Catholic Encyclopedia: Stoning in Scripture
Palestine being a very rocky country, the abundance of stones made it natural to use
them as missiles. Stone throwing might be merely a mark of hatred and contempt (II
Kings 16:6-13), or the means of carrying out murderous intentions against which
provision had to be made in the Law (Exodus 21:18, Numbers 35:17). Stoning to death
which was at first an expression of popular fury analogous to "lynching", later came to
be a natural and legally recognized method of execution. It was this regulated by law
as an appointed means of capital punishment (Deuteronomy 17:5-7; Acts 7:58). Death
by stoning is prescribed in the Pentateuch as the penalty for eighteen different crimes
including Sabbath-breaking, but for one crime only -- murder -- is it the penalty
prescribed in all the codes. The execution of the criminal usually took place outside the
city walls, and according to Deuteronomy 16:7, the witnesses in the case were to cast
the first stone: "Thou shalt bring forth the man or the woman, who have committed
that most wicked thing, to the gates of thy city, and they shall be stoned. By the mouth
of two or three witnesses shall he die who is to be slain.... The hands of the witnesses
shall be first upon him to kill him, and afterwards the hands of the rest of the people".
(Deuteronomy 17:5-7). Stoning is also mentioned in Acts 7:57-58, as the means by
which Stephen the first Christian martyr was put to death: "And casting him forth
without the city, they stoned him."
JAMES F. DRISCOLL
Transcribed by Scott Anthony Hibbs
Taken from the New Advent Web Page (www.knight.org/advent).
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