The subject of this painting is taken from the New Testament (John 8: 3-12). When asked by the scribes and Pharisees to condone the stoning of a woman taken in adultery (in accordance with the Law of Moses) Christ is said to have 'stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not'. When the question was repeated he 'lifted up himself and said unto them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her".'
Some figures are shown trying to make out Christ's writing. The Temple of Jerusalem is represented in the background, and among the reliefs decorating it there is a roundel showing Moses giving the Ten Commandments, including the law against adultery.