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Julu 8, 2010

Criddle on PA

Excerpt from: Andrew Criddle, Hypotyposeis, (Internet Blog, June 9 2007)

Page Index

Review: - Criddle on the PA:
    Didymus - 4th cent. Greek father quotes PA
    Bart Ehrman - Conflation Theory
    Prot.Jacobi - Petersen's look at fragment
    Criddle - Recension Theory
    Corrective Footnotes - Nazaroo comments


Origins of the Pericope Adulterae

Sat.June 9, 2007 by ahc

The Pericope Adulterae (PA) or the Woman taken in Adultery is found in John 7:53-8:11 in most manuscripts of John’s Gospel but is almost certainly not original there. The pericope is missing from most early manuscripts of John and is in a non-Johannine style. 1

Quite apart from the question of the original location of this passage there is the problem of its original form. The pericope is highly variable among NT manuscripts and is regarded by some form critics as a hybrid narrative. 2

Didymus the Blind (c.350 A.D.)

An important recent discovery was the discussion of a form of this pericope by Didymus the Blind in his Commentary on Ecclesiastes. (The commentary was discovered in 1941 and this pasage discussed by Ehrman in NTS 34 (1988) 24-44.) 3

Didymus says:

"We find therefore in certain Gospels. A woman it says was condemned by the Jews for a sin and was being sent to be stoned in the place where that was customary to happen. The saviour it says when he saw her and observed that they were ready to stone her said to those who were about to cast stones ‘He who has not sinned let him take a stone and cast it‘ - If anyone is conscious in himself not to have sinned let him take up a stone and smite her. And no one dared. Since they knew in themselves and perceived that they themselves were guilty in some things they did not dare to strike her." 4

Ehrman's Conflation Theory

Ehrman suggests that the standard text [Textus Receptus form] of the pericope is a conflation of this form and another form which he sees as lying behind both Papias (of whom Eusebius reports: "And he also sets forth another story concerning a woman who was accused of many sins before the Lord which the Gospel according to the Hebrews contains.") and the Didascalia Apostolorum:

"But if you do not receive him who repents because you are without mercy you shall sin against the Lord God. For you do not obey our Saviour and our God to do as even He did with her who had sinned whom the elders placed before him leaving the judgement in His hands and departed. But He, the searcher of hearts, asked her and said to her ‘Have the elders condemned you my Daughter ?’ She says to him ‘Nay Lord’ And he said unto her ‘Go neither do I condemn you.’

This form, according to Ehrman would have been similar to our pericope but without the ‘let him cast the first stone’ part.

However, although the version in Didymus clearly is very different from our standard text, the story known to Papias could be almost anything including IMO [in my opinion] the form of the story known to Didymus. On the other hand the story behind the Disacalia could very easily be our standard pericope. Hence we have little real evidence for this hypothetical second early form of the pericope. 5

The Protevangelium Iacobi (Prot.James)

In Sayings of Jesus Canonical and non-Canonical Essays in Honour of Tjitze Baarda the late William Petersen has an important article, "OUDE EGO [KATA]KRINW" John 8:11 the Protevangelium Iacobi (Prot.James. = PJ) and the History of the Pericope adulterae.

This draws attention to the parallels between the pericope and the Protevangelium. In the Protevangelium a senior priest accquits Mary and Joseph of sexual misconduct after they survive an ordeal:

'And the priest said "If the Lord God has not made your [pl] sin manifest neither do I condemn you [pl]" And he let them go.'

Not only is there quite close verbal parallelism, but the whole context of a woman facing conviction for sexual misconduct but acquitted by her judge, has important similarities.

Criddle's Theory of Origin for PA

Petersen suggested that the Protevangelium is influenced here by the Pericope Adulterae. I agree that it is most unlikely that the pericope was simply created on the basis of the passage in the Protevangelium. However, in the early church the Protevangelium was much more widely known than the pericope and influence of the Protevangelium on the pericope is more plausible than the reverse. 6

It is striking that the parallels between the Protevangelium and our text of the pericope are largely the elements missing from the version known to Didymus. That is, the Protevangelium resembles the second early form postulated by Ehrman but not the form known to Didymus. 7

We can avoid postulating hypothetical forms of the pericope by suggesting that its earliest form was that known to Didymus and possibly present in Papias and/or the Gospel of the Hebrews. 8 Shortly after the middle of the 2nd century CE this version was rewritten under the influence of the Protevangelium to produce the form of the pericope familiar to us.9

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Added Footnotes/Commentary from Nazaroo:

1. This overstatement is an unproven claim about the early textual evidence: (1) We don't have most of the early manuscripts for the period (1st to 4th century A.D.): Only four manuscripts survive, P66, P75, (2nd-3rd cent., both from Egypt), and Codex and B (both 4th cent.). (2) This small sample of the thousands of manuscripts that were produced and destroyed in that era does not reliably represent the state of the text.

2. The claim of "high variability" (i.e., more variants per line) for our passage is erroneous and misleading. Early estimates included the highly aberrant text of Codex Bezae (D), a single manuscript with a peculiar text throughout the gospels. If all the quirks of D and other uncials were noted in an apparatus in other parts of John, the variants and footnotes would fill volumes. This passage was heavily collated because of interest in the passage, while other passages in the gospels have hardly been checked at all.

3. This incredible circumstance is passed by without comment by Criddle, but demands an explanation: How is it that such an important discovery was ignored by academics for 47 years? The critics had been claiming essentially that " early Greek writer quotes the Pericope Adulterae prior to the 5th century", or words to that effect. Even this claim was largely artificial, for it suggested that such 4th century bishops as Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine etc. were mostly "only Latinists", unfamiliar with the Greek text of John. Regardless of the relative skill in Greek of men like Augustine, such an artificial distinction between "Latin" and "Greek" fathers is not sustainable. Jerome for instance, went specifically to Constantinople in the East to study the Greek manuscripts, and made great efforts to correct the Latin text to the Greek and Hebrew originals.
The fact is, this quotation by Didymus (a Greek) around 350 A.D. made the critical claim false and was greatly inconvenient to the theory of a 'late interpolation' by Latinists.
A fuller picture of the wealth of early evidence regarding the existance and circulation of the Pericope Adulterae can be found here:

Patristic Evidence for PA < - - Click here.

4. Criddle's "translation" of Didymus is wholly inadequate here. It obscures the obvious nature of the paraphrasing and insertion of explanatory material in the original Greek. A better translation and discussion of Didymus can be had here: Didymus the Blind < - - Click here.

A lot of the "evidence" for the existance of some alternate version of the PA vanishes like smoke when we realise that (1) Didymus is paraphrasing from memory with informal explanatory glosses, and (2) Didymus the Blind was of course blind, and relied upon his memory extensively for his sermons, which were dictated, but not likely corrected.

5. In these two points Criddle is undoubtably correct. The "evidence" from Papias (through Eusebius) and the Didaskalia is too vague to support 'alternate versions' of the story, except in the sense of habitual paraphrasing.

6. This claim that the Proto-James was better known and more widely circulated than the PA cannot be sustained. There is far more abundant early evidence for the PA than there is for the PJ. (See for instance the Patristic Evidence link above).

7. It is remarkable that Proto-James uses a phrase not mentioned by Didymus, but we cannot claim the phrase was "missing from the version known to Didymus". Didymus only mentions the PA in passing and very briefly, as he comments on Ecclesiastes. Only if he had quoted it in full could we say more. Circumstantial evidence, such as the knowledge of the passage in its traditional form by Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine etc., however, makes it quite likely that Didymus' version was identical to theirs. His writings were well known to the other 4th century fathers, and they would likely have discussed any significant differences.

8. Actually, Criddle's alternate proposal, that of two versions in sequence (an earlier one and a later edited one) does not avoid postulating hypothetical forms of the PA at all. And there is no substantial evidence for an early version differing from the one we have. The early mentions are simply too vague and brief.

9. Criddle has in no way shown how we could go from an early version "under the influence of the" Prote-James to the one we have now, or what possible or credible motive there might be for the 'edits'.

As it stands, the theory is absurd. Its as if bishops in the 3rd or 4th century were sitting around re-writing and 'improving' gospel passages in John, without anyone taking notice, or any alternate texts surviving. Nor can any political or religious purpose be given to the proposed "edits".

Criddle here embarks on an agnostic/atheist fantasy reminiscent of the "Mountain-Man" threads on the Atheist Forum "Internet". No historical evidence or plausible theory is likely to be forthcoming in support of this nonsense.

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