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Sept 5, 2010

Clarke on the PA

Excerpt from: A. Clarke, NT Commentary & Critical Notes, Vol. I, (NY, 1825) p. 544 fwd

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Clarke - On the PA

Clarke on the PA

Commentary & Notes on John

Verse 53. And every man went, etc.] The authority and influence of Nicodemus in this case was so great, that the sanhedrim broke up without being able to conclude any thing. As the feast was now ended, they were not obliged to continue any longer in or about Jerusalem; and therefore all returned to their respective dwellings.

This verse and the first eleven verses of the following chapter, are wanting in several MSS. Some of those which retain tbe paragraph mark it with obelisks, as a proof of spuriousness. Those which do retain it, have it with such a variety of reading as is nowhere else found in the Sacred Writings. Professor Griesbach leaves the whole paragraph in the text with notes of doubtfulness. Most of the modem critics consider it as resting on no solid authority.

[Clarke then presents the text of Codex Bezae and the Maj.text (TR) in two parallel columns, for Jn. 7:53-8:11]


Verse 3. A woman taken in adultery] . Some of the popish writers say that her name was Susanna ; that she was espoused to an old decrepid man, named Manasseh; that she died a saint in Spain, whither she had followed St. James. These accounts the judicious Calmet properly terms fables.

It is allowed that adultery was exceedingly common at this time, so common that they had ceased to put the law in force against it. The waters of jealousy were no longer drunk, the culprits, or those suspected of this crime, being so very numerous; and the men who were guilty themselves, dared not try their suspected wives, as it was believed the waters would have no evil effect upon the wife, if the husband himself had been criminal. See the whole of tbe process on the waters of jealousy, in the notes on Numb. 5:14, etc. and see at the end of chap. 18.

Verse 5. That such should be stoned] It is not strictly true that Moses ordered adultery in general to be punished by stoning. The law simply says, that the adulterer and adulteress shall or put to death. (Lev. 20:10. Deut. 22:22). The rabbins say they were strangled. This they affirm was the ordinary mode of punishment, where tbe species of death was not marked in the law. If the person guilty of an act of this kind, had been betrothed, but not married, she was to be stoned: (Deut. 22:23). But if she was the daughter of a priest, she was to be burned alive: (Lev. 21:9). It appears from Ezek. 16:38, 40. that adulteresses in the time of that prophet were stoned, and pierced with a sword.

Selden & Fagius suppose that this woman's case was the same with that mentioned, Deut. 22:23. As the Pharisees spoke of stoning the woman, it is possible this was her case; and some suppose that the apparent indulgence with which our Lord treated her, insinuates that she had suffered some sort of violence, though not entirely innocent. Therefore he said, "I do not condemn thee", i.e. to death, because violence had been used. "Sin no more." Nevertheless thou art in certain respects guilty: thou mightest have made more resistance.

Verse 6. That they might have to accuse him.] Had our Lord condemned the woman to death, they might have accused him to Pilate, as arrogating to himself the power of life and death, which the Romans had taken away from the Jews; besides, the Roman laws did not condemn an adulteress to be put to death. On the other hand, if he had said she should not be put to death, they might have represented him to the people as one who decided contrary to the law, and favoured the crime of which the woman was accused.

With his finger wrote] Several MSS. add, 'their sins who accused her, and the sins of all.' There are many idle conjectures concerning what our Lord wrote on the ground, several of which may be seen in Calmet.

We never find that Christ wrote any thing before or after this : and what he wrote at this time, we know not. On this the pious Quesnel makes the following reflections.

" 1. Since Jesus Christ never wrote but once that we hear of, in his whole life.

2. Since he did it only in tbe dust.

3. Since it was only to avoid condemning a sinner: and

4. Since he would not have that which he wrote so much as known ;

let men learn from hence never to write but when it is necessary or useful; to do it with humility and modesty: and to do it on a principle of charity. How widely does Christ diner from men. He writes his divine thoughts in tbe dust; they wish to have theirs cut in marble, and engraved on brass."

Verse 7. He that is without sin] αναμαρτητος meaning the same kind of sin; adultery, fornication, etc. Kypke has largely proved that tbe verb αμαρτανειν is used in this sense by the best Greek writers.

Let him first cast a stone at her.] Or, upon her επ' αυτη. The Jewish method of stoning, according to the rabbins, was as follows: tbe culprit, half naked, the hands tied behind the back, was placed on a scaffold, ten or twelve feet high; the witnesses who stood with her, pushed her off with great force : if she was killed by the fall there was nothing farther done: it she was not, one of the witnesses took up a very large stone, and dashed it upon her breast, which generally was the coup He grace, or finishing stroke. This mode of punishment seems referred to, Matt. 21:44. However, this procedure does not appear to have been always attended to. See Lev. 24:16. and verse 59 of this chapter.

Verse 9. Being convicted by their own conscience] So it is likely they were all guilty of similar crimes.

Beginning at the eldest, even unto the last] απο ων προσβυτερων εως των εσχατων, from the most honourable to those of the least repute. In this sense the words are undoubtedly to be understood.

The woman standing in the midst] But if they all went out, how could she be in the midst ? It is not said that all the people, whom our Lord had been instructing, went out, but only her accusers; see verse 11. The rest undoubtedly continued with their teacher.

Verse 11. Neither do I condemn thee]

Bishop Pearce says,

"It would have been strange if Jesus, when he was not a magistrate, and had not the witnesses before him to examine them; and when she had not been tried and condemned by the law and legal judges, should have taken upon him to condemn her. This being the case, it appears why Jesus avoided giving an answer to the question of the scribes and Pharisees; and also how little reason there is to conclude from hence, that Christ seems in this case not enough to have discouraged adultery, though he called it a sin.

And yet this opinion took place so early among the Christians, that the reading of this story was industriously avoided in the lessons recited out of the Gospels, in the public service of the churches; as if Jesus' saying / do not condemn thee, had given too much countenance to women guilty of that crime. In consequence of this, as it was never read in the churches, and is now not to be found in any of the Evangelistaria [Lectionaries], and as it was probably marked in the MSS. as a portion not to be read there; this whole story, from verse 1 to verse 11 inclusive, came in length of time, to be left out in some MSS, though in the greater part it is still remaining."

Thus far the judicious and learned Bishop. How the passage stands in all die MSS. hitherto collated, may be seen in Wetstein & Griesbach. After weighing what has been adduced in favour of its authenticity, and seriously considering its state in the MSS. as exhibited in the Var. Led. of Griesbach, I must confess the evidence in its favour does not appear to me to be striking.

Yet I by no means would have it expunged from the text. Its absence from many MSS. and the confused manner in which it appears in others, may be readily accounted for on the principles laid down by Bishop Pearce above.

It may however be necessary to observe, that a very perfect connexion subsists between ver. 52. of chap. 7 and verse 12 of this chapter - all the intermediate verses having been omitted by MSS. of the first antiquity and authority. In some MSS it is found at the end of this Gospel; in others a vacant place is left in this chapter; and in others it is placed after the 21st chapter of Luke. See at the end of this chapter.

Verse 12. Then spake Jesus again unto them] Allowing the story about tbe woman taken in adultery to be authentic, and to stand here in its proper place; we may consider that our Lord having begun to teach the people in the temple, was interrupted by the introduction of this woman by the scribes and Pharisees ; and now having dismissed them and the woman also, he resumes his discourse.

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