Review of: Michael Marlowe, Quo Vadis?,
A Sermon on the Pericope Adulterae
Internet E-Commentary (2004)
Last Updated: Nov 22, 2008
Prologue: - Introduction to Michael Marlowe
Self Description - Marlowe's academic background
Academic 'Honesty' - academic lingo and subtlety
Marlowe's Rhetorical Methods - how academics sell opinions
Psychological Operations - adjusting the playing field
The "Sermon" Begins
Validating the Audience - bonding with pompous Protestants
Drawing A Parallel - Marlowe's fantasy thesis about the PA
Similarity to Susanna - but nothing on transmission or Canon
Product Branding - 'for Roman Catholics only'
Commentators - serving up stale bread
Lament on 'Pop Christianity' - the evils of John 8:1-11(!)
4th Century Shenanegans - how the PA was 'inserted'
Augustine the Rigid - propagandist for strict marriage
The Good Old Days - if Marlowe ran the circus
Michael Marlowe is a self-published internet textual critic, who runs a large support site providing textual critical materials and scholarly opinion. There is no doubt that his home-made site has a lot of useful material to students of Biblical studies.
" I was raised in a Lutheran church, but while I was at college I joined a conservative Baptist church, where I began to lead a weekly Bible study. After I got my bachelor's degree in English Literature I decided to get some formal training in Biblical Studies, and so I entered the Master of Arts program at the closest seminary, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian school). I concentrated in the biblical languages, and received the MA degree in 1994. Afterwards I returned to my home town, and there I have led Bible studies and taught classes on the history of the Bible in various churches. I am now forty-eight years old, married, with three children. I work as a free-lance writer and editor.
"Concerning the Bible, I believe that it is the inerrant, living and powerful word of God. God has used it to inspire and strengthen me for many years now, and it means everything to me. Over the years I have given much of my time and energy to studying it and helping others to understand and believe it.
"Theologically I am conservative and Reformed. I consider the Westminster Confession of Faith to be an accurate summary of Biblical theology.
"I created this website in order to publish some material that I thought would be helpful to students of the Bible. Much of the material on the site was either written or edited by me in the past few years. I have also added a few articles by reliable scholars, most of them in the public domain and others by permission. For a complete record of additions and changes to the site, see the Site History.
"My purpose in putting all this material online is simply to make it available to my fellow-learners at church and to whoever wants it, for the benefit of the body of Christ. I only require that it not be used for any commercial purpose, or uploaded to another website without my permission. I want to retain the ability to edit my own material. If anyone should have a suggestion or question for me in regard to this site, I will gladly respond. ..."
(From: Bible Researcher.Com Webpage - Nov 21, 2008)
A Second Look
Mr. Marlowe's self description is quite benign, almost naive, and practically designed to put most Christians (at least Protestants) in the comfort-zone.
But Mr. Marlowe is no 'born again' teenager fresh out of the baptismal pool. His history shows he has spent a large segment of his life in the sophisticated world of academia, successfully acquiring a BA in English and an MA (Master of Arts). In scientific terms, such degrees are rather light-weight compared to engineering, physics or mathematics. But this represents quite a long haul in university-land.
When Mr. Marlowe presents himself as a simple Christian "fellow learner", whose purpose is to "be helpful to students of the Bible", some reasonable caution is called for. And with an MA from a (Presbyterian) Theological Seminary, there is little doubt Mr. Marlowe will be quite clever, as well as strongly opinionated, when he is motivated to write his very own articles.
And this is exactly what we find, when we examine Mr. Marlowe's articles. These are not always simple information offerings, but well-composed propaganda pieces, born out of a consciously chosen agenda. These articles are carefully structured and reflect the skill of one quite familiar with academic writing standards and techniques.
And this must be understood from the outset. "Honesty" in the world of Academia is much more sophisticated term than simple Christians will be used to. Mr Marlowe is certainly "honest", in this academic sense, and no doubt views himself as "scrupulously honest".
But we must remember that Mr. Marlowe is not speaking the language of the farmer or truck driver, but the language of lawyers. He ultimately will have fulfilled his own criteria for 'honesty' to his own satisfaction. He will have done this by following practical procedures, such as presenting his work openly, and providing for example a meticulous record of his own editing activity.
But we should not confuse this academic idea of 'honesty', built up using layers of bookkeeping habits and politically corrected protocols, with the naive honesty of the farmer. When the farmer asks for honesty, he means
"I know you are sophisticated and possess great knowledge: Do not deceive me, for you probably can. Please keep the line clear between fact and opinion."
But when the academic assures his audience his performance will be 'honest', he means something quite different, something more like the promise of the professional magician:
"I promise I will not waste your time. When I am finished, you will admit you were not overcharged. There will be no seams, no sloppy work, no peeks behind the curtain. You will be amazed as I weave an entire garment from a single thread before your very eyes."
Academic productions are rhetorical in nature. They are a powerful form of Performance Art, meant to win debates and change minds - by selling ideas. Ideas are sold by being packaged to look desirable. Minds are changed because they want to be. Truth is secondary to academic success.
The academic promise is not really about ethical standards, for these are conceded to be personal and subjective. Its rather about quality of materials and workmanship. This reveals how academics can view themselves as 'honest' while using rhetorical tricks to convince their hearers.
Michael Marlowe's article on the PA can be found here, as of Nov.21 2008:
Quo Vadis? - A Sermon on the Pericope Adulterae
A Sermon on the Pericope Adulterae
by Michael Marlowe, (2004)
Marlowe's Magical Performance
The deception begins in the very title itself. He calls his work "A Sermon...". But like the word 'honesty', this oration bears no resemblance whatsoever to an actual sermon. There is no religious instruction, no moral encouragement, no profound ethical teaching, no Biblical role model, no uplifting exposition of Holy Scripture. In fact there's no real quotation of Scripture at all, of any size, substance or power.
Instead we are treated to some apocryphal stories and some academic fawning over them, a rant against John 8:1-11, an almost childish sketch of Europe in the 4th century, and the 'demonization' of St. Augustine. Marlowe then ends with a nostalgic glance back at the 'good old days' when Christians were brutally and senselessly martyred.
How then can this be any kind of a sermon at all? What we have forgotten is that this is "academic-speak", akin to the "new-speak" of George Orwell. If questioned, Mr. Marlowe would draw a blank, as if there wasn't anything amiss. For this is precisely what an academic really truly thinks a sermon is.
Any fellow academic would nod, "Yes, that is a sermon.", puzzled by all the horrified Christian faces staring back in disbelief. To put it bluntly, asking academics about the 'key essence' of a sermon would be like asking a man born blind to testify on the emotional impact of colors.
Perhaps Mr. Marlowe's use of "sermon" was intended as a kind of metaphor, a coy in-joke if you will. The real irony however cannot be the intended wink. The irony rests in the gag that any likely reader would soberly accept his thesis.
Psychological Operations: Technical Execution
By technical aspect we do not mean here his scientific rigor or investigative methods. We refer to his oratory skills and psychological techniques of manipulation. For none of these are accidental or unconscious.
The Psych Ops begin with the very title. By calling the paper a "Sermon...", Marlowe makes the paper a informal 'chat'. This allows him to completely skip out on any and all reasonable proofs and supports for his claims. Its a common tactic when a set of unsubstantiated allegations are about to be passed off as facts. Its up to the reader to know the subject in advance and spot the B.S.
(B) Bogus Filler Quotes:
In a complimentary fashion, the space saved can now be used for benign but irrelevant quotations and references which prove nothing, but give the paper the appearance and feel of a 'real' formal thesis and demonstration.
(C) 'Time Constraints':
... 'time' will limit Marlowe's presentation to a reiteration of a few points, expanded into a few paragraphs with sketchy examples. To pop this fantasy bubble, we only need remember that this is not a 'real' lecture, or church chat. Marlowe has unlimited time, to make and post a written work on the net of reasonable scientific quality and thoroughness. Marlowe opting not to do so speaks for itself.
The Martyrdom of Peter & Pericope Adulterae
The Quo Vadis story is one of those Legends of the Saints that are well-known to Catholics but practically unknown to Protestants. It is an ancient legend concerning Peter's martyrdom, believed to be from the second century, and preserved in the collection of legends included in the apocryphal Acts of Peter. George Edmundson in The Church in Rome in the First Century (London, 1913) summarizes the legend thus:
His friends, so runs the story, had entreated the Apostle to save his life by leaving the city. Peter at last consented, but on condition that he should go away alone. But when he wished to pass the gate of the city, he saw Christ meeting him. Falling down in adoration he says to Him 'Lord, whither goest Thou?' [Latin, quo vadis?] And Christ replied to him 'I am coming to Rome to be again crucified.' And Peter says to Him 'Lord, wilt Thou again be crucified?' And the Lord said to him 'Even so, I will again be crucified.' Peter said to Him 'Lord, I will return and will follow Thee.' And with these words the Lord ascended into Heaven . . . And Peter, afterwards corning to himself, understood that it was of his own passion that it had been spoken, because that in it the Lord would suffer. The Apostle then returned with joy to meet the death which the Lord had signified that he should die.
Regarding the authenticity of the story Edmundson says,
"That it contains a story that is authentic in the sense of being based on events that really occurred is not improbable. The Peter described here is the Peter of the Gospels."
Likewise J.B. Lightfoot in his Ordination Addresses and Counsel to Clergy (London, 1890) defended the authenticity of the story:
"Why should we not believe it true? ... because it is so subtly true to character and because it is so eminently profound in its significance, we are led to assign to this tradition a weight which the external testimony in its favor would hardly warrant."
(3) Validating the Audience's Prejudice:
Marlowe is a Presbyterian Protestant writing mostly to please other Protestants and academic intellectuals. He is preaching to the converted what they want to hear. To avoid boredom, he opens with a Roman Catholic story. He reassures dummies that the story is "practically unknown to Protestants". A familiar Protestant hero (Lightfoot) admires the story, but "the external testimony in its favour would hardly warrant" its authenticity. With this story Marlowe has provided listeners with his credentials:
"I am a Protestant, like you. We are the elite,
and wiser than the Roman Catholic masses."
Of course most Protestants haven't heard of this apocryphal tale, and those who have heard know it lacks the credentials many want. Roman Catholics then must be naive, and Protestants can smugly look down on them from the academic heights.
... The herd instinct has been successfully applied and the social bonding is complete.
Though adequate for Marlowe's purpose of establishing a mob mentality and group identity, the sad fact is, this is in the wrong spirit. And starting out on the wrong foot rarely leads in the right direction.
The only real cleverness here is in the fact that he has done nothing overt that can be pointed to as bigotry against Roman Catholics, in case any happen by. In fact, most RCs will be mildly surprised at the positive quotations in support of a Roman Catholic tradition. They are used to polemic far more hostile than this almost benign statement of facts. This is just not worth filing a 'hate speech' complaint over.
(4) Drawing a Parallel:
But why this story? Marlowe could have chosen any piece of apocryphal fluff or Roman Catholic nonsense to cement himself to his audience.
But he wants to create the illusion of a close parallel between this extra-Biblical tradition and the Pericope Adulterae:
The Pericope Adulterae (PA, John 8:1-11) is alleged to be a parallel case to "Quo Vadis" .
The PA was supposedly,
(a) transmitted the same way,
(b) treated the same way by clergy, and
(c) has nothing to distinguish it from the "Quo Vadis legend".
(d) it somehow got a spot in John's gospel via medieval copyists and
(e) "eventually attained to the status of Holy Scripture".
(Those still awake will notice that Quo Vadis has 'evolved' from story, to tradition, to legend in only two paragraphs...)
This is just Marlowe's assertion, his thesis. No proof or support is given here. Those wanting that will wait patiently for some evidence. - but not surprisingly, no such strongly argued case with formal proofs will be forthcoming.
One should note that (d) and (e) almost completely negate the claims in (a) and (b) by themselves, at least regarding the 'last half' of the Pericope Adulterae's colorful history. So Marlowe's thesis is already severely limping before we've left the starting gate.
In fact, the two stories are not really similar at all, in their most important aspects:
(A) Regarding content, one is a basic martyr story, meant to assist a belief in supernatural help, and boost the morale of Christians under persecution. The other is a complex ethical challenge, designed to turn upside down common social beliefs and practices. The two stories could not be more diverse, if one were about checkers and the other about spacemen.
(B) As to transmission, the Quo Vadis has always been a post-gospel extra-Biblical historical tradition, passed alongside the Holy Scriptures, but never confused with them. There was no attempt to 'validate' it by insertion into the Book of Acts, or into one of Paul's letters. The Roman church had ample reasons to, so why didn't they?
The Pericope Adulterae by contrast has only ever been known as a part of John's gospel, although it is missing from some early copies. The only seeming reference to it as 'apocryphal' comes from Eusebius, but its not certain this sloppy reference to Papias' writings even refers to the PA.
(C) As to reception by Christians, every early writer who spoke of the PA defended its authenticity as Holy Scripture, including Jerome and Augustine and a dozen others. Nothing remotely similar can be said about the Quo Vadis story.
Jerome for instance rejected the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals), including Susanna, and was the probable cause of their eventual rejection by European Protestants.
(D) An Astounding Central Difference: The greatest difficulty in making any parallel is now before us: The Roman Catholic church had every reason to insert the Quo Vadis story into the Bible, even as late as the council of Trent.
By contrast, the early church would have had every reason NOT to insert the Pericope Adulterae, due to its divisive and offensive content. And had they tried to do so (i.e., if the passage were an insertion), we would have every reason to expect that a controversy would have raged over the verses for centuries, leaving copious evidence of the fraud.
But the historical facts speak loudly otherwise: No one ever attempted to insert the Quo Vadis story into the Bible, and the most plausible explanation for the Pericope Adulterae is that it was always there, but was removed from some copies due to its divisive and offensive content.
(E) Accidental Copying (?) Finally we can only add that the claim that the Pericope Adulterae was accidentally inserted into the Gospel of John in the Middle Ages, and nobody noticed or cared to comment on it during the next thousand years is absurd.
So is the idea that the Quo Vadis story could have been similarly inserted, if only someone had tried. But this is about as significant as saying that both stories fail to mention unicorns.
None of these important differences are discussed by Marlowe, because they oppose and negate his entire thesis, which follows.
The only possible parallel between the two stories would then be that they were both 'apocryphal' or 'extra-biblical', but this would require demonstrating that John 8:1-11 was actually a later insertion. Where has there ever been a convincing case made?
Story of Susanna (Greek Daniel ch.13)
A similar case is the insertion of the Story of Susanna into the ancient Greek versions of Daniel. This apocryphal story - which has much in common with the Story of the Adulteress - was very popular among both Jews and Christians in the first century. It is a story about a woman who was accused of adultery by two men who were themselves exposed as sinners by the prophet Daniel.
David A. deSilva theorizes that, among the Jews, Susanna was at first a "free-floating Hebrew story" about Daniel that "arose too late" to be included in the Hebrew text of Daniel. But the popularity of the story was such that it eventually was inserted into Greek versions of the book of Daniel in various places: between chapters 12 and 14 in the Septuagint, and at the beginning of the book in Theodotion's version 1 It then came to be regarded as an integral part of the canonical Daniel by many early Christians, and it continues to be regarded as such by Roman Catholics.
1. David A. deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), pp. 235-6. deSilva also observes that "There are many folktales of 'the innocent woman falsely accused' and of 'the young, intelligent judge,'" citing M. Delcor, Le livre de Daniel (Paris: Gabalda, 1971), p. 277.
(6) Making Things Appear Similar:
Before there is time to seriously critique the main thesis, Marlowe provides another example, the Story of Susanna. This is timed to distract us from the real lack of parallel between Quo Vadis and Pericope Adulterae.
Certainly Susanna has strong connections with the PA in content.
But the origin and transmission of Susanna are impossible to determine.
There are only a few MSS and fragments from those days (200 BCE-100 CE), and the only early writer who comments on the transmission of Susanna is Origen (c. 250 A.D.).
If Susanna was an insertion, Marlowe has made no case at all for it. Current scholarship has this to say about the origins of Susanna:
The canon among the Alexandrian Jews (deuterocanonical books)
The most striking difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bibles is the presence in the former of a number of writings which are wanting in the latter and also in the Hebrew Bible, which became the Old Testament of Protestantism. These number seven books: Tobias (Tobit), Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, I and II Machabees, and three documents added to protocanonical books, viz., the supplement to Esther, from x, 4, to the end, the Canticle of the Three Youths (Song of the Three Children) in Daniel, iii, and the stories of Susanna and the Elders and Bel and the Dragon, forming the closing chapters of the Catholic version of that book. Of these works, Tobias and Judith were written originally in Aramaic, perhaps in Hebrew; Baruch and I Machabees in Hebrew, while Wisdom and II Machabees were certainly composed in Greek. The probabilities favour Hebrew as the original language of the addition to Esther, and Greek for the enlargements of Daniel.
The ancient Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint was the vehicle which conveyed these additional Scriptures into the Catholic Church. The Septuagint version was the Bible of the Greek-speaking, or Hellenist, Jews, whose intellectual and literary centre was Alexandria (see SEPTUAGINT). The oldest extant copies date from the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, and were therefore made by Christian hands; nevertheless scholars generally admit that these faithfully represent the Old Testament as it was current among the Hellenist or Alexandrian Jews in the age immediately preceding Christ. These venerable manuscripts of the Septuagint vary somewhat in their content outside the Palestinian Canon, showing that in Alexandrian-Jewish circles the number of admissible extra books was not sharply determined either by tradition or by authority. However, aside from the absence of Machabees from the Codex Vaticanus (the very oldest copy of the Greek Old Testament), all the entire manuscripts contain all the deutero writings; where the manuscript Septuagints differ from one another, with the exception noted, it is in a certain excess above the deuterocanonical books. It is a significant fact that in all these Alexandrian Bibles the traditional Hebrew order is broken up by the interspersion of the additional literature among the other books, outside the law, thus asserting for the extra writings a substantial equality of rank and privilege.
It is pertinent to ask the motives which impelled the Hellenist Jews to thus, virtually at least, canonize this considerable section of literature, some of it very recent, and depart so radically from the Palestinian tradition. Some would have it that not the Alexandrian, but the Palestinian, Jews departed from the Biblical tradition. The Catholic writers Nickes, Movers, Danko, and more recently Kaulen and Mullen, have advocated the view that originally the Palestinian Canon must have included all the deuterocanonicals, and so stood down to the time of the Apostles (Kaulen, c. 100 B.C.), when, moved by the fact that the Septuagint had become the Old Testament of the Church, it was put under ban by the Jerusalem Scribes, who were actuated moreover (thus especially Kaulen) by hostility to the Hellenistic largeness of spirit and Greek composition of our deuterocanonical books. These exegetes place much reliance on St. Justin Martyr's statement that the Jews had mutilated Holy Writ, a statement that rests on no positive evidence. They adduce the fact that certain deutero books were quoted with veneration, and even in a few cases as Scriptures, by Palestinian or Babylonian doctors; but the private utterances of a few rabbis cannot outweigh the consistent Hebrew tradition of the canon, attested by Josephus--although he himself was inclined to Hellenism--and even by the Alexandrian-Jewish author of IV Esdras. We are therefore forced to admit that the leaders of Alexandrian Judaism showed a notable independence of Jerusalem tradition and authority in permitting the sacred boundaries of the Canon, which certainly had been fixed for the Prophets, to be broken by the insertion of an enlarged Daniel and the Epistle of Baruch. On the assumption that the limits of the Palestinian Hagiographa remained undefined until a relatively late date, there was less bold innovation in the addition of the other books, but the wiping out of the lines of the triple division reveals that the Hellenists were ready to extend the Hebrew Canon, if not establish a new official one of their own.
On their human side these innovations are to be accounted for by the free spirit of the Hellenist Jews. Under the influence of Greek thought they had conceived a broader view of Divine inspiration than that of their Palestinian brethren, and refused to restrict the literary manifestations of the Holy Ghost to a certain terminus of time and the Hebrew form of language. The Book of Wisdom, emphatically Hellenist in character, presents to us Divine wisdom as flowing on from generation to generation and making holy souls and prophets (vii, 27, in the Greek).
Philo, a typical Alexandrian-Jewish thinker, has even an exaggerated notion of the diffusion of inspiration (Quis rerum divinarum hæres, 52; ed. Lips., iii, 57; De migratione Abrahæ, 11,299; ed. Lips. ii, 334). But even Philo, while indicating acquaintance with the deutero literature, nowhere cites it in his voluminous writings. True, he does not employ several books of the Hebrew Canon; but there is a natural presumption that if he had regarded the additional works as being quite on the same plane as the others, he would not have failed to quote so stimulating and congenial a production as the Book of Wisdom. Moreover, as has been pointed out by several authorities, the independent spirit of the Hellenists could not have gone so far as to setup a different official Canon from that of Jerusalem, without having left historical traces of such a rupture.
So, from the available data we may justly infer that, while the deuterocanonicals were admitted as sacred by the Alexandrian Jews, they possessed a lower degree of sanctity and authority than the longer accepted books, i.e., the Palestinian Hagiographa and the Prophets, themselves inferior to the Law.
The DeuteroCanonicals in Apostolic Times
All the books of the Hebrew Old Testament are cited in the New Testament except those which have been aptly called the Antilegomena of the Old Testament, viz., Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles; moreover Esdras and Nehemias are not employed. The admitted absence of any explicit citation of the deutero writings does not therefore prove that they were regarded as inferior to the above-mentioned works in the eyes of New Testament personages and authors.
The deutero literature was in general unsuited to their purposes, and some consideration should be given to the fact that even at its Alexandrian home it was not quoted by Jewish writers, as we saw in the case of Philo. The negative argument drawn from the non-citation of the deuterocanonicals in the New Testament is especially minimized by the indirect use made of them by the same Testament. This takes the form of allusions and reminiscences, and shows unquestionably that the Apostles and Evangelists were acquainted with the Alexandrian increment, regarded its books as at least respectable sources, and wrote more or less under its influence.
A comparison of Hebrews, xi and II Machabees, vi and vii reveals unmistakable references in the former to the heroism of the martyrs glorified in the latter. There are close affinities of thought, and in some cases also of language, between 1 Peter 1:6-7, and Wisdom 3:5-6; Hebrews 1:3, and Wisdom 7:26-27; 1 Corinthians 10:9-10, and Judith 8:24-25; 1 Corinthians 6:13, and Ecclesiasticus 36:20.
Yet the force of the direct and indirect employment of Old Testament writings by the New is slightly impaired by the disconcerting truth that at least one of the New Testament authors, St. Jude, quotes explicitly from the "Book of Henoch", long universally recognized as apocryphal, see verse 14, while in verse 9 he borrows from another apocryphal narrative, the "Assumption of Moses".
The New Testament quotations from the Old are in general characterized by a freedom and elasticity regarding manner and source which further tend to diminish their weight as proofs of canonicity. But so far as concerns the great majority of the Palestinian Hagiographa--a fortiori, the Pentateuch and Prophets--whatever want of conclusiveness there may be in the New Testament, evidence of their canonical standing is abundantly supplemented from Jewish sources alone, in the series of witnesses beginning with the Mishnah and running back through Josephus and Philo to the translation of the above books for the Hellenist Greeks. But for the deuterocanonical literature, only the last testimony speaks as a Jewish confirmation.
However, there are signs that the Greek version was not deemed by its readers as a closed Bible of definite sacredness in all its parts, but that its somewhat variable contents shaded off in the eyes of the Hellenists from the eminently sacred Law down to works of questionable divinity, such as III Machabees.
This factor should be considered in weighing a certain argument. A large number of Catholic authorities see a canonization of the deuteros in a supposed wholesale adoption and approval, by the Apostles, of the Greek, and therefore larger, Old Testament. The argument is not without a certain force; the New Testament undoubtedly shows a preference for the Septuagint; out of the 350 texts from the Old Testament, 300 favour the language of the Greek version rather than that of the Hebrew.
But there are considerations which bid us hesitate to admit an Apostolic adoption of the Septuagint en bloc. As remarked above, there are cogent reasons for believing that it was not a fixed quantity at the time. The existing oldest representative manuscripts are not entirely identical in the books they contain. Moreover, it should be remembered that at the beginning of our era, and for some time later, complete sets of any such voluminous collection as the Septuagint in manuscript would be extremely rare; the version must have been current in separate books or groups of books, a condition favourable to a certain variability of compass.
So neither a fluctuating Septuagint nor an inexplicit New Testament conveys to us the exact extension of the pre-Christian Bible transmitted by the Apostles to the Primitive Church. It is more tenable to conclude to a selective process under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and a process completed so late in Apostolic times that the New Testament fails to reflect its mature result regarding either the number or note of sanctity of the extra-Palestinian books admitted. To historically learn the Apostolic Canon of the Old Testament we must interrogate less sacred but later documents, expressing more explicitly the belief of the first ages of Christianity. The canon of the Old Testament in the Church of the first three centuries
The sub-Apostolic writings of Clement, Polycarp, the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, of the pseudo-Clementine homilies, and the "Shepherd" of Hermas, contain implicit quotations from or allusions to all the deuterocanonicals except Baruch (which anciently was often united with Jeremias) and I Machabees and the additions to David. No unfavourable argument can be drawn from the loose, implicit character of these citations, since these Apostolic Fathers quote the protocanonical Scriptures in precisely the same manner.
The Age of the Apologists
Coming down to the next age, that of the apologists, we find Baruch cited by Athenagoras as a prophet. St. Justin Martyr is the first to note that the Church has a set of Old Testament Scriptures different from the Jews', and also the earliest to intimate the principle proclaimed by later writers, namely, the self-sufficiency of the Church in establishing the Canon; its independence of the Synagogue in this respect. The full realization of this truth came slowly, at least in the Orient, where there are indications that in certain quarters the spell of Palestinian-Jewish tradition was not fully cast off for some time. St. Melito, Bishop of Sardis (c. 170), first drew up a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament. While maintaining the familiar arrangement of the Septuagint, he says that he verified his catalogue by inquiry among Jews; Jewry by that time had everywhere discarded the Alexandrian books, and Melito's Canon consists exclusively of the protocanonicals minus Esther. It should be noticed, however, that the document to which this catalogue was prefixed is capable of being understood as having an anti-Jewish polemical purpose, in which case Melito's restricted canon is explicable on another ground.
St. Irenæus, always a witness of the first rank, on account of his broad acquaintance with ecclesiastical tradition, vouches that Baruch was deemed on the same footing as Jeremias, and that the narratives of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon were ascribed to Daniel.
The Alexandrian tradition is represented by the weighty authority of Origen. Influenced, doubtless, by the Alexandrian-Jewish usage of acknowledging in practice the extra writings as sacred while theoretically holding to the narrower Canon of Palestine, his catalogue of the Old Testament Scriptures contains only the protocanonical books, though it follows the order of the Septuagint. Nevertheless Origen employs all the deuterocanonicals as Divine Scriptures, and in his letter of Julius Africanus defends the sacredness of Tobias, Judith, and the fragments of Daniel, at the same time implicitly asserting the autonomy of the Church in fixing the Canon (see references in Cornely). In his Hexaplar edition of the Old Testament all the deuteros find a place. The sixth-century Biblical manuscript known as the "Codex Claromontanus" contains a catalogue to which both Harnack and Zahn assign an Alexandrian origin, about contemporary with Origen. At any rate it dates from the period under examination and comprises all the deuterocanonical books, with IV Machabees besides. St. Hippolytus (d. 236) may fairly be considered as representing the primitive Roman tradition. He comments on the Susanna chapter, often quotes Wisdom as the work of Solomon, and employs as Sacred Scripture Baruch and the Machabees. For the West African Church the larger canon has two strong witnesses in Tertullian and St. Cyprian. All the deuteros except Tobias, Judith, and the addition to Esther, are biblically used in the works of these Fathers. "
- The Canon of the Old Testament (Catholic Encyclopedia)
David A. deSilva may indeed theorize that, among the Jews, Susanna was at first a "free-floating Hebrew story", but against him stands Origen, the leading Biblical scholar of the period, living in the center of things within a mere hundred years of the action.
Origen says :
"But ...Why then is [Susanna] not in their [Hebrew] Daniel, if, as you say, their wise men hand down such stories via [oral] tradition? The answer is, that they hid from the knowledge of the people as many of the passages which contained any scandal against the elders, rulers, and judges, as they could, some of which have been preserved in noncanonical writings."
...(after giving other examples of deliberate deletions, Origen concludes:)
"Therefore I think no other supposition is possible, than that ... the rulers and elders took away from the people every passage which might bring them into discredit... We need not doubt, then, whether this record of the evil of the licentious elders against Susanna is true: it was concealed and removed from the Scriptures by men themselves not very far removed from the counsel of these same elders."
- Origen, Reply to Rufinus
The similarity in transmission history between Susanna and the Pericope Adulterae may amount to the fact that both are authentic, and each was rejected and suffered some unsuccessful tampering by their respective opponents.
(7) Branding for Effect:
...Marlowe's final remark on Susanna has an innocent appearance, but is given for a sinister effect on Protestant readers:
"...and Susanna continues to be regarded as Canonical by Roman Catholics."
Again, why the concern for Roman Catholic traditions and beliefs? Protestants reject them en masse anyway, unless they're strongly supported by the Protestant Canon of Scripture. The answer is 'branding'. Modern Protestants (excluding Anglicans) have already rejected the entire Apocrypha (including Susanna). If the historical facts for the Pericope Adulterae are the same (as Marlowe claims), Protestants ought to reject it too. The precedent has already been set.
Marlowe wants to brand Susanna as 'Roman Catholic', and then tar and feather the Pericope Adulterae with the same brush.
But Marlowe is inaccurate here as well. It isn't just Roman Catholics who accept Susanna and the entire Apocrypha as Canonical, but also Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, even Church of England conservatives, and also dozens of smaller European and Middle Eastern denominations. This encompasses a group far larger than mere 'Roman Catholics', and amounts to most of Christendom, ancient and modern.
An inportant point to note also is that the majority of Protestants view John 8:1-11 as authentic Holy Scripture also, and not because of 'church councils', or misguided advice from clergy, but because it has occupied its traditional place in John's Gospel for a dozen centuries.
(8) Dusting off Old Commentators:
Marlowe also claims that churchmen held a kind of double-standard. They supposedly knew the Pericope Adulterae was an illegitimate insertion into John, and indefensible from a historical standpoint, but accepted it as Holy Scripture anyway because of its harmless and edifying content.
Fathers and Reformers
But again this simply isn't true. The majority of churchmen throughout history have believed that this passage was the inspired word of God and written by John the Evangelist as part of his gospel. From St Jerome and St Augustine in the 4th century to the Fundamentalists of today, preachers committed to the concepts of Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Divine Preservation have almost unanimously accepted the Pericope Adulterae as authentic Holy Scripture with no reservations at all.
19th Century Academics
The second largest group with an opinion would be 19th and 20th century scholars, who frankly thought either it was a fraudulent insertion and certainly not Holy Scripture (presumably Marlowe's own position), or else who denied there even was such a thing as Holy Scripture entirely. These rationalists and humanists can hardly represent mainstream Christianity however, Catholic or Protestant, nor should they be consulted on matters of Christian Canon. Perhaps this is why Marlowe doesn't dare quote any of them.
20th Century Pop Pastors and Teachers
The smallest group of all would be those who believed in the 'assured results' of 19th century criticism, yet clung to a superstitious belief that somehow this was a 'pious fraud' meant to be, because it probably was 'a historical incident'. This really is a silly position, and few people other than daft commentators and confused pastors have taken it.
This group may seem more numerous and influential, because in the United States there is no shortage of half-literate amateur preachers who know little more than the pseudo-scholarly footnotes in their modern New Testaments. Perhaps this is why Marlowe thinks they are the 'brains' behind an alleged "John 8:1-11 Conspiracy".
Calvin and Hendrikson...
Consequently, Marlowe has trouble finding anyone willing to commit in writing to the position he claims was the historical norm, and cause of a 'flawed Canonization' process. He manages to dredge up John Calvin (c. 1550), and an obscure commentator from the 50's, William Hendriksen.
But neither 'example' really delivers the goods. Calvin is carefully neutral, in spite of any misgivings that may have been caused by the flawed and scanty textual knowledge in his own time. And Hendrickson only admits authenticity "cannot now be proven".
Neither of these buffoons is responsible for the widespread acceptance of John 8:1-11 as Holy Scripture. If anything, that award might go to St Jerome (c. 400 A.D.), father of the Latin Vulgate. And Jerome certainly didn't ascribe to the theory that the Pericope Adulterae was an illegitimate insertion. He asserted it was authentic to John's Gospel.
(9) Finally the "Sermon": A Lament on 'Pop-Christianity'
"In this way we go on, preaching as Scripture a passage which has no right to be presented as such, in the full knowledge of the fact that the story is absent from the early manuscripts. This is said to be "for our benefit." Yet the benefits of this passage are very doubtful.
The Story of the Adulteress is one of the most abused passages in all of Scripture. The climactic saying of the passage, "let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone," is the favorite text of those who refuse to repent of their sins and who will not hear a word of correction from Christian brothers. Such an attitude is actually encouraged by preachers who liken sharp criticism of sin to the stones of the Pharisees. What else can a preacher make of this passage in a day such as ours, after all stonings and all meaningful church discipline have ceased? Indeed, stonings had ceased even in the first century, when the right of the Jews to inflict capital punishment was taken away from them by the Roman authorities.
It is useless to point out that "Go and sin no more" is tacked onto the end of the story after the impressive and dramatic climax of the story has done its work. This apocryphal story is the central text of our debased "pop Christianity" with its easy-believism and its cheap grace, and it is quite possible that it was added to Scripture in the fourth century with the very same thing in view - the discouragement of all meaningful church discipline."
- Marlowe, Quo Vadis?
Marlowe has now run out of patience, and appears to have momentarily lost objective reality with this short rant.
Now he claims the PA "has no right to be presented as Scripture". But instead of a balanced presentation of textual or internal evidence, he offers about as much info as the footnote in a 'modern translation' from the 60s:
"...the story is absent from the early manuscripts."
Apparently thats all the authority we need: the anonymous sound byte of an unknown committee of hackneyed translators of some 'fad' translation of yesteryear. No need to inquire further for actual useful facts, like the date, origin, value, or even the condition of said 'manuscripts'. No need to ask about the personal religious beliefs, or even the moral standards of behavior of said anonymous 'textual critics'.
Marlowe is concerned about going along with things decided for us "for our benefit" by fuzzy-thinking and naive 'churchmen', but seems to miss the biggest danger of all: letting committees of unknown 'academic experts' tell us what should or should not be in our Bibles. The irony is not lost on us, however.
The benefits of this passage may appear doubtful at the moment to Marlowe, but perhaps someday after committing a serious sin, or recognizing he already has committed one, he will come to appreciate John 8:1-11 a little more. He calls the passage "abused", but this would be logically fallacious if the passage itself were actually bad already. This seems a tacit admission of some good in it, however grudgingly confessed.
Marlowe says its "the favourite text of those who refuse to repent", but this hardly seems plausible. The truly unrepentant tend to spit on Bibles, burn them, or ignore them: they rarely quote them. It sounds like Marlowe has never set foot outside a seminary and into the real world, of guns, drugs and white slavery.
In any case, removing the passage would not alleviate the problem of misapplying Scripture to excuse sin. Unrepentant churchgoers who refuse correction could just as easily quote Paul or even Jesus' equally famous saying:
"Judge not, that ye not be judged.".
Hundreds of other passages would do as well: should we delete those as well because they are abused?
Other Scriptures (and even pseudo-scriptures), which are habitually abused and misapplied by 'good' Protestants ought to cause at least as much concern, such as:
"Let no man judge you in meat or in drink" (Col. 2:16)
"I will not suffer a woman to teach" (1st Tim. 2:12)
"If any will not work, neither shall he eat" (2nd Thess. 3:10)
"God helps those who help themselves." (not in Bible!)
These are all used to excuse sin and escape personal responsibility toward one's neighbour. Marlowe's argument here is also hopelessly flawed.
Marlowe asks, "What else can a preacher make of this passage in a day such as ours, after all stonings and all meaningful church discipline have ceased?"
One can only reel in disbelief. Just how are stonings and meaningful church discipline linked? If they are, does Marlowe seriously suggest bringing back stoning in order to gain the benefits of better church discipline? Lest we think we might have too harshly judged Marlowe's IQ, he immediately follows up with the simply ridiculous:
"Indeed, stonings had ceased even in the first century, when the right of the Jews to inflict capital punishment was taken away from them by the Roman authorities."
For Marlowe's (and anyone else's) sake, we would like to point out that nearly a third of the world is still living under Muslim Sharia Law, in primitive conditions of near-illiteracy. Stoning hasn't ceased in the Middle East or Far East since Biblical times. If anyone doubts this, they should go immediately to this website which monitors international stonings etc.: WorldWatch.com, or simply Google "stoning".
Its not that anyone should have to witness a real stoning, even through a video or a photo. But anyone suggesting seriously that stoning could be a fair and equitable means of carrying out "justice" clearly HASN'T seen one and has no idea what they are talking about. In such a case, we WOULD suggest witnessing the horrific act of stoning, so that they would never speak of it again.
No, Marlowe isn't mentally retarded. He is suffering from a typical North American disease that only seems to strike rich White people: "Advanced Academic Deprivation", a condition that leaves the poor victim completely clueless as to the political and religious realities of the real world, for ninety percent of those living in it.
It is brought on by early isolation in academic institutions, and complicated by addiction to Western entertainment media.
Its not surprising that when Marlowe says "after the impressive and dramatic climax of the story has done its work.", he is not talking of Jesus dramatically rescuing a woman about to be lynched by a mob of criminal idiots: - of course not.
Marlowe is talking about the passage singlehandedly creating "our debased 'pop Christianity' with its easy-believism and its cheap grace". But we humbly suggest that if grace granted to others appears "too cheap", one can consult with profit the (undisputed) Holy Scripture which warns:
"You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt,
because you begged Me.
Shouldn't you also have had compassion
on your fellowservant, As I had pity on you?"
- (Matthew 18:32-33)
Marlowe suggests a reason for the alleged 'insertion' in the 4th century:
"..it is quite possible that it was added to Scripture in the fourth century with the very same thing in view - the discouragement of all meaningful church discipline."
We shall see shortly that this reason completely contradicts the one suggested later to explain St. Augustine!
For now we note again that Marlowe's concern repeatedly is "church discipline". He seems oblivious to the real purpose of the passage, or simply hardens his heart to its plain message. We presume that had Marlowe been there at the temple that day, he would have been one of the last Pharisees to drop his rock and slink away.
And this brings us to a painful observation. This is a 'sermon' worthy of a teenager desparately trying to build self-esteem and confidence by working himself up over some 'important' issue, and clumsily trying to remove an obstacle using the "guilt by association" technique.
Thus Marlowe wants to dump John 8:1-11 because it prevents him from pushing his agenda of "church discipline". The problem is, the plan is so ill-conceived and executed that it has about as much possibility of success as tossing a bucket of water on a raging forest fire.
(10) Fourth Century Shenanegans
Like the previous "Sermon" section, the excursion into 4th century history is as vague, meandering and pointless as anything that might have been written by a high-school English student. It does nothing to advance Marlowe's thesis, or demonstrate a 4th century insertion.
The only thing of any relevance, the short quote by Raymond Brown, may be plausible even if needing qualification, but simply describes a historical situation that would apply with equal force to either an authentic passage or an insertion. It speaks nothing to the issue of authenticity.
Nor does Marlowe do his Protestant readers any favours by concealing the fact that Brown was a closet Roman Catholic/ecumenical type who probably intended to infilterate Protestant circles in order to spread Catholic scholarly views. He ended his career accepted back into the church, which was always suspiciously friendly toward him while he was pretending to be a Protestant.
Catholic scholarship has always been wishywashy about things like Scriptural authority, Biblical inerrancy, and Divine Preservation, something readers will want to keep in mind when reading the kind of mediocre liberal tripe that Brown generated.
For what its worth, Brown comes down on the side of "liberals" as the probable inserters/restorers of John 8:1-11, in harmony with Marlowe's view that it eroded 'church discipline'. Again however, this is opposed to Marlowe's argument in the next section which characterizes Augustine (a PA supporter) as too strict (on marriage and adultery).
The Implausible Augustine
In discussions of the text-critical issue here, one often sees the opinion of Augustine quoted. In a treatise entitled De Adulterinis Conjugiis ("On Adulterous Marriages" ) written at the beginning of the fifth century, Augustine wrote,
"Certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord's act of forgiveness toward the adulteress,"
- and this explanation for the absence of the passage from early manuscripts is apparently held to be credible by some. 3 But surely Augustine's explanation is not based upon any real knowledge of the matter. He says, "I suppose" (Latin: credo). How could he possibly have any information about the supposed motives of the scribe of Papyrus 66, which predates Augustine's treatise by two centuries?
But in any case, Augustine's own motives are clear enough, because in De Adulterinis Conjugiis his purpose is to defend his sacramental view of marriage, in which a marriage bond is held to be indissoluble even after the wife has committed adultery, indeed even if she continues in this sin without repentance.
Augustine maintains that the Story of the Adulteress shows that the husband must forgive it. The husband is eternally bound to her, Augustine says, and if he divorces her and marries another, he is an adulterer. The defense of this extravagant teaching is the occasion, then, for his appeal to the Story of the Adulteress, and he calls those who rejected it 'inimici verae fidei, "enemies of the true faith." It is yet another example of how the story has lent itself to abuse, in support of unbiblical teachings and practices.
3. "Adulterous Marriages," translated by Charles T. Huegelmeyer, Book 2, para. 7, in The Fathers of the Church: Saint Augustine: Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects (New York: Catholic University of America Press, 1955), p. 107.
(11) Augustine the Rigid
By implication and corollary, Marlowe doesn't find St Augustine's explanation "credible". He emphasizes Augustine's expression "I suppose" (Latin: credo). But just as many who reject St. Jerome confuse the significance of both these early fathers for textual criticism, so does Marlowe.
Whether or not Augustine's reading of other people's motives is accurate, the importance of Augustine (and Jerome etc. for that matter) is rather in his personal (eyewitness) testimony concerning the actual condition of the manuscripts he examined and used.
The bottom line is that Jerome, Augustine, and their contemporaries found "many copies both Greek and Latin" which contained the Pericope Adulterae. Unless we start accusing the early fathers of lying, this is priceless firsthand testimony regarding both the transmission stream(s), and manuscripts now lost, the pedigrees of which stretch back to the 2nd century in both the Western (Latin) churches and the Eastern (Byzantine) churches.
But in any case, saying Augustine has no real knowledge of the matter is absurd. As an important Latin bishop in a central location, he would have been right in the middle of the life-blood action and politics of the churches throughout the Empire. It would be hard to pick a better person to give testimony. Where did Marlowe get such an idea? The last person to say something this stupid regarding Augustine's testimony was Samuel Davidson in 1848:
"Much of the suspicion which naturally lies against the passage, would be removed if Augustine's method of accounting for its omission could be rendered probable."
- Samuel Davidson, Introduction to the NT, p358
Even Hort simply presents Augustine's statement without comment. Others have remarked on the irony of two strict fathers like Augustine and Jerome being major witnesses in support of a passage so merciful and indulgent.
But we have to remember that Augustine hardly appeared 'strict' in 400 A.D. If anything he would have been perceived as 'nostalgic' and too lenient. Augustine certainly does appear strict from a modern point of view though:
De Adulterinis Conjugiis: Book 2 Chapt. 4 Para. 4:
"...A woman begins to be the wife of no later husband unless she has ceased to be the wife of a former one. She will cease to be the wife of a former one, however, if that husband should die, not if he commit fornication. A spouse, therefore, is lawfully dismissed for cause of fornication; but the bond of chastity remains. That is why a man is guilty of adultery if he marries a woman who has been dismissed even for this very reason of fornication."
- St. Augustine, On Adulterous Marriages, 2:4:4
However, it is Marlowe, not Augustine who is being 'extravagant' in describing Augustine's position as supporting "unbiblical teachings and practices". In fact, Augustine is acting as conservatively as ever, basing his doctrine on Paul's official position on divorce and widowhood:
"For the woman having a husband is bound by the Law to her husband so long as he lives: but if the husband dies, she is freed from the Law of Husband. So then if while her husband lives, she is married to another man she will be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead she is freed from that Law, so that she is no adulteress, though she may be married to another man."
"To the married I command - not I, but the Lord: Let not the wife depart from husband: But if she departs, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife."
(Ist Cor. 7:10-11)
By Marlowe's own confession, he is more interested in recent Presbyterian ammendments to the Westminster Confession than he is in true primitive New Testament practices:
"Theologically I am conservative and Reformed. I consider the Westminster Confession of Faith to be an accurate summary of Biblical theology. "
...and it shows, in his bias against St Augustine, even when Augustine is simply assenting to Holy Scripture penned by St. Paul.
The Good Old Days of Quo Vadis...
The comparison with the Quo Vadis legend is instructive in more ways than one. This old legend about Peter's martyrdom is a testimony to the earlier and far better days of the Church, in the second and third centuries, when the Church was truly a fellowship of the martyrs. As Peter flees from his appointment with the cross Jesus meets him on the road and causes him to remember the words, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Mark 8:34) This is the true apostolic spirit. But now we are done with all that, and the church is filled with adultery.
(12) The Good Old Days
Of course once again Marlowe is living in a fantasy world, hallucinating a personal romanticized version of the Apostolic Period. Paul's own letters attest to the fact that right from the outset, the early church was filled with adultery, apostacy, heresy, schisms, drunkenness, and a host of "discipline problems".
The church was never "truly a fellowship of martyrs". Real history isn't a romanticised screenplay of Lord of the Rings. Even the Apostles all abandoned Jesus Himself in his hour of need. Early Christians only became heroes on an individual basis, as they matured, and according to their gifts and opportunity. Most Christians, like most disciples and students everywhere, were unreliable cowards:
"But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them...
for He knew what was in Man..."
To say that the church abandoned the practice of reckless martyrdom, and therefore now its full of adulterers, is absolute nonsense, even if both statements are individually true.
The reason American Protestantism is rife with adultery, is they have never had a unified standard for 'biblical marriage', and the dozens of denominations, sects and cults have all gone their own way in defining marriage and working out divorce laws. The result is inevitable: One denomination's "legal matrimony" is another church's "unlawful adultery".
I doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if 60% of American Christian marriages end in divorce, and the average person has 10+ sex partners and multiple marriages, people are doing a lot of spouse-swapping.
Marlowe's hostility toward Augustine's position on marriage (and Paul's) is completely understandable. Who knows the previous sexual history of the members of his own family and church. If they are average, there is no doubt a few extra-marital experiments have been made.
Marlowe's view of marriage (and the rules he's willing to accept) may be understandable, and even pragmatic. But lets not put on the pretense that modern 'marriage' is "Biblical", lamenting the loss of the Apostolic Church's enthusiasm for martyrdom while refusing to adopt its rules on marriage and chastity in the same breath. The hypocrisy would be unbearable.
The real scarey part about Marlowe's unrealistic fantasy world, made possible through his apparently sheltered life in academia, is his glorifying of 'martyrdom', which plays out like an army recruiting ad: full of lies and bound to end in tragedy.
This parallels his ridiculous belief that stoning and other barbaric practices helped to maintain church 'discipline' and by implication restoring those practices could solve the church's problems today.
These are the kinds of romanticized nonsense that put Hitler in power, and led to the deaths of millions of innocent victims, trapped by the reckless fantasies of madmen.