Credo House, a ministry based in Oklahoma, has developed a course on New Testament textual criticism taught by Dr. Dan Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary. When this project was funded on Kickstarter, it was described by Credo House’s executive director, Tim Kimberley, as “One of the most important courses that you can ever go through.”
Viewers of the Credo Course session about John 7:53-8:11 should thus expect an accurate presentation of the evidence. Unfortunately that is not what they get.
I am not going to address today the question about whether or not John
7:53-8:11 is an original part of the Gospel of
John. (I believe that it is – and I wrote a book explaining why.) Here, I am only addressing the question, Are Daniel Wallace and Credo House spreading
false claims about John 7:53-8:11? The answer is unquestionably YES.
Daniel Wallace has repeatedly described John 7:53-8:11 as his “Favorite passage that’s not in the Bible,” and he does so again in the Credo Course lecture. He also states what he would like to do with these 12 verses: “I really think the passage needs to be relegated to the footnotes.”
So would I, if my decision were guided by one-sided, incomplete, error-filled presentations such as the one that Wallace gives in the Credo Course. Let’s look at three claims that Wallace makes about the evidence.
|What the Credo course claims.
(1) Wallace says that only three uncial manuscripts have the passage. Wallace says, “For the first 800 years of the church, we’ve got this story only represented in a handful of manuscripts – three, to date, have it. Three majuscule manuscripts. These are not just eighth-century; I mean, D is fifth, but K and Gamma are later. So, you have three majuscule manuscripts, out of the 322 that we have, that actually have this passage. That’s it.”
Was this misrepresentation of the evidence the result of spontaneously going off-script? No: the same impression is given in the Credo Course by a graphic.
Out of the 322 majuscule manuscripts that we have, most of them do not contain the Gospel of John. The base-line that Wallace used for his statement is problematic; it is somewhat like saying, “Out of seven billion people, the vast majority did not vote for the current president of
course not, because most people are not citizens of Kenya. Likewise, most uncial manuscripts could not
contain John 7:53-8:11, because they
do not contain the Gospel of John.
|One example: Codex M.
But there is more than a methodological problem here. Wallace is making a false claim. Out of the majuscule (i.e., uncial) manuscripts of John that include text from John 7 and 8, more than three include text from John 7:53-8:11; for example:
Codex G (011, Seidelianus)
Codex H (013, Seidelianus II/Wolfii B)
Codex M (021, Campianus)
Codex Ω (045, Codex Athous Dionysiou)
Codex E (07, Basiliensis)
Codex F (09, Boreelianus Rheno-Tajectinus)
Codex S (028, Guelpherbytanus B)
Codex U (030, Nanianus)
Codex Π (041, Petropolitanus), and
047 (housed at
In addition, the copyists of Codex L (019, 700’s) and Codex Δ (037, 800’s), though they did not include the story of the adulteress, left large blank spaces between John 7:52 and 8:12, signifying their awareness of the absent passage.
Wallace’s description of the evidence at this point is simply wrong. Very wrong. Obviously wrong.
(2) Wallace claims that the Old Latin version did not include the story of the adulteress. Adopting the vague style of Bruce Metzger, Wallace says, “The earliest and the best versions lack it” before he gets a little more specific and says, “When the Syriac and the Coptic and the Latin versions, along those lines, don’t have it, when they were begun in the second and third centuries, their manuscripts that they used didn’t have it. That becomes a very important point.”
When he thus refers to the Syriac texts traceable to the second and third centuries, he’s referring to a Syriac version that is extant in just two Syriac Gospels-manuscripts. And it is no surprise that the Coptic version agrees with the Alexandrian Text; they both reflect the text from the same area. But when Wallace says that the Latin versions did not have the story about the adulteress, we have a problem. A minority of Old Latin witnesses do not have it, but most of them do. Jonathan Clark Borland researched the Old Latin evidence in detail, and found that the story of the adulteress is in not just one, but three Old Latin transmission-lines.
The Old Latin copies Codex Veronensis, Codex Palatinus, Codex Bezae (that is, d, the Latin portion of the codex), Codex Colbertinus, Codex Corbeiensis, and Codex Sarzanensis support the inclusion of the passage. So does the Vulgate. It is thus misleading for Wallace to tell his listeners that the “the Latin versions don’t have it.”
In addition, the Latin chapter-summaries of the Gospel of John, the story of the adulteress is included, and the summary has over a dozen different forms, including one which specialist Hugh Houghton has assigned to the 200’s. Plus, Jerome (c. 400) mentioned that the story of the adulteress was found in many copies, both Greek and Latin – important testimony that somehow eluded the
(3) Wallace says that no patristic writers mention the story of the adulteress until after the year 1000. His exact words: “Not until the eleven-hundreds do you get somebody to, who takes any time to really comment on this text.” And: “You don’t see it in the early versions; you don’t see it in the early fathers; you don’t see it in any fathers of the first millennium.”
It appears that Wallace’ reliance upon Metzger’s obsolete Textual Commentary has led him astray. No patristic mention of the story of the adulteress until 1000??? I suppose that is true except for the presence of the story in the Greek manuscript mentioned in the Church History of Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor, and the allusion to it by Greek-writer Didymus the Blind, and the utilizations of the passage by Pacian of Barcelona, Apostolic Constitutions, Ambrose of Milan (who cites it repeatedly), Ambrosiaster, Jerome, Rufinus, Augustine, Faustus (a false teacher whose use of the passage is mentioned by Augustine), Sedulius, Peter Chrysologus, Leo the Great, the source-document of Codex Fuldensis, Prosper of Aquitaine, Quovultdeus of Carthage, Gelasius, Apologia David (possibly by Ambrose), Gregory the Great, and Cassiodorus.
In addition, unknown authors of notes in Codex Λ and in minuscules 20, 262, and 1282 state that the entire passage is in ancient copies; another note in minuscules 135 and 301 says that the passage is found in ancient copies. A note in minuscule 34 affirms the same thing.
You can believe Dan Wallace about the patristic evidence, or you can believe the evidence. But not both.
There are several other things that Wallace says in the Credo Course about the story of the adulteress that are misleading and wrong. But these three should certainly be enough to convince whoever is running Credo House that they need to stop circulating this lecture if they want to be regarded as a reliable source of information.
However, just in case more evidence to that effect is needed, I do not intend to stop here. So far, I have focused mainly on false claims that were presented within the first eight minutes of a half-hour lecture. We still have twenty-two inaccuracy-enhanced minutes to go!
To be continued.