The pericope de adultera.

John 7.53-8.11.


The pericope de adultera, as John 7.53-8.11 is commonly called, is not found in most of the earliest and best gospel manuscripts. This page assembles a few of the patristic parallels to this pericope.

Eusebius, History of the Church 3.39.17, writing of Papias:

Κεχρηται δ ο αυτος μαρτυριαις απο της Ιωαννου προτερας επιστολης και απο της Πετρου ομοιως, εκτεθειται δε και αλλην ιστοριαν περι γυναικος επι πολλαις αμαρτιαις διαβληθεισης επι του κυριου, ην το καθ Εβραιους ευαγγελιον περιεχει. και ταυτα δ ημιν αναγκαιως προς τοις εκτεθεισιν επιτετηρησθω.

And he himself used testimonies from the first epistle of John and similarly from that of Peter, and set out also another record about a woman who was charged for many sins before the Lord, which the gospel according to the Hebrews has.* And let these things also be necessarily observed by us on top of the things that have been set out.

* Rufinus, the original translator of Eusebius into Latin, has: Simul et historiam quondam subiungit de muliere, quae accusata est a Iudeis apud dominum. habetur autem in evangelia, quod dicitur secundum Hebraeos, scripta parabola..

Didascalia 7 (English translation modernized slightly from that of R. Hugh Connolly, hosted at Bombaxo):

Beware therefore, *you that are without faith,* lest any man of you establish in his heart the thought of Amon, and perish suddenly and swiftly. Wherefore, O bishop, so far as you can, keep those that have not sinned, so that they may continue without sinning; and those that repent of their sins heal and receive. But if you receive not him who repents, because you are without mercy, you shall sin against the Lord God; for you do not obey our savior and our God, to do as he also did with her that had sinned, whom the elders set before him, and, leaving the judgment in his hands, departed. But he, the searcher of hearts, asked her and said to her: Have the elders condemned you, my daughter? She says to him: No, Lord. And he said unto her: Go your way; nor do I condemn you. In him, therefore, our savior and king and God, be your pattern, O bishops, and imitate him, so that you may be quiet and meek, and merciful and compassionate, and peacemakers, and without anger, and teachers and correctors and receivers and exhorters; and so that you be not wrathful or tyrannical; and so that you be not insolent or haughty or boastful.

* This phrase Connolly has marked as a Syriac mistranslation of the original Greek.

Pseudo-Clement in Apostolic Constitutions 2.24.6:

Ετεραν δε τινα ημαρτηκυιαν εστησαν οι πρεσβυτεροι εμπροσθεν αυτου, και επ αυτω θεμενοι την κρισιν εξηλθον· ο δε καρδιογνωστης κυριος, πυθομενος αυτης ει κατεκριναν αυτην οι πρεσβυτεροι, και ειπουσης οτι ου ειπεν προς αυτην· Υπαγε· ουδε εγω σε κατακρινω.

And the elders stood another one, a certain sinful woman, before him, and went out, placing the [responsibility for] judgment upon him. But the Lord, who knows the heart, inquired of her whether the elders had condemned her, and after she said no he said to her: Move on; nor do I condemn you.

From Didymus the blind, Commentary on Ecclesiastes, according to Bart Ehrman (Greek text formatted from an IIDB post by Jeffrey Gibson; English translation slightly modified from an IIDB post by Andrew Criddle):

Φερομεν ουν εν τισιν ευαγγελιοις· Γυνη, φησιν, κατεκριθη υπο των Ιουδ[αι]ων επι αμαρτι και απεστελλετο λιθοβοληθηναι εις τον τοπον, οπου ειωθει γιν[εσθ]αι. ο σωτηρ, φησιν, εωρακως αυτην και θεωρησας οτι ετοιμοι εισιν προς το λιθ[οβολ]ησαι αυτην, τοις μελλουσιν αυτην καταβαλειν λιθοις ειπεν· Ος ουχ ημαρτεν, αι[ρε]τω λιθον και βαλετω {ε}αυτον. ει τις συνοιδεν εαυτ το μη ημαρτηκεναι, λαβων λιθον παισατω αυτην. και ουδεις ετολμησεν· επιστησαντες εαυτοις και γνοντες οτι και αυτοι υπε[υθυ]νοι εισιν τισιν, ουκ ετολμησαν καταπταισαι εκεινην.

We find therefore in certain gospels: A woman, it says, was condemned by the Jews for a sin and was being sent to be stoned in the place where that was customary to happen. The savior, it says, when he saw her and observed that they were ready to stone her said to those that were about to cast stones: He who has not sinned let him take a stone and cast it. If anyone is conscious in himself not to have sinned let him take up a stone and smite her. And no one dared; since they knew in themselves and perceived that they themselves were guilty in some things they did not dare to strike her.

Andrew Criddle has a very interesting take on this disputed passage on the Hypotyposeis weblog. In this weblog post he cites William Petersen, who points out a connection between the pericope de adultera and the infancy gospel of James (16.3):

Και ειπεν ο αρχιερευς· Ει κυριος ο θεος ουκ εφανερωσεν το αμαρτημα υμων, ουδε εγω κρινω υμας. και απελυσεν αυτους.

And the priest said: If the Lord God has not made your sin manifest, neither do I condemn you. And he released them.

It seems that the pericope de adultera parallels (at least) three very different texts at our disposal:

John 7.53-8.2: Και επορευθησαν εκαστος εις τον οικον αυτου, Ιησους δε επορευθη εις το Ορος των Ελαιων. ορθρου δε παλιν παρεγενετο εις το ιερον, και πας ο λαος ηρχετο προς αυτον, και καθισας εδιδασκεν αυτους.
 
Luke 21.37-38: Ην δε τας ημερας εν τω ιερω διδασκων, τας δε νυκτας εξερχομενος ηυλιζετο εις το ορος το καλουμενον Ελαιων· και πας ο λαος ωρθριζεν προς αυτον εν τω ιερω ακουειν αυτου.
 
John 7.53-8.2: And each one journeyed to his house, but Jesus journeyed to the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning he arrived again into the temple, and all the people came toward him, and he sat down and taught them.
 
Luke 21.37-38: And he was teaching in the temple during the days, but during the nights he was going out and spending the night upon the mount that was called of Olives; and all the people would come toward him early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.
 
John 8.3-9: Αγουσιν δε οι γραμματεις και οι Φαρισαιοι γυναικα επι μοιχεια κατειλημμενην, και στησαντες αυτην εν μεσω λεγουσιν αυτω· Διδασκαλε, αυτη η γυνη κατειληπται επ αυτοφωρω μοιχευομενη· εν δε τω νομω ημιν Μωυσης ενετειλατο τας τοιαυτας λιθαζειν· συ ουν τι λεγεις; τουτο δε ελεγον πειραζοντες αυτον, ινα εχωσιν κατηγορειν αυτου. ο δε Ιησους κατω κυψας τω δακτυλω κατεγραφεν εις την γην. ως δε επεμενον ερωτωντες αυτον, ανεκυψεν και ειπεν αυτοις· Ο αναμαρτητος υμων πρωτος επ αυτην βαλετω λιθον. και παλιν κατακυψας εγραφεν εις την γην. οι δε ακουσαντες εξηρχοντο εις καθ εις αρξαμενοι απο των πρεσβυτερων, και κατελειφθη μονος, και η γυνη εν μεσω ουσα.
 
Didymus, Commentary on Ecclesiastes: Γυνη, φησιν, κατεκριθη υπο των Ιουδ[αι]ων επι αμαρτι και απεστελλετο λιθοβοληθηναι εις τον τοπον, οπου ειωθει γιν[εσθ]αι. ο σωτηρ, φησιν, εωρακως αυτην και θεωρησας οτι ετοιμοι εισιν προς το λιθ[οβολ]ησαι αυτην, τοις μελλουσιν αυτην καταβαλειν λιθοις ειπεν· Ος ουχ ημαρτεν, αι[ρε]τω λιθον και βαλετω {ε}αυτον. ει τις συνοιδεν εαυτ το μη ημαρτηκεναι, λαβων λιθον παισατω αυτην. και ουδεις ετολμησεν· επιστησαντες εαυτοις και γνοντες οτι και αυτοι υπε[υθυ]νοι εισιν τισιν, ουκ ετολμησαν καταπταισαι εκεινην.
 
John 8.3-9: And the scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman who had been caught in adultery, and they stood her in the middle and say to him: Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. And in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? But they were saying this to test him, so that they might have something to accuse him for. But Jesus bent down and was writing upon the ground with his finger. And when they remained, making their request of him, he bent back up and said to them: Let the one without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her. And again he bent down and was writing upon the ground. But those who had heard him went out one by one, beginning from the elder ones, and he was left alone, and the woman being in the middle.
 
Didymus, Commentary on Ecclesiastes: A woman, it says, was condemned by the Jews for a sin and was being sent to be stoned in the place where that was customary to happen. The savior, it says, when he saw her and observed that they were ready to stone her said to those that were about to cast stones: He who has not sinned let him take a stone and cast it. If anyone is conscious in himself not to have sinned let him take up a stone and smite her. And no one dared; since they knew in themselves and perceived that they themselves were guilty in some things they did not dare to strike her.
 
John 8.10-11: Ανακυψας δε ο Ιησους ειπεν αυτη· Γυναι, που εισιν; ουδεις σε κατεκρινεν; η δε ειπεν· Ουδεις, κυριε. ειπεν δε ο Ιησους· Ουδε εγω σε κατακρινω· πορευου, και απο του νυν μηκετι αμαρτανε.
 
Infancy gospel of James 16.3: Και ειπεν ο αρχιερευς· Ει κυριος ο θεος ουκ εφανερωσεν το αμαρτημα υμων, ουδε εγω κρινω υμας. και απελυσεν αυτους.
 
John 8.10-11: And Jesus bent back up and said to her: Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you? And she said: No one, Lord. And Jesus said: Nor do I condemn you. Journey on, and sin no more from now on. Infancy gospel of James 16.3: And the priest said: If the Lord God has not made your sin manifest, neither do I condemn you. And he released them.

The introduction parallels the setting for the Olivet discourse as given in Luke; the body parallels the story given by Didymus (possibly based on the version in Papias and the Hebrew gospel); the conclusion parallels the infancy gospel of James.