Good Question—should the possible addition of John 8.1-11 make us paranoid about other possible inauthentic 'additions'?

Date: April 12/2004

I got this almost panic-stricken email:


I am really struggling here. I am having significant trouble with exactly how to "file" John 8:1-11.(Woman caught in adultery) It is has always been one of the most dear passages of scripture to me, and I have even read it quoted (by C.S. Lewis if I am not mistaken) as proof of the authenticity of the gospels by its detailed "writing on the ground" piece. (Such details were supposed to be alien to written testimonies of that time etc.)

Please tell me that its authenticity in our Gospels is defensible. I came to your site hoping to find comfort but instead I am even more troubled by the below statement (which I may have taken out of context(?))

Of course an obvious fear is the old "if this was added later, then what was NOT added later?? : PLEASE HELP ME...What gives you peace with this???? *Please read desperation in voice*

Some times I feel that these difficulties are gonna do me in...sigh...

Below is your quote (tn: from ralphtrail.html):

...biblical 'selectionism'. You can take the biblical critic route, and excise the passages that you are convinced are 'below' the morality of the lovely-God. Many have taken this route, and it is not altogether culpable/mistaken. we already excise passages based on text-critical and historical matters (woman caught in adultery, ending of Mark), some wonderfully-evangelical-and-godly scholars excise other gospels texts as being 'out of character' (e.g. the resurrection of the Jerusalem saints immediately after the Cross in Matthew), and more liberal scholars excise WHOLE passages based on their estimate of 'coherence' with the portrayal of Jesus ELSEWHERE. [Some non-scholars even adopt the age-old OT/NT dichotomy: the God of the OT was a bellicose, false God, created by the Israelites for nationalistic reasons, but Jesus revealed the TRUE love-centered God...obviously, though, this would NOT work for you--since YOUR problem is centered on Jesus himself!]


I replied ('obtersely' – a new word I just

XYZ, I only have a second here, so you/ll need to try to figure out what I am trying to say here (smile). Coupla quick points:

1. First of all, just because it was added later DOESNT MEAN that it is inauthentic! We figure some of the gospel authors might have added material after they sent out a first version (e.g., the second ending in John?), but this doesn't make the additions inauthentic at the 'later' IN ITSELF should be no problem, as long as it fits with what we know about Jesus, about the author, the textual characteristics, about what the earliest readers/interpreters thought (e.g., the ending of Mark is considered bogus, but the Woman in Adultery is considered probably legit), etc. So don't let this 'later' thing bother you (as long as its not TOO MUCH LATER--and those types of passages do NOT show up in modern English bibles!)

2. We don't really have to open the paranoid box of 'what ELSE might have been added later?!" since the way we know these two cases (Ending of Mark, etc) are later is because we have the EARLIER documents! It is only the presence of a reliable baseline (which we have) that allows us to make 'this is later' judgments, and the gap between the 'oldest and best' mss we have, and the probable date of original composition is too narrow for wholesale addition of 'spurious' material (you can look through my Miracle series on how the inclusion of extraneous material is difficult in the extreme).

3. And all modern bibles explicitly identify (in the footnotes/margins) which verses or parts of verses are problematic (or 'not in the earliest/best mss'), and NONE of them have any real impact on the faith...go through them yourself for a few chapters and you'll see what I mean.

4. And God gave us these critical tools: history, archaeology, textual criticism, contradicting readings/versions to HELP US find the basic, true text...scholars don't really have a problem with this because the data is very, very clear...we don't start to get 'deliberately distorted mss' (for political reasons) until the 4th century--and by that point, we have so much PRE-4th century data that a fake stands out a MILE AWAY.

So, its okay friend...dont let the 1 or 2 cases we know of (known only because we have a confident base of data, and a solid set of criteria) create some spectre for you...

I hope this helps some, friend, and I hope its clear enough for you...sorry so hasty, glenn”

The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)