Nestle on John 8:1-11

Review of: E. Nestle, Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Greek NT, (Norgate, 1901)

Page Index

Prologue: - Introduction to Ebhart Nestle
    Nestle - short biography
    The Nestle Text - a quick look
    Deception - his devious self-promotion

Excerpt: - Nestle on John: and Jn 8:1-11
    Introduction: John - textual variants
    Codex Sinaiticus - and John 21:25
    The PA: Jn 7:53-8:11
        Codex Bezae - peculiarities of D
        The Gospel of the Hebrews - Eusebius and Papias
       Augustine - and Nestle's theory of insertion
    Modern Footnotes - from Nazaroo

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Eberhard Nestle (1851 – 1913) was a German scholar and father of Erwin Nestle. He published an influential handbook of textual criticism, and in 1898 published the first edition of Novum Testamentum Graece, a Greek New Testament combining the editions of Constantin von Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and Richard Francis Weymouth. This edition became influential when the British and Foreign Bible Society adopted it to replace the Textus Receptus.

- Wikipedia

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The Nestle Critical Greek NT

NESTLE'S GREEK TEXT. Eberhard Nestle’s Greek text, which first appeared in 1895, was based on Tischendorf’s 8th edition of 1869-72, Westcott and Hort’s edition of 1881, and the 1902 edition of D. Bernhard Weiss (TBS Article No. 56). Tischendorf stayed closely to the Codex Sinaiticus, while Westcott and Hort largely followed the Vaticanus.

Thus the Nestle Text is founded largely upon the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts.

The Nestlé’s Text has gone through 27 editions and has been widely used in Bible College and seminary classrooms and translation work. Aberhard’s son Erwin Nestle succeeded to the editorship of the Nestle Text after Aberhard’s death in 1913. In 1950 Kurt Aland became associated with the Nestle project and later editions of the Nestlé Text are called the Nestlé-Aland Text.


The fathers of modern textual criticism in the 19th century were, for the most part, theological modernists and Unitarians or were men who were sympathetic to this position. Since the 20th century, even a greater degree of skepticism has dominated this field. For example, all of the editors of the United Bible Societies Greek NT (the UBS text) reject the doctrine of verbal inspiration and believe that the Bible is filled with myths.

The following are some of the chief names in this field of the past century, and to a man they rejected verbal inspiration:

Philip Schaff, Joseph Thayer, Eberhard Nestle, Hermann von Soden, Frederic Kenyon, Kirsopp Lake, C.H. Dodd, Ernest Colwell, Kenneth Clark, Francis Burkitt, Frederick Conybeare, Rudolf and Gerhard Kittel, Henry Clay Vedder, James Rendel Harris, Adolf von Harnack, Caspar Gregory, Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, Charles Briggs, Alexander Souter, Henry Wheeler Robinson, James Moffatt, John Goodspeed, Millar Burrows, Theodore Skeat, William Barclay, J.B. Phillips, Gunther Zuntz, George Kilpatrick, F.F. Bruce, Reginald Fuller, Robert Grant, George Ladd, Bart Ehrman, Brevard Childs, Eldon J. Epp, J.K. Elliott, Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Allen Wikgren, and Bruce Metzger.

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Nestle's Shameless Promotion of his NT

On the dubious behaviour of Eberhard Nestle regarding the promotion of his own critical Greek text, we have the following information posted by James Snapp Jr. on TC-Alt:

"Novum Testamentum Graece [the Nestle Critical Greek NT text] was not always as widely accepted as it is today. That's due to a lot of factors, and this post will not describe all of them. Here, I want to just focus on one of them -- a factor that is not as large as others, but which may have helped tip the scales in favor of Nestle's text early in its history.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, debate about the critical text which was the basis of the Revised Version was fairly intense. Doubts about the Alexandrian Text -- was it a recension?? -- and reservations about Hort's theories -- where's the evidence of a Lucianic recension?? Can eight "conflations" matter so much?? What about the Peshitta?? -- were commonly voiced by scholars; some preferred the traditional Byzantine Text and others wished to give the Western Text the careful investigation they thought it deserved.

The appearance of Nestle's Greek New Testament went a long way toward making the revised text more popular than it had been before. Nestle's text became a sort of standard not because it was remarkably better than rival presentations of the revised text; it became popular largely because it was handy and inexpensive and because it was well-marketed to Bible societies.

And therein lies a tale.

In the essay-collection "The Bible as Book," edited by Scot McKendrick and Orlaith O'Sullivan, Warren A. Kay contributes an essay on the Life and Work of Ebernard Nestle. Kay mentions that during the 1800's, the British and Foreign Bible Society tenaciously promoted and disseminated copies of the Textus Receptus: more than 351,495 copies from 1805 to 1895; 12,200 copies were printed in 1894.

In 1881 Oscar von Gebhardt made a Greek and Greek-German NT, in the hope that it would rival the British & Foreign Bible Society's TR- dissemination, but his book was too expensive. In 1898, the Wurttembergische Bibelgesselschaft at Stuttgart published a Greek NT in which the editions already made by Tischendorf, by Westcott & Hort, and by Weymouth were compared and their consensus was adopted as the text.

This new edition thus contained a Greek text which reflected top- level scholarship. But so did other Greek NT's on the market. What set apart this anonymously published edition from its rivals was its *price*; it was inexpensive. Now the other Bibles Societies had a feasible revised-text option.

But how could they be convinced to start distributing the revised Greek NT? Perhaps a scholarly review would help things along. Very helpfully, just such a review appeared in 1898 in the "Expository Times" -- a very positive review, in which the reviewer, a German scholar named Eberhard Nestle, noted that "it would be the best reward for the great expense which the Bible Society of Stuttgart has spent on this undertaking, if other Societies would make a large use of it."

I'm not sure how many months passed before it was revealed that the anonymous creator of the new inexpensive Greek New Testament was the same person who wrote the review.

Now, I have a rule about not speaking ill of the dead, but frankly, assuming that Warren Kay got his facts right, it seems ruthlessly duplicitous of Nestle to have written the review of his own anonymously published work! I can't commend the ethics of any journal-publisher who would knowingly allow such a thing either.

Imagine a world in which an inexpensive edition of the Byzantine Text was published anonymously, and Maurice Robinson wrote a glowing review of it in NTS, recommending its adoption, and in a few months the Byzantine Text was adopted accordingly, and was being printed and distributed by Bible Societies. Next, imagine the outcry when the Bible Societies then learn that Robinson was co-editor of the Byzantine Text. Wouldn't someone say,

"Inasmuch as we were deceived by an advertisement masquerading as an objective review, let's back up..."

- James Snapp Jr.,
post #2401, Jan 10, 2009
Yahoo Groups: TC-Alt List

Background information like this seems to indicate clearly that certain German scholars were still engaging in pretty 'iffy' shenanegans, if not outright dishonest promotion of materials intended to dethrone the traditional Bible.

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Nestle on John 8:1-11

The following excerpt is taken from Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Greek NT, (1901),
By Eberhard Nestle,William Edie, Allan Menzies,
Translated by William Edie.

John (p. 281 fwd)

Introduction to John

In this Gospel the attention of textual critics was long confined to the passage 7:53-8:11. They failed to observe that in other places there are clauses and whole verses whose omission or interpolation has to be investigated in connection with 7:53 fwd, as, for example, 4:9, 5:3-4, 1 and that interesting questions of textual criticism are raised in other parts of the book as well.

Chapter 21, which the last two verses of the preceding chapter clearly show to be an Appendix, 2 is equally well attested by the authorities, while the omission of 20:31 by the first hand of G is just one of the unaccountable phenomenae which make their appearance so frequently in the domain of textual criticism.

The Suspected Omission of 21:25 in Sinaiticus

The same thing is probably to be said of the omission in א (Cod. Sinai.) of the last verse of chapter 21.

Tischendorf was of the opinion that this last verse in א, together with the concluding ornament and subscription, was not by the same hand (A) as had written the Gospel of John, but by another (D) who had acted as corrector, and had written part of the Apocrypha and six leaves of the NT.

Tregelles, on the other hand, who examined the passage in Tischendorf's presence, thought the difference was due simply to the scribe having taken a fresh dip of the ink: that at all events the scribe who wrote the Gospel (A) did not intend it to conclude with verse 24, otherwise he would have added a concluding ornament and subscription as in the case of Matthew and Luke. 3

The verse is found in all the other MSS and versions with which we are acquainted, and the question with regard to is interesting only from the fact that a few MSS do contain scholium 4 to the effect that the verse is an addition (προσθηκη) inserted in the margin (εξωθεν) by one of the scholars, (τινος των φιλοπονων) 1 and afterwards incorporated in the text by another without the knowledge of the former (καταγεντος (?) δε εσωθεν αγνοια τυχον του πρωτου γραφεως υπο τινος των παλαιων μεν, ουκ ακριβων δε, και μερος της του ευαγγελιου γραφης γενομενον).

This entire note, however, is evidently no more than an inference drawn from the contents of the verse, as the Syriac Commentary of Theodore shows. 5

See further, Zahn, Einleitung, ii. 495, and the reference to the Commentary of Ishodad in Sachau's Verzeichnis der syischen Handschriften in Berlin, p. 307.

The Pericope De Adultera (Jn 7:53-8:11)

With respect to the Pericope Adulterae, on the other hand, we be quite certain that it did not originally stand in the position it now occupies (7:53-8:11), nor indeed in John's Gospel at all, although the decision of the Holy Office of the 13th Feb. 1897, which was confirmed by the Pope two days later, obliges Catholic exegetes to hold it as genuine. 6

It is omitted in a great many MSS and versions - e.g., in א B L T. A and C are defective here, but the amount of space shows that they could not have contained it. 7

It is omitted in the Syriac and Egyptian versions, in the Armenian and Gothic, 8 in some Old Latin codices, and in the earliest of the Greek and Latin Fathers. 9

On the other hand it is found in all the MSS of Jerome and in Codex D, which is the only one of the earlier Greek MSS to contain it. 10

Other Locations of the Passage 11

In some miniscules and later Armenian manuscripts it stands at the end of the Fourth Gospel, where now Westcott and Hort put it.

In miniscule 225, written in the year 1192, it follows 7:36; in the Georgian version it comes after 7:44; while in the Ferrar Group - i.e., in miniscules 13, 69, 124, 346, 556 - it is inserted after Luke 21:38.

Its insertion after 7:36 is probably the result of an accidental error. In the Greek Lectionaries the liturgy for Whitsunday begins at verse 37 and and extends to verse 52, followed by 8:12, so that the pericope was, by mistake, inserted before instead of after this lection.

Its position in the Georgian version is the more remarkable, seeing that in the Old Latin codex b, which contained the pericope by the first hand, the entire passage from 7:44-8:12 has been erased.

As a probable explanation of its position in the Ferrar Group after Luke 21:38, it has been suggested that the scribe inserted it there owing to the resemblance between Luke 21:37 and John 8:1, and also between Luke 21:38 (ωρθριζε ) and John 8:2 (ορθρου ).

Harris thinks that its proper place is in John between chapters 5 and 6, because reference is made in 5:45,46 to the Mosaic Law, which is also mentioned in 8:5. 12

Codex Cantabrigensis (Bezae, 'D')13

But the remarkable thing is that here again the text of D differs in a conspicuous manner from that of the other witnesses.

In 8:2 the words και καθισας εδιδασκεν αυτους are wanting:

in verse 4 we meet the sentence εκπειραζοντες αυτον οι ιερεις ινα εχωσιν κατηγοριαν αυτου, which does not come till after verse 5 in the other text:

for μοιχεια, D has αμαρτια:

in verse 5 it reads, Μωυσης δε εν τω νομω εκελευσεν τας τοιαυτας λιθαζειν , for which the other text has εν δε τω νομω Μωσης ενετειλατο τας τοιαυτας λιθοβολεισθαι

in verse 11, D has υπαγε where the other text has πορευου.

Now, if two persons got such an easy sentence as "Moses in the Law commanded to stone such" to translate from the Latin, Hebrew, or any other language into Greek, one of them might quite well use κελευειν and λιθαζειν and the other εντελλεσθαι and λιθοβολειν.

And so the question is suggested whether the two forms in which the text exists were not derived from different sources, that of D, e.g., from its Latin [i.e., its Latin side: D is a bilingual MS, with facing pages of Greek and Latin].

But on closer examination the latter supposition is seen to be impossible. For the Latin corresponding to εχωσιν κατηγοριαν is 'haberent accusare eum', showing that the Latin translator read κατηγορεινin his original, 2 and for ωστε ταντας εξελθειν he has 'uti omnes exire', where again the infinitive speaks for the priority of the Greek.

The Gospel According to the Hebrews 14

On the other hand, it is to be observed that, according to Eusebius (Eccles. Hist. 3. c. 39, sub fin. ) , Papias knew and recorded an incident περι γυναικος επι πολλαις αμαρτιας διαβληθεισης επι του Κυριου, ην το καθ' Εβραιους ευαγγελιον περιιεχει.

So that the Gospel according to the Hebrews (i.e., the Palestinian Jewish Christians) contained a narrative similar to this, we may say quite confidently, contained this narrative.

From that Gospel it was taken and inserted in some MSS after Luke 21,in others after John 7. By the time of Augustine it was so widely propagated in the Latin that he thought it had been removed from certain MSS by people of weak faith, or rather by enemies of the true faith, 'credo metuentes peccandi immunitatem dari mulieribus suis.'15

The pericope is no part of John's Gospel, though it belongs to the oldest stock of evangelic tradition.16

On the question whether it may not originally have stood between Mark 12:17 and 12:18, and so between Luke 20:26 and 20:27, see Holtzmann in ThLz., 1898, col. 53 f. Vide supra, p. 66. 17

Original Footnotes:

1. This description is elsewhere understood as applying ot Theodore of Mopsuestia.

2. The same variation occurs in Luke 6:7, where Aleph*, B S X read κατηγορειν (κατηγορησαι D), while Alephc, A E F have κατηγοριαν.

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Modern Footnotes

Footnotes courtesy of Nazaroo:

1. Nestle here makes a remarkable observation, which however has never been adequately followed up.

He is right that other seemingly unrelated omissions are somehow connected to the omission of John 7:53-8:11. We can start with the obvious fact that the same early manuscripts omit both the Pericope De Adultera and other striking verses.

Had this actually been followed up, the cause would not be hard to trace:

(1) The same Alexandrian Editors were at work in other places in the text as were responsible for perpetuating the omission of the PA.

(2) They were following the early Lectionary textual tradition, and were deliberately preparing MSS for public worship and church services, and so left out controversial passages. This was done in conformity to the pre-determined selections made according to a calendar, and so they also modified or 'pericope'-zed sections for stand-alone use (Lections).

Another case of a textual critic being unable to see the forest for the trees. The refusal to consider the passage as authentic and original prevented textual critics in the 19th century from recognizing the obvious facts about the texts of MSS deliberately prepared for church use. Many modern critics remain equally blind today.

2. If the internal evidence indeed supports the idea of the 21st chapter of John as an addition, then critics have failed to see the significance of this for textual criticism of the Pericope de Adultera.

It means that even if internal evidence were found that indicated the PA was an addition, the likely time at which this happened would be much earlier than the earliest extant manuscripts.

Not only are the 'earliest and best' manuscripts useless for solving the problem of the Ending of John, they may also be unenlightening and irrelevant to the problem of the PA.

If these manuscripts cannot inform us about very early editing of John, then what can they really tell us? They can only provide evidence of subsequent editorial activity, and cannot tell us about the original text or any editing it may have suffered beforehand.

In a nutshell, the early MSS are of no use in reconstructing the original text of John. Other (internal) methods must be applied.

3. The amusing exchange between Tischendorf and Tregelles over the ending of John in Aleph does not merely tell us that the critics "could not agree among themselves".

The important observation is just how precarious and subjective the textual evidences can be in the hands of different interpreters. Tregelles has out-done the original skeptic Tischendorf in his "uber-skepticism", and has shot Tischendorf's plane down before it even got out of the hanger.

Since the actual amount of skepticism to be applied to any situation is arbitrary and subjective, there is no scientific basis for controlling skepticism. Skepticism therefore, cannot be allowed to control inferences and conclusions.

What is needed is a very cautious and tentative approach in offering any potential 'conclusions', accompanied by complete warning labels and codes, as we do with dangerous and poisonous 'medicines' and household chemicals.

Caution: The opinions of textual critics are extremely caustic and harmful if swallowed.

4. Instead of unreferenced, untranslated, undated, and anonymous 'marginal notes' by secondary hands, it would be better if so-called 'scholars' actually did their job, and provided proper references, translations and dates, and sources for independant corroboration. Otherwise, no science is really being practiced at all. Only clumsy rhetoric and entertainment.

In all other scientific fields and endeavours, rigor in method and independent corroboration and review are mandatory.

5. Now Nestle plays his hand, and seems to expose himself in a show of 'learning' or academic prowess. The whole exercise here seems to be to convince the reader of Nestle's superior knowledge, and soften us up for the nonsense about John 8:1-11 which is to follow.

6. Again, a scientific presentation or claim is not the place for childish 'anti-Catholic spam'.

Whether or not Nestle was really backed by Jesuits, and hence some kind of 'mole' in English protestantism is a moot point.

Nobody really cares about Catholic/Protestant catfighting. Regardless of the source, what people want, and what open science needs, are just the facts, minus all the hype.

7. The real significance of A and C is once again missed, or rather passed over:

(1) The evidence has been 'pre-tampered with' so that we can never know what the contents of the missing pages were, or even why or on what side of the issue those who removed them were.

(2) That the pages might have been removed because of incriminating special markings or marginal notes which vindicated the passage and condemned or explained the omission of the PA

(3) These MSS are no longer of any real use in establishing the authenticity of the passage. At best they can only witness to a concerted fight over the verses in some unknown location during the 4th century.

8. The presentation here borders on conscious dishonesty, if not outright fraud.

(1) The Syriac church accepted the inclusion of the verses without a fuss, certainly after the time of Theodoret. Their earlier texts consisted mostly of homemade translations and copies of Tatian's Diatessaron, an early 'harmony' of the four gospels. The Diatessaron seems to have contained it in many copies at least. Those copies without the verses substituted a similar portion of Matthew, indicating they knew something was to go here.

(2) Most of the early 'Versions' (translations) of the Gospels into other languages were based on old, worn-out Lectionaries or copies prepared for 'church use'. These naturally (like Aleph and B) omitted the portions of text not read publicly according to the Christian Calendar. In every well attested case, better copies and continuous translations of the NT were made in the new language, which then included the Pericope De Adultera.

(3) There is a well known remark by Nicon that at some point in history the Armenians rejected this passage, or continued to omit it due to suspicions of its authenticity or prudery and misunderstanding.

9. Again a misleading statement. We only have a few works and fragments of the earliest Christian writers. Those works give no occasion for the author to quote John 8:1-11. We simply cannot say whether any known or unknown writers knew of the passage.

The division of the 'fathers' into "Latin" and "Greek" is also a shakey grouping, since many were fluent in both languages and travelled across the Empire from Africa or the West to the East. The Latin and Greek branches of the early Church were in good communication most of the time, and held councils together. It is inconceivable that one half of the European churches could have the Pericope de Adultera in their text in the 4th century, and the other (Eastern) half would not know about it.

10. More mis-stated evidence. Since we only have 4 (FOUR) manuscripts (or five counting Codex Bezae) from the 4th century or older, we have no way at all of knowing the state of the text in various copies (of which there must have been thousands, counting translations) for this period.

The four manuscripts we do have all come from the same branch, the Alexandrian texts from Egypt. These texts show clear signs of deliberate editing for ecclesiastical purposes, and display a wide variation in individual readings, even amongst themselves.

The text in some areas (like Egypt) appears to have been in a fluid state, with lots of variants, and with no one text having clear dominance. If this is the case, then the texts found in the four oldest MSS are simply a very small random sample of texts from a certain origin or locale, and cannot represent the wider general situation.

The only way we can then know of the real state of the text in the first four centuries is to look at quotations of the early writers and other lines of transmission represented by later copies which however reflect early independent texts. Secondly, we can appeal to internal evidence.

11. The later misplacements of the passage reflect efforts by Medieval copyists to put it back using the Lectionaries and guesswork as to its exact location in John. In other cases, there was no room to correct copies without the passage, or no copies available to indicate where it belonged.

All of these unusual cases represent isolated locations and ignorance of the text, and all of them occur in the 10th to 12th centuries. There is no early evidence whatever of a "floating text", or of any other location for the passage other than between John 7:52 and 8:12.

This evidence is of no use other than documenting the behaviour of a few later copyists who had to deal with earlier MSS that had left out the verses. Unfortunately it has no bearing on the situation in the early centuries or the authenticity of John 7:53-8:11.

12. This feeble attempt by Harris to account for one of many significant connections which the passage has to John is all but worthless.

In the first place the logic is childish. A connection to the text elsewhere does not mean the whole passage should be located elsewhere. There are many connections between John's Gospel and the passage, and we cannot sprinkle multiple copies of it throughout the Gospel.

A more intelligent treatment of the Moses-connection between the passage and John can be found here:

Moses and John 8:1-11 < - - Click here for more info.

13. The peculiar text of Codex Bezae is a significant problem for textual reconstruction of the history of the passage. But it cannot be dealt with by a quick sampling as here. Nestle's point that the text does not come from a 'back-translation' of the Latin is however valid. Codex Bezae appears to represent an independant Greek line of transmission that predates both the Latin Vulgate and the Old Latin text.

In any case it is a secondary issue to the question of the origin and authenticity of the standard text, i.e., the common and accepted version of the story, and its placement in John.

14. Nestle attempts to identify the source of the passage as Gospel According to the Hebrews.

But over a century later, the question is still in dispute, and the evidence from Eusebius concerning Papias is if anything under more suspicion than ever, and remains controversial.

15. Like all critics who want to view the verses as a 'non-Johannine insertion', Nestle dismisses the evidence from Augustine, and ignores the testimony of all the other early fathers as well.

But from a scientific and historical viewpoint, all the evidences of the early Christian fathers and writers must be thoroughly examined and adequately explained. Nestle's crude theory of insertion does not account for any of the patristic evidence, nor the new evidence that has since come to light regarding the authenticity of the passage.

16. This is the standard position of many textual critics, but is completely untenable. It is an attempt to ride two horses in two different directions, and many critics on both sides have rightfully rejected it, such as Tregelles and Burgon.

If the passage is indeed a spurious insertion, it should have no place in the Bible, and if it is authentic, it should not be classed as 'non-Johannine' or an 'interpolation'.

17. The question of when the incident took place in a historical chronology of Jesus' public ministry is a valid one, but attempts to actually insert the passage into some other gospel are wrong-headed and crude. There are several options for aligning the chronologies and incidents in John with other gospels, and there is no need to commit to any one theory or reconstruction.

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