Is the "woman caught in adultery" story canonical?

ATLacasse's picture

I'm sure some or many have noticed the notation in the ESV version on John 7:53-8:11 which covers the woman caught in adultery. This section is taught on very often in the circles I travel in but I am unsure what to make of the ESV's note. If you do not have that version the note says: "The earliest manuscripts do not include John 7:53–8:11," and "Some manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11; others add the passage here or after 7:36 or after 21:25 or after Luke 21:38, with variations in the text." Would anyone have any knowledge on this?

tomgroeneman's picture

evidence for canonicity

This pericope appears in later manuscripts and sometimes at the end of John's Gospel or the end of Luke. There are many textual variants within the account likely due to its appearance later in the manuscript traditions. I believe it is canonical based on the consistency of the details of the story with Jesus' behavior toward sinners elsewhere in the Gospels and the way it portrays the Pharisees. Some scholars believe the style of the language is more like the Synoptics but I would maintain that its author is John and its exclusion from the earlier manuscripts was an unfortunate oversight on the part of copyists. Some of these stories about Jesus were passed on orally before being compiled into a Gospel. This passage is double bracketed in my Greek NT because it "indicates that the enclosed words, generally of some length, are known not to be a part of the original text. These texts derive from a very early stage of the tradition, and have often played a significant role in the history of the church...". Eventually, the story of the woman caught in adultery found its way into the Gospel of John where it is today.

Tom Groeneman