Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jesse Boyd on the Lectionary Evidence

"In the lectionaries, it is interesting to note the Church’s use of John’s Gospel for the Pentecost Lesson. It begins with 7:37-52, overleaps 7:53-8:11, and continues with 8:12. On the surface, such a fact might be seen as evidence against the pericope. However, a closer look yields quite the contrary. The story of the adulteress has little to do with Pentecost. Therefore, it was probably removed along with the three introductory verses (7:53-8:2) to maintain continuity. 15

John Burgon personally handled over sixty lections. 16 In each of them, he found the instruction “υπερβα” (overleap) written after 7:52, directing the reader to skip down to καιμηκετι αμαρτανε in 8:11. It is there that the instruction “αρξαι” (recommence) is found. If the passage were not part of John’s Gospel, it seems nonsensical for such rubrication.

C.R. Gregory, a well-known authority on lectionaries, believed that the lessons for Sundays in particular were chosen at a very early date. 17 This being true, the Pentecostal Lesson must have been chosen extremely early, for Pentecost was one of the most important Sunday’s on the Ecclesiastical Calendar. Let’s suppose the passage were an interpolation. It seems utterly ridiculous that a scribe, wishing to add to the sacred text, would insert it right into the middle of the passage used for Pentecost. Most assuredly, there were many other places in the Gospels that it would have fit better.

Apparently the scribes who penned the four mss. of the Farrar group thought so, for they place the pericope after Luke 21:38. As for the small number of manuscripts that place the pericope elsewhere in John, this was probably done to keep from disturbing the verse sequence as read in the lectionaries.

The rubrication of John 7-8 in the Church lectionaries makes plain why Eastern Fathers such as Chrysostom and Cyril did not cite the pericope. They were publicly commenting on John 6-8 according to the lectionary. Nevertheless, the Eastern Church is not without witness. According to Burgon, as far back as the Eastern patriarchies reach, nine out of the twelve disputed verses were selected to be a special lesson for October 8--St. Pelagia’s Day. 18 Metzger conveniently fails to mention this fact.

15. This practice of overleaping Scriptures is common from the pulpit, especially in topical sermons.

16. Burgon, “The Woman Taken In Adultery--John 7:53-8:11,” In Unholy Hands on the Bible. Ed. by Jay P. Green (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Trust Fund, 1990)
F-11.

17. C.R. Gregory, Canon and Text of the New Testament (New York: Charles Scriber’s Sons. 1907), 387.

18. Burgon, F-13.


Excerpt from:
A DEFENSE OF THE PERICOPE DE ADULTERA -
THE GENUINENESS OF ST. JOHN 7:53-8:11
AND ITS APPLICABILITY TO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
BY
JESSE M. BOYD
WAKE FOREST, NORTH CAROLINA
29 SEPTEMBER 1998

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