Moses in John's Gospel and the Pericope De Adultera
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2009
Once again, we have the inadvertant discovery of key structural evidence in John's Gospel which indicates the awareness and authenticity of the Pericope de Adultera, John 7:53-8:11.
The key author who turned our attention to this wonderful discovery, seems not to have noticed it himself, and we have critiqued his inadequate assessment of John 7:53-8:11 (in his appendix) elsewhere:
Harstine on John 8:1-11 <- - - Click here for details.
The crux of the matter is this: John the Evangelist is almost obsessed with the counting and grouping in sevens, which permeates the entire Gospel on multiple levels. Even if current criticism has failed to take sufficient note of this fact, it stares at us from every page of John.
Key cases are not in any dispute, but are absolutely certain. Here are a few examples:
(1) John singles out SEVEN miracles as SIGNS.
(2) The Gospel divides into Seven Sections, + Prologue & Epilogue
Prologue: Theme Poem, and Beginning (1:1-51)
Epilogue: Final Appearance (21:1-25)
Similarly, in John, the Prologue acts as a kind of 'theme statement', much like a musical overture, listing themes and ideas that will be developed in the Gospel proper. One such theme is the theme of 'Glory' (Greek: δοξα). Here also we find SEVEN instances where 'Glory' is mentioned and developed. (We count cases where Jesus uses the same word 'Glory' twice in the same sentence or incident as a single instance.)
Introduction of Theme in Prologue: 'We beheld His Glory' (1:14)
One immediately notices that these are spread out fairly evenly throughout the Gospel, although the two bracketing the climactic Resurrection of Lazarus are close together, and chiastically embedded in that incident. We give the 'Glory' group for illustrative purposes, and also to show how normally John would work the theme in at an almost leisurely pace.
Now we turn to another important theme introduced in the prologue, the contrast between Moses and Jesus:
"- For the Law ('Torah') was given through Moses;
but Mercy ('Hesed') and Truth came by Jesus the Christ ('Messiah')."
- John 1:17
John the Evangelist prepares us beforehand for conflict/tension, and contrast/comparison between Moses/the Law and Jesus/Mercy-Truth.
Now come the SEVEN references to Moses by name:
Introduction of Theme in Prologue: 'Law versus Mercy & Truth' (1:17)
This time however, the 'Moses' instances are spaced out only in the first nine chapters. After that the theme is finished. Moses is never mentioned by name again. Some later situations require mention of "scripture" and legal notes in the sense of Pharisee traditions (e.g. 18:28), but these don't involve the theme invoked in the prologue.
Now consider carefully that once again the brilliant John the Evangelist has built into the Gospel yet another structure that unmistakably and intimately involves the Pericope de Adultera. And if the passage were removed, the pattern of Sevens would be clearly broken.
But why does the sixth appearance rather than the seventh appear in John 8:1-11? (8:4). Because in harmony with the Moses (Genesis, Sabbath) theme, Jesus finishes His work on the sixth day, while the Pharisees, hopelessly out of sync with the Messiah whom they have rejected, still cling to Moses, while refusing to listen to Moses, the scriptures, and even a live witness healed of blindness from birth! The irony is so John-like it cries out "I John the Evangelist did this for you the reader!"
John's GospelTwo Themes of Seven
|Theme I: Moses||Section||Theme II: Glory|
|1:17 Moses (intro)||Prologue (1:1-18)||1:14 Glory (intro)|
|John Baptist on himself (1:19-28)|
|Day 1: John on Jesus (1:29-31)|
|(1) Moses: 1:45||Day 2: Call of Philip, Nathaniel (1:42-47)|
|Testimony of Nathaniel, Jesus|
|Day 3: 1st Sign - Water to Wine (2:1-11)||(1) Glory: 2:11|
|Cleansing of the Temple|
|(2) Moses: 3:14||Born of Spirit discourse|
|ministry in Samaria|
|Healing of Nobleman's son|
|Healing of Cripple|
|(3) Moses: 5:45-46||Son of God discourse|
|Feeding the 5000|
|Walking on Water|
|(4)Moses: 6:32||Bread from Heaven discourse|
|People divided, and turn back|
|Testimony of Peter|
|Father's Glory discourse (7:16-18)||(2) Glory: 7:18|
|(5) Moses: 7:19-23||True Judgment discourse (7:19-24)|
|People talk (7:40-44)|
|Officers don't arrest Him (7:45-49)|
|Pharisees prejudge Jesus (7:50-52)|
|(6) Moses: 8:4||Pericope de Adultera (7:53-8:11)|
|Light of the World discourse (8:12-32)||(3) Glory: 8:50|
|Dispute over Abraham (8:33-59)|
|Blind Man Healed (9:1-12)|
|(7) Moses: 9:28-29||Blind Man Rejected (9:13-34)|
|(After this, |
Moses is no longer mentioned)
|Blind Man glorifies Jesus|
|Door of Sheep discourse|
|Messiah is for Believers Only (10:22-30)|
|Lazarus dies (11:1-16)||(4) Glory: 11:4|
|The 7th Sign:||Jesus Resurrection Discourse|
|Lazarus Raised from Dead (11:38-46)||(5) Glory: 11:40|
|High Priest predicts death|
|Chief priests plot murder|
|Jesus annointed at Bethany|
|Greeks seek Jesus|
|Hour/Judgment has come|
|People Blinded (12:37-43)||(6) Glory: 12:41|
|Love:||The Great Commandment|
|Jesus' Final Prayer (17:1-26)||(7) Glory: 17:5-24|
Pairing Off and Bracketing of 'Glory' References
Its worth noting that John uses the 'Glory' references differently, pairing off the last six. Each pair brackets an important section, incident or teaching of Jesus.
(1) The first Pairing surrounds the 'Taken in Adultery' incident and the events leading up to it, nicely beginning with Jesus' teaching on "true judgment", and ending with Jesus' teaching about Himself as the Light of the World.
(2) The second Pairing encloses the climactic Seventh Sign, the raising of Lazarus. In the center is a discussion concerning the Resurrection doctrines.
(3) The Final Pairing surrounds the Last intimate speech and teaching of Jesus, namely The Great Commandment beginning with the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the blinding of the people, and ending appropriately with the final prayer and assurance of Jesus to His Own.
Its evident that these structural frameworks are meant to highlight the most important parts of John's Gospel, and do so very effectively. We may contrast these independant structural signals with other structural components in John: