Someone emailed and asked:
I know that Rushdoony wrote something about this in his Institutes of Biblical Law, but it is not all that well written, as I recall, and gets rather convoluted.
Our recent guest pastor, speaking of God’s mercy, referred in his sermon to the woman taken in adultery. Here is a paraphrase of what he said:
“They were about to throw stones at her, but Jesus intervened and said something like, ‘OK, boys—but you had better be careful that each of you is without sin’. That stopped them. And then Jesus Himself, who DID have the authority to judge, and who WAS without sin, chose to forgive her.”
The implication was that the death penalty for adultery was abolished.
But the OT was in force on that occasion, and certainly God did not require that those performing executions had to be ‘without sin’.
However... Jesus DID have the authority, and WAS without sin, and even He did not impose any punishment.
How do we respond to this?
This person is utterly ignorant of Scripture and has no business teaching it. What part of “not one jot or tittle does he not understand”...? If he would take off his rose colored glasses, humble himself before God and SUBMIT to God (instead of thinking that God must submit to the notions of modern sinful society (sinful Christians included), call upon the Holy Spirit, and actually read THE ENTIRE Word of God that he might begin to understand it in its full, unchanging context, step back from his own bias and view it objectively, and then maybe, he could teach under supervision.
FIRST of all, it has nothing to do with Christ being God and being able to forgive her since He was sinless. Clearly, the issue of His being sinless is off point and irrelevant in terms of His being God. The issue is not one of being sinless, for that would then infer that if any other person were actually sinless, that he too could forgive sin; which is not the case. If another person were sinless, he could die for one other sinful person, in his stead—taking his judgment for him. However, if that other person was only a human, not only could he only die for one singular other individual (life for life), but he could not rise from the dead, so where would that leave him? Because Christ was also God, in a plethora of related thoughts we cannot begin to comprehend, He could not only die for all of the elect, but He could also rise from the dead. Christ could only forgive sin because He is God, Immutable, Sovereign, Omnipotent, and Perfect, and because He was the Eternal Sacrifice for the sin of the elect of His people and He was slain before the foundation of the world! God cannot be thwarted, His Thought is reality and nothing can hinder, alter, or stop it. However, it take a little while for our time and experience to catch up to reality.
[For more detail, see my, Does God Repent? — Can God Change His Mind?]
Were Christ’s being God and sinless the issue in the case of the woman caught in adultery, then any passage of the Gospels could be twisted out of context. However, the truth is, Christ did not come (the first time) to judge the world; so this temporary, “fill-in” pastor’s notions are demonstrative of his own doctrinal confusion and it serves as a smokescreen to the logical and Biblical factors involved.
SECONDLY, whether Jesus had authority to judge her, is a thorny issue that needs to be more fully thought out. God the Son, Second Person of the Godhead indeed had and has such authority. However, Christ, in His incarnation, temporarily stepped out of and laid aside the greater portion of the use of His Divinity to be a man and walk in our shoes, to show us that living a holy life in obedience as God commanded was certainly possible, when relying upon the Holy Spirit. Had Christ been fully God in His FULL EXPRESSION, while clothed in skin, it would not have been a fair contest, would it? For God to live like man is certainly no challenge, but for man to live as God is an entirely different matter. So, like a survivalist sheds everything but a few bare essentials and go off into the wilderness to “brave the wild”, so Christ laid aside much of the use of His Divinity, as a man.
As God, Christ certainly had power to judge. However, as man did He? According to God’s Word, the kings were given the authority to rule, the judges were given the authority to judge, even as the priests were given authority to “priest”. It seems most likely that the judges were anointed (or at least appointed, due to some hereditary and official appointment) to be judge. However, unless Christ was of the proper line of those who were judges, and unless He was also anointed and appointed to that position by the elders to be a judge in Israel (and Scripture merely does not so inform us), then no, Christ did not have authority as Jesus to judge any more than He would have had authority to go into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood on the Mercy Seat—for that was only lawful for the High Priest to do and but once a year. Remember, Christ was without sin and was obedient in all things; He “played by the rules”. He did not “play the trump card”— “I am God and I can do whatever I want so I am going to do this”. Certainly not. He humbled Himself and became obedient.
While Christ is indeed Prophet, High Priest, Judge, Deliverer, and King in His Divine Right, was He all those things in His human right, being the son of an obscure carpenter? NO. Did Christ have the Authority to abolish God’s Law? NO. Because Christ was and is God. Those who are “one-eyed” (and near-sighted) theologians will think that is contradictory—but that is only because they do not understand God. God is Immutable, Perfect, Holy, Just, and True and cannot do anything that is contradictory to His Own Nature. Therefore, Christ could not abolish the Law because Christ said that He came not to do His Own Will (as if His Own Will could be different than that of the Father’s), but the Will of the Father; and because Christ had already declared that not one jot or tittle would pass from the Law; and because Christ declared, “I am not come to destroy the Law”...! —and numerous other parallel points could also be offered, but that should be enough.
This does not mean that Christ, God the Son does not have all Power in Heaven and Earth—but it means that ignorant teachers do not understand God’s Nature or Plan; and all false doctrine arises out of a perverted notion or misunderstanding (a humanistic notion of) God’s Nature—and Christ was and is in complete submission to the Father (even though we cannot comprehend how if God is Unified, how He can be more than one Person and One Person of the Godhead being in submission to the other).
Christ declared, THINK NOT that I am come to destroy the Law. HOW ODD that what Christ told us not to think is the very thing that the vast majority of all “Christians” do think...! Why? Either they are not His sheep (but goats, that is, lawless sheep—or dogs and swine with a “sheep complex”) or they are really, really stupid sheep (profoundly mentally retarded sheep) and their only hope is “the fine print” of God’s Contract in some “Stupid-but-well-intentioned clause” (if such exists); because Christ said that His sheep know His Voice and follow (obey) Him, and the voice of a stranger they will not follow—and that those who do not keep God’s Commandments do not even know God and the Truth is not in them! So if the vast majority of “Christians” believe the exact opposite of what Christ said (and that singular point of the Law not being abolished is the PIVOTAL POINT for the derangement and derailment of the majority of all modern doctrine), then clearly they are following the voice of a stranger—a false christ; so then, how can they be Christ’s sheep? Well, sheep can go astray, and maybe even, for a time, begin following some other shepherd and his flock, until they realize that they don’t belong there and they lost their true shepherd and don’t know where he is. However, that may be stretching the analogy further than it was intended. Regardless, if the “lost sheep” looking for his master never wises up and finds his true master (or more properly is found by him), then what does that say? Jesus said that His sheep will not follow the voice of a stranger. Even as John in his First Epistle writes “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (3:9). Most probably, this present continuous tense refers to habitual sin by nature; and therefore (hopefully for many—if they ever actually find their Master and follow His Voice) this may also be the intended meaning of “My sheep hear My Voice... the voice of a stranger they will not follow”. Everyone trips, takes a wrong turn, makes mistakes. However, if those mistakes are never corrected, then that is the defining and deciding reality.
There are MANY factors here, which this “teacher” overlooks completely, because he is completely ignorant of the Old Testament (which was not abolished; again, not one jot or tittle...). As St. Augstine expressed, “The New is in the Old Contained, the Old is in the New Explained”; or as a more precise translation of St. Augustine’s words renders it, “The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.” The New Testament does not cancel the Old out; it harmoniously complements it. Those who do not understand this are either still in the infantile stages of spiritual grown (or they are spiritually unborn fetuses dreaming that they have been born).
THIRDLY, the woman was taken in adultery because the evil Pharisees were trying to entrap Jesus and find any excuse to brand Him a heretic and have Him put to death; so they grabbed at every chance to try and trip Him up (even fabricating some). This incident had very little to do with adultery and the majority to do with the evil Pharisees dishonest machinations in the attempt to kill Christ.
Though God the Son indeed has the Authority to Judge—for God the Father hath committed all Judgement to the Son (since Christ also is Creator, but He is also the Lawgiver, and He is also the One whom the wicked slew—and therefore, He has right to forgive or slay and cast the first stone)... again, Christ DIVESTED HIMSELF of His Power and Glory and exercise of His Rights.
While Christ did have authority as a Prophet (evidenced by His miracles and unimpeachable teaching), like John the Baptist, the recognition of that office by the rulers in Israel was often one of courtesy, because the priests and judges and kings never cared too much for the prophets that God established; though the prophets had authority in God’s Eyes, the godless population of Israel generally did not recognize that authority. The priests and kings and judges and other rulers (the majority of whom were godless) more or less tolerated the prophets. Some wicked ones (even godless self-appointed prophets) abused, assaulted, and killed or attempted to kill the true Prophets of God. Other times, the people knew that God’s Hand was upon those select Prophets and they dared not harm a hair of their head, though they were so arrogant and godless that they refused to heed the words of the Prophet.
Christ was not the High Priest of Israel (though indeed, He is our High Priest); neither was He the King of Israel (though indeed He is the King of Kings and our Coming King and will done day ascend the Throne of David) and He was not even on the Sanhedrin / Council / ruling body and he was not one of the Princes of the tribes to be a Judge (though indeed, He shall Judge the world), so, no, He did not have authority as man (and His manhood is stressed as He continually calls Himself “the Son of man”; while indeed He was and is God, the exercise of His Godhood was not His mission when he was born of Mary, and He was not in the legal position as man to act as Judge.
FOURTHLY, not even the Judges of Israel had the authority to stone anyone to death during the first century of Roman rule. This is clearly evident in the trial of Christ, in that the rulers of the Temple could not put Christ to death and they took Him to Pilate to do it. They expected Pilate to simply rubber stamp their own verdict, but when Pilate heard that they wanted him put to death, he justly wanted to try Christ himself.*1 What they were trying to do was entrap Christ in a “Catch-22” (damned if you do, damned if you don’t) even as they did when they asked him about taxes; and He often turned the tables on them, putting them in a “Catch-22” which shut their mouths (when He asked whether John the Bapist was an ordained Prophet of God). If Christ did cast a stone to put a woman to death, Christ Himself could be brought up on charges both by the Temple rulers—for taking it upon Himself to be a judge! (which He was not!*2)—as well as by the Roman power. On the other hand, had Christ not been careful in His answer concerning not stoning the woman, the Pharisees could have brought charges against Him before the Sanhedrin for contradicting the Law of God (frequently downplayed by “Christians” who hate God, who call it “the Law of Moses” as if that somehow makes it less Divine—which it does not unless you think that Moses was a self-appointed tyrant). However, as we shall see, Christ again masterfully turned the tables on them.
[*1 For great detail of everything from the betrayal to the ascension, see my S.T.E. Commentary on John 18-21.
*2 —and as I shall explain shortly, it was the right, even duty, of the offended party to cast the first stone.]
FIFTHLY, in order for this woman to have been convicted of adultery, there had to be evidence that she had actually committed adultery. WHERE WAS THE MAN? A woman can’t commit adultery all by herself! It takes two to tango. This is further evidence toward the fact that the evil Pharisees were trying to entrap Christ, but were doing it dishonestly. HOW did they “find” this woman in adultery? Most probably they set her up. Again, where was the man? —the one with whom she committed adultery? Why is he not even mentioned? Did he jump out a window and fly away and they not know his identity? WHERE were they caught? Had it been his house, they would have known the identity of the ADULTERER. So WHERE were they caught? In the public fountain? Since this occurred back when adultery was still considered a horrible sin (which it is) and in which it would have serious repercussions in all of society (unlike our own perverse day in which it does not even elicit a yawn) do you think people who were committing adultery did it carelessly? Don’t you think that it would be difficult to “catch” someone in the act? and again, where was the MAN? This shows the FRAUD of the accusation as well as the FRAUD of the false doctrine hashed out by Bible “experts” who don’t have a clue.
If it was the man who was married (it is only adultery if at least ONE party is married) where was HE? Maybe he was one of the Pharisees themselves and the woman made no attempt to expose him, knowing it was the word of all those Pharisees (“fine pillars of the community”) against hers. To make accusations that would be branded “false” would probably only make the situation worse. If it was the woman who was married, then it was HER HUSBAND who was the injured party, who would have the decision to make concerning her judgment. Which brings us to the next point.
SIXTHLY, while death was A POSSIBLE penalty for adultery, it was NOT always carried out because the injured party had the right to forgive. David himself committed adultery as King of Israel. The offended party himself died (Uriah), so if someone wanted to bring charges of adultery against David, it would have to have been one of Uriah or Bathsheba’s male relatives. In this case, most probably Ahithophel intervened, who had been David’s trusted counsellor. However, Ahithophel had dirty tricks up his sleeve of revenge (“a dish best-served cold” and I might add, “unannounced”). He did not merely want justice, but revenge, so he waited for the right time and opportunity (one that would be unsuspected and come as a greater shock and personal injury) and counselled Absalom to mutiny against his father David—and even violate his father’s concubines....! “It’s PERSONAL, not business.”
Remember, to accuse someone of a crime you had to bring PROOF or WITNESSES. If you did not have proof or witnesses you were liable to suffer the judgment that the person you accused would have suffered had you been able to prove his guilt. Bathsheba had a child. There was no DNA test. No one could “prove” that Uriah did not sneak home one night (or during the day) when off duty and sire the child. Since no other family member demanded the death penalty (and again, as Patriarch Ahithophel may have told others not to, to leave it all in his hands to deal with in his own way), therefore, David was not put to death.
Clearly, if a man's wife commits adultery, he cannot forgive her and at the same time demand the adulterer to be put to death. It was forgive both or put both to death. Many different passages in the Law of God discuss adultery; by simply considering each of them, it is clear that the death penalty was NOT always carried out: A man could “put away” his wife, that is, kick out of his house WITHOUT divorcing her, in cases of adultery, and a man could also divorce his wife in cases of adultery and she was then free to go and become someone elses wife. Both those declarations in the Law of God would be unnecessary, even contradictory, if a woman caught in adultery was put to death 100% of the time with no other option (and thus, the same applied to the man who was guilty of adultery).
Deuteronomy 17 is clear, in cases such as idolatry, in which other people witnessed a kinsman worshipping false gods, the witnesses were indeed to bring the guilty party to judgement and if convicted, the witnesses were to be the first hands to cast stones. However: 1. This was not a case of idolatry, and adultery was an issue that the husband or other family members would bring suit against, and call witnesses to testify; and 2. The witnesses were to take the legal matter not to any individual teacher or morally upright person—but to the judges and / or priests who were officially established to lawfully adjudicate such matters.
SEVENTHLY, the penalty of death was no more “done away” with for adultery THAN THE LAW AGAINST ADULTERY ITSELF. Christ taught that whosoever shall break even the least of the Commandments in the entire Law—and who even would teach others to do the same—shall be least in the Kingdom of Heaven.*1 Such is mindlessness—anti-intellectualism at its very worst. It is anti-theology. It is based on nothing. It is based on a false interpretation of events and which is passed off as “proof”, but it is not. It is anti-proof and in fact, it contradicts the very words of Christ Himself (all based upon a blind understanding of the Epistles of Paul*2 compounded by a sinful heart that wants to sin and please self rather than obey and please God.
[*1 —that is, IF such a person is even converted and will even see the Kingdom. John wrote: “He who says, ‘I know Him [God]’ and keepeth not His Commandments IS A LIAR [that is, he does NOT even know God] and the Truth is not in Him.” Tell me, is someone truly converted IF HE DOES NOT KNOW GOD and IF THE TRUTH (Christ, who is “the Truth” and the Holy Spirit whom Christ called, “the Spirit of Truth”) is not in him...?
*2 See my, S.T.E. Commentary on Romans, as well as my Apologetic Expositions... series, specifically, Acts 13, Acts 15, II Corinthians 2, and Galatians 2.]
The issue is that this “teacher” does not understand the Bible, and blasphemes it by his false interpretation.
EIGHTHLY, Christ did not say “You had better make sure you are without sin.” Also, Christ did not “change” the Law of God. Nowhere does the Law of God and nowhere did Christ ever say that before anyone could bring legal cause (lawsuit) against another person in any area of transgression that the injured party had to be sinless! This is preposterous! It is illogical. It is unbiblical!
The Pharisees had thrown this poor woman (whom they had entrapped or simply invented charges against) at Christ’s Feet to see what He would do. It appeared as if they were seeking His Counsel, superficially, but they were actually trying to entrap Him. They had to play along to see what He would do; and thus they had to accept His verdict IF His verdict did not violate the Law of God—WHICH IS WHAT they were trying to entrap Him to do. Christ knew their hearts (minds) and He knew that they had entrapped this woman. Christ also knew that they could not bring legal accusation against her because they were not the injured party (the husband) and because they were actually accomplices in the adultery itself (if it was not fabricated entirely) because they were hiding the other guilty party, the man with whom she was “caught” in adultery. Had the adultery not taken place, their having simply made the story up, they were guilty of perjury and a false accusation and the penalty for all of the Pharisees involved was death if their lies were exposed. This was indeed a high stakes poker game and like many arrogant, evil people, they did not actually think it through to even realize their own danger in making such an accusation.
NINETHLY, in this one instance, Christ declared, “he who is without sin cast the first stone”—not as a legal judgment against the woman (which Christ, as a man, had no authority to issue), but as a shrewd “power play”, an intellectual maneuver to foil their entrapment, shut their mouths, and send them scurrying with their tail between their legs. NOTE CAREFULLY: Christ did NOT establish this as a legal rule by which every single transgression in the future was to be adjudicated. Again, Christ as a man had no authority to so declare. He indeed had the right as God, but in order to exercise that right He would have had to PROVE THAT HE WAS GOD.
[Similarly, I point out in my S.T.E. Commentary on John 18-21 that the chief priests perverted justice by declaring that Christ committed blasphemy by declaring that He was God and falsely accused and sentenced Him, declaring, “what further need have we of a trial?” They showed their own ignorance of the Law. While unusual, they left out one singular step before they could declare Him guilty. All that they had to do would have been to make one single demand of Christ. All they would have had to say was, “Okay, you say that you are God. Anyone who declares that He is God, if indeed, he is not God commits blasphemy. Therefore, prove to us that you are God!” But God blinded their minds to this because it was not God’s Will for Christ to reveal His Deity because they were not ordained to believe!]
As it was not the Plan of God to reveal openly Christ’s Deity, Christ could not declare Himself Judge or Lawmaker! Furthermore, if the penalty for sin is abolished, there is no incentive for the majority to obey. If the penalty is abolished there is no judgment, temporal or future. If the Law was abolished, there is no moral code and it is impossible to sin; yet in the Epistles of John, the last books of the Bible to be written (written even after Revelation, after John’s release from the Isle of Patmos as an exile), the Epistles of John declare, “sin is transgression of the Law” and “he who says I know God and keepeth not His Commandments is a liar”; and it speaks repeatedly of “if any man sin he has an Advocate with the Father” and “If we say we are without sin we make God a liar” and “If we confess our sins He is faithful and Just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. I guess John did not “get the memo” that the Law was abolished, he being there, secluded on the Isle of Patmos. I guess Jesus did not “get the memo” either, since He quite clearly said that He did not come to abolish the Law (and no one other than the Lawgiver has the right to abolish it, if it is to be abolished) and He said not one jot or tittle would pass from the Law. Those who simply cannot wrap their minds around this need to go back to learning the basics concerning reading and comprehension, and start with “See Moses. See Moses run”—and then once they have that mastered, move to more complex thought and sentence structure. If there is no Law there is no sin. If there is no sin there is no penalty. If no one is a sinner and there is no Law no one has any need to “repent” of anything (there is nothing to repent “to”) and there is no need for anyone to be saved. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” My people are destroyed because they cannot think logically and they “do err, not knowing the Scriptures”.
If there was going to be anything major and earthshattering such as the changing of God’s Moral Law (an impossibility to those who know the Nature of God and who know how to think) that had been in effect for around 1,500 years* then most certainly an official declaration from God through His earthly Representative would have been necessary to change the Law. Such official declaration is to be found nowhere in the Word of God concerning anything (not the dietary laws, not the Sabbath, not race relations or gender relations) except for the blood sacrifices for atonement (which were fulfilled—perfected in Christ’s Sacrifice: which were the only part of the Law that was the Schoolmaster to lead us, to point us to Christ, the Perfect Lamb of God). But no such passages can be found—and blasphemously, without any such proof, false prophets and false shepherds and blind guides declare in contradiction of Christ’s own declaration, that God abolished His Law—based upon the flimsiest of arguments full of illogical false conclusions, they ignore what the Word of God actually says in order to believe what they want to believe which the Word of God does not say!
[ —if merely going back to Sinai, which was not the origination of the Law of God, but the first codefied giving of the entire Law of God to the nation of Israel as a whole—before that time, the Law of God was transmitted orally from the time of Adam, by Patriarch to his family, with periodic updates that God deemed necessary as man descended deeper into evil.]
Solely in this one instance—not as a change of legal precedent, but in keeping with it!—Christ declared, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” because not only did those Pharisees have no legal right to bring the case of “adultery” to trial (especially withholding evidence—the adulterer himself), but also because these men were doing it out of evil motives and their own sins were just as bad or worse than this womans! (which Christ would soon expose after His declaration, which I shall explain shortly). NONE of these men had any right to bring accusation against this woman because they were not the offended party. They could have served as witnesses in a legal trial, but the case would have to have been brought by the husband of the woman who was caught in adultery, if she were married, or the nearest male family member of the unknown adulterer, who would take the issue before the princes of the tribe as God had commanded Moses to establish men over thousands, hundreds, fifties, tens, etc.
Because these Pharisees were guilty of entrapment, accomplices, withholding evidence, hiding the guilty party, and conspiracy, Christ knowing their hearts, said “he who is without sin cast the first stone.” NOTE: Christ did NOT say, “unless you are sinless you cannot cast a stone”. There is a world of difference, which is not realized by those who cannot think. In actuality, Christ encouraged them, to step right up and cast the first stone—if they met the qualifications. In fact, by their not stepping up, they each admitted their own sinfulness! Christ—far from abolishing the death penalty for adultery, reinforced it! He, in essence, declared, not what this ignorant preacher suggested, but rather, “Yes indeed, if this woman is guilty of adultery, a stoning might be in order... step right up and cast the first stone, whoever among you is without guilt of that very same sin!” This hinges upon what Christ wrote in the sand.
TENTHLY, I propose that Christ wrote in the sand the names of all those accusing Pharisees, possibly in one column. Then, I propose that Christ wrote in another column the names of the women with whom THEY THEMSELVES were guilty of committing adultery! Maybe He even began to draw lines from the names of the men to the names of the women. Talk about dropping a bombshell! He then made the declaration that He made because if one of them attempted to cast a stone, Christ would have said, “Hold on there for a minute, are you _____ not yourself committing adultery with _____, _____, and _____? So then why do you think that you have right to cast a stone at this woman who has injured you in no way. HOWEVER, what we CAN do is go and get the husbands of these women with whom YOU have been committing adultery and see WHAT THEY want to do ABOUT YOU!” Of course, Christ did not need to say any of this. It was not because of His declaration that they slunk away, but because of the words that He wrote in the sand, and in a sense, they “saw the writing on the wall” and slithered away in fear and if not just a little shame.
ELEVENTHLY, Christ said that He did not condemn the woman either, because He was not her husband or father or brother and as a man He had no right to condemn, that is judge and / or sentence her because He was not a Judge in Israel. Of course He had right as God, but that is completely beside the point and therefore, off point. Christ had power to judge and condemn every single one of the those Pharisees, as well as Herod, the priests and High Priest, etc., not as a man, but as God—but again, that is not the point. Those without understanding (or those charlatans who want to deceive and lead the flock astray) introduce points that have no bearing on the case as if they were the sole case.
Such BLIND Bible teaching makes the Word of God of none effect. The implication is not that the death penalty had been abolished. The implication is that those who are without spiritual understanding think that they can change the Word of God based upon their confusion, and missing the entire point. Like corrupt politicians, they create all sorts of nonsensical, irrelevant smokescreens to prevent anyone from actually understanding what the issue is actually about.
[For a more in-depth discussion on a similar, but different passage, see my Apologetic Expositions... John 4 - The Samaritan Woman at the Well and the Samaritan Leper —Israelites Living in Samaria.]