from: Didymus, Commentary on Ecclesiastes, (360-370 A.D.)
Last Updated: Feb 15, 2009
Didymus the Blind of Alexandria (313-395 A.D.)
Didymus the Blind was a remarkable Christian teacher. As his name implies, he was blind, blind from the age of about 4 and throughout his life. But his intense study and prayerful life enabled him to amass a vast amount of knowledge and retain a deep familiarity with the Holy Scriptures.
The Online Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:
Didymus the Blind
"Didymus the Blind, of Alexandria, b. about 310 or 313; d. about 395 or 398, at the age of eighty-five. Didymus lost the use of his eyes when four years old, yet he became one of the most learned men of his period. He prayed earnestly in his youth, we are told by Rufinus, not for the sight of his bodily eyes, but for the illumination of the heart. He admitted to St. Anthony that the loss of his sight was a grief to him; the saint replied that he wondered how a wise man could regret the loss of that which he had in common with ants and flies and gnats, and not rather rejoice that he possessed a spiritual sight like that of the saints and Apostles.
St. Jerome indeed habitually spoke of him not at "the blind" but as "the Seer". Didymus studied with ardor, and his vigils were long and frequent, not for reading but for listening, that he might gain by hearing what others obtained by seeing. When the reader fell asleep for weariness, Didymus did not repose, but as it were chewed the cud (says Rufinus) of what he had heard, until he seemed to have inscribed it on the pages of his mind. Thus in a short time he amassed a vast knowledge of grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, arithmetic, and geometry, and a perfect familiarity with Holy Scripture.
Respected by Contemporaries
He was early placed at the head of the famous Catechetical School of Alexandria, over which he presided for about half a century. St. Athanasius highly esteemed him. The orator Libanius wrote to an official in Egypt:
"You cannot surely be ignorant of Didymus, unless you are ignorant of the great city wherein he has been night and day pouring out his learning for the good of others."
He is similarly extolled by his contemporaries and by the historians of the following century, Rufinus was six years his pupil. Palladius visited him four times in ten years (probably 388-398). Jerome came to him for a month in order to have his doubts resolved with regard to difficult passages of Scripture.
Later Rejected due to Associations
Later ages have neglected this remarkable man. He was a follower of Origen, and adopted many of his errors. Consequently when St. Jerome quarrelled with Rufinus and made war on Origenism, he ceased to boast of being a disciple of Didymus and was ashamed of the praise he had formerly given to the "Seer".
When Origen was condemned by Justinian and then by the Fifth General Council, Didymus was not mentioned: But he was anathematized together with Evagrius Ponticus in the edict by which the Patriarch Eutychus of Constantinople gave effect to the decree of the council; and he was (perhaps in consequence of this) included in the condemnation of the Origenists by the Sixth and Seventh Councils. But this censure is to be taken as applying to his doctrine and not to his person.
Most of His Writings Lost
It has had the unfortunate effect of causing the loss to us of most of his very numerous writings, which, as the works of a supposed heretic, were not copied in the Middle Ages.
An Ascetic and Celibate
Didymus always remained a layman. the idea that he was married rests on a mistaken identification of him with a Didymus to whom one of the letters of St. Isadore of Pelusium is addressed. He seemed on the contrary to have lived the life of an ascetic, although in the city and not in the desert.
Blessed with a Dream Vision
A curious story was told by him to Palladius. One day, when dwelling on the thought of Emperor Julian (the Apostate) as a persecutor, and on this account having taken no food, he fell asleep in his chair and saw white horses running in different directions, while the riders cried out, "Tell Didymus, today at the seventh hour Julian died; arise and eat, and inform Athanasius the bishop, that he may also know it." Didymus noted the hour and the month and the week, and it was even so.
Didymus was one of the principal opponents of Arianism. His Trinitarian and Christological doctrine is perfectly orthodox; one may even say that he is more explicit than St. Athanasius as to the Unity in Trinity and the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. He has combined the theological vocabulary of St. Athanasius with that of the younger generation, Basil and Gregory Nazianzen.
He continually uses the formula treis hypostaseis, mia ousia, which St. Athanasius admitted in his later years, and which has become the catholic watchword. Didymus has been credited with the invention of this formula, and Leipoldt is in favor of the attribution, whereas K. Holl rejects it.
Until the 4th century the Greek-speaking Church had no means of expressing the doctrine of the Trinity. the use of hypostasis to express the Latin persona was in itself a clumsy device, for Didymus agrees with St. Jerome (who rejected the expression) that philosophically ousia and hypostasis are synonyms. Didymus, however, carefully safeguarded his doctrine from any wrong interpretation.
His work on the Holy Spirit is preserved only in the Latin translation made by St. Jerome. It is free from the reproach of "economy" which attaches to the more famous work of St. Basil, who avoided (as he himself admits) calling the Holy Ghost "God". A yet more important work is the "De Trinitate", the three books of which are preserved almost entire; it was composed after 379. A treatise against the Manichæans is also nearly complete. Of the exegetical fragments, those on the Psalms are the most important. A commentary on the Catholic Epistles is known to us through the Latin translation made by a certain Epiphanius for Cassiodorus. Didymus comments on II Peter, and elsewhere frequently quotes that Epistle, although in one place he declares it to be spurious (falsata — the Greek is lost).
In his commentaries Didymus shows himself to be much influenced by Origen, both in his care for the text and the grammar, and in his wide allegorizing, but of Origenistic heresies the traces in extant works are slight. He seems to have held the pre-existence of the soul. The doctrine of the "restitution of all things" is attributed to him by St. Jerome; but he speaks very often of eternal punishment, though he seems to teach that the fallen angels and even Satan himself are saved by Christ.
He is fond of explaining that God's punishments are remedial. He deliberately rejects some of Origen's views and in his Trinitarian and Christological teaching is wholly uninfluenced by his great predecessor. His style is poor and careless. He is gentle in controversy. His earnestness and piety sometimes supply the place of the eloquence and energy which he lacks.
In the 19th century, the early days of textual criticism, the methods were crude and their application was wide open to personal subjectivism. It was in reality a pre-scientific era.
At this time the omission of the Pericope de Adultera (John 8:1-11) in some 4th century church bibles (Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) caused grave doubts in the minds of critics as to the authenticity of the passage.
Further investigation revealed that the passage was not commented upon in the handful of surviving early Greek 'commentaries' on John's Gospel. It appeared to critics that no Greek commentator was familiar with the verses.
Samuel Davidson(1848) appears to have been the first to express this idea in a popular form:
"...Nor is it [Jn 8:1-11] mentioned by Origen, Apollinaris, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril of Alexandria, Crysostom, Basil, Tertullian, Cyprian, Juveneus, Cosmas, Nonnus, Theophylact, etc. ...
"...It must be allowed, that Origen's silence regarding it is unimportant, because he had no occasion to mention it when commenting on [John] 8:22.
But the silence of Cyprian and Tertullian is weighty, because both wrote on subjects in which the account would have been peculiarly appropriate."
- S. Davidson,
An Introduction to the NT (Bagster & Sons 1848)
On the other hand, the existance of the verses in the Latin was known from Jerome (382-405 A.D.) and his Latin Vulgate (the common Western Bible text).
This in combination with the early Greek manuscripts omitting the passage gave credence to the idea that in some parts of the Empire at least (such as in the East, or in Alexandria), the verses were unknown.
The 'expert opinion' among some early critics quickly crystalized to the view that the verses were a Western interpolation, but probably containing an early and authentic incident in the life of Jesus.
S. P. Tregelles summed up the evidence as it was understood in the 1850s, in his book, An Account of the Printed Text...:
"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 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).
The silence of Chrysostom on the subject, as well as that of Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodorus of Mopsuestia, was long ago noticed.
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."
- S. P. Tregelles
An Account of the Printed Text
of the Greek New Testament (London 1852)
However, Tregelles was quickly taken to task for his less than honest presentation here. Regarding Origen (c. 250 A.D.) Tregelles says, "but, in reading his Commentary on this part of the Gospel..." etc.
Except, this portion of Origen's Commentary on John (spanning several books) is in fact entirely missing! No one has ever adequately explained how Tregelles could have quoted from a non-existant source.
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 Commentary 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. "
- F. J. A. Hort,
The NT in the Original Greek ( 1881, rev. 1896)
Appendix: Notes on Selected Readings, p. 82f
In spite of some haggling over exaggeration or biased interpretation of evidence, it still seemed to many critics that among Greek commentators at least, the Pericope de Adultera (Jn 7:53-8:11) was unknown until the 5th or 6th centuries, long after its acceptance by Western ecclesiastics.
The popular Bruce Metzger (1966) summed up liberal opinion while commenting upon the Revised Version:
"No Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (12th century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospels do not contain it."
- Bruce Metzger,
A Textual Commentary (1966, rev. 1971 etc.)
Metzger wished to imply that the 'silence' of Greek commentators is profoundly significant. But is it? Dean John Burgon back in 1882 pointed out the unreliability of just 'counting heads' on Greek commentators through the ages:
"For now, for the first time, it becomes abundantly plain why Chrysostom and Cyril, in publicly commenting on St. John's Gospel, pass straight from chapter 7:52 to chapter 8:12. Of course they do. Why should they, how could they, comment on what was not publicly read before the congregation? The same thing is related (in a well-known scholion) to have been done by Apolinarius and Theodore of Mopsuestia. Origen's name, for aught I care, may be added to those who did the same thing, though the adverse critics have no right to claim him, seeing that his commentary on that part of John' s Gospel is lost.
A triumphant refutation of the proposed inference from the silence of these many Fathers is furnished by the single fact that Theophylact must also be added to their number. Theophylact, I say ignores the Pericope de Adultera - passes it by, I mean - exactly as do Chrysostom and Cyril. But will anyone pretend that Theophylact, writing in A.D. 1077, did not know of St. John 7:53-8:11? Why, in nineteen out of every twenty copies within his reach, the whole of those twelve verses must have been present.
The proposed inference from the silence of certain of the Fathers is therefore invalid.
The argument e silentio, always an insecure argument, proves inapplicable in this particular case. When the antecedent facts have been once explained, all the subsequent phenomena become intelligible."
- John Burgon,
Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text (1882)
But Metzger was factually incorrect on this point as well. At least one Greek father, Didymus the Blind (c. 350 A.D.!) is known to have cited the passage extensively in his commentary on Ecclesiastes, which was discovered in the 1940's.
Metzger, writing in 1971 is hardly unaware of this important find.
In fact, Bart Ehrman, who was chosen as 'editor' of the 2nd(3rd) edition of Metzger's book (2000 A.D.), felt compelled to correct this 'oversight' with a footnote, even though he himself is against the authenticity of the passage.
In summary, the importance of Didymus and his 4th century reference to John 8:1-11 is this: Not only was the passage known among Greek commentators from before Jerome's time, it was known specifically in Alexandria, the suspected source of the Alexandrian text-type, which omits the verses.
The claims of liberal critics, that "No Greek Church Father prior to the 12th century comments on the passage,..." (cf. Metzger etc.) must finally be laid to rest as an inaccuracy, a misled conclusion caused by the widespread burning of the works of early commentators in the Middle Ages.
Jerome (Translator of the Latin Vulgate c. 386-405 A.D.) frequently speaks of Didymus with respect and awe. The following is a sample of Jerome's commentary on Didymus:
"Didymus of Alexandria, becoming blind while very young, and therefore ignorant of the rudiments of learning, displayed such a miracle of intelligence as to learn perfectly dialectics and even geometry, sciences which especially require sight.
He wrote many admirable works: Commentaries on all the Psalms, Commentaries on the Gospels of Matthew and John, On the doctrines, also two books Against the Arians, and one book On the Holy Spirit, which I translated into Latin, eighteen volumes On Isaiah, three books of Commentaries On Hosea, addressed to me, and five books, On Zechariah, written at my request, also Commentaries On Job, and many other things, to give an account of which would be a work of itself.
He is still living, and has already passed his eighty-third year."
From: Saint Jerome,
Jerome and Gennadius:
Lives of Illustrious Men. (390-410 A.D.)
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Commentary on Ecclesiastes
φερομεν ουν εν τισιν ευαγγελιοις γυνη φησιν κατακριθη υπο των Ιουδαιων επι αμαρτια και απεστελλετο λιθοβοληθηναι εις τον τοπον, οπου ειωθει γινεσθαι. ο σωτηρ, φησιν, εωρακως αυτην και θεωρησας οτι ετοιμοι εισιν προς το λιθοβολησαι αυτην, τοις μελλουσιν αυτην καταβαλειν λιθοις ειπεν,
" ος ουκ ημαρτεν,
αιρετω λιθον και βαλετω αυτον."
'...ει τις συνοιδεν εαυτω το μη ημαρτηκεναι,
λαβων λιθον παισατω αυτην.'
και ουδεις ετολμησεν. επιστησαντες εαυτοις και γνοντες, οτι και αυτοι υπευθυνοι εισιν τισιν, ουκ ετολμησαν καταπαισαι εκεινην.
- Didymus, Commentary on Ecclesiastes
"We find then in certain gospels 1 a woman, it says, 2 was condemned by the Jews for a sin 3 and was being sent to be stoned 4 in the place where that was customary to be done. The saviour, it says, when he saw her and observed that they were prepared to stone her, 5 to those intending to cast the stones upon her he said, 6
"Whoever has not sinned,
let him lift up a stone and cast it." 7
...[that is, ] 'If anyone thinks himself not to have sinned,
let him take a stone and smite her.' 8
And no one dared, since they understood among themselves and knew that they themselves were also guilty in some things: so they did not dare to strike her." 9
- Didymus the Blind,
Commentary on Ecclesiastes,
(Tura Papyrus, discovered 1942)
1. That is, "certain copies". The sense here seems plainly to refer to canonical Gospels, i.e., copies of the Gospel of John. Some critics have tried to read this to refer to non-canonical 'gospels', that is, heretical or forged pseudo-gospels. But the text and context here don't support or justify any such conclusion.
Didymus is citing John 8:1-11 here as authoritative Holy Scripture, not as a foreign story from a suspect source.
2. "It says", rather than "it is written". Didymus indicates he is paraphrasing to shorten the citation. Didymus most certainly (being blind) dictated his sermons from memory by habit.
His scribe may have occasionally corrected or further paraphrased Didymus, even looking up scripture references to improve accuracy. This would certainly be true of later translators, although here the surviving manuscript is a Greek copy in the original language.
3. Didymus is unlikely to have forgotten the actual accusation (adultery). Here he deliberately avoids naming the sin, in order to give the story a more universal meaning and application. For Didymus' purpose, the specific sin itself, adultery, is actually unimportant.
4. This does not imply that Jesus and the other people were actually at the designated place of stoning, but rather the crowd was passing on their way, although the place would naturally be nearby.
Didymus seems to imply that a trial of some kind was already held, and that the Judeans had a procedure and a designated place to do it, bypassing Roman scrutiny (cf. Jn 18:31b). This is in complete harmony with the episode as detailed in John. Nothing there indicates that a trial or hearing has not already taken place. In fact the circumstances suggest this. The stop-off to consult Jesus may have been 'spur of the moment' or preplanned the night before. In any case, the danger of execution is real.
5. Here Didymus indicates that it was when Jesus saw they were actually going to commit a killing He intervened with a pronouncement. Again this is in harmony with John 8:7. In the story, Jesus at first ignores them. Its when they persist, indicating a kind of bloodthirstiness or mob mentality is at work, that Jesus reluctantly stands and gives a 'ruling'.
6.The fact that Jesus specifically addresses the 'stoning party' is significant. It limits the application of His pronouncement, and also sharply focuses the attention back on them. Have they actually brought stones with them? It seems possible.
7. Didymus' version of Jesus' speech is dramatic. Jesus practically dares them to stone her right on the spot. This is why some critics have assumed Didymus has implied Jesus was actually at the stoning area. But the text does not say this, but rather makes Jesus suggest they take an even greater risk (cf. Jn 18:31b), if they can meet the requirements!
Didymus' choice of wording is interesting here: First, the traditional text has "the sinless one among you", while Didymus gives "whoever has not sinned". Yet this could simply be Didymus' memory and/or his oral method of sermonizing at play. There are no significant textual variants for the first half of Jesus' pronouncement in the manuscripts for John's gospel.
The 2nd half is more interesting: at least two words in proper order appear here: "λιθον ... βαλετω". This is the order in the following groups of manuscripts: M1 M2 M5, M6 M7, together representing 95% of surviving manuscripts with the passage, - about 1,350 in total. The final word, "αυτον" might just be a transcriptional or dictating (hearing) error by the scribe or copyist for "αυτην". (M6 places this word last in the sentence, and although it is a mixed text, represents some 280 manuscripts.)>
8. This added explanatory paraphrase should not be confused with Didymus' previous paraphrasing or citation (Jesus' quotation). Here it is simply a standard method of repeating a statement in alternate words to bring out the meaning more clearly.
Didymus raises the 'conscience' issue, which is also found in the standard text (Jn 8:9) as an explanation for the quiet exit of the stoning party. He also explains the 2nd half as meaning an invitation to begin stoning. This supports the idea that "αυτον" is what Didymus actually dictated previously, requiring the removal of the ambiguity. If so, then Didymus may be preserving either an early (lost) variant of Jesus' words, or (more likely) giving his own favourite 'telling' of the story.
9. Didymus repeats the claim/explanation "they did not dare" twice. This may be his own feeling that the story requires an explanation as to why no one started throwing rocks, ignoring Jesus' pronoucement entirely. Critics in the past have picked up on this being one of the weak points in the story's credibility: Why didn't some jerk just start throwing rocks? Surely the crowd could have worked itself up into a self-righteous craze and killed the woman anyway. They seem prone to impromptu stonings elsewhere (cf. Jn 8:59 etc.)
The answer from Didymus' viewpoint is that conscience came strongly into play, controlling the crowd, and breaking them down from a mob into a collection of individuals performing a self-judgment. This again harmonizes precisely with the traditional version of the story (cf. 8:9 etc.).
Willker's "Textual Commentary"
In his Textual Commentary (online pdf article on John 8:1-11), W. Willker offers the following tidbit, giving his own interpretation of Ehrman's discussion of John 8:1-11.
The early history of the story:
Ehrman suggests that Didymus read the story in the Gospel of John in Alexandria already in the 4th CE. Didymus writes: "we find, therefore, in certain gospels ...". It is possible that Didymus means the Gospel of John AND the Gospel according to the Hebrews (Didymus elsewhere mentions this Gospel). In this case there existed MSS with and without the PA in Alexandria in the 4th CE.
Ehrman notes significant differences between the story in Didymus and the one told in the Didascalia, the setting and actions differ a lot. He thinks that our common PA is probably a conflation of two originally different stories:
Do as he also did with her that had sinned, whom the elders set before him, and leaving the judgement in his hands, departed.
But he, the searcher of hearts, asked her and said to her: 'Have the elders condemned you, my daughter?' She says to him: 'Nay, Lord.' And he said to her: 'Go your way: neither do I condemn you.' "
A woman, it says, was condemned by the Jews for a sin and was being sent to be stoned in the place where that was customary to happen.
The saviour, it says, when he saw her and observed that they were ready to stone her, said to those who were about to cast stones, 'He who has not sinned, let him take a stone and cast it. If anyone is conscious in himself not to have sinned, let him take up a stone and smite her.' And no one dared.
Ehrman thinks that the Didymus story ends with "And no one dared", but this is not clear. It is only the point where Didymus stops the citation.
According to Eusebius' Papias quotation it appears probable that the woman was brought to Jesus for judgement. This would fit better to the Didaskalia version, because in the Didymus version she was already condemned by the Jews. Eusebius says this (Papias') story was also found in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. But it is probable that also Didymus read it in this Gospel. So, it is not at all clear if both stories were originally really different, or if both versions only represent different loose allusions to the same story. Ultimately Ehrman's case is not convincing.
What the evidence shows is that the story as such floats around already in the 3rd CE in Syria, it is present in the 4th CE in Alexandria and in the West. But we don't know for sure if it was present in John before the 4th CE.
We know that the pericope was present in the 4th CE in MSS of John in "the West". In the early 6th CE MSS are known to contain the PA in Alexandria, probably even already in the 5th CE.
Textual Commentary...(4th ed. 2007)
Ehrman's 'Two-Story Theory'
Ehrman wants to propose that there were originally two different stories, which were eventually merged into one new conflated story. Ehrman then supposes that this was further modified and finally incorporated into our Gospel of John, resulting in the traditional text.
Willker rightly dismisses Ehrman's attempt to demonstrate two different stories that were later merged. However, Willker does not do this because he has any confidence in the traditional text of John, or in the traditional version of the story.
Willker finds Ehrman's evidence of two distinct stories too weak and ambiguous. The stories found in the early sources are similar enough to identify them as the same basic story with reasonable certainty. In this analysis Willker is more plausible than Ehrman.
Willker's 'Hebrew Gospel Source Theory'
Willker has a pet theory of his own: He believes that Didymus is actually quoting the Gospel of the Hebrews, not the Gospel of John. The kernal of this idea isn't totally 'out of the blue', but is based upon Eusebius' citation of Papias, and his attribution of the story of Papias to the Gospel of the Hebrews.
But Willker's 'Hebrew-Gospel Theory' is as implausible as Ehrman's 'Two-Story Theory'.
Eusebius: an Unreliable Historian
First of all, the reference in Eusebius (4th cent.) to Papias' story (c. 120 A.D.) is too brief and ambiguous for scholars to even identify it with certainty as some early form of the Pericope de Adultera (John 8:1-11). Scholars seem about equally divided on the issue.
Secondly, Eusebius himself is suspect as an inaccurate and possibly misleading witness here. He is hostile to Papias in the first place, because Papias is a 'literalist' (evangelical) while Eusebius is an 'allegorical' interpreter of Scripture, in the same tradition as Origen. Eusebius, viewing himself as a superior intellectual, essentially calls Papias a moron.
Third, Eusebius is suspect as an honest and accurate reporter in the first place. He himself gives various indications that he is less than straightforward with his facts. And independant historical records and the evaluation of historians support this view of Eusebius. He wrote a fawning biography of the Emperor Constantine, leaving out much of Constantine's horrific 'dark side'. Other early historians like Philostorgius provide evidence that Eusebius was aware of and approved of policies of censorship regarding Holy Scripture.
Philostorgius on Eusebius and Constantine <-- Click Here for info.
Finally, Eusebius and Emperor Constantine may have conspired to leave out the Pericope de Adultera (Jn 8:1-11) from Bibles prepared for public reading. Constantine brutally murdered his own son for an alleged adultery with his queen. Then reversing his judgement after apparently catching his queen in another adultery, he had her boiled to death. It is likely Constantine would have been hostile to John 8:1-11 or any proposal to grant leniency to adultery, and Eusebius was exactly the kind of 'diplomat' to protect himself from danger by leaving out John 8:1-11,quietly following the earlier practice of the Alexandrian copyists.
Didymus Didn't Quote the Gospel of the Hebrews
Secondly, the identification of Didymus' citation with that of Papias (and Eusebius' pronouncement that this came from the Gospel of the Hebrews) is incredibly far-fetched.
Not only is Didymus' paraphrase and citation closer to the traditional text than to the dubious reference of Eusebius, but his normal practice would have been to quote authentic and canonical Holy Scripture in this context, not apocryphal and unapproved 'pseudo-gospels'.
Nor is there any serious evidence that Didymus ever had access to the Gospel of the Hebrews of Papias. As an Alexandrian teacher in the 4th century, it seems unlikely he would have had a copy of the long lost Gospel of the Hebrews, or would have been able to translate it if he had.
But the biggest stumbling block to Willker's theory of Didymus quoting the Gospel of the Hebrews is the close association of Didymus with his many contemporaries. It is completely implausible that Ambrose, Jerome, Rufinus, and Augustine (all of whom believed that John 8:1-11 was part of John's Gospel and utterly authentic) would not have known this.
Didymus must have understood the passage to be part of the Gospel of John, and not part of the Gospel of the Hebrews. All of these authors (whose surviving works are extensive) had copious opportunities to discover Didymus' opinions (some of them studying at his feet for years), and multiple occasions to remark upon them.
In order to maintain their dogma about "no early Greek writer" knowing the verses, critics are now reduced to explaining away Didymus as referring to "some other story".
As independant investigators however, it is in our interest to examine not just the 'differences', exaggerated or not, but also the similarities between John 8:1-11 and Didymus' paraphrastic account.
After all, it is in the striking similarities (and the improbability of a mere coincidence) that any case for their being one and the same story can be made.
Similarities Outweigh Differences
While some similarities will be insignificant, at least in themselves, because they could readily be explained as a coincidence, other connections are far stronger, and when all the evidence is taken together, a strong impression of the original story seems indicated:
1. Both stories are about a person under arrest or in captivity.
2. Both stories are about a lone person.
3. Both are about a woman.
4. Both involve the Jewish religious authorities, or a religious party headed by Jews.
5. The person is accused of a crime involving the death penalty.
6. Both stories indicate a stoning as the specific penalty for the crime.
7. Both stories involve Jesus while He is at the temple.
8. In both stories, the religious party consults or invokes the opinion of Jesus.
9. In both stories, Jesus reluctantly appears to intervene because of the danger of a real killing.
10. In both stories, Jesus makes a pronouncment, which effectively draws the proceeding to a halt.
11. In both stories, the lynching party holds back from participating in any further action after Jesus' pronouncement.
12. In both stories, the lynching party relents on their plan due to the action of conscience.
13. Both stories are found in 'gospels', i.e., manuscripts (evangelisteria) which are copies of gospels, as opposed to the book of Acts, or an apocryphal work, or the account from another early father.
14. In both stories, a strikingly similar speech from Jesus is related:
" ος ουκ ημαρτεν,
αιρετω λιθον και βαλετω αυτον."
"Whoever has not sinned, let him lift a stone and cast it." (Didymus)
αναμαρτητος υμων πρωτος επ' αυτην,
τον λιθον βαλετω ."
"who is a sinless one among you (let him be) first upon her, the stone to cast." (Trad. Text)
While there are obvious differences in the exact wording of the two texts, the fact remains that the basic statement of Jesus and its import is essentially one and the same.
In this case there can be no doubt that Didymus continues to 'paraphrase', even when attempting to quote the passage. He is after all giving an oral commentary which is being recorded by a copyist/assistant.
It must be remembered that Didymus the Blind was in fact physically blind, and had been from childhood. Oral dictation from memory was the ONLY method available to Didymus, and he was physically incapable of looking up any exact quotations himself.
The version Didymus then gives, is exactly the kind of thing we would expect him to offer, given that he is operating from memory of oral recitations of a rare story from John in the first place, as he comments on an entirely different book, Ecclesiastes.
Didymus' language in relating the story is just what we would expect from someone talking a version of Greek 300 years more recent than the dialect of the original Evangelists. Didymus is speaking 4th century Greek to his own contemporaries.
The final confirmation of Didymus' operating 'off the cuff', is the fact that his version corresponds to no known written version of any story at all, except his own. It cannot be traced to texts like Codex Bezae, or the vague anecdote about Papias from Eusebius.
In regard to which gospel Didymus is referring to, his notice of "the Jews" as a kind of synonym for the religious authorities is precisely the same terminology that John the Evangelist uses, and this is unique to John. No other gospel, canonical or apocryphal, speaks of "the Jews" meaning the Southern Judaean religious authorities: this is Johannine language through and through.
So then a list of "differences" between Didymus and John 8:1-11 is really inadequate to describe the relationship. The list of "similarities" is absolutely as important in establishing any potential connections.
Let the reader consider this list of Points of Contact between the story related by Didymus and that presented by the NT text of John itself.
Let them also search far and wide for any other story with anything like the same number of strong connections, as between Didymus and John 8:1-11.
Let them decide for themselves what story Didymus is relating to us, in 350 A.D., at a time when it is admitted that "many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin contained the story" ( cf. Jerome) of the Woman Taken in Adultery.