Despite being ‘The Word’, there is only one instance in whole of the Bible where we see Jesus writing. In the story of the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1) Jesus is described as writing with his finger in the dust (see verse 6).
What did he write? Some people think it was a sort of ‘doodle’ in the dust. To have been caught in the very act of adultery, we can readily assume that the woman was completely naked. Jesus, according to this theory suggests, would have been too embarrassed to look straight at the woman and so was averting his eyes. It is probable that he was also filled with burning indignation at the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who were using the woman as their pawn in their battles with Jesus.
A more likely explanation, though, involves Jesus acting out the role of Roman judge that was forced upon him. The whole story revolves around a trap set for Jesus: if he condoned the woman’s actions, then he could be seen to be against the law of Moses; conversely if he upheld the sentence for adultery as laid down in the law of Moses (see Leviticus 20:10), and pronounced that the woman should be stoned to death, then the Roman authorities would consider their power usurped and would imprison Jesus himself.
So Jesus allowed himself to be drawn along by the ploy of acting as Roman judge. In the normal procedure of a Roman court, the presiding judge would first write down the sentence on a tablet, before standing to read it aloud. Pontius Pilate did this with Jesus, when he himself was called to be a judge¾it was just such a written sentence that was nailed to Jesus’ cross that is mentioned in Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38 and John 19:20.
So Jesus acted as a judge. By acting out the drama, Jesus was effectively saying, ‘You want me to act as judge. Alright . . .’ and, after stooping to write the sentence in the dust, straightened up to read aloud his sentence for the guilty woman, ‘. . . Let the man among you who is without sin cast the first stone at her.’
Jesus’ genius was complete: he not only defused the situation and taught the Jews about justice revolving around mercy, but he also incorporated other components of Moses’ law. After all, Deuteronomy 17:7 says that the hands of a witness, ‘Shall be the first upon him to put him to death.’