Do you believe that the Pericope de Adultera was included in the original manuscript of John?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_and_the_woman_taken_in_adultery

Many textual scholars argue that the Pericope de Adultera, the Johannine Comma of I John 5, and Mark 16:9-20 were not in the original texts.  I am interested to know how fundamentalists deal with these assertions.

Regarding the Pericope, I have heard several theories:  First, that it is indeed authentic, and that the older manuscripts are not as accurate as the later manuscripts. Second, that the account is not authentic, and that we should not preach from it.  Third, that the account is not original, but is an authentic account of Christ's actions that was addended to John at a later date, and should therefore be treated as authentic.

Yes
50% (4 votes)
No
38% (3 votes)
I am not sure.
13% (1 vote)
Total votes: 8
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There are 23 Comments

josh p's picture

I voted no but I don't quite agree with any of your options. I believe it probably happened but I personally don't believe it was in the original. Many things after all happened that did not make it into the divine record. My problem is that it appears in different places in different manuscripts. I don't know how that would work with the structure of the gospels. I believe the gospels are arranged to convey different aspects of the Person of Christ so it is important to know what book it belongs to and where.

Jim's picture

  • Pericope de Adultera = authentic (I know there is mss evidence both ways on this)

  • Mark - the last 12 verses = authentic (ditto comment above)

  • Johannine Comma = NOT 

AndyE's picture

Of the three, there is significantly more evidence for the last 12 chapters of Mark than there is for the other two, but even so, I regard it highly unlikely that the longer ending of Mark was breathed out by God as inspired Scripture.  I certainly would not teach it as Scripture and think that the abrupt ending in verse 16:8 is consistent with a sub-theme of fear vs faith that runs throughout the book.  It is interesting that Jerome knew of the longer ending of Mark in his day but viewed it as a minority reading (showing that majority text arguments can cut both ways).

In my view, the Pericope and Comma are certainly spurious but it is very difficult for people to regard them as such, especially when they provide such succinct support for the trinity (Comma) and such good preaching material against self-righteous judgmentalism (Pericope). What's remarkable to me, though, is that despite the paucity of evidence for the Pericope, not only can pastors not refrain from preaching it, but they are even less restrained with it comes to speculating what Jesus wrote in the sand!  But if you must know, I have it on good authority that what he actually wrote was something along the lines of: "The oldest and best manuscripts do not contain this passage."  Smile

Ron Bean's picture

Jim wrote:

  • Pericope de Adultera = authentic (I know there is mss evidence both ways on this)

  • Mark - the last 12 verses = authentic (ditto comment above)

  • Johannine Comma = NOT 

I agree with Jim (my brother from another mother). It's been a long time since I did my digging on this but I seem to recall that most of the manuscript evidence for omitting the Pericope de Adultera is from lectionaries. The omission of the last verses of Mark in Sinaiticus always looked like an erasure to me. And there's no support for the Johannine comma.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

josh p's picture

Paul Henebury has a lecture on the ending of Mark. If I remember correctly he relies heavily on Burgeon. Maybe he will weigh in.
 

AndyE's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
 It's been a long time since I did my digging on this but I seem to recall that most of the manuscript evidence for omitting the Pericope de Adultera is from lectionaries.

I would say there is quite a bit more to it than that.

The manuscripts that omit the pericope include ancient extant Papyri  (p39, p66, and p75, all from the early 100’s to 200’s AD), the early Uncials (sinaiticus, alexandrinus, vacticanus, and ephraemi , all from the 300’s to 400’s AD), and the early ancient translations (old latin, syriac, and coptic, all from the 300’s-400’s AD).

You can actually see some of this evidence for yourself. For example, http://bible-researcher.com/papyrus66.html is pretty cool.

The first appearance of the pericope in a Greek manuscript occurs in Bezae in the 400’s but not again until the 800’s (boreelianus).  In addition, the ancient translations don’t pick up the pericope until the 600-800’s.  When the pericope does show up, it is often found in various locations in Luke or John and often marked off with something to indicate its doubtfulness.

There is more that could be said, especially regarding internal evidence, but to me the external mss evidence is quite compelling.

AndyE's picture

josh p wrote:

Paul Henebury has a lecture on the ending of Mark. If I remember correctly he relies heavily on Burgeon. Maybe he will weigh in.

For those who are really interested, there is also a four views book, Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, that covers the various options in great detail.

It’s too bad we have not yet found any applicable papyri for this passage because I think that would provide compelling evidence, one way or the other, for those who are still uncertain about the manuscript evidence.

The manuscript evidence is a bit mixed and that is what makes the question more controversial than the evidence for the pericope or the comma.  Sinaiticus and Vaticanus omit the longer ending (but may leave space for it) while Alexandrinus (which is not quite as old) includes it. The patristic and ancient version witnesses are mixed.

If there were only two choices, ending at 16:8 or the traditional longer ending, I might be more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the longer ending. But there is extant evidence of multiple endings, both longer and shorter, and that is more typical of an unwarranted addition than of an original text. It is very easy to explain the early appearance of these variations if Mark actually ended abruptly at 16:8 (my view) or if the true original ending was lost (an option I see as extremely unlikely) – they were added due to a desire to correct a perceived deficiency in the ending.  However, if the true original was the traditional longer ending, what explains all these various editions of the ending? And furthermore, why would anyone leave it out?  As time goes by the manuscript texts get longer because scribes are very hesitant to leave anything out that might truly be scripture.

Sean Fericks's picture

Thanks for your answers.   My problem now is where this leads.  If we accept that the Pericope is not authentic, then how am I to trust the remainder of Scripture?  As I understand it, our earliest manuscript is P52 (dated at appx. 125 AD; pleanty of time to add and subtract major events and teachings).  It is a small fragment.  The first complete NT manuscript is from the 4th century, and it includes books we do not use, and excludes books that we do use.  

Rob Fall's picture

precisely the problem which lead to the spread of the KJVO movement.  Though, I should say, the leadership should have known better.  But, those out working in the field with only Bible Institute education were fertile ground for the extremists in the KJVO camp.

Sean Fericks wrote:

Thanks for your answers.   My problem now is where this leads.  If we accept that the Pericope is not authentic, then how am I to trust the remainder of Scripture?  As I understand it, our earliest manuscript is P52 (dated at appx. 125 AD; plenty of time to add and subtract major events and teachings).  It is a small fragment.  The first complete NT manuscript is from the 4th century, and it includes books we do not use, and excludes books that we do use.  

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Sean Fericks's picture

Rob,

For the record, I grew up in a KJVO church, but have not been a part of that movement since my early 20s.

Rob Fall's picture

to tar you with the KJVO brush.  I meant to say your comments were valid.  Many haven't recognized the potential land mines (which you pointed out) in their comments.

Sean Fericks wrote:

Rob,

For the record, I grew up in a KJVO church, but have not been a part of that movement since my early 20s.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

AndyE's picture

Sean Fericks wrote:
Thanks for your answers.   My problem now is where this leads.  If we accept that the Pericope is not authentic, then how am I to trust the remainder of Scripture?  As I understand it, our earliest manuscript is P52 (dated at appx. 125 AD; pleanty of time to add and subtract major events and teachings).  It is a small fragment.  The first complete NT manuscript is from the 4th century, and it includes books we do not use, and excludes books that we do use.  

Sean,

I think it leads to a better understanding of the true text of Scripture.  You don’t want to say, “Thus saith the Lord” if the thing you are saying wasn’t breathed out by God as Scripture, do you?  And why wouldn’t you trust passages that have been confirmed over and over again by multiples text types, from various geographical locations, and from the full variety of dates, versions, and church fathers?  The process of textual criticism doesn’t just cast doubt, it also reinforces as more manuscripts are discovered.  We are in an era of confirmation and fine tuning, not significant changes.

What if you held to a certain interpretation of a particular passage, but as time when on, with further study and education, considering other passages or theological implications, you come to a different interpretation?  Does that mean you can’t trust any of your other interpretations?  No.  It just means that you are refining your understanding of God’s word.  The problem of a faulty interpretation is a way bigger problem with much larger implications for faith and practice than whether the pericope or any of the other textual variants is authentic or not.  Nevertheless, we want to be as accurate as we can in both, right?

Sean Fericks's picture

Andy,

Thanks for working with me on this topic.  Please indulge me a bit further.  This topic has been a real challenge to me lately.

I agree with you that Textual Criticism leads to a better understanding of Scripture, but that can be problematic to my faith.  If we follow where the evidence leads, we realize that the Church has said "Thus saith the Lord" when the passage quoted was not authentic.  We realize that even though we have piles of evidence, we do not have any evidence within the first few decades, and very sparse evidence within the first few hundred years.  This is quite enough time for the development of hagiography http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagiography .  The story of the Pericope de Adultera is an example of this (although one may believe it is an authentic event without being original to the text).

We also have evidence that the Canon has been in flux.  Our earliests lists and Codices disagree on which books are included in the true Canon.  We also see variation of doctrine during the first few hundred years (even the first few decades, maybe even among the apostles).  Did Paul agree with James?  Or was Martin Luther correct when he pushed James aside in order to defend his Sola Fide and Sola Gratia?  Maybe James and the "Judaizers" were correct about the message of Christ.  We can certainly find passages in the Gospels to support that theory. (Mat. 5:17-48)

 

Sean Fericks's picture

It is the lack of evidence in the 1st and 2nd centuries that bothers me.  It is the disagreement on canonical books in the 2nd - 4th centuries that bothers me.  If a scribe felt it appropriate to add the Comma Johanneum to defend the Trinity, is it not possible that other doctrines developed this way in the first few decades after Christ's assension and the death of the apostles?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Sean,

I believe I have some understanding into your thought process on this issue.  My own journey went something like this:

1. Childhood up to college I was in a church that was very traditional KJV, but we weren't KJVO in the sense people mean now, and I never recall hearing anything about textual criticism.  Some translations were regarded as very liberal, but not all -- however those latter saw almost no use.

2. College at BJU -- was exposed to more translations than I had previously used; heard a little about the textual differences.

3. Married a spouse from Germany.  Learned German and began to read the Bible in a language other than English.

4. Was at a church that went from being a CT church to strongly KJVO over several years.  Because I was struggling with the type of issues you mention above, the KJVO position was initially attractive.  Eventually, after much reading, study, prayer, and listening to many messages on this topic, I decided that although I agreed with the general doctrine of preservation, the extension of that doctrine to only the texts behind the KJV made no more sense to me given all the evidence than hearing about sections of scripture that might not be authentic.  At first, it seemed very reassuring to hear that a text exists that is perfect and unchanged from the autographs, but when I looked at the evidence, that certainty was really only a house built on sand.

5. Now at church that uses ESV, but certainly does not denigrate the KJV at all, and I still use the KJV (on iPhone) as my pew Bible.  I still have questions about the textual evidence, what method to use to give certain text families weight, which texts are more accurate, etc.  However, although it can seem unnerving to deal with questions of authenticity and grapple with the implications of what it means to not have 100% certainty, I still feel that it's being more honest than claiming 100% certainty for something which has just as many issues, if they are examined closely.

So what does this mean for our confidence in the scriptures?  For me, it simply indicates that though I lack certainty that any particular copy of the scriptures I hold in my hand is 100% = the autographs (translation aside), because of the available evidence, I can agree with someone like Andy that what we are doing now is no more than tweaking, not wholesale revision.  Might I miss something God wants me to do or not do because I don't have the autographs?  Maybe, but I'm content with how much I already fall short and how much work and study there is to do to attempt to obey what I have in front of me.  Further, I believe both evidence and faith give me enough confidence in the words behind scripture so that even if what I have isn't perfect, it's clearly distinguishable from any false texts like the Koran.

Like anyone else, I'd love to have 100% certainty.  I have to be content with the fact that God has not preserved his word in that way (for us here on earth).

Dave Barnhart

Sean Fericks's picture

Dave,

Thanks for your response.  I agree that we have followed similar paths.

However, I think it goes a bit deeper than simply tweaking.  In the early days of Christianity, from what I understand, the nature of Christ was debated (as it is today).  From what I read, some believed that he was God, some believed that he was God inhabiting a man (Jesus), some believed that Jesus became the Son of God at his baptism, some believed that he was always the Son of God as opposed to God the Father, etc. There were also some way out ideas about the nature of God with a whole host of deities, dimensions, etc.

We already know that men added to Scripture, adding support the Trinitarian doctrine (Comma de Johanneum.)  Why are we to think that they did not add to Scripture during the first 100 years?  What about the apostolic memory prior to the autographs?  Could memory have fermented into something greater than reality?

I have heard several preachers cite C.S. Lewis, claiming that Jesus was either a Liar, Lunatic, or Lord.  That is a false choice.  What about legend?  Skeptics do not argue that Jesus was a liar or lunatic.  They claim he is a growing legend.  What if a teacher became a miracle worker became a God became the Trinity?  Great men have a way of becoming greater in our memories.  Could this happen in the ancient Jewish capital?  Could it blossom within 50 years of Christ's ascension?  Could it produce disciples who would die for the faith?  Many religions and political movements have martyrs, martyrs who believed a fairy tale (Joseph Smith?).

I think the same issues could apply to Galatians / James, to Paul vs. the Judaizers, to the nature of hell and God's wrath, to the meaning of Christ when he discussed the "end of the age".  

Please forgive the seemingly faithless questions.  I have been challenged by a couple of friends and relatives to defend my faith in light of the above, and I am having great difficulty doing so.

Ron Bean's picture

Like most Christians, I've spent most of my life believing that the Bible was inspired and inerrant in the original languages and that there were translations that were good and not so good. My first introduction to the textual debate was in seminary. As we discussed the means whereby we could discover the original reading in cases where there were differences, I was taught that the older the manuscript, the more likely it was original. I remember rudely asking, "Who decided on that rule?" Thankfully, my professor chose to propose that the "older is better" rule had equal standing with a majority reading position.

I'll admit I entertained the TR view for a while, but I've settled comfortably into a Majority Text position. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

AndyE's picture

Sean,

Thanks for the follow up post. I think it helps clarify where you are coming from.

Regarding adding things during the first 100 years, it is certainly possible for this to have happened but there are several things to keep in mind:

Copies of the original documents were spread across a wide geographical area very quickly, as Christians moved around and as churches started.  Just think about the places Paul went on his missionary journey and where the other apostles went off to around the world.  The benefit of having textual evidence from church fathers, ancient versions, and copied manuscripts from wide and diverse geographical origins means that no one person or group could make changes without those changes being noticed.  This is one of the reasons we know that the comma is not authentic.

During the formation of the NT canon, when new books were being written and disseminated throughout the early church, God gave the church special spiritual gifts to help them determine authentic writings from non-authentic writings (cf., what Paul says in 1 Cor 14:37, “if anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord”).  Without going into this too deeply, I think these spiritual gifts were intended by God not only to help establish the canon but to prevent exactly what you are talking about from occurring during those early, formative years.

As far as the apostles’ memory is concerned, recall that they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all the truth (John 16:13) and bring all things to their remembrance (John 14:26).  If your friends and family are suggesting the Bible is unreliable because of apostolic memory loss or hyperbole, then really, the reliability of the transmission of scripture is not their problem, it is that they don’t believe God’s revelation to them, period. You don’t have a higher or more persuasive authority than the Scriptures to appeal to, and until the Holy Spirit convinces and convicts them of its truth, you will get push back regardless of what you say.

TylerR's picture

Editor

James White's The King James Only Controversy is a very helpful book about the text and transmission of the NT. You might find it helpful. It's not a book attacking the KJV - it's attacking the idea of KJVO-onlyism. In order to do that, it delves into the issue of the text and transmission of the NT. If you haven't read it before, you'd probably find it helpful and useful. The brief answers Andy mentioned (above) are fleshed out quite a bit in that book. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Sean Fericks's picture

Thanks Tyler.  I read the book several years ago.  It was one of the books that helped me move away from the KJVO position.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

There are a couple other books that have helped me clarify my thinking on textual criticism.

1. God's Word Preserved - by Mike Sproul

2. From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man: A layman's guide to how we got out Bible - ed. James Williams and Randolph Shaylor

3. God's Word in Our Hands: the Bible preserved for us - ed. James Williams and Randolph Shaylor (follow-up/expansion of book 2)

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

BOnken's picture

Just a couple of thoughts to add to the conversation. 

Mark has a particular style. When he reports something that Jesus said he typically also reports on the fulfillment of what He said. Thus, for Mark to report 16:7 and not have a fulfillment of those words would be uncharacteristic of him. Mark opens his work stating that he is offering the "good news" about Jesus (1:1). It would seem that an account that closes with siilence and fear may not fit with his stated intention (16:8). Thus, Mark 16:8 as the ending strikes me as incredibly "non-Mark-like." 

Without a doubt, there is debate about the manuscript evidence in support of the Longer Ending. However, despite the various endings that exist in extant manuscripts, the lectionaries that date from the earliest days of the church do include the Longer Ending as part of the regular readings for the church. Although the dates for the lectionary manuscripts is late, most recognize that these collected readings reflect very early church tradition (pre-dating the oldest textual witnesses to Mark ending with 16:8). Even if the ending is considered "non-Markan," apparently the earlier church considered it canonical. Also, both Irenaeus and Justin Martyr appear to recognize the Longer Ending as part of Mark (and their writings also pre-date the oldest textual witnesses to the shortest ending of Mark). 

Thus, the Longer Ending not only has been accepted as canonical (only being questioned in relatively recent days in the life of the church), but seems also to make sense of a Gospel that would be left incomplete if Mark 16:8 was "all he wrote." I like N. T. Wright's comment: 

I tried for some years to believe that Mark was really a postmodernist who would deliberately leave his gospel with a dark and puzzling ending, but I have for some time now given up the attempt. Grammatically, the gospel could have ended with “for they were afraid” (ephobounto gar); structurally, it could not have ended without the story of the risen, vindicated Jesus. (Tom [N. T.] Wright, Mark for Everyone [London: SPCK, 2001], 136.)