An anthem for choir and two cellos by Art Eschenlauer

I composed this piece about Jesus and the woman accused of adultery (John 8:1-11) using the MuseScore program,


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The text for this piece, based on John 8:1-11

They brought a woman before Jesus, shaming her to bring him down.
As they tested him with questions, he stooped writing on the ground.
"This woman is a sinner, guilty of adultery.
Moses' law tells us to stone her. Tell us, what should her sentence be?"

The woman stood there in the midst of them, shamed, rejected, and alone.
"Let the sinless one among you be the first to cast a stone."
As they looked into their consciences, their own sins came into view,
And, beginning with the oldest, ashamed and humbled, they withdrew.

"Woman where have your accusers gone? Is not one left who condemns?"
Said the woman, choking back her tears, "Lord, I see not one of them."
"You may go, but do not sin again. Be again a faithful wife.
I do not condemn you either. Know God forgives and gives you life!"

Thoughts about the story that influenced composition of this piece

Jesus says very little in this story. What is His focus as He writes on the ground? Could it be that Jesus is focused neither on using His wits to overcome the test nor on modeling compassion for us? Could it be that the individuality and person-hood of the woman and the men accusing her are not afterthoughts for Him but rather are the focus of His compassion, thoughts, and will? If, in our zeal to learn about ourselves, we project ourselves into the role of either the woman or one of her accusers, then we risk missing the depth of Jesus' character, nature, and beauty, as revealed in His particular and personal interest in the people at hand. I think that the passage retains its full power and meaning when understood as the story of an actual event rather than as mere allegory.

Characteristics of the composition

Cello I generally reflects the woman's feelings, and Cello II reflects Jesus' ongoing empathy for her. Her feelings are evloving, even at times when the narration focuses on others: The cellos begin somberly reflecting the woman's dread about the possibility that she will suffer an agonizing death. After the second verse the mood becomes more hopeful because she evidently will not be killed, but she still is struggling with rejection; thus, the cellos begin a slow dance, no longer desperate, but still tentative. When she realizes that Jesus will not reject her either, the mood becomes positive, the key becomes major, and the cellos' dance becomes more spirited. The dramatic progression is not so much from near defeat to victory as it is from desperation to hope.

The sections of this piece reflect the drama of the story.

John 8:1-11 - King James Version (KJV)

  1. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
  2. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
  3. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
  4. They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
  5. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
  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.
  7. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
  8. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
  9. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
  10. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
  11. She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.