The great majority of textual scholars don’t regard this passage as authentic. Metzger says the evidence that these verses are later additions is “overwhelming.” In order to set the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53–8:11) off from the rest of the gospel, the NIV includes dividing lines above and below the passage, uses a smaller font in italics, and includes this disclaimer: “The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53 – 8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.” The ESV double brackets the text and says, “The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11.”
7:53 Then they all went home, 8:1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 8:2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 8:3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 8:4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 8:5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 8:6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 8:7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8:8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 8:9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 8:10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 8:11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Here are thirteen points that summarize why we should not treat John 7:53–8:11 as original to the text.
- John 7:53–8:11 are missing from earliest manuscripts (P66 P75 Sinaiticus Vaticanus). Alexandrinus is defective at this point (pages are missing), but there doesn’t appear to be enough room for 7:53–8:11 to have been included.
- It’s missing from the oldest (syrc, s) and the best (syrp) Syriac manuscripts.
- It’s absent in some of the Old Latin, Old Georgian, and Armenian manuscripts.
- It’s not in the best manuscripts of the Peshitta, the Syriac translation of the Bible made in the early third century.
- It’s not referenced in the Arabic version of Tatian’s Diatessaron, which combined the four Gospels but without our passage.
- No Church Father writes a commentary on the passage until the 12th century, and then Euthymius says it’s not authentic. The earlier Fathers comment up to John 7:52 and then move directly to comment on John 8:12ff., and several Fathers (Origen, Chrysostom) commented verse by verse on the biblical book.
- It’s not found in most lectionaries.
- The first manuscript to have it is D (fifth century), a Western text-type manuscript willing to repeat many altered readings.
- Many manuscripts mark it with scholia, indicating that it’s not authentic.
- Erasmus’ number 1 manuscript omits it. He writes, “The story of the adulterous woman is not contained in the majority of Greek copies.
- One of the signs that a passage may not be original is that it appears in different locations in the New Testament (after John 7:36, 7:44, John 21:25, or Luke 21:38; 24:53). If it were authentic, it is more likely to appear in only one location.
- The style and vocabulary are different from the rest of the gospel.
- It interrupts the flow of Jesus’ discourse from chapter 7 to chapter 8.