This is a guest post by one of my former master’s students at Dallas Seminary, Kyle Hughes. This was his term paper in the course Advanced Greek Grammar, now published in the vaunted journal Novum Testamentum. Although he credits me with strong input and support, he went much further and worked far more closely with the primary sources than I would have. I am grateful for his endeavors.
Kyle R. Hughes, “The Lukan Special Material and the Tradition History of the Pericope Adulterae,” Novum Testamentum 55.3 (2013): 232–251.
The great majority of scholars hold that the so-called pericope adulterae or “PA” (the story of Jesus and the adulteress found in John 7.53–8.11) is not original to John’s Gospel. The first manuscript of John to include this story is Codex Bezae (D), which dates to the fifth century, and on internal grounds these verses interrupt the narrative of John’s Gospel and feature non-Johannine vocabulary and grammar. But if the PA is not from the hand of the Fourth Evangelist, where did it come from?
Many scholars have noted that these verses contain distinctively Lukan grammar, vocabulary, and themes, but the lack of early manuscript evidence associating PA with Luke’s Gospel has made this a dead-end. Bart D. Ehrman, however, made a groundbreaking contribution several years ago (“Jesus and the Adulteress,” New Testament Studies 34 : 24–44) by demonstrating the likelihood that PA as we have it in John’s Gospel is in fact a conflation of two earlier stories, one found in Papias and the Didascalia, and the other found in Didymus and the Gospel of the Hebrews. Erhman noted that all of the Lukan features of PA John are found in the former of these (what I’ve termed “PA East” = John 8.2-7a, 10-11).
My article builds on Ehrman’s contribution by arguing that PA East and the Lukan special material (the so-called “L” source, which is that material unique to Luke’s Gospel) have remarkable similarities in their style, form, and content. Citing distinctive parallels in each category, I conclude in my article that “in terms of style, form, and content, PA East so closely resembles the L material that PA East almost surely would have been part of an original L source” (p. 247). Given a shared Syro-Palestinian provenance, I contend that a single line of transmission from L to the Didascalia is in fact quite plausible.
From all this, I draw several conclusions. Perhaps the most interesting is that “we can affirm the essential historicity of the event recorded in PA to the extent that it is preserved in the Didascalia, since identifying the account with the L source places it into the middle of the first century” (p. 247). Much of this beloved story rings true to what else we know of Jesus’ life and would almost certainly not have been the kind of account the early church would have invented.
As for why Luke left this story out of his Gospel, there’s no reason to think that he included every story he heard, and the non-conflated PA East is a bit of a bore compared to the form that appears in Codex Bezae. Nevertheless, it continued to circulate (likely orally) in Palestine, made its way into the Didascalia, and was ultimately conflated with a similar story and inserted into John’s Gospel. Why? At this point, I’ll simply refer interested parties to the work of Chris Keith, whose proposal I find quite satisfying.
This article, which is now out in Novum Testamentum, would never have seen the light of day without the unflagging encouragement and support of Dr. Wallace, for which I am most grateful. All faults, however, are entirely my own doing! A post-print pdf for those wishing to read the entire article is located http://taarcheia.wordpress.com/academic-archives/.