In early Bible history, stoning was the Israelite method of executing those found guilty of the most serious offenses against the law. A crowd would gather around the offender and throw stones until he or she died.
The condemned individual was restrained by some means, ranging from being thrown before the stoning from an elevation of some sort that caused incapacitating injury, to being tied to a post (or simply "hog-tied" hand-to-foot), to being buried with just the head and shoulders left above ground, to just being surrounded by a large crowd of stone throwers in an enclosed area.
- "Anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death."
This idea of what might be called "diffused responsibility" can be seen in the more modern practice of execution by firing squad, in which responsibility for the actual death is distributed among several people, thus enabling each to consider their individual role less ethically or emotionally troubling.
Biblical examples of stoning offences
- "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
Acts 7:54-60 The stoning of the First Martyr, Stephen. In the New Testament one of the few examples of stoning.
- "54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died."
Another example within the New Testament (although hotly contested as a later addition to the Bible) is found in John 7:53-8:11 .
- "Then each of them went home,while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”"
Modern proponents of stoning
- Daily Bible Study: Stoning
- "Iranian adulteress faces death by stoning", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, October 16, 2005.
- "Iran: Five women sentenced to death by stoning in past twelve months", NCRI, July, 28, 2006.
- "Nigerian man sentenced to stoning for gay sex", Australian Broadcasting Corporation.