Did Yeshua Nullify or Uphold the Law with the Woman Caught in Adultery in John 8? (By Guest Blogger Sarah Rush)

I hear people continually saying that Yeshua gave us a higher standard than that what is already in the Torah. They say Yeshua gave us love and grace whereas the Torah was all about dos and don’ts. The story of the woman caught in adultery, in John 8, is one of the common proof texts that people to use to show that Yeshua didn’t demand woman’s execution and hence he exercised grace rather than law. When I heard the following explanation of that account from a Torah perspective, by Sarah Rush, I felt it worthy of sharing with you. Enjoy. – Douglas Hamp

Commentary by Sarah Rush

The number of biblical commandments being broken in the story of the adulteress is actually quite astounding. First, any woman caught in adultery would have been taken WITH THE GUILTY MAN with whom she was caught, and brought to the established judges, who generally were found at the city gates. These judges were set in place to hear and try cases such as these. If the accused woman was only *suspected* of being unfaithful, it was the HUSBAND who had to bring her for judgment, and he actually had to bring her before the temple priests in this case. But in this John chapter 8 situation, it is alleged that the woman was caught in the act by witnesses, so the judges at the gates would have been the proper authorities to hear the allegations. However, as mentioned, both the man and the woman would have been required for the accusation.

Next, the actual witness had to make the accusation, and at least two witnesses were required in order for the matter to be established. In the John 8 account, not only did they bypass the proper authorities for hearing such accusations, but no witnesses came forth to go on record as having actually observed the event.

The scribes and pharisees were correct in one thing – that the Mosaic law would have demanded that the woman be stoned to death – but that death sentence required that the accusation be submitted before the proper authorities, in the correct legal fashion, and that all legal criteria be met (both the man and the woman presented, witnesses established, that both be found guilty in such a court).

Because they opted instead to skip all of these steps and go directly to Yeshua, they have already nullified their attempted allegations. Aware of their intent, Yeshua answered them in the proper LEGAL fashion. He responds by requesting that the guiltless party be the first to cast the stone. He does this because in Deuteronomy 13, the Mosaic law tells us clearly that in cases where a guilty verdict would require the death penalty, it was the responsibility of the ACCUSING WITNESS to be the first person to cast the stone. Why would God enact such a bizarre decree? It is actually quite a genius maneuver. Because it was up to that witness to initiate the stoning process, thus making him or her responsible for taking the life of this person who has been found guilty, it puts the burden on the witness to ensure absolutely that their testimony has been truthful. If they have misrepresented the facts and corrupted the judgment in any way, they have made themselves guilty of bearing false witness and murdering, which are two of the ten commandments. This person would then bear blood guilt which the temple sacrifices would not cover.

So, when Yeshua offered the honors of casting the first stone, he was challenging these men to put their life on the line with their testimony against the woman. Being scribes and pharisees, they would have known the law well enough to realize that they could not cast a stone at her without being guilty of intentional / high-handed transgression. Yeshua said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” He was CLEARLY referring to guilt in this accusation against this woman, not *in general*. How do I know this? It was the oldest men who dropped their rocks and retreated first – the men who knew the law BEST. They knew they’d been HAD.

Further, he asks the woman a bizarre question – he inquires about her accusers, and her condemnation. He is being 100% Torah-compliant here, asking who stands as an accuser against her, and whether she had been found guilty by the judges. She responds that no such person remains, to which Yeshua replies that he also does not condemn her. He says himself in several different places and ways (mostly in John) that he himself did not come to judge – and he proves that in this case of the alleged adulteress – and in a very specifically legal way!

Finally, it is curious to note that we never learn whether this woman was in fact guilty of adultery. No one asks her. I would propose to you that she very well might not have been, and that somehow she got swept up in the authorities’ attempt to trip Yeshua up with the law. If this is the case, she might have been guilty of violating Exodus 23:1-2, which says “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.” This might be why Yeshua concludes with her by saying, “Go, and sin no more” – not because she was an adulteress, but because she participated in a mob whose intent was to bring harm to others.