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Mystery in Babylon

Could this be the oldest amateur sleuth mystery in recorded history?

This is quite possibly the oldest recorded amateur sleuth mystery, and it’s fascinating!

It took place in Babylon in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar. A married woman was hauled out to face a public inquiry.

She’d been accused of committing adultery—a crime punishable by death. Her accusers were both well-respected judges, and since their story agreed in every respect, there was no doubt of her guilt.

They had witnessed—with their own two eyes, the accusers said—the woman embracing a strange young man.

But the woman claimed she was innocent. As it happened, she was indeed innocent of the crime.

What had actually happened is that her two accusers—daily visitors to her husband’s house—had seen her and lusted after her. One day when she was alone in the garden, they accosted her.

They demanded she lie with them. If she refused, they said, they’d tell the entire world she was an adulteress. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the woman nevertheless chose to remain true to her marriage vows.

But now she was being condemned to death.

“I am innocent of this crime,” she cried, raising her eyes heavenward.

As it happened, one wise young man believed her. Moreover, he was quite sure the judges were lying. But how was he to prove it?

Now, I would’ve called into question the judges’ story of how they came to witness the woman’s crime. What, I would’ve asked, were you doing in her garden in the first place?

That, while a valid question, would likely not have established the woman’s innocence. After all, the two men were in the habit of visiting the woman’s husband. Who was to say they were lying in wait in her garden? They may simply have been passing through when they noticed her; and she may have been so caught up in her passions she failed to detect their presence.

The strategy the wise young man used, on the other hand, was quite brilliant. He succeeded in proving beyond a shadow of doubt that the woman was innocent and that her accusers were liars.

What do you think he did? It was a simple strategy but very effective.

Post a comment to share your thoughts on how you think this woman’s innocence was established. I’ll share what happened next week. So don’t forget to check back.

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armchair detective