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The Lord Jesus said, "He that is without sin may throw the first stone." Since all of the accusers went away beginning with the oldest, does that imply that the scribes and pharisees (accusers) guilty of the specific sin of Adultery / fornication?

If there be any of you who is without sin, without sin of this nature, that has not some time or other been guilty of fornication or adultery, let him cast the first stone at her.

Or, does Jesus mean in that instance that only he who has no sin at all, may throw the first stone?

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    Sin is sin, all sins lead to death, and So it does not matter if whether they had committed only the sins you noted. James the younger brother of Jesus gave us guidance in this area. >James 2:10 and 11 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
    – BYE
    Sep 26, 2017 at 12:03
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    @BYE I don't think the scribes and pharisees had the book of James.
    – user32540
    Sep 26, 2017 at 12:59
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    @4castle it is truth even if the scribes and the pharisees didn't have the book of James Sep 26, 2017 at 13:59
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    @AChildofGod What I mean is, the scribes and pharisees didn't know the truth, so they wouldn't have used the book of James in making the decision to stone the woman. If I understand the question correctly, it's asking about how the scribes and pharisees would have interpreted what Jesus said.
    – user32540
    Sep 26, 2017 at 17:16
  • @4castle I don't think James just assimilated that. It was true when Moses wrote the law as well as when God ejected Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Their being the only people on Earth it is quite doubtful they committed adultery, and yet their punishment was no less than what almost befell the woman.
    – BYE
    Sep 27, 2017 at 11:32

2 Answers 2

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The phrase "he that is without sin" is a translation of a single Greek word, anamartetos, which means sinless or faultless or without flaw.

It does not refer only to fornication, Jesus is effectively saying let the perfect one among you throw the first stone.

What happened next is that the scribes and pharisees went away. It is not clear whether they ever had any intention of stoning the woman in the first place. The reason they brought her to Jesus was to test Him, to see what reply He would give. If He said she should not be stoned they could accuse Him of going against the law, but if He said she should be stoned He would lose His reputation for gentleness. St Augustine, in Tractate 33 on St John's gospel said

if he shall approve her being stoned, he will not show his gentleness; if he consent to let her go, he will not keep righteousness. But, say they, that he may not lose the reputation of gentleness, for which he has become an object of love to the people, without doubt he will say that she must be let go. Hence we find an opportunity of accusing him, and we charge him as being a transgressor of the law: saying to him, You are an enemy to the law; you answer against Moses, nay, against Him who gave the law through Moses;

So Jesus in allowing he who is without sin to cast the first stone meant he who was perfect, not simply anyone who has never committed adultery or fornication. In going away the scribes and pharisees were not making a public admission of adultery - if that had been Christ's meaning the result could have been different.

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If there be any of you who is without sin, without sin of this nature, that has not some time or other been guilty of fornication or adultery, let him cast the first stone at her.

Or, does Jesus mean in that instance that only he who has no sin at all, may throw the first stone?

Correct, he who has no sin may throw the first sin. The reason is the well-known if you fail at one point of the Mosaic Law, you fail at all of it. Jesus wasn't necessarily pointing out they had all committed adultery, but rather had sin because they had failed in one way or the other.

The book of James spells out this concept.

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10

In turn, James is referring to these passages.

Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen. Deut 27:26

But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Deut 28:15

And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God: Jer 11:3-4

The whole point is this. The Law that is impossible to keep fully was to point to Christ who offers us grace, His righteousness (Phil 3:9).

And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us. 6:25

So, back to the OP. Christ was saying if you have observed all the commandments, then go ahead, throw the first stone.

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