John 8:7
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
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(7) So when they continued asking him.—He would have avoided their question, and continued, as is here implied, for some time in the action of writing; but they will now interrupt that action. It seems to them that He cannot avoid the snare in which they have placed Him, and that He is seeking the only escape in silence. But there is an answer of which they think not, and this He stands up to give.

He that is without sin among you.—The word rendered “without sin” is frequent in the classical writers, but is found in this place only in the New Testament. It takes here a special meaning from the context, and is to be understood of the class of sins of which her sin was an instance. (Comp. the word “sinner” as used in Luke 7:37.) Of the immorality among the Jewish rulers, which gives force to these words, evidence is not wanting. Still the wider meaning is probably not excluded. They who ask this question about the Seventh Commandment were themselves breaking the Sixth and the Ninth. It is to be noted, in the application of this answer, that our Lord does not lay down sinlessness as the necessary condition of fitness for taking part in the punishment of guilt. This would be to nullify law, for there could be then no human executive power. He is not speaking in a case brought before the appointed tribunal, but in a case where men assume to themselves the position of judges of another’s guilt. In the judge, while he wears the robe of justice, the individual man ceases to exist, and he becomes the representative of God; but these can now speak only as men, and condemn her only by the contrast of a higher purity. (Comp. Notes on John 10:34 et seq.)

Let him first cast a stone at her.—The Received text and some MSS. (not including the Cambridge MS.) read “the stone,” the stone referred to in John 8:5. “Let him first” means “let him first of you”; not “let him cast the first stone.” This was the duty of the witnesses. (See marginal reference.) We must not take the words to express permission only; it is an imperative, expressing command.

John 8:7-9. When they continued asking him — That is, pressed him with great importunity to give an answer, thinking, no doubt, that they had him at a great advantage; he lifted up himself, and, without replying directly to their demand, said, He that is without sin among you — He that is not guilty (his own conscience being the judge) either of the same sin or of some nearly resembling it; let him — As a witness; first cast a stone at her — He alludes to the law, (Deuteronomy 17:7,) which ordered, that the hands of the witnesses, by whose testimony an idolater was convicted, should be first upon him, and afterward the hands of all the people. Our Lord’s meaning was, Persons exceedingly zealous in getting punishment executed on others, ought to be free themselves at least from gross sins; for which cause, as you are all guilty of equal, or greater, or, it may be, the like offences, and deserve the wrath of God, you should show mercy to this sinner, who may have fallen through the strength of temptation, rather than of evil inclination, and who is now truly sorry for her offence. Our Lord’s words made such an impression on the minds of these hypocrites, and raised in them such strong convictions of sin, as soon put their zeal to shame; and made them afraid to stay, lest Jesus should have made their particular sins public. And he again stooped down and wrote on the ground — Giving them an opportunity to withdraw, which they embraced; and being convicted by their own consciences — That is, their consciences smiting them with remorse, because, at some time or other of their lives, they had been guilty, either of the very sin for which they proposed to have this woman stoned, or of some crime or crimes equally great: they went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last Αρξαμενοι απο των πρεσβυτερων εως των εσχατων. This, Keuchenius interprets, beginning at the most honourable, even unto the lowest of them, and this they did, although, when they first came, they had been exceedingly incensed against her. And Jesus was left alone — By all those scribes and Pharisees who proposed the question. But many others remained, to whom our Lord directed his discourse presently after.

8:1-11 Christ neither found fault with the law, nor excused the prisoner's guilt; nor did he countenance the pretended zeal of the Pharisees. Those are self-condemned who judge others, and yet do the same thing. All who are any way called to blame the faults of others, are especially concerned to look to themselves, and keep themselves pure. In this matter Christ attended to the great work about which he came into the world, that was, to bring sinners to repentance; not to destroy, but to save. He aimed to bring, not only the accused to repentance, by showing her his mercy, but the prosecutors also, by showing them their sins; they thought to insnare him, he sought to convince and convert them. He declined to meddle with the magistrate's office. Many crimes merit far more severe punishment than they meet with; but we should not leave our own work, to take that upon ourselves to which we are not called. When Christ sent her away, it was with this caution, Go, and sin no more. Those who help to save the life of a criminal, should help to save the soul with the same caution. Those are truly happy, whom Christ does not condemn. Christ's favour to us in the forgiveness of past sins should prevail with us, Go then, and sin no more.They continued asking him - They pressed the question upon him. They were determined to extort an answer from him, and showed a perseverance in evil which has been unhappily often imitated.

Is without sin - That is, without this particular sin; he who has not himself been guilty of this very crime - for in this place the connection evidently demands this meaning.

Let him first cast a stone at her - In the punishment by death, one of the witnesses threw the culprit from the scaffold, and the other threw the first stone, or rolled down a stone to crush him. See Deuteronomy 17:6-7. This was in order that the witness might feel his responsibility in giving evidence, as he was also to be the executioner. Jesus therefore put them to the test. Without pronouncing on her case, he directed them, if any of them were innocent, to perform the office of executioner. This was said, evidently, well knowing their guilt, and well knowing that no one would dare to do it.

7. He that is without sin—not meaning sinless altogether; nor yet, guiltless of a literal breach of the Seventh Commandment; but probably, he whose conscience acquits him of any such sin.

cast a stone—"the stone," meaning the first one (De 17:7).

They will not let our Saviour alone, but importune him for an answer. He saith,

He that is without sin, let him first cast a stone at her. The law of God was, Deu 17:7, that in the execution of malefactors, The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death. In reason those who are zealous for the punishment of others, should neither be guilty of the same, nor of greater crimes, themselves. By this saying of our Saviour, we must not understand it the will of God, that those who are magistrates, and employed in executing the Lord’s vengeance on malefactors, should themselves be free from all guilt, for then no justice should be done. The vengeance is God’s, not theirs; it is the law of God which they execute. He only by this minds them of that compassion which ought to be found in persons prosecuting others justly, that they may execute judgment with compassion and tenderness, and such moderation as the law will allow them, considering that they are not free from guilt, but as obnoxious to the justice of God for other sins, as those poor creatures whom God hath suffered to fall into sins punishable by human judges.

So when they continued asking him,.... For observing that he put himself in such a posture, they concluded that they had puzzled and perplexed him, and that he knew not what to say; and therefore they were more urgent for a speedy answer, hoping they should get an advantage of him; and that they should be able to expose him, and that his confusion would appear to all the people:

he lift up himself and said unto them; having raised up himself, he looked wistly at them, and returned them this wise answer to, their confusion:

he that is without sin among you; meaning, not that was entirely free from sin, in heart, in lip, and life; for there is no such person; the most holy man in life is not, in such sense, free from sin; but that was without any notorious sin, or was not guilty of some scandalous sin, and particularly this of adultery; which was in this age a prevailing sin, and even among their doctors; hence our Lord calls that generation an adulterous one, Matthew 12:39; and which was literally true of them; with this compare Romans 2:22. Adultery increased to such a degree in this age, that they were obliged to leave off the trial of suspected wives, because their husbands were generally guilty this way; and the waters would have no effect, if the husband was criminal also: so the Jews say (q),

"when adulterers increased, the bitter waters ceased; and Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai (who was now living) caused them to cease.''

In vindication of which, he cited the passage in Hosea 4:14; and this agrees with their own account of the times of the Messiah, and the signs thereof, among which stands this (r);

"in the age in which the son of David comes, the house of assembly (the gloss interprets it the place where the disciples of the wise men meet to learn the law) shall become, "a brothel house".''

And that this sin so greatly prevailed, our Lord well knew; and perhaps none of those Scribes and Pharisees were free from it, in one shape or another; and therefore bids him that was,

let him first cast a stone at her; alluding to the law in Deuteronomy 17:7, which required the hands of the witnesses to be upon a person first, to put him to death; and as Dr. Lightfoot thinks, referring to their own sense and opinion, in trying a wife suspected of adultery; that if the husband was guilty the same way, the waters would have no effect: by this answer of our Lord, he at once wrought himself out of the dilemma, they thought to distress him with; for though he passed no sentence upon the woman, and so took not upon him the judiciary power, with which they could accuse him to the Roman governor, yet he manifestly appeared to agree with Moses, that such an one deserved to be stoned; wherefore they could not charge him with being contrary to Moses; and by putting him that was without sin, to cast the first stone at her, he showed himself merciful to the woman, and to them, to be the searcher of hearts.

(q) Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 9. (r) Misn. ib c. 9. sect. 15. T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 97. 1.

{2} So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

(2) Against hypocrites who are very severe judges against other men, and flatter themselves while they are sinning.

John 8:7. Ἀναμάρτητος] faultless, here only in the N. T., very often in the Classics. Whether it means freedom from the possibility of fault (of error or sin), as in Plato, Pol. I. p. 339 B, or freedom from actual sin (comp. γυνὴ ἀναμάρτητος, Herod. v. 39),—whether, again, it is to be understood generally (2Ma 8:4), or with reference to any definite category or species of ἁμαρτία (2Ma 12:42; Deuteronomy 29:19), is a matter which can be decided by the context alone. Here it must signify actual freedom from the sin, not indeed of adultery specially, for Jesus could not presuppose this of the hierarchy as a whole, even with all its corruption of morals, but probably of unchastity, simply because a woman who was a sinner of this category was here in question, and stood before the eyes of them all as the living opposite of ἀναμάρτητος. Comp. ἁμαρτωλός, Luke 7:37; ἁμαρτάνειν, Jacobs, ad Anthol. x. p. 111; in chap. John 5:14, also, a special kind of sinning is intended by μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε; and the same command, in John 8:11, addressed to the adulteress, authenticates the sense in which ἀναμάρτητος is used. The men tempting Him knew how to avoid, in outward appearance rather than in reality, the unchastity which they condemned. Taking the words to mean freedom from sin generally (Baur, who draws from the passage an erroneous doctrinal meaning, Luthardt, Ewald, Hengstenberg, Godet, following early expositors), we make Jesus propose an impracticable condition in the given case, quite unfitted to disarm His opponents as convicted by their own consciences; for it would have been a purelyideal condition, a standard impossible to man. If we take ἀναμάρτητος, however, in the concrete sense above explained, the condition named becomes quite appropriate to baffle the purpose of the tempting questioners; for the prescription of the Mosaic law is, on the one hand, fully recognised;[7] while, on the other, its fulfilment is made dependent on a condition which would effectually banish from the mind of His questioners, into whose consciences Jesus was looking, all thought of making His answer a ground of accusation to the authorities.

Observe, further, how the general moral maxim to be deduced from the text condemns generally in the Christian community, viewed as it ought to exist conformably to its ideal, the personal condemnation of the sins of others (comp. Matthew 7:1; Galatians 6:5), and puts in its place brotherly admonition, conciliation, forgiveness—in a word, love, as the πλήρωσις of the law.

τὸν λίθον] the stone which He would cast at her in obedience to the law.

ἐπʼ αὐτῇ] upon her. See Bernhardy, p. 249; Ellendt, Lex Soph. i. p. 467.

βαλέτω] not mere permission, but command, and therefore all the more telling. The place of stoning must be conceived as lying outside the city (Leviticus 24:14; Acts 7:56). We must further observe that Jesus does not say the first stone, but let the first (i.e. of you, ὑμῶν) cast the stone, which does not exclude that casting of the first, which was obligatory on the witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:7; Acts 7:58).

[7] The section cannot therefore be used, as Mittermayer uses it (d. Todesstr. 1862), as a testimony of Jesus against capital punishment.

John 8:7. The scribes, however, did not accept the silence of Jesus as an answer, but “went on asking Him”. For this use of ἐπιμένω with a participle cf. Acts 12:16, ἐπέμενεν κρούων; and see Buttmann’s N.T. Gram., 257, 14. And at length Jesus lifting His head, straightening Himself, said to them: Ὁ ἀναμάρτητοςβαλέτω, “let the faultless one among you first cast the stone at her”. ἀναμάρτητος only here in N.T. In Sept[62] Deuteronomy 29:19, ἵνα μὴ συναπολέσῃ ὁ ἁμαρτωλὸς τὸν ἀναμάρτητον. It can scarcely have been used on this occasion generally of all sin, but with reference to the sin regarding which there was present question; or at any rate to sins of the same kind, sins of unchastity. They are summoned to judge themselves rather than the woman.

[62] Septuagint.

7. they continued asking] They will not take the hint, whatever His gesture meant.

without sin] The Greek word occurs nowhere else in N.T., but it is quite classical: it may mean either ‘free from the possibility of sin, impeccable;’ or ‘free from actual sin, sinless:’ if the latter, it may mean either ‘free from sin in general, guiltless;’ or ‘free from a particular sin, not guilty.’ The context shews that the last is the meaning here, ‘free from the sin of impurity:’ comp. ‘sin no more,’ John 8:11, and ‘sinner,’ Luke 7:37; Luke 7:39. The practical maxim involved in Christ’s words is that of Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 14:4. As to its application to them comp. Matthew 12:39; Mark 8:38. He is contending not against punishment being inflicted by human law, but against men taking the law into their own hands.

a stone] Rather, the stone, according to the Received Text and some MSS.; i.e. the stone required for executing the sentence. Others take it of the first stone, which the witnesses were to throw (Deuteronomy 17:7). But Christ does not say ‘let him cast the first stone,’ but ‘let him be first of you to cast the stone.’

John 8:7. Ὡς δὲ ἐπέμενον, but when they were persevering) For δέ there is in most of the Latin copies ‘ergo’ [not in the best copies of the Vulg., the Cod. Amiatinus, etc., “cum autem perseverarent”]. This is according to the custom of John; who, however, in this paragraph more often employs δέ, which occurs frequently in this gospel even elsewhere: for instance, in ch. 9—ὁ ἀναμάρτητος, he who is without sin) ἀναμάρτητος, if respect be had to the termination, is, either one who cannot sin, or one who hath not sinned. Septuag. Deuteronomy 29:19 : μὴ συναπολέσῃ ὁ ἁμαρτωλὸς τὸν ἀναμάρτητον. Comp. 2Ma 8:4 [τῶν ἀναμαρτήτων νηπίων], John 12:42 [συντηρεῖν ἑαυτοὺς ἀναμαρτήτους]. The witnesses were wont to be the first in the act of stoning. [Hence the expression is τὸν λίθον, with the article.—V. g.] These witnesses had all contracted guilt, worthy of capital punishment, either in that very act [such as they accused the woman of], or in similar deeds of shame.

Verses 7, 8. - But when they continued asking him; he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and with his finger was writing on the ground. The imperfect tense of ἔγραφεν, twice repeated, seems more in harmony with the symbolic meaning of the act than with the record on his part of any special sentence of his supreme wisdom. Christ refused to act the part of the civil magistrate, or to countenance stormy outbreak of murderous passion against this flagrant sinner, to save himself from their bitter malice. He rose, when the appearance of indifference could not be maintained, and at once arrested the outbreak of their unscrupulous fury without presuming to repudiate the letter of the Law. He lifted the discussion from the judicial to the moral sphere. He does not mean that none but the sinless can condemn, or pronounce verdict upon the guilty; but he calls for special freedom from similar offence on the part of any man who should wish or dare to display his own purity by taking part in the execution. The narrative would not suggest that every one of these accusers had been in his time guilty of like offence, but ἀναμάρτητος must at least mean that he was free from the desires which might lead to the commission of such sin, and Christ calls for inward saintliness and freedom from all irregular propension. He calls for personal chastity as the only possible moral condition for precipitately executing this ancient and severe law. The question before the crowd (asked so craftily) was, not whether Moses' Law was to stand or not, but whether these particular men, with their foul hearts and spurious zeal, were or were not at that particular moment to encounter the displeasure of Roman power by dashing the stones at the head of this poor trembling creature of sin and shame; whether they were morally competent to condemn to immediate death, and carry the verdict into execution. Before this tremendous summons from the Holy One, conscience could sleep no longer. The hypocrisy of the entire manoeuvre stared them in the face. John 8:7
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