Friday, January 21, 2011

David R. Palmer on the PA (Pt II)

We revisit David's comments on the PA with some news and an evaluation by Mr. Palmer himself, as a result of his courteous replies to inquiry at TC-Alternate-List on Yahoo Groups.

In Mr. Palmer's published English Translation of the NT online (previously linked), he added a large footnote on the PA (at the end of John) for consideration as follows:


John 7:53- 8:11

PROBLEM: Did the apostle John, the author of the gospel of John, write this section? Did the apostles who laid the scriptural foundation for the church intend that this story of the woman caught in adultery be part of that foundation? Does the passage have weight and authority equal to that of scripture?
Textual & Patristic Evidence
This passage is not found in any Greek manuscript dated before the 5th century. It is not found in the earliest translations of the Bible into other languages, such as the old Syriac, 4th century; the old Latin, 4th century; the Georgian Bible, 5th century; the Slavic Bible, and the Coptic Bible, as late as the 9th century. It was not in the gospel of John when the decision was made to include John in the canons of scripture: the Muratorian Canon, A.D. 170; Codex Barococcio, A.D. 206; Eusebius' "Ecclesiastical History,"  c. 340; the Council of Hippo, A.D. 393; and the Council of Carthage, A.D. 397.  No Greek church father prior to the 12th century comments on the passage.
Vocabulary Evidence
Moreover, when you translate this passage from the Greek, you see that there is a very marked change in the style of Greek, compared to the rest of the gospel of John. The most obvious change is in the more frequent use of the particle "δε" all of a sudden, and conversely a sudden decrease in the use of the particle "ουν".

On the style of Greek, you can check it out yourself and see, that the passage John 7:53 to 8:11 is not written in the style of John. John does not use the Greek word "δε" near as often as the other gospel writers, but in this passage, it is found MUCH more often than in the rest of John.

Out of the other 867 verses in the gospel of John, the word "δε" is found 203 times, or in an average of 23% of the verses, while in these 12 verses, John 7:53 to 8:11, the word "δε" is found 11 times, or an average of 92% of the verses. Another change in style is an increase of participial phrases. For these reasons and others, I feel no uncertainty in flatly declaring that the passage is not written in the style of the apostle John.
Mainstream Opinion
Probably the foremost authority on questions of authenticity of passages in the Greek text is the book A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, by Bruce M. Metzger on behalf of and in cooperation with the Editorial Committee of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament: Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, and Allen Wikgren."
        [Here Mr. Palmer quotes Bruce Metzger on the PA from his book,  A Textual Commentary... (1971), p 219 fwd, 4 paragraphs of discussion]

Mr. Palmer continues,

'The Committee included it in its traditional place "in deference to its antiquity." But they omitted scores of other passages that are even older than the pericope. So why did they choose to include this particular passage? Probably because of its relatively large size, and because it is so well known and loved. They are unanimous that the passage is not original holy writ, but include it because it probably is truth.
However, I would like the criterion for inclusion of a passage to be not whether or not it is true, but whether or not the apostles intended it to have the authority of scripture. Truth and authority are not the same. “2+2=4” is truth, but it is not scripture. God did not inspire one of his apostles or prophets to put it among the foundational truths that are authoritative original holy writ. So it is with the Pericope of the Adulteress. I would think we want our translations of the gospel of John to be 100% pure scripture, all the real thing.

Nevertheless, I decided to include the passage in the text of John, with a
footnote indicating that it may not be original scripture. Though I personally consider it New Testament pseudepigrapha, I know it is a beloved story. So I decided to leave it in my text of the gospel of John, considering that it probably does no harm, unlike the spurious ending that tradition has added on to the gospel of Mark."

As one can see, Mr. Palmer gives a lot of space to Metzger and the status quo

However, Metzger's opinion is some 50 years old, and hardly takes into account the latest internal and patristic evidence regarding the PA.

That is why I put it to David, as to whether he has softened his position or modified his views in any way since penning this, because I am sure he has become aware of a wider diversity of opinion on this than seems represented by the above quotation, as well as more recent evidence.

Mr. Palmer responded promptly and courteously as follows, in his replies:

"...yes, what I wrote in the gospel of John I did about 13 years ago.  I would say that I do not have as strong an opinion as then, that the  pericope is not original.  I want to say that this variant, though large, is  not as terribly weighty a one to me as it seems to some.  What I  mean is, to many participants in the discussion about it, it seems fraught to them with life or death, salvation or loss thereof, orthodoxy, that is, a tenet of faith as to whether one believes it is original or not.   That makes it hard for me to want to listen to them, or read their writings with a relaxed, open mind.
What remains to be proven, is what caused the pericope to be absent in so many manuscripts.  The lectionary reading boundaries theory is plausible, but I am not 100% convinced.
But what I hear you all saying is that I should tone down my summary, or at least given some clue that that is old phrasing from Metzger.  I may look into doing that.
I should say also that patristic evidence is not very weighty to me; indeed, I deeply distrust them.  It is my belief that the church, very early on, rebelled against instructions received about leadership and church polity and rapidly resumed the natural man’s tendency to elevate human traditions, new and old, over the holy writings themselves.  Such that very soon we had popery, and a departure from whole leadership of the Holy Spirit."
David Robert Palmer

I am delighted to post both Mr. Palmer's original notes, as well has his timely update on them.

I would only add, that regarding his older discussion of the two vocabulary items,"δε" and "ουν",  we have a newer article on those very words and their usage in John, available here:

On DE and OUN

As well, one can also read onsite a larger, more comprehensive discussion of the full vocabulary question from Dr. Punch, here:

J.D. Punch on the PA


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