Schmiedel on John 8:1-11 (1908)

Review of: Schmiedel, The Johannine Writings,
transl. (1908) pp. 39 etc.

Page Index

Prologue: - Introduction to Schmiedel

Review: - Schmiedel on John 8:1-11: Synopsis
    Modern Footnotes: - by Nazaroo

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Schmiedel was one of the 19th century German scholars who contributed to the erosion of the credibility of John's Gospel, by perpetuating and popularizing the new German 'higher critical methods' (read 'exaggerated skepticism' ). This spread quickly to the English speaking world as well, through translation by promoters of these views.


IN the German edition, the present work comprises three parts (8, 10, and 12) of the well-known Religionsgeschichtliche Volksbucher. The present edition gathers these discussions of the Johannine (and incidentally of the Synoptic) problem into a single volume. It has the further advantage - through the kindness of Prof. Schmiedel - of incorporating many manuscript improvements in and additions to the German text.

For instance - not to mention smaller additions - scholia 26 and 27 in Pt. I. Chap. III. (pp. 130-136), the second and third paragraphs of scholia 13 in Pt. II. Chap. V. (pp. 255-257), and the second note in the Appendix (pp. 270-277) are entirely new. In fact, in this, as in other matters, Prof. Schmiedel has spared himself no trouble in order to lay the results of his studies in as complete a form as possible (having regard, of course, to the limitations imposed by a popular German series) before his English readers.

In the List of Books at the end of the volume references will be found to some of the author's contributions to the Encyclopaedia Biblica which bear directly upon the subject under consideration. It is hoped that the present work will serve as an introduction, and in some respects as a supplement, to Prof. Schmiedel's famous Encyclopaedia articles.


July 1908.

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Schmiedel on
John 8:1-11

The Johannine Writings

PART I: Chapt 1, Para 10. Subject of Jesus' Discourses

"...There is only one narrative in the Fourth Gospel in which the utterances of Jesus do not serve the purpose of his own glorification, 1 but are spoken entirely for the sake of the persons with whom he is dealing; 2 this is the story of the woman who was taken in adultery and brought to Jesus (vii. 53-viii. 11).

"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her"

- and after her accusers have slunk away one after another,

"Neither do I condemn thee; go thy way, from henceforth sin no more."

These utterances read, in fact, as if Mark, Matthew or Luke lay open before us. 3 But, apart from this, there is hardly a scholar who does not agree that this narrative was not found originally in the Gospel of Jn. 4

It is missing in copies which were made as late as in the fourth century or still later, 5 and many particular words are found in it for which elsewhere John regularly uses quite different terms. 6

- P.W. Schmiedel, The Johannine Writings,
transl. Maurice A. Canney, (London A&C Black, 1908) pg 39

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Modern Footnotes

Footnotes courtesy of Nazaroo:

1. Schmiedel's premise is that all the utterances of Jesus are concerned with or designed to support or advance Jesus' own glorification.

It may be right that John the Evangelist has concentrated on incidents and sayings of Jesus that do in fact focus on Jesus' glorification, in many places in the Gospel. But Schmiedel's claim is exaggerated at best.

By 'narrative', Schmiedel really means any pericope or incident, but his claim can actually apply only to Jesus' protracted discourses. If we examine the Gospel, we find quite a different picture than the one painted by Schmiedel:

(1) The Wedding at Cana can hardly be called "non-Johannine", yet in it Jesus says nothing at all that could be construed as overtly "serving the purpose of his own glorification". This incident looks remarkably similar to John 8:1-11, in that Jesus says little, and acts strangely.

(2) Temple Cleansing: Here Jesus speaks exactly twice, with one profound, and one mysterious statement, precisely as he does in Jn 8:1-11. There is no 'self-glorification' here. Jesus again sounds almost a little crazy if his words were to be taken at face value in Jn 2:19. The statement is so cryptic that the Evangelist is compelled to explain it in his commentary, verses 2:21-22.

(3) Discussion with Nicodemus: Here Jesus teaches extensively on spiritual rebirth. Jesus saves any 'self glorification' till the very last sentence (verses 3:14-15), and even this is actually a cryptic reference to the prophecy of Daniel. Most modern experts agree that Jesus' speech plainly stops at verse 15. Verses 3:16-21 are recognized by most as a brief commentary by John the Evangelist himself, providing advanced Christian doctrine to the reader. John only does this in a few places, and it cannot be expected in the case of John 8:1-11, because this did not involve a doctrinal issue, but a legal one.

(4) The Samaritan Woman at the Well: Jesus again uses the circumstances to advance some doctrine, but the main point of the story is that by demonstrating his prophetic skills, he opens a door of salvation to the despised and rejected Samaritans. Any 'self-glorification' is dwarfed by the powerful testimony of the Samaritan people themselves, while Jesus isn't even present (4:41-42). We may note in passing his surprising and open acceptance of the Samaritan Adulteress(!), forshadowing the incident to come...

(5) The Healing of the Prince's Son: More than anything, does this little incident characterize the same Jesus to be found in 8:1-11: Jesus says little, speaking only twice. The first statement is a conditional but demeaning statement, just as in the Adultery incident, which anyone can escape the condemnation of, if they have faith and truth enough. The second pronouncment, "Go thy way..." with an added correction, "your son lives.", is so like the ending of 8:1-11 that we have to pause at the coincidence.

More examples could be deduced, but by Schmiedel's criterion, we'd have to jettison over half the Gospel as a foreign insertion. The real problem however, is his thesis. It is not based on an actual examination of John, but a subjective impression from an apparently faulty memory.

2. "utterances...spoken entirely for the sake of the persons with whom he is dealing" is precisely how we should describe the incident of the The Healing of the Prince's Son (4:46-54). But so many incidents would fit this description we must suspect an artificial set of categories that simply can't assist to sort the incidents in John at all.

3. Of course, the converse is also true: many incidents in Luke for instance read in fact as if John lay open before us: A remarkable number of passages in Luke appear to depend upon the Johannine tradition, such as Luke 9:55-56 (cf. Jn 3:16-17), Luke 10:1-24, especially 10:2-3 (cf. Jn 4:35-36), and 10:21-22 (cf. Jn 5:25-27, 8:42-43, 10:27-30 etc.), Luke 11:29-36 (cf. Jn 2:18 etc.), and Luke 12:14 (cf. Jn 8:15-16).

4. In Schmiedel's day, textual critics claimed for themselves, and somewhat succeeded in acquiring a rather overblown importance and authority.

Nowadays, people are trained to be skeptical of authority, and nobody really cares what textual critics think. Most people can think for themselves and just want the evidence, plainly and honestly presented without bias. They can evaluate the theories of professors quite well without phoney recommendations, resumes, or references.

5. This is perhaps the most intriguing thing Schmiedel says. Its the first time any textual critic has overtly argued concerning the lateness of the omission of the passage, as a direct argument for its later insertion. If only modern critics had this much understanding of the significance of MS evidence, and were this articulate.

Unfortunately, the point is worthless, since there is evidence of the existance and acceptance of the passage which predates the later omissions: for instance, the inclusion of the story in the Didache, the Diatessaron and the Apostolic Constitutions.

But the most important evidence for authenticity of the passage and the integrity of John is the modern internal evidences:

R. A. Culpepper on Jn 8:1-11 <- - click here.
CHIASTIC Structure (2008) & Jn 8:1-11 < - - click here.

6. For a thorough discussion of arguments from vocabulary and phraseology, read these two articles:

Davidson (1848) on Internal style < - - click here
Alford (1863) on Internal style < - - click here

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