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The reason, of course, is obvious because it is absent from all major Greek manuscripts that would bear strong witness to John’s original text. The early patristic writers are somewhat the same as well. However, there is some ‘story’ evidence. That is to say there is enough tradition and enough ancient evidence that there is some authenticity to this account. For example, Ambrose mentions this account, and he died in 397 AD. Also, Augustine mentions it, and he died in 430 AD. When Jerome began to work on the Latin Vulgate, in the 4th century, he included this text in the Gospel of John. By doing that, what took place was that the Vulgate made it mainstream. There were hints that this existed and people knew about this account very early on.

For example, Eusebius, who was the first historian of the Church, tells about learning the story from Papias, who lived from about 60 AD to about 130 AD, and was a very early writer. There is enough warrant to include this as a legitimate Gospel account. That is to say, it appears to be a fragment of authentic Gospel material. However, it was evidently not in John’s original and it has much more in common with the Synoptics than it does with John’s work. For example, it mentions the scribes and John doesn’t focus on that but the Synoptics do.

It also mentions Jesus going up to the Mount of Olives, which the Synoptics do as well, but John does not do. In the Synoptic Gospels you have a very clear picture of the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, as He was going in and out of Jerusalem, where would He go at night? He would go up to the Mount of Olives, probably with His dear friends, Martha and Mary and Lazarus and then He would come early in the morning to teach and in the evening go back to the Mount of Olives. The text also seems to break up the flow of the narrative, which has to do with the festival of tabernacles and if you went from John 7:52 and skipped to chapter eight, verse 12, the tabernacle motif is continuous, and this portion seems to be kind of a tangent. In some early manuscripts, this was even thrown in as an addition to Luke’s Gospel. So, how are we really to handle this account?

One of the reasons I think this was left out of very early editions was the very surprising approach Jesus took with this woman who was caught in adultery. Sexual sins were looked upon with particular disdain, as they often are today, and the idea that there was no real punishment, and that He actually forgave her after saying, “Go, and sin no more,” would not actually fit that ambient background. So, I have to stress, as there is today, but certainly back then, kind of a double standard really, between men and woman. Even today there is a little more latitude offered to men than there is to women. This would be very characteristic of that account.

So, we have this reason why it might not have been originally included. But it really fits, in my view, a typical Synoptics conflict story, where people would try and put Jesus to the test and put Him on the horns of a dilemma. If He does this, He’s in trouble, if He does the opposite He is also in trouble. This is very clearly a dilemma text, in which they are trying to test Him. The point that I am trying to stress here is that in spite of all this I believe we have a story here that is true but simply did not have a home for a while. I will say, also, that in the history of the Church, this text has had a huge impact and the Spirit of God has used it in powerful ways.

So, from that standpoint and my own approach to it, that it wasn’t in John’s original text, nevertheless I believe it is an authentic event that did occur. Because of that we are going to take a quick look at this portion of the text and I want to say that in these first 11 verses what we have is a contrast.

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