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Major Critical Texts of the New Testament
Byz RP: 2005 Byzantine Greek New Testament, Robinson & Pierpont
TR1550: 1550 Stephanus New Testament
Maj: The Majority Text (thousands of minuscules which display a similar text)
Gries: 1774-1775 Johann Jakob Griesbach Greek New Testament
Treg: 1857-1879 Samuel Prideaux Tregelles Greek New Testament
Tisch: 1872 Tischendorf’s Greek New Testament
WH: 1881 Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament
NA28: 2012 Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament
UBS5: 2014 Greek New Testament
NU: Both Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Society
SBLGNT: 2010 Greek New Testament ()
THGNT: 2017 The Greek New Testament by Tyndale House
GENTI: 2020 Greek-English New Testament Interlinear
NOTE: At the end of the article, we will explain why these twelve verses were not in the original and should not be in the main text of our modern Bible, even in square brackets like the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) have them. John 7:53-8:11 should be in a footnote with an explanation because the verses are early. It is an account that sounds very much like an incident Jesus would have been involved in. As John tells us at the end of his Gospel, Jesus did many things, which no book could hold all, and far more of what Jesus did was passed by oral tradition and was not chosen by the Holy Spirit to be in the original Gospels. But that does not mean that this one cannot be in a footnote.
JOHN 7:53-8:11 2019 Greek-English New Testament Interlinear (GENTI WH NU TGNT) [WP]
53 [[Καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν ἕκαστος εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ,
8 Ἰησοῦς δὲ ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὸ Ὄρος τῶν ᾿Ελαιῶν. 2 Ὄρθρου δὲ πάλιν παρεγένετο εἰς τὸ ἱερόν, καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτόν, καὶ καθίσας ἐδίδασκεν αὐτούς. 3 Ἄγουσιν δὲ οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι γυναῖκα ἐπὶ μοιχείᾳ κατειλημμένην, καὶ στήσαντες αὐτὴν ἐν μέσῳ 4 λέγουσιν αὐτῷ Διδάσκαλε, αὕτη ἡ γυνὴκατείληπται ἐπ’ αὐτοφώρῳ μοιχευομένη· 5 ἐν δὲ τῷ νόμῳ ἡμῖν Μωυσῆς ἐνετείλατο τὰς τοιαύτας λιθάζειν· σὺ οὖν τί λέγεις; 6 τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγον πειράζοντες αὐτόν, ἵνα ἔχωσιν κατηγορεῖν αὐτοῦ. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς κάτω κύψας τῷ δακτύλῳ κατέγραφεν εἰς τὴν γῆν. 7 ὡς δὲ ἐπέμενον ἐρωτῶντες αὐτόν, ἀνέκυψεν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ὁ ἀναμάρτητος ὑμῶν πρῶτος ἐπ’ αὐτὴν βαλέτω λίθον· 8 καὶ πάλιν κατακύψας ἔγραφεν εἰς τὴν γῆν. 9 οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες ἐξήρχοντο εἷς καθ’ εἷς ἀρξάμενοι ἀπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων, καὶ κατελείφθη μόνος, καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἐν μέσῳ οὖσα. 10 ἀνακύψας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῇ Γύναι, ποῦ εἰσίν; οὐδείς σε κατέκρινεν; 11 ἡ δὲ εἶπεν Οὐδείς, κύριε. εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Οὐδὲ ἐγώ σε κατακρίνω· πορεύου, ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε.]]
John 7:53-8:11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7:53–8:11 —— 
John 7:53–8:11 is included in NA28 and UBS5 enclosed within double square brackets evidencing the doubt of its originality. WH has it after John’s gospel. It is included in TR as 7:53–8:11. The following witnesses do not contain John 7:53–8:11, P39vid P66 P75 א Avid, B, CVid L N T W Δ Θ Ψ 0141 33 ita,f syrc,s,p copsa,bo,ach2 geo Diatessaron Origen Chrysostom Cyril Tertullian Cyprian MSSaccording to Augustine
John 7:53-8-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
53 And everyone went to his own house.
Jesus the Light of the World
8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
John 7:53–8:11 is not found in most early Greek NT manuscripts and other later manuscripts (P39vid P66 P75 א Avid, B, CVid L N T W Δ Θ Ψ 0141 33 it,f syrc,,p copsa,,ach2 geo) It was also not contained in the Diatessaron Origen Chrysostom Cyril Tertullian Cyprian MSSaccording to Augustine. It was not an original part of the Gospel of John. The following manuscripts contain John 7:53-8:11 D (F) G H K M U Γ itaur,c,,e syrh, copmss Maj MSSaccording to Didymus; E 8:2–11 with asterisks; Λ 8:3–11 with asterisks; f1 after John 21:25; f13 after Luke 21:38; 1333 8:3–11 after Luke 24:53; 225 after John 7:36. English Bible translations that include the pericope after 7:52 are the KJV NKJV RSV NRSV ESV NASB NIV TNIV NEB REBmg NJB NAB NLT HCSB NET.
Again, John 7:53-8:11 is not part of the original of the Gospel of John or any Gospel for that matter. The reader of the Bible needs to simply read from John 7:52 to John 8:12 for the continuous narrative. John 8:12 begins Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees. Going back, the officers who failed to arrest Jesus said, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The religious leaders become filled with anger, so they react as most do when having no response, they begin to ridicule, misrepresent, and call names. They taunt: “You have not also been deceived, have you? Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, have they? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” At this point. Nicodemus enters the conversation, who also is a Pharisee and part of the Sanhedrin, endeavoring to come to the defense of Jesus. This is the same Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus in the cover of night and expressed faith in him some two and a half years before. Now this Pharisee, Nicodemus, openly says: “Our law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” The other Pharisees are now outraged that one of their own had come to the defense of Jesus. They mockingly remarked to Nicodemus, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” While it is true that the Scriptures do not explicitly state that a prophet would come out of Galilee, Isaiah actually does point to the Messiah as coming from there, saying, “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” More important, Jesus was born specifically in Bethlehem Ephrathah (Mic 5:2) about 10 kilometers (6 mi) south of the city of Jerusalem, and he was an offspring of King David. It is highly likely that the Pharisees were aware of where Jesus was born, who his ancestor was, and where he lived throughout his childhood. However, they were busy spreading the misconceptions that people had about Jesus. (John 7:32-52; Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:13-17) Jesus responds to their mocking of Nicodemus about Galilee saying, “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus’ response can very well be taken from the prophecy by Isaiah the prophet at 9:1-2 and Matthew would mention this prophecy as well in his Gospel (4:13-17). Therefore, both Isaiah 9:1-2 and John 8:12 give us the same image of the Messiah coming as the light for the common Jew who has been walking in spiritual darkness dwelling in the region and shadow of death thanks to these Pharisees who have kept them there and who now because of Jesus Christ, they have “the light of life.”
The Pharisees object: “You are bearing witness about yourself; your witness is not true.”
In answer, Jesus replies: “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.” He adds: “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” – John 8:13-18.
Philip W. Comfort writes,
𝔓39 is not noted in the critical apparatus of NA27 or UBS4 for the omission of 7:53–8:11. Nonetheless, it is quite likely that the manuscript did not contain this pericope, because extant pagination and uniform lettering allow for a reconstruction of the number of pages in the codex up to 8:14 (the first verse extant in 𝔓39), and this number does not allow for the inclusion of 7:53–8:11. (See my full discussion on 𝔓39 in Comfort 2005, 353–354.) As for the manuscripts A and C, though they both have lacunae in this portion of John, careful calculations make it unlikely that there was enough space in the original codices of both of these manuscripts to contain the story (TCGNT).
The pericope about the adulteress (7:53–8:11) is not included in any of the earliest manuscripts (second-fourth century), including the two earliest, 𝔓66 and 𝔓75, as well as 𝔓39 of the early third century (see note above). The other witnesses to the exclusion of this passage are equally impressive, including all the fourth-century codices (א A B C T), Diatessaron, the early versions, and most of the early church fathers. Its first appearance in a Greek manuscript is in D (ca. 400), but it is not contained in other Greek manuscripts until the ninth century. (Didymus [died 398] indicates he knew of manuscripts containing the story.) When this story is inserted in later manuscripts, it appears in different places (after Luke 21:38; 24:53, John 7:36, 52, and at the end of John); and when it does appear it is often marked off by obeli or asterisks to signal its probable spuriousness. In most of the manuscripts that include this story, it appears at the beginning of John 8, probably because it provides an illustration of Jesus’ resistance to pass judgment, which is spoken of in the following discourse (see 8:15–19). A marginal note in the NAB suggests that it fits more naturally after Luke 21:38 than after John 7:52 (see note below).
The inclusion of this story in the NT text is a prime example of how the oral tradition, originally not included in the text, eventually found its way into the written text. In its oral form the story may have been in circulation beginning in the early second century. Papias may have been speaking of this incident when he “expounded another story about a woman who was accused before the Lord of many sins, which the Gospel according to the Hebrews contains” (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.17). However, in the pericope of the adulteress there is no mention of many “sins,” only one—that of adultery (Bruce 1983, 417–418).
According to Ehrman (1988, 24–44), a story about a condemned woman being rescued by Jesus was extant in written form as early as the fourth century in three different versions: (1) as a story where the religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus as to whether or not he would uphold the Mosaic law and where he freely pardons a sinful woman—basically the story known to Papias and the author of the Didascalia Apostolorum; (2) the story of Jesus’ intervention in an execution—an episode preserved in the Gospel of the Hebrews and retold by Didymus in his commentary on Ecclesiastes; (3) the popular version found in most of the later manuscripts of John, “a version which represents a conflation of the two earlier stories.”
My conjecture is that the popular version was first inserted by the scribe of Codex Bezae—not only because this is the earliest extant Greek manuscript to include the story but also because the Bezaean editor had a proclivity for enlarging the text. (The book of Acts, for example, in D is one-tenth larger than the Alexandrian text.) The D-reviser was quite keen on filling in perceived gaps in the text. Perhaps he believed John’s narrative was lacking an example of Jesus both upholding the law while simultaneously showing forth grace, and thus supplied this story. Or the story could have been inserted to demonstrate that the religious leaders were always too quick to judge others (7:51–52), while Jesus only judged as the Father directed him (3:17; 5:22, 30). Or it is possible that the D-reviser may have thought the entire fourfold gospel was lacking without this story, and therefore he inserted it wherever it was convenient. Quite specifically, it is characteristic for the Bezaean scribe to have added the words in 7:53, και επορευθησαν εκαστος εις τον οικον αυτου (“and each one went to his own home”) because he made an almost identical addition at the end of Acts 5:18 (see note).
Not only is the external evidence against the Johannine authorship of the pericope about the adulteress (see above), so is the internal evidence. First of all, many scholars have pointed out that the vocabulary used in this pericope does not accord with the rest of John. Second, the insertion of the pericope about the adulteress at this point in John (after 7:52 and before 8:12) greatly disrupts the narrative flow. Westcott and Hort indicated that the setting of John 7–8 is at Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast, the Jews would customarily pour water over a rock (in commemoration of the water supply coming from the rock in the wilderness) and light lamps (in commemoration of the pillar of light that accompanied the Israelites in their wilderness journey). With reference to these two ritualistic enactments, Jesus presented himself as the true source of living water (7:37–39) and as the true light to be followed (8:12). Westcott and Hort’s (1882, 87–88) argument is that the pericope about the adulteress disrupts the continuity between the events. Wallace (1993) shows that the pericope does not match John’s linguistic style or literary pattern.
‘Non-Johannine’ vocabulary in John 7.53–8.11
In addition to this argument, it can also be said that the pericope concerning the adulteress interrupts the connection between 7:40–52 and 8:12–20 (Comfort 1989, 145–147). John 8:12–20 is Jesus’ response to 7:52. When the text says, “he spoke to them again,” it is clear that he was speaking to the Pharisees (mentioned in 7:45 and 48, then 8:13). The NIV incorrectly says that “Jesus spoke to the people.” Not so: he was addressing the Pharisees who had just met in the Sanhedrin, where they denounced Jesus for his Galilean origins after Nicodemus had asked them to give Jesus a fair hearing. John 8:20 reads, “He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the treasury.” This area was part of the Court of the Women and very close to the hall where the Sanhedrin met.
John 8:12–20 contains Jesus’ rebuttal to these Pharisees who had boldly told Nicodemus that the Scriptures make no mention of even a prophet (much less the Christ) being raised up in Galilee. With respect to this assertion, Jesus made a declaration in which he implied that the Scriptures did speak of the Christ coming from Galilee. He said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This statement was probably drawn from Isa 9:1–2: “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times he treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on he will make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (nasb).
The passages contain parallel images. Both Isa 9:2 and John 8:12 speak about the Messiah coming to give the light of life among those who are walking in darkness and sitting under the shadow of death. This provides a reproof to the Pharisees’ declaration in 7:52 that the Scriptures nowhere speak of a prophet (not to mention the Messiah) having come from Galilee. Indeed, Matthew also cited Isa 9:1–2 to affirm the prophetic validity of Jesus’ presence in Galilee (see Matt 4:12–16). Jesus’ Galilean origin was a stumbling block to many of his contemporaries. They could not believe that Jesus was the Messiah because he came from Galilee. They were correct in thinking that the Christ, as David’s offspring, should come from Bethlehem (see 1 Sam 16:1; Pss 89:3–4; 132:11; Isa 9:6–7; 11:1; Mic 5:2). And, in fact, Jesus was David’s son (see Matt 1:1–18; Rom 1:3–4) born in Bethlehem (see Matt 2:1–6; Luke 2:1–11). But soon after his birth, Jesus was taken to Egypt to escape the sword of Herod and then later was brought by his parents to Nazareth of Galilee (the hometown of Joseph and Mary), where he was reared. Once Jesus began his ministry, he suffered the opprobrium of being known as a Galilean and a Nazarene, not a Judean or a Bethlehemite. However, Jesus never once defended his Bethlehemic origin; rather, he always pointed to his divine, heavenly origin. If a person knew the one he came from, he would know that Jesus was the Christ.
In 8:14 Jesus again refers to the fact that the Pharisees did not know where he came from. They thought they knew that Jesus could not have been the Messiah because he was from Galilee, not Bethlehem. But even on this count they were wrong. Jesus’ origin was both from Bethlehem and heaven. This is implicit in Mic 5:2, which speaks of the Messiah’s birthplace as being Bethlehem yet in the same breath declares that “his origins are from old, from eternity.”
Having said all this, it is very disappointing to realize that the pericope of the adulteress woman is included in the NU [Nestle-Aland 28th ed. and United Bible Society 5th ed.] text, even though it is set in double brackets to signify the editors’ serious doubts about its place in the text. There can be little doubt that John never wrote it and that it has no place whatsoever being in the text. Of course, it is very difficult to rid the Bible of spurious texts once they have gained a place in what people consider to be Holy Scripture. When the RSV was first published, this pericope was taken out of the text and placed in a footnote, but the outcry against this was so vehement that it was placed back in the text in the next printing. The REB translators have moved the pericope to an appendix following the Gospel of John, just as was done by Westcott and Hort in their Greek text.
But most English readers of the NT will not see any of the connections mentioned above because the pericope of the adulteress is still printed in the text between 7:52 and 8:12. True, the passage has been bracketed, or marked off with single lines (similar to the practice of marking obeli employed by several ancient scribes to the same passage), or set in italics (see TNIV). But there it stands—an obstacle to reading the true narrative of John’s gospel. Even worse, its presence in the text misrepresents the testimony of the extant manuscripts. And, as long as it appears in the text of Greek editions and modern translations, readers will continue to think it is part of John’s original text, and preachers will continue to expound on it without differentiating it from the rest of authentic Scripture. This is illustrated in a note in the NABmg, which after explaining the spuriousness of the pericope, then concludes: “The Catholic Church accepts this passage as canonical scripture.” However, it must be strongly stated that 7:53–8:11 was not part of the Gospel of John when this gospel was being canonized by the early church (second to fourth centuries).
According to eight manuscripts belonging to f13 (13 69 124 346 543 788 826 983), the pericope of the adulteress appears after Luke 21:37–38 (see also note on 24:53b). The insertion of this story (probably taken from an oral tradition) at this place in Luke’s narrative is a much better fit than where it is typically placed in John’s narrative (between 7:52 and 8:12). In John, it interrupts the connection between the Sanhedrin’s rejection of Jesus (on the basis that he was a Galilean) and Jesus’ following rejoinder. Chronologically, the story belongs in Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, at a time when he was going back and forth between the temple (to teach in the daytime) and the garden of Gethsemane (to sleep at night). Thematically, the story belongs with the others that show the religious leaders trying to trap Jesus into some kind of lawlessness and thereby have grounds to arrest him. These encounters, according to the Synoptic Gospels, also appear in Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem.
The group of manuscripts, f13, could represent the earliest positioning of the pericope of the adulteress, which was then transferred to the end of John 7, or it could represent an independent positioning. Westcott and Hort (1882, 63) said this passage was probably known to a scribe “exclusively as a church lesson, recently come into use, and placed by him here on account of the close resemblance between Luke 21:37–38 and John 7:53–8:2. Had he known it as part of a continuous text of St. John’s Gospel, he was not likely to transpose it.” It is also possible that the earliest scribe of a manuscript in the group of f13 (either the composer of the archetype in Calabria or the scribes of 124 or 788) made the editorial decision to move it from its usual spot at the end of John 7, to follow Luke 21. This transposition, which was a good editorial decision, affirms the transitory nature of the pericope of the adulteress—which is to say, it was not treated on the same par as fixed, inviolable Scripture. (See comments on John 7:53–8:11.)
A minute few are so bold as to argue that John 7:53-8:11 was actually in the original. New Testament textual scholar James Snapp, Jr is just one such person. He has written a book, A Fresh Analysis of John 7:53-8:11, maintaining that the pericope adulterae was originally part of the Gospel of John. It is available as an e-book on Amazon. In our effort to be fair and balanced, see also, David Alan Black and Jacob N. Cerone, eds., The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), which includes contributors arguing for and against the authenticity of the passage.
The Gish Gallop is the logical fallacy tactic of drowning your opponent in a flood of weak arguments or pieces of evidence in order to prevent any rebuttal because of feeling overwhelmed by the compilation of evidence. The secondary objective is to give the impression that there is so much evidence for what is being argued, how could it not be true. However, an analogy when it comes to textual criticism might go like this. The textual scholar using the Gish Gallop logical fallacy has a dump truck full of pennies while the other textual scholar has a few stacks of one-hundred-dollar bills on a table. While the dump truck full of pennies certainly looks impressive to the unaware Churchgoer, who actually desires that textual scholar’s outcome, it does not add up to more money than the few stacks of one-hundred-dollar bills on a table. You see, it takes 10,000 pennies to equal just one of those one-hundred-dollar bills. Some Alexandrian manuscripts individually (P39vid [200-250 C.E.] P66 [150 C.E.] P75 [175-200 C.E.] א [c. 330-360 C.E.] B [c. 300-325 C.E.] ) have more value than even the one-hundred-dollar bill in our analogy. Then, when they are combined together to support a particular reading, well, it is going to take more than a hypothetical possibility and a dump truck load of weak manuscript evidence, or the use of many words in saying something, in an effort to give the appearance of much evidence.
All New Testament textual scholars should investigate both external and internal evidence in selecting the reading which is most likely the original. And all textual scholars should do this on a variant-unit by variant-unit basis. All evidence should be looked at for each variant-unit. This is referred to as Reasoned Eclecticism. However, most textual scholars who use this approach actually tips the scales in giving priority of place to internal over external evidence, which is more subjective. This author’s approach to New Testament Textual Criticism is the Documentary Approach. This approach should investigate both external and internal evidence in selecting the reading which is most likely the original. And all textual scholars should do this on a variant-unit by variant-unit basis. All evidence should be looked at for each variant unit. However, this approach actually tips the scales in giving priority of place to external over internal evidence, which is more objective.
On this, Philip W. Comfort writes,
In my view, an eclectic approach that gives greater weight to external (documentary) evidence is best. Such an approach labors to select a premier group of manuscripts as the primary witnesses for certain books and/or sections of the New Testament, not for the entire New Testament, since each book of the New Testament was, in its earliest form, a separate publication. Once the best manuscripts for each book or group of books in the New Testament are established, these manuscripts need to be pruned of obvious errors and singular variants. Then these should be the manuscripts used for determining the most likely original wording. The burden of proof on textual critics is to demonstrate that the best manuscripts, when challenged by the testimony of other witnesses, do not contain the original wording. The part of this process that corresponds to Aland’s “localness” (internal evidence) is that the text must be determined on a variant-unit basis. However, my view of the “genealogical” (external evidence) aspect is that it must be preestablished for an entire book and not re-created verse by verse, which results in a very uneven documentary presentation. Of course, internal criticism will have to come into play when documentary evidence is evenly divided, or when some feature of the text strongly calls for it. And, on occasion, it must be admitted that two (or more) readings are equally good candidates for being deemed the original wording.
Further Reasoning Why It Was Not In the Original and Should Not Be In Modern Bibles
This familiar story of the adulteress saved by Jesus is a special case. These dozen verses have been the subject of a number of books, including Chris Keith, The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus (2009, Leiden & Boston, E.J. Brill); David Alan Black & Jacob N. Cerone, eds., The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research (2016, London & NY, Bloomsbury T&T Clark); John David Punch, The Pericope Adulterae: Theories of Insertion & Omission (2012, Saarbruken, Lap Lambert Academic Publ’g.), and Jennifer Knust & Tommy Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story (2019, NJ, Princeton Univ. Press). The principal problem affecting this paragraph is that, although it appears in many ancient manuscripts, it does not consistently appear in this place in chapter 8 nor even in the Gospel of John. Moreover, in the various manuscripts in which the passage appears, it presents a much greater number of variations than an equal portion of the New Testament – so much so, that it would seem that there are three distinct versions of the pericope.
By its own context, this paragraph appears misplaced; in the verse preceding this pericope (namely verse 7:52) Jesus is conversing or arguing with a group of men, and in the verse following this pericope (verse 8:12), he is speaking “again unto them,” even though verses 8:9–10 would indicate he was alone in the Temple courtyard and also that a day has passed. It would seem possible that, originally, 7:52 was immediately followed by 8:12, and somehow this pericope was inserted between them, interrupting the narrative.
The pericope does not appear in the oldest Codexes – א, A B C L N T W X Δ θ Ψ – nor in papyri p66 or p75, nor minuscules 33, 157, 565, 892, 1241, or ƒ1424 nor in the Peshitta. Scrivener lists more than 50 minuscules that lack the pericope and several more in which the original scribe omitted it, but a later hand inserted it. It is also missing from the Syriac and Sahidic versions and some Egyptian versions. The earliest Greek Codex showing this pericope at all is D (Codex Bezae), of the 5th or 6th century – but the text in D has conspicuous variants from the Textus Receptus/KJV version, and some Old Latin manuscripts no older than the 5th century, and many subsequent Greek and Latin MSS all at the familiar location following John 7:52. The first Greek Church Father to mention the pericope in its familiar place was Euthymius, of the 12th century.
Westcott and Hort summarized the evidence as follows:
- “Not only is [the section on the Woman taken in Adultery] passed over in silence in every Greek commentary of which we have any knowledge, down to that of Theophylact inclusive (11th–12th centuries); but with the exception of a reference in the Apostolic Constitutions (? 4th century), and a statement by an obscure Nicon (10th century or later) that it was expunged by the Armenians, not the slightest allusion to it has yet been discovered in the whole of Greek theology before the 12th century. The earliest Greek MSS containing it, except the Western Codex Bezae [5th century], are of the 8th century. … It has no right to a place in the Fourth Gospel, yet it is evidently from an ancient source, and it could not now without serious loss be entirely banished from the New Testament.”
However, one minuscule (ms. 225) placed the pericope after John 7:36. Several – ƒ1 – placed it at the very end of the Gospel of John, and Scrivener adds several more that have so placed a shorter pericope beginning at verse 8:3. Another handful of minuscules – ƒ13 – put it after Luke 21:38. Some manuscripts – S E Λ – had it in the familiar place but enclosed the pericope with marks of doubt (asterisks or some other glyph), and Scrivener lists more than 40 minuscules that also apply marks of doubt to the pericope.
Some scholars have suggested that the pericope is not written in the same style as the rest of the Fourth Gospel, and have suggested it is written more in the style of the Gospel of Luke, a suggestion supported by the fact that the ƒ13 manuscripts actually put the pericope into the Gospel of Luke. For example, nowhere else does the Fourth Gospel mention by name the Mount of Olives, and where a new place is mentioned in the Fourth Gospel, some explanatory remarks are attached, nor does the Fourth Gospel mention ‘the Scribes’ elsewhere. A theory shared by several scholars is that this pericope represents some very early tradition or folktale about Jesus, not originally found in any of the canonical Gospels, which was so popular or compelling that it was deliberately inserted into a Gospel; a variant on this theory is that this anecdote was written down as a note for a sermon, perhaps in the margin of a codex or on a scrap inserted between the pages of a codex, and a subsequent copyist mistakenly incorporated it in the main text when working up a new copy. Its source might be indicated by Eusebius (early 4th century), in his Historia Ecclesia, book 3, sec. 39, where he says, “Papias [2nd century] … reproduces a story about a woman falsely accused before the Lord of many sins. This is to be found in the Gospel of the Hebrews.”
This pericope was framed with marks of doubt in Johann Jakob Wettstein’s 1751 Greek New Testament, and some earlier Greek editions contained notes doubting its authenticity. The evidence that the pericope, although a much-beloved story, does not belong in the place assigned it by many late manuscripts, and, further, that it might not be part of the original text of any of the Gospels, caused the Revised Version (1881) to enclose it within brackets, in its familiar place after John 7:52, with the sidenote, “Most of the ancient authorities omit John 7:53–8:11. Those which contain it vary much from each other.” This practice has been imitated in most of the English versions since then. The Westcott & Hort Greek New Testament omitted the pericope from the main text and places it as an appendix after the end of the Fourth Gospel, with this explanation: “It has no right to a place in the text of the Four Gospels, yet it is evidently from an ancient source, and it could not now without serious loss be entirely banished from the New Testament. … As it forms an independent narrative, it seems to stand best alone at the end of the Gospels with double brackets to show its inferior authority …” Some English translations based on Westcott & Hort imitate this practice of appending the pericope at the end of the Gospel (e.g., The Twentieth Century New Testament), while others simply omit it altogether (e.g., Goodspeed, Ferrar Fenton, the 2013 revision of The New World Version). The Nestle-Aland and UBS Greek editions enclose it in double brackets. The two ‘Majority Text’ Greek editions set forth the pericope in the main text (varying slightly from each other) but provide extensive notes elsewhere attesting to the lack of uniformity in the text of the pericope and doubts about its origin.
Caspar René Gregory, who compiled a catalog of New Testament manuscripts, summarizes the situation: “Now I have no doubt that the story [of the adulteress] itself is as old as the Gospel of John or even older, and that it is a true story. But it is no part of that gospel. That is perfectly sure.”
Variant Reading(s): differing versions of a word or phrase found in two or more manuscripts within a variation unit (see below). Variant readings are also called alternate readings.
Variation Unit: any portion of text that exhibits variations in its reading between two or more different manuscripts. It is important to distinguish variation units from variant readings. Variation units are the places in the text where manuscripts disagree, and each variation unit has at least two variant readings. Setting the limits and range of a variation unit is sometimes difficult or even controversial because some variant readings affect others nearby. Such variations may be considered individually, or as elements of a single reading. One should also note that the terms “manuscript” and “witness” may appear to be used interchangeably in this context. Strictly speaking, “witness” (see below) will only refer to the content of a given manuscript or fragment, which it predates to a greater or lesser extent. However, the only way to reference the “witness” is by referring to the manuscript or fragment that contains it. In this book, we have sometimes used the terminology “witness of x or y manuscript” to distinguish the content in this way.
TERMS AS TO HOW WE SHOULD OBJECTIVELY VIEW THE DEGREE OF CERTAINTY FOR THE READING ACCEPTED AS THE ORIGINAL
The modal verbs are might have been (30%), may have been (40%), could have been (55%), would have been (80%), must have been (95%), which are used to show that we believe the originality of a reading is certain, probable or possible.
The letter [WP] stands for Weak Possibility (30%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading might have been original in that it is enough evidence to accept that the variant might have been possible, but it is improbable. We can say the reading might have been original, as there is some evidence that is derived from manuscripts that carry very little weight, early versions, or patristic quotations.
The letter [P] stands for Plausible (40%), which indicates that this is a low-level proof that the reading may have been original in that it is enough to accept a variant to be original and we have enough evidence for our belief. The reading may have been original but it is not probably so.
The letter [PE] stands for Preponderance of Evidence (55%), which indicates that this is a higher-level proof that the reading could have been original in that it is enough to accept as such unless another reading emerges as more probable.
The letter [CE] stands for Convincing Evidence (80%), which indicates that the evidence is an even higher-level proof that the reading surely was the original in that the evidence is enough to accept it as substantially certain unless proven otherwise.
The letter [BRD] stands for Beyond Reasonable Doubt (95%), which indicates that this is the highest level of proof: the reading must have been original in that there is no reason to doubt it. It must be understood that feeling as though we have no reason to doubt is not the same as one hundred percent absolute certainty.
NOTE: This system is borrowed from the criminal just legal terms of the United States of America, the level of certainty involved in the use of modal verbs, and Bruce Metzger in his A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), who borrowed his system from Johann Albrecht Bengel in his edition of the Greek New Testament (Tübingen, 1734). In addition, the percentages are in no way attempting to be explicit but rather they are nothing more than a tool to give the non-textual scholar a sense of the degree of certainty. However, this does not mean the percentages are not reflective of certainty.
- B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek: Appendix (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882)
- Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006)
- Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994),
- Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).
- Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament: Apparatus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017).
- Dirk Jongkind, ed., The Greek New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), Matt. 6:8.
- Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. Barbara Aland et al., 28. revidierte Auflage. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012)
- Philip Wesley Comfort, A COMMENTARY ON THE MANUSCRIPTS AND TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015).
- Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008).
- Philip Wesley Comfort and David P. Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts: Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, 2 Volume Set The (English and Greek Edition) (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019)
- Roger L. Omanson and Bruce Manning Metzger, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006).
- Wallace B., Daniel (n.d.). Retrieved from The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: http://csntm.org/
- Wilker, Wieland (n.d.). Retrieved from An Online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels: http://www.willker.de/wie/TCG/index.html