What to do with John 8.1-11

We are on to John 8.  Yay!! Progress.

We are confronted with a major textual problem in John 8.1-11, the well known story of the meeting between Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees, and an unnamed woman (but not man) who has been caught in the act of adultery.  The NET Bible sums up the issue quite well:

“This entire section, 7:53–8:11, traditionally known as the pericope adulterae, is not contained in the earliest and best MSS and was almost certainly not an original part of the Gospel of John. Among modern commentators and textual critics, it is a foregone conclusion that the section is not original but represents a later addition to the text of the Gospel.”

It is true that the passage is not found in the earliest and best manuscripts.  It is also true that the passage is found in some manuscripts in a different part of the gospel, and in at least one manuscript in the book of Luke.

Are scholars correct?  Search me.  I am no fan of the consensus of Bible scholars, [especially those who deny the divinity of Christ.  For that see Eta Linneman’s (one of my heroes) testimony] but on the other hand I’m not going to dismiss what appears to be good evidence just because it came from scholars.

What do we do when we come to disputed passages like this?

  1. First, we thank the Lord for it.  Rather than make us doubt the Scriptures, when we see problems like this we are thankful because we are getting closer and closer to the original text which we believe is—God-breathed (2 Tim 3.16).
  2. Second, we take this information with a grain of salt.  The weight of “most Bible scholars” might be correct, but then they also might be mistaken.
  3. Since the passage is disputed, we do not build any major points of theology upon it.  In this case, what stands out is seeing grace in action through Christ.

This brings us to the value of the passage.  Was it genuine?  I do not know, nor does anyone else alive right now.  However, it rings so genuinely true, it captures Christ’s character so well, that my inclination is to think it is genuine, and whether or not it was actually part of John’s gospel, it is an incident that truly occurred.

We shall see in heaven.

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