Exerpted from: Zane Hodges, Problem Passages in the Gospel of John Part 8: The Woman taken in Adultery (John 7: 53- 8:11) : The Text, BSac 136 (1979) 318-332
Last Updated: Feb 19, 2009
This excerpt from Mr. Hodges' excellent articles spanning a few issues of Bibliotheca Sacra (1979) forms an almost completely self-contained discussion on the authenticity of the Pericope de Adultera. He presents a well balanced review, and leaves few issues left undiscussed. Of course more can be said on every aspect of this problem, but Mr. Hodges succeeds admirably in re-opening the discussion, and the question of authenticity.
"Few if any of the passages in the New Testament have been more subject to controversy over a longer period of time than the famous story of the woman taken in adultery found in John 7: 53- 8:11. This well-known narrative, often referred to as the pericope de adultera, 1 has been discussed since ancient times and its authenticity as part of the Fourth Gospel has been both assailed and defended.
There can be no question that the story is not found in many of the very oldest documents, and for this reason- as well as on other grounds- there exists today a strong scholarly consensus that it formed no part of the original text of John’s Gospel. However, there are some very serious problems with this widely held view, and in fact an excellent case can be made that the narrative is not only entirely suitable to its context but also bears the stamp of Johannine authorship.
In order to deal adequately with the question that involves many complexities, it will be necessary to divide the discussion of it in two parts. First, there must be a careful treatment of the issues raised in the textual criticism of this passage, and second, there must be a careful exposition of its content and message within the framework of the Johannine presentation. It will not be possible, of course, to keep these two facets really separate, since textual and expository issues continually overlap here, but in a general way an effort will be made to treat the question under these two rubrics. Accordingly, it is planned that the present article on, "The Text" will be followed by one on "Exposition"
A UNIQUE CASE
In some ways the problems centering around the pericope de adultera are unique to New Testament criticism. To begin with, there is an almost classic division between the documentary witnesses. Ranged against the pericope are virtually all of the most ancient Greek manuscripts, which are favored by modern scholarship, along with an impressive array of versionary and patristic data. On the other hand, the evidence for the existence of this story seems very early and the passage is actually found in very large majority of the surviving manuscripts while there are also ancient attestations from both versions and fathers. Still, it might be suggested that, if Modern New Testament criticism is really headed in the right direction, this is surely a question on top of which it ought to be able to claim a decisive victory.
Of course, it does claim such a victory. Hence the reader is told by Metzger in his Textural Commentary on the Greek New Testament, which serves as a companion volume to the United Bible Societies ’Greek New Testament, (hereafter referred to as UBSGNT) that: "the evidence for the non-Johannine origin for the pericope de adultera is Over-whelming." 2 This certitude is equally echoed by many others who have written on the subject. For example, Barrett said, "It is certain that this narrative is not an original part of the Gospel," 3 and Morris has written, "The textual evidence makes it impossible to hold that this section is an authentic part of the Gospel." 4 Thus the emphatic conclusion reached long ago by Westcott and Hort that the pericope "first came into St. John’s Gospel as an insertion," 5 is repeatedly reaffirmed by modern writers and textual critics.
Yet this general agreement is also attended by a significant irony. For while rejecting the authenticity of the passage as an original part of the Fourth Gospel, many writers would equally accede to the observation of Hort that "the story itself has justly seemed to vouch for its own substantial truth". 6 Accordingly, Hoskyns called the passage "an authentic episode in the ministry of Jesus," 7 and Morris goes as far as to say, "throughout the history of the church it has been held that, whoever wrote it, this little story is authentic." 8 Indeed Metzger, while reporting that the case against the passage being Johannine "appears to be conclusive," adds at once, "At the same time the account has all the earmarks of historical veracity." 9
The anomaly is impressive. On the one hand, the passage is stigmatized as an unauthorized insertion into the sacred text, while on the other hand it is frequently hailed as bearing the "stamp of truth." 10 Of course, it is theoretically possible that a narrative which is substantially historical could indeed find its way into the text of a canonical Gospel and win wide spread acceptance there, but if it did the case is totally without parallel in the rest of the New Testament. No other extended section, dealing with a noncanonical but "true" event in the life of Jesus, has ever attained this kind of canonical circulation. It could happen but did it? Perhaps afterall it might be easier to suggest that the narrative suffered deletion from some very early Greek exemplar of John’s Gospel, was perpetuated by this exemplar’s many descendants, and that the excision has thus exercised much influence on later copyists, translators, and commentators.
That this is, in fact, the best solution to the famous textual conundrum will be argued in what follows. Let it simply be observed here that – whether the passage is included or excluded from John’s Gospel – it’s textual history is in many respects unmistakably unique. 11
EARLY TEXTUAL CORRUPTION
Long ago F.H.A. Scrivener, a respected textual critic in his own time, observed, "it is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound, that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected, originated within a hundred years after it was composed…" 12 And E.C. Cowell, a prominent critic of the past generation, asserted that "the overwhelming majority of readings were created before year 200" (italics his). 13 The subject has been extensively discussed by a contemporary textual scholar, G.D. Kilpatrick, whose observations are certainly well worth noting.
We may take it that by the end of the second century A.D. Christian opinion had hardened against deliberate alteration of the text, however harmless the alteration might be. The change of the opinion was connected not with the canonical status of the New Testament but with the reaction against the rehandling of the text by second century heretics. This argument confirms the opinion of H. Vogels… that the vast majority of deliberate changes in the New Testament text were older than A.D. 200. In other words they came into being in the period A.D. 52 200. 14
If such conclusions as these are well founded, it is as once apparent that to date the origin of the problem of the pericope de adultera later than the year A.D. 200 must be deemed highly improbable. Whether the pericope is viewed as an early addition to the text or an early excision from it, its chances of profoundly affecting the transmissional history of the manuscripts would be severely restricted if either of these processes had occurred later than the beginning of the third century.
Whatever else might be said about this famous passage, its appearance or nonappearance after John 7:52 is in no way accidental but is in fact a deliberate textual emendation. Accordingly, hardening resistance to substantial textual change after the earliest century and a half of copying makes it antecedently probable that the difficulty reaches far back into the most remote eras in the transmission of the New Testament. As the evidence to be discussed below will show, there is substantial reason to believe this to be the case.
But here it should be noted that when penning the final chapter of his final book, the Apostle John is recorded as saying:
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add him to the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." (Rev. 18-19, NIV).
It is not observed often enough that this kind of warning might well have been evoked by John’s own awareness that the New Testament writings – indeed, even his own! – had been willfully tampered with already in his own lifetime. Consequently, the possibility cannot be excluded that by the time the book of Revelation was penned (perhaps in the reign of Domitian, A.D. 81-96 15 ), the textual disruption caused by the addition or subtractio of the pericope de adultera has already occurred!
If all this is kept carefully in mind, the textual evidence against about to be presented will prove far less perplexing and far more amenable to satisfactory analysis.
THE GREEK WITNESSES FOR OMISSION
Metzger summarizes the Greek manuscript evidence against the pericope as follows:
It is absent from such early and diverse manuscripts as Aleph B L N T W X Y Delta, 053 0141 0211 22 33 124 157 209 565 788 828 1230 1241 1242 1253 2193 al. Codices A and C are defective in this part of John, but it is highly probable that neither contained the pericope, for careful measurement discloses that there would not have been space on the missing leaves to include the section along with the rest of the text. 16
It may be added that Tischendorf, in his famous eighth edition, was able to indicate that about seventy minuscule (small letter script) manuscripts omitted this passage in question 17 . This number has been further augmented by the investigation of von Soden, as well as by the discoveries since his day, so that it seems safe to say that the total Greek manuscripts now known to omit the pericope de adultera must be one hundred or more. 18
It is clear from this that the evidence for omission is both considerable and very old. On the other hand, it should not be inferred that any of these witnesses predate the appearance of the pericope in Johns Gospel. If, as indicated above, the problem must have originated earlier than A.D. 200 - perhaps much earlier- none of the surviving witnesses reach back that far. P66 and P75 are easily the oldest texts and stand precisely on the borderline being discussed (ie: the beginning of the third century), but among the available Greek copies these are the sole representatives of the third century. For the second and first centuries there are no survivors at all (in this part of the book) among the undoubtedly very numerous texts in Greek which must have existed for John’s Gospel.
It is one of the chief fallacies of the modern textual criticism that the surviving Greek Manuscript evidence is sometimes treated as if it were truly representative of what did or did not exist among the nonsurviving text which have long since parished. But this is as unscientific as it could possibly be. In the case being considered, P66 and P75 alone represent the third century and both are of Egyptian provenance. Furthermore, the only two witnesses from the fourth century (the famous vellum manuscripts, Aleph and B) are also of Egyptian origin. Thus, for 200 years – between A.D. 200 and 400 – the data consists of four texts, all Egyptian. That this could represent, by any stretch of the imagination, an adequate "random sample" for the era in question, would be a far-fetched and untenable proposition. Indeed, it would be hazardous in the extreme to generalize at all even about the state of things in Egypt. The most that could safely be said that it is possible that between A.D. 200 and 400 more manuscripts were written in Egypt without the pericope than were written with it. But even here, as any stratistician would know, the inference merits little confidence.
But a further consideration intrudes. For in regard to all four of these oldest Greek witnesses, there is a serious question whether or not they have any significant textual independence at all. That P75 and B are close relatives is well known, and the affinity between Aleph and B has long been commonplace knowledge in text critical handbooks. P66 as well shows many significant agreements with the other three. 19 it is therefore not at all out of the question to suggest that all four may ultimately be derived from a single parental exemplar which lies far back in the stream of transmission. Unfortunately, modern textual criticism has not yet faced squarely the implications of such a possibility. If, after all, P66, P75, B, and Aleph derive a single manuscript far older than any of them but to which they owe their extremely numerous agreements, then their combined witness is in the final analysis the witness of only one Greek exemplar, though no doubt an exemplar a very high antiquity indeed.
Consequently, if the origin of the textual disruption affecting the pericope de adultera goes back into the early second century or even into the first, a possible hypothesis suggests itself. It is not inconceivable that the ultimate parental source of the four manuscripts in question might have also been the source which originally omitted the passage. 20 If it is objected that this hypothesis cannot be proved, this can be freely admitted. But conversely, the hypothesis contains nothing inherently unreasonable and is no more subject to disproof than it is to proof! Accordingly, the concurrence of four early Egyptian manuscripts in deleting the pericope has no decisive weight whatsoever, so long as their textual independence cannot be demonstrated. To put it another way, if on other grounds it is possible to view the pericope as authentic and original, the Egyptian witness is not in any way an insuperable barrier to that.
A couple of observations need to be appended to this. Obviously, if it were concluded that the four oldest texts have a common origin short of the original it would follow that in all probability so do their later textual allies. Hence in the list of uncial (large letter) manuscripts which Metzger adds to the four being discussed, careful attention should be given to how many demonstrate a textual relatedness to the P66-P75-B-Aleph type of text. In the list those witnesses which have been so described by Metzger himself are L, T, W (in John), Psi (partially in John), and X (mixed Alexandrian text). C, which is defective here but evidently lacked the pericope, is also classed as "mixed Alexandrian." 21 It is therefore once again not implausible to suggest that an ancient exemplar, from which the passage has been excised now numbers among its surviving descendants in John about half of the Greek papyrus uncial evidence which can be cited in favor of omission. That so venerable a copy, working through its manuscript offspring, might have decided impact on the history of transmission is a possibility definitely worth considering. At least, on no really reasonable a priori grounds can this proposition be decisively excluded.
THE GREEK WITNESSES FOR INCLUSION
In Metzer’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, he surveys the manuscript evidence for inclusion:
It is obviously a piece of oral tradition which circulated in certain parts of the Western Church and which was subsequently incorporated into various manuscripts at various places. Most copyists apparently thought that it would interrupt John’s narrative least if it were inserted after 7.52 (DE(F)GHKMU Gamma Pi 28 700 892 al). Others placed it after 7.36 (ms.225) or after 7.44 (several Georgian mss.) or after 21.25 (1 565 1076 1570 1582 arm mss) or after Lk 21.38 marked with asterisks or obeli, indicating that, though the scribes included the account, they were aware that it lacked satisfactory credentials. 22
Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult from this way of stating the evidence to get a clear cut picture of the actual situation. It would be possible to infer from Metzer’s description that the pericope was a kind of mobile unit of material that shifted about more or less at the whim of the scribes. But this is certainly not the case at all. Von Soden, whose investigations of the textual history of the pericope were far more extensive than those of any researcher before or since, has made it clear that the real location of the pericope de adultera in the manuscript tradition is exactly where it is found today in the English Authorized version. 23 Well before von Soden’s investigations, Scrivener had observed," Scholz, who has taken unusual pains in the examination of this question, enumerates 290 cursives, others since his time forty-one more, which contain the paragraph with no trace of suspicion…." 24 If von Soden’s efforts are taken into consideration, since his research has greatly expanded the number of Greek manuscripts known to include the pericope, it is reasonably safe to affirm that the total of these must now be in the vicinity of at least 450. 25
The number of texts which place the pericope in some other location in the biblical text than after John 7:52 is miniscule in the extreme, hardly reaching much beyond a couple dozen or so. 26
It is not easy to dismiss lightly this massive manuscript witness to the pericope. If after all A.D. 200 a relatively conservative tendency set in which made it increasingly difficult to alter significantly the text in hand, the possibility that the disrupted passage was repeatedly and independantly inserted into the manuscript tradition by scribes and editors in many scriptoria must rate rather low on the scale of probability. All the more is this true when it is remembered that the content of the pericope was controversial and potentially offensive. 27 Indeed, the insertion of large blocks of noncanonical matter into the great mass of the Gospel manuscripts is a phenomenon otherwise unknown in history of their transmission and is in fact unlikely on its face.
A much more likely hypothesis is that the surviving documents offer evidence for the pr-A.D. 200 state of affairs. That is to say, it seems probable that the great mass of manuscripts which contain the pericope represent the product of a long chain of transmission which reaches back into the remotest periods of copying. 28 If, for example, by A.D. 100, the Greek documents then extant for the Gospel of John contained the pericope by a margin of four or five to one, the present distribution of the Greek evidence between manuscripts containing and those omitting the passage is satisfactorily explained. Moreover if there is added to this proposition the suggestion that the text of P66-P75-B-Aleph was both the earliest and most highly approved form of the text in ancient Egypt, 29 it would seem that the data offered by the surviving Greek manuscripts is adequately accounted for.
Other constructs, in which the history of the pericope’s transmission is explained differently, confront the formidable barrier of the overwhelming numerical witness for inclusion. If such constructs are viable, let it be shown how and why they are!
THE EVIDENCE OF VERSIONS
The evidence of the versions is rather mixed. Not suprisingly the Egyptian versions - "the Sahidic and the sub-Achmimic versions and the older Bohairic manuscripts" 30 - omit the pericope. But this is surely compatible with the supposition that the oldest of the most favored form of the Greek text in Egypt likewise omitted the passage.
Regarding the witness of the so-called Old Syriac version, it must be pointed out that basically only two documents are in question, both written no earlier than the close of the fourth century. 31 The age of the text they contain as well as the extent of its circulation cannot be certainly known, but neither document contains the pericope. On the other hand, the Peshitta Syriac version, which exists today in many manuscripts, likewise omits the passage. The date of its origin has been much discussed 32 but Syriac tradition holds it to be very old and this tradition may well be true. If so, at the base of the Syriac traditions lies a manuscript, or manuscripts, which omitted the pericope. But it must be kept in mind that the number of texts used by a translator cannot, without direct information, be even guessed and the basis on which he might have adjudicated textual questions of which he was aware is likewise beyond the range of modern discovery. In any case the pericope does not seem to have formed apart of the earliest scriptures of the Syriac-speaking church. But for that matter, neither did 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, or Revelation, which the original Peshitta also lacked!
Additional negative versionary evidence may be conveniently summarized in the words of Metzger: "Some Armenian manuscripts and the Old Georgian version omit it. In the West the passage is absent from the Gothic version and from several Old Latin manuscripts ( it a, i*,q )" 33 Except for the Old Latin, none of these versions is likely to antedate the fourth century.
On the other hand the Old Latin manuscripts which contain it are more numerous than those omitting it, and Jerome in the fifth century, included the passage in the Vulgate. The so-called Palestinian Syriac version (fifth century) 34 contains it, as do certain manuscripts of the Harclean Sryiac, the Armenian, and the Bohairic. The Ethiopic version, dated by some in the fourth century and by others in the sixth or seventh century, likewise contains the pericope. 35
What may be concluded from this data? Chiefly what can be said is that the really important evidence comes from the Latin, Coptic, and Syriac traditions. The pericope was much used in the first of these and little used in the other two. But if, as the editors of UBSGNT indicate, the Old Latin is to be assigned to the period between the second and fourth centuries, the Coptic to the third and fourth centuries, and the Syriac to the fourth century and later, 36 it would appear that the pericope’s appearance in the Latin tradition is fully consistent with the high view of its antiquity. But the omission is also ancient and since the Coptic and Syriac versions are Eastern, the possibility exists for some forms of interaction between them. If the pericope is part of the original Johns Gospel, then it excision was a major act of early textual criticism, whatever the motives for it might have been. Scholars with a linguistic competence adequate for translation might well be attracted to a textual tradition noted for its "correctness" and thus manuscripts descended from a "corrected" exemplar might well have an influence quite out of proportion to their actual numbers. 37
If anyone deems this improbable, let him reflect on the extensive influence that the critically preferred manuscripts of the present day have had on versions made during the twentieth century both in this country and abroad. Since all the details surrounding the earliest versions are now lost in the dim mists of antiquity, scholars are definitely working in the dark when they do more than assert the most tentative conclusions about the textual interrelationships that might be involved. In short, the evidence of the versions goes no further than to show the antiquity of both the inclusion and omission of the pericope. Beyond this, it reveals nothing about the validity or basis for the decisions made by the earliest translations.
THE EVIDENCE FROM THE FATHERS
The patristic evidence against the pericope de adultera is put in its severest light by Metzer’s assertion that "no Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (twelfth century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospel do not contain it." 38 Naturally, little weight can be attached to a twelfth-century statement about "accurate copies" 39 but the fact that Metzer cites it is revealing. The rest of the Greek testimony is in fact from silence.
In this connection it must be recalled that in an early lectionary system (i.e., a selection of passages to be read publicly in the church), the reading for the Feast of Pentecost ran immediately from John 7:52 to 8:12. 40 That this lection was taken directly from a manuscript from which 7:73 to 8:11 was absent was possible, but cannot be shown. It was not uncommon in the lectionary text to pass over material not selected for public presentation, 41 and in the system referred to the pericope de adultera may simply have been omitted is unsuitable for a feast like Pentecost. 42 In any case the existence of such a system meant many auditors in the early church were familiar with public readings of the text which passed directly from 7:52 to 8:12. If, therefore, an early commentator chose not to deal with this disputed passage he had excellent precedent for passing it by in silence.
It remains, therefore, an open question whether the silence of a Greek commentator is due to his being unaware of the existence of the pericope or whether it is due to his decision to pass by a controversial passage without comment. Theophylact, for example, since he dates from the eleventh century, can only by an extreme effort of the imagination be supposed to be ignorant of a story by then so widely defused in the manuscripts of John. Yet he is silent in his commentary as are Origen (ca. 254), Chrysostom (ca. 407) Nonnus (ca. 431) Cyril of Alexandria (ca. 444) and Cosmas (ca. 550). 43 What does the silence of these fathers really prove? Actually nothing. Some or all may not have known the passage or may not have found it in the text on which they commented. For the Egyptian fathers this is not at all impossible. 44 On the other hand the doubts to which this text has been subjected from very early times may have served to create in the East a kind of "commentary tradition" in accord with which it was customary among Greek expositors to pass it by. Since one well-known lectionary system did exactly that the tendency would be reinforced. Certainly this is a satisfactory explanation for the silence of Theophylact, but how much more of the data it may also explain must remain an open question. In any event, it is well known that the argumentum ex silentio is notoriously tenuous and inconclusive. The value of the Fathers who say nothing is accordingly minimal. 45
Of much greater value are positive testimonies. There are many, but the comment of Jerome is particularly to the point. Metzger’s Textual Commentary is silent (!) about Jerome’s statement, but of course it is well known to all practicing textual critics. According to Jerome (ca. 420), "in the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts in both Greek and Latin, is found the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord." 46 The significance of this observation is very great. For here is the earliest recorded patristic comment on the textual data and it accords perfectly with the inferences that have already been drawn from the surviving manuscripts. Jerome, whose travels in both East and the West would have been permitted wide exposure to Greek and Latin texts, must often have looked at manuscripts as old or older than any that now survive. If his judgement was that the Pericope de adultera was widely attested, this judgement cannot be lightly set aside by those who live fifteen hundred years after his time! Moreover, as was earlier mentioned, Jerome included the passage in the Vulgate.
Equally famous is the observation of Augustine (ca.430) to the effect that "certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from the manuscripts the Lord’s act of forgiveness toward the adulterous,as if He who had said, "sin no more" had granted permission to sin" 47 (This comment is also passed over in silence by Metzer! 48 ) Whatever may be thought of Augustine’s assessment of the source of the trouble, there is obviously no question about what he believed to be authentic text!
That the passage created sensitivity in very early times is manifest from the comments by Ambrose (ca.397):
At the same time also the Gospel which has been covered, could produce extraordinary anxiety in the inexperienced, in which you have noticed an adulterous presented to Christ and also dismissed without condemnation … How indeed could Christ err? It is not right that this should come into our mind 49
But obviously it did come into some minds, as Ambrose’s cautionary remarks make perfectly plain. In this light it is strange indeed that modern criticism has been reluctant to acknowledge that a perfectly obvious motive existed in antiquity which could tempt toward the excision of a passage viewed by some as scandalous.
To assert that such an excision could not have occurred would be a proposition no one could logically defend. But if it did occur – and at a very early date – then the data of both manuscripts, versions, and Fathers is not at all difficult to understand.
On the hypothesis that the ancient parent of the P66-P75-B-Aleph lacked the pericope de adultera by virtue of a deliberate act of editorial correction, the remainder of the textual data is rather easily explicable. The evidently scandalous character of the narrative when viewed through the eyes of the legalistically minded served to give the original excision a potential acceptability in some quarters that few other major corrections could ever hope to attain.
Once the ancient exemplar from which the pericope was removed had been copied for a generation or so, its descendants would offer testimony to its absence from their texts while they remained obviously mute about the reasons for this absence. It was therefore open to any scribe, editor, translator, or commentator to accept or reject the passage on the basis of such documentary witnesses and it can hardly be doubted that – given the opportunity – many would opt for omission. A snowball effect would thereby be produced which was bound to leave its impact on the history of transmission. Numerous scribes, therefore, would take occasion to leave the passage out while others would do no more than mark it with asterisks or obeli, leaving it to subsequent copyists actually to remove it. Translators who were aware of this textual divergence had to decide whether to render the passage or not. There were those who chose not to render it, a course which must sometimes have need dictated by conviction and at other times by prudence. In the same way commentators aware of this problem had to choose whether to comment or not, and the line of least resistance would surely be adopted by some. On the whole, therefore, the evidence is more or less what might be expected for a passage which suffered early, willful omission and which possessed sufficient potential for offense to make the omission appealing.
Of course, this reconstruction cannot be decisively proved. But at least it should suggest to all impartial observers that the external evidence against the pericope is by no means as "overwhelming" as it is sometimes made out to be. The certitude with which the evidence is often assessed in a fashion unfavorable to authenticity is an impressive tribute to the lack of scientific objectivity which unfortunately often mars contemporary textual discussion. The sooner this deficiency is rectified, the quicker the field is likely to emerge from its present methodical impasse.
It remains, however, to show that the interpretation of the evidence presented in this article can be further fortified by a consideration of the internal character of the pericope. In the article to follow, an effort will be made to demonstrate that the narrative not only fits perfectly into its Johannine context, but also that it exhibits clear marks of authorship by the Apostle himself.
1. An alternate Latin title is the pericope adulterae. Both are found in the technical literature.
2. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek NT (NY: UBS 1971), p 219
3. C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St John (London: S.P.C.K. 1962), p.490
4. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1971) p.882
5. Westcott & Hort, The NT in the Original Greek vol 2: Introduction (Macmillan & Co. 1881) p. 88 of Appendix
6. Ibid. p 87 Appendix
7. E.C. Hoskins, The Fourth Gospel, ed. F.N. Davey (London: Faber & Faber, 1940), p566
8. Morris, (ibid.) p.883
9. Metzger, (ibid.), p 220
10. For the contrary view that the pericope is nonhistorical and a product of 2nd century ethical debates, see Hans Freiherr von Campenhausen, "Zur Perikope von der Ehebrecherin (Joh 7 53-8:11)" Zeitschrift fur die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 68 (1977) 164-175
11. Metzger, supporting omission appeals to "the absence of any instance elsewhere of scribal excision of an extensive passage because of moral prudence..." (ibid. p 221). But as shown above, in any case the situation is without real parallel.
12. F.H.A. Scrivener, A Plain introduction to the Criticism of the NT 4th ed. E. Miller (London: George Bell & Sons, 1894) vol 2 p 264
13. E.C. Colwell, "Method in Establishing the Nature of Text-types of NT MSS", in Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the NT, vol 9 of NT Tools & Studies, ed. B.M. Metzger (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1969) p 55
14. G. D. Kilpatrick, "Atticism and the Text of the Greek NT" in Neutestamentliche Aufratz: Festschrift fur Prof. Josef Schmid zum 70. Geurstag, ed. J. Blinzler, O. Kuss, & F. Mussner (Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1963) p 131, cf. the whole discussion on pgs 129-131.
15. But the traditional, conservative dating of Revelation in the time of Domitian has recently been challenged as too late! John A. T. Robinson proposes a date of late A.D. 68 or early A.D. 70 (Redating the NT [Phil.: WestminsterPress, 1976], pp. 221-53).
16. Metzger, Textual Commentary, pp. 219-20.
17. Constantinus Tischendorf, Novum Testamentum Graece, 8th ed. 1869-72 vol 1. p826
18. Thus early in this century von Soden could list for his K family alone about 50 codices in which the preicope is not found in the text of John, though it is added in a few of these at the end of the codex. (H.F. von Soden, Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments... Teil 1. Abteilung 2: A. Die Evangelien pp 735-36).
19. Appropriately, therefore, P66 is classed with P75, Aleph, and B as "Proto-Alexandrian" by Metzger (Textual Commentary, p xxix). For a major investigation of P66 in which a "neutral" Vorlage (or, Vorlagen) is suggetsed for this manuscript, see Gordon D. Fee, Papyrus Bodmer II (P66) Its Textual Relationships and Scribal Characteristics, Studies and Documents, ed. Jacob Geerlings (Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press, 1968), esp pp. 77-78.
As yet, the special study by G.D. Fee on the relationship between Aleph and D in John 1-8 ahd not had an impact on the classification of Aleph, as witness the Textual Commentary (cited above in this note), Fee has argued that "Codex Sinaiticus is a leading Greek representative of the Western textual tradition in John i. l-viii.38" ("Codex Sinaiticus in the Gospel of John: A Contribution to Methodology in Establishing Textual Relationships," New Testament Studies 15 :44). But in this writer's opinion a number of important caveats cloud the significance of this conclusion. Among these are the following: (1) The so-called "Western" text is hardly homogenous enough to be considered as an entitity or even as a "tradition" except in the loosest sense; (2) its only Greek witness of any major extent in the Gospels is Codex Bezae (D); (3) Fee's data proves no more than that some textual connection between Aleph and D may exist for John 1-8; (4) the nature of this connection is debatable as to whether it involves a Vorlage or an intensive form of "mixture" . Since D is notorious for exhibiting readings for which there is little of on other Greek support, if an ancestor of Aleph has been subject to correction from a Vorlage of the D-type, Fee's data would be fully accounted for. Since Fee's statistics are built on variation units in which at least two of his manuscripts agree against the rest, it would be inevitable that a text significantly infiltrated by corrections from an ancestor of D would have a pronounced tendency to pair off with D with percentage agreements of precisely the type Fee found.
20. It should be carefully noticed that this does not constitute an allegaiont that the omission was first made in Alexandria or in Egypt! If, as seems likely, the 4th Gospel was originally published in Asia Minor, then even the Egyptian texts - if their genealogy is pushed back far enough - no doubt are descended from some early copy that circulated in the region of Anatolia, and it may well be there that the excision was initially made. If early enough, it could thus have become known to John himself, whose protest in Revelation 22:18-19 has been mentioned above.
21. Metzger, Textual Commentary , p. xxix
22. Ibid., pp. 220-21.
23. For example, he states, "Die Mehrzahl der Codd. die das Jo-Ev enthalten, wiesen nach Jo 7 52 eine Perikope auf, die den Zusammenhang von 7 52 mit 8 12 unterbrechend, Jesu Urteil uber eine ihm vorgefuhrte Ehebrecherin zum Gegenstand hat" (von Soden, Die Schriften, Teil 1, Abteilung 1, p. 486)
24. Scrivener, Plain Introduction, 2;365-66.
25. There are, according to him, 216 manuscripts which exhibit the text form of the pericope which he calls m6 (von Soden, Die Schriften, Teil 1, Abteilung 1, pp. 488-89). For the other groups which he claims to have identified, so many MSS are listed that the figure in the text above is perhaps conservative (cf. ibid., Abteilung 2, pp. 737-55).
26. Of these, most belong to two well-known and clearly defined textual entities. Family I places the pericope at the end of John, while Family 13 places it after Luke 21:38. Beyond this, the apparatus of UBS GNT cites two (!) Greek texts which place it elsewhere!
27. See the later discussion above under "The Evidence from the Fathers".
28. This writer has elsewhere argued that the so-called Majority text found in the NT MSS can only be reasonably explained as the product of a basically normal transmissional history (Zane C. Hodges, "Modern Textual Criticism and the Majority Text: A Response" , Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 21: 143-55; and "Modern Textual Criticism and the Majority Text: A Rejoinder", ibid., pp. 161-64).
29. Kurt Aland once went so far as to propose, "At least the Egyptian text appears to have originated from a local text. Or, rather it seems that from the existing local texts one was selected, revised and, thorught the production of copies of the revised manuscript, enforced as the dominating text in this particular ecclesiastical province." ("The Significance of the Papyri for Progress in NT Research", in The Bible in Modern Scholarship, ed. J. Philip Hyatt [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965], p. 336).
But this view of things is a bit too stylized to be persuasive. The concept of a standardized text enforced by ecclesiastical prescription is redolent of the criticism of a past generation. Amid a fluid textual process, the practical difficulties in the way of any standardizing process were immense and the texts most current in any locale were more likely to owe their currency to "uncontrolled" phenomena such as the early arrival of their ancestors in the area in question, coupled with a general acceptance of the long-familiar and venerated readings and MSS.
30. Metzger, Textual Commentary, p. 220.
31. The Curetonian Syriac is found in a manuscript thought to have been written sometime in the 5th century, while the Sinaitic Syriac is a manuscript variously dated late in the 4th century or early in the 5th century. Cf. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1977), p. 38.
32. Cf. ibid., pp. 56-60.
33. Metzger, Textual Commentary, p. 220. UBS GNT also lists the Arabic and Fulda versions of Tatian's Diatessaron, but this is a slim representation of the Diatessaric materials on which not much should be built.
34. Actually the language of this version is Palestinian Aramaic, though the script is Syriac. Cf. Metzger, Early Versions, pp 75-77, for the facts and the question of dating.
35. Ibid., pp.222-23. It is noteworthy that "native Ethiopian traditions" would favor the 4th century date.
36. The dates are those given in the "Introduction" to UBS GNT, pp. xxiv-xxxv.
37. Cf. Streeter's striking discussion of the Alexandrian text-critical traditions, under the influence of which the Christian scholars and scribes - even outside of Egypt! - might be inclined to suspect interpolations, particularly where MSS with a shorter text were available to feed such suspicions. (B.H.Streeter, The Four Gospels, [London Macmillan & Co. 1930], pp. 122-24). Also see William Farmer, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (Cambridge U. Press 1974), pp. 13-21.
38. Metzger, Textual Commentary, p. 220.
39. That such terminology in ancient times might have referred to "revised" or "edited" copies is suggested by Farmer (Last Twelve Verses, pp 17-21).
40. Cf. Harry Merwyn Buck Jr., The Johannine Lessons in the Greek Lectionary, vol 2, no. 4 of Studies in the Lectionary Text of the Greek NT, ed. Allen Wikgren et. al. (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press 1958), pp. 5-6. Buck dates the origination of this system in the 4th century (p. 76).
41. This was pointed out long ago by John William Burgon (The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, ed. E. Miller [London Geo.Bell & Sons 1896], p. 256, esp. n.1]
42. But perhaps even more likely, since the lection began at 7:37 (an obvious selection for Pentecost in view of 7:39), the reading of 7:53-8:11 would have made it too long (i.e., substantially longer than the other lections in this system). Accordingly, 8:12 might have been selected to round off the lection with a solemn pronouncement by the Lord, just as the lection began with one. It would certainly provide a weightier conclusion than 7:52! Obviously, 7:53 and 8:1 are not particularly serviceable unless the whole of the pericope de adultera was to be read, setting as they do the stage for that. In any case, 8:12 would be an excellent climax which might naturally suggest itself as a striking contrast to 7:52.
43. UBS GNT also cites Clementvid among the Greeks presumed to omit the passage, and Tertullian and Cyprian among Latin writers. But the passage undoubtably did not suit the rigorist views of Tertullian and Cyprian, and ther silence is accordingly suspect.
44. Indeed, if the Egyptian writers in this list are subracted ther remains only Chrysostom (from the early centuries) to represent the rest of the Greek-speaking world! Since the manuscripts themselves show that the omission was not uncommon in Egypt, does the accumulation of patristic name from the same region add anything significant to the weight of the evidence?
45. Burgon's statement of the Latin patristic evidence is worth repeating (the dates are his, rather than those of UBS GNT which are employed in the text of the article above):
"Jerome (A.D. 385), after a careful survey of older Greek copies, did not hesitate to retain it in the Vulgate. It is freely referred to and commented on by himself in Palestine: while Ambrose at Milan (374) quotes it at least nine times ; as well as Augustine in North Africa (396) about twice as often. It is quoted besides by Pacian , in the north of Spain (370),—by Faustus the African (400),—by Rufinus at Aquileia (400),—by Chrysologus at Ravenna (433),—by Sedulius a Scot (434). The unknown authors of two famous treatises written at the same period, largely quote this portion of the narrative. It is referred to by Victorius or Victorinus (457),—by Vigilius of Tapsus (484) in North Africa,—by Gelasius , bp. of Rome (492),—by Cassiodorus in Southern Italy,—by Gregory the Great , and by other Fathers of the Western Church." (Burgon, Causes of Corruption, pp. 247-48). Even if this list needs some reworking, its total impact is impressive. The references will be found in Burgon's note on page 248.
46. Jerome, "The Dialogue against the Pelagians", (2.17), transl. John N. Hritzu, in Saint Jerome: Dogmatic and Polemical Works, (Washington D.C., Catholic U. Press of America, 1965), p.321.
47. Augustine, "Adulterous Marriages" (2.7), transl C. T. Huegelmeyer, in Saint Augustine: Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects (NT: Fathers of the Church, 1955), P. 107.
48. It is perhaps vaguely alluded to by the words, "Sometimes it is stated that the pericope was deliberately expunged from the 4th Gospel because it was liable to be understood in a sense too indulgent to adultery" (Metzger, Textual Commentary, p. 221). Candor might have been better served if the reader had been informed that the idea can be traced back to the 5th century!
49. Ambrose, "Apologia David altera" (1.1, 3), in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, vol. 32: S. Ambrosii Opera, Part 2, ed. Carolus Schenkl (Vindobonae: F. Tempsky, 1887), pp 359-60.