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June 17, 2010

Sutton on the PA

Excerpt from: D. Sutton, Internet Comments, Appendix to John 8:5 by W. Harris, (Internet Article, 2006)

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Now let me point to some considerations on the history of the text detail relative to John 8, which I have from Pastor Darrell Sutton . a writer and independent researcher living in Red Cloud NE, who has permitted me to insert his comments here. This was not written as a full statement of the textual problem, it is rather a selection of comments on matters we have discussed, involving the NT text in the Near Eastern tradition; this is well known to him but not in my area of competence.

William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College

A Note to Professor Harris

This practical piece demonstrates for readers 'how they can apply their tools of textual criticism' when looking for invasive ways to penetrate walls that surround a textual problem. By working from the bottom up (from Greek to English) instead of from the top downward (From translation to text) you were able to feel and recognize things in the structure of the printed matter that others with lesser sensibilities would have passed by. Your comparative linguistic method went further (in my opinion) in proving the intertextual relationship of the 'the woman' and John's other Gospel material than many other historical defenses.

This is one of the more complicated passages in scripture as you well know. But I never could buy into the Westcott & Hort (W&H) theory because of the MS traditions. Their theory of a mid 4th century recension sealed the fate of the Traditional text, understandably. I do not know of many textual critics still writing in support of that Hort's redaction theory, yet at the same time, none have distanced themselves in such a way as to be able to develop an alternative theory.

Dallas Theological Seminary personnel, (Hodges, in particular) have pioneered a new path using a sampling of the Byzantine texts in their Majority text Greek version. See also The case for Byzantine Priority by Maurice A. Robinson Ph.D.

[Note: Since Pastor Sutton wrote, the DTS seems to have reverted to the control of the Hortians, under the leadership of Daniel Wallace, a lamentable fact.]

The facts are simple enough:

1. It is true that Jn 7:53-8:11 is not in the texts א (Aleph) and Vatican B but other old Greek MSS (A, C) do have them and they both date roughly to roughly the same time frame as both א & B. It assumes that they are a part of the royally commissioned MSS from Constantine's day. However they have no colophon or anything on them. And they disagree among themselves 30,000 times.

2. Even W/H attest to the quality of the 'adultery' story's internal character as well as affirm its substantial truth. All of this is recorded in Hort's Introduction to the Greek NT.

3. The accusations of a different style (hand) of Greek seem somewhat wayward. But you would know this far better than me.

I have never felt that the absence of a passage from a manuscript is a proof of spuriousness. Marcion cut and pasted his way into infamy. He excised all things Jewish, declared the OT God to be different than the NT deity and led his followers into oblivion.

Scholz gave us at least 300 cursives that had this text, including uncials like D, F. Papias cites this adultery story and even, Jerome, who studied Hebrew in Israel puts it in his Latin text. At the end of the 4th century when he began his translation he said that he took the best Latin ms and the superior Greek MSS and began. He was around in the days of א & B and he did not use them. My supposition is that they were already viewed as faulty as early as then. Think about, they have no antiquity, continuity of usage, or anything that in today's principled society would permit someone to remove a passage of Shakespeare on the basis of a dusty scroll found in an attic with no remarks about its history.

My Approach stated briefly

Knowing all of the above, I approached the story through a seldom used back door. Moshe Gottstein had done some great work with the scholia of the Syriac lectionary MSS located in Harvard College library. Therefore, I purchased the Harvard Semitic studies volume #23 and meticulously studied each one myself. Some of these lectionaries predate our earliest MSS (including Aleph & B) by a century or more. Now, I realize that Syriac is too narrow a stream to use for this kind of criticism. Even, Hebrew is too weak with so few MSS, and the Latin MSS are in disarray. But in the Coptic, Amharic, Armenian, Arabic, early Persian and others the 'bad woman' is there. To be sure, most of them are based upon Greek MSS , but that is my point There were more MSS with it than without it as evidenced by the translations of the early church.

In my authorized Syriac version used in the East there is a note in Aramaic which translated says: 'This story is not in the Peshitta text.' But there are older Greek MSS in which it is found. Particularly, the text called 'Jerusalem.' To my knowledge, we do not even have this text classified or published.

In reality, the West has controlled scholarly conclusions about Eastern MSS for far too long. They refuse to even consider the lectionaries or even extend to the peoples of the Middle East a proper value or merit to their documents. I have corresponded with many Ivy League critics who see the fallacies of the present textual decisisions, but can't or won't look critically at some of their colleagues 'work' because of complacency or academic fear.

Well, Let me try and move on, I feel mired in this and the more hot air I blow the more undisciplined my fingers become.

Stooping man and writing finger

1. I don't know what Jesus was writing in the sand.

2. I don't know of any Semitic figures who have done anything unique with their hands at all.

I do know this. As far as the setting goes, the Scribe's vocation (of letters) had (by Jesus time) evolved into an employment for teachers in synagogues. That the Pharisees were the 'keepers of oral traditions,' believing that their oral traditions were equal to the written word. The back drop for this narrative is a Temple dominated by Sadducees who were allied to Roman Empire leadership. They, believing only in the written word, were haters of the Pharisees.

Short Commentary

Jesus' entrance into the Temple was to assume the role of teacher. In Mat 23:1 he speaks of Moses' seat. Old synagogue ruins in Israel still have the stone chairs where rabbis issued forth their teachings. Rabbis SAT when they taught. THIS WAS THE RABBINIC WAY! When the scribes & Pharisees disrupted the meeting with the lady caught in adultery, it upset the whole mood. What sayest thou? They were giving Jesus a place reserved only for the Sanhedrin, which was the only council in Israel allowed to render Halakhic (legal) decisions. Moses' seat symbolized the authority of both Moses and the Sanhedrin council. Also, when rabbis took their students on tour of the country, the outside became their classroom. In such cases, Moses' seat was (established) wherever they sat and began to teach. By interrupting his session they were being flagrant in their irreverence and disrespect toward a teacher of disciples.

After the verbal challenge, Jesus stoops (crouches) as they had spoken to him of the lady. This is one of the most unorthodox actions of Jesus that I know of.

1. Culturally, Rabbis do not issue forth legal verdicts when all bent out of shape like this (A very strange posture for a rabbi on trial). This was as offensive to the Scribes & Pharisees as it would be if, after having brought Jesus before Herod for trial, that upon hearing the Jewish people's accusations, Herod rises from the throne and begins to do pushups. Crudely illustrated but the imagery is as equally effective as a 'crouching Rabbinical figure.'

2. Obviously, (at least from the textus receptus) it seems that this is to be a disrespectful gesture on his part. To write (or scribble) as one awaits a verdict in a Jewish court setting was out of place in every way possible.

3. The meaning of the motion of the hand has endless theories:

a. Some believe that he was writing one of the commandments i.e.. Bede, Rupert

b. Some think that he was pointing at the trial of jealousy for women (Num 5:17) Lightfoot and Burgon.

c. The finger is an authority symbol throughout scripture. The 'finger of God' serves as reference to the kingdom of God and its power. Whatever Jesus wrote I am certain of this: He did say that out of the abundance of the heart.

Whatever he wrote I do know this. He did say that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth does speak. And whatever may have been inscribed on the earth, I do know that he was thinking about their sin because when he arose he spoke of it. If there was a hint or allusion at all it affected them powerfully. MY VIEW: John works hard to show the connection of Jesus and God. All the way back to John1:1,14. That was his stated goal it seems so from the beginning unto the end of the Gospel. And this reference to Jesus writing is the only known reference which we possess. In the OT God wrote only one time and this may be a symbolic connection but I can't be sure of course.

In all likelihood, John has smuggled some meanings into this passage that, as of yet, remain hidden to me. But somewhere under the Greek text there are points of significance. Tell me what you're thinking. If you know of any parallel texts with corresponding actions of this type I'd like to know. Even, if you think it is unorthodox I'd be interested in reading your thoughts on this.

About the MSS

The MSS that contain the words you mentioned are:

U-Codex Nanianus-a 9th/10th c. cursive of the Gospels
73-a 6th century uncial ms
331-a 11th cent. minuscule ms
364-a 10th cent. minuscule
700-a 11th cent. minuscule
782-a 12th cent. minuscule
1592-a 15th cent. minuscule

In A Textual Commentary of the Greek NT, B. M. Metzger says in a note:

'In order to satisfy pious curiosity concerning what it was that Jesus wrote upon the ground, after earth (Gk, γην) several witnesses add the words 'the sins of every one of them'.

'U. Codex Nanianus' (see above 1st letter) is a 10th century document of the four Gospels. Supposedly, c. 10th century. The rest should be cursive MSS of the Gospels categorized by content, origin, script etc. The numbers change so frequently I've just about given up on keeping up with them.

Also, David C. Voss wrote an article on this back in 1933 called 'The sins of Each of them' in the Anglican Theological Review, xv (1933), pp.321-3 Might even be online but it's been a long time since I studied it.

A BRIEF NOTE: The story is found earliest in codex Bezae (5th century) and in eight extant old Latin MSS. Obviously, the story was current during the early activity of manuscript making. It is all over the place in variants. But sometimes I think that the late MSS , though on later dated paper, contain words {bits & pieces} that were known and in common use in the first century. Whether it was in the actual textual body is another story altogether but even the Church fathers are good for seeing how verses were understood then. Very little activity has gone into producing a textual commentary from the scribal notations, and blurbs found in the various MSS languages through the centuries. It would make a fascinating ride through the centuries were a doctoral candidate to pick up on it.

I have a letter here before me from my correspondence with the late Dr. Metzger {We were standing in two different yards with a fence separating us as far as what we each believed about the text & transmission} but he really believed, as of fall 2005, that the story was a late addition.

There are any number of variants but the filter seems to have worked a little better than some thought in early days because if we are studying this as an alien, then everything about this feels like first century Israel. Maybe at times we do have to look at the Western MSS as sometime guardians of traditions. In your comparison of the John 8 piece with the John 5 story, I thought that you [Prof. Harris] would have seen some sort of uniformity for both texts, but I was wrong and your reservations are duly noted.

That Greek phrase that the RSV omits is in the TR (KJ as though he heard them not) and a boatload of other MSS The meaning of the 'pretense word,' can you amplify your definition of μη προσποιουμενος contextually? It seems that the new versions do not even bother to check this story against the background of first century Judaism & Greco-Romanism. Since it has been summarily dismissed into textual oblivion, I'll leave it alone for now.

Jewish Law

I sat down to write a word about Jewish jurisprudence and entangled myself in the webs of John 8. So I'll just write a line or do to supply some more context to the earlier email on the stoning situation in Jewish culture.

The penal code of the Jews resembled, slightly, much of what has been found in Sumerian, Phoenician, Babylonian, Assyrian and Hittite codes, of course the most popular being Hammurabi's. In the ancient Near East there were many hypothetical laws like "If someone..they shall be put to death". The difficulty is finding actual places where these executions were carried out. How this played out in the greater realm of the Roman Empire I do not know. I have never tried to get into the Roman legal system. I can see where it would be beneficial. It still is in the classical vein and I'd gain some insight into that aspect of it. Always wondered if the trial of Jesus or other 'accused' throughout the empire was carried out in Greek or in Latin or in the local dialect through translators?

In Conclusion

On the whole, this is another excellent piece, dedicated Dr. Harris to your originality and pervasive insight. Our Gospels are like windows that permit us to peer backwards into a distant cultural past, therefore, I believe that we are obliged to value, appreciate and learn from what we see. By meticulously researching the Greek text, you've allowed us to 'look in' despite the smudge marks of an English translation before us; and for that, professor, you have my profound thanks. Your mastery and possession of what reads like an unlimited control of vast materials is improving us all. With a keen eye and a specialist's touch your illuminations have elevated 'events' above the layered technicalities of historical analysis.

Since, your method is to read passages apart from the restraints of consensus belief, I find it fitting to say that you are fulfilling a description succinctly laid out in classical literature by the poet and critic Horace [ Epistles i.1.14]: nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri, here meaning,
". . . truly one not bound by oath to the teaching of any master".

Pastor Darrell Sutton
Red Cloud NE


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