John 8:1-11: Casting the first stone


#1

8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I am interested in some Catholic commentary on this passage, as I do not understand it.

Certainly Jesus is capable of freeing anyone He wishes of earthly justice, but why does he choose this particular case to do so? Surely it was not random, otherwise what would be the point of the story?

Also, why does Jesus use "those without sin" as the criterion for those fit to condemn the woman? I get the sense that he is pointing to the idea that ultimately, God is the judge of all. However, this would seem to lead to a confusing conclusion. After all, since we are all sinners, wouldn't that mean that no one on Earth could ever execute Earthly judgement? :confused:


#2

[quote="VeritasLuxMea, post:1, topic:323142"]
I am interested in some Catholic commentary on this passage, as I do not understand it.

Certainly Jesus is capable of freeing anyone He wishes of earthly justice, but why does he choose this particular case to do so? Surely it was not random, otherwise what would be the point of the story?

Also, why does Jesus use "those without sin" as the criterion for those fit to condemn the woman? I get the sense that he is pointing to the idea that ultimately, God is the judge of all. However, this would seem to lead to a confusing conclusion. After all, since we are all sinners, wouldn't that mean that no one on Earth could ever execute Earthly judgement? :confused:

[/quote]

I do not think Jesus is against 'earthly justice', but rather 'wrong justice'.

1- Justice should be fair.
Stoning a woman for adultery is excessive, since the sin ought not to be punished in such strong way.
If we are going to punish with excess violence people we ought first realize our own sins and what WE would deserve under our own standards!

2- Jesus seeks to redeem, not kill or destroy.
Sinners should be punished or reprimanded, but in a way that they repent and seek the truth and the good.
That's why he does not condemn but says 'Go and SIN NO MORE'.

3- Human justice is flawed. That is why harsh and unjust penalties are not warranted. They might either punish the innocent or be too grave against those who commit small sins or crimes.
Death penalties, for example should only occur when a person is 100% guilty and is a treat that cannot be contained (so today we need not to kill prisoners since we have efficient prisons methinks)


#3

Thank you very much for your response Ismael, it answered many of my questions!

[quote="Ismael, post:2, topic:323142"]
I do not think Jesus is against 'earthly justice', but rather 'wrong justice'.

1- Justice should be fair.
Stoning a woman for adultery is excessive, since the sin ought not to be punished in such strong way.

[/quote]

My only confusion with this is: does that mean Jesus is saying the Law of Moses was wrong? :confused:

2- Jesus seeks to redeem, not kill or destroy.
Sinners should be punished or reprimanded, but in a way that they repent and seek the truth and the good.
That's why he does not condemn but says 'Go and SIN NO MORE'.

So you would say that Jesus thinks rehabilitation is more important than punishment?

3- Human justice is flawed. That is why harsh and unjust penalties are not warranted. They might either punish the innocent or be too grave against those who commit small sins or crimes.
Death penalties, for example should only occur when a person is 100% guilty and is a treat that cannot be contained (so today we need not to kill prisoners since we have efficient prisons methinks)

This makes sense to me. Thank you.


#4

The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius Lapide

Ver. 7.—When therefore they continued asking Him. Because they did not see clearly what He had written, or pretended they did not. They therefore urge Him to reply explicitly to their captious question, believing that He could not escape from the horns of a dilemma by going against the law if He acquitted the woman or against His own compassion, were He to condemn her.
He lifted up Himself and said, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. Ye Scribes and Pharisees have committed greater sins than this woman, as your conscience testifies; do not therefore so rigidly and importunately urge her condemnation, but rather have pity for her, as sinners for a sinner, as guilty for a guilty one, as criminals for a criminal. For otherwise, if ye condemn her, ye ought to condemn yourselves; if ye wish to stone her, ye yourselves ought to be stoned, nay more, to be burned. Observe Christ's prudence. He maintains the law in conceding that an adulteress was guilty of death, but adds that the Scribes should not so pertinaciously urge her death, but rather have compassion on her, since outwardly professing sanctity, but inwardly conscious of greater sins, they should wish indulgence to be shown to themselves both by God and man. So S. Augustine. "Ye have heard, Let the law be fulfilled, let the adulteress be stoned. But in punishing her must the law be fulfilled by those who deserve punishment?" And again, "Jesus said not, Let her not be stoned; lest He should seem to speak against the law. But be it far from Him to say, Let her be stoned; for He came not to destroy that which He had formed, but to save that which had perished. What then answered He? 'He who is without sin of you,' &c 0 answer of wisdom! How did He make them look unto themselves! They brought charges against others, they did not carefully search out themselves within." "What more divine," says S. Ambrose, "than that saying, that He should punish sin who is Himself devoid of it? For how couldest thou endure one who punishes another's sin, and defends his own? For does he not condemn himself the more, who condemns in another what he himself commits?"
But thou wilt say Christ here seems to do away with the use of tribunals of justice, and their strictness. But I answer, Christ launched not this sentence against judges, but only against the Scribes, who as private persons contended that Christ should take on Himself to judge the adulteress, and condemn her according to law. This He refused to do, and having been sent to save, and not to condemn sinners, He retorted it upon themselves, as follows; "If ye are not judges, and yet are so desirous of punishing this adultery, take it upon yourselves, stone the adulteress, if ye are so pure and holy as not to have committed adultery, or any other sin;" for if the Scribes had condemned her to be stoned, Jesus would not have freed her from the punishment she justly deserved. Moreover, it is the judge's duty to condemn a criminal, when convicted, though conscious that he is himself guilty of the same or a similar offence. And yet, if guilty himself it is unseemly in him to condemn another for a like offence.
Christ then in these words quietly advises judges to lead innocent lives themselves. As a moral rule, Christ teaches us that we ought to judge ourselves before we judge others. S. Gregory (Moral. Lib. 13. cap. iv.) gives the reason. "For he who judges not himself in the first place, knows not how to pass right judgment on another. For his own conscience supplies no rule to go by. These Scribes then are summoned first to look within, and find out their own faults, before reproving others." On which head there are well known proverbs. "First prune thy own vineyards," &c.


#5

St. Thomas Aquinas Catena Aurea

ALCUIN. The sitting down, represents the humility of His incarnation. And the people came to Him, when He sat down, i.e. after taking up human nature, and thereby becoming visible, many began to hear and believe on Him, only knowing Him as their friend and neighbor. But while these kind and simple persons are full of admiration at our Lord’s discourse, the Scribes and Pharisees put questions to Him, not for the sake of instruction, but only to entangle the truth in their nets: And the Scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say to Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, if the very act.

AUG. They had remarked upon, Him already, as being over lenient. Of Him indeed it had I been prophesied, Ride on because of the word of truth, of meekness, and of righteousness. So as a teacher He exhibited truth, as a deliverer meekness, as a judge righteousness. When He spoke, His truth was acknowledged; when against His enemies He used no violence, His meekness was praised. So they raised the scandal on the score of justice For they said among themselves, If He decide to let her go He will not do justice; for the law cannot command what is unjust: Now Moses in the law commanded as, that such should be stoned: but to maintain His meekness, which has made Him already so acceptable to the people, He must decide to let her go. Wherefore they demand His opinion: And what say You? hoping to find an occasion to accuse Him, as a transgressor of the law: And this they said tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But our Lord in His answer both maintained His justice, and departed not from meekness. Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground.

AUG. As if to signify that such persons were to be written in earth, not in heaven, where He told His disciples they should rejoice they were v written. Or His bowing His head (to write on the ground), is an expression of humility; the writing on the ground signifying that His law was written on the earth which bore fruit, not on the barren stone, as before.

ALCUIN. The ground denotes the human heart, which yields the fruit either of good or of bad actions: the finger jointed and flexible, discretion. He instructs us then, when we see any faults in our neighbors, not immediately and rashly to condemn them, but after searching our own hearts to begin with, to examine them attentively with the finger of discretion.

BEDE. His writing with His finger on the ground perhaps showed, that it was He who had written the law on stone. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted Himself up.

AUG. He did not say, Stone her not, lest He should seem to speak contrary to the law. But God forbid that He should say, Stone her; for He came not to destroy that which He found, but to seek that which was lost. What then did He answer? He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. This is the voice of justice. Let the sinner be punished, but not by sinners; the law carried into effect, but not by transgressors of the law.

GREG. For he who judges not himself first, cannot know how to judge correctly in the case of another. For though He know what the offense is, from being told, yet He cannot judge of another’s deserts, who supposing himself innocent, will not apply the rule of justice to himself.

AUG. Having with the weapon of justice smitten them, He deigned not even to look on the fallen, but averted His eyes: And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

ALCUIN. This is like our Lord; while His eyes are fixed, and He seems attending to something else, He gives the bystanders an opportunity of retiring: a tacit admonition to us to consider always both before we condemn a brother for a sin, and after we have punished him, whether we are not guilty ourselves of the same fault, or others as bad.

AUG. Thus smitten then with the voice of justice, as with a weapon, they examine themselves, find themselves guilty, and one by one retire: And they which heard it, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest.

GLOSS. The more guilty of them, perhaps, or those who were more conscious of their faults.


#6

[quote="VeritasLuxMea, post:3, topic:323142"]
Thank you very much for your response Ismael, it answered many of my questions!

My only confusion with this is: does that mean Jesus is saying the Law of Moses was wrong? :confused:

[/quote]

Jesus comes to FULFILL Moses' Law. Mosaic Law was not perfect because people were not ready yet because of the 'hardness of their harts'

As in Matthew 19 Jesus says when discussing divorce:

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’**? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning**. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

So Mosaic law, especially in its practical application was not 'wrong' but not perfect either.

Jesus comes to fullfill the law, perfect it. Jesus IS the law in a sense.

That is why we do not follow all the mosaic Law.

Mosaic Law was devided in:
1- Moral teachings
2- Social Laws -Teachings that aided Jews to leave well and separate them from pagans (ie do not eat pork, do not use certain fabrics)
3- Liturgical LAws (how to celebrate passover, celebrations in the temple etc...)

The MORAL laws remain (ie do not kill, do not comit adultery), but the social and liturgical laws applied only for the Jews

Since Christianity is for ALL we do not be set apart from other peoples. For the Jews it was VERY important to be distinct from other peoples, since they worshipped false Gods and the Israelites where the 'Chosen People' of the true God...

Since we have the Eucharist and Jesus' scarifice we do not need the old liturgies, but we have new ones (albeit they are rooted in Judaism).

Also in the application of punishments we are not bound, but we must follow Jesus final teachings.

[quote]So you would say that Jesus thinks rehabilitation is more important than punishment?

I think there is no distinction. Punishment is mean for these purposes:

1- Satifying justice (ie if I steal something I ought to pay it back)
2- Rehabilitate the criminal (like when you get a fine for speeding... it is meant as a punishment to make ypou understand speeding is wrong and stop you from doing it again)
3- If necessary stop the criminal from doing bad things again (by a prison sentence or death)

That is why excessive punishment is not warranted or just. It might fullfill #3, but not #1 and #2.
[/quote]


#7

From the Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 1, &c.[1] The last verse of the foregoing chapter, and the eleven verses that follow in this, are not found in the greater part of our present Greek copies, yet they are in some manuscripts and so are retained in the Protestant translation. We read nothing of them in the commentaries of St. Chrysostom or St. Cyril; but St. Jerome (lib. ii. con. Pelag. tom. 4, part 2, p. 521. Ed. Ben.) says, they were found in many both Latin and Greek copies. St. Ambrose (Ep. 52.) says this passage, of the woman taken in adultery, was always famous in the Church. St. Augustine expounds them, tract. in Joan, &c. (Witham)

Ver. 6. Wrote with his finger, as one that was musing about something else. (Witham)

Ver. 7. We cannot with any propriety reprehend or condemn faults in others, if we ourselves be guilty of the same, or other great faults, St. Cyril, in Joan. --- See annotations on Matthew vii, ver. 1.

Ver. 9. Went out one by one,[2] confounded, and as it is in the ordinary Greek copies, convicted by their own conscience. (Witham)

Ver. 11. Hence we may see how impious is the doctrine of those who say that God is the author of sin. Christ did not say to the woman: I do not condemn thy sin; or, go and live now as thou pleasest, I will free thee from all punishment due to any sin thou shalt commit: but he only said, Go, and from henceforth sin no more: thus preserving his amiable virtue of clemency, and still not encouraging vice. (St. Augustine)


#8

God has the power to forgive us and he, Jesus, created the sacrament of Reconciliation where it is not the priest who forgives us for he is en persona Christe. Jesus' teachings include many examples of Eucharistic language that everyone is familiar is, but he also points to Reconciliation in his teachings. One thing that is believed to be a part of this passage is that Jesus was writing the sins of the high priests in the dirt and when they saw it they were astounded and knew they could not condemn the women. Jesus wants us to ask for his forgiveness, but how can we do that if we do not know he is offering it to us. Passages like this are this offering.


#9

[quote="Ismael, post:2, topic:323142"]
I do not think Jesus is against 'earthly justice', but rather 'wrong justice'.

1- Justice should be fair.
Stoning a woman for adultery is excessive, since the sin ought not to be punished in such strong way.

[/quote]

Hmm. :hmmm: So, the Mosaic Law, which the Pharisees were quoting to Jesus, is 'unfair'? It's 'excessive'? It's 'earthly' and 'wrong', not 'divine'?

No... this was a trap that the Pharisees had set for Jesus. One of the jaws of the trap is exactly this side of the argument that you're advocating here: if Jesus doesn't stand for the justice written into the Mosaic Law, then he's saying that the Law is bad and telling people to ignore their covenant with God.

2- Jesus seeks to redeem, not kill or destroy.
Sinners should be punished or reprimanded, but in a way that they repent and seek the truth and the good.

Again, this would play right into the hands of the Pharisees: "Your 'Teacher' is against the Law of Moses! What kind of 'Messiah' is he?"

3- Human justice is flawed. That is why harsh and unjust penalties are not warranted. They might either punish the innocent or be too grave against those who commit small sins or crimes.

So... you're saying that the Mosaic covenant was inherently flawed? You're still not helping Jesus, in this context... ;)


#10

The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus: either he says “free her” (and the Pharisees accuse him of being unfaithful to the Mosaic law), or he says “kill her” (and the Pharisees have a field day, and are able to say both “Jesus agrees with us” and “the so-called ‘mercy’ of Jesus isn’t anything different than what we’re teaching you!”).

Jesus chooses a third way: mercy. While not saying “ignore the Law that God gave to Moses”, he nonetheless holds the Pharisees to a higher standard: not only are we called to obey God’s law in the transgressions of others, we’re called to obey it in our own failings; just as we hope for mercy from God, we are called to provide mercy to others.

This is the lesson of this story in John 8… :thumbsup:


#11

=VeritasLuxMea;10626812]I am interested in some Catholic commentary on this passage, as I do not understand it.

Certainly Jesus is capable of freeing anyone He wishes of earthly justice, but why does he choose this particular case to do so? Surely it was not random, otherwise what would be the point of the story?

Also, why does Jesus use “those without sin” as the criterion for those fit to condemn the woman? I get the sense that he is pointing to the idea that ultimately, God is the judge of all. However, this would seem to lead to a confusing conclusion. After all, since we are all sinners, wouldn’t that mean that no one on Earth could ever execute Earthly judgement? :confused:

No, that’s not the point. Did not Jesus say to render unto Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar, and to God, what belongs to God.:slight_smile:

This is a Moral instruction; very much along the same lines as "remove the PLANK from your own eye before trying to remove the SPLINTER from your brothers eye.

Clean yourself before accusing others!:thumbsup:

Jesus uses VERY wisely seeks “those without sin” KNOWING full well there ain’t any.
1 John 1:8-10:); thus NO STONE ought to be thrown. Amen?

And God Is the judge of All but consider also this:

Mt. 7; 12-25
All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! Beware of false prophets, [AND OR Judges] who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. [Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them."

Hope this clarifies it for you my friend!

[21] Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. [22] Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? [23] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. [24] Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, [25] And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock.


#12

In order to understand this passage it is good to consider the attitude of Judaism toward sin. In Jewish theology there is no gradation in sinfulness. There is no such thing as “mortal” or “venial” sin. St. James writes that if one is guilty of transgressing even the finest point of the Law, one is guilty of transgressing the whole Law. Therefore, all sinners are equally liable to the severest punishment.
When Jesus demands that the first stone be cast by one without sin, He is invoking this Hebraic concept. If she is guilty unto death, then only one completely sinless has the right to exact the price. Each of the scholars in His audience had to recall the rabbinic saying that “The just man sins seven times a day.” None was able to honestly claim sinlessness.
The point of the story is not rehabilitation, but forgiveness and repentance.

Reb Levi


#13

[quote="drafdog, post:12, topic:323142"]
In order to understand this passage it is good to consider the attitude of Judaism toward sin. In Jewish theology there is no gradation in sinfulness. There is no such thing as "mortal" or "venial" sin. St. James writes that if one is guilty of transgressing even the finest point of the Law, one is guilty of transgressing the whole Law. Therefore, all sinners are equally liable to the severest punishment.
When Jesus demands that the first stone be cast by one without sin, He is invoking this Hebraic concept. If she is guilty unto death, then only one completely sinless has the right to exact the price. Each of the scholars in His audience had to recall the rabbinic saying that "The just man sins seven times a day." None was able to honestly claim sinlessness.
The point of the story is not rehabilitation, but forgiveness and repentance.

Reb Levi

[/quote]

Thank you for your explanation, but I'm still lost here.

If you are saying that:

  1. No one is sinless.
  2. Only one who is sinless can exact this punishment.

Then are you not also saying that:

  1. No one should have ever exacted this punishment?

If so, then... well, God gave them the law. So why would the law have allowed for this to begin with? Are you saying that no one understood the law besides Jesus? I don't get why God would give the law, then allow it to be misunderstood for so long without saying anything.

OK, but, if the law requires those who enforce it to be sinless, and no man is sinless, then how could any man enforce the law? It sounds like Jesus is saying not to enforce the law?

If the law is supposed to be enforced by men, but only the sinless can enforce the law and no man is sinless... then isn't he right that the law is flawed?

What does it mean for Jesus to "be" the law? I know that there is some truth to what you are saying, as I've heard it many times before, but I don't know: how can a person be the law?


#14

, In Mosaic Law a judge was held to a very high standard.they were to be above the mob mentality. They were always to .seek justice evenhandedly, without predjudice toward rich or.poor. so dragging a person on the ground and getting to stone her would be a no no. Capitol cases required at least two witnesses. They could say she was an adulterer: but where is the court? Where are the two witnesses? Jesus knows thatthey are breaking the law and they have no legal right to do what they doing.. what does he do? He shows them their own hypocrisy. Claiming one law while breaking another is hypocrisy. They cannot do what they want to because it is not 'legal ' to do it. He also teaches them about mercy the "hesed "of God. A quality to be emulated by his people.


#15

Of course the Pharisees were wanting to trap Jesus. If He condemned the woman then the Romans would arrest Him for inciting the killing of a civilian and if Jesus didn’t condemn the woman then He would lose face as the heralded Jewish Messiah upholding Jewish law.

I have heard it said that a title the Pharisees gave themselves was ‘faultless’ or ‘without sin’.

This would then add an extra layer of ambiguity to Jesus’ words - ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’

Before the crowd has left it would seem that Jesus’ words neatly sidestep the trap laid for him while giving people something new to think about.

Jesus is upholding Jewish law in the strict sense but putting the onus back on the Pharisees (‘those without sin’) to carry it out. With the Pharisees not stoning the woman it gives the crowd a new perspective and makes it look like the Pharisees have changed their mind on hearing Jesus’ words.

In this reading the Pharisees do not stone her because they have a twinge of conscience, but that they are scared of the Romans and cannot hide behind the crowd or point to Jesus as the instigator.

It is only after the crowd has left that Jesus tells the woman of His judgement on her and thus confirms a different teaching.

I would appreciate if someone could confirm the Pharisee title mentioned above. Thanks.


#16

I disagree with drafdog’s contention: it was never the case that men were sinless (in fact, that seems to be the whole point of the Noah story!); therefore, when Jesus speaks here, He is innovating. Jesus’ solution isn’t to say “do the law” or “do not do the law”, but rather “OK, in this case, if you are sinless, then perform the law”

OK, but, if the law requires those who enforce it to be sinless, and no man is sinless, then how could any man enforce the law? It sounds like Jesus is saying not to enforce the law?

That’s just it – the law doesn’t require its enforcers to be sinless.

So, I don’t think Jesus is placing this requirement on anyone. Rather, he’s pointing to their sin (which may include the circumstances under which they bring this woman – see juliamajor’s discussion) and telling them that if their own hands are clean (in this matter, perhaps?), then they can exact justice.

If the law is supposed to be enforced by men, but only the sinless can enforce the law and no man is sinless… then isn’t he right that the law is flawed?

How so? How does the state of humanity warp the Word of God?


#17

Following on from my previous post …

So after setting out to trap Jesus, the Pharisees were actually reluctantly co-opted into appearing to give their support to the young Galilean upstart.

Being outsmarted like that would add to their anger in wanting to permanently remove Jesus from their Holy City.


#18

Just to add a little on these great answers, a couple of points:
(i) Jesus realised they were just trying to trick him and that in their hearts they didn't care about either the woman or justice.
(ii) Notice what they say: "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery." Oh, really? So where's the husband who is guilty too - after all, the Law of Moses says they should both be stoned (Deut. 22:23-24)? She's just a ploy for them to get at Jesus.


#19

In the previous chapter Jesus accuses the Pharisees of not keeping the law

''Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law.'' (John 7:19)

Jesus also seems to be winning over a lot of the Jews including Nicodemus.

''When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This is really the prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” (Jn 7:40-4)

In response the Pharisees set up a trap for Jesus. ''Oh really Jesus, we are law breakers? Let's see how you keep the law!!'' The trap is set up in such a way that there seems to be only two possible outcomes:

  1. In the first century the Jews could not carry out capital punishment. The Romans had forbidden them to do so which is why they try to get Pilate to put Jesus to death but

''Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” (Jn 18:31)

If Jesus authorizes the stoning, the Pharisees will tell the Romans who will execute Jesus for being an insurrectionist rebelling against their law.

  1. If Jesus does not authorize the stoning he will appear to his new followers to be rejecting the law of Moses. This will totally discredit him in the eyes of his new followers. What Messiah would go against the law of Moses?

So it seems that they have set up the perfect trap, how can he possibly get out of this? the Pharisees believe that they are blameless based on the law (i.e sinless Phil 3:5-6). Jesus, knowing what they think of themselves, turns their trap right around on them by saying ''Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Now the tables are turned. The Pharisees believe they are without sin and so qualified to stone her but what happens if they do? There are two possible outcomes.

  1. If they stone her, the Romans will hear and the Pharisees will be seen as the insurrectionists, and therefore fall into the hands of the Romans.

  2. If they don't stone her they will appear to the crowd as sinners who are not qualified to throw the stone.

And so with brilliance Jesus evades the trap and exposes the pharisees for the sinners compromisers that they really are.

Then Jesus turns to the woman and shows her his mercy. Now that Jesus has brought about forgiveness of sins he forgives the woman and tells her to sin no more.


#20

[quote="Gorgias, post:16, topic:323142"]
I disagree with drafdog's contention: it was never the case that men were sinless (in fact, that seems to be the whole point of the Noah story!); therefore, when Jesus speaks here, He is innovating. Jesus' solution isn't to say "do the law" or "do not do the law", but rather "OK, in this case, if you are sinless, then perform the law"

[/quote]

I'm sorry for pressing you further, but what is the innovation? Don't punish others for their sin unless you are without sin?

That's just it -- the law doesn't require its enforcers to be sinless.

So, I don't think Jesus is placing this requirement on anyone. Rather, he's pointing to their sin (which may include the circumstances under which they bring this woman -- see juliamajor's discussion) and telling them that if their own hands are clean (in this matter, perhaps?), then they can exact justice.

OK, so he's saying that you can only enforce the law if the way in which you have enforced the law is sinless?

How so?

Well I think it's fair to say that it's flawed if it requires us to do something which we cannot do (enforce it).


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