Patristic Evidence

Euthymius on John 8:1-11
(12th cent.)

Review of: Euthymius Zigabenus, 12th cent. monk, Order of St. Basil

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Last Updated: Feb 15, 2009

Prologue: - Introduction to Euthymius

Review: Euthymius on John 8:1-11
   Scrivener on Euthymius
   Hort on Euthymius
   Davidson on Euthymius

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Euthymius Zigabenus (or Zigadenus) was a learned and able Greek monk of the order of St. Basil in the convent of the Virgin Mary near Constantinople, and enjoyed the marked favor of the emperor Alexius Comnenus (1081–1118) and his wife Anna.1

Being requested by Alexius to refute the Bogomiles, who had become alarmingly numerous, he was led to prepare an extensive work upon heresy, entitled The Panoply. 2

Among the heretics he included the Pantheists, Jews, the Pope and the Latins. His materials were the decisions of the Councils and the Greek Fathers and other writers, including some otherwise unknown.3

In this important work and in separate treatises 4 he imparts much valuable historical information respecting the Bogomiles, Massalians, Armenians, Paulicians, and even about the Jews and Mohammedans, although it is evident that he was not well informed about the last, and was much prejudiced against them.

Like other Greeks, he finds the latter heretical upon the procession of the Holy Spirit and upon the bread of the Eucharist.

Besides the Panoply, Euthymius wrote commentaries upon the Psalms, 5 much dependent upon Chrysostom, and on the Gospels, 6 more independent and exhibiting exegetical tact which in the judgment of some puts him next to Theophylact.

Original Footnotes:

1. In her Alexiad (XV. 490, Migne, CXXXI. col. 1176) she extols his learning and piety.

2. Migne, CXXX.

3. Migne gives the sources.

4. Contra Massalianos; Contra Bogomilos; Disputatio de fide cum philosopho Saraceno; Dialogus Christiani cum Ismaelica (all in Migne, CXXXI. col. 4048; 48-57; 20-37; 37-40).

5. Migne, CXXVIII. col. 41-end.

6. Migne, CXXIX. col. 107-end.


I. Euthymius Zigabenus: Opera omnia, in Migne, Patrol. Gr., Tom, CXXVIII.-CXXXI.

II. See the Prolegomena in Migne. Ceillier, XIV. 150–155.

From: History of the Christian Church,
Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.

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on John 8:1-11

Scrivener on Euthymius

F. H. A. Scrivener is one of the first to note the testimony of Euthymius, although he is brief and slightly misleading:

"Of the fathers, Euthymius [12th cent.], the first among the Greeks to mention the paragraph in its proper place, declares that
παρα τοις ακριβεσιν αντιγραφοις η ουξ ευρηται η ωβελισται διο φαινονται παρεγγραπτα και προσθηκη.

- F.H.A. Scrivener, Plain Introduction (1894) pg 364-368

The fault with this remark is twofold:

(1) On the one hand, many early fathers plainly viewed John 8:1-11 as Holy Scripture and part of the canon, some even naming John's Gospel as the source (see for instance, Ambrose - 4th cent., and Augustine - 5th cent.). Although they don't mention the exact location of the story, there can be little doubt that its normal placement was between John 7:52 and John 8:12. Jerome (c.384 A.D.) for instance finds it there in "many ancient copies, both Greek and Latin". (see Contra Pelagius, Book II, Section 17 for instance.)

(2) The distinction between "Greek fathers" and "Latin fathers", as though they worked and lived in isolation and used different 'Bibles' is absurd. The churches worked independantly but were in free contact even during periods when the Emperors had divided up the empire into "East" and "West". Many Latin fathers knew Greek fluently and studied in the Eastern Byzantine (Greek) part of the empire, including Jerome and Ambrose.

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F.J.A. Hort on Euthymius

Ironically, Hort is more informative than Scrivener on this medieval father:

"Euthymius Zygadenus (Cent. XII) comments on the Section [Jn 8:1-11] as 'not destitute of use'; but in an apologetic tone, stating that "the accurate copies" either omit or obelise it, and that it appears to be an interpolation (παρεγγραπτα και προσθηκη), as is shown by the absence of any notice of it by Chrys[ostom].

- F.J.A. Hort , Introduction (1896) pg 83

Hort now wishes us to take the word of this unknown 12th century monk seriously, against all earlier evidence. Imagine if one were to try this against his beloved Codex Vaticanus. But Hort has here shot himself in the foot. For this Euthymius completely discredits himself as any kind of 'expert':

Euthymius says that the absence of any notice of the passage in Chrysostom's commentaries is evidence of its interpolation. Yet the proposition is absurd on two counts:

(1) Chrysostom wrote after the passage was known to exist in both the Greek and Latin streams of transmission, in its proper place.

(2) Chrysostom only commented on the passages which were commonly read in public during the Lectionary services.

Although Hort passes over Euthymius without comment, this is hardly adequate. Not only is he a late witness, but Euthymius completely undermines his own credibility while speaking. For the absence of notice of the passage in Chrysostom (early 5th century) cannot have any bearing on the authenticity of the passage. If it was added, this must have occurred long before Chrysostom. Euthymius' evaluation of Chrysostom is offbase. The passage cannot have been 'interpolated' after Chrysostom's time!

For what its worth however, Euthymius thinks the passage "has value", and does not emphatically state that even he himself thinks its really an interpolation. He is only willing to say it appears to be one. But his lack of knowledge concerning this issue should not surprise us any more than his lack of knowledge concerning Chrysostom and his writings.

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Samuel Davidson (1848) on Euthymius

Davidson rides the fence strangely, citing Euthymius ambiguously in his lists of textual evidence both for and against the verses:

"It [the Pericope de Adultera] is also quoted by Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Sedulius, Leo, Chrysologus, Cassiodorus, the author of the Synopsis Sacrae Scripturae, and by Euthymius as "an addition to the Gospel not without use".

- S. Davidson, Introduction to the NT (1848), p.356-7

The reference to Euthymius here exposes the problem facing all overly simple schemes for categorizing evidence. Much of the evidence cannot fit neatly into either a 'for', or 'against' authenticity category, nor is it easily weighted for its significance.

Since Euthymius doesn't unambiguously belong in either category, Davidson places him in both. But not only is Euthymius ambiguous (see the 2nd half of his quote under 'against'), his evidence has little credibility, since he is talking through his hat in the 12th century A.D.

Davidson himself discredits any significance attached to Chrysostom's lack of comment on John 8:1-11. In discussing Matthaei's arguments, Davidson says:

"In regard to Chrysostom, Matthaei has laboured to account for his silence on the suppostion of his acquaintance with the paragraph; but his arguments are overthrown by Lucke. Whatever may be said in favour of the pious orator thinking it unadvisable to expound the story before a voluptuous people, he was not so timid as Matthaei represents him.

The paragraph must have been read before the people, both before and after Chrysostom's time. It is found in many evangelistaria [copies of the NT]; and we know that it was publicly read on certain festivals."

- S. Davidson, Introduction to the NT (1848), p.356-7

Davidson doesn't seem to notice that his observations regarding the usage of the passage overthrow Euthymius's testimony regarding Chrysostom as well.

But Hort must have been well aware of the ramafications of Davidson's observations. Although he avoided the question of the credibility of Euthymius, Hort also had to acknowledge the early popularity of the Pericope de Adultera:

"But the Section was doubtless widely read in the Latin Gospels of the 4th century, being present even in e, as also in b, d, ff, j, the vulgate and the Latin MSS referred to by Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome."

- F.J.A. Hort , Introduction (1896) pg 85
(Note: Latin MSS are usually given in italics)

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Ironically, we may remark that Euthymius "is not without use", for establishing church practices and typical attitudes in the later Medieval period (6th -12th cent.). The Far Eastern Bible College gives us a more useful and readable quote from Euthymius:

Euthymius Zigabenus, monk of Constantinople, writing in the 12th century, has good observation on the above situation: “Jesus stooped down and with His finger was writing on the ground, as they are often wont to do who are unwilling to answer inopportune and unworthy questions.”

- FEBC Weekly Vol. II No. 7, Nov 14 2004

And from this we may conclude that the passage was widely used and viewed as Holy Scripture and a part of John's gospel, although not surprisingly, many people like Euthymius were only vaguely aware of its interesting history and the details of its transmission.

It is only from the earlier fathers that we can turn to get accurate information on the state of the manuscripts and the history of transmission of the Pericope de Adultera in early times.

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