Q: In John 8:7, the incident about the woman taken in adultery, Yeshua disarms the woman's accusers with the statement, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Why would this statement generate the response that it did?
A: The point of the statement was based upon Deuteronomy 19:15-21 where a contrast is developed between a true and faithful witness as compared to a false witness. The rabbis deduced from this passage that in order for one to truly be a faithful witness, he, himself, could not be guilty of the same sin to which the accused is accused of. Based upon the principle found in verse 21, “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” and due to the fact that the subject and object are the same (life-life, eye-eye, tooth-tooth, hand-hand, foot-foot) the rabbinic deduction was that the false witness, himself, was guilty of the sin that he was accusing someone else of.
In the John 8:7 incident, Yeshua's comment was based on two things: First, what is the nature of a “true and faithful witness.” If he, himself, is guilty of adultery, and he accuses someone else of adultery, can he truly be said to be a “true and faithful witness?” Second, it was derived from the principle of verse 21 where the punishment that would have been afflicted on the accused is afflicted on the false witness. If the false witness is only guilty of bearing false witness, then he is only guilty of lying which, by itself, did not carry the death penalty under the Mosaic Law. The fact is that the false witness himself is to be put to death if the original accusation mandated the death penalty; therefore, it was derived that he, too, must be guilty of the same sin. Whether or not their exegesis of Deuteronomy is correct, that would have been the mind set of the rabbis who brought the adulterous woman to Yeshua and, therefore, the implication from their frame of reference was quite clear. If they were accusing her of adultery, then they were accusing themselves of adultery as well. As a result, their accusation is bankrupt and they have no choice but to abandon the attempt to entrap Yeshua.