Meyer on John 8:1-11

Review of: H. A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the NT, Vol II John, (1875)

Page Index

Meyer on John 8:1-11

I. Textual Discussion:
    English Translator's Note
    An Insertion - Meyer's essential position
    Papias not the Source - Rufinus mistaken
    An Authentic Tradition - convincing content
    Non-Johannine Origin - internal evidence
    Patristic Evidence - for early insertion
    Why here at Jn 7:52 - intelligent insertion
    Text of Codex Bezae - a variant text
    Textual Critical Opinions - pro and con
       Modern Footnotes: - from Nazaroo

III. Appendix: - Background on H. A. W. Meyer

Return to Index

on John 8:1-11


THE translation of this volume has been executed in different proportions by the following gentlemen: as far as chap. 11, ver. 43, by Rev. William Urwick, M.A., and Rev. W. D. Simon, Ph.D.; and from that point to the end, by the Rev. Edwin Johnson, M.A. The whole, however, has been carefully revised and carried through the press by myself. I have also continued the references to the English translations of Winer's and Alex. Buttmann's Grammar(s) of New Testament Greek. They are of great value to all students of the original text, for whom it must be remembered that Meyer's Commentary, as a strictly critical and exegetical work, is exclusively intended.

F. Crombie.

University Of St. Andrews, 8th November 1875.

Text has been formatted for easy reading. Headings have been added for clarity and navigation purposes. Modern footnotes are marked in RED and hyperlinked to notes below the text.



The Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery

The section treating of the woman taken in adultery,S vv. 1-11, together with vii. 53, is a document by some unknown author belonging to the apostolic age, which, after circulating in various forms of text, was inserted in John's Gospel, probably by the second, or, at latest, by the third century (the Constitutt Apost. ii. 24. 4, already disclose its presence in the canon), 1 the remark in vii. 53 being added to connect it with what precedes. 2

Papias was probably not the Source of the Passage

That the interpolation of this very ancient fragment of gospel history was derived from the Evang. sec. Helraeos ('Gospel Acc. Hebrews'), cannot, as several of the early critics think (comp. also Lucke and Bleek), be proved from Papias (in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3. 39) ; for in the words εκτεθειται (Papias) δε και αλλην ιστοριαν περι γυναικος επι πολλαις αμαρτιαις διαβληθεισης επι του Κυριου, ην το καθ Εβραιους ευαγγελιον περιεχει, the general expression επι πολλαις αμαρτιαις and the word διαβληθ. merely are not favourable to that identity between the two which Rufinus already assumed. 3

Story is an Ancient and Authentic Tradition

It is, however, only its high antiquity, and the very early insertion of the section in the Johannean text, which explain the fact that it is found in most Codices of the Itala, in the (Latin) Vulgate, and other versions; that Jerome, (Adv. Pelag. ii. 17,) could vouch for its existence " in multis et Graecis et Latinis Codd.", and that, finally, upwards of a hundred Codices still extant, including D. P. G. H. K. U., contain it. 4

Its internal character, moreover, speaks in favour of its having originated in the early Christian age; for, although it is, indeed, quite alien to the Johannean mode of representation, 5 and therefore not for a moment to be referred to an oral Johannean source (Luthardt), it is, nevertheless, entirely in keeping with the tone of the synoptical Gospels, 6 and does not betray the slightest trace of being a later invention in favour either of a dogmatic or ecclesiastical interest. 7 Comp. Calvin: " Nihil apostolico spiritti indignum continet.".

The occurrence related bears, moreover, so strong a stamp of originality, and is so evidently not compiled in imitation of any other of the Gospel narratives, that it cannot be regarded as a later legendary story, 8 especially as its internal truthfulness 9 will be vindicated in the course of the exposition itself, in opposition to the manifold doubts that have been raised against it.

Non-Johannine Origin of Passage

But the narrative does not proceed from John [the Evangelist]. Of this we are assured by the remarkable and manifestly interpolated link, vii. 53,10 which connects it with what precedes; further, by the strange interruption with which it breaks up the unity of the account continued in viii. 14 ff.; 11 again by its tone and character, so closely resembling that of the synoptic history, to which, in particular, belongs the propounding of a question of law, in order to tempt Christ, - a thing which does not occur in John;12 still further, by the going out of Jesus to the Mount of Olives, and His return to the temple, whereby we are transported to the Lord's last sojourn in Jerusalem (Luke xxi.); 13

Ten Non-Johannine Words & Phrases 14

- And also,

(1) by the entire absence of the Johannean ουν,
and in its stead the constant recurrence of δε; 15
and, lastly, by the non-Johannean expressions: 16

(2) ορθρου,
(3) πας ο λαος,
(4) καθισας εδιδασκεν αυτους,
(5) οι γραμματ. κ. οι Φαρισ.,
(6) επιμεσειν,
(7) ανμαρτητος,
(8) καταλειπεσθαι,
(9) κατακρινειν,
(10) πλην
also, in ver. 10 (Elz.).

With these various internal reasons many very weighty external arguments are conjoined, which show that the section was not received by any means into all copies of John's Gospel; but, on the contrary, that from the third and fourth centuries it was tacitly or expressly excluded from the canonical text.17

Evidence from Early Writers 18

Tertullian, (197-220 A.D.)
Origen, (220-254 A.D.)
Apollinarius, (c. 361 A.D.)
Cyril, (378 - 444 A.D.)
Chrysostom, (398-410 A.D.)
Theodore of Mopsuestia, (410 - 428 A.D.)
Nonnus, (4th or early 5th cent. A.D.)
Theophylact, (744-751 A.D.)
and other Fathers, as well as the Catenae, are altogether silent about this section;

(except Ambrose, (339-397 A.D.)
Jerome, (384-420 A.D.)
Augustine, (354-430 A.D.)
Sedulius, (5th cent. A.D.)
Leo, (440-461 A.D.)
Chrysologus, (433-450 A.D.)
Cassiodorus (537-538 A.D.)

Euthymius Zigabenus (c. 1118 A.D.), however, has it, and explains it, indeed, but passes this judgment upon it:

Χρη δε γενωσκειν, οτι τα εντευθεν (vii. 53) αχρι του παλιν οην ελαλησεν, κ.τ.λ. (viii. 12) παρα τοις ακριβεσιν αντιγραφοις η ουχ συρηται, η ωβελεσται. Διο φαινονται παρεγγραπτα καυ προσθηκη΄ καυ τουτου τεκμηριον, το μηδε τον Χρυσοστομον ολοις μνημονευσαι αυτων. 19

Of the versions, the Syr. (in Codd., also of the Nestorians, and in the first edd.), Syr. pal. Copt, (in most Mss.) Ar. Sahid. Arm. Goth. Verc. Brix. have not the section. It is also wanting in very old and important Codices, viz. A. B. C. L. T. X. Δ. א., of which, however, A. and C. are here defective (but according to Tisch., C. never had it; see his edition of Codex C., Proleg. p. 31), while L. and A. leave an empty space; other Codices mark it as suspicious 20 by asterisks or an obelus, or expressly so describe it in Scholia [marginal notes] (see especially Scholz and Tisch.).

John 7:52 as Well-Chosen Insert Point

Beyond a doubt, this apocryphal interpolation would have seemed less surprising to early criticism had it found a place, not in John's Gospel, but in one of the Synoptics. 21

But wherefore just here? If we decline to attribute this enigma to some accidental, unknown cause and thus to leave it unsolved, then its position here may be accounted for in this way: that as an abortive plan of the Sanhedrim against Jesus had just before been narrated, it appeared to be an appropriate place for relating a new, though again unsuccessful, attempt to trip Him; and this particular narrative may have been inserted, all the more, because the saying about judging and not judging, in ver. 15, might find in it an historical explanation; while, perhaps, an old uncritical tradition, that John was the author of the fragment, may have removed all difficulty. 22

But even on this view the attempts of criticism to correct the text very soon appear. 23 For the Codd. 1. 19, 20 et al., transfer the section as a doubtful appendix to the end of the Gospel; others (13, 69, 124, 346) insert it after Luke xxi. 38. where, especially considering vv. 1 and 2, it would appropriately fit in with the historical connection; and possibly also it might have had a place in one of the sources made use of by Luke. 24

Text of Codex Cantabrigensis

How various the recensions were in which it was circulated, is proved by the remarkable number of various readings, which for the most part bear the impress, not of chance or arbitrariness, but of varying originality. 25

D. [Codex Cantabrigensis (Bezae), 4th-5th cent.], in particular, presents a peculiar form of text; 26 the section in it runs thus:

- Codex Bezae (Text given by Meyer)

Critical Opinion on John 8:1-11

The Johannean authorship was denied by Erasmus, Calvin (?), Beza, Grotius, Wetstein, Semler, Morus, Haenlein, Wegscheider, Paulus, Tittmann (Melet. p. 318 ff.), Knapp, Seyffarth, Liicke, Credner, Tholuck, Olshausen, Krabbe, B. Crusius, Bleek, Weisse, Liicke, De Wette, Guericke, Eeuss, Bruckner, Luthardt, Ewald, Baeumlein, Hengstenberg (who regards the section as a forgery made for a particular purpose), Schenkel, Godet, Scholten, and most critics: Lachmann and Tischendorf also have removed the section from the text. 27

Bret Schneider, p. 72 ff., attributing it to the Pseudo-Johannes, endeavours to establish its spuriousness, and so uses it as an argument against the genuineness of the Gospel; Strauss and Bauer deal with it in the same way, while Hitzig (on John Mark, p. 205 ff.) regards the evangelist Mark as the author, in whose Gospel it is said to have stood after xii. 17 (according to Holtzmann, in the primary Mark).

Its authenticity, on the contrary, was defended in early times especially by Augustine (de conjug. adult. 2. 7), 1 whose subjective judgment is, that the story had been rejected by persons of weak faith, or by enemies of the true faith, who feared " peccandi impunitatem dari mulieribus suis;" - in modern times by Mill, Whitby, Fabricius, Wolf, Lampe, Bengel, Heumann, Michaelis, Storr, Dettmers (Vindiciae αυθεντια; texlus Gr. peric. Joh. vii. 53 ff., Francof. ad Viadr. p. 1, 1793); Staudlin (in two Dissert., Gott. 1806) Hug (de conjugii Christ, vinculo indissolub., Frib. 1816, p. 22 ff.); Kuinoel, Moller (neue Ansichtcn, p. 313 ff.); Scholz (Erldar. der Evang. p. 396 ff., and N. T. I. p. 383); Klee and many others, in particular, also Maier, i. p. 24 f.; Ebrard, Horne, Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the N. T., ed. Tregelles, p. 465; Hilgenfeld, Evang. p. 284 ff., and again in his Zeitschrift, 1863, p. 317, Lange.

1 Nikon, [also] in the 13th century, attributed the omission to solicitude lest the contents should have an injurious effect upon the multitude. See Cotelerius, Pair. Aposl. i. 235.

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Modern Footnotes

Footnotes courtesy of Nazaroo:

1. Meyer rightly observes that the treatment of Jn 8:1-11 as Holy Scripture by both the Apostolic Constitutions and other 2nd - 3rd century documents puts the date back deep into the 2nd century. Hort also conceded that the passage circulated before the 4th century in the Old Latin (Hort's "Western text").

2. This simplistic idea cannot in any way adequately explain the composition and placement of the first two verses of the disputed passage. In fact, the actual "Mount of Olives" clause has a far more important purpose, as is shown by the Chiastic Structure embedded in this entire section of the Gospel.

The first two verses could have been mistakenly taken out in a crude removal of the passage, but they could never have been placed there by the supposed 'interpolater' of the story. They are a part of John with or without the story. And this shows that the omission of the passage, along with the preceding verses, was itself a crude and incorrect 'cut'.

Mount of Olives Chiasm < - - Click here for more details.

3. Meyer scores honours on at least two counts here:

(1) He is certainly right that Papias (as found in Eusebius' Ecc. Hist.) can in no way establish the source of the Pericope de Adultera. Many have too long proposed that the Gospel Acc. to the Hebrews was the original source for the story, and that somehow the horribly vague and ambiguous reference regarding Papias by Eusebius supported this conjecture.

But of course it does nothing of the kind. And the idea that the story somehow came from Gosp.Heb and was 'inserted' into John remains a completely unsupported and implausible conjecture.

(2) Meyer acknowledges the real significance of Rufinus' alteration of Eusebius' reference to Papias in his own Latin translation of Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Meyer concedes that Rufinus has shown he knows of the Pericope de Adultera, and views it as Holy Scripture.

Meyer is not concerned that Rufinus knew of and valued the Pericope de Adultera as a part of John, since in his view Rufinus was simply misled, along with Jerome.

But this concession is important in the long run, since it properly sets the value of Rufus' testimony: We can say with reasonable confidence that Rufinus, along with Jerome, knew of the Pericope de Adultera and of its normal placement in John after 7:52, and that he considered it as Holy Scripture, as did his friend Jerome.

4. Again Meyer is quite right that to account for the early evidence, we must assume great antiquity (i.e. 1st century circulation) for the story, and also its presence in very early copies of John. In spite of more recent discoveries of manuscripts without passage, these facts remain true.

For instance, although we now have two papyri (P66 and P75 from the 2nd century that omit the verses, they show signs of the Alexandrian editing process, and also appear to show a knowledge of the verses, even as they have omitted them.

Four Early MSS of John < - - Click here for more details.

On the other hand, we also now have about 1,350 Greek MSS that contain the verses, along with over 1,000 lectionaries that also have their own version of the story. To this we should also add the enumerable Latin MSS. This collection, although mostly of much newer manuscripts, represents many hundreds of independant lines of transmission reaching back practically to the 4th century at least.

5. Here unfortunately, Meyer relies upon the flawed work of Luthardt, who reviewed arguments from vocabulary and syntax, and concluded that the passage was not even 'Johannean' ('Johannine' in modern parlance).

The arguments regarding "Johannean style" that had been accumulated and rehashed up until the 1880s were essentially worthless however:

(1) Scholars knew almost nothing about the language of the NT, 'Koine Greek' as spoken in Palestine and Egypt. The modern discoveries of thousands of papyri were several decades away. And a proper grasp of syntax and lexicography would have to wait another 50 years or more. In the 1900s scholars were still labouring under many naive and incorrect ideas based upon their knowledge of Classical Attic Greek.

(2) Scholars knew almost nothing about the 'style' of NT writers like Luke and John. They had only vague impressions, and many unfounded theories regarding the mannerisms and vocabularies of these people. No proper statistical analyses of any NT books had been done.

(3) Scholars knew almost nothing of the literary structure and methods of the NT writers. This would have to await the development of new critical tools, like form and redaction criticism, and other Literary methodology, such as the study of chiastic structures, the use of the O.T. and LXX and non-canonical sources etc.

(4) Scholars knew almost nothing about literary sources and interdependancy for the Gospels. The Synoptic Problem, the question of the literary interdependancy between the Gospels had hardly been explored. But until various portions of the Gospels could be traced, and until the nature and amount of editing and compiling could be quantified, there was no way to evaluate writing 'styles' of individual authors/editors.

(5) Scholars knew almost nothing about the knowledge of NT writers. Until geographical and archaeological data was better known, there was no way to assess what Gospel writers could have or should have known, or what they did know, based upon their writings.

100 years later, the various arguments involving Internal Evidence of the Gospels look hopelessly naive, subjective, and essentially worthless.

6. By Synoptic 'tone', Meyer means purpose and focus; i.e., what was of concern to the NT (Synoptic) writers, in contrast to what was of concern to later forgers and church apologists even a few years after their being written.

He is certainly right that the story shows no sign of being any kind of 'pious forgery' or invention by those trying to generate "proof texts" for ideas and doctrines of concern in the following years. He is here thinking of fanciful inspirational stories, and teachings attributed to Jesus or other Apostolic heroes to support gnostic philosopies etc.

To this day, no one has suggested a plausible reason that anyone would invent the passage, such as to support a doctrine, or spread a new teaching regarding Jesus, or resolve a theological dispute. Nor could anyone suggest a credible way for the forgery to succeed if it were written to support some side in a theological debate, for if there were any opponents, they would surely be quite vocal about the attempted forgery!

However, none of this demonstrates that the passage was somehow Synoptic, rather than Johannine. What has been noted about the passage here could be equally said of many other passages in John.

7. Again, Meyer is quite right. There is no explicable reason for the story's existance or invention. And if one were to argue that it was invented to support Johannine or Lukan dogmas or teachings regarding forgiveness or an 'anti-law'/anti-Pharisee stance, then again, why bother?

John does equally well in expounding its main concerns with or without the passage, and Luke has far better and more explicit passages than this sample, (See for instance Luke 7:35-50). Again we have no real need, and so no motive.

The only reason given for an 'insertion' is to preserve an "authentic" oral tradition in danger of being lost. But this mechanism does nothing to account for its placement in John, especially alongside claims it is 'Synoptic' in style/concern, not 'Johannine'. The late (12th century) insertion into Luke by a handful of MSS only underlines the very problem.

Clearly others thought (for some reason) it would function in Luke. But those claiming it is an insertion also claim that it is 'Lukan', so they must assign this belief that the passage looks 'Lukan' to those who put it there in the 12th century.

Those who believe in the Johannine origin of the passage however, have a much more plausible and simpler solution. It doesn't look like a 'Lukan' passage at all, and it did not look that way to the scribes who inserted it in Luke either. Instead they did this in order to omit the verses from John as they were ordered (against their will), but at the same time avoid the 'curse' found in Revelation:

'And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, may God take away his part in the tree of life and from the Holy City, which have been written in this book.'

- Revelation 22:18-19

The scribes of Family 13 then, deliberately hid the verses in Luke to avoid damnation.

8. This again is a good insight. The story is not any kind of imitation of any other Gospel story. It has no 'parable' content, nor does it have any kind of legendary elements, like miracles, demonology, supernatural interventions etc.

In fact, this is one of the reasons why it appears naturally Johannine. John also spends almost no time on 'exorcisms', has little space for parables, has an almost skeptical view of 'signs' and their results. Unusual or supernatural events are left hidden or unexplained. And these are precisely the features of this passage!

What are the chances of a random piece of oral (or written) tradition about Jesus avoiding all these common Synoptic features? What are the chances that anyone would invent such a sober, non-miraculous Johannine incident? What are the chances that this lucky written tradition would be preserved and later inserted in just the right spot in just the right Gospel?

Or maybe it was always there, in the very first edition.

9. Meyer now uses quite a loaded term, 'Internal Truthfulness'. What is going on here?

Meyer, like others who recognise the obvious authenticity of the story as a gospel narrative, are trying to reconcile this with their understanding of the textual evidence, which seemed to them to point to an insertion.

They have deliberately separated the idea of "Authorship by John" from the idea of "Authenticity". For these people, "Authenticity" now no longer means authorship by John at all. It just means "an authentic tradition' or story about Jesus from any source, and preserved by any means.

This allows them to talk about the passage being "authentic" in the same breath as it being "not Johannean".

Embracing the wrong interpretation of the textual evidence has caused a kind of dyslexia, a kind of personality-split, or denial, which involves a lot more than just the denial of John as the author of the passage.

At stake is in reality the providential preservation of the Gospel of John, and hence also the New Testament text. At stake are the concepts of Divine Preservation, the role and even definition of the "Church", and its ability to safeguard and protect the message of Christ.

Perhaps it is the interpretation of the textual evidence that needs a second look. Because the authorship of the passage is a minor point in comparison to embracing the idea that the New Testament could have been tampered with to such a serious extent, and apparently frivolously too.

10. Meyer calls 7:53 a "manifestly interpolated link":

'And every man journeyed to his own home...'

Why it is 'plainly interpolated' is certainly not obvious. It and the following coordinated clause strongly finish the preceding meeting which disbands in confusion. Nor does it improperly join with what follows. If something so seemless and logical is 'plainly interpolated' then what would qualify as 'intrinsic' and original?

Far from 'breaking up the account' it seems to provide exactly the pacing and context required by its surroundings. Nothing in its content, meaning, or form suggests any 'foreign' or artificial component to it.

11. Meyer now says the passage strangely interrupts the unity of the account (from the previous scene with Nicodemus, ending in 7:52) with 8:14 forward.

But there is no unity here. We are simply thrown by verse 12 into an entirely different scene with no explanation. Jesus can hardly be addressing the people just bickering about the Messiah in a private room without Jesus even present.

And it is the statement of Jesus "I am the Light of the World" that clashes harshly with the end of chapter 7.:

"Again then, Jesus said to them, "I am the Light of the World". But when did Jesus speak the first time? way back in chapter 7:38? How is "I am the Light of the World" a response to the dispute with Nicodemus?

Jesus said to them, but who is "them"? It can't be the group just debating behind closed doors. It must be the crowds on the temple in the passage, where Jesus was sitting and teaching before the interruption (Jn 8:2).

There is no 'unity of the account', either grammatically, by reference of pronouns, or by the content of Jesus' speech. What can Meyer be talking about? Many other critics disagree with Meyer's judgment here, even among those who reject the verses as spurious. The removal of the verses leaves a noticable 'seam' that ranks as problematic as other odd spots in the Gospel.

12. Now Meyer claims that disputes involving the law are 'Synoptic' and foreign to John. But a mere 3 verses ahead, Jesus now debates the meaning of another law, the Law of Two Witnesses, with the same Pharisees (8:13) in the Treasury area (8:20,22) and with other Jews in the crowd.

How then are legal disputes "Synoptic", and how are they "a thing which does not occur in John"?

13. The final suggestion that this reference to "Mount of Olives" is Lukan again puts the cart before the horse, and begs the question. If John was written before Luke, then the phraseology may be simply borrowed by Luke from John, or Mark, or any other of his sources. Its not Lukan in any case.

There is however plenty of internal evidence in Luke to suggest he may indeed have known John's Gospel. The Mount of Olives would be a famous 'tourist' landmark right outside the city gates, and must have been well known to author of John. He shows detailed familiarity with much of the pre-destruction Jerusalem (c. 70 A.D.).

14.     Internal Evidence ?

Just exactly what constituted reasonable Internal Evidence has changed drastically over the centuries. At the beginning of the 1800s, critics and skeptics concentrated on the content of the story, and questioned its plausibility and historicity.

When Christian apologists successfully defended the passage against the historical and political/religious questions raised, critics turned to the vocabulary and style (syntax, phraseology) of the verses.

Now that we know more about the language of the NT, and the 'style' and writing techniques of the Gospel writers has been studied for nearly a century, the arguments made in the 1800's look rather childish and clumsy.

15. On the issue of John's use of δε versus ουν, see the following article, which examines such claims in detail:

Why 'de' in John is Irrelevant < - - Click here for more details

16. For a thorough discussion of arguments from vocabulary and phraseology, read these two articles:

Davidson (1848) on Internal style < - - click here
Alford (1863) on Internal style < - - click here

17. Worded slightly differently, prior to the 3rd century, the passage was copied in some manuscripts, and left out of others. This was not done accidentally or unconsicously.

This does not directly speak to the question of authenticity or origin. The experience of the passage during the copying and transmission of the text only reflects the varying attitudes and subsequent controversy regarding the passage.

The copying process is independant of the both the authenticy of the passage (since copying happens after an original gospel is written), and it probably more importantly, it is also independant of the original cause of the omission or addition. For instance, supposing the passage was accidentally omitted from one copy. From that point on, copyists and editors would act differently than they did before toward the verses. Similarly, until one person actually successfully inserted the verses, there could be no reaction from the copyists on the matter.

However, once the omission or insertion came to light, then copyists, editors, preachers, and even bishops could all act quite differently and independantly on the issue. This more than accounts for the confusion and variations in the manuscripts and versions.

18. The list of early fathers and writers that can be claimed to be ignorant of the verses has steadily diminished over the last 100 years.

For instance, later fathers are considered irrelevant to the question, since the omission/addition must have happened prior to the 4th century. Cyril's silence seems meaningless, and Theophylact could hardly be ignorant of the fact that the verses existed, since they would be in 9 out of 10 copies available in his time.

Nonnus could easily have left the passage out of his poetic work.

Origen's commentary on John is actually missing for this section, and other evidence, such as his attitude and response toward the story of Susanna indicates what his probable position would be if the matter were brought to his attention.

Tertullian, who had a flawed soteriology and became a heretic actually gives counter-evidence in reporting the peculiar edict of a nearby bishop, and he is suspected of rejecting the verses by choice.

New evidence has come to light that suggests Chrysostom may have indeed mentioned the passage. This evidence is at least as strong as the supposed evidence regarding Theodore of Mopseustia, whose work is only known from an anonymous scholion in the margin of a late manuscript.

Meanwhile, many more fathers have been discovered who mention or allude to the verses, and who provide other related evidence. A more up to date list of patristic evidence can be found here:

Patristic Evidence for Jn 8:1-11 < - - Click here.

19. The opinion of the 12th century father can hardly be given much weight, since he comes in at such a late stage in the question. What we really want is the testimony of some father from the 2nd or 3rd century on the verses. In any case, giving this quote without a proper translation is near-useless.

Tholuck (1828-1833) at least provides a partial translation:

'It is necessary to know that all which is found from 7.53 to 8.12 is either left out of the most accurate manuscripts, or else it is marked with an obelisk. Wherefore those verses would seem to be surreptitious or apocryphal glosses.'

...although the quotation trails off and is incomplete. Verse numbers were not invented in Euthymius' time, and here are 'free' interpretations of the text, which indicates the passage by quoting the first few words from 8:12 etc.

20. In fact the majority of marginal markings are not 'textcritical' markings at all, but sometimes serve to indicate Lection (Lesson) beginnings and endings, public reading instructions, Lectionary sections, breathing / pause indicators, cantor notes etc.

You can read more details on the marginal markings in manuscripts and their meanings here:

Marginal Markings in MSS < - - click here for more

21. We could probably add, that beyond a doubt, no one would have ever suspected this passage of being spurious, were it not for the textual evidence, improperly understood, that was found against it. Which must lead us to the conclusion that the textual evidence needs to be re-examined and understood in a way that better fits other evidences.

22. A tradition that John was the author seemed to have removed all difficulty for nearly 1,000 years, until the amateur attempts to critique the Bible in the 19th century. That circus performance seems to have misled several whole generations of scholars and Christians too.

23. Scarcely can we express the absurdity of this remark. Attempts to correct the text appear very soon indeed, if by "very soon" we mean it took nearly 1,000 years for anyone to think of transferring the section to Luke! And when the earliest manuscript to put the verses at the end of John dates from the 10th century, you probably won't be too surprised at our impatience!

24. This passage might very well have had a place in one of the sources made use of by Luke, especially when one of those sources was clearly the Gospel of John.

25. How various the recensions are is rather disappointing. There seem to have been a total of less than 10 editors who attempted to either correct or update the language of this passage. Their work resulted in a nearly uniform text across over 1,350 manuscripts.

von Soden, who carefully collated this passage in hundreds of manuscripts, noted only two basic texts, which competed for ascendancy in the Middle Ages. One was the standard text (von Soden's M5) and the other was the Lectionary text (M6). The other recensions are mixtures of those two texts, made by block-copying alternately between them. For details on the transmission and stemma of the text(s), see our reconstruction here:

Reconstruction of John 8:1-11 <- - click here.

26. Codex Bezae is better called a peculiar form of a single manuscript, than a "text" or text-type. There is only one copy of it in existance. Some other manuscripts seem to have an affinity to it, and one late copy was apparently made from it. Otherwise, Codex Bezae stands alone. It is useful in establishing the existance and position of the passage (between 7:52 and 8:12), in the 4th century. But it is not a great source-text for attempting corrections to the current one in our Bibles.

27. Counting critics may be considered even less useful than counting manuscripts. On the other hand, such lists would much more useful if dates and publications were attached to the names, which are easily forgotten in this back-woods field of obscure study.

We can add a few names, courtesy of Dean John Burgon, regarding critics who support the authenticity of these verses: Mill, Matthaei, Alder (Adler?), Scholz, Vercollone, Ceriani, Scrivener, Miller

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Background on Meyer

Taken from:
By Albert H. Newman.
(Baptist Quarterly, Vol. VIII, 1874 pg 438-447,)

Some headings have been added for clarity and navigation.

II. The Works of Doctor Meyer.


The Age of Rationalism

The age of Meyer's incipient activity was an age of rationalism. True, rationalism was on the wane; but entering as it did into the very life of the time, it still maintained a powerful influence for evil. Deep religious feeling was contemptuously designated Pietism, and this was regarded as a form of fanaticism. Vital Christianity, except among these Pietists, was at a very low ebb; but was being awakened in a most unsound phase by Schleiermacher.

Paulus had just shown, he thought conclusively, that the miracles of Scripture could be explained on natural principles. Gabler, a theologian of the same school, was one of Meyer's teachers. Bretechneider, than whom, with all his learning and candor, few have been more daring in their speculations and doubts, had to do with Meyer's early religious training, and was held by him in the very highest esteem.

Gesenius was exerting a powerful influence for Rationalism in the University at Halle. Ewald, Winer, and Bleek began to publish a little before Meyer, and their influence, though far more wholesome than that of the school of Paulus, was far from being for orthodoxy.

Paucity of Knowledge and Study Materials

Not only was Meyer subjected to the baneful influences of rationalism, but the materials for study were unspeakably inferior to those of the present day.

He had, of course, the Greek Testament; but with very little critical apparatus. The old Latin and Greek commentaries offered him their contents. The works of Luther and Calvin, of Bengel and Michaelis, of Grotius and Erasmus, all learned for their time—in short, whatever of value existed in any language, was soon accessible.

Fritzsche and Lucke were somewhat his predecessors, and to their works, so far as they extended, he was much indebted. Tholuck and DeWette, and others of the recent commentators, began to publish either shortly before, or shortly after Meyer.

But even of those that have since become famous, he could use in the preparation of his works only the very early editions, which were emended again and again, making fully as much use of Meyer's works as he did of theirs.

Knowledge of NT Greek poor

We must remember, also, that NT Greek was at that time in a very unsettled state. One class of theologians claimed for it the purity of Attic Greek; another found in it only a popular idiom which had lost much of the delicacy and accuracy of the classic period.

Little had been done either in grammar or in lexicography which will bear comparison with the works of the present day. The first edition of Winer's Grammar had just appeared; but what a contrast there is between the first edition and the 7th! Meyer was not alone in the revival of exegetical study; but he was prominent, and did as much as any one man to bring it to its present advanced state. The disadvantage of finding exegesis in a very imperfect state, proved to Meyer rather an advantage, in that it gave him full scope for the exercise of his powers.

Did Meyer escape successfully the influence of rationalism?

Was Meyer a rationalist ? I answer, yes.

Not in the sense in which Lessing and Herder, Gesenius and Paulus were rationalists. Not at all in the sense in which Baur and Strauss were rationalists.

Meyer may be considered a rationalist in somewhat the same sense with Neander and Tholuck, and many of the greatest theologians of the present and preceding generations.

Meyer believed in the inspiration of the Scriptures — nobody more firmly than he ; but he did not believe that inspiration to have been plenary or verbal.

He knew that the Bible was composed by men, and that the same influences that affect literary productions in general have affected the Scripture books. He thought himself justified in treating the Bible as any other historical document, and was ever willing to'let it stand or fall on its own merits. If true, it would stand any test; if false, it deserved to fall. Still he never doubted the divine origin of the Bible, and he made it his rule of faith ; and, except in matters of church order, his rule of practice.

Whatever may have been Meyer's dogmatic views, and his ideas of church discipline — and as he was for many years an official in the German state-church, he must have acquiesced at least in the dogmas and practices of that body — he never failed to interpret the Scriptures according to the meaning of the language, so far as he could arrive at this, and he spared no pains to go to the bottom of every difficult question of sacred philology.

But we may as well let Doctor Meyer speak for himself. I will translate a number of passages from the prefaces to the various editions of his commentaries. ... I have tried to select such as would throw light upon the author's views of Scripture and the true method of interpreting it; his defence of philology; his contempt for blind orthodoxy; his estimate of the extreme rationalists and impugners of Scripture truth.

And here I may observe that Meyer prided himself, as perhaps on nothing else, on his complete independence. ... To this effect, as well as showing Meyer's manner of dealing with other men's results, is the following from the preface to the first edition of John :

Most of all among my predecessors am I indebted to the excellent Lucke; yet I have in very many instances declared myself against him —a natural consequence of my having worked independently, and of my having never spared myself the labor of personal proof and independent investigation. .. . Blame and criticism, some of which is to be expected, I shall not fail thankfully to prize according to the maxim of the rationalistic school of Faulus: to put everything to the test, and to keep the good.

It was, of course, to be expected that having begun to publish when quite a young man, the subsequent editions would show great improvements. Indeed so much have they changed, that the first and the last editions can hardly be regarded as the same work. With reference to this progress Meyer has the following in the preface to the second edition of Matthew :

That I myself, since the publication of the first edition, have received much correction and furtherance in the sciences concerned, through daily occupation with these sciences and their literary phenomena, I recognize so much the more thankfully as I am vividly conscious how much I needed, and still need, this improvement.


The following extract gives us Meyer's view of the Bible. Having again declared his entire independence of the banner of any school of philosophy, he continues:

But the banner to which, in writing and in preaching, I sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, profess myself, is just the Bible; but this studied and explained without an interpretation prescribed by a confessional; since to ascertain the content of Scripture according to ecclesiastical pre-eupposition is, and must be, a procedure in which one has before he finds, and finds what he has.

Meyer believed that there are many errors in Scripture. Apparent errors and contradictions he took little pains to explain and to harmonize. Indeed he looked with displeasure upon every process which seems like torturing the gospel accounts into perfect conformity.

The true way, doubtless, is with a presumption in favor of perfect harmony, to show how the accounts might agree. But this method seemed to Meyer unscientific, and he thought it a far better and truer way, far more honorable to Scripture itself, to admit the existence of errors, than unscientifically to attempt to explain them away.

He maintains that "faith in the"gospel will not be thereby endangered." The main facts of the gospel, the life and works of Christ, in all essential particulars, are unassailable, and so long as we have these we are on firm ground. "Faith in the gospel, which is made the condition of salvation, is faith in the Jesus Christ made known in the gospel."


In opposing the notion, quite prevalent a half century ago, that the language of the New Testament, is an altogether degenerate idiom, entirely devoid of the subtlety and delicacy of the Attic Greek, Meyer probably went to the opposite extreme. But none of us, especially none that have sat at the feet of the learned and much-loved Hackett, will be inclined to find fault with him on this score.


Meyer's first publication, a revised Greek text of the NT with a German translation, introduced him very favorably to the theological public. This work, unlike his commentaries, ...seems never to have gone beyond the first edition. The text, though perhaps an improvement upon those of Tittmann, Kuapp, Griesbach, Wetstein, and Bengel, on which it was based, in view of the great advance which has since been made in textual criticism, is not particularly valuable.

I have affirmed Meyer to have been the greatest NT exegete; but by this I do not, of course, mean to intimate that he was altogether the greatest man among NT exegetes. There have been, and are, many broader men than Meyer.

Tholuck far surpasses him in breadth. Meyer's advantage over Tholuck consists in an immensely greater accuracy, and in superior logic.

De Wette may have been Meyer's superior in mere exegesis, though I doubt this exceedingly; but when we take a complete view of Meyer, - with his superior grammer, his exegesis, his greater reverence for Scripture, his more devout spirit, we cannot but place him far above De Wette.

Olshausen is widely known in this country through the excellent translation of his commentaries revised by Kendrick. Wherein does Meyer surpass Olshausen? In critical accuracy and exegetical tact; indeed in almost every particular except, perhaps, the homiletical elements, to which Meyer gives scarcely any attention.

Lange's " Bible Work " is now claiming a large share of public attention. The objects of Lange's and Meyer's commentaries are altogether different. Meyer's commentary is simply critical and exegetical; Lange's is not only this, but homiletical, practical, etc.

Meyer's commentary, though embracing the results of other men's work, is still an organic whole; Lange's is little more than a conglommerate. We feel that the editors have very inadequately digested their materials; we can scarcely see the personality of any author. Meyer - was not a many-sided man. Exegesis was his calling, and he made everything else secondary to this.

... he was not a systematic theologian, he was not a church historian, except in so far as these departments of study bear upon exegesis; he was not a thousand things; but one thing he was, and as such will always be remembered — he was an exegete, with all that this term in its widest acceptation implies.

Says Lightfoot in the preface to his excellent commentary on Galatians : "Among German writers I am indebted especially to the tact and scholarship of Meyer."

...I had made a number of other extracts, to much the same effect, from other writers, ..., but these must suffice. ...

Albert H. Newman
Rochester, New York.

- from The Baptist Quarterly, Vol. VIII. (Philadelphia, 1874) pp. 440-457

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