Q. I’ve always thought I am for capital punishment, and that God was also for it since He uses the rule of ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.’ But someone recently brought up this subject and I was reminded of the story about the woman brought to Jesus for committing adultery. Jesus told the crowd that the one without sin should cast the first stone. Does this mean that we have no right to use capital punishment against murderers since we are all sinners? Does God give us the right, through the courts, to put a person to death for killing another person?
A. In Genesis 9:6 God instituted capital punishment for murder. Other sins were added later. But it’s obvious from the story in John 8:1-11 that this was a set up so the Pharisees could trap Jesus into denying God’s word. The woman was supposedly “caught in the act” of adultery but somehow the man, who was equally guilty, escaped. I think the real issue here was one of bearing false witness, which according to the law exposed the accusers to the same penalty as would be due to the accused.
But Jesus outfoxed them. Without disputing the penalty God commanded for adultery, he questioned their qualification to punish the woman. No one knows what He wrote in the dirt. It could have been a reminder of the penalty for bearing false witness, or it could have been a list of their secret sins. Either way when they went away in shame there was no one left to accuse the woman, so in effect the case against her was dismissed. Therefore this cannot be used as an argument against capital punishment.