The phrase “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone” (paraphrased from John 8:7 KJV), has become entrenched everyday speech and in popular culture. The vast majority of Christians, including Pastors, do not know, are totally unaware in fact, that the account of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 was not part of the original Bible! People just “know” that Jesus really said these words, since they’ve heard it all of their lives, and sermonized in churches. The phrase at John 8:7 is often used to let others know not to take sin too seriously, and not to “judge” others. It is often quoted by those who want to excuse their own sin.
However, the evidence against this account is extensive and wide-ranging. It is omitted by a truly diverse group of ancient Greek manuscripts, including P66, P75, B, Sinaitic, L, N, T, W, 0141, 33, 157, 565, 1241, 1333, 1424, and many, many others. Both A and C probably did not contain it. Other manuscripts that do contain it mark it off with asterisks or obeli. In ms. 225 it’s after Jn 7:36, but in others it’s after 7:44. In f13 it’s after Lk 21:38. All of this alone is more than enough proof that the passage is a fake! But there is even much more. When a text “moves around” in manuscripts like this account does, it is strong evidence of its later origin, and efforts by scribes to put it where it seems to “fit”. The manuscript evidence alone is 100% against this text being original.
The vocabulary and style of writing in these 12 verses is very different from the rest of John’s writings, which is another clue as to the suspicious nature of the passage. Then there is the fact that when these 12 verses are removed from the text, as modern translations are increasingly doing, the flow of the text from John 7:52 to 8:12 fits perfectly. The story is completely foreign to John’s account of the events regarding Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem (John 7:45-8:20) by interrupting the flow of the text.
Then, there is the problem with the story itself. Since adultery cannot be committed alone, the question arises, “Where was the man, her partner in the act”? Jesus, being no dummy, would likely have called attention to this fact. There is no indication of any repentance on the part of this woman, or any hint of her attitude, in this account. Contrast this with the repentant attitude of the sinful woman at Luke 7:36-50, that Jesus encountered.
The account of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 is justified by many, even in the scholarly community, as being the recording of an actual historical event in the life of Jesus, even though it has no genuine Biblical support. The adulterous woman story is used as much as any of the legitimate Biblical accounts, often with sincere ignorance, to support the Biblical teaching of being merciful. However, the Bible has more than enough true, genuine scriptures about mercy without these 12 verses.
Aside from the account’s Biblical illegitimacy, a much worse and more serious problem is that the adulterous woman account is often used to excuse sinful actions. Christians under the New Covenant are no more excused from sin than they were under the Old Law Covenant. “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 12:28,29 NIV). So the claim that God in the Old Testament was stricter, meaner, and more rigid in dealing with our sins than the merciful, loving, forgiving Jesus in the New Testament is absolutely false. The story at John 7:53-8:11 has helped to fuel this myth. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). To use this account, even in a sincere way, is a mistaken misrepresentation of God and Jesus in the Bible.
The Bible warned about ‘adding anything to the words of the Bible’ (Rev 22:18,19). Obviously, this happened at John 7:53-8:11, and other places in the Bible. But these tamperings and additions have been uncovered by the discovery of numerous ancient, more accurate Biblical manuscripts, and modern textual scholarship methods to arrive at the original Biblical text. Spurious additions have now been eliminated from the most current Greek texts, and the modern translations that are based on them. God said He would preserve His word and he has! “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (2 Peter 1:24,25 NIV). Satan tried to corrupt the Biblical text, but his corruptions have been exposed and weeded out. We would do well not to bring them back in, for example, by using this spurious account of the woman caught in adultery in any kind of legitimate way.