The Abusive Religious Leaders Of John 8: How A Misnamed Story Can Help Religious Institutions Deal With Sexual Assault -- By: Amy Smith Carman

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 033:3 (Summer 2019)
Article: The Abusive Religious Leaders Of John 8: How A Misnamed Story Can Help Religious Institutions Deal With Sexual Assault
Author: Amy Smith Carman


The Abusive Religious Leaders Of John 8:
How A Misnamed Story Can Help Religious Institutions
Deal With Sexual Assault

Amy Smith Carman

Amy Smith Carman is a PhD student studying New Testament at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. She holds an MA in New Testament from Pepperdine University and an MDiv from Emory University. She focuses her studies on women in the ancient world and speaks against sexual assault on college campuses. Amy published the article, “Ave Maria: Old Testament Allusions in the Magnificat,” in the spring 2017 issue of Priscilla Papers.

This article focuses on John 7:53–8:11, the narrative commonly called The Adulterous Woman, The Story/Pericope of the Adulterous Woman, or the Pericope Adulterae. I consider this story from the point of view of the sole female character. I cannot help but think also of the epidemic of sexual assault that has been slowly coming to light at universities and workplaces as well as among religious and political leaders. It has always been here, but women and allies have only recently begun to gain national and international attention. This epidemic is not about a particular individual or institution; it is about the sexual abuse women have undergone, often lawfully and in silence, over the centuries. These adjustments to the typical perspective will call into question certain interpretive assumptions often brought to this narrative. This article renames and reframes the narrative—the Story of the Abusive Religious Leaders—through the embodied perspective of the woman, who herself can fairly be called a survivor of sexual abuse.

Modern Scholarship’s Disregard For The Passage

It is surprisingly rare for a commentary to give substantial treatment to this story. Few scholars see the need to engage the story beyond explaining that it is not original to the Gospel of John.1 An example is Ernst Haenchen, who translates the passage, says it is not original, and then does not attempt any analysis.2 More striking is Rudolf Bultmann who, in his groundbreaking commentary on the Gospel of John, does not even include a dismissal of the passage, but instead proceeds as if it does not exist.3 Others, such as Leon Morris, state that it is impossible to believe this story is authentic to John. He relegates his commentary on 7:53–8:11 to an appendix; yet, unlike many of his counterparts, he offers commentary on it.4 Similarly, Francis Moloney and D. A. Carson do not...

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