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 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 passage (pericope) found in John 7:538:11[1] of the New Testament. It has been the subject of much scholarly discussion.

In the passage, Jesus was teaching in the Second 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.[2] 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 all modern translations 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).[3] 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:

53 Then each of them went home, 8:1 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They 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. 7When 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." 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11She 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[4]


The majority of Greek manuscripts include the pericope or part of it, and some of these included marginal markings suggesting the passage is in doubt. The Codex Vaticanus, which is paleographically dated to the early 300s, does contain a mark at the end of John chapter 7 with an umlaut in the margin alongside a distinctive blank space following the end of the Gospel of John, which would convey that the manuscript copyist was aware of additional text following the end of John 21 – which is where the pericope adulterae is found in the f-1 group of manuscripts.

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 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 also confirmed by other Latin Fathers of the 300s and 400s, including both Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine.

Pope Leo I (Pope from 440 to 461) cited the passage in his 62nd sermon, mentioning that Jesus said "to the adulteress who was brought to him, 'Neither will I condemn you; go and sin no more.'" In the early 400s, Augustine of Hippo used the passage extensively, and from his writings, it is also clear that his contemporary Faustus of Mileve also used it.[citation needed] Augustine claimed that the passage was specifically targeted and improperly excluded from some manuscripts:

"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]

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.

Many modern textual critics have speculated that it was "certainly not part of the original text of St. John's Gospel."[6] The Jerusalem Bible claims "the author of this passage is not John".[7] Some[who?] have also claimed that no Greek Church Father had taken note of the passage before the 1100s.

However, in 1941 a large collection of the Greek writings of Didymus the Blind (313–398 AD) was discovered in Egypt, in which Didymus 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.[citation needed] As Didymus was referring to the Gospels typically used in the churches in his time, this reference appears to establish that the passage was accepted as authentic and commonly present in many Greek manuscripts known in Alexandria and elsewhere from the 300s onwards.

The subject of Jesus' 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.[9] There have been other theories[which?] about what Jesus would have written.


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"[10] and "go, and sin no more"[11] have found their way into common usage. The English idiomatic phrase to "cast the first stone" is derived from this passage.[12]

The passage has been taken as confirmation of Jesus' ability to write, otherwise only suggested by implication in the Gospels, but the word ἔγραφεν in John 8:8 could mean "draw" as well as "write".[13]

Mosaic Law[edit]

Deuteronomy 22:22–25 states:

If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

— Deuteronomy 22:22–25[14]

In this passage and also in Leviticus 20:10,[15] "death is fixed as the penalty of adultery", applicable to both the man and the woman concerned. However, "stoning as the form of death is only specified when a betrothed virgin is violated".[16]

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

According to Eusebius of Caesarea (in his Ecclesiastical History, composed in the early 300s), Papias (c. 110 AD) refers to a story of Jesus and a woman "accused of many sins" as being found in the Gospel of the Hebrews, which might refer to this passage or to one like it. 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."

The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles Book II.24, composed c. 380, echoes the Didascalia Apostolorum, alongside a utilization of Luke 7:47.[17] 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 important codices L and Delta do not contain the Pericope Adulterae, but between John 7:52 and 8:12, each contains a distinct blank space, as a sort of memorial left by the scribe to signify remembrance of the absent passage.

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.[citation needed]

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)[citation needed] 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.

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

A text called the Second Epistle of Pope Callistus, section 6,[18] contains a quote that may be from John 8:11 – "Let him see to it that he sin no more, that the sentence of the Gospel may abide in him: "Go, and sin no more."" However this text also appears to quote from eighth-century writings and therefore is most likely spurious.[19]

In the Codex Vaticanus, which was produced in the early 300s, perhaps in Egypt (or in Caesarea, by copyists using exemplars from Egypt), the text is marked at the end of John chapter 7 with an umlaut in the margin, indicating that an alternative reading was known at this point. This codex also has an umlaut alongside blank space following the end of the Gospel of John, which may convey that whoever added the umlaut was aware of additional text following the end of John 21 – which is where the Pericope Adulterae is found in the f-1 group of manuscripts.

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. 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.[d]

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:[21]

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),[22] 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).[23]

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.[24]

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) a theory that the passage had been lost due to a misunderstanding of a feature in the lection-system of the early church.

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).[3][25][26][27][28][29][30][31]


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.[32] 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.[33] The evangelical Bible scholar Daniel B. Wallace agrees with Ehrman.[34]

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.[35]

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.[36]

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.[37]

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."[38] 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.[39]

Arguments for Johannine authorship[edit]

There is clear reference to the pericope adulterae in the primitive Christian church in the Syriac Didascalia Apostolorum. (II,24,6; ed. Funk I, 93.)

Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad argue for Johannine authorship of the pericope.[40] 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.

Manuscript evidence[edit]

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.[41]

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) and 75 (early 3rd century); Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (4th century), also apparently Alexandrinus and Ephraemi (5th), Codices Washingtonianus and Borgianus also from the 5th century, Regius from the 8th (but with a blank space expressing the copyist's awareness of the passage), Athous Lavrensis (c. 800), Petropolitanus Purpureus, Macedoniensis, Sangallensis (with a distinct blank space) 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); 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) and Cosmas (died 550).
  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: Codex Bezae (5th 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; 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, the Vulgate (Codex Fuldensis), some Syriac, the Bohairic dialect of the Coptic, some Armenian, Didascalia (3rd century), Didymus the Blind (4th century), Ambrosiaster (4th century), Ambrose (died 397), Jerome (died 420), Augustine (died 430).
  5. Question pericope (marked with asterisks (※), obeli (÷), dash (–) or (<)): Codex Vaticanus 354 (S) and the Minuscules 18, 24, 35, 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.
  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, 19, 284, 431, 391, 461, 470, 501 (8:3-11), 578, 794, 1141, 1357, 1593, 2174, 2244, 2860.

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.[42]

Some of the textual variants[edit]

  • 8:3 – επι αμαρτια γυναικα ] γυναικα επι μοιχεια – D
  • 8:4 – εκπειραζοντες αυτον οι ιερεις ινα εχωσιν κατηγοριαν αυτου – D
  • 8:5 – λιθαζειν ] λιθοβολεισθαι – K Π
  • 8:6 – ενος εκαστου αυτων τας αμαρτιας264
  • 8:6 – μὴ προσποιούμενος – K
  • 8:7 – ανακυψας ] αναβλεψας – Κ Γ ] U Λ f13 700
  • 8:8 – κατω κυψαςf13
  • 8:8 – ενος εκαστου αυτων τας αμαρτιας – U, 73, 95, 331, 413, 700
  • 8:9 – και υπο της συνειδησεως αλεγχομενοι εξρχοντο εις καθ' εις – K
  • 8:9 – εως των εσχατων – U Λ f13
  • 8:10 – και μηδενα θασαμενος πλην της γυναικος – K
  • 8:11 – τουτο δε ειπαν πειραζοντες αυτον ινα εχωσιν κατηγοριαν κατ αυτου – M

In 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.[43][44]

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:[45][46]

Once upon a time, Jesus spoke to an angry crowd that wanted to kill a guilty woman. "Of all of you, he who can say he has never done anything wrong can come forward and kill her." After they heard this, the crowd stopped. When the crowd retreated, Jesus raised a stone and killed the woman, and said, "I am also a sinner, but if the law can only be executed by a spotless person, then the law will die."

The publisher claims that this was an inauthentic, unauthorized publication of its textbook.[47]

See also[edit]

Other questioned passages[edit]

Sortable articles[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.[5]
  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.[8]
  4. ^ 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.[20]


  1. ^ John 7:53–8:11
  2. ^ Deuteronomy 22:24
  3. ^ a b 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.
  4. ^ John 7:53–8:11
  5. ^ Cited in Wieland Willker, A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels Archived 9 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Vol. 4b, p. 10.
  6. ^ 'Pericope adulterae', in FL Cross (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  7. ^ Jerusalem Bible, reference at John 7:53
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ Jeremiah 17:13
  10. ^ E.g., Britni Danielle, "Cast the First Stone: Why Are We So Judgmental?", Clutch, 21 February 2011
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Gary Martin. "To cast the first stone".
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Deuteronomy 22:22–25
  15. ^ Leviticus 20:10
  16. ^ Expositor's Greek Testament on John 8, accessed 9 May 2016
  17. ^ The Early Church Fathers Volume 7 by Philip Schaff (public domain) pp. 388–390, 408
  18. ^ Clontz, T.E. and J., "The Comprehensive New Testament", Cornerstone Publications (2008), p. 571, ISBN 978-0-9778737-1-5
  19. ^ The Early church Fathers Volume 8: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, The Clementia, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First by Philip Schaff (public domain) pp. 607, 618
  20. ^ Cited in Wieland Willker, A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels Archived 2011-04-09 at the Wayback Machine, Vol. 4b, p. 10.
  21. ^ "New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II: Basilica – Chambers".
  22. ^ S. P. Tregelles, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scripture (London 1856), pp. 465–468.
  23. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2001, pp. 187–189.
  24. ^ F. H. A. Scrivener (1883). "A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (3rd edition, 1883, London)". George Bell & Sons. p. 610.
  25. ^ NIV: "[The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.]"
  26. ^ NRSV: "John 8:11 The most ancient authorities lack 7.53—8.11; other authorities add the passage here or after 7.36 or after 21.25 or after Luke 21.38, with variations of text; some mark the passage as doubtful."
  27. ^ NABRE: "7:53–8:11 The story of the woman caught in adultery is a later insertion here, missing from all early Greek manuscripts. A Western text-type insertion, attested mainly in Old Latin translations, it is found in different places in different manuscripts: here, or after Jn 7:36 or at the end of this gospel, or after Lk 21:38, or at the end of that gospel. There are many non-Johannine features in the language, and there are also many doubtful readings within the passage. The style and motifs are similar to those of Luke, and it fits better with the general situation at the end of Lk 21, but it was probably inserted here because of the allusion to Jer 17:13 (cf. note on Jn 8:6) and the statement, "I do not judge anyone," in Jn 8:15. The Catholic Church accepts this passage as canonical scripture."
  28. ^ NCB: "John 7:53 This story is missing in a number of ancient manuscripts and is inserted at other points in others; it does not seem to be from the author of the fourth Gospel, for it is written in quite a different style. However, it has been accepted by the Church as the work of an inspired author. We are struck by the portrait of Jesus found herein: his silence, his sober gesture, his refusal to use religion as a pretext to spy on and judge others, and his courage to proclaim his own truth. It is pointless to ask what he wrote on the ground. Let us dwell on what he considered the Law to be: it condemns sin not so that people may judge one another but so that they may feel the need to be saved by God. And it is to this salvation that he bears witness."
  29. ^ ESV: "John 7:53 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"
  30. ^ NASB: "John 7:53 Later mss add the story of the adulterous woman, numbering it as John 7:53-8:11"
  31. ^ NIV, NRSV, NABRE, NCB, NASB, and ESV put the whole passage between single or double square brackets as a mark of inauthenticity.
  32. ^ "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)
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History, 3.39.16
  36. ^ Agapius of Hierapolis, Universal History, Year 12 of Trajan [110AD]
  37. ^ Vardan Areveltsi, Explanations of Holy Scripture
  38. ^ Michael W. Holmes in The Apostolic Fathers in English (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), p. 304
  39. ^ Kyle R. Hughes, "The Lukan Special Material and the Tradition History of the Pericope Adulterae," Novum Testamentum 55.3 (2013): 232–251
  40. ^ "If it is not an original part of the Fourth Gospel, its writer would have to be viewed as a skilled Johannine imitator, and its placement in this context as the shrewdest piece of interpolation in literary history!" 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
  41. ^ 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."
  42. ^ F. H. A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (1894), vol. II, p. 367.
  43. ^ Card, Orson Scott (1992). Speaker for the Dead. Ender Quintet Series. Tom Doherty Associates. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-312-85325-9.
  44. ^ Walton, John H. (2012). Job. The NIV Application Commentary. Zondervan Academic. p. 372. ISBN 978-0-310-49200-9.
  45. ^ "Chinese Catholics angry over book claiming Jesus killed sinner - UCA News". 22 September 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  46. ^ "[Readings] The New New Testament, Translated by Annie Geng". Harper's Magazine. December 2020. 13 November 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  47. ^ "关于《职业道德与法律》的相关声明". 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。{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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