The original "New Edition" (1832) of Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes, as the 1884 preface tells us, reigned for 50 years as the standard commentary, outselling almost all other similar works. Its continuing usefulness and popularity caused the publishers to sponsor a Revised Edition (1884), supplemented by advances since that time. The publishers chose only the best scholars in harmony with the original evangelical orthodoxy. The final editor (Daniel Curry) expressed his own accord with the original work, accepting the Bible as the word of God, itself the revelation of Jesus Christ, and his intent to carry on in the original spirit of this great work.
In 1825 Clarke had written:
"Bishop Pearce says,Daniel Curry (the 1884 editor) deletes the previous quotation, and substitutes newer material from Horne and Harman.
Thus far the judicious and learned Bishop. How the passage stands in all die MSS. hitherto collated, may be seen in Wetstein & Griesbach.""It would have been strange if Jesus, when he was not a magistrate, and had not the witnesses before him to examine them; and when she had not been tried and condemned by the law and legal judges, should have taken upon him to condemn her. This being the case, it appears why Jesus avoided giving an answer to the question of the scribes and Pharisees; and also how little reason there is to conclude from hence, that Christ seems in this case not enough to have discouraged adultery, though he called it a sin.
And yet this opinion took place so early among the Christians, that the reading of this story was industriously avoided in the lessons recited out of the Gospels, in the public service of the churches; as if Jesus' saying I do not condemn thee, had given too much countenance to women guilty of that crime. In consequence of this, as it was never read in the churches, and is now not to be found in any of the Evangelistaria [Lectionaries], and as it was probably marked in the MSS. as a portion not to be read there; this whole story, from verse 1 to verse 11 inclusive, came in length of time, to be left out in some MSS, though in the greater part it is still remaining." (- Pearce)
After the insertion of T. H. Horne's overview on the PA (from his Introduction), and the opinion of Dr. H. M. Harman (from his Introduction), The new editor summarizes Adam Clarke's position:
"Dr. Clarke disposes of the matter in this wise: After weighing what has been adduced in favour of its authenticity, and seriously considering its state in the MSS, as exhibited in the Var. Lect. of Griesbach, I must confess, the evidence in its favour does not appear to me to be striking. Yet I by no means would have it expunged from the text. Its absence from many MSS, and the confused manner in which it appears in others, may be readily accounted for on the principles laid down by Bishop Pearce. It may, however, be observed, that a perfect connexion subsists between verse 52 (ch 7) and 12 (ch 8) - all the intermediate verses having been omitted by MSS of the first antiquity and authority. In some MSS it is found at the end of this Gospel; in others a vacant place is left in this chapter; and in other it is placed after the 21st chapter of Luke."
A few comments are in order:
a) Clarke had at his disposal only the variants and MSS recorded by Griesbach in 1805. Since that time, thousands more MSS have been discovered, catalogued and collated in regard to the PA, showing its overwhelming inclusion in some 1,240 continuous-text MSS and over 1,000 lectionaries.
b) Bishop Pearce understood the problematic content of the passage in the light of European morals and nomist concerns. Indeed, von Soden has accurately collated the features of the passage's removal, reinsertion and interpolation at other locations, and shown how this came about during the later history of copying, due to confusion.
c) The connexion (or rather lack of a jarring discordancy) between 7:52 and 8:12 is not so smooth and close as might be claimed. "Then again Jesus spoke to them..." (v12) makes no direct sense given Jesus is out of the scene in the previous verses, where the religious authorities are in private talks elsewhere in the temple. No clear location is indicated, even though there is an obvious change of scene between 7:52 and 8:12.
d) The vacant spaces provided in some of the most ancient Uncial MSS indicates a clear knowledge of the existence of the passage and an intent to either include it or leave an explanatory marginal note at this point, probably to tell subsequent readers of its omission in the master-copy used. Thus rather than evidence of its absence, we have in these copies evidence of its existence, but absence only in the master-copy being used.