are not allowed to have a personal sense of sexuality. Women can be viewed as sex objects by men, as existing for the pleasure of a man and only at the choice of the man. In a patriarchal society, women are not allowed that freedom of expression, it is another way the women are dominated into submission – only a man can control her sexuality, a woman cannot be allowed to control it herself.

    A contributing factor to why this woman alone was selected and dragged naked into public view was to condemn her willful audacity of expressing and controlling her sexuality. In her adultery, she is guiltier of defying male authority than she is of breaking the law.

    Her nakedness matters – whether real or as a symbol of her vulnerability. What matters is her being the only one who is chosen to be placed on public display – no one else is accused, no one else is being displayed in such a demeaning position. What matters is the abuse she has to endure at the hands of patriarchal justice – and in that sense, the injustice and abuse she suffers is pornographic. What matters is that Jesus comes to her defense and turns the tables on her accusers – they are equally guilty of adultery, either in their lust for her naked vulnerability or in their perversion of the law – in their attempt to trap Jesus, they use the law for injustice. What matters is that we are called to defend those who suffer injustice, especially when the law is perverted to commit injustice. What matters is that the justice of God is not about condemnation, it is about redemption – making the world and the people right – making them complete and reclaiming their future and redeeming their potential for righteousness and to live the Good News and to be the Kingdom of God.

  • Lynn

    Rereading the story above, to me, Jesus seems uninterested in the whole deal. Maybe arguing with the Pharisees bored him. When they kept asking him, he pointed out their hypocrisy.

    If she’s standing there naked all that time while people drift away from the scene, how does that show that he’s even that focused on her problem? Plus since he says “neither do I condemn thee” you could take that to mean he’s a fellow sinner who also has no right to condemn her.

    Jesus seems very calm and patient. He’s not angry as he was when overturning the tables.

  • http://www.photographyandtheology.com dennis the mennis

    That is a very beautiful evocative image NP. I love it.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    thanks so much dennis.

  • Pingback: Captain’s Blog » The Woman Caught

  • http://theshinyheadedprophet.blogspot.com/ Rob

    This arrived in the post today – thanks.
    I love it even more in reality!
    Cheers
    R

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    glad. thanks rob.

  • http://p3t3rk3y5.tumblr.com/ P3T3RK3Y5

    I think you nailed it David.

    Teenage Girl, Stripped, and Molested by Hundreds of Men in India: http://wp.me/p11dD8-N

  • zhou shuncheng

    jesus is God.


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