How A Recent Book Increases Confidence In The Reliability Of The New Testament Text

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John 7:53-8:11  7:53“Everyone went to his home. 8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

Introduction:

The account of the woman caught in adultery and Jesus’ exoneration of her from being stoned is perhaps one the most beloved portions in John’s Gospel. However, the textual history of these twelve verses has caused many New Testament scholars today to doubt their authenticity. Although English translations such as the KJV and NKJV include these verses as original to John’s Gospel, more recent translations and even recent critical editions of the Greek New Testament raise questions. Translations such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB) use brackets or double brackets to distinguish John 7:53-8:11 from the surrounding text. Other translations such as the English Standard Version (ESV) have a textual note such as the following:

“[The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11.]”

One recent edition of the Greek New Testament, the SBL text (produced by the Society Of Biblical Literature) has chosen to not even include John 7:53-8:11 in it’s text of John’s Gospel! In the footnotes section at the end of this post, I have included the full Greek Text of John 7:53-8:11 for those wanting to see what the text looks like in the original language.1

Whenever we see such notations or treatments of the Biblical text such as the examples above, what are we to conclude? Indeed, one must be honest when dealing with any portion of scripture. There are times when the science of textual criticism can aid greatly in showing which readings are original and which were the result of later scribes hand-copying the ancient Greek manuscripts and other ancient versions. But is the wide-spread doubt of John 7:53-8:11 being original to John’s Gospel warranted? This blogger thinks not and has recently completed reading a wonderful book that asserts the confidence one can have in the New Testament text.

Author James Snapp Jr. has written a thorough and clear book entitled: “A Fresh Analysis Of John 7:53-8:11 – With a Tour Of The External Evidence”. The book does contain some technical discussions and examples of citations from Greek and Latin sources. Nonetheless, Snapp translates each source he cites, making the book accessible for any reader wanting to better understand the textual issues surrounding John 7:53-8:11. In the Amazon electronic edition I read, we find the following summary:

Because John 7:53-8:11 (the pericope adulterae — the passage about the adulteress) is not found in some early manuscripts, some scholars have called for the removal of the passage from the text of the Gospels. In response, textual critic James Snapp Jr. offers this informative defense of the genuineness of the passage, with a detailed analysis of external and internal evidence (much of which is hardly ever mentioned in popular commentaries). Snapp offers a definitive explanation of why the passage, originally part of the text of the Gospel of John, is not in some early manuscripts, and why, in some other manuscripts, the passage is found in different locations in the Gospels-text.

The book’s central idea is stated as follows:

“In the case at hand, I submit the following hypothesis: John 7:53-8:11 was in an exemplar used by a copyist in Egypt in the mid-100’s-having descended to it from the autograph.”

When James Snapp refers to “exemplar”, he is speaking of a source document from which other copies were made. In terms of the term “autograph”, this has to do with the original manuscripts of the New Testament documents composed by the Apostles or their associates under the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. With his main thesis stated, Snapp will then answer the following question: what evidence does the book contain for John 7:53-8:11 as being original to John’s Gospel?

First, Snapp explores the so-called “External Evidence” (that is, all the available Greek copies of John, ancient translations and texts of John 7:53-8:11 as they appear in ancient church scripture reading materials or “lectionaries”). Below is a summary of the “external evidence” explored in the book:

1. Early Greek Manuscripts (that is, ancient hand-written copies of John’s Gospel from the fourth centuries onward)

2. Early Versions (that is, ancient translations from the Greek manuscripts)

3. Lectionaries (that is, scriptures read by the early church in their annual observances of Christian holidays and feasts)

4. Writings of the early church (that is, books written by the generations of church leaders following the Apostles. These leaders were known as “the church fathers”)

5. Marks that accompany John 7:53-8:11 (or 8:3-11) in some copies (that is, scribal marks or symbols in the ancient manuscripts that contained or did not contain John 7:53-8:11)

6. Notes about John 7:53-8:11 in some copies (that is, editorial notes contained in manuscripts explaining why the passage was kept or excluded)

7. Variations in the location of the passage (that is, John 7:53-8:11 occurring at the end of John in some manuscripts or in Luke 21 in other manuscripts) 

8. Augustine’s Theory of Excision (that is, the 5th century church father Augustine’s knowledge of the nature of John 7:53-8:11 and why it is missing in some manuscripts.

After the external evidence, Snapp then explores the language, vocabulary and relationship of John 7:53-8:11 to the rest of John’s Gospel, or what is called “the internal evidence”. Then as a third and final area of focus in putting the issues of John 7:53-8:11 into view, Snapp deals with general discussions of the passage by New Testament scholarship. Such conversations entail apologetical concerns one may have in preaching situations or conversations with unbelievers. Overall, James Snapp covers much ground in his relatively short work (106 pages). The coverage is thorough and the arguments made present a compelling case for John 7:53-8:11 being original to John’s Gospel and worthy of being preached and treated as inspired scripture by Christians in their everyday lives. 

Closing

In reading Snapp’s work, this author has been reinforced in the conclusion that John 7:53-8:11 is original to John’s Gospel and worthy of the title “inspired, canonical scripture” beyond a reasonable doubt. Readers can click on the following link where I review James Snapp’s book. https://www.amazon.com/review/R3AP98L9IB7RSK/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv

I commend it to anyone desiring to increase their confidence in the reliability of the New Testament text (as well as the fact the book only costs $0.99 as a Kindle download)!

Endnote:

1. John 7:53-8:11 (Greek Text) 7:53 και επορευθη εκαστος εις τον οικον αυτου 8:1 ιησους δε επορευθη εις το ορος των ελαιων 2 ορθρου δε παλιν παρεγενετο εις το ιερον και πας ο λαος ηρχετο προς αυτον και καθισας εδιδασκεν αυτους
3 αγουσιν δε οι γραμματεις και οι φαρισαιοι προς αυτον γυναικα εν μοιχεια κατειλημμενην και στησαντες αυτην εν μεσω 4 λεγουσιν αυτω διδασκαλε αυτη η γυνη κατειληφθη επαυτοφωρω μοιχευομενη 5 εν δε τω νομω μωσης ημιν ενετειλατο τας τοιαυτας λιθοβολεισθαι συ ουν τι λεγεις
6 τουτο δε ελεγον πειραζοντες αυτον ινα εχωσιν κατηγορειν αυτου ο δε ιησους κατω κυψας τω δακτυλω εγραφεν εις την γην 7 ως δε επεμενον ερωτωντες αυτον ανακυψας ειπεν προς αυτους ο αναμαρτητος υμων πρωτος τον λιθον επ αυτη βαλετω 8 και παλιν κατω κυψας εγραφεν εις την γην
9 οι δε ακουσαντες και υπο της συνειδησεως ελεγχομενοι εξηρχοντο εις καθ εις αρξαμενοι απο των πρεσβυτερων εως των εσχατων και κατελειφθη μονος ο ιησους και η γυνη εν μεσω εστωσα 10 ανακυψας δε ο ιησους και μηδενα θεασαμενος πλην της γυναικος ειπεν αυτη η γυνη που εισιν εκεινοι οι κατηγοροι σου ουδεις σε κατεκρινεν 11 η δε ειπεν ουδεις κυριε ειπεν δε αυτη ο ιησους ουδε εγω σε κατακρινω πορευου και μηκετι αμαρτανε

 

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About pastormahlon

By the grace of God I was converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and called into the Gospel ministry by age 17. Through the Lord's grace I completed a Bachelors in Bible at Lancaster Bible College in 1996 and have been married to my beautiful wife since that same year. We have been blessed with four children, ranging from 7-18 years of age. In 2002 the Lord enabled me to complete a Master of Arts in Christian Thought at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield PA. For nearly 25 years I have been preaching and teaching God's Word and have been studying the original languages since 1994. In 2016 God called my family and me to move to begin a pastorate at a wonderful Southern Baptist Congregation here in Northern New York.
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