Do we have the original text of the Gospel of John?


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

At our church, the pastoral team is preaching through the Gospel of John. Next week, the sermon will be on John 7:53-8:11, the story of Jesus with the woman at the well.

As Kyle Hughes has explained:

The great majority of scholars hold that the so-called pericope adulterae or “PA” (the story of Jesus and the adulteress found in John 7.53–8.11) is not original to John’s Gospel. The first manuscript of John to include this story is Codex Bezae (D), which dates to the fifth century, and on internal grounds these verses interrupt the narrative of John’s Gospel and feature non-Johannine vocabulary and grammar. But if the PA is not from the hand of the Fourth Evangelist, where did it come from?

As Chris Keith argues,

  1. Keith makes a twofold argument: (a) the PA is best understood as making a claim that Jesus was “grapho-literate” (i.e., he could write) in the face of challenges from the Pharisees in John 7:15 (cf. 7:52) that he was illiterate; and (b) the PA was inserted into the Johannine textual tradition in the third century in order to respond to pagan challenges that Christians (and their founder) were illiterate and uneducated. Keith has produced a most worth-while volume that will be a benefit not only to those in textual criticism, but also those more broadly in the field of New Testament studies and early Christian history.

This creates a challenge for a sermon on the passage! I think Daniel Wallace has given an excellent summary of the numerous problems with this passage. The pastor who will be preaching this week plans to send members to our Sunday community, called “Ask Your Question,” the following week. Our topic will be, “Do we have the original text of the Gospel of John?”

As I begin to dig into the research for this question, I thought I might save myself some time and energy to first see if anyone in Connect had some good resources on the textual reliability of the Gospel of John.


(SeanO) #2

@CarsonWeitnauer Very intriguing question! These articles from Google Scholar were helpful. It seems there is consensus it is not part of the original text of John, but then an argument is made that it is true oral tradition or perhaps penned by another author. But since it cannot be clearly shown to be part of the canon of Scripture, should we preach from it? Burge’s article is the fullest in terms of the various arguments and evidences.

I think that it is uncertain if it is a true story - no clear line of evidence can be drawn back to its true source. But the various theories are interesting. Look forward to hearing what you come up with!

Argument for This Pericope as True Oral Tradition

Here is a good summary of a much longer argument from Burge (written 1984) made in the attached pdf for this view. The basic idea is that the story is authentic as regards Jesus life, but was not part of the Gospel of John.

Burge1984.pdf (954.9 KB)

Argument for Luke as Author

“In his Philology of the Gospels Professor Blass referred somewhat casually to the Lukan style of the pericope adulterae. His theory of a Roman edition of Luke’s works issued by the author himself, in connection with which his reference was made, has not received very wide acceptance, and so the linguistic phenomena to which he called attention were not made generally known. The motives of the present writer in bringing the subject forward again are not merely that the Lukan style of this passage impressed itself independently upon him, as it might upon any one familiar with Luke’s style, but because von Soden’s careful study of the text of the passage, and Harnack’s recent use of the style of the Lukan writings make it desirable to give a fresh presentation of the evidence.”


Why are John 7:53-8:11 and Mark 16:9-20 included in modern Bibles when the earliest manuscripts don't?