2

John 8:5 - "Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

It turns out that the Law of Moses does not specify stoning as the punishment for adultery as far as I can tell. The text (Leviticus 20:10) says that adulterers (both the man and the woman) are to be put do death but not how. Stoning seems to have been reserved for crimes against God such as blasphemy, idolatry and witchcraft, according the Jewish Encyclopedia.

Are there any instances of people being stoned to death for adultery in the Torah? If not was there any basis for the report to that effect in John's gospel? Was it the Pharisees who were mistaken, or was it the author of the story (which apparently does not appear in early manuscripts and may come from a different source than the author of the Gospel.)

5
  • 3
    How about Deu 22:23-24? Jul 3, 2023 at 19:34
  • 1
    This would mean Does this mean that we are speaking of a rape victim -- a young betrothed virgin as well -- rather than a adulteress as we normally think of the term? 22:23 If there is a young woman, a virgin who is betrothed, and a man comes upon her in the city and lies with her, 24 you shall bring them both out to the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the young woman because she did not cry out though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. Jul 3, 2023 at 23:20
  • If that were the case, it certainly sheds light on why Jesus would defend her. Do you think this was actually the case, that this "adulteress" was both a virgin and a rape victim? Jul 3, 2023 at 23:23
  • The scripture doesn't seem to take her as a rape victim as 'she didn't cry out though she was in the city'. There is a significant difference in description about the two scenario in verse 23 & 25, where vv23 doesn't have 'rape' but vv25 has. Jul 4, 2023 at 1:54
  • So not a rape victim because she didn't cry out. Perhaps it is the injustice of such a legal standard that caused Jesus to defend her. Makes me wonder if some of his opponents spread rumors that his own mother was guilty of the same crime -- a virgin who was with child not by her betrothed husband. Jul 4, 2023 at 2:27

1 Answer 1

2

The capital punishment of stoning is only specified a few times in the Torah for very specific crimes:

  1. Ex 19:13 - if a person came too close or touched Mt Sinai while God was on the mountain
  2. Ex 21:28, 29, 32 - if a bull gores someone, it had to be killed by stoning
  3. Deut 13:10 - idolators must be stoned
  4. Deut 17:5 - idolators must be stoned
  5. Deut 22:21-27 - adulterers must be stoned

The significant point about the incident in John 8:5 is that the BOTH the man and woman must be stoned (Deut 22:22) and the accusers had only brought the woman. This is only one of many aspects of this incident that proves how illegal the accusers themselves were.

11
  • Do you think Dt. 22 is the applicable law here? In that case the woman seems to be a rape victim and virgin to boot. "22:23 If there is a young woman, a virgin who is betrothed, and a man comes upon her in the city and lies with her, 24 you shall bring them both out to the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the young woman because she did not cry out though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife." Jul 3, 2023 at 23:29
  • 1
    @DanFefferman - the answer is very likely. Indeed, there has been very early commentary that she was set up as elaborate trap for Jesus. Further, the Jewish Jurisprudence required that if one saw a crime about to occur, one had to do everything to try to prevent it. Thus, the accusers were more guilty than the accused girl.
    – Dottard
    Jul 4, 2023 at 0:12
  • 1
    @Mary - I am not saying that. However, the fact that they were discovered "in the very act" means that both were seen, but only the woman (illegally) was brought.
    – Dottard
    Jul 4, 2023 at 1:48
  • 1
    @Mary - quite the contrary - if they were discovered 'in the very act" then both could have been arrested and brought to Jesus - it was a large crowd. Indeed, some early commentators suggested it was a set-up for the woman to help trap Jesus but it did not work. Jesus dealt with the situation in such was at to save the accusers as well as the woman.
    – Dottard
    Jul 4, 2023 at 1:57
  • 1
    @Mary - yes as only witnesses could bring charges - charges could not be brought on the basis of hearsay.
    – Dottard
    Jul 4, 2023 at 1:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.