Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mark 9:29 - Conclusion: "and fasting" is Original

From this review of the evidence, it seems clear that the text of Mark 9:29 with και νηστεια was read throughout the early church, even in Egypt, as far as can be confirmed by the external evidence.  It also seems clear that a theological impetus can readily be provided for the excision of these two words:  orthodox copyists with a high Christology would be taken aback by the implication, real or imagined, that Jesus needed to fast in order to successfully exorcise a particular kind of demon.  It would not be hard to foresee that an unbelieving critic of the faith, coming into possession of a copy of Mark with και νηστεια in 9:29, would raise the question, “Why did Jesus, the Son of God, if he is superior to angels, need to fast in order to get some fallen angels to do as he told them?”  A bold copyist with an apologetic agenda could convince himself that the words must be a corruption, and on that basis decline to perpetuate them.

A slightly more complex apologetic rationale for scribal excision also may have existed:  in parts of the early church represented by the tradition expressed in Apostolic Constitutions, regular fasts were to be observed on Wednesdays and Fridays, and fasting was to be avoided on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays.  The fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays were said to commemorate Christ’s betrayal and His sufferings.  But this may have provoked a question:  what regular fasts did Jesus observe, before His betrayal and sufferings?  Without the words και νηστεια in Mark 9:29, there is no evidence in Mark that Jesus regularly fasted during His ministry.  The question would thus be rendered superfluous.

A copyist driven by a similar apologetic motive could remove the words in order to lower the risk that an unbelieving critic might pose a question such as the following:  Jesus affirmed in Matthew 11:19 that he came eating and drinking.  How, therefore, did he cast out a demon which can only be exorcised with prayer and fasting?

A much simpler explanation is also at hand:  και νηστεια could be lost via a parableptic error elicited by homoeoteleuton.  That is, an early copyist who was not familiar with the text accidentally skipped from the και in Mark 9:29 before νηστεια to the και at the beginning of Mark 9:30, thus carelessly losing the two words in between.  The possibility of this kind of mistake might not naturally occur to readers of printed texts in which Mark 9:30 begins with κακειθεν, but when reading Codex W (from Egypt), in which Mark 9:30 begins with the non-contracted και εκειθεν, the possibility must be acknowledged. 

The very same kind of careless mistake has caused the loss of και ανεσθη at the end of Mark 9:27 in Codex W, in Old Latin k (which, besides being the only Latin witness for the non-inclusion of και νηστεια in 9:29, is probably the most unreliable extant manuscript of the Gospel of Mark in any language), and in the Peshitta; according to the NA-27 apparatus this is also the likely reading of P45, which suggests that at this point Codex W and P45 echo an ancestor.

In a contest between the early church’s Christology, and the early church’s customs regarding fasting, the former had a much heavier impact on scribal habits.  Copyists were far more likely to remove a short phrase which (they reasoned) risked giving the impression that Jesus was unable to exorcise certain demons without fasting previously, than they were to insert a short phrase which would risk giving readers exactly that impression. 

If και νηστεια was not accidentally lost (or, if it was, and subsequent copyists in Egypt faced exemplars with rival readings in Mark 9:29), the perceived scandal at the thought that the King of angels needed to fast in order to exorcise a certain kind of demon, was enough to convince an early copyist in Egypt that the responsible thing to do was to protect readers from misinterpreting the text by removing the problematic words (or, if the words had already been accidentally lost, and a copyist faced rival readings in his exemplars, this line of reasoning would be a major basis for the adoption of the shorter reading). 

I would also draw attention to the reading of Codex B in the subsequent verse, 9:30.  Instead of παρεπορευοντο, B* reads επορευοντο.  (So does D.)  B*’s reading was adopted by Hort and Tregelles, but their judgment has been rejected by subsequent textual critics.  Figuring that παρεπορευοντο is indeed the original text in 9:30, the reading in Codex B may be considered evidence that the text of B in this passage has undergone editing, which may have included theologically motivated editing.    


Mark 9:29 and Fasting - More External Evidence

          Some additional information about early attitudes regarding fasting can be found in an annotation, consisting of an extract from a composition known as the Apocalypse of Elijah, which follows the end of the book of Acts in Sahidic MS Or. 7954, which is probably contemporary with the copyists who produced Codex Sinaiticus.  E. A. Wallis Budge drew attention to this material in 1912 (on page lv of Coptic Biblical Texts in the Dialect of Upper Egypt).  The manuscript was produced in 300-350.  While the possibility exists that this note was added later – even considerably later – Budge regarded this possibility as one which the evidence does not compel, and Herbert Thompson (in 1913 in The New Biblical Papyrus) concurred that the evidence is inconclusive about this.   
          Following Thompson’s translation of the note (on pages 10-11 of The New Biblical Papyrus), its pertinent portion reads as follows:

“God pitied us by sending his Son into the world (κόσμος) that he may save us from the bondage (αἰχ.).  He did not [send an?] angel (ἄγγελος) to come to us (?) nor archangel (?) (ἀρχάγγελος), but He was changed . . . . . (several lines lost) . . . . . the earth on account of these deceivers (πλάνος) who will multiply at the end of the seasons, for they will set up teachings which are not from God, who will reject (ἀθετειν) the law (νόμος) of God, they whose god is their belly, who say that there is no fast (νηστεία), nor hath God appointed it, who make themselves strangers to the covenant (διαθήκη) of God, who deprive themselves of the glorious promises, who are not established at any time in the strong faith (πίστις).  Do not let them deceive (πλαναν) you [in] these things.  Remember that the Lord brought (?) fasting (v.) ever since he created the heavens . . . . . . men on account of the sufferings (πάθος) and the . . . . . on your account . . . . . .”   

          This witness shows that individuals known to the author of the Apocalypse of Elijah regarded fasting as a human invention.  On one hand, one could propose that no one, had his Gospels-text contained Jesus’ commendation of fasting, would invent such a view.  On the other hand, if regular fasting (i.e., twice-weekly fasting) is in view, then one could propose that those holding such a position may have been strongly motivated to slightly adjust their Gospels-text to either strengthen their position, or to weaken that of their opponents. 
          We now turn to Codex Sinaiticus.  The main copyist wrote Mark 9:29 without και νηστεια, but the words were subsequently added, using a kai-compendium.  To those who have seen Vaticanus’ reading, the non-inclusion of και νηστεια by the initial copyist of Aleph is not surprising, considering that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, despite their very many disagreements, are both regarded as flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian Text of the Gospels (outside of John 1:1-7:38, where Sinaiticus’ copyist used a secondary exemplar, the text of which had “Western” affinities).        
          Vaticanus and Sinaiticus share the shorter reading of Mark 9:29, and the non-inclusion of the parallel-verse Matthew 17:21.  While they are almost the only witnesses for the non-inclusion of και νηστεια in Mark 9:29, they are members of a wider alliance in Matthew 17:  Willker lists Θ 0281 788 33 579 892* 1604 and 2680 as manuscripts which likewise do not include Mt. 17:21; they are joined by two Old Latin copies (e and ff1), the Sahidic version, mae-2, the Old Georgian, and the Sinaitic Syriac, the Curetonian Syriac, and the Palestinian Syriac, as well as some Bohairic copies. 
          Matthew 17:21 adds some chaos to our equation, so to speak.  Non-specific patristic utilizations of this sentence might be based on Matthew, or on Mark.  Furthermore, as Willker deduced, if the inclusion of Mt. 17:21 is secondary, “then it must be a harmonization to the Markan Byz text” – that is, if the inclusion of Mt. 17:21 is not original, then the ancestries of all the witnesses that include Mt. 17:21 have been influenced by a text of Mark 9:29 that included και νηστεια.  The significance of this point becomes clear when one realizes that the inclusion of Mt. 17:21 is attested by such early and diverse witnesses as Origen (in his Commentary on Matthew, Book 13, chapter 7), Chrysostom (Homily 57 on Matthew), most Old Latin copies, the Peshitta, D W 700, etc.     
          It is remarkable that of the two most important Middle Egyptian witnesses to the text of Matthew, mae-1 (Codex Scheide, from the 400’s) includes Mt. 17:21, although mae-2 (Schøyen MS 2650, assigned to the early 300’s) does not include it.       
           Before moving on from Codex Sinaiticus, let’s consult a passage in this manuscript from outside the Gospels:  the apocryphal book of Tobit, chapter 12, verse 8.  Where we would expect a reference to prayer and fasting, we find instead a reference to “prayer with truth” (or, with sincerity).  Vaticanus and Sinaiticus do not agree in this passage; in Codex B, as in the Vulgate, the verse includes a reference to fasting.
          In Sinaiticus, the reference to fasting has been removed, and a reference to praying with sincerity has taken its place.  Should we conclude that the text of Tobit 12:8, in ancestors of B and the Vulgate, was corrupted by copyists who wished to insert a reference to fasting?  Or is the correct deduction, instead, that Codex Sinaiticus displays here an attempt to obscure, via textual tampering, the significance of fasting?  Sinaiticus has the longer form of the book of Tobit (“GII”), and this form, which features various Hebraisms, and which is supported by the Cave IV fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls (for details see the introductory essay to a recent translation of Tobit by Alexander A. Di Lella), is generally thought to pre-date the shorter form (GI); however, that does not necessarily resolve this particular question; in Di Lella’s translation of both forms of Tobit, the reference to fasting in 12:8 is retained in the text.                   

(Two tangential points should be noted regarding the text of Tobit.  First, if Di Lella is correct that the shorter form is a condensation of the longer form of Tobit’s text, this is an interesting piece of evidence against the often-abused text-critical axiom that the shorter reading is to be preferred.  Second, the use of one form of Tobit by a copyist of B, and a different form of Tobit by a copyist of א, indicates that B and א were not both among the 50 codices prepared by Eusebius for Constantine, contrary to Skeat’s proposal.) 
          Epiphanius of Salamis, who composed his heresy-targeting Panarion in the 370’s, mentioned some heretics who rejected fasting, and others who endorsed extreme fasting.  In Part 26, Against the Gnostics, or Borborites, in 5:8, Epiphanius described a Gnostic position regarding fasting:  “They curse anyone who fasts, and say, ‘Fasting is wrong; fasting belongs to this archon who made the world.  We must take nourishment to make our bodies strong, and able to render their fruit in its season.’” 
          Epiphanius also mentioned a contemporary person named Aerius who “forbids fasting on Wednesday and Friday, and in Lent and Paschal time.  He preaches renunciation but eats all sorts of meat and delicacies without hesitation.  But he says that if one of his followers should wish to fast, this should not be on set days but when he wants to, “for you are not under the Law.”  (See page 412 of Frank Williams’ and Karl Holl’s translation of Epiphanius’ works, © 2003 Brill.  Selections from the book, including thequotation about the Gnostics, can be accessed online.)
          In Part 33, Against the Ptolemeans, 5:13-14, Epiphanius affirmed that the Savior desires “that we fast, but it is his will that we keep not the bodily fast but the spiritual, which includes abstinence from all evil.  We do observe outward fasting however, since this can be of some use to the soul as well when done with reason – not in mimicry of someone or by custom, or for the same of a day, as though a day were set aside for it.”  This view collides with the one advocated in Apostolic Constitutions, Book 8, where regular daily fasts were commanded to be observed twice a week.  
          The text known as the Gospel of Judas, which was mentioned by Irenaeus (unless there was more than one heretical text called the Gospel of Judas), in its 40th section, features an episode in which Jesus is depicting interpreting a vision; the temple, in the vision, is identified by Jesus as a focus of false worship, which is advocated by several men, including one who represents “those who abstain.”  This may be a reference to fasting, but it is more likely a reference to celibacy. 
          An initial reading of Sayings 6 and 104 in the text known as the Gospel of Thomas suggests that the author was opposed to fasting.  However, Saying 6 opposes prayer and alms-giving as much as it opposes fasting; its real target, apparently, is non-enlightenment.  Saying 104 is interesting:  when the disciples say to Jesus, “Come and let us pray today and let us fast,” Jesus says, “Which then is the sin that I have committed, or in what have I been vanquished?  But when the bridegroom comes out of the bridal chamber, then let them fast and let them pray.”  (Based on the rendering on page 53 of The Gospel According to Thomas, A. Guillaumont et al,  © E. J. Brill 1959.)  The thing to see here is that the author seems to presume that during Jesus’ ministry, not only did Jesus’ disciples not fast during His ministry (in sync with Mark 2:19-20 – though regular, scheduled fasts may be in view), but that Jesus Himself did not fast. 
          On one hand, one could argue that the author of Gospel of Thomas would not have composed such a saying if his text of the Gospels included a statement by Jesus that implied that He fasted during His ministry.  On the other hand, one could argue that if fasting was assumed to be an expression of remorse or repentance following an act of sin, this could provoke a copyist to remove such a statement from the Gospels-text, lest readers get the mistaken impression that Jesus fasted as an expression of regret about sinning.     
          Among orthodox believers, fasting was not considered automatically commendable.  (As we have seen, some fasts, on certain days, were specifically prohibited.)  John Chrysostom, in his Fifth Homily on Second Thessalonians (the Greek text of which is in Migne, P.G. 62:464), made an interesting statement about fasting as he commented on Second Thessalonians 3:11-12: 

“Alms are given only to those who are not able to support themselves by the work of their own hands, or who teach, and are wholly occupied in the business of teaching.  ‘For you shall not muzzle the ox,’ he says, ‘when he treads out the grain.  And the laborer is worthy of his hire.’  So that neither is he idle, but receives the reward of work, and great work too.  But to pray and fast, being idle, is not the work of the hands.  (“to de eucesqai kai nhsteiein argounta, ouk estin ergon ceirwn.)  For the work that he is here speaking of is the work of the hands.”

          Chrysostom did not oppose fasting, but he clearly regarded it as non-work, not as labor.                      

          Although it has already been stated that all Greek copies of Mark 9:29 – somewhat more than 1,600 manuscripts – include και νηστεια, except for B, Aleph, and 274 (a damaged Egyptian manuscript from the 400’s), it does not seem inappropriate to view one of them, Codex W (032), especially because it has an Egyptian provenance and is a relatively early manuscript.  So here is a picture of part of a page from Codex W, showing that its text of Mark 9:29 includes και νηστεια. 
          Codex Bezae (D, 05) also merits special consideration, because it generally represents a transmission-line that is not echoed by most manuscripts.  It includes και νηστεια.  

Mark 9:29, Prayer and Fasting, and Some Early External Evidence

Having reviewed some of the early church's customs regarding fasting, we now turn to examine some early external evidence about Mark 9:29 specifically, and about fasting in general.

The minuscule 2427 (alias “Ancient Mark”), one of the four Greek witnesses that have been cited to support the shorter reading, has been demonstrated to be a forgery made no earlier than the publication of Buttmann’s 1862 Novum Testamentum Graece, which was the model for its text.  This leaves three Greek witnesses for the non-inclusion of και νηστεια.            

Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are almost certainly products of the same scriptorium.  Tischendorf, Lake, Milne, Skeat, Elliott, and other textual critics regarded this to be the case.  (In 1999, Skeat proposed that both codices were produced in Caesarea under the supervision of Eusebius around 325.  In 2007, Elliott affirmed, “Scribe D of Sinaiticus was also very likely to have been one of two scribes of Codex Vaticanus.”)  But these two codices, from about 325 and 350, are not our earliest Greek witness to the text of Mark 9:29.  Papyrus 45 is older by a century or slightly more.        

The UBS-4 apparatus lists P45 as apparent support (“vid,” i.e., “videtur”) for the inclusion of και νηστεια in Mark 9:29.  In order to check this, I compared the extant text of Mark 9:28-31a with the text of Codex W (the text of which is the closest relative to the text of P45 in Mark) and made a tentative reconstruction of the full contents of a portion of the page of P45 that contains Mark 9:29.  Here is the result, with the extant text of P45 underlined and in bold letters: 

auton exelqen kai egeneto wsei nekroς wste pollouς legein
oti apeqanen o de ih krathsaς thς ceiroς autou hgeiren
auton kai eiselqontoς autou eiς oikon proshlqon autw
oi maqhtai kai hrwthsan auton legonteς oti hmeiς ouk
hdunhqhmen ekbalein auto kai eipen autoiς touto to genoς
en oudeni dunatai exelqein ei mh en proseuch kai nhsteia
Κakeiqen exelqonteς  pareporeuonto dia thς galilaiaς kai
ouk hqelen ina tiς gnw edidasken gar touς maqhtaς autou   
kai legei autoiς oti o uioς tou anqrwpou paradidotai anq. . .

Although some of the assumptions on which this reconstruction is based cannot be proven (such as the non-inclusion of κατ ιδιαν in Mark 9:28), I consider it very plausible due to the correspondence between the arrangement of the words in this reconstruction, and on the papyrus itself, which is shown here in a replica:

(This may be checked against the image at CSNTM, and the transcription supplied by P. W. Comfort in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts.) 
Only part of the word proseuch is extant in Mark 9:29 in P45; however, space-considerations virtually require that unless προσευχη was followed by και νηστεια, it was followed by a blank space, which seems uncharacteristic of the practice of the manuscript’s copyist. 
The testimony of Codex Vaticanus is straightforward; Mark 9:29 in Codex B ends on line 10 of a column.  A small blank space was left between προσευχη and the beginning of verse 30; the presence of small spaces between thematically distinct passages is not an unusual feature in B.  (The same feature occurs on the first line of this column, between Mark 9:27 and 9:28.) 

Before considering the testimony of Codex Sinaiticus, we turn to a patristic witness of equal or slightly earlier age.  De Virginitate, which has also been called Pseudo-Clement’s Second Epistle on Virginity, should be added to the witnesses in support of the fuller reading of Mark 9:29 (or to the inclusion of Matthew 17:21, or both).  Based on the English translation available online at , here is an excerpt from chapter 12: 

   Chapter 12 - Rules for Visits, Exorcisms, and How People are to Assist the Sick, and to Walk in All Things Without Offense.
   Moreover, also, this is fitting and useful, that a man “visit orphans and widows,” and especially those poor persons who have many children.  These things are, without controversy, required of the servants of God, and fitting and suitable for them.  This also, again, is suitable and right and fitting for those who are brethren in Christ, that they should visit those who are harassed by evil spirits, and pray and pronounce adjurations over them, intelligently, offering such prayer as is acceptable before God.
   They should not use a multitude of fine words, well prepared and arranged in order to appear eloquent and of a good memory.  Such men are ‘like a sounding pipe, or a tinkling cymbal,’ and they bring no help to those over whom they make their adjurations; but they speak with terrible words, and frighten people, but do not act with true faith, according to the teaching of our Lord, who has said, ‘This kind goes not out but by fasting and prayer,’ offered unceasingly and with earnest mind.  And in a holy manner let them ask and beg of God, with cheerfulness and all circumspection and purity, without hatred and without malice. 
   In this way let us approach a brother or a sister who is sick, and visit them in a way that is right, without guile, and without covetousness, and without noise, and without talkativeness, and without such behavior as is alien from the fear of God, and without haughtiness, but with the meek and lowly spirit of Christ.  Let them, therefore, with fasting and with prayer make their adjurations, and not with the elegant and well-arranged and fitly-ordered words of learning, but as men who have received the gift of healing from God, confidently, to the glory of God.  By your fastings and prayers and perpetual watching, together with your other good works, mortify the works of the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He who acts thus is a temple of the Holy Spirit of God.  Let this man cast out demons, and God will help him.” 

The exact composition-date of De Virginitate is debatable, but inasmuch as Jerome referred to it (around 393, in his work Against Jovianus, 1:12, regarding it as a genuine work of Clement), and Epiphanius used it (in Panarion 30:15, composed in the 370’s), the very latest possible composition-date for it is in the early-mid 300’s. 

In the next post, we will continue to examine external evidence that pertains to Mark 9:29 and the treatment of fasting in the early church.

Mark 9:29 and Prayer and Fasting and the Early Church

A small but interesting textual variant occurs at the end of Mark 9:29.  A veritable tsunami of Greek manuscripts and versional copies of Mark, constituting over 99.9% of all extant witnesses to this verse, state that Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”  In three Greek manuscripts – Aleph, B, and 0274 – and in Codex Bobiensis (Old Latin k) and, according to the UBS4 apparatus, in an early stratum of the Old Georgian version represented by the Adysh Codex (produced in 897), Jesus says, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer,” with no mention of fasting.

The UBS4 and NA-27 text, echoing the 1881 WH text, adopted the shorter reading here.  Metzger summarized the reasoning for this:  “In light of the increasing emphasis in the early church on the necessity of fasting, it is understandable that και νηστεια is a gloss which found its way into most witnesses.  Among the witnesses that resisted such an accretion are important representatives of the Alexandrian, the Western, and the Caesarean types of text.”  The UBS committee gave the adoption of the shorter reading here an “A” rating, implying that the committee-members felt that this text “is virtually certain.”

The NET supports the same conclusion:  “Most witnesses, even early and excellent ones (P45vid Aleph2 A C D L W Θ Ψ f1, 13 33 M lat co), have “and fasting” (και νηστείᾳ, kai nēsteia), after “prayer” here.  But this seems to be a motivated reading, due to the early church’s emphasis on fasting (TCGNT 85, cf., e.g. 2 Clem 16:4, Pol. Phil 7:2; Did. 1:3, 7:4).  That the most important witnesses (Aleph* B), as well as a few others (0274 2427 k) lack και νηστεια, when a good reason for the omission is difficult to find, argues strongly for the shorter reading.”

Do those references provide sufficient grounds for the theory that early copyists considered fasting so important, and so commendable, that they would deliberately supplement a saying of Jesus about prayer by adding “and fasting”?  Did everyone in the early centuries of Christendom view fasting as an entirely positive activity (or rather, non-activity)?  For those who might not have convenient access to the contents of Second Clement, Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians, or the Didache, here are the references mentioned in the NET’s note:

Second Clement 16:4 says, Know ye that the Judgment Day approaches like a burning oven, and certain of the heavens and all the earth will melt, like lead melting in fire; and then will appear the hidden and manifest deeds of men.  Therefore alms-giving is good, as repentance from sin; fasting is better than prayer, and alms-giving is better than both.  ‘Charity covers a multitude of sins,’ and prayer out of a good conscience delivers from death.  Blessed is every one that shall be found complete in these; for alms lightens the burden of sin.”

The emphasis of this passage from Second Clement, in which the author loosely quotes Tobit 12:8-9 before also quoting First Peter 4:8b, is on alms-giving, not fasting.  Almsgiving, the author says, is more praiseworthy than fasting or prayer.  Yet no copyists, as far as I know, saw fit to place “and almsgiving” after any mention of prayer in the Gospels.
In chapter 7 of his Epistle to the Philippians, Polycarp wrote, “Forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning, watching unto prayer, and persevering in fasting, beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God ‘not to lead us into temptation.’  As the Lord has said, ‘The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.’”

This casual statement is hardly evidence of the sort of association between prayer and fasting that would lead a copyist to link them together like bacon-and-eggs. 

The Didache, in its opening paragraph, says, The way of life, then, is this:  first, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this:  Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you.”

That’s more like it:  the author has paraphrased the fuller reading of Matthew 5:44.  (This reference should be remembered when evaluating that variant, especially inasmuch as it is not included in the UBS-4 apparatus.)  In doing so, he interchanged prayer and fasting, indicating that the two were conceptually linked in his mind. 

However, that is not all that the author of Didache had to say on the subject of fasting.  Two other statements from the Didache should be considered.  In the seventh chapter, which gives instructions about baptism, the author states, “Before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.”  This does not supply much of a basis for the idea that copyists felt obligated to supplement Mark 9:29 by adding “and fasting.” 

When we turn to the eighth chapter of the Didache (to which the NET’s notes did not draw attention), we find some interesting additional comments about fasting:       

“Let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday).  Do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, like this:  ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors.  And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Thine is the power and the glory forever.’  Pray this three times each day.”

(This reference should be remembered when evaluating the variant in Matthew 6:13.)

In the Didache, weekly fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays are commanded, but fasts on Mondays and Thursdays are prohibited on the grounds that Christians should not follow the fasting-pattern that is followed by “the hypocrites.”  This command seems to have been modeled on Matthew 6:16-18, combined with the understanding that the twice-weekly fasting of the Pharisees (mentioned in Luke 18:12) occurred on Mondays and Wednesdays.  The prayers and the fasts described in this part of the Didache are regular:  fasting was to be maintained twice a week, and prayer was to be offered three times a day.          

In Apostolic Constitutions, Book 5, which was compiled in about 380, an explanation is offered regarding why the Christians’ weekly fast-days are Wednesday and Friday.  The apostles are depicted stating that Jesus commanded them, after His resurrection, to fast on the fourth and sixth days of the week; the former on account of His being betrayed, and the latter on account of His passion.”  In the same composition, after a variety of details about the schedule for Easter-time, the 20th chapter concludes with the following words, framed as if the apostles themselves were speaking:

“We charge you to fast every fourth day of the week, and every day of the preparation [i.e., Fridays], and bestow upon the needy what you conserve by fasting.  Every Sabbath-day except one [the exception is Holy Saturday; this is explained in the previous chapter], and every Lord’s Day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice.  For he will be guilty of sin who fasts on the Lord’s Day, being the day of resurrection, or during the time of Pentecost, or, in general, who is sad on a festival-day to the Lord.  For on them we ought to rejoice, and not to mourn.”

It seems sufficiently clear that by the late 300’s, and probably considerably earlier, both the instructions to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the prohibition against fasting on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays, were common practice in the locale where Apostolic Constitutions was compiled. 

The 48th chapter of Book 8 of Apostolic Constitutions is basically a list of rules for church-officers.  Some of these rules were about fasting:

   Rule 64:  If any one of the clergy be found to fast on the Lord’s Day, or on the Sabbath Day (with one exception), let him be deprived; but if one if the laity is found to do this, let him be suspended.
   Rule 69:  If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, or lector, or singer, does not fast the fast of 40 days, or the fourth day of the week, and the day of preparation, let him be deprived, unless he is hindered by physical weakness.  And if one of the laity is found to do this, let him be suspended.  
   Rule 70:  If any bishop, or any other of the clergy, fasts with the Jews, or keeps the festivals with them, or accepts some of the presents associated with their festivals, such as unleavened bread or some such thing, let him be deprived.  And if one of the laity is found to do this, let him be suspended.”

These rules from Book 8 of Apostolic Constitutions convey that not only was the twice-weekly fast to be enforced via church discipline, but that the thrice-weekly prohibition against fasting was also to be enforced with church discipline.  The same standard was mentioned by Epiphanius, who added (in De Fide, chapter 22) the detail that the twice-weekly fast was observed until the ninth hour of the day, and who also mentioned that the twice-weekly fasting was not observed during Pentecost, or on the Day of Epiphany [by which he meant Christmas-day, the day on which Christ was born].  Thus, while it is true, as the NET’s note states, that the early church had an emphasis on fasting, it is also true that the early church emphasized the avoidance of fasting just as much.
All this should be kept in mind as we turn to a closer consideration of some external evidence pertaining to Mark 9:29.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The 2014 Pericope Adulterae Symposium: Part 6: Panel Discussion

          In the panel-discussion and subsequent Q-&-A session (which was not attended by Keith, who had to catch a plane), all of the presenters were very cordial.  I got the sense that all the panelists were focused on Robinson’s theory.  Punch did not contribute much to this session.  Knust acknowledged that she was intrigued by Robinson’s theory, although not so much that she was ready to adopt it that very day.  Wasserman maintained that Robinson’s theory is possible but there simply is no evidence for the existence of a rudimentary lectionary-system in the 100’s. 
          Knust raised a question about how much time elapsed between the production of the Gospel of John, the use of passages from John as lections of major feast-days, and the subsequent loss of the PA.  Robinson responded by stating that he assigned a production-date for the Gospel of John prior to the year 70 (agreeing with John A. T. Robinson), so the loss of the PA could have occurred in the mid-100’s.  (I would argue that even with a production-date in the 90’s this is still entirely credible, and is more likely in a situation where the copyists are not very familiar with the contents of the Gospel of John.) 
          Knust also briefly mentioned the variety of detail in some patristic accounts (such as that of Mara of Amida) of the contents of the PA – a subject I would have liked to hear more about, since I consider it a real possibility that a story similar to the PA circulated in the early church.
          I raised a question about the Palestinian Aramaic lectionary, basically asking if its testimony implied that the PA was “floating” when the Palestinian Aramaic lectionary was made or not.  The panelists agreed that the Palestinian Aramaic lectionary echoes an ancestor-manuscript in which (part of) the PA appeared at the end of John.  They also agreed that the PA was never “floating,” and that the displacement of the PA, whether to the end of John (as in an ancestor of the Palestinian Aramaic lectionary, and in family-1), or to the end of Luke 21 (as in family-13), was an effect of lectionary-influence.  This was, in my view, a major point on which all the panelists agreed:  there is no evidence that the PA was ever floating until the 800’s, when its displacement was due to lectionary-influence.
          Each panelist, as Jacob Cerone has reported, affirmed that the PA should be preached, although for different reasons.  Punch said that he would preach the PA, provided that he made his listeners aware of the text-critical controversy about the passage.  Wasserman repeated his point that if Jude can preach from Enoch, preachers today can preach from the PA.  Knust was strangely evasive when answering a question about whether or not the PA described historical events (I was thinking:  How can one advocate that a text be preached, without affirming that it describes historical events?); nevertheless she agreed that the PA is canonical and should be proclaimed.  (I got the impression that although Knust and Wasserman do not want the PA to be turned into a footnote, they probably would not protest loudly if the PA were to be reformatted as a short 28th book of the New Testament.)  Robinson, of course, advocated the use of the PA as canonical Scripture.      
          Then Dr. David Alan Black concluded the conference, and took a quick vote from the audience:  is the passage original?  A very large majority of the audience (some might even say an overwhelming majority) said yes – a verdict which opposes the conventional academic view.  Had the question been phrased differently – “Should the passage be proclaimed, or proscribed?” – the response might have been, if not unanimously in favor of the proclamation of the PA, very nearly so.
          I look forward to the book that is planned to be co-written by the panelists at the conference.

Some other resources: 

Jeff Riddle attended most of the conference and made a report about it.

Wilbur Pickering, who recently turned 80, has made aninteresting file about the PA.   
Jacob Cerone, a research assistant for Dr. Black, made a series of live-blogs from the conference, beginning at  .  (At Jacob’s blog, just keep clicking on the blog-entry-titles to the upper-right of the main title and the live-blog entries will keep on coming.  His pictures include a shot of Dr. Robinson and me together during one of the breaks.)

Dr. David Alan Black, in the entry for April 27 at his blog , described the conference as a very cordial and positive experience, and stated, “For what it’s worth, my own view is that the PA is original,” and “I would most certainly preach/teach this passage as Scripture.”

The 2014 Pericope Adulterae Symposium: Part 5: Robinson: Removal Elicited by Early Lectionary Usage

Maurice Robinson, the last presenter at the conference, argued that the PA is an original part of the Gospel of John, and that it was excised in the second century as a consequence of lectionary-influence.  Robinson’s presentation seemed to have been carefully composed, like a symphony, starting slowly and building to a crescendo.  At first he described how, following a suggestion from William Pierpont, he began investigating the PA.  Then he introduced an impressive army of data, drawn from his collations of the manuscripts that contain the PA (a printed copy of which he showed at the conference):  267 Greek manuscripts do not contain the PA; 1,476 MSS contain it; 2,285 lectionaries do not contain it (because it’s assigned to saints’ feast-days, not the main calendar-cycle), and 495 lectionaries contain John 8:3-11.  He also insisted that the question about whether or not the PA is Scripture is a technical issue, not a doctrinal one. 
The gist of Robinson’s theory goes like this:  in the 100’s, lections were assigned to the major feast-days of the church-calendar, such as Christmas, Easter-time, and Pentecost.  The lection for Pentecost consisted, as it does today, of John 7:37-52 plus 8:12.  The reasons for this unusual combination were (1) the subject-matter of the PA did not fit the general theme of Pentecost, but (2) the uplifting statement in 8:12 was added so as to not end the lection on the negative note that would otherwise conclude the lection at the end of 7:52 – the statement that no prophet arises from Galilee.  An early copyist, either deliberately adjusting the text to make the lector’s job easier, or accidentally misinterpreting lectionary-related marginalia that told the lector to skip from the end of 7:52 to the beginning of 8:12, omitted the PA.  A copy in which the PA was thus dropped from the text – not due to squeamishness, but as a conformation to the form of the text as used in a rudimentary lectionary-system – subsequently influenced the text in Egypt from which most of the early manuscripts (p66, p75, Aleph, B, T) are descended.
In the course of arguing his case for the genuineness of the PA, Robinson emphasized various internal features, describing the PA as part of a verbal tapestry which is inextricably linked to the surrounding text.  He listed direct links and indirect links.  Even if half of them are sheer coincidence (and some of them definitely are), this is something worth careful consideration.  His argument against the existence of the PA (in all its extant forms) as a “floating” story was efficient and devastating:  how does the PA start?  “And everyone went to his own house.”  Does anyone begin a story like that?  Imagine it:  “Once upon a time, everyone went home.”
Robinson also pointed out that Chris Keith, in his earlier work on the PA, had incorrectly claimed that kategrafein is the majority-reading in John 8:6.  Keith has already commented about this on his blog (at ), acknowledging that the majority-reading, by a score of 1,220 to 207, is egrafen.  (Keith wondered why he ever thought otherwise.  Perhaps as he read the RP-2005 Byzantine Textform, his line of sight drifted to the katē- of katēgorein on the preceding line, above egrafen.)  Aside from this relatively minor point, though, Robinson had high praise for Keith’s research, describing it, ironically, as the best defense of the genuineness of the PA based on internal evidence, if readers ignore the word “interpolation.”


Some thoughts: 
Robinson showed how his theory works, but he did not show real evidence, aside from the elegance of his theory, that a rudimentary lectionary-system for major feast-days existed in the second century, or that its lection for Pentecost consisted of John 7:37-52 + 8:12.  Inasmuch as the Pentecost-lection goes without a pause from 7:52 to 8:12, why isn’t this evidence that the lectionary was based on a text of John that did the same thing? 

Robinson pre-answered that question (if I recall correctly) by pointing out that had the PA been adopted sometime after John 7:37-8:12 (without the PA) was assigned to Pentecost, nobody would dump the PA into the middle of the Pentecost-lection.  However, this assumes a very simple series of events.  If instead, the PA was inserted between 7:52 and 8:12 in a location where the Pentecost-lection was unknown, and this expanded text proceeded to infiltrate the locale where the Pentecost-lection had originated as a natural unit consisting of John 7:37-8:12 (without the PA), then as the expanded text prevailed, the logical reaction by copyists who wished to denote lection-readings in the margins of continuous-text manuscripts of the Gospels would be to add the symbol that precedes the PA in various manuscripts, instructing the lector to skip from the end of 7:52 to the beginning of 8:12.  Clearly, something happened here, but the lectionary-related evidence presented by Robinson does not say clearly that what happened was an excision, rather than an expansion.   
Also, I would like to know, since Robinson pointed out that Jonathan Borland, in his thesis on the Old Latin treatment of the PA, identified the form of the PA preserved in family-1 as being congruent to the earliest form supported by the Old Latin evidence (especially Codex Palatinus), whether or not Robinson regards the family-1 form of the PA as the original form, instead of the text read by the majority of MSS.

And, figuring that Luke 22:43-44 is another passage which is omitted from a lection (and which is placed in Matthew in family-13 in a way comparable to the way that the PA is similar to the way the PA is placed at the end of Luke 21 in family-13), and figuring that Burgon proposed that Luke 9:54-56 could be lost via lectionary-influence, it occurs to me that it might be worthwhile to investigate the possibility that early lectionary-influence elicited the early loss of several passages besides the PA.  An early copyist’s misinterpretation of marginalia in a lector’s copy could account for several short (or shortened) variants.     


The 2014 Pericope Adulterae Symposium: Part 4: Keith: Interpolation by a Mimic to Show that Jesus Could Write

Chris Keith, from St. Mary’s University College in London, regards the PA as an interpolation, but in his presentation, he opposed other commentators who reject the PA about as much as he opposed those who accept it.  He rejected the idea that the PA originated as a “floating” text:  he emphasized that until the 800’s, the only place where the PA is found is after John 7:52.  He rejected the idea that linguistic style (which is the bones and muscles of the internal evidence against the PA) is not a reliable guide.  What, one might ask, could make linguistic style an unreliable guide?  Keith answers:  the involvement of a mimic in the production of the PA. 

This instantly complicates the theory that Keith endorses, because two stages within the production of the PA are thus implied:  the first stage, in which the basic story is produced (and non-Johannine elements are dominant), and the second stage, in which the story is revised by a mimic (who deliberately adds Johannine elements) and is placed within the text of the Gospel of John.  One might ask, what motivated this mimic?  Keith answers:  the mimic was part of a Christian community in which the authority of Jesus was challenged on the grounds that Jesus never wrote anything, and the mimic’s goal was to create a form of the Gospel of John which would contain clear evidence that Jesus could write.

After reviewing, and setting aside, a couple of (improbable) theories based on internal evidence that have been proposed by Josep Rius-Camps and Kent Hughes, Keith used the Longer Ending of Mark i.e., 16:9-20) as an example of mimicry committed by a forger:  the author, he proposed, used material from passages such as Luke 24, Matthew 28:19, and John 3:15-16 to craft an interpolation that was designed for the end of Mark, deliberately imitating Mark and the other Gospels.  Someone else, Keith continues, made the PA, beginning with an already-existing story and finishing with a story with Johannine features, plus introductory verses created to graft the story onto the end of chapter seven of the Gospel of John.


Some thoughts: 

My first thought was that if Keith thinks that Mark 16:9-20 was designed to complete the Gospel of Mark, he really, really, really needs to carefully read my book, Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20, in which I show that the non-transition between Mark 16:8 and 16:9, as well as the contents of verses 9-20, constitutes compelling evidence that Mark 16:9-20 was not written as a continuation from the end of verse 8.  I also point out the lack of real verbal parallels between Mark 16:9-20 and the concluding portions of the other Gospels, tension-causing differences between Mark 16:9-20 and the other accounts, and other features in Mark 16:9-20 that are problematic to the “pastiche” theory that depends for its survival on the idea that Mark 16:9-20 was written by someone aware of the contents of Matthew, Luke, and John.  For example, if the author of Mark 16:9-20 was trying to create an ending for the Gospel of Mark, why would he borrow verbiage from the Gospel of John at all, and why would he zero in on John 3:15-16 while completely ignoring John 21?  The “pastiche” theory about Mark 16:9-20, viewed up close, requires an extremely complicated individual using his sources in an extremely complicated way.

Second, although Keith showed that pagan critics of Christianity (specifically, Celsus) issued jibes about the apostles’ lack of formal education, no evidence exists that this charge was ever made about Christ Himself.  No evidence exists that anyone ever used the PA to rebut an objection that Jesus could not write.  In the Syriac text of the Story of Abgar, Jesus is depicted dictating, rather than personally writing, a letter; this indicates that the author of the story felt no special pressure to depict Jesus in the act of writing.  There is no evidence of the cause or effect of the motivation that Keith attributes to the person who, he claims, peppered the PA with Johannine elements, added the introductory verses, and grafted it into the text of John.

Third, Keith’s presentation, like his work on the PA in general, was a rather effective demolisher of what have previously been regarded as consensus-views on a couple of points.  Writers such as Metzger, Aland, Carson, Comfort, and Fee have claimed that the PA was a “floating” story and this, they claimed, indicated its secondary nature.  Keith gently put that idea down, affirming that the PA was never “floating” until about the 800’s,  Likewise many commentators have insisted that the “style and vocabulary” of the PA constitute strong evidence against a Johannine origin, but Keith challenged that, arguing that special factors, such as an author’s borrowing of verbiage from the Septuagint, can throw off such calculations.  As Keith has stated at his blog, “Linguistic style cannot be a decisive criterion for authorial origin.”  (This is certainly true when a mimic is added to the equation:  everything consistent with the author’s style can be explained by the skill of the mimic!)  Alan Johnson’s analysis of internal evidence in the PA should be visited again and again.

Fourth, although I asked this question at the conference, I am still asking it:   Spyridon, a contemporary of Eusebius of Caesarea, walked out in protest when, at a gathering of bishops on Cyprus, another speaker used the word “skimpoda” instead of the word “krabbaton” when quoting a passage from the Gospels in which the word “krabbaton” appears.  And in the late 300’s, a congregation was thrown into an uproar when the story of Jonah was read from the Vulgate, because the new text referred to a “vine,” instead of to a “gourd” as they were accustomed.  Some Christian leaders and laity were vigilant against the adulteration of Scripture.  

In such a milieu, if the PA had suddenly appeared on the scene, a vigorous reaction and protest seems almost inevitable.  Yet we see bishops such as Ambrose and Augustine defending the PA.  And in an era when the penance-penalties for adultery were severe, this story in which Jesus forgives an adulteress – an adulteress who has not clearly expressed repentance – is supposed to have first appeared in the text of John around 250, and is supposed to have been meekly embraced wherever it went, without a note of protest by anybody.  In a period when Christians were risking imprisonment or death for refusing to hand over their copies of the Gospels, is it plausible that they would lightly and silently accept the sudden appearance of a new story in new copies of the Gospel of John, where no such story had previously existed?    

The 2014 Pericope Adulterae Symposium: Part 3: Knust: Against the Ecclesiastical Suppression Theory

Jennifer Knust, Wasserman’s co-author of some earlier work on the PA, directly challenged Punch’s theory of ecclesiastical suppression.  She reviewed some patristic statements which took non-Christians to task for (allegedly) altering the Scriptures.  This included a brief examination of the exchange between Origen and Julius Africanus regarding the question of the spuriousness of the book of Susanna.   Knust, like Wasserman, used a digital slideshow, which included, among other things, a picture of a page from Codex Marchalianus (displaying the use of asterisks and obeli for text-critical purposes (the same page, I think, that one can see at ) and a page from Codex Basiliensis (E, 07) showing the beginning of the PA with asterisks in the margin. 

Knust emphasized Origen’s statement (in Contra Celsum 2:27), “I do not know of people who have altered the Gospel apart from the Marcionites and the Valentinians.”  This, she argued, shows that early Christian copyists did not make large excisions.  Additional evidence cumulatively shows that editors of non-Biblical as well as Biblical texts, when their exemplars disagreed, did not remove passages that did not possess uniform support, but included them instead, accompanied by marks such as an asterisk or obelus. 

The general implication of all this is that the theory that Christian copyists deliberately omitted the PA is improbable.  Scribal squeamishness about the subject-matter of the PA would not have elicited its removal.  Had there been a question about its genuineness, scribes’ default reaction would have been to include the PA, accompanied by asterisks, which is what we see in a significant number of manuscripts in which the PA is included.  This implies that the reason the early manuscripts do not include the PA at all is because it was not in their ancestor-manuscripts.     

The PA is, however, early material.  Is it earlier than Origen?  Knust mentioned that there may be good reasons to think that Origen was aware of the story, even though Origen does not comment on it in his Commentary on John, one of which is that in his Homilies on Jeremiah (19:15), Origen seems to take for granted that stoning was the prescribed penalty for adultery, and he pictures an adulteress desiring that the Word would intervene for her so that she would be spared.


Some thoughts: 

A couple of points in Knust’s presentation were very questionable.  First, her claim that copyists did not make omissions would have been substantially shaken if one of her fellow panelists had pointed out Origen’s statement (in his Commentary on Matthew, 15:14) that “The differences in the Greek manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others,” who “in the process of checking, make additions or deletions as they please.”  That is a plain claim that copyists were doing exactly what Knust said they did not do.  Second, her theory that copyists treated New Testament texts in the same manner in which copyists treated the Iliad, or the Hexapla, adding asterisks or obeli alongside unstable passages, was posited rather demonstrated.

That asterisks were sometimes placed alongside passages in New Testament manuscripts to convey scribal doubt is not questioned.  What is questioned, specifically, is whether the asterisks that sometimes accompany the PA were intended to convey scribal doubt, or whether they served a completely different purpose.  The example that Knust provided of asterisks accompanying the PA was a digital slide of the beginning of the PA in Codex Basiliensis.  In the Q-&-A period after her presentation, we revisited that slide. 

The asterisks do not begin at the beginning of the PA.  They accompany 8:2-11.  The lectionary symbol that means “skip” appears at the beginning of 7:53.  Lectionary-symbols for “begin” (αρχη) accompany the beginning of 8:12 (in the text, and in the margin).  A cross has been added in the text within 8:12 immediately before εγω ειμι.  An “end” (τελος) symbol appears at the end of 8:12.  And, in the upper margin, in the same (though slightly smaller) uncial handwriting in which the main text is written, the lectionary-incipit is given for the lection for the fifth day of the fourth week after Easter (which = John 8:12-20); that explains the purpose of the cross before εγω ειμι:  after the lector had read the incipit, he was supposed to continue from that point.  All of which tends to indicate that the asterisks in Codex Basiliensis alongside John 8:2-11 were not intended to convey scribal doubt, but had something to do with the lectionary instead.    

Knust attempted to show that early copyists of the Gospels, when they encountered passages that were absent from some exemplars, athetized the dubious passage rather than remove it.  She did not present some readily available evidence that opposes that idea.  (And, one might ask, if copyists ordinarily included and athetized passages not found in all exemplars, why are the extant manuscripts not brimming with asterisks??)  She also attempted to show that the PA has been included and athetized, but the evidence she presented did not support that idea.  (One could also raise the question of whether copyists of any composition other than the Hexapla considered the act of athetizing a permanent solution, or a prelude to excision.  But an exploration of this subject would go beyond my purposes today.)      

(Small question:  Knust seemed to think that the non-inclusion of the PA was supported by the Eusebian Canons.  Can this really be confidently sustained?  Granting that the mutilated Canon-tables fragment analyzed by Nordenfalk implies that the PA was given its own section-number, is that necessary, or could the PA be considered part of a larger section in Canon 10?)

The 2014 Pericope Adulterae Symposium: Part 2: Wasserman: The PA as an Editorial Expansion

Tommy Wasserman, who came all the way from Sweden, argued that the PA is not authentic.  Wasserman’s lecture involved a digital slideshow, which resisted his efforts to make it work, but eventually surrendered after a valiant struggle with Dr. Black’s research assistant Jacob Cerone.  Wasserman reviewed the opposing views about the PA (mentioning that SEBTS professor Andreas Köstenberger rejects the passage), briefly surveyed some external evidence, including the testimony of Didymus the Blind, and proceeded to plunge into a comparison of the PA and some other disputed passages.  His purpose for doing so was to illustrate a couple of points:  (1)  in the early witnesses, textual alterations tend to be accidental, not editorially motivated, and (2) even where scribes took liberties with the text, the scribal activity was limited to individual words or phrases; no scribal omissions involve the omission of an amount of text anywhere near the size of the PA.
Wasserman reviewed some readings which reflect editorial activity; these include the incident in the Diatessaron (≈ Luke 4:29-30) in which Jesus flies, the “fire in the Jordan” mentioned by Justin, the incident of Jesus’ bloody sweat and strengthening angel (Luke 22:43-44), Luke 9:54-56 (the “Shall we call down fire?” incident), Luke 23:34a (“Father forgive them,” etc.), the Syriac expansion of Luke 23:48 (“Woe unto us,” etc.), the Freer Logion, John 5:4’s description of the angel moving the water at Bethesda, and the expansions of Luke 6:4 and Matthew 20:28 in Codex D and some other Western witnesses.

Wasserman also mentioned that Hugh Houghton has discovered that in an early form of the Old Latin chapter-lists (capitula), there is a chapter-title for the story of the adulteress that includes the term moechatio.  This loan-word seems to imply that in the branch of the Old Latin tradition that produced this form of the capitula, the PA was inherited, in its normal location following John 7:52, from a Greek source.  This implies that the PA was present in a Greek copy of John’s Gospel in the 200's (or was it the 300’s?   It wasn't clear to me which century Wasserman meant; Houghton seems to put the origin of the Old Latin capitula in the 200's); nevertheless Wasserman argued that this only implies that the PA is an early interpolation rather than a late interpolation.

What, then, should be done with the PA?  Wasserman proposed that instead of rejecting the PA, the church should consider enlarging its effective canon, imitating the churches in Ethiopia.  Jude, he noted, used the Book of Enoch, even though it was not written by Enoch, so why shouldn’t Christians feel free to use the PA even though it was not part of the original text of the Gospel of John?  If we do not want to criticize Jude for using the Book of Enoch, then doesn’t the same principle preclude the criticism of those who use the PA? 


Some thoughts: 

Wasserman’s list of passages which display editorial activity cuts both ways:  while one could argue that it shows that scribes tended not to remove large portions of text, it also shows that scribes tended not to add large portions of text.  So, while the excision of the PA would be a special case, its insertion would be a special case too.  If Wasserman has shown anything via this comparison, it is only that the PA is a special case, a point which is granted by all sides.

Also, Wasserman’s list of proposed editorial expansions seems problematic in two ways. 

First, it included some very isolated readings.  For example, Justin’s “fire in the Jordan,” the Sinaitic Syriac’s “Woe unto us” insertion, Codex D’s Man-on-the-Sabbath episode at Luke 6:4, its extra saying after Matthew 20:28, and its comment about the size of the stone in Luke 23:53, and Codex W’s Freer Logion, all have extremely limited support among Greek manuscripts.  (One could add to this list the expansion in Luke 11:2.)  The reception of those readings is so limited that they are not really analogous to the reception of the PA; rather, they are contrary to it:  the very limited attestation of these expansions shows the opposite of what Wasserman proposed; that is, they show that editorial expansions that spread much beyond their origination-point tended to be rejected.  That’s why their Greek manuscript support is teensy-tiny. 

Second, it included some passages which may have been editorially omitted rather than added.  If the rejection of Luke 9:54-56 (regarding which Burgon mentioned the possibility of loss due to lectionary-influence), and the rejection of Luke 22:43-44, and the rejection of Luke 23:34 (regarding which see Nathan Eubank’s 2010 JBL article) are necessary for Wasserman’s case, then his case is precarious.                                
Dr. Wasserman does not recommend that the church should stop using the story of the adulteress, but I strongly suspect that his line of reasoning will bounce off those who both reject the PA and subscribe to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  That is, if one maintains that (a) the church regards Scripture as authoritative because it regards Scripture as inspired, and (b) the text that the church recognizes as inspired is the original text, not a form of the text that includes material of scribal origin, then it follows that if the PA is regarded as material of scribal origin, then it will not be regarded as authoritative Scripture.  Jude’s use of Enoch will be placed alongside Paul’s use of the writings of Epimenides as a quotation made to illustrate a point, not to endorse its source.

It was remarkable to hear, from a presenter who had already stated his view that the PA is an interpolation, the review of a substantial amount of external evidence in favor of the early date of the passage.  The evidence presented by Wasserman practically requires the existence of a manuscript of John with the PA in the early 200’s, contemporary with P66 (the earliest Greek manuscript that does not include the PA).  As Keith (I think) quipped at one point during the conference, we don’t see the fire – i.e., the manuscripts have not survived – but we see a lot of smoke – i.e., we see evidence that there were Greek manuscripts in the 200’s that included the PA.