John 8:7 "he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone..."

Ah, yet another one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible, and its misunderstanding is owed primarily to the fact that it is cherry-picked by those who do not read the entire thing, and by those who are ignorant of prevailing Jewish Law at the time. In a recent article by my Brother in Christ, Philip Stallings, specifically in the comments section, two of the most common charges, predictably enough, were brought up as admonishments to Philip’s excellent article:

[1] Matthew 7:1, “Judge not lest ye be Judged.”

[2] John 8:7, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

It is the second of these that I will address here;  Matthew 7:1 was addressed in part 1 of this series.

Like Matthew 7:1, this is probably one of the most misunderstood and cherry-picked verses in the Bible and is frequently used by those to counter others pointing out their sin; implying that we are not to “cast stones” or judge others unless we are sinless. This is not what that verse means. Yet the reader might observe, “but that’s what it says….” Yeah, taken out of context, and taken as a stand-alone statement, that is what it says.

But, one does not draw meaning from a single verse, rather its meaning is drawn from the consideration of the surrounding text, both antecedent and precedent, and against the totality of Scripture as regards to the subject in question. One properly exegetes Scripture using a correct hermeneutic, historicism ( hermeneutical historicism not eschatological historicism ). Historicism is the primary mode of hermeneutics; it assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place, political and social backdrop of the period, and local customs and culture. As such it is in contrast to individualist theories of knowledges such as empiricism and rationalism, which neglect the role of traditions. Historicism, therefore, is strictly within the camp of hermeneutics, because it places great importance on cautious, rigorous and contextualized interpretation of information, or relativist, because it rejects notions of universal, fundamental and immutable interpretations.

So, if you take this verse by itself, and ignore the remaining verses, and the rest of Scripture, then you are cherrypicking this verse and attaching an incorrect meaning to it. But again one does not interpret Scripture by taking one verse out of context. As an example, if I said,

“There is certainly not anyone who knows me, or has read my articles on this matter, who would claim that I support homosexuality, as that would be monumentally incorrect…,”

and then some boob comes along and cherry-picks out, “I support homosexuality,” and then proclaims, “See, Shea supports homosexuality.” This is exactly what people are doing with John 8:7 and Matthew 7:1.
So on to the meat of the matter. The short version:

  • Woman accused of being caught in adultery. Under Jewish law, she is to be stoned.
  • The townsfolk and Pharisees had chased her down and were fixing to stone her when Jesus arrived on the scene.
  • The Pharisees (who were corrupt) attempted to trick Jesus and to test him by seeing if he would order her stoning.
  • They asked him what they should do.
  • He replyied "He among you ( The Pharisees ) who is without sin, let him cast the first stone."

Most people misinterpet this to mean that only those without sin may point out the sin of another, or accuse them. This is wrong. First off, nowhere does Scripture say that you have to be perfect or sinless in order to point out the sin of another, or rebuke them for it. But there are scores of passages where we are told to do so. Many try and use John 8:7 “he among you who is without sin, let him cast the first stone,” as proof that we are not to rebuke or point out the sin of another unless we are sinless ourselves, and this is not what that passage means.  I invite you to think this through; if that is what Jesus was really saying, and IF He was talking about any sin, then you must be saying that all courts, crimes, and punishments should not be in existence, because if everyone is a sinner, none will be capable of judging another and imposing punishment; we would have no laws, no courts, and certainly no punishments because only someone “without sin” could bring an accusation or enact punishment, a patently ridiculous and absurd idea. The entire NT and most of the Old Testament, like the entire book of Leviticus, would be wrong, and Jesus would also be contradicting God (for it was God who gave the Law and the Punishments and instructed Israel to follow them and punish those who broke the law). So let’s discover what this verse really means (remember, one does not interpret Scripture by taking one verse out of context).

To understand this scene, one must be familiar with Jewish Law at the time. Under Jewish Law, a court of at least 23 judges would have to be satisfied, to a legal certainty that the capital offense had been committed before the court could impose a death sentence. Since the testimony of two or more eye-witnesses was required, and the witnesses were subjected to vetting and detailed interrogation by the court, there was rarely an instance when the evidence met the prescribed legal standard, exactly why Jesus intervened in this case; she had not been afforded due process under the Law.

[1] There were no witnesses,

[2] the Sanhedrin of 23 judges had not been convened,

[3] The witnesses ( if any had been present ) had not been vetted,

[4] her lover was not also brought to be stoned.

In short, Jesus came upon a lynching; this woman was accused of being caught in the act of adultery, but the Law had not been followed that proved she did this and which would allow her execution, and since the Law was not followed, only “he who is without Sin,” Jesus, could stone her in the absence of due process.

Being there was no evidence, no witness, and no Judges (23 at a minimum) were present, just a mob, Jesus let her go – with the provision that she ”sin no more….”

One will also note that this is whole scenario is strictly about a person being subjected to capital punishment without due process, and has nothing to do with pointing out or rebuking the sin of another.

But the most important part of this passage is that Jesus was not speaking to the common man when he said "he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone", but to the Pharisees; he was admonishing the Pharisees for their too strict application of the law when they themselves were committing the same or similar sins, a sentiment that is echoed in Matthew 7:1-6. This was not an edict from Jesus to the common man, but was directed at those in legal, ecclesiastical authority over others.

If you are not in ecclesiastical authority over others, this verse does not apply to you, same as Matthew 7:1 does not apply to you.

So readers, gird yourselves well in The Word when debating with the agents of Evil, for they are many, and Satan knows Scripture better than any Man.  When you come across these charges, that you are not being a very good Christian, and someone pulls out either of these verses, educate them on what these verses really mean, and do not be deceived.  If they pull out the love argument, see my previous article on this subject here.

Homosexual Perverts are not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill sinners. They are pure, unadulterated evil, spawns of Satan from the bloody pit of Hades.  Wield the Hammer of God when dealing with them, show them no mercy, for they will surely show you none. Witness to them individually in Love, deal with them collectively with a heavy hand.
And that’s just the way it is.

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