Let he who is without sin cast the first stone---meaning?

When Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, what exactly was he saying? Was this just another way of putting ‘judge not lest ye be judged’?

I’ve never read this particular part of the bible, so I don’t know what context it’s in. Any insights would be greatfully appreciated.

Sort of, but I think of it more along the lines of “look, this person screwed up, sure. But is there anyone here who hasn’t screwed up at some point in time? Any takers? Nope. Ok…then go home and quit trying to stone her.”

Still along the same lines as “judge not lest ye be judged”.

Jesus was being tested (somewhat unfairly) by the teachers of the law.

They brought a woman caught in the act of adultery. They weren’t really interested in justice, or any kind of punishment for her (or else they would have brought the man, too). They only wanted to see if Jesus would recommend her stoning, and validate their own interpretation of the law, or if he would say something else, giving them more ammunition in their case against him as a blasphemer and religious rebel.

Rather than alienate the legalists by recommending leniency, or alienating opponents to the death penalty, he challenged her accusers to look in their own hearts. Yes, in many ways telling them not to judge her sin while they themselves were imperfect.

The most telling aspect of this, though, is the dialogue between him and the woman after everyone has left. He asks her where everyone has gone, and has no one remained to condemn her. She replies no one. And he tells her that he does not condemn her either. But then he tells her to leave her life of sin.

The big difference, it seems to me, is not that Jesus doesn’t recognize the fact that she sinned, but that he does not judge and condemn her for it.

Hope this helps.

It means the same thing as “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

As the crowd turned to go mumbling to themselves about missing out on a good stoning, a rock went flying through the air and hit the woman on the forhead, causing a little cut. Everyone turned to see who had thrown the first stone. Jesus did as well and said, “You can be so obnoxious, mom.” :slight_smile:


There was another point, too - only the Romans could issue a death sentance. The priests couldn’t, so if Jesus OK’d the stoning, that would have been in defiance of Roman law. Many of the questions seemed to have involved conflicts between two (or sometimes more) factions.

If you take part in perpetuating a society in which people are given harsh punishments for minor offences, you lose any claim to mercy when the crowd finally turns on you.

I have heard that the original meaning of the word sin is “to miss” as in missing a target being aimed at. In that case, it could be interpreted as “Let he who never misses, cast the first stone!”

I do not have a cite for this, but once upon a time I read that an alternate interpretation discovered of this verse reads “Let he who has not lain with this woman cast the first stone”. Has anybody else heard this?

I think Jesus was calling dibs on all the rocks…

[sup]Not really a wisecrack at all, depending on faith…[/sup]

the story could be made up later
the law demanded that in a case of adultery both parties were to be stoned
or in some cases just the man
**the casting of the first stone priveledge was given to the accusers of which there needed to be two.
its a trite little tale for christians…the jews would think it a strange combination of innaccuracies.
also it is said the adulterer was a member of the priesthood and was being protected by false witness.

If I remember my Hebrew studies correctly, the Hebrew word meaning “to sin” indeed derives from a word meaning “missing the target”, but by Jesus’s time it had long since changed to its present meaning.

This passage is widely regarded as being a later addition to ‘The Bible’ and not something that Jesus ever said. It doesn’t appear in any of the earlier manuscripts.

Do you have a cite for that? Just curious.

Well, it’s in John, which was the last of the four to be written, and it doesn’t appear in the other three.

Who wrote the Bible? (Part 4), which is a cite for what I said, at least.

and it is not in TWO of the earliest manuscripts, but in lots of others so that Westcott & Hort thought it did indeed belong in the text. Fr Andrew Greeley thought it was a parable Jesus told, not an actual incident (he thinks it was re-written as an incident by the Church so that It could say that, yeah, JC chose to forgive this but we don’t have to- I think Greeley here is full of it.)

Anyway, the whole story is just so perfectly Jesusy I don’t see why people want to deny it. The Godhood & harsh moral claims I understand but why this?

I have heard that the phrase can mean “Let him without this sin cast the first stone”- I have no idea if that’s true tho.

I’d love to know what he was writing on the dust tho-

the accusers’s own sins (or their mistresses names)
the Ten Commandment
Ref Daniel’s handwriting on the Wall- Mene mene tekel uparsin
(Numbered Numbered weighed & lacking)
or something entirely different


The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53 - 8:11

This isn’t any great secret. It’s pretty widely accepted as being a later addition to the Bible. A Google search turns up plaenty more hits, that’s just the first one.

">>>the whole story is just so perfectly Jesusy I don’t see why people want to deny it. "

Apparently because it doesn’t appear in any written form for a century or more after Jesus’ death IIRC. It may have been passed down in oral form for al that time, but it would be odd considering eveything else was commited to writing, so why leave this one out?

Not wanting to get into a debate, but given the evidence Ockhams razor would suggest the simplest solution: it only appears in later manuscripts because it was never written down any earlier.

That’s cool, Blake; I didn’t know that. While, from your cite, it does seem to be the consensus that it was added later, it seems far from agreed upon that it is “not something that Jesus ever said.”

True. But again, the simplest reason why it was never recorded for so long was that Jesus never spoke the words. They aren’t particularly imnflamatory or anti-authority so there would be no good reason for forbidding them from being recorded.

Of course when dealing with demi-gods it’s a little hard to give a factual or logical foundation for exactly what they said and did.

But we digrees from the OP. I just wanted to point out something that might have some bearing on interpretation.

Sorry for the hijack.