Yesterday James posted quite a lengthy examination of the textual evidence in regard to the PA. I reproduce it here for those who may not have ready access to the TC-Alt Yahoo Group:
------------------------------------ QUOTE ---
"I am not a PA-defender. I am still waiting for the PA-specialists to publish
something definitive on the subject. ...
"Meanwhile, as I said, I'm not a PA-defender, but I do like accuracy, and Jamin
Hubner's writings on this subject are not accurate. He is not writing as a
textual critic; he's writing as an apologist, and he leans heavily on Metzger.
Although I've been pretty busy, I felt motivated to respond vigorously to some
of Hubner's questionable claims, and to express some additional thoughts about
Apparently Hubner does not allow comments at his blog, so I hesitate to disturb
his pleasant, comfortable world. But, he might have good reasons for that.
Anyway, here are some things I noticed in his blog-entry called "Case Studies in
King James Onlyism: The Woman Caught in Adultery Was In the Original?" --
Hubner correctly notes Riddle's note that the NKJV has a footnote stating that
the PA is "present in over 900 manuscripts." Has Wieland Willker been writing
to the wind? In his textual commentary on the Gospels, Willker includes a note
from Maurice Robinson that includes an up-to-date count of pertinent
manuscripts: "The number of MSS + lectionaries that contain the PA is at least
1350+43+470 = 1863 total MSS (there are somewhat more than 280 continuous-text
MSS that do not include the PA (excluding lectionaries, where the PA only
appears sporadically, when certain specified saints happen to be honored
therein)." So let there be an end to the "over 900 MSS" statement; we should
refer instead to "at least 1,393" (1350+43) MSS that include the PA, versus
"somewhat more than 280" MSS that do not contain it, not counting lectionaries.
Hubner stated, "Riddle's basic argument for the inclusion of the pericope is (1)
over 900 manuscripts contain it, (2) some 5th century Christians include it, and
a few earlier sources."
Whatever led him to the conclusion that the defense of the PA comes down to
these two points, the evidence is not really so simple. First, as I just said,
the PA is in at least 1,393 continuous-text MSS, and is absent from somewhat
more than 280; using round figures (1,400 with, 300 without), it looks like
inclusion of the PA is supported by 82% of the extant Greek MSS, and opposed by
18%. That's not close. Now, authenticity is not decided by democratic
election. I just bring up the numbers to improve the accuracy of the count, and
because I have noticed that some of the very same people who reject the PA have
been quick to enlist a numerical majority when it supports their own favored
Second, if some Christians in the 400's included the PA in their text of John,
and "a few earlier sources" also do so, how does that stack up against the MSS
which Hubner refers to as "the earliest texts of the New Testament," namely P66,
Aleph, B L N T W X Y Delta, Theta, and Psi? Hubner's list consists of four MSS
(P66, Aleph, B, and W) from before the 400's. The others break down as follows:
L = 700's. N = 500's. T = 400's. X = 900's. Y = 800's. Delta = 800's.
Theta = 800's. Psi = 800's (or 900's). I'll add to this list A and C (both
from the 400's), which are damaged but do not have enough space on the missing
pages to include the PA.
Instantly granting that the Alexandrian Text lacks the PA, we set P66, Aleph, B,
C, L, Delta, and Psi on the scales as its representatives.
But then we take L and Delta off the scales, because they both have features
which clearly attest to their copyists' awareness of the PA; though they cannot
attest to variants within the PA, they are two-voiced on the question of its
So, if we consider just the Greek evidence initially cited by Hubner, it's the
Alexandrian Text, + A, N, T, W, X, Y, and Theta against the PA. Waitaminute --
the testimony of W should be qualified; it has a blank page (blank on both
sides) between John and Luke; Willker notes, "It is possible that this indicates
knowledge of the PA." Okay; now we're ready to compare -- waitaminute again.
We might have to adjust the testimony of B, because it has an umlaut (distigme)
at the end of John; Willker states that it is "roughly in the middle of the free
space beneath the colophon. It is not clear what this means. It is in
principle possible that this indicates the PA, too." Indeed, figuring that B's
umlauts indicate the presence of a textual variant, the only textual variant
that occurs in the space after John is the inclusion of the PA in family-1 MSS.
(This could be nothing but a trace of a late medieval critic putting dots in B
where it disagrees with whatever other (Latin?) exemplar he possessed. But
until a case is made one way or the other it bears considering.)
Okay then: the crystal-clear, unequivocal Greek witnesses for non-inclusion of
the PA, before the 500's, are: P66. P75. B (at least, B's main exemplar).
Aleph. T. W. (I'll even toss in A and C.) That's it?? Eight Greek
manuscripts? And seven of the eight are either directly from Egypt (P66 and T)
or are leading representatives of the Alexandrian Text (Aleph and B and, to a
lesser extent, C) or both (P75 and W (in this part of John))?? We could just as
easily say that as far as Greek manuscripts before the 500's are concerned, the
manuscript-evidence for non-inclusion of the PA consists of representatives of
the Alexandrian Text plus Codex A (which is non-extant here in John;
non-inclusion of the PA in A is discerned via space-calculations; Metzger states
that non-inclusion of the PA in A is "highly probable" but Willker considers it
certain. I'm with Wieland on this one).
Eight manuscripts, seven of which represent one locale. Meanwhile, Ambrose, c.
375, made a clear reference to the pericope, from his Latin text. And where was
his Latin text from? Some earlier source. Pacian, c. 380, also referred to the
pericope. The Apostolic Constitutions also refer to the pericope. Jerome,
writing before 417, stated that he found the PA in "many codices, both Greek and
Latin." And, destroying Metzger's claim that "No Greek Church father prior to
Euthymius Zigabenus" comments on the pericope, Didymus the Blind mentions the
events in the pericope, in his commentary on Ecclesiastes (extant in the Tura
Papyrus, discovered in 1941 but not known to Metzger, apparently, when he wrote
his Textual Commentary. Regarding the Tura Papyrus see
http://lib.byu.edu/dlib/didymus/ ). Ehrman, as I recall, has attempted to
excuse Didymus' statement that he found the pericope "in some Gospels" by
pointing out that this allows the possibility that Didymus might have been
referring to some Gospel-text other than the Gospel of John, but neither he nor
anyone else has explained why Didymus' statement should not be understood to
naturally mean that he was referring to codices containing the four canonical
Gospels. For wouldn't Didymus have been more specific if he had had some other
Gospel-text in mind?
And then there's Augustine, who treated the PA as an integral part of John, and
who surmised that some enemies of the true faith excised the PA because they
were afraid that their wives would use it as an excuse for, or defense of,
infidelity. Augustine also reported, according to Hort, that some pagans
ridiculed Christ's writing on the ground. Now, figuring that Augustine was
being honest, and that he hadn't shared his copies with those sacrilegious
pagans, their copy or copies of John should also be in the equation somewhere.
So should the reference from Augustine's correspondent Faustus, a Manichean.
Ambrosiaster, too, briefly chimes in about the PA.
About 100 years after Augustine, according to the Syriac translation of
Zacharias Rhetor's Ecclesiastical History (which is not the work of Zacharias at
this point; see Willker's commentary for details), Mara of Amid (519-527)
possessed a Greek copy of the Gospels that included the PA, probably added at
the end of the Gospel of John with a note that it belonged in Section 89, (which
is a mistake; Section 86 would be correct).
Now let's see here: what are the patristic witnesses for the PA before the
500's? Ambrose + Pacian + Apostolic Constitutions + Didymus' Gospels-text +
Jerome's "many codices, both Greek and Latin" + Ambrosiaster + Augustine +
Faustus + Augustine's pagans, and, figuring that Mara's Greek copy did not come
into existence ex nihilo, one other witness. Even if we were to make the silly
assumption that Jerome's "many codices" should be counted as a single witness,
this would still be ten witnesses. And consider the geographical variety
involved: Ambrose is in Milan. Pacian is in Barcelona. Augustine is in North
Africa. Didymus is in northern Egypt. Jerome is, well, all over the place.
Mara had his Greek copy when he was in exile in Alexandria.
And we're not quite done. In Codex Lambda (800's), the PA is obelized and there
is a scholium: TA WBELISMENA EN TISIN ANTIGRAFOIS OU KEITAI, OUDE APOLINARIOU.
EN DE TOIS ARCAIOIS OLA KEITAI (followed by a reference to the use of the PA in
Apostolic Constitutions). -- The obelized section is not in some copies, or in
Apollinaris'. In the old ones, it is all there. -- The same note appears in MS
262. [Apollinaris = Apollinaris of Laodicea, d. 390, who is said in a scholium
to have made a text-critical comment at Mt. 6:1. Probably.] Codex Lambda also
has the Jerusalem Colophon ("copied and corrected based on the ancient exemplars
from Jerusalem preserved on the holy mountain," or words to that effect) after
all four Gospels. (Other confirmatory margin-notes appealing to older MSS to
vindicate the inclusion of the PA are in MSS 135, 301, and 34.)
Then there's 565 (from the 800's or 900's). NA-27 says that 565 omits the PA,
but that is not entirely true. 565 has the PA after John, but the page is in a
very deteriorated and unreadable condition. Willker does not mention the note
that F. C. Burkitt said (in the first note in "Two Lectures") was in 565 (read,
perhaps, when the MS was not in such bad shape as it is now): TO PERI THS
MOICALIDOS KEFALAION EN TW PARA IWANNOU EUAGGELIW WS EN TOIS NUN ANTIGRAFOIS MH
KEIMENON PARELEIPSA. KATA TON TOPON DE KEITAI OUTWS EXHS TOU OUK EGHGERTAI.
Burkitt comments: "In other words, the Pericope stood in the usual place in the
MS from which 2-pe [ = Tischendorf's siglum for 565] was copied, but the scribe
left it out for what we may call critical reasons." We should recollect that
565 also has the Jerusalem Colophon. We should also recollect that that the
text of John in 565 is Caesarean; it's in sync with the text of f-1. So
although 565 attests to the presence of the PA after Jn. 21, this note makes it
clear that 565's exemplar had the PA in the normal place.
And let's not forget the Old Latin evidence: there's the Latin text in Codex
Bezae, which Parker assigns to c. 400. Another piece of evidence in Codex D is
its variant in Acts 5:18, which seems to be based on John 7:53 -- EPOREUQH EIS
EKASTOS EIS TA IDIA. Now, Codex D is from the 400's or 500's, but the Western
Text to which it attests is considerably earlier, so this is no trivial piece of
evidence -- but it would carry more force if there were another witness with
this reading in Acts 5:18. Oh wait -- we *do* have another witness for it:
none other than G67!
And there's e (Palatinus), from the 400's. Willker lists seven Old Latin
copies, which appear to echo three or four earlier strata, each echoing a
But Metzger notes that the PA is absent from Old Latin a (Vercellensis, c. 370),
l*, and q. It's also absent from the Sinaitic Syriac, the Curetonian Syriac,
and "the best manuscripts of " the Peshitta. The Armenian text which was the
base-text for the Old Georgian version did not include the PA. On the other
hand, another form of the Armenian text does include the PA, and (as one might
expect in a Caesarean text-witness) some Armenian copies have the PA at the end
of John; see the footnote in Metzger that begins "According to a note in
Zohrab's edition" for details. Matenadaran 2374 includes the PA but in a very
unusual form, which Burkitt presents in English in "Two Lectures." (Matenadaran
2374 is an especially important Armenian MS, for various reasons.)
Metzger did not mention Old Latin b. Could that be because Old Latin b
(Veronensis, from the 400's) has been mangled so as to be bereft of the whole
page where the PA had been before (from 7:44 onward)? Just as
space-considerations preclude the presence of the PA in Codex A,
space-considerations insist on the inclusion of the PA in OL Veronensis. The
thing to see is that it looks like somebody deliberately detached the PA from
this copy, ruthlessly rendering it useless at this point -- which is just the
sort of thing that Augustine said was being done to the pericope. I wonder why
Metzger didn't mention the testimony borne by Old Latin b.
By the time we finish considering the external evidence outside Egypt, things
are not nearly as overwhelming as Hubner's parroting of Metzger makes it appear.
We now turn to the rest of Metzger's comments that were repeated by Hubner:
"Most copyists apparently thought that it would interrupt John's narrative least
if it were inserted after 7:52." How did Metzger know what the copyists of
roughly 1,400 manuscripts were thinking? There is no evidence that most
copyists of John who included the PA did anything but attempt to mechanically
reproduce the contents of their exemplars. MS 225 (in which the PA comes after
7:26) shows that the PA was grafted into that particular MS at the wrong place
(Hort suggests that this was an accidental error; 7:53-8:11 is transposed with
7:37-52), but it does not set a precedent. Ditto for the smattering of Old
Georgian copies Metzger mentions -- which, as far as I can tell, is just one
copy. (If the Alexandrian Text had not supported non-inclusion of the PA, these
items would not be given a second thought.) As for family-13, the group of MSS
in which the PA appears in Luke, after Lk. 21:38, this placement is nothing,
more or less, except an adaptation to the lectionary-order of readings.
Having adopted Metzger's recipe, Hubner proceeded to add plenty of yeast: "When
it does appear in later manuscripts" -- as if this is rare, instead of the
reading of 80% of the MSS -- "it is inserted in different places (e.g., after
Luke 21:38, 24:53, John 7:36, 52, and end of John)." (The reference to an
appearance after Lk. 24:53 must refer to MS 1333, which Maurice Robinson
describes in a note that is included in Willker's commentary.) Some perspective
is in order: the copies that have the PA after Lk. 21:38 (= f13), or after Lk.
24:53, or after John 7:36 are a smattering; they occupy a thin borderline, so to
speak, between inclusion and non-inclusion of the PA. As for the copies that
have the PA after the end of John, well, we are always being told to weigh MSS,
so let's weigh this batch: their weight boils down to their shared ancestor-MS,
from the 400's. Important? Certainly, especially since it agrees with part of
the Armenian evidence, testifying to the Caesarean Gospels-text. But the
misplacement of the PA does not settle the question, it only frames it.
Hubner stated that the PA "is usually marked off by obeli or asterisks to let
people know it probably wasn't in the original" but that is false. He also
stated that "It is recognized as Scripture by almost no early church father,"
but this is essentially an argument from silence.
Hubner proceeds: "The references to Augustine, Ambrose, etc. are virtually
irrelevant, as it does nothing to over-turn all of the evidence summarized
above." This is wishful thinking on Hubner's part. The patristic quotations
from Augustine and Ambrose (and the others I have mentioned) reflect the
contents of their manuscripts, and cannot be realistically dismissed so
cavalierly. This is, perhaps, a teaching moment: when patristic writers are
silent, their silence is interpreted as support. But when patristic writers
gush with support, their testimony is "virtually irrelevant." Jerome, virtually
irrelevant! What a sense of humor.
He continues: "It does little to the external evidence of manuscripts since the
vast majority of early Greek manuscripts listed above were written prior to the
Christians that Hills cites." The reader who takes the time to review the
production-dates of the manuscripts listed by Hubner will see that the rate is
about even among the 12 MSS that he listed; that is, P66, Aleph, B, T, and W are
earlier than, or contemporary with, the patristic testimony from Ambrose,
Augustine, Jerome, etc., while L, N, X, Y, Delta, Theta, and Psi are later.
Five out of twelve? A vast majority, you say? Even if one donates P75, A,
and C to the list, there's still no /vast/ majority.
The juggernaut keeps on rolling as Hubner engages Edward Hills' presentation of
evidence. I will address just a few points, though, in the interest of brevity:
What about Codex Bezae? Oh, that thing was written in 400-450 and is therefore
dismissed like the patristic evidence, of course! It's a manuscript "of
secondary importance." As if all the contents of D sprang up no earlier than
What about Apostolic Constitutions? Hey, that's from 375-380 -- a whole 25
years later than the estimated production-date for Codex Sinaiticus. So that's
just trivial! It was produced "after the vital manuscript evidence." We have
reached another teaching moment: the "vital manuscript evidence" is not f-1 or
f-13 or anything other than P66, P75, Aleph, and B. (All the other Greek
manuscripts for non-inclusion, except T, which is clearly from Egypt, is later
than 380.) There you have it, folks: in Hubner's world, the "vital manuscript
evidence" is all Alexandrian.
Hubner rejects Hills' idea that the silence of Origen, Chrysostom, and Nonnus
does not necessarily imply that they were not aware of the PA. Hills proposed
that "they may have been influenced against it by the moralistic prejudice of
which we have spoken and also by the fact that some of the manuscripts known to
them omitted it." Hubner regards this as largely conjectural, which it is, but
it is not an unreasonable idea, considering how controversial the
What-To-Do-With-Those-Who-Commit-Adultery question was in the early church.
It's not a strong enough mechanism to elicit the excision of the passage from
the text, but it could elicit the non-inclusion of the passage in public
reading, and that could cause it to be avoided in homilies (thus explaining a
lot of the "stunning" patristic silence), and even to be obelized (and that, in
turn, could cause it to be excised). I think there's more to it. But Hills
should not be taken to task for offering suggestions and theories; this is
something that Metzger does on page after page (when he reads the copyists'
thoughts, for example).
Hubner states that we have "Lots of texts of Scripture in both manuscripts and
church father references that go from John 7:52 to 8:12. Is that not true? No
"omission" exists unless we presuppose it." If the evidence is against the
pericope, then what occurred is an "insertion." Hills says there is no motive
for this insertion." Of course it is true that 18% of the Greek manuscripts of
John do not have the PA between John 7:52 and 8:12. This is not the question.
All that Hubner is doing at this point is, in essence, saying that if Hills is
wrong, then Hills is wrong. That is certainly true, but it does not build a
case. Hills' point that there is no motive for this insertion is a strong one.
It is not hard to see why strict-minded moralists would not be fans of this
pericope; the motive for avoidance is easy to see. Where is the motive for
inclusion? There were lots of sayings and anecdotes floating around in the
early church; some of them slip into the NT text here and there, but they are
quirks, whereas the PA is in 1,300 Greek MSS, not to mention its Old Latin and
Vulgate support. Why would this controversial story receive such special
treatment, so as to be grafted into the Gospel of John?
As he wraps up, Hubner offers a theory: "My conjecture is that the popular
version was first inserted by the scribe of Codex Bezae � not only because this
is the earliest extant manuscript to include the story but also becase the
Bezaean editor had a proclivity for enlarging the text." It's not clear if
Hubner is citing himself or someone else. But a comparison of the PA's text in
Codex D to the PA's text in Byzantine MSS should quickly relieve everyone of the
notion that the Byzantine form of the PA was derived from the Bezan form. Next
comes a paragraph bolstering the idea that Codex Bezae was the first MS to
include the PA in the text of John. I won't address this idea simply because I
think Hubner is able to think his way out of it without my help.
Now you might be wondering what I think of the PA. I consciously avoid reaching
a firm decision, waiting for the experts who have been researching it to deliver
a decisive case. But I have developed a theory which would explain why, if the
passage is original, it was excised. Leaving the critique of Hubner's
blog-entry, here's the theory, expressed as a narrative, with supportive
citations given along the way:
The final form of the Gospel of John was not written down by the apostle John.
In Ephesus in the late first century, there were two individuals names John:
John the apostle, son of Zebedee, and his prot�g�/assistant who was also named
John. It was this second individual who assembled the Gospel of John, using
source-materials provided by his mentor -- some written sources, and some
memorized recollections. Meanwhile, nearby in Hierapolis, Papias (a man
described by Irenaeus as a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp) was
ministering and writing, and in his writings he included one of John the
Apostle's many anecdotes which he had heard. Eusebius mentions this in Eccl.
Hist. III:39 -- "He also notes another story about a woman, who has been accused
of many sins before the Lord, which the Gospel according to the Hebrews
Now, if you'd like a refreshing review of the available citations about Papias,
consult http://www.textexcavation.com/papias.html . There you will find the
following extract from the Arabic writings of Agapius of Hierapolis (who lived
in the 900's -- in Hierapolis-in-Syria, not the Hierapolis in Asia Minor): "At
this time there lived in Heirapolis a prominent teacher and author of many
treatises; he wrote five treatises about the gospel. In one of these treatises,
which he wrote concerning the gospel of John, he relates that in the book of
John the evangelist there is a report about a woman who was an adulteress. When
the people led her before Christ our Lord, he spoke to the Jews who had brought
her to him: whoever among you is himself certain that he is innocent of that of
which she is accused, let him now bear witness against her. After he had said
this, they gave him no answer and went away." (This is from Holmes'
A statement by Vardan Vardapet is also presented: "That story of the
adulterous woman, which the other Christians have written in their gospel, was
written by a certain Papias, a disciple of John, who was declared and condemned
as a heretic. Eusebius said this." The heresy in question is chiliasm, the
belief in a future earthly kingdom which shall be ruled by Christ for a thousand
years. Of course this was not considered heresy in the early church; Vardan
Vardapet here has projected upon Eusebius' description of Papias his own (i.e.,
Vardan's) opinion of chiliasm.
Papias' five books are not extant today except in disjointed fragments, but they
seem to have been available to Eusebius in the early 300's, to Apollinarius of
Laodicea in the late 300's, and even to Maximus the Confessor in the 600's.
Thus, Papias' five books, while not exactly commonplace, were extant somewhere
or another all that time. And in one of those five books was the anecdote that
Eusebius mentions, "A report about a woman who was an adulteress." When we
align Eusebius' statement with Agapius' statement that one of Papias' five books
was about the Gospel of John, it seems safe to deduce that Papias' report about
a woman who was an adulteress was in that book.
Now advocates of the authenticity of the PA might be celebrating, thinking, "If
the PA was in Papias' book on the Gospel of John, then we have a witness for the
text of John with the PA in it -- and this witness, Papias, was a contemporary
of the author (or co-author) of the Gospel of John! We have here a witness that
outweighs everything else that is to the contrary!" But before you light the
fireworks, remember that Agapius is a tenth-century source (see
http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/agapius_history_00_eintro.htm ), and his claim
that one of Papias' books was about the Gospel of John might be merely a
surmise, based on Eusebius' statement that Papias had reported a story about an
adulteress; figuring that Agapius used a text of John that included the PA, he
may have taken the small step of deducing that Papias must have been writing
about the Gospel of John when he wrote about the story of the adulteress.
Why shouldn't we picture one of Papias' five books as a commentary on Jesus'
statements in the Gospel of John? Because, in the extract from Papias provided
by Eusebius, Papias expressly states his preference for oral statements over
books: "I inquired about the words of the elders, what Andrew or what Peter had
said, or what had been said by Philip or what Thomas or James or what John or
Matthew or any other of the disciples of the Lord, [and] the things which both
Aristion and the elder John, disciples of the Lord, were saying. For I did not
suppose that things from books would profit me as much as things from a living
and remaining voice."
Such a statement would seem rather out of place in a book about another book.
But it would be right at home in a book about sayings of Jesus which Papias had
collected over the course of his inquiries about what Jesus' companions
(including John) had said that Jesus had said. The focus of Papias' five books
was, as their title implies, the sayings of the Lord, but those sayings were
frequently framed or prefaced by short narratives; there is no need to picture
the collection as a list of raw proverbs and axioms. And one of those short
narratives was an anecdote about Jesus' encounter with a woman accused of
adultery, framing Jesus' instructions to the woman's accusers. This anecdote
was not from the Gospel of John, but had come directly from one of the oral
sources that Papias listed, possibly John the son of Zebedee or John of Ephesus.
Papias' anecdote, while recognizably reporting the same incident that was
reported in the Gospel of John, was very different verbally. But it was
sufficiently similar that when someone with ecclesiastical influence in the
second century encountered Papias' Five Books, and then read the Gospel of John,
this person said to himself, "This section is from Papias!" And, determined to
preserve only the text from the author, without any unauthorized additions, this
person proceeded to excise the passage in his copy of the Gospel of John, and
exerted whatever influence he had so as to assure that future copies of the
Gospel of John would not contain what he considered to be an intrusion from
Papias' Five Books.
And thus the PA was removed from the Gospel of John, sometime in the 100's. The
misunderstanding that the PA was from Papias (instead of being another report of
the same event) was considered sufficient grounds to obelize or excise the
passage, sometimes beginning at 7:53, and sometimes beginning at 8:3 or
thereabouts. This had a widespread impact on the text of the Gospel of John in
Egypt and in Syria. What Augustine assumed to be the work of people concerned
about how their wives might misinterpret the passage was actually the work of
meticulous second-century scribes who had unfortunately misidentified the PA in
the Gospel of John as an intrusion of a similar passage in the works of Papias.
Later on, things got complicated. The influence of Papias' anecdote sometimes
worked in the opposite direction. Somewhere in the east, an influential reader
looked into this textual question and concluded that the PA belonged in the text
of John -- but none of his copies of John contained it. But he had access to
Papias' five books, and so, thinking that Papias' anecdote and John's pericope
were one and the same, he extracted the anecdote from Papias' text, and placed
it in his text of the Gospel of John. Thus we ended up with texts such as what
is found in the Armenian Matenadaran MS 2374 (an English representation of which
can be read in the first appendix-note of Burkitt's "Two Lectures").
And here we must revisit the evidence from Mara of Achid. John Gwynn (in
Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 27) mentions that in one of the
earliest copies of the Peshitta (Add. MS 14470, from the 400's or 500's), there
is a note, "written in a ninth-century hand on a leaf prefixed" to the rest,
which states, "Yet another chapter from the Gospel of John son of Zebedee. This
SUNTAXIS is not found in all copies, but the Abbat Mar Paul found it in one of
the Alexandrian copies, and translated it from Greek into Syriac, according as
it is here written; from the Gospel of John, canon tenth, number of sections
96,* according to the translation of Thomas the Harklensian." (The * refers to
a footnote: "* A mistake for 86. The number of sections in the Harklensian St.
John is the same as in the Greek, 232." Gwynn adds citation-references.)
Let's read the rest of what Gwynn had to say about this: "It then starts from
vii. 50 ("Nicodemus saith unto them . . . ."), giving it and the two following
verses as in the Harklensian text, then proceeds with the disputed passage,
beginning vii. 53, and ends with viii. 12, modified as in our MS. [By this he
means that the Syriac text of 8:12 is different from what normally appears in
the Peshitta; it reads the equivalent of "When therefore they were assembled
together, Jesus spoke, saying, 'I am the light of the world,' etc.] A note
nearly the same, but abridged, is found in a Paris MS. (XXII, Catal. Bibl. Reg.)
of the Harklesian Gospels, dated A. Gr. 1503 (i.e., A. D. 1192, not 1202, as
Adler wrongly states), which also contains the Pericope; appended to, but not
inserted in, St. John's Gospel. This copy (b) begins with vii. 53, and ends
with viii. 11, to which it subjoins the note. Adler has printed the whole,
Verss. Syrr., p. 57. In the third copy (c) the Pericope takes its place in the
text of the Gospel: this is another Harklensian MS., known as Cod. Barsalibaei,
now in the Library of New College, Oxford (No. 334), from which White has
printed the Pericope as an appendix to his edition of the Harklensian Gospels
(p. 559). In this MS., viii. 12 is given in its altered form. A marginal note
states that "this SUNTUCION is not found in all copies"; when the Greek word,
evidently a blunder for SUNTAXIS, points to a common origin with the notes in
the two MSS. last mentioned. Thus in these three MSS. the Pericope appears
associated more or less directly with the Harklensian version."
(I note in passing that at the very least, this Syriac evidence echoes Greek
copies accessed in Alexandria by Thomas of Harkel when he produced the Harklean
Syriac in the early 600's --616, to be precise, using two or three Greek copies
in the Gospels, according to Syriac colophons.)
No doubt you noticed, when I read the Syriac note provided by Gwynn, stating
that the Abbat Mar Paul found the story of the adulteress in an Alexandrian
copy, that it bears a certain resemblance to Burkitt's description of Mara's
codex, as drawn from the text that incorporates Zacharias Rhetor's Church
History. Gwynn and Burkitt both point out errors in their sources' description
of the section-number; Burkitt's source refers to Section 86, and Burkitt points
out that this should be 89; whereas Gwynn's source refers to 96, and Gwynn says
that the correct number is 86 (the same number that Burkitt considered a
Let's take a moment to get acquainted with Mara of Amid. Mara must be the same
individual who is called Moro Bar Kustant in the reworked form of Zacharias
Rhetor's Church History, in which we find the following in Book Eight, at Roger
is the excerpt (about events after the death of Nonnus of Seleucia, who came
from Amida) to prove it:
"And in succession to him again, in the presence of three bishops, as the canons
require (namely, Nonnus of Martyropolis, Arathu (?) of Ingila, and Aaron of
Arsamosata, who were on the spot), they ordained Moro Bar Kustant, the governor,
who was steward of the Church, an abstemious man and righteous in his deeds,
chaste and believing. And he was fluent and practised in the Greek tongue,
having been educated in the monastery of St. Thomas the Apostle of Seleucia,
which in zealous faith had removed and had settled at Kenneshre on the river
Euphrates, and there had been rebuilt by John the Archimandrite, a learned man,
who was at that time an ex-pleader (?), a native of Edessa, the son of
Aphthonia. And this Moro had been trained up in all kinds of right instruction
and mental excellence from his boyhood by Sh'muni and Morutho, his grave,
chaste, and believing sisters.
"And after remaining a short time in his see he was banished [by Justin] to
Petra, and from Petra to Alexandria; and he stayed there for a time, and formed
a library there containing many admirable books; and in them there is abundance
of great profit for those who love instruction, the discerning and studious.
These were transferred to the treasury of the Church of Amida after the man's
death. And in every matter which I record, in order not to cause annoyance by
blaming one man or praising another, I have related whatever the truth of the
matter is without any falsehood. However, the man progressed more and more in
reading in Alexandria, and there he fell asleep. And his body was conveyed, by
his sisters, who were with him and ministered to him, comforting him in
affliction, as it is written, and laid in his own Martyrs' Chapel in the village
of Beth Shuro. And as a record of the eloquent expression of his love of
instruction I will set down at the end of this Book the prologue composed by him
in the Greek tongue and inserted in his Tetreuangelion."
It is at the end of Book 8 of the reworked text of Zacharias Rhetor's Church
History that we find the same material to which Burkitt (and, as Burkitt noted,
Dionysius Bar-Salibi) referred:
"Now there was inserted in the Gospel of the holy Moro the bishop, in the
eighty-ninth canon, a chapter which is related only by John in his Gospel, and
is not found in other manuscripts, a section running thus: "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 thee here and wished to bear witness against thee, having
understood what I said to them, which thou hast heard, have left thee and
departed. Do thou also, therefore, go thy way, and commit not this sin again.'
We should notice that Zacharias Rhetor died around 550, and Gwynn states that
the manuscript (British Museum Syriac Add. 17202) that incorporates his Church
History is from the 600's, so the antiquity of the text seems securely
It seems possible that someone may have confused the Mara of Amid with Paul of
Tella, since both were scholarly fellows working in Alexandria. But nothing
precludes that idea that Mara found a Greek manuscript at Alexandria in the
early 500's that included a story about the adulteress, and that Paul of Tella,
working with Thomas of Harkel in the early 600's, also found the same story in a
manuscript there. Maybe Paul and Thomas knew of Mara's manuscript and somehow
obtained it, or a copy of it.
The thing to see is that the text of the pericope that is presented in Mara's
note, as preserved in the postscript to Book 8 of Zachariah Rhetor's Church
History in a Syriac MS from the 600's, is far different from the usual text of
the PA. As Gwynn says, "The original of this version must have differed
considerably from all existing Greek copies; keeping at first pretty close to
the Textus Receptus, but approximating especially towards the end to that of
Cod. Bezae (D), which is the oldest extant Greek of the passage."
Why this variation? Because, via the collision of copies (or recollections of
copies) in which Papias' anecdote had been inserted into the text of the Gospel
of John, and copies in which the PA itself appeared, variants from the anecdote
intruded into the text of the PA, and variants from the PA intruded into the
text of Papias' anecdote. We can't verify this regarding Papias' anecdote,
since his works are not extant in anything like an intact form, but in the text
of John, this mechanism accounts for the extreme variations in the form of the
PA that are observed in Mara's copy, and for some of the variations in the text
of D (which are listed by Willker), and for the variations in the Armenian codex
Matenadaran 2374. These variants are echoes of a competition between the PA as
it appeared in the Gospel of John, and a very similar anecdote that appeared in
one of Papias' Five Books -- a competition that began in the 100's. It never
had a strong effect on the Old Latin, though, perhaps because Papias' Five Books
were not translated into Latin and for that reason the PA never had a Latin
doppelganger. (There was, nevertheless, some effect, in a, l, and q.)
Matenadaran 2374 exhibits this phenomenon. In the 900's, Nikon accused
Armenians of "casting out the account which teaches us how the adulteress was
taken to Jesus," and, indeed, figuring that the Armenian Gospels-translation, by
450, was conformed to the Caesarean text (exemplified in f-1), how natural it is
to see the PA, in Armenian copies, placed at the end of John instead of within
the narrative (not, as Nikon thought, because the Armenian copyists thought it
was improper to read, but mainly because they were following their Caesarean
exemplars). But in Matenadaran 2374, something else happened: the PA was
inserted into the text of John -- not from the Caesarean text (as if a scribe
had merely moved the passage from the end of John, in his exemplar, to the place
after Jn. 7:52, in the copy he was making), but from a substantially different
text, namely, the text of Papias' Anecdote.
Matenadaran 2374 was produced in 989, but its exemplar was probably produced no
later than the 600's. It's a tenth-century MS with a seventh-century text. Its
copyist -- or /somebody/ -- was at least a little familiar with Papias' writings
(perhaps indirectly via Eusebius and/or Rufinus), considering the "Aristou
eritzou" note that preceeds Mk. 16:9 in this MS. I can't think of any other
source for Matenadaran 2374's version of the story of the adulteress other than
Papias' Five Books. Vardan said that this is the source.
To summarize the theory: with Papias' Anecdote in the equation, a mechanism
exists for the early excision of the PA in Greek texts that affected
transmission-streams in Egypt and Syria, as reflected by the Alexandrian Text,
the Proto-Byzantine Text, and the Peshitta. Greek copies of John containing the
PA continued to circulate in areas unaffected by the initial excision (as Jerome
explicitly declared), and these copies are echoed in about 80% of the extant
Greek MSS. When, at various times and places, copyists whose copies of John did
not have the PA decided to insert the PA, they sometimes took it from copies of
John, but on one occasion (in the case of Matenadaran 2374) a copyist inserted
Papias' Anecdote instead, and in other cases copyists used forms of the PA which
had been contaminated by variants that may be traced to Papias' Anecdote.
Now, I am not endorsing this theory today; I could take the same evidence and
assemble a case for the prosecution. But if you want a theory that defends the
PA as original and accounts for the strong external evidence against the PA, as
well as the high rate of textual variation within the text of the PA, there you
In other news: "Assorted Essays on New Testament Textual Criticism," a
collection of some materials that are in the Files here at TC-Alternate is now
available for the Kindle (in conveniently edited, slightly condensed, annotated
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
(P.S. -- about Euthymius Zigabenus: as one might suspect by now, Metzger did
not give the whole story. Here's Euthymius' comment, drawn from Donaldson's
thesis: "It is necessary to know that from there until 'Then, again, Jesus
spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world,"' among the accurate copies
is neither found nor obelized. Wherefore these words appear written alongside
the text and as an addition; and the proof of this is that Chrysostom does not
remember them at all. But nevertheless we must attempt to elucidate even these
things; for the section in these texts concerning the woman caught in adultery
is not without benefit." Does this reflect a thorough investigation on
Euthymius' part, or simply reliance upon an earlier scholium? I would say the
---------------------------------------- END QUOTE ---
Our very grateful thanks to James Snapp,
for the Herculean effort here at thoroughness
and clarity regarding the complex textual evidences.