Last Updated:

Sept 16, 2010

Rayburn on the PA

Excerpt for review: Robert Rayburn, "The Text of the Bible" , (Internet, 2000)

Page Index

    Rayburn - introduction to author

R. Rayburn: "The Text of the Bible" (Jn: 7:53-8:11)
    Current Controversy - over the Bible and Jn: 8:1-11
    Errors in Copies - textual criticism necessary
    No Doctrines Affected - by various textual choices
    1. Textual Evidence - regarding John: 8:1-11
    2. Usage and Source - for the passage
    3. Mark's Ending - and Johannine Comma (1st Jn: 5:7)
    Conclusion - PA not Holy Scripture, but not a problem
    Errors in NT Text - uncertainty encourages Bible study

    Footnotes - and corrections by Nazaroo

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'Dr. Robert Rayburn holds a Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary and a doctorate in NT from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. His commentary on Hebrews was published in the Evangelical Commentary of the Bible.'

- Faith Presbyterian Church Website

Dr. Rayburn's web article is interesting, because he addresses the question of Bible error per se and in conclusion offers some explanations as to why it would exist under God's Providence. These are of concern to Christians of all persuasions.

However, his analysis of the authenticity of John: 7:53-8:11 leaves much to be desired, because of its inaccuracies, its flawed arguments, and most importantly, because of his false conclusion that the passage is not authored by John the Evangelist, and not Holy Scripture.

Even conceding his various observations regarding the errors in hand-written early copies of the NT books, the evidence he presents is hardly convincing, and Christians need not go along with the opinions of academics who reject the verses. Most of Rayburn's arguments against the passage are vague and not directly relevant to the specific question at hand.

The combination of factual inaccuracies, and irrelevant arguments must, when discovered and exposed, lead to far different conclusions about the Pericope De Adultera (the "PA": Jn: 7:53-8:11) than Rayburn arrives at.

In fact, the passage is most certainly authentic John, and its absence in 3rd and 4th century ecclesiastical copies says more about the church in the 4th century than it does about the passage.

We invite readers to examine in detail for themselves, both the Textual (MSS, Versions, etc.), Patristic (External), new Synoptic (New Testament), and Internal (structural) evidence. This largely new evidence shows beyond reasonable doubt that John wrote the PA, and that he wrote his Gospel with the PA included, by a determined and conscious intent.

We have left Dr. Rayburn's text as he wrote in 2000, but have added some headings for clarity and navigation purposes only. Nazaroo's review and critique are found in the added footnotes to key points made in the article.

"The Text of the Bible"
John 8:1-11

by Robert Rayburn

September 17, 2000

"We have an odd situation before us this morning, having come to John 8:1-11. It is an advantage of preaching consecutively through books of the Bible: you come to everything sooner or later.

As your New International Version (NIV) indicates, the entire paragraph is set apart as unlikely to have been a part of the Gospel that John wrote. Some printings of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) do not include it in the text of the Gospel at all, but relegate the paragraph to a footnote.

One of the commentaries I have been using most in preaching through the Gospel of John, the volume by the Australian Anglican evangelical, Leon Morris, a standard for believing scholarship, passes from the exposition of 7:52 immediately to 8:12. His treatment of 8:1-11 is found in an appendix to the commentary. 1

Early Copies of the NT

As you know, the Bible was written long before the invention of the printing press made possible the reproduction of exact copies. And, in fact, most all of them copies of copies of copies, and so on. The handwritten manuscripts of the New Testament (NT) which exist in large numbers -- there are some 5,000 of them in fact -- are all copies. No one has found an original of any book of the NT. Even the earliest of these copies are a generation removed from the time of the writing of the NT and many of them are many generations removed.

I should say, by the way, that the copies of the NT that exist are far nearer to the time of the writing of the original than the earliest copies of other classical texts. The earliest existing copy of Virgil was itself written 350 years later than Virgil’s own time. For Plato 1300 years. For Euripides 1600 years. Yet no one doubts that we have substantially what Virgil, Plato, and Euripides wrote, even though our earliest manuscripts of their writings are copies from many centuries later.

In the case of the NT we have parts and pieces from a single generation later, entire New Testaments from 250 years later. 2 Compared to almost any other writing from the classical period, we have an abundance of manuscript evidence, and early evidence, for the NT and we can therefore be confident that we know what the Gospel writers and Paul and Luke and the others wrote when they first penned the writings that now make up the NT.

But, the fact that we have many copies introduces the problem of ascertaining the correct original text, because, as you know, the copies do not agree with one another in every point. Most of the differences are minor, a few are more significant, and at two places in the NT is there is an entire paragraph that has fallen under suspicion. 3 [i.e., Jn: 7:53-8:11, and the Ending of Mark.]

The Current Controversy between Believers

over John: 7:53-8:11

Now, the question for me as a preacher is whether or not I have the Word of God before me in this paragraph. Is this part of the Scripture that is God-breathed and so profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness? Am I to preach a sermon to you from this text and tell you from it what the Lord is saying to his people and to the world, or can I not say that about this paragraph? Is this finally only the word of some man, perhaps even a very good man, but not the Word of God to be believed and obeyed?

As you know, this is the sort of question that can trouble devout people. They love the Bible and, for them, the Bible is the English translation that they have always used. And the famous story of the woman caught in adultery and the Lord’s response both to her and the Pharisees has always been in their Bible. To question its authenticity, to suggest it be removed, strikes them as equivalent to questioning the authenticity of the Bible.

And, as you can well imagine, there have been good men who have tried to demonstrate that this paragraph was part of the original Gospel of John and should be read as Holy Scripture just as everything before it and after it in the Gospel. And as we might expect, those who defend the canonicity of this paragraph in John 8, that is, who defend its being a part of the canon, the Bible, often frame the issue in terms of loyalty to the Bible. To defend the authority of this paragraph is to defend the Bible; to consent to remove this paragraph is surrender the Bible to unbelieving scholarship, because, after all, a good deal of the scholarship (though by no means all) that has led to doubts about John 8:1-11 has been liberal and unbelieving scholarship.

I remember being witness years ago to an ordination examination in an old Southern Presbyterian Church presbytery in Tennessee. It was a mixed presbytery. There were evangelicals and liberals in it who lived in uneasy peace. As it happened, an evangelical young man was being examined and was asked about the genuineness of John 8:1-11. He held up his paperbound copy of the Living Bible and said, in the tone of one taking a stand for his faith, "It’s in my Bible!"

Well, what are we to make of all of this? We must talk about it because our own copies of the Bible, our NIVs, are telling us that this paragraph is not part of Holy Scripture.

Other devout folk are telling us not only that it is part of Holy Scripture, but that to doubt its authenticity is to play into the hands of unbelief and to be led by unbelieving and unconsecrated scholarship to raise doubts about the Bible in the hearts of God’s people.

Errors in Handwritten Copies

Well, let’s begin with a few facts that are not in dispute.

We do not have the original writings of the NT as they came from the pen of the biblical authors. We have copies only, copies of copies, and those copies do not agree with one another. Until the invention of the printing press we do not have any single copy that is precisely the same as any other copy. Hand-copied documents inevitably contained errors in transcription. Everyone admits that one has to decide which text is the correct one, the one most likely to have been original, when faced with the differences that exist in manuscripts.

Even the new Majority Text Greek NTs, there are two of them, that propose to give the church a text more faithful text, a text based on a majority of readings in the manuscripts, so a text based less on theories of superior and inferior manuscripts or earlier and later manuscripts, a text more like that which underlay the King James Version, differ from the text used by the KJV translators themselves in some 1,500 places. This is the Greek text that underlies the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible, by the way.

Everybody has to weigh probabilities in judging the differences that exist between manuscripts of the NT or portions of it. There is no simple formula 4 that solves the problem because all the manuscripts differ from one another at various points – all of them.

No Doctrinal Differences

between Texts with or without Jn: 8:1-11

These differences that exist between copies and so the differences that exist between the various modern texts of the Greek NT do not materially effect the teaching of the NT in any part. Most of the differences are differences of minor detail, spelling, word order and the like.

But even here, at John 8, this is true. There is nothing, for example, in this episode of the woman caught in adultery that cannot be replicated in other teaching of the Gospels and the NT as a whole. The Pharisees’ hypocrisy in judgment, the Lord’s bracing exposure of it, the promise of full and free forgiveness to the penitent, 5 the demand that those who wish for the forgiveness of God must live in new obedience, I say these are all biblical commonplaces. We are left with no difference in message if this passage is lost to us and gain no new message if we keep it. 6

Indeed, the point can be put more baldly. Here is a modern scholar, E. R. Goodenough. [sic!]

"The field of [textual criticism – that is ascertaining the true text of the NT]…was never so systematically cultivated as now. Yet…I doubt if the course of civilization will be appreciably changed by the production of the absolutely [authentic] NT text, or indeed would be deeply affected by the discovery of the complete set of NT autographs [that is, the very original manuscripts written by the NT authors themselves].

I should imagine that if we had Paul’s letter to the Romans in its original form the problem of what he meant to say in it would be just about what it is now when we read it in Nestle’s text [the standard Greek NT text used by scholars and pastors today]. 7 And the question of the relevance for modern man of whatever Paul may have said would certainly be exactly what it is."

[ - cited in J. Wenham, Christ and the Bible, p. 191]

So, we can neither avoid the question nor should we think that the faith hangs on it in some way. What should we think about this paragraph?

1. The Basic Textual Situation

evidence regarding Jn: 8:1-11

Well, we begin by asking why so many biblical scholars, including the vast majority of evangelical scholars who hold to the inerrancy of the Bible, doubt that this paragraph was in John’s Gospel when he wrote it? And the reasons are these.

First, the passage is absent from a large number of early and important manuscripts of the NT. Among the manuscripts that do not have the paragraph are a good many that are widely believed, on other grounds, to be very fine copies of the NT text. 8

To put it simply, many Christian people who lived in the first centuries of the Christian era, would have not known of this text, 9 would never have heard a sermon on it, and wouldn’t have found it in their Bible’s, had they been fortunate enough to own a copy, or seen it in the Bible they may have seen and read at church.

And it isn’t just that the paragraph is missing. In many of these manuscripts the text follows on 7:52 with 8:12 with no hint of a break, no suggestion whatsoever that something else once went between the two verses.

I’ve seen a photo-facsimile edition of one of the great 4th century Bibles, Codex Sinaiticus (א), and on this page of the Gospel of John it reads without a break or the hint of a break between 7:52 and 8:12. There is no suggestion whatsoever that there ever was such a paragraph as our 8:1-11 or that anyone thought there was. 10

Moreover, a number of later manuscripts that do include this paragraph mark it with asterisks or other signs to indicate that there is some problem as to its authenticity. 11

These manuscripts that omit the paragraph include not only Greek texts of the NT but, as well, a number of early versions or translations of the NT. The early Syriac versions of the NT, the Coptic versions from Egypt, and some early Armenian and Georgian manuscripts omit it. 12

Some of the old Latin versions, the Bible of Ambrose and Augustine omit it as well. 13

What is more, all the early church Fathers omit it.

In commenting on John they pass directly from 7:52 to 8:12. No Greek speaking and writing church father cites the passage before the 12th century, more than a thousand years after the writing of the Gospel of John, and the first one to cite it declares that the accurate copies of the Gospel do not contain it. 14

But that is not all.

Although most of the manuscripts of the Gospel of John that do contain this story place it here, between 7:52 and 8:12, others do not. Some place it after Jn. 7:44 or Jn. 7:36 or Jn. 21:25. Indeed, some put this paragraph after Luke 21:38! 15

It is interesting, by the way, that the style and vocabulary of this paragraph concerning the woman caught in adultery differ noticeably from that of the rest of the Gospel of John. 16

In fact it contains expressions and constructions that are more characteristic of the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke than the Gospel of John. Indeed, the story itself has a number of parallels with other stories in the other three gospels. 17

2. Where the Passage Came From

early usage and oral traditions

But, then, how are we to account for its place in later manuscripts? Well, there is no doubt that the story itself circulated in the Western church, that is, the church in the western half of the Mediterranean world, the part of the church that spoke Latin, not Greek. 18

How it found its way into a manuscript of the Bible no one can say for sure. But, we know that there was accurate knowledge of other events in the Lord’s ministry and other sayings of his that were never recorded in the Gospels. John himself, remember, tells us at the end of his Gospel, that if he wrote down everything the Lord had said and done, the whole world would not have room for the books that would have had to be written. Paul quotes a saying of the Lord Jesus in Acts 20 that is not found anywhere in the four Gospels. We also know that there was a great deal of traditional lore about the Lord’s ministry the accuracy of which is hard to judge.

It is quite possible, therefore, that the story contained in this paragraph about the woman caught in adultery is, in fact, an accurate account of an actual event in the Lord’s ministry. It certainly bears the earmarks of historical plausibility. But no one can say this for sure. There is no way to verify it. 19

And the fact is, though we have had it in our Bibles for a thousand years, the Greek church didn’t have it in its Bible for more than a thousand years and their Bibles were much closer to the time of the writing of the Gospel of John than our Bibles are. 20

3. The Case of Mark's Ending

The problem regarding Mark: 16:9-16

There is only one other passage like this, that is, a passage of some length, that appears in our Bibles but is not likely original. That is the ending of the Gospel of Mark.

There are single verses that appear in the King James Bible, for example, that appear in no modern Greek text or English translation. The famous example is 1 John 5:7 in the KJV, which reads,

"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."

It is a great proof-text for the Trinity, but nobody thinks that it was part of the letter that John wrote.

The New King James Bible, that still prints that verse as 1 John: 5:7, has a footnote virtually admitting that it is not really part of the Bible. It appears in only a few manuscripts and they are very late. Perhaps originally it was a note in the margin and then somehow by accident found its way into the text of 1st John itself.

Well, for reasons very similar, most scholars feel that John 8:1-11 was not part of the Gospel John wrote, 21 and that it is much harder to explain how it disappeared from so many early manuscripts and from the knowledge of the church fathers than to explain how it might have been added in, wittingly or unwittingly, later on. 22


Evidence regarding Jn: 8:1-11

And that is my conclusion as well. What we have before us in John 8:1-11 may well be an accurate record of an actual event in the ministry of the Lord Jesus. But it is not part of Holy Scripture and so is not the Word of God and so cannot be preached as "Thus says the Lord." We can’t even be sure that it is real history, as we can be, of course, with all the events that the Gospel writers really did record. 23

So, there will be no sermon on John 8:1-11. It is the honor we pay to the Holy Word of God that we do not preach anything that is not the Word of God as the Word of God.

You may feel, and with certain justification no doubt, that this morning’s sermon has done you little good. After all, we have talked of manuscripts and scholarly debates and not about faith or love or hope or Jesus Christ. 24

But the edifice of our entire faith in Jesus Christ rests finally upon the foundation of the Word of God. Those questions that concern the Bible and its integrity, therefore, are fundamental to our faith. It may not be as immediately interesting to you or as immediately helpful as a sermon on some text of the Gospel of John, but it is not unimportant for that reason. If we aspire to be mature Christians with a solid understanding of the Bible, we must tackle those questions too. 25

We have every reason to trust our Bibles as substantially the text that was written down for us by Matthew and John, Paul, Luke, and Peter.

And one of the reasons we can be sure of that is precisely that we know how to exclude this paragraph and keep the rest. 26

We have so much data, so many texts to compare, that we can be sure that we have substantially precisely what the biblical authors wrote. The Holy Spirit made sure we could make sound judgments about the text of the Bible, so fundamental as the Bible and our confidence in the Bible are to our faith as Christians.

Comparison between Textual and Translational Situations

It can be difficult for a non-specialist to get his bearings in a discussion like this about the text of the NT. But let me put the point this way, as a way of reminding you how reliable is our NT text. The fact is, the factor of the final form of the Greek text of any portion of the NT is vastly overshadowed by the factor of the translators’ interpretation of the text. 27

For example, if you took two modern English translations of the Gospel of John, say the NIV and the NASB or RSV and compared them with one another, the result would be a mass of variants. Hardly any sentence in the entire NT would be the same in both translations. The differences between the two would be many, many times greater than the differences between the two most dissimilar manuscripts of the Greek NT that exist among the 5,000 or so that we have. We don’t doubt that our English translations – be it the NIV or the RSV or the NASB or the NKJ – give us substantially the text and the meaning of the NT, how much more, then the Greek manuscripts that underlie them, however many small differences there may be among them.

Jesus and the Old Testament

The Lord Jesus himself passed his own imprimatur on the text of the OT, the Bible so far as it existed in his own day. He said that it could not be broken. He said that it was the Word of God itself. But Hebrew manuscripts of that time differed also, even if less so than Greek manuscripts of the NT. Scribal slips and copyists errors did not, in the Lord’s view, invalidate the authority and divine character of the Hebrew Bible and taught us to think similarly of the Greek Bible, or what we call the NT.

God surely could have preserved the Bible without any copying errors or discrepancies. Why did he not? Why must we face a problem like this one before us this morning? Wouldn’t it have been better to have had the Bible written in stone and the original preserved for all the world to see? Well, apparently not, given that this is not what the Lord did. 28

An Explanation for Errors

Differences and Uncertainty causes Study

Listen to an English scholar suggest an explanation for the situation as we find it, with writings that have to be examined carefully to determine their precise text.

"It was evidently God’s purpose to give us a Book of Truth, rich in its diversity of concrete, personal experience and rich in its variety of forms of instruction, to be studied minutely and yet comprehensively. Could anything be better calculated to encourage the careful study of Scripture down to its smallest details than the doctrine of inspiration? And could anything be better calculated to discourage us from resting our ultimate trust in details than the textual uncertainty fringe?

In searching for the truth the slight element of uncertainty encourages us to compare Scripture with Scripture and to look always for the convergent testimony of the Bible as a whole. If God had altogether preserved the Bible from the ordinary corruptions of manuscript transmission, this purpose would actually have been served less well. Had the very autographs been preserved, they might well have become objects of idolatry.

In any case, what reason have we to think that we should be better equipped for good works if all the loose ends of our theology could be neatly tied?"

[Wenham, 194]

I want to show the deepest reverence for the Word of God, that Word that came directly from the Holy Spirit to us through the hands of Christ’s apostles. I do that in many ways.

One way is to take great care and show great concern that, so far as we are able, we accurately determine the boundaries of that Holy Scripture. 29

Much more important, of course, is that we believe and obey what it says, or, better, what God says in it. 30

Nazaroo's Corrections and Footnotes:

1. Leon Morris in this case is no "standard for believing scholarship". See his sad commentary here: Leon Morris on the PA (1995). We have corrected his inadequate notes on these verses here: Notes on Morris. Morris is himself not a textual critic, but a popular commentator from Australia. He just parrots the status quo on the PA. Essentially he has both the evidence wrong and the conclusion wrong.

2. This claim is false. Given that Paul wrote in the 40s and 50s, and the gospels were probably penned between 40-80 A.D., and the first full "Bibles" (like א, B) are dated at the earliest to roughly mid. 4th century, that would be more like 300-350 years later. Earlier MSS (such as P66 : late 2nd c., P75: 3rd c.) are just copies or collections of individual gospels alone, not even NTs. All the "great Bibles" are heavily edited ecclesiastical productions, not primal copies of the text.

3. These two passages (Mk: 16:9 fwd, Jn: 7:53-8:11) have not "fallen under suspicion" for everyone. Dr. William Farmer, S.M University, Dallas, recently published a solid defence of Mark's Ending: The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, (Cambridge U., 1974). James Snapp Jr., probably a leading expert on Mark has defended both the verses and done much to correct, update, and expand the textual evidence online. Regarding the PA, at least a dozen textual critics have defended their authenticity recently, including Prof. J.P. Heil, Curley Hall, C.University D.C.: Heil on the PA (1992), and A.W. Wilson (2005). For a full list, see our Textual Experts page here: Experts on the PA.

4. "...there is no simple formula." Rayburn has made an honest admission here, and should probably go much further. No credible methodology or procedure has been determined or agreed upon that would meet scientific standards, and for the last 50 years textual critics have endulged in "reasoned eclecticism", making semi-conjectural emendations based on ideology and certainly unproven beliefs about the largely unknown textual history of transmission in the early centuries. "There is no science of textual criticism" would be closer to the mark. See recent critiques by G.D. Fee and others.

5. Many scholars have strongly disagreed with Rayburn upon this view of the passage, especially traditional Nomists like Calvin, Beza, and others with a conservative or legalistic bent. Some argue that the passage does not properly teach repentance (the woman shows no sign), and that Jesus here merely rejects the role of judge entirely (i.e., its not a trial).

6. Obviously there is a significant difference between John with and without the passage, as those who take the Nomist view for instance would argue. John without the passage for instance, can be far more easily harmonized with the strong "Law and Order" emphasis of Matthew & James, as compared to the "Free Grace" of Paul & Luke. It is not necessary to prove the validity of such arguments, only that the version of John accepted makes a strong impact upon them, and so the difference itself is real. See for instance, S.A. James (1979): the PA and the Death Penalty

Secondly, the removal of the passage makes a great impact on the thematic and physical structure of John, in which many key elements are damaged or destroyed. See more on the discovery and significance of these structures here: Structures in John.

7. Only those "scholars and pastors" who accept the Westcott/Hort view of the NT Text will use any form of the Nestle text (or Nestle/Aland these days). Those on the other side of the debate will prefer the TR or one of the Majority Texts (Hodges/Farstad Maj. Text, Roberston/Pierpont Byzantine Text). Citing "Goodenough" (a real name, or pseudonym?) from Wenham's book (1890s) seems suspicious. While the result of adopting a current 'critical text' may seem harmless, the more universal implications may not be. For other critical texts in the future might not be so kind to mainstream Christian doctrines.

8. The 4th century Uncials generally, have not held up the reputation (bestowed by Hort) as "very fine copies". While this may apply to their physical manufacture (fine vellum, professional calligraphy), the text is the real issue, and here it is now recognized that all the old uncials are a mess, showing wild variation and many accumulated errors. Many now widely believe that these MSS do not adequately represent the "state of the text" in the 4th century except in certain ideological centers.

9. Here a tacit change is slipped in. The Uncials are from the 4th century and later, not the "first centuries", and its not clear at all what the status of the passage was in earlier centuries. Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine tell us that the passage was in "many copies" in the 4th century, and many of these would reflect a text existing centuries earlier. Jerome deliberately chose MSS much older than the recensions of Lucian (c. 250 A.D.) and Hesychius, and Jerome's MSS included the PA, which is why he left it in the Latin Vulgate.

Also, contrary to the claim that the PA was unknown in readings or sermons, it is referred to in early documents like the Didaskalia, the Didache, and the Apostolic Constitutions, as apparent Scripture. See our Patristic Evidence for more details.

10. Rayburn's claim about Codex Sinaiticus (א) are easily proven false by reference to actual photographs of all four earliest manuscripts here: Four Earliest MSS (P66 P66 B א). In the photos can be seen the standard "dot & space" that marks the omission in every manuscript. The double-dots (Umlauts) in Codex B are particularly significant, since they are known to be text-critical marks.

11. The actual meaning of many if not most of the "marks" in later manuscripts (asterisks and obelisks) is still very much in dispute. Many of them appear to be simply Lectionary Marks (marks to indicate the beginning and ending of Lections [lessons] for public reading). Most manuscripts were annotated for church use, and the system of pre-selected readings for the calendar-year was in place long before these marks begin appearing in copies. Dr. Maurice Robinson, who has personally examined all the NT MSS containing the PA has commented on their purpose: Dr. Robinson on the Marks.

12. Although badly worded here, Rayburn appears to mean simply "Copies of early translations also omit the PA". He does not explain however (because he may not know), that most early translations are post-4th century, and were not only made from the Alexandrian texts found in the 4th century uncials, but are also dependant upon each other, for instance, the interdependance and secondary nature of the Armenian and Georgian. Many early texts appear naturally to have been made from early Lectionaries (copies prepared for church reading), and probably omitted the PA for this very reason.

13. This is a really absurd statement, created by conflating opposing evidence. Although some Old Latin MSS do omit the PA, both Augustine and Ambrose defend it strongly, and obviously their "Bibles" had the passage in its standard place!

14. This again is an incorrect and utterly false paragraph. Back in the 1950s a commentary by Didymus the Blind (an early 4th cent Greek father) was known which quotes the PA liberally and paraphrases it. The whole "Greek vs. Latin" fathers is an artificial construct, since all the fathers who quote the verses had free commerce with the Eastern (Byzantine Greek) Empire. Jerome specifically went to Constantinople in the East to study the Greek MSS before making his Latin translation, and then settled in Syria/Palestine to study Hebrew. They were all aware of the state of the text across the Empire and commented on it openly.

15. Rayburn conveniently leaves out the dates for these late manuscripts which misplace the passage. But Von Soden (1912) long ago exposed the origin of these copies, in which the PA was re-inserted into copies made from masters that previously omitted it. This activity in the 10th century and later has nothing to do with the passage's early history.

16. Except that more recent studies don't support any significant difference in vocabulary, diction, grammar, or style between the passage and the gospel. This is in part because of the small size of the PA (only 12 verses), partly on account of fluctuations in the Gospel, and partly just bad methodology by those attempting to discredit the verses. Prof. R. Heard (1950) for instance, showed the worthlessness of these comparisons. See: non-Johannine passages in John.

17. But Rayburn fails to mention the copious parallels of the passage with John, equally as many as those of the Synoptics: Johannine Parallels with PA. But perhaps more fatal to this point is the fact that gospels like Luke, which show significant parallels, may simply have used John or Johannine material as a source. Luke's Access to John See also our discussion here of Dr. C. Keith's Vocabulary Tests.

18. This also seems to fly in the face of the Greek MS evidence. The majority of Greek manuscripts come from the East, not the West, (i.e., Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire), and reflect the text that the Greeks have been using since the time of Chrysostom (5th century). Of course the Latins in the West also had the PA in both their Old Latin copies and the Latin Vulgate (made by Jerome in 394 A.D.). Rayburn's version of history simply won't fly (see also note 20).

19. One obvious way to verify its historicity would be by determining that the passage was originally a part of John. This would give it all the authenticity and authority that John's Gospel possesses. That should be enough for most Christians. This can actually be done, by examining the Internal Evidence in favour of John's authorship.

20. Contrary to Rayburn's assertion here, the PA has been in the Greek Orthodox Bible since the 5th century and much earlier according to Jerome and Ambrose. This can be confirmed by the Greek Orthodox themselves. Their Bibles are also much closer to the Textus Receptus than any critical Greek text or "modern English translation" in the West.

21. Actually the two cases, (Mark's Ending and the PA) are not similar at all. We have no earlier copy of Mark than the 4th century Uncials, so we don't have any direct textual evidence of MSS before that time. Mark only exists in fragments for earlier times. Second, only one 4th cent. Uncial (Codex Vaticanus) leaves out the Ending of Mark. All other MSS contain the normal ending. Finally, many early fathers and writers quote Mark's ending and comment on it.

The case with the PA is almost the opposite: Only one old Uncial contains the PA, Codex Bezae (D). Two 2nd/3rd century papyri omit it. And early Fathers begin quoting it openly in the 4th century. The PA is quoted in the standard Lectionary on Saint's Days, in Oct.

One is a story from Jesus' earthly ministry, the other is an apparent ending summarizing the activities of the early Church in Acts. How Rayburn can call the cases similar is beyond us.

22. Again, Rayburn mis-states the case. Its not the passage which has disappeared, but the early manuscripts themselves. We only have 2 Egyptian copies of John for the whole period from Apostolic times to the 4th century. For possible explanations on the missing MSS see here: Missing MSS. Others, like T. Finney have also discussed this.

The silence of the church fathers has to be addressed on a case by case basis. Those writing church commentaries for public Lections would omit the PA since it was not read during Easter. Others had no occasion to mention it, and still others like Tertullian may have had strong reasons to avoid it.

Finally, although the omission did not originate in the 4th century but much earlier (P66,P75), there is evidence that political events interfered with its transmission. See also Theodoret's remarkable inside information on the Councils of Constantine.

23. Rayburn seems oblivious here to the problem that rejecting the PA creates. How can we be sure that the Gospel writers really recorded other events, once we concede that 24 whole verses (and some 180 other whole and half-verses) were added to the text that Christians have been using for a 1000 years?

He would answer that our 'textual critical' skills tell us beyond doubt what is authentic and what isn't. But since many sincere and intelligent Christian scholars disagree strongly on these basic texts to this day, what kind of surety can the Westcott/Hort position give us? He would then fall back to the position that it doesn't matter since the Bible's message stays consistent with either text.

But if today we have two competing texts, what will stop us having more competing texts tomorrow? And how can we predict what various future 'critical texts' will look like?

24. Here is a remarkable admission. This pastor has been lecturing on textual criticism for an entire sermon. Yet it has become obvious that he is not enough of an expert to talk accurately and coherently on this subject, since he is not in fact an expert. The result naturally was not edifying. Perhaps he should examine for himself how this has happened. One hopes his expertise increases when he approaches gospel preaching.

25. If our faith indeed "rests finally upon the foundation of the Word of God", we must insist upon a better mastery of the subject than displayed here.

26. Questions that concern the Bible's integrity are important, and do require solid understanding. And most importantly a scientific method strong enough to get the facts straight, identify causes accurately and give reliable, consistent results.

27. The textual content can only be overshadowed by the translations if we allow any and all translations onboard. But most Christians rightly place some "translations" (like The Message) in another category entirely, called "paraphrase/interpretation", and do not allow it a status as Holy Scripture. If accurate, but good idiomatic language is used, then the textual content must overshadow mere 'translation', not the other way round.

28. Here Rayburn's example in Christ has not been followed to its logical conclusions. For instance, half the time the NT uses a text closer to the Septuagint (Greek OT) than the Massoretic (Hebrew) text. Do Evangelicals correct the Hebrew to the Greek, even on those occasions? Very few are willing to do that. The NT quotes every OT book except Esther. Why include it in the Canon? Because its in the Jewish Tanach (OT). Martin Luther would have rejected it. But most did not follow. On the other hand, Protestants overthrew the Greek OT in favour of the Hebrew, and the result was mixed. Many prophecies based on the Old Greek translation were lost or obscured. The Apocrypha were rejected by the Reformers. If all this was intended by Jesus, why did it take 1400 years?

Jesus would have surely rejected the "historical-critical method" of the post-Enlightenment rationalist scholars. Why have the majority of Christians (Protestant and Catholic!) adopted it?

29. If one valid way of showing reverence for the Holy Scripture is to accurately determine its boundaries, and modern textual criticism has failed so grossly and blatantly at this, what does it say about this field in relation to reverence of the Scriptures? One only need look at some 70 examples where the wrong reading has been adopted, even by textual-critical standards: 70 Gaffes in the UBS Text.

30. Of course ultimately (and hopefully immediately and constantly) we should actually take the Bible at its word and obey it. But if we can't even protect the sacred gift from gross and crude attacks like the removal of whole passages and even endings of Gospels, or trust we have got the right text, how can we confidently obey it?

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