Woman caught in adultery


#1

I've read that the recounting of the woman caught in adultery is something that was added to the Gospel later on. Do you think that is true?


#2

[quote="Brigid34, post:1, topic:337376"]
I've read that the recounting of the woman caught in adultery is something that was added to the Gospel later on. Do you think that is true?

[/quote]

The story is mentioned throughout Church history, earliest with Papias and "the woman accused of many sins."

This story is wonderful now, but 2000 years ago many tried to suppress and exclude it because the idea that anyone would forgive an adultress was ridiculous. It may not have been John who first relayed the story, but it had always existed. The Holy Spirit certainly wanted this story to remain no matter how hard Christians tried to hide it, which is awesome.


#3

The story floated around at least two of the canonical gospels before it settled into its current place in John. I've seen it claimed that the language is more like that of Luke, in which it also sometimes appeared.

Probably the best way to think of it is a separate inspired text, written by an unknown author (possibly Luke?) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the time of the Apostles and later incorporated into the Gospel According to John rather than being preserved as its own tiny book.

The choice of John as the text in which to insert it kind of makes sense since John's apparent purpose was to supplement and fill in the gaps of the accounts given in the three older Synoptic Gospels, and this text could also be seen as more supplemental material about the life of Christ.


#4

Where’d you hear it and why’d they say it?


#5

I don’t remember where I read it and so I don’t remember why it was written. I know it wasn’t the usual anti-Gospel stuff, as I don’t read that as soon as I see what it is.

It makes sense that it is by an unknown author filling in Gospel stories.


#6

[quote="Brigid34, post:1, topic:337376"]
I've read that the recounting of the woman caught in adultery is something that was added to the Gospel later on. Do you think that is true?

[/quote]

I personally think it's possible. Here's how the relevant section in John (7:37-52; 8:12-20) would look like without the passage:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

...]

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony 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. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

As you can see, the narrative still runs smoothly without it - in fact, one could argue that it flows even better.


#7

The two earliest manuscripts of John (both from 3rd century) which have the relevant section, Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 75, do not contain this section (known as the Pericope Adulterae - pericope being simply the technical term for a section of text, what we would call a 'passage') without any indication that something is missing at this point.

It is also not found in two of the four great uncials, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, both from the 4th century. (To explain what the heck an 'uncial' is, it basically means a manuscript written entirely in capital letters - THINKSOMETHINGPRETTYMUCHLIKETHIS. 'Uncial script' or 'majuscule' is really just what we would call upper-case letters; lower-case letters or 'minuscule' did not enjoy popular use until around the 9th century or later, so many New Testament uncials - but not all - tend to date pretty early. Strictly speaking, papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament are also written in uncial letters, but the term 'uncial' when applied to a manuscript refers specifically to those written on parchment or vellum.)

Curiously however, in the text of Codex Vaticanus there are umlauts (double-dots) of uncertain age which may be text-critical symbols. Two of these can be associated with the pericope in question: the first is next to the line which has the end of John 7:52, with the other being found at the end of John's gospel. It is possible that the first umlaut indicates the missing passage, but on the other hand this umlaut may equally well indicate the word-order variant at this position ("no prophet arises from Galilee;" the difference is untranslatable into English), where the codex reads ek tēs Galilaias prophētēs ouk egēgertai against the other attested reading prophētēs ek tēs Galilaias ouk egēgertai.

http://img850.imageshack.us/img850/7940/sf5.gif

The passage is also not found in many of the other uncial manuscripts like Codex Washingtonianus and Codex Borgianus (both 5th century) or Codex Regius (8th). Note however that Washingtonianus has a blank leaf between the end of John and the beginning of Luke (the order of the gospels in that manuscript is Matthew-John-Luke-Mark), which some interpret as exhibiting a knowledge of the section - given how no such space appears between Matthew and John or between Luke and Mark in the manuscript.

It is also absent in many of the early translations we have (e.g. manuscripts in languages such as the Sahidic and Bohairic dialects of Coptic, the majority of Syriac versions, Gothic, some Armenian copies, and some Vetus Latina - Latin versions of Scripture made before St. Jerome's translation/s - versions), nor even the majority of lectionaries. (See the Wikipedia page on the pericope for a full listing.)

The first surviving Greek manuscript to contain the pericope in its present position is the Codex Bezae (late 4th-early 5th century), a manuscript which contains both the Greek and Latin on facing pages. Because of this, Bezae is also our earliest surviving Latin manuscript to contain this passage. Generally speaking, the section only begins to become common in manuscripts starting from the 9th century (up to then the manuscript attestation is - as one can see - rather sporadic), but even then scribes had expressed reservations about it by making editorial marks or comments concerning the text in the margins. (A very curious example is the comment from the 11th-century Minuscule 1006, where the scribe somehow claims that the pericope is "according to the gospel of Thomas"!)


#8

Not all the manuscripts that do contain the passage place it in the traditional position, between 7:52 and 8:12. Manuscripts belonging to the Family 1 group of minuscules (there it is - manuscripts in lower-case Greek letters!), for example, contain it at the end of the gospel (along with a slightly-lengthy editorial comment), while leaving a long space between 7:52 and 8:12, where the passage would have been. In fact, the pericope is known to have been placed in between John 7:36-37, 7:44-45, 8:12-13, 8:14a-14b, 8:20-21, or even Luke 21:38-39 or after Luke 24:53 in some manuscripts. Also, not every manuscript which have it contains every bit of the text: minuscule 759 for one contains John 7:53-8:2 but not 8:3-11.

Let's move away from the manuscripts and go to the Fathers. As dronald mentioned, the 2nd century writer Papias, as referenced by the 4th-century historian Eusebius in Church History 3.39, referred to a story "of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews." This is usually taken as referring to an early version of the story we now have, showing that it already existed in some form by the 2nd century. Note that Eusebius traces this story, not from John, but from an elusive 'Gospel according to the Hebrews'. What sins the woman was said to have committed are also were never specified - only that she was "accused of many sins."

A Syriac work known as Didascalia Apostolorum (2.24) from the 3rd century, meanwhile, tells a story of a sinful woman forgiven by Jesus which is similar to our pericope. Note that this reference does not also indicate John's gospel as its source and never specifies the woman's supposed sin.

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 you, my daughter?" She says to him, "No, Lord." And he said to her, "Go your way: neither do I condemn you."

References to the pericope in its present form increase from the 4th century onward. The interesting thing about it is, most of those who refer to the passage are from the West. St. Ambrose (c. 340-397) and his protege St. Augustine (354-430) are two of the main writers who testify to the existence of this pericope in John. Ambrose refers to this pericope a number of times, while Augustine went so far as to claim that the passage may have been improperly excluded by "certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith" in order to avoid the impression that Jesus had condoned adultery:

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 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.

The only writer from the East who refers to this passage before the 12th century is the Alexandrian Didymus the Blind (ca. 313- 398), who says in his Commentary on Ecclesiastes:

We find, therefore, in certain gospels: A woman, it says, was condemned by the Jews for a sin and was being sent to be stoned in the place where that was customary to happen. The Savior, it says, when he saw her and observed that they were ready to stone her, said to those who were about to cast stones, "He who has not sinned, let him take a stone and cast it. If anyone is conscious in himself not to have sinned, let him take up a stone and smite her." And no one dared. Since they knew in themselves and perceived that they themselves were guilty in some things, they did not dare to strike her.

Again, note the fact that Didymus still does not specify which gospel this story is to be found (only noting that it is found "in certain gospels," i.e. in certain manuscripts) nor the woman's sin.

St. Jerome (who did for a time study under Didymus) reports that "the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord" was to be found in its usual place "in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin" in Rome and the Latin West in the late 4th century. Another person who studied under Didymus, Tyrannius Rufinus (c. 340-410) translated Eusebius' work into Latin around 402-403, substituting Papias' more vague reference to "a woman accused of many sins" with the more pointed "adulterous woman" (muliere adultera), reflecting his conviction that Papias was indeed discussing the passage in question.


#9

The oldest Latin source referencing the story is Pacian, bishop of Barcelona (ca. 310-391), who makes a brief reference to the story in one of his letters (Epistle 3.39):

Why delay ye, O Novatians, to ask eye for eye, tooth for tooth, to demand life for life, to renew once more the practice of circumcision and the sabbath? Put to death the thief. Stone the petulant. Choose not to read in the gospel that the Lord spared even the adulteress who confessed, when none had condemned her.

This brief reference indicates only that he knew a story in which the Lord did not condemn an "adulteress" (as in the canonical version, but not Papias/Eusebius or Didymus) and that it stood in a "gospel."

Ambrose himself, while quoting snippets of it (the woman as an "adulteress;" "Let him who is without sin...") does not say which gospel he derives this story from. He provides an important insight into the reception of the episode among contemporary Christians when he remarks that some people were disturbed with the fact that Jesus in the story did not condemn the adulteress. (Again remember his student Augustine's theory that the story was suppressed for precisely this reason.)

By the way, the story as we have it actually has at least a couple of variant versions. The first can be found in a 6th-7th century Syriac translation of an anonymous Greek work known as Historia Eclesiastica (Church History):

Now there was inserted in the Gospel of the holy Moro the bishop, in the 89th canon, a chapter which is related only by John in his Gospel, and is not found in other manuscripts, a section running thus:

[INDENT]It happened one day, while Jesus was teaching, they brought him a woman who had been found to be with child of adultery, and told him about her. And Jesus said to them, since as God he knew their shameful passions and also their deeds, 'What does He command in the law?' and they said to him: 'That at the mouth of two or three witnesses she should be stoned.'

But he answered and said to them: 'In accordance with the law, whoever is pure and free from these sinful passions, and can bear witness with confidence and authority, as being under no blame in respect of this sin, let him bear witness against her, and let him first throw a stone at her, and then those that are after him, and she shall be stoned.' But they, because they were subject to condemnation and blameworthy in respect of this sinful passion went out one by one from before him and left the woman.

And when they had gone, Jesus looked upon the ground and, writing in the dust there, said to the woman: 'They who brought you here and wished to bear witness against you, having understood what I said to them, which you have heard, have left you and departed. Do you also, therefore, go your way, and commit not this sin again.'[/INDENT]

Moro (aka Mara) bar-Kustant was a Monophysite bishop of Amida (modern Diyarbakır, Turkey) who settled down in Alexandria in Egypt at around AD 525 after being earlier expelled from his see, accumulating an extensive library, which was eventually transferred to Amida after his death. As Moro was said to have a good command of Greek, he presumably translated this passage from a particular Greek manuscript he had come across in Alexandria.

This snippet is actually our first attestation of the pericope in Syrian sources. It is not found in the writings of Syriac writers like Aphrahat (aka Aphraates; ca. 270-ca. 345) or St. Ephrem (ca. 306-373), nor is it contained in the oldest Syriac versions of John. (Later manuscripts place it either after 7:52, in the margin, or as an appendix to the entire gospel. Several medieval Syriac copies ascribe the section to a certain 'abbot Paul' - either Paul bishop of Tella, author of the Syro-Hexaplar version of the Old Testament or less likely, the "abbot Paul" who translated the works of St. Gregory of Nazianzus into Syriac in Cyprus, both of whom lived around the early 7th century - who is said to have found it in Alexandria.)

This "Mara" version of the pericope (paralleling John 8:2-11) itself also shows some divergences from the canonical version. Unlike in the standard version there is no attempt to entrap Jesus, who voluntarily interpolates Himself into the scene; the woman is "found to be with child of adultery;" the challenge to cast the stone is less pointed; Jesus writes in the ground after the accusers had left.

The other variant version can be found in a 10th century Armenian manuscript (the Echmiadzin Gospels) standing after 7:52 as our standard version:

A certain woman was taken in sins, against whom all bore witness that she was deserving of death. They brought her to Jesus (to see) what he would command, in order that they might malign him. Jesus made answer and said, "Come ye, who are without sin, cast stones and stone her to death." But he himself, bowing his head was writing with his finger on the earth, to declare their sins; and they were seeing their several sins on the stones. And filled with shame they departed, and no one remained, but only the woman. Saith Jesus, "Go in peace, and present the offering for sins, as in their law is written."

Again, we can see some slight difference in detail here. While this version agrees with the canonical one in that the woman was brought before Jesus to test Him, although the woman's sins are again not specified. Jesus is explicitly said to write on the ground "to declare [the accusers'] sins," which appear on the stones (!) Finally, Jesus does not say that He does not condemn the woman but instead advises her to make a sin offering.

...I'm gonna take a break here and save the rest for later.


#10

Wow! So varied and complex! A very complete answer. Thank you Patrick. You must have spent a lot of time on this question. I thank you.


#11

You’re welcome. :slight_smile: To continue:

After centuries of silence, the first Greek writer to speak of the pericope (aside from Didymus the Blind) is the monk Euthymius Zigabenus/Zigadenus from the 12th century, who comments on 7:52:

But it is necessary to know that the things which are found from this place to that where it is said: “Therefore Jesus again spoke of these things saying, I am the light of the world:” in the more exact copies, these are either not found, or marked with an obelus, because they seem illegitimate and added. And the argument for this is because Chrysostom makes no mention anywhere of this; but for us we must also declare that this, because it is not without usefulness, is the chapter on the woman taken in adultery, which is placed between these.


Codex Sangallensis 48 (9th century) with a blanked space where the pericope would have been

This time, I’d like to point out a couple of silent witnesses - those who do not refer to the passage at all even though they might have had good reason to do so. The first of these is Tertullian (ca. 160-ca. 225), who somewhat of a hard-line rigorist, which contributed to his adoption of Montanism late in life. In his De Pudicitia (On Modesty) - written after his becoming a Montanist - he has become disgusted with the complacent willingness by the orthodox Church to forgive almost anything, up to and including adultery and fornication. Responding to an episcopal decree that adultery and fornication could be forgiven after repentance, he argued - in characteristically rather harsh words - that those who committed adultery or fornication can only be forgiven once (just as people could only marry once), and must thereafter be left excommunicate; otherwise, the Church will be polluted with such people. For Tertullian, sins could be classified into ‘forgivable’ and ‘unforgivable’; adultery and fornication for him belonged in the latter category.

In opposition to this (modesty), could I not have acted the dissembler? I hear that there has even been an edict set forth, and a peremptory one too. The Pontifex Maximus—that is, the bishop of bishops—issues an edict: “I remit, to such as have discharged (the requirements of) repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication.” (ch. 1)

Plainly, if you show by what patronages of heavenly precedents and precepts it is that you open to adultery alone, and therein to fornication also, the gate of repentance, at this very line our hostile encounter will forthwith cross swords. (ch. 6)

Tertullian then discusses a lot of scriptural evidence, and holds strictly to his view that adultery cannot be forgiven. With no word he mentions the pericope. One might argue that it is evident that he did not know the passage; otherwise the whole work and his thesis would be unthinkable - after all, it’s written right there that Jesus forgave the woman.

On the opposite end of the scale is Cyprian, who while holding the view that adultery is a grave sin, allowed for the possibility of repentance. In Letter 51 (To Antonianus) Cyprian cites John 5:14 and 2 Corinthians 12:21 in support of this view:

And, indeed, among our predecessors, some of the bishops here in our province thought that peace was not to be granted to adulterers, and wholly closed the gate of repentance against adultery. Still they did not withdraw from the assembly of their co-bishops, nor break the unity of the Catholic Church by the persistency of their severity or censure; so that, because by some peace was granted to adulterers, he who did not grant it should be separated from the Church. While the bond of concord remains, and the undivided sacrament of the Catholic Church endures, every bishop disposes and directs his own acts, and will have to give an account of his purposes to the Lord.
…]

Or if he appoints himself a searcher and judge of the heart and reins, let him in all cases judge equally. And as he knows that it is written, Behold, you are made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing happen unto you, (John 5:14) let him separate the fraudulent and adulterers from his side and from his company, since the case of an adulterer is by far both graver and worse than that of one who has taken a certificate, because the latter has sinned by necessity, the former by free will. …] And yet to these persons themselves repentance is granted, and the hope of lamenting and atoning is left, according to the saying of the same apostle: I fear lest, when I come to you, I shall bewail many of those who have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness, and fornication, and lasciviousness which they have committed. (2 Corinthians 12:21)

One could argue that Cyprian could have made a better case by citing the pericope had he known about it (although granted, this is an argument from silence), but he does not.


#12

(Continued)

There's another thing. In the Byzantine lectionary, John's gospel is usually read during the fifty days between Pascha (Easter) and Pentecost Sunday - with some exceptions. Now it so happens that the gospel for Pentecost is John 7:37-52+8:12 - without the Pericope Adulterae. Because of this it is thought that at the time of the creation of the lectionary system (which is usually thought to be around the 7th-9th century), or at least at the time of the fixation of the Pentecost reading, the pericope was not yet present in John's text. This probably (partly) explains the reason why a number of minuscules tended to place the passage at different places in Luke or John: they already knew the existence of the pericope, but they did not want to disrupt the text as read in the liturgy by inserting it in between 7:52 and 8:12.

Now, let's look at the internal evidence. It is often said that the wording of the passage is un-Johannine. While it is possible to trace several words and phrases which have Lukan characteristics (for example, the word kathisas "having sat down," found four times in Luke and three in Acts; plēn "but (rather)/nevertheless/yet," found fifteen times in Luke; pas ho laos "all the people," found three times in Luke; or poreuomai "to go," found forty-eight times in Luke, thirty-seven times in Acts and fourteen in John - three of which are from this pericope), it is somewhat difficult to name typically Johannine words and phrases from the pericope (possibly gynai "woman" - five times in John and two in Luke - or lithazō "to stone" - four times in John, twice in Acts - or touto de elegon peirazontes auton "they said this to test him;" cf. John 6:6, 7:39, 11:51, 12:6, 12:33, 21:19 etc.) Note however that that Lukan characteristics also appear in the secondary variants, which means that a special "Lukan" influence can be excluded. The authors of Luke and the pericope simply share a similar vocabulary and style. Hence, from its wording, the text of the passage does not appear characteristically Johannine, but also not characteristically Lukan. On the other hand it is also not dramatically different from John and Luke.

One noticeable thing is that the first three verses of the pericope (7:53-8:2) are quite similar - even if not exactly identical - to Luke 21:37-38. In fact, minuscules belonging to Family 13 have the passage at this point.

(John) They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.

(Luke) And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

An important argument against a secondary omission is that it is difficult to explain why 7:53-8:2 have been omitted when these verses would have fitted well with the preceding verses and there is no reason for an omission.

As for the narrative context, I noted earlier that it can be argued that the presence of the pericope (specifically, 8:3-11) actually disrupts the flow of the story, which flows better without it. I think that the reference to "the Pharisees" in 8:13 provides a good continuity link to 7:45-52 (where the temple guards return to "the chief priests and the Pharisees," having failed to seize Jesus).

In fact, the passage in its present position seems to create a continuity error. In 8:9, "the scribes and the Pharisees" who brought the woman to Jesus "went away one by one, beginning with the older ones." (I should also note another thing: the phrase "the scribes and the Pharisees" occurs only here and sounds rather un-Johannine, being more commonly found in the synoptics; John more often prefers to pair the Pharisees with "the chief priests," as in 7:45.) But in 8:13, "the Pharisees" are mentioned again rather abruptly, accusing Jesus of false witness. This 'continuity error' becomes more serious if one takes the comment that "Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him" to mean that "all the people" mentioned in verse 2 left along with "the scribes and the Pharisees," thus literally leaving only Jesus and the woman on the scene, since in 8:12 Jesus is said to address a "them" (presumably either "the Judaeans"/"the crowd" mentioned in 7:15, 20 or "all the people" mentioned in 8:2).


#13

Philip Comfort had argued that Jesus’ “light of the world” statement in John 8:12 is an allusion to Isaiah 9:1-2 ("…the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.") In this reading, Jesus appears to respond to the Pharisees’ assertion that no prophet comes from the Galilee in 7:52 by referring to this passage. If this is correct, it shows how better a fit 8:12 is with chapter 7 than 8:11.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
[INDENT]When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.”
Others said, “This is the Christ.”
But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”
So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
[INDENT]The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?”
The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!”
The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”
Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”
They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”[/INDENT]
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”[/INDENT]

Wieland Willker concludes:

The earliest external evidence shows no knowledge of the pericope in John. The earliest clear evidence for the PA in John is from the 4th CE. On the other hand a story of this kind was known from the earliest times (Papias, Didaskalia). The PA entered the Gospel of John somewhere in the 3rd CE, but remained in dispute. It took a long time until its universal acceptance.
There is absolutely no convincing evidence that the PA was originally part of the Gospel of John.

The remaining questions are:
Why and when has the story been added to the Gospel of John? And why at this place? Such a large addition is unique (except for Mk 16:9-20).

Why has the story been added after Jo 7:52?

  1. Papias: It is possible that the story has been added at this position, because Papias noted the story in his interpretation of e.g. 7:24 (“Do not judge by appearances, …”) or 8:15 (“You judge according to the flesh …”). This would depend on knowledge of Papias’ works though.

  2. The story illustrates the statements about judgment that Jesus makes at the feast. In Jo 7:24 Jesus says: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” In 7:50-52 the Pharisees are accused of inappropriate judgment. Ehrman notes that interestingly the story itself shows that all judgment is wrong, but that in its Johannine context the focus of the story is transformed. Now it illustrates John’s opposition to hypocrisy.

  3. Becker assumes that the PA has originally been placed at the end of John, as an appendix, fitting to the last verse of John, which mentions many other things that Jesus did. He admits though that there is no evidence for this assumption. It would also require one more step to explain and to overcome, the move from the end of John to its present place after Jo 7:52.

When has it been added?
We have positive evidence that the PA was extant in manuscripts of John in the second half of the 4th CE (see above). Church fathers in the 4th CE also quote it. We have earlier evidence of the story as such, but no evidence that it actually was in the Gospel of John.

Why has it been added at all?
The debate about forgiveness was a major one in the 2nd and 3rd CE (compare Tertullian above). It was probably difficult in the long run to argue here with a non-canonical Jesus story. The story has been accepted rather fast in the West, due to the authorities of Ambrosius, Augustinus and Jerome, but only very hesitantly in the East, where it found no advocates.

The history of the PA remains largely in darkness. We have only occasional spots of light, but the connecting lines are unknown.
It is very unusual that such a long passage has been added at so late a date. Perhaps one must look at it more in terms of the canonization of the NT books and not so much as a textcritical variant. Several NT books took very long to be ultimately accepted or rejected (compare Revelation or 2nd Peter). Perhaps one should see the PA as such a disputed “book”.


#14

Patrick, very interesting…what do you think of this quotation?

Moreover, He ordained Paul, our fellow-apostle, to be of a persecutor an apostle, and declared him a chosen vessel, even when he had heaped many mischiefs upon us before, and had blasphemed His sacred name. He says also to another, a woman that was a sinner: “Your sins, which are many, are forgiven, for you love much.” (Luke 7:47) And when the elders had set another woman which had sinned before Him, and had left the sentence to Him, and had gone out, our Lord, the Searcher of the hearts, inquiring of her whether the elders had condemned her, and being answered No, He said unto her: “Go your way therefore, for neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:11) This Jesus, O you bishops, our Saviour, our King, and our God, ought to be set before you as your pattern; and Him you ought to imitate

Apostolic Constitutions, Vol.II, chapter 24
newadvent.org/fathers/07152.htm


#15

[quote="JMJ91, post:14, topic:337376"]
Patrick, very interesting...what do you think of this quotation?

Moreover, He ordained Paul, our fellow-apostle, to be of a persecutor an apostle, and declared him a chosen vessel, even when he had heaped many mischiefs upon us before, and had blasphemed His sacred name. He says also to another, a woman that was a sinner: “Your sins, which are many, are forgiven, for you love much.” (Luke 7:47) And when the elders had set another woman which had sinned before Him, and had left the sentence to Him, and had gone out, our Lord, the Searcher of the hearts, inquiring of her whether the elders had condemned her, and being answered No, He said unto her: “Go your way therefore, for neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:11) This Jesus, O you bishops, our Saviour, our King, and our God, ought to be set before you as your pattern; and Him you ought to imitate

Apostolic Constitutions, Vol.II, chapter 24
newadvent.org/fathers/07152.htm

[/quote]

The Apostolic Constitutions (or part of it; more specifically books 1 to 6), from the late 4th century, is really just a reworded version of the Didascalia Apostolorum, written a century earlier. They belong to the same literary genre (Church Orders), and even the same possible place of origin - near Antioch in Syria.

And that's really the thing. Many of these 'Church Orders' were living literature, being updated and amended by copyists as the years go on, mixing ancient parts with materials from the contemporary uses and tradition of the copyists and removing what no more in line with the current understanding. Case in point: the Apostolic Constitutions drew upon from both the Didascalia, the Apostolic Tradition (aka the Egyptian Church Order), the much earlier Didache; the Didascalia in turn was a 3rd century 'update' of the Didache.


#16

The Didache. known later as.the Didascalia. and as the Apostolic Constitutions, along with the elusive gospel of Hebrews, and the maligned writings of Papias, (disciple of John) all seem to have Jewish Christian origins. Could these supposed writings by Jewish Christians have been disregarded by the established and early non-Jewish Christian Church?


#17

Does the Church officially recognise the pericope adulterae as canonical Scripture?


#18

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