A recent online story (here) by Christianity Today (CT) is about the woman caught in adultery. Daniel B.Wallace, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and founder of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) (Wallace’s account here), was recently interviewed by CT (CT interview here) about his trip to Tirana, Albania where his team photographed the Greek New Testament manuscripts housed in the National Archive. Forty-seven manuscripts were photographed and 45 of these have never been photographed before so this is a major and recent undertaking and will affect future textual criticism. After they returned home with thousands of photographs, they discovered something interesting. Three of the manuscript completely lacked the periscope adulterae, or the story of woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). This itself is not a recent discovery but this does add more proof that it was not in the original Gospel of John. Most manuscripts have it but the earliest and best manuscripts do not.
One of Dan Wallace’s account of a manuscript is quite funny; he said:
“One of the Albanian manuscripts that lacked the story was ‘fixed’ by a later scribe who hastily stitched a sheet of paper to the following parchment page, scribbling the text of the pericope adulterae on the paper! Even though most manuscripts of the fourth gospel have the story, the earliest and best manuscripts do not. That at least four of the Albanian manuscripts lacked the story suggested that perhaps they came from a decent line of transmission.”
This leads us to many difficult questions on textual criticism and canonicity. Could Jesus have actually had this encounter with the woman caught in adultery? Could it have been transmitted orally early on but was written down later? Even if the story is not inspired and was not in the original Greek manuscripts should it be left out of the bible? Or should we continue to leave it in but include a note that it is not contained many of the earliest manuscripts? If it is not inspired and we leave it in, we can then no longer claim that our bible is 100% totally inspired. So what’s the solution? If we include a note, as is done in our modern translations, we might be able to get around that. But this would still mean that our current bibles with 66 books are no different from bibles with the apocryphal books containing uninspired scripture.
Here is another interview of Dan B. Wallace by Andy Cheung at Midlands, UK.