Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Halloween Special: Textual Diversity in the 300s

            A few days ago, a video by Jonathan A. Sheffield appeared on YouTube entitled, “A James White Halloween Special:  The Textual Frankenstein of Modern Critical Text Theory.”   Since this 21-minute animated video has a text-critical focus, I thought it might be a good idea to offer a few observations about it.  I recommend watching the video (which can be viewed here) but for those who would rather have it summarized, here is a summary:   

After a few minutes of amusing cameos (by Bart Ehrman, Dan Wallace, and others) the stage is set for James White to go on a Halloween-themed time-traveling journey with Family Guy character Stewie, in a role comparable to Doc Brown (from Back to the Future, complete with a DeLorean time machine).  Stewie – Sheffield’s proxy throughout the video – tells White that past events have created “a mess” where the text of the New Testament is concerned. 
            Stewie points out that White, on his program Dividing Line, has tended to overlook the real problem with the modern critical text:  the weakness of Hort’s reasons for rejecting the Byzantine Text.  After the DeLorean time machine lands, Stewie summarizes Hort’s theory that Chrysostom used an essentially Byzantine text that had been created around A.D. 300 by an editor – perhaps Lucian of Antioch – who selected readings from older texts.    Hort, Stewie explains – as Hort is represented onscreen by a wizard – reduced the weight of all Byzantine manuscripts – “thousands of independent witnesses” – down to one.
            Stewie then says that Hort’s theory implies that for 1,500 years after Chrysostom, Greek, Syriac, and Latin-speaking churches throughout the Byzantine Empire used “the wrong type of text.”  White objects, stating that no bona fide textual scholar still subscribes to Hort’s theory – except maybe Dan Wallace.  Stewie replies that although White rejects Hort’s theory about the Lucianic Recension (called the “Lucan Recession” in the video), White still promotes Hort’s conclusion that the Byzantine text ought to be rejected. 
            About nine minutes into the video, Stewie explains that Hort, guided by principles of “German rationalism,” replaced the text of Antioch with a text “of unknown provenance.”  Earlier textual critics – Jerome, who produced the Latin Vulgate, Thomas of Harkel (who produced the Harklean Syriac version) and Ximenes (who oversaw the production of the Complutensian Polyglot) – used ecclesiastical texts, but Hort did not.  By preferring readings from manuscripts of unknown provenance, Hort created a “textual Frankenstein” which cannot be shown to have been used by any apostolic church before 1881. 
            Twelve minutes into the video, the subject turns to the Coherence Based Genealogical Method.  Dr. Peter Gurry confirms that there was no Lucan (i.e., Lucianic) recension.  A little later, after Stewie summarizes the concept of text-types (Alexandrian, Byzantine, Western, and Caesarean) and their importance in the argumentation of the late Bruce Metzger in his defense of the heavily Alexandrian UBS compilation, Gurry offers an important pronouncement:  the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method implies that “text-types are unhelpful for making textual decisions.” 
            This gives the impression of invalidating the basic text-critical approach that has guided the field of New Testament textual criticism for over a century, and Stewie runs with this statement; the basic premises that drove pro-Alexandrian textual criticism throughout the 1900s, Stewie says, have been a “phony baloney sandwich from the start.”
            Around 17 minutes into the video, James White is pictured on the floor with his arms curled around his legs, in a state of shock at how thoroughly the foundation of his position has been destroyed.   Then Stewie, Igor (Dr. Gurry’s assistant), and White undertake an examination of the “oldest and best manuscripts” upon which the Nestle-Aland text is based.  James White briefly takes on the persona of Gollum as he looks at Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, saying, “My precious.” 
            A little later, White objects to treating Vaticanus and Sinaiticus as if they have no provenance, stating that they were clearly used by the churches.   In response, Dr. Tommy Wasserman steps out of the background and affirms that the origins of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are “elusive.”  Stewie proceeds to contrast the elusiveness of the origins of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus with the known provenance of the text that was in use in apostolic churches in Antioch, North Africa, and Rome in the fourth century.  The Vulgate, Stewie explains, opposes the critical text promoted by James White. 
            Stewie then asks why the CBGM’s promoters and the editors of the Nestle-Aland text continue to use unprovenanced manuscripts as the primary basis for their compilations.  Onscreen, there is a picture of two individuals:  one has a hat on which “Nestle Aland” is written, sitting on a pile of money; the other one, holding money, wears a suit with a tag that says “UBS.”  Stewie then raises a question:  why do these editors continue to spread the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation even though all the premises supporting it have been falsified?  He then says, “Is it because when you move off these mixed texts, and have to resolve the differences between the Vulgate,  the Byzantium, and the Peshitta, it leads us back to the TR?”
            James White finally speaks:  “That is heresy, Stewie!”  But Stewie resumes, and proposes that since the Textus Receptus is in the public domain, the primary reason why the scholars and publishers responsible for the NA/UBS text continue to make new editions is financial.  White protests that he does not want to hear this, but Stewie continues, mentioning that without new critical editions, White could not make new Halloween costumes modeled after the latest edition of the critical text.  White screams in frustration. 

            Stewie – that is, Sheffield – thus makes five proposals:
(1)    Preference for Alexandrian readings began with Hort and his German rationalism.
(2)    Since Hort’s theory that the Byzantine Text originated as a recension is incorrect, there is no reason to adopt non-Byzantine readings.
(3)    The very use of the Alexandrian Text is problematic because we don’t know where it came from, unlike the texts used by Jerome in the late 300s, by Thomas of Harkel in the early 600s, and by Ximenes in the early 1500s.
(4)    If researchers were to compile a text on the basis of the Byzantine Text, the Vulgate, and the Peshitta, the result would be the Textus Receptus.    
(5)    The researchers involved in the production of the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Societies’ Greek compilations are primarily motivated by financial gain.

            All five of Sheffield’s proposals are wrong, and his whole approach seems like an excuse for maintaining 100% of the Textus Receptus.  Let’s consider these points one by one.


            No.  Researchers before Hort, such as Bengel, Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann, and Tischendorf (and, even earlier, Walton) saw the advantage of collecting readings from all areas where Christianity spread in its early centuries.


            No, for two reasons:  first, the Textus Receptus has hundreds of translatable differences from the Byzantine Text.  Even if we were to say, “Let’s just reconstruct the text that Chrysostom used,” this would generally yield something like the Byzantine Textform, rather than the Textus Receptus.  Second, Chrysostom’s text does not represent the only ecclesiastically utilized form of the text from the 300s.  (Nor is it a purely Byzantine text:  in Stephen Carlson’s edition of the text of Galatians (2015) he records non-Byzantine readings supported by Chrysostom in Galatians 1:3, 1:4, 1:11, 1:12, 2:6, 2:16, 3:7, 5:17, 6:13, and 6:17.  And – to give just one more example – according to UBS4, in John 20:23, Chrysostom supports ἀφέωνται where the Byzantine Text (and the TR), the Vulgate, and the Peshitta support ἀφίενται.)
            Other forms of the text were used in other places.  Eusebius’ text of Matthew, at Caesarea, for instance, was mainly Alexandrian; Augustine’s Latin text in North Africa contained many non-Byzantine readings.  The Old Latin translation(s) also contained many non-Byzantine readings.  It would be arbitrary to ignore these other ancient local texts.
            Without Hort’s Lucianic Recension in the picture, the Byzantine Text deserves to stand as an essentially independent local text, but that does not mean that its exact form is always correct, or that the effects of mixture (i.e., mixture with other local texts) and liturgically motivated adjustments cannot be detected in it. 


            No.  We do not know the specific origins of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus but this is true of practically every single parchment codex of New Testament books that has survived from before the 500s, whether Greek or Latin or Syriac or whatever.  The area in which the Alexandrian Text was used is no mystery:  it was used in Egypt, as can be seen by the consistent similarly of Vaticanus’ text with the Sahidic version.  And many non-Byzantine readings were in the manuscripts utilized by patristic authors in Chrysostom’s time and earlier, in other locales.  Granting that we do not know the names and exact locations of the individuals who perpetuated the New Testament text in Egypt, this is also true of the individuals who made Athanasius’ manuscripts, and Jerome’s manuscripts, and Augustine’s manuscripts, and Ambrose’s manuscripts, and Chrysostom’s manuscripts.  Noticing where a manuscript was used is not the same as knowing where its readings originated.     
            Sheffield asserts that ancient scholars such as Jerome and Thomas of Harkel used only “ecclesiastical” texts.  But when we examine the actual contents of the Vulgate and the Harklean Syriac, we don’t see exclusively Byzantine readings; both the Vulgate and the Harklean Syriac have many non-Byzantine readings, as anyone can verify by comparing the Byzantine Text, the Vulgate, and the Harklean Syriac side-by-side-by-side in the General Epistles.  If one grants that the Vulgate and the Harklean Syriac were based exclusively on ecclesiastical sources, it follows irresistibly that the Byzantine Text was not the only ecclesiastical source available.   


            No.  The Peshitta, as initially issued, did not contain the books of Second Peter, Second John, Third John, Jude, and Revelation, and at many points the Peshitta disagrees with the Textus Receptus (and with the Byzantine text).  The Vulgate also has many disagreements with the Textus Receptus (and with the Byzantine text).  And the Byzantine Text itself, as presented in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, has many disagreements with the Textus Receptus. 
            Certainly in many textual contests the Vulgate, the Peshitta, and the Byzantine Text all point in the same direction, uniformly disagreeing with the Alexandrian Text, as we see in Matthew 1:25 and Matthew 20:16 and Mark 15:28 and Mark 16:9-20 and Luke 22:43-44 and John 3:13, etc., etc.  But most of the minority-readings of the Textus Receptus would not be vindicated by such a compilation; in addition, the Byzantine reading is sometimes opposed by both the Vulgate and Peshitta (in Ephesians 5:9 and James 4:4, for example).  Sheffield’s picture of a world in the fourth century where there was one uniform text used in the churches is not realistic; even less realistic is the idea that this uniform ecclesiastical fourth-century text was the Textus Receptus.                


            Sheffield is not the first person to wonder about the motives of liberal scholars such as David Trobisch.  But if anyone wants to see the text of the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland compilation, it is free online, as are many other editions of the critical text.  And not only is the 2005 Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform also free online, but it is a public domain text, prefaced by a statement that “Anyone is permitted to copy and distribute this text or any portion of this text.” 

            In short:  Sheffield’s criticism of researchers who reject the theory of the Lucianic recension, and yet continue to treat the Byzantine Text as if almost all of its distinct readings are secondary, is applauded.  However, if Sheffield’s assumptions about the text of Chrysostom were valid, they would tend to favor the Byzantine Text rather than the minority-readings embedded in the Textus Receptus.  An awareness of the variety of local texts in the fourth century renders Sheffield’s whole approach, undertaken to maintain the Textus Receptus, untenable at every turn.

Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dirk Jongkind versus Reality: Vaticanus' Scribe

            Dirk Jongkind, editor of the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament, is featured in a series of video-lectures and discussions hosted by the Forum of Christian Leaders (FOCL), with titles such as   
           ● Introduction to the Greek New Testament, and                    
           ● Greek Textual Criticism, and
           ●  Studying the Manuscripts

            In the last-named lecture (uploaded in November of 2017), which is only 23 minutes long,  Jongkind made some claims about Codex Vaticanus which invite clarification.
            The New Testament text in Codex Vaticanus, Jongkind stated, was made by a scribe who almost never made significant mistakes:  “When you’re copying a text, you’re going to make blunders.  The scribe responsible for this one hardly made any.”
            This claim should be considered alongside the observations made by Greg Paulson in his 2013 thesis at the University of Edinburgh, Scribal Habits in Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Ephraemi, Bezae, and Washingtonianus in the Gospel of Matthew; on page  60 Paulson observes, “There are 97 singular readings in B in Matthew.”  [Let me break that down for newcomers:  “B” = Codex Vaticanus, and a singular reading is a reading which occurs in only a single manuscript.]    Paulson also notes that two of the readings attested exclusively by Codex Vaticanus are adopted into the Nestle-Aland compilation, in Matthew 9:3 and 26:53b.  In the Tyndale House compilation, B’s reading in 9:3 (ειπαν) is rejected in favor of ειπον, and B’s reading in 26:53b (μοι αρτι πλείω) is rejected in the Tyndale House compilation in favor of μοι αρτι πλείους.  Although I have not thoroughly consulted the Tyndale House edition to check the editors’ decisions in all 97 passages where Codex Vaticanus has a singular reading, it seems reasonable to expect that none of them were adopted.
            Most of B’s anomalous readings in Matthew are benign.  But the readings attested exclusively by Codex Vaticanus in Matthew include – just a sample here – the following:
            ● the insertion of εις την χώραν αυτων in 2:13 (repeated from 2:12)
            ● the omission of εργα at the end of 5:16
            ● the omission of μὴ δέξηται in 10:14
            ● the insertion of ουκ before αφεθήσεται (first occurrence) in 12:32
            ● the omission of και δίκαιοι in 13:17
            ● the omission of εις after αγαθου in 19:17
            ● the repetition of πληρωθη το ρηθεν δια του in 21:4
Sifting through three chapters from Mark and three chapters from Luke, more mistakes from Codex Vaticanus’ scribe are observed – and this does not include Vaticanus’ itacistic (vowel-switching) anomalies and unusual name-spelling:
In Mark chapters 6-8:
            ● 6:2:  B adds οι before πολλοι
            ● 6:17:  B* omits την γυναικα
            ● 6:20:  B omits και before συνετήρει
            ● 6:33:  B reads εγνωσαν instead of επέγνωσαν
            ● 6:38:  B transposes to εχετε αρτους
            ● 6:39:  B reads εν instead of επι
            ● 6:54:  B* omits αυτων
            ● 7:4:  B reads ραντίσωνται instead of βαπτισωνται
            ● 7:9:  B reads τηρητε instead of στήσητε
            ● 7:14:  B reads λέγει instead of ελεγεν
            ● 7:15:  B reads το κοινυν instead of ὁ δυναται κοινωσαι
            ● 7:24:  B reads ηδυνάσθη instead of ηδυνήθη
            ● 7:37:  B adds ως after πεποίηκεν
            ● 8:2:  B omits μοι
            ● 8:3:  B reads εισιν instead of ηκασιν
            ● 8:10:  B adds αυτος after εμβας
            ● 8:12:  B omits υμιν after λεγω
            ● 8:20:  B reads και λεγουσιν αυτω instead of οι δε ειπαν
            ● 8:25:  B reads εθηκεν instead of επέθηκεν
            ● 8:35:  B reads εαυτου ψυχην instead of ψυχην αυτου
            ● 8:37:  B adds ὁ before ανθρωπος
            ● 8:37:  B reads εαυτου instead of αυτου

In Luke 1-3:
            ● 1:37:  B* reads οτι ουκ αδυνατήσει twice.
            ● 2:9:  B omits φόβον μεγαν, reading, instead, σφόδρα
            ● 2:19:  B omits ταυτα after ρηματα
            ● 2:22:  B omits του after ημεραι
            ● 2:37:  B reads αφειστα instead of αφίστατο
            ● 2:47:  B omits οι ακούοντες αυτου
            ● 3:8:  B transposes to αξίους καρπους
            ● 3:17:  B reads αβέστω instead of ασβέστω
            ● 3:33:  B omits του Αμιναδαβ

            These are not exhaustive lists.  “His execution is very careful,” Jongkind said of the scribe who produced these readings.  It seems to me that while the scribe of Codex Vaticanus is certainly not the worst scribe ever (a title that must go to the scribe of Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis), his execution leaves something to be desired, and the claim that he hardly ever made blunders must be regarded as an exaggeration.

            In addition, near the end of his lecture on Studying the Manuscripts, Jongkind employed a slide which stated, “This Byzantine Text is the text printed by Erasmus and became the received text.”  That is the sort of oversimplification which Jongkind elsewhere warns his audience against making.
            There are over 1,000 significant differences between the Byzantine Text and the Textus Receptus.  Both the Byzantine Text and the Textus Receptus usually are supported by the majority of Greek manuscripts at points in Matthew-Jude where they disagree with the Nestle-Aland compilation, but the Textus Receptus has some readings which are only supported by a small number of Greek manuscripts (and in a few cases, by none).  A professor who continues to describe the Byzantine Text as if it is one and the same as the Textus Receptus, over a decade after the release of the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, might be vulnerable to the charge of intentionally confusing and misleading his audience.

Readers are invited to check the data in this post.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Book Review: To Cast the First Stone

            Last year, Princeton University Press released To Cast the First Stone, a book by Tommy Wasserman and Jennifer Knust about the story of the adulteress (John 7:53-8:11).  Tommy Wasserman (academic dean at Örebro Theological Seminary in Sweden, about 120 miles west of Stockholm) is perhaps best known to American scholars as the author of The Epistle of Jude:  Its Text and Transmission (2006), and as the General Editor of the online TC-Journal.  He is also involved in the International Greek New Testament Project.  Jennifer Knust is a professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, and is the author of Unprotected Texts.
            Back in 2014, Wasserman and Knust were among the participants in a symposium on the pericope adulterae (“section about the adulteress”) at Southeast Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina – a symposium which concluded with an affirmation by all of the participants that the pericope adulterae should be proclaimed in churches.  Instead of a Perspectives-style volume in which all symposium-participants present their views, we have, five years later, To Cast the First Stone:  The Transmission of a Gospel Story.
            This is not the text-critically focused volume that some readers might expect.  Nowhere in its 344 pages (440 if the bibliography and indices are counted) is there a straightforward list of Greek manuscripts in which John 7:53-8:11 follows John 7:52, and of Greek manuscripts which have nothing at all between John 7:52 and John 8:11, and of Greek manuscripts which move all twelve verses to another location (after John 21, or after Luke 21:38, for example), and of Greek manuscripts which have only part of the passage (either John 7:53-8:2, or John 8:3-11).  Readers must reach the table on pages 280-281 to find a presentation of how the passage is treated in uncial manuscripts.  In a book which Bart Ehrman has predicted to be “definitive,” this is a major shortcoming, especially when one notices how much of the book dwells upon minutiae.  The description of patristic evidence presented by Wasserman and Knust is likewise insufficient. (Prosper of Aquitaine?  Faustus?  These names do not appear.)
            Readers are sure to learn much, however, about a wide variety of peripheral subjects.  For example, Marcion (an infamous heretic of the second century) is thoroughly rehabilitated; Wasserman and Knust declare that he was actually “a modest rather than a radical redactor” (p. 113).  Several pages (pp. 185-191) address the question of the provenance of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus – inconclusively.  Mark 16:9-20 comes up again and again, although Wasserman and Knust avoid going into much detail about the voluminous support this passage receives.  They affirm that the passage should be viewed as “unquestionably canonical” (p. 19). 
            Other subjects covered in the first half of the book include Julius Africanus’ rejection of the book of Susanna, singular omissions in early Greek manuscripts of John, the significance of asterisks and obeloi in Origen’s Hexapla, the story of Judith, the prayer of Sarah in the book of Tobit, an episode in the “Martyrdom of Peter,” the Roman story of the rape of Lucretia, the debauchery of Claudius’ wife Messalina, and even Cleopatra.  Readers may find the first half of the book rather padded.
            Things get better after the first 200 pages.  Chapter 6 begins with an account of fourth-century references to the pericope adulterae in Latin patristic writings.  Unfortunately, little care has been taken to differentiate between quotations and allusions and possible quotations and possible allusions.  A statement by Hilary of Poitiers is called an allusion although it may be a case of coincidental uses of the same common terms.  The authors describe the statement of the monk Gnositheos, including the phrase, “if anyone is without sin,” as “a brief allusion to the adulteress” (p. 203) although the similarity to John 8:7 may be entirely coincidental. 
            Wasserman and Knust go into detail about two pieces of evidence which will doubtlessly be of interest to many readers, for these important details have not been covered in popular materials such as Metzger’s Textual Commentary:  (1)  the Greek base-text of Ambrose’s quotations of the pericope adulterae, and (2) the support given to the pericope adulterae as part of the text of the Gospel of John following 7:52 and preceding 8:12, in the Old Latin capitula, or chapter-summaries.   
            Ambrose, the authors observe, “appears either to have translated directly from the Greek or to have consulted diverse Latin witnesses or, as is more likely, both options” (p. 220).   They point out that Ambrose’s term amodo, in his quotation of John 8:11, has no support in Latin manuscripts, and should be considered “a calque, that is, a new Latin word designed to match the Greek phrase ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν (or ἀπ’ ἄρτι)”  (p. 222).
            The Latin capitulaa subject I have visited previously – were collected, compared, and published by Donatien De Bruyne in 1914.  Wasserman and Knust present De Bruyne’s data showing that the Latin capitula exist in multiple forms that in one way or another mention the account of the adulteress.  Two of these forms of the capitula are especially interesting:  “Form Cy” (“Cy” stands for Cyprian) was assigned by De Bruyne to the time of Cyprian or shortly thereafter, that is, to the mid-200s.  It has the phrase ub adulteram dimisit at the beginning of a chapter-summary, stating that after Jesus dismissed the adulteress, He testified that He is the light of the world, speaking at the treasury in the temple, etc.  Wasserman and Knust also point out that another form, “Form I,” uses the Greek loanword moechatione; this may confirm that the Old Latin text(s) of the pericope adulterae was translated from Greek.           
            Somewhat surprisingly – considering that Wasserman and Knust repeatedly affirm their belief that the pericope adulterae is not original – the authors grant that if De Bruyne is correct in his dating of the Old Latin capitula forms, and also correct in his view that ub adulteram dimisit is not an interpolation (and Wasserman and Knust present nothing to support any other view), then “the pericope adulterae was present in John in a Latin context by the third century” (p. 263).  This admission – basically conceding that the Old Latin capitula constitute plausible evidence that the story of the adulteress was in the Greek text of John from which Latin translations were made in the 100s (“by the third century”) – renders the earliest evidence for the inclusion of the passage practically contemporary with the earliest manuscript-evidence for its non-inclusion.  (I see no way to reconcile this with the authors’ statement on page 268 that “It seems likely that the Johannine pericope adulterae was interpolated in the early third century.”)
            Other evidence is also covered:  the treatment of John 7:53-8:11 in Codex Bezae and its marginalia, Jerome’s reference to the inclusion of the story of the adulteress in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, the assignment of a chapter-heading to the passage in some medieval manuscripts, the support for the pericope adulterae in most Old Latin manuscripts, and corrections of some misinformation that has been spread about the passage.   Regarding this last subject, some readers may be shocked by the mercifully brief critique the authors supply as they test the accuracy of a paragraph from Metzger’s Textual Commentary on page 251.  For those who have trusted D. A. Carson’s claim that “All the early church fathers omit this narrative,” or Steven Cole’s claim that no early versions include the story of the adulteress, the data provided by Wasserman and Knust should be illuminating, the way being struck with a cattle prod is illuminating.     
            Some readers may be exasperated by the amount of information in this book that does not pertain directly to the text of the story about the adulteress; it pertains instead to what may be called “ancient Christian book culture.”  The tour of ecclesiastical treatment of the New Testament text is far too scenic.  Yet this may be advantageous to readers who might appreciate being told things such as the following:
            Codex Bezae might have been copied from a third-century bilingual exemplar (p. 236).
            ● Eighteen papyri manuscripts from the 100s and 200s with text from the Gospel of John have been found, but only two of them (P66 and P75) contain John 7:52 and 8:12. (p. 67)
            ● “In the case of the Gospel of John, a circle of friends added a series of postresurrection appearances to the end of the Gospel.” (p. 91, footnote, referring to John 21.)
            This last data-nugget may serve as a sort of model for the authors’ solution to the question, “What should be done with the story about the adulteress, and why?”.   It would have seemed heavy-handed if they had said, “The passage is not original, but it should be retained because the Council of Trent said so,” or, “The passage is not original, but it should be retained because it has been declared “inspired, authentic, canonical Scripture” by the Orthodox Church.”  Instead, Wasserman and Knust affirm that the pericope adulterae is not original, but offer a more nuanced basis for an argument for its inclusion:  on balance, ancient Christian book culture affirmed the passage and proclaimed its message.  Can a convincing case be made that John did not write the pericope adulterae as part of the Gospel of John?  Yes, say Wasserman and Knust – but similarly they are convinced that John, anticipating his death, did not write the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John; the embrace of the supplemented text in ancient Christian book culture may be considered a better guide, when it comes to defining the canonical text, than strict matters of authorship.

            Some readers (myself included) may be disappointed that Wasserman and Knust did not spend more time engaging Maurice Robinson’s theory (presented at the 2014 symposium) that the pericope adulterae is an original segment of the Gospel of John which fell out of the text in an early influential transmission-stream.   Robinson proposed that in an early lection-cycle, the annual reading for Pentecost was John 7:37-52 with 8:12 attached (as it is in the Byzantine lectionary).  An early copyist, either deliberately adjusting the text to make the lector’s job easier, or accidentally misinterpreting marginalia that told the lector to skip ahead to 8:12, omitted 7:53-8:11.  Thus, the theory goes, the pericope adulterae was dropped from the text – not due to anyone’s desire to suppress it, but as a conformation of the form of the text used in a rudimentary lection-cycle. 
            Wasserman and Knust attempt to refute Robinson’s theory by citing the Typikon of the Great Church – a ninth-century liturgical book in which, among other things, Gospels-segments are arranged for each day of the year.  The authors grant that in this source, the Gospels-segment for Pentecost was indeed John 7:37-52 with 8:12 attached.  They also observe that in this Pentecost-lection, there are no instructions to skip from the main segment (John 7:37-52) to the closing segment (8:12), although such skip-from-here-to-there instructions appear for other lections which consist of more than one segment of text.  “This evidence,” Wasserman and Knust state on page 298, “suggests to us that the Johannine pericope adulterae was simply missing from copies available in Constantinople when the Pentecost lection was assigned,” and (p. 299) “It seems fairly certain that the pericope adulterae did not enter Byzantine copies of John until the close of the fourth century, or even later.” 
            Explanations for the Typikon’s non-use of skip-from-here-to-there instructions for the Pentecost lection can easily be imagined, but the thing to see is that the authors’ proposal that the pericope adulterae was not in the text at Constantinople when the Pentecost lection was assigned does not really touch Robinson’s model, in which the basic Byzantine lection-cycle echoes an earlier lection-cycle in which the loss of the pericope adulterae had already occurred.    
            Wasserman and Knust do not adequate address Robinson’s point that it is difficult to picture a Byzantine scribe deciding to insert the pericope adulterae within the lection for Pentecost, when simpler options existed, such as putting it at John 7:36 (so as to immediately precede the Pentecost lection).  They simply acknowledge, “This aspect of Robinson’s argument is convincing.”  So how do they explain the presence of the pericope adulterae within the Pentecost lection in over 1,400 manuscripts of John?  Similarly they offer no explanation for the first sentence of the pericope adulterae:   as Robinson asked in 2014, what kind of freestanding story begins with “Then everyone went home.”???
            A more satisfying explanation is given for the migration of the pericope adulterae to a place after Luke 21:38 in family-13 manuscripts (et al).  As Chris Keith has already shown, the insertion of the pericope adulterae to follow Luke 21:38 is an effect of treating the passage like a lection; the movement to this location made the lector’s job easier; the lector could thus find the lection for Oct. 8 (the Feast of Pelagia) near the lection for Oct. 7 (the Feast of Sergius and Bacchus).  Everything you have read or heard to the effect that the pericope adulterae is shown to be a “floating anecdote” by its appearance after Luke 21:38 in family-13 manuscripts can be safely ignored.

            A few shortcomings of To Cast the First Stone may be covered briefly:
            ● There is no variant-by-variant treatment of the text of the pericope adulterae.  An opportunity has thus been missed to show readers the differences in the forms in which the pericope adulterae appears in various sets of witnesses.  The interesting distinctive readings in the passage in the family-1 manuscripts are never given a spotlight.  In a book that gives two full pages to the Lothair Crystal, this was neglectful. 
            ● Asterisks were discussed briefly but the authors seem to have given up any attempt to analyze their use by scribes producing Gospel-manuscripts:  “The precise meaning of asteriskoi in Byzantine Gospel manuscripts remains opaque,” they acknowledge on page 128.  But what would have been a better occasion to shine a strong light upon copyists’ use of asterisks and other marks than when investigating the pericope adulterae?
            ● Only slight attention is given to the pericope adulterae in the Armenian version; no attention is given to the Georgian version.  No explanation is offered for the treatment of the pericope adulterae in a small group of Georgian copies in which the passage appears after John 7:44.  This is unfortunate, inasmuch as the Christian Standard Bible has a footnote which mentions this dislocation; CSB-readers are bound to think (incorrectly) that the footnote describes Greek manuscripts.             
            ● Wasserman and Knust treat Jerome’s affirmation (in Against the Pelagians 2:17) that the story of the adulteress is found in many copies, both Greek and Latin, with unwarranted skepticism:   “The existence of many copies of John “in both Greek and Latin” with the pericope adulterae,” they write on p. 236, “though presupposed by Jerome, cannot easily be confirmed.”  This is certainly true once one no longer considers a statement (not a presupposition but an assertion) from the supreme scholar of his age to be confirmation.  It seems bold – not in a good way – to look back 1,600 years, squint, and say that Jerome’s claim “may have been an exaggeration.” 
            ● Too little attention is given to Codex Macedonianus; unless readers consults a detail in the footnote on pages 280-281, below the two-page table, they could get a false impression from the table.  Codex Ebnerianus should have been featured, and more attention should have been given to the Palestinian Syriac lectionary’s dislocation of John 8:3-11 to the end of the Gospel.  Also, readers could have benefited from some acknowledgement that dozens of the manuscripts in which the pericope adulterae does not appear are copies of the same medieval commentary, and thus boil down to a single relatively late source.
            ● Codex Fuldensis is erroneously assigned to 569 on page 230; the correct date (546) is stated in a footnote on page 4.  Also, it is difficult to explain the description of Codex Fuldensis as “a fifth-century Latin Gospel harmony” on page 260.
            ● No detailed analysis of the lacuna in Codex Alexandrinus was provided; this would have been helpful.
            ● Annotations found in 039 and in minuscules 34, 135, 1187, 1282, and 1424 should have been included in the discussion of critical notes on pages 279ff.
            ● The description of GA 1333’s secondary inclusion of John 8:3-11 between Luke and John is insufficient.
            ● Didymus the Blind stated in his commentary on Ecclesiastes that there had been found, “in certain Gospels” – ἔν τισιν εὐαγγελίοις – an account in which Jesus says, “Whoever has not sinned, let him take up a stone and cast it” regarding a woman the Jews had accused of sin.  The authors’ case for their view that Didymus was referring to some extra-canonical composition as “Gospels,” rather than to copies containing Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, is not solid at all. 
            ● No foundation is given for the recurring claim that Eusebius “omitted the passage” (see p. 11, p. 23, 176ff. 181, 284) when preparing his Canon-tables.  However reasonable it may be to assume that Eusebius preferred a form of John that did not have the passage, Section 86 looks the same in the Eusebian Canons with or without the pericope adulterae.  
            ● The index is somewhat spotty.

            In closing:  Wasserman and Knust have provided a fascinating and valuable portrait of the ancient Christian book culture in which John 7:53-8:11 was accepted as a canonical part of the Gospel of John.  Their proposal that a non-original reading – one which, they argue, was not part of the text of the Gospel of John until a century after John’s death – should be considered canonical because of that ecclesiastical acceptance invites some problems.  For instance, if widespread ecclesiastical acceptance can veto text-critical analysis, why not simplify the text-critical enterprise by accepting all readings upon which the Vulgate, the Peshitta, and the Byzantine Text agree?  Or, even more simply, if ecclesiastical acceptance is decisive, why not accept, as a matter of course, all readings in the Byzantine Text which are supported by over 85% of the extant manuscripts?  
             To Cast the First Stone contains a lot of helpful data; nevertheless, important aspects of the evidence have been overlooked.  This is far from what a definitive book about the story of the adulteress ought to be. 

To Cast the First Stone:  The Transmission of a Gospel Story is Copyright © 2019 by Princeton University Press. 

P.S. I have written a book, A Fresh Analysis of John 7:53-8:11, maintaining that the pericope adulterae was originally part of the Gospel of John.  It is available as an e-book on Amazon.