Exerpted from: William Barclay, John,
Note on the Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery
(Edinburgh 1956, Rev.1975)
Last Updated: Feb 19, 2009
Barclay's original (1956) notes may have been longer. These are taken from the 1975 revision of Barclay's commentary. Commenting on the quality of the editing of Barclay's original work, Michael Morrow had this to offer on Amazon Online:
Barclay an excellent commentator - but beware of this edition!
"This edition, with minor changes and corrections, is essentially the same as the revised edition issued in 1975. What this and the previous revised edition fail to inform the reader of is that it does not contain all of the commentary text written by William Barclay. The two volumes of the revised edition of the Gospel of John contain 547 pages. However, the 2nd edition of the two volumes of the Gospel of John (published in 1956) contains 634 pages. Thus, the revised edition has 13.7% fewer pages than the 2nd edition.
This reduction in pages is not solely due to differences in formatting. It is largely due to the deletion of many portions of Barclay's commentary contained in the 2nd edition.
I first noticed the selective deletion of portions of Barclay's original commentary in the commentary for John 13:33-35, in which Jesus speaks of loving one another as he loved us. In the 2nd edition, Barclay so beautifully states the following: "He [Jesus] knew all their [his disciples] weaknesses and yet He still loved them. Those who really love us are the people who know us at our worst and who still love us." However, these two sentences, along with four other sentences, do not appear in the revised edition, and they do not appear in this edition. Repeatedly, key sentences and phrases are deleted from this edition. At another point in this commentary, Barclay states that: "It is when we live with people that we find out their moods and their irritabilities and their weaknesses." Although this sentence is contained in this edition, the sentence that immediately follows it in the 2nd edition will not be found in this edition. That sentence is: "And others have the same experience with us."
Furthermore, the changes in the revised edition are not the work of William Barclay, but as William Barclay states in the introduction to the revised edition, "the work of revision and correction has been done entirely by the Rev. James Martin."
Clive Rawlins, who wrote an authorized biography of William Barclay, stated in the biography that it was especially questionable for Barclay to allow republication without his own personal revision (due to Barclay's physical decline, Rawlins indicates that Barclay was unable to make the revisions himself).
Rawlins was very critical of the revisions by Martin, stating that the nature of the original work was not always respected. At one point, Rawlins stated that Martin's elimination of two key phrases was a great pity and lessened the force of Barclay's statement. In the introduction to the book of Romans, Rawlins stated that it was strange that Martin should have so completely missed Barclay's emphasis in the revised edition prepared by Martin. Rawlins stated in the biography that the reduction of approximately 600 pages in the 17 volume set was because of "vigorous pruning" of Barclay's writing.
In conclusion, Rawlins found that the revisions made by Martin in the revised edition "are not of the highest order."
Michael C. Morrow, Review, Amazon Online Books Aug 12 2002
Appendix to Commentary
NOTE ON THE STORY OF
THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY
(Commentary on John, Appendix, pg 290-292)
To many this is one of the loveliest and most precious stories in the gospels; and yet it has great difficulties attaching to it.
The older the manuscripts [MSS. plural MS. singular] of the New Testament (NT) are, the more valuable they are. They were all copied by hand, and obviously the nearer they are to the original writing the more likely they are to be correct. 1
We call these very early manuscripts the Uncial manuscripts (MSS), because they are written in capital letters; and we base the text of the NT on the earliest ones, which date from the 4th to the 6th century (A.D.). 2
The fact is that out of all these early MSS this story occurs in only one, and that is not one of the best. Six of them omit it entirely. Two leave a blank space where it should come. 3
It is not till we come to the late Greek MSS and the medieval MSS that we find this story, and even then it is often marked to show that it is doubtful. 4
Another source of our knowledge of the text of the NT is what are called the "versions"; that is, the (early) translations into languages other than Greek. This story is not included in the early Syriac version, nor in the Coptic or Egyptian version, nor in some of the early Latin versions. 5
Again, none of the early fathers seems to know anything about it. Certainly they never mention it or comment on it. Origen, Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril of Alexandria on the Greek side do not mention it. 6
The first Greek commentator to remark on it is Euthymius Zigabenus whose date is 1118 A.D., and even he says that it is not in the best manuscripts. 7
Where, then, did this incident come from? Jerome certainly knew it in the 4th century, for he included it in the Vulgate (Latin NT, c. 390 A.D.). We know that Augustine and Ambrose both knew it, for they comment on it. We know that it is in all the later MSS. 8
It is to be noted that its position varies a great deal. In some MSS it is put at the end of the Fourth Gospel (John); and in some it is inserted after Luke 21:38. 9
But we can trace even further back. It is quoted in a 3rd century book called the Apostolic Constitutions, where it is given as a warning to bishops who are too strict. 10
Eusebius, the church historian (c. 320 A.D.), says that Papias tells a story "of a woman who was accused of many sins before the Lord (Jesus)", and Papias lived not very long after 100 A.D. 11
Here, then are the facts. This story can be traced as far back as very early in the 2nd century (A.D.). When Jerome produced the Vulgate, he, without question, included it. The later MSS and the medieval MSS all have it. And yet none of the "great manuscripts" includes it. 12 None of the Greek fathers of the Church ever mentions it. 13 But some of the great Latin fathers did know it, and speak of it.
What is the explanation? We need not be afraid that we shall have to let this lovely story go; for it is guarantee enough of its genuineness that we can trace it back to almost 100 A.D. But we do need some explanation of the fact that none of the great MSS includes it.
Moffat (1913), Weymouth (1903, 5th ed. 1929), and Rieu (NT, 1952, 1958) print it in brackets; and the Revised Standard Version (RSV, 1946; rev. 1962, 2nd ed. 1971) prints it in small type at the foot of the page. 14
The Cause of the Omission
Augustine gives us a hint. He says that this story was removed from the text of the gospel because "some were of slight faith," and "to avoid scandal". We cannot tell for certain, but it would seem that in the very early days the people who edited the text of the NT thought that this was a dangerous story, a justification for a light view of adultery, and therefore omitted it. 15
After all, the Christian Church was a little island in a sea of Paganism. Its members were so apt to relapse into a way of life where chastity was unknown; and were forever open to pagan infection. But as time went on the danger grew less, or was less feared, and the story, which had always circulated by word of mouth and which one manuscript retained, came back.
It is not likely that it is now in the place where it ought to be. It was probably inserted here to illustrate Jesus' saying in John 8:15: "I judge no man." 16
In spite of the doubt that the modern translations cast on it, and in spite of the fact that the early MSS do not include it, we may be sure that this is a real story about Jesus, although one so gracious that for long men were afraid to tell it.
- William Barclay, The Gospel of John (1956, rev. 1975) pg 290-292
Footnotes courtesy of Nazaroo:
1. The idea that the "earliest manuscripts are the best", is an attractive but naive premise.
The problem has several important aspects which make such a generalization worthless:
(1) Most of the "oldest" manuscripts aren't old enough for their age to be a significant guide to the quality of their text. The majority of early manuscripts are from the 4th to the 9th centuries. They come fully 300-800 years later than, and many generations of copies away from, the original writings. There are only two ancient papyri copies of John from the mid 2nd century (P 66, P 75), and these themselves appear to have been edited and prepared for public reading, and are not 'primitive' copies of John.
(2) The Quality of manuscripts varied widely in every age. Even the oldest copies and fragments of the NT show significant variations and the activity of editors and 'correctors'. Many of the most important variants appear to be deliberate alterations, not accidental errors. Thus age is no indicator of the quality of the text in a manuscript.
(3) We only have a handful of MSS from most of the early centuries. By their own diversity of readings and divergences from the text of contemporary witnesses such as early fathers and translations, it is obvious that these are not adequate or representative samples of the text(s) for these periods.
(4) It is impossible to reconstruct the text(s) available in the early period. This should be obvious, but it needs to be said. There may have been many diverse versions of various books and letters that are long lost, yet were integral in the transmission of the text.
To actually look at the available evidence, view our webpage on the ancient manuscripts here:
The Top Ten Early MSS for John 8:1-11 <-- Click here.
2. "...we base the text on the earliest MSS..."
Who is "we"? Barclay originally referred to textual scholars of the 1920s -1950s. This actually turned out to be an unfortunate "prophecy". A whole slew of "modern versions" (popular English translations) were published in the mid 20th century, most of which were in fact a combination of a mutilated "critical" Greek text based on half-baked textual theories, and inconsistent, subjective translation practice.
The "we" quickly evolved to modern liberals, secular humanists, and agnostics with a political interest in debunking and rejecting the "Bible". The NT text was treated the same as other classical literature (fiction) in university settings.
Meanwhile, many traditional Christians were shocked at the cavalier and unstable handling of the NT, and stubbornly clung to traditional translations like the King James Bible (KJV). It was painfully apparent that no one was capable of reproducing the power and elegance of that highly venerated text.
Part of the power and glory of the traditional text was its adherence to the Greek and Latin text used by Christians (Catholic and Protestant) for nearly 2000 years.
The 'critical' Greek text that scholars cobbled together out of discarded variant readings was an embarrassingly inferior product, and unable to compete with the lucid and coherent, self-consistent text found in the majority of manuscripts, the bible already popular among Christians of all stripes.
Bible versions which conform to the traditional text, such as the New King James version (NKJV) and the modern Latin Vulgate continue to be popular among Christians today, in spite of massive hype pushing the "modern" versions of the 20th century, like the New American Standard (NASV) and the New Revised Standard (NRSV) or the New International Version (NIV). These themselves have been revised and re-issued, often returning to traditional readings conforming more closely to the traditional text.
3. This has the appearance of a meaningful statement, but on close examination is useless, even as a summary of the "evidence".
Its important to know just what manuscripts we are talking about, because they must be appraised individually, especially since by Barclay's own account they don't agree among themselves!
In fact, Barclay's list includes some very late manuscripts, of little use for establishing the early text. A more detailed summary of these manuscripts shows a more complex and ambiguous picture than his simple list of claimed omissions would suggest:
Early Manuscripts relevant to John 7:53-8:11
|- blue = mss contains passage with no reservations.|
|- green = mss contains passage but with complications.|
|- yellow = seems to omit but key evidence is missing.|
|- orange = mss omits but shows awareness of it.|
|- red = mss omits passage with no acknowledgement.|
|................ Early Period: 2nd - 3rd centuries|
|P66||150 A.D.||marks the omission with space and dot.|
|P75||200 A.D.||omits but point in text is badly damaged (erasure?).|
|P45||225 A.D.||portions missing from Jn 5:24 to 10:6|
|For this early period, the only surviving MSS come from a few sites in central Egypt, where the extreme dryness has preserved them. So they don't offer a wide sample that could represent the state of the text everywhere in the Roman world for this era.|
|................ Time of Constantine: 4th century|
|340 A.D.||marks omission with space and dot.|
|B||340 A.D.||marks omission with umlaut in margin.|
|From the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) to Chalcedon (451) is called the Golden Age. The new peace enabled Christian literature to blossom. The number of NT MSS written in the 4th century was probably between 1500 -2000 at least. Ironically, only 2 copies of John survive, and these more likely reflect the editorial opinion of their sponsors than the true state of the text.|
|................ Byzantine Empire Period: 5th century|
|A||5th cent.||portions missing from 6:50 to 8:52 probably omits|
|C||5th cent.||portions missing from 7:3 to 8:54 probably omits|
|D||5th cent.||has it in Greek and Latin side: no marks|
|T||5th cent.||Greek/Sahidic Text: omits passage in both.|
|W||5th cent.||'Alexandrian' Text in John: omits passage.|
|Although this handful of MSS reflects the diversity of witnesses for this period, they cannot be taken as representative of the relative number of MSS omitting or containing the verses. The sample size is hardly adequate.|
|................ 6th - 7th centuries|
|N||6th cent.||omits passage.|
|070||6th cent.||portions missing|
|Few MSS of John have survived from 6th century, and apparently none from the 7th century. Its possible however, that some MSS of the 8th and 9th have been dated too late. These two MSS shouldn't be taken as representative of the mass of MSS which must have existed in this period.|
|................ 8th - 9th centuries|
|E||8th cent.||has passage|
|0233||8th cent.||palimpsest: has passage but now unreadable.|
|047||8th cent.||has vs 8:3-11 but omits 7:53-8:2|
|F||9th cent.||missing 7:28-8:10a but had passage|
|G||9th cent.||has passage|
|H||9th cent.||has passage|
|K||9th cent.||has passage|
|L||9th cent.||marks the omission with a space|
|M||9th cent.||has passage|
|U||9th cent.||has passage|
|V||9th cent.||has passage|
|Y||9th cent.||omits passage.|
|9th cent.||missing pages from 8:6 - 8:44 but had passage.|
|9th cent.||has passage|
|9th cent.||has passage|
|9th cent.||marks the omission with a space|
|9th cent.||omits passage.|
|0211||9th cent.||omits passage.|
|565||9th cent.||has passage|
|892||9th cent.||miniscule mss has passage|
|1424||9th cent.||puts passage in margin with obeli.|
|Over 70% of relevant MSS from 8th / 9th centuries have passage.|
4. This claim is based largely on a widespread misunderstanding of what the marginal marks in most manuscripts actually mean. The majority of so-called "marked" manuscripts are simply texts prepared for public reading or church services, and so have marked the section in question as a "Lection" or Lesson to be read on specific days of the year. See our article on marginal markings here:
5. Again, Barclay's oversimplification, while common, is inaccurate and misleading. One of the main problems that cause a mis-assessment of the version evidence, is the failure to recognize what the early versions were made for and made from.
Typically, these early translations were practical, straight translations from the early Lectionary worship texts. That is, the translations were made from texts already prepared for church service. They naturally leave out sections and even whole books that were not used for public reading during the service.
John 7:53-8:11 was one just such passage: it was skipped over during the Pentecost reading of John, which included the preceding section (John 7) and continued from 8:12 forward, leaving out the disruptive incident in the historical account of Jesus' teaching at the Feast.
Possibly later, the neglected portion of John came to be read on obscure feast days at a different time of year (October).
This accounts for the lack of the passage in early (pre-5th century) translations of the Gospels into other languages. At the same time, other passages in these translations also reflect Lectionary and Church Service usage, rather than the historical text. The early Christians very quickly organized their church services around the 'synagogue' model, choosing a reading from the Law, the Prophets, and the New Testament in many services.
6. Another set of misleading inaccuracies surround the evidence of the early fathers.
In fact, Origen's commentary on John is missing for the passage in question, and so we cannot know for certain what Origen said at this point. The behavior of textual critics concerning Origen's evidence is an embarrassment. See for instance Tregelles' obscurantism regarding Origen here:
Tregelles on John 8:1-11 <-- Click Here.
The only reason anything at all is known about "Theodore of Mopsuestia" is from an anonymous marginal note written late in the 12th century. The accuracy of the note cannot be tested, or even traced.
Chrysostom's commentary only covered what was read publicly during services, and in any case he is too late a witness as to what transpired in the early centuries. He does not comment on the state of the text. Likewise, Cyril of Alexandria operated in the early 400s and long after the critical period in which the passage was omitted or inserted. (250 - 350 A.D.).
See below for other earlier Greek evidence from Didymus (350-400 A.D.).
7. The note from "Euthymius" is another problematic piece of late evidence, which aside from being late (12th century) cannot be tested for authenticity, and the opinion of this marginal note-writer must be set at near-worthless. Even F. J. A. Hort had no time for it.
Yet even this piece of lore about "Greek commentators" is wholly false, and has been known to be false since 1945, when the commentaries of Didymus the Blind (350-390 A.D.) were rediscovered. Didymus quotes (or at least paraphrases) the passage (John 8:1-11) extensively in passing in his commentary on Ecclesiastes. Didymus probably wrote his commentary in his mid-life period, circa 370-380 A.D.
Thus, the earliest "Greek commentator" to quote John 8:1-11 comes from the mid 4th century, and his testimony is actually earlier than Jerome, and contemporary with Ambrose, the earliest well-known Latin father to comment on the verses.
8. Once again Barclay (or his editor) have inserted a sloppy inaccuracy instead of useful information. Naturally, some manuscripts (even late ones) omit or earmark the verses, or portions of them, and/or insert them somewhere else (like near the end of John or in Luke).
However, the jist of it is close enough. An overwhelming majority of manuscripts from the 8th century onward contain the verses with no sign of doubt or distain.
9. Here again, the reader is given too little information. All the manuscripts which insert the passage at the end of John (Family 1), or into Luke (Family 13) are late 12th century manuscripts, whose archetypes cannot be extrapolated earlier than the 9th century. These are all late attempts to shuffle or hide the verses in a small number of manuscripts, which are all rather suspiciously closely related.
10. The Apostolic Constitutions can be traced back to even earlier documents. See our article on them here:
Apostolic Constitutions & John 8:1-11 <-- Click Here.
11. The quote from Eusebius is controversial for several reasons. Scholars are divided both on the accuracy and honesty of Eusebius, and also on the interpretation of his reference to Papias.
The fact is, Papias through the hostile lens of Eusebius is ambiguous. He could be referring to John 8:1-11, and/or Luke 7:35-50.
On the other hand, Eusebius may be deliberately obscuring Papias' reference, because he himself is hostile to the passage. The two manuscripts which are closely associated with Eusebius and Constantine both omit the verses (Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus).
Emperor Constantine was also likely hostile to the verses, after having killed his own son for an allegation of adultery and conspiracy, and having boiled his own queen to death for her alleged part in framing his son, which apparently came to light through adultery.
All these factors make the details of Eusebius' testimony suspicious and difficult to evaluate.
12. Here the author contradicts himself by his own inaccuracy again. He just finished conceding that at least one early Uncial manuscript (Codex Bezae, 5th cent.) does have the verses, in both Greek and Latin.
13. Again, at least one Greek father, Didymus the Blind (350-380 A.D.) does quote the verses extensively.
But perhaps even more artificial is the distinction between "Latin" and "Greek" fathers. All the early fathers of this period were in contact and had free travel throughout the empire. Jerome for instance, went to the Eastern capital Constantinople specifically to study the Greek manuscripts (c. 380 A.D.) and found the verses (John 8:1-11) "in many copies both Greek and Latin".
Many early fathers were fluent or at least competent in both Greek and Latin, and were well acquainted with the textual traditions and popular texts and recensions, as well as textual variants and problematic readings. The Latin and Greek churches were not in serious conflict or competition until after the time of Constantine.
14. Here Barclay (or his editor?) refers to a few novel 'modern versions', which in hindsight may be classed among the worst and least popular translations of the 20th century.
These references are out of date (pre 1960) and all but useless today. The note seems out of place, and disrupts Barclay's discussion. It seems to be a probable insertion by a clumsy editor.
Moffat (NT 1903, OT 1925, Rev. 1935)
As Marlowe notes below, this was one of the most 'eccentric' translations/editions of the NT to be published in the early 20th century. Moffat has the dubious title of being the only modern translator to actually adopt some of the more extreme rearrangements of John proposed by the German critic Bultmann.
Bultmann was unsatisfied with the current order of the material in John, and chopped it to pieces, rearranging it topologically in a rather primitive manner, like a jigsaw puzzle. The result was a memorable disaster, and few critics since have attempted to so drastically mutilate John.
"Moffatt's version was controversial in several respects. His preface put forth skeptical views concerning the truthfulness of the Bible. In the Old Testament he indicated by the use of different type fonts the hypothetical source documents of the Pentateuch (J, E, P, D), and frequently rearranged passages according to his idea of how they might have originally stood.
For the New Testament he used the Greek text of Hermann von Soden, which was generally regarded as an eccentric text, and he often substituted conjectural emendations for the text of both Testaments. In the NT alone he adopts some thirty conjectures which have no support at all in the manuscripts.
The translation throughout was highly readable, but often embodied interpretations that were objectionable to some. Roman Catholics and Lutherans were especially offended with Matthew 26:26, "Take and eat this, it means my body." Moffatt later served as executive secretary of the committee of translators for the Revised Standard Version (RSV )."
- Michael D. Marlowe, www.bible-researcher.com
This is another early attempt at a 'modern translation', bringing to bear the linguistic knowledge of the 19th century upon the problem. As Weymouth notes in his own preface, he was labouring under the often misleading grammar of Classical Greek (a style of Greek used by non-Jewish Greeks 500 years previous to the Greek of the NT).
This translation was unfortunately done just prior to the great archeaological discoveries of the early 20th century, which vastly increased our knowledge of Koine (NT) Greek. Literally thousands of early papyri were discovered in Egypt in the early 1900s, providing extensive examples of how Greek was written and spoken in daily life in the time of Jesus. Sadly, none of this new insight was available to Weymouth. Had he waited just 20 more years, he would have produced an entirely different translation.
An Evaluation of Weymouth's translation can be had here:
An Opinion of Weymouth's Translation <-- Click Here.
As for Weymouth's Greek text and textual-critical skills, he in fact admits his amateur status, and as he admits in his own preface, does not even attempt to evaluate the relative probability of various readings he has adopted from the texts of the previous generation of textual critics.
We must note especially that Weymouth was already severely out of date even by 1903 standards, relying upon the work of Lachmann (GNT 1831-1842) Tregelles (1854), and Tischendorf (1870), and has even avoided the work of Westcott & Hort (1882)!
Regarding Lachmann and Tischendorf, R. Waltz explains:
"1793-1851. German philologist and critic. Trained in classical studies, Lachmann enunciated the principle that agreement in error implies identity of origin. Lachmann used this principle to create a stemma for the manuscripts of Lucretius; his resulting edition is considered a landmark of classical textual criticism.
From Lucretius, Lachmann turned his attention to the NT, publishing the first edition of the NT to be completely free of the influence of the Textus Receptus (1831; second edition 1842-1850). This was, obviously, a great milestone in the history of the NT text, and arguably the most important single event in NT textual criticism. It should be noted, however, that Lachmann's edition was far from perfect. He undertook to publish "the" text of the fourth century -- an entity which demonstrably never existed, and in any case it is not the original text.
Nor did Lachmann use his critical methods on the NT manuscripts; he simply took a handful of early witnesses and adopted the reading of the majority. The resultant text was certainly better than the Textus Receptus, but it was neither consistent nor particularly close to modern editions. ..."
Tischendorf (1815 - 1872)
His major work consisted of his eight editions of the New Testament (the first published in 1840) -- though in fact the first seven of these were not really critical editions, any more than were his LXX and vulgate texts; rather, they were collections of manuscript data. And Gregory describes the fourth as the first with a significant apparatus and text. The seventh (1859) had a worse text though a fuller apparatus.
Thus it was not until his eighth edition (1865-1872) that he finally put his lifetime of experience to work. It is sad to note that it was not really a particularly insightful edition, being based on no theory of the text and with biases toward certain manuscripts.
... By the time it was completed (or, rather, completed except for the prologue, which was vitally necessary...), Tischendorf was rather a sick man; he suffered a stroke in 1873 and died at the end of 1874, leaving almost no useful papers behind, leaving it to Gregory to create one as best he could. "
- Robert B. Waltz, Encyclopedia of NT Textual Criticism,
Weymouth himself provides a clear picture of the principles behind his edition in his preface:
"The Translation of the NT here offered to English-speaking Christians is a bona fide translation made directly from the Greek, and is in no sense a revision. The plan adopted has been the following.
An earnest endeavour has been made (based upon more than sixty years' study of both the Greek and English languages, besides much further familiarity gained by continual teaching) to ascertain the exact meaning of every passage not only by the light that Classical Greek throws on the language used, but also by that which the Septuagint and the Hebrew Scriptures afford; aid being sought too from Versions and Commentators ancient and modern, and from the ample et cetera of apparatus grammaticus and theological and Classical reviews and magazines - or rather, by means of occasional excursions into this vast prairie.
Greek Text Used: Textual Critical Resources
THE GREEK TEXT here followed is that given in the Translator's Resultant Greek Testament.
Of the VARIOUS READINGS only those are here given which seem the most important, and which affect the rendering into English. They are in the footnotes, with V.L. (varia lectio) prefixed. As to the chief modern critical editions full details will be found in the Resultant Greek Testament, while for the original authorities - MSS., Versions, Patristic quotations - the reader must of necessity consult the great works of Lachmann, Tregelles, Tischendorf, and others, or the numerous monographs on separate Books. In the margin of the R.V. a distinction is made between readings supported by "a few ancient authorities," "some ancient authorities," "many ancient authorities," and so on. Such valuation is not attempted in this work." ...
- Richard Francis Weymouth, The New Testament in Modern Speech, (ed. Ernest Hampden-Cook, 1903)
E. V. Rieu (NT: 1952, 1958)
1952. Emile Victor Rieu, The Four Gospels. A new translation from the Greek by E. V. Rieu. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1952.
This was another one of many 'popular' and cheap translations that appeared in the mid-20th century, only to be quickly forgotten.
15. Some scholars like Westcott & Hort (c. 1882) have seriously questioned the plausibility of Augustine's explanation for the omission of the verses (e.g. prudery or fear over wives' being encouraged to commit adultery due to lax attitudes).
But even if Augustine's account cannot render a full explanation for the textual history of these verses, the element he describes is obviously there. Even today many commentators go to great lengths to prevent any "antinomian" interpretation of the passage.
The Story of Susanna
But there is no shortage of possible causes for an initial omission of the verses, or lack of similar examples.
The story of Susanna was a favourite among Greek speaking Jews but never finally accepted by the Palestinian (Hebrew speaking) Jews.
Origen gives a lengthy account of his own as to how and why the Jewish authorities rejected this story. It obviously casts the Babylonian Jewish religious authorities as murderous adulterers and hypocrites, accounting quite plausibly both for its popularity and its deletion or rejection by the Jewish authorities.
Similar forces may have been at work in the case of the Pericope de Adultera (John 8:1-11): Here the Pharisees and especially the scribes (a profession which continued into the 3rd century A.D.) are cast in a very negative light, as adulterers, and possibly even murderers, certainly bloodthirsty and careless rogues. It is easy to see how early scribes might want to delete these verses.
Some have objected that other passages should also have undergone similar hacks, but this ignores the uniqueness of John 8:1-11. In other stories, Jesus' opponents argue over points of Law and tradition, or reject signs and prophecies, or make criticisms of Jesus. But in this story, their heartless hypocrisy is exposed directly.
Its one thing to accuse Pharisees and scribes of "overzealousness" about the Torah, or stubbornness regarding tradition, but quite another to accuse them directly of adultery, kidnapping, false witness, attempted murder, and criminal hypocrisy. This passage remains unique.
16. Barclay's theory of Insertion is entirely implausible. The passage could never have originated somewhere else, then been simply interpolated into John. It has too many deep and specific connections to the text of John, and quite obviously appears to have been carefully composed for this exact context.
The internal evidence is overwhelming that the passage was specifically written for John, and that either John was written with the passage in view, or else John itself has been extensively rewritten to accommodate the story.
But there is no other version of John known, and the manuscripts which omit the passage have the same essential text of John that manuscripts which contain the verses do. And this text appears to show a telltale knowledge of the passage.
For a full review of the internal evidence of both the passage and the Gospel of John, consult our on-site articles here:
Internal Evidence for John 8:1-11 <-- Click Here.