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Jesus and the woman taken in adultery

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Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Guercino, 1621 (Dulwich Picture Gallery)
Christ and Sinner, 1873 by Henryk Siemiradzki
Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, 1565 by Pieter Bruegel, oil on panel, 24 cm × 34 cm (9.4 in × 13.4 in)
Christ and the woman taken in adultery, drawing by Rembrandt

Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (or the Pericope Adulterae)[a] is a most likely pseudepigraphical[1] passage (pericope) found in John 7:538:11[2] of the New Testament.

In the passage, Jesus was teaching in the Temple after coming from the Mount of Olives. A group of scribes and Pharisees confronts Jesus, interrupting his teaching. They bring in a woman, accusing her of committing adultery, claiming she was caught in the very act. They tell Jesus that the punishment for someone like her should be stoning, as prescribed by Mosaic Law.[3][4][5] Jesus begins to write something on the ground using his finger; when the woman's accusers continue their challenge, he states that the one who is without sin is the one who should cast the first stone at her. The accusers and congregants depart, realizing not one of them is without sin either, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. Jesus asks the woman if anyone has condemned her and she answers no. Jesus says that he too does not condemn her and tells her to go and sin no more.

There is now a broad academic consensus that the passage is a later interpolation added after the earliest known manuscripts of the Gospel of John. Although it is included in most modern translations (one notable exception being the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures) it is typically noted as a later interpolation, as it is by Novum Testamentum Graece NA28. This has been the view of "most NT scholars, including most evangelical NT scholars, for well over a century" (written in 2009).[1] However, its originality has been defended by a minority of scholars who believe in the Byzantine priority hypothesis.[6] The passage appears to have been included in some texts by the 4th century and became generally accepted by the 5th century.

The passage[edit]

John 7:53–8:11 in the New Revised Standard Version reads as follows:

Then each of them went home,8:1 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,4 they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"11 She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."

— John 7:53–8:11, NRSV[7]


This episode and its message of mercy and forgiveness balanced with a call to holy living have endured in Christian thought. Both "let him who is without sin, cast the first stone"[8] and "go, and sin no more"[9] have found their way into common usage. The English idiomatic phrase to "cast the first stone" is derived from this passage.[10]

The passage has been taken as confirmation of Jesus's ability to write, otherwise only suggested by implication in the Gospels, but the word ἔγραφεν (egraphen) in John 8:8 could mean "draw" as well as "write".[11]

History of textual criticism[edit]

Codex Sangallensis 48 with the blanked space for the pericope John 7:53–8:11

The first to systematically apply the critical marks of the Alexandrian critics was Origen:[12]

In the Septuagint column [Origen] used the system of diacritical marks which was in use with the Alexandrian critics of Homer, especially Aristarchus, marking with an obelus under different forms, as "./.", called lemniscus, and "/.", called a hypolemniscus, those passages of the Septuagint which had nothing to correspond to in Hebrew, and inserting, chiefly from Theodotion under an asterisk (*), those which were missing in the Septuagint; in both cases a metobelus (Y) marked the end of the notation.

Early textual critics familiar with the use and meaning of these marks in classical Greek works like Homer, interpreted the signs to mean that the section (John 7:53–8:11) was an interpolation and not an original part of the Gospel.

During the 16th century, Western European scholars – both Catholic and Protestant – sought to recover the most correct Greek text of the New Testament, rather than relying on the Vulgate Latin translation. At this time, it was noticed that a number of early manuscripts containing the Gospel of John lacked John 7:53–8:11 inclusive; and also that some manuscripts containing the verses marked them with critical signs, usually a lemniscus or asterisk. It was also noted that, in the lectionary of the Greek church, the Gospel-reading for Pentecost runs from John 7:37 to 8:12, but skips over the twelve verses of this pericope.

Beginning with Karl Lachmann (in Germany, 1840), reservations about the Pericope Adulterae became more strongly argued in the modern period, and these opinions were carried into the English world by Samuel Davidson (1848–51), Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1862),[13] and others; the argument against the verses being given body and final expression in F. J. A. Hort (1886). Those opposing the authenticity of the verses as part of John are represented in the 20th century by men like Henry Cadbury (1917), Ernest Cadman Colwell (1935), and Bruce M. Metzger (1971).[14]

According to 19th-century text critics Henry Alford and F. H. A. Scrivener the passage was added by John in a second edition of the Gospel along with 5:3.4 and the 21st chapter.[15]

On the other hand, a number of scholars have strongly defended the Johannine authorship of these verses. This group of critics is typified by such scholars as Frederick Nolan (1865), and John Burgon (1886), and Herman C. Hoskier (1920). More recently it has been defended by David Otis Fuller (1975), and is included in the Greek New Testaments compiled by Wilbur Pickering (1980/2014), Hodges & Farstad (1982/1985), and Robinson & Pierpont (2005). Rather than endorsing Augustine's theory that some men had removed the passage due to a concern that it would be used by their wives as a pretext to commit adultery, Burgon proposed (but did not develop in detail)[citation needed] a theory that the passage had been lost due to a misunderstanding of a feature in the lection-system of the early church.[16]

Almost all modern critical translations that include the pericope adulterae do so at John 7:53–8:11. Exceptions include the New English Bible and Revised English Bible, which relocate the pericope after the end of the Gospel. Most others enclose the pericope in brackets, or add a footnote mentioning the absence of the passage in the oldest witnesses (e.g., NRSV, NJB, NIV, GNT, NASB, ESV).[1] Since the passage is accepted as canonical by Catholics, however, some Catholic editions of these critical translations will remove the brackets while retaining the footnote explanation of their uncertainty (e.g. RSV-CE/2CE and ESV-CE); others, like the NRSV-CE, nevertheless retain the brackets.

Textual history[edit]

John 7:52–8:12 in Codex Vaticanus (c. 350 AD): lines 1 and 2 end 7:52; lines 3 and 4 start 8:12

The pericope does not occur in the Greek Gospel manuscripts from Egypt. The Pericope Adulterae is not in 𝔓66 or in 𝔓75, both of which have been assigned to the late 100s or early 200s, nor in two important manuscripts produced in the early or mid 300s, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. The first surviving Greek manuscript to contain the pericope is the Latin-Greek diglot Codex Bezae, produced in the 400s or 500s (but displaying a form of text which has affinities with "Western" readings used in the 100s and 200s). Codex Bezae is also the earliest surviving Latin manuscript to contain it. Out of 23 Old Latin manuscripts of John 7–8, seventeen contain at least part of the pericope, and represent at least three transmission-streams in which it was included.[17][18][19][20]

Eastern Christianity[edit]

According to Eusebius of Caesarea (in his Ecclesiastical History, composed in the early 300s), Papias (c. AD 110) refers to a story of Jesus and a woman "accused of many sins" as being found in the Gospel of the Hebrews,[21] which might refer to this passage or to one like it.[22][23] However, according to the later writer Agapius of Hierapolis, Papias wrote a treatise on the Gospel of John, where he included the story within the Gospel itself.[24] Possibly the earliest evidence for the existence of the pericope adulterae within the Gospel of John is from the 2nd century Protoevangelium of James, which contains the words "οὐδὲ ἐγὼ [κατα]κρίνω ὑμᾶς" (neither do I condemn you) in Greek, which are identical to the text of John 8:11. Other parallers between this story within Protoevangelium and the Johannine pericope adulterae include: (1) a is woman accused of adultery, (2) the accusation is made by the Jews, (3) the woman is brought by a crowd to stand before a religious figure, (4) the accused woman is presented to the judge for a ruling and (5) both accounts are a part of a "confrontation story". However, it is not certain if the author borrowed directly from the Gospel of John or from a now-unknown document such as the Gospel according to the Hebrews.[19]

In the Syriac Didascalia Apostolorum, composed in the mid-200s, the author, in the course of instructing bishops to exercise a measure of clemency, states that a bishop who does not receive a repentant person would be doing wrong – "for you do not obey our Savior and our God, to do as He also did with her that had sinned, whom the elders set before Him, and leaving the judgment in His hands, departed. But He, the searcher of hearts, asked her and said to her, 'Have the elders condemned thee, my daughter?' She said to Him, 'No, Lord.' And He said unto her, 'Go your way; neither do I condemn thee.' In Him therefore, our Savior and King and God, be your pattern, O bishops."[25] The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles Book II.24, composed c. 380, echoes the Didascalia Apostolorum, alongside a utilization of Luke 7:47.[26] Further, Didymus the Blind (c. 313–398) states that "We find in certain gospels" an episode in which a woman was accused of a sin, and was about to be stoned, but Jesus intervened "and said to those who were about to cast stones, 'He who has not sinned, let him take a stone and throw it. If anyone is conscious in himself not to have sinned, let him take a stone and smite her.' And no one dared," and so forth.[27] It is also shortly mentioned by the 6th century author of the Greek treatise "Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae".[20] Among the early Greek attestations of the pericope adulterae are the 6th century canon tables found in the Monastery of Epiphanus in Egypt. Although fragmentary, the manuscript likely contained the story of the adulteress and contained its own section number.[28][29] Evidence of its existence within some Egyptian manuscripts additionally comes from two ivory pyxides dated to around the 5th or 6th century, which depict the story of the adulteress.[18]

Within the Syriac tradition, the anonymous author of the 6th century Syriac Chronicle, called Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor mentioned the translation of the pericope Adulterae into Aramaic from a Greek manuscript from Alexandria.[18] The story of the adulteress is also found in manuscripts of the Palestinian Syriac Lectionary, including MS "A" (1030ad), MS "C" (1118ad) and MS "B" (1104ad).[30]

An author by the name of "Nicon" wrote a treatise called "On the Impious Religion of the Vile Armenians", in which he argued that the Armenian Christians tried to remove the passage from their manuscripts. This has been often attributed to the 10th century author Nicon, however Wescott and Hort argued that it is a later 13th century Nicon. They argued that this writing was made in response to the claims of Vardan Areveltsi, who stated that Papias is responsible for the inclusion of the story in the Gospel of John.[20] Later on, in the 12th century the passage was mentioned by Euthymius Zigabenus, who doubted the authenticity of the passage. However, his contemporary Eustathios of Thessaloniki commented on the passage as an authentic part of John's Gospel.[18]

Western Christianity[edit]

The story of the adulteress was quoted by multiple Latin speaking early Christians, and appears within their quotations of the New Testament often.[18] It is quoted by church fathers such as Hilary of Poitiers, Gregory the Great, Leo the Great, Ambrose, Ambrosiaster and Augustine among many others. However, it is not quoted by either Tertullian or Cyprian, which might imply that it was missing from their manuscripts.[18] The story is present in the vast majority of Vetus Latina manuscripts[31] and in all except one manuscript of the Latin Vulgate.[32]

Pacian of Barcelona (bishop from 365 to 391), in the course of making a rhetorical challenge, opposes cruelty as he sarcastically endorses it: "O Novatians, why do you delay to ask an eye for an eye? [...] Kill the thief. Stone the petulant. Choose not to read in the Gospel that the Lord spared even the adulteress who confessed, when none had condemned her." Pacian was a contemporary of the scribes who made Codex Sinaiticus.[18]

The writer known as Ambrosiaster, c. 370/380, mentioned the occasion when Jesus "spared her who had been apprehended in adultery." The unknown author of the composition "Apologia David" (thought by some analysts to be Ambrose, but more probably not) mentioned that people could be initially taken aback by the passage in which "we see an adulteress presented to Christ and sent away without condemnation." Later in the same composition he referred to this episode as a "lection" in the Gospels, indicating that it was part of the annual cycle of readings used in the church-services.[18]

Rodolpho Bernardelli: Christ and the Adulterous Woman, 1881 (Museu Nacional de Belas Artes)

Peter Chrysologus, writing in Ravenna c. 450, clearly cited the Pericope Adulterae in his Sermon 115. Sedulius and Gelasius also clearly used the passage. Prosper of Aquitaine, and Quodvultdeus of Carthage, in the mid-400s, utilized the passage.[18]

The Latin Vulgate Gospel of John, produced by Jerome in 383, was based on the Greek manuscripts which Jerome considered ancient exemplars at that time and which contained the passage. Jerome, writing around 417, reports that the Pericope Adulterae was found in its usual place in "many Greek and Latin manuscripts" in Rome and the Latin West. This is confirmed by some Latin Fathers of the 300s and 400s, including Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine of Hippo. The latter claimed that the passage may have been improperly excluded from some manuscripts in order to avoid the impression that Christ had sanctioned adultery:

Certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord's act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if he who had said, Sin no more, had granted permission to sin.[b]

Codex Fuldensis, which was produced in AD 546, and which, in the Gospels, features an unusual arrangement of the text that was found in an earlier document, contains the adulterae pericope, in the form in which it was written in the Vulgate. More significantly, Codex Fuldensis also preserves the chapter-headings of its earlier source-document (thought by some researchers to echo the Diatessaron produced by Tatian in the 170's), and the title of chapter 120 refers specifically to the woman taken in adultery.

The subject of Jesus's writing on the ground was fairly common in art, especially from the Renaissance onwards, with examples by artists including those a painting by Pieter Bruegel and a drawing by Rembrandt. There was a medieval tradition, originating in a comment attributed to Ambrose, that the words written were terra terram accusat ("earth accuses earth"; a reference to the end of verse Genesis 3:19: "for dust you are and to dust you will return"),[c] which is shown in some depictions in art, for example, the Codex Egberti. This is very probably a matter of guesswork based on Jeremiah 17:13.[35] There have been other theories[which?] about what Jesus would have written.


John 7:52–8:12 in Codex Sinaiticus

Both the Novum Testamentum Graece (NA28) and the United Bible Societies (UBS4) provide critical text for the pericope, but mark this off with double square brackets, indicating that the Pericope Adulterae is regarded as a later addition to the text.[36]

Various manuscripts treat, or include, the passage in a variety of ways. These can be categorised into those that exclude it entirely, those that exclude only a shortened version of the passage (including 7:53-8:2 but excluding 8:3-11), those that include only a shortened version of the passage (8:3–11), those that include the passage in full, those that question the passage, those that question only the shorter passage, those that relocate it to a different place within the Gospel of John, and those that mark it as having been added by a later hand.

  1. Exclude the passage: Papyri 66 (c. 200 or 4th century[37][38]) and 75 (early 3rd century or 4th century[37][39]); Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (4th century), although Vaticanus includes umlauts at the end of 7:52, which some have argued to imply knowledge of the variant.[40] Other manuscripts to lack it apparently include Alexandrinus and Ephraemi (5th), Codices Washingtonianus and Borgianus also from the 5th century, Athous Lavrensis (c. 800), Petropolitanus Purpureus, Macedoniensis, and Koridethi from the 9th century and Monacensis from the 10th; Uncials 0141 and 0211; Minuscules 3, 12, 15, 19, 21, 22, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 39, 44, 49, 63, 72, 77, 87, 96, 106, 108, 123, 124, 131, 134, 139, 151, 154, 157, 168, 169, 209, 213, 228, 249, 261, 269, 297, 303, 306, 315, 316, 317, 318, 333, 370, 388, 391, 392, 397, 401, 416, 423, 428, 430, 431, 445, 496, 499, 501, 523, 537, 542, 554, 565, 578, 584, 649, 684, 703, 713, 719, 723, 727, 729, 730, 731, 732, 733, 734, 736, 740, 741, 742, 743, 744, 749, 768, 770, 772, 773, 776, 777, 780, 794, 799, 800, 817, 818, 819, 820, 821, 827, 828, 831, 833, 834, 835, 836, 841, 843, 849, 850, 854, 855, 857, 862, 863, 865, 869, 896, 989, 1077, 1080, 1141 1178, 1230, 1241, 1242, 1253, 1256, 1261, 1262, 1326, 1333, 1357, 1593, 2106, 2193, 2244, 2768, 2862, 2900, 2901, 2907, 2957, 2965 and 2985; the majority of lectionaries; some Old Latin, the majority of the Syriac, the Sahidic dialect of the Coptic, the Garima Gospels and other Ethiopic witnesses, the Gothic, some Armenian, Georgian mss. of Adysh (9th century); Arabic mss of Diatessaron (2nd century); apparently Clement of Alexandria (died 215), other Church Fathers namely Tertullian (died 220), Origen (died 254), Cyprian (died 258), John Chrysostom (died 407), Nonnus (died 431), Cyril of Alexandria (died 444), Cosmas (died 550) and later Christians such as Vardan Araveltsi (13th century).[41]
  2. Shorter passage excluded (includes 7:53-8:2 but excludes 8:3-11): 228, 759, 1458, 1663, and 2533.
  3. Shorter passage included (8:3–11): 4, 67, 69, 70, 71, 75, 81, 89, 90, 98, 101, 107, 125, 126, 139, 146, 185, 211, 217, 229, 267, 280, 282, 287, 376, 381, 386, 390, 396, 398, 402, 405, 409, 417, 422, 430, 431, 435 (8:2–11), 462, 464, 465, 520 (8:2–11).
  4. Include passage: the Latin Vulgate (4th century), Codex Bezae (5th century), Uncial 047 (8th century), Uncial 0233 (8th century), 9th century Codices Boreelianus, Seidelianus I, Seidelianus II, Cyprius, Campianus, Nanianus, also Tischendorfianus IV from the 10th, Codex Petropolitanus; Minuscule 28, 318, 700, 892, 1009, 1010, 1071, 1079, 1195, 1216, 1344, 1365, 1546, 1646, 2148, 2174; the Byzantine majority text (around 1350 manuscripts);[42] 79, 100 (John 8:1–11), 118, 130 (8:1–11), 221, 274, 281, 411, 421, 429 (8:1–11), 442 (8:1–11), 445 (8:1–11), 459; the majority of the Old Latin: Codex Palatinus (5th century), Codex Corbeiensis (5th century), Codex Veronesis (5th century), Codex Sarzanensis (5th century), Codex Usserianus Primus (7th century), Book of Mulling (8th century), Codex Sangermanensis secundus (10th century), Codex Colbertinus (12th century),[31] Western witnesses to the Diatessaron (Codex Fuldensis, Liège Harmony, Codex Sangallensis), the Greek canon tables of the Monastery of Saint Epiphanius (6th century),[43] Palestinian Syriac lectionaries, some of the Coptic such as Codex Marshall Or. 5 (14th century) also depicted by early Coptic ivory pyxides (5th-6th century), some Armenian (Echmiadzin Gospels),[44] possibly alluded to by the Protoevangelium of James (2nd century),[45] explicitly mentioned by the Didascalia (3rd century), Didymus the Blind (4th century), Hilary of Poitiers (4th century), Apostolic Constitutions (4th century) Ambrosiaster (4th century), Pacian (4th century), Rufinus of Aquileia (4th century), Ambrose (died 397), Jerome (died 420), Augustine (died 430), Peter Chrysologus (5th century), Quodvultdeus of Carthage (5th century), Prosper of Aquitane (5th century),[46] Leo the Great (5th century), Sedulius (5th century), Gelasius (5th century), Pseudo-Athanasius (6th century), Cassiodorus (6th century), Gregory the Great (6th century), Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor (6th century), Agapius of Hierapolis (10th century), Nicon (10th century), Dionysius bar Salibi (12th century) and Eustathius of Thessalonica (12th century).[47][48][17][18][19][20][49][50]
  5. Question pericope (marked with asterisks (※), obeli (÷), dash (–) or (<)): Codex Vaticanus 354 (S) and the Minuscules 18, 24, 35, 045, 83, 95 (questionable scholion), 109, 125, 141, 148, 156, 161, 164, 165, 166, 167, 178, 179, 200, 201, 202, 285, 338, 348, 363, 367, 376, 386, 392, 407, 478, 479, 510, 532, 547, 553, 645, 655, 656, 661, 662, 685, 699, 757, 758, 763, 769, 781, 789, 797, 801, 824, 825, 829, 844, 845, 867, 897, 922, 1073, 1092 (later hand), 1187, 1189, 1280, 1443, 1445, 2099, and 2253 include entire pericope from 7:53; the menologion of Lectionary 185 includes 8:1ff; Codex Basilensis (E) includes 8:2ff; Codex Tischendorfianus III (Λ) and Petropolitanus (П) also the menologia of Lectionaries 86, 211, 1579 and 1761 include 8:3ff. Minuscule 807 is a manuscript with a Catena, but only in John 7:53–8:11 without catena. It is a characteristic of late Byzantine manuscripts conforming to the sub-type Family Kr, that this pericope is marked with obeli; although Maurice Robinson argues that these marks are intended to remind lectors that these verses are to be omitted from the Gospel lection for Pentecost, not to question the authenticity of the passage. The originality of the story was questioned by Euthymius Zigabenus (12th century).[51]
  6. Shorter passage questioned (8:3–11, marked with asterisks (※), obeli (÷) or (<)): 4, 8, 14, 443, 689, 707, 781, 873, 1517. (8:2-11) Codex Basilensis A. N. III. 12 (E) (8th century),
  7. Relocate passage: Family 1, minuscules 20, 37, 135, 207, 301, 347, and nearly all Armenian translations place the pericope after John 21:25; Family 13 place it after Luke 21:38; a corrector to Minuscule 1333 added 8:3–11 after Luke 24:53; and Minuscule 225 includes the pericope after John 7:36. Minuscule 129, 135, 259, 470, 564, 1076, 1078, and 1356 place John 8:3–11 after John 21:25. 788 and Minuscule 826 placed pericope after Luke 21:38. 115, 552, 1349, and 2620 placed pericope after John 8:12.
  8. Added by a later hand: Codex Ebnerianus, Codex Rehdigeranus,[31] 19, 284, 431, 391, 461, 470, 501 (8:3-11), 578, 794, 1141, 1357, 1593, 2174, 2244, 2860, MS 14470 (added in the 9th century by a later scribe).[52][53][54]
  9. Lacuna: Codex Regius (8th century) and Codex Sangallensis (9th century) contain a large gap after John 7:52, thus indicating knowledge of the passage despite being omitted.[55][56]

The Pericope Adulterae was never read as a part of the lesson for the Pentecost cycle, but John 8:3–8:11 was reserved for the festivals of such saints as Theodora, 18 September, or Pelagia, 8 October.[57]


Papyrus 66 without text of John 7:53–8:12

Arguments against Johannine authorship[edit]

Bishop J. B. Lightfoot wrote that absence of the passage from the earliest manuscripts, combined with the occurrence of stylistic characteristics atypical of John, together implied that the passage was an interpolation. Nevertheless, he considered the story to be authentic history.[58] As a result, based on Eusebius' mention that the writings of Papias contained a story "about a woman falsely accused before the Lord of many sins" (H.E. 3.39), he argued that this section originally was part of Papias' Interpretations of the Sayings of the Lord, and included it in his collection of Papias' fragments. Bart D. Ehrman concurs in Misquoting Jesus, adding that the passage contains many words and phrases otherwise alien to John's writing.[59] The evangelical Bible scholar Daniel B. Wallace agrees with Ehrman.[60]

There are several excerpts from Papias that confirm this:

Fragment 1:

And he relates another story of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. These things we have thought it necessary to observe in addition to what has been already stated.[61]

Fragment 2:

And there was at that time in Menbij [Hierapolis] a distinguished master who had many treatises, and he wrote five treatises on the Gospel. And he mentions in his treatise on the Gospel of John, that in the book of John the Evangelist, he speaks of a woman who was adulterous, so when they presented her to Christ our Lord, to whom be glory, He told the Jews who brought her to Him, “Whoever of you knows that he is innocent of what she has done, let him testify against her with what he has.” So when He told them that, none of them responded with anything and they left.[62]

Fragment 3:

The story of that adulterous woman, which other Christians have written in their gospel, was written about by a certain Papias, a student of John, who was declared a heretic and condemned. Eusebius wrote about this. There are laws and that matter which Pilate, the king of the Jews, wrote of. And it is said that he wrote in Hebrew with Latin and Greek above it.[63]

However, Michael W. Holmes says that it is not certain "that Papias knew the story in precisely this form, inasmuch as it now appears that at least two independent stories about Jesus and a sinful woman circulated among Christians in the first two centuries of the church, so that the traditional form found in many New Testament manuscripts may well represent a conflation of two independent shorter, earlier versions of the incident."[64] Kyle R. Hughes has argued that one of these earlier versions is in fact very similar in style, form, and content to the Lukan special material (the so-called "L" source), suggesting that the core of this tradition is in fact rooted in very early Christian (though not Johannine) memory.[65]

Arguments for Johannine authorship[edit]

The story of the adulteress has been defended by those who teach the Byzantine priority theory[6] and also by those who defend the superiority of the Textus Receptus.[66] Among these, Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad argue for Johannine authorship of the pericope. They suggest there are points of similarity between the pericope's style and the style of the rest of the gospel. They claim that the details of the encounter fit very well into the context of the surrounding verses. They argue that the pericope's appearance in the majority of manuscripts, if not in the oldest ones, is evidence of its authenticity.[6] Maurice Robinson argued that the anomalies in the transmission of the Pericope Adulterae may be explained by the Lectionary system, where due to the Pericope Adulterae being skipped during the Pentecost lesson, some scribes would relocate the story to not interviene with the flow of the Pentecost lesson. He also argued that mistakes arising from the Lectionary system are able to explain the omission of the story in some manuscripts.[42]

Status in the Bible[edit]

According to Armin Baum [de], "the question of the [Pericope Adulterae]'s canonicity does not follow automatically from a literary historical judgment about its origin." The Catholic Church regards it as canonical, following the precepts of the Council of Trent. Many Protestants, however, reject it as non-canonical. From a Protestant point of view, Baum argues that its canonicity can be "determined according to the same historical and content-related criteria that the ancient church applied during the development of the canon of Scriptures." He further argues, however, that it should be separated from the Gospel of John.[67]

Art and culture[edit]

The story is the subject of several paintings, including:

Variations of the story are told in the 1986 science fiction novel Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, as part of Letters to an Incipient Heretic by the character San Angelo.[68][69]

Chinese distortion[edit]

In September 2020, the Chinese textbook《职业道德与法律》(Professional Ethics and Law) was alleged to inaccurately recount the story with a changed narrative in which Jesus stones the woman, while claiming to be a sinner:[70][71]

The publisher claims that this was an inauthentic, unauthorized publication of its textbook.[72]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pronunciation: /pəˈrɪkəpi əˈdʌltəri/ pə-RIK-ə-pee ə-DUL-tər-ee, Ecclesiastical Latin: [peˈrikope aˈdultere].
  2. ^ Latin: "Sed hoc videlicet infidelium sensus exhorret, ita ut nonnulli modicae fidei vel potius inimici verae fidei, credo, metuentes peccandi impunitatem dari mulieribus suis, illud, quod de adulterae indulgentia Dominus fecit, auferrent de codicibus suis, quasi permissionem peccandi tribuerit qui dixit: Iam deinceps noli peccare, aut ideo non debuerit mulier a medico Deo illius peccati remissione sanari, ne offenderentur insani." Augustine, De Adulterinis Conjugiis 2:6–7.[33]
  3. ^ This phrase, "terra terram accusat", is also given in the Gospel Book of Hitda of Maschede and a ninth-century glossa, Codex Sangelensis 292, and a sermon by Jacobus de Voragine attributes the use of these words to Ambrose and Augustine, and other phrases to the Glossa Ordinaria and John Chrysostom, who is usually considered as not referencing the Pericope.[34]


  1. ^ a b c Wallace, Daniel B. (2009). Copan, Paul; Craig, William Lane (eds.). Contending with Christianity's Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors. B&H Publishing Group. pp. 154–155. ISBN 978-1-4336-6845-6.
  2. ^ John 7:53–8:11
  3. ^ Deuteronomy 22:22–27
  4. ^ Deuteronomy 17:6–7
  5. ^ Deuteronomy 17:8–13
  6. ^ a b c The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text with Apparatus: Second Edition, by Zane C. Hodges (Editor), Arthur L. Farstad (Editor) Publisher: Thomas Nelson; ISBN 0-8407-4963-5
  7. ^ John 7:53–8:11
  8. ^ E.g., Britni Danielle, "Cast the First Stone: Why Are We So Judgmental? Archived 30 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine", Clutch, 21 February 2011
  9. ^ E.g., Mudiga Affe, Gbenga Adeniji, and Etim Ekpimah, "Go and sin no more, priest tells Bode George Archived 2011-03-02 at the Wayback Machine", The Punch, 27 February 2011.
  10. ^ Gary Martin. "To cast the first stone". phrases.org.uk.
  11. ^ An uncommon usage, evidently not found in the LXX, but supported in Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon (8th ed., NY, 1897) s.v. γραμμα, page 317 col. 2, citing (among others) Herodotus (repeatedly) including 2:73 ("I have not seen one except in an illustration") & 4:36 ("drawing a map"). See also, Chris Keith, The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus (2009, Leiden, Neth., Brill) page 19.
  12. ^ "New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II: Basilica – Chambers". ccel.org.
  13. ^ S. P. Tregelles, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scripture (London 1856), pp. 465–468.
  14. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2001, pp. 187–189.
  15. ^ F. H. A. Scrivener (1883). "A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (3rd edition, 1883, London)". George Bell & Sons. p. 610.
  16. ^ Burgon, John (1871). Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established. James Parker and Co. pp. 192–243.
  17. ^ a b Keith, Chris (7 April 2009), The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus, Brill, ISBN 978-90-474-4019-2, retrieved 13 January 2024
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Knust, Jennifer; Wasserman, Tommy (13 November 2018). To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-18446-3.
  19. ^ a b c Petersen, William Lawrence (9 December 2011). Patristic and Text-Critical Studies: The Collected Essays of William L. Petersen. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-19289-8.
  20. ^ a b c d Keith, Chris (2009). The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-17394-1.
  21. ^ Eusebius. "Book III, Chapter 39" . Church History of Eusebius. Translated by Schaff, Philip. [Papias] relates another story of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.
  22. ^ Vielhauer, Philipp (1963). "Jewish Christian Gospels". In Schneemelcher, Wilhelm; Wilson, Robert McLachlan (eds.). New Testament Apocrypha, Volume 1: Gospels and Related Writings (1 ed.). Westminster Press. pp. 117–65. ISBN 0-664-20385-X. (3rd German edition, translated by George Ogg), at p. 121.
  23. ^ Vielhauer, Philipp; Strecker, Georg [in German] (1991). "Jewish Christian Gospels". In Schneemelcher, Wilhelm; Wilson, Robert McLachlan (eds.). New Testament Apocrypha, Volume 1: Gospels and Related Writings (2 ed.). Westminster/John Knox Press. pp. 134–78. ISBN 0-664-22721-X. (6th German edition, translated by George Ogg), at p. 138.
  24. ^ Keith, Chris (20 May 2009). The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-474-4019-2.
  25. ^ Knust, Jeniffer (2007). "Early Christian Re-Writing and the History of the Pericope Adulterae". academia.edu. Journal of Early Christian Studies. p. 497-498. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  26. ^ The Early Church Fathers Volume 7 by Philip Schaff (public domain) pp. 388–390, 408
  27. ^ Knust, Jeniffer (2007). "Early Christian Re-Writing and the History of the Pericope Adulterae". academia.edu. Journal of Early Christian Studies. p. 499-500. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  28. ^ Nordenfalk, Carl (1982). Canon Tables on Papyrus. Dumbarton Oaks. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University.
  29. ^ "Vol. 36, 1982 of Dumbarton Oaks Papers on JSTOR". www.jstor.org. Retrieved 27 January 2024.
  30. ^ "Sayings of Jesus: Canonical and Non-Canonical: Essays in Honour of Tjitze Baarda", Sayings of Jesus: Canonical and Non-Canonical, Brill, 9 April 2014, ISBN 978-90-04-26735-0, retrieved 28 January 2024
  31. ^ a b c Knust, Jennifer; Wasserman, Tommy (October 2010). "Earth Accuses Earth: Tracing What Jesus Wrote on the Ground". Harvard Theological Review. 103 (4): 407–446. doi:10.1017/S0017816010000799. ISSN 1475-4517. S2CID 161700090.
  32. ^ O'Loughlin, Thomas (14 April 2023). Early Medieval Exegesis in the Latin West: Sources and Forms. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-000-94694-9.
  33. ^ Cited in Wieland Willker, A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels Archived 2011-04-09 at the Wayback Machine, Vol. 4b, p. 10.
  34. ^ See Knust, Jennifer; Wasserman, Tommy, "Earth accuses earth: tracing what Jesus wrote on the ground" Archived 6 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Harvard Theological Review, 1 October 2010
  35. ^ Jeremiah 17:13
  36. ^ Describing its use of double brackets UBS4 states that they "enclose passages that are regarded as later additions to the text, but are of evident antiquity and importance."
  37. ^ a b Nongbri, Brent (2016). "Reconsidering the Place of Papyrus Bodm XIV-XV (𝔓75) in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament". Journal of Biblical Literature. 135 (2): 405–437. doi:10.15699/jbl.1352.2016.2803.
  38. ^ Orsini, "I papiri Bodmer: scritture e libri", 77
  39. ^ Orsini, "I papiri Bodmer: scritture e libri", 77
  40. ^ Knust, Jennifer; Wasserman, Tommy (14 January 2020). To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-20312-6.
  41. ^ Keith, Chris (20 May 2009). The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-474-4019-2.
  42. ^ a b Robinson, Maurice (1 January 1998). "Preliminary observations regarding the pericope adulterae based upon fresh collations of nearly all continuous-text manuscripts and over one hundred lectionaries". Conference Papers.
  43. ^ "Vol. 36, 1982 of Dumbarton Oaks Papers on JSTOR". www.jstor.org. Retrieved 27 January 2024.
  44. ^ Petersen, William Lawrence (9 December 2011). Patristic and Text-Critical Studies: The Collected Essays of William L. Petersen. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-19289-8.
  45. ^ Mäenpää, Markus (2017). "The Pericope Adulterae and the Historical Jesus – Interpretation and Significance". Åbo Akademi Journal for Historical Jesus Research. The second-century Protoevangelium Jacobi likely alludes to the Pericope Adulterae and makes direct textual references to it.4 Later, there is a clear reference to the pericope with no mark that it is different from other (canonical) stories about Jesus in Didascalia Apostolorum in the early third century.
  46. ^ P. De Letter (1952). St Prosper Of Aquitaine The Call Of All Nations. Universal Digital Library. Longmans, Green And Co. This is why the adulterous woman, whom the Law prescribed to be stoned, was set free by Him with truth and grace, when the avengers of the Law, frightened with the state of their own conscience, had left the trembling guilty woman . . . . He, bowing down . . . 'wrote with His finger on the ground,' in order to repeal the Law of the commandments with the decree of His grace
  47. ^ Keith, Chris (20 May 2009). The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-474-4019-2.
  48. ^ "The 'Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae' on the Canon of Scripture". www.bible-researcher.com. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  49. ^ Black, David Alan; Cerone, Jacob N. (21 April 2016). The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0-567-66580-5.
  50. ^ Petersen, William L.; Vos, Johan S.; Jonge, Henk J. de (9 April 2014). Sayings of Jesus: Canonical and Non-Canonical: Essays in Honour of Tjitze Baarda. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-26735-0.
  51. ^ Krans, Jan; Verheyden, Joseph (9 December 2011). Patristic and Text-Critical Studies: The Collected Essays of William L. Petersen. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-19613-1.
  52. ^ Scrivener, Frederick Henry Ambrose; Edward Miller (1894). A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Vol. 2. London: George Bell & Sons. p. 13.
  53. ^ Gregory, Caspar René (1902). Textkritik des Neuen Testaments. Vol. 2. Leipzig. p. 510.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  54. ^ William Wright, Catalogue of the Syriac manuscripts in the British Museum (2002), pp. 40-41.
  55. ^ Black, David Alan; Cerone, Jacob N. (21 April 2016). The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0-567-66599-7.
  56. ^ Lunn, Nicholas P. (30 April 2015). The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20. James Clarke & Company Limited. ISBN 978-0-227-90459-6.
  57. ^ F. H. A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (1894), vol. II, p. 367.
  58. ^ "The passages which touch Christian sentiment, or history, or morals, and which are affected by textual differences, though less rare than the former, are still very few. Of these, the pericope of the woman taken in adultery holds the first place of importance. In this case a deference to the most ancient authorities, as well as a consideration of internal evidence, might seem to involve immediate loss. The best solution may be to place the passage in brackets, for the purpose of showing, not, indeed, that it contains an untrue narrative (for, whencesoever it comes, it seems to bear on its face the highest credentials of authentic history), but that evidence external and internal is against its being regarded as an integral portion of the original Gospel of St. John." J.B. Lightfoot, R.C. Trench, C.J. Ellicott, The Revision of the English Version of the NT, intro. P. Schaff, (Harper & Bro. NY, 1873) Online at CCEL (Christian Classic Ethereal Library)
  59. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2008). Whose Word is It?: The Story Behind who Changed the New Testament and why. Continuum. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-84706-314-4.
  60. ^ Phillips, Peter (2016). Hunt, Steven A.; Tolmie, D. Francois; Zimmermann, Ruben (eds.). Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 408. ISBN 978-0-8028-7392-7.
  61. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History, 3.39.16
  62. ^ Agapius of Hierapolis, Universal History, Year 12 of Trajan [110AD]
  63. ^ Vardan Areveltsi, Explanations of Holy Scripture
  64. ^ Michael W. Holmes in The Apostolic Fathers in English (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), p. 304
  65. ^ Kyle R. Hughes, "The Lukan Special Material and the Tradition History of the Pericope Adulterae," Novum Testamentum 55.3 (2013): 232–251
  66. ^ "Why John 7.53–8.11 is in the Bible - Trinitarian Bible Society". www.tbsbibles.org. Retrieved 13 February 2024.
  67. ^ Baum, Armin D. (2014). "Does the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53–8:11) Have Canonical Authority? An Interconfessional Approach". Bulletin for Biblical Research. 24 (2): 163–178. doi:10.2307/26371142. JSTOR 26371142. S2CID 246622807..
  68. ^ Card, Orson Scott (1992). Speaker for the Dead. Ender Quintet Series. Tom Doherty Associates. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-312-85325-9.
  69. ^ Walton, John H. (2012). Job. The NIV Application Commentary. Zondervan Academic. p. 372. ISBN 978-0-310-49200-9.
  70. ^ "Chinese Catholics angry over book claiming Jesus killed sinner - UCA News". ucanews.com. 22 September 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  71. ^ "[Readings] The New New Testament, Translated by Annie Geng". Harper's Magazine. Vol. December 2020. 13 November 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  72. ^ "关于《职业道德与法律》的相关声明". www.uestcp.com.cn. 28 September 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020. 9月20日我社收到省民宗委消息,一本自称电子科技大学出版社出版的教材《职业道德与法律》,其中的宗教内容误导读者,伤害基督信众感情,造成了恶劣影响。得知情况后,我社高度重视,立即组织人员进行认真核查。经核查,我社正式出版的《职业道德与法律》(ISBN 978-7-5647-5606-2,主编:潘中梅,李刚,胥宝宇)一书,与该"教材"的封面不同、体例不同,书中也没有涉及上述宗教内容。经我社鉴定,该"教材"是一本盗用我社社名、书号的非法出版物。为维护广大读者的利益和我社的合法权益,我社已向当地公安机关报案,并向当地"扫黄打非"办公室进行举报。凡未经我社授权擅自印制、发行或无法说明图书正当来源的行为,我社将依法追究相关机构和个人的法律责任。对提供侵权行为线索的人员,一经查实,我社将予以奖励。

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