Patristic Evidence

Chrysostom on John 8:1-11
(c. 400 A.D.)

Review of: Chrysostom, Homilies, (c. 400 A.D.)

Page Index

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2009

Prologue: - Introduction to Chrysostom
    Chrysostom & Jn 8:1-11 - historical background

Review: - Chrysostom on John 8:1-11: cited by Jacobus de Voragine (13th cent.)
    Notice of Find - from Weiland Willker
    Sermon on PA - by Jacobus de Voragine (13th cent.)
        Notes - courtesy of Nazaroo

Return to Index



St John Chrysostom: (347-407 A.D.) one of the greatest Early Church Fathers of the 5th Century, was born around 347 A.D. St. John became a monk and was ordained a priest to serve the Church in Antioch where his eloquent preaching on the Sacred Scriptures earned him the title of 'Chrysostom', meaning "golden-mouthed."

In 398 A.D., Chrysostom was called upon to assume the responsibilities of the Patriarch Archbishop of Constantinople, much to his chagrin. This reluctant patriarch nevertheless fulfilled his duty with extraordinary energy and courage.

St. John Chrysostom's call to repentance and moral reform won him the emnity of the nominally Christian Empress who had him deposed and exiled on trumped-up charges.

But his preaching and intrepid boldness inspired the hearts of the people of Constantinople who held him in great affection. His devotion to the written Word of God was matched by a love of the Eucharist and of divine worship. To this day, the principal "Byzantine" liturgy celebrated by most Slavic, Greek, and middle-eastern Christians is known as the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

St. John Chysostom, who died under the harsh conditions of his exile in 407 A.D., will always be remembered as one of the greatest of the Early Church Fathers and one of the greatest preachers of all time. His beautiful but always practical bible teaching has earned St. John Chrysostom the title "Doctor of the Church."

From: - Marcellino D'Ambrosio,
St John Chrysostom: Biography and Writings

Return to Index

Chrysostom and John 8:1-11

The View of 19th Century Textual Criticism on Chrysostom

For many years, since the early 1800s, critics have cited John Chrysostom as against the authenticity of John 8:1-11. This was on account of his apparent silence regarding the verses, in his homilies and commentaries. The claim was that this passage was unknown in the Eastern half of the Empire, where Greek, not Latin, was the language spoken.

The silence of Chrysostom, and apparently all the Greek-speaking fathers on these verses was taken as strong evidence that the passage was not found in their Greek copies of the Gospel of John. The passage was said to be a 'Western (Latin) interpolation', which only later found its way into the manuscripts.

The Eastern Greek Byzantine Empire was assumed to be a kind of isolated state, split off from the Latins through political divisions, and existing as its own world.

The Literary Golden Age of the Christian Empire

This image of isolation is however a ridiculous exaggeration of the facts. It is true that the first Christian Emperor, Constantine moved the center of his operations to the East, making the town of Byzantium into the splendid city of 'Constantinople', "Constantine's City". But it was Constantine who united the empire under one authority, and even later, when the empire was 'divided' amongst his three sons, the Empire still functioned basically as a unit.

It was not until nearly 400 years later that the Church split into two separate denominations. Bishops freely travelled across the Empire under protection of the Emperor for centuries before that. Bishops from all over the empire kept in near constant communication, and councils and synods were held frequently regarding policy and doctrine.

In this period (330-430 A.D.), also considered the literary "golden age" of the Church, it would be impossible for the Greeks in the East to be unaware for instance of Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation in the West, and in North Africa and in Palestine. And Jerome's Vulgate included the passage (Jn 7:53-8:11) as official Holy Scripture. Jerome himself testified openly in his preface and other writings that he had found the passage in "many ancient copies, both Greek and Latin" (c. 384-410 A.D.).

Ecclesiastical Silence in Some Quarters Explained

The acceptance of the passage all over the Empire, and the silence of the important ecclesiastical figures of the era in the East and elsewhere is naturally taken, not to indicate ignorance or unfamiliarity with the problem, but rather (in most cases) quiet assent to its authenticity.

The Greek Christian leaders at least could not have been generally unaware of the passage in this period, and had they rejected it, they would have done so openly, and left many records of the controversy. As it stands, it appears that the Greek fathers quietly accepted the passage, but out of reluctance to deal with the subject matter, avoided reciting this particular Scripture during Church services, except perhaps intermittently on obscure feast days.

It is against this historical background that the apparent silence of Chrysostom and other Greek writers of the period ought to be interpreted. It must be remembered that Chrysostom was a contemporary of Ambrose, Pacian, Jerome, Rufinus, and Augustine, all of whom publicly discussed and wrote about the passage. Several of these early fathers read and translated Greek, and could communicate in that language eloquently.

These men travelled between them from one end of the empire to the other, including the city of Constantinople in the East. A few, like Jerome and Rufinus, probably spent some years in Constantinople.

It is not surprising then, that notice should come recently of a medieval writer who quotes an opinion of Chrysostom on these very verses, from a popular writing now apparently lost.

Return to Index

Chrysostom on John 8:1-11

The following is a recent post (Dec 9, 2008) on the internet by Wieland Willker on his Textual Criticism forum:

Chrysostom and the PA

by wie » Tue 9. Dec 2008, 09:22

Tommy Wasserman and Jennifer Knust (SBL 2008, via ETC blog) mention an interesting reference to Chrysostom:

"Jacobus de Voragine, a thirteenth-century Dominican monk, scholar and author, serves as our final example.

Preaching a sermon on the pericope on the third Saturday of Lent, he offered a list of by then traditional suggestions regarding what Jesus wrote: According to Ambrose, Jacobus reports, Jesus wrote, terra terram accusat; according to Augustine, he wrote this (i.e., terra terram accusat) and then, afterwards said to the woman qui sine peccato est uestrum; according to the Glossa, Jesus wrote their sins (eorum pecccata); and, according to John Chrysostom (who, as far as we know, never discussed the pericope adulterae), he wrote terra absorbe hos uiros abdicatos (Earth, swallow these men who have been disowned.)"

(Sabbato Sermo 1.45-48)

We have no other reference that shows Chrysostom's acquaintance with the PA.

It is possible that Jacques de Voragine simply misattributes the words. On the other hand it is possible that he had access to sources lost today.

The sermon can be found online at:

Jacques de Voragine Sermon Does anybody know anything more about this?

Return to Index

Sermon on the
Pericope de Adultera

A Sermon by Jacobus de Voragine,
a thirteenth-century Dominican monk,
on the Pericope de Adultera, from

Sabbato tertie hebdomade quadragesime, 1/2

Sigle de Schneyer : T21/S

Mots-clés :
Christi sermo   infamatio   adulatio   Sirenes   iudicis discretio   contritio   peccatorum nomina   sanctorum nomina   infernus   terra celestis   iustitia   mulier adultera   uxoris fornicatio   satisfactio   falsa scripta   blasphemia   debitor   Pater noster  

Adducunt ad Iesum scribe et Pharisei mulierem in adulterio deprehensam (Ioan. 8, 3).

In euangelio ponuntur tres differentie personarum : Pharisei, Christus, et mulier. (Christi sermo, infamatio)
Isti scribe et Pharisei sepe uoluerunt Iesum capere in sermone, ut ipsum infamarent et contra eum populum prouocarent, sicut patet in isto Euangelio in quo quidem ponuntur tres differentie personarum, scilicet Pharisei, Christus et mulier in adulterio deprehensa.

I : In Phariseis fuerunt
In Phariseis quidem, duo fuerunt, scilicet subdolosa adulatio et fallax interrogatio.

I.A : subdolosa adulatio in hoc quod magistrum eum uocauerunt causa temptandi ; nullus enim in hoc mundi debet uelle laudari (adulatio, Sirenes)
Subdolosa adulatio fuit in hoc quod magistrum eum uocauerunt. Chrysostomus : Magistrum eum uocauerunt, ut quasi honoratus, sui secretum cordis simpliciter eis aperiret : hec est enim hypocritarum prima potentia, simulata laudatio. Istam autem laudem magisterii Christus recipiebat a discipulis : Uos uocatis me Magister et Domine et bene dicitis : sum etenim (Ioan. 13, 13), quia sciebat quod eum sic uocabant causa honorandi. Ab istis tamen recipere noluit, sciens quod eum sic appellabant causa tentandi. Adulatores enim sunt scorpiones et apes. Scorpio enim facie applaudit, sed cauda pungit. Apes mel portant in ore, sed pungunt a posteriori parte. Sic tales in facie laudant et in absentia uituperant. Sunt enim sicut Syrenes, que sunt pisces marini qui habent faciem mulieris, sicut dicit Glossa super illud Syrenes in delubris uoluptatis (Isai. 13, 22), que ita dulciter cantant quod nautas dormire faciunt, et sic naufragium patiuntur, sed sapientes naute aures claudunt et sic periculum euadunt. Sic etiam contra tales adulatores, sapientes debent claudere aures et non eos audire. Hieronymus : Nos ad patriam festinantes mortiferos Syrenum cantus debemus aure surda transire. Nullus enim in hoc mundo debet uelle laudari respiciendo ad uitam suam presentem, futuram et preteritam. Si enim respiciat ad uitam preteritam, inuenit se multa commisisse de quibus debet erubescere : Quem ergo fructum tunc habuistis in illis in quibus nunc erubescitis (Rom. 6, 21) ? Si respicit ad uitam presentem, inuenit se esse in loco exilii, de quo multum debet dolere : Heu me, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est : ecce exilium ; habitaui cum habitantibus Cedar multum, etc. (Psal. 119, 5) : ecce periculum, qui habitant cum hominibus tenebrosis ; Cedar enim interpretatur tenebrosus Si respicit ad uitam futuram, inueniet super se Dei iudicia, de quibus multum debet timere : A iudiciis enim tuis timui (Psal. 118). Nullus ergo in hac uita debet uelle laudari, postquam habet causam tanti ruboris, doloris et timoris. Illi autem qui sunt in patria secure possunt laudari, cum nec de preterito habeant de quo debeant erubescere, cum sint in omnimoda sanctitate ; nec de presenti, unde debeant dolere, cum sint in plena iucunditate ; nec de futuro, unde debeant timere, cum sint in eterna iucunditate et securitate.

I.B : fallax interrogatio
Secundo, in Phariseis fuit fallax interrogatio, cum dicitur : Magister, hec mulier modo deprehensa est in adulterio (Ioan. 8, 4). Hoc autem dicebant ut eum possent accusare.

II : In Christo fuit ueritas doctrine, mansuetudo misericordie, et rectitudo iustitie. In responsione sua duo fuerunt
In Christo fuit ueritas doctrine, mansuetudo misericordie et rectitudo iustitie, iuxta illud : Propter ueritatem et mansuetudinem, etc. (Psal. 44, 5). Cogitauerunt igitur Pharisei et dixerunt intra se : Aut ipse dicet quod ista mulier debet lapidari, aut quod non debet, aut omnino tacebit. Si ipse dixerit quod ista mulier debet lapidari, tunc eum deridebimus, quod non habet mansuetudinem misericordie quam ipse predicat, propter quod etiam a populo adamatur. Si dixerit quod non debeat lapidari, sed dimitti, tunc dicemus quod non habet rectitudinem iustitie et accusabimus eum quod hostis est legis et contrarius Moysi et Deo actori legis, et ideo est potius cum adultera lapidandus. Si autem tacebit omnino, tunc sibi imponemus quod non habet ueritatem doctrine, sed propter timorem humanum ipsam ueritatem predicare formidat. Sed Christus sic respondit quod de nullo istorum reprehendi potuit, sicut infra dicetur. In ipso autem fuerunt duo.

II.A : primo matura discretio in eo quod digito scribebat in terram (iudicis discretio, contritio, peccatorum nomina, sanctorum nomina, infernus, terra celestis)
Primo, matura discretio, in eo quod digito scribebat in terram. Per digitum intelligitur discretio. Iudex ergo, quando audit accusantes, non debet dare sententiam statim, sed discutere et ea que audit debet in corde scribere, id est discrete inquirere et que agenda sunt uidere. Unde dicit Glossa : Decet uos, auditis alienis malis, non temere iudicare, sed digito discretionis prius uos ipsos discutere, seu discurrere. Ad hoc autem quod iudex discrete iudicet, debet seruare illud quod dicitur : Numerauit, appendit et diuisit (Dan. 5, 26-28). Debet enim culpas numeratim inquirere ; inquisitas, in statera sui iudicii ponderare ; ponderatas, diuisim punire. Non enim debet culpas equaliter punire, sed diuisim, quia leues debent puniri leuiter, mediocres mediocriter et graues grauiter. Quid autem Christus in terra scriberet ? Ambrosius dicit quod scribebat in terra : Terra terram accusat. Augustinus dicit quod scribebat illud quod postea uoce expressit : Qui sine peccato est uestrum, primus in eam lapidem mittat, etc. (Ioan. 8, 7). Glossa dicit quod scribebat eorum peccata, que illi legebant, et pre uerecundia exierunt. Chrysostomus dicit quod scribebat in terram : Absorbe hos uiros abdicatos, id est aperte condemnatos. Pharisei enim et ista mulier erant in duobus similes et in duobus dissimiles. Similes erant in nature fragilitate et quantum ad hoc conuenit prima scriptura, scilicet terra terram accusat ; et in peccatorum multitudine et quantum ad hoc conuenit secunda scriptura, scilicet qui sine peccato est uestrum, primus in eam lapidem mittat, quasi dicat : Si ista est peccatrix, et uos similiter estis peccatores. Dissimiles autem erant, quia peccata eorum coram Deo erant scripta. Peccata autem istius mulieris per contritionem erant deleta, et ideo conuenit alia scriptura, que peccata eorum et non istius scribebat. Illi etiam scripti erant in terra infernali ; hec autem propter penitentiam iam scripta erat in terra celesti ; et quantum ad hoc conuenit illa scriptura quam scripsit, terra, absorbe hos uiros abdicatos. Nomina enim peccatorum scripta sunt in terra infernali : Recedentes a te in terram scribentur, quia dereliquerunt uenam aquarum uiuentium Dominum (Ier. 17, 13).
Nomina autem sanctorum Deus in quattuor locis scripsit, scilicet in palatio suo, ut numquam possit reprobari : Gaudete quia nomina uestra scripta sunt in celis (Luc. 10, 20) ; in libro suo, ut numquam possit falsificari : In libro tuo omnes scribentur (Psal. 138, 16) ; in manibus suis, ut numquam possint obliuioni tradi : In manibus meis descripsi te, etc. (Isai. 49, 16) ; in corde suo, ut numquam possint non amari : Epistola estis Christi, scripta non atramento, sed spiritu Dei uiui.

II.B : Secundo iusta definitio. (iustitia)
Secundo, in Christo fuit iusta definitio, cum ait : Qui sine peccato est uestrum, primus in illam lapidem mittat. In hoc, Christus seruauit rectitudinem sue iustitie, unde dicit Glossa : Si lex iubet puniri reos, non tamen similiter puniendos. Ecce plena iustitia, ut mala iustus puniat. Illi ergo uel ream dimittant, uel cum ea penam subeant. Seruauit etiam mansuetudinem misericordie sue, cum dixit : Nemo te condemnauit, mulier ? Nec ego te condemnabo (Ioan. 8, 10-11). Seruauit etiam ueritatem doctrine de qua dicitur : Misericordiam uolo et non sacrificium (Matth. 9, 13).

III : In muliere fuerunt
In muliere autem duo fuerunt.

III.A : a thori maritalis uiolatio. Tres cause quare debeat lapidari uxor que fornicatur magis quam uir. (mulier adultera, uxoris fornicatio)
Primo, tori maritalis uiolatio. Ideo adultera nuncupatur et ideo lapidanda erat. Quare autem debeat lapidari uxor que fornicatur magis quam uir, tres cause ponuntur. Primo, quia contra legem Dei fecit ; secundo, quia fidem suam non seruauit ; tertio, quia uiro suo heredes extraneos acquisiuit ; unde dicitur ibidem sic : Mulier omnis relinquens uirum suum et statuens hereditatem ex alieno matrimonio (Eccli. 23, 32). Primo etiam, in lege Altissimi incredibilis fuit ; secundo, uirum suum dereliquit ; tertio, in adulterio fornicata est et ex alieno uiro filios sibi statuit. Augustinus autem in Enchiridione aliter respondit et dicit quod mulier habet quattuor retrahentia a peccato fornicationis et uir tantum unum. Et ideo maiori pene est obnoxia que habet plura retrahentia. Primum est diligens custodia uiri. Uiri enim custodiunt uxores, et non uxores uiros : Si non ambulauerit mulier ad manum tuam, confundet te in conspectu inimicorum. Secundum est uerecundia et confusio mundi, quia maior est confusio mulieri, quando fornicatur, quam uiro si fornicatus fuerit : Putredo in ossibus eius, que confusione res dignas gerit (Prou. 12, 4). Tertium est terror legum. Lex enim diuina et humana iubet puniendam mulierem fornicariam et non uirum fornicarium. Unde hic dicitur : In lege autem, Moyses mandauit nobis huiusmodi lapidare. Quartum est timor Dei qui debet eam retrahere a peccato : Per timorem Domini declinat omnis a malo (Prou. 16, 6) et illud solum, sicut dicit Augustinus, uiros retrahit. Non enim timent uxoris custodiam, nec mundi uerecundiam, nec legum aliquam penam ; timent autem Dei offensam.

III.B : Dei magna desiratio contritionis gratia. Sed tria exempla necessariam satisfactionem ostendunt (satisfactio)
Secundo, in muliere fuit Dei magna miseratio, quod nullam sibi penitentiam iniunxit, sed tantum ei dixit : Uade et amplius noli peccare (Ioan. 8, 11). Uidit enim ipsam habere contritionem tantam que ad satisfactionem sufficiebat. Aliter enim, non sufficit quod quis peccata dimittat, nisi satisfaciat : sicut ostendit Gregorius in Regula Pastorali per tria exempla.

III.B.1 : quando quis litteris uel instrumentis falsum scripserit (falsa scripta)
Primum exemplum est quia, si quis litteris uel instrumentis falsum scripserit, non sufficit quod ulterius non scribat, nisi etiam quod male scriptum est deleat ; peccata autem nostra coram Deo scripta sunt : Peccatum Iude scriptum est stylo ferreo in ungue adamantino (Ier. 17, 1). Non igitur sufficit ut quis amplius non peccet nisi quod male fecerit per contritionem et lachrymas lauet. Talis enim scriptura non potest melius lauari quam per aquam lachrymarum : Lauabo per singulas noctes lectum meum, etc. (Psal. 6, 7).

III.B.2 : quando quis alicubi blasphemias dixerit (blasphemia)
Secundum exemplum est quod, si quis alicubi blasphemias dixerit, non sufficit quod ulterius non dicat, nisi de his que male dixit satisfaciat. Quando igitur quis peccat, tunc Deum blasphemat : Nomen Dei per uos blasphematur (Rom. 2, 24). Non ergo sufficit ut ab his peccator blasphemiis abstineat, nisi de his que fecerit coram Deo se reprehendat et penitentiam agat : Idcirco ipse me reprehendo et ago penitentiam in fauilla et cinere (Iob. 42, 6).

III.B.3 : quando quis debitor est (debitor, Pater noster)
Tertium exemplum est quia debitor non absoluitur a debitis que contraxit, pro eo quod alia non multiplicat, nisi ea que contraxerit persoluat. Quando autem peccamus, Dei debitores sumus. Ab his ergo peccatorum debitis absoluti non sumus pro eo quod alia peccata non multiplicabimus, nisi de his que contraximus Deo digne satisfaciamus. Ab istis debitis quotidie absolui petimus, cum in oratione dominica dicimus : Et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris (Matth. 6, 12).

Return to Index

Modern Footnotes

Notes courtesy of Nazaroo:

What we are apparently seeing here, is the removal of yet another early father from the list of fathers who supposedly don't know anything about John 7:53-8:11.

There may be other possibilities here, such as maybe the 13th century monk mixed up a name, or mis-remembered some fact.

But even if it were shown that the monk was actually quoting someone else other than Chrysostom, it would probably turn out to be a contemporary father to that commentator.

This would mean that it wouldn't really matter if the monk was wrong on the name. We would still have yet another early authority quoting John 8:1-11.

Until the reference is found and the circumstances sorted out however, Chrysostom can never be cited as credible 'silent witness' against the passage again. This use of Chrysostom must be suspended till further notice.

Return to Index