John 7:53-8:11

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Puritan Board Professor
I'm reading through Koestenberger's commentary for class and he has concluded that these verses should not be in the NT Canon due to internal and external evidence.

What do you say?
In their Introduction to the Greek NT According to the Majority Text, Hodges and Farstad offer a compelling defense of its originality including:

1. Textual. It is included in over 900 manuscripts

2. Stylistic: There are several uniquely Johannine phrases (including "sin no more" which only appears elsewhere in John 5.14). They rightly conclude that if someone made it up and inserted it that whoever it was was a masterful imitator.

3. Theological: The Light of the World and Light of Life (8.12) fit well with the surrounding context and an illustration of his light/life bringing work.

There is much more in the actual introduction itself these are very, very briefly just the highlights.
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I'm reading through Koestenberger's commentary for class and he has concluded that these verses should not be in the NT Canon due to internal and external evidence.

What do you say?

Act 26:24 ...thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. That would be the only answer I could come up with for him.:D
It is opinions like this that keep me from even considering being a critical text guy. I don't know how I could theologically get around the problems with God letting his church have such a significant error in almost every Bible for centuries.
I've always been told that the issue is where it is placed; that the source is apostolic, but it might have originally come from the Gospel of Luke, rather than John. If that's the case, why shouldn't it be in the Canon?
It is opinions like this that keep me from even considering being a critical text guy. I don't know how I could theologically get around the problems with God letting his church have such a significant error in almost every Bible for centuries.
What's more is that, although one may argue it doesn't fit contextually, nothing that is in this passage is contrary to teachings elsewhere in the bible. These two facts unequivocally convince me that these verses are in our bibles by the will of God. If it were not so, the error would have been corrected many years ago ... by the will of God.
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This is a case in point, the destruction and confusion engendered by the secular antichristian criticism that came out of Germany (and Rome as well) some centuries ago. Now even genuine believers are in doubt as to what belongs and what does not belong in their Bibles!

And it will not get better, but worse as the years – and generations, should the Lord tarry a while – pass. Better a sure Bible with some antiquated words than an unsure one. It comes down to this, we have a “Critics’ Bible” and a “believers’ Bible”, the former torn to shreds by a methodology alien to faith, and the latter intact, though suffering ill-repute due to a concerted attack of slander. She remains pure nonetheless. But to the text:

This is from the Hills link in my post #4 above:

(a) Ancient Testimony Concerning the Pericope de Adultera (John 7:53-8:11)

The story of the woman taken in adultery was a problem also in ancient times. Early Christians had trouble with this passage. The forgiveness which Christ vouchsafed to the adulteress was contrary to their conviction that the punishment for adultery ought to be very severe. As late as the time of Ambrose (c. 374), bishop of Milan, there were still many Christians who felt such scruples against this portion of John's Gospel. This is clear from the remarks which Ambrose makes in a sermon on David's sin. "In the same way also the Gospel lesson which has been read, may have caused no small offense to the unskilled, in which you have noticed that an adulteress was brought to Christ and dismissed without condemnation . . . Did Christ err that He did not judge righteously? It is not right that such a thought should come to our minds etc." (32)

According to Augustine (c. 400), it was this moralistic objection to the pericope de adultera which was responsible for its omission in some of the New Testament manuscripts known to him. "Certain persons of little faith," he wrote, "or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord's act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if He who had said 'sin no more' had granted permission to sin." (33) Also, in the 10th century a Greek named Nikon accused the Armenians of "casting out the account which teaches us how the adulteress was taken to Jesus . . . saying that it was harmful for most persons to listen to such things." (34)

That early Greek manuscripts contained this pericope de adultera is proved by the presence of it in the 5th-century Greek manuscript D. That early Latin manuscripts also contained it is indicated by its actual appearance in the Old Latin codices b and e. And both these conclusions are confirmed by the statement of Jerome (c. 415) that "in the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is found the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord." (35) There is no reason to question the accuracy of Jerome's statement, especially since another statement of his concerning an addition made to the ending of Mark has been proved to have been correct by the actual discovery of the additional material in W. And that Jerome personally accepted the pericope de adultera as genuine is shown by the fact that he included it in the Latin Vulgate.

Another evidence of the presence of the pericope de adultera in early Greek manuscripts of John is the citation of it in the Didascalia (Teaching) of the Apostles and in the Apostolic Constitutions, which are based on the Didascalia.

. . . to do as He also did with her that had sinned, whom the elders set before Him, and leaving the judgment in His hands departed. But He, the Searcher of Hearts, asked her and said to her, 'Have the elders condemned thee, my daughter?" She saith to Him, 'Nay, Lord.' And He said unto her, 'Go thy way: Neither do I condemn thee.' (36)​

In these two documents (from the 3rd and 4th centuries respectively) bishops are urged to extend forgiveness to penitent sinners. After many passages of Scripture have been cited to enforce this plea, the climax is reached in the supreme example of divine mercy, namely, the compassion which Christ showed to the woman taken in adultery. Tischendorf admitted that this citation was taken from the Gospel of John. "Although," he wrote, "the Apostolic Constitutions do not actually name John as the author of this story of the adulteress, in vain would anyone claim that they could have derived this story from any other source." (37)


Burgon, the textual detective par excellence, presents his case thus:

These twelve verses occupied precisely the same position which they now occupy from the earliest period to which evidence concerning the Gospels reaches.

And this, because it is a mere matter of fact, is sufficiently established by reference to the ancient Latin version of St. John’s Gospel. We are thus carried back to the second century of our era: beyond which, testimony does not reach. The pericope is observed to stand in situ [in the same place] in Codd. b c e ff g h j. 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,—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.

To this it is idle to object that the authors cited all wrote in Latin. For the purpose in hand their evidence is every bit as conclusive as if they had written in Greek—from which language no one doubts that they derived their knowledge. But in fact we are not left to Latin authorities…[1]​

Burgon then proceeds to list the various Versions (editions in different languages), and continues:

Add that it is found in Cod. D, and it will be seen that in all parts of ancient Christendom this portion of Scripture was familiarly known in early times.

But even this is not all. Jerome, who was familiar with the Greek MSS. (and who handled none of later date than B and [size=+1]a[/size]), expressly relates (380) that the pericope de adultera “is found in many copies both Greek and Latin.” (ii.748)…Whence is it—let me ask in passing—that so many critics fail to see that positive testimony like the foregoing far outweighs the adverse negative testimony of [size=+1]a[/size]BT,—aye, and of AC to boot if they were producible on this point? How comes it to pass that the two Codexes, [size=+1]a[/size] and B, have obtained such a mastery—rather exercise such a tyranny—over the imagination of many Critics as to quite overpower their practical judgment? We have at all events established our first proposition: viz. that from the earliest period to which testimony reaches, the incident of “the woman taken in adultery” occupied its present place in St. John’s Gospel.[2]​

But still Burgon is not finished. It remains for him to deliver the coup de grace to this wounded falsehood. It had been the perplexity of many critics friendly to this passage that there was little attestation to it among the Greek Fathers (although the aforementioned testimonies of Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome were of great weight), and its relative lack was the continual taunt of its adversaries. Burgon shows that in the Lectionaries (books with Scripture portions to be read on particular dates throughout the year, year after year) the reading for Pentecost – Whitsunday – extended from John 7:37 to 8:12, and an internal notation, in many Scriptures prepared for this ecclesiastical use, read (translating from the Greek) “over-leap” from verses 7:53 to 8:11, as the topic related therein was inappropriate for that day. This in itself is a reason the verses we are looking at are sometimes missing from the section they are naturally a part of. Burgon continues:

It is the authoritative sentence of the Church then on this difficult subject that we desiderate [to wish or long for]…Are we, I say, left without the Church’s opinion?

Not so, I answer. The reverse is the truth. The great Eastern Church speaks out on this subject in a voice of thunder. In all her Patriarchates, as far back as the written records of her practice reach,—and they reach back to the time of those very Fathers whose silence is felt to be embarrassing,—the Eastern Church has selected nine out of these twelve verses to be the special lesson for October 8. A more significant circumstance it would be impossible to adduce in evidence. Any pretense to fasten a charge of spuriousness on a portion of Scripture so singled out by the Church for honour, were nothing else but monstrous. It would be in fact to raise quite a distinct issue: viz. to inquire what amount of respect is due to the Church’s authority in determining the authenticity of Scripture? I appeal not to an opinion, but to a fact: and that fact is, that though the Fathers of the Church for a very sufficient reason are nearly silent on the subject of these twelve verses, the Church herself has spoken with a voice of authority so loud that none can effect not to hear it: so plain, that it cannot possibly be misunderstood.

And let me not be told that I am hereby setting up the Lectionary as the true standard of appeal for the Text of the New Testament…We are not examining the text of St. John vii.53-viii.11. We are only discussing whether those twelve verses en bloc are to be regarded as an integral part of the fourth Gospel, or as a spurious accretion to it. And that is a point on which the Church in her corporate character must needs be competent to pronounce; and in respect of which her verdict must needs be decisive.[3]​

There are many other defenses of our assaulted passage, but we will let it rest with what we have presented. Remember, the Greek Text of the Eastern Church – in particular, the Greek Orthodox Church – is essentially the Traditional Text of the Reformation, and of the King James Bible. That Church would not have given a place of honored remembrance and regular use for edification to a questionable text. The pericope de adultera is where it should be, and always has been, in spite of the scissors of the unscrupulous.


1 The Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, by John William Burgon, Edward Miller, ed. (London: George Bell And Sons, 1896), pages 247-249.
2 Ibid., pages 249, 250.
3 Ibid., pages 259, 260.
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