Textual Evidence

on John 8:1-11 (1888)

Review of: William Kelly, Christian writer, (1821-1906)

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Last Updated: Feb 19, 2009

Prologue: - Introduction to William Kelly

Review: - W. Kelly on John 8:1-11: textual commentary

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William Kelly was a brilliant Biblical scholar and a devout Christian, working at a time of great crisis in the Christian West. He is best known as the author of many popular hymns used in many churches to this day.

William Kelly (1821-1906)

15,000 volumes! What a library! It did not consist of novels or plays but were the tools used by a man of God, William Kelly. He used them to great effect in his long life of devoted service to his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Intellectually, William Kelly was a brilliant scholar as a young man when he was converted to Christ. The verse that was used to convince him of sin was Rev. 20:12, "I saw the dead small and great stand before God".

Through a Christian lady on the Isle of Sark, he was helped into Christian liberty by reading 1 John 5: 9-10. Because of the means used in his blessing, we can understand his intense love of Holy Scripture. Mr. Kelly devoted his talents to the Lord and His interests instead of pursuing an academic course for personal gain and fame. When he was told that he could make a name for himself in the world, he replied "Which world?" A generous benefactor offered to "do something" for him. He replied "What can you do for me more than has already been done by the Lord Jesus". Mr. Kelly was not a self-seeker or a place-seeker.

A few days before Mr. Kelly died he uttered these words: "I have done my work for Christ. I want to go. Others will be strengthened to do their work but mine is done". His work was for Christ and for those who trusted in Him. Far and wide he ministered the Holy Scriptures, preached the Gospel and involved himself in pastoral work. He loved the assemblies of God's people and willingly travelled to visit small gatherings to minister God's word to them. He served rich and poor alike because he loved the saints without partiality. His literary output was tremendous. For 50 years he edited the monthly magazine, "The Bible Treasury".

"The Collected Writings of John Nelson Darby" was also his work. Numerous books, pamphlets and letters flowed from his busy pen. In 1894, he revised the 1856 edition of the Little Flock Hymn book. His accurate understanding of the Greek language in which the New Testament was written, enabled him to confute many who attacked the Holy Scriptures. Judged by any known standards Mr. Kelly's life work was prodigious and was of immense profit to the Church of God.

Mr. Kelly loved to attend the breaking of bread to remember the Lord and Saviour. His words relating to it are well worth remembering in our day, "In the Supper, if rightly celebrated, the abased Lord alone is rightly exalted. There might be occasions where the evident guidance of the Spirit brings it early before us, or postpones it late in the meeting, and thus any technical rule binding it to the beginning, or middle or end, would be human encroachment on Him who alone is competent on each occasion always to decide".

According to a friend of many years, Mr. Kelly's formula for Christian living was — Faith in God's Word — true obedience to it — devotedness to the Person of Christ.

Mr. Kelly grieved over the evident failures in the Christian profession. He deplored the flimsiness of faith compared with the robust character of Christian living expressed formerly. Worldliness, lack of devotion and materialism weighed heavily on his spirit. He loved the saints too much to turn a blind eye to their failures.

About a week before he died, Mr. Kelly spoke about three things which he said were real;
"The Cross of Christ is real
— the hatred of the world is real
— the love of God is real."

(From: STEM Publishing - Spiritual Songsters)

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Kelly on John 8:1-11

William Kelly On John 8:1-11

The following is taken from:
The Bible Treasury
[Cf. Introductory Lectures," pp. 461-477.]

John 7:53 to 8:11

"We are now arrived at a section of our Gospel, the external condition of which is to the reflecting mind a solemn evidence of human unbelief, here as daring as usually it appears to hesitate. No evangelist has suffered as much in this way, not even Mark, whose close disappears from two of the most ancient manuscripts.

But as we saw that the angel's visit to trouble the waters of Bethesda was unwelcome to not a few copyists of John 5, so here again incredulity indisposed some to reproduce the story of the adulteress.

This is plain from some copies (as L Δ), which leave a blank-a fact wholly inexplicable, if the scribe had not been aware of a paragraph which he knew to exist, but for reasons of his own thought fit to omit. Others, again, transposed it to another place, as the cursives 1, 19, 20, 129, 135, 207, 215, 301, 347, 478, etc., to the end of the Gospel [Family 1] (and 225 after John 7: 36), and even to another evangelist, as 13, 69, 124, 346, and 556, [Family 13] though alien in tone from all but John, and suiting no place in John but here, where the mass of authority gives it.

A (probably) [haitius] , B C (probably) [haitius] , T X [X is a 12th cent. commentary] , with many cursives and ancient versions [as Syrsin pesch], simply omit the passage;

D F (defective) G H K U Γ (defective), more than 330 cursives [now over 1,250 Greek MSS & 1,000 lectionaries are known that contain the PA] , and many versions have it. It is marked by an asterisk, or obelus, in E M S Λ Π, etc. The variations of the copies which do give it are considerable. This brief view of the evidence may suffice for the general reader, as it is more than enough to prove the peculiarity of the case externally.

As regards the internal evidence, some have alleged against the passage its entire diversity from the style of the Gospel elsewhere; and this, not merely in words and idioms which John never uses, but in its whole cast and character, which is said to savour more of the Synoptic Gospels.

All this, however, fails to meet the positive weight of truth in the passage; and its fitness at this very point of the Gospel is utterly unaccountable in a forgery or a tradition.

The Lord is displaying the true light in His Person, as contrasted with others who boasted in the law. We have seen their conscienceless discussion in the preceding chapter.

"And they went each to his home, but Jesus went to the mount of Olives" (John 7:53-8:1).

Afar from man's uncertainty and contempt, the Son of God retired to enjoy the fellowship of the Father. Thence He returns for service.

"And early in the morning He came again to the temple, and all the people were coming unto Him; and He sat down, and was teaching them" (v. 2).

The Lord's habit in this respect, recorded by Luke (Luke 21: 37, 38; Luke 22: 39), is a strange reason for discrediting John's mention of this particular instance. Nor does any reason appear to question that it was not merely "the crowd" (oχλος), but "the people" in a large sense (λαoς), which here flocked to the Lord's teaching in the temple.

"And the scribes and the Pharisees bring to Him a woman taken in adultery, and having set her in (the) midst, they say to Him, Teacher, this woman was taken in the very act of adultery. Now in the law Moses charged us to stone such: Thou, therefore, what sayest Thou? But this they said proving Him, that they might have (whereof) to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger was writing on the ground" (v. 3-6).

Such is man at his best estate when he sees and hears Jesus, but refuses the grace and truth which came by Him. They were not ignorant men, but learned in the Scriptures; they were not the crowd that knew not the law, but possessed of the highest reputation for religion. Nor could there be a question as to the guilt and degradation of the woman.

Why they brought her, and not her paramour, does not appear. But her they brought in the hope, not only of perplexing, but of finding ground of accusation against, the Lord. It seemed to them a dilemma which allowed of no escape. Moses, said they, bade the Jews stone such as she. What did Jesus say?

If He only confirmed the decree of the law, where was the grace so much boasted of? If He let her off, did He not evidently set Himself in opposition not only to Moses, but to Jehovah? What profound iniquity theirs! No horror at sin, even of the darkest dye, but an unfeeling perversion of the exposed adulteress to entrap the Holy One of God.

But if the Lord wrote on the ground, it was in no way as if He heard them not. Rather was it to give them time to weigh their guilty question, and guiltier motive, while their hope of entrapping Him betrayed them more and more to commit themselves as He stooped to the ground.

"And when they continued asking Him, He lifted Himself up and said to them, Let Him that is without sin among you first cast the stone at her; and, again stooping down, He was writing on the ground. But they, having heard [it],* kept going out one by one, beginning from the elder ones until the last; and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in (the) midst" (v. 7-9).

*The clause translated, "and being convicted by their conscience," in the Textus Receptus, and supported by E G H K S, etc., is omitted by still better authority.

Thus did the Lord show Himself the true light which lightens every man. Occupied with the law in its condemnation of the adulteress, and, indeed, far more essaying to condemn the Lord Himself, their darkness is laid bare by these few solemn words. God judges sin, not gross sins, but all sin, be it what it may be; and the Judge of quick and dead was He Who thus searched them through and through.

It was no question of the law for either now: they shrank abashed from the light, even though Jesus stooped down again, and was writing on the ground. Assuredly He heard their question, and discerned their iniquitous aim, veiled as it was; and now they heard Him, and cowered before His all-scathing words of light. Convicted by their consciences, but in no way repentant, they sought to flee, ashamed to see His face, Who stooped once more, and thus gave them time to retire, if they refused to bow with broken spirit and heartfelt confession.

This, however, is not the object of the passage to illustrate, but the supremacy of Divine light in Jesus, let Him be ever so lowly, and in presence of the proudest. And they were going off, one by one, beginning at the elder until the last, beginning at those who dreaded most their own exposure-an exposure which the youngest could not bear, only less ashamed of their fellows than of Jesus, Who had awakened the feeling.

How awful the contrast with their own sweet singer, who, spite of his sins, could say by grace, "Thou art my hiding-place!" (Ps. 32: 7.)-hiding in God, not from Him, and having before him One Who could and would cover all his iniquities, and impute nothing. Vain, indeed, is our effort to cover our sins, or to escape from His presence.

But unbelief trusts itself, not Him, and betrays the will to get away from His light, as it may for a little season, till judgment come. How will it be then? It will be theirs to stoop in shame and everlasting contempt, when evasion cannot be even for a moment, and all is fixed for ever.

Jesus then was left alone, as far as the tempting scribes and Pharisees were concerned, and the woman in the midst; for "all the people" appear to have been around, and He addresses them in a subsequent discourse, which seems to be founded on this very incident, as giving occasion to it (see verse 12 and following).

"And Jesus lifting Himself up, and beholding no one but the woman, said to her, Woman, where are they, thine accusers? Did no one condemn thee? And she said, No one, Sir. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more" (v. 10, 11).

It is the mistake of Augustine, as of others in modern no less than ancient times, that we have here "misera" in the presence of "Misericordia," which is much more true of the scene at the end of Luke 7:

- Here the Lord acts as light, not only in the detection of His self-righteous and sinful adversaries, but throughout. There was no need, however, for His exposure of the woman caught in the very act of sin.

Hence the ignorance of the scribes who left out the tale was as glaring as their impiety was without excuse. There is not the least semblance of levity in dealing with her evil.

The Lord simply brings out the fact that her accusers retreat from the light which convicted their conscience, when the law had utterly failed to reach it;

- and as they could not condemn her, because they were sinners no less truly than herself, so He would not. It was not His work to deal with causes criminal any more than civil. But if grace and truth came by Him, He is none the less the true light; and so He abides here.

As we do not hear of repentance or faith in the woman, so we have no such words from Him as, "Thy sins are forgiven thee," "Thy faith hath saved thee," "Go in peace."

He is the light still, and goes not beyond "Go and sin no more." By and by He will act as a King, and judge righteously; on their own showing, He speaks as a "teacher," not a magistrate. And it was a question of sin, but most unexpectedly of theirs as well as of hers, if they face the light of God.

The words of our Lord are utterly lowered by such as infer that, either to the accusers or to the accused, He restrains sin to that offence against purity of which the woman was guilty. He means any and all sin as intolerable to God, Who is light, and in Whom is no darkness at all.

The Lord continues His teaching of the people, but not without allusion to the incident which had just occurred, or rather to the character in which He had dealt with it.

Nothing can be more evident than the True Light which was then shining and lightening every man. It is the more striking because the word "light" does not occur in that transaction; but the fact is thoroughly in harmony with what immediately follows.

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