Tregelles on John 7:53-8:11 (1854)

An excerpt from: Samuel P. Tregelles,
An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament
(London, 1854), pages 236-243.

(copied from
(Annotations by Mr. Marlowe have been retained in square [ ] brackets)

Page Index

Introduction .....- Tregelles and his work
Section 1 ........- Tregelles on John 8:1-11
Section 2 ........- Tregelles Original Footnotes
Section 3 ........- Nazaroo's Annotations and Footnotes
Section 4 ........- M. Marlowe's Footnotes

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Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, 1813-1875

S.P. Tregelles was born in Wodehouse Place near Falmouth on January 30th. 1813, and died in Plymouth on April 24th 1875. He was buried in Plymouth Cemetery.

Dr. Julian says, "His deep interest in Biblical studies led him to desire to produce the most perfect edition of the New Testament possible. Two strokes of paralysis hindered his work in 1861 and 1870. He was one of the new Testament revisers, but ill health prevented his taking an active part".

Samuel's parents were Quakers, and he was educated at Falmouth Grammar School. Losing his father at the age of 15, he was employed at the Neath Abbey iron works. His great love of languages, however, led him to devote his leisure to the study of Hebrew, Greek, Chaldee and Welsh. At the age of 25 (1838), he took up the critical study of the New Testament, and this became his life work.

The researches of Dr. Tregelles led him to visit many cities on the continent of Europe. In 1845 he spent five months in Rome, with the hope of collating Codex B in the library of the Vatican. It was said to consist of 700 leaves of the finest vellum, and we are told that the two priests told off to watch him would try to distract his attention if he seemed too intent upon a passage, and if he studied any part of it too long they would snatch away the book.

In the year 1860, Dr. Tregelles visited Spain, being greatly interested in the Protestants of that priest-ridden land, and particularly in the sufferings of Don Manuel Mutamoros, a Christian martyr of the nineteenth century.

In 1862 he visited Tischendorf at Leipzig to examine Codex Sinaiticus in whose keeping it was, before being deposited in St. Petersburg. He also met Lachman, the Greek scholar in Berlin. Indeed he visited nearly every city in Europe where uncial or cursive manuscripts were likely to be found. As an example of his untiring labours, he restored and deciphered at Trinity College, Dublin, the Palimpsest "Dublinensis" (Codex Z) of St. Matthew's Gospel.

After his second attack of paralysis in 1870, Dr. Tregelles lived for five years, continuing his loved work even in bed. He died in Plymouth in 1875.

Dr. Tregelles was made L.l.D and made many contributions to works of learning. The following are his chief works taken from the National Dictionary of Biography:

1. Hebrew Reading Lessons;
2. Prophetic Visions in the Book of Daniel;
3. Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon;
4. The Original Language of St. Matthew's Gospel;
5. The Jansenists;
6. Hebrew Psalter;
7. Defence of the Book of Daniel;
8. Hebrew Grammar;
9. Collation of the Text of Griesbach and Others;
10. Fragments of St. Luke (Codex Zacynthius);
11. Hope of Christ's Second Coming.

This last book lets us into a secret. "That blessed hope" was a reality to him. It comes out in his hymns: "In this hope our hearts rejoice, And His blessed Advent waiting, soon shall hear His blessed Voice". If in the matter of the interpretation of prophecy, Dr. Tregelles may have differed from those with whom he so largely sympathised; if, maybe, he could not see eye-to-eye with those brethren who helped to sound forth the midnight cry; yet the truth they held attracted, and became part and parcel of him.

Dr. Tregelles is remembered as a scholar, rather than a hymnist, the making of hymns was incidental to his life work.

Touching the hymns of Dr. Tregelles, most of his earlier ones are to be found in the three following: "Hymns for the Poor of the Flock"; "The Little Flock Hymnal" and "Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs" (J.G. Deck's 1842). These hymns set forth in simple direct and scriptural language the happy lot of those whom grace has placed in all the favour of God their Father, and all the blessed consequences that flow from Divine relationships. The scriptural doctrines of election and predestination are touched upon in his hymns, but in harmony also with "whosoever will".

(from "Songs of Pilgrimage and Glory", by E.E. Cornwall)

A Shorter but more detailed list of Tregelles' work is as follows:

Tregelles, 1854. Samuel P. Tregelles, An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament, with Remarks on its Revision upon Critical Principles, together with a collation of the critical texts of Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann and Tischendorf with that in common use. London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1854.

Tregelles gives a careful and detailed history of the printed "Received Text" and of the early critical editions, along with explanations of commonly applied critical principles. In an appendix he presents a complete collation of Elzevir 1624, Griesbach 1805, Scholz 1830, Lachmann 1842, and Tischendorf 1849 against Estienne 1550.

Tregelles, 1856. Samuel P. Tregelles, An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. London, 1856. Also published as volume 4 of the 10th edition of T.H. Horne's An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. Supplemented in the 11th edition of Horne's Introduction (1860) with 34 pages of Additions and Postscript dated Nov. 1, 1860.

The Introduction of Tregelles, though more than a century old, is well worth reading today; his leisurely descriptions of the manuscripts and his lucid presentation of the history of critical theory are more satisfactory than any Introduction to be published since, and he answers the overwrought theories of later critics (such as Westcott and Hort) well enough in his discussion of their scholarly progenitors. His chapter VIII, "Discussions on Recensions," is surprisingly pertinent in this respect. Tregelles later referred to this work as containing the appropriate Prolegomena to his critical edition of the Greek text (see Tregelles 1857).

Tregelles, 1857. Samuel P. Tregelles, The Greek New Testament, edited from ancient authorities; with the various readings of all the ancient MSS., the ancient versions, and earlier ecclesiastical writers (to Eusebius inclusive); together with the Latin version of Jerome, from the Codex Amiatinus of the sixth century. London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1857-1872.

Published by subscription in 6 parts. Part I, Matthew and Mark, 1857; Part II, Luke and John, 1861; Part III, Acts and Catholic Epistles, 1865; Part IV, Romans through 2 Thes 3:3, 1869; Part V, 2 Thes 3:3 through Philemon, 1870; Part VI, Revelation, 1872. After the death of Dr. Tregelles, an additional Part VII was published, Prolegomena, and Addenda and Corrigenda, compiled and edited by F.J.A. Hort and A.W. Streane, 1879. The Prolegomena were compiled from Tregelles 1854 and Tregelles 1856.

Tregelles published a critical text constructed on the same method as Lachmann, habitually adopting the readings most widely attested among the earliest witnesses to the text. Like Tischendorf, however, Tregelles took into consideration a much larger body of information than Lachmann, including all Greek manuscripts down to the seventh century, plus the earliest patristic citations and versions. His text was well received by scholars, especially in England, and the statement of evidence in his apparatus was generally acknowledged to be the most accurate of all critical editions. But the following quote from Schaff 1891, p. 264, explains why Tregelles' very worthy edition was almost immediately eclipsed by Tischendorf's edition of 1869: "The Gospels were printed in 1857 and 1860, before the publication of Codex Sinaiticus (which he first inspected in Tischendorf's house at Leipsic in 1862), and the printing of the Pauline epistles had begun in 1865, before Vercellone's edition of Codex Vaticanus (which appeared in 1868)." The text, together with the significant marginal alternatives, is translated into English in Rotherham 1878. It is collated against Estienne 1550 in Newberry 1877 without Tregelles' marginal alternatives, and in Scrivener and Nestle 1906 with the marginal alternatives.

For a brief biography of Tregelles see Hywel R. Jones, Samuel Tregelles, 1813-1875: Background to Modern Translations of the Bible. London: Evangelical Library, 1975. (From the Evangelical Library's Annual Lecture Series.) See also G.H. Fromow, ed., B.W. Newton and Dr. S.P. Tregelles, Teachers of the Faith and Future, 1959. Incidental mention of Tregelles' part in the history of the Plymouth Brethren is made by F. Roy Coad in his History of the Brethren Movement (London: Paternoster Press, 1968).


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Tregelles On John 8:1-11

We have put Tregelles' original footnotes in black numerals (1, 2, 3). Mr. Marlowe's notes are linked by blue letters. For our own annotations we have chosen RED numbers (1, 2, 3...etc.). Each set of footnotes is preserved in its own section, for easy reference. The links work in both directions, allowing the reader to jump back and forth between text and footnotes.


"In the application of criticism to some of the longer passages which are found in some copies, but omitted in others, it is necessary to state the evidence fully and distinctly, so as to obviate, if practicable, all possible misconception as to its value and bearing. A few such passages will now be considered; in doing which, it is only needful to premise that the principle of following the evidence which Divine Providence has caused to be transmitted to us, must in these cases, as well as in all that are similar, be strictly maintained.

St. John vii. 53--viii. 11, is a passage which has held its place in the text by a very doubtful tenure, as is familiar to all who are acquainted with the simple facts relative to biblical criticism; 1 and even in the copies which contain these twelve verses there are peculiarities of a singular kind.

Textual Evidence For Authenticity

This narrative is found in some form or other in the following authorities: D F G H K U, 2 and more than 300 cursive copies, without any note of doubt or distinction, as also in a few lectionaries. In E it is marked with asterisks in the margin; so, too, in sixteen cursive copies (two of which thus note only from viii. 3). In M there is an asterisk at vii. 53, and at viii. 3. In S, it is noted with obeli, and so, too, in more than 40 cursive codices. This narrative is placed at the end of the Gospel, by itself, in ten cursive copies; four others similarly place viii. 3--11. Four MSS. (of which Cod. Leicestensis, 69, is one) place this passage at the end of Luke xxi., and one copy has it after John 7:36.

As to versions, it is found (i.) in Cod. Colbertinus and some others of the Old Latin (Cod. Veronensis is here defective); (ii.) the Vulgate, (iii.) AEthiopic, and (iv.) Jerusalem Syriac Lectionary. (As to the other versions, see below.)

It is mentioned by Jerome as being found in many copies, 3 by Ambrose, Augustine, and other writers since the 4th century. But, though cited from the time of Augustine and onward, that father was well aware that the passage was far from universally read in the copies then extant; and he endeavored to account for the fact by a conjecture:

"nonnulli modicae, vel potius inimici verae fidei, credo, metuentes peccandi impunitatem dari mulieribus suis, illud, quod de adulterae indulgentia dominus fecit, auferrent de codicibus suis, quasi permissionem peccandi tribuerit, qui dixit, Deinceps noli peccare.
"Certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord's act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if he who had said, Sin no more, had granted permission to sin"
(De Adult. Conj., ii. 6, 7.)

But this supposition of Augustine would not account for the fact of the omission of this passage having been so general, as it will be shown to be when the testimony of the versions against it is stated.

Textual Evidence Against Authenticity

This passage is omitted A by A B C T (MSS. of the oldest class), 1 by L X D , 4 by Cod. 33, and more than 50 other cursive copies, by more than 30 lectionaries, in some of which, if not all, this passage is omitted where it would occur in the middle of a section. In connection with MSS. which omit this section, reference must be made to those mentioned above, which mark it as doubtful, or transfer it to the end of the Gospel, or place it elsewhere; for all these are so far witnesses against its insertion.

The versions to which this section do not belong are (i.) the Old Latin (as found in Cod. Vercellensis, the revised Cod. Brixianus, and some others), (ii.) the Peshito and (iii.) the Harclean Syriac, (iv.) the Memphitic, in the MSS. of value and authority, (v.) the Thebaic, (vi.) the Gothic, (vii.) the Armenian.

It is true that, in some of the editions of the Peshito Syriac, subsequent to that in Walton's Polyglot, this section is found; but it does not belong to that version: and so, too, such MSS. of the later Syriac as are cited as exhibiting it at all, mention that it is an addition. 5

As to the Armenian, six old codices of those used by Zohrab omit the whole passage, as also do the MS. lectionaries; nineteen MSS. have the section separately, at the end of the Gospel, while only five (and those the most recent) place it here. One proof that it is a later addition, and not an original part of this version, is found in the great variety of forms in which it exists in those Armenian copies which contain it at all; some of these are quite peculiar, and resemble none of the Greek copies. It is thus rejected, as not a genuine part of that version. (For this precise statement I am indebted to Mr. Charles Rieu.) 6

Negative Evidence of Some Early Fathers:

Though the mere silence of ecclesiastical writers is no proof that they were unacquainted with a particular section, yet that silence becomes significant when they wrote expressly on the subject to which it relates, and when they wrote in such a way as to show that they could hardly by possibility have been acquainted with it. So, too, with regard to such ecclesiastical writers as wrote Commentaries.

Thus it may be held for certain, that Tertullian 2 and Cyprian knew nothing of the passage; while Origen and Chrysostom show in their Commentaries, that they were not aware of its existence.

It has been indeed objected that nothing is proved by Origen's silence; because he often passes by portions of St. John's Gospel, and he had no occasion to mention this narrative: but, in reading his Commentary on this part of the Gospel, it is difficult (if not impossible) to imagine that he knew of anything between vii. 52 and viii. 12: for he cites and comments on every verse from vii. 40 to 52, and then at once continues from viii. 12 in the same manner (iv. p. 299, ed. De la Rue). 7

The silence of Chrysostom on the subject, as well as that of Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodorus of Mopsuestia, was long ago noticed. 8

The omission of this section by Nonnus, in his metrical Paraphrase of this Gospel, is worthy of notice; for though he does pass by parts, yet no narrative portion of certain genuineness, and of such length as this, is unnoticed.

It thus appears that the oldest MS. authority for this narration is D, (Codex Bezae, 5th cent.) and that the only important versions in its favour are the Vulgate, and such copies of the Old Latin as contain it. The Vulgate resolves itself into the testimony of Jerome, who mentions that copies existed of both kinds,--those which contained it and those which did not. 9

I have put together the authorities which contain this narration, because, in fact, those in which it is found give it in such a variety of phraseology, as exceeds the difference commonly understood by the term various readings. In D, the oldest MS. which contains it, it is utterly unlike the other copies; and they, too, abound in extraordinary variations. This circumstance would weaken the testimony of the authorities which contain this narration, even if there had been a less conclusive array of witnesses (all the oldest MSS. except D, most versions, and decided testimony of fathers) on the other side. 10

A Sketch of the Textual History of Jn 8:1-11

In the fourth century, this section seems to have obtained a place in some copies (first perhaps in the West, where it was first mentioned), but even then it is spoken of doubtfully; it gradually was received into most MSS., but still with expressions of uncertainty, and with notes of its doubtful authenticity; 11 and thus, even though it was adopted as a part of the printed text by the first editors, yet its genuineness was not believed by Erasmus himself: the same opinion was held in that century by Calvin, Beza, 3 and other biblical scholars. 12

If the last three hundred years have removed all feeling of question from many, it has not been from better grounds of certainty having been discovered, but from that kind of traditional inertness of mind, which has rendered many unconscious of what have been deemed the most manifest facts of criticism. 13

Tregelles' View on the Construction of the Canon of Scripture

We can no more canonise this passage, if it were not genuine Scripture from the beginning, than we can the books of the Apocrypha, or any other writings. 14

If the best MSS., versions, and fathers, know nothing of such a portion of Holy Scripture, it behoves all who value God's word not to adopt, as part of it, what is not only unsupported by sufficient evidence, but which is opposed by that which could hardly be surmounted. 15

The ancient translators in general could not have agreed, in so many countries, to pass by so considerable a portion of this Gospel, if they knew it, or had it in their Greek copies. 16

I do not rest at all on the internal difficulties connected with this passage, on the supposition that it is genuine Scripture; because, if it had been sufficiently attested, they would not present anything insurmountable. The peculiarities of the language are indeed remarkable, and very unlike anything else in St. John's Gospel; but to this it might be said, that the copies differ so much that it is almost impossible to judge what the true phraseology is. Perhaps the difficulties in the passage have been over-estimated: at least we have no reason to conjecture that any omitted it on account of such difficulties, any more than we have to think that any expunged it on doctrinal grounds, as suggested by Augustine. 17

It may be felt by some to be a serious thing to conclude, that twelve whole verses which they have been accustomed to read are no part of Holy Scripture; and yet if they are only in possession of a moderate share of information, they must know well that they are and have always been regarded as of unproved genuineness: I would also ask such, if it is not a very serious thing to accept, as part of the word of God, what (as they have the full opportunity of knowing) rests on precarious grounds, and is contradicted by the best testimonies? 18

Would it not render all Scripture doubtful, and go far to undermine all true thoughts of its authority, if all that rests on utterly insufficient evidence, and all that is supported by unquestionable testimonies, were placed on the same ground? It is impossible to give real and sufficient sanction to that which is not attested to be a genuine part of a book of Scripture, and thus, while it is in vain to attempt to raise it to the place of authority, the only consequence will be to depress the true Scripture to the low and unsatisfactory level of such unattested additions. 19

The Truth of the Passage is Not Disputed by Tregelles

Though I am fully satisfied that this narration is not a genuine part of St. John's Gospel, and though I regard the endeavors to make the evidence appear satisfactory to be such as would involve all Holy Scripture in a mist of uncertainty, I see no reason for doubting that it contains a true narration. There is nothing unworthy of the acting of the Lord Jesus detailed in this history. And thus I accept the narrative as true, although its form and phraseology are wholly uncertain, and although I do not believe it to be a divine record. 20

No doubt, that there were many narrations current in the early church of some of the many unrecorded actions of our Lord, and the only wonder is that more have not been transmitted to us. This, from the variety of its forms, seems to have been handed down through more than one channel. Perhaps some one added it at the end of John's Gospel, as one of the "many things which Jesus did which are not written in this book," and others afterwards placed it where it seemed to them to belong. 21

We learn from Eusebius, that Papias transmitted an account of a woman who was accused before our Lord,

"Papias also put forth another history concerning a woman accused of many sins before the Lord; and this history is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews." (H.E., iii. 39)

The Hebrew original of St. Matthew's Gospel appears to have been the basis of "the Gospel according to the Hebrews"; and it seems, from the mode in which Eusebius mentions the narrative as having proceeded from Papias, that he regarded it as a later addition introduced into that Hebrew document. It has been much discussed whether this is the same as the narration in John vii. 53--viii. 11. In favour of the identity may be mentioned that in D (Cod. Bezae) the sin of the woman is spoken of in a general manner, a woman seized for sin, instead of a woman caught in adultery. And if it had been circulated in the 4th century in a Hebrew (Syro-Chaldaic) dress, the leading forms in which it is now found might have originated in different Greek translations of the narrative; or else from the writings of Papias in Greek, and from a Greek translation of the Syro-Chaldaic form of the narration.

From Ruffinus' version of the passage in Eusebius, it seems clear that in the age immediately subsequent to that historian, it was thought that the narration to which he referred, was the same as that which had by this time found its way into some copies. Ruffinus renders,

"Simul et historiam quandam subjungit de muliere adultera, quae accusata est a Judaeis apud Dominum."

Attention to this, and also to the point of resemblance between the Cod. Bezae and the words of Eusebius, was directed by Dr. Routh; who adds,

"Evidenter constat, etiamsi suspecta haec evangelii pericope eadem esse censeatur atque historia Papiana, nondum eam codici Novi Testamenti tempore Eusebii insertam fuisse" (Rel. Sac., i. 39).

The judgment expressed in these last words, however contrary to the notions of those who prefer modern tradition to ancient evidence, is fully confirmed by the most searching investigations. We first hear of this narrative in any copies of the New Testament after the middle of the fourth century. 22

The statement of Eusebius gives us a probable account of its origin, and I believe that we shall not err if we accept this as a true history, transmitted not by the inspired apostle St. John, but by the early ecclesiastical writer Papias. 23

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Original Footnotes by Tregelles:

1. A and C are defective in this part of St. John's Gospel; but it is certain, from the exactitude with which the quantity in each page of these MSS. can be calculated, that they could not have contained these twelve verses.

2. Granville Penn, in his "Annotations to the Book of the New Covenant," states well the argument which may be drawn from Tertullian's silence: he says,

"That the passage was wholly unknown to Tertullian, at the end of the second century, is manifest in his book De Pudicitia. The Bishop of Rome had issued an edict, granting pardon to the crime of adultery, on repentance. This new assumption of power fired the indignation of Tertullian, who thus apostrophised him:

"Audio [etiam] edictum esse propositum, et quidem peremptorium, Pontifex scilicet Maximus [quod est] episcopus episcoporum, dicit [edicit]: Ego et moechiae et fornicationis delicta, poenitentia functis dimitto" (c. 1).

He then breaks out in terms of the highest reprobation against that invasion of the divine prerogative; and (c. 6) thus challenges:

"Si ostendas de quibus patrociniis exemplorum praeceptorumque coelestium, soli moechiae, et in ea fornicationi quoque, januam poenitentiae expandas, ad hanc jam lineam dimicabit nostra congressio."
"If thou canst show me by what authority of heavenly examples or precepts thou openest a door for penitence to adultery alone, and therein to fornication, our controversy shall be disputed on that ground."

And he concludes with asserting ,

"Quaecunque auctoritas, quaecunque ratio moecho et fornicatori pacem ecclesiasticam reddit, cadem dedebit et homicidae et idololatriae poenitentibus subvenire."
"Whatever authority, whatever consideration, restores the peace of the church to the adulterer and fornicator, ought to come to the relief of those who repent of murder or idolatry."

It is manifest, therefore, that the copies of St. John with which Tertullian was acquainted did not contain the exemplum coeleste,--the divine example, devised in the story of the "woman taken in adultery"
(Granville Penn, ibid., pp. 267, 268) 24

Was this edict that of Callistus?, - referred to in the recently-discovered Philosophoumena (of Hippolytus), ix. 12, pp. 290, 291?

3. Theodore Beza B did not suppose that a text ought to be traditionally adopted, and then, as it were, stereotyped: his notes gave him the opportunity for expressing his opinions; and he thus proved that if his attention were properly directed to ancient evidence on a passage, he so weighed it as to consider that it ought to prevail.

Thus the passage in John viii. 1-12, the omission of which by critical editors has seemed to some such a proof of temerity, or of want of reverence for Holy Scripture, was differently regarded by Beza: he states the manner in which various ancient writers knew nothing about it, and the great variation in MSS.; he then concludes thus:--

"As far as I am concerned, I do not conceal that I justly regard as suspected what the ancients with such consent either rejected or did not know of. Also such a variety in the reading causes me to doubt the fidelity of the whole of that narration." (Beza, footnotes[?]) C

[from Tregelles, ibid., p. 34 forward]

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Footnotes by Nazaroo:

1. Tregelles borrows heavily from Samuel Davidson's section on John 7:53-8:11 here and throughout this piece. Davidson's book came out in 1848, a mere 6 years earlier, and was the first real wave of higher German criticism to hit England. Tregelles was one of many to be swept away by the general conclusions of the Germans.

Here however, Tregelles relies more upon Davidson's persuading techniques than Continental research. the 'doubtful tenure, familiar to all who are acquainted with the facts' is of course the thesis yet to be proved.

Tregelles goes even further than Davidson, who was already exaggerating with expressions like "strong suspicion" and "many have denied" , a mere 6 years earlier when only one German scholar (Lachmann) had actually taken a stand against the verses.

See Samuel Davidson, Introduction to the NT, (1848), Bagster & Sons, pp. 356-369. Our review and critique of Davidson's case against the verse can be found here:

S. Davidson (1848) on Jn 8:1-11 Pt I - external (Textual) evidence examined
S. Davidson (1848) on Jn 8:1-11 Pt II - internal (Diction) evidence examined

What is probably shameful here, is that Tregelles does not even acknowledge Davidson, or the extent of his dependance upon Davidson's earlier work. Yet the evidence of heavy plagarism is apparent in such examples as the footnote on Tertullian, wholly borrowed verbatum from Davidson, who tipped off the English world to the contents of Granville Penn's obscure treatise (see Davidson, ibid., pp. 357-358).

2. Significantly, Tregelles adjusts Davidson's original list, adding codex F (9th cent.) as a witness for inclusion. Codex F is missing 7:28-8:10a, but clearly had passage. He moves codex M to the discussion slightly further down on 'marked' MSS, making the list of uncials appear smaller.

Tregelles expands the list of MSS with asterisks from 14 (+ codex E) to 16, and the number with obeli from about 30 (+ codex S) to over 40 MSS. Where he found the extra ten with obeli is unknown. But at least Tregelles is still carefully noting the distinction between the two groups of MSS.

F.J.A. Hort (1886) is the first textual critic to just group them all together as though the marks all meant the same thing, a new way to 'bulk up' the appearance of textual evidence 'against' the verses. This convenient fraud, along with a complete lack of any analysis of the various markings was entrenched as a kind of tradition with Metzger (1965).

Tregelles has no new information, but he now re-words Davidson's
"about 50 written in the cursive character, and 30 evangelistaria"(Davidson) to:
"more than 50 other cursive copies, by more than 30 lectionaries".(Tregelles)
The numbers have stayed the same, but the "more than" spin has been added for emphasis.

But we don't know anything about 'more than' in 1852. The fact is, Davidson's original numbers were already acknowledged by him as only rounded estimates (30, 50, and probably already rounded up). If Tregelles actually had newer and better counts, the numbers should have been different.

3. Here Tregelles is more open than Davidson. He at least tells us the important fact that Jerome witnesses to 'many copies' which included the verses. Of course he has still reduced the evidence of Jerome to ten words.

With Augustine at least, Tregelles gives a decent quote, if only because he knows he must counter the strong and united testimony of the late 4th century fathers. He has done the reader a service here. Yet Augustine is caricatured as
'endeavoring to account for the fact (of omission in some MSS) by a conjecture', and
'this supposition of Augustine' etc.

However, the evidence of Augustine is no mere conjecture. First of all he is an important witness to the manuscript state at the end of the 4th century, namely that there were many MSS with the verses as well as without them, a statement in total harmony with Jerome's witness also.

Secondly, Augustine was in an optimal position to comment on probable motives of those who took a side on the question of John 8:1-11. He himself dealt extensively with the Montanists and restored this breakaway movement back into the folds of the church.

4. Significantly, Davidson's original section is more fair-handed and informative, noting that A and C are defective, and that L and Delta include large spaces and show a knowledge of the passage. Tregelles skips over all this evidence and its possible significance, and cuts short the discussion of MSS which move the passage to the end of the Gospel or place it elsewhere.

5. That the Syriac versions of the 2nd and 3rd centuries omitted the verses can be conceded. But the significance of this is overrated. What is not appreciated is the fact that virtually the whole Syriac church not only accepted the Peshitta version as its standard, but also instantaneously embraced the Pericope de Adultera (John 8:1-11) as authentic and included it in its Syriac text from the 4th or 5th century onward.

The reason for this is simple: The ancient Syrians knew their text was based upon a primitive lectionary or proto-lectionary text, designed for public reading and church service. As such, it excluded portions of the text such as John 8:1-11, as unsuitable for public reading during Pentecost services.

The Syriac manuscripts omitted the verses for the same reason that the commentaries did. They were not read in public worship. Yet the Syrian bishops and church leaders had no trouble acknowledging the omissions of their text and corrected this without delay, when the issue was raised.

This would have been completely impossible had the Syrians believed their own text had priority over the Greek (Byzantine) text. There would have been a fierce and long battle if the Syrians had any suspicions that their shorter text was more accurate than the longer Gospel including the verses.

6. This acknowledgement of endebtedness to Mr. Rieu is remarkable. Tregelles here goes out of his way to credit Rieu, to whom he only owes a short paragraph. But his massive plagarism of Davidson is passed over in silence in spite of standing out like a sore thumb.

Tregelles hoped to avoid any notice of Davidson by extensively rewriting the section. But he hardly covers his tracks by placing a whole page of Davidson in his footnotes, without any credit.

Some excuse for this may be made: Davidson was already beginning to be unmasked as an apostate and heretic over his position on the Old Testament, adopted from the German critics. Tregelles probably feared being tarred with the same brush by association. Still, such convenient cowardice is hardly something inspiring admiration.

7. This paragraph can only be called astounding or wondrous: It is acknowledged by all modern authorities that Origen's commentary on this section of John are wholly missing. Perhaps in 1852 Tregelles could not have envisioned being caught out on this point, but this brings the whole question of his honesty into serious doubt.

To this day no one has explained how Tregelles could have cited extensively a non-extant work, that has not so far been found.

In fact, when we check Tregelles' reference, we find he is not referring to the main section of Origen's commentary at all. He is referring to a supplimentary section which recaps briefly the main highlights of portions of his commentary.

While 30 years later, F. J. A. Hort was able to salvage this scandalous claim somewhat, by insisting that elsewhere Origen should have or could have mentioned the passage, the fact that Origen's commentary exists in a fragmentary state remains an incredible obstacle to getting at just what it is that 19th century critics were really doing or thought they were doing. All this was acknowledged 30 years later by Hort:

"Origen's Comm. is defective here, not recommencing till viii 19: but in a recapitulation of vii 40-viii 22 (p.299) the contents of vii 52 are immediately followed by those of viii 12. "

(Exerpted from: The New Testament in the Original Greek, 1881 (rev. 1896)
Appendix: Notes on Selected Readings, pg 82 forward)

There are several points to be made here:

(1) Hort is not saying the same thing as Tregelles. Tregelles clearly implies that Origen's commentary skips the Pericope de Adultera. But he does not inform the reader that the relevant Book from Origen is completely missing, along with about 10 other chapters/books.

(2) Both their conclusions are actually based upon a deductive argument, appealing to a section of Origen's work that may not even have been written by Origen, a summary of contents of sorts. The argument that the summary is 'thorough' at the point of interest is begging the question. This summary clearly is NOT thorough in describing Origen's commentary elsewhere, and may be a later addition to the work.

(3) Hort does not salvage Tregelles, but rather he attempts to salvage the negative testimony of Origen. Whether or not Hort has succeeded in this more more modest goal must await the evaluation of the Origen evidence. The argument from silence is always precarious.

(4) Tregelles remains a deceiver. Elsewhere he also uses deceptive arguments and faulty presentations of the evidence, to favour his judgement that the verses are spurious.

(5) Hort correctly distinguishes two completely different (but not both extant) sections from Origen's commentary. Tregelles doesn't. However, even Hort hardly gives an adequate description of the actual evidence, as you can observe. He devotes two sentences to a problem which requires two pages of analysis. His claim remains unproven and unconvincing.

(6) An accurate picture of the condition and extent of what is actually extant from Origen's commentary can be found at the Catholic Encyclopedia Online, in translation, although a thorough analysis would examine the original Greek.

(7) G.T. Zervos claims "The most important early Alexandrian witness to the absence of the PA the third-century father Origen". But this is utter nonsense. Origen, although early (210-240 A.D.), is still only one of many early and important witnesses relevant to the question, including Tertullian, Papias, Justin Martyr, and dozens of others. And the argument from 'silence' by its very nature limits the potential value of any witness.

The most important early Alexandrian witness to the absence of the PA from the Gospel of John is the third-century father Origen who, in his commentary on this gospel, passes from 7:52 to 8:12 without mentioning the passage.33

32 Becker, Ehebrecherin, 11-12 discusses "das Schweigen der griechischen Kirchenvater und Ausleger."
33 Ibid., 12, n. 15; See Ehrman's refutation, "Jesus", 40, n. 21, of Becker's argument, Ehebrecherin, 119-24, that Origen may have known of an adulteress story from non-canonical sources. Clement of Alexandria also ignores the PA in his writings, Schilling, "Story", 93.

(George T. Zervos, Caught in the Act: Mary and the Adulteress,
- )

(8) The biggest wrench in the gears regarding the silence of Origen and that of many other commentaries, is exactly that. They are public commentaries, designed to be read in church, and to work with the old Lectionary system, which skipped over the verses during Pentecost. The public commentaries cannot comment upon what is not read aloud to the congregation.

The actual meaning of Origen's silence is hardly as significant as it has been made to appear, and its hardly news either.

8. What Tregelles doesn't say, probably because he doesn't know it (he is still borrowing from Davidson), is that all this speculation about Chrysostom, Cyril, and Theodorus 'and the rest' is based not upon ancient testimony about these early fathers, whose works are fragmentary at best, but rather on the anonymous marginal note of a 12th century scribe!

"One scholium [the marginal note of miniscule 1 (12th cent.)] states that the Section was 'not mentioned by the divine Fathers who interpreted [the Gospel], that is to say Chrysostom and Cyril, nor yet by Theodore of Mopsuestia and the rest...':

(Hort, Introduction, Appendix: Notes on Select Readings, pg 83)

It should be obvious that the knowledge-base of an unknown 12th century monk can hardly be better than our more extensive knowledge-base today about these fathers. Their 'silence' is essentially meaningless, because we simply don't have even a reasonable sample of their voluminous writings, now long lost.

9. The "only important versions" are the Latin Vulgate and Old Latin! It seems incredible, but Tregelles has just dismissed as lonely and ineffectual the main versions of the NT which perhaps 70% of the Christian Church for 1500 years has used.

But more remarkable, the Latin Vulgate just 'resolves itself into the testimony of Jerome'. As if somehow Jerome is responsible for the bulk of the text of the Latin Bible. Rumours of his influence here appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Jerome could no more have inserted the passage in 400 A.D. if it had not been a substantial tradition already, than he could have inserted personal anecdotes about his family.

Nor does this sufficiently take into account the knowledge and influence of all the major bishops from all over the Christian empire. Surely these people would have had a say in what was an authentic tradition belonging to John. Why is there nothing but the united testimony of the fathers of the late 4th and early 5th century, if there was any controversy over this point?

10. One of the more annoying statements by rejecters of John 7:53-8:11 concerns the sheer number of variants in the text at this point.

The statement is usually formulated in a way that implies it is some kind of evidence regarding the authenticity of the verses. Thus we may typically read something to the effect of:

"This portion of the text displays more variations than any other portion of scripture, showing its unusual transmission history, its dubious origin, and spurious nature"

But again, are we being given an honest portrayal and appraisal of the actual textual evidence? No.

The first thing the critics do, is claim there are three different 'text-types' for this passage. For this accounting they include the text of Codex Bezae ("D", 5th century uncial).

Codex Bezae has a very peculiar and abberant version of the text, not just here, but throughout the whole NT. Its deviations from the standard book of Acts for instance are notorious and profuse.

But Codex Bezae is hardly a 'text-type'. It is a single manuscript. Although it clearly represents a much older master-copy (possibly 3rd or 4th century), the fact is, the text itself (along with the small handful of other witnesses to some of its various readings) can at best be called a small 'family' or group.

The Peculiar readings of Codex Bezae in part stem from the fact that it is a bilingual Greek/Latin manuscript, with Greek on the right page (lectio) and Latin on the left page (verso). It is evident from examining both sides of the manuscript (Greek and Latin), that the copyist was influenced by the Latin side and the two texts have been allowed to influence one another in the interests of making them conform to one another.

Thus, codex Bezae is not a true or pure 'copy' of its source documents or master-copy. It is in fact a heavily edited 'paraphrase' meant to give a kind of Greek/English cross-reference.

Although this isn't the only or even an adequate explanation for all of Bezae's bizarre readings, it shows that the scribe/editor was quite willing to modify the text in multiple places where it suited him.

As a result, this text alone accounts for nearly half of the 'variants' alleged in the passage (Jn 7:53-8:11).

Dropping the facade that this manuscript is a 'text-type' having any kind of credibility as an accurate source for the original wording of the text, and removing it from the critical apparatus, not only cuts our work in half, but almost completely clears the field of the smokescreen or veil placed over the text by including Bezae's spurious readings.

Not only has the number of variants been artificially bloated beyond reason by including Bezae as a credible witness to the exact wording of the text, but the critics have also cheated in the other direction:

(1) If the many (and we stress MANY) variants in codex Bezae (Greek and Latin) were included in the critical apparatus for the rest of the NT, this would almost double the size of the footnotes everywhere else too.

Critical editions of the Greek NT don't dare do this of course. They only include a handful of the significant variants of Codex Bezae in any typical critical apparatus, possibly about 10% of them. Researchers are expected to refer to a critical edition and facsimile of Codex Bezae itself for more detailed accounts of its unusual text.

(2) The bulk of NT manuscripts (over 5000 for the whole NT) have never been collated at all, in the detail that our passage has by von Soden (who checked over 900 manuscripts individually for their readings) or even more recently by Maurice Robinson (who has now collated all the extant manuscripts of John, as well as several hundred lectionaries!).

If textual critics were to exhaustively collate all the manuscripts in OTHER places, they would have the same number of variants for all those other portions of the text.

(3) The dozens of variants found in a mere handful of particularly loose manuscripts, (Groups M1, M2, M3, M4) have also ridiculously bloated the count.

The fact is, we could if we so desired, pick two dozen particularly bad paraphrases or poorly executed manuscripts/versions and multiply the variants in any section of the NT by a factor of five.

These are not neutral, scientific procedures, or even honest ones. Instead what has happened is that in the scramble to find supporting evidence for the rejection of John 8:1-11, the critics have been grasping at straws.

In fact, as von Soden first observed in the early 1900's, there are only TWO text-types for John 8:1-11, the main text (M5, some 300 MSS), and the Lectionary text (M6, some 250 MSS). The third significant group of MSS, (M7, some 250 MSS), is simply a later peculiar (block-copied) mixed text made by blending the two.

All the variants found in the majority of manuscripts can fully accounted for by the fact that the Lectionary text was made as a paraphrase to 'stand alone' as a Lection (Lesson for Public reading).

This practice is simply what churchs and pastors have done all along, and still do today: paraphrase a portion of scripture to make it easier to understand for their listeners.

There is no fourth group of manuscripts supporting Codex Bezae. It is the product of a single scribe or editor, and was never copied or used by anyone as an authority or reference for the Greek text of John.

The claim that this passage has an unusual number of variants is false and fabricated out of a biased and unscientific methodology.

Its just another myth perpetrated by detractors of John 8:1-11.

11. Tregelles sketches out an outline of the textual history of the passage. Unfortunately, it has no historical foundation. The earliest apparent citation of the passage is in the East, not the West, from the Greek writer Papias (80-120 A.D.) in the middle of Turkey. This is briefly and sloppily recorded by Eusebius, but it leaves little doubt that Papias is citing some version of the story.

The second major error in Tregelles' account is that the passage is spoken of doubtfully. This is entirely false. Whenever an early father mentions it at all, he vigorously defends the authenticity and historical accuracy of the passage. It is true we would like more and earlier witnesses. But all evidence is fragmentary preceding the 4th century.

There are a few 'scholia' (marginal notes) in some very late MSS, namely 10th century A.D. or later (usually 12th), but these have little bearing upon ancient opinion, which is unanimous as to the authenticity of John 8:1-11.

12. Unfortunately, the opinions of Erasmus, Calvin and Beza have very little weight here. Erasmus the humanist and scholar is likable, but hardly qualifies as a modern expert in MSS evidence. Calvin is a worse example, and Beza also is simply too early in the history of recent textual criticism to give an accurate scientific assessment. At the time of these writers, most MSS and significant discoveries were simply unknown.

These names may well have impressed 19th century protestants, but they have very little meaning today.

13. Here Tregelles tries to make a case that the passage has been accepted by a kind of unconscious habit or ignorant comfort, and this only 'recently', i.e., the last 300 years of Christian history.

Of course even this would be a difficult obstacle for Tregelles' attempt to remove the verses. After all, he is supposedly a Protestant, and the verses have been embraced throughout the entire Protestant Era by Protestants. And according to Tregelles, only Protestants.

But the case is hardly anything like his suggestion here. In fact the verses have stood in the overwhelming majority of Greek MSS for at least 700 years before the time of Luther. And of course the Latin version, having stood since the time of Jerome (400 A.D.) also has sported the verses. This encompasses the standard practice of Christians throughout the Empire from East to West for 1500 years.

What Tregelles really proposes is that the majority of Christians for the last 1500 years have been wrong. They've been deceived or mistaken about a large portion of NT scripture.

For Protestant extremists and paranoids, this is of course not that big a step, after rejecting the Apocrypha. Those books too were a part of the Bible throughout the Christian Era. Early Protestants believed that dumping these books would free Christianity from Romish error.

In hindsight, nothing of the kind has happened. There are more Protestant denominations and sects and cults than ever before, and few of them are convincing models of the 'early church'. Part of the very problem of Protestantism is that it erodes the authority of the Bible in the process of 'rescuing' it from Catholics.

It seems that Protestant 'scholarship' is only capable of rejection and excision. There is no true creativity here, no rescuing of lost information or real restoration of decay. Instead, the process of loss simply marches on, and the 'bible' just gets smaller and smaller in the hands of critics.

The willingness to jettison 11 whole verses of John's Gospel on these flimsy grounds is just a symptom of a much deeper sickness found in Protestantism, called apostacy. The attempt to ground 'faith' entirely on rational, scientific principles is woefully inadequate, and fails to provide any solid foundation for Christianity.

Of course Tregelles lived during the rise of modern 'science' and materialistic rationalism. We can't judge him by modern standards. He was a naive thinker in many ways, championing his 'science' against what was perceived as Christian 'superstition'. Today we can be more generous and allow for such adolescent fluff, without being overly condemning.

14. Tregelles classifies the passage in the same category as 'Apocrypha' or human fiction. But to make this distinction he must assume there is clearly another category, the Divinely inspired word of God, Holy Scripture. No separation of the passage from the rest of John on his chosen basis can occur without this premise.

So we may rightfully ask, on what basis does Tregelles draw the distinction? For he has provided no evidence of any difference between the passage and the Gospel, except some kind of conjectural textual history.

But if we are relying upon tradition to separate Holy from profane, why not embrace the Apocrypha and this passage too? Clearly either there is something inconsistent here or there is another hidden agenda.

15. Now we get down to real cases. Its all about 'branding'. - the 'best' MSS, the 'best' versions, the 'best' fathers don't know our passage. Now we begin to see what the true cost is of accepting Tregelles' version of things:

The 'best' MSS will be codex Vaticanus, and some old uncials, not the majority of MSS used by Greek and Latin Christians for the last 1500 years.

The 'best' versions will be the Syriac, or Armenian translations of the 5th century, not the glorious and popular Latin version, or the Peshitto, or the Byzantine text.

The 'best' early fathers will be some fragmentary and obscure writers who appear silent by their absence, not the three most famous early fathers of church, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate.

16. At last something of which we can somewhat agree. Only the whole point is, those possessors of early, sloppy translations of primitive lectionary texts knew far better than we of the inferiority of their possessions, and had no hesitation at all in embracing corrected and more accurate versions of the Gospels by the 5th century.

So why is Tregelles unwilling to let them go in favour of a more accurate text?

17. We now come the most remarkable section of Tregelles' work so far. Here he confesses that the internal evidence presented by S. Davidson only 6 years previously doesn't amount to a tinker's cuss. Next to textual evidence, Tregelles rates it as almost irrelevant.

Upon this, Tregelles clearly expresses himself honestly. And with him we wholeheartedly agree. The alleged internal evidence mounted against the passage is all but worthless.

We have analysed Davidson's case of alleged internal evidence in detail here:

Davidson's Internal Evidence <-- Click Here.

Some of it turns out to be evidence in favour of authenticity.

18. Again, Tregelles hopes to convince his readers that what they have done is uncritically accept as scripture an imposter. That they ought to know better, and if they really know anything, they must agree with him. But at this point we seriously doubt Tregelles ever converted anyone who wasn't already predisposed to reject these verses.

19. Now Tregelles tries another tactic: Wouldn't all Holy Scripture be profained or lowered in authority if we accept these verses?

The short answer is no. The presence of John 8:1-11 has had no effect at all upon the authority of Holy Scripture in the Protestant Era, or even in the Modern Era.

Not a single case of a single person that we have ever heard of, has rejected the New Testament or accepted any New Testament version on the basis whether or not it included the Pericope de Adultera. In nearly 150 years since, Tregelles' dire warning has amounted to nothing.

Christians may indeed purchase bibles occasionally upon such a basis. But mostly, early Protestants chose the KJV, and hardly heard or cared about textual-critical matters like this. Modern Christians tend to buy bibles, not on the basis of the underlying Greek text at all, but rather on the basis of clarity or readability of translation.

We wish Christians DID care more about texual critical matters, but this is hardly the case. Tregelles' scare-tactic is just a bit of misguided babble.

20. Now Tregelles wants to have his cake and eat it too. He just finished demanding the account be banished because it is not Divinely inspired Holy Writ. Now he asserts it is a 'true narration. There is nothing unworthy' in it. And he accepts 'the narrative as true.' And yet, he does not 'believe it to be a divine record'.

Again we must beg, how can a narrative be utterly true, contain nothing unworthy of the Lord Jesus, be the story that it is, and somehow not be a 'divine record'? What possible criterion has the passage failed to pass?

The only answer Tregelles can offer is that it doesn't fit with his choice of the 'best' MSS, versions and fathers. Certainly on rational grounds we can dismiss his criterion as hopelessly subjective and unscientific. And on grounds of tradition it is equally peculiar and unconvincing.

If we were to test the passage on more relevant grounds, like content, or a plausible textual history, we can't see any difficulty at all.

21. Now Tregelles offers a conjectural history in line with his own vision that he hopes will be convincing. But the only plausible time zone for his scenario would be in the 'prehistory' of the Gospel of John, at least prior to the 4th century, when it was already found in 'many manuscripts'.

It would be most convincing if this happened back in the days when there were still eyewitnesses, such as the 1st century. Of course to be accepted, the story would have to pass the scrutiny of those same eyewitnesses, who must have vouched for its accuracy and truth.

22. Here again Tregelles bends the facts way out of place. The first we hear of this narrative in copies of the NT are not after the middle of the 4th century at all, but according to Jerome, they were found in many ancient copies, and by this Jerome makes it clear he means copies predating the revisions of Lucian and others.

Secondly, Ambrose (360-380 A.D.) is an even earlier witness, contemporary with Didymus the Blind, who also quoted the passage as Holy Scripture and part of John. This would drive the presence of the verses back another 50 years, to a time equal to or earlier than either codex Vaticanus or Sinaiticus.

23. Finally, Tregelles wants us to buy the story of Eusebius, that Papias somehow inserted the passage from some other source into the Gospel of John. But it is far more likely that Eusebius is the unreliable witness here, reporting 300 years after the fact, and with a conflict of interest of his own in the works.

But recent studies of the life of Constantine and the relation between this Emperor and Eusebius, throw a dark shadow upon the quality of the 4th century uncials like Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

An Emperor who boiled his own queen alive for adultery would hardly be receptive to our passage. And this emperor ordered 50 expensive bibles to be made for distribution in his empire. Eusebius is believed to have been the overseer of the production run that created codex Vaticanus.

Both the witness of Eusebius and the text of Vaticanus/Sinaiticus are greatly suspect regarding this very passage.

24. Here Tregelles is quoting verbatum a page and a half of Samuel Davidson's work of 6 years previous, without even an acknowledgement or credit. It is extremely unlikely that Tregelles could have indpendantly found and used Granville Penn's booklet, and selected the exact same extract as Davidson.

Return to Index

Footnotes containing M. Marlowe's Comments:

A. Now also P66, P75, N, W are listed as omitting the verses among early witnesses. Among later witnesses, also Y Q Y .

B. Beza, one of the early editors of printed Greek New Testaments, whose annotated Greek text was the basis of the King James version.

C. Notice also the comment of John Calvin (Commentary on the Gospel of John, on John 8:1). Calvin introduces the passage thus:

"It is plain enough that this passage was unknown anciently to the Greek Churches; and some conjecture that it has been brought from some other place and inserted here. But as it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage."
(Calvin, Commentary on John, cf., Jn 8:1f)

Notice that Calvin does not pretend to decide the question of authenticity here. - M.D.M.