Communion Presbyterian Church ARP
Captured (Jesus meets the "adulteress" woman)
The Apostles were these select group of men who wrote (or dictated) the Scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Part of our Christian tradition is research and discovery of God’s truth, wherever it may be: Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. This means that a thorough examination of the scriptures is part of our tradition. Thankfully, the Word of God has been well preserved over the millenniums. Our comparative research has helped us to determine the core of the Biblical message (and indeed, the actual words first penned by the apostles and prophet).
However, as research proceeds, sometimes a text presents a problem – especially when comparing several manuscripts side by side. Through these comparisons, and while placing a priority on older texts, several spots within the NT have revealed the inclusion of additional material. This material, which most often reflects a misspelling, or a scribal note or commentary which has found its way into the text, can be identified by cross referencing several manuscripts.
On rare occasions, an entire passage of material sometimes finds its way into a family of manuscripts (Mark 16 and John 8 are primary examples). These additions rightfully produce scholarly debates and theories about the text.
Our passage today is such a text, John 8:1 – 11. Should it be a part of the NT canon? If it shouldn’t, why preach it? If it should, where did it come from?
Some of this discussion is concluded here – as usual, a bit more precisely in the written form than in the spoken.
INTRO – We are in our current series from the Gospel of John entitled, “Meeting the Savior,” and today, our selected passage leaves us asking the question – is this REALLY the Savior we are meeting? Or -- are we meeting someone else altogether? Someone who is different than the real Jesus? A man that we don’t find in the Bible, but a Savior we wish we could still have?
The reason why I ask these questions is because our selected passage is a controversial passage. It happens to be VERY well known, and greatly loved passage, almost always included in the story of Jesus when depicted in film -- but a passage of scripture that is highly suspect!
We are now posting our sermons on a website called SermonCloud. It is not the largest sermon site, however of the nearly 12,000 sermons posted there, no one has posted a sermon on this section of John 8, We’ll be the first – theoretically.
Here’s the deal… I hold the office of pastor, which means I am commissioned to prophetically proclaim God’s truth to His people. In so doing, I purposely save more technical instruction, that which is best reserved for a classroom setting for our Sunday School time. However today, we have our
So let me load upfront just a cursory sketch of why our passage today is a problem – and start off with an illustration.
The new NG has an article about the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. A 17 mile underground tunnel has been built because of a theory related to ALL matter. 45 years ago, a British physicist came up with a theory of how everything works – we just need to probe the realm of the “micro-cosmic.” If we can take sub-atomic particles and smash them together and watch what happens, we’ll hopefully uncover some missing particles that are at the very core of our existence.
Now, let’s switch to Biblical scholarship. Over the millenniums, scholars have been trying to get to the core of the original words of Scripture. And just as there are all kinds of particles in our universe that have been discovered = electrons, protons, gluons, and on-and-on-and-ons; there are also tens of thousands of manuscripts, and fragments of Scripture. But do these help us to find the core?
When speaking just of the NT, we have 24,000 ancient & antique copies, written in all kinds of languages and from all parts of the ancient world – the oldest of which are 3 separate fragments dated prior 70AD. Now certainly THESE must contain the historic core first penned by the apostles?
That’s really close; but probably not originals! Some interesting theories exist about the core of the NT! Some scholars believe in the existence of a text that we do not possess, and no one has ever seen, called Q. Why do the scholars believe in such a thing? Because it helps them to make sense of all the material they know exists – It’s just like the elusive Higgs particle that physicists are trying to find – it seems that it must exist for everything to work as it does!
It’s a theory; but like all theories, it may be helpful for making sense of things, it may assist them to advance other theories – but in the end, if you don’t have it and no ones ever seen it -- it’s still a theory! (THAT IS, unless you are a true convert, and it’s your life’s goal to argue and defend the theory against all opposition.)
And here we dial into the first 11 verses of John 8. Some scholars say it does not belong in the Bible, that it is no where reflected in the earliest manuscripts, and that no early church father mentions it! Other scholars say that there is unique evidence for why today’s passage should be included in John’s Gospel, and that the incident does in fact, reflect an important event in the life of Jesus that was preserved by the Christian community, and that hostile forces wanted the passage removed because of the profound implications of the passage.
So there is intrigue and suspense related to our passage this morning – What do I think about it? I think I’m going to post a bunch of research on our website and you can explore for yourself! However, I do like the theory that this story comes from the followers of John. This story was a part of their conversation with the Apostle, and they are the ones who helped him to pen his Gospel. The Gospels were copied and copied – some strains of the copy lost this portion – however, knowledge of the story was preserved – but in none of the oldest manuscripts that we possess – AT PRESENT.
Knowledge of story remain (re-inserted in later copies)
Did you know that there are very sad stories of how monks would burn old copies of manuscripts just to start fires on cold days – why did they do this? Because they had newer copies! The old ones were falling apart, so why keep them? AHHH!
And yet, with all the manuscript support that we do possess, and continue to find on a regular basis, we can be assured that the true core of the Doctrines of the Bible are preserved. The original writings were penned by the original authors as the infallible Word of God, however, over time, small changes and variations in the copies can be identified primarily because we HAVE SO MANY COPIES!! ((Our Gospel reading this morning reflects material added to clarify the story by a scribe; and the newer translations will completely footnote this kind of addition – there are several passages like this in the NT). – but there is no manuscript that challenges or changes the core of Christian doctrines.
As Christians, we believe in a perfect version of the Bible, but we know that we don’t have a perfect copy. What we DO have is such a reliable reflection of what was originally written that we DO say that OUR SCRIPTURES ARE the Word of God and they faithfully speak with the Spirit’s conviction as the sole authority for Christ’s Church. That was 2.1/4 pages of front loading…, go to the SermonCloud site and download the other materials I will post there!
Let’s pick up our context with Nicodemus defending Jesus before his fellow Pharisees. Nicodemus cites canon law, John "Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?"
The Pharisees response to this is to slander Nicodemus and accuse him of being ignorant of the scriptures, with a “Don’t lecture us attitude.”
Now the phrase, “They each went to his own house” is a phrase usually associated with this OT concept: “The community settled upon an issue and they had made the corporate decision to accept it.” The problem is that we don’t read about upon what they settled! It appears from John 8, that they had settled as a group on a strategy on how they might test Jesus in a legal debate, and then use the lawyer’s tool to bring some type of charge against him.
John 8:1 but Jesus went to the
Notice from verse 2 that it was “DAWN -- as the sun was rising” that Jesus came to the temple courts to hold class for all who wanted to listen. He is sitting down and instructing. Evidently, we are missing the ball here in being a Biblical church because I should be sitting right now – maybe our midweek studies are the preferred teaching venue (cuz I sit!)…
3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
Now let’s start right out and say how sick and twisted this attempt to capture Jesus really is. I don’t know if you are one of the folks who sort of feels sorry for the worm who gets used to catch fish; but this is definitely a despicable lure the Pharisees use to in order to trap someone.
Somehow, and I really wonder how, they knew about this simple and foolish girl, and how they might capture her! This girl, who to them represented a scourge upon the land, and was suitable for framing.
So they set a trap for her with an unknown, unmentioned accomplice, so they can barge into, and interrupt a teaching time of Jesus, to force an issue: Hey buddy, you do a lot of teaching, but let’s see how serious you are about what you teach!
The Scribes and Pharisees bring in this captured woman, and they cite the Law of Moses and the penalty required. Now, there are hundreds of verses discussing what should happen to law breakers in the Bible. There is no shortage of the phrase, “put to death” in the law of Moses. The Scribes and Pharisees are not mis-applying the law here. Just read Dt 22, and note infidelity of every kind and its appropriate punishment!
However, there are ALSO multiple passages for due process in the Law of Moses too. A proper investigation of all allegations was also required. Bringing this woman to the temple courts, and calling Jesus a “Teacher” in order to declare the proper application of the law actually provides for this woman all the legal protection required in the Law.
However, the real motive for this Kangaroo court is revealed in vs. 6: 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.
This whole fiasco, the entrapment of this woman was not about their value to uphold purity; but to prepare a case against Jesus. To accuse Jesus of not standing in the tradition of Moses. Apparently his teachings in the temple seemed to challenge the authority of the religious class and brought hope and personal confidence to ordinary people – making them less dependent upon the authority of the religious leaders.
BUT, If Jesus advocated a decision not keeping with the Scribes and Pharisees, these men could excommunicate him from the temple courts and brand him a heretic. So this was always about capturing Jesus – and Jesus knows it!
end of 6 and beginning of 7 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him,
So Jesus takes some time to collect his thoughts, and as he does, he writes something in the dirt. Why is he pushing dirt around? Why this clue from the Gospel of John? Know one knows for sure! He could have been writing some Hebrew letters, some Scripture reference. Maybe he was alluding to the Mosaic practice for determining a woman’s fidelity making her drink a cocktail of water and dirt – mentioned in Numbers 5.
I think that Jesus is just listening! The Scribes and Pharisees must have been quoting Scripture after scripture on what to do with this woman, case law after case law. AND After hearing their riot act, and how they thought the law of Moses should be properly executed, Jesus makes ready to render his verdict. “ALL RISE…”
7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.
Here’s the RevK translation: “The one who is innocent among you may be the first to cast a stone.” Jesus sees through their plot, and what they are doing with this woman and with this whole set up, and with one sentence makes everyone realize that they are incredibly guilty. No one involved in this ruse would be guiltless if they started casting stones.
Maybe Jesus wrote in the dirt the passage on our worship folder… Who IS innocent here guys? Are you Scribes and Pharisees actually guilty of fabricating the charges? You sure know how to quote Moses, but are you listening to what you’re saying? Your application of the law isn’t capturing anyone – it’s really condemning YOU!
Jesus handed down a verdict – let the just sentence upon this woman be carried out by the ones who can justly apply it ––Jesus gives full permission. But no one has the power to throw stones. The rocks fall to the ground without force, as we should all fall to the ground for our own personal sins; ESPECIALLY FOR THE SIN of somehow feeling REALLY HOLY when we are able to accuse and judge others for their sins!
Who was supposed to be captured on this day? At first I think it’s an adulterer, then I think it’s supposed to be Jesus, but now I can clearly see that the ones captured that day à the Accusers! Somehow THIS point hits home and is an unintended consequence of Meeting the Savior!
In verse 9, there is an additional scribal addition preserved by the KJV. Yes, this suspect passage even has an additional scribal insertion – that the men were convicted in their conscience… Just some scribe helping out with some commentary – and he was right…
I love how verse 9 has a slight connection to , when they all went to their houses. Here they leave this corporate gathering, because an item of public concern had been settled, it was agreed to move on. And it is at this point that Jesus took up some heavy stones and began throwing them at the adulterous woman… Right? He was the sinless one, He had the right to throw stones at everyone he met!
If this woman was rightly accused of the crime, she deserved death! Did she know that Jesus had the right to condemn and execute her? Did she realize that Jesus had saved her by his advocacy? Would this kind of divine intervention transform her life? Jesus expected that it would… because he will tell her in a few moments: sin no more. Recognize what sin leads to – to death. Recognize what grace leads to – to new life, to a new living that glorifies God and brings life to many!
Now, all of what I’ve just said about the woman apply to us, doesn’t it?! Do we realize that we deserve death before the court of God’s law? Do we know that Jesus has the right to condemn and execute us? Do we realize that it is actually Jesus who saves us by his advocacy? Will this kind of divine intervention transform our life? Jesus expects that it will… because he tells us to sin no more. Recognize what sin leads to – to death. Recognize what grace leads to – to new life, to a new living that glorifies God and brings life to many!
So, once again, Jesus is left alone with a woman!
Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."]
The word condemn in vs. 10 is the same word that the NT says of God condemning the world in the day of Noah and also Sodom and Gomorrah – it is also the same word we read in Romans 8 that says that Jesus condemned sin – That IS the kind of condemnation that God will have against all who are disobedient!
But earlier in John we are read that … God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.Clearly this woman is under condemnation – And Jesus is reminding her of a just sentence = condemnation! And although we do not hear Jesus declaring that her sins are forgiven, Christ is being gracious with her. We don’t hear the words forgiveness, but he is setting her free, which is the definition of forgiveness. And in her freedom, the Lord charges her with the command of a captive released, “Go, and sin no more.”
It is not that Jesus does not care about adultery, or thinks that entrapment defense mitigates her sin – his closing argument is the verdict for everyone who has been given new freedom, must live with this confession: Lord, there is no one! There is no one else in heaven or on earth who holds my destiny but YOU! And only you can grant me the grace and freedom that can empower my life to live in a way that honors you.
What is the result of this woman Meeting the Savior? She is literally saved from certain death by Jesus’ intervention. Jesus’ advocacy silences all her accusers. Jesus releases her on her own recognizance with this sentence; "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."]
Are we happy with this kind of application of the law? Doesn’t Jesus care about the standards of righteousness? Is this really a WWJD passage?
If you have met the savior, then this passage speaks to you. We know that Jesus could condemn us for every thought, word, and deed, and yet because of the Gospel, he has taken upon himself our just condemnation, so that he can set us free for holy living – that’s a pretty controversial teaching!! DO YOU THINK SOMEONE MAY HAVE TAKEN THAT OUT OF THE STORY, ONLY TO HAVE THE HS preserve it and have it re-entered into the text?? – it’s what the scriptures teach, and why this passage, even though suspicious, has been preserved.
Abe Lincoln never spoke derisively about those living in the south during the Civil War. One woman confronted him on it and told him, “They are our enemies, we must destroy our enemies.” Abe Lincoln’s reply was, “If I can make them my friends, have I not then destroyed my enemy.”
Jesus does not make us his friend by ignoring our problem of sin; but he makes us a friend in that his innocence can silence the accusers! He reminds us of what we lack, but he provides us the freedom to pursue it!
In this case, Jesus only speaks the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and those listening decide for themselves where they will stand – Jesus is left standing alone with the person everyone thought was the enemy; but he destroyed her with Gospel truths – may we be destroyed in the same way!
KM –– (note: OT law readings including, Deut. 22: Is all about who should be stoned for adultery…) (Num. 5:11-31 = is the rite of the jealous husband and the priests duty to intervene)n especially the mixing the dirt of earth into a concoction for the accused woman…
they say literally, "caught adulterizing".
KM – who really gets captured on this day? An adulterous woman? Jesus? The Pharisees? Us – and our perception of how we ought to be a community that represents Jesus Christ?KM – Jesus had every right to throw rocks at sinners!
KM – Calvin states that Jesus did not want to become the civil magistrate here
KM – they call him a teacher, and that is what he does – he is not a judge!! He teaches everyone who meets him what the community of Christ will look like, how they will go forward, what their standards will be, what will be serious, and who will be Lord
KM – the trap was how would Jesus apply the Law of moses? Obviously, the other party in the adultery charge is not present. A proper trial would require him to be a part of the proceedings. But Jesus won’t preside over a kangaroo court.
KM – moses brought us law, Jesus brought mercy and grace… ESV John For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
They went (eporeuthêsan). Km = an OT allusion describing the Israelite community settling on an issue – the leadership of Israel had heard a case about Jesus and concluded that he did not fit within their community – so the die had been cast for Jesus – they were officially opposed to him now!
ESV John 8:2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.Km= the elders of
ESV John 8:5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?"Km= We know what Moses would have done, and some of the writings of the Talmud say she should hang – but what do you say? How should we deal with an adulterer?
ESV John 8:6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
ESV John 8:7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her."Km = they sure could have badgered Jesus with passage after passage regarding the inappropriate application of marriage relations – passage after passage we could read here in church, but I would not want to with our youngest members being present. As they go on and on pressing Jesus for some kind of judgment, he has stooped over to write something in the dirt – It sort of was a dirty situation, and the scribes and Pharisees had indeed stooped pretty low to bring in a woman whom they obviously entrapped in someway, and was for them an expendable pawn, or useless worm in their attempts to catch a big fish.
The question of the ages: What was Jesus writing? How about Dt. 29:18-20 = did Jesus write this in the dust? Maybe Jesus pushing the dirt around was a reminder of how the law spoke to how to test a woman of her infidelity – by a priest creating a cocktail drink that included the dirt of the temple area that would reveal her guilt or innocence…
Finally, Jesus reply was this: The one person who does not sin among you can be the first to cast a stone.
ESV John 8:8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.ESV John 8:9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.Km = I think this passage has connection to . A decision had been made for the community, and it was settled – they had to live with Jesus’ decision – and it seems they did so reluctantly but the older ones (the presbuteros) leave first with the younger ones also submitting.In an interesting note about a disputed passage, the NKJ includes more commentary not included in even older, reliable manuscripts, about the people being convicted in their conscience. This is in part why our gospel reading from John 5 was read, there have been copyist insertions into the margin of some texts – like that of an angel stirring the water so that people who jumped into the pool first would be healed – little notes like that found there way into some manuscripts, but are not found in older ones. How does that impact our view of the scriptures we have today? Well to be sure the Christian enterprise is to be scholarly and to research and to get to the TRUTH of what the Apostles’ wrote.Is the Bible the word of God? Yes it is!Has human commentary found its way into the text? In some spots it has, but mostly marginal notes that do nothing to invent new theology or to contradict the core teaching of the Christian faith!Can we trust the copies of the Bible we have today? Absolutely, and even the ones that have additional notes because the scriptures faithfully speak to the Church about our redeeming God and savior – it speaks the truth about our human condition, and provides the truth of how we can be sanctified and restored by the truth – Thy word is truth!Does that mean that someday we might find more scriptures not already in our Bible? I can’t say for sure. However, I do know that all the supposed “lost gospels” and numerous pseudographical writings that exist today (which there are legion) do not reflect the grace and truth that we find in the true scriptures. The spirit of truth leads us into His truth through the words of God that resonate with God’s people – and a primary reason as to why this section of John is included in the scriptures to this day.
KM- had the whispering of Jesus’ mother Mary had grown to a crowd ready to stone her for her pregnant condition – what would have been the implications of that??
Research Regarding Textual CriticismJoh - This verse and through (the passage concerning the woman taken in adultery) is certainly not a genuine part of John's Gospel. The oldest and best MSS. (Aleph A B C L W) do not have it. It first appears in Codex Bezae. Some MSS. put it at the close of John's Gospel and some place it in Luke. It is probably a true story for it is like Jesus, but it does not belong to John's Gospel. The Canterbury Version on which we are commenting puts the passage in brackets. Westcott and Hort place it at the end of the Gospel.
WIKI = Hodges and Farstad also argue that the pericope is particularly suited to the point in the Gospel where it occurs in the majority of the 1,863 copies that contain it. The Feast of Tabernacles is being celebrated (John 7:14), so there would be a large number of pilgrims in the city, making it more likely that strangers would be thrown together. The pericope thus occurs naturally at this point. The confrontation would had to have taken place in the Court of the Women, and indeed John 8:20 indicates that that is where Jesus was. Hodges and Farstad conclude, "If it is not an original part of the Fourth Gospel, its writer would have to be viewed as a skilled Johannine imitator, and its placement in this context as the shrewdest piece of interpolation in literary history!"Defenders of Johannine authorship argue that the earliest witnesses to the location of the passage within the canonical gospels point unambiguously to John 7:53 - 8:11, both in the Vulgate text and in the critical markings of the Codex Vaticanus; all other supposed locations being clearly singular and later. They point out that there is no other known example of a substantial passage being first incorporated into the canonical tradition as late as the 3rd or 4th century; and so they argue that a minority tradition of manuscripts of John must always have contained the passage, even though those early manuscripts that survive do not.Review of some research = we have very ancient fragments of the NT but none of these ancient manuscripts reflect the PA. Some major codices of the NT which are very old do not contain the PA, however, they include a very unusual marking, not a GK punctuation mark, but perhaps a dot for either resting during public reading, almost universally at this very spot where the PA would be included – leading some to believe that knowledge of the PA existed, but since it was not present in what the copyist had before him, he just inserted a dot so that people reading this copy would know that the reference to the PA was not being inserted in that space so that those who knew about it would have a visual clue to its absence.
The most ancient church fathers do not make commentary on this passage until the 300’s.
Those who defend its inclusion in the NT say that John’s school included it and preserved the story in their copies, we just unfortunately do not have any ancient documents to support it. As far as the style of writing, and the overall flow of the gospel, it completely fits where it is – it is not an awkward inclusion, but rather seamless – just not strongly supported by textual evidence to this day – however, someday that may change as document studies continue to advance.
... Many of the early manuscripts and papyri have it, the earliest church fathers quote it as scripture, and it is Johannine in style. Why then was it excised by some copyists? Probably because the early church got away from the radical message of grace very quickly. [Augustine, Ambrose, and Calvin all suggest this.]
Many of us have heard the joke about the King James Version: "If it was good enough for the apostle Paul, it is good enough for me!" Paul, of course, was fifteen and a half centuries too early for the KJV. The New Testament writers wrote in Koine Greek, the language of the common man in the first century A.D. The first complete English Bible was not produced until John Wycliffe produced his in the fourteenth century. He translated from the Latin Vulgate which was the most widely used version at that time.
The next major step in the development of the English Bible was Tyndale's translation of the New Testament published in 1526 and portions of the Old Testament published later. Tyndale's version was significant because it was translated from a newly published Greek New Testament rather than from the Vulgate.
After Tyndale's, a number of other versions were produced. Among them were the Coverdale Bible, the Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the Bishops' Bible. In 1611 the King James Version was published to provide a Bible which could be used by both Anglicans and Puritans. Marginal notes reflecting any particular theological bias were removed, and the language used was that of the people.
I noted earlier that Tyndale used a Greek text for his translation. The first published Greek New Testament appeared in the year 1516. It was edited by Erasmus, a Dutch scholar. Erasmus had at his disposal no more than six Greek manuscripts (we have thousands at our disposal today). These manuscripts were part of what is called the Byzantine text family.
Although Erasmus' edition provided a great boost to the study of the New Testament, it had a number of problems. For one thing, none of his sources had the last six verses of the book of Revelation, so Erasmus translated from the Latin Vulgate back into Greek! Thus, in his text "several words and phrases may be found that are attested in no Greek manuscript whatsoever."(3) In the first two editions of his New Testament, Erasmus left out I John 5:7 because it did not appear in any of his Greek manuscripts. That verse reads: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." This omission created a furor, so he promised to include the verse in a later edition if it could be found in any Greek manuscript. One was brought forward, and, although Erasmus did not think the text was genuine, he kept his promise and included the verse. It is now believed to have been a very late and unreliable manuscript, and some think it was forged to include the verse.(4)
Erasmus' Greek text was reworked and reprinted by others including Robert Estienne who divided the text into verses. Theodore Beza then built upon Estienne's work, and his Greek text provided one of the major foundations for the King James Bible. The term Textus Receptus, or Received Text, came from a blurb in another Greek text produced in the early seventeenth century by the Elzevir brothers. This title is still used in connection with the King James, and it is one you will see again in this article.
Westcott and Hort
I noted earlier that the more substantial arguments for the "King James only" position focus on the Greek texts underlying the different versions. There are four significant issues in the debate involving these texts which I will develop: the science of textual criticism, the number of Greek manuscripts available, the history of the Greek texts, and the dates of the manuscripts.
Before getting into the debate itself, it will be helpful to mention the historical event which brought the debate to a head, and to introduce a central element in New Testament textual studies.
Between the thousands of Greek manuscripts available there are differences of one kind or another (although there are not any which effect doctrinal matters). Certain Greek manuscripts share enough similarities that they are believed to have come from the same source. Each of these groups is called a text family or a text-type. There are four text families which are generally agreed upon by scholars. The manuscripts which were used to produce the Textus Receptus (and later the King James Version) were of the Byzantine family. The other three text families generally agreed upon by scholars are the Alexandrian, the Caesarean, and the Western.(5)
The fundamental debate between scholars in the King James/modern version controversy is over the question of the most accurate Greek text family or families. Which of the four families, if any, most accurately represents what the New Testament authors wrote? The Byzantine text was the dominant Greek text from about the eighth century until the end of the nineteenth century.(6) In 1881, however, two scholars named Westcott and Hort published a new Greek New Testament which relied more on other text families than on the Byzantine family. Their Greek text became the basis of the New Testament portion of modern Bible translations.
Westcott and Hort evaluated the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament according to the principles of textual criticism. This is the science of the study of ancient texts, the originals of which are lost. Based upon their studies, they argued that the Byzantine text was not the closest to the original writings as the King James advocates claimed. It seemed to have combined readings from other text families, and some readings appeared to have been modified for greater clarity and understanding. Thus, they believed it was at least two steps removed from the original writings. Also, they found no clear evidence of its existence in the writings of the early church fathers, and there are no copies older than the fourth century. Those who agree with Westcott and Hort believe that the Byzantine text was produced in the fourth century probably in an attempt to give the church one New Testament (there were a number of different Greek texts being used at the time). Other text families, on the other hand, appear to have more original readings and are quoted by the early church fathers, and are thus closer to the originals. So, the conclusions drawn from the application of textual criticism along with the ages of the manuscripts led them to believe that the most accurate Greek text is to be found by drawing from all the Greek text families, especially the Alexandrian family.(7)
Supporters of the Byzantine or Received Text responded that it was inappropriate to use naturalistic methods of study such as textual criticism on Scripture. They said that this amounts to elevating man over God in determining what the Bible says.(8) They also argued that the vast numbers of Byzantine manuscripts along with the centuries of history behind this text family should not be set aside on the basis of a few manuscripts discovered relatively recently. They insisted that the Spirit of God would not allow His true word to lie dormant so long while the church was being guided by inferior texts.
As I noted above, those who argue for the Byzantine or Received Text say that it is improper to subject the Bible to the scrutiny of textual criticism. The Bible, being the inspired Word of God, is unique. One begins with it as inspired and then accepts what it says.
But those in the Westcott-Hort tradition note that we cannot simply shut our eyes to the fact that there are differences between the various Greek manuscripts, even those in the Byzantine family. Even those who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture recognize that the original writings of the New Testament were inerrant, not the copies. It is our responsibility to apply the most sound principles we know of to determine what the original manuscripts said. This is the aim of textual criticism.
So, how does textual criticism work? Differences between Greek manuscripts are called variants. There are several causes of variants. Some are accidental, such as misspelled words or repeated or reversed words. Some resulted from a scribe not hearing a dictation correctly. Also, deliberate changes seem to have been made to bring passages in different Gospels into harmony or to make a doctrinal point clearer.
Km- mention that some copies don’t even have spaces between the words, so spelling errors, or skipping lines did occur.
What are some examples of differences between the Greek texts which show up in our English Bibles? One example is the Lord's Prayer as it is recorded in Matthew and in Luke. In the KJV the two versions are almost identical, while in the NIV the prayer in Luke 11 is significantly shorter than that in Matthew 6. Most scholars believe that, at some point in history, a scribe added to the text in Luke to make it agree more with Matthew.The last half of Mark 16 is a lengthy section which is disputed. The KJV retains verses 9 through 20 while the NIV includes the passage with a note saying it is not found in the most reliable early manuscripts. Scholars who believe it should be excluded also note that the style and vocabulary are very different from the rest of Mark.(9)
To add one more, in the KJV, three verses in Mark 9 (44 ,46, and 48) are identical: "Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." The NIV puts verses 44 and 46 in footnotes and notes that some manuscripts include the phrase. Since each verse follows a reference to hell, it is very possible that a scribe simply repeated the warning to strengthen the message.If all this makes you nervous about the accuracy of your Bible, it is important to note that textual criticism is used on all documents for which the originals no longer exist. New Testament scholar J. Harold Greenlee noted that, with respect to the Bible, "No Christian doctrine . . . hangs upon a debatable text."(10) This conflict provides no fodder for critics of Christianity who might ask how we can know what the Bible really says. We can be confident that we have a highly accurate text, especially given the number of New Testament manuscripts available and the antiquity of some of them.(11) As one writer has said, "It is well to remember that the main body of the text and its general sense are left untouched . . . textual criticism engages in turning a magnifying glass upon some of the details."(12)
Km – like finding the Higgs particle…
Other Issues in the Debate
In addition to the question of textual criticism, questions regarding the number of manuscripts, the historical dominance of the Byzantine text, and the dates of the manuscripts still need to be considered.
First is the matter of the number of manuscripts. Between eighty and ninety percent of existing manuscripts are of the Byzantine family and are in remarkable agreement. This fact is not in dispute. King James supporters say that the few manuscripts to which Westcott and Hort gave preference cannot override the witness of the vast majority of manuscripts in existence which are of the Byzantine tradition. It is normal to expect that the oldest manuscript will have the most copies.(13) In response, those who follow Westcott and Hort point out that hundreds of copies could have been made from one defective text while a better text was not copied as often. The copying of New Testament texts was not as carefully monitored as the copying of the Old Testament text by Jewish scholars. As we have seen, errors were made and changes were deliberately introduced. Simply finding a lot of manuscripts which are in agreement is not enough. To illustrate their point, they ask whether one would rather have one real $100 bill or five counterfeits.
A second issue is the preservation of the text through history. Supporters of the Received Text ask why God's Spirit would allow the church to be under the authority of a defective text for almost 1500 years. Textual critics respond that this argument exaggerates the issue. They do not consider the Byzantine text to be a "'bad' or heretical text; it presents the same Christian message as the critical [or Westcott-Hort] text."(14) Again, there are no doctrinal differences between the Greek texts. Members of the Byzantine family are used along with members of other text families to determine what the true reading of a passage should be. The major text families are neither absolutely corrupt nor absolutely perfect. Text critics must use all the available resources to determine what the original documents said.
Finally, the dates of the manuscripts are important in this debate. Textual critics point out that church fathers before the fourth century "unambiguously cited every text-type except the Byzantine."(15) If the Byzantine text-type comes directly from the original writings, one would expect unambiguous quotations of it from the beginning. They also point out that there are no Byzantine manuscripts older than the fourth century, whereas there are copies of other text families older than that.
In response to this, King James supporters note that the New Testament manuscripts began to be altered very soon after they were written. Eusebius, the ancient church historian, reported that heresies sprang up early after the turn of the second century, and proponents of these heresies sometimes altered Scripture to accord with their beliefs.(16) Thus, antiquity is not the crucial test. That there are no copies older than the fourth century can be explained by the fact that the material manuscripts were written on was fragile; it's reasonable to conclude that the early copies probably wore out through frequent handling.
Summary and Concluding Thoughts
To summarize, those who support the King James/Received Text tradition emphasize the number of manuscripts, the church's history with the Byzantine text, and God's interest in preserving His Word, whereas those following Westcott and Hort say that the variants in the manuscripts - even between those in the Byzantine family - prove the need for the textual criticism of the New Testament. The results of their analysis along with the ages of the manuscripts leads them to believe that the Byzantine family is just one text family that can lead us back to the originals - or close to it - but it is not the one best text family.
So, which way should you go on this debate? If you are concerned about the issue, I suggest that you study it more. The texts cited in the notes will give you a place to start. If not, I would recommend using a version that is as close to the Greek text as possible while being understandable to you. But whichever version you choose, be very sure of your arguments before insisting that others use it, too. It seems to me that, with all the difficulties we face in our often hostile culture, we should not erect walls between Christians on the basis of Bible versions. We are not taking God's Word lightly here. We are simply calling for a more well-reasoned discussion and for the rule of love to govern the debate.Another source = http://www.biblefacts.org/history/oldtext.html#P64
More = There are over 5,300 known ancient Greek manuscript copies (MSS) and fragments of the New Testament in Greek that have survived until today.
Counting an additional 10,000 Latin Vulgate and over 9,300 other early manuscript versions in Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, and Ethiopic, totaling over 24,000 surviving manuscripts of the New Testament.
Small changes and variations in manuscripts affect none of the central Christian doctrines, nor do they change the message.
Tertullian stated that by 150 A.D., the Church in
We have 32,000 quotes from before 325 AD, from Irenaeus (182-188 AD), Justin Martyr (before 150 AD), Polycarp (107 AD), Ignatius (100), Clement (96 AD) and many other second and third century fathers. All but eleven verses of the New Testament could be reconstructed through their writings alone.
The Muratonian Canon Fragment dating from 170 AD lists the same New Testament that we have.
See the Ante-Nicean Fathers, a 32 volume Encyclopedia of the writings of the
“Largest site devoted to John 8:1—11” = http://adultera.awardspace.com/
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