The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. "Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"
They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.
But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.
Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either Go From now on sin no more."
This is a passage that has been preached, written, and sung about quite a lot, and it's funny how many different meanings are attributed to it. But I find the OT law referred to interesting, and wonder if it sheds any light on the incident:
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.
The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
I'm not sure I ever realized the law required an eye-witness whose testimony condemned the accused to throw the first stone. To me this seems like a control on the death penalty, requiring witnesses to weigh the seriousness of their testimony before going forward; it's easy to lie, but when you have to throw the first stone yourself you want to think about it twice.
I think it's pretty clear that the witnesses in the gospel weren't lying, so Jesus isn't accusing them of perjury. But what is he saying about their role as witnesses/executioners?
Weird. My iTunes shuffle just went to "Scribbling in the Sand" by Michael Card.