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In Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus appears to contradict himself from His statements in John 8:1-11, and in Matthew 5:29.

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    Suggestions to make this a better question: 1) Include explicit quotations of the cited scriptures (so we readers don't have to look them up), 2) State explicitly what you think is the contradiction. Commented May 18 at 3:18

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Let’s look at the passages:

Matthew 5:27-28 NKJV

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

What we see is that Jesus is expanding the understanding of the commandment “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). Jesus is teaching that it’s not just the act of adultery that is sinful, but even looking at a woman with lustful intent is considered as committing adultery, in the heart. The purpose is to stress the importance of purity in heart and thought, not just in action.

John 8:1-11 NKJV

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Here we see the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus, instead of condemning her, challenges those who were without sin to cast the first stone. When they leave, He tells the woman that He does not condemn her and instructs her to go and sin no more. What we see here is Jesus’ mercy and His focus on transformation/repentance rather than condemnation. What Jesus does not say is that what she did was right.

Matthew 5:29 NKJV

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

In this verse, we see that Jesus uses hyperbolic language to emphasize the seriousness of dealing with sin. The idea is not to literally maim oneself, but to take drastic action in removing the causes of temptation.

  • Jesus is teaching about the importance of purity in thought (Matthew 5:27-28)
  • Jesus is teaching about the need for mercy, transformation, and repentance (John 8:1-11)
  • Jesus is teaching about the seriousness of dealing with sin (Matthew 5:29)

It’s a panoramic approach that deals with both the

  1. internal (heart)
  2. and external (actions)

aspects of living a righteous life. It’s also worth noting that Jesus’ teachings often challenge the listeners to go beyond the literal interpretation of the law to understand its spirit and intent.


From this we can form an inductive argument:

Observation 1: In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus expands the understanding of adultery to include lustful thoughts.

Observation 2: In John 8:1-11, Jesus shows mercy to a woman caught in adultery and instructs her to sin no more.

Observation 3: In Matthew 5:29, Jesus teaches the seriousness of dealing with sin.

Observation 4: In each cases, Jesus is addressing the issue of sin and righteousness, but from different angles (internal thoughts vs. external actions, judgement vs. mercy).

Conclusion: Given these observations, it is reasonable to infer that these teachings are not contradictory but are different focuses of Jesus’ teachings on sin and righteousness. They provide a more comprehensive understanding when viewed together.

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The problem has to do with the sins of men. In Mt. 5, Jesus speaks of the lustful thoughts of men. In John 8, the issue for him is also the sins of men, namely the accusers who had unjustly brought a young woman to be stoned to death. As we have discussed elsewhere, the only crime in the OT which calls for the stoning of an adulterous woman is the case where a man "finds" or "comes upon" a betrothed virgin in the city and has sex with her, but she does not cry out:

Deut. 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.

This seems to describe what we would call a rape. Even if not, there were two injustices done to the young woman whom Jesus defended. First, she alone was brought for punishment, a clear violation of the Law. Second, no witness declared that she failed to cry out, only that she was apprehended while the now-absent man was having his way with her.

Conclusion: Jesus' ruling in the case of the woman taken in adultery did not contradict his teaching in Matthew 5. In Matthew he taught that men must not even look upon women with lustful thoughts. In John 8, the man not only looked at a woman lustfully but committed actual adultery - possibly including rape - yet the woman alone was to be punished. Moreover no evidence was given that she failed to cry out. (It may also be that Jesus considered this aspect of the law to be unjust, but the text does not state this.) In any case, Matthew 5 dealt when the sins of men, for a woman cannot control how a man thinks about her. In John 8, the issue was also the sins of men. Namely, the men who demanded that this young woman be stoned to death were acting in violation of the Law. In calling for her illicit killing, they were attempting to get Jesus to approve their crime. The first of them to cast a stone at her would be committing a grievous sin indeed.

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Jesus forgave the woman, but also told the woman, who was caught in adultery, "Go, and sin no more" (John 8:11). He was establishing a basis for His forgiveness, in that He forgave her sin, but also expected a lifestyle change and an effort by her to stop the adulterous sinning, which can be expanded to include men, who also sin by looking at women lustfully (Matthew 5:27-30).

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  • Welcome to the group Alfred. See my answer for what the OT law taught about stoning women for adultery. BTW Jesus did not actually forgive the woman...He says he does not condemn her and tells her not to sin anymore. But was she even guilty of adultery in God's eyes? Dt. 22 implies that she was a betrothed virgin who had been raped, as I read it. Commented May 18 at 3:24

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