Review of: Bloomfield, Annotationis Sacrae, (1826) pp. 274-298
Last Updated: Feb 19, 2009
Prologue: - Introduction to Bloomfield
Exerpt: - Bloomfield on John 8:1-11: His Own Introduction
A. Internal Arguments (pro and con)
Section 1: The Actions of the Pharisees and Lawyers
Section 2: Was the Crime/Trial on the Sabbath?
Section 3: Was the Trap Real, or Lame?
Section 4: Does the Law say Stoning or Not?
Section 5: Did Jesus Hesitate, or act Timidly?
Section 6: Was Christ's Pronouncement Appropriate?
Section 7: Is it Plausible that all the Accusers Left?
Section 8: Could Jesus have been Left Alone?
Section 9: A Difference in Literary 'Style' of the Passage?
Section 10: Gospel seems to read smoothly without 7:53-8:11
B. External Arguments (pro and con)
Section 1: Passage not in the "Best" Manuscripts
Section 1b: Evidence of the Early Fathers
Section 2: Passage was omitted Deliberately
Section 3: Passage has many Variant Readings
Section 4: Summary and Conclusion
Samuel Thomas Bloomfield, (1790-1869), an eminent Greek scholar and Biblical commentator, published a valuable edition of the Greek Testament, more largely used than any other both in England and the United States.
(From: - Cyclopaedia of Biography, Bloomfield, S. T. )
Annotationis Sacrae, (London, C & J Rivington, 1826)
A Greek and English Lexicon to the NT, (London, 1840), ed. E.Robinson (1862), Critical Annotations: Additional and Supplementary to the NT (1860)
The narration of the Woman Taken in Adultery, which occupies ver. 1-11, has to many critics seemed spurious, or at least dubious. Others, on the contrary, have endeavoured to prove its genuineness by various arguments, which I will briefly but distinctly detail, not omitting to state those which have been urged in support of the contrary opinion.
Of those commentators who have impugned its authority are: Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, LeClerc, Wetstein, Semler, Shulz, Morus, Haenlein, Wegscheider, Paulus, Schmidt, Rosenm., and some others mentioned by Wolf and Koecher. Its genuineness has been strenuously defended by Mill, Whitby, Heumann, Michaelis, Storr, Langius, Detmers, and especially by Staudlin in an able Prolusio, or Dissertation, on this subject (Gotting. 1806). Those who think it supposititious, use arguments partly internal and partly external, the principal of which I will now bring forward, together with what has been urged in refutation of them.
A. Internal Arguments.
The story itself is little probable: for,
1. Behaviour of Pharisees and Lawyers
One does not see how the Pharisees and Lawyers, who had taken counsel to put Jesus to death, and had sent officers to apprehend him, could propose to him an interrogation so calculated to do him honour, as far as respected the Law, and thus constitute a private man judge of an adultress, whom it would have been proper to have brought to public trial and judgment.
When they at other times propose an interrogation to Jesus, either they support the character of Judges, (as in Matt.2:23) or they send their disciples; or only one proposes the question. See verse 35. (Paulus)
Answer: But those who interrogated Jesus were not Judges and Magistrates; at least, they are not prepresented as the chief Priests and Pharisees (as in 7:45) but Scribes and Pharisees, as in 8:3 and thus there is no necessity for supposing them to have been of the Sanhedrin.
They were rather (as it seems,) private persons, and came forward as the accusers and witnesses, to whom Jesus, at verse 7 says, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." which was principally the office of the witnesses. (See Deut. 13:10, 17:7, Josh 7:25.)
Nor did they intend to propose any question by which they might do him honour, but for the purpose of insult, and to tempt him, by making him judge of the adultress." (Staudlin)
2. Crime and Trial on Sabbath?
It seems to Semler and Oertelius improbable that the crime should have been committed at the end of the Festival, and that the Pharisees, who were so extremely observant of ceremony, shoud have instituted the process, or brought the woman into the court of the Temple at this time.
But (as Hezel and Staudlin have observed,) the very festivity and company, brought together, might afford opportunity to the crime. Besides, the affair was transacted on the day after the Feast of Tabernacles (see the note on 7:37.) on the day which followed the eighth and last day of the Feast.
But, even if 7:37 could be proved to refer to the seventh day of the Feast, and therefore, that the one on which the Pharisees brought the woman for trial were the eighth of the Feast, it would only follow that the Pharisees, in the accomplishment of their insidious designs against Jesus, neglected every other consideration. It appears, however, from Num. 15:34 that it was permitted by the Law to apprehend anyone on the Sabbath day.
3. Was the Trap Lame?
The interrogation (say they) proposed to Jesus, was by no means captious. Jesus had never objected to the Mosaic Law; he had only rejected the traditions of the Pharisees; nay, rather he had publicly declared that he came not to abrogate the Mosaic Law. (See Matt. 5:17 seq.)
He might therefore have answered, that he came not as a Teacher, in order to abrogate the Mosaic Law, but to establish it. If, therefore, he had approved of the Mosaic Law respecting the stoning of an adultress; if he had told them that an adultress, according to the Law of Moses, ought to suffer death, but that she must be brought to punishment, with the concurrence of the Roman Procurator (see the note on Matt. 26:66) there would have been nothing for Jesus to fear, either from the Romans, or from the Jews. (Le Clerc, Wetstein, Paulus).
To this objection various answers have been made. Let us suppose (says Staudlin, ) that we can by no means decide what there was of captiousness in the interrogation of the Pharisees, the truth of the story is not destroyed.
For it may be supposed that the craftiness of the question lies concealed in some circumstances unknown to us.
But it is not difficult to conjecture what was the design of the Pharisees. For we do not enquire whether Jesus was accustomed to censure the Mosaic Law, or whether only the traditions engrafted upon it: but the question turns upon this pivot, whether the Pharisees entertained the opinion that he would contradict the Mosaic Law.
They might expect that Jesus, who, according to their ideas, had violated that Law in a point which respected the observance of the Sabbath, and defiled himself by associateing with publicans and sinners, would perhaps, contradict the injunctions of Mosaic Law, in a point which respected the punishing of adultery with death.
It may, therefore, be said that the Pharisees looked for this, and that if Jesus had, contrary to their hope and expectation, approved of the Law, would have derided him as making himself equal with Moses, by pretending to confirm his law (Staudlin); who subjoins another and yet more probable mode of judging concerning this passage;
...namely, since stoning was not among the capital punishments of the Romans; whose sanction was requisite, would not have permitted that an adultress should be put to death by stoning; for this punishment was never inflicted with the assent and consent of the Procurator, but only, contrary to his intent, by the people and the Zealots (as in Acts 7:54) or without his knowledge.
(See Josephus, Antiquities 20:9. and Eusebius, Hist. Eccl 2:23, as also Grotius, Heuman in loc.).
The Jews however, understood (and rightly,) the Mosaic Law as authorizing the punishment by stoning now under our consideration, and therefore, not only the people, but the Sanhedrin sometimes made use of this priviledge of putting to death by stoning, as what was granted to them by God himself, through the medium of Moses.
Now if Jesus had confirmed the law, the Pharisees might have accused him to the Procurator of civil disobedience and sedition; or, if he had receded from the Law of Moses, have brought a charge against him to the people, and represented him as betraying their liberties.
These Pharisees were Probably Religious Zealots
Now, although I cannot assent to Staudlin, that the Roman Procurator never permitted the stoning of an adultress, or a blasphemer, by the Jews, since it is very probable, that in religious recriminations, they left the Jews a power of inflicting capital punishment, and therefore, stoning (see the note on Matt. 26:66. John 19:7.)...
... yet I willingly accede to the position which he lays down (from Gusset and Wetstein,) namely that the Pharisees here mentioned were Zelotae, i.e., private persons, who, without waiting for the sentence of the Judge, were accustomed to execute justice on persons detected in the act of committing any crime, in order, by so doing, to make an example of them. (See Num 25:6, and Schl. Lex. in v.)
If it be admitted that these were Zelotae, or rather persons who assumed the character of Zelotae, many difficulties will be removed.
Now if Jesus had denied that an adultress was to be punished, those men would have said, that by this impunity an indirect encouragement was afforded to sin, and that a zeal for religion and the Mosaic Law, was disapproved of by Jesus; that he was a favourer of adultery.
But if he had pronounced in the affirmative, he would have incurred the imputation of encouraging the violence and the crimes of the Zelote and seditious, wihch the Roman Governor (who acknowledged none of their pretentions,) endeavoured to suppress.
The question, therefore, proposed by these Pharisees, who assumed the character of Zelotae, was altogether a captious one.
Paulus, indeed, objects that it was not permitted to the Zelotae to punish any delinquents, except at the moment when the crime was committed, and, therefore, such could not have brought the woman to Christ., to ask his opinion of the punishment. But (as Staudlin observes, ) the question is not what was by law permitted, or forbidden to the Zelotae, but what was in fact done by them.
They probably did not always use their priviledge, nor always keep within the bounds permitted by law or custom. Those Zelotae who caught the woman in adultery, perhaps, did not choose to use their right, in order, thereby, to seek an occasion of entrapping Jesus.
Others, as Michaelis, Rosenm. Stolz, Eckerman, who do not take these persons for Zelotae, suppose that the Pharisees meant to accuse Jesus, either as a contemner of the Mosaic Law, if he had receded from its sentence, or, if he had approved of it, as harsh and unmerciful; nay, as promulgating decisions at variance with the opinions of the Jewish Doctors: for (say they,) many of those Doctors, in such a corrruption of morals, seem to have been of the opinion that adultery ought not to be punished with death. But this diversity of opinions respecting the punishment of one taken in the fact, cannot be established by any certain proofs.
4. Does the Law say Stoning or Not?
The Pharisees at verse 5 appeal to the Law of Moses, and maintain that it is there ordered, that the adultress shall be stoned with stones . But this law is not there found; for in Lev 20:10, Deut. 22:22 there is simply punishment of death ordered, but no particular kind is specified.
Now in such a case the Rabbins (as find from the Mischna, ) directed that strangulation was to be understood. And, as to Deut. 22:24, the punishment of stoning is denounced against an unfaithful spouse, or betrothed woman. But here, it is a wife taken in adultery. Therefore, these lawyers "have spoken what can be reconciled neither to the Mosaic Law, nor to the Rabbinical interpretation of it." (Wetstein, Semler, Morus, Paulus.)
But as Michaelis has satisfactorily proved in these passages of Lev. and Deut., by punishment of death is to be understood stoning. Thus also, in Exod. 31:14, 35:2 punishment of death is denounced against a violator of the Sabbath; but in Num. 15:32, 34 such an offender is related to have been stoned. (compare also Ezek. 16:38, 40.)
Nay, even if Moses, in those passages of Lev. & Deut. had not, by the punishment he ordered, meant stoning, yet later customs seem to have made it such. Besides, the authority of the Mischna is of little weight in points which regard Jewish manners and customs that prevailed before the destruction of Jerusalem.
Of far greater authority, as well as antiquity, is this story, which if it were admitted not to come from John, yet can be proved to have had a place in his Gospel long before the Mischna was formed.
Besides, (as Staudlin observes,) there is no reason why we should not, (with Selden, Lightfoot, Lampe, Heumann, &c.) suppose the woman here mentioned to have been an unfaithful spouse. Against such a one, the Mosaic Law denounced stoning; and γυνη 'woman' is used both of a wife and a sponsa, or even a puella. (See Schl.Lex and the note on Matt. 1:16. )
Thus, Philo, p. 608 calls this infidelity of the betrothed ειδος μοιχειας, a sort of adultery. Nor was that opinion peculiar to him; though others account it a kind of middle offence between fornication and adultery; her very silence admits this.
5. Did Jesus act Timidly?
Jesus, who at other times readily answered captious questions, now, although there was no danger, and the answer was in promptu, wrote with his finger, using an action which denotes hesitation, and a wish to take time for consideration. (Beza, Wetstein, Paulus).
To this it may be answered, that if Jesus had written anything which regarded them, they would not have urged him to answer to the proposed question; but would rather have raised a new debate on this writing, or have withdrawn.
Nor was it the writing, but the words of Christ, that put them to shame, so that they were glad to make an abrupt retreat.
We are, I think, bound to accede to the opinion of Euthymius, Maldonati, Erasmus, Schmid, Lampe, Rusius, Heumann, Moldenhauer, Kypke, & others, who maintain that Jesus traced no significant characters on the earth.
The circumstance is exactly paralleled by one in AElian, V. Hist. 14:19., who relates, that a certain Philosopher, who did not choose to answer to a question proposed to him, wrote on the wall, i.e., traced marks, or characters, as in AEn. 1, 478., versa pulvis inscribitur hasta.
γραφειν, too, very often signifies pingere, lineas ducere. It was too, a custom with the Jews, when any disagreeable matters were brought forward, to which they wished not to answer, either by affirmation or negation, to employ themselves in writing something, as if otherwise engaged. This has been proved and illustrated by Schoettgen, Hor. Heb., in loc.
Jesus therefore, (says Staudlin,) did not avoid the answer through timidity and hesitation, but by these words meant to signify that he had nothing to do with a civil cause; that he did not wish to act as Legislator or Judge, nor to magisterially decide between the Laws of the Jews, and those of the Romans. In this view, silence was the most emphatic and appropriate answer. Thus, Plutarch,
την σιωπην ο μεν Ευριπιδης φησι τοις σοφοις αποκρισιν ειναι. (p. 532, cited by Kypke,)
6. Was Christ's Pronouncement Appropriate?
The reply of Christ at verse 8:7:
ο αναμαρτητος υμων, πρωτος τον λιθον επ αυτη βαλετω. ,
"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.",
- seems little apt. For it is not necessary that Judge, or a witness, accuser, or prosecutor, be free from sin. It is enough that they can prove, on good grounds, the existance of the crime for which they prosecute the accused person. (Le Clerc, Westein, Semler, Paulus.)
But, it must be first remarked, that in the present passage, the words of Christ have respect to similar sin, namely of adultery and whoredom, not of freedom from sin in general. That αμαρτανειν is especially used of the sin in question, is well known. See the note on Luke 7:37, and also here in Jn 8:11: μηκετι αμαρτανε.. So also in Matt. 12:39 our Lord calls this very nation γυνη "a generation of adulterers".
"Ye adulterers and adultresses, knew ye not..." &c. 2nd Peter 2:14 - "..having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin." Mark 8:38 - "...in this adulterous and sinful generation." So Maimonid in Sotah cap. 3:
"From the time that adulteries were multiplied to a most shameful degree, in the time of the Second Temple, the Sanhedrim put an end to the ascertaining of adultery, by bitter waters."
Again, it is clear (observes Staudlin, ) that Christ (who did not make his answer to Magistrates, but to Zelotae and hypocrites, ) did not by these words mean to prescribe any rule to be observed in a court of justice, nor did he speak to the right and office of a legitimate Judge, or witness; but declined this as a thing with which he had nothing to do, and rather seized this occasion as a moral Teacher, of rebuking and correcting the Pharisees, and admonishing them of their own sins.
In this view we may appositely cite Cic. in Varr. 3:
'Vis corruptorem aliquem vel adulterum accusare? Providendum diligenter, ne in tua vita vestigium libidinis appareat. Etenim non est ferendus accusatoris, qui quod in altero vitium reprehendit, in eo ipsa deprehenditur.'
7. Is it Plausible that the Accusers Left?
Is it credible that all who had brought the adultress, especially the Pharisees of sanctimonius appearance, were adulterers, and that they departed through shame and consciousness of guilt; admitting, by their departure, that they were not blameless? (Le Clerc, Paulus).
But Christ's address was only meant for the witnesses, whose office it was (according to what was ordained by the Law,) to case the first stones. Moreover, in order to conviction, it was necessary that the person accused should have been detected in flagrant offence, by two witnesses at least. For that the Law of witnesses, in Deut. 19:15 (See Matt. 18:16) extended to women also, we learn from the Rabbinical writers (see Wagenseil ad Sota, p.31.) and, indeed, from the history of Susanna.
It is not, therefore, necessary to suppose that a great number of witnesses was present. Certain it is that morals were, then exceedingly corrupt, especially among the higher classes, and adulteries frequent.
Those witnesses, it seems, touched by conscious guilt, and fearing lest their hidden sins should be set forth by Jesus, (who they perceived was not ignorant of them,) prudently withdrew, amidst the hisses of the people; and, since they neither had the will nor the power to defend themselves, did not care to take the woman away with them.
The others also, who had accompanied these witnesses, readily followed them, full of shame and vexation at having had any participation in such an affair. Afterwards, however, they would probably pretend that they had departed only because they perceived that Jesus would not make any direct reply to the proposed question.
8. Could Jesus have been Left Alone?
It is not probable, considering the frequent resort to the Temple, of people attracted thither by novelty and curiosity, that Jesus would be (as we read in verse 8:7,) left alone with the woman. (Beza, Semler, &c. )
To this, it may be replied, that what we read in verse 9 is only meant of the woman's accusers, and that Jesus is only said to have been left alone in respect of these; nor is it thereby denied that others were present, as for instance, the disciples and hearers. That Jesus was not left quite alone is plain, since the woman is said to have been left standing, ('in the midst'), εν μεσω ('of the crowd'.) του λαου.
9. A Difference in Literary 'Style' of the Passage?
Those who regard the passage as spurious, appeal to the dissimilarity of the style. "For (they say,) that of St. John is particularly simple, whereas this is somewhat ornate."
But it is not easy to discover in what the ornament consists, or how it is greater than that of some other passages of the Gospel; as, for instance, the very preface, or introduction (John 1:1-18.).
10. Gospel seems to read smoothly without 7:53-8:11
"If this story be removed, Chapter 8:12 fwd will be connected [well] with 7:52 &c." (Wetstein)
But this is a very weak link in the chain of argument, and may easily be broken. See Staudlin, Kuinoel.
B. External Arguments.
1. Passage not in "Best" Manuscripts
The story is omitted in the best MSS. [Uncials:] A, B, C, L, E, S, [Cursives:] 24, 109, 161, 166 &c. and is noted with asterisks, or obelisks,; as 4, 8, 14 &c. Other MSS have it at the end of the Gospel [of John]. Others again, insert it after Jn 7:36. In one or two, it is read at the end of Luke ch. 21.
The story is indeed found in D, G, H, K, M, V, and other MSS more recent, and of less moment: (See Griesbach) but D, which is referred to the Western Rescension, has not unfrequently apocryphal additions: and the Uncial MSS [which include it] belong to the Constantinopolitan Rescension, and are corrupted with many modern readings. (Griesbach, Paulus.).
To this Staudlin replies, that the number of those MSS, which have the story, is far greater than those which omit it. A judgment must, however, be formed, not from the number only, but the weight and excellence of the MSS, and the consent of different Recensions.
The Manuscript Evidence
Codex Alexandrinus ('A')
Now, as far as regards the Uncial MSS, in which this portion is omitted, among them ought not to be reckoned the Alexandrian MS (Codex Alexandrinus, Cod. A), since it has lost two leaves, namely all that portion of the Gospel, from John 6:50 - 8:12.
Wetstein indeed, judging (as he says) from the number of lines, or words, which were probably contained in the two last leaves, compared with the average number contained in the rest, thence concludes that the verses were not there.
But the conclusion is uncertain; since no calculation (within so small a portion, ) can be made of what was certainly, or even probably contained in the four lost pages.
Codex Ephraemi ('C')
Even C is defective from John 7:3 - 8:34. Therefore, of those which omit it, none can safely be urged in testimony, except B (codex Vaticanus 1209, Cod. 'B') and L, excellent MSS indeed, belonging to the Alexandrian, or Eastern Rescension.
Codex Cantabrigensis ('D')
But the passage is found in D (codex Bezae, or Cantabrigensis, Cod. 'D' [& Latin side: abbrev. 'd' ]), the most ancient MS that has come down to us, and which Critics refer to as the Western Recension: though they do not deny that it contains many Alexandrian readings.
As to the apocryphal additions, occasionally found in this MS, they are very far shorter than this passage, and are usually mere glosses.
Even K and L are reckoned by Griesbach among those MSS in which Constantinopolitan readings prevail, though with the admixture of many Alexandrian or Western ones.
Here therefore, we have the consent of the Western and Constantinopolitan MSS, as also of those which contain many Alexandrian readings.
If anyone requires (says Staudlin) the express agreement of the Alexandrian Recension, I refer him to the ancient versions [translations] belonging to that recension, in which the passage is found; as for instance, the AEthiopic and Armenian, not to mention others, which have it in most [MSS], though not in all the MSS and editions.
But as to what may be concluded from ancient versions, considered alone, it leaves the authority doubtful, and does not enable us to determine the point either way.
Among the MSS which omit the passage, ought not simply to be reckoned those in which it is marked with an obelus [obelisk], which is only at most an indication of doubt (arising from variation in copies,) not of rejection.
Nor are those MSS which have it at the end of the Gospel to be numbered with those that wholly omit it; since the scribes do not deny that it belongs to the end of the seventh chapter, if it be genuine - a point on which they determine nothing.
Those MSS too which insert the story in another place (as for instance, at John 7:36) are to be referred to those who did find it in their Archetype, though at the end of the Gospel, and inserted it, though at the wrong place.
On this same principle, we may account for the insertions which are made at a wrong place, or repetitions of it, as in Codex Leicest..
As to those scribes who have left here an open space (whether large enough to contain it or not,) as in L, they thereby show that they know of it, and found it in some MSS, though they have rejected it.
Evidence of the Early Fathers
Here it is objected by some that, as to the testimony of the Fathers, who had the use of the most ancient MSS, many of them do not mention the passage, and some speak of it but doubtfully. Of the former class (say they,) are Origen, Apollinaris, Theodorus, Mopseutenus, Cyril, Chrysostom, Basil, Cosmas, Nonnus, Theophylact, Catenae Ed. and all the MSS, Tertullian, Cyprian, Juvenicus. Euthymius too, a commentator of the 11th century, remarks, that it is indeed read in the Received Text, but omitted in many MSS, and that its authority is suspected.
Answer: But (says Staudlin,) the passage is found in Tatian's Harmony of the Gospels ['the Diatessaron] , and Ammonius, T.2,p.2.3.
In the work called Constitutiones Apostolicae (formed by an Eastern Bishop of the 3rd cent.) mention is made of the story.
Ambrosius (Ambrose), Hieronymus (Jerome), Augustin (Augustine), too all notice it.
The early Greek Scholiasts also make mention of it , as existing in ancient copies. (See Wetstein).
Now, with what probability can it be shown that all the persons here mentioned used only such MSS, as had the text of the Evangelist corrupted with later additions? Of the Fathers who are said to omit the passage, those only can be taken into account who had in their writings any occasion or need to cite or explain it; for these alone can be thought to have been ignorant of it, or rejected it as spurious.
Therefore, Tertullian, Cyprian, Juvencus, Basil are not to be reckoned.
As to the Commentary of Origen on St John, it has come down to us in a very mutilated state; and in his Commentary is wanting not only what may have been written on this passage, buton the whole of the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters, as also chapter 8, as far as the 19th verse.
Nor does it follow from the silence of Chrysostom, that the story was not contained in the Antiochiancopies, for perhaps the pious orator did not think it advisable to expound the story to a people (as we find from his homilies,) prone to adultery. Besides, Chrysostom has also passed over many other parts of the Gospel of St. John.
Finally, Nonnus, in his metrical paraphrase, does indeed omit the passage; but he also omits other passages of the sacred text, whose authenticity is indubitable.
2. Passage was Omitted Deliberately
If this passage be genuine, it has been either accidentally or purposely omitted in so many copies. The first possibility is very improbable; as to the second, though we are told that the omission may be traced to a fear of encouraging vice, yet of that fear there are few vestiges in ancient writers. It is probably an insertion introduced from some Apocryphal gospel; as for instance, the Evangelium secundum Hebraeos [ the lost Gospel According to the Hebrews].
Answer: But (as Staudlin well observes,) reasons may easily be given why there should have been found some who threw out the story; but not one probable one why any should have introduced it.
They found there, it seems, many difficulties, to them almost inextricable, and fancied they saw something hardly reconcilable with the wisdom of Jesus. They, it seems, especially stumbled at this circumstance, namely that Jesus did not pass a severe condemnation on the adultress, or, at least, feared lest any, concluding from thence an impunity to the crime, should have been encouraged in its commission.
They therefore directed it not to be read to the congregations. Hence it would be omitted in the Lectionaria (Lectionaries), and finally in the MSS of the Gospel.
On the same principle the Fathers chose to pass it over in their homilies, which had led to a false suspicion that they had it not in their copies.
That it was omitted for these reasons is plain from Ambrosius's Second Apology for David, Opp. T. 4. p. 395. ed. Erasmus, and Augustin Against Faustus, 22:25, in a treatese on Adulterous Marriages, 2:6,7.
That the Armenians, as we learn from Nico (Nicos), did not think proper to have the passage read in the congregations, lest it might have a dangerous tendency, and therefore rejected it, has been before remarked.
Those who contend that the passage was foisted in from the Evangelium secundum Hebraeos, or some other unknown and Apocryphal gospel, ought to account for its being inserted in this place of the Gospel, in which it is found in most MSS. This however, they cannot do.
3. Passage has Many Variant Readings
The great variety of readings is a strong argument against the authenticity of the passage. (Beza, Semler, Morus, Paulus.)
But none of the various readings have made any alterations in the story itself, to render it more credible. Those who maintain that it is spurious can no more account for the variety of readings than those who defend its authenticity.
Schmidt, in his Einleit. in d. NT Th. 1. p.159 fwd. endeavours to account for this by saying that the story was originally written in Hebrew, and belonged to the Evangelium secundum Hebraeos, and that the various readings are nothing more than various Greek translations of this Hebrew story.
But the greater part of the various readings cannot be derived from that source [cause]. Nothing certain however, can be determined on this point. One thing only is certain, namely that the number of various readings does not prove that the story is supposititious. (Staudlin).
4. Summary and Conclusion
The story therefore, of the adulterous woman, though it is brief and concise, and our Evangelist seems to have here (as elsewhere) omitted some circumstances, which if added, would have thrown greater light on it; yet since it contains nothing improbable or incongruous, since the difficulties met with in it are not inextricable, since its omission in many MSS may be accounted for on good grounds, and since it is found in ancient MSS of various recensions; I can by no means assent to those who are of opinion that this portion is not genuine.
"I am inclined to agree with Staudlin, the able defender of this passage, who maintains that this portion may be defended with arguments far stronger and more numerous than can ever be impugned." (Kuinoel).
The Editor has much pleasure in laying before his readers the above able and (as he thinks) convincing defence of this narration by the learned Staudlin and Kuinoel: though indeed , for much of the matter they themselves are indebted to an elaborate Dissertation by the erudite and indefatigable Lampe, from which (especially as the present annotation has extended to such an unusual length) it is the less necessary for the Editor to adduce anything; and he must be content to refer his readers to that Dissertation, as well as to Selden Ux. Heb. 3:11. Icherg. diss.9. de historia adulterae, sect. 1 p. 3.fwd. Fabricous Codice Apocr. NT tom 2. p. 356. fwd, Simon, in his Histoir. Crit. and the excellent remarks of Dr. Whitby, Mill, and Bp. Pearce.
The reader who has well weighed the arguments adduced, will know how to appreciate the dogmatical decision of Dr. Campbell (unaccompanied as it is, with proofs) that, "there are some strong internal presumptions, as well as external, against the authenticity of the passage".
Now those presumptions, with the most able management on the part of Beza, Wetstein, Semler, Le Clerc, Paulus &c, are manifestly weak,when compared with the arguments for the authenticity of the passage, which bears as much of the stamp and impress of the truth, as any other in Scripture.
Our Saviour's answer (which is extremely parallel with that on the payment of tribute money,) carries with it a wisdom scarcely exceeded by any which he displayed on any other occasion, and such as would be in vain sought for in the answers returned by the wisest Philosophers in similiar circumstances, as recorded by Xenophon, Diog., Laertius, or others.
Indeed, I do not hesitate to maintain, that even if it could be proved that the narrative did not come from the pen of the Evangelist, still the reality of the facts might be supported from the high antiquity of the story, and its strong internal proofs.
The reality of the facts (in the story) seems admitted by Grotius, Rosenm. and perhaps Beza. Grotius says:
"It seems to have been originally written, neither by Matthew in his Hebrew Gospel, nor by John in his Greek; but because these, and the other Apostles, had frequently related this story viva voce (orally), it was subjoined by the Nazarenes of Palestine to this Hebrew Gospel, was subjoined by Papias and the Disciples of John to that Evangelist's Greek Gospel, and approved by the Church, so that it may be proved, by certain testimony, to have come from the Apostles."
Calvin too, though he is said to have rejected the passage, admits that in the story there seems to be nothing unworthy of the Apostolic Spirit. The principle cause of the omission was, doubtless first the unreasonable exception taken against it by the ignorant, and (as Doddridge observes,) a mistaken apprehension that some circumstances inthe story were indecent, and an excessive rigour with respect to those who had fallen into this truly detestable crime.
Hence, we may account for its having been passed by in the Ecclesiastical readings, for its omission inthe Lectionaria, and consequently the MSS of the whole Gospel. Dr. Doddridge assents to the reasonings of those who defend the authenticity of the passage. He declines any critical examination of the general question: but his observations of some particular expressions as they occur, are written with his usual good sense, sound judgment, and pious feeling.
Lampe animadverts on the inconsistency of Beza, in disputing the genuineness of the passage, and then commenting upon in such terms as suppose its Divine inspiration: which appears especially from some remarks in the unpublished Commentary inserted in the annotations of Lampe. Lampe says,
"This proves that he was not very positive in his opinion. But with deference to the learned Commentator, may we not suppose, in vindication of this venerable Theologian, that as these manuscript remarks were evidently written long after the publication of his New Testament, he had probably seen reason, late in life, to abandon his earlier opinions on the genuineness of this narrative; and either was persuaded of the authenticity of the passage, or adopted an opinion similar to that of Grotius, which supposes the narrative to be substantially true?"