Did Jesus Condone Adultery By Refusing To Condemn The Woman Caught In Adultery?

(All Bible Quotations, Except Otherwise Stated, Are From The New King James Version)

When Jesus refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery, was that an affirmative action on his part in support of adultery? Did Jesus mean adultery or sin should not be condemned generally? What exactly did the Lord mean by his statement: “woman, neither do I condemn you..”? To understand the meaning of the Lord’s statement on that issue, let’s examine the relevant Scriptures closely to extract their meaning in context.

John 8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

John 8:2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.

John 8:3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,

John 8:4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.

John 8:5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

John 8:6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

John 8:7 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.”

John 8:8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

John 8:9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

John 8:10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

John 8:11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

When the woman caught in the very act of adultery was brought before Jesus, the hypocrites who brought her for judgement at the Lord’s feet (while allowing the man with whom she committed the act to conveniently escape) wanted to test Jesus on whether or not he would go along with the demands of the Mosaic law concerning adultery. In the law of Moses, the penalty for adultery was death by stoning. The law had no mercy and no room for repentance for adulterers. Adultery in the law was one of the sins that could not be atoned by sacrifice of any kind. It was an unpardonable sin!

Leviticus 20:10 ‘The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.

Deuteronomy 22:23 “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her,

Deuteronomy 22:24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.

We see that adultery, under the law, was a very grave sin with mortal consequences. Now, we must understand Jesus’ perception of adultery before we go any further here. The Lord Jesus had an even stricter view of adultery than Moses. In the Mosaic law, while the act must be committed before a diagnosis of adultery can be made, Jesus taught that just by thinking about a person lewdly and lusting after the person in one’s heart one has committed adultery already! According to Jesus, one doesn’t have to be physically involved in the act to be considered guilty of adultery: the conception and nurturing of the idea in one’s heart is as good as committing the act physically!

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

So, Jesus considers adultery a sin and has an even stricter definition of adultery than Moses. We have to be very clear about that. Adultery is as much a sin in the new testament as it was in the old, with an expanded scope in its definition in the new testament. Therefore, there should be no doubt that when Jesus told the woman caught in adultery “neither do I condemn you”, he wasn’t exonerating her of the sin of adultery, nor was he trivialising her sin, because Jesus considers adultery a sin! What exactly did the Lord mean by his “neither do I condemn you” statement then? Simple: Jesus refused to condemn the adulterous woman to death by stoning as demanded by the Mosaic law! The law demanded her to put to death immediately for her adulterous act. However, while the law of Moses had no mercy for the adulterer (and some other categories of sinners), Jesus came with grace and truth. Though he condemns adultery as sinful, he gives the adulterer space to repent. He makes mercy available to the adulterer, like all other sinners. Jesus hates sin, but he loves the sinner and doesn’t want him/her to perish in their sins. That’s why the Father sent him to the world of sinners in the first place. That’s why he willingly gave his life as a ransom for the salvation of all men who would place faith in him as Lord and Saviour. There was no mercy with Moses, but abundant mercy is available in Christ!

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

John 1:15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”

John 1:16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Revelation 2:20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

Revelation 2:21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.

St. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

To show that Jesus did not exonerate the woman from adultery and that he did not condone her adulterous act (but that he only refused to condemn her to instant death by stoning as prescribed by the Mosaic law), Jesus gave her this parting rebuke..“go and sin no more”. He didn’t waste any opportunity to make the woman realise what she had done was sinful. Even though he didn’t allow her accusers to stone her to death as required by the law, he sternly rebuked her (after they had dispersed) not to indulge in the sinful act of adultery again!

John 8:10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

John 8:11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

In conclusion, the Lord’s statement about not condemning the woman caught in adultery simply meant he did not approve of her being stoned to death as was the penalty for all caught in adultery under the Mosaic law. Though Jesus condemned adultery as a sin and had an even more stringent definition of adultery than Moses gave in the law, he did not subscribe to the instant death penalty for adulterers as prescribed by Moses. Whereas there was no mercy and no atonement for adultery under the law, Jesus came with grace and mercy for all sinners, including the adulterer. By refusing to condemn to death the woman caught in the very act of adultery, Jesus effectively abolished immediate judgement for adultery as prescribed by Moses, making adultery no longer an unpardonable sin. Adultery still remains a sin under the new testament, but the blood of Christ can atone for it and there’s mercy available to the adulterer. Thus, no one needs to be stoned to death any longer for adultery. This is one of the benefits of the grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ.

Published by Dr. Ndubuisi E. Ojo

Dr Ojo is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a student of the Word of God, who believes firmly in the original apostolic faith as the only authentic version of Christianity, and the only legitimate basis for Christian conduct, order and doctrine.

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