Exerpted from: Samuel Davidson LL.D., An Introduction to the New Testament,
Vol. I. The Four Gospels (1848, London - Samuel Bagster and Sons)
Last Updated: Feb 21, 2009
Non-Synonyms: - don't qualify as examples of 'stylism'
Case 1: - δε versus ουν
Case 2: - πλην and ει μη
Case 3: - λαος or οχλος
Examples from Dialogue: - special difficulties
Case 4: - ημιν Μωσηςor Μωσης ημιν (W.O.R.)
Case 5: - ενετειλατο vs. γεγραπται
Case 6: - λιθοβολεισθαι vs. λιθαζειν
Case 7: - κατεκρινεν versus κρινεν
Case 1: - ορος τον ελαιων "Mount of Olives" (8:1)
Case 2: - καθισας εδιδασκεν αυτοις "He taught them"(8:2)
Case 3: - οι γραμματεις και οι Φαρισαιοι
"scribes and Pharisees" (8:3)
Case 4: - κατειλεμμενην "taken (in an adultery)" (8:3)
Case 5: - εγραφεν "He wrote" (8:6,8)
Case 6: - επεμενον ερωτωντες "they kept on pushing" (8:7)
Case 7: - αναμαρτητος "the sinless one" (8:7)
Case 8: - συνειδησις "by conscience convicted" (8:9)
Case 9: - πρεσβυτερων / εσκατων "eldest...last" (8:9)
Section 8: ÷ - Summary and Conclusion
Background to the Internal Evidence (1848)
We have given a biography of Davidson in the introduction to Part I of this series of articles on Davidson's discussion of John 8:1-11. You can read Part I by clicking below, then using the 'Back Button' on your browser to return here if so desired:
Davidson on John 8:1-11: Part I <-- Click Here.
In this introduction to the Internal Evidence, we wish rather to discuss the background and the history of criticism leading up to Davidson's book and his case against the Pericope de Adultera.
(1) How the Subject was Raised
The 'internal evidence' sadly, is going to speak for itself, when placed in the light. We will content ourselves here with making a few simple observations:
Early in the history of the collating and printing of the NT text, (circa 1500-1800) it was noticed that these verses (7:53-8:11) in John were missing, or diacritically marked with suspicion in many manuscripts. Not the majority of MSS, but nonetheless, they were missing in some of the oldest MSS.
This is in fact what raised a question and spurred an inquiry into their authenticity. Had this not been the case, critics would have had no reason to distrust the verses or the integrity of John in any way. This cannot be emphasized enough. Originally, no one was looking, nor had they any reason to look for evidence of 'editing' or even the use of previous 'sources' in John.
John is unique. So unique in fact, that even though it covers the same period and 'apparently' the same person Jesus, very little can be shown to be directly related or borrowed from any other gospel (which is NOT the case with the other three gospels!).
And the Pericope de Adultera is no exception. It cannot have been borrowed from another gospel and inserted into John in any process like that which obviously affected the Synoptics.
Nor does the addition of the passage change the nature of John or its general slant. The incident provides no new information about Jesus or doctrine, or special esoteric or gnostic knowledge. It is just more of the same material already found in John.
This takes away any motive or purpose to its addition other than the simple desire to preserve a record of an incident in Jesus' life. This is inconsistent both with known editorial practices and even John's own intent and purpose. The case for addtion is implausible in the light of the textual history of the rest of the NT.
With or without the passage, John remains unique and unrelated to the Synoptics.
Critics turned to look for internal evidence against the authenticity of John 8:1-11 itself because of the strange behaviour of various scribes and copyists 2 to 6 centuries after Jesus' time, and for the most part after its known existance as a part of John.
And this itself is a logical non-sequiter: The observable behaviour of later scribes is too distant in time from the early textual history and murky origins of John to have any direct bearing on the question. This is why the only real evidence of interest is the internal evidence.
(2) The State of the Art the Time of the Investigation.
Again some remarks: By the 1840's those concerned with the reproduction of the NT text were well aware of various textual problems created by the variations in the manuscripts. Critics were intelligent enough to ask the right questions in the light of the evidence.
But the important question is, had they amassed enough technical knowledge and formulated and tested enough technique to perform a proper medical diagnosis, and carry out any safe and successful operations?
The Short Answer: No.
The immensity and complexity of the task had not yet even been fully grasped. In 1840, what was required was
a) The close analysis and careful collation of thousands of extant manuscripts, scattered across Europe and the Mediterranean, in the hands of churches, governments, and private collectors. This alone would require the selection, training, and cooperation of hundreds of field workers, coordinated via church institutions and working across borders and barriers of language and suspicion. This project alone, as is self-evident, would take hundreds of years, and span generations of workers.
b) An investigation and analysis of the process of copying and transmission, involving dating, sourcing, phylogenic classification and grouping, geneological dependancy, cross-pollenation and rescension. Again, a massive project, involving many workers, and long periods of study.
c) A thorough search for more (new) evidence, from archeaological investigations, historical research, and analysis of the both the historical and political processes affecting the text.
d) The development and refinement of a set of rational and scientific methods and tools for the reconstruction of the text. These would require rigorous testing and verification of their practical value and their scope of validity.
e) A clear and comprehensive vision of the essentials of the historical process, and the forces affecting the transmission, so that any textual amendments would not be 'ad hoc' or eclectic, but based upon a true and deep knowledge of what must have actually happened.
Of course none of this ever happened. Because the period between 1840 and probably as far as 1980 can only be described as the 'Wild West' of textual criticism of the bible, in which 'every man did what was right in his own eyes', and rugged individualism and a naive overblown assessment of one's own skills and ability to solve the immense complexities of the task were the norm.
(3) The View Today
Someone might protest that these are easy criticisms, that hindsight is 20/20. And indeed there is weight to this point, as well as fact that as a cautionary tale, it applies equally well to us. Twenty or a hundred years from now, we also may appear as the naive bumpkins, hopelessly muddling through matters too difficult for us to grasp.
And I don't want to ignore the obvious talent and intuition that early pioneers had. Many were seasoned researchers, and human beings after all, dealing with apparently all too human texts and media of transmission. And these are things every experienced person can and ought to know something about.
But I would liken this to the parallel situation of chess. In the early heyday of chess, men played romantically, taking great risks, guessing intuitively the value of this or that line of pursuit. And in those very days, there is no doubt that one could walk into an Englishman's club and play a darn good game of chess that would challenge even the better player with today's on-the-fly problem-solving abilities.
But nowadays no professional chess player can avoid memorizing and analyzing massive numbers of openings and variations, nor can he afford not to keep up to date with the latest developments in this or that line of play.
There is a certain point in every chess player's career when he knows that to go any further, even a little, he must now sit back and do years of intense research to cope with subtle transitions from opening to middle-game etc. And no player today can avoid or ignore a deep mastery of the toughest endings.
The game has changed. Even at the medium skill level, memorization of openings and traps have more value in practical play than knowledge of general opening principles. Over many years, a great reversal in the nature and method of the game has occured.
Modern Textual Criticism
So likewise with textual criticism. No one can get by in this field without a Nestle/Aland Critical text, or even a Merck's. No one can afford not to know about Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, or Westcott and Hort, Scrivener and Burgon, Metzger and FF Bruce.
But even more important, today's tools involve advanced mathematical models involving probability theory, deep structure analysis of grammatical morphemes and semiotics, and above all the statistical compilation, sifting and information analysis that modern computer technology provides.
Textual criticism is no more safe from scandal, collapse, and phoenix-like reconstruction than any and every other field of research in the world which has undergone or is undergoing the same revolution.
The days of flying along by the seat of your pants and riding on the coattails of your own reputation are over. Now airplanes are flown with radar and remote controls, planned routes and radio towers, not by hot-shot pilots with dare-devil courage.
Samuel Davidson's Internal Evidence: Background
Now, when we turn to Samuel Davidson's work on the internal evidence regarding the Pericope De Adultera (John 8:1-11) we only need to make the following key observations:
(1) Davidson seems to have just selected an idiosyncratic late Medieval copy of the passage, without doing a proper investigation of the question of the earliest or most accurate text. In some cases, he has included all the variants as evidence against the passage, which is an impossible scenario.
(2) He has not really evaluated the variants, as either possible assimilations to the style of John or Luke or some other standard, or as evolutions in the form of the text.
(3) He has not considered the natural and obvious contamination of the parallel Lectionary tradition and its effect on the grammar and vocabulary of the text.
(4) He has not distinguished the narrative from the dialogue in cataloguing and assessing his stylisms. This is especially important, since John elsewhere displays evidence of the author's influence over the form of dialogues , and these must be thoroughly examined.
(5) He has not adequately accounted for variants which actually support the conjectural stylisms he suggests that John might have alternately used.
(6) With a number of examples he gives no alternative at all, or any conjecture as to what John would have or might have wrote instead.
(7) Some of his evidence and argumentation could be arbitrarily reversed and provide evidence for the authenticity of the passage, instead of against it.
Obviously, a critically important flaw in Davidson's approach to internal evidence is the actual reversal of the order in which various portions of the task need to be accomplished, and make the entire edifice worthless scientifically.
In a nutshell,
(a) Davidson should have waited until someone exhaustively collated the MSS and established the main versions and variants, as well as a plausible textual history, before trying to analyze either the 'style' of John or the 'style' of the passage.
(b) Davidson should have waited until someone did a proper and scientific statistical analysis of John's style in the rest of the gospel, properly adjusted for 'semiticisms', 'translational Greek', possible use of previous written sources, and even form-critical results.
This having been said, we can now proceed to Davidson's evidence.
Davidson: (pg 359-360)
"1. The diction and manner of the paragraph present few of the characteristics of John. They are strikingly foreign to him. 1
Thus we find:
επορευθη εις τον οικον instead of απηλθεν εις τα ιδια .
The frequent use of δε whereas John has commonly ουν:
επορουθη εις τον ορος instead of ανηλθεν or ανεχωρησεν :
ορος των ελαιων seems derived from the synoptists: 2
ορθρου instead of πρωι or πρωτας γενομενης :
παρεγενετο instead of ανεβη or ερχεσθαι :
πας ο λαος instead of οχλος :
οι γραμματεις, κ.τ.λ. , is not used by John:
καθισας εδιδασκεν αυτουν is unlike the apostle's diction:
κατειλημενην is used in a sense in which this verb is never employed by the apostle:
εν μεσω instead of εις το μεσον :
ενετειλατα instead of γεγραπται, εγραφεν, γεγραμμενον εστι :
The pronoun ημιν should be put after the verb according to John's manner, not before it:
λιθοβολεισθαι instead of λιθαζειν, which last Scholz has taken into the text, though too slenderly supported:
εγραφεν the imperfect, is unlike the apostle:
επεμενον ερωτωντες, αναμαρτητος, συνειδησις are all hapax legomena 3 :
εσχατων is an unsuitable antithesis to πρεσβυτερων :
κατελειφθη instead of the verb αφιεσθαι :
εν μεσω εστωσα instead of μεση εστωσα :
πλην instead of ει μη :
κατεκρινεν instead of εκρινεν .
There are also hapax legomena which we have not adduced, because they may be accounted for by the subject of the paragraph. So many phrases, unlike those of the apostle, are crowded into the verses, that it would be most strange if they proceeded from him.
Indeed the numerous variations shew, that the diction early proved a stumbling-block to transcribers. Hence they endeavoured to correct it, by bringing it nearer the apostle's acknowledged style." 4
(Davidson, Introduction to the NT, 1848, Vol. I, pg 359-360)
1. This notice is actually strikingly false. Davidson has not listed the many parallels in language and diction between the passage and John. For instance, there are a half-dozen striking parallels between the passage and John chapter six alone:
John 8:1-11 and John 6:1-21:
6:3 : ανηλθεν δε εις το ορος Ιησουν (Jesus went to the mount...)
8:1 : Ιησουν δε ανηλθεν εις το ορος (Jesus went to the mount..)
6:5 : πολυς οχλος ερχεται προς αυτον (a great crowd came to Him)
8:2 : πας ο λαος ηρχετο προς αυτον (all the people came to Him)
6:6 : τουτο δε ελεγεν πειραζων αυτον (this He said testing him)
8:6 : τουτο δε ελεγον πειραζοντες αυτον (this ...)
6:10 αναπεσειν...αναπεσαν...οι ανδρες (sit ... they sat down)
8:6 : ο δε Ιησους κατω κυψας ...(but Jesus bent down...)
8:6b κατεγραφεν εις την γην ([Jesus was] writing in the ground)
6:21 και ευθεως εγενετο το πλοιον επι της γης (and instantly the ship was upon the ground)
Note here also that unlike a crude 'forger', the author of the Pericope de Adultera mimics John's careful avoidance of direct repetition, and instead copies exactly his style of subtle self-paraphrase and expansion.
Who else but John would do this? Certainly not Luke, who, if he is responsible for the long ending of Mark, instead paraphrases himself. Thus this cannot by any stretching of the facts be made to look like a 'Lukan' pericope at all.
2. This is almost as absurd as saying 'Jerusalem seems derived from the Synoptists.' The Mount of Olives would be one of the most famous area landmarks of Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside.
3. hapax legomena = words occurring nowhere else. In this context, Davidson means nowhere else in the Gospel of John.
4. Unfortunately, Davidson begs the question, for he must first show the direction of the alterations to the text. That is he must reconstruct a history of transmission of the competing texts, and show the order of their dependancy. There is no point in critiquing the harmonizations/glosses of later scribes: we have to get down to the earliest base text.
Internal Evidence against the Passage Examined
Davidson actually presents his case in one long and dense paragraph, a rambling page and a half monologue. the reader may easily get the impression that it is a massive, homogenous stack of evidence against Johannine authorship. This is not the case at all.
Davidson does at least grasp the essence of the problem. The question is whether the passage is like the rest of John or not. Unfortunately, he does not offer a neutral scientific investigation. Instead he presents only a one-sided case against the passage. The internal evidence in favour of the passage is bypassed entirely, although a proper evaluation would require it.
Even in the absence of a debating opponent, he needs to make a convincing case. Davidson must try to show that the passage is thoroughly and consistently different than John in form and style, and he knows this.
His approach is in stark contrast to later critics. They have focussed upon 'Lukanisms', which is an entirely different question, a weak element only peripheral to authenticity. John and Luke can certainly share stylistic traits, without this adversely affecting the genuineness of the passage. In this then, Davidson remains superior to many of his successors, - his grasp and portrayal of the essential problem.
Once Davidson's data is organized into chart-form with notes, the reviewer can immediately see the precariousness of some of the claims:
Davidson's Internal Evidence: Chart I
|Verse||Phrase in Passage||John's Alleged Diction|
|7:53||επορευθη εις τον οικον||(*)||απηλθεν εις τα ιδια||(m6)|
|8:1||επορευθη εις το ορος||απηλθεν... / ανεχωρησεν|
|8:2||ορθρου||πρωι / πρωιας γενομενης|
|8:2||παραγενετο (m5,m7)||(*)||ανεβη / ερχεσθαι|
|8:2||πας ο λαος||(*)||πας o οχλος||(var.)|
|8:3||εν μεσω||(*)||εις το μεσον||(m6)|
|8:4,9||κατελειφθη (8:4 m5)||(*)||αφιεσθαι (ευρομεν m6)|
|8:5||ημιν Μωσης (m4)||Dial.||Μωσης ημιν (m5)|
|8:5||λιθοβολεισθαι (m5)||Dial.||λιθαζειν (m6)||(var.)|
|8:10||εν μεσω εστωσα||(*)||μεση εστωσα|
|8:10||κατεκρινεν||Dial.||εκρινεν (8:11 m6)|
|(*)||- credible textual variants are involved|
|Dial.||- a part of the recorded dialogue|
|(!)||- a construction normally only appearing in dialogue|
|(var.)||- variants exist supporting the 'conjecture'|
|(m5..)||- a MSS Group supports the conjecture|
|- blue = stable narrative.|
|- green = probable narrative.|
|- yellow = variations in narrative.|
|- orange = dialogue|
|- red = not a synonymous construction|
First let us consider the three examples colored RED on the right (in chart 1). These proposed substitutions are in fact not synonyms at all. They involve parts of speech that have either different grammatical functions, or different meanings.
8:1 - δε versus ουν involves two connecting particles that are used quite differently within the Gospel itself.
This is not a simple case of either/or, although they have somewhat similar functions in joining clauses.
John normally reserves ουν for connecting portions of narrative that have a 'cause/effect' relationship, or a logical or expected sequence.
δε is usually used by John to contrast two events, people, or circumstances, which may be antithetical or unexpected.
We have prepared a detailed analysis of John's use of these particles in a separate article, which can be read by clicking on the following link:
δε and ουν in John <-- Click Here for article.
8:10 - Similarly, πλην and ει μη are two totally different parts of speech.
One (πλην) is used to create excluding phrases to build identifying substantives, while the other (ει μη) coordinates clauses in conditional sentences.
Davidson is way off here, but again it takes a small article and a detailed grammatical discussion to shed proper light on the claim.
Again we have prepared a detailed analysis of John's use of these particles in a separate article, which can be read by clicking on the following link:
πλην and ει μη in John <-- Click Here for article.
8:2 - Whether John would have used λαος or οχλος, is a question of meaning and intent.
We can discuss this right here. Each word has its own meaning and usage.
οχλος is normally used by all the evangelists to mean 'crowd' or 'group', sometimes of followers, or just the 'rabble'. It is not intrinsically derogatory, but often has the sense of 'mob', a group of unbelievers or curiosity seekers. It has no racial or ethnic meaning, although it can be used in a sense implying 'goyim' or Gentiles.
λαος on the other hand is quite different. It is used in a technical sense meaning 'the people', usually with the ethnic connotation of 'Israelite' or 'Judaean'. It is not synonymous with 'crowd', and the two words are often used to distinguish between the two, by various speakers in the Gospel narratives.
First we should note that both Luke and John have more than a big enough vocabulary to hold both words, and enough intelligence to apply them appropriately, and precisely.
To argue for example that John would restrict himself to one phrase only is absurd, and would be equivalent to saying a modern American couldn't have used the phrase 'folk-song' in a sentence, since he has previously often quoted the phrase, "We the People..." in several books.
To quote one critic of our analysis:
"It is absurd, I agree, to restrict John to a single phrase without good reason. However, Davidson is correct that John uses οχλος to suggest a crowd that follows Jesus -- it is a theological term chosen for whatever reason.
Thus in John λαος (excluding ch. 8, of course) is used only twice, and only in one way: the Jewish people. And it is ONLY used of the Pharisee's viewpoint (11:50) of Caiaphas and then reiterated ironically by the narrator (18:14) -- one of the best parts of John is the beautiful ironies.
On the other hand, οχλος is used in 19 verses, and most of these have to do with people following Jesus because of his signs and his teaching: 6:2 (+ vv.5,22,24); 7:31 (+ v.32); 7:40 (+ vv.43,49); 11:42 (as a witness); 12:9; 12:17 (as a witness); 12:18. Thus the crowd is a kind of chorus in John. They act as one, asking similar questions: the masses which are fickle, which are contemporary with the Community of the written gospel.
But this is technical. What is important is that the context lines up perfectly with the usage of οχλος in the rest of John in ch. 8, but a different phrase is used. I leave it to you to explain the reason for the different phrase."
However, here the critic begs the very question: He's already conceded the main point, that the two phrases aren't synonyms. Is Davidson's suggestion more plausible? As the critic has shown here, the situation is more complex than a preference for one expression over another:
We freely grant that (oxlos) is used frequently as a technical term for the crowd that 'hangs out' with Jesus. But that is the very point. This gang of common people who followed Jesus around Galilee, made up by all accounts clearly of fishermen, 'taxcollectors', 'people of the land' (country folk), 'drunks', prostitutes and other ne'er do wells (reformed or not), are not the 'other' crowd:
(laos) The 'people' in another technical (ethnocentric) sense used by the Pharisees and John too. This group is essentially the group who follows the Temple Cult, that is the bulk of the Pharisee party and non-denominational Jewish population.
To put it in modern perspective, we might say that "oxlos" means "street-people", the 'untouchables' or marginalized, while "laos" means 'church-goers', the middle-class Jews, people with businesses and jobs and respect of peers, who participate in both synagogue and temple worship. These people are recognized citizens of Judaea, and freely come and go into the temple to hear religious teaching and political news.
Now the setting is clearly the Temple: not outside, where the marginalized of society congregate, but inside, where the large body of Judaean citizens of good standing (and visiting Jewish laypeople) go to partake in their cultural and religious bond of fraternity. Although 'Gentiles' were allowed in the outer courts, they would be a small escorted minority under careful watch by the Judaeans on their home turf.
The temple setting is intentional. The whole point of Jesus going to Jerusalem and specifically the Temple is to 'show Himself' to the Jews (see for instance, John 7:1-5). The marginalized lepers, Samaritans, Galileans etc., already know of Him.
So the 'group' John wishes us to understand here is the Jews, 'the People', the Israelites, 'His own' (Jn 1:11). And 'laos' is the more likely choice than 'oxlos' here. Its all about context.
If we were already convinced that the passage was a foreign insertion taken from some other context, then we might argue that (Laos) was a harmonization to its new setting. Then we could argue that (oxlos) was the original reading. But we can't possibly do that on the grounds of what John would have said, since now we would be proposing that the passage had a different author entirely.
Davidson's argument here is both self-inconsistent, and inconsistent with the textual evidence for the wording of the passage.
A closer and more careful inspection shows that 'laos' is the word actually found in John 8:1-11 in virtually all manuscripts, and it is the right one. It is in harmony with this context and John's purpose, which overrides any superficial 'style' considerations.
Next we need to consider the problem caused by taking examples from dialogue. In Davidson's time, insufficient thought was spent on this problem, and narrative and dialogue were treated alike.
In the early 20th century critics treated John like a fantasy or fiction novel, and assumed that all the dialogues were simply made up by the Evangelist, only perhaps indirectly drawing from vague and already distant oral traditions.
No critic could hope to make such an error today and maintain credibility. Even when analyzing pure fiction, narrative and dialogue pose entirely different problems for both author and critic.
Although habitual personal expression is known to influence the external form of remembered or recorded dialogue, this influence is subtle and less reliable than often supposed. The fact is, even poor fiction could not function at all if authors were not able to draw from their experiences with others and place plausible words and forms of expression in the mouths of characters.
In fact, the most common error or 'bias' found in fictional dialogue is not the creeping in of the author's own stylisms, but rather the conforming of speech to the expectations of an audience with the same background culture. This may sound like a subtle difference, but often gives utterly opposite results. This is true both of modern fiction and also the most ancient historical dramas, even poetry.
Remarkably, this is also true of eyewitness testimony. To give an example, eyewitnesses reporting the speech of a person of another culture or background will tend to 'remember' the form of the words by imagining how that foreigner would speak, not by putting the words in the witness's own style of speech. This will more often result in implausible or exaggerated stereotyping than in any measurable conformity to the witness's own speech habits.
8:5 - ημιν Μωσης The Word-Order Variant: "Moses to us (commanded/wrote)" vs. "to us Moses (commanded/wrote)"
a) If there is one morphological feature of NT Greek that blows around like a leaf in the wind, and yet usually contains little or no syntactic or lexical meaning, its word-order. Greek is a language that is so highly inflected that for all intents and purposes, word order, especially in its minor variations, conveys no significance at all. Because of this, it is one of the most flexible and arbitrary features.
Except in a few special cases, such as with the verb 'to be' in conjunction with the presence or absence of the definite article, (i.e., Colwell's Rule etc.) nothing can be squeezed out of it except perhaps a thinker's moment to moment attention, or his flow of thought. If one were to try to pick the absolute least useful indication of style or authorship in NT Greek, this would be it (strike 1).
b) Next, we ask, what is the most common scribal error found in every manuscript, page, verse of the NT? Its not word-order, but omission. Yet in something like 20% of accidental omissions, a variation in word order, rather than an actual omission is the result. The fact is that it is difficult and time consuming to erase ink.
Along with a) above, (the fact that word order doesn't matter anyway) an omission results in scribes typically simply copying the skipped word right after the word that was copied in error after the omission. As a result, in just about every manuscript, every few verses there is a simple word order reversal (W.O.R.), usually meaningless, and impossible to trace past the scribe of the exemplar. (strike 2).
c) Finally, indeed, when we check the extant manuscripts, we find the actual word order reversal referred to here is almost as common as the text-forms themselves. And a subpoint here is that the 'W.O.R.' in question is not a feature of the pericope so much as a reversable feature between competing versions of the text. Until the relative priority and dependance of the different forms of the pericope are even known, nothing can be said about this. (strike 3).
d) Now we may further note that in fact the variant in question is not just a variant, but an alternate reading between the two main competing versions of the pericope. This makes it even less likely to be relevant as a possible stylistic marker for the original passage. (strike 4).
e) Also, the W.O.R. unfortunately appears in DIALOGUE, meaning it cannot be clearly or unambiguously connected to John's narrative writing style at all. John may simply be recording someone else's speaking style. To make matters worse, it appears in a pericope where there is little dialogue, but what there is, is critically important to the story, and so this dialogue would be less likely to be 'altered' by John's style, if it were authentic. Lastly, it is in the speech of Christ's enemies, and even less likely to be assimilated by John himself, if recorded by him. (strike 5). How many do we need?
We are forced to put four or five x's through the W.O.R. in verse 8:5, and no votes in its favour for consideration as evidence of authenticity or inauthenticity.
8:5 - ενετειλατο ("[Moses] commanded"),
versus γεγραπται ("it is written")
The other two examples from dialogue and this are best taken together, to get a flavour of what Davidson is really proposing here:
Text as it is usually found:
"In the Law, Moses to us commanded that such be stone-cast (to death)!"
...versus Davidson's conjectures:
"In the Law to us Moses: - It is written : - to stone such a one (to death)."
I have taken Davidson's other variants for 8:5 together here, to see if any merit can be had for the combination, in case this adds unforseen support to his argument.
Obviously any list of proposed alternate Johannine stylisms must be self-consistent and combinable, or else their mutual incompatibility must be honestly noted and the weakening force of this incongruity on the argument ought to be conceded.
That is, if Davidson's proposals can't stand together in a sentence, he must explain how they can be credible Johannine stylisms at all. For John ultimately would have most likely said something, - one thing, not two; and if so, what would it really have been?
If Davidson can't tell what the strongest Johannisms are, how can we have confidence in his estimation of their individual strength? What kind of measure of plausibility can be constructed out of mutually exclusive cases, or elements with no known plausibility either on their own or taken together?
The Scene and Context:
It's worth a pause here, to try to imagine just what Davidson is proposing in his version of the speech:
A gang of armed men with bodyguards, second in authority only to Pilate and his soldiers, boldly confront Jesus with His own men in the only venue where they might succeed in trapping Him. They are hoping to embarrass and humiliate Jesus, perhaps even incite the crowd to stone Him as a false teacher or prophet.
They are dragging along a hysterical woman against her will, in obvious fear of being lynched by the crowd or executed publicly, and throw her down in front of Jesus in the middle of His speech to the crowds.
Now we are to imagine that John, in recording the words of these men, (even I suppose if John has invented the story) would have had them sort of approach Jesus in a kind of 'fellow preacher buddy' way, and as if one were checking the traffic light before crossing the street, shuffle a bit and shyly stutter,
"(uh, hey, Jesus?) ...in the Law Moses- (- uh,)
- It is written. - (um,) such to stone, (you know?..and uh..)"
Never mind the grammatical absurdity of it, which is as bad in Greek as it is in English: (strike 1).
Is this really how the leader of a gang of violent men casting a woman onto the ground is going to speak? By anybody's (even John's) imagination? Yet apparently in Davidson's imagination this construction would be genuine John, and he would have found no fault with it. (strike 2).
The fact that a few effeminate scribes in the 8th or 9th century actually made one of the suggested emendations ( the W.O.R.) only underlines its implausibility. Anything that would appeal to a Medieval monk hardly lends credibility to Davidson's conjectures.
The striking thing is that even though a few scribes took up some of Davidson's emendations separately, no scribe willing to emend the text ever reproduced Davidson's sentence, which is an invention lacking any manuscript support.
But if Davidson's version is so full of Johannisms, and the scribes were so prone to emending in favour of harmonization with John, why hasn't the full combination occurred in over 1000 years?
Davidson's idea for this stilted phraseology is inspired partly by John 20:31, where indeed John in the narrative uses "It is written". How we are to imagine John would have the Pharisees speak in the same unimaginative and artificial way here boggles the mind. (strike 3).
The only similar expression in John comes from Pilate, "What I've written, I have written." (John 19:22) But this in no way parallels the situation here. Pilate isn't talking about scripture, and he uses the 1st person, to point out the futility of changing the sign he ordered to be placed on the cross, now that everyone has already seen it.
This contextless conjecturology completely falls short of what needs to be demonstrated, and what that evidence might really look like. (strike 4).
These three examples together form the most conjectural, and least plausible cluster of ideas Davidson has offered so far. The suggestions each receive one 'x' for being in dialogue, another for being grammatically and absurdly artificial, and a 3rd 'x' for completely ignoring the context and content of the story.
3 strikes and they're out. No plausible positive support can be found for Davidson's suggestions here, even in with some late MSS support in hand.
8:5 - λιθοβολεισθαι ('stone-casting') - Davidson supposes that the awkward compound verb, ('stone-casting') is unlike John's diction, since he habitually prefers the simpler verb λιθαζειν ('stoning') in his narrative.
Here is a classic case of a certain kind of error in critical judgement that can often occur.
The Textual Problem
Aside from the fact that Davidson's alternative proposal is also a high-plausability alternate reading, (the M5 group, some 290 MSS, is the most numerous and stable form of the text and it reads λιθαζειν ), we run up against the textual critical canon of 'Prefer the harder reading.' that is, 'stone-casting' would be preferred as a reading likely to have been amended to the easier 'stoning', in a typical case of smoothing.
So far so good: the 19th century critical canon favours the harder reading as original, even though the textual evidence is probably against it (see our article on reconstructing the text). But the strong textual instability in any case still makes the example of Davidson here precarious and uncertain at best.
The Compositional Tendency
The real objection here is this: It is not really what John would have said himself that would have influenced his choice of words, but rather his perception of the expectations of his hearers. Its not what John would have sounded like as a Pharisee, but what he wished the reader to experience as the character of a Pharisee.
John's sculpting of the Pharisee speech would be based upon a lifetime of listening to and interacting with Pharisees and priests in Jerusalem, and his recollection of their habits of speech, not his own.
Fiction versus Eyewitness Accounts
Even if John were writing pure fiction, this would be the natural instinct of such a gifted writer. But it would be even more true if John were attempting to record a recollection: He would tend to conform it to his own memory and experience of Pharisees, not his own habits of speech.
That is, its not "What would John have said?" but rather,
"What would John think the Pharisees would have said?"
What would John have put in the Pharisee's mouth to create a compelling story, convincing to his readers? What did John think his listeners would expect Pharisees to sound like? After all, John's whole purpose is that we "might believe" (Jn 20:31), and his conscious intent is to be credible regarding the historical truth of his work.
Comparison to the Rest of John
When we turn to the rest of John, we find precisely this kind of influence. The 'Jews' (Judaeans) are stereotyped if at all, not to sound like John, but to sound like the image of 'Jews' in John's and his readers' minds.
Likewise, Peter, and every other character is portrayed and sculpted through the eyes of John, not through the mouth of John. Even when blatantly stereotyping, or presenting cameo characters, each is given their own 'flavour' or personality, through their speech. And it is not the 'speech' of the narrator.
In this case then, its not only the plausibility of Davidson's example that is in question. Its the fact that the Gospel itself fails to offer evidence for the evangelist's own style influencing his dialogue. Instead, the Gospel procures strong evidence that other factors are influencing the style and diction of its characters.
What about 'Sources'?
Finally, turning to the question of sources and finalizing editors, the same problems arise, and the same observations are made. The Pericope de Adultera has all the earmarks of a 'source' story, much like the feeding of the 5000, or the cleansing of the temple. The narrator is not really pretending to be an eyewitness of these events, but rather a faithful compiler of trusted eyewitness accounts.
In the adoption of sources, unique words and figures of speech are often left embedded in both the narrative and the dialogues. It would be an unreasonable expectation not to find some residues of the original participants and eyewitnesses. They are found everywhere else in John.
8:10 - κατεκρινεν versus κρινεν
("condemn" versus "judge" in Jesus' speech)
Here we must be careful not to oversimplify Davidson's argument, although we must largely surmise this argument from 'silence', since Davidson himself merely assumes it. The point appears to be based upon the technical problems that the passage poses for commentators, regarding its own historical plausibility, and interpretation.
In fairness to Davidson, this variant is probably not expected to stand on its own without the long discussion he presents on the historical and scholarly interpretation of the passage.
But we don't really need even a summary of that discussion, so much as a clear idea of what is going on in the last two verses of the passage (John 8:10, 11).
The verb 'judge/condemn' in some form appears in both verses (total: twice), both times from the lips of Jesus, as He addresses the woman.
But again, as with other of Davidson's examples, the words are just not synonyms. Although the verb 'to judge' can imply a bad verdict (i.e., guilty = 'condemn'), or a derogatory implication in regard to the 'judge' ("judge not!"), they each have separate technical uses, even in John.
The Verb "Condemn": (κατεκρινεν )
The verb " to condemn " (κατεκρινεν ) is rare enough, occurring only about 16 times in the whole New Testament.
Occurances of κατεκρινω
|Matt.12:41||Sermon / Ninevah||Jesus|
|Matt.12:42||Sermon / Queen of Sheba||Jesus|
|Matt.20:18||Private Talk / On Passion||Jesus|
|Matt.27:3||Narrative / On Judas||Matthew|
|Mark 10:33||Private Talk / On Passion||Jesus|
|Mark 14:64||Narrative / On Jesus, Sanhedrin||Mark|
|Mark 16:16||Sermon / Commission||Jesus|
|Luke 11:31||Sermon / Ninevah (Matt.12:41)||Jesus|
|Luke 11:32||Sermon / Q. of Sheba (Matt.12:42)||Jesus|
|John 8:10||Private Talk / Accusers, Adulteress||Jesus|
|(John 8:11)||Private Talk / Accusers, Adulteress||Jesus|
|Rom. 2:1||Sermon / On judging, condemning||Paul|
|Rom. 8:3||Sermon / On Jesus' Passion||Paul|
|Rom. 8:34||Sermon / On condemning others||Paul|
|Rom. 14:23||Sermon / On faith, condemnation||Paul|
|1 Cor.11:32||Sermon / On judged vs.condemned||Paul|
|Heb. 11:7||Sermon / Pre-flood world condemned||(the author)|
|2 Pet. 2:6||Sermon / Sodom, Gomm. condemned||Peter|
A scan of these instances tells us alot: In the Gospels, the word appears mostly in the mouth of Jesus (4 out of 5 times). Yet it can occur in the narrative almost as easily: Matthew and Mark both use it independantly, Matthew regarding Judas, and Mark regarding Jesus. This independance probably reflects the concerns of each writer.
Mark: In Mark at least this is primitive and integral, since Mark consciously records the fulfillment of Jesus' earlier speech (Mark 14:64 fulfills Mark 10:33). Yet a single occurance hardly makes it a 'Markan stylism'.
The frequency in Mark seems remarkable (almost as often as in Matthew, which is twice as large: 3x vs. 4x).Yet this may be largely illusory. The occurance in 16:16 may be secondary, since many believe that the Long Ending of Mark is the work of a final editor, not necessarily Mark. This would leave one instance (Mark 10:33), a primitive record from the earliest oral tradition (Peter?), plus Mark's repetition in the narrative to show its fulfillment (Mark 14:64).
Matthew: Regarding Matthew, the rareness of this verb in the Gospels generally becomes apparent, since Matthew is huge, encompassing 95% of Mark and most of Luke, plus original material as well. The number of instances shrinks even smaller if we presume that Matt.20:18 is based upon Mark 10:33. Other than the one instance in the narrative regarding Judas, this leaves only the two instances in the speech of Jesus at Matt.12:41-42. This is clearly primitive tradition, whether Luke and Matthew depend upon an earlier record or oral tradition, or if one copies the other.
Luke: This cannot be a Lukanism, since it never appears in Luke except where he depends upon Matthew (Matt 12:41-42) or a similar source (e.g. Q). It never occurs in Luke's narrative, and isn't part of his style or diction. It doesn't appear in Acts at all.
Luke actually prefers (καταδικαζω ) , as in Luke 6:37 etc. Regarding the difference between this and (κατακρινω ), Thayer's Lexicon observes:
"where it differs from (κρινειν ) in giving prominence to the formal and official as distinguished from the inward and logical judging"
This may be his own translational choice. Here we may perhaps rightfully talk of a Lukan 'diction' or 'stylism'.
We may note here that the occurance of 'condemn' in Mark 16:16 also speaks against Lukan Authorship for the (long) Ending of Mark. The question of Mark's Ending is clouded with controversy, and much alleged 'internal evidence' has been adduced both for and against. We won't be surprised if our observation here is poorly received also.
Synoptic Evidence: Summary
The verb κατακρινω always appears in sections shared by more than one Synoptic Gospel, when used by Jesus (i.e., Mark/Matt. or Matt./Luke). Its appearance in Jesus' speech is at least as old as the oldest synoptic Gospel, regardless of the chosen solution to the synoptic problem. It strongly suggests early oral traditions that likely reach right back to Jesus' earthly ministry.
Its absence in the entire Lukan corpus (Luke/Acts) aside from one place shared with Matthew/Q shows it is not sourced from later materials. Nor is it a Lukan stylism. On the other hand, Luke's preference for a synonym (καταδικαζω, e.g. Lk 6:37 etc.) may show a conscious avoidance of the term, but this probably is a stylism.
Paul: Paul again represents possibly one of the earliest stratas of tradition. Its frequent use in his sermon shows its strong connection with the Passion and pastoral concerns regarding judging others, self-judgement and condemnation. At first it appears to be so frequent in Paul that it could almost be a 'Paulism', yet this too fades under inspection.
4 out of 5 instances are in Romans, and this is virtually one long sermon of variations on a theme, namely faith and works, judgement and condemnation, and the Passion. Thus Paul's instances drop down to two letters out of a dozen or more, with the frequency accountable by the subject matter. Again we come away in the end with 'rare but ancient', reflecting early stratas of Christian tradition.
Hebrews and 2 Peter: Single occurances, but each on a popular theme, the condemnation of former peoples or groups for failure to heed God. Hebrews, Jude, and 2 Peter all talk a similar sermon on the Flood, Sodom etc., and reflect the very same kind of material as in Luke/Matthew, the other main occurances of 'to condemn'. We see a longstanding and widespread Christian tradition regarding 'condemnation', apparently going all the way back to Jesus' earthly ministry.
John: John (the evangelist) is remarkable in his ability to pack deep and complex spiritual ideas into simple language. The Gospel of John contains 15,240 words, but only 1,011 of them are different. Of these, 112 do not occur in any other New Testament book (they are 'hapax legomena'). In proportion to its size, John employs the smallest vocabulary in the NT.
Our expectations then, using the other Gospels as a guide, would be that κατακρινω would appear at most once or twice in John. And taking John 7:53-8:11 as authentic, this would be just what we find.
Notice that the Lukan choice would be καταδικαζω (see above), and so this occurance of κατακρινω in 8:10 is a double-strike against a 'Lukan' origin or style for the passage.
In fact, John is fond of varying his Greek words where he intends to convey the same meanings, and so we expect κατακρινω to appear occasionally even where John could appropriately and would habitually use κρινω.
The same could be said of the Lukan καταδικαζω, and so John could certainly have used either word here in this passage or anywhere else in John, without it having any significance or meaningful application to the question of authenticity.
Summary for κατακρινω :
κατακρινω is a rare but commonly known word, probably tracable back to Jesus' earthly ministry. Its rarity is essentially a function of context or content, not style or popularity of usage.
It is not a word any of the evangelists feel requires any explanatory asides, as with other truly obscure ethnic, religious or technical (geographical/linguistic) terms. It would be ordinary and familiar to any native Greek or Greek-Jewish speaker.
Its rarity in John is consistent with the size of that Gospel (a mere booklet). There is no evidence to show that John was avoiding the term. The corpus is simply too small to make a definitive statement. There is no reason to believe that John was unfamiliar with the word, or did not know its meaning and usage.
The occasional appearance of this word instead of κρινω has no significance for the question of authenticity.
The simpler word, κρινω ("to judge"), by contrast occurs over 110 times in the NT, (about 5 times as often), and so cannot be charted here. Instead we must be content with general observations. As the more universal word, covering both postive and negative 'judgements', it is naturally appropriate in perhaps twice as many situations as the more negative κατακρινω ("to condemn").
This alone would not properly account for its 5 to 1 propensity over κατακρινω. The real answer for the frequency of κρινω in short works like John's Gospel is the nature and content of the many large discourses and sermons of Jesus. In most of these contexts, it appears that κρινω is the more useful and deliberate choice, whether this be traced directly to Jesus or simply to John's recollections and theological purposes.
This utility and purpose for κρινω in the context of generalized sermons and public speeches by Jesus cannot be expected to have any effect or significance for the case before us in this passage.
Here there is no real discourse or sermon, but rather a woman is being briefly questioned or 'interrogated' in a short dialogue. This instance has more in common with other short confrontations and action sequences in John, such as the cleansing of the temple, and brief disputes between antagonists such as John the Baptist and the Pharisees.
The instance Davidson protests about is in verse 10, the first occurance. (Although Davidson is lazy about the verse numbers, there is little doubt of his reference, since he chooses the form κατεκρινεν which only occurs in 8:10.)
As it happens,there is no variation in the text. So Davidson at least starts with a solid example. Yet its very stability works against Davidson's proposal, since all subsequent editors and scribes were apparently happy with the word and its form in this first instance. To put a face on it, verse 10 runs:
"Woman, where are your accusers?
Did no one condemn (κατεκρινεν ) you?" (original text)
This is in simple harmony with the context and especially the prefacing speech of Jesus with its technical reference to "accusers" (κατηγοροι) i.e., 'prosecutors'.
Historically there has never been any other understanding or alternate interpretation or emendment of this portion of the text. It has always been assumed the intent of the accusers was prosecution and stoning.
If there were a textual variant, one might argue based upon the 'prefer the harder reading' guideline that Davidson's suggestion was original, because it is a slightly more vague, nonsensical ('difficult') reading in comparison. But there is no such variant.
We can see no logical justification for a claim that John (or John's Jesus) would have used the lame and clumsy κρινεν instead here in this particular place. This makes no real sense, especially in the light of Johannine word-play.
If there were some profound subtext or double-take to be extracted from Davidson's suggestion, we might at least give the conjecture a good look. But here, there is no mystical overlap or deeper significance to be found. This amendment gives us nothing, and hence offers nothing towards convincing us there's a Johannine alternative potentially hiding here.
The instance in 8:10 is in strong contrast to the second occurance of κρινεν/κατακρινεν in verse 8:11, where there actually is a textual variant, for good reason:
Here there difference between the two readings is this:
"Neither do I judge (κρινω) you,
go and sin no more." (8:11, M5 text)
"Neither do I condemn (κατακρινω) you,
go and sin no more."
(8:11, later Byzantine/Lectionary text)
...and the difference in interpretation now is significant and profound. In the first case, Jesus postpones judgement, (reasonably granting time for reflection and repentance), releasing the woman on bail so to speak, with charges suspended.
As a type of Israel also, the woman is not 'judged' (for that is not the purpose of the Messiah's incarnation, cf. Jn 3:17, 5:22-27, 8:15b-16), but given space to ponder the appearance of Jesus in her life at this critical moment, granting her temporary stay of execution.
In the second version, the trial is over. She has been pronounced 'not guilty' or had the charges dismissed for lack of evidence. This version, while attractive, has all the appearance of an emendment designed to settle the ever returning controversy once and for all.
It also makes the pericope complete in itself, a finished story, perfectly suited to the Lectionary function. It is inconceivable that a scribe or editor would have emended the text in the opposite direction.
While the issue of Johannine style is lame and completely misses the mark, the question of the extent of the influence of the Lectionary editing practices and form is what is really germaine here.
Although Davidson has not brought up this variant in 8:11, for completeness it needs to be considered along with his example in 8:10, because it lends valuable perspective on just how weak and thin 'stylistic' arguments are in comparison with critical questions of apologetic interpretation, as sources of both variants and forms of text.
In verse 8:3, Davidson says we should have εις το μεσον instead of εν μεσω. But for verse 8:10, Davidson insists it should read just μεση . What gives? Its hard to avoid thinking that Davidson is being just a bit too creative here.
To give the English reader an idea of just how subtle such nuances are, both choices in 8:2 would translate into the same English expression: "in the midst". To try to reflect such a subtle substitution of prepositions and case, we might offer the following alternatives:
"and having set her in the midst...(of the crowd/temple-steps)"
"and having set her midway (among the crowd/temple-steps)"
But we can't help feeling this is a trivial set of artificial constructions. It is true that we have a variant here, (M6, the Lectionary text inserts the definite article, giving εν τω μεσω). But this reflects the sensibilities of Medieval scribes 500 years after the fact. This variant is not a harmonization with John, but rather a modernization for public reading purposes, a sort of mini explanatory gloss.
C.S. Lewis would call this 'conveniently uncheckable fantasy'. Its even less convincing when Davidson can't even make up his mind what John's style should actually be.
The ordinary verb, παραγινομαι ("to come, arrive, present oneself") appears everywhere in the New Testament. It is obviously common, appearing once even in Mark's stilted Greek narrative (Mark 14:43, of Judas arriving with the soldiers). As diverse writers as Matthew (3x: 2:1, 3:1, 3:13) and the author of Hebrews (Heb. 9:11) find it handy. It can even work its way into a letter of Paul as short as 2nd Timothy (4:16), and Paul uses it again in 1st Cor.16:3. It is obviously considered good Greek for the period, as Luke uses it quite liberally, (8x in Luke and 20x in Acts).
But its no surprise that it is used far less often in John (2x, counting 3:23, and 8:2), just as it appears sparingly in Mark: both of these writers are heavily semitic in their Greek writing style, unlike the prosaic Luke. We don't get rid of this verb by deleting the passage, since it still appears in 3:23. There is no getting around the fact that John knows the verb and is quite willing to use it for variety.
Again, both appearances occur in the first half of the Gospel, the so-called 'book of Signs' (chapters 1-12). Its occurance in 8:1-11 then is perfectly consistent with the Gospel of John as we know it, even if we grant any of various compositional theories regarding its breakdown into 'sources' etc.
Of course John knows other synonymous constructions, which he uses for effect. But this furnishes no objection to his use of παραγινομαι here in 8:2, in the same way he already has put it to use in 3:23.
There is simply nothing here 'unJohannine' that we can grab onto.
Davidson suggests rather, "each went into his own." (απηλθεν εις τα ιδια ). Regardless of the verb form for this sentence, the substitution of "his own" ( τα ιδια) for "his house" ( τον οικον αυτου) is completely absurd.
The idiomatic expression "his own" (τα ιδια) is a synonym in John for Israel, the people or nation. For instance, it occurs here:
'He came to His own, and His own received Him not.' (John 1:11)
Had the passage actually used "his own" ( τα ιδια) as some kind of synonym for 'house or home, Davidson would have surely protested that this was not a Johannine usage.
Its the kind of example that convinces us that Davidson really doesn't understand NT Greek or the Gospel of John at all. He is simply parroting what he picked up in Germany in the 1840s, without applying any critical judgement to it.
The Lectionary Variant
Leaving Davidson's dubious conjecture aside, there is a variant here in the verb and its number among the MSS. The reason however, can be traced to the necessity of cutting the pericope apart from its narrative, so that it can stand alone in the Lectionary reading lesson as a self-contained unit. Thus, the beginning of the passage is altered:
'...So they departed, each to his own house, ...' (original - M5)
'And each went to his own house, ...'(Lectionary Text - M6, M7)
It is obvious that the first reading connects the pericope (7:53 forward) to the previous narrative, and it is really the ending to the previous day. Regardless of which came first, Davidson doesn't have a case.
If the M5 text is original, it is evidence that the passage was originally joined to the previous narrative. If it is an amendment, then it can't be used as evidence of non-Johannine style, because the original according to Davidson himself is the correct Johannine style.
The rarer verb is interesting, but hardly that unusual, and is adequately accounted for by the need for a connection to the previous narrative. In any case, since its a textual variant, Davidson is on shakey ground.
Here again Davidson uses an example from the dialogue, rather than a more convincing example from the narrative of the passage.
But there is an added complication here also: Most textual critics apparently concedefor that this incident is probably an authentic early account of an incident in the life of Jesus. But in that case, this speech of the Pharisees was likely given in Hebrew, just as in Acts, when Paul addressed the crowd in their own Hebrew tongue.
If so, the Greek here is 'translation-Greek' of some kind, and difficult to attribute to John's personal style. Since the incident is a part of the early half, the 'book of Signs' (chapters 1-12), it is a good candidate for 'source material' that John has adopted to his didactic and apologetic purposes.
We simply cannot expect that dialogue like this will be overly vulnerable to John's narrative style.
Once again, there are significant textual variants as well. The Lectionary text (M6, M7) supports Davidson's conjecture ευρομεν , and this is probably where he got it.
But Davidson's conjecture as to the motivation for the variant however, is wholly implausible. The scribes of the 4th and later centuries were hardly concerned with making this passage conform to John's 'style' whatever that might be perceived to be.
The evidence abounds that Medieval editors were plainly concerned instead to make the Greek of the NT everywhere conform to grammatical standards of 'good Greek'. These were the charges brought against NT writers, and these were the problems which later editors attempted to correct. And this is the kind of variant evidence that is typically found in the MSS.
The word for 'dawn' (ορθρου) appears in John only here, although its familiar enough. Luke uses the expression twice (Luke 24:1, Acts 5:21).
But this is an old expression, having stood in the LXX for nearly 400 years by John's time. So it is again not really a Lukan word at all. It is found at least twice in the popular Greek psalter (Ps 57:8, 108:2 LXX), familiar to Greek speaking Jews for hundreds of years before Christ, and for at least 200 years afterward.
Even so, the word appears to be a slight archaism, and not the first choice for a Greek writer, even one as heavily Semitic as John. Apparently, under other circumstances, John does seem to prefer expressions like πρωι, πρωιας ( 'early','morning'), etc. (cf. Jn 18:28, 20:1, 21:4)
Jeremiah and 'Dawn' (ορθρου)
Remarkably however, the phrase appears six times in Jeremiah (Jer 7:25, 25:4, 26:5, 32:33, 35:14, 44:4 LXX), while it remains almost non-existant in most other books. Whether this can be traced to Jeremiah's phraseology rather than the Greek translator is moot, since the Greek Jeremiah was a very popular book. These passages focus particularly upon the warnings to the Jews prior to the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and the Exile.
Striking, and typical, is Jeremiah 32:33 (LXX):
"...and I taught them at dawn (ορθρου) and they refused instruction: and they brought their filth into (the Temple), - the House where they called upon My Name, in their uncleanness." ...(Jer. 32:33-34)
Six times Jeremiah uses the phrase like a gong to announce the woes against Judah and the Temple. These well-worn passages had been pondered and lamented over constantly since the Exile. By the time of Christ, 'dawn' (ορθρου) would simply be a painfully humbling reminder of Jeremiah's prophecies every time the Greek Psalter was sung.
The strongest and most convincing explanation for dawn (ορθρου) in both John and Luke/Acts is simply to recall the Greek Jeremiah. *
When such a heart-rending chord as this would naturally be struck in Greek-Jewish listeners (hellenists), it is weak at best to suggest that a writer would use such a unique and powerful keyword merely to crudely imitate or point to Luke. Luke after all is attempting to make the same striking connection himself in using this archaic expression. The author of 8:1-11 picked this phrase ultimately to point us to Jeremiah.
Luke's text as a go-between is simply superfluous here. When we come to examine the two instances in Luke/Acts, they actually appear to be one-way arrows in the other direction. It is far more plausible to suggest that Luke uses dawn (ορθρου) with the women coming to the tomb (Luke 24:1) to remind us of John 8:1-11 than vice versa.
Similarly, although the instance in Acts is uncannily similar to the context in John, neither John nor a forger gains anything by such a link to Acts, while Luke might at least profit marginally by a reminder of incidents in Jesus' ministry.
John and the LXX
This is even more compelling when we find John doing this elsewhere, again and again. For instance, in the Wedding at Cana, John uses the phrase "What is that to you and me, woman?" (τι εμοι και σοι, γυναι) (Jn 2:4) and refers to the waterpots as ( υδριαι /υδριας ), (Jn 2:6,7), the same word that is used in the Greek book of Kings, to point us to the Miracle/Sign of Elijah with the jars of oil. There the woman (γυναι) says to Elijah, "What to me and you?" (τι εμοι και σοι ) (1 Kg 17:18 (3Kg LXX)) and he tells those in need to take empty pitchers ( υδρια) and draw out the provisions. (The Johannine substitution of 'wine' for oil is an interesting problem, but not germaine here.)
Without always using explicit or long quotations, John constantly points us to Old Testament stories and types in and through the language of the LXX. The use here of the archaic word for dawn (ορθρου) is just one more example of an all too common Johannine procedure.
'Non-Johannine' Samples from Passage
Davidson offers a further list of words and phrases alleged to be unlike the expression of the gospel writer, this time without offering any alternative conjectures that would presumably be more in John's style:
Chart II: More 'Non-Johannine' Samples
|- blue = stable narrative.|
|- green = probable narrative.|
|- yellow = variations in narrative.|
|- orange = from dialogue|
|Verse||Phrase in Passage||Notes|
|8:1||ορος τον ελαιων|
|8:2||καθισας εδιδασκεν αυτοις||(*)|
|8:3||οι γραμματεις και οι Φαρισαιοι||(*)|
|8:9||πρεσβυτερων / εσκατων||(*)|
|(*)||- credible textual variants are involved|
|Dial.||- a part of the recorded dialogue (the Pharisees)|
A Quick Overview:
The first thing to do with this group is just translate them into English, to give the ordinary reader an inkling of what Davidson is unhappy about here.
My own comments are in red, which note Davidson's apparent objections:
- "Mount of Olives" (8:1)
- (the famous Jerusalem landmark - unknown to John?)
- "and standing He (Jesus) taught them" (8:2)
- (apparently implausible since Jesus is now a fugitive)
- "the scribes and Pharisees" (8:3)
- (John would never use this handy phrase?..)
- "taken, caught" (8:3)
- (a difficulty for Davidson, but apparently not for John.)
- "He wrote" (8:6,8)
- (Jesus' act is unusual - as unusual as He is elsewhere in John...)
- "they persisted questioning him" (8:7)
- (or will they just go home now, since Jesus isn't interested?)
- "the sinless one" (8:7)
- (too clever a turn of phrase for Jesus?)
- "...and convicted by conscience" (8:9)
- (what else could have motivated them to leave at this point?)
- "from the Elders...unto the last." (8:9)
- (John should rather have said, "youngest" for literary style)
Well, if we strip out all these words from the pericope, it may no longer be about an adulteress, there simply wouldn't be a story left. Accepting Davidson's objections in total simply gut the story of content. We will have to examine them individually for any merit regarding the case for (in)authenticity.
Davidson tells us that "Mount of Olives" (ορος τον ελαιων) seems borrowed from the synoptists. Well, the phrase is certainly also found there. But this is unimpressive.
The phrase is not 'Synoptic', or any kind of invention by the evangelists. Its one of the most famous and well-known features of Jerusalem, and would be used as a landmark by almost every traveller navigating the city.
In Davidson's time, German scholars believed most of the geographical features of John and the synoptics were fictional, from the towns of Galilee to the "Five Porches" of the Sheep Pool (Jn 5:2). Now we know from archealogical digs that they really existed.
These days most scholars believe John was written last, rather late relative to the synoptics, and had access to at least one of them, probably Mark. If so, then even if John were completely ignorant of the geographical features of Jerusalem, he would have known of this place.
These days, the phraseology for this verse is identified as a 'Lukanism' or harmonization from Luke 21:37-38 by many scholars. That is, John 7:53-8:2 is supposed to have been borrowed from Luke.
But Davidson's objection isn't based upon identifying the passage as Lukan (or pseudo-Lukan). Davidson rather objects to the very idea that Jesus would have shown up in the temple here. Jesus is of course in hiding at this point in the narrative, and avoiding Judea because he is a fugitive and would risk arrest if caught wandering downtown Jerusalem. (John 7:1).
But in reality, the Lukan account asserts Jesus' boldness far more than the passage in John does. From Luke 20:1 to 22:2, Luke makes clear that Jesus had free reign in the Temple in spite of the Pharisees and officers, because He was protected by the people. He wanders about for days, teaching and accepting challenges.
Nor is this at all implausible, when we compare Luke's claims to Josephus' many descriptions of the behaviour of unruly Judaean crowds. The crowds were difficult to manage at best, and the risk of a riot was acute. This in turn would jeopardize the position and power of the religious leaders.
Jesus had a certain popularity, and connections to zealots and those in favour of religious reform. His very choice of an elite bodyguard of twelve Apostles, and another outer circle of 70 more, shows that Jesus understood the importance of the appearance of power, authority, organization and structure.
The fact that like many other famous historical leaders, Jesus occasionally chose to be alone, only underlines His normal habits of travelling with an entourage that clearly served as a deterrant to arrest.
Even when arresting Jesus, the authorities were convinced they needed a Roman cohort of soldiers. So the Gospel account is the most reasonable explanation for Jesus' ability to avoid arrest even in Jerusalem.
After all, the entire Jewish population was hostile to the occupying Romans, who were understaffed to handle a full-scale rebellion.
Under these conditions, Jesus and his men could easily travel incognito and set up soapboxes in heavily defended Jewish areas like the temple precincts, only to melt away into the crowds when authorities of any stripe blundered in.
Davidson's skepticism hasn't a historical leg to stand on here. After all, if Jesus had really consistently stayed home in Galilee, he would not have been crucified.
Here again, this exact phrase does not occur elsewhere in John, and the objection is that this is rather a Synoptic expression.
In addition, it is argued that John doesn't differentiate between groups of Jews or religious authorities, but treats them all one-dimensionally as "the Jews".
This is said to reflect a time (and perspective) of a church community a generation or two later, when distinctions between Sadduce, Pharisee, scribe and 'chief-priests' or rulers and princes were blurred and largely forgotten.
Thus according to the theory, John would not have used the phrase "scribes and Pharisees".
But this doesn't hold water here for several good reasons.
(1) John shows clear knowledge of the Synoptic traditions.
(2) John shows great conscious effort in varying his exact wording when using repeated references or monotonous material.
(3) John does not consistently flatten all the various Jewish religious and political parties and groups into a one-dimensional catch-all, "the Jews". This is an exaggeration of John's apologetic and polemical tendencies.
" κατειλεμμενην is used in a sense in which this verb is never employed by the apostle".
So Davidson tells us. But what is he talking about here? This is a form of the verb καταλαμβανω "to capture, overtake, seize, catch". That is its normal meaning. The verb is used also in John's prologue, and is obviously familiar to him:
'And the Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness does not overcome it.' (John 1:5)
Since ancient times, this verse in particular has been puzzled over and expounded, overlaid with esoteric meanings, and has been a veritable fountain for Christian mysticism.
The word has been interpreted metaphorically here as 'comprehend' or 'perceive' from its root meaning 'to grasp' (e.g. Bultmann).
But John's deep theological implications in this verse don't change the plain sense and usage of this word. One must first be familiar with a word and its normal usage to use it abstractly or metaphorically. John could not have been unable or unwilling to use it in its plainer sense.
Furthermore, if John 8:1-11 is authentic, the resonance to this verse (1:5) is intentional. It is left as a mystery to be resolved by the incident in the temple. Its called foreshadow. John is simply doing what he does in many other places in the prologue and narrative. It becomes evidence for, not against the passage.
But we're not done yet. For the word appears in just this sense in another famous bible story (even the same crime!). The story of Suzanna:
"Now then tell me: Under what tree did you
catch them having intercourse with each other?" (Suzanna 58)
And just as John has done in many other places, he uses both the language and story content of the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) to allude to previous prophetic or typological fulfillment. The fact that John here plainly alludes to the Story of Suzanna in the Greek book of Daniel (chapt. 13) is an embarrassment for many modern protestants, who have outright rejected the Apocrypha as "not inspired bible".
But this protest is misguided and irrelevant. Paul also, and many other NT writers allude to both apocryphal and even Pagan stories and sayings, without blinking an eye, if it suits their didactic purposes. John is acting no differently here, and has certainly committed no error in using the familiar story of Suzanna to set alarm bells off in his Greek-speaking Jewish listeners.
There is nothing unusual in John's usage of this word, or his allusion to Suzanna. In fact, this makes the Gospel fully consonant with the style and practice of the rest of the NT.
Finally, we need to note that in spite of common translations, the Greek word doesn't have the connotation of guilt that the English word 'caught' has today. The best translation of 8:3 would be "taken in an adultery", or "captured during an adultery", leaving the question of the woman's guilt open. More than one commentator has noted this in discussing the difference between John's narrative comment and the statement of the Pharisees here.
From Davidson's viewpoint, Jesus writing in the sand is problematic. We can sympathize with the disturbance that the record of His writing causes. Many a commentator has been at a loss to account not only for the writing, but the fact that John doesn't bother to tell us what Jesus even wrote.
But the exegetical and hermeneutic problems of the passage are hardly any more difficult than many other similar-sized portions of John. And that is the point. Davidson here strays from the question at hand once again. Its not "Is this text problematic?" but rather "Is this text problematic in some way distinguishable from the rest of John?" And the answer is no.
To glance at John for comparison, we can note that John is the only evangelist to record that "Jesus wept." (Jn 11:35), that Jesus had "food that you know not of" (Jn 4:32), that Jesus possessed invisible "living water" (Jn 4:10), that a person keeping his sayings "will never see death" (Jn 8:51), that a napkin wrapped about His head was placed "folded by itself" (20:7) for no apparent reason.
There is hardly any shortage of mysterious texts in John, or even mysterious behaviours of the Messiah Himself. Jesus plays 'hide and seek' on at least three occasions, (John 5:13, 7:10, 20:15). He is coyly deceptive frequently, and never really predictable, even to one familiar with one of the Synoptics.
Is there a mystery, or problem with Jesus writing in the sand here? Undoubtably. Does this distinguish the passage in any measurable way from the rest of John? The short answer is No.
To find one possible answer for the writing in the sand, the reader may turn to our discussion of "the Sinless One" further below.
This is one of three 'hapax legomena' (words appearing nowhere else) in John. But can we really make very much of this?
As noted elsewhere, the Gospel of John has over 110 'hapax legomena' in it, even though it has a vocabulary of barely a thousand words. With 20 chapters, we would expect five or six 'hapax legomena' per chapter, all things being roughly equal.
And the unique content and subject matter of this passage certainly creates an extra expectation of special vocabulary.
Admittedly here again we have a difficult and puzzling expression, attributed to Jesus. It compels a 'double-take'. At first, on the surface, Jesus stands and makes the most simple and straightforward request:
"Let an innocent person come forward to begin the punishment."
Jesus Himself seems to innocently demand a reasonable and natural minimal requirement of the Law: That the punishers at least, be innocent of the crime of the accused. And this seems well within translating parameters: Many commentators have interpreted the verse just this way.
And more: He immediately reminds the crowd of the Mosaic Law - "the hands of the witnesses shall be the first to put the person to death." (Deut. 17:7). This is no place for shady gossip mongers or cowardly accusers.
A man must publicly stand behind his words, with the ultimate action, a killing. As if to underline it, he must stand here at dawn in the Temple before the people of Israel and give his testimony with a deadly rock, in the plain light of the Sun before the Teacher from Galilee.
But something has gone terribly wrong right at the starting gate:
"The sinless one among you..."
...it hangs in the air waiting for a confirmation. It hangs there intolerably, building an impossible tension: demanding...what? Justice. - And more: fulfillment.
Jesus, seemingly inexplicably, has bent down again a second time to write in the dust of the temple floor. What was confusing about the two times Jesus wrote becomes terribly clear. The first time He writes, he acts out a literal reminder of the Special Law of Adultery, whereby the sin will be written with the dust of the Temple. (Num. 5:11-31, cf. especially Num.5:17, 23) In the first case Jesus only need scratch three hebrew letters in the temple dust: N A F - "naw-af"; adultery.
This also serves an important purpose. Jesus is not here avoiding the issue: He is forcing the men to persist, while the crowd wakes up and gets oriented to the new crisis at hand. For no teacher of Law can flippantly allow passing or frivolous accusations.
There can be no easy or quick response for charges of a such a seriousness that the death penalty is involved. And now, especially in an occupied country at a place where previous riots have already broken out, there far more at stake. All present must be allowed time for the full implications of the proposal to sink in.
It must be clear that the charge is serious, and that the men bringing it forward are willing to risk far more than just one death to carry out their zeal for the Law of Moses. They must also be willing to risk their own, and the lives of untold others in the crowd. And with this brings a mandatory compulsion to follow the Law to the letter: or else why risk death to oneself and others for a mere lynching or other sinful sport?
But all that is obvious enough: The new mystery is in Jesus pausing yet again, to write a second time in the dust. Again we are not told what is written. But this is not required, for we have already got the plain clue from the purpose of the first writing.
Jesus forces everyone to think for a moment in silence about His firm pronouncement in answer to the first exchange:
"The sinless one among you..."
Yes, it hangs in the air, a ridiculous amount of time, creating an impossible tension. What is the message? What does the Parable Teller par excellence want from us?
Not an Unreasonable Demand...
It first appears as hyperbole to the modern reader: "sinless"? Its an unreasonable demand.
But no it actually isn't. For the ancient pre-Christian listener this is still a living and raging controversy. The incident is not taking place in the open-and-shut atmosphere of the Post-Pauline era. Nor is it during the uncompromising extremism of the Protestant Reformation.
The ancient Jewish listener would not have trouble with or be surprised at the request for a self-righteous pious person, a 'holy man' to begin proceedings. That was the whole premise of every Pharisee, with their meticulous Law observance. That there were many such people is taken for granted by all the Gospels.
It did not matter that the seams were cracking, that in reality the Pharisee was an actor or hypocrite. This would just make Jesus' statement all the more volatile and provoking. In fact the seams were about to explode, in the betrayal of the Holy One to the Romans, but this had not happened yet.
Divide and Conquer...
No, this parable is more personal and insulting. For it is not even a statement. "The sinless one among you" is just a phrase. Its like the gag-question, "So when did you stop beating your wife?" . It simply assumes you are guilty. If one person actually were to step forward, and the others hang back, what are they? They are the others, ... that's right: the ones who are NOT sinless.
And it gets worse. Who is going to step forward to insult the others? "I am the sinless one. Let me throw the first stone." Can we imagine for a second that everyone else, that anyone else, would let someone step up and take that slot?
That this new person, in an attempt to move the stoning forward would risk the blasphemy of claiming to be without sin, to the shame of all the others? That such an arrogant fool wouldn't be immediately stoned himself for such chutzpah?
Jesus' quiet statement can now be seen for what it really is, in its effect upon His hearers:
"Come on then: Who thinks he's the Holy One?
Step forward and see if your companions agree!"
The longer the hesitation, the worse the situation. Jesus has turned the accusers upon one another, and the crowd upon the accusers, while returning to his seat to stay out of it. He has effectively paralyzed them all, by stopping to write slowly in the dust again.
But we are hardly done yet. The big question left unanswered the night before by Nicodemus was, "Shouldn't Jesus be judged or tested according to Torah?" So they brought a case. They expected Him to step up and claim as Messiah and King to judge over Israel. Instead, although it is Jesus Himself who raises the question, the question is now,
"Who is the Sinless One among you?..."
The question just continues to hang there. And the only answer left, is ...Jesus.
The crowd has no choice but to consider all the obvious possibilities. And handsome is as handsome does. Who's looking the holiest here? Who has called forth the requirements of the Holy Torah, by sign and speech? Who has not strayed to right or left of the Holy Law of God? (Deut. 5:32 etc.) What a surprise: its Jesus.
The scribes and Pharisees have truly been defeated in the most profound and public manner possible. Of course they left quietly, not only convicted by conscience, but in fear of their very lives.
John 8:1-11 and Matthew 22:15-22
Few would argue that one of the most powerful and entertaining exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees, is the one that occurred over the question of TAXES. Everybody hates taxes, everybody knows they are abused once given, and few are able to escape them even temporarily without a revolution.
The Pharisees try to entrap Jesus in an episode uncannily parallel to our passage in John. Its found in Luke 20:19-26, and Matt.22:15-22 (of which Matthew seems to have preserved the greater detail).
Here again the Pharisees attempt an entrapment, which backfires: They demand Jesus speak on whether or not Jews should pay taxes to Rome or not and pose a dilemma meant to force Jesus to either 'honour' the occupying Roman authorities, and lose face and credibility as the Messiah, or else open Himself to charges of sedition and rebellion against Rome. Jesus completely catches his inquisitors with their pants down when He innocently asks for a coin.
The Pharisees pull a coin out of their pocket, and lo and behold, the Roman Emperor's head is stamped on it! The Pharisees have been accepting and keeping Roman money, when they wouldn't even allow visiting Israelites to bring it into the temple precincts, but forced them to exchange Roman coin for 'temple shekels', while making a handsome profit on the exchange! Jesus returns the dilemma back into their court in the shortest and cleverest way possible:
"Whose image is this, and whose inscription?.. Then return to Caesar that which is Caesar's, and give to God the things that are God's!" (Matt.22:20,21)
Again, it was all the Pharisees could do, just to leave quietly without getting lynched by the newly enlightened crowd.
... But now, here in John 8:1-11, we see the very same Jesus, silencing and vanquishing his very same opponents again, with the coy, but incredibly loaded terse statement:
"Let the sinless one among you be first to cast a stone upon her." (John 8:7)
Again, we are confronted with the wholly unexpected, but brilliantly clever twist upon the words and meaning of the Old Testament Law in Deuteronomy 17:7. Because Jesus' ambiguous innovation on the Torah here cannot be overlooked or simply explained. It is neither hyperbole, nor an 'innocent' turn of phrase, but a deliberate double-image, meant to arrest the thought of everyone present.
Again the very thing that disturbs us and yet attracts us is this superimposition of meanings, creating an ambiguity and a symbolism that reaches far beyond the words of ordinary men in carrying out ordinary business. Who speaks like this? Jesus of course, and no one else has been able to duplicate it, not even modern day poets like Kalil Gibran.
Yet here in John the case is amplified, for this is no simple mundane question of 'taxes', or some hypothetical question about who's wife somebody who dies and remarries will be. There is a life and death struggle right on the floor of the temple, and a symbolism extending to the entire nation and its salvation, and the very identity of its Saviour.
This is Jesus taken upward and launched a whole order of magnitude closer to the throne of God itself.
Yet we are still just scratching the surface, and turning over clues here and there like forensic police. We don't even know what we have yet, and it seems bigger than the robbery of the Hope Diamond, or the Enron Scandal, or 9/11.
And we get the feeling that if we were to question Jesus further, it would never end. There might be no limit to His greatness or genius. He is simply toying with us as a man might playfully place a crumb in front of an ant.
At least we can understand why the more intelligent textual critics don't dare suggest that John 8:1-11 is some kind of crude forgery, but rather an ancient and authentic piece of perhaps 'oral' tradition.
The REAL Textual Problem
But who would have access to such a powerful and valuable jewel, if not an Apostle or very eye-witness to Jesus in His lifetime? After explaining this problem, the act of mounting this jewel in such a fitting setting as John, and making it the virtual centre-piece seems a trivial problem.
How are we to explain that the Gospel writers would leave out such a fantastic treasure if they knew anything about it, while taking special care for instance, to preserve the less important exchange concerning taxes (Matt. 22:15f, Luke 20:19) ?
We are forced to agree with the textual critics when they confess that this is surely a genuine piece of authentic tradition concerning Jesus. And like them, we have no explanation for how all four gospels could be ignorant of such an incredible occurance, and why most of history would be silent about a story such as this.
Nor can we explain how it could magically 'appear' in all the main streams of transmission in the 2nd or 3rd century, and be JUST AS SILENTLY embraced by all of Christendom for the next thousand years...
...Unless we abandon the critics and their Alexandrian 2nd century texts and their theories of 'insertion' at this point, and admit rather that it was always there in John's Gospel.
But it was so offensive to the Alexandrian Jews, and dangerous for Christian martyrs, that it was passed over silently in public Lectionary reading in the early Church. This in turn led to its being left out of a handful of early manuscripts.
This was exactly in fact how the book of Revelation was handled, and several other problem passages.
Its alot easier to explain how one or two Gospel writers could leave out such an account, either by failing to witness it, or by knowing one of the others covered it. In fact, the Gospel of John has multiple examples of incidents not recorded by the others.
Either they didn't read John or they did. But in either case, there is no urgency as long as the incident is covered by at least one Gospel.
Its the premise that an incident like this is not to be found in ANY Gospel that has the greatest implausibility about it. THAT is the theory that strains the belief of any sensible investigator.
The REAL Solution
In terms of its remarkable content, the Pericope de Adultera (John 8:1-11) is utterly authentic to its core.
And now we can see the bankruptcy of the critics' position. For its not about whether or not the incident is "historically plausible" to a 19th or 20th or even 21st century academic.
This passage could only have been inspired by a spirit and a mind immersed in Gospel and consumed by the Holy Law of the Lord. The very same spirit and mind found to be behind the rest of the Gospels. And that is the point. Reject them ALL if you must, but question concerning our passage was,
"Is the passage like or unlike the rest of the Gospel?"
And the answer is obvious:
This overlaying of multiple meanings with the simplest of words and expressions is precisely the single most notable feature of the Gospel of John.
Naturally this notice by the narrator causes special problems for commentators. Yet we doubt that this was added later to the story, even though the whole clause is dropped by Family 13 and leading MSS of the Palestinian Syriac. These odd texts contain many lectionary variants that have crept into the later continuous text manuscripts.
The fact is, the notice is necessary to provide motivation for the Pharisees' abandonment of the case. Once again, Davidson has confused a clause's historical plausibility from our modern perspective, with the strict question of authenticity: that is, simply the question of the similarity of the story elements to content in the rest of John.
When we bother to look, we see that such notices indicating people's motivations are plentiful in John's Gospel. They indicate that it is John's habit to include them, even when a modern reader might be suspicious of John's apparent ability to read minds and pronounce upon the inner thoughts and feelings of his characters.
For instance, we see such notices right from the beginning of John, starting from 1:10 and continuing 2:21,24-25 6:21, 7:5, 9:22, 12:6, 12:37, 13:29, 19:38. Then especially with Jesus' enemies, the Pharisees and religious leaders, we see it again and again: 5:18, 7:1, 7:44, 9:18, 11:51, 12:43, etc. John loves telling us what the characters are thinking and what motivates them.
Of course, John has no trouble recording Jesus' ability to know hearts and read minds. But John extends this ability (or at least the ability to make good guesses about people's motives) to many other characters.
John may not be claiming 'omniscience' for himself in his narrative, but he is certainly bold and opinionated. In any case, this explanatory aside providing motivation for the characters in the story is a truly Johannine feature, and it really is hard to see any justification for Davidson's complaint.
Davidson lists this as another 'hapax legomena', a word not appearing elsewhere. But as he notes about other words, it can "be accounted for by the subject of the paragraph". That is, the subject matter explains both its appearance here, and its lack of appearance elsewhere.
We are also informed that εσχατων is an unsuitable antithesis for πρεσβυτερων. To put this in English, it would have been more technically correct from a literary standpoint for John to have said "from the eldest to the youngest" rather than the text, "from the eldest unto the last."
But we are hard-pressed to come up with any evidence from the Gospel of John itself for this conclusion. Even the Alexandrian scribes, sticklers for their own version of 'proper Greek' found no fault here at all. There is serious variation in the text here (with many MSS missing "unto the last"), and it has all the appearance of a scribal gloss rather than a mistake by the original composer of the passage.
This is rather an anachronistic back-projection into the ancient world of modern European educational standards. The evangelist and his ancient successors know nothing of complaints like this. They would probably regard Davidson as a mad hatter.
John's narrative shows non-sequitous features on so many levels throughout the Gospel that the temptation is rather to claim this very feature as a Johannine trait, not as evidence against.
But in any case, the entire phrase "unto the last" is missing from the primary witness to the text (M5), and its probably a Lectionary gloss from the 5th century. Relying upon seriously disputed portions of text is not the most convincing methodology for constructing a case of suspicious 'style'.
Davidson's case is naive, amateurish, and does not stand up to a critical examination. Its a wish-list, and not a solid case for a foreign 'style' or diction.
The majority of his examples are built on sand, or unsubstantiated conjectures. As Davidson concedes, most of the unusual features of the passage are well accounted for by the unique subject matter.
His reconstruction of the textual history is at best a vague guess, and although he swells up his count of problems by including many dubious variants, this lack of groundwork and rigor undermines and erodes his case severely, if not almost entirely.
One of the few remaining examples, after the smoke clears from the collapse of Davidson's edifice, is the question of the keyword, "Dawn" (ορθρου). But this has all the appearance of a deliberate allusion to the LXX of Jeremiah, one of the big Johannine techniques, liberally sprinkled throughout the Gospel.
Davidson's bias in presenting the evidence, his omission of key evidence such as the strong connections of the passage to John 6:1-21, and his apparent lack of skill in the language of NT Greek, give the case an unconvincing pallor. It becomes a virtual performance of 'special pleading', which will only attract those predisposed to rejecting the verses on other grounds.
It is small wonder that even Tregelles, who was strongly against the authenticity of the passage, and who borrowed heavily from Davidson's presentation of the textual evidence (see Part I and also our article on Tregelles), was wholly unimpressed by Davidson's case for the internal evidence:
"I do not rest at all on the internal difficulties connected with this passage, on the supposition that it is genuine Scripture; because, if it had been sufficiently attested, they would not present anything insurmountable.
The peculiarities of the language are indeed remarkable, and very unlike anything else in St. John's Gospel; but to this it might be said, that the copies differ so much that it is almost impossible to judge what the true phraseology is.
Perhaps the difficulties in the passage have been over-estimated: at least we have no reason to conjecture that any omitted it on account of such difficulties, any more than we have to think that any expunged it on doctrinal grounds, as suggested by Augustine."
(S.P. Tregelles, An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament, London, 1854, pages 236-243.)