Ancient Testimony Concerning the Pericope de Adultera (John 7:53-8:11)

Dr. Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended, p. 150+:

(a) Ancient Testimony Concerning the Pericope de Adultera (John 7:53-8:11)

The story of the woman taken in adultery was a problem also in ancient times. Early Christians had trouble with this passage. The forgiveness which Christ vouchsafed to the adulteress was contrary to their conviction that the punishment for adultery ought to be very severe. As late as the time of Ambrose (c. 374), bishop of Milan, there were still many Christians who felt such scruples against this portion of John’s Gospel. This is clear from the remarks which Ambrose makes in a sermon on David’s sin. “In the same way also the Gospel lesson which has been read, may have caused no small offense to the unskilled, in which you have noticed that an adulteress was brought to Christ and dismissed without condemnation . . . Did Christ err that He did not judge righteously? It is not right that such a thought should come to our minds, etc.” (32)

According to Augustine (c. 400), it was this moralistic objection to the pericope de adultera which was responsible for its omission in some of the New Testament manuscripts known to him. “Certain persons of little faith,” he wrote, “or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord’s act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if He who had said ‘sin no more’ had granted permission to sin.” (33) Also, in the 10th century a Greek named Nikon accused the Armenians of “casting out the account which teaches us how the adulteress was taken to Jesus . . . saying that it was harmful for most persons to listen to such things.” (34)

That early Greek manuscripts contained this pericope de adultera is proved by the presence of it in the 5th-century Greek manuscript D. That early Latin manuscripts also contained it is indicated by its actual appearance in the Old Latin codices b and e. And both these conclusions are confirmed by the statement of Jerome (c. 415) that “in the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is found the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord.” (35) There is no reason to question the accuracy of Jerome’s statement, especially since another statement of his concerning an addition made to the ending of Mark has been proved to have been correct by the actual discovery of the additional material in W. And that Jerome personally accepted the pericope de adultera as genuine is shown by the fact that he included it in the Latin Vulgate.

Another evidence of the presence of the pericope de adultera in early Greek manuscripts of John is the citation of it in the Didascalia (Teaching) of the Apostles and in the Apostolic Constitutions, which are based on the Didascalia.

. . . to do as He also did with her that had sinned, whom the elders set before Him, and leaving the judgment in His hands departed. But He, the Searcher of Hearts, asked her and said to her, ‘Have the elders condemned thee, my daughter?” She saith to Him, ‘Nay, Lord.’ And He said unto her, ‘Go thy way: Neither do I condemn thee.’ (36)…

Notes:

32. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol. xxxii, pp.359-360.

33. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol. xxxxi, p.387.

34. S. S. Patrum J. B. Cotelerius, Antwerp, 1698, vol. i, p.235.

35. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina, vol. 23, col. 579.

36. Didascalia Apostolorum, trans. by R. Hugh Connolly, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929, p.76. F. X. Funk, Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum, Paderborn, 1905, vol. 1, p. 92.

Source and read more: https://purelypresbyterian.com/2016/12/01/defense-of-the-pericope-adulterae/

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