Sept 1, 2010
Doddridge on the PA
Excerpt from: P. Doddridge, A. Kippis, The Family Expositor, A paraphrase and version of the NT, (London, 1807)
Doddridge - The Pericope Adulterae (Jn: 7:53-8:11)
The Expositor's NT (1807)
Brought to him a woman taken in adultery.
"It is well known that this story is wanting in the Syriac version, as well as in the Alexandrian and Bodleian copies, and indeed in most of the oldest manuscripts ; which engaged Beza to question, and Le Clerc, with many others, to reject its authority. But I acquiesce in the reasoning of the learned Dr Mill, to whom I refer the reader for the arguments to prove it authentic ; the critical examination of these matters lying quite outside of the sphere of my present design.
A mistaken apprehension that some circumstances in the story were indecent, and an excessive rigour with respect to those who had fallen into this truly detestable crime, might perhaps be the occasion of this omission, if it was not accidental in some early copies.
Erasmus conjectures it might have been added by St. John after some copies of his gospel had been taken ; and Grotius, that some who heard the story from the apostle's mouth recorded it with the approbation of Papias and other eminent persons in the church. The notice that Eusebius (Eccle. Hist. lib. iii. cap. ult) Jerome (adv Pelag. lib. ii. cap. 6), and other ancient writers, have taken of the dubiousness of this passage [i.e., Jerome accepts it as genuine], with a few other instances of the like nature, shews that critical exactness with which they examined into the genuineness of the several parts of the New Testament and so, on the whole, strengthens the evidence of Christianity, which (as I have shewn at large in the ninth of my Ten Sermons) is so inseparably connected with the genuineness and purity of the New Testament.
Such women should be stoned. If they spoke accurately, this must ahve been a woman who had been betrothed to a husband, and had been guilty of this infamous crime before the marriage was completed.; for such only are expressly condemned to be stoned (Deut. 22:22-24). The Jewish writers [i.e., Talmud, c. 200 A.D.] tell us, that when (as in the case of other adulteries) only death in general was denounced, without specifying the particular kind of it, strangling was to be used. Custom indeed (as Grotius observes) might have introduced stoning in all these cases (compare Ezek. 16:38,40); yet that would not justify what they here say. But our Lord's Spirit was too noble to take the advantage of such a slip, if it was a mistake: he had a much greater view, and silenced them in a far more effectual manner.
To accuse Him - to the Romans, if he ventured, etc.] It is very evident that the Jewish Sanhedrim sat by licence from the Roman governor; and though they had a right to try capital causes, it was necessary (as it seems from passages elsewhere examined) that the sentence they passed should be recognized and allowed by the Romans before it could be carried into execution. (see notes on Matt. 27:2, Jn. 19:10). For Christ therefore to have undertaken the decision of this case would ipso facto have rendered him obnoxious to the Romans, as well as to the sanhedrim; and had he condemned her, a new occasion of offence must have arisen, in consequence of that, to Pilate, if execution had been ordered without an application to him, and to the Jews, if Christ had directed such an application to be made. So that the snare here was much the same with that afterwards laid for him (Matt. 22:17-22) in the question about lawfulness of paying tribute [to the Romans].
Wrote on the ground with his finger. The following words, μη προσποιωμενος, 'as though he heard them not', or (as I would render them) 'as not regarding them', are wanting in the most valuable manuscripts. Dr. Mill therefore, I think justly, omits them, as several other printed editions of the NT do. Were they admitted, they would cut off most of the conjectures which learned men have advanced as to what Christ wrote; a question which it is impossible for us to determine, and which we have no need at all to be solicious about. I am inclined to think there was a language in the action itself, either to intimate that these hypocritical Pharisees should be themselves (as the prophet expresses it, Jer. 17:13) written in the earth, or that they were to attend to what was written; but I can determine nothing, and must say with a great critic on these words,
"Nescire velle, quae magister optimus neacire nos vult, erudita inscitia est:"
"To be willing to continue ignorant of what our great Master has thought fit to conceal, is no inconsiderable part of Christian learning."
Let him of you that is without sin, throw the first stone at her. Le Clerc makes the supposed impropriety of this reply a farther argument against the genuineness of this text; since the Law did not require the witnesses or executioners to be free from sin, in orde4r to the efficacy of such a prosecution. But it may be answered, that our Lord's certain knowledge of what the effect would be, vindicated the wisdom of his putting the matter upon this issue, by which it is plain in fact he escaped their snare.
Went out one by one, beginning from the eldest. It is strange any should have interpreted this clause so rigorously, as to imagine that every particular person went out just according to his age. It seems only to intimate that those elders of the people, who have been most eager in the prosecution, appeared under the most sensible confusion, and were some of the first that left the assembly. And in this view it is very remarkable; especially considering that they were now in the presence of the multitude, before whom they would, no doubt, be desirous to keep up the strictest appearance of virtue, in order to maintain their influence over them. Though (as Dr. Whitby shews, on Jn. 8:7) adultery prevailed much among the Jews about this time, yet I see no reason to conclude that their conscience convicted every one of them of this particular crime. Their partiality (as Dr. Lardner well observes) seems to appear in bringing only the woman, not the man, when the Law condemned both. (Lard. Credib. part i. Vol 1 p. 79).
Sin no more. Elaner (Observ. Vol.I p.318), and Suicer (Thesaur., Vol. I.p.205), have shewn that the word αμαρτανειν, "to sin", is used by the most elegant Greek Classics (as the correspondent word peccare is by the Latin) to signify the commission of adultery; which strongly intimates that even the light of nature taught many of the Heathens the exceeding sinfulness of it.: which is the more worthy of notice, as not only the greatest of their men, but (according to their scandalous theology) the greatest of their gods too, gave it all the sanction it could have from example."
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