Textual Evidence

on John 8:1-11 (1865)

Exerpted from: Dr. F. Nolan, AN INQUIRY INTO
, 1865

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Last Updated: Feb 19, 2009

Section 1: - Introduction
Section 2: - Nolan on John 8:1-11

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What is perhaps remarkable in studying the history of the textual criticism of this passage, is that it was not Catholics, or Anglicans, or conservatives alone who steadfastly defended the authenticity of the Pericope de Adultera.

Even the scholastics and the thoroughly modern academics of the United Church came to the aid of the Pericope de Adultera, perhaps recognizing in loss of so profound a piece of Holy Scripture also a great loss for moderate and liberal views of forgiveness.

Long after Davidson made his case using German skepticism against the passage, great modern minds took a second look and refused to let go of John 7:53-8:11.

It was not so much any new discoveries, (although thousands of MSS came to light bearing the passage), nor even startling or novel interpretations of same.

Instead, what held the moderates and liberals to their course was clarity of vision and common sense. And this refreshing and positive approach enabled conservative and liberal alike to join in fellowship and take a stand in defence of the Pericope de Adultera:

Here is an example from 1865, nearly 20 years after Davidson's attack.

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Nolan on John 8:1-11


Excerpt from Chapter IV : On the Pericope De Adultera

"With respect to the questionable passage in St. John, the proofs of its authenticity, though more remotely sought, are not less decisive. According to the tradition of the primitive Church, St. John composed his Gospel, with the express view of opposing the rising heresies of the Nicolaitans and Corinthians. Of those heretics the apostle declares; "thou halt them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught—to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly," &c. Marriage had been condemned and rejected by those abandoned miscreants; who asserted the lawfulness of the most promiscuous intercourse of the sexes. And by this doctrine, which was but too well suited to the low state of morals in the times of heathen superstition, they had seduced numbers from the severe discipline of the primitive church. It was therefore required, by the express object which the Evangelist proposed to himself, in writing against them, that he should provide a remedy for both evils; to prevent the inroad of vice on the one hand and to provide for reclaiming it on the other. With this view he selects out of the incidents of our Lord's life the remarkable circumstances of his having sanctioned a marriage by his presence; and par­doned a penitent adulteress, on the condition of her "sinning no more." Viewed with reference to those circumstances, these narratives are corroborative of each other; and are illustrated by the declarations of our Lord, which the Apostle relates; "they teach to commit fornication—repent, or I will, come unto thee," &c. In this view they are necessary to complete the object of the Evangelist; whose intentions in writing are in a great measure frustrated, if we suppose them suppressed.

The testimony which the Eastern and Western Churches bear to the authenticity of Mark xvi. 9-20, John viii. 1-11, in adopting those passages in the great body of manuscripts of the Greek and Latin, is consequently most amply confirmed by the internal evidence, and nothing weakened by negative testimony, by which they have been condemned. Conceiving those passages spurious, it is above the reach of ordinary comprehension to discover an adequate cause for their having been generally received; considering the immense number, and wide dispersion of the Scriptures, and the obvious objections to which those passages were exposed from the earliest period. That they occur in the vulgar edition of the Greek and Latin is indisputable; and the only mode of accounting for this circumstance is by conceiving them part of the original text, as published by the inspired writers.

With respect to John viii. 1-11, it is indeed less constantly retained in the Greek than Mark xvi. 9-20; but while the cause of this circumstance is sufficiently apparent, we can trace the tradition in favor of this passage to a period so remote as to place its authenticity beyond controversion. It will be readily granted, that if this passage be an interpolation, it must have been invented by some one. But of those persons, who possessed the power of introducing it into the sacred Canon as having revised the Scriptures, there is not one to whom it can be ascribed with the smallest appearance of reason.

1. As this passage occurs in the Greek, it cannot be ascribed to Athanasius or the last revisers. As far as we possess any knowledge of their editions, they omitted this passage: it is quoted by antecedent writers, and St. Jerome, in introducing it into the Latin Vulgate, has implicitly declared that it was found in the copies antecedent to their revisal. Nor can it be ascribed to Eusebius Caesariensis; it does not occur in his text or canons, and is apparently glanced at in his history, as entitled to little credit. Nor can it be assigned to Lucianus or Hesychius; for their real or imputed interpolations were rejected, on the credit of the same copies, by St. Jerome, in whose Vulgate this passage is certainly retained. As it exists, however, in the Egyptian and Byzantine text and was not invented by those persons by whom these editions were first revised, it must have necessarily existed in the original text from which they were respectively derived.

2. As occurring in the Latin, this passage cannot be ascribed to St. Jerome, the last reviser. He expressly states it existed in the old Italic version, which preceded his revisal; and in it we consequently find it at this day. Nor can it be ascribed to Philastrius of Brescia, or Eusebius of Verceli, for it does not occur in those manuscripts in which alone their respective texts can be supposed to exist. As it, however, occurs in the Old Italic translation, in which it existed in the times of St. Jerome, the only inference is that it must have existed in this version when it was originally formed. Thus following up the tradition of the Eastern and Western Churches until it loses itself in time immemorial, we find their united testimony as delivered in the Received Text fully establishes the authenticity of the passage under consideration. And this evidence is finally confirmed by the explicit testimony of early ecclesiastical writers.

Wherever we might expect any traces of this passage to exist, we find it specifically noticed. It occurs in the Harmony of Tatian, who wrote in little more than fifty years of the death of St. John; it is noticed in the Synopsis of Scripture, which is generally ascribed to St. Athanasius; and in the Diatessaron, which is ascribed to Ammonius, by Victor Capuanus. Nor was it unknown to Eusebius, to St. Ambrose, to St. Chrysostom, and St. Augustine. But the testimony of St. Jerome is definitive in establishing the authenticity of this passage. While he expressly states that it existed in the old version of the Latin, he has implicitly admitted that it existed in the ancient copies of the Greek, by giving it a place in his Vulgate. Taking therefore the testimony of the Eastern and Western Churches, as contained in the Received Text and Version; as supported by the uninterrupted chain of tradition, and as expressly avouched by St. Jerome; we must acknowledge this passage as a part of the genuine text of Scripture, or reject that testimony, on which the Sacred Canon is proved authentic."