FORGERY IN THE
GOSPEL OF JOHN
John 7:53 to John 8:11 describes the story of Jesus and the
adulteress. It appears to be a forgery that was not part of the Book of John as it
was originally written, but was added later by an unknown person:
||The New International Version of the Bible states:
"The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not
have John 7:53 - 8:11."
||The "Interpreter's One Volume Commentary on the Bible" states: 1
"7:53-8:11: This passage is omitted or set off in modern editions of
the gospel since it does not appear in the oldest and best manuscripts and is apparently a
later interpolation. In some manuscripts it occurs after Luke 21:38."
||"The New Commentary on the Whole Bible" says: 2
"This story is not included in the best and earliest manuscripts [of John]. In
fact, it is absent from all witnesses earlier than the 9th century, with the exception of
a fifth century Greek-Latin manuscript. No Greek church father comments on the passage
prior to the 12th century."
||Bruce Metzger, author of the "Textual Commentary on the Greek New
Testament" writes that the passage is "obviously a piece of oral
tradition" and that it "has all the earmarks of historical
||The "Precise Parallel New Testament" states in a footnote: 3
"The story of the woman caught in adultery is a later insertion here, missing
from all early Greek manuscripts. A Western text-type insertion, attested mainly in Old
Latin translations, it is found in different places in different manuscripts.: here, or
after 7:36 or at the end of this gospel, or after Luke 21:38 or at the end of that
||"The Five Gospels" states: 4
"The story of the woman caught in the act of adultery...was a 'floating' or
'orphan' story. It is almost certainly not a part of the original text of John, but is a
noteworthy tradition nonetheless...While the Fellows [of the Jesus Seminar] agreed that
the words did not originate in their present form with Jesus, they nevertheless assigned
the words and story to a special category of things they wish Jesus had said and
There is general agreement that the verses from John 7:53 to John 8:11
were not written by the author or authors who
wrote the rest of the gospel. It was probably based on a story about the
life of Jesus that had been often told, and was passed orally down through the centuries.
Copyists then inserted it into various gospels. There is little consensus
as to exactly when the forgery was inserted:
||"The New Commentary on the Whole Bible" asserts
that its earliest appearance was in a 5th century CE
manuscript which they do not define.
||It was present in the version of John that St. Augustine (354-430
CE) used when he wrote his "Tractates on the Gospel of John"
on or after 416 CE.
||Eusebius "Church History" was written circa 325 CE.
He mentions that the story was told by Papias, who wrote circa 115 to
140 CE. 5 Papias had taken the passage from the Gospel
of the Hebrews. That gospel is believed to have been written circa
70 to 150 CE. 6It never made it into the
official canon; no copy survived to the present time.
C.M. Laymon, Ed, "Interpreter's One Volume Commentary on the Bible",
Abingdon Press, Nashville TN (1991), P. 718
Jamieson et al, "The New Commentary on the Whole Bible",
Wheaton IL (1990), P. 247-248
J.R. Kohlenberger III, "Precise Parallel New Testament", Oxford
University Press, New York NY, (1995)
R.W. Funk, et al"The Five Gospels", Macmillan, New York NY (1993)
"St. Papias," The Catholic Encyclopedia, at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11457c.htm
Geoff & Heidi Trowbridge, "The Gospel of the Hebrews,"
Copyright 1996 & 1999 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1996
Latest update: 1999-DEC-1
Compiler: B.A. Robinson