From: (Nigel B. Mitchell) Newsgroups: aus.religion.christian Subject: John 8:1-11 Date: Mon, 09 Nov 1998 08:04:18 GMT John 8:1-11 is a passage that comes up for discussion on the newsgroup quite often. I am doing some work on the Jesus Seminar at the moment, and I thought it might be interesting to note what the Seminar says about this passage. The whole passage is printed in grey (except, being Americans, they call it 'gray'), which means "This information is possible, but unreliable. It lacks supporting evidence". In other words, the Jesus Seminar concluded that this event did not take place precisely as it is described in John 8:1-11, but it is quite possible that the passage does bear some resemblance to a real event and/or teaching in the ministry of Jesus. This is what the Seminar says about John 8:1-11 in the commentary (Funk, et.al (1998) The Acts of Jesus, pp. 397-9). ---begin quote-- This fascinating little anecdote is an intrusion into the Gospel of John. The earliest manuscripts of John do not have it, and modern scholars are virtually unanimous in concluding that it was not an original part of the Fourth Gospel. It does not match the style of John and it breaks the flow of text from 7:52 to 8:12. In ancient manuscripts, moreover, its position is not fixed: it sometimes appears in John between 7:52 and 8:12, but it is also found in other locations in John - after 7:36, after 7:44, and at the end of the Gospel. It even appears in one group of manuscripts after Luke 21:38. It does not have a fixed canonical home. If it is a "stray" or "orphan" text, how is it to be assessed? Is it an old story or a late legend? Can it possibly reflect anything Jesus did or said? The story appears to have been well known in the ancient church. Eusebius of Caesarea reports that Papias, another early Christian scholar, knew the story of a woman accused of sin, a story that was recorded in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Eusebius lived in the third/fourth centuries CE. Papias died ca. 130 CE. The Gospel of the Hebrews was probably composed some time in the early second century CE. A third century document known as the "Didascalia Apostolorum" (The teaching of the Apostles) has an unmistakable reference to the story. The Didascalia originated in Syria, which means that the story was probably known in oral form in Syria by the late second century. However Augustine (354-430 CE) and Ambrose (339-397 CE) regarded it as part of the Gospel, Jerome (342-420 CE) included it in the Vulgate, the official Bible of the Roman catholic Church. There can be little doubt that the story is quite old. ... Roman Catholic scholars have tended to assume its canonicity because it was included in the Latin Vulgate. They are therefore obligated to treat it as scripture. Critical scholars, both Proptestant and Catholic, have tended to exclude it from consideration for the simple reason that it did not really belong to any of the canonical gospels. ... As the testimony of Eusebius and Papias indicates, the story of the accused woman had been circulating orally in the second century. ... In the story, Jesus is presented with a question designed to trap him. Should we stone her as ordered by the Law of Moses? If Jesus said "no", he would be contravening the Mosaic code; if he said "Yes", he might have been endorsing a mob action - especially if the Romans had removed the jurisdiction for capital crimes from the Jewish authoritites. Or Jesus may have been acting against what his opponents perceived to be his open association with propstitutes. In either case the trap posed an uncomfortable dilemma. Jesus circumvents the dilemma by inviting his opponents to comply with the ancient codes but to do so only insofar as they are themselves without guilt. It is unclear why the woman is brought to Jesus in the first place. He had no authority to adjudicate the case. Was he being asked to endorse mob action? Or is the anecdote a hypothetical problem presented to Jesus that was later turned into a fictional incident? ... As it stands, the secene is an artificial construction. Elements of it may reflect something Jesus did and said, but as a whole it is not the report of a specific event. Yet because of Jesus' open association with sinners, and his unqualified willingness to endorse mercy on every occasion, the story merited at least a gray rating. --end quote-- cheers N+ Nigel B. Mitchell
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