Sept 15, 2010
Gifford on the PA
Excerpt for review from: Dave Gifford, 'the passage caught in adultery', (http://www.giffmex.org/, 2007)
the passage caught in adultery: - Dave Gifford
by Dave Gifford
Argh! Why do commentaries all just parrot each other? I was investigating John: 7:53-8:11 the other day, checking all the major commentaries I have handy: Ridderbos, Beasley-Murray, Brown, Michaels. And you know what? They all basically say exactly the same things.
Why do commentators feel the need to cover the same ground over and over again? Wouldn’t they make it easier on us all if the only things they wrote were ideas unique to them? Why can’t there be one big official fact book (or wiki) on the Gospel of John, and when someone actually has something new to say about it, they can do so in a separate journal article.
Ah, but then they and their publishers couldn’t make money selling big commentaries. And they could get accused by other scholars of not doing their homework if the facts weren’t all in there. So they need to strut their stuff for their peers’ sake, and make some money while they are at it. And we have to pay for it by buying many commentaries and reading a lot of duplication. Hmph.
And the worst part of it is that they sometimes miss the obvious. To give an example from John: 7:53-8:11 – all the commentators puzzle over what made Jesus’ opponents give up so easily when he encouraged the one without sin to cast the first stone. Obviously Jesus is not talking about general sinfulness here, because if he were, his point would be, “Human race, don’t ever administer justice again until you are sinless.” That’s not very likely, so there must be a very specific and serious sin that Jesus’ opponents were guilty of.
The commentators rightly note all this, but then start another round of useless speculation.
The problem with such theories is that they are arguments from silence. The passage doesn’t give us any reason to believe such theories.
And NOT ONE of the above commentaries connects their reluctance to judge with the sin that is so clearly evident right in the passage. Verse 6 clearly states that they were using her case as bait to trap Jesus. Why did they walk away without stoning the woman? Let’s dispense with speculation and theories. The answer is in the text: they walked away because they were all guilty of using her plight in order to find a way to have Jesus killed. Jesus manages to pull off another “gotcha!” comeback similar to that of Luke 20:1-8 and that of Luke 20:20-26.
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