To Kill or Not to Kill (Muslim, Moses, Christ)

 

 

To Kill or Not to Kill?

Muslim, Moses, or Christ?

Richard Hollerman

I’ve just read an online article about the account of the woman caught in adultery found at John 8:1-11. The writer cited the recent killing of a woman who committed adultery in one of the Middle Eastern countries.  Here is the beginning of the article:

I read the horrific story today of a young woman being stoned to death by a group of men—including her own father. She was accused of adultery, led to a hole in the ground, and placed there with a rope tied around her neck, pleading for her life.

This horrific event was captured on video, and according to the article, “Because the leader of the mob is the woman’s father, the man most shamed and humiliated by his daughter’s alleged transgressions, he is awarded the group’s highest honor: the biggest stone to cast and deliver the death blow. The video fades to black before the father releases the stone.”*

These men were ISIS militants, a group that has become infamous for beheading journalists and performing acts of terror.

As this poor young girl called out to her father, begging him for forgiveness, he coldly replied, “Don’t call me father!” (blog.greglaurie.com/? p=9985&utm_ source= feedburner&utm_medium =feed&utm_campaign= Feed%3A+greglaurie+ %28Greg%27s+Blog%29)

The article then went on to show a contrast with the incident in John 8 in which Jewish scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus in the temple along with a woman caught in an adulterous relationship. They accused her by saying, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4). Jesus then wrote on the ground something that John does not divulge. The account continues with Jesus replying to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7b).

The men who had brought the adulterous woman went away, one by one, beginning with the oldest.  Jesus and the accused woman were left alone. The Lord asked her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” (v.10). She answered, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus responded, “Neither do I condemn you; go. From now on sin no more.” (v. 11).

We are left without some of our questions being answered. Where was the guilty man who had committed adultery with her? Why did they really bring the woman to Jesus? Where they devoted to justice—or did they merely want to place Jesus in a compromising position?  Why would they bring the woman when history tells us that Rome had taken away the right of the Jews to execute law-breakers? What did Jesus write on the ground? Could it have been the sins of those who had brought the woman? We are just not informed of all the answers.

When Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” surely He knew that every person alive has sinned. Therefore, it would seem that he effectively was discounting the many instructions in the Law of Moses about executing those guilty of wrongdoing—or He didn’t think they were applicable to this case.  Or was there another point we should see here?

Maybe He knew that this incident was not just a matter or right and wrong; rather, it was a means to trap Him. And He would not be pulled into such a hypocritical display.  Further, since the Jews no longer executed people, perhaps He was also showing the impossibility of stoning her.  Further, the stoning itself was to be done by the witnesses to the act, and where were they? Since the adulterous man was absent, Jesus also knew that this was not a fair punishment. There are a lot of things we don’t know about this incident.

But what do we know?  Execution, often by stoning, was not only practiced sometimes but it was commanded by Yahweh God in the Law of Moses.  For example, notice carefully the seriousness and punishment for apostasy and blasphemy in Israel:

4 You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has [a]counseled [b]rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of [c]slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.

6 “If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife [d]you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. 9 But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 So you shall stone him [e]to death because he has sought to seduce you from the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of [f]slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you. (Deuteronomy 13:4-11).

We can see that the Israelites were not to “yield” to the guilty person or “listen” to him, and “your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him” (v. 8). Was this to be done by an impartial group of leaders? No, the very members of the family of the guilty person were to do the punishing. “If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul…” (v. 6). If one’s brother was guilty of idolatry, he must kill the brother. If one’s son or daughter was guilty, the father must do the executing. If one’s wife was guilty of idolatry, the husband must punish her. And if one’s best friend was guilty, he also must be killed.

The punishment inflicted was similar, in some ways, to the Islamic punishment mentioned in the article. We read: “. . . you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the Lord your God. . .” (vv. 9-10a).

We might think that this was cruel and heartless, a “cruel and unusual” punishment, but it does show us that God considered sin to be very, very serious—especially sin that would involve idolatry, the worship of false gods. But what about adultery? We know that in the Ten Commandments, God said, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). What about punishment for adultery?

10 ‘If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 If there is a man who lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death, their bloodguiltiness is upon them. (Leviticus 20:10-11).

Here we see that adulterers were to be put to death.  Notice again: “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel” (Deuteronomy 22:22). The punishment was to be immediate and it had a reason.

We do not agree with Islam nor with Muslim tactics. We find much cruelty, much hypocrisy, and great false teaching within this religion. However, perhaps we should temper our condemnation of their punishment practices with the knowledge that God Himself (and Christ) specifically commanded (not requested, but commanded) that adulterers and others (homosexuals, murderers, blasphemers, etc.) were to be put to death.

If capital punishment was to be given to various sinners in Israel—including adulterers—we must see the utterly serious nature of sinning.  It is true that we are not living in a national theocracy today as followers of Christ, in the same manner as Israelites were, thus we cannot kill sinners and criminals as Israel was commanded to do.  And we must also consider the life and teachings of Christ.

Jesus Himself commanded the death penalty in the Old Covenant economy (our Old Testament period), but as we read the New Testament, we see Him offering forgiveness to the adulterous woman in John 8.  Later, Paul the apostle, lists various sins that the unrighteous had committed (fornication, adultery, homosexuality, etc.), but he then says to the Corinthians, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Some of these people had been adulterers. Did Paul say that they should have been stoned to death?  Even if this was an option, we doubt that he would have taken it. Rather, Paul gloried in the saving work of Christ on the cross. Just as Paul had been forgiven of great sin himself, he rejoiced that sinners at Corinth had also been forgiven. They had been washed of their sins, sanctified or set apart from sin and the world, and justified or declared righteous by God (v. 11). They were new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We must be slow to condemn all aspects of Islam even though it is a corrupt system. But let’s realize that if the Mosaic Law were still in effect in our day, the world would just as decidedly condemn it as they do Islamic Sharia Law. But in addition, let’s rejoice that God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, took the Law out of the way (cf. Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:14-15). He now offers forgiveness and salvation to all—including adulterers, adulteresses, and Muslims! Thanks be to God for His abundant mercy!

[Note: The photos may not necessarily show the actual stoning of the particular person described earlier.]

 

 

 

 

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