A Knotty Text Question that has relevance to our study of John
Does John 7:53 – 8.11 belong where it is or should it even be in the Bible at all? A good study Bible will footnote this section and tell you most of the earlier reliable manuscripts don’t include this section – why not? What is going on?
Here is the evidence, you weigh it up and see what conclusion you come to. I have highlighted the summary sections for those of you who can’t cope with this amount of detail.
The Manuscript Evidence:
Omit 7:53-8:11: …P66, P75, Aleph, B, L, N, T, W, X, Y, D, Q, Y[sic], 053, 0141, 0211, 22, 33, 124, 157, 209, 565, 788, 828, 1230, 1241, 1242, 1253, 2193, etc. This includes all of the most reliable and earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. In addition codices A and C are defective in this part of John, but it appears that neither contained the story of the woman caught in adultery, because careful measurement shows that there would not have been enough space on the missing pages to include the pericope 7:53-8:11 along with the rest of the text.
Include 7:53-8:11: …D, F, G, H, K, M, U, G , 28, 700, 892, 1009, 1010, 1071, 1079, 1195, 1216, 1344, 1365, 1546, 1646, 2148, 2174, ?, etc. In addition E, S, L, and P include part or all of the passage with asterisks or obeli (Ian’s Note: a mark used in ancient manuscripts to indicate questionable passages or readings) 225 places the pericope after John 7:36, Family 1 places it after John 21:24 or 25, and Family 13 after Luke 21:38.
I have included the textual apparatus from Bruce Metzger for those of you who know how to read it. (for my Bible College colleagues and pastors and others) For the others of you, let me explain.
With the Greek New Testament comes a summary of textual variations listed according to documents. The P(x) are the papyri found in Egypt, the earliest copies of the New Testament written on papyrus, made from the fibrous pith of a water plant. The capital letters stand for Uncial Greek Texts, Copies of the New Testament written on parchment (vellum) in capital letters run together without word breaks. I have used Aleph in written form rather than (‘) which some of you tell me shows up on your screen as (‘) because you don’t have a Hebrew font loaded on your computer. The numbers represent the miniscule documents, manuscripts written on vellum in smaller cursive script and dating from the 11th Century onwards.
The prime early Uncial documents are Aleph (Sinaiticus) and B (Vaticanus) A (Alexandrinus) an uncial document from Alexandria (Egypt) – there was a centre of Christianity there and D which a key text exemplify the Western branch of the text strain. Textual experts know the significance of all of these documents, their dates and their unique characteristics. All of this knowledge helps to make informed decisions as to what is happening with the various texts types or families.
We could summarize the evidence by saying that almost all early manuscripts of Alexandrian text-type omit the pericope, while one prime Western manuscript example (D) and the Byzantine text-type include it. The Byzantine text type has many document examples “in the family” but all dating from 12th century onward. The great bulk of those documents from the 15th. 16th and 17th centuries. Not much help when it comes to establishing the early text. Thus it can be seen that practically all of the earliest and best manuscripts we possess omit the pericope; it is found only in more recent manuscripts of secondary importance.
We need to consider the internal evidence (the text of John itself) as well. My suggestion is that you read the section in question starting from John 7:37 and read to John 8:20 and see what you think. Read it including the section in question and then read it skipping over the section in question and see what your conclusions are; more input next Gem.
The story appears to have been well known in the ancient church. Eusebius reports that Papias (died ca. 130 AD) knew the story of a woman accused of sin, a story that was recorded in the Gospel according to the Hebrews (early 2nd Century). Eusebius lived in the third/fourth centuries AD.
A third century document known as the “Didascalia Apostolorum” (The teaching of the Apostles) has an unmistakable reference to the story. The Didascalia originated in Syria, which means that the story was probably known in oral form in Syria by the late second century.
Augustine (354-430 CE) and Ambrose (339-397 CE) regarded it as part of the Gospel.
Jerome (342-420 CE) included it in the Vulgate, the official Bible of the Roman catholic Church. There can be little doubt that the story is old.
Think about it, what do you think? In or out? Include it or not? Should it be where it is in John’s Gospel? Should it be in the New Testament at all?
More evidence next Gem. In the meantime do your homework.
Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows it empties today of its strength.Corrie Ten Boom
You’ll ultimately loose what you don’t understand.Jeffrey Rachmat
Hint: work toward understanding what we are talking about at the moment in Bible Gems; Once you understand it you will not lose it.Ian Vail