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Answering The Atheist
April 29, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 17

How should adulterers be punished? Leviticus 20:10 says they should be executed; but John 8:3-8 says they should not be punished. Is there a contradiction?

The religious leaders thought they had the perfect scenario to catch Jesus. Moses' law said that those who commit adultery should be put to death, but the Romans forbade the Jews from exercising death penalties. What would He do? Would He agree with Moses? If so, then they had cause to accuse Him before the Roman officials. Would He disagree with Moses? If so, they had cause to accuse Him concerning the law of Moses.

But notice, in Leviticus 20:10, Moses specifically commanded, "...the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death." The scribes and Pharisees in John 8 brought only the woman, not the man. Whom the man guilty of committing adultery with her is, we do not know.

They said their piece, but Jesus did not acknowledge them (John 8:4-6). When they pressed Him, notice His cutting statement, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." (John 8:7). One by one, they departed (v 9), until none were left. The Lord was not saying that one needed to be completely sinless to exercise a judgment via the law of Moses on another, but the trouble was, these were guilty of the same sin as the woman, adultery (Matthew 7:1-5).

Jesus' decision in John 8 does not contradict Moses' instruction in Leviticus 20. To put the woman to death without the man would not keep the Law. Jesus knew the case for what it was, a test on the part of the religious leaders.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible