“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’”
Explanation and Commentary of John 8:7
Having brought an adulterous woman to Jesus, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were seeking to trap Jesus. They knew that he was merciful and expected that he would not be willing to keep the Law by sanctioning her death. How would Jesus talk his way out of this dilemma? He does so expertly by uttering this verse.
In so doing, he pointed out that sin is sin. For the moment, he had managed to cause them to stop judging others, and take an honest look at the log in their own eyes (Mt 7:3). We are expected to be discerning and judge right from wrong (Lk 12:57) while we live out our lives in the world but not of it, but when the judgment becomes such that we are able to compare ourselves selectively to others who we deem worse than us in a self-righteous manner, we have crossed over into the sinful judgment that Christ, Paul, and the other New Testament authors warn against. Self-righteous judgment was a major problem in Jesus’ day when certain sects of Judaism produced experts at sticking to the letter of the law, but having no real heart for God, as evidenced by their refusal to recognize his Son when he came preaching and healing.
It may be important to recognize that this text is often delineated as being a later addition to the book of John, causing some to make the case that it should not be considered canon. The debate goes on, but it is clear that the behavior described and the teaching that goes with it are consistent with the picture created by the rest of the Gospel accounts of his life and teaching.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of John 8:7
#1 “When they kept on questioning him,”
It seems that Jesus was at first ignoring the Pharisees and teachers of the law as they questioned him about the woman who had been caught in adultery and what should be done with her.
#2 “he straightened up and said to them,”
It is not clear what the purpose was of what Jesus was doing before he straightened up. The text said that he knelt in the dust and drew something with his finger in the dirt. Though some have conjectured about what he may have been writing (e.g. the sins of some of the men present), there is simply no way to know what is not revealed in Scripture. Whatever he was writing or drawing, he stopped to stand up and speak to them.
#3 “‘let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Jn 3:23). There is no one who has not sinned. It is remarkable that the self-righteous Pharisees and teachers of the Law were able to admit the fact. Our compassion for others comes first from the fact that God loves them, and secondly from the humility to identify with those who struggle, knowing that we may struggle with the same, or we have before, even if by the grace of God we no longer do. If you have a difficult time relating to one who sins in an area where you have had the grace to have no struggle, consider Jesus’ compassion. He never sinned but was able to have compassion for any who would see their sin and repent.
Bible Study on John 8:7
Expert Overview of John Ch. 1-12
Biblical Translations of John 8:7
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
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.”
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.”
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.