Shortly before the Revised Version fiasco, Rev. Thomas Sheldon Green (M.A. Christ's College Cambridge) published a manifesto on how to improve the English Authorized Version (KJV), called A Course of Developed Criticism (Bagster - London, 1856), subtitled remarkably enough, "Passages of the NT materially affected by Various Readings" (!).
Green's influence, himself influenced by Tregelles and Tischendorf, was strongly felt by those who would shortly begin work on the Revised Version. Yet his analysis of the PA, like so many of his other examples, simply doesn't cut it:
JOHN 7:53 - 8: 11
'The question which arises respecting the spuriousness of this entire passage, is one of special interest, not only from its import ance, but on account of singular points involved in the evidence.
In the first place, there must be noted the circumstance of its shifting position. It is placed by one MS. after 7:36 of this Gospel, at the end of it by at least ten, and at the end of Luke 21 by four. Though none of these MSS. are of high antiquity, yet on this particular point their evidence is not impaired on that account. (1) Now the several copyists that respectively first gave to the passage these various positions, must have encountered it in some detached state, which left them free to give it a location according to the judgment or fancy of each. (2) But it is not easy to conceive a genuine portion of the Gospel narrative thus set adrift, to find a fresh lodgment as it may. (3)
Next, there is a remarkable variation of shape. One distinct phase or cast of the passage is exhibited by D alone; (4) and in the other copies that contain it, the text fluctuates more broadly than to the extent of various readings, ordinarily so called, (5) and seems to indicate the existence of two other shapes. (6)
The passage is visibly wanting in B, L, T, X, Δ, and more than fifty others, besides lectionaries; (7) and though A and C are here defective, its absence from them in their complete state is ascertainable by strict calculation, based on the uniform amount of matter in their pages. (8) Of the mass of MSS which contain the passage more than 60 stigmatise it with marks of suspicion. (9)It is wanting in a, f, etc., of the Old Latin, in the Sahidic, the Gothic, and the best authorities of the Coptic, Armenian, and both Syriac versions. (10)
The commentaries of Origen and Chrysostom evince no knowledge, or, at least, no recognition of this section: and the same may be said of Tertullian, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril, Basil, and others. The paraphrase of Nonnus has nothing answering to it. (11)
Though the judgment of Jerome is in favour of it, and hence its place in the Vulgate, yet this is accompanied with an admission of its absence from many copies: (12) and to the same purport are the scholia in various MSS. (13)
In the face of evidence thus varied and significant, the genuineness of the passage cannot be maintained. It may be regarded as having been originally a detached narrative, founded on a real transaction, and one of a probably numerous class that obtained more or less currency. (14) Such a view agrees well with an air of strangeness, that, apart from the miraculous, is not observable in the other Gospel narratives. The cast of the story has an artificial look, as designed for effect. (15)
In this case, as elsewhere, recourse has been freely had, both in ancient and modern times, to the suggestion of wilful suppression. With respect to the likelihood of such a proceeding, opinions may vary; but one thing at least is certain, that such a supposition will not serve, in the case of the present passage, to account for two principal facts of adverse evidence, namely, its shiftings of place and shape. (16)
It may be well to note the entire coherence of the narrative on the removal of this section. (17) The scene has been transferred, and with it also the dispute about Galilee, from the populace to the conclave (vs. 7:45, 52). This, however, implies no suspension of the discourse of Jesus with those about him; and the broken report of the really unbroken discourse is at once resumed after the digression by the words παλιν ουν, κ.τ.λ. [i.e., 8:12 fwd] (18)
Nazaroo has given the following notes to Rev. Green's argument:
(1) Green wishes to dismiss the fact that all the MSS which displace the PA or put it at the end of John are very late (10th century or newer). But these shuffles cannot be traced further back, and they are well accounted for by von Soden and others as the result of its absence in some copies and perhaps an attempt to preserve (by hiding) the passage. That is, some scribes disobeyed their orders to delete it (cf. Rev. 22:18) and stuck it where it would not be noticed (in Luke or at the end of John between 2nd last and last verse).
(2) Green's own explanation here is entirely fanciful and highly improbable. What copyist, finding a story in a detached state, would insert it into a Holy Gospel, no matter how good it was? The idea that this happened multiple times is even more improbable. Scribes generally did not have any such freedoms or attitudes. They carried their work out with almost superstitious awe and reverence. Green's imaginative story is anachronistic to the Middle Ages.
(3) Green's explanation rightly appears difficult to believe, as he himself acknowledges. But we don't need fanciful conjectures, when straightforward mechanical explanations are more than sufficient (e.g., see von Soden).
(4) Codex D's unique version of the passage is not unique however to Codex D in this place alone. That is, Codex D often exhibits an idiosyncratic and plainly edited text, replete with displacements, omissions and additions in many other places. So the behavior of Codex D here says nothing about the PA, but a lot about itself.
(5) We have documented the exaggerated claims of variation for this passage elsewhere. The fact is, (a) other important MSS have not been collated as thoroughly in other passages, and (b) the count of variants has been inflated by counting Codex D, when this is not done to the same extent elsewhere.
(6) The existance of two basic versions of the text is perfectly normal, given that one is the Lectionary text, and the other is the one found in the continuous-text MSS. This is true of every other passage in the NT which is also used in the Lectionary, although the differences vary with each case.
(7) The absence of the passage in many Lectionaries is meaningless, since the Lectionary systems don't cover the entire NT. For instance the whole book of Revelation is omitted by all Lectionary systems.
(8) This may be the first claim of a calculation having been made. The actual calculation however, as usual is omitted. But even granting that someone did such a calculation adequately, this misses the point. Now that the pages are actually missing for these two MSS, there is no way of knowing if there was a mark or note at this point in the text, or what it might have said. The witnesses have been rendered worthless, probably by abuse. This itself is interesting evidence, but impossible to evaluate, because it merely reflects the vandalism of an unknown party, post-4th century.
(9) Dr. Maurice Robinson, who has personally examined all available MSS in this place, has ascertained that the marks are all late, and there are no early MSS including the PA with such marks (excepting possibly Codex B). Further, he has established that the marks (asterisks and obelii) are not in the main text-critical marks, but are in fact Lectionary marks for use in public reading of the text in services.
(10) Green sadly here omits any list of MSS (Greek or Latin) which contain the verses, giving a wrong impression of the state of the MS evidence at the time they were produced.
(11) The early commentators wrote their commentaries for use in church, and strictly follow only the texts which were actually read during the services. They cannot comment on texts which were not read to the public attending church. Other examples are problematic: Tertullian appears to have known the PA, and Nonnus was just a poet, while Theodore's fragmentary scholia are too late to be of text-critical value.
(12) Green here actually reverses the testimony of Jerome! Jerome actually noted that the PA is CONTAINED in many copies, implying its absence in less copies, and in less accurate copies. This is an unscrupulous use of patristic testimony, which goes completely against the evidence that Jerome gives us.
(13) The 'scholia' (marginal notes) are again all found in very late copies, post 9th century, and are not traceable to earlier authorities, but are in fact anonymous comments which cannot be granted credibility without corroboration.
(14) There is no evidence of this being a 'detached narrative' or floating pericope, as many critics have claimed. In the first place, there is no evidence that any such hypothetical entities ever existed. It appears that the NT documents were written documents from their very inception (e.g. Paul's letters, the Gospels, Acts etc.). Some may incorporate earlier written documents, but there is little evidence of any 'oral tradition' independent of and different from the NT.
(15) This is the first time we have seen this claim proposed in print. But even if the passage were judged 'artificial' or contrived in some sense, it would be impossible to differentiate it from any other similar pericope or passage in the NT gospels. In what sense for instance are the parables not 'contrived'? Or does the 'walking on water' incident seem less artificial than a debate in the temple?
(16) Green here claims suppression or deletion does not account for variation in story or displacement. But we have already seen that 'displacement' is late and fully accounted for by other factors, like the historical situation that some copies had already omitted the passage. Since the only significant 'variation' in versions of the story stems from Codex Bezae (D, 4th cent.), there is no need for a theory of omission to account for it. To this very day, NO textual critic has ever given an adequate account of the many unusual and bizzare textual variations found in Codex D. More importantly, no account of early omission of the PA needs to nor should it provide any explanation for Codex D. How could any explanation for the PA account for Codex D? The suggestion is preposterous.
(17) While noting that the 'omission' of the PA allows for the reconnection of 7:52 to 8:12, Green actually fails to note the most important problem: that one must make the cuts at 7:53, grouping the unrelated ending of the prior incident with the actual PA story (8:2-11). This is tautological and demonstrates nothing, except that whoever made the cut did so purposefully so as to minimize the damage. But we can already assume the deletion was intentional, since it is too large a section to be simply accounted for by homoeoteleuton (an eye skip).
This problem was noted by John Burgon also.
Perhaps more importantly, others, even those who reject the authenticity of the PA, don't accept the rejoining of 7:52 to 8:12 as original or natural, such as for instance Bultmann. He felt compelled to chop off several more large portions of chapter 9 of John, in order to fit the pieces together.
(18) It is surely remarkable that after all is said and done, Green admits also that there is a change of scene twice, from Jesus publicly speaking, to the backroom with the Pharisees, and back again at 8:12 without even a 'hello', or an explanatory notice. "Again then Jesus said..." is hardly adequate for such leaps in time and place.