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?

unfair but thorough

I'm impressed by the succinct survey of this pericope's history, but less impressed by the the website's efforts to vindicate the passage historically regardless of the many complications recognized within the article. To summarize the article: The Greek Fathers and many Latin writers show no knowledge of the incident, it is absent in "the four earliest manuscripts... and many others," is frequently marked in manuscripts as "of doubtful authenticity;" the evidence overwhelmingly "seems in this [c]ase to give still clearer decision against the authenticity of this passage." But it is referenced by St. Jerome as being in "many Greek and Latin codices," is found in some late manuscripts, is favored in many later translations, and is given attention by a couple of later well-known writers and today's church, and should therefore be treated as authentic because.... why? Because it is "possible?" Because difficulties "may be" harmonized? I was surprised and touched, if unswayed, by the article's appeal to a general sense of optimism.

While I agree that the episode is powerful, enlightening, and uplifting, the article's conclusion lands contrary to the weight of the evidence. The conclusion favored by the author is propped up by an appeal to the flavor of the passage as written by the hand of a "true master." I believe that a true master likely positioned the incident where it is popularly placed, and that a true master wrote the passage, but I doubt that they were the same person; I'm also uncertain that a true master would've felt deceitful in (or forbidden from) positioning a sensitive scene in a conveniently-themed passage. This runs contrary to some notions of revelatory sanctity, but the brevity of the article and its thorough presentation made it an educational read. I may copy-and-past your citation into the Gospel of John study group to provide well-rounded perspective. Thank you for the very informative link.