Questions about Stoning!

I have some questions about stoning as a means of execution. What size rocks did they use? How long would it take to actually kill someone? Were other execution methods considered preferable to stoning, more humane, or efficient?
(It seems to me that stoning would take a lot longer than, say, beheading or hangiing.) Do people still do this today?

Thanks in advance for any information that you can give me.

(Standard Disclaimer: No, I am not planning to stone anybody. Just curious!)

Here is a modern-day take on a “high-tech” stoning in Saudi Arabia, from Cockpit Confessions of an Airline Pilot by Stephen Keshner, a book I highly recommend. He regularly flew into Saudi Arabia in addition to his Southeast Asian routes; there’s a very interesting juxtaposition of the beer-and-pussy, nonstop party experiences in Thailand and the Philippines with the fear and loathing that he and his crew went through during his Saudi runs; since he happens to be Jewish, his anxiety about the place was even more pronounced. The overall tone of the book is a Gonzo-style comic adventure, but in the chapters about Saudi Arabia he really makes the place seem downright terrifying, especially this description of a public “stoning”:

Today we’re in for a treat. A Muslim husband has accused one of his wives of infidelity. Worse yet, as Jerry works out from the crowd, she’s been caught being unfaithful with a non-Muslim. She will be stoned to death. Lucky for her, however, Jeddah, unlike most other Muslim cities, has gone ‘high tech’. We watch as she is lowered into a prepared pit, about 10’x5’x8’ deep. The throaty rumble of the tractor is enough to clear a path for it through the side of the crowd. We watch a front loader full of huge chunks of rock and concrete pieces lifted high above the pit. At a nod from the Imam, the tractor operator releases his load. The woman is no longer visible, buried beneath tons of rubble and dust.

“Man, it was much worse in the old days,” says Mark. “They used to just have the husband and his male family members and buddies just throw rocks at the bitch until she died. Took forever.”*

Requisite link (Scenes 3 & 4)

I’d have died there too. No way possible for me to keep my mouth shut as they bury someone alive like that.

Jim Bishop, in his book The Day Christ Died, says that one method in Biblical times was to throw the person off a cliff and then drop stones on them if they survived.

This may be what they were up to here -



That’s essentially correct. The Mishna in Sanhedrin describes the procedure.

  1. Drug the convict so that he doesn’t feel as much pain
  2. One of the witnesses pushes him off a cliff (most often he died of defenestration)
  3. If that doesn’t kill him, the other witness threows a large stone at him
  4. If that doesn’t kill him, then other people continue to stone him until he is dead.

Zev Steinhardt

Thanks for the info, Zev. Do you know what drug was used? Two of the Gospels mention that Jesus was offered wine mixed with something or other before His crucifixion, and Bishop says that this was done by the local hadassah. I didn’t think they had any effective analgesics apart from alcohol and auto-suggestion. Did they have opium?


What follows is, allegedly, a description of the procedure employed in Iran under the Mullahs, at least until 1998 and perhaps more recently. The salient points are like so:

followed by:

plus this:

A list of people supposedly stoned to death between 1980 and 1997 is given. There’s also a video but I can’t get it to work.


They did have opium.. Hashish as well.

I actually went back to the Mishna to see if I could find the Hebrew term for the drug used and I found that any reference to drugging the convict is not there.

Nonetheless, I am positive that I read from several sources that it was done. I’ll have to do further research to find the source and see if anything in particular is named.

Zev Steinhardt

Thanks - I did not know that.


Their cliffs have windows?

My apologies. I thought it was a generic term for falling from a high place. I did not realize that it specifically meant being thrown out of a window.

Ignorance fought and vanquished.

Zev Steinhardt

Damn it, you stole my nitpick. I hate when that happens.

The hills have eyes, and eyes are the windows to the soul.

Two big flat ones, five little sharp ones and a bag of gravel, wasn’t it?

Maybe not today, but certanly as recent a April 7, 2007, when a young Kurdish woman named Du’a Khalil Aswad (not a Moslem; she was of the Yadizi religion, as were her killers).

Traditionally, stoning may have been performed according to strict procedure, but in the case of St Stephen and many others, I can’t be convinced it was anything besides lynching in a part of the world where there’s more rocks than trees. People get worked up and start chucking rocks, as you can see if you’ve the stomach to search on Youtube for the young woman’s name in boldface above.

[quote=“zev_steinhardt, post:6, topic:509547”]

IIRC from my high school Latin classes, it actually has its roots in the Latin word fenestra, window (de fenestra, out from the window).

I saw a video of a stoning online a year or more ago. It was taken with a cell phone, I think, and of poor quality, but still horrifying. The person to be stoned seemed to be completely wrapped in gauze, like a mummy, then put into a hole–sort of buried up to about their chest. Large rocks were thrown at him/her, and the whole time this was going on, creepy chanting or music–something like that–was being played.

It was just awful.