Clergy, Scholars & Laymen who defend the authenticity of
The Pericope de Adultera, John 8:1-11
Last Updated: Feb 19, 2009
Over the centuries, many knowledgable and brilliant clergy, scholars, and commentators have defended the Pericope De Adultera (John 8:1-11). Some have emphasized different arguments and evidence, but many are in substantial agreement that John the Evangelist (the author of John's Gospel) wrote our passage.
They also agree that since John wrote the passage, it is an inspired and authoritative part of the Holy Scriptures and absolutely belongs both in John's Gospel and in the New Testament.
Others would split the question into separate issues, allowing for the possibility that this portion of scripture originated in another Gospel, such as Luke, or was part of the ancient oral tradition handed down by one of the Apostles or other eyewitnesses, such as Mary or St. Stephen.
Such scholars and clergymen from this second group would argue that while the passage may not have been a part of John's original Gospel, it was preserved as an authentic eyewitness account by the early church and added to the Gospel in order to preserve it.
We have here conveniently gathered the opinion of ten famous clergy and scholars who have authenticated the famous story of the Woman taken in Adultery.
'The Faith which was Once Delivered to the Saints' (Jude 3)
Many great men, while concerned about the fact that some ancient manuscripts had omitted the verses, nonetheless concluded that some mundane explanation would probably account for the peculiarities of these early copies.
These ten men and women have been chosen as representative of a Spirit, an integrity, and a generous talent carefully and reverently applied to the textual criticism of this passage.
Many others could have been cited who also defended the integrity of John's Gospel. Some of them may have done so for doctrinal reasons, or by relying upon the work of some of these scholars, while others did original work of their own.
We do not claim that these people were necessarily the best of those who strongly and clearly defended the passage. These were partly chosen because of the availability of their work in English and their natural fame.
Other lists could be drawn up of equally impressive characters, with equally high integrity and scholarly credentials. We chose these only as a good representative sample of the large number of people of God who have chosen to take a stand on the side of the Pericope de Adultera.
We have more detailed articles on all of these people on-site. Here we do not quote their complete arguments, but rather try to give enough of a sample of their work to allow the reader to appraise their methodology and their reverence of Holy Scripture.
John Lightfoot (1675)
'Expositors, almost with one consent, do note that this story of the woman taken in adultery, was not in some ancient copies; and whiles I am considering upon what accident this should be, there are two little stories in Eusebius that come to mind...'
- Bishop John Lightfoot, Commentary (1675)
Bishop Lightfoot then goes on to explain Eusebius' peculiar handling of the passage and earlier testimony as part of a probable procedure used to fulfill the Emperor Constantine's order for 50 'church bibles' prepared for public service. Lightfoot's account of the 4th century copies (Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) remains a real possibility today.
"With respect to the questionable passage in St. John, the proofs of its authenticity, though more remotely sought, are not less decisive. According to the tradition of the primitive Church, St. John composed his Gospel, with the express view of opposing the rising heresies of the Nicolaitans and Corinthians. Of those heretics the apostle declares;
"thou halt them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly," &c.
Marriage had been condemned and rejected by those abandoned miscreants; who asserted the lawfulness of the most promiscuous intercourse of the sexes. And by this doctrine, which was but too well suited to the low state of morals in the times of heathen superstition, they had seduced numbers from the severe discipline of the primitive church. It was therefore required, by the express object which the Evangelist proposed to himself, in writing against them, that he should provide a remedy for both evils; to prevent the inroad of vice on the one hand and to provide for reclaiming it on the other.
With this view he selects out of the incidents of our Lord's life the remarkable circumstances of his having sanctioned a marriage by his presence; and pardoned a penitent adulteress, on the condition of her "sinning no more." Viewed with reference to those circumstances, these narratives are corroborative of each other; and are illustrated by the declarations of our Lord, which the Apostle relates; "they teach to commit fornication?repent, or I will, come unto thee," &c. In this view they are necessary to complete the object of the Evangelist; whose intentions in writing are in a great measure frustrated, if we suppose them suppressed.
The testimony which the Eastern and Western Churches bear to the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, John 8:1-11, in adopting those passages in the great body of manuscripts of the Greek and Latin, is consequently most amply confirmed by the internal evidence, and nothing weakened by negative testimony, by which they have been condemned.
Conceiving those passages spurious, it is above the reach of ordinary comprehension to discover an adequate cause for their having been generally received; considering the immense number, and wide dispersion of the Scriptures, and the obvious objections to which those passages were exposed from the earliest period. That they occur in the vulgar edition of the Greek and Latin is indisputable; and the only mode of accounting for this circumstance is by conceiving them part of the original text, as published by the inspired writers."
Dr. F. Nolan, Presbyter of the United Church, London,
An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate or Received Text... (1864)
Dean Burgon (1896)
The Pericope de Adultera
It is altogether indispensable that the reader should approach this portion of the Gospel with the greatest amount of experience and the largest preparation. It would be convenient, no doubt, if he could further divest himself of prejudice; but that is perhaps impossible. Let him at least endeavor to weigh in impartial scales the evidence which will now be laid before him. He must do so of necessity if he would judge rightly, for the matter to be discussed is confessedly very peculiar and in some respects even unique. Let me convince him at once of the truth of what has been so far spoken. It is a singular circumstance that at the end of eighteen centuries two instances, and but two, should exist of a considerable portion of Scripture left to the mercy (so to speak) of textual criticism. Twelve consecutive verses in the second Gospel and as many consecutive verses in the fourth are in this predicament.
It is singular, I say, that the Providence which has watched so marvelously over the fortunes of the deposit, the Divine wisdom which has made such ample provision of its security all down the ages, should have so ordered the matter that these two coextensive problems have survived to our times to be tests of human sagacity - trials of human faithfulness and skill. They present some striking features of correspondence but far more of contrast, as will presently appear.
And yet the most important circumstance of all cannot be mentioned too soon namely, that both alike have experienced the same calamitous treatment at the hands of some critics. By common consent the most recent editors deny that either set of verses can have formed part of the Gospel as it proceeded from the hands of its inspired author.
It has already been demonstrated in a separate treatise how mistaken this opinion of theirs is in respect to the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to St. Mark. I must be content in this place to deal in a far less ceremonious manner with the hostile verdict of many critics concerning St John 7:53-8:11.
That I shall be able to satisfy those persons who profess themselves unconvinced by what was offered concerning St. Mark's last twelve verses, I am not so simple as to expect. But I trust that I shall have with me all candid readers who are capable of weighing evidence impartially and understanding the nature of logical proof when it is fully drawn out before them, which indeed is the very qualification I require of them.
Sufficient prominence has never yet been given to the fact that in the present discussion the burden of proof rests entirely with those who challenge the genuineness of the Pericope under review. In other words, the question before us is not by any means, Shall these twelve verses be admitted into the sacred text or must they be refused admission? That point has been settled long, long ago.
St John's twelve verses are in possession. Let those eject them who can. They are known to have occupied their present position for fully seventeen hundred years. As far as is known, there never was a time when they were not where, and to all intents and purposes, they now are. Is it not evident that no merely ordinary method of proof, no merely common argument, will avail to dislodge twelve such verses as these?
The Content and Meaning of the Passage
But even that is not all. On close and careful inspection, the mysterious texture of the narrative, no less than its "edifying and eminently Christian" character, vindicates for the Pericope de Adultera a right to its place in the Gospel.
The Style and Diction of the Passage
To come now to particulars, we may readily see from its very texture that it must needs have been woven on a heavenly loom. Only too obvious is the remark that the very subject matter of the chief transaction recorded in these twelve verses would be sufficient in and by itself to preclude the suspicion that these twelve verses are a spurious addition to the genuine Gospel.
I cannot even admit that "it has been transmitted to us under circumstances widely different from those connected with any other passage of Scripture whatever." [quoting Scrivener]
I contend that it has been transmitted in precisely the same way as all the rest of Scripture and therefore exhibits the same notes of genuineness as any other twelve verses of the same Gospel which can be named.
Nevertheless, like countless other places it is found, for whatever reason, to have given offence in certain quarters; in consequence it has experienced very ill usage at the hands of the ancients and of the moderns also, but especially of the latter.
Spiritual Bankruptcy of the Critical Position
What chiefly offends me however in this extraordinary suggestion is its irreverence. It assumes that the Gospel According to St. John was composed like any ordinary modern book: capable therefore of being improved in the second edition, by rescension, addition, omission, retraction, or what not. For we may not presume to limit the changes effected in a second edition.
And yet the true Author of the Gospel is confessedly God the Holy Ghost, and I know of no reason for supposing that His works are imperfect when they proceed forth from His hands.
The cogency of what precedes has in fact weighed so powerfully with thoughtful and learned divines that they have felt themselves constrained, as their last resource, to cast about for some hypothesis which will at once account for the absence of these verses from so many copies of St. John's Gospel and yet retain them for their rightful owner and author, St. John.
Singular to relate, the assumption which has best approved itself to their judgment has been, that there must have existed two editions of St.John's Gospel - the earlier edition without, the later edition with, the incident under discussion. It is, I presume, in order to concilliate favor to this singular hypothesis that it has been further proposed to regard St. John 5:3,4 and the whole of St. John 21 (besides St. John 7:53-8:11) as afterthoughts of the Evangelist.
But this is unreasonable, for nothing else but the absence of St.John 7:53-8:11 from so many copies of the Gospel has constrained the critics to regard those verses with suspicion.
Indeed, on the contrary, there is not known to exist a copy in the world which omits so much as a single verse of chapter 21. Why then are we to assume that the whole of that chapter was away from the original draft of the Gospel? Where is the evidence for so extravagant an assumption?
Dean John Burgon, The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text (1896)
K. Bushnell (1925)
THE PERICOPE DE ADULTERA:
674. Misinterpretations of Scripture are bad enough; mistranslations worse. We have dealt with both of these as they concerned woman's place in the Divine economy. But worse than either misinterpretations and mistranslations are mutilations. God has pronounced a solemn curse upon those who are guilty of such manipulations, - at least as far as the last book of the Bible is concerned, and it may apply to all the other books as well, for Proverbs 30: 5,6 reads: "Every word of God is tried: . . . add not thou unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." The curse in Revelation 22:18 reads:
"I testify unto everyone that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If anyone shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if anyone shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book."
675. If we will look in a Revised Version of the English Bible we will discover that a certain section, - John 7:35 to 8:11, - has been placed within brackets and spaced off from the rest of the text of the Gospel; and this marginal note has been added in explanation: "Most of the ancient authorities omit John 7:35-8:11. Those which contain it vary much from each other." Now we must examine the exact facts of the case; and, thanks to the careful investigations of the late learned Dean Burgon of Chichester, our task is not so difficult.
The story recorded in John 8 is but consistent with Jesus Christ's entire human history in His treatment of women. Because of this fact, it will never be blotted out of the Book, but will be the "word" by which men will be judged, as to their treatment of the social evil, in that Last Day of Judgment (John 12:48).
THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE PERICOPE:
682. That this narrative of the woman taken in adultery has the living truth of God in it is proved by its amazing vitality. What but truth could hold its own and progress through the ages with such adverse winds against it? For all through the ages, particularly since the supplanting of female kinship by male kinship, men have held that woman must be more chaste than man, as otherwise man might have more children than his own reckoned in among his progeny; in female kinship no such danger must be guarded against, in genealogical tables. Herein is the chief cause of the persistent maintenance of two standards of chastity, one for men and one for women. But the teaching of Jesus Christ is that man must first show himself to be chaste before dealing with woman's unchastity.
684. Where ever has existed the man, in ancient times or modern, so jealous for the rights of women, so skilful in drawing a picture of absolute justice, and yet so unscrupulous in character, and so influential, as to have foisted this story upon the credulity of the Church, so that the ecclesiastical authorities, who live so far beneath its principles of justice in dealing with fallen women, are compelled to let the story persist, and dare not wipe it out of existence? No stronger proof than this is needed that it is a true incident in the life of our Savior.
That we should find that a few attempts have been made to discredit it (such as the Revisers), is no more than we should expect. The textual critics, Westcott and Hort, are the chief one in England to cast doubt upon its authenticity, and yet they say: "The argument that has always told most in its favor in modern times is its own internal character. The story itself has justly seemed to vouch for its substantial truth."
685. Besides the oppressive measures instituted by the male in order to maintain male kinship making it necessary to see to it that women are chaste, whatever men may be, another factor has worked prejudicially against the authenticity of this story. This is well expressed in the words of Dr. Philip Schaff: "The story could not have been invented, the less so as it runs contrary to the ascetic and legalistic tendency of the ancient Church which could not appreciate it." We have only to think of the days when monks fled to the wilderness, that they might never be defiled by looking upon the face of a woman; and when celibacy was so exalted that marriage was looked upon as a mild sort of adultery (Tertullian spoke of married women as "women of the second degree [of modesty] who have fallen into wedlock"), to understand these difficulties in the way of a preservation of the pericope. Augustine tells us (died about 430 A.D.) that men "from fear lest their wives should gain impunity in sin, removed from their manuscripts the Lord's act of indulgence to the adulteress." Ambrose, twenty-five years earlier, intimated that danger was popularly apprehended from the story; "while Nicon, five centuries later, states plainly that the mischievous tendency of the narrative was the cause why it had been expunged from the Armenian versions."
687. We need not fear, however, that this story has ever done any mischief, or ever will. The story does not suit the views of men who are over-careful as to the prudent conduct of their wives, while loose in their own morals. Christ's blow was aimed at two standards of morality; at injustice; at hypocrisy. It was not a blow in defense of adultery in either man or woman. Those who have made use of the narrative, or its principle of justice, in dealing with fallen women, have discovered how it encourages the victim of society's cruel injustices to try again, in the strength of Him whose sceptre is "absolute justice." We have known the story to bring a hardened woman sinner to instant repentance, - for the reckless immorality of a fallen girl is generally to be accounted for in the words of Jeremiah, which so vividly describe the effect of hopelessness upon women: "And they said, There is no hope; but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart. Therefore thus saith the Lord: Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing: (Jeremiah 18:12,13).
688. There is absolutely nothing which destroys morality out of the human heart so effectually and quickly as injustice, and there is nothing which so quickly lights the Divine flame of penitence and aspiration for holiness, in the heart of the fallen, as the hope of justice. Justice is the kindest thing in the world; Injustice is the cruelest and the most depressing. We have seen, repeatedly, the softening effect of this story upon the dark, pagan hearts of women of shame in the Orient, - "Our gods have taught nothing so wonderful as this," they have said, "yours must be the true God."
689. Jesus Christ would not have said to the woman, "Neither do I condemn thee," had she remained impenitent, - so no harm was done. If the effect of the story upon the fallen is so marked, we do not infer too much when we say that the Savior's sentence of justice was quite enough to bring the woman to instant repentance. His kindness was such a tremendous contrast to the Pharisees who had dragged her into publicity while they let her male partner go free, - for the details of the story convict them of having had the man in their power, had they cared to make an example of him. Thus they had come, red-handed in compromise with male adultery, to make a chance to strike at the Holy One. What cared they if a woman must be made to suffer, too, with the Christ, - if only they could entangle Him!
690. The truth is, no quality whatever it happens to be, has anything of use or morality in it unless it be founded upon the basic principle of all morality, - justice. The lack of justice vitiates any moral quality which we may seek to exercise apart from justice. Hence, no good was every done, and no good can ever be done, by legal enactments for the benefit of society, which, for reasons of "prudence" omit principles of justice.
Here is where the great mistake is being made on the "woman question." Is it "prudent" to allow women to do thus and so? - men ask themselves at every step of woman's progress. The only question that should be asked is, Does justice demand this? If so, "let justice be done though the heavens fall;" anything short of justice is mere mischief making.
GOD'S WORD TO WOMEN: 100 Bible Studies On Woman's Place in the Divine Economy by Katharine Bushnell (1925, reprinted 1943, placed online 2005)
Arthur Pink (1935)
In this series of expositions of John’s Gospel we have sedulously avoided technical matters, preferring to confine ourselves to that which would provide food for the soul. But in the present instance we deem it necessary to make an exception. The passage which is to be before us has long been the subject of controversy. Its authenticity has been questioned even by godly men. John 7:53 to 8:11 inclusive is not found in a number of the most important of the ancient manuscripts. The R.V. places a question mark against this passage. Personally we have not the slightest doubt but that it forms a part of the inspired Word of God, and that for the following reasons:
First, if our passage be a spurious one then we should have to pass straight from John 7:52 to 8:12. Let the reader try this, and note the effect; and then let him go back to John 7:52 and read straight through to John 8:14. Which seems the more natural and reads the more smoothly?
Second, if we omit the first eleven verses of John 8, and start the chapter with verse 12, several questions will rise unavoidably and prove very difficult to answer satisfactorily. For example: "Then spake Jesus"—when? What simple and satisfactory answer can be found in the second part of John 7? But give John 8:1-11 its proper place, and the answer is, Immediately after the interruption recorded in verse 3. "Then spake Jesus again unto them" (verse 12)—unto whom? Go back to the second half of John 7 and see if it furnishes any decisive answer. But give John 8:2 a place, and all is simple and plain. Again in verse 13 we read, "The Pharisees therefore said unto him": this was in the temple (verse 20). But how came the Pharisees there? John 7:45 shows them elsewhere. But bring in John 8:1-11 and this difficulty vanishes, for John 8:2 shows that this was the day following.
In the third place, the contents of John 8:1-11 are in full accord with the evident design of this section of the Gospel. The method followed in these chapters is most significant. In each instance we find the Holy Spirit records some striking incident in our Lord’s life, which serves to introduce and illustrate the teaching which follows it. In chapter 5 Christ quickens the impotent man, and makes that miracle the text of the sermon He preached immediately after it. In John 6 He feeds the hungry multitude, and right after gives the two discourses concerning Himself as the Bread of life. In John 7 Christ’s refusal to go up to the Feast publicly and openly manifest His glory, is made the background for that wondrous word of the future manifestation of the Holy Spirit through believers—issuing from them as "rivers of living water." And the same principle may be observed here in John 8. In John 8:12 Christ declares, "I am the light of the world," and the first eleven verses supply us with a most striking illustration and solemn demonstration of the power of that "light." Thus it may be seen that there is an indissoluble link between the incident recorded in John 8:1-11 and the teaching of our Lord immediately following.
Finally, as we shall examine these eleven verses and study their contents, endeavoring to sound their marvelous depths, it will be evident, we trust, to every spiritual intelligence, that no uninspired pen drew the picture therein described. The internal evidence, then, and the spiritual indications (apprehended and appreciated only by those who enter into God’s thoughts) are far more weighty than external considerations. The one who is led and taught by the Spirit of God need not waste valuable time examining ancient manuscripts for the purpose of discovering whether or not this portion of the Bible is really a part of God’s own Word.
Arthur Pink, Commentary on John (1935)
Zane Hodges (1979)
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.
Problem Passages in the Gospel of John Part 8:
The Woman taken in Adultery (John 7: 53- 8:11) :
The Text, BSac 136 (1979)
E. F. Hills (1984)
The facts of history indicate that during the early Christian centuries throughout the Church adultery was commonly regarded as such a serious sin that it could be forgiven, if at all, only after severe penance. For example, Cyprian (c. 250) says that certain bishops who preceded him in the province of North Africa "thought that reconciliation ought not to be given to adulterers and allowed to conjugal infidelity no place at all for repentance." Hence offence was taken at the story of the adulterous woman brought to Christ, because she seemed to have received pardon too easily.
Such being the case, it is surely more reasonable to believe that this story was deleted from John's Gospel by over-zealous disciplinarians than to suppose that a narrative so contrary to the ascetic outlook of the early Christian Church was added to John's Gospel from some extra-canonical source. There would be a strong motive for deleting it but no motive at all for adding it, and the prejudice against it would make its insertion into the Gospel text very difficult.
Not only conservatives but also clear thinking radical scholars have perceived that the historical evidence favors the belief that the pericope de adultera was deleted from the text of the fourth Gospel rather than added to it. "The bold presentation of the evangelist," Hilgenfeld (1875) observed, "must at an early date, especially in the Orient have seemed very offensive." Hence Hilgenfeld regarded Augustine's statement that the passage had been deleted by overscrupulous scribes "as altogether not improbable." And Steck (1893) suggested that the story of the adulteress was incorporated in the Gospel of John before it was first published. "That it later," concluded Steck, "was set aside out of moral prudery is easily understandable."
Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended (1984)
J. P. Heil (1994)
...We have attempted to demonstrate that based on the internal evidence the story of Jesus and the adulteress in John 7,53-8,11 fits perfectly well within its narrative context in John's gospel. There are explicit linguistic links of vocabulary and style as well as thematic literary links between the story and the Johannine narrative. The story contributes to rather than detracts from the narrative flow in John 7-8.
It is our hope that this reconsideration of the internal evidence may lead to a reconsideration of the external textual evidence. Most of those who maintain the non-Johannine origin of the story acknowledge that it is a unique case in textual criticism and that the story appears to be an early and authentic part of the gospel traditions. Is it possible that an interpolator has shaped the story to fit the narrative flow of John 7-8 as well as we have argued that it does? Or is it more likely that it was part of the original gospel of John? Is it possible that the external evidence is not so overwhelming after all and that the story could have been omitted very early on in the manuscript traditions?
We are grateful to D. B. Wallace for his painstaking attempt to refute our argumentation that there is excellent linguistic and literary evidence for the Johannine character and placement of John 7:53-8:11 within John 7-8. But after examining his objections and the new evidence that they raise, we remain convinced that 7:53-8:11 fits nicely within the Fourth Gospel in its primary location in the manuscript tradition. Indeed, this masterfully dramatic story adeptly contributes to rather than disrupts the narrative flow in John 7-8.
JOHN PAUL HEIL
Professor of New Testament
Catholic University of America
A Rejoinder to:
Reconsidering 'The Story of Jesus and the Adulteress...(1994)
A. W. Wilson (2004)
...Having considered some of the Internal Evidence arguments concerning the AI, a number of conclusions need to be drawn:
The vocabulary and style arguments against the AI appear to have been all-too-hastily and uncritically accepted, perhaps because of too much weight being placed upon the external evidence supporting the omission, or perhaps because of the presumed infallibility of certain ancient witnesses.
As far as the context is concerned, the AI is exceptionally well suited where it stands. Indeed, the question has to be asked: How could an incident dovetail so well with so many quite unrelated themes that John has chosen to highlight in this section of his Gospel (Christ's brilliant words, trapping Christ, judgement, light, Moses, sin, adultery,) if it is not original?
Even the cop-out explanation that a later scribe was sophisticated enough to put the AI in at a place where it was contextually well-suited is still a de-facto admission that the AI is exceptionally well-suited to its context. In other words, we arrive at the same conclusion anyway: The argument that internal considerations prove that the AI does not belong are wrong. There are no internal considerations that warrant the excision of the AI.
However, the internal evidence is here so weighty that it forces the reconsideration of the entire situation. The oft-repeated argument that the incident somehow interrupts the flow of John’s gospel here is lame-footed and uncorroborated by any real evidence. On the contrary, the internal evidence suggests the exact opposite: that the incident is an integral, forceful and therefore original part of John’s gospel. For the incident to dovetail with so many unrelated themes is surely beyond the possibilities of coincidence or later scribal manipulation, particularly in such a contextually sensitive place in John’s thematically-driven Gospel. Furthermore, there are other parts of the context of John 7-10 that make no contextual sense or are robbed of all their force without the incident of the adulteress. The effect of the omission of the AI is comparable to the omission of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand from the discussion of Christ as the Bread of Life in John 6. The Adulteress Incident is the very keystone to Chapters 7 and 8 of John’s Gospel.
That means, though, that twenty of the most ancient and highly-rated manuscripts of the New Testament (howsoever they have been thus ranked) are all wrong at the same time in sharing an error of huge proportions – the second most serious textual corruption in the NT. That this seems to be the case here – to use somewhat less dogmatic terms than Metzger's ‘overwhelming’ and ‘conclusive’ in pronouncing his judgement against the passage – is a wholly reasonable conviction based on an a careful and comprehensive inspection of this section of John's Gospel.
In passing, how interesting it is that the only incident in John's Gospel involving professional, scholarly scribes is the one which not only calls their credibility into question but is also precisely the same one which was to suffer the most at their hands down through the centuries.
From Ch 6: The ADULTERESS and Her ACCUSERS A Study in Intrinsic Probability by A. W. Wilson, 2004-2005
Maurice Robinson (2005)
The narrative regarding the woman accused of adultery is clearly a canonical component within the Byzantine Textform. Yet this particular twelve-verse passage reflects a complex transmissional history, perhaps caused by its exclusion from standard lectionary use within the Greek church in relation to the portion of text selected for reading at the feast of Pentecost.
Robinson, Pierpont, preface:
The New Testament in the Original Greek (2005 ed.)