Text, canon, and the woman caught in adultery

The pericope in John 7:53-8:11 is a fascinating test case in the interaction of text criticism and canon. Both the history of canon, and textual criticism seem dull and unexciting. Yet here they combine into a detective story or a theological conundrum that contributes to making the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy conflict with most Christian preachers’ practice! In this post I won’t address the detective story. But I will discuss this passage as a hint that we need a supple and flexible view of Scripture to deal “properly” with this passage.


Note 1. The word “pericope” is transliterated from Greek, it is used in theology and biblical studies to refer to a traditional textual unit, especially one used as a unit in church or synagogue. By extension it is sometimes used as a fancy way of saying “textual unit”. Here it would appear that our text was such a traditional unit in the early period, but by the time the chapter divisions were made the first verse had been attached to the “previous” unit. [RETURN]

Note 2. For the detective story approach see e.g. A. Watson, “Jesus and the Adulteress” in Biblica 80 (1999): 100-108 [RETURN]

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