But let’s look at what the “Law of Moses” commands: “If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10).
The accusers seemed to have forgotten someone in their vigilantic fervor—the man who must have also “been caught in adultery, in the very act.” If the two had been caught in the act, then there had to be more than one guilty person. Why only chose the woman to punish? The Torah of the Lord requires both to be stoned so that justice would be meted.
What would it be called if only one suffered the consequences of the sin? Injustice.
“You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial …” (Deuteronomy 16:19).
“… Do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice …” (Exodus 23:1-3).
Further, capital crimes required a trail before the Sanhedrin—the temple court. Today we would call it legal jurisprudence and it has kept many innocent people from going to jail or worse. These Scribes and Pharisees, like so many of us, had already rendered judgment in the court of their own opinions.
“On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” (Deuteronomy 17:6).
As an able solicitor of the Law, Yeshua acted more as the woman’s defendant than her judge. He did not abandon Torah in favor of grace (as is traditionally taught). Rather, He stood on the Torah’s principles and used them to convict the crowd—and proved the need for grace. His challenge to throw the first stone was not so much to the collective conscience as to their allegations. “Who are the witnesses? Who saw what? Where are the spouses? Prove they are lawfully married. Where is your evidence? Was there only one witness? What is the stability of the witnesses—are they reputable people or was this contrived entrapment?” They had unlawfully brought a woman into His court. The Judge of the all the earth knew that to stone someone to death, without having followed the Torah’s clear directives, was murder. Yeshua did not abolish Torah—He fulfilled it.
The crowd, in their righteous enthusiasm, had already violated a minimum of three of “the Law Moses commanded,” perhaps more, let alone the laws of the Temple and of Imperial Rome. Every one of them was guilty and should have stood trial.
We have long read John 8:3-7 and interpreted Yeshua as pouring out unmerited grace on an undeserving woman. But the evidence of the whole Scripture would point to the fact that no one could prove she was guilty.