674.      Misinterpretations of Scripture are bad enough; mistranslations worse. We have dealt with both of these as they concerned woman’s place in the Divine economy. But worse than either misinterpretations and mistranslations are mutilations. God has pronounced a solemn curse upon those who are guilty of such manipulations,¾at least as far as the last book of the Bible is concerned, and it may apply to all the other books as well, for Proverbs 30: 5,6 reads: “Every word of God is tried: . . . add not thou unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” The curse in Revelation 22:18 reads: “I testify unto everyone that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If anyone shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if anyone shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book.”

675.     If we will look in a Revised Version of the English Bible we will discover that a certain section,¾John 7:35 to 8:11,¾has been placed within brackets and spaced off from the rest of the text of the Gospel; and this marginal note has been added in explanation: “Most of the ancient authorities omit John 7:35-8:11. Those which contain it vary much from each other.” Now we must examine the exact facts of the case; and, thanks to the careful investigations of the late learned Dean Burgon of Chichester, our task is not so difficult.[1] The story recorded in John 8 is but consistent with Jesus Christ’s entire human history in His treatment of women. Because of this fact, it will never be blotted out of the Book, but will be the “word” by which men will be judged, as to their treatment of the social evil, in that Last Day of Judgment (John 12:48).

676.     First, let us explain: The ancient manuscripts of the N. T., none of which are older than 400 A.D. (though, of course, they may in some cases be direct copies of the original autographs), are divided into Uncials and Cursives. The former term means that they are written wholly in CAPITAL LETTERS, the latter term implies that they are written in a running hand, something like handwriting. There are about sixty uncials of the Gospels, and a thousand or so cursives. It is generally assumed that the uncials are older than the cursives, but this is not always the case; certain cursives are a century older than the uncials. Tischendorf, in 1859, made the latest discovery of an entire Bible of ancient date, in the Greek tongue. This particular uncial is certainly very old, and it did not contain the story of the woman taken in adultery; and this fact, it has been claimed, clenches the proof that the story does not belong to the original text; for seven other uncials, it is claimed by Tischendorf, omit this portion. This has led to the marginal note in the R.V.The portion has been called the Pericope de Adultera, meaning an excerpt,¾a portion selected for the Church readings relating to an adulteress. For short, we will call it by this name in these Lessons.

677.      Whether the marginal note in the R.V.is correct or not, those who hold Tischendorf’s manuscript in high esteem are likely to contend that “most ancient authorities” are against the pericope; but that is largely a mere opinion that those that contain it prove thereby their own lack of authority. Dean Burgon says of Tischendorf’s claim that eight uncials in all omit the pericope: “No sincere inquirer after truth could so state the evidence,” and then shows that several of these manuscripts happen to omit the pericope for the simple reason that they are lacking at this place,¾that is, a page or two is lost out. This sort of “evidence” is as though I claimed that “All hail the power of Jesus’ name” was not in the Church Hymnal, because my copy of it had two or three pages torn out at the very place where one would be guided by the Index to look for it. After weighing the claims as to the omission of the pericope, Dean Burgon asserts that only three uncials (“ancient authorities”) actually omit the portion; and two of these are demonstrably copies of a common original. That seventy out of a thousand or so cursives omit it is a matter of small moment, of which Dean Burgon gives satisfactory explanation,¾as also for its omission from the three uncials, at the same time.

678.     It happens that the Eastern section of the early Church appointed that Christ’s discourse at the Feast of Tabernacles, given in the 7th chapter of John’s Gospel, should constitute the church reading portion on the day of the Festival of Pentecost (Whitsunday); and to this section was added, not unnaturally, the 12th verse of chapter eight. But the verses immediately concerned in recounting the story of the woman taken in adultery were reserved for another day,¾St. Pelagia’s Day, October 8th. In order to join up well the verses for Whitsunday, the following were omitted altogether: “And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him: and He sat down and taught them,”¾7:53 and 8:1, 2. Thus, by the entire omission of three verses, two Lessons were made, one for the Festival of Pentecost, and the other for St. Pelagia’s Day.

679.     St. Pelagia is a name applied to at least three persons, but undoubtedly the one to whom this section finally referred was the one sometimes called “the sinner.”  She lived at Antioch (as did a virgin “St. Pelagia”), and was a courtesan and dancer. She was suddenly converted under the preaching of Bishop Nonnus, some time in the very beginning of the fifth century. After conversion, she retired to the Mount of Olives, and died three years later of strict penance.  Some of the cursives, as we have said, and an uncial or two have omitted the pericope altogether. Now, it appears why; they were either manuscripts prepared for Church lessons, or copies of such,¾or at any rate, copies of John’s Gospel which had been influenced by the Lectionaries of the Church.

680.     The proof that such was the case is given by Dean Burgon: Some of the ancient manuscripts of the Gospels are so marked on the margin as to indicate the portions to be used in church. At the beginning of such a portion, the Greek word for “beginning” (arche) is written, and at the end, the Greek word for “end,” (telos). But for the reading for Whitsunday, another Greek word is written at the margin of John 7:53, namely hyperba, “overleap, skip”; and at 8:12 a second Greek word signifying “recommence” (archai), and lastly the usual telos at the end of the lesson. Now Dean Burgon claims that it is impossible that this section, if actually without authenticity, should ever have got so imbedded in the ancient Church readings, into the middle of the lesson for Pentecost, that the ancient Church authorities should invariably have written these directions,¾for the Church reading must have been fixed before any of the present-day uncials had come into existence, being very old. All the manuscripts having these markings for Church lessons on their margin, have these special directions for the reading for the Festival of Pentecost. In a word, the Reader of the Scripture Lesson at Church would not have been directed to “skip” something that had not previously existed there.

681.     To use Dean Burgon’s own words: “By the very construction of her Lectionary, the Church, in her corporate capacity and official character, has solemnly recognized the narrative in question as an integral part of St. John’s Gospel, and as standing in its traditional place, from an exceedingly remote time.” . . . “In this way then it is that the testimony borne to these verses by the Lectionary of the East proves to be of the most opportune and convincing character. The careful provision made for passing by the twelve verses in dispute: ¾the minute directions which fence off twelve verses on this side and on that, directions issued, we may be sure, by the highest Ecclesiastical authority, because recognized in every part of the ancient Church,¾not only establish them effectually in their rightful place. . . but fully explain the adverse phenomena which are ostentatiously paraded by adverse critics.”

(To be continued.)


[1] Causes of Corruption in the Traditional Text.—Appendix 1.

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