The Woman Taken in Adultery -- By: Allison A. Trites

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 131:522 (Apr 1974)
Article: The Woman Taken in Adultery
Author: Allison A. Trites


The Woman Taken in Adultery

Allison A. Trites

[Allison A. Trites, Librarian and Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia.]

One of the most commonly disputed passages in the Gospel of John is the account of the woman taken in adultery, the so-called Pericope Adulterae (John 7:538:11). While the incident displays the compassion of Christ which is elsewhere frequently attested in the gospels (e.g., Matt 15:32; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13) its integrity as an original part of John’s Gospel has not been accepted by the majority of New Testament critics. The problem is rooted in the text of the passage.1 Most of the ancient authorities omit John 7:538:11 and those which contain it vary much from each other, some placing it after Luke 21:24 or 21:38, others after John 7:36; 7:52; or 21:24 .2 Leon Morris, for instance, adds it as an appendix to his commentary on John, suggesting that in “this position it may be intended as an appendix to the four Gospels rather than specifically to this Gospel.”3

In a stimulating article a few years ago Alan F. Johnson argued that there were reasonable grounds for reopening the question of the authenticity of this pericope in the light of contemporary trends in

New Testament textual criticism.4 At the same time he strongly challenged the validity of the statistical method for determining the authorship of a New Testament pericope, showing by an argumentum ad hominem that John 2:13–17 (an undisputed Johannine passage) would fare considerably worse than John 7:538:11 by the methods of statistical analysis! He concluded his article by calling attention to a stylistic trait of the Fourth Gospel which is present in the story of the adulterous woman but which had hitherto been overlooked in discussions of authenticity—namely, the ...

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