Zervos on the PA

Review: G. T. Zervos, Caught in the Act: Mary and the Adulteress, (internet, 2007)

Page Index

Last Updated: Sept 15, 2010

Zervos: - Introduction:
    Mishandling the Textual Evidence - Missing Categories
    Mishandling the Patristic Evidence - 3 Card Monte
    New Category: "Apocrypha"
    Protevangelium of James: Foreign Authorship of PA?
    Brainwashing Agenda: "we must disassociate the PA from John"

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Zervos on
John 8:1-11


One of the newest entries into the fray over the Pericope de Adultera (the "PA", = John 7:53-8:11 ) is the 2007 article by G. T. Zervos, Caught in the Act: Mary and the Adulteress, which Mr. Zervos has placed online at his University of N.Carolina website:


Dr. George T. Zervos: Dept. of Philosophy and Religion, (UNCW) offers a half-dozen courses on religion, and NT studies. His homepage can be found at: http://people.uncw.edu/Zervosg

Zervos' article is important for several reasons:

1. Its new, and attempts to push forward a novel approach toward the research on the PA.
2. Zervos lays his new agenda for the handling of the early history of the passage in plain view, so we can evaluate its merits.
3. He gives detailed discussions of key evidence not found elsewhere.
4. He provides extensive bibliographies and footnotes connecting to other recent researchers in this area.
5. Zervos himself translates material into English (from German articles etc.) that would normally be inaccessible to English readers.
6. He gives a long discussion of the Protevangelium of James, recently cited as possible 'source evidence'.

Excerpts Taken for Review from:
G. T. Zervos, Caught in the Act: Mary and the Adulteress, (internet, 2007)

Headings/formatting may have been added for clarity and navigation purposes.


Outline of Zervos' Article

Zervos' article is quite long, (some 43 pages with footnotes). He begins praising W. Petersen for his (1997) article on the PA, which Zervos largely tries to sell to the reader: "William Petersen presents a compelling study of the famous pericope adulterae (PA)"(Zervos, p.1)

(for a review of that article, see our page here: Petersen on PA)

Mishandling the Categories of Evidence

He organizes his argument in the following manner: First he divides what he calls the 'evidence' regarding the PA (John 7:53-8:11) into four broad categories:

A. The Textual Evidence against the PA
1. The Greek MS Tradition
2. The Ancient Versions and Non-Greek Patristic Witnesses
3. The Greek Patristic Witnesses
4. The Apocrypha

One will look in vain for a category "Textual Evidence FOR the PA", or even a category "Internal Evidence" either for or against the passage. Zervos carefully avoids both these groups of evidence, since he has already written off the PA as an 'insertion'.

But Zervos doesn't just stop at begging the issue with his main title, "Evidence Against...".

Mishandling the Patristic Evidence

He also does a bit of 3-card Monte in splitting off the bulk of the key Patristic evidence (all the 4th century early fathers of importance, like Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine), and dismissing it under the subheading of "Versions". Its as though their critical testimony about the MSS evidence in the early 4th century was secondary or 'unreliable'.

His first three categories of evidence are briefly treated, only to show that in reviewing the 'evidence',

"...[Petersen has demonstated] the dismal lack of support for the PA in the 1st three categories of witnesses, i.e., the Greek MSS, versions, and patristic references..." (Zervos, p 11)

New Category of Evidence: "Apocrypha"

Instead Zervos offers a NEW category of evidence, "The Apocrypha", by which he means:

4. The Apocrypha [sic!]
(a) the [non-extant] Gospel according to the Hebrews, (mentioned by early Fathers),
(b) the Didascalia Apostolorum, ("The Teaching of the Apostles" 3rd cent.), and
(c) the Protevangelium of James, (the 'proto-gospel of James', = Prot. Jas.).

Now Zervos praises Petersen again for 'discovering' that this is the most important 'evidence':

"Petersen rightly points out that that oldest evidence for the PA lies in the 4th category, the non-canonical documents of early Christianity." (i.e., Zervos' "Apocrypha") (Zervos, p 11)

By this last statement, Zervos makes it clear that he has mis-named his last category of 'evidence', just as he has ineptly named the first three. He clearly means New Testament 'Apocrypha'. - And we are not going to see any discussion whatever for instance of the obvious and important connection between the PA and the Story of Suzanna in the Greek book of Daniel.

As he did in the previous sections (pp. 1-11), Zervos only briefly treats the first two examples of his 'Apocrypha', the Gospel according to the Hebrews, and the Didascalia Apostolorum (pp. 12-15).

Protevangelium of James

He really wants to talk about the Protevangelium of James (or Prot. Jas.), which he spends the next 11 pages (15-26) discussing in excruciatingly boring detail, complete with exhaustive footnotes.

This last document (Prot. Jas.), is Zervos' real interest. He borrows Petersen's claim that this document is the earliest evidence for the existance of the PA. This is further interpreted or rather assumed to mean that it is evidence that the PA is of foreign origin, and hence a later insertion into John's Gospel.

But Zervos is not done yet. He goes on for another 10 pages (pp. 15-36) analyzing the 'Textual Problem' for Prot. Jas., and the 'Form-Critical Problem'.

We may well ask, why? What is so important about the Protevangelium of James? What can it possibly tell us about the origin of the PA?

After all is said and done, the efforts of all the critical skill and cleverness combined results in essentially one weak link between the two otherwise totally unrelated documents ( Prot. Jas., and the PA):

Gosp.John... 8:11 - ουδε εγω σε [κατα] κρινω
Prot. James. 16:3 - ουδε εγω [κατα] κρινω υμας.

And even this is perhaps a shakey match, with the PJ quotation addressing a crowd in the plural.

Zervos 'Brilliant Conclusion'

A Methodology for 'Deprogramming' Christians

Having established the (perhaps not so) 'obvious' dependance of the PA upon Prot. Jas., Zervos now shows us how to fill in the blanks (or rather gigantic chasm! perhaps even uncrossable gulf...) between the evidence and his thesis:

"First, we must disassociate the PA completely from the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John should not even be mentioned in connection with the origins of this story. Any thoughts we may have relating to the the later association between these two texts must be completely cleared from our minds.

If the overwhelming witness of the MS tradition of the Gospel of John tells us nothing else, it tells us that there was absolutely no relationship between the PA and the Gospel of John in the first two centuries.

The MSS constitute definitive and irrefutable proof that the PA was not originally a canonical story since we do not have a single early MS of John that contains it.

But we do have a complete 3rd century papyrus of the Prot. Jas. that includes a parallel to a statement in the modern PA." (Zervos, p 36)

If this last paragraph reads back to you like a hypnotism session from the Scientologists, or an offer from the literature of Reverend Sung Yung Moon, don't be alarmed or surprised.

The Church of Jesus Christ, Scientist (i.e., Christian Scientists) is of course the favourite denomination of the wealthy European Elite. Mary Baker Eddy continues to reach out to wealthy and stupid academia wherever they can be separated from their natural born common sense.


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