Internal Evidence

on John 8:1-11 (2001)

A review of: Paul Anderson, Mark, John, and Answerability: Aspects of Interfluentiality Between the 2nd and 4rth Gospels, - from the Annual SBL Meeting, Denver, CO - Nov 17-20, 2001

Page Index

Last Updated: Feb 21, 2009

Introduction .....- Anderson and his article
Section 1 ........- Background: Recent Johannine Studies
Section 2 ........- The New View of John
Section 3 ........- Preliminary Observations
Section 4 ........- The Problem of John 8:1-11
Section 5 ........- A Closer Look at the Two Edition Theory
Section 6 ........- Evidence from Chiastic Structures
Section 7 ........- Damage to OT Quotation Structure
Section 8 ........- Other Internal Evidence
Section 9 ........- Deeper into the Theory of Two Editions
Section 10 ........- More on the Theory of Editions: John 6

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In 2001, Anderson described his paper as a 'work in progress', and requested that the paper not be directly cited without permission. However, since 2001, he has obviously placed the article online on the internet and in the public domain. This is a bit like having your cake and eating it too.

Anderson's article can be found here at

Mark, John, and Anserability <--Click Here.

Now that he has published the article, and appears not to be 'rewriting' it, but has in effect distributed it in a manner which will reach large numbers of people, both experts and laymen, it is reasonable to insist upon our own rights to review, discuss, and if necessary refute the theories and claims presented by Anderson.

Nonetheless, in respect of Mr. Anderson's wishes, we will avoid directly quoting the article as much as possible, and instead summarise and paraphrase the content. At least this much freedom is necessary, in order to evaluate and critique the claims.

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Background: Johannine Studies

The Relevance of Modern Johannine Studies to John 8:1-11

I am going to paraphrase some ideas from the article that summarizes the state of the art in Johannine studies among scholarly circles:

Johannine analysis has become quite sophisticated in recent times. That is not to necessarily endorse any particular theories or viewpoints on the dating, authenticity or composition process of the Gospel of John, but more to show how the 'game' has changed over a hundred years of criticism.

The New 'Intertextual Analysis' vs. (Previous) 'Source Analysis'

Gospel relationships are better approached with intertextual analysis than the source analysis of the past. The relationships are too complex to be adequately described with simplistic theories. Contacts between Gospels involve oral, community and editorial stages that run in all directions.

Instead of the old paradigms of dependance and influence, we now have the ideas of engagement, inter-community dynamics, and two-way response as the people and documents pass through the fires of constantly changing social environments.

Recently some scholars have approached the differences between the Synoptics and John in terms of the primitiveness of John rather than its 'alienness'. Not just John A.T. Robinson (cf. The Priority of John, for instance, or Redating the NT, 1976), but also scholars in Europe as well, have reasoned that such differences can be better explained through either isolation or priority of the Johannine community. That is, It may be easier to see how the three other traditions (synoptic Gospels) could overlook John, than how John could have overlooked all three synoptic traditions, yet in its final form still show a strong connection to Mark.

Blast from the Past

The leading theory of the last century was that John built his Gospel out of foreign sources. This seemed to solve some of the problems of the tension between the narratives and their didactic purpose, and between the "I AM" sayings and the "Incarnational" portions of the Discourses of Jesus.

Bultmann began with a three-source theory: (1) a Signs Source, (2) a Sayings Source, and (3) a Passion narrative. This was developed by Fortna into the idea of a 'Signs Gospel'. While many scholars still believe that John underwent a 'final edition', this early work on sources remains uncompelling.

For instance, stylistic evidence fails to show any strong distinction between Signs narrative and Discourse, and the 'Semitic Greek' discovered is too vague to separate respective Jewish and Greek origins.

On the contextual /form side, there are a few apparent 'seams' or artifacts, such as the change from the poetic prologue to the narrative, the jumpy transition between locations, and some odd 'gaps', such as the notice of departing in 14:31 (along with a reference to less speech) followed by a huge 'second' speech before actually recording a change in locations.

Yet little has been demonstrated that would allow a convincing rearrangement or reconstruction of an editing process or even a clear identification of 'sources'.

Much of the 'tension' in John can be best accounted for by his own dialectic genius in engaging his own traditions, and in his use of literary technique such as irony and 'misunderstanding' by characters, for the purpose of engaging the reader's own thought processes.

Anderson (the author under review) prefers accounting for residual features by way of a theory of 'editions', meeting the needs of developing community change and crisis.

A Sketch of John as a Two Stage Process of Edition

Suppose a first edition around 80-85 C.E. about a decade after Mark. It begins with the ministry of John Baptist, and closes at the end of chapter 20. John 6 would be a later addition, the original jumping from John 5 to John 7. (the basis of this idea is that 7:1 seems to sum up the reaction of Judaea to Jesus' healing of the cripple. One can skip over the whole of chapter six and continuity is retained. However, this continuity can be explained as well by noting that only one miracle (cf. 7:21) was done publicly in Judaea. The events in Galilee and Capernaum are before a different audience.)

(Now the Pericope de Adultera, 7:53-811, doesn't even come under consideration or discussion here by most critics, because it is rejected as a much later addition on textual grounds.)

Again, John 15 to 17 appears to have been inserted between 14:31 and 18:1. This material seems gathered about the theme of church guidance by the Holy Spirit.

Finally, chapter 21 appears to have been added, along with some small edits around the "Beloved Disciple" post-humously to the Evangelist, as well as some eye-witness material.

So the claim is that we have two basic versions of John, an earlier one without the following:

  1. (1:1-13) Prologue
  2. (6:1-71) Feeding the 5000 & Walking on Water plus discourses.
  3. (7:53-8:11) the 'Pericope de Adultera'
  4. (15:1-17:26) The Second Half of Jesus Last Private Speeches
  5. (21:1-25)
  6. some assorted inserts about the Beloved Disciple

The Final Edition of John Includes all these, except:

3. (7:53-8:11) The Pericope de Adultera.

Now the point of all this is not to endorse the modern critical view of John's Gospel, but to examine carefully its implications for the authenticity of the Pericope de Adultera.

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the New View of John

Explaining the Logic behind the New View of John

Before diving into a critique of the modern view of John, we need to explore just what makes it a plausible, (or at least desirable for textual critics,) way of handling the Johannine characteristics.

A Sketch of Forces and Exchanges

The proposed history of John begins with smaller primitive 'Gospel' that looks much like Mark. And indeed, it is supposed to act as a supplimental, complimentary, and corrective companion to Mark. In this scenario, 'Proto-John' was written just after Mark was introduced into circulation, and is based upon equally early and authentic oral and written traditions about Jesus' ministry.

On the one hand, this proposal explains well the relatively strong similarities to Mark:

The Beginning (Mk 1:1, Jn 1:1,14, 17-18)
Similar Passion Narratives including an ending with Post Resurrection appearances.
Similar beginnings with John Baptist preparing the Way.
Similar callings of Peter and Andrew and others (Mk 1:16-20 Jn 1:19-34)
Similar portrayals of Jesus as teacher and healer, and Son of Man
Similar intensification of conflict over Sabbath laws and blasphemy
Initial movement from Judaea into Galilee and back up to Jerusalem
The Way of the Cross as pattern for all followers of Jesus

Then again, there are augmentations to Mark:

(without the feeding of the 5000 and walking on water,) five new miracles to fill out the beginning of Jesus' ministry.
Three Judaean 'Signs' broaden the ministry of Jesus.
Material from about John the Baptist fills out story, emphasizing that John is NOT the Messiah...
The I AM sayings are added to clarify Jesus as Revealer and the One Sent from Father
Debates with Jewish leaders expound and authenticate Jesus as Divine Messiah, and are meant to invoke belief in Jewish readers.

Next we have the important Omissions of Markan Material.

If John really did write second, with a knowledge of Mark or at least Markan tradition, then he clearly left out significant material. At times he does indeed acknowledge the existance of, or presuppose the knowledge of facts he does not provide in his own gospel. For example,

Jesus did not Himself baptize (Jn 4:2)
Another Judas beside Iscariot exists (Jn 14:22)
John is aware of likely critiques for leaving things out, and provides a pre-emptive response (Jn 20:30)

As well, the Passion is covered fully and appears built around Mark, but drops much of Mark's middle, to make room for complimentary material.

the Kingdom Parables and other teachings are missing, but supplimented with other material.
the Markan Apocalypse (Mark 13) is missing completely but the subject of 'future' persecution is expounded.
The Eucharist is missing, and so is Jesus' own Baptism.
The Markan Miracles (assuming chapter six is not in first edition) are missing, and others are substituted.

The Chronological (Dis)Order of Mark is Corrected and Supplimented

Earlier ministry of Jesus alongside of John Baptist is provided.
Earliest miracles are provided (Wedding and Healing) are NOT excorcism or healing of Peter's mother-in-law.
Temple Cleansing is placed at the beginning, and the last few years of Jesus' ministry is highlighted and fleshed out.
Head annointing is retold as a FOOT annointing.
Date of the Last Supper (or an earlier meal) is placed a day earlier, to allow Crucifixion on Passover.

Didactic/Dialectical Changes away from Mark

The theological points and interpretations of Jesus' conflict and teaching are transposed from the time of their occurance to the time and setting of the Gospel apologists:

Roles of Elijah and Moses are fulfilled by Jesus rather than John Baptist (John denies being either). Parables are retired and replaced with direct teaching about what the Kingdom of God is and is not like. Mark's Messianic 'Secret' is reversed in John and Jesus reveals His identity openly. The Miracles are not responses to faith, but Revelatory Signs that lead people to belief and Eternal life. Apostleship is broadened to include women, Samaritans, and others not members of the Twelve.

As Anderson notes, any one of these points may be debated, but together form a plausible and widely supported picture of John the Evangelist's purpose in writing: He seeks to further Mark's work, not compete with it, but suppliment it and develop it, and correct various cumulative misunderstandings.

John the Final Director's Cut

Anderson also sketchs a series of early crises undergone by the Johannine community, and these are supposed to be addressed in an ongoing manner by John the Evangelist/Elder. Finally, these further teachings and sermon material are incorporated into the Gospel upon the Beloved Disciple's death:

70-80 A.D. Tensions with local Jewish family and friends for disciples caused by reorganization and opposition of Judaism after the fall of Jerusalem

81-90 A.D. Pressures and persecution from Romans under Domitan, combinations of alienation from Judaism, rise of Emperor worship and harrassment.

80-100 A.D. Gentile perversion of the Gospel with Docetic Christologies and gnosticism (see Johannine letters also)

80-100 A.D. Other parts of the Christian (Gentile) Church opt for the model of Apostolic Authority, which threatens to neutralize Jesus' primary teachings on service and accessibility of the Holy Spirit. John's community apply the necessary correctives (3 John 9-10 etc.) not against apostolic memory, but in the name of it.

Finally, the death of John the Evangelist/Elder.

These forces are what require a second edition of John's Gospel, and mold the form and content of its preservation of the Johannine community experience.

This plausible historical scenario is what enables the modern textual critic to account for some of the diversity of material included in the final (our extant) version of John.

From Historical Overview to Details of Content

With this picture in hand, the critic now proposes that:

(1) Most of the intense Jewish-authority debates (chapters 5,7-10, and 12) are the backbone of the first edition.

(2) The primary thrust of the first edition was to convince Jewish family and friends that Jesus is the Messiah, the Prophet predicted by Moses (Deut.18:15-22) and authenticated by revelatory Signs and fulfilled Words.

(3) The background is the emergent crisis with Roman Emperor worship (compare Thomas' confession with Domitan's requirement that subjects confess the emperor as "Lord and God").

And for John Second Edition (JSE):

(4) The LATER edition is supplimented with material which has a strong INCARNATIONAL motif (Jn 1:14, 6:51-66, 19:34-35)

(5) Also an anti-Docetic thrust is added, as is also found in Ignatius' letters and 1st John (1 Jn 2:18-25 vs. 1 Jn 4:1-3), and can be detected in the difference between first and second editions of the Gospel.

(6) The letters of John are supposed to have been written between editions.

(7) The Beloved Disciple is assumed to have continued teaching in this period until his death, when his new material was incorporated into the final edition along with eye-witness attestations and 'Beloved Disciple' passages.

(8) The new material is not particularly influenced by other Gospel traditions, suggesting its early origin and minor divergence from the earlier material.

(9) Indeed, some of the material added to the final edition is not late at all, but may have simply been excluded from the first edition because of its redundancy in comparison to Mark (e.g. John 6).

(10) Some of the material may involve earlier dialogues and contact with Markan segments of the church and so has ongoing and corrective features.

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Preliminary Observations

Commenting on the Implications for John 8:1-11

Preliminary Notes:

It is quite reasonable to concede that before writing a 'final' written Gospel, John or any number of Apostles or disciples could have and would have engaged in speechs (such as Stephen's in Acts), and arguments and expositions such as Paul's many written examples.

Nor is it necessary that Eye-witness recounters or even Apostles would be required to work without notes of any kind, or be disallowed to make fair use of books and scrolls, pen and ink, as they travelled to various communities.

It is even fair to propose that an Apostle, or even a group of apostles or disciples might work together on a project such as a 'sayings collection' or "Signs Source", for teaching and preaching, and eventually as the need arose expand it into a fuller written Gospel.

That various sermon writers and Evangelists would consult one another is a given, and that they would seek to work in a largely complimentary fashion without too much overlap or duplication of work all seems equally reasonable, provided we don't apply such principles too rigidly or push them too far.

And in that Spirit of charity we can consider the scenarios proposed by critics and commentators, without fearing that they might somehow undermine the authority of the Gospels or impose unrealistic restraints upon the Holy Spirit.

Yet the question these theories must always be evaluated by is that of their utility in shedding any light or understanding upon the Gospels as we have them. It is to this question we can now turn without apology:

Character of the 'First Edition' of John

The picture of John as a supplimental or complimentary companion to Mark is a simple and attractive one. It classifies John's work as essentially cooperative, while allowing for a large diversity between Gospel accounts which has already been observed.

However, the picture is not as clear as we would wish. For instance, critics have identified a large block of redundant material (namely chapter six, the feeding of the 5000 and walking on water incidents). To this we can add the following:

(1) The Cleansing of the Temple (Jn 2:12-25)
(2) The Healing of the Nobleman's Son (Jn 4:43-54)
(3) The Annointing at Bethany (Jn 12:1-8)
(4) The Denials of Peter (Jn 18:58 etc.)
(5) Various parallels in divisions of the people etc.

While some of these can be argued to be 'essential' parts of a bare-bones Gospel account, others are not so easy to call 'integral' to the Gospel story.

Critics try to clean up the rather messy picture by accounting for these 'extras' on the basis of a supplimental or complimentary function:

The Temple cleansing is 'corrected' chronologically.
The Nobleman's son is reworked for didactic purposes.
The Annointing is supplimented heavily.

After the smoke clears, there remains a rather LARGE chunk of material (thankfully, or conveniently all in one place, chapter six) namely the Feeding of the 5000 and Walking on the Water.

Feeding the 5000: An inconvenient Exception

While the similarities to Mark are great, and the material is huge in extent, some argument can be given for its inclusion in a 'complimentary' work because of the addition of John's didactic material and interpretation of the miracles as 'Signs'.

John definitely has a new and unique slant to the Feeding of the 5000, since for him it is not a miracle that leads to true 'faith' but rather yet another exposure of the poor spiritual state of the people, even those who follow Jesus and wish to make Him king. For John, this 'Sign' is a springboard for deeper teaching about the real significance of (and possible unreliability of) miracles as Signs to authenticate the Messiah.

Although a plausible argument could be made for inclusion on the basis of John's new insights and Jesus' unique teaching presented here, the theory of 'complimentarity' and the 'supplimental nature' of John in relation to Mark must now be significantly modified and limited. Such is how reality imposes upon the pet theories of critics.

The easiest solution of course is to simply 'get rid of the inconvenient material', so the critics propose a version of John without the entire chapter.

How long was the Last Supper Anyway?

The other large chunk of material consists of the second half of the private discourse to the Disciples at the "Next-to-Last" Supper: (John 15 to 17) The speeches here form an incredibly long segment of sustained speech by Jesus, namely a total of five whole chapters! all posited as taking place on the evening of Jesus' arrest, along with ceremonies and activities of considerable extent (footwashing, dinner, etc.)

Here the critics may have more plausible weight in their arguments, at least in some form. The simple excising of chapters 15-17 may however be too simple a solution. As with other Gospels, John may have gathered material and placed it all together for convenience and didactic purpose, so raising the spectre of 'additions' may be extreme: a case of a poor solution to an unconvincing 'problem'.

The Case for a Second Ending

Finally, the Last chapter (21), the Epilogue, does have all the earmarks of a later addition or footnote done after the death of the Beloved Disciple. This is perhaps the most convincing case for a 'later addition' to John's Gospel.

Yet this could stand by itself, and does not require us to accept other candidates for 'later addition' in any strong way. The material in John 21 is rather independant, and doesn't group itself strongly with any previous sections of the Gospel.

And Now a Look at the Results:

If we allow the critical proposal of two editions, and we also follow the critics' suggestions as to actual contents of each, a definite picture emerges:

First Edition John:

The First Version can be characterized by a concern for the Judaean confrontations, and Jewish/Messianic arguments for and against Jesus' claim as the Messiah. These would be the earliest layer as it were, and certain issues, such as Jesus' miracle cures and 'demonology', would, although equally early, be minimized and avoided by John in presenting the essential case for Jesus as Revealer of the Father and His accompanying 'Signs'.

For Jewish listeners the important subjects are prophetic fulfillment and typology, relation to Torah and interpretation of Law, connection to Moses and the Historical Jehovah, the issue of Covenants etc.

Second Edition John:

According to the critics, the second and final layer of John involves the later community crisis material, (e.g. the Last Supper speeches Jn 15-17), the re-interpreted Signs material (chapter six, i.e. the 'anti-sign' theme), and the incarnational material (death notice of Jn 21,the teaching of the Holy Spirit accounting for delay of Jesus' return etc.).

Qualifying Statements about the Later Material:

It is important to note that the critics allow for earlier material to have been added to the later addition, possibly because Mark had begun to fade as the primary Gospel. To quote Anderson,

"However, not all the material selected for the final supplementation was late-and-only-late. Some of it may have been available earlier but my not have been included in the first edition because of its proximity to Mark (John 6, for instance). This being the case, ...some of it reflects earlier dialogues involving Johannine and Markan traditions." (ibid above).

In this way, the embarrassment of 'later' material containing 'early' and primitive authentic tradition is accounted for quite cleverly! ( - but probably not very convincingly: the 'explanation' is hardly compelling.)

We won't comment upon the weaknesses of the proposed theory of two editions of John for the moment. They are probably already becoming apparent to the reader.

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The Problem of John 8:1-11

What Relevance to The Pericope de Adultera?

The point is this:

Q: What category of material does the Pericope de Adultera fall under?

Answer: The Earlier layer containing material documenting the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish authorities, the material of concern and interest to Jewish readers of John.

So why is it in the 2nd Edition, and not the 1st Edition?(?!)

Q: Could the Pericope de Adultera have been added to the 2nd Edition under the proposed two-edition theory?

Answer: Well, yes. The critics have had to allow that earlier authentic material was probably taken up and added to the second 'edition'. But once we do this, all the internal evidence for 'later' versus 'earlier' layers becomes a meaningless blur.

We can certainly pick and choose which 'earlier' materal is in fact 'later' material, in spite of its classification by its own content. But the procedure then becomes a completely subjective and arbitrary one. The theory has fallen on its face right out of the starting-gate.


The nature of the Pericope de Adultera identifies it with the earliest layer of John's Gospel as the modern critics have found it and described it. Yet it may very well remain "of the earliest layer" of Johannine tradition but have failed to have been included in the first edition, due to other concerns, about its contents for instance.

Later, when Jerusalem was burned to the ground, and the break with Judaism was complete, it could have been included without the same repercussions as it would have during the period when Johannine Christians (Greek Jewish messianists) were still living and working in Jewish communities and attending synagogues.

There is nothing in the theory really that speaks strongly against the Pericope de Adultera as being included in one or even both editions of the Gospel.

Yet interestingly, the proposition of two Editions of John offers a far more plausible explanation for the omission of the Pericope in some textual streams (like those in early Alexandria). And either version of events is more plausible than the highly dubious theory that the story was 'inserted by scribes out of nowhere in the 4th or 5th century', without a peep of protest or debate for instance from any sector of the early church.

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A Closer Look

A Closer Look at the Two-Edition Theory of John

Because the possibility of two editions of John may have a bearing on the question of John 7:53-8:11, it is worthwhile to put it under test:

Recall that the reason for proposing a later addition of the Feeding the 5000 and the Walking on the Water, was to posit an earlier version of John whose function was essentially one of a supplimental and complimentary nature to Mark. These two miracles are already found in Mark, and so it would seem redundant to duplicate them.

Yet notice that according to the current two-edition theory, the earlier version would still have the two discourses, while only the later version would have the accompanying 'Signs' which they were meant to explain.

The vague and flimsy connection to these miracles over in Mark would be difficult to justify, given they aren't even in the same chronological location there. Again, for the first 200 years, Mark and John must have circulated independantly. The idea of complimentarity and supplimental function cannot be stretched too far. Both gospels must still be able to stand alone and make good sense.

The suggestion of the theory seems wholly preposterous on the face of it. The miracles could certainly exist without the discourses, and even stand alone as 'signs' without them in John. But vise versa?

After all, there is plenty of 'sign'-like material there already that is not accompanied by a special discourse. (e.g. the Cleansing of the Temple, the Annointing etc.) But the discourses could not have been written before the signs, nor would they stand alone intelligently without them.

If anything, one would expect that the earlier edition would contain the miracles, and then the discourses and perhaps some modification of the miracles would be added later.

Unless some other convincing internal evidence can be presented, the theory falls flat on its face right out of the starting gate.

There is some connection reaching from the Epilogue (chapt.21) back to the two miracles in chapter six, namely the "bread and fish" from the feeding of the 5000. But this offers no support for an earlier gospel without the two signs.

While it would be logical to add the two miracles if they were missing, the natural inference is that the Epilogue is referring back to the obviously already well-known miracle of the Feeding the 5000. There is no need nor evidence for a previous version of the Gospel without it from this quarter.

A Simpler Explanation for 'Seams' in John:

When we come to examine the second block which is supposed to be an 'addition' to John (i.e. 2nd Edition material), there does indeed appear to be a plausible 'seam'-like feature presenting itself on the surface, namely the odd reference to 'departing' at the end of chapter 14:

"Hereafter I will not talk much to you (!)..." (14:30) "Arise, let us go forth!.." (14:31)

This leads neatly into 18:1:

"When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth over the brook Cedron..." (18:1f)

Yet an 'insertion' is not the only explanation, and does not solve most of the other apparent 'seams' in John. A quite plausible alternative explanation is readily available, that doesn't require the positing of two 'Editions', other than the attachment of the final Epilogue after the death of the Evangelist.

John: A Special Document with a Special Design

Since John was written last, and quite late relative to other NT books, it is probable that it was designed as an extension and commentary on the other works. But more importantly, it is a public work, designed to be used by a community, the Johannine community. As such, it is a 'worship' document, which probably functioned in services as a primitive (indeed the paradigm) Lectionary or Public service book for the community.

What does this mean? In the early period, when books were expensive, slowly copied, and rare, each Christian did not own his own copy. Rather each local church or gathering of disciples would be formed around a copy of the book or a set of books, much like the synagogue from which it was patterned.

The books would be in the care of a leader, and read 'publicly' in parts, and during special ritual functions. Most early Christians would be hearing the Gospels orally, even after they were composed and proliferated.

Different parts of the Gospel would be used for different services and rituals, such as initiations and baptisms. Those who were accounted trustworthy through testing and periods of loyalty were entrusted and engaged in deeper teachings.

Again, to protect themselves from Jewish spies and Roman investigations, certain sections would be read publicly, while other sections of the Gospel would be read only to more intimate private circles.

One Simple Explanation covers the Tough Cases:

This methodology explains well the anomaly at the beginning of John, whereby the First Sign is labelled the making of Wine at Cana. Right after this is a substitute pericope, the Cleansing of the Temple, which is not even called or counted as a 'Sign'!

Yet the Wedding at Cana is not a sign at all: "Only the servants knew" (John 2:9) that a miracle had even been performed! In contrast, the Cleansing of the Temple is an actual public 'Sign', performed before the Jews in Jerusalem in the heart of the Temple! What is going on?

Simple: The Miracle at Cana is read publicly in front of new converts and inquisitive listeners, while the REAL sign, which could easily be interpreted as a sign of a conspiracy against both the Jewish leadership and Rome, is skipped over, and only read privately.

Likewise, the explanation is the same when we come to the Annointing at Bethany, (Public reading), and the Triumphal Entry (for Disciples only).

Now the purpose of John having *TWO* Last Supper speeches is plain. One is for public reading at proselytizing meetings, and the other is for those who can be trusted with inner teaching and deeper secrets of the Gospel. Built right into the 'inner' teaching is the prospect that this will not be so forever, but that someday all things will be revealed openly, i.e., when it is safe for the Christian movement.

Thus John is probably the first example of a document actually designed for the dual purpose of public worship and also for intimate private services such as baptism and laying on of hands.

It would be in the hands of the local pastor or leader, entrusted with its contents and instructed on its proper use.

There is no need for 'multiple editions' or other more complicated explanations for the features of the text as we have it. Nor is there any evidence other than the obvious features anyone can observe.

We can also readily see how these alternate sections could be used at various functions, like (obviously) weddings, annointings, leadership appointments, reconciliations and re-acceptance into community by backsliders or deniers (think of Peter!)

To interpret the 'seams' in John as evidence of additions or deletions appears to completely misunderstand the purpose of the document, and its function in a living Christian community.

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Evidence from Chiastic Structures

We have already seen that John's Gospel is heavily structured internally, and it is this structure that we want to examine for evidence of any additions or omissions. Any crude but significant alterations would of course damage or destroy structural patterns.

Revelation is modeled on a Basic Seven-Piece Chiastic Pattern:


John also is modelled on an identical Chiastic Pattern.

Pattern of Sevens Maintained at Next Level of Detail

Both John's Gospel and Revelation also take this pattern of Sevens one level deeper. At the moment however, we are only interested in the Gospel:

Detailed Chiastic Pattern of Sevens for John's Gospel

Here I have highlighted in green the parts supposed by the Two Edition Theory to have been later additions. One can see that the proposal takes no account whatever of the connection of the material to its surroundings, and neither does the idea show any awareness of the deeply embedded structure of John.

The removal of the block of text (chapter six) damages the 'Seven Sevens' pattern, but hardly removes it. We are simply left with a damaged pattern that nonetheless won't go away, not a more primitive or convincing form.

This has to be a severe strike against the Two Edition Theory, given that its only apparent justification is the alleged duplication of miracle material from Mark. We saw however, that even that argument was weak, since John modifies and expands the meaning and function of these 'signs'.

When we examine the second block of text the critics imagine was a later addition, namely the second speech block at the Last Supper (chapter 15-17), here at least, it is in fact a 'seven-piece' block:

But this appears to have been sheer luck on the part of the critical theory. No awareness of the structure of John is even discussed, and it would be inconceivable that such notice would not have been used to justify the perimeters of this block!

If it had not been for the apparent 'seam', the critics would have had no actual reason to suspect editorial activity at all here. And it is all too apparent from the continuing structure of John, that whoever constructed this section was well aware of John's chiastic pattern choice. Even more problematic, is that the next section following, that of the Passion, ALSO HAS FOURTEEN pieces (TWO sevens!) . And remarkably, the two fourteen-piece blocks can be lined up in parallel to give an amazing resonance.

It is very likely that the whole reason John departs from Mark's passion account and omits some material, is precisely so that it will line up with the fourteen sections in the Last Supper section!


1. Footwashing/Judas' Treachery ---------- Betrayal and Arrest
2. Iscariot's Departure (Night!) -------------- Peter's Denial
3. The Great Commandment --------------- Caiaphas questions Jesus
4. Exchange with Peter --------------------- Peter denies twice more...
5. Exchange with Thomas ----------------- Pilate Questions Jesus
6. Exchange with Philip --------------------- Pilate offers Barrabas
7. Exchange with (other) Judah ---------- Jesus mocked and beaten

8. "I AM the True Vine" -------------------- Pilate questions Him again
9. The Great Commandment ------------ Pilate orders crucifixion
10. The World's Hatred explained ---- Jesus is Crucified
11. Persecution prophecied ------------ Jesus arranges care for mom
12. The Holy Spirit is promised -------- Jesus Dies
13. The end of Parables ----------------- Body examined by Romans
14. Jesus Final Prayer ------------------- Jesus is Buried.

Finally, once again we see that the critic's proposal breaks up the pattern of sevens here in the Resurrection section too, again failing to notice the unity of the ending as we actually have it now. Although the last chapter gives the surface appearance of an addition, in fact it is also (just like the other sections) an integral part of the gospel in the final form it has been given to us.

It doesn't simply break off, as though it were thoughtlessly tacked on in the first place. We have already noted its deep connection to chapters six and seven in its allusions to bread and fish. Now in looking at the deep structure of John we see that it was an integral part of the final edition at least.

But what could the 1st edition have looked like without it? And if we altered the hypothetical 1st edition enough to obliterate the deep structure, what kind of '1st edition' are we now talking about?

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OT Quotation Structure

When we look at other structures, like the OT Quotation structure, we find the same thing again. They would be damaged by the removal of the sections, but not obliterated or removed.

The analogy would be this:

Imagine a group of mechanically inclined apes, randomly assembling car-parts, until they have put together 7/8 of a car. Then along comes the genius: He strides over, slaps on a carberator, and miraculously, the car starts.

Of course this would be ridiculous. The only person who can be held responsible for all the deeply embedded structure in John's Gospel is the final editor. But he must also have been the one who put it all there in the first place.

There is no plausibility in such structures coming pre-made and 'partially constructed', so that the final editor only needs to add a piece or two to polish it until it shines.

The only portions of John that can be part of a plausible 'proto-John' are those which are NOT part of the structural system and which could have been 'fallen through the cracks' in the assembling process. These would be short segments that escaped modification. In John such free-standing sections are virtually non-existant.

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Other Internal Evidence

When we turn from structural features to stylistic features and grammatical or thematic content, we find much the same picture.

Looking at a sample of some of the more common and easily recognized Johannine features of content and style, we see that they are more or less spread in a pepper-spray pattern all across the gospel. While there are concentrated clusters in the discourse/dialogue sections (where notably important features mostly reside,) almost every important section of John has both content and style belonging to John. Yet if there were later additions, even by John's peers or his community circle, we would expect this spread to have some large holes in it betraying foreign insertions.

This is simply not the case. In fact, one of the most intriguing and frustrating things about John is the fact that whatever can be identified as 'Johannine' style or content is permeated throughout the entire Gospel. Whatever potential sources, material or influence may have been available to John (the final redactor), they are impossible to isolate from John's own work.

While there are less stylistic markers in the 'Sign' sections generally, this is easily accounted for by the fact that it is narrative after all, and the original material in almost all cases was ancient authentic tradition, independant of John, and even occasionally used by other evangelists.

Thus, although the signs in chapter six seem to have largely escaped the influence of John's hand, the same can be said for the 2nd and 3rd signs in chapters four and five. There is nothing here to distinguish chapter six, and had we not been looking sideways at Mark, no suspicion would have fallen on this section at all, at least by factors of well accepted and understood internal evidence.

Nor are these charts fully comprehensive or representative, let alone complete documentations of John's style and content. Many more examples could have been added, filling out other sections here. The critical observations would only be further enhanced.

Last Column: The Link to Revelation

Note particularly the last column in these charts. It doesn't matter which book was written first, or even whether they are by the same author. In any case, either the author of Revelation had a copy of John pretty much exactly like the one we have now before him, or else the Evangelist had a copy of Revelation. But the point is, every part of John is covered, and in pretty much the correct order! Neither author shows any knowledge of a 'Proto-John' missing large blocks of text.

The detailed accounting of the parallels and verbal connections of John's Gospel to Revelation can be found at the following website:

John and Revelation Connections <-- Click Here

Putting Redaction Criticism in Perspective...

The idea of reconstructing hypothetical previous 'editions' of John's Gospel is what is called Redaction Criticism. And it is important to understand exactly what such exercises can accomplish, and what they can be used for.

For all NT books there are features, apparent anomalies, that we don't necessarily understand, or that seem to require accounting for. These features may not be wholly or satisfactorally explained by other methods of exegesis and commentary.

Here and there a feature may be simply accounted for by the mechanical process of assembly, or minor editorial work by later scribes.

But no matter how elegant or plausible a theory of construction or editing process may be, it will have a very limited impact upon the final and accepted Gospel that the Evangelist has already gifted us with.

This must necessarily be the case. For why insult our benefactor by demanding his 'rough notes' or circumventing his best judgement? After all, he has chosen for us what he truly believes to be essential, and given us his personal best. And the church has received it, as the inspired and authorized work of the Holy Spirit, for our edification and blessing.

If we were to watch a full-color movie of John composing his gospel, would we really be any better off? Would this give us a much deeper understanding of its content? Not really. Because it is the content after all which matters in the end, not the papyrus he used, or those he cast away.

Likewise, even if some well-meaning disciple carefully salvaged all of John's notes and sermons over the years, and placed them in a cave for us, and there was found an early sermon or chronology which John may have used as a base for his Gospel, of what real value can those things be?

Imagine we were to find an old chest buried in the backyard of Mozart's house, with some early attempts at his great works. What would we really do with them? Play them? How could they compare to the finished work of the master, who has already given the world his 'final cut'?

It still appears to us that we truly *have* John as John meant us to have it. It seems reasonable to try to appreciate it as it is. Perhaps a spot here and there has suffered a mis-copying, or some word has been mis-spelled along the way. But the glory of the Christ as John's vision was able to capture it seems essentially intact.

And it is *this* John after all, that Christians have known and loved in every age.

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Deeper into the Theory

"But no matter how elegant or plausible a theory of construction or editing process may be, it will have a very limited impact upon the final Gospel that the Evangelist has already gifted us with."

Because any theory (at least resembling the ones so far proposed) of a 'Proto-John' seems really to be just a description of one or two hypothetical stages in the production of the final work, at best it can really only be discussed in a footnote, or presented briefly in a commentary or exposition about John.

It can hardly have any significant effect on how bibles are printed, or the form in which the Gospel of John is presented in copies of the New Testament for Christian use in study and evangelism.

The whole issue of the 'pre-history' of John really began with notice of the absence of the Pericope de Adultera in some copies. From there, people noticed apparent 'seams', such as the appendixed 21st chapter, and anomalies like the ending of chapter 14.

In the deeper ongoing study of John's content, it was noticed that only the Feeding of the 5000 and Walking on Water miracles were duplicated in other Gospels. (This focus on 'miracles' ignored other overlaps of material, such as the Temple Cleansing, Triumphal entry, call of the disciples, John Baptists testimony, Passion account etc.!)

Bultmann went on to attempt to discover a 'Signs source' that could account for John's unique collection of miracles/signs. Others attempted to extend this by an analysis of narrative versus discourse, assuming again two different sources. (John as a source was apparently excluded!)

Anderson (noted above) continued to develop a 'two edition theory'. (This sadly was not engaged using a detailed structural and stylistic analysis of John, which would have more realistically limited the possible differences between the two.)

Finally, with John Dominic Crossan we ended up with a proposal for four distinct layers:

1st Stratum: (30-60 A.D.) a 'Miracle Collection' that lies behind the Signs Gospel and Mark (and Secret Mark)

2nd Stratum: (60-80 A.D.) The 'Signs Gospel' embedded in John...

3rd Stratum: (80-120 A.D.) '1st Edition' of John, and 1st letter of John...

4th Stratum: (120-150 A.D.) 2nd Edition of John (our extant version).

While we have shown that there is no credible evidence for two 'Editions' of John, others have shown that there is no credible evidence for a separate 'Signs Gospel' or 'Signs Source'. (The stylistic and grammatical features do not support a clear distinction between either the first 12 chapters and the rest of John, nor do they support a clear distinction between the narrative and discourse.)

The entire edifice has been built upon finding what the critics wanted to find, and seeing 'evidence' they wanted to see.

So far, there is only hard evidence for *one* Gospel of John.

Let me now relate my own experience, for the benefit of others. I too quite early on in my Johannine studies had the 21st chapter of John brought to my notice. This was twenty-five or thirty years ago, so I no longer recall whether it was through a commentary or other discussion that it caught my attention. But after that, I did not think much about it until I began serious detailed analysis of John.

Then gradually, but in the end quite firmly, the evidence began to accumulate for me that John was all of a piece, woven of one garment as it were. Like others, I eventually found that,

"In fact, one of the most intriguing and frustrating things about John is the fact that whatever can be identified as 'Johannine' style or content is permeated throughout the entire Gospel. Whatever potential sources, material or influence may have been available to John (the final redactor), they are impossible to isolate from John's own work."

This was at first disturbing, because it seemed to support the many variations of the following thesis, that I kept running into everywhere in Johannine studies:

Namely, that John was a 'late production', and that the discourses of Jesus in John were 'creative' excursions of John. Similarly, the 'signs' and miracles of John were according to critics largely 'fictional'. In fact, from the time of Bultmann onward, many if not most 'scholars' had relegated John to status of 'theological fantasies about Jesus'.

Yet this simply in the end could not be reconciled with my own actual hands on experience of John:

(1) Above all things, John and John's Jesus were obsessed with the issue of 'truth'. Yet what critics were proposing was that 'pious' or not, John was not a Gospel at all, but the largest Christian 'fraud' on record.

(2) Large portions of the narrative which was found in other gospels was meticulously accurate and where it differed, John continuously appeared primitive and authentic.

(3) While the Large Discourses of Jesus could have been somewhat customized and were weakly connected to their immediate context, they clearly belonged to and were entrenched in John's narrative, and belonged to it.

(4) The shorter discourses of Jesus were plainly primitive and as authentic as anything in the Synoptics. Jesus throughout John's Gospel argues and frustrates His opponents in the most embarrassingly realistic dialogues to appear in any Gospel.

(5) The total lack of 'demon possession' and other subjects difficult to take as literally accurate made John appear not as a flight of imaginative fancy, but rather the most well-grounded and reliable of all the Gospels.

(6) If anything, it appeared to me that John had been abbreviated or that things had been left out of John's final account, not added later. The only item involving real textual evidence, the Pericope de Adultera was obviously from the most primitive 'layer' of tradition, and could hardly be a 'later' invention or addition

(7) All of the unique geographical and cultural features in John turned out to be authentic. Only someone who actually lived in Jerusalem before 70 A.D. could have known key details about its layout and culture that were destroyed afterward by the Romans. Over and over again, archaeology confirmed John's version of things.

All of these factors made me suspicious of the conclusions and claims that critics were making about John. They just didn't hold up to my experience, and the evidence in front of me.

But the biggest blurb of all against the 'critical-eye' view of John is this: The very claims they were making about John defeated any rational case, even for the last chapter to have really been a 'later edition' by the Johannine community (wherever, whenever, or whoever that occurred).

If John really was some kind of late 'pseudo-gospel', full of forged incidents and speeches, why not a forged 'appendix'? How could the alleged 'post-death' epilogue be anything but another part of the same forgery?

Once everything INSIDE the Gospel was potentially either a plagarized prop, or a real-live forgery, how could the evidence for an 'appended' chapter have any credibility whatever? Why wouldn't it be just one more 'feature' added by the master forger?

This would be like asking a known liar to tell us all about himself. One would have to be a lot more sophisticated at interrogation than most modern critics, in order to get reliable information of any value from that scenario!

So even the alleged minor 'changes' in diction between the final chapter and the rest of the Gospel became as suspect as everything else in John.

But who can fail to see that this completely undermines any and every claim of 'multiple layers' or editions of the Gospel? If we can't trust the contents of John at all, how can we believe in the 21st chapter?

And without the 21st chapter, there can be no credible theory of 'two editions' of John.

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More on the Theory of Additions:
John 6

Here are some exerpts from:

Food for Thought:
The Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:25-71) in Johannine Legitimation

by James F. McGrath
Durham, England
Published January 10, 1997.

Full address for this page is
Theological Gathering 2, Winter 1997
This web page was originally here:
Terry Larm remains the author and copyright holder.


Sources and Composition:

There are essentially three main views on the origin and composition of this chapter (ch six):

(a) The whole chapter (except perhaps for vv51-58) is an integral part of the original Gospel (although perhaps displaced from before chapter 5).

(b) The traditional material (vv1-21) was included in the original Signs Source, while the rest comes from the Evangelist.

(c) The whole chapter was composed and added to the second edition of the Gospel, not having been included in the first.

It would obviously be possible to distinguish variations within these headings, as indeed we felt compelled to do in the case of (a) above. For our purposes, however, this oversimplified sketch will be more than adequate.

The big question here as everywhere in the Fourth Gospel is that of what criteria may be used to distinguish between source and redaction.

It is always best to move from that which is more certain to that which is less.

To begin with, there can be little doubt that the material contained in the first section of John 6 the author inherited and did not simply compose himself.

Secondly, the transition from chapter 5 to chapter 6, which jumps from Judaea to Galilee without warning, can hardly be said to be smooth, and the result has been the appearance of a number of displacement theories.

These two points seem fairly certain, but several different interpretations of this evidence would appear to be possible.

While source theories rightly draw attention to the traditional nature of the material in John 6:1-21, this on its own does not prove that this material was actually written down in the Gospel of Signs, as Fortna suggests, rather than having been added together with the discourse material to the last edition of the Gospel, as Lindars suggests.

It cannot be stressed enough that the age of material does not automatically determine when it was written down.

On the other hand, Lindars' point about the function of this chapter as proof that Moses wrote concerning Jesus (John 5:46f) does not necessarily disprove or exclude Fortna's source theory, nor his suggestion that the disjunction between chapters 5 and 6 are due to a rearrangement not of the Gospel in its present form by a redactor, but of the source by the evangelist. It is possible that both are correct. The evangelist may have moved this material from the Signs Source to its present position in order to use it to illustrate the point made in the discourse material he added in John 5:46f, namely that Moses wrote about Jesus.

In showing that these two views are not incompatible, our intention is not to provide a comprehensive synthesis of the various suggestions which have been made. For the purpose of this study it is sufficient if we have found some indication of the origin of the material found here, and in doing so can perhaps detect some of the logic which may have moved the evangelist to finally put this chapter in the form that he did.

The miracle which precedes the discourse is clearly traditional, and the discourse material bears the hallmarks of Johannine theology, whether that of the Evangelist or of a redactor. Beyond this it is unnecessary for us to speculate at present.


The most significant contribution which has been made to the interpretation of this chapter is certainly that of P. Borgen. Borgen was the first to convincingly demonstrate that what is going on in the discourse of John 6 is essentially exegesis of the Jewish Scriptures, following patterns and principles of exegesis which are widely attested in the sources available to us. The key to understanding the discussion is thus to realize that the various words and phrases, many of which are difficult to understand or interpret, are derived from, and will thus only be understood in light of, the Old Testament text or texts being discussed. The key passage in John 6 is the Old Testament paraphrase (it is not identical to any exact citation),

"He gave them bread from heaven to eat",

and in Borgen's view, Jesus is suggesting an alternative reading of the Hebrew text, in good rabbinic fashion: 'Do not read 'he [Moses] gave', but 'he [God] gives'.

The whole discussion between Jesus and the crowds is then to be regarded as following the typical course of such exegetical discussions.

Building on such insights, Barnabas Lindars has pointed out that the discussion follows the pattern of a synagogue homily, a suggestion which is not at all surprising or implausible, since the evangelist tells the reader that this discourse took place in the synagogue at Capernaum (6:59).

Regardless of whether any historical veracity is to be granted to the statement, the Bread of Life discourse was at the very least recognized by the evangelist (and probably also his readers) as reminiscent of the genre of the synagogue homily.

The two passages, Exodus 16:4 and Isa.54:9-55:4, which play a central role in this chapter, are thus to be regarded as the seder and haphtarah texts for a homiletic exposition of the Jewish Scriptures.

It would appear reasonable to follow Lindars in regarding John 6 as essentially an attempt to demonstrate the truthfulness of the statement made at the end of John 5: Moses wrote concerning Jesus, and what he wrote finds its fulfilment in him.

The stories concerning the feeding of the multitude and the crossing of the sea John inherited from the Christian tradition, very possibly as part of the Signs Document. More needs to be said about a number of other issues, such as the relationship between this part of John's Gospel and the practice of the Christian sacraments, in particular the Lord's Supper. However, such issues are best dealt with in the course of an examination and consideration of the text itself, to which we will shortly turn.

Structure and Genre:

The discourse material in this chapter begins in a way reminiscent of John 4, where Jesus discusses living water with the Samaritan woman. Both conversations begin with a reference to ordinary food or water (4:7-9; 6:26 in the context of the earlier feeding), to which Jesus responds by referring to the need to be concerned with eternal food or drink (4:10; 6:27).

Jesus' interlocutor(s) then ask(s) for this eternal water/bread, yet still understanding it as a permanent form of ordinary food/drink (4:15; 6:34). In both cases, the water or bread is referred to in terms of 'life' and/or its cognates ('living water', 'bread of life'), which is said to provide eternal life. It may also be noted that both conversations take place in the context of a particular OT tradition (in John 4 Jacob's well, in John 6 the manna).

There are also significant similarities between this discourse and the discourse with Nicodemus in John 3. In both cases Jesus' interlocutor misunderstands him, and responds with a question containing pws dunatai (John 3:4; 6:52), to which Jesus responds with a double 'Amen' and a saying beginning with 'unless' (ean mh_; John 3:5; 6:53).

We thus are confronted here with another example of the Johannine dialogue, which takes a misunderstanding, usually caused by Jesus' use of a term which can have more than one meaning, and elaborates it.

In the context of Jesus' words about the need to be concerned about food that endures for eternal life, and the crowd's request for a sign comparable to that given in the time of Moses, an inexact quotation from Exod.16:4, or perhaps from Ps.78:24, is given:

"He gave them bread from heaven to eat".

We have already noted the importance of this quotation as providing both the basis for and the background of the discussion which follows. In the first part of the discourse, the discussion takes its starting point from the words in the citation, 'He gave'. It then continues by expounding the whole citation, in light of the specific understanding of 'he gave' and of the further text from Isaiah that is also in mind.

The whole is thus to be read primarily, as we have already suggested, as a homiletic exposition of the Jewish Scriptures.


The Essential Point:

What we see here remarkably, is that not only is John chapter six indistinguishable in content and style from any other part of John, but that it is embedded in its context in precisely the same way as other 'Sign' material and discourse. Again there is no evidence for 'two editions'.

There is only an abrupt transition from one location to another between the chapter and the previous one. But this kind of abruptness is not only common in John, but also in the Synoptics. We have nothing special or particularly troublesome here.

This following exerpt is as apt as any to explain the minor disjunction between chapter 5 and 6:

6:1 metaV tauta

...Again, we are faced with a vague temporal reference. How Jesus got from Jerusalem to Galilee is not explained, which has led many scholars (e.g., Bernard, Bultmann, and Schnackenburg) to posit either editorial redaction or some sort of rearrangement or dislocation of material (such as reversing the order of chapters 5 and 6, for example). Such a rearrangement of the material would give a simple and consistent connection of events, but in the absence of all external evidence it does not seem to be supportable.

R. Brown says that such an arrangement is attractive in some ways but not compelling, and summarizes well:

"No rearrangement can solve all the geographical and chronological problems in John, and to rearrange on the basis of geography and chronology is to give undue emphasis to something that does not seem to have been of major importance to the evangelist."

taken from:
Exegetical Commentary on John 6
By: W. Hall Harris III , Th.M., Ph.D.