Patristic Evidence

Rufinus on John 8:1-11
(c. 408 A.D.)

Review of: Rufinus, transl. Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History

Page Index

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2009

Prologue: - Introduction to Rufinus
    E, B, Nicolson: - on Rufinus

Rufinus and John 8:1-11: - Nicolson's discovery and his account
        PA in Gospel According to Hebrews
        Rufinus on Eusebius/Papias
        PA moved to John
        PA in right place in John
        PA in Synoptic Chronology
        Modern Footnotes - courtesy of Nazaroo

    Dean Burgon and Nicolson: - Shared insights on Rufinus
    Tregelles and Rufinus: - Dr. Routh, & the Rufinus discovery

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Tyrannius Rufinus Aquileiensis (Rufinus of Aquileia)

TYRANNIUS RUFINUS, presbyter and theologian, was born at or near Aquileia at the head of the Adriatic, probably between 340 an 345. In early manhood he entered the cloister as a catechumen, receiving baptism about 370. About the same time a visit of Jerome to Aquileia led to a close friendship between the two, and shortly after Jerome's departure for the East Rufinus also was drawn thither (in 372 or 373) by his interest in its theology and monasticism.

Early Study under Didymus the Blind

He first settled in Egypt, hearing the lectures of Didymus, the Origenistic head of the catechetical school at Alexandria, and also cultivating friendly relations with Macarius the elder and other ascetics in the desert. In Egypt, if not even before leaving Italy, he had become intimately acquainted with Melania, a wealthy and devout Roman widow; and when she removed to Palestine, taking with her a number of clergy and monks on whom the persecutions of the Arian Valens had borne heavily, Rufinus (about 378) followed her.

While his patroness lived in a convent of her own in Jerusalem, Rufinus, at her expense, gathered together a number of monks in a monastery on the Mount of Olives, devoting himself at the same time to the study of Greek theology. This combination of the contemplative life and the life of learning had already developed in the Egyptian monasteries.

Fallout with Jerome

When Jerome came to Bethlehem in 386, the friendship formed at Aquileia was renewed. Another of the intimates of Rufinus was John, bishop of Jerusalem, and formerly a Nitrian monk, by whom he was ordained to the priesthood in 39 0. In 394, in consequence of the attack upon the doctrines of Origen made by Epiphanius of Salamis during a visit to Jerusalem, a fierce quarrel broke out, which found Rufinus and Jerome on different sides; and, though three years afterwards a formal reconciliation was brought about between Jerome and John, the breach between Jerome and Rufinus remained unhealed.

Return to Rome

In the autumn of 397 Rufinus embarked for Rome, where, finding that the theological controversies of the East were exciting much interest and curiosity, he published a Latin translation of the Apology of Pamphilus for Origen, and also (398-99) a somewhat free rendering of the De Principiis of that author himself. In the preface to the latter work he referred to Jerome as an admirer of Origen, and as having already translated some of his works with modifications of ambiguous doctrinal expressions.

This allusion annoyed Jerome, who was exceedingly sensitive as to his reputation for orthodoxy, and the consequence was a bitter pamphlet war, very wonderful to the modern onlooker, who finds it difficult to see anything discreditable in the accusation against a biblical scholar that he had once thought well of Origen, or in the countercharge against a translator that he had avowedly exercised editorial functions as well.

Orthodoxy Challenged

At the instigation of Theophilus of Alexandria, Anastasius (pope 398-402) summoned Rufinus from Aquileia to Rome to vindicate his orthodoxy; but he excused himself from a personal attendance in a written Apologia pro fide sua. The pope in his reply expressly condemned Origen, but left the question of Rufinus's orthodoxy to his own conscience.

He was, however, regarded with suspicion in orthodox circles (cf. the Decretum Gelassii, § 20) in spite of his services to Christian literature. In 408 we find Rufinus at the monastery of Pinetum (in the Campagna ?); thence he was driven by the arrival of Alaric to Sicily, being accompanied by Melania in his flight. In Sicily he was engaged in translating the Homilies of Origen when he died in 410.

The original works of Rufinus are -

(1) De Adulteratione Librorum Origenis - an appendix to his translation of the Apology of Pamphilus, and intended to show that many of the features in Origen's teaching which were then held to be objectionable arise from interpolations and falsifications of the genuine text;

(2) De Benedictionibus XII Patriarcharum Libri II - an exposition of Gen. xlix.;
(3) Apologia s. Invectivarum in Hieronymum Libri II;
(4) Apologia pro Fide Sua ad Anastasium Pontificem;
(5) Historia Eremitica - consisting of the lives of thirty-three monks of the Nitrian desert; 1
(6)Expositio Symboli, a commentary on the creed of Aquileia comparing it with that of Rome, which is valuable for its evidence as to church teaching in the 4th century. The Historiae Ecclesiasticae Libri XI of Rufinus consist partly of a free translation of Eusebius (10(10 books in 9) and partly of a continuation (bks. x. and xi.) down to the death of Theodosius the Great.

The other translations of Rufinus are -

(I) the Instituta Monachorum and some of the Homilies of Basil;
(2) the Apology of Pamphilus, referred to above;
(3) Origen's Principia;
(4) Origen's Homilies (Gen. - Kings, also Cant. and Rom.);
(5) Opuscula of Gregory of Nazianzus;
(6) the Sententiae of Sixtus, an unknown Greek philosopher;
(7) the Sententiae of Evagrius;
(8) the Clementine Recognitions (the only form in which that work is now extant);
(9) the Canon Paschalis of Anatolius Alexandrinus.

We can hardly overestimate the influence which Rufinus exerted on Western theologians by thus putting the great Greek fathers into the Latin tongue.

D. Vallarsi's uncompleted edition of Rufinus (vol. i. fol., Verona, 1745) contains the De Benedictionibus, the Apologies, the 1 On this work see Dom Butler in Texts and Studies, vi. i. pp. 10 ff.

Expositio Symboli, the Historia Eremitica and the two original books of the Hist. Eccl. See also Migne, Patrol. (vol. xxi. of the Latin series). For the translations, see the various editions of Origen, Eusebius, &c.

See W. H. Freemantle in Dict. Chr. Biog. iv. 555-60; A. Ebert, Allg. Gesch. d. Litt. d. Mittelalters im Abendlande, i. 321-27 (Leipzig, 1889); G. Kruger in Hauck-Herzog's Real-encyk. fir Prot. Theol., where there is a full bibliography.

- Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1911

Rufinus of Aquileia (340-410) was a friend of Jerome, and, like Jerome, he departed from Italy to live in the East. For many years he lived in monasteries in Egypt and in Palestine, acquiring the learning of the Eastern churches. Towards the end of his life he returned to Italy and occupied himself in translating works of the earlier Greek Fathers into Latin. His Exposition of the Creed was an original work, but it shows the influence of the Greek church (and of Jerome) in several places. In his discussion of the canon, he follows the Greek Fathers and Jerome in excluding the Apocrypha from the canon of Scripture.

- Michael Marlowe,

Rufinus translated the 10-book History of Eusebius into Latin, bundling the limited historical matter in the last book in with book 9 to make 9 books. He then wrote a continuation as Books 10 and 11, taking the story down to the death of Theodosius. The volume was a standard history in the middle ages. The text has only recently been put into English for the first time:

The Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia by Rufinus, Philip R., S.J. Amidon (Translator), September 1997, Oxford Univ Press; ISBN: 0195110315. Reviewed in Journal of Early Christian Studies 7.1 (1999) by C.H.Gowans.

...A comparison with Eusebius swiftly shows that Eusebius was much the better historian. Rufinus, by contrast, says little of his sources. It has been conjectured that his continuation is based mainly on the lost Greek History of Gelasius of Caesarea; or that Gelasius based his on Rufinus.

- Roger Pearse, online art. Rufinus

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E. B. Nicolson (1879) and John 8:1-11

Nicolson's treatment of the question of the authenticity of John 8:1-11 was careful but suffered the same flaws as most of the attempts at a judgment reasoned out in the 19th century: The facts just weren't sufficiently known, nor their meaning properly understood in his time. Although the era had seen many major advancements in the study of the Holy Scriptures, the greatest discoveries and advancements were yet to come.

The discovery of the papyri in Egypt, the advances in understanding of the Koine Greek language, the more thorough collation of the many manuscripts being gathered throughout Europe, the discoveries of long forgotten apocryphal texts and patristic works, and even the Dead Sea Scrolls, were still waiting on the horizon, but for the moment out of sight and completely unsuspected.

Nicolson and Rufinus

Surprisingly, although Nicolson himself did not do a lot of patristic research, he uncovered one marvelous gem through examination and insight, namely the interesting work of Rufinus in his translation of Eusebius, and its significance to the question of John 8:1-11.

Nicolson correctly perceived that Rufinus in his actions (c. 408 A.D.) as a translator was an inadvertant witness to the existance and acceptance of John 8:1-11 in its standard position as Holy Scripture. This was a brilliant insight, and could only be grudgingly admired by Dean John Burgon.

The beauty of Nicolson's observation, is not that he is at all right in identifying the source of the Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery. None of Nicolson's theories or conclusions matter at all.

What remains, and stands out like a sore thumb, is that Rufinus was plainly familiar with the Pericope de Adultera, and assumed that this is what Papias must have said, and what Eusebius must have meant.

It doesn't even matter what Rufinus thought, rightly or wrongly about Papias or Eusebius. He has already shown us his hand, namely, he knows of the story of the Woman Taken in Adultery, he reads and writes Greek, and he lived for many years in the East among Christians from Constantinople all the way to Jerusalem.

We can also add that he knew Jerome well, and so must have also known that Jerome included John 7:53-8:11 in his Latin Vulgate. He must also have known well on what basis Jerome believed it was an authentic part of John's Gospel. That is, he must also have been familiar with the evidence that Jerome explicitly discusses, namely the "many manuscripts both Greek and Latin" that contain the passage, all ancient copies in Jerome's time.

For Jerome tells us himself that he used the authority of the Bishop of Rome to gather the oldest and best copies of the gospels to work from, bypassing the popular editions recently made in his day, and refused to consult any new manuscripts or versions. Rufinus must have been acquainted with the very same information and manuscripts from the East that Jerome possessed.

This is the very first thing that Nicolson observed, and the lasting bit of valuable information that Dean John Burgon recognized in all of Nicolson's arguments.

Unfortunately, Nicolson's discovery would be passed over and quickly forgotten in the rush to follow the latest synthesis of NT textual critical theory, namely the work of Westcott and Hort. Only Burgon it seems, picked up on Nicolson's insight, and its permanent meaning for the question of the Pericope de Adultera, and few were listening to Burgon in the wake of Hort's new Greek text and the Revised Version.

In passing, Nicolson also gives fair notice of Alford's supposed internal evidence against authenticity, but rightly evaluates it as near-worthless.

Nicolson's The Gospel According to the Hebrews (1879) remains a valuable work still, since an actual copy of that apocryphal gospel has never been found. We quote excerpts from that work here, since this is where Nicolson handles both his evidences for Rufinus and John 8:1-11.

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Nicolson on Rufinus
and John 8:1-11

John vii. 53 - viii. 11. (p.52-58)

The Pericope De Adultera and Gospel Acc. to the Hebrews

Eusebius 1 says that Papias,

'...has published also another relation 2 of a woman accused of many sins before the Lord, which the Gospel According to the Hebrews contains'

- Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. iii.39

The passage I have inserted [into the text of GHebrews ], as probably identical in substance at least with the narrative mentioned by Eusebius, is the Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery printed in our Bibles [A.V.] as John 7:53-8:11, but whose genuineness as a part of the Fourth Gospel is disallowed by an overwhelming preponderance of critical opinion. 3

The recent textual editors, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, and Westcott and Hort, all deny it the same authorship [i.e., John the Evangelist]. Of living English writers of note only McClellan opposes [them], only Farrar hesitates: Ellicott, Hammond, Lightfoot, Sanday, Scrivener, and even Wordsworth, allow that the Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery is an interpolation. 4

In Appendix F [see below] I have given a minute analysis of the evidence for and against it.

Several of the above writers conjecture that the story is the same with that told by Papias. 5

Mr. McClellan ( New Test. 721) objects that the woman spoken of by Papias was 'secretly accused' (διαβληθεισης) of many sins, whereas the Woman Taken in Adultery was openly accused, and of one sin only. Now in the first place to translate διαβληθεισης as 'secretly accused' is to strain its meaning unwarrantably, and in the second place, as Tischendorf says, the words 'from this time no longer sin' seem to indicate that the woman had been a frequent sinner. 6

Rufinus tightens up the Language of Eusebius

And it is impossible to escape 7 from the fact that Rufinus, in his translation of Eusebius [Eccl. Hist.] paraphrased his author's words so as to make him say that Papias published,

'...aliam historiam de muliere adultera quae accusata est a Iudaeis apud Dominum'
'...another relation concerning an [or  'the' ] adulterous woman who was accused by the Jews before the Lord',

- Rufinus, translator/editor,
Eusebius' Hist. Eccl. iii.39

Now if it can be said confidently of any man but Jerome that he must have read through the Gospel According to the Hebrews that man is Rufinus. 8

The fellow-student of Jerome at Aquileia, he went with him to the East in 371 A.D., he was in Palestine between 377 and 397, upt to 393 hye was on the most cordial terms with Jerome, and for the last seven years of that time the two were living a little more than an hour's walk from each other, Jerome at Bethlehem, Rufinus at Jerusalem.

Now it is almost certain that Jerome had copied the Nazarene Gospel not later than 379 A.D., he began to quote it in his commentaries in 387, and in 392 he speaks of having lately rendered it into Greek and Latin.

It is to be credited that he should render it into two languages for the reading of all the civilized world, and that neither of these translations should have been read by his intimate friend living some half-a-dozen miles off?

Mr. McClellan himself would not say so, and putting together the evidence of Eusebius and Rufinus (who translated Eusebius about 408 A.D.) I must regard it as absolutely certain that the Gospel According to the Hebrews contained a story of an adulteress accused before Jesus. 9

How did the Pericope De Adultera end up in John?

But, asks Mr. McClellan, if contained in the Gospel According to the Hebrews, "how could it have been (with some trifling exceptions) universally transferred to the Gospel of St. John, and never once to the more kindred Gospel of St. Matthew?" 10

Farrar seems to feel the same difficulty as to its interpolation into John, and many of those who repudiate the genuineness of the passage must have stumbled over it in their own minds. The question can, I believe, be answered satisfactorily, as follows.

If the reader turns to p. 7, he will see that Eusebius says that Papias,

'...also transfers to his own work other accounts, by the aforesaid Aristion, of the Lord's discourses, and traditions of the Elder John.'

Of course when he [Papias] repeated one of the Elder John's traditions he must have mentioned him by name, or Eusebius would not have known whence they were derived.

My theory is that Papias in telling the Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery said that it was related by John, meaning the Elder; that some one else supposed him to mean the Apostle, and added it to his own copy of the Fourth Gospel, perhaps in the place where we now find it, or perhaps as an appendix at the end of the Gospel, whence it may have been transferred by the next copyist. 11

The Current Johannine Context Appears Natural

Its easy to see why this particular place was found for it. 12 It seemed to come most naturally just before viii. 15, where Jesus says, "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man", and just after chapt. vii., where there had been far more mention of 'Moses' and 'the law' than in any other part of the Gospel - 'Moses' being named 4 times, and 'the law' 5 times, against twice in any other chapter - and there being no good opportunity of inserting it before v. 52.

Again, Jesus is mentioned twice in chapt. vii. and once in chapt. viii. as teaching in the Temple, but nowhere else in the Gospel.

The story evidently belongs to the Passion-week, 13 when

'in the daytime he was teaching in the Temple; and at night He went out and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to Him in the Temple, for to hear Him'

(Luke xxi. 37-38).

Probable Position in the Synoptic Chronology

Hitzig would find room for this incident between Mark 12:17 and 18, that is between the question of the Herodians and that of the Sadduces: but this is contradicted by Matt. 22:23 which says that the Sadducees came to him 'the same day' as the Herodians.

It might be put after Matt. chapt. 22, if that chapter did not end with the statement that 'neither durst any man form that day forth ask him any more questions.' But there seems not reason why we should not give it place in time bewteen Matt. chapt. 21 and chapt. 22, that is between the parables of the Wicked Husbandmen and the Wedding-feast -- especially as we are told in Mark 12:12 that after the former parable 'they left him and went their way.'

It would then come before the questions of the Herodians, Sadduces, and Pharisees, immediately after which we find from Mark 12:35,41 that he was 'teaching in the Temple' and that he 'SAT over against the treasury' -- facts which do not of course prove anything for this theory, but are simply quoted to show its consistency with what we know of the actions of Jesus on this particular day.

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Modern Footnotes

Footnotes courtesy of Nazaroo:

1.   Nicolson here quotes from (a translation of) the Greek version of Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica ("Church History" ), written in about 313 A.D. Eusebius originally wrote in Greek, so presumably (but not definitely) this surviving text is the original wording and intent from Eusebius (but not necessarily Papias, whom he references).

Further on, Nicolson will quote the Latin translation of this work, made by Rufinus (c.408 A.D.). Its the difference between the two versions as they have come down to us, the Greek (original) and the Latin (translation), that the following observations and arguments depend upon.

It is also possible that either the Latin or Greek text have been corrupted early in their copying history, through neglect or on purpose, possibly even for reasons related to the acceptance or rejection of the Pericope de Adultera.

2. "relation" is archaic language (19th century academic-speak) for 'history' or 'pericope', i.e., a narrative piece, or a short story.

3. Nicolson exaggerates the scholarly consensus here, although it is true that in Britain and Germany the view that the Pericope de Adultera was an insertion was very popular among academics, but not necessarily mainstream Christians.

On the European continent however, the views tended to be far more conservative and many were slow to embrace the questionable results of 19th century German Higher Criticism.

4. Nicolson's list is conveniently selective, omitting questionable scholars like Lachmann and Griesbach, and also almost the entire camp of conservative scholars who embraced the Pericope de Adultera as authentic. He makes it sound like Farrar was a lonely anomaly, when he wasn't even a notable member among defenders of the passage.

Nicolson also misrepresents the position of F. H. A. Scrivener, who was not completely certain, but strongly in favour of the authenticity of John 8:1-11 on "internal grounds".

Maurice Robinson clarifies this:

John 7:53-8:11

In every edition of his Plain Introduction, Scrivener declared in the initial pages that the long ending of Mark and the pericope adulterae were the "only two instances, [in which] the genuineness of whole passages of considerable extent ... has been brought into question." Scrivener then continues,

We shall hereafter defend these passages, the first [Mark 16:9-20] without the slightest misgiving, the second [John 7:53-8:11] with certain reservations, as entitled to be regarded authentic portions of the Gospels in which they stand.32

Scrivener, Plain Introduction 4, 1:7, emphasis added.

(This statement, as well as Scrivener's subsequent variant unit discussion of both the pericope adulterae and John 5:3b-4, has remained virtually identical in all editions of the Plain Introduction from 1861 through 1894.)

Although within his primary discussion of external evidence in regard to the pericope adulterae Scrivener says, "on all intelligent principles of mere criticism the passage must needs be abandoned," he qualifies this assessment by suggesting,

On no other grounds than those just intimated when discussing ch. v. 3, 4 [i. e., the multiple-revision hypothesis] can this celebrated and important paragraph ... be regarded as a portion of St. John's Gospel... It must be in this way, if at all, that we can assign to the Evangelist chh. vii. 53 - viii. 11.33

He further supports this judgment on internal grounds:

The arguments in its favour, internal even more than external, are so powerful, that we can scarcely be brought to think it an unauthorized appendage to the writings of one, who in another of his inspired books, deprecated so solemnly the adding to or taking away from the blessed testimony he was commissioned to bear (Apoc. xxii. 18, 19)... Why should not St. John have inserted in this second edition both the amplification in ch. v. 3, 4, and this most edifying and eminently Christian narrative?

Scrivener, Plain Introduction 4, 2:364.

Once again, Six Lectures (1875) reflects an earlier doubtful opinion [which changed]:

The great preponderance of the best Greek manuscripts against it, the wide variations observed between the copies which contain it, the ambiguous verdict of the best translations [i.e., ancient versions], and the deep silence of the Greek Fathers about so remarkable a narrative, forbid our regarding this most interesting and beautiful section as originally, or of right, belonging to the place wherein it stands

(Scrivener, Six Lectures, 163).

Scrivener's later writings demonstrate that some of his opinions changed over time. It is therefore inappropriate to cite only the earlier source and not to mention Scrivener's other writings which might supply contrary information.

- Maurice Robinson, Crossing Boundaries in NT Textual Criticism:
Historical Revisionism and
the Case of Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener

This kind of 'slant' placed on the grouping and alignment of scholarship was obviously not a 20th century invention, although people like Daniel Wallace have been caught making similar distortions in the historical positions of previous scholars, even while claiming to correct them:

M. Robinson on Historical Revisionism < - - Click here for examples.

5. It is of note that the question of whether Papias refers to the Pericope de Adultera still remains an open question. The continuing controvery between scholars on both sides of the authenticity issue demonstrates that the two questions are in fact independant as far as it can be known.

6. Nicolson's critique of McLellan's claim is sound, although irrelevant to the more important and permanent results at hand.

In the complex and in some ways fuzzy and difficult triangle of Papias, Eusebius, and Rufinus, the key point is not what Papias said (the details of that are lost for now), nor is it what Eusebius intended to communicate (which may remain forever murky).

Its the fact that Rufinus (c. 408 A.D.) gives an allusion to the Pericope de Adultera, and because of the known circumstances regarding his proximity and relationship with Jerome, it naturally becomes a stong positive allusion, implying acceptance of the passage as Holy Scripture as well, just as it was with his friend Jerome.

On this point Nicolson and John Burgon essentially agreed, although Burgon was able to see the true value of the discovery more clearly, because he was not distracted by the problem of the lost Gospel According to the Hebrews.

7. Nicolson slightly overstates the case, although his interpretation of the evidence of Rufinus' handiwork is a solid conclusion and can be described as very probable.

8. A sound conclusion, as is Nicolson's whole line of argument here. Although there is an outside chance that Rufinus could have neglected the Gospel According to the Hebrews, it is highly unlikely.

But more importantly, it would be near-impossible for Rufinus not to be aware of Jerome's textual researches and conclusions on the Pericope de Adultera. This is what gives the true strength to the conclusion that Rufinus fully and consciously intended to turn his readers toward John 8:1-11 in considering this key passage in Eusebius.

9. Nicolson's own conclusions regarding the presence of the Pericope de Adultera in the lost Gospel According to the Hebrews are not as certain as he claims.

But this part of Nicolson's argument is irrelevant to establish the witness of Rufinus, which is all that is needed for our purposes. This interpretation of Rufinus' actions is fully consistent with what is known about his historical circumstances, his relationship to Jerome, and his probable interests and beliefs.

10. This is the true difficulty facing all who attempt to explain the Pericope de Adultera as an interpolation. Of course, the possibility of an interpolation increases the further back into the early past we go. One could try to claim an interpolation was made before the Gospel of John had any significant circulation among Christians.

But the 'window' is so early and so narrow that any interpolation must have happened almost while John was still 'hot off the press', and the principals involved in its production were still alive and involved in the underground Christian community (for instance between 70 and 120 A.D.).

In fact the historical difficulty is greater than Nicolson presents it. There are no "trifling exceptions" at all. He refers to the insertion of the Pericope de Adultera into Luke's Gospel in some 10th-12th century manuscripts, or misplacements of the passage by those attempting to correct manuscripts that omitted it.

But none of these "misplacements" of the passage can be traced earlier than the 9th century, almost 800 years too late to be relevant to the early textual history of John and the passage.

11. Nicolson's theory provides a plausible mechanism for how the story could get into a copy of John as an insertion. However, it has three fatal flaws:

(1) Nicolson's theory fails to give any explanation of the subsequent process of textual transmission and early history, or simply how the insertion could have succeeded.

(2) At the same time he fails to uniquely account for the early evidences as we actually now find them, making the hypothesis untestable in any scientific sense.

(3) The Pericope de Adultera cannot be a naive or simple insertion at all. The internal literary connections, and the chiastic and other structural elements of John's Gospel show that either,

(a) the passage was carefully composed to insert into John, and that the Gospel was also extensively re-written to accomodate it, or else

(b) it was always there, and the passage was carefully integrated into the Gospel from the beginning by the author of its current form.

CHIASM in John - structural evidence
Shared Content - literary connections
Internal Evidence - other non-textual evidences

12. Nicolson now shows that the basic content and arrangement of the Gospel provides a natural context and plausible home for the story. He fails to note however, that this evidence is equally compatible with the Pericope de Adultera being an original and authentic part of John.

It also eliminates the possibility of a naive or accidental insertion, because the placement requires clear knowledge of John and careful deliberation in carrying out the integration of the piece.

Once again 'evidence' has been interpreted and used to bolster a difficult theory, rather than accepting its most plausible explanation: that the passage is original to John's Gospel.

13. Or rather, the evidence suggests "a passion-week" (or passover-week), but not any particular one. Nowadays, with a better grasp of the interdependancies of the Synoptics, and more confidence in John's chronology, The scenario of a three-year ministry with multiple visits to Jerusalem may be all that is needed to provide a "passover-week" or festival context for this probable event in Jesus' earthly ministry.

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Dean John Burgon
on Rufinus and Nicolson

John Burgon (c. 1886) cites Nicolson's discovery with full confidence and support. In his famous defence of the authenticity of John 8:1-11, The Pericope de Adutlera, Burgon cites Rufinus as a witness for authenticity, and refers the reader to Nicolson's book:

Patristic and Versional Support:

"... Rufinus, at Aquileia (400),* ...

original footnote:

* - In his translation of Eusebius.
Nicholson, The Gospel Acc. to the Hebrews, (1879) p. 53.

- Dean John Burgon,
Pericope De Adultera, (1886) text & notes

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S. P. Tregelles on Rufinus

The following notice from Tregelles is important for several reasons. On one hand, it shows that the witness of Rufinus regarding the Pericope de Adultera was known in textual critical circles even before 1852. Tregelles also gives credit to the discovery to Dr. Routh.

From another standpoint, Tregelles' opinion on this matter is also of great value, because he had already decided for himself that John 7:53-8:11 was spurious, and had begun a campaign of sorts to have it removed from the Holy Scriptures.

Tregelles was a sharp skeptic, and suspicious of anything that lacked rigorous historical foundations. So it is important both for Tregelles' own integrity, and for us too, in trying to assess the strength of the case for Rufinus, that Tregelles was convinced that Rufinus indeed knew of Pericope de Adultera as Holy Scripture, and found it in his own copies of John.

Tregelles discusses the alteration to Eusebius by Rufinus in great detail:

"We learn from Eusebius, that Papias transmitted an account of a woman who was accused before our Lord,

"Papias also put forth another history concerning a woman accused of many sins before the Lord; and this history is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews." (H.E., iii. 39)

The Hebrew original of St. Matthew's Gospel appears to have been the basis of "the Gospel according to the Hebrews"; and it seems, from the mode in which Eusebius mentions the narrative as having proceeded from Papias, that he regarded it as a later addition introduced into that Hebrew document. It has been much discussed whether this is the same as the narration in John vii. 53--viii. 11. In favour of the identity may be mentioned that in D (Cod. Bezae) the sin of the woman is spoken of in a general manner, a woman seized for sin, instead of a woman caught in adultery. And if it had been circulated in the 4th century in a Hebrew (Syro-Chaldaic) dress, the leading forms in which it is now found might have originated in different Greek translations of the narrative; or else from the writings of Papias in Greek, and from a Greek translation of the Syro-Chaldaic form of the narration.

From Ruffinus' version of the passage in Eusebius, it seems clear that in the age immediately subsequent to that historian, it was thought that the narration to which he referred, was the same as that which had by this time found its way into some copies. Ruffinus renders,

"Simul et historiam quandam subjungit de muliere adultera, quae accusata est a Judaeis apud Dominum."

Attention to this, and also to the point of resemblance between the Cod. Bezae and the words of Eusebius, was directed by Dr. Routh; who adds,

"Evidenter constat, etiamsi suspecta haec evangelii pericope eadem esse censeatur atque historia Papiana, nondum eam codici Novi Testamenti tempore Eusebii insertam fuisse" (Rel. Sac., i. 39).

The judgment expressed in these last words, however contrary to the notions of those who prefer modern tradition to ancient evidence, is fully confirmed by the most searching investigations. We first hear of this narrative in any copies of the New Testament after the middle of the fourth century. 22

The statement of Eusebius gives us a probable account of its origin, and I believe that we shall not err if we accept this as a true history, transmitted not by the inspired apostle St. John, but by the early ecclesiastical writer Papias. 23

- S. P. Tregelles, An Account... (1854) p. 242 fwd

Modern Footnotes:

22. Here again Tregelles bends the facts way out of place. The first we hear of this narrative in copies of the NT are not after the middle of the 4th century at all, but according to Jerome, they were found in many ancient copies, and by this Jerome makes it clear he means copies predating the revisions of Lucian and others. (See Jerome, Preface to NT)

Secondly, Ambrose (360-380 A.D.) is an even earlier witness, contemporary with Didymus the Blind, who also quoted the passage as Holy Scripture and part of John. This would drive the presence of the verses back another 50 years, to a time equal to or earlier than either codex Vaticanus or Sinaiticus.

23. Finally, Tregelles wants us to buy the story of Eusebius, and that Papias or an admirer somehow inserted the passage from some other source into the Gospel of John. But it is far more likely that Eusebius is the unreliable witness here, reporting 300 years after the fact, and with a conflict of interest of his own in the works.

But recent studies of the life of Constantine and the relation between this Emperor and Eusebius, throw a dark shadow upon the quality of the 4th century uncials like Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

An Emperor who boiled his own queen alive for adultery would hardly be receptive to our passage. And this emperor ordered 50 expensive bibles to be made for distribution in his empire. Eusebius is believed to have been the overseer of the production run that created codex Vaticanus.

Both the witness of Eusebius and the text of Vaticanus/Sinaiticus are greatly suspect regarding this very passage.